EU seeks transatlantic tech ties

EU seeks transatlantic tech ties

UK bans Huawei sooner, DeepMind breakthrough, throwable robot

Tech is set to be centre stage as the European Union establishes a new relationship with the US under a Joe Biden administration.

The Financial Times has seen a draft EU plan for revitalising the transatlantic partnership. The policy proposals, called “a new EU-US agenda for global change”, suggest new co-operation on digital regulation and include an appeal for the EU and US to bury the hatchet on contentious issues such as Europe’s push for greater taxation of US tech giants. 

It proposes the EU and US join forces to shape the digital regulatory environment, including by adopting common approaches to antitrust enforcement and data protection, co-operating on screening of sensitive foreign investments, particularly by China, and working together to fight threats such as cyberhacking. 

Our Trade Secrets newsletter says as long as the EU says everyone should just copy and paste its General Data Protection Regulation, there’s going to be a problem with building a tech alliance with the US. Huawei and 5G will also be an issue.

Meanwhile, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of the EU’s digital policy, has told the FT that Brussels will publish proposals next week to allow regulators to go after fast-growing companies before they are able to achieve the kind of market dominance enjoyed by Google and Facebook.

Ms Vestager described current competition law enforcement as “backward looking”, with regulators limited to investigating past behaviour and imposing fines, with rivals to large players often complaining action comes too late to avoid irreparable damage to their businesses.

The UK is set to create a new tech regulator and, in an FT opinion piece, the former boss of HSBC John Flint argues there should be a Digital Conduct Authority set up to tackle Big Tech, just as the Financial Conduct Authority was set up in Britain after the financial crisis to make banks more accountable.

The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Huawei UK ban brought forward
The UK will ban the installation of new Huawei equipment in 5G telecoms networks from September 2021 in a significant toughening of the government’s strategy to remove the Chinese manufacturer from critical infrastructure. The decision surprised the industry, which had been working towards a timetable of being allowed to buy Huawei equipment until the end of this year and use it until 2027. Meanwhile, Nic Fildes reports telcos have had to try to balance the needs of citizens and demands of governments with those of investors struggling to see the benefit of putting more capital expenditure into 5G and full-fibre networks. That’s in our Future of Telecommunications special report.

2. DeepMind claims major protein breakthrough
DeepMind, the UK-based artificial intelligence company owned by Alphabet, has said it can predict the structure of proteins, a breakthrough that could dramatically speed up the discovery of new drugs. Identifying the shape of even a single protein can take years, but DeepMind said its AlphaFold system was able to provide accurate results, to within the width of an atom, within days.

3. Meituan to deliver on wider network
Food delivery giant Meituan is expanding its logistics network to take more groceries to China’s consumers. It will expand to more than 1,000 cities and counties before the end of the year, it said on Monday. In the UK, food delivery services could prove a lifeline to the country’s 25,000 restaurants suffering from pandemic closures.

4. S&P in $44bn deal for IHS Markit
S&P Global has agreed to buy analytics group IHS Markit in a $44bn deal, underlining how financial data is fast becoming the new oil in the race to profit from global markets. Much smaller, but potentially significant, is Facebook’s billion-dollar deal to buy Kustomer, a customer relations chat tool it can incorporate into its attempt to commercialise its messaging services.

5. Bitcoin at record high
As bitcoin jumped to a record high today, we have analysis of where it may be heading and news that Ian Rogers, LVMH’s chief digital officer, has left the luxury giant to join a French start-up called Ledger, a world leader in making hardware-based digital wallets to hold such cryptocurrencies.

Tech week ahead
Airbnb and DoorDash start their road shows for potential investors this week ahead of their IPOs and Amazon’s cloud business holds its annual conference, except it’s virtual and spread over three weeks:

Monday: If you missed out on Black Friday, there are plenty of Cyber Monday deals around for the next few hours. Zoom has been a huge beneficiary of the working from home trend this year and its second-quarter trading update on September 1 left investors positively surprised, causing a 25 per cent leap in its shares. Analysts are looking for more of the same on Monday, after the New York close, for the third quarter. 

Tuesday: JD Health International, a unit of China's second largest online retailer JD.com, is set to hold Hong Kong's largest IPO this year and is expected to raise $3.5bn at the top of its price range. A highlight of Amazon Web Services’ re: Invent conference this week is the keynote at 8am Seattle time of Andy Jassy, AWS CEO. The day could end with big deal news — Salesforce.com reports quarterly earnings after the close and may announce it is acquiring the business messaging app Slack.

Wednesday: Cloud database company Snowflake will report on its first quarter as a public company after the closing bell. Salesforce.com’s annual conference, Dreamforce, is taking place virtually, with a CEO keynote today from Marc Benioff. Web Summit is hosted online rather than in Lisbon this year, until Friday.

Thursday: Another company to prosper in the pandemic is DocuSign, with its ability to complete deals remotely for people through digital signatures. Its quarterly earnings are after the market close.

Friday: The extended deadline for ByteDance to resolve US national security concerns or sell off TikTok assets expires today.

Tech tools — ReadySight throwable robot

Sphero makes cute spherical rolling robots, but its Company Six spin-off has come up with something rugged enough to be thrown into a tight spot to aid first responders. The one-pound ReadySight robot provides an extra set of eyes in dangerous or difficult situations. ReadySight streams video over the web through its mobile connection and can be controlled by a smartphone app. Company Six is offering a free replacement robot if ReadySight is lost in the line of duty. Availability is in the third quarter of next year, with pricing starting at $99 a month.