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Renault says electric cars will dominate its sales by the end of the decade.

Daily Business Briefing

June 30, 2021, 8:43 a.m. ET

June 30, 2021, 8:43 a.m. ET

Credit…Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Renault, the French automaker, became the latest to go all-in on electric vehicles on Wednesday, announcing that by 2030, all but a fraction of the vehicles bearing its name will be powered by batteries.

Renault executives outlined a future in which electric cars are both cheaper and more practical than fossil-fuel models during an online presentation. Manufacturing and technology advancements will reduce the cost of batteries, the most expensive component in an electric vehicle, by more than half by the end of the decade, they claim. Renault executives stated that vehicles on the market as early as 2026 will be able to recharge to 80 percent capacity in 12 minutes.

“We want to democratise electric technology,” said Luca de Meo, who will celebrate his first anniversary as Renault CEO on Thursday.

The auto industry is increasingly divided between companies that have made firm commitments to electric vehicles, such as Volkswagen, General Motors, and Volvo, and those that are more cautious, such as BMW and Toyota. Renault joined the ranks of the electric vehicle converts on Wednesday, stating that it expects 90 percent of Renault brand vehicles to be electric by 2030.

Renault has been struggling to repair its partnership with Japanese carmaker Nissan and demonstrate that it can withstand technological upheaval in the automotive industry after losing 8 billion euros, or $9.5 billion, last year.

Mr. de Meo argued that Renault can draw on a decade of experience manufacturing electric vehicles, which he claims has given the company unique insight into the technology and the behaviour of electric vehicle drivers. The compact Renault Zoe is one of Europe’s best-selling electric vehicles, but it’s an ageing design that faces increased competition from Volkswagen and Tesla.

Renault announced plans to launch a new electric vehicle fleet, including a battery-powered version of its mainstay Mégane, next year.

Renault’s plan calls for manufacturing to remain concentrated in France, including the construction of a battery factory in Douai, northern France, in collaboration with Envision AESC, a subsidiary of China’s Envision Group. Factories that currently produce internal combustion engines will transition to producing electric motors.

Mr. de Meo stated that the company has reached a “historic” agreement with French labour unions to allow the necessary changes to shift to electric car production, and that the company is also receiving strong government support. According to Mr. de Meo, this will enable the company to produce electric cars that are as profitable as internal combustion vehicles.

“In Europe and France, we have created the conditions for our competitiveness,” he said.

Outbrain, one of the leading providers of clickbait ads, filed for an initial public offering on Tuesday, one day before its main competitor begins trading publicly.

The company, which bills itself as a content recommendation platform, places so-called chumbox ads on websites in the hopes of luring readers in the same way that anglers use dead fish to entice other fish. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Outbrain had $767 million in revenue and $4.4 million in net income last year. The company stated that it has not yet determined a price range, valuation, or offering price, but that it intends to raise more than $100 million.

Outbrain, which was founded in 2006, claims to send ads to over 7,000 digital destinations, paying sites such as CNN, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde whenever users click on the ads. According to the company, its platform is used by over 20,000 advertisers.

Outbrain had planned to merge with its main competitor, Taboola, in 2019, but the deal fell through last fall. Taboola announced earlier this year that it would go public through a merger with a so-called special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. It will begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange on Wednesday.

Credit…Robert Wright for The New York Times

Fox News agreed to pay a $1 million fine as part of a settlement reached with the New York City Commission on Human Rights last week. The case arose from a series of sexual misconduct allegations that rocked the network several years ago, prompting the departures of Roger Ailes, the network’s co-founder, and anchor Bill O’Reilly.

“This is the largest civil penalty that the City Commission on Human Rights has ever imposed,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, the agency’s chair and commissioner, said in an interview on Tuesday. “In order to deter future acts of harassment or retaliation, we need to send a message.”

The settlement, which was finalised on June 25, prohibits Fox News from including a clause requiring confidential arbitration in cases where an employee lodges a complaint under the city’s Human Rights Law in new employment contracts for the next four years. It also requires the network to implement a variety of anti-harassment training and prevention measures.

