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Regional Updates (08/12/20)

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Over 1,200 apprehended in QC for violating health protocols

MORE THAN 1,200 people were rounded up in Quezon City on Wednesday for violations of health safety measures such as wearing of face mask and observing social distancing. The city government’s Department of Public Order and Safety said the violators, which also included those who were out without a quarantine pass, consisted of 997 men, 213 women and 28 minors. “Dumadami ang mga COVID-19 cases kaya kailangan hulihin ang mga violators (Cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 has been increasing so we should apprehend violators),” department head Elmo San Diego said in a phone interview. Quezon City has recorded over 7,800 COVID-19 cases. The violators underwent booking procedures and were fined ranging from P300 to P500. Lawmen also gave them a lecture on the dangers of COVID-19. Mr. San Diego also said as part of the violators’ punishment, they were not provided with transportation to return home. — Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR

DoTr to absorb qualified workers affected by LRMC’s retrenchment

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY Arthur P. Tugade on Wednesday instructed the railway agencies under his department to hire the “qualified” workers who will be laid off by Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), the private operator of LRT-1. “Hire qualified personnel to our rail lines and projects… We must look into the possibility of absorbing them as quickly as we can. Huwag natin silang pabayaan (Let us not forsake them). It’s the least and most humane thing we can do for them at this time,” Mr. Tugade said in a statement. On Tuesday, LRMC announced it would let go of over 100 employees, citing a significant drop in ridership amid the coronavirus crisis. The workforce reduction takes effect Sept. 15. The company said all affected employees will receive separation benefits as well as training on alternative livelihood and investment along with mental health support. LRMC is the consortium composed of Ayala Corp., Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) Pte. Ltd. Metro Pacific Rail is a unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Davao local governments keep watch on swine flu threat

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS in Davao Region are intensifying efforts to avoid African Swine Fever (ASF) following last month’s outbreak in a cluster of hog raisers in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. The neighboring province of Davao de Oro has set up quarantine measures at its borders, including foot and wheel baths. “Since February when ASF erupted in Davao Occidental, we are very vigilant together with our hog raisers here in Davao de Oro. We conducted a meeting on how to combat this virus and one of the things discussed to address this is of course prohibiting the use of swill feeding and also in our provincial boundaries, all vehicles entering in our province need to pass through a foot bath and a wheel bath,” Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy said in a briefing aired over Radyo Pilipinas. The Davao City government on Tuesday also called on consumers to check for certification when buying both fresh and processed pork products. The City Veterinarian’s Office found ASF virus in samples of chorizo, tocino, and lumpiang shanghai taken from the Bankerohan Public Market on July 30 and Aug. 5. Assistant City Veterinarian Ester G. Rayos said buyers must ensure that the merchant has a meat inspection certificate (MIC). “If they have an MIC, it means the meat were inspected in our accredited slaughterhouses,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. The outbreak in Panabo City, which was confirmed July 22, has been contained through a lockdown of the entire village of Cagangohan and culling all pigs in the community. — Maya M. Padillo



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Tesla Slumps as Battery Day Letdown Clouds $320 Billion Gain

