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FILE PHOTO: Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei walks inside Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen
FILE PHOTO: Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei walks inside Huawei’s headquarters in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in this October 16, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

May 26, 2019

(Reuters) – Huawei Technologies’ founder and Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei told Bloomberg https://bloom.bg/2HT7DUY that retaliation by Beijing against Apple Inc was unlikely and that he would oppose any such move from China against the iPhone maker.

When asked about calls from some in China to retaliate against Apple, Ren said that he would “protest” against any such step if it were to be taken by Beijing.

“That (Chinese retaliation against Apple) will not happen first of all and second of all, if that happens, I’ll be the first to protest,” Ren said in the interview with Bloomberg.

He conceded that export curbs from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will cut into a two-year lead built by Huawei over its competitors, but added that the company will either ramp up its chip supply or find alternatives to stay ahead in smartphones and 5G.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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NATO helicopters land at the Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan
NATO helicopters land at the Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

May 26, 2019

By Rupam Jain and Sabine Siebold

KABUL/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with U.S. officials since October about a withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process towards a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan – and Germany is one of them – together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief U.S. negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a ceasefire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

“We realize that U.S.-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolutions. The European Union and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

The moves come at a time when the Taliban controls or exercises influence over more than half of Afghanistan.

At least 3,804 civilians were killed in the war last year, according to a United Nations report, plus thousands of soldiers, police and Taliban militants.

The involvement of Germany, the second-largest donor and an influential member of the 39-member NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, follows concern among several U.S. allies at being excluded from the talks.

Germany, which last year spent 23 billion euros ($25.76 billion) in integrating hundreds of thousands of refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, also has pressing domestic reasons for promoting peace. Next year, parliament will have to approve the continued presence of 1,200 German troops in Afghanistan.

“Lawmakers will ask why they should extend the mandate again if there is no progress there whatsoever,” said Conrad Schetter, an Afghanistan at the Bonn International Center for Conversion, an independent think-tank.

($1 = 0.8927 euros)

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by David Goodman)

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FILE PHOTO: A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sign is seen at its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan
FILE PHOTO: A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sign is seen at its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S. May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

May 25, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler is in advanced discussions to forge extensive ties with Frances’s Renault, the Financial Times reported on Saturday, citing multiple people informed on the talks.

The paper said the carmakers were seeking to join forces to tackle structural challenges facing the global auto industry.

An agreement might ultimately lead FCA to join the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in the future, some of these people added, while also warning that this outcome would mean taking a complicated path that would involve winning over Japan’s Nissan.

The paper cited Renault and FCA as declining to comment and said a spokesman for Nissan did not reply to a request for comment.

Renault spokespeople did not return phone calls seeking comment.

(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro in Paris; Writing by Frances Kerry)

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Rahul Gandhi, President of Congress party, his mother and leader of the party Sonia Gandhi and India's former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a CWC meeting in New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi, President of Congress party, his mother and leader of the party Sonia Gandhi and India’s former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi, India, May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain

May 25, 2019

By Zeba Siddiqui and Devjyot Ghoshal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The head of India’s main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, offered to quit on Saturday after a crushing election defeat but senior party officials rejected his offer and called instead for a major internal shake-up.

Gandhi, 48 and the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, had been under intense pressure since results released on May 23 showed Congress won only 52 of the 542 seats up for grabs in the country’s general election.

While that marked a marginal improvement on the party’s showing in the 2014 general election, it did not stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from winning a landslide mandate with 303 seats.

A second successive drubbing from Modi prompted calls for Gandhi to quit.

The result has been particularly embarrassing for Gandhi, who lost his own parliamentary seat in his home borough of Amethi in northern India, which his family has held almost continuously for the last four decades.

He did, however, win the other seat he contested in southern Kerala state.

At a meeting of top Congress leaders at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi on Saturday, Gandhi offered to step down as party chief, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) said in a statement.

But the committee “unanimously and with one voice rejected the same and requested the Congress President for his leadership and guidance in these challenging times,” it said.