The Commission on Human Rights is the city agency in charge of enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, housing, public services, and other areas. Ms. Malalis stated that the commission began investigating Fox News in September 2017, around the time that several employees spoke out about sexual harassment at the network, and that a formal complaint was filed in December 2018.

Fox News said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “pleased to reach an amicable resolution of this legacy matter.”

“Fox News Media has already been in full compliance across the board,” the network said, adding that it has “collaborated with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to continue enacting extensive preventive measures against all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

In the last few years, Fox News has hired a new human resources team and strengthened sensitivity training requirements, among other measures intended to reform its workplace culture. The network’s agreement last week to pay a $1 million penalty was first reported by The Daily Beast.

Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Tuesday, the British government announced a new exemption to quarantine rules for business travellers who will “bring significant economic benefit” to England, but the move is unlikely to alleviate concerns that certain travel routes into and out of the country remain effectively closed.

The exemption is subject to strict criteria and is only available to executives whose work supports at least 500 British jobs. It is much stricter than the one that was in place for about six weeks beginning in early December, when travellers were required to support only 50 jobs in the United Kingdom.

There is growing concern that Britain’s strict travel rules will cause the country to miss out on business opportunities as other countries welcome the return of travellers, particularly those from the United States. Since Britain’s exit from the European Union, it has been especially concerned about losing lucrative business activity to its neighbours across the English Channel.

Parts of Britain, such as the City of London’s financial and legal district, rely heavily on the presence of large multinational corporations. However, most visitors must either quarantine for ten days and take coronavirus tests on the second and eighth days, or pay for an additional test to end their self-isolation after five days.

France reopened its borders to vaccinated American tourists earlier this month, and Germany announced last week that all Americans could enter the country.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon met with French President Emmanuel Macron this week in Paris and opened a new European Union trading hub on Tuesday. The bank plans to increase its Paris staff to 700 by the end of the year, up from 265 before Britain left the European Union. Mr. Dimon, however, will not stop in Britain, where the company has 19,000 employees and offices in four cities, as he has in previous trips to Europe, due to the country’s travel restrictions.

Any executives hoping to leave quarantine must meet stringent requirements, including demonstrating that the work being done in England “has a greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 U.K.-based jobs” at an existing company with at least 500 employees or at a new British business. Before travelling, executives must apply to the government and obtain written approval, which can take up to five days. The executive must self-isolate at all times when not conducting business, according to the government.

For more than a year, only a few flights per day have flown between New York and London, which was once one of the busiest travel routes in the world. There are even fewer nonstop flights from London to major American cities.

The issue of limited flights between New York and London has been brought up several times per day, according to Emanuel Adam, executive director of BritishAmerican Business in London, which represents some trans-Atlantic companies.

“It’s frustrating and scary for many businesses because they don’t know what it will mean in the long run,” he said.

At the same time, businesses are aware of the health risks posed by the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, he said. And now, restrictions on Britons are tightening; Hong Kong recently barred all visitors from the United Kingdom.

President Donald J. Trump banned nearly all non-Americans from travelling from the United Kingdom in March 2020, and President Biden has maintained the rule. There was a small breakthrough earlier this month at the Group of 7 meetings in Britain when the two sides agreed to form a working group to restart international travel, but the likelihood of an agreement for travel to resume before the fall is reportedly dwindling.

“Many other countries have implemented similar exemptions, and it is critical that the United Kingdom does not lose out on potential major investments and new jobs as a result,” a government representative said in a statement.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

The board of trustees of the University of North Carolina is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Wednesday amid mounting pressure over its failure to approve tenure for Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The New York Times Magazine.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., which represents the journalist, confirmed that the board planned to vote on Ms. Hannah-Jones’ tenure during the meeting.

Ms. Hannah-Jones, the creator of The Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, a multimedia series that re-examined the legacy of slavery in the United States, had agreed to start as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media on July 1. Her legal team stated in a letter last week that she would not join the faculty unless she was granted tenure.

