Tech Digest daily round up: Deliveroo shares plummet over gig economy fears

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Deliveroo shares have plummeted on its stock market debut after a number of major UK investors expressed concerns about its gig economy worker model. Shares in the food delivery business had been offered to investors at 390p each, but dived in early London trading to 275p at one stage, a 30% fall. The company had initially hoped for a share price of up to 460p. But in recent weeks a number of high-profile fund managers said they would not be buying the shares. Shares later recovered some earlier losses to trade down about 11%. BBC News

Bill Gates and the billionaire behind the mobile network Three, Li Ka-Shing, have invested a further $24m into a hydrogen plane start-up. ZeroAvia, which is based in Cranfield and also has backing from the government, is working on a hydrogen-powered propulsion system that will ultimately allow aircraft with up to 50 passengers. It builds on a $38m round it secured last year, which included cash from the UK taxpayer, to develop its smaller fixed-wing aircraft. The cost of building the first round of light hydrogen aircraft is expected to cost around $250m. Telegraph 

China’s Huawei Technologies reported modest annual profit growth for 2020 as overseas revenues declined due to disruption caused by the pandemic and the company’s placement on a U.S. export blacklist. Net profit for 2020 came in at 64.6 billion yuan ($9.83 billion), up 3.2%, compared to growth of 5.6% a year earlier. Huawei was put on an export blacklist by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 and barred from accessing critical technology of U.S. origin. Yet Huawei reported that its consumer business, which includes smartphones, brought in 482.9 billion yuan, up 3.3% year on year, and accounted for over half of the company’s revenue. Reuters 

Large pieces of debris hurtled off a SpaceX rocket and smashed into the launchpad below after the rocket exploded yesterday afternoon. A huge crash could be heard as the massive piece of metal whacked into the ground, clipping the launch pad on the way down, before other smaller bits followed. It appears that the Starship SN11 they came from exploded in the air as it was coming in to touch down. Space X webcaster John Insprucker said the rocket “is not coming back, don’t wait for the landing. We do appear to have lost all data from the vehicle.” The company’s owner Elon Musk tweeted: “Looks like engine two had issues on ascent and didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed.” The Mirror

Spotify is pushing further ahead into live audio programming by acquiring Betty Labs, the company behind the sports-focused social audio app Locker Room. The deal was announced Tuesday without financial terms. Locker Room, which launched in October, rocketed in popularity for sports fans looking for a place to chat and hold watch parties during the health crisis, building on a trend of new live voice-based platforms such as the invite-only social app Clubhouse. The purchase by Spotify adds to its expansion beyond the streaming music service that launched the brand in 2008. It has spent millions of dollars to make a splash in the podcasting world, including the debut of a podcast advertising marketplace – as streaming music becomes a crowded space. Yahoo! News 

Google will contribute 25 million euros ($29.3 million) to the newly set up European Media and Information Fund to combat fake news, the company said on Wednesday, amid criticism tech giants are not doing enough to debunk online disinformation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. election last year spurred a massive spike in misinformation, with some blaming social media for not being more proactive in tackling the issue while regulators have indicated they may take action via heavy-handed restrictions. The European Media and Information Fund, launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute last week, aims to enlist researchers, fact-checkers, not-for-profits and other public interest-oriented bodies to help in the fight against fake news. Reuters

Chris Price
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