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LONDON U.S. motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (HOG.N) is lining up a takeover bid for Italian rival Ducati, potentially bringing together two of the most famous names in motorcycling in a deal that could be worth up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.67 billion), sources told Reuters.
Indian motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto (BAJA.NS) and several buyout funds are also preparing bids for Ducati, which is being put up for sale by German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE).
A deal with Harley-Davidson would bring together the maker of touring bikes like the Electra Glide that are symbolic of America with a leading European maker whose high-performance bikes have a distinguished racing heritage.
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson has hired Goldman Sachs to work on the deal, one source familiar with the matter said, adding tentative bids are expected in July.
Volkswagen, whose Audi division controls Ducati – maker of the iconic Monster motorbike – is working with investment boutique Evercore on the sale which will help it fund a strategic overhaul following its emissions scandal.
Based in the northern Italian city of Bologna, Ducati is on the wish list of private equity funds KKR (KKR.N), Bain Capital and Permira, which are all working on the deal, said the sources who declined to be identified as the process is private.
Ducati was launched in 1926 as a maker of vacuum tubes and radio components and its Bologna factory remained open in World War Two despite being the target of several bombings.
Ducati racers have won the Superbike world championship 14 times, with Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss its most successful riders.
Harley-Davidson, which commands about half the U.S. big-bike market, was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the start of the last century and was one of two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the great depression.
Demand for Harley’s motorcycles continues to be slow as its loyal baby boomer demographic ages and rivals such as the Indian brand bike maker Polaris Industries Inc (PII.N) and Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) offer discounts.
Evercore has sent out information packages to a number of potential suitors including Ducati’s previous owner Investindustrial, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Investindustrial bought a stake in Ducati before the financial crisis, subsequently taking control of the business before selling it to Audi in 2012.
It is now looking to compete with heavyweight private equity firms and large industry players to regain control.
Volkswagen, Audi, Harley-Davidson, KKR and Bain Capital declined to comment while Bajaj, Investindustrial and Permira were not immediately available.
VW, Europe’s largest carmaker, is seeking to move beyond an emissions-cheating scandal that has tarnished its image and left it facing billions of euros in fines and settlements.
A successful deal for Ducati, which last year made revenues of 593 million euros, would show that VW boss Matthias Mueller is serious about reversing his predecessor’s quest for size.
VW said last June it would review its portfolio of assets and brands, rekindling speculation among analysts that “non-core” businesses could be put up for sale.
VW hopes to raise between 1.4 and 1.5 billion euros from the sale of Ducati, valuing it at 14-15 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of about 100 million euros, the sources said.
The German car maker wants a valuation that reflects trading multiples of similar trophy assets in the automotive industry such as Italian car maker Ferrari (RACE.MI) which trades at almost 30 times its forward earnings.
Yet it may need to compromise on price as some of the bidders would struggle to pay as much as 1.5 billion euros for Ducati, several sources said.
Price expectations have already proved challenging for some industry players who recently decided against bidding.
Indian motorcycle firm Hero MotoCorp (HROM.NS) and its rival TVS Motor Company (TVSM.NS) initially expressed interest in Ducati but were put off by its price tag and decided to walk away, the sources said.
German car marker BMW (BMWG.DE) and Japanese motorcycle makers Honda (7267.T) and Suzuki (7269.T) have also decided against bidding for Ducati, sources close to the companies told Reuters.
A BMW spokesman confirmed the German firm is not interested in Ducati while Hero and TVS were not immediately available for comment.
Another source close to VW said the sale of Ducati may not be finalised before the annual EICMA motorcycle show in Milan in mid-November as VW wants to find the right buyer and the sales process may take time.
($1 = 0.8978 euros)
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt, Andreas Cremer in Berlin, Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo, Aditi Shah in New Delhi and Kane Wu in Hong Kong; Editing by Adrian Croft)
Chemists at Case Western Reserve University have found a way to possibly store digital data in half the space current systems require.
