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September 2019

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Tesla’s Musk shares plan for two new solar products during SolarCity’s earnings call ahead of merger deal closing

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Chairman and CEO Elon Musk attended earnings call for the second quarter of fiscal year 2016 (2QFY16) of SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) announced on Tuesday. It is unusual for a chairman to be present during conference calls, but it is explicable given the pending merger of his companies.

Electrek reported that Mr. Musk announced that the solar installer will reveal a “solar roof” production. Although, he did not give details about the product, the Tesla man cleared that ‘Tesla Solar’ will targeting the roof industry with new integrated products, instead of just installing solar modules on current roofs.

Soon after, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive talked about the unveiling for the two new products before the end of 2016, in-line with the expected time for deal closing (4QFY16), Mr. Musk came into action and said:

“It’s a solar roof, as opposed to modules on a roof.”

Then, Mr. River confirmed that they’re developing a roof integrated product.

Mr. Musk added, “I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof. It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.”

Mr. Rive expects to enter a new market with his solar company, adding that about 5 million new roofs are installed per year in the US. If a household requires replacement for its roof, they do not wish to spend on solar panels as they would remove it. However, if solar panels are the roof and you need to replace it, there is no problem to get a power-generating roof.

Mr. Musk foresees a “huge” market for the roofs ready for replacement. He said that the new segment plan will work along with the company’s existing installation on current roofs, expecting no cannibalization among its products.

From the executives’ comments it appears that SolarCity plans to unveil two solar products: one for current roofs and the other integrated with the roof. The modules are expected to be produced at SolarCity’s under construction 1GW factory in Buffalo, NY. The assembly line for the module is expected to start manufacturing by 2QFY17.

The year since the presidential elections can be seen as a favorable on for the energy sector giants, such as Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX). Energy stocks started to rise due to the favorable policies announced by Donald Trump as he won the elections. The boom further strengthened upon the agreement of Oil Producing Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce the oil supply next year. This move led to a rise in oil prices in double digits. Other non-OPEC members have also agreed to reduce their oil supplies next year.

Upon analyzing the situation, analyst Neil Beveridge of Bernstein Research has written that the firm expects oil prices to go up to $60 per barrel in the near future. “While Brent has already recovered back to US$55/bbl, we expect oil could trade up to US$60/bbl in the near term.” The prices are seen rising today as well and have crossed the $56 mark. The price for WTI Crude stands at $54.26 as of 3:34 AM ET after rising 5.36%. The per barrel prices for Brent Crude have registered an increase of 4.84% till this time today and stands at $56.96 respectively.

The statement of Bernstein research if proves to be correct like the one made by Goldman Sachs previously would result in massive benefits for energy giants, such as Chevron. Their revenues will register an increase in the next quarter which will improve their financial position massively. They will further be benefitted in the stock market. Their value of stocks which has been rising since last month will go to new heights. They will be able to beat their year-high prices multiple times. The investor confidence is increasing on the energy stocks as well as on OPEC agreement.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has kept us all in the dark regarding the possible announcement of its next generation smartphone devices. If you already don’t know, numerous reliable sites have repeatedly reported that the Redmond based tech giant is secretly working on a new smartphone device, dubbed as the Microsoft Surface Phone, which could be officially announced before the end of the year.

Interestingly, Microsoft has filed for a patent in order to obtain a new fingerprint scanner designed for smartphones, which could potentially be the biggest indicator that the company is set to unveil in its next generation smartphone device. Here is a quick review regarding the latest rumors surrounding the highly anticipated Microsoft Surface Phone.

Reliable reports have confirmed that Microsoft has designed a unique fingerprint scanner incorporated in a transparent sheet, designed for smartphones. Considering how majority of high-end smartphone devices incorporate a fingerprint scanner, it is only logical to assume that Microsoft is about to implement the latest trend in next generation smartphone device.

Also, in order to avoid a repeat of the disaster of its Windows Phone, the tech company needs to ensure that its next generation smartphone devices represent a significant upgrade against its previous generation smartphone devices. Reliable sources are highly confident that the upcoming Surface Phones will introduce high-end features and significant upgrades over their predecessor smartphone devices and a unique fingerprint scanner could potentially be a start.

