High-stakes Battle for Indian e-Commerce
Flipkart has had a $1.4bn injection from investors as its battle with Amazon for India’s online retail heats up.
Editor’s Remarks: The battle seems very much homegrown: between main contestants Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart, only Amazon has any international presence of note. But orchestrating the battlefield are several global giants: Flipkart’s injection comes from eBay, Microsoft and China’s Tencent, while Snapdeal has had $880m pumped into it by SoftBank, as the Japanese lender pushes for it to accept a potential takeover bid by Flipkart. The success of the possible merger could create a credible challenge to Amazon’s Indian unit, though on a wider scale the contest will prove an interesting test of global corporations’ strategies for getting stuck into the Indian retail market.
What to watch: Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon India, SoftBank
Facebook’s Soaring Ad Business
COO Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook will announce that over 5 million businesses are advertising on its platform.
Editor’s Remarks: The milestone is huge by itself, but the pace of growth that Facebook’s client base has seen is staggering: the latest figure is a 25% growth from its 4 million advertisers in September, and 66% growth from about a year ago, when it announced 3 million in March. Sandberg also announced a major update of its ad services to attract small businesses, the success of which could be a deciding factor in Facebook’s battle with Google for digital advertising – together, the giants are expected to make up almost half of all online ad spending by the end of next year.
What to watch: Google, Facebook, Alphabet, Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg
Swiss Execs Want EU Rethink
A new survey finds almost two-thirds of Switzerland’s industry leaders want an overhaul of its ties with the EU.
Editor’s Remarks: Switzerland’s relationship with the EU is mainly defined by its EFTA membership and a patchwork of bilateral agreements, many of which have been more or less untouched for 15 years. But a UBS poll of 2500 Swiss entrepreneurs and senior managers has found that 65% of them want this to be replaced with an institutional framework agreement – a comprehensive treaty defining Swiss-EU relations. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently said a treaty could be ready by the end of the year, which there is appetite for in Brussels, however whether it could make it through the meandering Swiss parliamentary system (or indeed garner enough support from ordinary voters which the survey doesn’t cover) seems doubtful.
What to watch: Doris Leuthard, Didier Burkhalter, Jean-Claude Juncker
AT&T’s Billion Dollar 5G Gamble
American telecoms titan AT&T will buy Straight Path Communications for $1.25bn, effectively going all in on 5G wireless networks.
Editor’s Remarks: Straight Path Communications operates licenses for the wireless spectrum, which includes the millimeter wave spectrum though to be crucial in the next generation of wireless network tech. Big players have already made major inroads in securing rights on it, with Verizon’s $1.8bn takeover of XO Communications in February being one such example. 5G is expected to present a multibillion dollar opportunity. But the fact that there are few takeover targets on offer to get telecoms giants onto the right part of the spectrum raises the question of whether they are getting carried away, by paying through the nose early on for a market that may not produce the long-term returns to make it worthwhile.
What to watch: AT&T, Verizon Communications, Straight Path Communications, Sprint Corp, Dish Network Corp
Symantec Hints at Global CIA Hacks
Security research firm Symantec has said at least 40 worldwide cyber attacks used tools revealed in Wikileaks’ recent CIA exposé.
Editor’s Remarks: Although Symantec stopped short of explicitly naming the CIA, its claim that the swathe of attacks spanning some 16 countries were carried out using previously top-secret hacking tools recently revealed by Wikileaks more or less indicates they were conducted by US intelligence service. The CIA was quick to respond that it is forbidden from carrying out digital surveillance on US soil and American citizens elsewhere, though this leaves open the question of its involvement elsewhere. Symantec said all the targets examined had “legitimate national security value”, though it may be surprising to some just how many of them were non-government entities – including firms in finance, telecoms, energy, ICT and education.
What to watch: Symantec Corp, Central Intelligence Agency, Wikileaks, Shadow Brokers, National Security Agency