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UK private equity giant CVC to take stake in professional tennis firm

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The UK’s biggest private equity company is preparing to take a stake in a new business combining the men’s and women’s professional tennis tours.

CVC, which is also in talks to buy a stake in the Six Nations rugby championship, has a reputation as a ruthless operator from its time as the owner of Formula 1 (F1).

It is in advanced talks to invest in Tennis One as part of a £420million deal that would transform the sport by combining the organisers of the men’s and women’s tours. 

CVC is in advanced talks to invest in Tennis One as part of a £420m deal that would transform the face of global tennis by combining the organisers of the men’s and women’s tours

CVC is said to be targeting approval from the ATP and WTA boards this month, Sky News reported.

The plans to bring the men and women’s game under one roof had stalled, despite the support of Roger Federer and Andy Murray, but executives think a merger could accelerate the sport’s recovery from the pandemic.

Last year, most top tournaments were cancelled or played behind closed doors, including Wimbledon, which was cancelled for the first time since World War Two.

The French Open, which finishes this week, has increased capacity up to two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels. CVC’s involvement will raise concerns after criticism of its stewardship of F1 motor racing.

During its ownership, between 2006 and 2017, it was accused of ‘raping the sport’ and ‘extracting as much money as possible’.

But CVC has now become a powerful force in world sport. It owns a £200million stake in Premiership Rugby and part of Pro14 and half the RAC, the roadside assistance provider.

It is trying to buy a 14 per cent stake in the Six Nations, which is being investigated by the UK competition watchdog.

CVC also has a stake in the International Volleyball Federation’s commercial rights, and is considering entries into US basketball and women’s football in England.

ATP and CVC were contacted for comment.

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Land Rover reveals hydrogen-fuelled electric Defender

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Jaguar Land Rover is stepping on the gas with a new hydrogen-fuelled electric 4X4, the British car maker has announced this morning.

The zero-emissions prototype Defender uses the hydrogen in a fuel-cell chemical reaction to generate electricity which then powers electric motors to drive the wheels of the off-roader.

The only bi-product from the exhaust is water so pure you can drink it.

The project confirms that the British marque looks set to follow rival 4X4 maker Ineos Automotive, which has said its ‘green’ version of the forthcoming Grenadier offroader will be hydrogen electric rather than using heavy battery packs.

H2Offroader: Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed it is testing an electric Defender 4X4 with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The vehicle emits only water  

Codenamed ‘Project Zeus’ – after the ruling god of thunder and lightning – JLR aims to disarm critics who condemn large 4X4s and SUVs for being ‘gas guzzlers’ by creating a green vehicle off-road vehicle that really does guzzle gas – but in the cleanest possible way with no harmful environmental side effects.

Testing begins later this year with production models of fuel cell Land Rover Defender, Discovery and Range Rover potentially on the road within the decade. 

The new fuel-cell electric prototype is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s aim to achieve zero tailpipe emissions by 2036, and net zero carbon emissions across its suppliers, products and operations by 2039.

This in turn is part of the company’s new ‘Reimagine’ electrification strategy for Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles announced last month by new chief executive Thierry Bolore, 

It follows the government’s controversial plans to ban petrol and diesel cars – in which JLR had invested heavily to produce cleaner and leaner versions – by 2030.

A production model could be on sale within five years, given the rapid acceleration of electrified technology.

Although too early for exact prices, there will be a premium for electric zero-emissions vehicles, so expect prices to star from around £65,000. The Government’s £2,500 plug-in vehicle grant is capped at £35,000 so at this price it would not qualify. Prices for current range for Defender range are from £44,210 up to £101,220 for a powerful V8 110.

No official performance figures are available as the prototype is not yet fully tested, however electric vehicles usually accelerate faster than their petrol and diesel counterparts, so expect 0-to-60mph in under 6 seconds up to a top speed of around 120mph.

Similarly, hydrogen fuel tanks – even when used to generate on board electricity- generally offer a much longer range than electric vehicles which rely solely on a rechargeable battery, so expect a range of around 400 miles or more. 

The advantage of using fuel cell technology is that the vehicle will not need to carry the excessive weight of lithium-ion batteries used to power more conventional EVs. 

This is especially advantageous for burly 4X4s, that are already heavy enough.

Additional battery bulk could limit an off-roaders capability away from the tarmac, potentially bogging down under the vehicle’s own mass.

Current Land Rover Defender internal combustion engines comprise: 2.0-litre petrol in 300hp and 400hp plug-in hybrid (PHEV); 3.0 litre diesel in 200hp, 250hp and 300hp; 5.0 litre V8 petrol in 525hp.

