Amazon.com Inc will rollout its business loan program for small sellers later this year in eight new places including China, where credit is becoming a key factor in competing for new vendors and grabbing market share.
Until now, the e-retailer has offered the service only in the United States and Japan. Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, now plans to offer short-term working capital loans in other countries where it operates a third-party, seller-run marketplace business, the head of Amazon Marketplace, Peter Faricy, told Reuters.
The countries are Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The service is on an invite-only basis and is not open to all sellers on Amazon’s platform.
Other large retailers including eBay Inc’s PayPal and Alibaba Group Holdings, which run third-party marketplaces, are also turning to credit to boost their vendor base.
Some lending industry officials who help lenders assess credit risk say these retailers are taking on risky loans because they don’t know the shape of the credit market in which the sellers are operating.
Small businesses have high failure rates, especially in China and India, added William Black, a former U.S. banking regulator and professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri.
Amazon said it can safely offer loans based on internal data and because it takes loan payments out of the sales proceeds it pays sellers.
PayPal spokesman Josh Criscoe said eBay merchants who use PayPal are eligible for the working capital loans and credit is offered to only those customers that have a strong PayPal sales history. PayPal has provided more than $500 million in capital since September 2013, with an average loan disbursement of $2 million per day.
A spokeswoman for Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial, which offers these loans, said credit is offered to Taobao, Tmall merchants and other small business owners who meet certain conditions. The company also offers such loans to customers in some countries like the United States and Britain.
Premium cable network HBO said it would make available the premiere episodes of two new comedy series on Facebook, underlining the growing popularity of the social networking site as a video platform.
The popularity of web videos have led to U.S. networks experiment with new platforms to attract new viewers. With about 1.44 billion monthly active users, Facebook has become a sough-after outlet for companies looking to market their products via online videos, the fastest growing category of Internet ads.
Last week, Amazon.com Inc released the pilot episode of its show “Catastrophe” for a limited time on the social media network, instead of its own Prime Instant Video streaming service.
HBO, owned by Time Warner Inc, said on Wednesday viewers would be able to access the premiere episodes of Dwayne Johnson-starrer “Ballers” and “The Brink” on Facebook for a limited period. The two new original series premiered this past Sunday.
Turner Broadcasting, another Time Warner network, said in April it granted exclusive video-on-demand rights to its Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programs to video streaming service Hulu.
On Tuesday Hulu said it would soon allow users to add CBS Corp’s TV network Showtime to their subscriptions.
Oracle Corp founder and Executive Chairman Larry Ellison announced that his database company is expanding its cloud-computing offerings, bringing Oracle into more direct competition with Amazon.com Inc.
“We’re prepared to compete with Amazon.com on price,” said Ellison in a webcast presentation, after announcing that Oracle would offer online storage and capability for customers to run their applications entirely in Oracle’s cloud.
The expansion is a major new step for Oracle, which is shifting its traditional database and customer relationship management businesses to the cloud.
“This is a really big deal,” said Ellison, who stepped aside in 2014 as chief executive of the company.
Amazon Web Services is the market leader in providing cloud computing capability to customers, followed by Microsoft Corp’s Azure service and International Business Machines Corp.
Oracle, which calls its cloud offering the Oracle Cloud Platform, will provide a cost-effective alternative to Amazon, said Ellison.
“Our new archive storage service goes head-to-head with Amazon Glacier and it’s one-tenth their price,” said Ellison. Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment.
Oracle’s cloud business is growing quickly, running at a rate of about $2.3 billion a year in revenue, based on last quarter’s figures.
By comparison, Amazon and Microsoft get about $6.3 billion each in cloud revenue per year.
Amazon Inc is currently working developing a mobile application that would pay ordinary people, rather than professional courier companies, to deliver packages en route to other destinations, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
Amazon would enlist brick-and-mortar retailers in urban areas to store the packages, likely renting space from them or paying a per-package fee, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The company’s timing for the service, known internally as “On My Way”, could not be learned, the Journal reported.
The service could give Amazon more control over the shopping experience and help limit shipping costs, the report added.
Shipping costs at the Seattle-based e-commerce giant rose 31 percent in 2014, outpacing sales growth of 19.5 percent.
Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.
Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, is expanding its IaaS cloud offering named Aliyun into the United States and in doing so will take on America’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon, and its cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services.
Alibaba and Amazon each dominates its country’s e-commerce markets, and they both lead the IaaS markets in their respective nations as well. Now, both looking to move on to each other’s home turf.
Alibaba has embarked on a grand expansion of Aliyun, including opening a data center in Silicon Valley last year and partnerships with U.S. hosting providers and chip makers in recent weeks.
