Things in Tech you need to know today

Uber and Lyft drivers across the world went on strike on Wednesday over pay, conditions, and the firm’s “orgy of greed.” The strike came ahead of Uber’s IPO, which promises to make investors such as founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick richer by potentially billions of dollars.
    Google took a major shot at Apple’s iPhone camera while announcing its new $400 Pixel smartphone. “What other smartphone cameras try to do with expensive hardware, we can deliver with software and AI — including high-end computational photography,” said Google VP of product management Sabrina Ellis.
    Facebook is loosening its ban on crypto ads as rumours swirl about its blockchain project. Advertisements on the social network about blockchain technology and industry news will no longer require pre-approval.
    Disney took a $353 million write-down of its stake in Vice, its second huge impairment on the investment in the last year. Disney wrote down another $157 million of its stake in the September 2018 quarter.
    Amazon revealed it was a target of “extensive” fraud impacting seller accounts. Hackers broke in to about 100 seller accounts and took the loan money intended to be used for business and startup costs.
    A Slack director is in hot water with the SEC for saying the company, which just filed to go public, “will be one of the most important tech companies in the world.” His comments appeared to violate “quiet period” rules that govern companies that have filed to go public.
    Waymo’s top scientist and CTO said that Elon Musk’s approach to self-driving cars is “very risky.” On Wednesday at an event at Google’s developer’s conference, I/O, Waymo executives said that Musk’s decision to leave out lidar from Tesla’s autonomous approach was a risk factor.
    A US senator introduced a bill to ban “loot boxes” in video games, the Washington Post reports. “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” said Sen. Josh Hawley in a statement.
    Employees at NPM, a startup that provides a crucial service for 11 million software developers, have signed an open letter demanding better working conditions. In March, NPM faced a backlash from employees and users for its handling of the layoff of 5 employees.
    A week after the sudden departure of Bob Muglia, new Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman replaced two key executives with veterans of his previous employer. One analyst echoed speculation that Slootman was hired to lead Snowflake to an IPO, sooner rather than later.

Royal London’s Ireland Brexit move to cost £21m

UK insurance and investment group Royal London will incur more than £21m (€24m) in costs for transferring £1bn (€1.1bn) in assets to Ireland as it pre-empts the fallout from Brexit.

Royal London is the UK’s largest mutual life and pensions company. It has about 8.8 million policies and funds under management of £114bn (€130bn).

About 500,000 policies are being transferred to Ireland, as well as 1,300 bonds that were sold in Germany under the Scottish Life International brand.

Royal London, which received court approval in London this week to transfer the assets to a subsidiary in Ireland called Royal London Insurance, will split the cost of the move to Ireland between two main funds – the Royal Liver Sub-Fund and the Royal London Main Fund. Royal London acquired Royal Liver in 2011.

There had been some objections to the manner in which the costs would be split between the funds, but the judge hearing the matter said that while the costs are high, they were an “unavoidable consequence” of the need to provide service continuity for transferring policyholders post-Brexit.

Some policyholders had also questioned whether the costs would negatively on the future profits of the policies being transferred to Ireland.

But the judge said that new reinsurance agreements are designed to “essentially produce the same results” for the with-profit policyholders in the transferred business as if they not left Royal London.

Royal London, whose CEO is Phil Loney, has capitalised its new Irish subsidiary with a €40m cash injection. It will employ about 20 people at the Irish office.

Justice Richard Snowden said that Royal London has not decided to implement the scheme to transfer assets for its own commercial purposes.

“It has been forced to do so by the continued uncertainties over Brexit,” he said.

“In the absence of any agreement between the UK and the EU in relation to the ability of UK institutions to conduct financial services businesses in the EEA [European Economic Area] after Brexit, the board of Royal London have taken the entirely reasonable decision to propose the scheme to be certain that their EEA policyholders will be able to be serviced after the UK leaves the EU,” the judge added.

The effective date of the transfer of the Royal London assets to Ireland is expected to be today. For accounting and reporting purposes, it will be deemed to have taken effect on January 1.

EU New Car Registrations Fall For Third Month

New passenger car registrations in the European Union declined for a third straight month in November, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA, said Friday.

Demand for new cars fell 8 percent year-on-year following a 7.3 percent slump in October and a 23.5 percent plunge in September. Ahead of the introduction of the new WLTP emission test regime, car registrations jumped 31.2 percent in August.

Further, the market continued to contract in most EU countries in November, including the five biggest car markets, the ACEA said.

In the January to November period, car registrations grew 0.8 percent from a year ago.