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Executive change to accelerate Toyota’s transformation

In today’s top stories, Toyota’s CEO is to step down on 1 April to become chairman of the board. Elsewhere, smartphone demand has dipped to its lowest level since 2013, while investors have responded warmly to Shopify’s decision to raise prices. The world is headed towards a shortfall of graphite – key component of EV batteries – while this could be a strong year for lithium, according to a Deutsche Bank analyst.

Executive change to accelerate Toyota’s transformation

Akio Toyoda is to step down as Toyota’s [7203.T] CEO on 1 April, to be replaced by current chief branding officer Koji Sato. Toyoda, a grandson of the company’s founder, will become chairman of the board, describing this as “the best way [for him] to further Toyota’s transformation.” Current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will remain on Toyota’s board.

Smartphone demand dials back in Q4

Some 1.2 billion smartphones were shipped in 2022, the lowest figure since 2013, amid “significantly dampened consumer demand, inflation, and economic uncertainties,” says market research firm IDC. Unusually, shipments fell from Q3 to Q4, putting “the 2.8% recovery expected for 2023 in serious jeopardy.” Apple [AAPL] maintained its dominant position, shipping 72.3 million iPhones in Q4.

Investors buy Shopify’s price hikes

Investors reacted positively to Shopify’s [SHOP] plans to increase prices by approximately 33% on Wednesday, with the Canadian firm’s share price gaining 13% the same day. Chief operating officer Kaz Nejatian observed that the increases represented the first significant hike in 12 years, while Keybanc analyst Josh Beck observed that the benefits to competitors who have implemented similar increases are “far outweighing minimal churn impacts.”

Graphite shortfall to kick in by 2030

Demand for natural graphite, key to EV battery manufacture, is outpacing supply. Natural graphite is more environmentally-friendly than its synthetic form, but will see a major shortfall by 2030. Graphex Technologies [GRFX] announced a “mine to battery” letter of intent Wednesday, with Gratomic [GRAT] set to plug the gap. Average analyst targets for Graphite Bio [GRPH] imply the stock could double over the next year, according to Benzinga.

DB analyst expects “strong year for Lithium”

China’s reopening means 2023 is “shaping up as another strong year for Lithium producers,” according to Deutsche Bank’s Corinne Blanchard. While the world’s largest EV market could take until Q2 to recover, Blanchard expects “sentiment and demand to further strengthen”, and this “could bring upside to most expectations.” Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile [SQM] was Blanchard’s top pick.



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