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Yahoo shares up on Alibaba report December 3, 2011

There has been growing speculation about Alibaba preparing a takeover bid for Yahoo

Shares in Yahoo rose on reports that China’s Alibaba Group was preparing a takeover bid with private equity firms Blackstone and Bain Capital.

Yahoo shares ended Thursday trading on the Nasdaq tech exchange 3.3% higher, having been 4.8% up at one point.

Unconfirmed reports said the consortium may pay up to $20 per share – well above Thursday’s close of $16.23 – valuing Yahoo at $25bn (£16bn).

Alibaba, one of China’s top internet firms, said it was weighing options.

“Alibaba Group has not made a decision to be part of a whole company bid for Yahoo,” said John Spelich, spokesman of Alibaba Group.

Buying back stake?

Alibaba has had a long association with Yahoo, but relations have taken a turn for the worse in recent years.

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Alibaba definitely wants to get its stake back from Yahoo, so whatever can make that happen, they will try for it”

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Dick Wei
JP Morgan

The two companies came together after Yahoo bought a 43% stake in Alibaba in 2005 for $1bn.

However, things between the two have not worked out as planned, prompting Alibaba to try and buy back its stake.

The relations hit a turning point earlier this year after Alibaba spun off its online payment business, Alipay, effectively putting it out of the reach of Yahoo.

Yahoo accused the Chinese company of hiding the switch from it, saying the change had been made in August 2010, but it only found out about it in March this year.

Analysts said Alibaba’s interest in bidding for Yahoo was being dictated in part by its efforts to get back full control of its own company.

“Alibaba definitely wants to get its stake back from Yahoo, so whatever can make that happen, they will try for it,” said Dick Wei of JP Morgan in Hong Kong.

Contrasting fortunes

Yahoo has been struggling to keep hold of its market share amid growing competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.

Its failure to do so resulted in chief executive Carol Bartz being fired earlier this year, and the company launching a strategic review of its operations.

While Yahoo has seen its fortunes fall, Alibaba Group has been growing robustly, helped by a boom in the Chinese internet market.

With more than 500 million users, China is the world’s biggest online market and it is is expanding at a rapid pace.

Alibaba has cashed in on the growth. The group’s online shopping website Taobao is the largest in China and boasts 50 million unique visitors a day.

It has become the top destination for almost three-quarters of the country’s online shoppers.

It hosts 30,000 online stores, and about 53,000 items are sold on the Taobao website every minute.

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Superman comic sells for $2.16m December 2, 2011

Action Comics No 1 sold originally for 10 cents

A copy of the first issue of Action Comics, featuring Superman’s debut, has become the world’s most expensive comic, fetching $2.16m (£1.4m).

It was auctioned online for a starting bid of just $1, with a reserve price of $900,000.

The buyer or seller’s name was not disclosed, but there is speculation it was owned by actor Nicolas Cage.

It is the first time a comic book has broken the $2m barrier. The issue was published in 1938 and cost 10 cents.

About 100 copies of Action Comics No 1 are thought to be in existence, and only a handful of those are in good condition.

Another copy of the same issue sold for a then record-breaking $1.5m in March last year.

But that one was not in as good condition as the copy that sold on Wednesday through New York-based ComicConnect.

It is said to have been stolen in 2000 and was thought lost until recovered in a California storage shed in April this year – just like an issue owned by Nicolas Cage.

The Hollywood star – who has a son called Kal-El, the Man of Steel’s birth name – bought his copy of Action Comics No 1 for $150,000 in 1997.

Connoisseurs of the comic world say this type of investment has become popular during troubled economic times because rare collectibles hold their value more reliably than property or shares.

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US Thanksgiving retail sales up November 28, 2011

US retailers have reported a bumper start to the Christmas season

US retail sales figures in the critical Thanksgiving weekend rose 16% versus a year ago to $52.4bn, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has said.

The figures include Black Friday, the first day after the Thanksgiving holiday, when stores reopen.

NRF estimated that 86 million customers shopped online and in-store on Black Friday – the day traders traditionally leave the red and make a profit.

Thanksgiving Day itself saw 29 million shoppers.

According to research by ShopperTrak, provider of retail and mall foot-traffic counting services, Black Friday sales increased 6.6% over the same day last year.

This is equal to $11.4bn in retail purchases, and the biggest dollar amount ever spent during the day.

Retail foot-traffic rose accordingly, by 5.1% over Black Friday 2010.

Analysts are awaiting the results of Monday’s trading, known as Cyber Monday, which online retailers including Amazon cite as their biggest business day of the year.

‘Largest increase since 2007′

US electrical retailer Best Buy was cited as a strong performer over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Its strategy of opening stores at midnight on Thursday, and offering deals that could only be found in-store, forcing shoppers to step inside, was seen as a smart business move by analysts.

Shoppertrak founder Bill Martin said: “This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s national retail sales estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3% increase we saw between 2007 and 2006.

“Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behaviour through the holiday shopping season.”

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Discounts aid online sales surge

Amazon warehouses expect this to be the busiest time of the year for online orders

Online sales rose faster than expected in the US on Black Friday, according to surveys.

Internet sales totalled $816m (£524m), a 26% gain on last year, said Comscore. IBM Coremetrics put the rise at 24%.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is treated by many retailers as the start of the Christmas shopping season. They offer one-off discounts to mark the occasion.

Analysts said heavy promotional activity helped drive demand.

