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Flashbacks of past huge investment losses with battery plant uncertainty



Despite recent historical precedent, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association president Flavio Volpe and Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy are confident Windsor won’t experience the cancellation of a major automotive investment for the third time in just over two decades.

Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions followed up their accusation made on Friday, that the federal government was reneging on funding promises, with an announcement on Monday that the partnership was halting construction of a portion of the NextStar Energy battery plant. That brought back flashbacks of the cancellation of the Pilette Road van plant project by Daimler Chrysler in 2001.

Similarly to the partially built battery plant, the company — Stellantis’s predecessor — had already invested $100 million of the $1.5 billion committed to the Pilette Road site for a new paint shop when it decided to scrap the project.


Two years later, Daimler Chrysler also cancelled a proposed new small pickup truck plant due to financial cost-cutting.

“I think where we are is a day or two away from confirming that we are in Windsor to make batteries,” Volpe said Monday.

“This is a plan (Stellantis) started over a year ago. Over the past year, they’ve put in place their production plans for 2024, ‘25 and ‘26.

“They’ve made program commitments to different assembly plants that absolutely cannot afford a delay in timing on this plant because they’ll miss the market on those.

“They’ve negotiated and grinded supplier agreements and hired staff. To move this plant today would be a disruption of all the products in their network in North America and they’re not going to do that.”

Volpe added the $5-billion NextStar plant is not only central to Stellantis’s North American battery plans, but it also underpins its Windsor and Brampton production plants and a 650-person addition to its local Automotive Research and Development Centre.

Volpe said the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), however, came in after the original Stellantis/LG deal was announced and has changed the rules of the game.

“In fairness to them, they absolutely should get what they’re entitled to and we should be defending that,” Volpe said.

“If we walk away from this deal, it would be difficult to turn around and chase another company’s investment. I have zero concern we’re going to risk that.”

Cassidy said at the centre of the discussions is the $10/Kwh subsidy for the module component of the battery plant. The module component is the process of putting together all of a battery system’s parts, such as the cell, management electronics cell balancing, connectors and voltage and temperature measurements.

The other $35 of the $45/Kwh subsidy offered by the IRA bill deals with production of the battery cells.

“We’ve got the $35 covered on the cell side but not the $10 on the module side,” Cassidy said.

“I recall (Deputy Prime Minister) Chrystia Freeland saying here in Windsor at the APMA (Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association) conference, and in the fall economic statement and 2023 budget the federal government would be there for the companies on the IRA bill.

“Well, there’s no such thing as only partially being there. We’re going to hold the government to that. We’re not interested in losing the few hundred module jobs, we want them all here.”

Workers are shown at the NextStar battery plant construction site in Windsor on Monday, the same day as news of work being suspended on part of the project.
Workers are shown at the NextStar battery plant construction site in Windsor on Monday, the same day as news of work being suspended on part of the project. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Cassidy said he understands the politics involved in the federal government being seen spending billions in Ontario on the automotive industry. However, he argues the return on investment is going to benefit the entire country.

“It’s the start of a new era,” Cassidy said.

“This is an investment in the future, not foolish spending. We miss the boat on this and we’ve failed Canada.”

The stakes for the area are enormous. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens was openly critical of the federal government over the weekend for being perceived to be dragging its feet on finalizing a new agreement with LG/Stellantis.

In an emailed statement Monday, a vacationing Dilkens took a more collaborative approach while expressing fear at the consequences of failure.

“The City of Windsor is fully committed to utilizing all available resources in order to gather vital information, stay well-informed and be prepared to offer assistance in any capacity necessary to reach a resolution to the impasse between Ottawa and all involved parties,” said Dilkens.

“The potential impact on our community is significant, with thousands of jobs at risk. Windsor has fulfilled its responsibilities and commitments for the NextStar EV plant and negotiations between the parties are ongoing.

“Our collective focus remains steadfast on assisting to find a constructive solution for the benefit of our community.”

