Airbnb valued at $31bn
Airbnb has closed a funding round of more than $1bn (£820m) that values the company at more than $31bn (£25.5bn). The funding is part of its Series F round, which it began raising in June last year. Airbnb has declined to say who the new backers are, but previous investors include Google parent Alphabet’s venture capital arm GV. It has raised more than $3.5bn (£2.9b) in total.
The round makes Airbnb one of the most highly valued US tech businesses, with its valuation rising by around 25% over the past two years. Airbnb has also revealed it became profitable in the second half of last year and that it expects to be profitable (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) again in 2017.
Aldi reveals new logo to reflect brand modernisation
Aldi has updated its logo for the first time in more than 10 years as part of a visual redesign of the brand aimed to reflects its “current process of modernisation”. The logo is already in use in China but will be rolled out across markets in Europe, including the UK, from this summer. The logo retains Aldi’s blue background and yellow, orange and red border but changes the font and gives the ‘A’ more of a “wave design”.
“The fresh visual design of the new logo is ideal for the current process of modernisation of Aldi Süd.
“For our customers, this is reflected by the ongoing development of our product range, redesigning our branches or actions as the next pop-up store,” says Kirsten Gess, communication director for Aldi Süd.
Volkswagen to plead guilty in US diesel emissions scandal
Volkswagen is set to plead guilty today (10 March) to three felony counts in the US Justice Department’s diesel emissions investigation, according to Reuters. As part of a plea agreement, Volkswagen has agreed to reforms, audits and oversight by an independent monitor for three years.
The move comes after the car marque admitted to cheating on emissions tests by installing secret software in its vehicles that could tell when its cars were being tested and make it look like they complied with emissions standards when they did not. While Volkswagen took a short-term hit to brand and sales, it recently overtook Toyota to become the world’s biggest car seller.
Dulux paint owner rejects takeover bid from US Rival
Akzo Nobel, the company behind Dulux paint, has rejected an unsolicited $22bn (£18bn) takeover offer from US Rival PPG Industries. Akzo Nobel said the deal “substantially undervalues” the company and its long-term growth opportunities.
The move comes less than a month after Kraft Heinz attempted a similar hostile takeover of Unilever in a $143bn (£117bn) deal. While both Unilever and Akzo Nobel have rejected the deals, the offers have led to questions about their ongoing growth, with Akzo saying it now plans to spin off its chemicals business.
Facebook launches Snapchat Stories clone ‘Day’
Facebook is launching a new feature for its Messenger app that copies Snapchat’s Stories idea. MEssenger Day lets users share either publicly or either with a specific friend decorated photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. It is available for its iOS and Android apps, with content appearing at the top of the chat app.
This is not the first time Facebook has taken inspiration from one of Snapchat’s features; Instagram already has a Stories feature. Facebook says its move is different, with the Messenger feature aimed at helping people plan their days and arrange meet-ups, rather than showing off what people have been up to.
Thursday 9 March
NMA calls for Facebook and Google fake news probe
The News Media Association (NMA) has called for an urgent investigation into the impact of Google, Facebook and the digital advertising supply chain on the spread of fake news.
In its submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into fake news, the NMA said action needs to be taken to ensure agenda setting journalism can survive and thrive in the digital environment.
“News media publishers are by far the biggest investors in original news content, accounting for 58% of the total UK investment,” said NMA chairman Ashley Highfield.
“But the digital supply chain rewards the distributors of content, not the originators. Government and regulators cannot ignore forever the impact of the Google-Facebook duopoly on our media landscape.”
The NMA attributes the rise of programmatic advertising to a growing lack of transparency, which it argued has caused advertisers to be left in the dark about how their money is being spent.
The association added that while the UK has so far proved more resilient to fake news, it fears the diversion of digital advertising revenues away from content creators to Google and Facebook could create the conditions for a thriving fake news industry in Britain.
Morrisons posts first sales growth since 2012
Morrisons sales rose 1.7% for the year ending 29 January 2017, its first year of positive like-for-like sales growth since 2011/12.
Sales growth was positive for each quarter, rising by 2.5% during the fourth quarter alone. The supermarket also grew turnover by 1.2% to £16.3bn, despite store closures.
“Our full year of like-for-like sales and profit growth was powered by listening to customers,” said chief executive David Potts.
“But, it’s only one year. Our turnaround has just started, and we have more plans and important work ahead. If we keep improving the customer shopping trip, I am confident that Morrisons will continue to grow.”