From supercomputers to smartphones, the amount of data people generate and collect continues to grow exponentially, and the need to store all that information grows with it.
Computers and other digital devices operate and store data using a binary code, meaning two symbols — typically the numerals 0 and 1 — represent information. To reduce storage space, engineers have traditionally used existing technology but made it smaller.
For example, a compact disc is made with a red laser and a Blu-ray disc with a blue, more focused, laser that reduces the size of the symbols and the space between them, increasing data density.
But according to a new study published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C., researchers at Case Western Reserve demonstrate how commonly used polymer films containing two dyes can optically store data in a quaternary (four-symbol) code, potentially requiring about half as much space.
“We’re using chemistry instead of engineering to address data storage, but it’s really complementary to what engineers are doing,” said Emily Pentzer, assistant professor of chemistry at Case Western Reserve and study author. She worked with PhD students Peiran Wei and Bowen Li and Research Assistant Al de Leon on the project.
How it works
To take advantage of the quaternary storage, computer programs would need to be written in quaternary code instead of binary code, which Pentzer said would be easy with the system they used.
Instead of numerals, the optical-storage system uses the absence of color and three colors produced by the dyes as the symbols representing information.
The researchers loaded a small amount — less than .4 percent by weight — of the two dye molecules into a flexible sheet of poly(methyl methacrylate), a polymer film called PMMA. PMMA is clear and colorless in ambient light and temperature.
One dye, cyano-substituted oligo(p-phenyene vinylene) fluoresces green when exposed to heat. The second dye, o-nitrobenzyl ester of benzoic acid, fluoresces ultramarine when exposed to ultraviolet light. When the overlapping dyes are exposed to both heat and UV light, they fluoresce as cyan.
Pentzer’s team wrote code by laying metal or wood templates over the dye-containing film, then applying heat and ultraviolet light. They cut their templates and applied code using facilities at Case Western Reserve’s Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box].
Results and next steps
The circular symbols in the template were each 300 micrometers across, with 200 micrometers between them. The code proved durable, remaining legible even after the film had been rolled, bent, written on with permanent marker, submerged in boiling water and half the surface had been rubbed away with sandpaper.
The team is now investigating the use of specialized lasers to shrink the spatial resolution and therefore increase the data density (think CD vs. Blu-ray).
They are also investigating whether a third dye can be added that responds to different stimuli and remains distinct from the other two. If so, the colorless film, plus all the color combinations available, would allow the research team to store data using a septenary, or seven-symbol code, further shrinking storage.
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WASHINGTON U.S. home resales unexpectedly rose in May to the third highest monthly level in a decade and a chronic inventory shortage pushed the median home price to an all-time high.
The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday existing home sales increased 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.62 million units last month.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales declining 0.5 percent to a rate of 5.55 million units. Sales were up 2.7 percent from May 2016.
The number of homes on the market rose 2.1 percent, but supply was down 8.4 percent from a year ago. Housing inventory has dropped for 24 straight months on a year-on-year basis.
The median house price increased to an all-time high of $252,800, a 5.8 percent jump from one year ago, reflecting the dearth of properties on the market.
“We have a housing shortage, we may even use the term housing crisis in some markets,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.
House price gains have also been helped by an unemployment rate that is at a 16-year low. Mortgage rates also remain favorable by historical standards.
At the current sales rate, it would take 4.2 months to clear inventory, down from 4.7 months one year ago. The median number of days homes were on the market in May was 27, the shortest time frame since NAR began tracking data in 2011.
Despite robust demand for housing, the sector has shown some recent signs of strain. U.S. homebuilding fell for a third straight month in May to its lowest level in eight months, the U.S. Commerce Department reported last week.
(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Paul Simao)
Australian scientists have paved the way for carbon neutral fuel with the development of a new efficient catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into synthetic natural gas in a ‘clean’ process using solar energy.
Undertaken by University of Adelaide in collaboration with CSIRO, the research could make viable a process that has enormous potential to replace fossil fuels and continue to use existing carbon-based fuel technologies without increasing atmospheric CO2.