“The CWC recommends a thorough introspection and requested the Congress President for a complete overhaul and a detailed restructuring at every level of the party,” the committee said.

In the run-up to the election, Gandhi sought to challenge Modi directly but critics said Congress’s campaign was weakened by a lack of focus and botched communications, as well as being out-spent by the BJP.

Building political capital from escalating tensions with arch-rival Pakistan ahead of the polls, the BJP concentrated on Modi’s national security record, effectively countering the opposition’s criticism of the government’s work on creating jobs and alleviating farmers’ woes.

Gandhi’s inability to replace the party’s old guard, responsible for its worst-ever electoral result in 2014, with younger leaders also proved an error, Congress officials said.

The party’s performance in this year’s election has drawn stinging criticism from political commentators such as prominent historian Ramachandra Guha, who called for Gandhi to go.

“Both self-respect, as well as political pragmatism, demand that the Congress elect a new leader,” Guha said on Twitter.

(Editing by Helen Popper)

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Volkswagen Group's annual general meeting in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: Board Member of Procurement Stefan Sommer speaks ahead of Volkswagen Group’s annual general meeting in Berlin, Germany, May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

May 25, 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Volkswagen is intensifying talks with Swedish startup Northvolt on plans to jointly build up battery cell production in Salzgitter, near its headquarters in Lower Saxony, one of its board members told a German newspaper.

Volkswagen earlier this month pledged to spend 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) on the project, which it says depends on certain economic pre-conditions, such as subsidized electricity.

In an interview published on Saturday, Volkswagen board member Stefan Sommer told Boersen-Zeitung he was confident that battery cell production in Salzgitter would be realised.

“We will intensify our talks over the next weeks with regard to a more detailed planning,” he was quoted as saying, adding Volkswagen was also looking at other locations in Europe for potential battery cell production, not specifying further.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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FILE PHOTO: Bearded man with IS leader al-Baghdadi's appearance speaks in this screen grab taken from video
FILE PHOTO: A bearded man with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s appearance speaks in this screen grab taken from video released on April 29, 2019. Islamic State Group/Al Furqan Media Network/Reuters TV via REUTERS.

May 24, 2019

By Lena Masri and Ali Abdelaty

CAIRO (Reuters) – After losing territory, Islamic State fighters are turning to guerrilla war – and the group’s newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.

In recent weeks, IS’s al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.

The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.

    At the height of its power IS ruled over millions in large parts of Syria and Iraq.

    But in March it lost its last significant piece of territory, the Syrian village of Baghouz, and the group has been forced to return to its roots: a style of fighting that avoids direct confrontation, weakening the enemy by attrition and winning popular support.

This attempt to revive Islamic State has so far been successful, analysts say, with many global attacks in recent weeks, including in places never before targeted by the group.

“The sad reality is that ISIS is still very dangerous,” said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremists. “It has the tools and foundations needed to build insurgencies across the world.”

In a rare video published by IS’s Al Furqan network in April, the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi encouraged followers to fight on and weaken the enemy by attrition, stressing that waging war is more important than winning.

    It was more downbeat than his only other video appearance from the pulpit of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in 2014, when he was dressed all in black and sporting a fancy watch.

    In the new video, he sat cross-legged on a mattress as he spoke to three aides. A Kalashnikov rifle rested against the wall behind him — the same type of weapon that appeared in videos of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Baghdadi’s predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who both adopted the guerrilla warfare tactic.

“He appeared as a commander of hardened mujahideen, of an insurgency group, not the pampered leader of a well-off caliphate,” said Katz. “His appearance totally mobilized Islamic State’s supporters all over the world.”

ORGANIZED TACTIC

Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on Islamists, said IS has used guerrilla tactics to temporarily seize towns in order to attract media coverage but also as part of a new strategic approach.

“This kind of war has turned into a strategy for the group,” he said. “At this stage they are using it as a war of attrition, like Baghdadi said in his latest speech.”

In April, IS claimed it had attacked the town of Fuqaha in Libya, killing the head of the town council and setting fire to the municipal guard headquarters. “They seized control of the town for several hours and then returned to their bases safely,” the claim said of the IS fighters.

