When James Dyson, the billionaire British inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, unveiled a plan to build an electric car plant in Singapore, it raised a few eyebrows.
Not only does the land-starved city state have some of the highest average salaries in the world, but it has been nearly 40 years since Ford closed its factory in Singapore, effectively ending car production on the Southeast Asian island.
“It is a bit of a surprise because of the cost base and no other car manufacturing plant being here,” said Shantanu Majumdar, a regional director at consultancy JD Power.
Dyson said on Tuesday the decision was based on supply chains, access to markets and the availability of expertise, which offset the cost factor.
But what other factors could have influenced the decision? Why not head straight to the biggest electric vehicle market in the world, China, like rival Tesla?
Here’s a look at some of the less obvious pros and cons:
Compared with other global cities, Singapore has some of the highest average salaries in the world after tax, according to studies by Deutsche Bank. Land available for industrial use is scarce and expensive, and it ranks highly in general cost-of-living indexes.
But aside from its skilled engineers and scientists, for a high-tech firm like Dyson, Singapore offers generous incentive schemes.
Some schemes include tax breaks for five years, which can be extended, and grants that can cover up to 30 percent of the cost of projects to improve business efficiency. Singapore declined to comment on whether Dyson benefited from any such schemes.
To shore up productivity in its manufacturing sector, which makes up less than quarter of its output, Singapore has focused efforts on attracting high-end manufacturers and those who adopt automated production processes.
Dyson may have decided to make electric cars in Singapore, but few are likely to be driven here or anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter.
The number of privately owned electric vehicles in Singapore is in single digits, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has criticized Singapore for not being supportive of electric vehicles.
Singapore is one of the world’s most expensive places to own a car because the government strictly controls the vehicle population by charging owners a variable rate for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years.
In the broader Southeast Asia, only 142 electric vehicles are forecast to be sold this year, data from consultant LMC Automotive shows.
By contrast, sales in China are forecast to almost reach 700,000 vehicles this year, more than double the combined sales from the United States and Europe.
But with one of the world’s busiest ports on its doorstep, Dyson can roll a car off the production line in Singapore and within the hour it can be on its way to China or other sizable electric vehicle markets like South Korea or Japan.
Dyson products - which also include bladeless fans, air purifiers and hair dryers - are becoming a premium brand in China and other Asian markets. Asia accounted for more than 70 percent of its growth last year, the firm said.
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Dyson’s history with Singapore probably also played a role.
It already employs 1,100 people in Singapore, making 21 million digital electric motors a year. It also has manufacturing hubs in Malaysia - connected to Singapore via two road bridges - and the Philippines.
“This is obviously a surprise but since Singapore is at the heart of Southeast Asia, Dyson would be best placed to source many components from neighboring countries and, locally, assemble and manufacture the high-tech car here,” said a corporate banker who deals with multinational firms in the region.
Another option for Dyson could have been to follow rival Tesla to the biggest market, China.
By the time Dyson’s first car is ready in 2021, Tesla may already be selling locally produced cars in China after it signed a deal with the Shanghai government for an 860,000 square meter plot of land to build its first overseas Gigafactory.
But China is becoming a crowded market for making electric vehicles and the government is reining in subsidies.
Meanwhile, Singapore does have an extensive free trade agreement with China which lists various car types and car parts in its tariff-reduction schedule.
Singapore’s Economic Development Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether electric vehicles would be eligible for exemptions under this arrangement.
JD Power’s Majumdar said intellectual property would be another consideration for Dyson.
“Intellectual protections are very strong in Singapore... It is definitely an advantage. When you are in China...you may not be so comfortable on that part.”
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Fifty homes in the city of Milton Keynes have started accessing fixed line speeds of 1GBps, ahead of plans to roll it out across the city.
Vodafone signed a partnership with infrastructure provider CityFibre late last year and work began on the £40 million Milton Keynes' project in January.
The telcos have already started work on a fibre network in Peterborough, with construction planned to begin in a further five UK cities in the coming months.
Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK Chief Executive, said: “Full fibre is vital to our digital economy and to the UK’s future as a digital leader, yet just three percent of UK premises currently have access to it.
"That’s why we are offering Vodafone Gigafast Broadband and making it available on a mass scale, reaching a million UK homes by 2021.”
Meanwhile, the operator has bolstered its V by Vodafone range with two "digital buildings" solutions for enterprises, new wearables and a smart home kit.
Vodafone's Building Surveillance system uses a cloud-based platform to connect existing CCTV equipment and monitor multiple sites. A dashboard can be used to send alerts in the event of certain incidents.
The Building Energy Management solution also uses a cloud platform to manage the likes of lighting, air conditioning and heating remotely. It also features a dashboard that can be used to measure KPIs and real-time performance to increase energy and operational efficiency.
In its consumer range, the operator has introduced V-Home, which includes a security camera, sensor, indoor alarm and hub that controls connected devices through an app. Customers can also add the likes of water leak and smoke sensors to the hub.
The operator is also selling new wearables for children and the vulnerable. Both include SOS buttons in the event of an accident.
Jeffery added: “Our aim is to help families create a smart home simply and without too much expense. Many families would like a smart home, but worry that it would be too complicated or expensive. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our V by Vodafone products are designed to plug in simply and work via one easy to use app. Together with our new wearables, they will help busy families stay connected and give them peace of mind that their loved ones and home are safe.”
The range of consumer IoT devices was first launched last year and included the likes of pet trackers and vehicle dongles.
The vendor is planning to launch new connectivity initiatives along road networks and railway lines, as well as vowing to solve the challenges facing cybersecurity and connectivity.
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LONDON (Reuters) - British banks and other financial services firms were given three months on Thursday to explain how they can avoid damaging IT breakdowns and respond to the growing threat of cyber attacks.
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