Meanwhile Amazon, along with competitor Microsoft, has pushed into the Chinese cloud market too. But U.S. companies are finding it difficult to offer services directly to Chinese customers because of legal regulations in the country.
All these dynamics mean that the international IaaS cloud battle is on.
Today Aliyun operates in six regions of the world, including five in China and its most recent location in Silicon Valley. A seventh region is under construction in Dubai. Alibaba says it has 1.4 million customers; its fourth annual developer conference last year attracted 10,000 attendees and in the fourth quarter of last year Aliyun had revenues of $147 million.
In recent months Alibaba has made a concerted effort to expand Aliyun into the U.S. But analysts who track this company say the moves, at least initially, are not aimed directly at taking on AWS and other major U.S. IaaS vendors like Microsoft and Google. “Aliyun has global ambitions just like other Chinese Internet giants,” says IDC analyst Melanie Posey. “They want a foothold in the U.S. to serve other Chinese companies with global ambitions (and those of their parent company) – and to be global, you need to have presence in the U.S.”
Alibaba is aiming Aliyun at Chinese companies who are looking to make inroads into the U.S. market. Conversely, companies in the U.S. that are looking to expand into China may find Aliyun an attractive option as well, says Frank Liu, Forrester Research analyst. “No doubt Aliyun will face intense competition in the global market, but a China-centric customer base (going global) will probably grow to be a nice niche with which it can dominate over time as China’s enormous economy continues to expand,” Liu wrote in an email.
Google will add a “buy” button in its search results on mobile devices in the coming weeks, according to a report last Friday in the Wall Street Journal, a move that could give online shoppers an easier way to buy products on small screens.
The change might also give consumers an alternative to mobile apps from companies like Amazon and eBay, though it might jeopardize retailers’ ability to directly market to their customers.
The buy button will appear on Google’s search results pages when people search for certain products on mobile devices, said the report, which cited unnamed sources. If users click on the buttons, they’ll be taken to another Google page where they can choose among sizes and colors, select shipping options and complete the purchase, the report said.
Google reportedly will let shoppers enter their payment information just once, store it, and automatically load it for future purchases on Google’s shopping pages.
The products will still be provided and sold by the retailer and not by Google. Macy’s is in talks with Google to take part in the launch of the button, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
Representatives of Google and Macy’s did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.
The buttons will accompany only sponsored search results, not regular results driven by Google’s basic search algorithm, the report said. At first they will only appear with a small percentage of Google’s search traffic.
Over time, the buttons could help Google expand its search service beyond information and links to also encompass an online storefront.
Wal-Mart’s service, which will be by invitation only for now, will offer selected products on the company’s website to customers within three days or less, company spokesman Ravi Jariwala told Reuters. Wal-Mart offers more than 7 million products on its website.
“Depending on customer feedback we will see how the program evolves,” Jariwala said.
The move underscores Wal-Mart’s efforts to scale its online business rapidly and gain a share of a market dominated by Amazon.
Amazon’s launched its $99-a-year shipping service called n Prime, a decade ago with the guarantee of standard, reliable two-day shipping on online orders.
Since then Prime has become the cornerstone of Amazon’s growth and the e-commerce company said U.S. Prime memberships grew 50 percent last year.
The deal that helped Crytek recover from its recent financial difficulties was Amazon, according to a report from Kotaku.
The online retail giant signed a licensing deal for CryEngine, Crytek’s proprietary game engine. Sources within the company put the deal’s value at between $50 million and $70 million, and suggested that Amazon may be using it as the bedrock for a proprietary engine of its own.
However Amazon uses the technology, though, the importance of the deal for Crytek cannot be overstated. Last year, during the summer, it became apparent that all was not well at the German developer. Employees hadn’t been fully paid in months, leading to an alleged staff walkout in its UK office, where a sequel to Homefront was in development. Koch Media acquired the Homefront IP and its team shortly after.
When the company’s management eventually addressed the rumors, it had already secured the financing necessary to take the company forward. No details of the deal were offered, but it’s very likely that Crytek got the money it needed from Amazon.
We have contacted Crytek to confirm the details, but it certainly fits with the perception that Amazon could emerge as a major creator of game content. It has snapped up some elite talent to do just that, it acquired Twitch for a huge sum of money, and it has been very open about where it plans to fit into the overall market.
Amazon.com is holding discussions to acquire online luxury retailer Net-a-porter in what could be the biggest acquisition yet for the e-commerce giant, but the negotiations are in early stages and could fall apart, Forbes reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The potential deal, first reported by Women’s Wear Daily, could value Net-a-Porter lower than the valuation of 2 billion euros ($2.16 billion) reported by the fashion industry trade journal, Forbes reported last Thursday, citing the person.