In recent weeks, al-Naba newspaper, one of IS’s most important media outlets, has published a four-part series titled “The Temporary Fall of Cities as a Working Method for the Mujahideen”.

In the articles, IS urged fighters to avoid face-to-face clashes with the enemy — something the group had previously encouraged.

    The series explained how guerrilla fighters can weaken the enemy without taking losses. It urged the jihadists to seize weapons from victims and grab or burn their valuables.

    Among the goals of hit-and-run attacks, the series said, was to take hostages, release prisoners and seize cash from the enemy.

Other goals were to “secure the needs of fighters” by collecting money, food, medicine and weapons “particularly when it is difficult to secure these needs because (the fighters) are in a weak position,” one of the articles said.

AL QAEDA TACTICS

    These guerrilla warfare manuals are the most detailed IS has published yet, Katz said.

The language is similar to the one used in manuals published years ago by Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia via its “al-Battar” electronic magazine, which provided military instructions to supporters and cells around the world, she said.

IS’s new manuals show that the group is short on fighters and finances, she added.

    When it lost its territory, IS also lost an important source of income, mainly taxes and oil revenue.

    ”Financially, territorially and militarily speaking, the group is very weak,” said Katz. “That said, ISIS leadership seeks to revive its so-called caliphate, with special attention on areas outside of Iraq and Syria.”

    Although not all of the group’s claims can be confirmed, it has announced some wide-ranging operations.

On April 18, IS claimed its first attack in Democratic Republic of Congo and announced the creation of a “Central Africa Province” of the “Caliphate”. Since then the group has claimed several more attacks in Congo.

    On May 10, IS claimed it had established a province in India. It also said IS fighters had inflicted casualties on Indian soldiers in Kashmir.

The same day, militants on motorbikes stormed a town in northeastern Nigeria and opened fire on residents and soldiers in an attack later claimed by Islamic State.

    IS has claimed more operations in Nigeria and dozens of similar attacks in recent weeks in Afghanistan, Niger, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. In several cases, the group published pictures of bullets, rifles and other weapons it said it had collected from soldiers.

    By striking in a wide range of places, IS is promoting itself and proving it can reorganize and modify its strategy, said Laith Alkhouri, co-founder and senior director at Flashpoint, which monitors militants’ activity online.

“ISIS super-temporarily seizes areas, flexes its muscles, subdues locals, even recruits from amongst them, and taunts governments by exposing security flaws or weaknesses,” he said. “This is a considerably important avenue for ISIS’s growth.”

    Guerrilla war is a less costly way to inflict damage and the group is using the tactic where it wants to expand, such as eastern Afghanistan, northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and central Africa, he said.

    “The group’s media realizes the importance of highlighting this, not only for boosting the morale of the support base,” Alkhouri said. “But just as importantly for expanding its footprint geographically — effectively setting up and expanding unrest zones around the world.”

(Reporting by Lena Masri and Ali Abdelaty; Additional reporting by Maiduguri newsroom; Writing by Lena Masri; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attends a news conference sharing details about the recapitalisation of public sector banks in New Delhi
FILE PHOTO: India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attends a news conference sharing details about the recapitalisation of public sector banks in New Delhi, India, January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal

May 24, 2019

By Aftab Ahmed and Neha Dasgupta

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is unlikely to continue in his current role due to poor health as Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his second term, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter.

The sources said that Jaitley, 66, is unlikely to take up any offer to continue in the top job steering Asia’s third-largest economy as his health has deteriorated over the past few months.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party swept the Indian general election with a historic mandate of about 300 out of 542 parliamentary seats that were contested, results announced by the Election Commission of India on May 23 showed.

“He is definitely not taking the post of the finance minister simply because he is very unwell,” one of the sources, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

“If at all, he might take up a less stressful role.”

Jaitley did not return messages. His mobile phone didn’t ring.

His officer on special duty, Paras Sankhla, did not respond to calls, mail and messages. Jaitley’s personal secretary S.D. Ranakoti and assistant secretary Padam Singh Jamwal did not immediately respond to an email.

