London, Jul 5 (AP/UNB) — The U.K. competition watchdog on Friday launched an investigation into Amazon's purchase of a big stake in food delivery service Deliveroo, a move that suggests authorities are taking a harder line on the expansion of Big Tech.
While the deal had not been billed as a takeover by Amazon, the Competition and Markets Authority said it has "reasonable grounds for suspecting" that the agreement could "result in Amazon and Deliveroo ceasing to be distinct."
The investigation will put on hold any plans to merge its operations with Deliveroo, whose delivery bikes and scooters are ubiquitous in many major cities. Besides Britain, it also operates in several countries in Europe and Asia, including Germany, France, Italy and Australia.
The investigation comes as the regulator is taking a more activist role in seeking to protect consumers in an evolving marketplace.
"This type of deal is right in the CMA's area of interest at the moment - large tech incumbents like Amazon investing in smaller rivals - so called "killer acquisitions," said Nicole Kar, head of the London Competition Practice at law firm Linklaters.
"You might not think there is much competition between Deliveroo and Amazon right at present given Deliveroo is very focused on food delivery but that's too simplistic. Amazon wants to get any product to the customer fast and to 'own' the customer for everything they possibly want to buy in their life and every way they want it delivered."
The investigation also comes as American authorities likewise are taking steps to reign in the growing power of large tech firms. The U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are moving to investigate Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple over their aggressive business practices. In the U.S. Congress, the House Judiciary Committee has announced an antitrust probe, promising "a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms."
In Britain, authorities on Wednesday launched a "digital markets strategy," to respond to online platforms and to make the U.K. competition rules fit for the modern age. It says it will cooperate with authorities in other countries to "consider the need for new approaches."
In the case of Amazon's deal, British authorities will be looking into whether Deliveroo's partnerships with grocers like the Co-Op might signal an intention to build food delivery services beyond the core Deliveroo model at the moment, which is the delivery of food-to-go from restaurants and cafes. Kar added that the watchdog would be looking at whether the investment Amazon made into Deliveroo would give the tech titan the right to determine strategy and investment.
The exact amount of money Amazon spent on the stake is unclear, but Deliveroo's last fundraising round brought in 450 million pounds ($564 million) from multiple investors, with Amazon becoming the largest.
The CMA could block any deal, as it did recently by halting the attempted supermarket merger of Sainsbury's and Walmart's Asda unit. The watchdog concluded that the creation of the country's biggest supermarket would push up prices and reduce quality for shoppers.
Both Amazon and Deliveroo pledged Friday to work closely with regulators.
"There are a number of major companies within the restaurant food delivery sector and this investment will enable Deliveroo to expand, innovate and, we believe, will enhance competition," Deliveroo said in a statement.
Amazon says the expansion will benefit consumers by increasing choice and by "creating new jobs as more restaurants gain access to the service."
London, Jul 5 (AP/UNB) — Jaguar Land Rover says it will manufacture a range of electric cars in the U.K., a boost to an industry braced for turmoil ahead of Britain's departure from the European Union.
The all-electric version of the Jaguar XJ sedan will be made at the firm's factory in Castle Bromwich, in central England. The plant will close for six weeks so new equipment can be installed.
CEO Ralf Speth said Friday that the "future of future of mobility is electric," and that the company is committed to making the next generation of zero-emission vehicles in the U.K.
The decision comes during a time of great anxiety for the auto industry in the U.K., which is struggling with uncertainties over Brexit as well as global issues buffeting the sector.
Beijing, July 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chinese scientists have made a breakthrough in cryogenic rocket engine technology that can extend the orbital period of rockets from a few hours to 30 days, providing support for China's future deep space exploration.
Cryogenic rocket engines are specially designed to work at extremely low temperatures. They use non-toxic and non-polluting propellants, such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, which are more cost-efficient than others.
The engine has been widely used in domestic and foreign launch vehicles, including China's Long March-5 and Long March-7 carrier rockets.
However, most of these rockets can orbit only a few minutes or a few hours. An extended orbital period has puzzled the aerospace community for a long time.
Scientists from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology have developed two insulating materials that can reduce propellant evaporation loss and keep rockets in flight for longer than before.
According to Zhang Shaohua, a member of the research team, a cryogenic rocket will face a severe thermal environment when it flies in orbit, which will cause lots of propellant evaporation, accelerate propellant loss and reduce the time in orbit.
