Britain’s BT has been fined a record 42 million pounds ($53 million) by the regulator for failing to install high-speed lines for business customersfast enough, in an error that is likely to cost the company around 300 million pounds in compensation.
BT, which runs Britain’s major telecoms network, misused the terms of its contracts to reduce compensation payments to other providers for failing to deliver Ethernet services on time between January 2013 and December 2014, regulator Ofcom said on Monday.
Ofcom’s Investigations Director Gaucho Rasmussen said dedicated high-speed lines, which are used by large businesses to transmit data, were a vital part of Britain’s digital backbone.
“We found BT broke our rules by failing to pay other telecoms companies proper compensation when these services were not provided on time,” he said.
“Our message is clear – we will not tolerate this sort of behavior.”
BT is obliged to provide access to its Openreach network to rivals such as TalkTalk and Vodafone, but they have long complained about the service they receive from the former monopoly.
Ofcom was considering making BT spin off Openreach in order to remove any possible incentive for the unit to favor BT over other providers.
It stopped short of forcing a full split, however, last month when it agreed that a legal separation was sufficient.
Analysts at Bernstein said on Monday that the resolution of Openreach’s structural future felt like ancient history.
“We expect investors to react with disbelief and dismay at this arguably avoidable controversy at BT,” they said.
“The fall out is staggering. By its own admission, BT is expected to compensate its competitors to the tune of 300 million pounds, although this is a preliminary figure.”
BT’s Chief Executive Gavin Patterson, who recently vowed to improve the service BT delivered to customers, said Openreach had fallen well short of the standard it had set itself.
“We take this issue very seriously and we have put in place measures, controls and people to prevent it happening again,” he said.
Emaar Malls’ bid has so far not been accepted by Souq.com shareholders, the Dubai-listed firm said in a stock exchange announcement on Monday.
Reuters reported last week that Amazon had agreed in principle to buy Souq.com, which was founded 12 years ago by Syrian-born entrepreneur Ronaldo Mouchawar.
Amazon declined to comment, and Souq.com did not respond to an emailed request for further comment.
However, Emaar Malls’ offer is higher than Amazon’s $580 million bid, a source familiar with the matter said. The Financial Times reported Amazon would pay between $650 and $750 million, quoting two sources familiar with the matter.
However, Souq.com will have to break an exclusivity agreement with Amazon if it is to accept the Emaar Malls offer at this stage, the source said.
The Emaar Malls bid includes a $500 million up-front payment and a guaranteed 15 per cent internal rate of return for Souq.com shareholders, the source said.
A successful bid would give Emaar “a firmer footing in retail and consumer behavior,” said Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, head of research at NBAD Securities.
The offer is not the first move online to be made by Dubai billionaire Mohamed Alabbar, who made his name as chairman of Emaar Properties, the Dubai-government linked-developer of the world’s tallest building. Emaar Malls is the retail unit of Emaar Properties.
Last year Alabbar raised $1 billion from regional investors including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to set up his own Middle East e-commerce firm Noon.
Days before announcing Noon, Alabbar and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos met in Dubai, leading to speculation that they would forge some sort of partnership in the region.
Originally set to open for business with 20 million products, Noon quietly missed its January launch date. The company has yet to comment on the delay.
Emaar Malls bid is independent of Noon, the source said, aimed at complementing the retail unit’s brick-and-mortar sales by introducing services such as “click and collect”. Shoppers in the Arab world prefer to make purchases in-store despite a young and tech-savvy population.
Emaar Malls is the operator of the Dubai Mall, which accounts for around 50 percent of the emirate’s luxury goods spending and is one of the Middle East’s largest shopping centers.
“Emaar’s retail division will strengthen the case for online retail for traditional brick and mortar retailers, by providing an avenue of online retail,” Euromonitor research analyst Rabia Yasmeen said in an email.
Palo Alto-based startup Nest Labs, which introduced its first Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011 along with a range of other home automation devices, prior to being acquired by Google, has just announced that it is introducing two-factor authentication for additional security to prevent customer security footage from getting stolen by thieves.
Two-factor can be enabled through “Account Security” menu option
Two-factor authentication is a login method where a person is only granted access after presenting several separate pieces of evidence to an authentication system. Most applications and websites do this by asking the user for a login password, followed by a verification code sent via email or text message. Nest will now allow users to open the Nest app on their connected home devices, navigate to Account Security, and enable a new option to activate “2-step verification”.