Jaitley, who is one of the top three leaders in the BJP and the government, after Modi and party President Amit Shah, was not seen at the celebrations at BJP headquarters on Thursday night. Both Modi and Shah gave victory speeches at the event.

He has not been seen in public for at least two weeks but has been publishing blogs and messages on social media.

CHIEF TROUBLESHOOTER

In his latest message on social media, Jaitley congratulated Prime Minister Modi and all the workers of the BJP and its allies on the victory.

“Aspirational India does not accept royalties, dynasties and caste-based parties,” he said in an apparent swipe at the opposition Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi, the fourth scion of the Gandhi family.

Jaitley, a lawyer-turned politician, is one of the most important leaders in the current cabinet. He often acts as chief troubleshooter.

In the past five years, Jaitley has steered through parliament major economic legislation such as a nationwide goods and services tax – which had languished for nearly two decades – and has defended controversial policies for the government.

Modi had given him the responsibility of three ministries when he first took office in 2014, finance, defense and information and broadcasting ministries.

A diabetic, Jaitley’s health issues became worse after he had a kidney transplant in May last year. He also had to skip the interim budget in February when he was in hospital in the United States getting cancer treatment.

Shah, Modi’s right hand man, could be a candidate to take up the finance ministry, according to a senior minister in the current government, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

India’s economy is showing major signs of a slowdown after three consecutive years of 7% plus growth rates and the next finance minister is expected to seek to provide some economic stimulus without blowing the lid off the nation’s fiscal deficit.

Piyush Goyal, 54, current railways and coal minister, also could be considered given that he stepped into the role twice in the Modi government between 2014 and 2019 when Jaitley was out sick.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Edited by Martin Howell)

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Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna
Wads of British Pound Sterling banknotes are stacked in piles at the Money Service Austria company’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

May 24, 2019

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling has been the focus for global investors rattled by Britain’s planned departure from the European Union, plunging immediately after the vote to leave and then moving wildly ever since on Brexit-related headlines.

Click https://tmsnrt.rs/2WW8QBb for an interactive Reuters graphic on Brexit and the moves in sterling.

   

Investors have largely been positioned for the pound to weaken — adding to those bets as Britain first struggled to agree a withdrawal plan with Brussels, and then as lawmakers in London this year rejected the deal three times.

Recent falls in the pound have been pronounced because investors had cut back on short positions, hoping Prime Minister Theresa May would reach a compromise with the opposition Labour Party over her Brexit deal.

But the failure of those talks, and the prospect of a new eurosceptic prime minister ahead of an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, has renewed investor jitters that the UK could leave without any agreement to smooth economic disruption.

Such a no-deal Brexit, investors warn, would send sterling reeling to multi-decade lows.

(Graphic by Prasanta Kumar Dutta; Writing by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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FILE PHOTO: Google's communications manager Moroney plays table soccer with a Google employee at a recreational area of their Singapore office
FILE PHOTO: Google’s communications manager Robin Moroney plays table soccer with a Google employee at a recreational area of their Singapore office, Singapore July 8, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By Aradhana Aravindan, John Geddie and Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – San Francisco-based investor Paul Bragiel said he needed to be asked three or four times before he accepted an invitation from Singapore to come check out its tech scene.

He made the 8,000-mile trip, but said that back then – in 2010 – the city-state’s prospects to become a leading Asia tech hub were “bleak, to say the least.”

But he saw some promise, and like many other investors and tech companies since then, was attracted by generous terms from government agencies.

“They gave us a very aggressive deal. Very few countries would have matched it,” added Bragiel, who had considered Hong Kong and Tokyo for an Asian expansion before co-founding venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures in Singapore in 2011. He declined to say what the terms of his deal were.

Armed with lucrative grants and incentives, Singapore has been ramping up its efforts to lure tech firms and investors, including global players like Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Dyson, companies and government officials say.

But now the focus is shifting toward attracting talent, and even the government says its work is not done.

Chng Kai Fong, managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), the government agency tasked with negotiating some of those deals, said he is now gunning for “Jedi Masters” he hopes can finally elevate Singapore into a global tech hub.