Even though Microsoft has remained very hushed up about its upcoming projects, credible tech analysts are highly confident that the Redmond based tech giant will introduce a host of new devices during its upcoming events. The company is highly rumored to officially reveal its next generation Surface devices before the end of the year, so there is a chance that we could see the highly rumored Surface Phone along with the Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2. Fingers crossed!

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Pro 4 is by far the best Surface device the company has created and is also the most sold tablet to date from the tech giant. The Surface Pro 4 released last year and rumors continue to circulate about the possible arrival ofA Surface Pro 5 sometime this year. There are rumors that the Surface Pro 5 would be arriving in 2017 as Microsoft is waiting for Intel Corp.’s (NASDAQ:INTC) Kaby Lake chipsets which are expected to be released by the end of 2016.

However, a new image recently discovered claims that Microsoft is planning to release a Surface device later this year. The picture which shows a wall in Microsoft’s Building 88 has placeholders for the upcoming Surface devices. Two devices are marked with 2017 while the one marked 2016 says Surface and Coming Soon at the bottom.

According to ZDnet, Microsoft will unveil the new Surface device in October 2016 and this could be the Surface Book 2, Surface 4 or the rumored AIO desktop PC which is expected to rival Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iMac. There are also rumors that the new Surface device could debut at the company’s Fall 2016 Hardware Event.

Rumors suggest that the launch of the Surface Pro 5 could be delayed until Spring 2017 because that is when the Windows RedStone 2 update is expected to be released. The Surface Pro 5 is rumored to have a 2K Display for the base model and a 4K for the high end model. The RAM on the new Surface Pro 5 is also rumored to top out at 16GB.

There are also rumors that the Surface Pro 5 could be Microsoft’s first tablet to make use of USB-C. USB-C is being adopted by premium devices because of its lightning fast charging and data transfers. Reports also indicate that the new device will get a better camera as well as some minor component tweaks.

The presence of numerous bugs, glitches, exploits and lackluster end-game content is finally catching up to The Division. While Ubisoft Entertainment SA (EPA:UBSFY) touted the game to be a wrecking ball for Bungie’s Destiny, regular emergence of a series of technical issues have drastically hampered the experience of a post-apocalyptic New York City.

On Reddit, a user posted Steam stats to reveal that the total player-base of The Division has shrunk by a massive 81% since the game’s launch. Released on March 8, 2016, the online open-world third-person shooter recorded a peak player-base of 114,225. However, the numbers have since then dwindled to a measly 22,130 as of last week.

Comparing the first three weeks of release between The Division and Dark Souls III, FromSoftware’s new brutal installment saw to a drop of only 39 percent, whereas The Division faced shrinkage of 53 percent.

It has to be pointed out that the numbers have been taken from Steam, and it’s possible that the player-base playing the game directly through Uplay is omitted from this comparison. Nonetheless, these are damning figures for any developer. Considering how Ubisoft has long-term plans for The Division, such a drastic fall in the total number of players is worrisome. 

Within just three weeks of its release, players started reporting about a game-breaking bug that completely locked them out of the game. Ubisoft had no other choice but to ask them to be patient for the much hyped April update, which promised to fix this and many other issues. To add insult to injury, the anti-cheat system in place for the PC version has proven to be mediocre.

It has rather become a norm to see bugs and exploits continue to surface with regularity. It’s a vicious cat-and-mouse game between the players and developers. No sooner does Ubisoft amend one issue when the players quickly find another exploit to the same bug. Over on Reddit, many players have confessed to having ditched the game for a majority of April.   

Currently, The Division is in a much better state compared to the last month. However, it is still being plagued with issues. Only recently, its Daily Challenges started disappearing. Even though a hotfix was released, they vanished again just yesterday for a second time. 

Ubisoft needs to quickly sort out its priorities so that it can wash The Division with clean code.