According to Nest Founder and Chief Product Officer Matt Rogers, the process “takes a minute or two for our customers, but for hackers working from computers all over the world, things get a whole lot harder”. He said: “We all know data security is a moving target, Technology keeps advancing, but so do the people who want to break into your email, your credit card or any other account they can get their hands on. But your home is your safe haven, where private information should stay private.”
Back in January 2016, a group of researchers at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy discovered that some users’ Nest thermostats leaked zip codes onto the internet. This was based on the coordinates of the company’s weather stations, a bug that has since been patched. Another group of researchers at the University of Central Florida found that they could gain control of Nest’s Linux operating system while the devices were booting up by installing a custom software package through the USB port. While this second method is more of a jailbreak rather than a firmware security bug, the researchers noted that data sent over the air is encrypted, while data stored on the device is not. They used an ARP tool to trick other devices on the same Wi-Fi network into talking with the compromised Nest using the custom software package.
The security researchers admit that two-factor authentication is one of the best protection mechanisms available for home users who may be more vulnerable to having an unpatched Nest device connected to their network, while enterprise users shouldn’t need to worry about the ARP spoof as most corporate networks have deployed detection software for their IoT networks.
Spotify announced, via Twitter, that it now has 50 million paid subscribers, a rise of 25 percent in less than six months, and extending the music streaming service’s lead over its closest rival, Apple Music.
Launched in 2008, Spotify had 40 million paid subscribers in September and the company tweeted the 50 million figure on Thursday, the same day messaging app company Snap Inc pulled off its massive share sale that bodes well for other technology companies considering a flotation.
Apple, which launched its music service less than two years ago, had about 20 million subscribers in December and its entry looks to have done little to slow the rapid growth of its older Swedish-based rival.
Spotify, which has yet to show a profit as it spends to grow internationally, is now looking at a possible stock market listing in the United States, online news portal TechCrunch said last month.
A company spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday on when it might seek a listing.
But a partner at a leading investor in Spotify, venture capital firm Northzone, said late last year the company could start to become profitable as early as 2017 after years of focusing squarely on “growth, growth, growth”.
Spotify is the most highly valued venture backed start-up in Europe and according to media reports is considering a listing on Nasdaq and potentially a dual listing on the Nasdaq exchange in Stockholm, where the company is headquartered.
It was last valued at $8.53 billion, according to venture capital market research firm CB Insights. That valuation alone would make a flotation Europe’s biggest technology start-up listing since the market launch of German e-commerce investor Rocket Internet in 2014.
While still loss-making, Spotify has posted rapid subscriber growth since it was created a decade ago by Swedish founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.
Following its announcement that it had reached 50 million paid subscribers, Ek made a point of retweeting a comment from Wall Street media analyst Rick Greenfield which pointed to how Spotify was adding subscribers at an increasingly rapid rate.
The Stockholm-based company also announced a major expansion in New York last month.
One of Europe’s most highly valued venture-backed start-ups, Spotify will move its New York office to the World Trade Center from the Midtown area of Manhattan, adding more than 1,000 new jobs.
“There’s one catalyst at the moment and that is the expectation that the Winklevoss Trust will be approved on the 11th of March. That’s the only game in town,” said Daniel Masters, portfolio manager of Jersey-based Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment Program.
Investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have a pending application with the SEC for a bitcoin ETF, which was filed nearly four years ago. On March 11, the twins are expected to receive a final decision from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on whether they can list their ETF.
If approved by the SEC, this would be the first bitcoin ETF issued by a U.S. entity.
On Friday, bitcoin climbed to a record $1,298 on the BitStamp platform. Bitcoin last traded at $1,263.01, up nearly 5 percent on the day. So far this year, bitcoin has surged more than 30 percent.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that can be used to move money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority.
Darin Stanchfield, founder and chief executive officer of bitcoin wallet KeepKey, said the approval of the Winklevoss ETF would be a big boost to the market. “It should add a fair amount of liquidity to the bitcoin market,” added.
To date, there are two other bitcoin ETF applications with the SEC. Grayscale’s Bitcoin Investment Trust, backed by early bitcoin advocate Barry Silbert and his Digital Currency Group, filed its application with the SEC in March last year.
SolidX Partners Inc, a U.S. technology company that provides blockchain services, also filed its ETF application in July of last year.