Seattle-based Amazon has long eyed the high-end fashion retail sector and any deal for Net-a-Porter would mean a new commitment in an area where the company lacks a strong presence, Forbes said.
“It’s Day 1 in the category,” Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos told the New York Times in an interview in 2012, saying the company was making a “significant” investment in fashion to convince top brands that it wanted to work with them, not against them.
Media reports in 2014 said Amazon was in talks to buy Indian fashion retailer Jabong.com for $1.2 billion.
Net-a-Porter is owned by luxury goods group Richemont, which bought the London-based company for 392 million euros in 2010.
A spokeswoman for Net-a-Porter said the company does not comment on industry speculation.
Amazon.com and Richemont could not be immediately reached for comment outside regular business hours.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration plans to announcel new rules soon to make it easier for companies to use drone aircraft for specific business operations, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Commercial drone flights are generally banned in the United States, except in a small number of cases where the FAA has granted an exemption. The has agency received more than 750 requests for exemptions to the ban, but has awarded only 48.
Now the U.S. aviation regulator intends to streamline the process by no longer requiring companies with exemptions to obtain a new certificate of authority for each new use of a drone, the people familiar with the matter said.
The FAA could announce the change this week, ahead of a congressional hearing on drones scheduled for today, these people added.
The FAA had no immediate comment. The agency has been taking measured steps to ease restrictions on commercial use of drones.
The change in policy could be a positive signal to a wide swath of companies that are pushing for federal regulators to remove barriers to commercial uses of automated aircraft, and help foster growth of an emerging sector of manufacturers and service providers built around drone technology.
The rule changes also would be a boost for companies that already have exemptions from the commercial drone ban, such as Chevron , Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF Railway Co , State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co, and a number of film and media companies. Those companies could get more flexibility to use pilotless aircraft for rail and pipeline inspections, crop surveys and aerial photography for commercials or movies.
Companies awaiting exemptions from the overall ban could also benefit, including Amazon.com Inc and Yamaha Motor Co.
Last Thursday, Amazon got FAA clearance to experiment with drones at an outdoor facility in Washington state under a different set of federal rules. Amazon hopes to develop drones capable of delivering packages to customer doorsteps.
Industry lobbyists have criticized the current process as too slow. Companies with approval to fly unmanned aircraft must obtain government permission each time they intend to use drones for a new project. They must fill out and get FAA approval for a two-page “certificate of authority” before each flight specifying where, when and how long the drone will fly.
The process of authorizing specific flights has bogged down, said Mark Dombroff, a partner in the drone practice of McKenna, Long and Aldridge. In one case, Dombroff said, applicants sought permission to fly over an area of land, but the FAA ”wanted us to apply for every farm individually.”
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told industry representatives at a recent meeting that his agency was moving to streamline the process, the sources added.
Alibaba’s Tmall offers virtual storefronts and payment portals to merchants. Several western retailers, including Zara owner Inditex, Britain’s Burberry and ASOS, have joined TMall this year as they look to boost their presence in China.
Imported food, shoes, toys and kitchenware are listed on Amazon’s store, one of the many on Tmall that sell brand-name goods to Chinese shoppers, Bloomberg, which first reported the news, last week.
Amazon also operates its own e-commerce site in China.
U.S. retailer Costco Wholesale Corp last year opened an online store in China using Tmall, entering the country’s booming e-commerce market to combat slowing sales at home.
Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside usual business hours.
Two years after U.S. lawmakers declared it a national security threat, China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is planning a campaign to win over U.S. consumers, rolling out new mobile phones and wearable devices backed by a marketing effort.
China’s second-largest smartphone maker, already with more than $40 billion in annual revenue from a wide range of telecom gear and products, is preparing to introduce Americans to several of its smartphones and wearable devices this year, including its youth-oriented “Honor” phone, Huawei officials told Reuters.
The company’s 2015 U.S. plans, which have not been previously reported, will encompass traditional advertising, online promotion and sports team sponsorships, said Huawei’s U.S. spokesman Bill Plummer.
Huawei is changing its approach to marketing as it tries to shed its image as a purveyor of cheap technology products – a common perception issue for many Chinese companies. It’s an important shift for a company that for years had been single-mindedly focused on engineering and relatively dismissive of consumer branding.
In December, it touted its new Honor 6 Plus phone on a billboard in New York’s Times Square. Plummer said that was “a sign of things to come.”
He declined to say how much Huawei will spend on its new marketing campaign or what sports team, or teams, it had in mind. It already sponsors London soccer club Arsenal, cricket teams in India and rugby clubs in Australia.
At the Mobile World Congress over the weekend in Barcelona, Huawei took the wraps off a smartwatch that will be sold in over 20 countries including the U.S.
