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Business

Toshiba to cut 5k jobs in Japan in latest bid to restructure, says report

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Toshiba Corp., according to a report from Nikkei, is embarking on a significant restructuring endeavor, aiming to slash approximately 5,000 jobs, representing about 10% of its workforce in Japan. This strategic move reflects a shifting attitude towards layoffs in a nation historically resistant to such measures due to stringent labor regulations and cultural norms, juxtaposed against the backdrop of persistent labor shortages.

This initiative could mark one of the most substantial rounds of job reductions witnessed in Japan this year. The Tokyo-headquartered conglomerate intends to streamline its operations by downsizing non-core business segments, incurring a substantial one-time cost estimated at around ¥100 billion ($650 million). However, the source of this information remains undisclosed.

Traditionally, layoffs have been infrequent in Japan, given the stringent worker protection laws in place. Yet, the landscape is evolving as esteemed Japanese corporations increasingly resort to staff reduction measures amid an unprecedented labor crunch. Factors such as widespread union negotiations securing across-the-board pay hikes, heightened labor mobility, and a growing trend of employing foreign workers across various industries have contributed to this paradigm shift. Notable companies like Shiseido Co., Omron Corp., and Konica Minolta Inc. have recently announced plans for workforce downsizing.

Toshiba, once hailed as one of Japan’s foremost employers, has been actively seeking cost-cutting measures and realignment of its focus towards infrastructure and digital technology sectors. Post its delisting in December, Toshiba predominantly pursued divestitures and sought potential buyers for subsidiaries. While the company is currently formulating its midterm strategy, concrete decisions are yet to be finalized, as confirmed by a company spokesperson via email.

A stalwart in the realms of DRAM and NAND memory, laptops, and consumer appliances like rice cookers, Toshiba has grappled with a tumultuous past characterized by management blunders and corporate scandals. The repercussions of falsified financial statements in 2015 resulted in the company facing the largest penalty ever imposed in Japan’s corporate history. Moreover, Toshiba was compelled to offload its prized possession, the memory-chip business under Kioxia Holdings Corp., to offset losses stemming from an ill-fated expansion into the nuclear sector.

With the aim to turn over a new leaf in its 149-year legacy, Toshiba has been endeavoring to conclude a protracted $15 billion buyout deal. Privatization, as articulated by company executives, presents an opportunity for Toshiba to recalibrate and regain its competitive edge in the market. Beyond its renowned expertise in nuclear turbines, Toshiba has also made significant strides in cutting-edge technologies such as batteries and quantum computing. As part of its restructuring efforts, the company is poised to extend severance packages to eligible employees, as reported by Nikkei.

In essence, Toshiba’s decision to embark on a sizable workforce reduction underscores the evolving dynamics within Japan’s corporate landscape, where long-held taboos surrounding layoffs are gradually dissipating amid shifting economic realities and imperatives for sustainable growth.

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Tech

Micron to receive over $6 bn in chips grants next week

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Micron Technology Inc., the leading US manufacturer of computer-memory chips, is positioned to receive $6.1 billion in grants from the Commerce Department to support domestic factory projects, as part of an initiative to reestablish semiconductor production in the United States. While the award is still pending finalization, individuals familiar with the matter anticipate its announcement next week. Additionally, Micron, alongside Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., is expected to accept loans as part of its award package.

However, the exact value of these loans is currently unknown. Micron shares gained as much as 2.6 per cent in late trading after Bloomberg reported on the planned award. The stock was already up 36 per cent this year through Wednesday’s close. President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel on April 25 to the Syracuse, New York, region as part of the announcement, the people said. Micron, based in Boise, Idaho, is building factories near Syracuse, as well as in its home state. Representatives for Micron, the Commerce Department and the White House declined to comment.

The 2022 Chips and Science Act set aside $39 billion for direct grants, as well as loans and loan guarantees worth $75 billion, to revitalize American chipmaking after decades of production shifting to Asia. Officials have unveiled six preliminary awards so far: three to firms that produce older-generation semiconductors, plus multibillion dollar packages for Intel, TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said the agency plans to spend about $28 billion of the grant funding on leading edge projects.

After the preliminary agreement is announced, Micron would enter months of due diligence and then receive the money in tranches tied to project-specific benchmarks. Micron has pledged to build as many as four factories in New York state, plus one in Idaho. But those plans “require Micron to receive the combination of sufficient Chips grants, investment tax credits and local incentives to address the cost difference compared to overseas expansion,” Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Mehrotra said last month.

The company is proceeding with projects in China, India and Japan as well. Raimondo has said that her agency will prioritize funding projects that begin production by the end of the decade. Two of Micron’s four New York sites are on track to meet that benchmark, while the other two won’t be operational until 2041, the company said in a recent federal filing. That means that Micron’s award is likely to support only the first two New York facilities, people familiar with the matter said earlier. Computer memory and storage chips are a vital part of everything from smartphones to the biggest data centers, where they store information and help advanced logic process information. Production is primarily done in Asia.

