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Learn from partners then go it alone

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By Paul Lienert, Norihiko Shirouzu and Edward Taylor

(Reuters) – Elon Musk is hailed as an innovator and disruptor who went from knowing next to nothing about building cars to running the world’s most valuable automaker in the space of 16 years.

But his record shows he is more of a fast learner who forged alliances with firms that had technology Tesla lacked, hired some of their most talented people, and then powered through the boundaries that limited more risk-averse partners.

Now, Musk and his team are preparing to outline new steps in Tesla’s drive to become a more self-sufficient company less reliant on suppliers at its “Battery Day” event on Sept. 22.

Musk has been dropping hints for months that significant advances in technology will be announced as Tesla strives to produce the low-cost, long-lasting batteries that could put its electric cars on a more equal footing with cheaper gasoline vehicles.

New battery cell designs, chemistries and manufacturing processes are just some of the developments that would allow Tesla to reduce its reliance on its long-time battery partner, Japan’s Panasonic, people familiar with the situation said.

“Elon doesn’t want any part of his business to be dependent on someone else,” said one former senior executive at Tesla who declined to be named. “And for better or worse – sometimes better, sometimes worse – he thinks he can do it better, faster and cheaper.”

Tesla has battery production partnerships with Panasonic, South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) that are expected to continue.

But at the same time, Tesla is moving to control production of cells – the basic component of electric vehicle battery packs — at highly automated factories, including one being built near Berlin, Germany and another in Fremont, California where Tesla is hiring dozens of experts in battery cell engineering and manufacturing.

“There has been no change in our relationship with Tesla,” Panasonic said in a statement provided by a company spokeswoman.

“Our relationship, both past and present has been sound. Panasonic is not a supplier to Tesla; we are partners. There’s no doubt our partnership will continue to innovate and contribute to the betterment of society.”

Tesla did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

MAKE EVERYTHING

Since he took over the fledgling company in 2004, Musk’s goal has been to learn enough – from partnerships, acquisitions and talent recruitment – to bring key technologies under Tesla’s control, people familiar with Tesla’s strategy said.

They said the aim was to build a heavily vertically integrated company, or a digital version of Ford Motor Co’s iron-ore-to-Model-A production system of the late 1920s.

“Elon thought he could improve on everything the suppliers did – everything,” said former Tesla supply chain executive Tom Wessner, who is now head of industry consultancy Imprint Advisors. “He wanted to make everything.”

Batteries, a big chunk of the cost of an electric car, are central to the Musk method. While subordinates have argued for years against developing proprietary Tesla battery cells, Musk continues to drive toward that goal.

“Tell him ‘No’, and then he really wants to do it,” said a third former Tesla veteran.

The changes in battery design, chemistry and production processes Tesla expects to reveal next week are aimed at reworking the math that until now has made electric cars more expensive than carbon-emitting vehicles with combustion engines.

Reuters reported in May that Tesla is planning to unveil low-cost batteries designed to last for a million miles. Tesla is also working to secure direct supplies of key battery materials, such as nickel, while developing cell chemistries that would no longer need expensive cobalt as well as highly automated manufacturing processes to speed up production.

‘STRAIGHT FOR MARS’

Panasonic is partnered with Tesla at the $5 billion Nevada “Gigafactory”, while CATL and LG Chem supply cells to Tesla’s Shanghai factory, where battery modules and packs are assembled for its Model 3 sedan.

Panasonic recently said it is planning to expand its production lines in Nevada, which supply the cells that then go into the battery modules assembled next door by Tesla.

But the Nevada Gigafactory partnership almost didn’t happen, according to two former Tesla executives. Musk ordered a team to study battery manufacturing in 2011, according to one former executive, but eventually partnered with Panasonic in 2013.

Now, Tesla is testing a battery cell pilot manufacturing line in Fremont and is building its own vast automated cell manufacturing facility in Gruenheide in Germany.

The roller-coaster relationship with Panasonic mirrors other Tesla alliances.

