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EU explores chipmaker alliance as alternative to foreign-funded megafab – sources

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By Mathieu Rosemain, Michel Rose and Foo Yun Chee

PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union is considering creating a semiconductor alliance including STMicroelectronics, NXP, Infineon and ASML to cut dependence on foreign chipmakers amid a global supply chain crunch, four EU officials said.

The plan, which is at a very preliminary stage, may include a pan-European scheme known as an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), which allows EU governments to pump in funding under easier state aid rules, and companies to work together on the entire project, the sources said.

It would complement or come as an alternative to a possible foreign-funded factory, with the aim to double the EU’s market share in semiconductors to 20% by 2030, a target set out by European internal market chief Thierry Breton.

The EU Commissioner, who is seeking to persuade a leading chipmaker to site a major fabrication plant in the bloc, is due to meet Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger on Friday. He will also hold a video conference with Maria Marced, President of TSMC Europe.

Diplomats and Taiwanese officials say TSMC is not interested in building a plant in the EU.

However, several EU officials winced at the idea of foreign-funded megafab.

“Politicians like shiny things and sometimes tend to sacrifice long-term industrial policies for short-term announcements,” a senior French official said.

“If we step on the toes of European players, then I’m not sure our sovereignty will gain anything from it,” the source added.

Three EU Commission officials said they weren’t happy with a strategy relying on non-EU companies to build factories and that partnerships between EU companies and foreign peers may work better.

There’s also a big question mark over the capacity of the European internal market, which lacks a big smartphone industry, and whether it could absorb the additional output, the French official said.

Such disagreements cast a light on the struggles experienced by the European executive body in defining an industrial strategy for its semiconductor industry, which is dwarfed by its Asian competitors and doesn’t have a champion with the financial firepower necessary to build a new plant.

They also underline the suspicion with which Breton, a French national and former chief executive of IT firm Atos, is met within the European Union, another official told Reuters. Talks of a strategic autonomy unnerve supporters of a free market, who see him as a protectionist, the source said.

Officials say talks are ongoing and there are no final decisions. Breton and EU tech chief Margrethe Vestager will present the Commission’s updated industrial strategy, with the main focus on semiconductors, on May 5.

“To be leaders not followers, EU industry requires urgent, ambitious action on digital technologies such as semiconductors, cloud, quantum, space connectivity & batteries,” the EU commissioner tweeted on Thursday following a meeting in Berlin with German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.

Breton said at the meeting that 22 EU member states had agreed to support his initiative to support local production.

A spokesman for ASML, the world’s leading producer of advanced chipmaking tools, confirmed the company has participated in the Breton-led talks.

“We’re of course bringing the equipment manufacturers’ view to the table,” Sander Hofman said.

GlobalFoundries, which runs Europe’s largest semiconductor foundry complex in Dresden, Germany, said: “We stand in close contact with team Breton, the EU Commission, the German government and other key public authorities across Europe.”

STMicro <STM.PA> and NXP declined to comment. Infineon didn’t respond to a request seeking comment.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Mathieu Rosemain and Michel RoseAdditional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Tapei, Douglas Busvine in Berlin and Toby Sterling in AmsterdamWriting by Mathieu RosemainEditing by Elaine Hardcastle, Sonya Hepinstall and David Gregorio)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/eu-explores-chipmaker-alliance-alternative-foreign-funded-megafab-sources/14299

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Amazon to hire 75,000 workers, offers $100 extra for vaccination proof

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(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc will give $100 more to new hires with proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the world’s largest e-commerce retailer said on Thursday, as part of its plan to employ 75,000 workers for fulfillment and logistics operations.

As vaccines become crucial to reopening of the economy, several U.S. retailers, including Dollar General, Kroger and Target, are offering bonuses or other perks to staff getting their shots.

Demand for hourly staff at restaurants, factories, retail stores and fulfillment centers is rising as e-commerce demand remains robust, while more consumers are expected to step out of their homes after a year of lockdown living.

The vaccine-related incentives are also aimed at attracting workers flush with relief checks and wary of the pandemic as well as the lack of childcare facilities back to work.

Amazon will pay the new hires an average starting pay of more than $17 per hour, reflecting recent hikes of between 50 cents and $3 an hour for about half a million fulfillment-center workers in the United States.

It will also pay a sign-on bonus of up to $1,000.

The e-retailer has benefited from a surge in e-commerce sales as more consumers moved online last year, forcing it to hire thousands and offer attractive perks and bonuses.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/amazon-hire-75000-workers-offers-100-extra-vaccination-proof/14650

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Google wins cloud deal from SpaceX for Starlink internet service

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(Reuters) – Google has won a deal to provide cloud services to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has launched a slew of Starlink satellites to provide high-speed internet, it said on Thursday.