A parallel discussion is also going on between the federal and provincial governments.

The federal government would like to see Ontario boost its financial support in the new deal. Until now, the province has viewed the incentives battle against the Inflation Reduction Act to be a federal matter.

“We’re in uncharted territory because of the IRA,” Volpe said.

“There are some things the feds could do for the province to help them out like on the Ring of Fire or the 413 (highway). There’s a lot of federal regulations for environmental assessments and maybe co-investments in infrastructure.

“There’s a tradeoff here and maybe they convince the province to do something that isn’t in their jurisdiction.

“The goodwill between the partners making sure this deal works for everybody is still in place. I can confirm that this partnership is negotiating other deals at the moment.

“That is part of my confidence that we will be making batteries in Windsor.”



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Al Gore-led fund leads $95-million investment in Toronto's BenchSci, which uses AI to hasten drug discovery – The Globe and Mail



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Liran Belanzon, CEO of AI company BenchSci, at the company’s new Toronto offices on July 27, 2021.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Al Gore’s investment firm has led a $95-million financing of a Toronto company that uses artificial intelligence to help pharma giants cut time and costs from the drug discovery process.

Generation Investment Management, chaired by the former U.S. vice-president, led the growth equity financing of BenchSci Analytics Inc., with backing from past investors Inovia Capital and Golden Ventures of Canada, and U.S.-based TCV and F-Prime Capital Partners, affiliated with Fidelity’s founding Johnson family. It’s Generation’s third deal in Canada, after 2021 investments in AlayaCare Inc. and Benevity Inc.

Terms were not disclosed but Golden managing partner Matt Golden said it was a “clean deal” free of complex structured terms that financiers have increasingly demanded from startups to guarantee them a larger share of proceeds when they sell.


Multiple investors bid to lead the deal and BenchSci chief executive Liran Belenzon said it was “not a down round,” meaning the company at least maintained its valuation from when it raised US$50-million last year. The lack of structure or devaluation puts BenchSci in rare company amid a shakeout across the tech sector as companies run out of cash or face onerous funding offers from investors.

Mr. Belenzon said “we weren’t in a position where we needed to raise money, but that’s when I want to raise. We have lots of traction and I want to make sure we have a good war chest to continue meeting demands.” He added he expects venture capital investing levels “will only get worse” despite steep declines already in the past year.

Tom Czitron: How artificial intelligence will change the investing landscape

BenchSci deploys artificial intelligence to rapidly peruse millions of scientific publications. Tens of thousands of researchers use its online subscription software tool to quickly determine which antibodies (proteins the body develops to fight invasive substances) and reagents (substances that cause chemical reactions) would be best to use in early experiments on new medications.

BenchSci’s product is used by 16 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies, which shave months and substantial costs off the search for new drugs. Novartis in its 2021 annual report said it saved US$14-million from 2018 to 2021, as scientists using BenchSci to select the best antibodies and reagents cut down on expensive and unproductive experiments and accelerated projects by months.

Anthony Woolf, growth equity partner with Generation, a social-impact sustainability-focused investor, said his firm heard “what I’d describe as wild customer love” for BenchSci during its due diligence research. “The largest biopharmaceutical companies are spending billions of dollars a year on their preclinical research and development teams, so any degree of efficiency is meaningful to them.”

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BenchSci is working towards more diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the company.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

He added there are relatively few software tools available for early drug researchers, and that BenchSci is a welcome response to “a massive innovation crisis” in preclinical research and development that has seen the cost of drug discovery skyrocket.

BenchSci was founded in 2015 by Tom Leung, David Chen, Elvis Wianda and Mr. Belenzon after they met through the Creative Destruction Lab at University of Toronto. It has grown rapidly since the start of the pandemic, more than doubling revenue over the past 18 months and expanding its team to more than 400 people from 100 in 2020. Mr. Belenzon forecast his company would double revenue again this year but didn’t disclose absolute figures.