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(Bloomberg) — Tesla Inc.’s highly anticipated “Battery Day” fell short of expectations that helped fuel its $320 billion surge in market value this year, with Elon Musk outlining grandiose goals that will take time to pull off.The chief executive officer laid out a plan Tuesday to build a $25,000 car and cut battery costs in half over the next three years. Analysts said while the technology and manufacturing innovations outlined were impressive, Tesla’s valuation already reflected its ability to disrupt and investors may be let down by the lack of surprises at the much-hyped battery-showcase event.This seemed to be the case on Wednesday, as the company’s shares fell as much as 10% to $380. They were trading at $380.16 as of 2:48 p.m. in New York and are up about 360% for the year so far.“With the Battery Day in the rearview, we think there is a lack of upcoming catalysts and are cautious about demand given the recessionary environment,” Robert W. Baird’s Ben Kallo wrote in a Wednesday report naming Tesla a bearish “fresh pick.”That was echoed by Patrick Hummel, an analyst at UBS with a “neutral” rating on the stock, who said in a research note Tesla’s leadership in battery technology and costs is fully valued into the stock. “Given the high expectations into the event, we think the market will initially respond negatively to the relatively long timelines of the innovations and the lack of granularity,” he wrote.Musk, 49, said Tesla wants eventually to produce 20 million cars a year. He described a series of innovations that include using dry-electrode technology and making the battery a structural element of the car. Those incremental and longer-term advances belied expectations for a blockbuster leap forward, which Musk himself played up in the weeks leading up to the event.“The challenge with the stock is that everything they are talking about is three years away,” said Gene Munster, managing director of Loup Ventures. “I think traditional auto is in an even tighter spot, but Tesla investors want this tomorrow.”Vertical-integration improvements — from making its own battery cells on a pilot line at its factory in Fremont, California, to owning rights to a lithium clay deposit in Nevada — are designed to allow Tesla to cut costs and offer a cheap car as soon as 2023.“This has always been our dream from the very beginning,” Musk said at the event focused on Tesla’s battery technology. “In about three years from now, we are confident we can make a compelling $25,000 electric vehicle that is also fully autonomous.”Halving Battery CostsMusk is teasing prospects for a cheaper mystery model without ever having really delivered on the $35,000 price point he had long promised for the Model 3. Three years after Tesla started taking orders for the car in early 2016, the CEO announced plans to close most of Tesla’s stores as a cost-saving measure, allowing him to offer the car at that cost. He backtracked 10 days later, and the cheapest Model 3 available now is $37,990.Making a truly mass-market electric car and boosting Tesla’s current annual production to 20 million cars will require vastly more batteries than are currently being produced from a handful of suppliers around the world. So Musk plans to expand global capacity by manufacturing battery cells in-house to supplement what it can buy.“Today’s batteries can’t scale fast enough,” said Musk, who is driven in part by the need to find sustainable energy sources. “There’s a clear path to success but a ton of work to do.” Musk said the gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine will one day be obsolete.Musk described an “incredible series of innovations with varying levels of difficulty,” said Venkat Viswanathan, a battery expert at Carnegie Mellon University. While battery-manufacturing advances are feasible and deliverable in the three-year time frame, Viswanathan thinks that chemistry developments will take a longer.If the planned innovations pay off, vehicle range could increase 54%, cost could decrease 56% and investment in gigafactories could decline 69%, said Andrew Baglino, Tesla’s senior vice president for powertrain and energy engineering.BloombergNEF estimates Tesla’s pack prices were $128/kWh in 2019. A 56% cost reduction would bring prices down to $56/kWh. In addition to the pilot line for battery-cell production in Fremont, and Musk said the company also will make cells at the factory that is under construction in Berlin.Battery Cell ‘Leap’Most global automakers have shied away from making their own battery cells, citing the high investment costs and their lack of expertise in an industry dominated mostly by Asian electronics manufactures such as Panasonic Corp. and LG Chem Ltd.Musk said in a tweet Monday that Tesla will need to start producing its own battery cells to support its various products, even as it ramps up purchases from outside suppliers. He wrote that the company expects significant shortages of cells in 2022 and beyond unless it ramps up output of its own.“I’m really surprised that they’re taking that leap themselves,” said Tony Posawatz, a consultant who led development of General Motors Co.’s plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and now sits on the board of Lucid Motors Inc., a Tesla rival. “I think this is going to be a bit harder than what they think, and I don’t think we’ll see a lot of volume out of that for quite some time.”Tesla’s most important and long-standing partner on batteries is Osaka-based Panasonic, but it also has smaller-scale agreements with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., or CATL, in China’s Fujian province and South Korea’s LG Chem.Read more: LG Chem, Panasonic Slide as Tesla Looks to Lower Battery CostsThe highly technical Battery Day presentation included several nuggets of news that were overshadowed by the talk of cathodes and electrolytes. One example: The “Plaid” version of the Model S sedan — with a range of 520 miles — is now available to order, though the vehicle isn’t expected to go on sales until late 2021.Tuesday’s three-hour event began with the annual shareholder meeting, held outside to allow for social distancing. Shareholders sat in Tesla cars in a parking lot, beeping loudly instead of cheering as Musk spoke.Investors voted to re-elect Musk and chairman Robyn Denholm to the board and voted against resolutions that would have required more transparency about human rights in the supply chain and the use of arbitration with employees. One shareholder resolution, which requires Tesla to adopt a simple majority vote, did pass.Musk told shareholders he expects to see deliveries grow on the order of 30% to 40% this year, reaffirming Tesla’s forecast at a time when automakers are struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “While the rest of the industry has gone down, Tesla has gone up,” he said.Tesla has said it anticipates delivering 500,000 vehicles in 2020, up about 36% from 2019. In July, the electric-car maker said achieving that goal would be “more difficult” due to a pandemic-related production shutdown early in the year. Global sales are projected to drop about 17% this year to 75 million from 90 million last year, according to research firm LMC Automotive.(Updates stock performance in third paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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The Census is due in a week. What happens if it’s incomplete?

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Amid congressional debate over a new Supreme Court justice and a second COVID stimulus package, Washington is faced with another divisive challenge: the race to complete the 2020 Census by its now-shortened deadline of Sept. 30.

The Census shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Many on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of successfully completing the once-a-decade national headcount that determines the number of House seats, the apportionment of $1.5 trillion in federal funding, infrastructure planning, and so on. President Trump initially agreed with this, urging Congress in April to pass a 120-day extension on the legal deadlines in light of the growing public health crisis. But in July, the administration abruptly changed its stance, around the same time Trump issued a now-court-blocked memorandum to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count.