SpaceX will set up ground stations within Google’s data centers that connect to the Starlink satellites, enabling fast and secure internet services via Google Cloud, the search giant said.

This service is expected to be available in the second half of 2021 for enterprise customers, the company said.

The deal comes at a time when demand for cloud-computing services has soared, with players like Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc dominating the market. Cloud companies have also tapped into the telecoms sector, thanks to a jump in demand for 5G connectivity.

Google’s cloud business accounts for about 7% of its total revenue, as of the latest earnings report.

Last October, Microsoft won a similar deal from SpaceX to connect its Azure cloud computing platform to Starlink.

Privately held SpaceX, known for its reusable rockets and astronaut capsules, is ramping up satellite production for Starlink, a growing constellation of hundreds of internet-beaming satellites that Musk hopes will generate enough revenue to help fund SpaceX’s interplanetary goals.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/google-wins-cloud-deal-spacex-starlink-internet-service/14649

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Chat app Discord to test ticketing, make audio events easier to find

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By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Chat platform Discord said on Thursday it will start to test paid tickets for audio events, the first feature where creators can make money from the site, and will launch a tool next month to help users more easily find live audio channels.

Discord, which grew quickly during the pandemic and says it has 150 million monthly active users, will roll out ticketed events this month in a pilot with fewer than 50 creators, all based in the United States, a Discord spokeswoman said.

The announcements follow Discord’s launch in March of “Stage Channels” where users can tune in to an audio channel operated by a host, a feature popularized by the year-old, invite-only Clubhouse app.

Discord was first used by videogamers but has increasingly expanded to different communities and is used for events ranging from comedy clubs to karaoke parties.

The platform said in a blog post that it plans to launch a “Stage Discovery” feature on June 1 to help users find different new voice events.

A slew of online platforms like Facebook and Twitter are working on their own audio chat services. Social media companies are also racing to build features to attract content creators who have built large fan followings and want to make money directly from their platform audiences.

Discord said it would also launch a feature this summer called “Threads” to make text chats more streamlined and easier to follow.

Reuters reported last month that Discord had ended sale talks with Microsoft Corp to focus on expanding its business as a standalone company.

This month, Sony Corp announced that one of its units had made a minority investment in Discord as part of a deal to tie in the platform with Sony’s PlayStation gaming division.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; editing by Richard Pullin)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/chat-app-discord-test-ticketing-make-audio-events-easier-find/14648

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Exclusive: Crypto crime down in 2021 through April, but ‘DeFi’ fraud at record -CipherTrace

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By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Losses from cryptocurrency theft, hacks and fraud fell sharply in the first four months of the year, but crime in the booming “decentralized finance” space hit an all-time high, a report from crypto intelligence company CipherTrace showed on Thursday.

DeFi applications are platforms that facilitate crypto-denominated lending outside traditional banking, using an open-source code with algorithms that set rates in real time based on supply and demand. Many DeFi applications are embedded in the ethereum blockchain.

Globally, crypto criminals ran away with $432 million as of end-April, according to the CipherTrace report. About 56% of that, or $240 million were DeFi-related, a record peak.

For the whole of 2020, losses in the crypto sector through fraud and crime were $1.9 billion. In 2019, crypto crime losses hit a record $4.5 billion.

Cryptocurrencies are once again in the spotlight with the surge in prices for the second-largest token, ethereum, and social media darling, dogecoin.

The drop in crypto crime reflects some maturation in the industry, as infrastructure improved and companies and exchanges boosted security systems.

DeFi, however, is another story. The value locked – the total number of loans on DeFi platforms – was $86 billion as of Wednesday, DeFi Pulse data showed, up roughly 650% from $11 billion in October.

The surge in the industry’s growth has attracted the bad actors and market participants said the rise in crime is likely to accelerate as DeFi expands further.

“As more money pours into the space from retail and institutional players, bad actors will seek to take advantage of the hype to draw people into scams and hackers will seek out projects that have launched without performing adequate security audits, exploiting loopholes encoded in the smart contracts,” Dave Jevans, CipherTrace’s chief executive officer, said in an emailed response to Reuters.

Losses from DeFi-related hacks already exceeded the $129 million taken for the whole of 2020. In 2019, there were no DeFi losses reported.

One of the major losses in the DeFi space was the $80 million worth of funds stolen on April 19 from EasyFi Network, a DeFi project on the Polygon Network, the CipherTrace report said. EasyFi reported that a hacker stole roughly $80 million worth of funds from its wallet.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley and Matthew Lewis)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/exclusive-crypto-crime-2021-april-defi-fraud-record-ciphertrace/14647

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