UK hydrogen plane firm gets $24m backing with help from Bill Gates – live updates

Bill Gates and the billionaire behind the mobile network Three, Li Ka-Shing, have invested a further $24m into a hydrogen plane start-up.

ZeroAvia, which is based in Cranfield and also has backing from the government, is working on a hydrogen powered propulsion system that will ultimately allow aircraft with up to 50 passengers.

It builds on a $38m round it secured last year, which included cash from the UK taxpayer, to develop its smaller fixed wing aircraft.

The cost of building the first round of light hydrogen aircraft is expected to cost around $250m. 

Elsewhere, Deliveroo’s shares have plunged as much as 31pc, the worst performance in decades for a big UK float. Its poor debut has dealt a blow to London’s efforts to establish itself as a hub for technology listings in the wake of Brexit.

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10:30AM

Amazon built a Twitter army to defend the company, leaked documents reveal

Amazon efforts to create an army  of “ambassadors” on Twitter  began in 2018 under the codename “Veritas,”  according to leaked document seen by The Intercept.

The documents came to light after Amazon courted controversy this week for deploying “ambassadors” on Twitter to push back against accusations of tax avoidance and inhumane working conditions.

At least four purported ambassador accounts used profile pictures taken from stock photo websites or showing signs of being generated by artificial intelligence (AI). Laurence Dodds has more details on that here.

According to the Intercept, Amazon chose workers based on their “great sense of humor” to confront critics in a “blunt” manner. The document includes examples of how its ambassadors can sarcastically reply to criticism online.

“To address speculation and false assertions in social media and online forums about the quality of the FC [Fulfillment Center] associate experience, we are creating a new social team staffed with active, tenured FC employees, who will be empowered to respond in a polite—but blunt—way to every untruth,” the project description reads.

“FC Ambassadors (‘FCA’) will respond to all posts and comments from customers, influencers (including policymakers), and media questioning the FC associate experience.”

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson,  told Intercept: “FC Ambassadors are employees who work in our fulfillment centers and choose to share their personal experience — the FC ambassador program helps show what it’s actually like inside our fulfillment centers, along with the public tours we provide.” Read more here

10:20AM

Geely weighs reviving $20bn Volvo Cars IPO

China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group s considering reviving plans for an initial public offering of its Volvo Cars unit that could value the business at around $20bn, according to Blommberg

The company has been speaking with potential advisers about selling shares in Volvo Cars as soon as this year, sources told the publication. It is considering potential listing venues including Stockholm and Amsterdam, the people said.

It comes as automakers around the world search for ways to fund the enormous investments needed for the seismic shift toward electric vehicles. 

Deliberations are at an early stage, and details such as the potential valuation could change, the people said. A representative for Geely Holding declined to comment.

9:50AM

Spain says digital vaccine certificates to be ready in June

Spain expects digital vaccine passports that can ease travel within the European Union to be ready in June at the latest, foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Wednesday.

Faced with a pandemic that has killed more than 900,000 people in Europe and thrust the continent into its deepest recession, EU leaders agreed last month to work on vaccine certificates to kick-start the tourism, which has been hit hard.

“We are in Brussels with a proposal made by the Commission to the European Parliament,” Gonzalez Laya told Onda Cero radio station, saying the parliament had agreed to fast track the certificates to ease travel in Europe.

The vaccine certificates would not prevent non-vaccinated people from travelling, Gonzalez Laya said, but people with the certificate would go through borders faster while others would have to go through all the existing controls.

However, experts remain concerned about the technology underpinning such passports. Read our in-depth feature about their potential flaws here.

9:29AM

So much for Rishi Sunak’s “Big Bang”

The Chancellor took the unusual step in the build up to Deliveroo’s initial public offering of lending his weight to it and espousing how the deal was a boon to the City. The hope was that it would be the first in a “Big Bang” of new listings, thanks to rule-easing around dual-class shares.

However, at least so far, it has been more muted. Trading today is very thin, which is likely leading to increased volatility.

But the lack of a pop and the sharp drop in Deliveroo’s share price will rankle investors who have seen shares in the US surging when they hit public markets.

9:21AM

Analysts react to Deliveroo float

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:

Deliveroo’s price isn’t quite as tasty as it was hoping for, coming in at the lowest end of an already narrowed range. This isn’t hugely surprising given the substantial background noise surrounding the company. The biggest concern is regulation around worker rights. The flexible employee model of Deliveroo’s riders is a huge pillar of the group’s plans for success.If forced to offer more traditional employee benefits, like company pension contributions, Deliveroo’s already thin margins would struggle to climb, and the road to profitability would look very tough indeed. Throw in the recent developments at Uber, and general market volatility, and the net effect is one of increased anxiety. Sadly for the group, anxiety doesn’t tend to inflate share prices.

8:27AM

Deliveroo shares tumble as trading begins

Shares in Will Shu’s food delivery company hit the market today, raising £1.5bn and valuing the company at an initial £7.6bn.

However, in early trading at least, those shares have tumbled, dropping by as much as 30pc in the first trades, according to Bloomberg data, and are now trading down by around 20pc, wiping over £1bn off the value of the company in the opening trades. 

That will be a bitter blow to customers who bought into the initial public offering, in particular retail investors, who are in for around £50m for shares made available through primary bid.

More as we get it this morning. 

7:46AM

ZeroAvia cashes in

Hydrogen planes are seen as a way to turn the dirty business of air travel to clean zero carbon fuels. Hydrogen power uses fuel cells emit only water vapour.

One start-up working on this technology for flight is ZeroAvia, which last year relocated to Cranfield in the UK from the US. 

It secured $16m from the UK government as part of the deal, and now has raised a further $24m from Bill Gates and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

It is hoping to build an aircraft that can carry 50 passengers.

“We a have a road map that goes into larger and larger airframes,” ZeroAvia Chief Executive Officer Val Miftakhov said. “We thought we’d go for the next size in a year or two, but there’s been so much interest, we decided to accelerate.”

7:36AM

Five things to know this morning

​1) Meet Romi Savova, the 35-year-old ex-banker who battled sexism to build a £300m pensions giant The PensionBee head’s stake is set to be worth up to £157m following the start-up’s London float

2) Netflix’s carbon emissions are equal to 2.7bn miles on the road The streaming giant said that 50pc of its carbon footprint comes from actually filming its shows, and only 5pc from cloud services

3) Woodford investors to miss out on bumper profits from Oxford Nanopore listing The stock picker previously held a 12pc stake in the biotech company, which is set for a multibillion pound listing later this year

4)  Satellite mega-constellations are making our night skies 10pc brighter It comes as companies including SpaceX and OneWeb race to put internet satellites into orbit

5)  Deliveroo launches £7.6bn London float It has priced its float at the lower end of its range

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