Micron’s biggest two competitors, Samsung and SK Hynix Inc., account for the majority of that manufacturing. These companies also intend to establish factories in the United States — one for logic chips and another for advanced packaging — contributing to a surge of over $200 billion in private semiconductor investment catalyzed by the Chips Act.

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Tech

Google shifts roles abroad, including India, in layoff move

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A spokesperson for Alphabet-owned Google confirmed that the company is implementing layoffs, although the exact number of affected employees was not disclosed. This represents the latest round of cuts at the tech giant as it focuses on cost reduction efforts. The spokesperson clarified that the layoffs are not affecting all departments and that impacted employees will have the opportunity to apply for internal positions. However, details regarding the number of employees affected and the specific teams involved were not provided. A small percentage of the impacted roles will move to hubs the company is investing in, including India, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dublin.

The layoffs follow a slew of job cuts across Google and the tech and media industry this year, adding to fears that layoffs may continue as companies grapple with economic uncertainty. “Throughout the second half of 2023 and into 2024, a number of our teams made changes to become more efficient and work better, remove layers, and align their resources to their biggest product priorities,” the spokesperson added.

Employees across several of Google’s teams in its real estate and finance departments have been affected, according to a Business Insider report on Wednesday. The finance teams affected include Google’s treasury, business services, and revenue cash operations, it added. Google’s finance chief, Ruth Porat, sent an email to staff saying the restructuring includes expanding growth to Bangalore, Mexico City, and Dublin, according to the Business Insider report. Google let go of hundreds of workers across multiple teams in January, including its engineering, hardware, and assistant teams as the company ramps up investment and builds its artificial intelligence offerings. Company CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly told employees at the start of the year to expect more job cuts.

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Tech

Apple reportedly mulling display size shifts for plus and pro, 2025 iPhones

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In a bid to revamp its iPhone lineup, Apple is reportedly planning significant changes to the screen sizes of its Plus and Pro models by 2025. According to industry analyst Ross Young, cited by reports, the upcoming 2025 iPhone Plus is expected to feature a smaller-sized display compared to its predecessors. This adjustment positions the iPhone Plus models to have a larger screen size than the standard iPhone model and iPhone Pro, but slightly smaller than the iPhone Pro Max.

The current generation iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro boast a 6.1-inch display, while the iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max feature a larger 6.7-inch display. With this purported shift in screen sizes, Apple aims to further differentiate its product lineup and potentially enhance the appeal of the iPhone Pro Max model.

Additionally, reports suggest that Apple may introduce changes to the display sizes of the iPhone Pro line as early as this year. The anticipated 2024 iPhone Pro and Pro Max models are rumored to sport 6.3-inch and 6.9-inch displays, respectively.

Beyond alterations in screen dimensions, Apple is said to be transitioning to LTPO OLED display panels across all iPhone models from 2025 onwards. This move would enable all iPhones in the lineup to support a higher refresh rate, enhancing overall display performance. Currently, while the baseline models of the iPhone 15 series feature OLED displays with a 60Hz refresh rate, the higher 120Hz refresh rate display is exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models.

Traditionally, Apple unveils its new iPhone models in September. It is anticipated that the iPhone 16 series will follow this pattern and launch globally in September of this year. While minor hardware improvements are expected for this year’s model, the major highlight is anticipated to be the introduction of the iOS 18 operating system. iOS 18 is rumored to bring significant AI features, enhancing the overall user experience. More details about iOS 18 are expected to be unveiled at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on June 10, where the company will delve into the new features and tools it plans to introduce with the next-generation operating system.

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Industry & Commerce

Indian cotton yarn spinners to see margin improvement after low profitability

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After a challenging year marked by low profitability, the cotton yarn spinning industry is poised for improvement this financial year, according to a report by Crisil Ratings. Operating margins for cotton yarn spinners are expected to rebound by 150-200 basis points from the decadal lows experienced last year, reaching around 10.5-11% in the current fiscal. Stable cotton prices, supported by better availability during the 2024 cotton season, alongside improved cotton yarn spreads, are cited as key factors driving this margin recovery. The stability in cotton prices is anticipated to persist, remaining below international levels, further contributing to the improved operating margins.

Revenue projections also indicate a positive trajectory, with an estimated growth of 4-6% expected this financial year. This growth is attributed to moderate expansion in downstream demand, particularly from segments such as readymade garments and home textiles. Domestic sales volume, constituting a significant portion of the industry’s revenue, is forecasted to drive this growth.

Despite a remarkable recovery in exports witnessed last fiscal year, with an 80-85% increase, export growth is expected to taper to 3-4% in the current fiscal due to sluggish global economic conditions. However, with the revival in demand and operational performance, the industry’s capacity utilization levels have already reached 80-85%, with further improvement anticipated this year.

