- Opera to Invest $100m on African Digital Economy
Opera plans to invest $100 million (N30 billion) over the next two years to facilitate the growth of African digital economy.
The company, which is known for its popular Opera Mini mobile browser in Africa, said it would use the investment to speed up internet adoption in Africa and strengthen the internet ecosystem with local partners around African countries.
According to the company, the investment would put Africa on a pathway that would enable it transform itself into a digital continent with the rapid adoption of mobile internet. For the past five years, the Opera Mini browser has been a key facilitator in bringing more than half of Africa’s internet population online by featuring tools for lowering data costs. Recently, the company celebrated 100 million monthly users in Africa and is now focusing on making the next generation of web browsers to cater for the needs of African internet users.
According to a GSMA Intelligence report, the biggest consumer barriers to internet adoption in most African countries are the lack of digital skills and awareness, locally relevant content and affordability. To bring more first-time internet users without the fear of high data costs or lack of local relevant content, Opera invests in developing a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence engine for smartphone users that will ensure content discovery is at the heart of the browser.
Opera users in Africa will get fully personalised and localised content delivered to their browser, the entry point for their internet experience while the data usage can be reduced up to 90 per cent.
On the other hand, Opera is now working with over 47 top tier African publishers covering 107 web sites on this initiative.
Announcing the initiative in Lagos at a recent media briefing, the Vice President of Africa, Opera Software, Richard Monday, said bringing fast and affordable internet access for all had always been Opera’s mission. He explained that Opera would seek local partners to integrate value-added services, mobile payment and data bundling into its browser product. This, he added, would grant consumers access to quality content and services, giving them the ability to transact more easily on their mobile devices. The range of services to be added over the next 12 months will create a content and services hub that will provide African users with a truly unique experience.
“Africa is a very important market for Opera. Nine of the top 20 Opera Mini user countries are from Africa. We aim to invest heavily in Africa, to build a local platform and grow with the local business partners. This platform will expand the user base for content providers, e-commerce businesses, operators, original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) and others to strengthen the African internet ecosystem,” Monday said.
In the area of increased awareness of affordable internet access, Monday said the company recently launched its first nationwide TV and radio commercials to announce a faster and more affordable internet experience with the Opera Mini browser. The commercials are airing in South Africa and Kenya, and will be launching in Nigeria shortly, he said.
He assured Nigerians that Opera would open new offices in Nigeria and Kenya, from where it would link the West and East African countries.
Currently, Opera has operations in Cape Town and Johannesburg, both in South Africa and is expanding with new offices in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya to support business and product development. The plan is to hire around 100 people for these offices over the next three years, Monday said.
The Time is Now for Global ESG Regulation: deVere CEO
A global regulatory framework for environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is now urgently required, affirms the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
The ‘call to action’ from Nigel Green, the chief executive and founder of deVere Group, comes as major financial institutions are handling a massive uptick of inflows into the sector but at the same time facing accusations of inconsistency in their approach to sustainable impactful investments.
Mr Green says: “Environmental, social and governance investing is this decade’s ultimate investment megatrend – and it has been accelerated since the pandemic began.
“There’s been a dramatic increase of inflows into the sector from both retail and institutional investors as it has become clearer than ever that human health is reliant upon healthy ecosystems; that we need to ensure the sustainability of supply chains; and that those companies with robust corporate governance and good business practice fare better in difficult times and are ultimately best-positioned for the future.”
He continues: “The trend is unlikely to slow down in a post-pandemic world. Millennials, who are statistically more likely to seek responsible investment options, are set to become the major beneficiaries of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth – an estimated $30trillion over the next few years.
“In addition, recent research reveals that the majority of environmental, social and governance investments have outperformed their non-sustainable counterparts over the last year and have had lower volatility.
“This will only serve to attract more investors.”
Given the continuing and increasing demand, Mr Green says that the regulatory landscape must reflect the situation.
“Regulators need to catch-up. Initiatives that began in the EU are now spreading worldwide, but much more needs to be done, at a faster pace and with a joined-up approach. There remains a startling lack of consistency in definitions and data.
“Considering the momentum of the sector, the time is now for the establishment of a global regulatory framework for ESG investing.”
This, he says, will provide greater protections for those investors who are looking for profits with purpose. It will also help to reduce ‘greenwashing’, which is where an investment or company gives an inaccurate impression over its green, socially responsible or corporate credentials.
The deVere CEO concludes: “A robust standardised regulatory framework would make the sector even more attractive, which will then help investors reach their financial goals whilst proactively protecting people and the planet.”
BMW and Ford Invest in Solid Power to Secure All Solid-State Batteries for Future Electric Vehicles
Solid Power, an industry-leading producer of all solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, yesterday announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies.
Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future electric vehicles.
