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India’s antitrust commission is looking into accusations that Alphabet Inc’s unit Google abuses its popular Android mobile operating system to block its rivals, four sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has for the past six months been reviewing a case similar to one Google faced in Europe that led to a fine of 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) by antitrust regulators last year, three of the sources said. Google has challenged that order.

The European Commission found Google had abused its market dominance since 2011 with practices such as forcing manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and its Chrome browser, together with its Google Play app store on Android devices.

“It is on the lines of the EU case, but at a preliminary stage,” said one of the sources, who is aware of the CCI investigation.

Google declined to comment. The CCI did not respond to Reuters’ queries.

The watchdog’s enquiry into allegations against Google over its Android platform has not previously been reported.

Google executives have in recent months met Indian antitrust officials at least once to discuss the complaint, which was filed by a group of individuals, one of the sources said.

The Indian watchdog could ask its investigations unit to further investigate the accusations against Google, or throw out the complaint if it lacks merit. The watchdog’s investigations have historically taken years to complete.

Android, used by device makers for free, features on about 85 percent of the world’s smartphones. In India, about 98 percent of the smartphones sold in 2018 used the platform, Counterpoint Research estimates.

In October, Google said it would charge smartphone makers a fee for using its popular Google Play app store and also allow them to use rival versions of Android to comply with the EU order.

The change, however, covered only the European Economic Area, which comprises the 28 EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

“The CCI will have a tough time not initiating a formal investigation into Google given the EU case, unless they can show the problem has been addressed (by remedies),” one of the sources said.

The Indian complaint presents the latest regulatory headache for the Mountain View, California-based company in a key growth market.

Last year, the Indian antitrust watchdog imposed a fine of 1.36 billion rupees ($19 million) on Google for “search bias” and abuse of its dominant position. It also found Google had put its commercial flight search function in a prominent position on the search results page.

Google appealed against that order, saying the ruling could cause it “irreparable” harm and reputational loss, Reuters reported.

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PBOC sets RMB midpoint at 7.0268 per dollar

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A Chinese bank employee counts 100-yuan notes and US dollar bills at a bank counter in Nantong in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on August 6, 2019.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

China’s official midpoint reference for the yuan was set at 7.0268 per the U.S. dollar on Thursday — stronger than Wednesday’s fixing, but it was weaker than what analysts had forecast.

Analysts were predicting the midpoint to be set at 7.0236 per dollar, according to Reuters estimates.

It was the sixth consecutive session where the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) fixed the midpoint at a level weaker than the psychologically important 7-yuan-per-dollar mark.

The onshore yuan last traded at 7.0250. On Thursday morning around 9.24 a.m. HK/SIN, the offshore yuan traded at 7.0518 against the dollar, weakening again after the yuan rebounded overnight on Tuesday — with U.S. President Donald Trump backing off on China tariffs.

The yuan depreciated past 7 per dollar last week for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008, which prompted the U.S. Treasury Department to designate China as a currency manipulator.

Trump has repeatedly complained that a cheaper yuan will give China a trade advantage as it makes Chinese exports more attractive in international markets.

The PBOC lets the currency’s spot rate trade with a range of 2% above or below the day’s official midpoint fix and this is known as the onshore yuan. The less restrictive exchange rate used outside mainland China is known as the offshore yuan.

Investors usually look at the difference between the onshore and offshore exchange rates to determine if the Chinese central bank is manipulating the yuan.

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Cathay Pacific says it fired two pilots over Hong Kong protests

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A Hong Kong Express Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways aircrafts at Hong Kong International Airport.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cathay Pacific has terminated the employment of two pilots, the company said on Wednesday, after it suspended them in the past week over their involvement in protests in Hong Kong.

“In response to media inquiries, Cathay Pacific confirms that two pilots have been terminated in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment contracts,” the Hong Kong-based airline said in an e-mailed statement.

“One is currently involved in legal proceedings. The other misused company information on Flight CX216/12 August. Cathay Pacific wishes to make it clear that we express no view whatsoever on the subject matter of any ongoing proceedings,” it said.

China’s aviation regulator last week demanded Cathay suspend personnel who engaged in illegal protests in the city.

The airline later moved to suspend a pilot who was among more than 40 people charged with rioting for allegedly taking part in violent clashes with police near Beijing’s main representative office in Hong Kong.

It suspended a second pilot on Tuesday.

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SoftBank Vision Fund invests $110 million in Energy Vault

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Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

SoftBank’s Vision Fund announced its first investment in an energy company on Thursday, marking a shift for the $100 billion fund that has made its name pouring money into big tech companies like Uber, WeWork and Slack.

The Vision Fund said it completed a $110 million investment in Swiss start-up Energy Vault, which creates renewable energy storage products. Energy Vault’s system uses recycled concrete blocks built into a tower that can store and release energy.

“Energy Vault solves a long-standing and complex problem of how to store renewable energy at scale,” Akshay Naheta, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers said in a press release.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which launched in 2017, has disrupted the venture capital model by injecting billions of dollars into start-ups, driving up their valuations. The Fund said last week its operating profit had jumped 66% year-on-year in the last quarter, thanks to valuation increases companies like food delivery platform Doordash and Indian hotel-booking firm Oyo. It said its $66.3 billion investment in 81 tech firms is now worth $82.billion.

The Vision Fund’s portfolio has so far been weighted heavily toward tech companies focused on transportation and logistics like Uber and its Southeast Asian rival Grab, as well as enterprise firms like Slack and “frontier tech” names like British chip designer Arm. In July, SoftBank launched a $108 billion-Vision Fund 2 that will target companies developing artificial intelligence.

Energy Vault CEO and co-founder Robert Piconi said Thursday the company is “thrilled to partner with SoftBank Vision Fund as we expand our global presence.”

Energy Vault did not disclose its valuation as part of the latest investment. The firm said it would use the $110 million to “accelerate global deployment” of its storage technology. Andreas Hansson, partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join Energy Vault’s board of directors as part of the investment.

– CNBC’s Ryan Browne contributed reporting

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