The company credits its “Fix, Rebuild and Grow strategy” for helping to create a stronger business, highlighting the strength of new partnerships with Amazon, Ocado, Timpson, Rontec, and the revival of the Safeway brand.
The supermarket is also planning to open a further 40 ‘Morrisons Daily’ convenience stores in partnership with forecourt company Rontec.
While expressing confidence in its turnaround plan, Morrisons acknowledged there were uncertainties ahead, in particular the impact on imported food prices if the pound remains at lower levels.
Pret: Just one in 50 job applicants is British
Just one in 50 people applying for a job at Pret A Manger is British, leading to fears the food chain could struggle to recruit staff post-Brexit.
Speaking to the House of Lords economic affairs select committee, Pret A Manger HR director Andrea Wareham said the company would find it “virtually impossible” to find enough staff if it were unable to hire EU nationals after Brexit.
Currently 65% of Pret A Manger’s workforce originate from EU countries outside Britain, with the high street chain employing 110 different nationalities in total. Wareham argued that the business needs to work with education and career services to make British teenagers think that working at somewhere like Pret A Manger was “a success”.
Adidas piles pressure on Nike with record sales growth
Adidas’ net income exceeded the €1bn mark for the first time in its history after an “exceptional 2016”, piling pressure on US rivals Nike and Under Armour.
The German sportswear giant’s sales grew 16% in 2016 to €19.3bn, with net income up 41% to €1.1bn, success CEO Kasper Rorsted attributes to an improvement in the desirability of its brands and products globally.
Revenues for the Adidas brand rose 22%, driven by double-digit sales increases in its Sport Performance range, as well as Adidas Originals and Adidas Neo trainer collections. While revenues grew 20% in Western Europe, there were greater increases in North America and China, where sales climbed 24% and 28%, respectively.
Encouraged by growing demand for the brand in 2016, Adidas forecasts sales to rise 11%-13% in 2017.
Premier League granted order to tackle illegal streaming
The Premier League has been given the power to block servers used to power rights-infringing video streams.
Whereas previously the Premier League could only target individual streams, which were relatively easy to re-establish, the court order now allows it to block servers powering the pirated Kodi set-top boxes.
A spokesperson said this was the first time the Premier League would be able to disrupt and prevent the illegal streaming of its matches.
Wednesday 8 March
Nestlé pledges to cut 10% of sugar by 2018
Nestlé has announced it will remove 10% of the sugar content from all its snacks in the UK and Ireland by 2018.
The company, which makes brands such as KitKat, Quality Street, Smarties and Yorkie, said it was responding to public health concerns around obesity levels and unhealthy food.
Nestlé also stated that it would not replace sugar with artificial sweeteners and would instead look at other ways of redesigning its products. “We are not announcing specific changes to brands at this stage but over the coming months and years we will introduce revised products that make incremental reductions on sugar in different ways that, when added up, make a big difference overall to the nation’s diet while still maintaining taste,” a spokesperson said.
Facebook expands measurement capabilities to more advertisers
Facebook has launched a new measurement tool aimed at making it easier for advertisers of all sizes to track user behaviour across devices.
Called Advanced Measurement, the tool supplements the existing Atlas measurement platform that serves large enterprises.
It will appear within Facebook Business Manager in the form of self-serve dashboards that will help marketers measure different aspects of their campaigns, such as the number of people reached and the ads that best generate conversions.
“Previously, these tools were only available in Atlas for the largest enterprise marketers,” said Facebook’s product marketing director for measurement Scott Shapiro. “We’re expanding the access of functionality that only existed in Atlas to tens of thousands of marketers who use Facebook’s ad tools.”
Nike to release hijab for female Muslim athletes
Nike has announced plans to launch a sportswear hijab to cater for female Muslim athletes.
The lightweight, single-layer Pro Hijab was developed after athletes complained that wearing traditional hijabs hindered their ability to compete.
It follows a viral video campaign from Nike entitled ‘What will they say about you?’, which shows Muslim female athletes exercising and competing.
“By providing Muslim athletes with the most groundbreaking products, like the Nike Pro Hijab, Nike aims to serve today’s pioneers as well as inspire even more women and girls in the region who still face barriers and limited access to sport,” the company said in a statement.
Twitter develops TV-style ad buying
Twitter is working on a new ad product that gurantaees to serve a set amount of video ads in a similar way to TV buying.
The social network has partnered with Dentsu Aegis Network to develop the product, which has already been tested with about a dozen brands, Advertising Age reports.
