Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Amazon to acquire e-commerce site Souq.com


After months of speculation, Amazon has confirmed in a press release on Tuesday that it has finally reached an agreement with Middle Eastern e-commerce company Souq.com for an acquisition deal.
Prior to the closing of the agreement for acquisition, Emaar Malls challenged Amazon’s takeover bid with a price offer of $800 million.

From previous reports, it was speculated that Amazon’s initial bid was at $600 million but later details about the valuation of the deal were no longer disclosed, although both companies said that the deal is expected to close in 2017.

Many speculate that Souq went with Amazon due to the similarity of the two companies in terms of operations, while Emaar Malls wanted to acquire the Middle Eastern company in order to expand business in an online platform.


“We are guided by many of the same principles as Amazon, and this acquisition is a critical next step in growing our e-commerce presence on behalf of customers across the region. By becoming part of the Amazon family, we’ll be able to vastly expand our delivery capabilities and customer selection much faster,” said Souq CEO and Co-Founder Ronaldo Mouchawar.

Amazon’s timely acquisition of the Dubai-based e-commerce site comes as the online shopping industry in the region is just starting to grow. According to analysts at Standard Chartered, the e-commerce in Middle East is constantly growing by at least 30% every year, which give wider untapped market for Amazon to add to their target expansion.

On Souq’s last funding round, the company received a total valuation of $1 billion last April 2015. Souq currently is the largest online shopping company in Dubai area, catering more than 8.54 million kinds of products across 31 categories ranging from household goods, consumer electronics and gadgets, fashion, health and beauty.

The merger of two e-commerce giant was greatly valued and appreciated by both companies, with Amazon Senior Vice President Russ Grandinetti stating that, “Amazon and Souq.com share the same DNA – we’re both driven by customers, invention, and long-term thinking. We’re looking forward to both learning from and supporting them with Amazon technology and global resources.”

Meanwhile, Amazon’s stock (NASDAQ: AMZN) closed 0.14% higher last trading session on Monday to $846.82 per share and is up by 0.06% to $847.35 per share in pre-market trading.


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Uber suspends Arizona driverless car program

In a recent car crash incident during one of Uber’s test-drive operations for its self-driving car programs in Arizona, the ride-hailing company decided to temporarily suspend testing for autonomous vehicle unit.


At present, the results for the investigation of the accident is still pending, with only the suspension from Uber the key detail announced. The accident left the test unit Volvo XC90 on its side, and it was reported that the vehicle was in self-driving mode when it crashed on the street on the time of the incident. According to initial investigations, another vehicle was involved in the accident, and was reportedly to have driven rashly on the road.

Although this was the situation at hand, some analysts still speculate whether Uber could have exerted more effort in avoiding the crash. Due to the present incident, Uber announced that it will temporarily pull out all of its self-driving cars off the ride during the span of the entire investigation of the accident.

Uber released a statement that said, “We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no back-seat passengers in the vehicle,” assuring investors that the incident did not end in drastic results.


In additional reports from the Tempe police department, it was reported that the Uber Volvo utility vehicle was driving south in McClintock Drive and that “another vehicle failed to yield while turning left” that eventually resulted in a collision between the two. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported from the car crash.

This accident comes in a time wherein Uber has been experiencing a series of challenges both to the management of the company and the development and testing of its self-driving cars subsidiary.

In just a span of a few months, Uber has already seen several problems rising, some of which include Google’s Waymo lawsuit over allegation of stolen self-driving car tech, CEO Travis Kalanick seen to have had heated argument with Uber driver, and several executives key employees leaving the company due to varying reasons.

Uber’s service in Arizona is the second launched by the company, after the first opening in Pittsburgh. Many believe that the operations in the region will likely remain suspended until investigations for the accident is completed.

The ride-hailing company is known to have been a bit aggressive in pursuing the development of self-driving car technology that will be used for the mass market.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Twitter considers premium subscription options


The social media company, Twitter Inc. has been in the spotlight recently, as it has been a platform often used by US President Donald Trump and several celebrities, becoming commonly-used medium in the social media. However, despite this increased attention back to Twitter, the company is still having difficulties generating good quarterly and yearly profits. In addition to that, it Twitter is finding it hard searching for advertisers to fund their operations, unlike bigger social media counterpart, Facebook.

In the light of this challenge, Twitter mentioned on Thursday its plans and considerations on further utilizing TweetDeck, a social media dashboard application used for managing multiple Twitter accounts, with which the company acquired last 2011.

According to reports, the paid subscription feature will give exclusive access to an advanced version of TweetDeck. The planned paid membership option is targeted to business users of the Twitter dashboard and suggested at a price of $19.99 per month.

It was said that Twitter has already started conducting surveys to several users in order to assess whether such extra feature would be received well from the market. According to the company, it regularly conducts surveys and user research in order to receive feedback from user’s to help in its product investment decisions.