The secretive nature of the deals means it is unclear how much the country spends to attract such companies and whether it pays off.

Manufacturing, finance and insurance made up more than a third of Singapore’s $356 billion economy in 2018. The information-communications sector, into which tech firms would largely fall, was about 4%.

But it is growing faster than any other sector, data on Tuesday showed. Info-comm expanded at an annualized 6.6% in the first quarter of this year, while the next fastest of the nine sectors Singapore tracks was finance and insurance at 3.2%.

Challenges remain: some tech companies have expressed concern about a recently passed fake news law in Singapore, which critics say could hinder free speech. Google said it was worried the law would stifle innovation and the growth of the digital information ecosystem.

And Singapore only has one local “unicorn” – a startup worth over $1 billion – in ride-hailing firm Grab, according to research firm CBInsights.

Neighboring Indonesia has four: taxi app Go-Jek, travel site Traveloka, and market places Bukalapak and Tokopedia. Hong Kong has two, in online travel agency Klook and logistics firm Lalamove.

‘JEDI MASTERS’

Details on the deals negotiated with the EDB are hard to come by because the government makes firms sign nondisclosure agreements, companies, advisors and officials said.

Lengthy tax holidays, hefty grants for research and development, co-funding for investments and land and rental deals are among the incentives from different agencies, they added.

Such deals have attracted some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Google, for instance, now has more than 1,000 employees in the city-state. It started its Singapore operations in 2007 with 24 people.

Facebook last year opened an office in Singapore that can accommodate 3,000 people, up from 10 employees in 2010, and unveiled a $1 billion investment in its first Asian data center.

With Britain’s departure from the European Union looming, Dyson has moved its headquarters to Singapore and announced plans to build an electric car.

“Singapore is very successful; it has a great reputation for its ease of doing business and its links to the wider region,” said Britain’s trade commissioner for Asia Pacific, Natalie Black. “Many UK tech companies are already here and many more are exploring the opportunity.”

The EDB has six offices in the United States, six in Europe, and locations in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. It says 80 of the world’s top 100 tech firms have operations in Singapore.

Although multinational companies are attracted by low corporate tax rates, political stability, a robust legal system and strong infrastructure, software developers and data scientists often prefer the buzz of Silicon Valley or London.

“We have to be quite clear when we are chasing the Googles and Facebooks,” Chng said. “We want engineering. We want to be a place where you’re creating new products and services for Asia.”

Chng said he hopes attracting top talent will help nurture domestic startups, which has so far been difficult.

“I need that generation of Jedi Masters to sort of come to train future young budding Jedis,” said Chng, a former director of communications at the Prime Minister’s Office.

He said Singapore is also missing billion-dollar exits, which typically come when a tech start-up is acquired or publicly lists on a stock exchange. That would create a virtuous circle of private investment, allowing the government to step back.

An EDB event in San Francisco last month to promote Singapore as a tech hub drew so much interest that 400 people were turned away.

“There is a war for senior tech talent,” said Daljit Sall, Singapore-based director at recruitment firm Randstad. “We are seeing big demand for data scientists, full stack developers, cyber security experts and solution architects.”

KEY LOCATION

In 2012, the co-founders of online marketplace Carousell won a Singapore startup competition. The prize was three months of free office space in a former factory.

“We landed there on day one and realized everyone there also got their office space for free,” said Quek Siu Rui, Carousell’s chief executive. “The government ran an experiment shoving startups, former entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, incubators all in one spot.”  

Now valued at over $550 million, Carousell counts Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten’s fund among its investors and has expanded abroad.

Lawyers said Singapore’s regulations are attractive for tech firms.

“The approach in Singapore is very much to encourage data-intensive businesses to locate there because they have the benefit of, among other things, a more relaxed standard of compliance in terms of data,” said Mark Parsons, a Hong Kong-based Asia tech, media and telecoms partner with law firm Hogan Lovells.

At a time of simmering tension between the United States and China, Singapore is also seen as neutral ground while still enjoying free trade with both. Last year, it added a free trade deal with the European Union.