During its development alliance with Germany’s Daimler, which was an early investor in Tesla, Musk became interested in sensors that would help keep cars within traffic lanes.

Until then the Tesla Model S, which Mercedes-Benz engineers helped refine, lacked cameras or sophisticated driver assistance sensors and software such as those used in the Mercedes S-Class.

“He learned about that and took it a step further. We asked our engineers to shoot for the moon. He went straight for Mars,” said a senior Daimler engineer said.

Meanwhile, an association with Japan’s Toyota, another early investor, taught him about quality management.

Eventually, executives from Daimler and Toyota joined Tesla in key roles, along with talent from Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, as well as rival carmakers Ford, BMW and Audi.

THE MUSK SPIN

Some relationships did not end well, however.

Tesla hooked up with Israeli sensor maker Mobileye in 2014, in part to learn how to design a self-driving system that evolved into Tesla’s Autopilot.

“Mobileye was the driving force behind the original Autopilot,” said a former Mobileye executive, who declined to be named.

Mobileye, which is now owned by Intel, also recognized the risk of sharing technology with a fast-moving startup like Tesla, which was on the brink of collapse at the end of 2008 and now has a market value of $420 billion.

But Tesla and Mobileye had an acrimonious and public split after a driver was killed in 2016 when a Model S using the Autopilot system crashed.

At the time, Amnon Shashua, who is now Mobileye president and chief executive, said Tesla’s Autopilot was not designed to cover all possible crash situations as it was a driver assistance system, not a driverless system.

U.S. tech firm Nvidia followed Mobileye as a supplier for Autopilot, but it too was ultimately sidelined.

“Nvidia and Tesla share a common strategy of developing software-defined vehicles powered by high-performance AI computers. Elon is very focused on vertical integration and wanted to make his own chips,” said Nvidia’s senior director of automotive, Danny Shapiro.

Both Shapiro and the former Mobileye executive said there was no question of Tesla improperly using their technology.

In addition to partnerships, Musk went on an acquisition spree four years ago, buying a handful of little-known companies – Grohmann, Perbix, Riviera, Compass, Hibar Systems – to rapidly advance Tesla’s expertise in automation. Maxwell and SilLion further boosted Tesla’s ability in battery technology.

“He learned a lot from those people,” said Mark Ellis, a senior consultant at Munro & Associates, which has studied Tesla extensively. “He leveraged a lot of information from them, then put his spin on making it better.”

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit, Edward Taylor in Frankfurt and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Additional reporting by Tina Bellon in New York and Yilei Sun in Beijing; Editing by David Clarke)

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Judge delays release of Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings to protect witnesses, lawyers say

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Judge delays release of Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings to protect witnesses, lawyers say

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A judge has agreed to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s request for a delay in releasing the grand jury recordings in the controversial Breonna Taylor decision, initially due by noon Wednesday.

Cameron asked for a one-week extension in a motion filed Tuesday, saying the delay was necessary to protect witnesses’ personal information. The high-profile case has prompted threats against some officials and officers.

Judge Ann Bailey Smith instead gave his office a new deadline of noon Friday to submit the grand jury recordings. 

Stew Mathews, who is representing former detective Brett Hankison, confirmed the new deadline to The Louisville Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network. 

Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokeswoman for Cameron, also confirmed the judge’s decision in an email that stated the judge had ruled on the motion and “granted an extension … to give us proper time to redact specific personal information of witnesses.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020. Of the three Louisville Metro police officers being investigated, one was indicted.

Cameron’s office has said the delay is necessary to protect the interest of witnesses, “in particular private citizens named in the recordings.” His office wants to “redact personal identifiers of any named person, and to redact both names and personal identifiers of any private citizen.”

Attorneys for former Detective Brett Hankison, the only person charged by the Taylor grand jury, agreed with the delay, Cameron’s office said.

Kuhn said Wednesday morning that the audio recording is 20 hours long and that the office filed a motion to request additional time “to redact personally identifiable information of witnesses, including addresses and phone numbers.”

