World Business Quick Take


Sun, May 25, 2014 - Page 15


Google to launch 3D model

Google plans to start cranking out prototypes next month of a 3D tablet designed to give users immersive experiences that could include virtual reality, according to US media reports. The tablet will have a 7-inch display and an array of sophisticated cameras, sensors and software, the Wall Street Journal said in a story citing unnamed sources. The tablet was reported to be part of Project Tango worked on by a special team at the California-based technology firm. The project was said to involve giving advanced mapping and virtual reality capabilities to mobile devices powered by Google’s free Android software.


Uber seeking fresh capital

Uber, the startup app that connects people with taxis and drivers, is seeking to raise fresh capital that would give it a US$12 billion value, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The Journal said Uber, which has already raised significant venture capital, is seeking US$500 million from various investor groups. San Francisco-based Uber, launched in 2009, offers a mobile app connecting passengers and taxis along with a “black car” service. Uber is the most prominent of the apps that are shaking up the traditional taxi landscape in cities around the world. Uber has also faced regulatory issues in Europe and protests from taxi operators who claim the service is unfair competition and fails to live up to standards set for such services.


Growth forecast slashed

The nation’s growth forecast was cut this year from 3.9 percent to 2.7 percent on Friday after a weak first-quarter performance linked to new taxes and an economic freeze in the US. The government revised its outlook after the national statistics agency reported 1.8 percent growth in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, a weaker-than-expected result. The finance ministry acknowledged that tax hikes on items such as junk food and sodas, part of a fiscal reform that came into force this year, put a damper on growth. Deputy Finance Minister Fernando Aportela said the effects of the new taxes were only “transitory” and that growth would speed up in the next three-quarters of the year. The central bank had cut its own annual growth forecast on Wednesday to a range of 2.3 percent to 3.3 percent in Latin America’s second-biggest economy.


Retirement age reduced

The government pushed a flagship pension reform through parliament on Friday to lower the retirement age to 63 for some citizens, despite warnings from economists that the move could hurt the economy. A previous ‘grand coalition’ government of conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) had agreed in 2007 to gradually raise the official retirement age to 67 from 65 between 2012 and 2029. That plan was discarded and a reduction agreed at the SPD’s behest in negotiations for the present coalition last year. The new legislation passed easily through the Bundestag lower house of parliament, thanks to the large majority enjoyed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD. Early retirement was a pet project for the SPD, though economists have warned that the nation, with its ageing population and shortage of skilled labor, could suffer under the cost.