The catalyst the researchers have developed effectively drives the process of combining CO2 with hydrogen to produce methane (the main component of the fossil fuel natural gas) and water. Currently, natural gas is one of the main fuels used for industrial activities.
“Capturing carbon from the air and utilising it for industrial processes is one strategy for controlling CO2 emissions and reducing the need for fossil fuels,” says University of Adelaide PhD candidate Renata Lippi, first author of the research published online ahead of print in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A.
“But for this to be economically viable, we need an energy efficient process that utilises CO2 as a carbon source.
“Research has shown that the hydrogen can be produced efficiently with solar energy. But combining the hydrogen with CO2 to produce methane is a safer option than using hydrogen directly as an energy source and allows the use of existing natural gas infrastructure.
“The main sticking point, however, is the catalyst — a compound needed to drive the reaction because CO2 is usually a very inert or unreactive chemical.”
The catalyst was synthesised using porous crystals called metal-organic frameworks which allow precise spatial control of the chemical elements.
“The catalyst discovery process involved the synthesis and screening of more than one hundred materials. With the help of CSIRO’s rapid catalyst testing facility we were able to test all of them quickly allowing the discovery to be made in a much shorter period of time,” said Dr Danielle Kennedy, AIM Future Science Platform Director with CSIRO. “We hope to continue collaborating with the University of Adelaide to allow renewable energy and hydrogen to be applied to chemical manufacturing by Australian industry.”
With other catalysts there have been issues around poor CO2 conversion, unwanted carbon-monoxide production, catalyst stability, low methane production rates and high reaction temperatures.
This new catalyst efficiently produces almost pure methane from CO2. Carbon-monoxide production has been minimised and stability is high under both continuous reaction for several days and after shutdown and exposure to air. Importantly, only a small amount of the catalyst is needed for high production of methane which increases economic viability. The catalyst also operates at mild temperatures and low pressures, making solar thermal energy possible.
“What we’ve produced is a highly active, highly selective (producing almost pure methane without side products) and stable catalyst that will run on solar energy,” says project leader Professor Christian Doonan, Director of the University’s Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials. “This makes carbon neutral fuel from CO2 a viable option.”
A new catalyst composed of silica, a rhodium complex and tertiary amines, significantly boosts hydrosilylation reactions, report researchers.
The design of new catalysts is essential for making new and useful organosilicon compounds(term2), which are in high demand in fields ranging from the medical to the electronics industries. A crucial step in this process is hydrosilylation (the formation of carbon-silicon bonds), and much interest has focused on rhodium-based catalysts known to be effective in accelerating this reaction.
Now, Ken Motokura of Tokyo Institute of technology (Tokyo Tech) and colleagues have devised a new catalyst consisting of three core components — a rhodium (Rh) complex and a tertiary amine (NEt2) on silica (SiO2) — that significantly improves the hydrosilylation process.
Reported in ACS Catalysis, the new catalyst achieved a turnover number(term) 3 of approximately 1,900,000 over a period of 24 hours, far surpassing other supported-rhodium catalysts developed to date.
The co-immobilised amine (NEt2) is thought to be a key factor behind the improved catalytic activity. “Although the specific reason for improvement is still unclear, we know that usually the hydrosilylation reaction is accelerated by electron donation to the rhodium center, and the tertiary amine has electron-donating ability,” says Motokura. The work builds on the research group’s previous finding that co-immobilization of two active sites enhances catalysis drastically.
The new study demonstrates that having both the Rh complex and amine on the SiO2 surface produces a greater yield (96%) than with just Rh (9%) or just amine (less than 1%), suggesting a synergistic effect at play.
Notably, the order in which the Rh complex and amine were immobilised affected catalytic performance. Motokura explains that the timing of immobilisation may affect the positioning of the Rh complex and amine, which ultimately affects catalytic activity. This finding concurs with a previous study by the same team, which found that catalytic activity strongly depended on the proximity of the Rh complex and tertiary amine.
