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(Reuters) U.S. technology and engineering conglomerate GE said on Saturday it had signed $15 billion of business deals with Saudi Arabia as part of the kingdom's drive to diversify its economy beyond oil.

It came as dozens of senior U.S. business executives met Saudi counterparts at a conference coinciding with the visit of President Donald Trump to Riyadh.

The agreements, which involve almost $7 billion of goods and services from GE itself, range from the power and healthcare sectors to the oil and gas industry and mining, GE said. Some of the deals are memorandums of understanding which would require further agreements to materialize.

Among the projects, GE will help make Saudi power generation more efficient and provide digital technology to the operations of oil firm Saudi Aramco, aiming to create $4 billion of annual productivity improvements at Aramco. It will cooperate in medical research and training.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (May 19, 2017) - The Government of the United States Virgin Islands and Airbnb have confirmed the first tax agreement in the Caribbean, which will allow the platform to collect the Territory's 12.5 percent Hotel Room Occupancy Tax on behalf of hosts and remit the funds to the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). The agreement will also create a framework to help promote tourism to the U.S. Virgin Islands, highlighting the cultural and historical heritage of this world-class destination.

Airbnb has been investing in partnerships in the region to support a thriving community of homeowners who are renting their spaces and creating new flows of local economic benefits.

Agreements have been signed with several countries and with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) to create policy frameworks for this growing hospitality trend of home sharing. Today's announcement spearheads the company's efforts in the Caribbean to collect and remit lodging taxes on behalf of hosts, allowing hosts to comply and give back to their communities.

The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kenneth E. Mapp, supported the agreement and noted that locals will increase their participation in the economic benefits of tourism. "This is good for our Government because it streamlines the collection process and enables more of our residents to participate in the visitor industry. Our hospitality sector will also greatly benefit from the promotional reach of this multibillion-dollar organization," Mapp said.

The agreement with Airbnb is a component of the Mapp-Potter Administration's Five Year Plan to fully restore economic stability to the V.I. Government through economic growth, increased revenue collection and better resource management. It will help improve and diversify the tourism industry and create unique experiences for and by the locals of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and their visitors.

Airbnb has about 2,000 active listings across the U.S. Virgin Islands and a typical Airbnb host earns US$7,700 a year. "Airbnb represents a supplemental income, which helps families pay their bills and improve their quality of life. As local hosts bring more tourism to the region, visitors get to know the country from an organic and more authentic point of view, spending in local businesses and services, as well as encouraging others to visit the islands as a result of their positive experience," said Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb's Public Policy Manager for the Caribbean and Central America.

Local authorities also pointed to the importance of the growth and diversification of tourism to the island and the improvement of tax collection for both hosts and government.

"This agreement brings to the table a well-resourced partner to help with our efforts to attract people to our islands," observed Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty.

Marvin Pickering, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue, said the additional revenue would be beneficial for the treasury. "This voluntary collection agreement for the hotel room tax provides the bureau with an additional resource to ensure that the tax is collected and remitted in a timely manner. We look forward to pursuing this additional avenue of increasing the tax revenue from Airbnb hosts as they participate in our Territory's tax regime by fulfilling their filing and payment obligations."

Kingston Wharves Ltd (KWL) indicates that it plans to open its new logistics complex later this year and is also planning the construction of a near-port domestic automotive centre for the benefit of both terminal operations and integrated logistics efforts.According to company CEO Grantley Stephenson, the centre will facilitate domestic motor vehicle imports which have increased by approximately 36 per cent since 2015. Construction is expected to end in six months.

 

The new facility, he said will be a “one stop centre which offers opportunities for global logistics (warehousing of parts, tires and other motor vehicle accessories) as well as the efficient storage and delivery of services to the domestic market.”

 

Growth in the motor segment, Stephenson said is dependent on the local economy, and while the growth rate is expected to stabilise soon, the company expects a continued increase in transshipment of vehicles.

 

Chairman Jeffrey Hall said in comments attached to the first quarter's financials that KWL continues to strengthen core services, while diversifying the range of cargo types the company is able to serve.

 

Investment, he said, continues in the automotive and logistics business line which includes both domestic as well as transshipment cargo. The business includes cars as well as trucks, heavy equipment and automotive accessories.

 

“Kingston Wharves' capital investment and business development program covers all aspects of the automotive logistics business including the car terminal space for handling cars shipped, vehicle parking and storage facilities and warehousing for parts and accessories,” Hall told the Jamaica Observer.