Last November billionaire British tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai to produce green zero-emissions versions of his forthcoming new Grenadier 4X4 – a version of which will run off hydrogen-powered electricity. The off-roader is being built at a former Mercedes-Benz Smart factory in Hambach, France, close to the German border, after plans to build it at Bridgend in Wales were controversially dropped, though production has since been delayed. 

Other hydrogen fuel-cell cars include Toyota’s Mirai (with a sleek new second-generation version launched this year), the new Hyundai Nexo and Honda’s Clarity.

British-start up Riversimple uses hydrogen power which is also being explored by BMW and Daimler. Some commercial vehicles including buses, council van fleets, and police cars use fuel

JLR’s Project Zeus is part funded by the pioneering and government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre based at Warwick University.  

How will a hydrogen fuel cell Land Rover work?

The prototype uses a special fuel-cell which acts as a mini on-board power-station taking the hydrogen gas and, through a chemical reaction, creating electric power from the fusion of hydrogen from the fuel tank and oxygen atoms sucked in from the atmosphere. 

The other by-product – as you may recall from school-days’ chemistry lessons, is H20 – otherwise known as water – dribbles out of the exhaust pipe and is so pure you can drink it. It’s a form of reverse electrolysis.

Experts say the hydrogen option is particularly suited to larger vehicles, including commercial vehicles, which is why many local councils and some firms are adding hydrogen powered truck and buses to their fleets. Land Rover produces a popular commercial version of its Defender called Hard Top.

UK firm ITM Power is already creating a national network of hydrogen filling stations with those established already including Teddington, South West London (pictured), Cobham off the M25 in Surrey, Beaconsfield off the M40, Sheffield, Swindon, Slough, Gatwick, Birmingham, and Aberdeen

Re-fuelling is likely to be an issue to begin with, though. 

The number of hydrogen filling stations is increasing, but they are still a relative rarity. 

UK firm ITM Power is already creating a national network of hydrogen filling stations with those established already including Teddington, South West London, Cobham off the M25 in Surrey, Beaconsfield off the M40, Sheffield, Swindon, Slough, Gatwick, Birmingham, and Aberdeen.

Filling up is similar to using similar a petrol pump – it’s just much bigger. 

You manoeuvre a super-sized nozzle which clamps itself onto the fill-up link, and the pump injects the hydrogen at high speed and under pressure into the tank. It’s like filling up your car with four-star but, say the experts, arguably safer. For despite fears about lighter than air but highly explosive hydrogen – which created lift for the ill-fated Hindenburg airship which exploded in flames – backers insist it is safer than petrol as it does not ‘pool’ when spilt.

The company announced today: ‘Jaguar Land Rover is developing a prototype hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle based on the new Land Rover Defender, with testing scheduled to begin this year.

‘Fuel cell electric vehicles which generate electricity from hydrogen to power an electric motor, are complimentary to battery electric vehicles on the journey to net zero vehicle emissions.’

It went on to explain: ‘Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles provide high energy density and rapid refuelling, and minimal loss of range in low temperatures, making the technology ideal for larger, longer-range vehicles, or those operated in hot or cold environments.’

JLR said Project Zeus will ‘allow engineers to understand how a hydrogen powertrain can be optimised to deliver the performance and capability expected by its customers: from range to refuelling, and towing to off-road ability’

JLR pointed out that since 2018, the global number of fuel-cell electric vehicles on the road has nearly doubled while hydrogen refuelling stations have increased by more than 20 per cent.

Experts forecast that by 2030 hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles could top 10 million, with 10,000 refuelling stations worldwide. 

JLR said Project Zeus will ‘allow engineers to understand how a hydrogen powertrain can be optimised to deliver the performance and capability expected by its customers: from range to refuelling, and towing to off-road ability’.

It added: ‘The zero tailpipe emission prototype New Defender fuel cell electric vehicle will begin testing towards the end of 2021 in the UK to verify key attributes such as off-road capability and fuel consumption.’

To create the prototype hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, Jaguar Land Rover has also teamed up with research and development partners including Delta Motorsport, AVL, Marelli Automotive Systems and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) to research.

Ralph Clague, head of hydrogen and fuel cells for Jaguar Land Rover, said: ‘We know hydrogen has a role to play in the future powertrain mix across the whole transport industry.

‘Alongside battery electric vehicles, it offers another zero tailpipe emission solution for the specific capabilities and requirements of Jaguar Land Rover’s world class line-up of vehicles.’

Mr Clague added: ‘The work done alongside our partners in Project Zeus will help us on our journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039, as we prepare for the next generation of zero tailpipe emissions vehicles.’

Jim Holder of consumer magazine What Car?, said Land Rover’s move was significant and was the first step in hydrogen-electric fuel-cell cars becoming more mainstream.