By comparison, a report by Shoppertrak suggested that in-store Black Friday sales were up by 7% on last year, at $11.4bn.

Beating the rush

Around 50 million Americans visited online retail sites on Friday, according to Comscore.

It said Amazon was the most popular destination, with 50% more visitors than any other retailer.

Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple were next in line, said the analytics company.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce,” said Comscore’s chairman, Gian Fulgoni.

Mobile shopping

IBM Coremetrics also noted a trend towards shopping on smartphones and tablet computers.

It said Black Friday purchases made on mobile devices had accounted for 9.8% of all online sales, compared with 3.2% last year.

IBM described mobile shoppers as having had a “laser focus” since they had been more likely to view a single page on a retailer’s site rather than browse what else was for sale.

IBM said Apple’s iPhone and iPad had generated the most mobile internet visits to online stores, accounting for more than double the traffic originating from devices running Google’s Android system.

The company also noted a jump in Black Friday related chatter on social networks. It recorded a 110% rise in discussion volumes after consumers had shared tips on how to secure products before they sold out and the best places to park.

Cyber Monday

Friday’s internet sales are expected to be eclipsed today on what is referred to as Cyber Monday – which many experts believe will be the US’s busiest online shopping day of the year.

Close to 123 million Americans plan to make an online purchase according to a survey commissioned by the US National Retail Federation, an industry lobby group. That would be a 15% increase on last year.

NRF said nearly eight in ten online retailers would run special promotions including “flash sales that last an hour” and “free shipping offers”.

The federation also highlighted the shift to mobile devices, saying it expected 17.8 million Americans to use them to shop today, nearly five times the number in 2009.

“Retailers have invested heavily in mobile apps and related content as the appetite for Cyber Monday shopping through smartphones and tablets continues to rise,” said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of the NRF’s website shop.org.

Cyber confusion

UK internet retailers said it was less clear which day will be the UK’s busiest online shopping day this year.

“Over the last couple of years we have seen a fortnight of peak activity over the period corresponding to both this and next week,” said Andy Mulcahy, a spokesman for the industry body Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).

“We expect £3.72bn will be spent online over the two week period.”

Mr Mulcahy said that although some retailers are trying to generate interest in the idea of Cyber Monday in the UK, they are split over which day to mark.

He added that since many online retailers had been offering discounts of up to 70% for several months, customers might not have noticed a big difference in the level of promotional activity.

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Cyber Monday outlook: Big deals, sales

New York (CNNMoney) — Did you skip the lines on Black Friday? There’s still Cyber Monday — and analysts are expecting an abundance of deals to bring in record online sales this year.

Andrew Lipsman, an industry analyst at data tracking firm ComScore, said sales for the one-day shopping event are projected to hit a record $1.2 billion this year.

Almost every major retailer plans on taking advantage of the hottest day to shop online. According to the Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, eight out of 10 online retailers will offer promotions on Cyber Monday.

A survey by comparison shopping site PriceGrabber found that 39% of consumers who planned to shop over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend said they intended to do so on Cyber Monday. That’s up 2 percentage points from last year.

It’s a trend analysts are calling “couch commerce” — more people want to spend money online from the comfort of their homes rather than head out to the shops.

Lelah Manz, chief strategist of commerce at Akamai, cited the rise of tablet computers in the last year as a major game-changer in e-commerce.

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“If you think about when the concept of Cyber Monday was first born, it was a time when people had dial-up access at home — it was the office place or the workplace where they could access sites,” Manz said. “Now everyone has broadband access. People have tablets, they’re able to get online earlier and at home, and retailers are trying to capture that mind share.”

According to an IBM Coremetrics report, 15% of web traffic in the U.S. in November will stem from smart phones and tablets rather than PC’s. In order to tap into that traffic, retailers are rolling out the deals early this year, said Manz.

As valuable ad space is snatched up by major retailers, mid-sized retailers are leaking deals ahead of Cyber Monday to get their place in the spotlight too, said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber.

“What we saw last year — a lot of the medium size retailers, they didn’t get in front of the consumers, so they are the ones leaking the deals earlier,” Jones said. “The earlier these deals are coming out is a function of the retailers not wanting to be squeezed out of the limelight.”

But don’t expect the online deals ahead of Cyber Monday to impact the big day. According to a Shop.org survey, nearly 60% of workers will go online to shop for holiday gifts at work, and many of the retailers are waiting for Monday to push out some of the best promotions.

“Consumers have come to expect the absolute best online holiday deals on Cyber Monday,” Pam Goodfellow, BIGresearch Consumer Insights Director, said in a release. BIGresearch is a marketing research firm that conducts surveys for the industry trade group National Retail Federation.

Online companies are still placing big bets on Cyber Monday and taking steps to prep for a day when online traffic is expected to spike. OpenSky, an online shopping platform that offers products curated by various celebrities and influential people — from chef Tom Colicchio to fashion designer Cynthia Rowley — has been ramping up efforts to make sure the site runs smoothly.

“We’re expecting our biggest day ever – we have 10,000 new people joining OpenSky every day and we expect sales to be five times our largest day,” said OpenSky Founder John Caplan. “We’ve made improvements to the site to make it run faster. We’ve added additional shipping options, gift wrapping, customer service staff and have all hands on deck from now through the holiday.”

The company also plans to announce lifestyle guru Martha Stewart as a curator on the site – a move the six-month-old company hopes will boost interest in the biggest online shopping day of the year.


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