More: Kentucky AG’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case is being picked apart. Here’s why.

Heightened publicity over the case has resulted in myriad threats against officers and officials in the case, according to a motion filed by F. Scott Lewis, attorney for the witnesses.

LMPD is “providing extraordinary protection in response to these threats,” including up to 400 hours of security each week to protect officers, public officials and their families, Lewis wrote. 

The public filing of the grand jury recording is in response to Judge Ann Bailey Smith’s Monday order for Cameron to include it as evidence in the criminal case against former detective Hankison.

On Wednesday, 13 witnesses interviewed by the LMPD Public Integrity Unit and the Attorney General’s Office filed a separate motion seeking a limited protective order that would prevent anything included in the public case file from including their names or other identifying information. 

The motion cited the “thousands, if not millions” of people interested in the case and potential for “threats to and reprisals against witnesses.”

Previously: ‘Aggrieved’ juror in Breonna Taylor case wants grand jury recordings released, attorney says

Attorney for juror: ‘The public deserves to know everything’

The public filing of the grand jury recording is in response to Judge Ann Bailey Smith’s order Monday for Cameron to include it as evidence in the criminal case against Hankison.

Cameron said he would comply, but he was concerned it could compromise a federal investigation and have unintended consequences of tainting the jury pool. 

His office filed the motion asking for an extra week on Tuesday.

Sam Aguiar, a Louisville attorney who has represented Taylor’s family, said Wednesday the move was “par for the course for Daniel Cameron to blatantly mislead the public.”

“He literally told the world two days ago that he’d comply with the order,” Aguiar said. “Maybe it’s just now hitting him that the public, when they hear the truth about what happened in the proceedings, will have serious concerns about the integrity of the process.

“Let’s all hope this stall tactic isn’t an effort to buy time and seek a writ.”

Monday, a grand juror in the case filed a court motion – in a very unusual move – calling for the release of the recording and transcript, along with permission to speak freely about what charges and defendants were not considered. 

“The public deserves to know everything,” said Kevin Glogower, an attorney for the grand juror in a news conference Tuesday. 

One week ago, the grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment but did not bring charges against any of the officers for Taylor’s death. 

Hankison’s charges stemmed from shots he fired into a neighboring apartment with three residents. 

Cameron’s investigation has sprung leaks and faced intense scrutiny from the public and attorneys for Taylor’s family. Louisville-based attorney Lonita Baker called for a new special prosecutor to be appointed to present charges in Taylor’s death

Several groups have called for evidence and grand jury materials to be released to the public in the week since the indictments against Hankison were announced.

More: Experts say Breonna Taylor grand juror’s extraordinary bid to end secrecy is the right move

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings: Judge delays release for privacy

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Hilary Duff would ‘sneak off and party’ during ‘Lizzie McGuire’

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Hilary Duff played Lizzie McGuire from 2001 to 2004. (Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

While most people that came of age watching Disney’s Lizzie McGuire have fond memories of it, star Hilary Duff was not one of them for a long time. What she’s always recalled, she told Cosmopolitan U.K. in a story published Tuesday, is “isolation… and the pressure of being a role model.”

After all, Duff, now 33, was barely a teenager when she began playing the character in 2001. While her family never depended on her career earnings, being a Disney star was hard work. Duff was homeschooled and her mom was strict in all aspects of her life. When asked if she ever felt compelled to “go off the rails,” Duff said yes.

“It’s not like I didn’t sneak off and party sometimes and get drunk. I definitely did all of those things,” she told the magazine. “But I feel like I’ve always been a well-balanced person, and always had a sense of ‘I don’t want to embarrass myself.’”

She more than survived the show’s three-season run. Afterward, she struggled as she was bullied by an unnamed “handful of girls” and dealt with “a bad relationship with food.” People weren’t interested in hiring her for roles that weren’t Lizzie-like. She had another challenging period after becoming a mom at 24, before her friends were doing so.

