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Meta to open its first retail store to showcase virtual reality hardware – Arab News
RIYADH: Meta Platforms, an American multinational technology company, is opening its first-ever retail store in California, hoping to introduce people to the world of virtual reality through a try-before-you-buy approach, Bloomberg reported. 
The Meta Store will open May 9 in Burlingame to showcase the company’s hardware products. 
Store visitors will be encouraged to interact with everything including the portal video calling hub, Quest 2 virtual reality goggles and Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses. 
Meta has also partnered with EssilorLuxottica SA, the world’s largest eyewear company to produce Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.

Meta Store, our first brick and mortar retail and experience space, opening on May 9 at our Burlingame campus (322 Airport Blvd, Burlingame, CA). Check it out!
— Boz (@boztank) April 25, 2022
Elon Musk told banks that agreed to help fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter Inc. that he could crack down on executive and board pay at the social media company in a push to slash costs, and would develop new ways to monetize tweets, three people familiar with the matter said according to Reuters.
Musk made the pitch to the lenders as he tried to secure debt for the buyout days after submitting his offer to Twitter on April 14, the sources said. His submission of bank commitments on April 21 were key to Twitter’s board accepting his “best and final” offer.
Musk had to convince the banks that Twitter produced enough cash flow to service the debt he sought. In the end, he clinched $13 billion in loans secured against Twitter and a $12.5 billion margin loan tied to his Tesla Inc. stock. He agreed to pay for the remainder of the consideration with his own cash.
Musk’s pitch to the banks constituted his vision rather than firm commitments, the sources said, and the exact cost cuts he will pursue once he owns Twitter remain unclear. The plan he outlined to banks was thin on detail, the sources added.
Musk has tweeted about eliminating the salaries of Twitter’s board directors, which he said could result in about $3 million in cost savings. Twitter’s stock-based compensation for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2021 was $630 million, a 33 percent increase from 2020, corporate filings show.
In his pitch to the banks, Musk also pointed to Twitter’s gross margin, which is much lower than peers such as Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook and Pinterest, arguing this leaves plenty of space to run the company in a more cost-efficient way.
The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. A Musk representative declined to comment.
Bloomberg News reported earlier on Thursday that Musk specifically mentioned job cuts as part of his pitch to the banks.
One of the sources said that Musk will not make decisions on job cuts until he assumes ownership of the company later this year.
He went ahead with the acquisition without having access to confidential details on the company’s financial performance and headcount.
Musk told the banks he also plans to develop features to grow business revenue, including new ways to make money out of tweets that contain important information or go viral, the sources said.
Ideas he brought up included charging a fee when a third-party website wants to quote or embed a tweet from verified individuals or organizations.
In a tweet earlier this month he subsequently deleted, Musk suggested a raft of changes to the social media giant’s Twitter Blue premium subscription service, including slashing its price, banning advertising and giving an option to pay in the cryptocurrency dogecoin. Twitter’s premium Blue service now costs $2.99 a month.
In another tweet he deleted, Musk said he wants to reduce Twitter’s dependence on advertising for much of its revenue.
Musk, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $246 billion, has indicated he will support the banks in marketing the syndicated debt to investors, and that he may unveil more details of his business plan for Twitter then, the sources said.
Musk has also lined a up a new chief executive for Twitter, one of the sources added, declining to reveal the identity of that person.
He told Twitter’s chairman Bret Taylor earlier this month that he does not have confidence in the San Francisco-based company’s management.
Parag Agrawal, who was named Twitter’s CEO in November, is expected to remain in his role until the sale of the company to Musk is completed.
Too Risky For Some Banks 
Musk has been inundated with offers from potential equity partners to join him in the Twitter deal, and he will decide in the coming weeks if he teams up with someone, one of the sources said.
It is unlikely that Musk would partner with a private equity firm given that the deal is not structured as a traditional leveraged buyout, the source added.
Musk disclosed this week that he sold $8.5 billion worth of Tesla shares, a move likely aimed at helping finance his deal for Twitter.
The Tesla chief executive also told the banks he will seek moderation policies on the social media platform that are as free as possible within the legal constraints of each jurisdiction Twitter operates, the sources said, a position that he has repeated publicly.
The $13 billion Twitter loan is equivalent to seven times Twitter’s 2022 projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. This was too risky for some banks who decided to participate only in the margin loan, the sources said.
Another reason some banks opted out is because they feared Musk’s unpredictability could result in an exodus of talent from Twitter, harming its business, according to the sources.
A Twitter spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
— Reuters
BRUSSELS: Companies and countries were at odds over Moscow’s rouble-for-gas payment system on Friday, while European officials promised more guidance on whether buying Russian gas can comply with sanctions and Russia said it saw no problem with its plan, according Reuters.
Russia cut gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday after they refused to abide by the demand issued in a Russian presidential decree last month for gas payments in roubles, prompting concerns other countries could be the next to be hit.
Germany, which imports around half of its gas from Russia, said on Friday energy companies can open special accounts with Gazprombank to pay for Russian gas, without breaching sanctions if transferring euros or dollars to them fulfils their contractual obligations.
It did not specify whether companies could do this and also open a rouble account, as requested by Russia, without being in breach of EU sanctions.
Denmark’s Orsted said it has no intention of opening a rouble account in Russia, although it declined to comment on payment in other currencies. Italy’s ENI also said it had not opened an account in roubles.
Under Russia’s mechanism, buyers are obliged to deposit euros or dollars into an account at privately-owned Russian bank Gazprombank, which has then to convert them into roubles, place the proceeds in another account owned by the foreign buyer and transfer the payment in Russian currency to Gazprom.
EU energy ministers will on Monday hold an emergency meeting to discuss their response to Russia’s demand.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has already said countries may be able to make sanctions-compliant payments provided they declare their payments are completed once it has been made in euros and before it is converted into roubles.
EU countries, however, have said they want more clarity, while Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy and among the most dependent on Russian gas, says it cannot afford to stop buying Russian supplies, even though it is taking steps to find alternative sources of energy.
A European Commission official told Reuters on Friday the executive will provide EU countries with extra guidance following complaints from some countries that ambiguity would leave different countries reaching different interpretations of what they were allowed to do.
Russia on Friday said it saw no problem with its proposed system.
“If the established procedure for interaction between gas buyers and the authorized bank is observed by the buyer, and there are no problems for the authorized bank in terms of selling currency on the stock exchange due to restrictive measures on the part of foreign states, then there cannot be any obstacles to paying for and receiving natural gas,” Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said.
The rouble has to an extent benefited from Moscow’s demand for roubles payment. The currency hit its highest level versus the euro in more than two years on Friday supported by capital controls as the central bank cut interest rates for the second time this month.
European gas prices have hit record levels since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Europe’s top gas supplier, and were up slightly on Friday.