The Census deadline has since been cut short one month from the previously approved plan of Oct. 31. Recent Republican proposals for coronavirus relief included $448 million in funding for the Census but no additional time to conduct the survey. On Monday, the Inspector General’s office at the U.S. Department of Commerce—tasked with overseeing the Census Bureau—released a report stating “the accelerated schedule increases the risks to obtaining a complete and accurate 2020 Census.”

What happens if the Census doesn’t reach its target of reporting 99% of the population ahead of the deadline? According to the report, not even “senior Bureau officials know what will occur.” The report adds that if the goal isn’t reached, it must be decided to either continue data collection after the deadline—or use the data it has already collected for decision-making.

“There are risks either way,” the report states. “If data collection ends before 99% completeness is met in every state, the Bureau will not achieve what it views as an acceptable level of accuracy and completeness. But, if data collection extends beyond Sept. 30, 2020, that will either further condense an already compressed schedule for data processing—which carries its own risks—or the Bureau will miss the December 31, 2020, statutory deadline,” (the date in which the numbers must be presented to the President).

Additionally, internal Bureau emails and memos shared between senior officials—released last weekend due to a federal lawsuit in California—state that shortening the collection deadline down to Sept. 30 to meet the Dec. 31 statutory deadline “will result in a census that has fatal data quality flaws that are unacceptable for a Constitutionally-mandated national activity.”

Attorneys for the Justice Department, according to NPR, maintain that Congress is the only authority that can step in and resolve the problem. But legislation has failed to pick up steam thus far, despite a recent bipartisan Senate effort to push the tallying deadline back to Oct. 31. It remains to be seen if any such legislation will pick up momentum in time; Congress is currently attempting to find agreement on another COVID stimulus package ahead of break in early October.

On Tuesday, the Bureau reported that more than 95% of U.S. households have been tallied so far in the Census. Roughly 30% were counted from field Census takers, while 66% of respondents submitted information online or via phone or mail. Still, 17 states currently lag behind a 95% total response rate, which Census officials clearly believe is enough to dramatically skew the results of the effort. Louisiana, Montana, and Alabama have the worst rates of response at 90.4%, 90.3%, and 89.1%, respectively. West Virginia, Idaho, and Hawaii sit at the top with 99.8%, 99.8%, and 99.5%, respectively.

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PSEi flat as market anticipates new restrictions

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By Denise A. Valdez, Senior Reporter

PHILIPPINE SHARES continued moving sideways on Wednesday as investors started taking into consideration the expiration of current quarantine measures in the country towards the end of the month.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) closed flat, shedding 1.56 points or 0.02% to end at 5,892.72. The broader all shares index was, likewise, flat, posting a 1.21-point or 0.03% uptick to 3,545.14.

The main driver of sentiment remains to be the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in Europe, where cases have surged in the past days, said Darren T. Pangan, trader at Timson Securities, Inc.

COVID-19 cases in Europe swelled 5,331 to 4.54 million as of Wednesday, prompting new restrictions to contain the fresh virus outbreak in the region. Britain has announced tighter restrictions on Tuesday, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said may last up to six months.

“Locally, investors may be weighing the government’s decision on the quarantine measures to be enforced after the month of September,” Mr. Pangan said in a text message.

The relaxed quarantine restrictions currently in place in Metro Manila and nearby cities are set to last until the end of the month. By October, the government will announce a new set of restrictions, which may tighten, relax or maintain current protocols.

“The general sentiment remains cautious, despite the daily improvement in economic activity. There is some concern that without additional mobility, with the easing of restrictions on public transportation as well as reopening of tourism focused industries, economic activity may be at its peak,” AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John Mangun said in an e-mail.

Timson Securities’ Mr. Pangan said the PSEi’s nearest support area is 5,750, and resistance is 6,100. AAA Southeast Equities’ Mr. Mangun expects the PSEi to continue lower in the remaining two days of the week.

Four of six sectoral indices recorded losses on Wednesday’s closing. Mining and oil dropped 63.35 points or 1.05% to 5,944.54; services trimmed 8.69 points or 0.59% to 1,446.72; property lost 10.62 points or 0.38% to 2,733.81; and financials dipped 0.07 point or less than a percent to 1,142.48.

The two gainers were industrials and holding firms. Industrials improved 68.46 points or 0.87% to 7,872.45, while holding firms picked up 11.63 points or 0.18% to 6,158.34 at the end of session.

Value turnover slipped to P4.45 billion on Wednesday from P4.63 billion the previous day. Some 1.47 billion issues switched hands.

Advancers beat decliners by two, 92 against 90, while 56 names ended unchanged.

Foreign investors were net sellers for the ninth straight day, but net outflows declined to P95.86 million from P655.13 million the previous day.



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