He said: ‘For years hydrogen vehicles have remained a niche segment in the industry, often limited to small production runs or concept vehicles. ‘But with the UK’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars looming closer, their use-case is becoming clearer. ‘

He added: ‘The hydrogen vehicles we’ve seen in recent years have offered significant electric range with refuelling times equivalent to conventional petrol and diesel cars, making them an ideal solution for fleets and private buyers. ‘The technology will only improve the more it is invested in. So the news of a British company like Jaguar Land Rover starting development and testing of its own fuel cell vehicle is only good news.’

‘But it needs significant Government spending across multiple countries before hydrogen vehicles can truly realise their potential.’

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Grenadier 4X4 also opts for hydrogen power 

Green machine: From launch in 2022, the Grenadier will be powered by 3.0-litre BMW petrol and diesel engines, though there could be an electric hydrogen-powered version to follow after Ineos signed a new agreement with Hyundai to develop the vehicle technology

Billionaire tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe in November 2020 signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai to produce green zero-emissions versions of his forthcoming new Ineos Grenadier 4X4 that will run on hydrogen-powered electricity.

But the plan for a hydrogen fuel-cell driven electric off-roader – a back to basics rival to Land Rover Defender – goes much further and also includes moves for his refineries to produce and supply the lighter than air (though highly flammable) gas fuel to a network of hydrogen filling stations.

The recently-formed auto company aims to leap-frog the current battery-technology at the heart of most new electric cars on the market.

It would also be a particularly smart move by Sir Jim – Britain’s fifth-richest man with an estimated personal fortune of £12.2billion – whose refinery network already produces 300,000 tons of hydrogen a year, mainly as a by-product from its chemical manufacturing operations. 

News of the new alliance was announced on 23 November as Ineos Automotive and Hyundai signed a memorandum of understanding – an initial business agreement – ‘to explore together new opportunities in the hydrogen economy’.

These ‘opportunities’ include production and supply of hydrogen to filling stations – as well as new hydrogen applications, technologies and business models.

Significantly it notes: ‘The two companies will also work together to explore the use of the Hyundai fuel cell system in the Ineos Grenadier vehicle.’ 

It is likely that, with the 2030 ban killing off the market for petrol and diesel fuel, Sir Jim Ratcliffe is eyeing the market for his refineries to increasingly switch to hydrogen production, which Hyundai already has developed plenty of expertise

In 2018, Hyundai announced its medium to long term road map to increase annual production of hydrogen fuel cell systems to 700,000 units by 2030

This is Money revealed the potential for a fuel-cell version of the Grenadier in September 2019.

Mark Tennant, Ineos Automotive commercial director, over a year ago told us in an exclusive interview: ‘We do think that, longer term, the automotive business will simply be battery-electric vehicles. That might be right for smaller, lighter, cars but won’t be suitable for this class of vehicle.’

‘We see hydrogen as a really viable technology, especially for large SUVs.

‘We already supply a lot of commercial fleets, such as buses. For us, that looks like a much better technology option that pure electric.’ 

Hyundai is already a leader in hydrogen fuel-cell technology, most recently with its Nexo sports utility vehicle, and started the world’s first mass production of fuel cell electric vehicles in 2013.

In 2018, it announced its medium to long term road map to increase annual production of hydrogen fuel cell systems to 700,000 units by 2030. 

Saehoon Kim, senior vice president and head of fuel cell centre at Hyundai Motor Company said its expertise in hydrogen fuel cells combined with Ineos’ expertise in chemistry will help with the mass production of green hydrogen and also fuel cells for the Grenadier.

‘Ineos’ move into the development of a fuel cell electric vehicle and hydrogen ecosystem marks yet another ‘milestone towards sustainable and clean transportation,’ the manufacturer added.

The Grenadier is set to be built at a revamped Mercedes-Benz Smart factory in France, rather than in Wales as had been originally hoped.

 

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ALEX BRUMMER: US hurdle to G7 targets on tax and climate change

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Hopes of a giant step forward on climate change at the Cornwall G7 proved optimistic. US politics has a nasty habit of getting in the way, as it has over setting a new global minimum tax of 15 per cent.

Among specific proposals to cut collective carbon emissions in half by 2030 was a pledge to stop funding any coal projects which lacked (still unproven) carbon capture technology.

The pledge to rapidly scale up carbon capture technologies is regarded as weak because no target date was mentioned.

Joe Biden (pictured) reportedly needs the vote of senator Joe Machin of coal dependent West Virginia if he is to win Congressional backing for his $1trillion infrastructure plan

The New York Times reports that this is because President Joe Biden needs the vote of Democrat senator Joe Machin of coal-dependent West Virginia if he is to win Congressional backing for his $1trillion infrastructure plan, which was also given the thumbs-up by the G7.