 

For the first quarter, the company's logistics services division earned operating profits of $98 million, an increase of 33 per cent over the prior year on revenues of $327 million, representing an 18 per cent or $49 million increase over the relative period in the prior year.

 

Hall said in the quarter's report, “This was achieved primarily through an expanding customer base as a result of deliberate marketing and business development efforts as well as the deployment of new technology to improve our integrated logistics services and allow for improved security and more efficient systems for the warehousing, delivery and timely receipt of cargo.”

 

The operating revenue of KWL's terminal operations division amounted to $1.1 billion, a 14 per cent increase with divisional profits up 21 per cent from $274 million to $331 million.

 

The main driver behind this growth was said to be the container-handling operations which advanced by eight per cent over the corresponding period of the prior year.

 

For the three months ended March 31, the wider group achieved revenues of $1.4 billion, up 16 per cent or $189 million increase over the corresponding period in 2016.

 

Profit before taxation increased from $325 million in 2016 to $402 million in 2017, representing growth of 24 per cent.

 

Net profit attributable to shareholders increased by 20 per cent or $56 million to $333 million over the comparable period last year.

 

 

Earnings per stock unit as at March 31, 2017 grew to 23.25 cents (2016: 19.34 cents).

NEW YORK (AP) — An escalating battle between Apple and Qualcomm over money and patent rights is drawing in Taiwanese contractors that assemble Apple's iPhones.

 

Apple claims that Qualcomm is overcharging for patent-related license fees on iPhone sales, a point Qualcomm disputes. Last month, Apple Inc. began refusing to pay royalties until the courts determine how much it owes, a process that could take several years.

 

According to a federal lawsuit Qualcomm filed Wednesday, Apple has also instructed its contractors to withhold those payments and has agreed to indemnify them for damages from any lawsuits. Qualcomm has separate licensing agreements with the contractors. Qualcomm's lawsuit says those contractors are still paying royalties for non-Apple products.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego, names Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., and its subsidiary, FIH Mobile Ltd; Pegatron Corp.; Wistron Corp. and Compal Electronics Inc. The companies make iPhones and iPads for Apple.

 

Qualcomm previously sued Apple accusing it of breaking contracts and interfering in deals negotiated with iPhone suppliers.

"As Apple continues to collect billions of dollars from consumer sales of its Qualcomm-enabled products, it is using its market power as the wealthiest company in the world to try to coerce unfair and unreasonable license terms," Qualcomm's general counsel, Don Rosenberg, said in a statement.

 

The case underscores the influence Apple wields over the companies that make its products and parts for them. Many contractors become dependent on Apple's business; recently, British chipmaker Imagination Technologies' stock took a dive after it announced that Apple plans to stop using its products.

 

Qualcomm, which is based in San Diego, depends on licensing fees for a large portion of its revenue. Its patents cover a wide range of technologies essential for 3G and LTE cellular communications — and hence iPhones and cellular models of iPads.

Qualcomm says Apple is making unreasonable demands for licenses at below-market prices. Apple counters that Qualcomm has been abusing its power in the mobile chip market to charge for royalties on features that aren't covered by its patents.

Apple says Qualcomm's technologies cover a small portion of what goes into iPhones, yet Qualcomm is seeking a percentage of iPhone sales.

 

"They do some really great work around standards-essential patents, but it's one small part of what an iPhone is," CEO Tim Cook said during a May 2 conference call with financial analysts. "It's not — it has nothing do with the display or the Touch ID or a gazillion other innovations that Apple has done. And so we don't think that's right, and so we're taking a principled stand on it."

 

 

The Cupertino, California, company isn't alone in its accusations against Qualcomm. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has also filed a lawsuit alleging that Qualcomm has been imposing unfair licensing terms on manufacturers.

(Reuters) Ford Motor Co. plans to shrink its salaried workforce in North America and Asia by about 10 percent as it works to boost profits and its sliding stock price, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters on Monday.

A person briefed on the plan said Ford plans to offer generous early retirement incentives to reduce its salaried headcount by Oct. 1, but does not plan cuts to its hourly workforce or its production.

The move could put the U.S. automaker on a collision course with President Donald Trump, who has made boosting auto employment a top priority. Ford has about 30,000 salaried workers in the United States.

The cuts are part of a previously announced plan to slash costs by $3 billion, the person said, as U.S. new vehicles auto sales have shown signs of decline after seven years of consecutive growth since the end of the Great Recession.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday evening that Ford plans to cut 10 percent of its 200,000-person global workforce, but the person briefed on the plan disputed that figure. The source requested anonymity in order to be able to discuss the matter freely.

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