Bitcoin relies on so-called “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. In return, the first to solve the puzzle and clear the transaction is rewarded with new bitcoins.
Analysts said the groundwork for bitcoin gains was laid in July last year in a process called “halving,” where rewards offered to bitcoin miners shrink. That has constrained the supply of the digital currency.
Dan Morehead, chief executive officer at hedge fund Pantera Capital, said in his recent letter to investors that the bitcoin price moves in line with the currency’s use in transactions and both have risen sharply.
He sees the bitcoin price possibly rising to $2,288 by the end of the year.
The $4.99 per-month offer will give subscribers access to 120 million music tracks without having to listen to ads. Its $9.99 premium subscription, rebranded as SoundCloud Go+, offers 150 million tracks, with new features to be announced this year.
“Users have even more freedom to choose the features and content they want, at the price that fits their budget,” said Alex Ljung, chief executive of Berlin-based SoundCloud.
The new service is immediately available in the United States, Britain, Ireland, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
SoundCloud, which was launched in 2008, has about 175 million listeners but has never said how many are paying subscribers. It raised $100 million last June from a group of investors including Twitter, valuing the company at roughly $700 million, according to Re/code.
Apple, which charges $9.99 a month for its music-streaming service, has about 20 million subscribers, and Spotify has over 40 million.
SoundCloud is popular among music artists but has been less successful than its rivals at striking licensing deals on favorable terms. It lost two senior executives this month and is seeking to raise new funding.
Facebook Inc’s big ambitions in the ever expanding virtual reality industry could be threatened by a court order that would prevent it from using critical software code another company is laying claims to, according to legal and industry experts.
Video game publisher ZeniMax Media Inc has requested that a Dallas federal judge issue an order barring Facebook unit Oculus from using or distributing the disputed code, part of the software development kit that Oculus provides to outside companies creating games for its Rift VR headset.
A decision is likely a few months away, but intellectual property lawyers said ZeniMax has a decent chance of getting the order, which would mean Facebook faces a tough choice between paying a possibly hefty settlement or fighting on at risk of jeopardizing its position in the sector.
For now, Facebook is fighting on. Oculus spokeswoman Tera Randall said last Thursday the company would challenge a $500 million jury verdict on Feb. 1 against Oculus and its co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe for infringing ZeniMax’s copyrighted code and violating a non-disclosure agreement.
Randall said Oculus would possibly file an appeal that would “allow us to put this litigation behind us.”
An injunction would require Oculus, which Facebook acquired for $3 billion in 2014, to stop distributing the code to developers or selling those games that use it.
Such a court order “would put a huge stumbling block in front” of Oculus, said Stephanie Llamas, an analyst with gaming market research firm SuperData. It would offer the company’s rivals in the new market, which include HTC, Sony Corp, Alphabet Inc and others an “important opportunity for them to become first movers.”
Sales of the Rift itself would not be barred, but Llamas, said a lack of available titles could hinder Facebook’s offering relative to HTC’s Vive headset and Sony’s Playstation VR.
That market is relatively small at the moment – sales of VR hardware and software totaled $2.7 billion in 2016 – and mainly limited to gaming. But Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has predicted the technology “will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” revolutionizing social media, entertainment and medicine.
SuperData says the VR market will be worth $37 billion by 2020. Likewise, investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald last year issued a report predicting VR would account for 10 percent of Facebook revenue in four years’ time.
Money transfer company TransferWise debuted a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook Inc’s chat application, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies.
The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger “chatbot”, or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases.
TransferWise’s chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts.
Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
Facebook opened up its Messenger app to developers to create chatbots in April in a bid to expand its reach in customer service and enterprise transactions.
Chatbots have become a hot topic in enterprise technology over the past year because recent advances in artificial intelligence have made them better at interacting. Businesses, including banks, are hoping that they can be used to improve and reduce the cost of their customer service operations.
One of Europe’s most well-known fintech companies, TransferWise was launched in 2011 by Estonian friends Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann out of frustration with the high fees they were being charged by banks for international money transfers.
The company, which is valued at more than $1 billion, is backed by several high profile investors including Silicon Valley venture fund Andreessen Horowitz, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, and PayPal co-founders Max Levchin and Peter Thiel, through his fund Valar Ventures.
Customers in more than 50 countries send roughly $1 billion through its website every month.