Geographically, Singapore sits at the center of the fast-growing and internet-obsessed Southeast Asian region.

Internet users in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia spend four hours or more every day on mobile internet, according to a 2018 study by social media platform Hootsuite.

Political ructions also threaten to pull rival Hong Kong further into China’s sphere of influence, which one banker in discussions with tech firms said gives Singapore an advantage.

For Bragiel, any reservations he had about Singapore nearly a decade ago are long forgotten.

“Silicon Valley attracts the whole world; Singapore is catching up,” he said.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan, John Geddie and Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Joe Brock; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
FILE PHOTO: Dec 25, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) carries the ball across the goal line for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

May 24, 2019

New York Jets coach Adam Gase on Thursday dismissed speculation that All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell was on the trading block, calling it “ridiculous.”

After the Jets fired general manager Mike Maccagnan and named Gase the interim GM last week, there was talk that Gase had objected to Maccagnan’s March signing of Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million deal.

“That’s ridiculous. That’s the first I’ve heard of that,” Gase said during his first news conference since the front-office makeover. Asked if he thought the Jets overpaid for Bell, Gase replied, “No.”

“No, the contract was what it was,” he said. “Everybody can criticize contracts all you want, but he’s here. I’m excited he’s here. I think the players are excited he’s here. I think the coaches are.”

–Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones expects star running back Ezekiel Elliott to avoid league discipline despite a recent incident involving security guards at a Las Vegas music festival.

Elliott briefly was placed in handcuffs and detained by police, but he was not arrested. A video showing part of the incident was released by the gossip website TMZ.

“I think that the main thing is that I don’t see anything that needs supporting,” Jones said. “In terms of his status with us, (it) has not been impacted in any way.”

–Free agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is reciprocating the Cleveland Browns’ interest and will visit Berea, Ohio, at team headquarters on Friday.

McCoy will take his first-ever free agency visit with the Browns after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this week. Cleveland general manager John Dorsey called the defensive tackle “a good player the Browns want to get to know a little better.”

Other teams with reported interest include the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

–Ndamukong Suh officially signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two days after his reported agreement.

Suh’s contract is worth $9.25 million and incentives could push it to $10 million, per multiple reports.

The 32-year-old Suh, entering his 10th season, played with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 and had 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and four passes defensed.

–San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward broke his collarbone diving for a ball during organized team activities and will miss eight to 12 weeks, the team announced.

That would give Ward a chance to return early in training camp, which begins in mid July, and a good shot at being ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener.

The team also announced top pick Nick Bosa will miss the rest of OTAs with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, but he’s expected to be ready for training camp.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars signed first-round defensive end Josh Allen to his four-year rookie contract. Like all first-round deals, it comes with a fifth-year team option.

Allen, chosen seventh overall, will make $22.7 million over four years, with the full figure guaranteed.

Allen sat out Thursday after bruising his right knee during the team’s first practice of organized team activities. He will sit out Friday as well.

“We’re just keeping him on the side, working,” head coach Doug Marrone told reporters before practice. “He’ll be fine. We’re not concerned about it.”

–The Denver Broncos signed first-round tight end Noah Fant to his rookie contract.

The deal is worth $12.6 million over four years, with $9.9 million fully guaranteed. Fant was chosen 20th overall last month after Denver traded down from No. 10.

–The Miami Dolphins signed free agent defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.

A third-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2016, the 24-year-old Washington was waived by Buffalo after one game last season and joined the Cincinnati Bengals for four games. He has 4.5 career sacks in 35 games (21 starts).

–The New Orleans Saints worked out free agent running backs Rob Kelley, Javorius Allen and Fozzy Whittaker, the Times-Picayune reported.

Kelley started 16 games from 2016-17 in Washington, including a 2016 campaign with 704 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Allen had 1,249 rushing yards and eight scores across four years in Baltimore. Whittaker played in 53 games for Carolina from 2014-17 before missing 2018 with a torn ACL sustained last May.

–Field Level Media

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