“I felt like I was so ready to be a mom. Everyone was like, ‘Oh. My. God. You’re a baby having a baby,’” said Duff, who’s mom to 8-year-old son Luca and daughter Banks, who turns 2 next month. “But I felt like I had done so much and I was so ready for something more and something that was personally mine. But I will say that was one of the loneliest times in my life.”

All the while, she was turning down offers to return to her most famous role.

“They asked me for years and years: ‘Let’s do a reboot, let’s do a reboot,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no,” Duff said. “Finally, last year, I was like, ‘I feel ready.’”

The revival of the series went into production and completed two episodes. However, filming stopped in January, after Terri Minsky, the creator of the original show and showrunner of the reboot, left the project. Duff issued a statement in which she asked Disney — who planned to offer the series on Disney+ — to move the show over to Hulu to make it more grown up. She told Cosmo that she has faith it will work out.

“There’s still no, like, ‘For sure, this is happening,’ but I think they’re pretty confident that we can make the show that I want, and that they want, for Disney+,” Duff said.

She finds herself actually hoping to return to playing the part she once loathed.

“It just doesn’t annoy me any more when people refer to me as Lizzie McGuire or say that was my biggest role, because it paved the way for all the other roads I’ve been able to take,” she said.

Besides, Duff explained, her world has changed a lot since her teen idol days.

“I’m at such a different place in my life now, being a mother and a wife — it doesn’t weigh on me any more,” Duff said. “I don’t feel like people only see me that way, but [even] when they do, I feel appreciative of it because she was very impactful on so many people’s lives.”

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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3 ‘Strong Buy’ Stocks With Dividend Yields of 8% or Better

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What to make of the markets lately? Early September showed a sharp drop from peak values, but since the eighth of the month – for the past three weeks – volatility has ruled the day. All the major indexes have bouncing up and down without showing a clear trend.

While increased volatility is almost certainly going to stay with us for a while, it’s time to consider defensive stocks. And that will bring us to dividends. By providing a steady income stream, no matter what the market conditions, a reliable dividend stock provides a pad for your investment portfolio when the share stop appreciating.

With this in mind, we’ve used the TipRanks database to pull up three dividend stocks yielding 8% or more. That’s not all they offer, however. Each of these stocks has a Strong Buy rating, and considerable upside potential.

Solar Senior Capital (SUNS)

The first stock is Solar Senior Capital, an investment management company focused on an externally managed non-diversified portfolio. SUNS invests in mid-market companies, taking positions in unitranche instruments, secured loans, and first and second lien debt. The company’s investment targets are mid-market firms with below-investment grade credit ratings, and its portfolio is valued at $532.4 million.

Solar’s earnings, up to 1Q20, had held steady at 35 cents per share – but that took a sudden dive in the second quarter this year, coming in at 32 cents. That drop came even as the company also reported a solid financial base, with net assets of $249 million and available capital exceeding $210 million.

Despite the lower earnings, the quarterly results were sufficient to maintain the dividend. This is paid monthly, at a rate of 10 cents per common share, making the quarterly distribution 30 cents. This leads to a high payout ratio, but at current earning levels the dividend is sustainable. The annualized payment, of $1.20, gives a yield of 9.4%, which is more than 4.5x higher than the average dividend yield found among S&P index members. The company has paid out the dividend reliably, no matter the market conditions, since 2011.

Covering this stock for Ladenburg, analyst Mickey Schleien rates SUNS a Buy, along with a $15 price target. This target implies an 18% upside for the coming year. (To watch Schleien’s track record, click here)

Supporting his stance, Schleien writes, “…the company’s pipeline is increasing with more compelling opportunities at higher yields. SUNS is operating within the incentive management fee catch-up band, and the external manager continues to waive fees to the extent necessary for NII to cover the dividend through 2020.”