Shortly following the aftermath of the corruption scheme, allowing Petroleo Brasileiro SA Petrobras (ADR) (NYSE:PBR) to enjoy a sigh of relief, the latest trouble that has hit the company is a court decision; according to which, the energy giant has been suspended from bidding for the lease of a first floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) platform for the lucrative Libra field. In response to that, the company has announced to file an appeal in the court.

Sinaval, the association of Brazilian shipbuilders, got hold of an injunction that suspended Petrobras from taking part in the bid. Reason behind the suspension was that the company failed to abide by the country’s rules for local content.

Libra, the offshore oil field in the Santos basin is the country’s biggest crude reserve containing nearly 8-10 billion barrels of crude. Having such a large amount of oil makes Libra a great potential for the state-run company’s path to recovery. While many Big Oil companies solely had to face the economic slowdown in oil & gas prices, times were more different, tougher for Petrobras. The company not only went through the plunging crude oil environment, but was also trapped in the corruption scandal; the latter dented its financial profile as well as shook Brazil’s economy. Its top executives were charged with several lawsuits over reportedly having received bribes for inflating engineering contract prices.

First production from the Libra oil field is slated to come up in 2020. Although the first decision was won by Petrobras that argued that it abided by the local laws, but the tenders were quite expensive. However, the latest decision comes out in favor of Sinaval.

It shall be noted that apart from the energy major that has a 40% holding in Libra, other Big Oil like Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) have 20% holding while French oil giant Total SA (ADR) (NYSE:TOT) and CNPC have 20% and 10%, respectively.

Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) published its 2QFY16 Shareholder Letter yesterday evening, revealing its quarterly performance, outlook, as well as updates on all the major projects, particularly the Model 3. The management said that not only the vehicle’s design phase is completed; it has also released its production planning, tooling, and validation.

Notably, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CFO Jason Wheeler also confirmed some production equipment of the Model 3 is “already online” at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, CA, as well as the initial capacity in their paint centers and stamping. The company plans to start construction of the Model 3’s new general assembly and body centers at the factory later this year.

The capacity expansion for the vehicle will demonstrate the company’s efforts to apply Mr. Musk’s philosophy, “machine that makes the machine,”  to car manufacturing, as well as reflects their “intense focus on volumetric and capital efficiency.”

Yesterday, The Country Caller reported that Tesla is ordering sufficient Model 3 parts to build a fleet of 300 prototypes, which will likely be the beta prototypes ahead of the “release candidates.” Last year, the company started constructing the new paint shop which could paint 500,000 cars a year, leaving the facility underutilized until 2018 when the company plans to build the same number of vehicles. The paint shop includes two separate fully-automated painting lines, one of which would be used to paint the entire vehicle bodies, while the other would be aimed to paint components like rear-view mirrors and bumpers.

The automaker hired a German engineering firm, Eisenmann, to construct the shop that will deploy its conveyor system, dubbed as E-Shuttle 300, in electrocoating and pre-treatment lines for the Model S, Model X, and the Model 3. It will also install two solutions to get rid of paint overspray. The vehicle body painting line will include “E-Scrub v.2.” Here’s how the E-Shuttle 300 looks like:

In 2012, Tesla claimed that it has North America’s largest aluminum-stamping press line, which can produce a part in six seconds. It has been increasing stamping capacity and has confirmed that it can now handle some of the manufacturing requirements of the Model 3.

Tesla has planned to invest $1.26 billion in Fremont Factory expansion for the compact sedan and expects to spend $2.25 billion this year to ensure that the Model 3’s Build Plan remains on track. It has scheduled the vehicle’s volume production for summer 2017.

Last month, the United Auto Workers (UAW) expressed desire to unionize the Tesla Factory in Fremont, CA, as the company plans to go big with its target of producing half a million vehicles by 2018. Now, the organization has started reaching out to Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) Fremont factory employees as it aims to organize the workforce, according to Automotive News.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer at UAW, told Automotive News that the labor union is supporting workers and is in talks with interested individuals to check how their interest develops. However, it is yet to make an official announcement. Mr. Casteel said that UAW usually contacts workers to determine interest before organizing them, as it’s the workers, not the institution, who require an entity to safeguard their rights.