Huawei now intends to appeal directly to consumers with several new phone models, both low end and high end. It hopes to secure deals with carriers, selling online through marketplaces, such as the one operated by Amazon.com, and on its own fledgling gethuawei.com U.S. direct-sales website.
China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a $590 million stake in a little known domestic smartphone maker as the e-commerce giant explores ways to expand its mobile operating system in a shrinking, cut-throat handset market.
Extending a previously muted push into hardware, Alibaba said will acquire an unspecified minority stake in smartphone maker Meizu Technology Co. Dwarfed by rivals like Xiaomi Inc, privately owned Meizu’s slice of China’s smartphone market is estimated by analysts at below 2 percent.
The deal, unlike U.S. rival Amazon.com Inc’s foray into smartphones with its own-brand Fire Phone, is designed to help Alibaba push its mobile operating system within China through Meizu’s handsets. In return, Zhuhai, Guangdong-based Meizu will get access to Alibaba’s e-commerce sales channels and other resources, the companies said in a joint statement.
For China’s e-commerce king, with a market value of $213 billion market value, the $590 million price tag may be a costly entry fee. Meizu’s reach in China, and likely that of the Alibaba operating system, is severely blunted by domestic leaders Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Lenovo Group, as well as multinational giants Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
“You could say they’re spending $590 million to experiment a bit and see what happens – it’s an expensive experiment, right?” said Michael Clendenin, Managing Director at Shanghai-based RedTech Advisors.
“My concern is that some internet players are confusing being able to just spend a couple hundred million dollars to buy a piece of hardware that looks pretty cool but is essentially a copy of what Apple has done and what Xiaomi has done,” he said.
Together, the leading five brands accounted for nearly 60 percent of China’s smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014, said Nicole Peng, a Shanghai-based analyst with data research firm Canalys.
Meizu has pumped up shipments from a few hundred thousand in previous years to under 2 million in the last three months of 2014, but it still had less than 2 percent of China’s smartphone market share in that quarter, said Peng.
Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, Bloomberg said.
Sprint and RadioShack have had talks about co-branding some of the stores, Bloomberg reported, citing two anonymous sources. The rest of the stores would close down, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), meanwhile, said its regulatory arm was acting to delist RadioShack shares, and would suspend their trading immediately.
Another bidder could yet emerge to buy RadioShack and continue operating the 94-year-old chain, Bloomberg said.
RadioShack declined to comment on the Bloomberg report and said it had not confirmed any of the information. Sprint declined to comment. Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Standard General, a hedge fund and the largest investor in RadioShack, was in talks to serve as the lead bidder at a bankruptcy auction.
On Monday, the NYSE said it started the delisting process as RadioShack did not intend to submit a business plan to address its non-compliance with the exchange’s listing standards.
RadioShack had received a warning from the NYSE last month — the second time in a year — that it had 45 days to come up with a business plan.
The exchange sends such a notification when companies listed on it fail to maintain an average market capitalization of $50 million over 30 consecutive days.
RadioShack warned last September that it faced bankruptcy if talks with lenders and stakeholders about a sale or a restructuring failed.
The electronics retailer was once the operator of go-to shops for innovators and engineers for products ranging from vacuum tube speakers to the first mass-produced PC.
But the company has failed to transform itself into a destination for mobile phone buyers, losing out to rivals such Amazon.com Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
RadioShack said in October that it would seek to convert a loan of $120 million, given by investors including Standard General and Litespeed Management LLC, into equity “in the coming months”.
Dailymotion Games will put the firm into a market that so far includes Twitch, a streamer that has cemented its place as a gaming add-on and a coveted option on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.
The Dailymotion information does not dwell on Twitch, which has been a feature of many a gushing press release from console makers such as Sony, but it does say that the live streaming gaming platform has some decent credentials.
For example, the promotional information says that the platform is backed with “industry leading video and live streaming technology”.
The firm also reminds us that it has some history here, and has been e-gaming for some time.
“Since 2011, with the first Dailymotion Cup on Starcraft, Dailymotion has accompanied e-sport growth on the internet,” said Martin Rogard, Dailymotion’s chief operating officer.
“Dailymotion Games is entirely dedicated to e-sports fans and streamers who come together every evening to form an amazingly talented and gregarious community.
“Over the coming months, we will significantly increase our investment in the e-sports domain to ensure worldwide recognition of all our talented content producers.”
Dailymotion said that live streamers will be able to monetise their content, which Microsoft recently confirmed is fine for its users, and that streamers could run their own “controlled video advertisement” and any number of social tools including search and real-time communications. Android and iOS apps are available.
The service is currently in beta. Dailymotion said that it serves some 180 million game videos a month.