Asked if he was concerned generative AI companies such as OpenAI could threaten BenchSci, Mr. Belezon replied: “I think every technology can be a threat if you don’t do anything about it. We will remain agile, adopt new technologies to help us solve the problem faster and never stop as an organization.”

Mr. Woolf at Generation added: “Our conclusion is that large language models” used in generative AI “are going to benefit BenchSci over time as long as they can incorporate it.”

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Singapore's Temasek cuts compensation for those responsible for FTX investment – Yahoo Canada Finance



By Urvi Manoj Dugar and Yantoultra Ngui

(Reuters) -Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings said on Monday it had cut compensation for the team and senior management that recommended its investment in the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

“Although there was no misconduct by the investment team in reaching their investment recommendation, the investment team and senior management, who are ultimately responsible for investment decisions made, took collective accountability and had their compensation reduced,” Temasek Chairman Lim Boon Heng said in a statement posted on Temasek’s website on Monday.


It did not detail the amount of compensation cut.

The move comes around six months after Temasek initiated an internal review of its investment in FTX, which resulted in a writedown of $275 million.

Temasek had said its cost of investment in FTX was 0.09% of its net portfolio value of S$403 billion ($304 billion) as of March 31, 2022, and that it currently had no direct exposure in cryptocurrencies.

Temasek also said last year it had conducted “extensive due diligence” on FTX, with its audited financial statement then “showed it to be profitable”.

FTX’s other backers such as SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund and Sequoia Capital had also marked down their investment to zero after FTX, founded by Sam Bankman Fried, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States last year.

“With FTX, as alleged by prosecutors and as admitted by key executives at FTX and its affiliates, there was fraudulent conduct intentionally hidden from investors, including Temasek,” Lim said in the statement on Monday. “Nevertheless, we are disappointed with the outcome of our investment, and the negative impact on our reputation.”

($1 = 1.3245 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Urvi Dugar in Bengaluru and Yantoultra Ngui in Singapore; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.)

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Solar power due to overtake oil production investment for first time, IEA says



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Photovoltaic panels at a solar farm near Thaxted, eastern England, on May 16.DANIEL LEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Investment in clean energy will extend its lead over spending on fossil fuels in 2023, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday, with solar projects expected to outpace outlays on oil production for the first time.

Annual investment in renewable energy is up by nearly a quarter since 2021 compared to a 15-per-cent rise for fossil fuels, the Paris-based energy watchdog said in its World Energy Investment report.

Around 90 per cent of that clean energy spending comes from advanced economies and China, however, highlighting the global divide between rich and poor countries as fossil fuel investment is still double the levels needed to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury.

“Clean energy is moving fast – faster than many people realize,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.


“For every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about 1.7 dollars are now going into clean energy. Five years ago, this ratio was one-to-one.”

Around US$2.8-trillion is set to be invested in energy worldwide in 2023, of which more than US$1.7-trillion is expected to go to renewables, nuclear power, electric vehicles and efficiency improvements.

The rest, or around US$1-trillion, will go to oil, gas and coal, demand for the last of which will reach and all-time high or six times the level needed in 2030 to reach net zero by 2050.

Current fossil-fuel spending is significantly higher than what it should be to reach the goal of net zero by midcentury, the agency said.

In 2023, solar-power spending is due to hit more than US$1-billion a day or around US$380-billion on a yearly basis.

“This crowns solar as a true energy superpower. It is emerging as the biggest tool we have for rapid decarbonization of the entire economy,” energy think tank Ember’s head of data insights, Dave Jones, said in a statement.

“The irony remains that some of the sunniest places in the world have the lowest levels of solar investment.”

Investment in new fossil fuel supply will rise by 6 per cent in 2023 to US$950-billion, the IEA added.

The agency did not expressly reiterate its blockbuster projection from 2021 that investors should not fund new oil, gas and coal supply projects if the world wants to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury.

Producer group OPEC has said calls by the IEA to stop investing in oil undermine global energy security and growth. Scientists and international climate activi


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