The G7 endorsed the Biden plan as part of the effort by Western democracies to challenge China’s ‘belt and road’ initiative.

Nudging quoted big energy firms into change may prove an effective path to net zero, working along with politically sensible top-down targets. Shell finds itself in the crosshairs of Dutch courts and investors over the speed of its carbon transition.

The Dutch courts have ordered it to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2030, which is faster than planned. 

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden plans to appeal against the decision. Shell is taking steps to pull back. 

It is reported to be preparing to embark on a sale of its interests in the US Permian Basin, which accounted for 6 per cent of the oil major’s output last year.

The disposal, which could yield $10billion, would be a retreat from an area previously regarded as one of nine core holdings. 

British rival BP, under chief executive Bernard Looney, has placed net zero at the core of everything it does. 

Changing the behaviour of quoted natural resources firms such as Shell and Anglo-American through shareholder suasion is useful.

But the oil majors are only responsible for 10 per cent of the energy pumped. The rest is produced by state-controlled drillers such as Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Rosneft and the National Iranian Oil Company.

Their behaviour is far beyond the reach of the G7, the courts in the Western democracies or investors.

Life changing

On the same theme, Aviva Investors, with £405billion under management, is drinking the ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) Kool-Aid.

Six months into his appointment as chief executive, Mark Versey is wielding the axe by refocusing the fund manager on sustainable outcomes. In the process, ten sub-scale equity funds are to be closed and managers shown the door.

The most high-profile departure is chief investment officer David Cumming, who moved from Standard Life in 2017. 

He is a distinctive voice on governance and among the first to draw attention to uncertainties surrounding Deliveroo and the employment conditions of riders.

It was an intervention which contributed to a one-third collapse in the share of the food delivery service when it came to market. 

Less welcome was Cumming’s intervention on leadership at Glaxosmithkline, where he aligned with activist vultures Elliott Partners by taking aim at chief executive Emma Walmsley, one of a handful of FTSE 100 women bosses.

That was a step too far for Aviva’s senior team, headed by chief executive Amanda Blanc. 

Aviva is itself under pressure from Swedish activist Cevian, which is demanding the insurer cut costs and speed up the distribution of £5billion from asset sales, even though not all of the money has arrived.

One trusts Versey will also axe backing for New York corporate destroyer Ed Bramsom of Sherborne.

Bad sport

As executive chairman of JD Sports, Peter Cowgill is among the last of the corporate dinosaurs.

He clearly believes success at the tills and on equity markets allows him to run roughshod over decency. 

During the pandemic he treated landlords with disdain, took £86million in furlough and £38million in business rates relief and still felt it was fine to take home a £4.3million bonus last financial year.

He is due a further £1.3million this year.

It is time that controlling investor, the Rubin family vehicle Pentland, recognised that their star performer has gone rogue.

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Glaxosmithkline strikes £1.4bn deal with US rival Iteos Therapeutics

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Glaxosmithkline has struck a £1.4billion deal to develop new cancer drugs with a US rival.

The move bolsters the British pharma giant’s pipeline of medicines at a time when boss Emma Walmsley is seeking to reassure investors.

It will pay £443million upfront to Boston-based Iteos Therapeutics, which could then get another £1billion if the deal leads to clinical and commercial breakthroughs.

Glaxosmithkline’s deal with Boston-based Iteos Therapeutics bolsters the UK firm’s pipeline of medicines at a time when boss Emma Walmsley (pictured) is seeking to reassure investors

It comes as Walmsley, 52, is trying to convince investors that she is the right person to lead the pharmaceutical and vaccines-focused company after the consumer business is spun off next summer.

She faces potential disruption from feared activist Elliott Management, which took a ‘multi-billion-pound’ stake last month. 

The chief executive is due to set out her long-term plans at a capital markets day on June 23 that is now seen as a crucial test.

There, she will also seek to boost investor confidence in the pipeline of new drugs – and its potential to create future ‘blockbusters’ that generate more than $1billion in annual revenue.

The Iteos deal is to develop EOS-448, an experimental treatment that could be given to patients with certain types of cancer to ‘switch off’ a tumour’s ability to evade the body’s immune system.

EOS-448 is in early trials using patients with advanced solid tumours. Glaxo and Iteos plan to start combination studies of EOS-448 with Glaxo cancer drug Dostarlimab.

Dr Hal Barron, Glaxo science chief, said the trials could prove critical as fewer than 30 per cent of patients respond to similar drugs.

He added: ‘We believe that [these] combinations could become transformative for many patients.’

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