The investment positions Solid Power to produce full-scale automotive batteries, increase associated material output and expand in-house production capabilities for future vehicle integration. The BMW Group and Ford aim to utilize Solid Power’s low-cost, high-energy all solid-state battery technology in forthcoming electric vehicles.
“BMW and Ford now share leading positions in the race for all solid-state battery-powered electric vehicles,” said Doug Campbell, CEO and co-founder of Solid Power. “Solid Power now plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company’s pilot production line in early 2022 as a result of our partners’ continued commitment to Solid Power’s commercialization efforts.”
Solid Power has demonstrated its ability to produce and scale next-generation all solid-state batteries that are designed to power longer range, lower cost and safer electric vehicles using existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing infrastructure.
Solid Power’s leadership in all solid-state battery development and manufacturing has been confirmed with the delivery of hundreds of production line-produced battery cells that were validated by Ford and the BMW Group late last year, formalizing Solid Power’s commercialization plans with its two long-standing automotive partners.
“Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that’s why we’re investing directly,” said Ted Miller, Ford’s manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. “By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we’ll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes.”
“Being a leader in advanced battery technology is of the utmost importance for BMW. The development of all solid-state batteries is one of the most promising and important steps towards more efficient, sustainable, and safer electric vehicles. We now have taken our next step on this path with Solid Power,” said Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management BMW AG, Development. “Together we have developed a 20 Ah all solid-state cell that is absolutely outstanding in this field. Over the past 10 years, BMW has continuously increased the battery cell competence– important partners like Solid Power share our vision of zero-emission mobility.”
Solid Power is currently producing 20-ampere hour (Ah) multi-layer all solid-state batteries on the company’s continuous roll-to-roll production line, which exclusively utilizes industry standard lithium-ion production processes and equipment.
Both Ford and the BMW Group will receive full-scale 100 Ah cells for automotive qualification testing and vehicle integration beginning in 2022. Solid Power’s all solid-state platform technology allows for the production of unique cell designs expected to meet performance requirements for each automotive partner. Solid Power’s truly all-solid cell designs achieve higher energy densities, are safer and are expected to cost less than today’s best-performing lithium-ion battery cells.
“Volta invested early in Solid Power when our team of energy and commercialization experts found they had not only promising technology, but also a fundamental focus on manufacturability. After all, a breakthrough battery will not find a place in the market if it can’t be produced at scale with acceptable costs,” said Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, CEO of Volta Energy Technologies, a venture capital firm spun out of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory focused on investing in breakthrough energy storage and battery innovations.
“The fact that Solid Power is already producing multi-layer all solid-state batteries using industry-standard automated commercial manufacturing equipment is why Volta is excited to ramp up its earlier investment. The company’s partnership with BMW and Ford will further accelerate the full commercialization of Solid Power’s batteries and position both car companies to be among the first to have EVs on the road powered by safer, affordable, high-energy solid-state batteries.” He added.
Custodian Investment To Raise $15M Additional Capital
Shareholders of Custodian Investment Plc yesterday gave their approval to the board of directors of the company to raise the naira equivalent of up to $15 million as additional capital through a convertible loan instrument.
The shareholders, who gave the approval at the 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the group held in Lagos, also authorised the directors to convert the loan into shares in the company at a conversion price higher than N6.00 per share or the 12-month historical daily share price of the company derived from the Daily Official List of the Nigeria Exchange Limited (NGX)for the period ended March 23, 2021.
They hailed the board and management for reporting improved financial performance and returns on investment despite the adverse effect of the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted global and local economies in 2020.
Sunny Nwosu, the founding Coordinator of Independent Shareholders of Nigeria (ISAN), commended the company’s performance and returns on investment. He, however, advised that the company should consider a bonus issue to shareholders because of the robust statutory reserves and regulatory requirements.
Also speaking, the President of Nigeria Shareholders Solidarity Association, Mr. Matthew Akinlade, said the performance was a very good one based on the financial indices.
Another shareholder, Mr. Adebayo Adeleke, commended the company for weathering the storm of 2020 and its challenging operating environment. He praised the company for the foresight of having a holding company which now enables it to make investment decisions easily.
The shareholders approved the final dividend of 55 kobo per share, bringing the total dividend to 65 kobo, having paid an interim dividend of 10 kobo last year.
Addressing the shareholders at the meeting, the Chairman of the board of directors, Dr. (Mrs.) Omobola Johnson, said, “I am delighted to report that our company recorded significant successes during the 2020 financial year despite the challenging operating environment, a fallout of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting weak oil earnings, Naira devaluation and high inflation.”
She noted that the successes recorded by the company in 2020 was an affirmation of the robustness of the group’s business model, which allowed it to quickly adapt to the fast-changing environment, the astute leadership of the company supported by energetic employees using technology to efficiently provide prompt services to clients.
According to her, despite the challenges faced during the year under review, the group more than doubled its profits by posting a profit after tax of N12.69 billion as against N6.01 achieved in 2019.
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