Helpful ‘Messiness’
Central to the confusion on the part of the European buyers is whether Russia would only consider the payment to be complete after the gas-to-roubles conversion is done — a transaction that would involve Russia’s central bank, which is subject to EU sanctions.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an EU diplomat admitted a certain amount of ambiguity could be helpful as the bloc seeks to prevent any widening of divisions between countries, which have different levels of reliance on Russia and different deadlines to make payments.
“In the circumstances, a little bit of a messiness might just be preferable,” the diplomat said.
Poland and Bulgaria have contracts with Gazprom due to expire at the end of this year, which meant their search for alternative supplies was already advanced. Poland also has very healthy gas stocks around 77 percent full.
Austria’s OMV, which has a contract with Gazprom until 2040, said it was analizing how a change could be implemented for it to pay in roubles without breaching sanctions when next payment is due in May.
Germany’s advice on Friday echoed that given by the Commission last week, but the Commission also warned complying fully with Russia’s scheme could breach the bloc’s sanctions.
Germany’s leading energy companies Uniper and RWE both declined to comment.
EnBW’s VNG unit on Friday said it is staying within the law when it comes to paying for Russian volumes required under current currency requirements, adding it will not unveil details of contracts with its suppliers.
— Reuters
Tesla is recalling about 48,000 Model 3 Performance vehicles in the US because they may not display the speedometer while in “Track Mode,” documents released Friday show, according to Reuters.
The recall covers vehicles from the 2018 through 2022 model years.
Tesla will perform an over-the-air software update to address the issue.
Tesla said a firmware update released in December unintentionally removed the speed unit from the user interface. 
RIYADH: Middle East-based transport start-up Swvl has signed a definitive agreement to acquire UK smart bus platform and technology scale-up Zeelo.
This transaction provides Swvl, which has locations in Dubai and Cairo, with a launchpad to land and expand business operations in developed markets including the UK, South Africa and the US, according to a company statement.
“Swvl and Zeelo share a vision and mission to provide reliable transportation that gets riders where they need to go in an affordable, safe, and environmentally-friendly manner,” Swvl founder and CEO, Mostafa Kandil, said.
“With an impressive suite of turnkey TaaS (Transportation as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions and an established footprint in the UK, South Africa, and the US, Zeelo rapidly advances our leading market position as a provider of technology-enabled mass transit solutions on a global scale,” he said. 
The transaction is expected to be completed in May 2022, and Zeelo founder and CEO Sam Ryan said: “Bus transport done well with tech can take us beyond our dependency on cars and taxis which are not suitable for commutes from non-urban areas.”
“We look forward to bringing Swvl insights from Zeelo’s strategic pivot during the global pandemic and we’ve been impressed by Swvl’s fast growth in challenging markets,” he added.
Zeelo employs more than 160 staff across the globe, is an asset-light technology company that modernizes daily bus commutes for frontline workers and students through B2B contracts with organizations and family-run bus operator networks.
Swvl recently acquired Viapool and Shotl, and announced acquisitions of Volt Lines and door2door.
ZURICH: The Swiss National Bank is against buying and holding Bitcoin as a reserve currency, chairman Thomas Jordan said at the central bank’s annual general meeting on Friday, according to Reuters.
“Buying bitcoin is not a problem for us, we can do that either directly or can buy investment products which are based on bitcoin,” Jordan said. “We can arrange the technical and operative conditions relatively quickly, when we are convinced we must have bitcoin in our balance sheet.
“But from the current perspective we do not believe Bitcoin meets the requirements of currency reserves, that’s why we have until now decided not to have bitcoin on our balance sheet,” he added.
Anti-climate change activists protested outside the meeting, held in Bern, demanding the SNB ended its investment in companies they say are contributing to global warming via carbon emissions.
“The Swiss National Bank invests billions in the fossil fuel industry every year,” said Nora Scheel from the group Campax. “In doing so, it generates almost as many CO2 emissions as the whole of Switzerland does domestically.”
The SNB, which has 937 billion in foreign currency investments, has reduced its investment in energy and fossil fuel companies from 10 percent of its holdings to around 3 percent to 4 percent, Chairman Jordan said.
“It makes no sense for us to sell all our shares, they would just be bought by someone else. The important thing is that the economy can transform itself produce less CO2 emissions,” Jordan told the AGM.
“That should be done in a systematic and orderly manner. We are already seeing the problem in energy supply at present, with rising energy prices causing problems especially for people with low incomes.”
The SNB has already ruled out investing in companies mainly involved in coal mining, he added, but could not exclude oil and gas investments overnight. 


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