One limiting factor for future studies is the high cost of rhodium. “In this study, it’s important to note that we were able to achieve very low loading of rhodium,” says Motokura. “We recognise that finding alternatives to rhodium will be critical. So far, however, catalysts based on inexpensive metals generally show low activity.”
The team’s next goal is to produce a synergistic effect using non-precious metal and organic functions on the same surface, in order to achieve catalytic performance on par with rhodium-based catalysts. Motokura says: “If this succeeds, our long-held goal of developing sustainable solutions based on chemistry will be realized.”
2 Organosilicon compounds: High-value compounds containing carbon-silicon bonds
3 Turnover number: The total number of chemical transformations during a catalytic cycle
4 Olefins: Also known as alkenes, these unsaturated hydrocarbons are the most widely used substrates in the large-scale synthesis of organosilicon compounds
Ken Motokura*1, Kyogo Maeda1, and Wang-Jae Chun2, SiO2-Supported Rh Catalyst for Efficient Hydrosilylation of Olefins Improved by Simultaneously Immobilized Tertiary Amines, ACS Catalysis, DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.7b01523
1 Department of Chemical Science and Engineering, School of Materials and Chemical Technology, Tokyo Institute of Technology
2 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, International Christian University
Materials provided by Tokyo Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
The peat bogs of the world, once waterlogged repositories of dead moss, are being converted into fuel-packed fire hazards that can burn for months and generate deadly smoke, warns a McMaster researcher who documents the threat — and a possible solution — in a paper published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Since the glaciers receded about 12,000 years ago, the humble bog has acted as a storage vault for atmospheric carbon, packed with dead moss and topped by a green layer of living moss that can come back after a burn.
The world’s bogs hold more carbon than the word’s rainforests, and Canada is home to about 185 billion tonnes of increasingly vulnerable peat deposits, ranging from 40 cm to several metres deep.
Dried peatlands fuelled a 2011 fire in Slave Lake Alberta, for example, and the recent fire that devastated Fort McMurray also burned through a dried peatland along the only highway in and out of the town.
New research from McMaster’s School of Geography and Earth Sciences, led by Gustaf Granath (now of Uppsala, Sweden) and James Michael Waddington (who goes by Mike) shows that peat mining for horticulture and fuel, drainage for agriculture and construction, and overall global warming have made a growing number of the world’s bogs dry and vulnerable to fire that can burrow deep into the ground and burn for months, even through the winter, only to re-emerge.
“People don’t think about a fire going down into the soil. They think about it going across the landscape,” Waddington says.
Peat mining in Europe and drainage to plant palm-oil plantations in southeast Asia are the sources of the greatest vulnerability, and have already helped to propagate fires that have caused massive destruction and death.
In Moscow, smoke from the peat fires of 2010 killed an estimated 3,000 people. Peat fires in Southeast Asia last year released more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2.
The largely untouched bogs that honeycomb the vast boreal forests of Canada are also changing in worrisome ways, says Waddington, a professor of Geography and Earth Sciences.
In northern forests, black spruce trees have proliferated on peat bogs, paradoxically, because fire suppression has left them to grow largely unchecked.
Spruce trees block sunlight, killing the living layer of moss and sucking the moisture out of bogs, not only turning the peat material itself into a fire hazard, but also accelerating wildfires.
“You end up with a landscape with a lot more fuel than you would have had,” says Waddington.
The research shows that previous damage can be reversed by thinning spruce trees in wilderness bogs and channeling water back into in managed bogs, and planting new moss on top of the old moss (or even what remains of it).
The cost can be high, but the cost in deaths, carbon emissions, property damage and fire suppression is ultimately higher, Waddington argues.
“The key is to keep peat wet and get that moss growing on the surface again,” Waddington says. “Our research shows very conclusively that if you can re-wet the system and get the key peat mosses growing on the surface, you essentially can put a cap on the system and limit burning or resist fire completely.”
Materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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