"If a car keeps leaking oil, its range will inevitably be shortened," said Zhang.
In addition, when a rocket is flying, its engine will expel the exhaust gases to keep pressure balance in the propellant storage tank. However, under the microgravity environment in space, gas and liquid cryogenic propellant will be mixed, therefore, a large amount of liquid propellant will also be discharged during engine exhaust.
One of the newly-developed materials is made of polyurethane foam, a chemical composition, which can increase the insulation capacity by more than 50 percent compared with traditional foam materials. The other one using variable density multilayer insulation also shows improved thermal performance, about 18 percent higher than traditional materials.
The test results showed that with the two advanced materials, the daily evaporation of cryogenic propellant can be cut down from 2.5 percent to 0.5 percent, said Zhang.
The material technology breakthrough realizes long-term storage of cryogenic propellant in orbit, proving its readiness for China's future deep space exploration and long-distance space transportation, Zhang said.
Washington, July 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Swiss scientists found that planting trees is the world's most effective solution to climate change, with a potential to capture two thirds of human-caused carbon emissions.
The study published on Thursday in the journal Science showed that the world's forest land can be increased by a third without affecting existing cities or agriculture.
The study led by researchers from ETH Zurich is the first of its kind to quantify how many trees the Earth can support, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store.
The forests could be regrown on 1.7 to 1.8 billion hectares of land in areas that are not currently used as urban or agricultural land, adding 0.9 billion hectares of tree canopy cover, according to the study.
Globally, there are a total of 5.5 billion hectares of forest and 2.8 billion hectares of tree canopy cover, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Those new forests, once mature, could store 205 billion tons of carbon, about two thirds of the 300 billion tons of extra carbon that exists in atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution, according to the study.
Also, if cropland and urban areas were included, the forests could be regrown on an additional 1.4 billion hectares of land, adding 0.7 billion hectares of tree canopy cover, according to the study.
"Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today and it provides hard evidence to justify investment," said ETH professor Tom Crowther, senior author of the study.
"If we act now, this could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by up to 25 percent, to levels last seen almost a century ago," said Crowther.
The study found that more than half of the tree restoration potential went to six countries: Russia (151 million hectares), the United States (103 million), Canada (78 million), Australia (58 million), Brazil (50 million) and China (40 million).
Data released from the U.S. space agency NASA have shown that China led the way in greening on land, thanks to its ambitious tree-planting program and intensive agriculture.
At least 25 percent of the foliage expansion since the early 2000s globally came in China, according to a study published in February in the journal Nature Sustainability.
Washington, July 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Scientists in the United States created a powerful technique to "cultivate" new functional proteins in mammalian cells, and those proteins can be developed into potential treatment for various diseases including cancer.
The study published on Thursday in the journal Cell demonstrated the technique called "directed evolution" by evolving proteins to perform new tasks within days.
Directed evolution is an artificial, sped-up version of the evolution process in nature, which transforms a single DNA sequence into new therapeutics. But the existing methods, typically applied in bacterial cells, are laborious and time-consuming.
Researchers from University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine developed a relatively quick, easy and versatile tool. They loaded the Sindbis virus with a genetic cargo to be modified, and the virus can infect cells in a culture dish and then mutate rapidly and precisely.
The mutant genes that thrive are those genes encoding proteins capable of accomplishing a desired function within the cells, such as activating a certain receptor, or switching on certain genes, according to the study.
The technique can evolve new human, mouse or other mammalian proteins that would be burdensome or impossible to generate with traditional bacterial cell-based methods, according to the researchers.
In one experiment, the researchers modified a protein that normally stops working if it encounters an antibiotic, but an evolved version with 22 mutations could keep working despite high dosage of the antibiotic.
The process took just seven days while a previously-reported mammalian directed evolution method took four months to yield only two mutations, said the paper's lead author Justin English, a postdoctoral research associate at UNC School of Medicine. "What we have developed is the most robust system yet for directed evolution in mammalian cells."
English's team also showed the tool's potential to guide drug development. They rapidly evolve small biological molecules called nanobodies that could activate different brain cell receptors that are targeted by many psychiatric drugs.
Now, they are working to engineer nanobodies that can neutralize cancer-causing genes.