The Strong Buy analyst consensus rating on SUNS is unanimous, based on 3 Buy reviews. The stock’s $12.68 trading price and $15.67 average price target give a one-year upside potential of 24%. (See SUNS stock analysis on TipRanks)

Barings BDC, Inc. (BBDC)

Barings, the next stock on our list, is a busines development corporation. The company provides capital access and asset management for its customers, middle-market companies seeking financing solutions. Barings invests in debt, equity, and fixed income assets, and boasts over $346 billion in total assets under management.

While Barings took a hard hit to revenue in the first quarter, as the corona crisis took hold, the company has seen the top line return to positive numbers in the second quarter. At $56 million, the Q2 revenue was also more than 4x higher than results in the second half of 2019. Earnings have been stable, with EPS reported between 14 and 16 cents for the past 7 quarters.

In another sign of strength, Barings in August completed an agreement to acquire MVC Capital. The deal, which totals $177.5 million in cash and stock, is expected to close in 4Q20 and will create a combined company with an investment portfolio worth more than $1.2 billion.

While that move is going forward, BBDC continues to reward shareholders. The company has been gradually growing its quarterly dividend payment for the past two years. The current payout is 16 cents per common share, giving an annualized payment of 64 cents and a robust yield of 8%.

Raymond James analyst Robert Dodd notes the importance of the MVC transaction for BBDC: “…we expect that BBDC will recognize a top-line income contributor ‘accretion of purchase discount’ over the life of the MVC portfolio.” Dodd goes on to note that this will have a positive impact on the dividend, writing, “We are projecting a dividend increase following the close of the MVC acquisition. We believe the dividend could be increased from the current $0.16/share per quarter to $0.17/share in 1Q21. While we believe earnings power will exceed that level, over-coverage is a good thing in our view — and we believe projecting a 90% payout ratio is prudent.”

Dodd’s comments back up his Buy rating on the stock. He gives Barings a $9.50 price target, which indicates room for 19% growth over the next 12 months. (To watch Dodd’s track record, click here)

Overall, Barings’ Strong Buy consensus rating is held up by 3 recent Buys against a single Hold. The company has an average price target of $9, suggesting a 12.5% upside from the $8.01 trading price. (See BBDC stock analysis on TipRanks)

TriplePoint Venture Growth (TPVG)

The last stock on our list is another management investment company. TriplePoint Venture is a venture capital investment firm with a portfolio focused on the tech and life sciences. These are high-growth industries that gobble up cash – but also offer the promise of high returns.

TriplePoint’s earnings have been falling off this year from their peak, at 45 cents per share in Q4 of last year, even as revenue as recovered from corona-induced losses in the first quarter. For the second quarter, the top line came in at $23 million, while EPS slipped 7% to 38 cents. Even though earnings are down, they still beat the forecast by 5.5%.

However, the company’s dividend payment has been remarkably stable for the past few years. Except for one downward blip in December 2018, the dividend has been consistently paid out at 36 cents per common share per quarter. This gives an annualized payment of $1.44, and a powerful yield of 12.8%. The high yield, combined with the reliable payment history, make this dividend valuable, especially in a time of near-zero interest rate policy.

Christopher York, 4-star analyst with JMP Securities, believes that the recent second quarter results justify an Outperform (i.e. Buy) rating on TPVG, and his $13 price target implies an upside of 16%. (To watch York’s track record, click here)

Backing his outlook, York writes, “TPVG remains our favorite BDC idea for those that trade below $500mln in market cap; we find the stock especially attractive for both yield-seeking and value investors […] We continue to believe TriplePoint’s core dividend run-rate of $0.36 is sustainable throughout 2021 and note that the total return requirement in the incentive fee should provide additional support to dividend coverage from any future credit losses.”

Overall, Wall Street’s analysts have been nothing but bullish on TPVG over the past three months. Out of 5 analysts who cover the stock, all 5 are bullish. Meanwhile, their average price target of $13.30 suggests a 19% upside from current levels. (See TriplePoint’s stock analysis at TipRanks)

To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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