A screenshot of the survey has been circling Twitter, showing details and a mock-up of what the subscription version would look like. The screenshot shows activity analytics, alerts about breaking news, as well as information on what the account’s followers are tweeting about.

According to Twitter, the feature will also include “advanced audience insights & analytics, tools to monitor multiple timelines from multiple accounts and from multiple devices, including mobile, all in an ad-free experience.”

“This premium tool set will provide valuable viewing, posting, and signaling tools like alerts, trends and activity analysis, advanced analytics, and composing and posting tools all in one customizable dashboard. It will be designed to make it easier than ever to keep up with multiple interests, grow your audience, and see even more great content and information in real-time,” Twitter stated in an email.

The new TweetDeck innovation proposal comes as the company is struggling to generate more profitable returns as it is having a hard time gathering enough from its advertisers alone.


Twitter’s recent financial statements have been suffering with poor profit returns and slow user growth. Last February 9, TWTR stock plunged by as low as 11.7% following the release of a dismal fourth-quarter earnings report. Since the February plunge, Twitter’s stock has been falling continuously in the stock market, and was recently down by around $3 per share from last month.

TWTR stock climbed 2.28% to $15.27 upon Friday opening bell, indicating investor approval over Twitter possible upgrade to TweetDeck.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

US Weekly Jobless Claims Climb to 258,000

On Thursday morning, the US Labour Department posted last week ending March 18’s weekly jobless claims, reporting an unexpected rise to a new record high of 258,000, the highest level since the last week of January. The data published was higher than what most forecasts indicated which was at 240,000 to 243,000.

The latest jobless claims increased by 15,000 during the week, hitting its highest record in two months. Although analysts expected first-time jobless claims for the week to drop to at least 1,000, a reading below 300,000 still indicates a firming labour market for a nation.


Meanwhile, the continuing jobless claims during the week that ended March 11 fell to 2 million from the previous record of 2.039 million the past week, initially revised from 2.030 million. For the four-week average of jobless claims, data showed an increase to 240,000 from 239,000 the previous week.

Although the data posted unexpected increase, it still exhibits that fewer Americans are now losing jobs. During the last weeks of February, applications for jobless claims declined to 210,000, which was the America’s lowest since 1969.

According to several companies, searching for more qualified applicants becomes harder, resulting in fewer chances to lay off employees.


With the tightening status of the labour market, the Federal Reserve was able to raise interest rates last week. Should the market condition remain or will not see significant movement, it is likely that the Fed will not raise rate by May.

In the forex market, USD/JPY fell 0.23% at 110.90, close to the pair’s four-month low on Wednesday, while USD/CHF pair was at 0.9932, up by 0.19%. EUR/USD declined 0.16% to 1.0779, falling from its six-week high, while the GBP/USD pair was up by 0.12% to 1.2499 after UK’s retail sales climbed by 1.4% in February. The US Dollar Index (DXY) traded at 99.69, or 0.03% lower against the basket of other currencies.


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Starbucks Expands Hiring Commitments to 25,000

In Starbucks’s most recent 25th annual shareholders’ meeting held on Wednesday, the coffee company has highlighted several key factors on the company’s management plans and other strategic targets for growth for the coming years, led by outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.


Meanwhile, the company has announced its plans to increase more job opportunities to come to around 240,000 globally by 2021; creating more than 68,000 jobs in the US, opening 12,000 new stores worldwide, and 3,400 new stores in the US.

In addition to that, Starbucks states that they will be increasing their hiring commitment to refugees, veterans, and military spouses by 2025 from January’s announcement of 10,000 to now 25,000.
However, Schultz’s decision to aid refugees affected by Trump’s travel ban received some backlash by several Trump supported and few conservative shareholders.

During the annual shareholder meeting, an investor, Justin Danhof expressed opposing views from Starbucks’s openness to being against Trump’s travel ban, which in turn was booed by the rest of the crowd. In response to the comment made by Danhof, Schultz replied stating that “it’s not about politics, but instead it’s about compassion.”


Schultz highlighted the company’s achievement of reaching 18,000% increase in shareholder returns since Starbucks’s IPO 25 years ago.

At the annual meeting, Schultz joined incoming CEO Kevin Johnson in highlighting the company’s record performance since the launching of its IPO 25 years ago. Within the shareholder meeting, both Schultz and Johnson emphasized the company’s past performances that led to “unparalleled shareholder returns, and strong pipeline of innovation for future growth across coffee, tea, food, digital, China and partner investments.”

“Every hour of every day, someone somewhere is walking into one of our 26,000 Starbucks stores in 75 countries around the world. As we approach our 25th year as a publicly traded company, the Starbucks brand is as relevant today as it has ever been, driven by the 330,000 people who proudly wear the green apron,” said Schultz.


As the chief executive discussed the company’s achievements throughout the years, he also introduced Johnson as the next CEO of the beloved coffee company, stating several of his qualities fit to take helm as the new Chief Executive.