The product allows brands to order a set amount of pre-roll video ads that run before premium content and are targeted at specific demographics. Twitter is using Media Ratings Council standards in the US to measure the campaigns.
Dentsu’s executive VP of video investment Michael Law said the guaranteed campaigns can cost in the “low six figures”.
Food inflation doubles as discounters grow share
Food prices surged last month as a consequence of the ongoing impact of Brexit.
Figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that grocery inflation doubled to 1.4% in the 12 weeks to the end of February compared to the same period to the end of January. The hike is primarly due to rising import costs as a result of the weakening pound since the EU referendum.
Meanwhile separate data from Nielsen shows that discounters Aldi and Lidl now account for more than 12% of grocery sales in Britain. “Discounter market share is higher than when Kwik Save was at its pomp as the original discounter,” said Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight.
Tuesday 7 March
Retail sales decline for first time in five years
Non-food sales declined by 0.4% in the quarter to February for the first time since November 2011, according to the retail sales monitor reported by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.
It’s another indication that consumer spending is slowing. GfK’s monthly consumer confidence index shows that British consumers are moving away from making major purchases as concerns about the economy hit confidence amid warnings that if this continues economic growth could slow down this year.
Calls for Ofcom to investigate Murdoch takeover bid of Sky
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson is calling on Ofcom to investigate Rupert Murdoch’s planned takeover of Sky. Speaking during a debate in the House of Commons, Watson said Ofcom should “look at the whole group of Murdoch-owned and controlled companies in assessing whether the Sky takeover would threaten media plurality” taking into account failures of corporate governance over phone-hacking.
He also asked if Ofcom would complete a full “fit and proper person” test before the approval of the merger. Culture secretary Karen Bradley told Watson that Ofcom would have wide powers to examine all the issues he raised.
Snap closes 12% below opening price
Snap’s share price dropped 12% yesterday (6 March) to close below Thursday’s (2 March) opening. The shares had risen by 44% from their $17 IPO price, but the stock reversed course on Monday and fell 12.25% to close at $23.77.
Snap Inc, which includes social media site Snapchat and its photo taking sunglasses Spectacles, was valued at $28bn despite never having turned a profit. In its IPO filing, Snap Inc said its ad model is still at an “experimental” stage and that it faces a challenge in convincing advertisers of the veracity of its ad business.
IBM and Salesforce join forces in artificial intelligence
IBM and Salesforce have agreed a deal that will see the integration of their artificial intelligence platforms and some of their software and services to boost their data-analytics offering.
It will see a combination of IBM Watson, which uses machine learning to analyse what is said in public sources such as social media posts, and Salesforce’s sales-led Einstein, which taps into its customer data. The companies say the partnership will work because of this difference in AI capabilities.
Monday 6th March
Facebook is looking to buy up to 30-minute shows
According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is asking for pitches for TV-like shows in half a dozen genres, including science, sports, pop culture, gaming and teens and lifestyle, as the platform continues its push into video content.
The weekly shows are set to last up to 30 minutes and Facebook is said to be willing to offer a “premium digital rate” for scripted shows, low to mid six figures per episode.
Watchdog to launch inquiry into misuse of data in politics
Following an investigation into digital firm’s involvement in Brexit, the UK’s privacy watchdog is launching an inquiry into how voters’ personal data is being captured and exploited in political campaigns.
This has been cited as a key factor in the Brexit and Trump campaigns.
“We are conducting a wide assessment of the data-protection risks arising from the use of data analytics, including for political purposes, and will be contacting a range of organisations,” an ICO spokeswoman stated.
Peugeot-Citroen agrees deal with GM to buy Vauxhall-Opel
Peugeot-Citroen has agreed to a €2.2bn deal to buy General Motors’ European unit, including Germany-based Opel and Vauxhall.
The deal was announced ahead of a press conference in Paris, though has raised concern about potential job losses at Vauxhaull’s UK factories.
“We are confident that the Opel/Vauxhall turnaround will significantly accelerate with our support, while respecting the commitments made by GM to the Opel/Vauxhall employees,” Carlos Tavares said in a statement.
John Lewis and Waitrose owner set to reduce staff bonus
John Lewis and Waitrose owner is set to cut the annual bonus it pays its staff to the lowest level since the 1950s.
The partnership is expected to announce an annual bonus between 6% and 7%, down from 10%, due to pressure on retailers.
It is the fourth year in a row John Lewis has cut the award and will be the lowest bonus since 1954.