The Fremont factory, with roughly 6,000 workers, is Tesla’s sole manufacturing facility in the US which is not unionized. When the plant was owned by New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture between Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) through the 1984-2010 period. During this time, UAW represented the plant’s workers.

Center for Automotive Research’s Industry Labor & Economics Group Director, Kristin Dziczek, stated that the union typically allocates staff to a factory when it is certain regarding substantial unionization support. However, there is no report if the union has started assigning staff to the Fremont factory.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the company is “focused on ensuring that its employees are always treated fairly” and was not willing to give any further comments on the matter. Mr. Casteel’s comments come merely a week after a rally by the affiliates of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada outside Tesla’s shareholder meeting due to its hiring process at the Gigafactory. A month ago, The Mercury News claimed that a Tesla subcontractor hired a Slovenian worker to build a paint shop in Fremont for just $5 per hour. However, Mr. Musk later clarified that the subcontractor paid $55 per hour.

If you’ve been following the gaming industry this week, it is certain that you already know how strongly Microsoft has been pushing gaming on its latest operating system. Just this week, it was confirmed that another Xbox One exclusive is coming to Windows 10. Forza Motorsport 6 Apex is the next Windows 10 exclusive that is set to showcase the technical prowess of the new DirectX 12 API.

That is not all, it has also been confirmed by the studio behind the series that all future installments will be developed concurrently on Xbox One and PC. Microsoft has been bringing major first-party Xbox One exclusives to PC, and we have been pretty busy this week keeping up with all the announcements, rumors and fan reactions. This strategy of Microsoft has not been received well by everyone. Many Xbox One owners feel cheated that their must-buy exclusives are suddenly not-so-exclusive anymore.

Talking about these fan criticisms and the assumption that Microsoft is no longer committed to consoles like they used to be, the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, joined IGN in a recent podcast to answer those questions.

Spencer commented by saying that Microsoft is “more committed” to the console than it has ever been. And while it is committed to bringing the biggest franchises to both Xbox One and PC, he said that “it doesn’t mean that every game ends up on both platforms”. You can check out the comment at the 21:13 mark here.

Make no mistake, Microsoft is very aggressively pursuing the idea of creating an eco-system and you can expect more announcements in the future, but now at least we know that not every Xbox One exclusive will be available on PC, and vice-versa. This should cool down Xbox owners, since there may yet to be exclusives coming for their console.

The year’s Game Developers Conference, held just a couple of weeks ago at San Francisco’s Ruby Skye night club, saw Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) host an invigorating press briefing that not only convinced the masses to join the virtual reality cult, but also talked about upcoming games that are going to utilize AMD’s new technology to deliver a next-generation gameplay experience.

Ubisoft took this opportunity to take the stage and officially confirm the existence of Watch Dogs 2, revealing that the sequel to the 2014’s open-world third-person stealth shooter is going to feature support for DirectX 12.

Ubisoft refrained from giving away more information, or even adding details to what kind of improvements are fans in for with Watch Dogs 2’s DirectX 12 integration. That being said, seeing the developer’s presence at AMD’s press briefing suggests that the sequel is going to be highly optimized for the red team’s graphical units. Suffice to say, AMD is going to take this opportunity to showcase the performance abilities of its cards; recent releases of pro-NVIDIA games have already done enough damage as it is.

On the note of proving oneself, Ubisoft suffered a major dent to its reputation when the first Watch Dogs was released. In the wake of downgrade allegations, launch issues, bugs, glitches, broken code, and more, Watch Dogs can only be described as an incredibly forgetful experience. Hence, Ubisoft has to all but ensure that Watch Dogs 2 is a great game.   

Watch Dogs 2 is expected to be in development for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A release window has yet to be mentioned or even teased by Ubisoft. Considering how we’ve been hearing about the game’s rumours for the past two years or so, it’s possible that we get to see a late 2016 launch.

We expect Watch Dogs 2 to get an official reveal at E3 2016 this summer. Let’s hope that Ubisoft has learned much from its prior experience with the first game and is going to work on those mistakes to ensure a well-received sequel.