Meanwhile Starbucks’s stock (NASDAQ: SBUX) gained 0.6% so far this year, closing at $55.89 per share on the previous trading session, up by 0.63%. Although the company’s stock has been not much of a best performer recently, many investors still advice not to sell the stock as it has a potential to pay off in the long term. And even though its recent earnings are not as good as its forecasts, it has still exhibited stable growth for 2018.

Starbucks’s ability to comply with its targets and initiatives has made it a great performer in the retail industry, given the 1.7% decrease in the industry’s status.


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Box Office Record Hit aids Disney Stock to rally

The weekend opening of the highly anticipated Disney classic movie remake The Beauty and the Beast was well-received by mass markets worldwide, breaking 5 Box Office records upon its first show date. The movie remake was able to rake so far a total of $350 million during the opening weekend as families and groups of friends were excited and anticipating the beloved Disney classic.


With the record-smashing and a certified box office hit, Disney’s stock was able to taste a bit of the effect of the movie’s marvelous influence. Disney stock traded higher on Monday, reaching a high of $113.16 in the market before closing in at $112.71, up by 0.09% or $1.01 per share.

Investors can expect for stronger quarterly and yearly earnings call from Disney, as Beauty and the Beast hits off the first quarter of the year with a strong start. Upcoming Disney movies are also expected to perform fairly well in the box office, given that a movie tagged with the label Disney gets immediate warm reception one way or another.

The Beauty and the Beast was also the able to surpass Disney’s previous live-action remakes The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella.

In North America region alone, the film generated $170 million in the process, and earned £18.4 million in the UK, the fifth biggest opening weekend ever in the country. As the film had a beastly box office performance, it was able to defeat its closest competitor in the time of release, which was Kong: Skull Island; the Kingkong new movie was able to generate only a total of $28.9 million during its second week in cinemas.

The records the Beauty and the Beast was able to smash were:
  •          Biggest March Opening, beating last year’s record holder Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had a record opening of $166 million.
  •          Biggest PG Opening, best Finding Dory’s $135 million opening weekend.
  •          Biggest Women-Driven Opening, 70% of the tickets bought for the movie were from the women demographics during the first day, while an overall 60% of the tickets were bought by women.
  •         Biggest Animated Classic-Live Adaption Opening, as previously mentioned, it was able to beat Disney’s other live action remakes, also beating Alice in Wonderland with its record of $116 million.
  •     Biggest Opening for Emma Watson, the Beauty and the Beast’s opening I was able to best Emma Watson’s Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe’s and Rupert Grint’s box office hauls.

Disney’s continuous winning streak of great movie production that mostly generate tons of profit can only mean a more profitable quarterly and yearly earnings for the house of mouse company.

Still, even though Disney’s movie revenues play only a part in the company’s profits, which means that even though its movie releases perform well, its other networks and subsidiaries need to exhibit strong performance as well to actually show promising growth.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

UK PM May to trigger Brexit on March 29

In a recent announcement, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May was said to officially file for Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and submit a letter and formally notify the European Union of UK’s divorce from the Union on March 29.


Upon May’s submission of an official letter and triggering of Article 50, Brexit talks and other negotiations between Britain and the European Union will commence. With the UK’s notification over its referendum from the EU, the country will now began preparing for long legislative and political programs, where May intends to enter a hard Brexit.

Meanwhile, EU’s Council president Donald Tusk has already been informed of the formal letter to be submitted next Wednesday. Although, Downing Street declined to disclose whether the letter May will submit would contain negotiation details regarding Britain’s divorce from EU and new trade relations setup.

The Downing Street spokesman said, “Earlier on this morning the UK’s permanent representative in the EU informed the office of Donald Tusk, that it’s the UK’s intentions to trigger Article 50 in March 29. After we trigger the 27 will deliver their negotiating mandate. President Tusk has said he expected there to be an initial response within 48 hours. We want negotiations to start promptly but it’s obviously right that the 27 have an opportunity to agree their position.”

With the triggering the Article 50, Brexit talks will formally begin, and is likely to last around 2 years until all divorce procedures are finalized.

Another process that comes along triggering of Brexit is Britain’s new projects to start new negotiations and partnership with countries. Along with that, the UK government is expected to enact up to 15 new bills and secondary legislation.


The negotiating process could take up to two months or more, depending upon the immediate agreement of both the UK and EU, in terms of relations post-referendum.

However, if the Brexit talk does not reach a conclusive deal by the end of the discussion period, UK will be forced to leave the EU without any deal and will have to lapse to the World Trade Organization rules. Although May previously expressed, during the announcement for the government’s plan to go for a hard Brexit, that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

But if May meets her goal of going on a hard Brexit and finalizes with a good deal, the completion of the Brexit negotiations will mean that United Kingdom will officially be independent from the European Union on March 29, 2019.



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