While the TransferWise chatbot is now only available in Facebook Messenger it can be adapted to work with other popular chat services, Scott Miller, head of global partnerships for TransferWise said. He said the service would eventually be extended to work in other countries and money transfer routes that the company operates in.
Snap Inc hit the roads of London on Monday promoting its initial public offering with a daring proposition: that it can build hot-selling hardware gadgets and ad-friendly software features fast enough to stay one step ahead of Facebook.
No longer just a purveyor of a smartphone app for disappearing messages, Snap has hired hundreds of hardware engineers, built a secretive product development lab and scoured the landscape for acquisitions as it pursues its newly stated ambition to be “a camera company.”
These efforts, which are aimed at developing hardware and so-called augmented reality technologies, are central to the strategy of a company that is seeking a valuation of up to $22 billion in its early March IPO despite heavy losses and the specter of stiff competition for advertising dollars with a far-larger Facebook.
It is a big gamble and the odds against Snap are long.
There is little precedent for a company with its roots in software and social networking succeeding in the notoriously difficult consumer hardware business. Few U.S. firms aside from Apple have made big profits on hardware, and camera and wearable gadget makers have much lower valuations than Snap is seeking. Once-hot camera start-up GoPro is a cautionary tale: its stock sits 61 percent below its 2014 IPO price.
More broadly, creating new products and features that have mass-market appeal and cannot be readily mimicked is a huge challenge, analysts say.
“It’s worrisome,” said Paul Meeks, chief investment officer at Sloy, Dahl & Holst, which manages more than $1 billion in assets. “Snapchat is going to have to continue to be really innovative and distinctive. It’s going to be very tough to trump Facebook.”
Snap declined to comment for this story.
Snap first signaled its new focus with the September reveal of Spectacles, funky sunglasses with an embedded video camera for posting to the Snapchat app. The company spent $184 million on research and development last year, nearly half its revenue.
The $4.8 billion deal was originally slated to close in the first quarter, but that was before Yahoo reported two massive data breaches that analysts say may scrap the entire deal.
Although Yahoo continues to work to close the acquisition, there’s still work required to meet closing the deal’s closing conditions, the company said in an earnings statement, without elaborating.
Verizon has suggested that the data breaches, and the resulting blow to Yahoo’s reputation, might cause it to halt or renegotiate the deal.
In September, Yahoo said a “state-sponsored actor” had stolen details from at least 500 million user accounts in late 2014. As if that weren’t enough, the company reported another breach in December, this one dating back to August 2013 and involving 1 billion user accounts.
Both breaches were detected months after Verizon announced last July that it would buy the ailing internet company. Reportedly, Yahoo is facing an investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the breaches should have been reported to investors earlier.
The breaches may have shaken confidence in Yahoo’s internet business. But the company has since taken measures, such as password resets, to secure user accounts.
Nevertheless, some user accounts are still vulnerable. On Monday, Yahoo said 90 percent of its daily active users were protected from the breach. That leaves another 10 percent potentially exposed.
Among the information stolen in the breaches were names, email addresses, telephone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers meant to protect the accounts.
Yahoo said in a November 2016 quarterly filing that it was “cooperating with federal, state and foreign” agencies, including the SEC, that were seeking information and documents about a “security incident and related matters.”
The SEC is investigating whether two massive data breaches at Yahoo should have been reported sooner to investors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Yahoo has faced pointed questions about exactly when it knew about a 2014 cyber attack it announced in September that exposed the email credentials of half a billion accounts.
In December, Yahoo said it had uncovered yet another massive cyber attack, saying data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013.
The SEC issued requests for documents in December, as it probes whether the technology company’s disclosures about the cyber attacks complied with civil securities laws, the people said, according to the Journal.
Securities industry rules require companies to disclose cyber breaches to investors. Although the SEC has long-standing guidance on when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents, companies that have experienced known breaches often omit those details in regulatory filings, according to a 2012 Reuters investigation.(reut.rs/2dblx5S)
Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner asked the SEC in September to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives fulfilled obligations to inform investors and the public about the 2014 hacking attack.
The disclosures from Yahoo about both breaches came after the company agreed to sell its main business to Verizon Communications Inc in July, triggering questions about whether the deal would still be viable and, if so, at what price.
Blue has reported its 19th straight quarter of declining revenue, but forecast full-year earnings above what the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street thought.
The company’s revenue fell 1.3 percent to $21.77 billion in the quarter ended December 31, but beat analysts’ expectations of $21.64 billion.