In a news release issued on Monday, the University of North Carolina announced the meeting of the board that approves tenure applications. The agenda for the meeting was not disclosed in the release, but it was expected to include a closed session.

Susan King, the dean of the Hussman School, announced on Twitter shortly after the meeting that the board was “completing the tenure process begun so long ago to bring Nikole Hannah-Jones to our school.”

Despite the fact that the dean, faculty members at the school, the provost, and the chancellor had all recommended tenure for Ms. Hannah-Jones, the board declined to vote on the matter at a meeting this year. Ms. Hannah-Jones retained legal counsel in response to the board’s inaction on the matter.

The hiring of Ms. Hannah-Jones, who earned a master’s degree in journalism from the university in 2003, sparked a backlash from some conservatives who have been critical of the 1619 Project’s reinterpretation of American history. The journalist has also gained the public support of more than 200 academics and other cultural figures, who wrote in a letter published in The Root last month that the board had demonstrated a “failure of courage.”

Students at the university staged a protest in support of Ms. Hannah-Jones on Friday. In a Twitter post, Ms. King, the dean of Hussman School, included a link to a video of the protest.

“We are grateful for the support of our wonderful UNC students as well as the support of other schools,” the dean wrote.

General Mills reported Wednesday that its sales fell 10% in the fourth quarter as demand for at-home consumption began to wane as a result of the pandemic. The Golden Valley-based company reported a 33% drop in net income, earning $416.8 million compared to $625.7 million the previous year. General Mills futures were down 0.8 percent.

On Tuesday, Facebook launched a newsletter subscription service in an attempt to attract influential writers to its platform as more creators break away from traditional publications and go independent. To get the Bulletin service off to a good start, Facebook spent months recruiting and paying dozens of writers, including Malcolm Gladwell. The new service is part of a media industry-wide revival of newsletters. Though newsletters are not new, the recent rise of newsletter-focused start-ups such as Substack and Revue has reignited interest in the format.

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration directed automakers to begin reporting and tracking crashes involving vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance technology such as Tesla’s Autopilot and General Motors’ Super Cruise, indicating that regulators are taking the safety implications of such systems more seriously. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers must report serious crashes within one day of learning about them. Serious accidents include those in which a person is killed or taken to the hospital, a vehicle must be towed away, or airbags deploy.

Clients are clamouring for cryptocurrency products, according to banks and investment managers, with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs among those launching new services for wealthy clients and institutional traders in recent weeks. However, at least in the United States, the prospects for regulatory approval of a truly mainstream crypto investment vehicle, such as a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, remain uncertain. And it’s not for a lack of trying, according to the DealBook newsletter.

Ark Invest, the buzzy fund management company run by Cathie Wood, is the latest firm to pitch a Bitcoin E.T.F., with the buzzy fund management company proposing an E.T.F. in partnership with 21Shares that tracks the cryptocurrency’s price, according to a filing this week. It joins other well-known firms such as Fidelity and VanEck in requesting that the Securities and Exchange Commission approve Bitcoin E.T.F.s, which would provide investors with exposure to Bitcoin without requiring them to hold the cryptocurrency directly, similar to how many funds track the price of gold or oil.

The Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame, who founded the crypto exchange Gemini, were the first to file for SEC approval of such a vehicle in 2013. The SEC delayed a decision on VanEck’s request for the second time this month as it collects public comments on the liquidity, transparency, and susceptibility to manipulation of Bitcoin markets. Bitcoin’s recent volatility isn’t helping matters.

Regulators’ concerns are “outdated and misplaced,” given significant trading volume and established exchanges with reliable pricing, according to Matthew Sigel, VanEck’s head of digital assets research. “ETFs are generally the most liquid and transparent way to gain exposure to a wide range of assets,” he says. “If we agree that E.T.F.s are good, why should Bitcoin be the only one excluded?”

Brazil recently approved the first Bitcoin E.T.F. in Latin America, and Canada has a few as well. Britain, like the US, is taking its time. The latest agenda of the S.E.C. does not include any crypto rules.


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