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Autos bosses focus on technology rather than PSA Opel


The auto industry is facing seismic changes with the rise of electric vehicles, automated driving and car sharing set to eclipse even big mergers such as PSA's purchase of Opel, executives at the Geneva auto show said. Peugeot maker PSA Group (PEUP. PA) said on Monday it had agreed to buy loss-making Opel from General Motors (GM. N), creating Europe's second-biggest carmaker behind Volkswagen (VOWG_p. DE) and sparking speculation of more consolidation. However, some auto executives gathering in Geneva said the deal was unlikely to alter the landscape on its own, with changing consumer habits and new rivals in Silicon Valley and China all likely to have a much bigger impact on carmakers."My feeling is that the industry as a whole and brand positioning will change in the next 10 or 15 years, and that comes in addition to traditional consolidation," said Herbert Diess, head of Volkswagen's (VW) passenger car division."We are really in a transitionary phase for the industry. There are new competitors on the horizon like Tesla or Chinese ventures," Diess told reporters, adding that he did not expect a wave of Opel-style mergers. Volkswagen (VW) is investing billions of euros in electric vehicles, automated driving and new mobility services, in part as it tries to recover from a costly emissions test cheating scandal that has hit demand for diesel vehicles. The company, which is also cutting costs, is unveiling a fully self-driving concept car at the Geneva show. Karl Schlicht, head of European sales at Japan's Toyota (7203. T), also played down the impact of the PSA-Opel deal, which brings together carmakers with a heavy focus on diesel and low-margin fleet vehicles."We ran a counter strategy in Europe which may not look as successful for some past years because our volumes were a bit lower, but in terms of where we want to end up, it's turning out to be a good strategy," he said, referring to Toyota's investment in hybrid vehicles. Toyota forecasts its European sales will rise 5 percent this year while the market is expected to grow just 1 percent amid uncertainty over German and French elections and Britain's departure from the European Union.

BMW (BMWG. DE) boss Harald Krueger, however, said the cost of investments in new technologies could spur deals among smaller carmakers.'NO SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST' Some industry analysts also say an enlarged PSA could actually ease the pressure on rivals if CEO Carlos Tavares uses similar methods to turn a profit at Opel that worked at PSA. In the three years since Tavares took the helm at PSA, its existing brands - Peugeot, Citroen and DS - have significantly increased pricing relative to benchmarked rivals, sometimes at the expense of sales.

A similar approach at Opel, which has been among the region's most aggressive discounters, could give the entire European mass-market car industry some breathing space."The deal could then ease price pressures, lead to a stabilization, or even a recovery," said Michele Pedroni, fund manager at SYZ Asset Management in Geneva. GM and PSA have shared production of commercial vans and developed common vehicle platforms for years, and the Opel Crossland X and the Citroen C-Aircross concept SUV on show in Geneva are a sign of the new projects and synergies they hope to achieve as one company. Stefan Bratzel of the Center of Automotive Management in Germany said the potential improvement in profitability at PSA-Opel posed a bigger challenge to rivals than its sheer size."There is no survival of the fattest," he said. "Just because you're big, you do not win the game."

Some analysts say Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Snap shares tumble as short sellers move in


Snap Inc's shares tumbled 11 percent on Tuesday and traders raced to position themselves to cash in on further losses after analysts gave the company a lukewarm reception following its red-hot market debut. Snap's $3.4 billion public listing on Thursday was the hottest technology offering in three years, but its lofty valuation and slowing user growth have raised eyebrows on Wall Street and are now attracting traders who expect its shares to fall. Traders paid annualized interest rates as high as 40 percent to be among the first to short-sell the stock, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm. The owner of messaging app Snapchat is not profitable and has warned it may never be. Much of last week's frenetic trading in Snap has yet to settle, making it difficult for brokers to estimate how many shares are available to lend to short sellers, said S3 Partners Managing Director of Research Ihor Dusaniwsky.

As a result, brokers are facing a "chaotic" lending environment and charging short sellers annualized rates between 20 percent and 40 percent to borrow Snap's shares, with early short interest approaching $100 million, he said. In its market debut on Thursday, Snap surged 44 percent from its $17 IPO price to close at $24.48. Since then it has fallen 22 percent.

At mid-day on Tuesday Snap was down 10.8 percent at $21.20. Snap has been heavily traded since its market debut, rolling over the number of shares sold in the IPO more than twice. So far, no analysts have initiated the stock with a "buy" rating.

Google reported by Danish watchdog for unlimited data storage COPENHAGEN A Danish consumer watchdog has reported Alphabet Inc's Google to the Danish Data Protection Agency for potentially breaking privacy laws by not capping the amount of time personal data is stored on Google's servers, the watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.

Microsoft Outlook service hit by outage A variety of online services from Microsoft Corp suffered outages for several hours on Tuesday across Western Europe and the Eastern United States, according to the company's technical support sites.

Google foe takes Android complaint to regulators BRUSSELS Open Internet Project, whose members include Axel Springer and Getty Images, on Tuesday accused Alphabet unit Google of imposing anti-competitive curbs on Android smartphone makers, its second complaint against the U.S. tech giant.