Pranav Shandil, Associate Director at CRISIL Ratings, highlighted that while capacity utilization levels are improving, capital expenditure (capex) for cotton yarn spinners is expected to remain moderate in the near term. This cautious approach to capex reflects a recovery phase from the lows experienced in the previous fiscal year, mitigating the need for significant debt additions on already deleveraged balance sheets.

The positive outlook for the cotton yarn spinning industry suggests a gradual recovery from the challenges of the past year, with improved margins and revenue growth expected to support the sector’s resilience amidst evolving market conditions.

The anticipated improvement in the cotton yarn spinning industry, as outlined by the Crisil Ratings report, heralds a promising turnaround from the difficulties encountered in the preceding year. This shift towards a more favorable landscape is underpinned by several factors, each contributing to the industry’s resilience and potential for growth.

Firstly, the stabilization of cotton prices, coupled with enhanced availability during the current cotton season, is a pivotal driver behind the projected margin recovery. The ability to maintain cotton prices below international levels fosters a conducive environment for spinners, alleviating input cost pressures and bolstering operating margins. This stability not only fortifies the financial health of spinners but also instills confidence in their ability to navigate future market fluctuations effectively.

Moreover, the anticipated rebound in operating margins by 150-200 basis points signifies a significant uptick propelled capacity utilization levels to 80-85%, with further improvement anticipated. This upward trajectory not only augurs well for the industry’s growth prospects but also underscores its ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities amidst evolving market dynamics.

The cautious approach to capital expenditure (capex) reflects a prudent stance adopted by spinners as they navigate the recovery phase. While capacity utilization levels improve, a moderate capex outlook mitigates the need for significant debt additions, thereby preserving the deleveraged balance sheets of industry players. This disciplined approach to capital allocation underscores a commitment to long-term sustainability and resilience in the face of uncertainties.

Overall, the positive outlook for the cotton yarn spinning industry signifies a gradual yet robust recovery from the challenges of the past year. With improved margins, revenue growth, and prudent financial management, the industry is well-positioned to thrive amidst evolving market conditions, reaffirming its status as a cornerstone of the textile ecosystem.

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Business

Dubai flight disruptions to impact over 10,000 Indian passengers until Sunday

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Travellers between India and Dubai are facing significant disruptions at Dubai International Airport (DXB) due to unprecedented rainfall, with multiple flights cancelled and travellers stranded in the water-logged city. The situation, which began on April 16, is expected to continue until at least Sunday, April 21, according to senior airline officials. Over the past two days, DXB has witnessed an extraordinary 1,244 flight cancellations and 61 diversions to nearby airports due to flooding caused by relentless rains. Indian carriers alone estimate that around 10,000 passengers have been affected by nearly 50 flight cancellations to Dubai.

Senior executives from both Indian and West Asian carriers have confirmed that disruptions, including delays and cancellations, are likely to persist until Sunday based on communication received from Dubai Airport authorities. Plans are underway to deploy larger aircraft with higher capacity once operations return to full strength at the airport, to accommodate affected passengers. The torrential rain, amounting to up to 259.5mm (10.2in), has led to challenges not only for travellers but also for airlines. European carriers, which typically use Dubai as a stopover between south India and Europe, are considering deploying larger planes on Indian routes to avoid the disrupted stopover in Dubai. While Emirates, IndiGo, Air India, and SpiceJet operate numerous flights between India and Dubai, flight operations have been severely impacted since April 16.

IndiGo, for instance, posted on April 17 that flights to and from Dubai were cancelled until noon on April 18 due to airport restrictions and operational challenges caused by bad weather and road blockages. Passengers have shared harrowing experiences of delays, cancellations, and challenging conditions at the airport and in the city. Aishwarya Reddy, a traveller from the decadal lows witnessed in the previous fiscal year. This resurgence underscores the industry’s adaptability and resilience in the face of adversity, as spinners recalibrate their strategies to optimize profitability amidst challenging market conditions. Furthermore, the projected revenue growth of 4-6% is indicative of a positive trajectory for the industry, fuelled by moderate expansion in downstream demand.

The buoyancy in segments such as readymade garments and home textiles augurs well for spinners, as they capitalize on domestic sales volume to drive revenue growth. This diversification of revenue streams mitigates the reliance on export markets, thereby enhancing the industry’s stability and sustainability. Despite the tapering export growth forecasted for the current fiscal year due to sluggish global economic conditions, the remarkable recovery witnessed in the preceding year underscores the industry’s resilience and adaptability. The revival in demand, coupled with operational efficiencies, has from Bengaluru, described her journey as terrifying due to severe delays and a frightening landing experience, followed by challenges in navigating a water-logged city with limited transport options.

Similarly, Anuradha Chowdhary, a frequent flyer, faced three flight cancellations within a day, highlighting the frustration and financial losses incurred due to last-minute re-bookings at significantly higher prices. As the situation unfolds, affected passengers and airlines are grappling with the logistical and financial implications of the disruptions, with concerns mounting about the duration and severity of the weather-related challenges.

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