The better figures were thanks to growth in newer areas such as cloud-based services and analytics.
Investments to drive growth in the cloud business and the company’s shift to a subscription-based as-a-service model hit its operating gross margin by 1.8 percentage points to 51 percent in the fourth quarter.
IBM’s forecast adjusted earnings of at least $13.80 per share for fiscal 2017, beat the average analyst estimate of $13.74.
Chief Executive Gini Rometty’s transition efforts have shown revenue growth across some areas in recent quarters, with newer businesses driving the efforts.
Revenue from “strategic imperatives”, which includes cloud and mobile computing, data analytics, social and security software, rose 11 percent to $9.5 billion in the fourth quarter, from a year earlier. It contributed 41 percent to IBM’s total revenue in 2016.
Cloud computing revenue across IBM’s segments rose 33 percent. The business includes services such as SoftLayer, which leases online storage space to companies, as well as the BlueMix cloud platform.
Financial technology vendor Misys is rolling out software that will allow banks to provide peer-to-peer lending to their customers as competition from young companies in the sector continues to intensify.
The technology would enable retail and corporate banks to connect their customers looking for loans with individual or institutional investors digitally, the private London-based software company said on Tuesday.
P2P lenders, which allow consumers and small businesses to borrow from investors online, emerged in response to a contraction in bank lending following the financial crisis of 2008.
Misys said the software would allow banks to maintain a relationship with clients that they would otherwise have to turn away without have to originate loans from their balance sheet.
“Banks are losing market share to P2P platform providers. By embedding crowdlending into the overall credit lifecycle, a bank can maintain and expand its client base, recapture business from alternative finance marketplaces and boost lending growth,” Jean-Cedric Jollant, senior product officer at Misys, told Reuters.
The launch comes as the nascent peer-to-peer lending sector expands, despite facing some growing pains. Research by Morgan Stanley estimates that P2P lending companies, also known as marketplace lenders, could originate up to $490 billion in loans globally by 2020.
Banks have been reacting to the trend by either partnering with younger companies or launching their own online lending operations. Spanish banking group Banco Santander in 2016 partnered with U.S. small business lender Kabbage to provide loans, while JP Morgan Chase & Co. previously partnered with OnDeck.
Jollant said Misys was launching the product because it was already an established provider of financial lending software to many large global lenders. He added that the company was in discussions “with a number of interested banks in the U.S., Europe and India.”
LG says that all its products will ship with Wi-Fi connectivity from this year.
LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that “starting this year” all of LG’s home appliances will feature “advanced Wi-Fi connectivity”.
One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon’s Alexa service.
While this might be a good thing in cases of flagship devices but just sticking Wi-Fi in everything is going to create a security nightmare. After all how are LG or anyone planning to update their appliances? Most people who don’t use the Wi-Fi are never going to bother connecting to anything and that is just going to be an open port sitting waiting some hacker’s attention.
What is also a problem is that if your whole house gets a virus you are going to have a hell of a job finding out what the source was and what you are supposed to unplug.
Also, there is the small matter of some appliance makers might be a little naughty about using their smart devices to serve up ads or give audio or video recordings to law enforcement.
LG might be more likely than most to know what it is doing, but the life of a fridge or washing machine is a lot longer than a computer. Our fridge is 15 years old and works fine, what will be the state of computer security in 15 years’ time? Many are going to find that their fridge is running the security equivalent of Windows XP.
The venture capitalists divisions of Microsoft and Qualcomm have invested in Team8, an Israeli creator of cybersecurity start-ups, as big multinational companies back Israel’s burgeoning cyber industry in the face of growing threats.
Team8, which also announced on Monday a strategic partnership with Citi to help develop its products, said the most recent investment brings its total raised to more than $92 million.
Its other investors are Cisco, AT&T, Accenture, Nokia, Singapore’s Temasek, Japan’s Mitsui, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Marker LLC.
Israel has some 450 cyber start-ups, which receive 20 percent of global investment in the sector. Although the need for security is growing quickly, the proliferation of start-ups means that several companies compete in every subsector.
“A large part of companies created won’t get to the finish line,” Nadav Zafrir, Team8 chief executive and former commander of the Israeli army’s technology and intelligence unit 8200, told a news conference.
He said he believes Team8’s strong partners and its plan to build a portfolio of different technologies gives it an edge. