Greek debt standoff ‘greatest risk’ to world economy; Apple to sell bonds worth $5bn; Market seen to be ready for self-driving cars

1 Greek debt standoff ‘greatest risk’ to world economy (Katie Allen and Helena Smith in The Guardian) UK chancellor George Osborne has warned that the standoff between Greece and the eurozone over the country’s debt is “the greatest risk to the global economy” after meeting the new Greek finance minister.

The chancellor hosted a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis, who, just a week after being elected, is on a whistlestop tour of Europe to win support for renegotiating Greece’s €240bn bailout. “We had a constructive discussion, and it is clear that the standoff between Greece and the eurozone is the greatest risk to the global economy,” Osborne said. “I urge the Greek finance minister to act responsibly but it’s also important that the eurozone has a better plan for jobs and growth.

“It is a rising threat to the British economy. And we have got to make sure that in Europe, as in Britain, we choose competence over chaos. Varoufakis expressed optimism that a deal could be achieved within days. “There will be a deal within a very short space of time that is going to make it perfectly clear to everyone that Greece can play within the rules and in a way that puts the Greek crisis away, once and for all,” he said.

The economist, who was appointed finance minister after anti-austerity party Syriza swept to power, has offered to produce proposals for a reworked debt deal within a month. He has appointed Lazard, the US investment bank, to advise on Greece’s negotiations about its debt, which amounts to more than 175% of GDP.

Varoufakis and his party face opposition from Germany, where leader Angela Merkel has ruled out further debt cuts from its creditor nations. Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is also touring European capitals. Tsipras’s party Syriza won the election on a promise to ditch the strict austerity cuts tied to Greece’s bailout from the troika of lenders – the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

2 Apple to sell bonds worth $5bn (BBC) Technology giant Apple is expected to raise at least $5bn by issuing bonds. Some of the funds raised will be used for Apple’s share buyback programme. The California-based company plans to return more than $130bn to shareholders by the end of this year.

The move comes despite the company sitting on a cash pile of $178bn. Apple will raise less than half the $12bn generated in April 2014 when it was last active in the US bond market. A year earlier it raised $17bn. Analysts have said that Apple could increase the amount it returns to its investors to as much as $200bn over the next three years.

Even when Apple’s $35bn of debt is taken into account, it still has $142bn in cash. Almost 90% of the cash is held outside the US, and it would have to pay the top corporate tax rate of 35% if it returned the money from abroad, which is why it is borrowing the money instead.

Last week, Apple reported a record quarterly profit for a public company of $18bn for the three months to 31 December, with revenue up almost 30% to $74.6bn after the new iPhone 6 proved a huge hit with consumers globally.

3 Market seen to be ready for self-driving cars (Kristen V Brown in San Francisco Chronicle) Self-driving cars have been a science fiction dream for decades. Now advances in technology have put companies like Google closer than ever to achieving a commercially available autonomous car, as close as five years away by some estimates.

And a significant number of consumers are ready to let go of the wheel according to two recent surveys. Some 44 percent of respondents said they would be likely or very likely to purchase a self-driving car by 2025, according to a survey by Boston Consulting Group. In a second survey, by market research firm Gfk, nearly three-fourths of respondents ages 25-34 said self-driving cars were appealing. Overall, they appealed to 66 percent of survey respondents.

In both surveys, people cited a perceived increase in safety over manually operated cars as a key advantage for autonomous vehicles. Safety is the key element that makers of self-driving cars have pushed — people are responsible for the vast majority of accident, the thinking goes, so eliminating them from the equation would make roadways safer. Lower insurance and fuel costs and more free time were also appealing.

Older drivers, the category of consumers who might benefit the most from driverless vehicles, were the least interested in the technology. Just 50 percent of survey respondents 55-64 said they were interested in the Gfk survey, while 45 percent of those 65 and up were. BCG estimated that partially self-driving cars will hit the roads in large numbers by 2017. By 2035, BCG predicted that 12 million fully automated vehicles could be sold a year.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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