Monday, April 10, 2017

Tesla pips GM, becomes most valuable US car maker; Global executions fall 37%; No income tax for Saudi citizens

1 Tesla pips GM, becomes most valuable US car maker (Straits Times) For the first time in the era of the modern automobile, the most valuable US car maker is not based in Detroit. Silicon Valley's Tesla overtook General Motors on Monday to become the US car maker with the largest market capitalisation as the century-old automobile industry increases its reliance on software and cutting-edge energy technology.

That milestone is likely to be on the minds of Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and GM chief executive Mary Barra as they and other CEOs visit the White House on Tuesday to discuss tax reform and infrastructure with President Donald Trump.

Helped by an analyst's recommendation, Tesla rose 3.26 per cent to a record high of $312.39 on Monday. Its market value of $50.887 billion exceeded GM's by about $1 million. Over the past month, the luxury electric car maker has surged 35 per cent as investors bet that Musk will revolutionize the automobile and energy industries.

The Palo Alto, California company is rushing to launch its mass-market Model 3 sedan in the second half of 2017 and quickly ramp up its factory to reach a production target of 500,000 cars per year in 2018. Last year it sold 76,230, missing its target of at least 80,000 vehicles. By comparison, GM sold 10 million cars and Ford sold 6.7 million.

Proponents believe Tesla, which is not profitable, argue its stock price is justified based on long-term expectations for Tesla's growth. They also point to opportunities from Tesla's acquisition last year of money-losing solar panel installer SolarCity and Tesla's Nevada battery cell plant aimed at driving down manufacturing costs.

2 Global executions fall 37% (BBC) The number of executions recorded worldwide in 2016 fell by 37% on the previous year, human rights group Amnesty International says. At least 1,032 people were executed last year, down from 1,634 in 2015, Amnesty said.

The fall was largely driven by fewer deaths recorded in Iran and Pakistan. China is believed to have executed more than all countries combined but has not been included in the figures given the lack of reliable data, the group adds.

The US was removed from the top five for the first time since 2006, according to Amnesty. Despite fewer executions, Iran and Pakistan remain in Amnesty's top five list, along with China, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Pakistan's execution rate dropped from 326 recorded deaths in 2015 to at least 87 the following year.

In Iran, at least 567 people were executed last year, compared with 977 in 2015. Amnesty reported a surge in executions in 2015 but said the reasons were unclear. The majority of those killed, the group said, were convicted of drug charges.

Amnesty said that China remained the world's top executioner but said that secrecy around the death penalty made it difficult to confirm the figures. In Europe and Central Asia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were the only two countries in the region to use the death penalty On the other hand, 104 countries were recorded to have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Back in 1997, that figure was 64.

3 No income tax for Saudi citizens (Khaleej Times) Saudi Arabia's finance minister has said that citizens would not pay taxes on income and Saudi companies would not see their profits taxed under sweeping economic reforms being introduced in the Kingdom.

The collapse in oil prices after mid-2014 has pushed Saudi Arabia to contemplate a radical overhaul of all parts of its economy, including new taxes, privatisations, a changed investment strategy and sharp cuts in government spending.

Mohammed Al Jadaan sought in a statement to allay concern that people would be taxed as part of the ambitious reform plan. Saudis currently do not pay any income tax, nor are Saudi companies taxed on their profits. He also said a value-added tax planned for 2018 would "not be raised above 5 per cent before 2020".

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council are aiming to introduce a 5 per cent value-added tax at the start of next year to raise non-oil revenues. But economists and officials in some countries have said privately that simultaneous introduction in all countries may not be feasible. That is because of the complexity of creating the administrative infrastructure to collect the tax and the difficulty of training companies to comply with it in a region where taxation is minimal.

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