Irish court gives $1 billion Apple data center green light

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Apple may proceed to build a 850 million euro ($ 1 billion) data center in Ireland, the High Court ruled on Thursday, bringing relief for the government after a two-year planning delay which it feared could hurt its reputation with investors.

Apple in February 2015 announced plans to build the data center in a rural location in the west of Ireland to take advantage of rich green energy sources nearby.

Planning permission was granted by the local council six months later, but a series of appeals blocked Apple from beginning work.

High Court judge Paul McDermott on Thursday dismissed two separate appeals against the planning permission, clearing the way for the project to proceed.

Ireland relies on foreign multinational companies for the creation of one in every 10 jobs across the economy and sees major investments such as data centers as a means of securing their presence in the country.

A similar Apple center announced at the same time in Denmark is due to begin operations later this year and Apple has announced it will build a second data center there.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar met Apple executives last month and said they had made clear their frustration with the planning and judicial delays and warned the process would color decisions that they might make about future investments.

The government has said it is considering amending its planning laws to include data centers as strategic infrastructure, thus allowing them to get through the planning process much more quickly.

It has said it will be one of the biggest capital investment projects in the west of Ireland, providing 300 construction jobs and 150 on-site permanent jobs.

Writing by Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin

Tech

Alibaba takes control of logistics business, pledges $15 billion to expand network

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group announced it will invest 100 billion yuan ($ 15.12 billion) over five years to build a global logistics network and also take control of a $ 20 billion unit, underpinning an aggressive overseas expansion.

Alibaba is investing 5.3 billion yuan in Cainiao Smart Logistics Network to boost its stake to 51 percent from 47 percent. The investment would value Cainiao, a joint venture of top Chinese logistics firms, at around $ 20 billion.“Our commitment to Cainiao and additional investment in logistics demonstrate Alibaba’s commitment to building the most-efficient logistic network in China and around the world,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said in a statement on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as Alibaba is rapidly expanding its e-commerce and logistics network abroad, including newly announced direct sales channels in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, facilitated by a $ 2 billion investment in Southeast Asian online retailer Lazada Group.

Alibaba’s latest investment in Cainiao also signals its intention to boost control over the domestic warehousing and delivery market, which has become increasingly competitive as firms seek to capitalize on logistics data assets.

In June top logistics firm SF Holding Co cut ties with the Cainiao coalition, which provides logistics support directly to Alibaba’s top e-commerce platform Taobao, claiming Alibaba had requested data unrelated to the existing partnership agreement. Alibaba denied the claims.

Alibaba said on Tuesday the $ 15 billion investment will be used to develop its data technology and improve its warehousing and delivery development.

Alibaba subscribed to new shares of Cainiao to boost its stake to a majority, according to a person close to the e-commerce firm. Alibaba will gain a new board seat in Cainiao, and will represent four out of a total seven seats.

Despite attracting billions of dollars from equity investors, Chinese logistic firms haven’t fared well in recent public listings.

Shares of ZTO Express Inc, which raised $ 1.4 billion from its New York IPO last October in the largest U.S. offering by any Chinese company since Alibaba in 2014, are down 22 percent from the listing price.

And Best Inc, a Chinese delivery firm backed by Alibaba, raised $ 450 million in a U.S. IPO last week, nearly half of what it had initially intended to raise.

Cainiao is not currently considering any IPO, the person said.

Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alibaba co-founded Cainiao in 2013, with partners including department store owner Intime Group, conglomerate Fosun Group and a few logistics companies. It oversees roughly 57 million deliveries a day.

Reporting by Kane Wu and Cate Cadell; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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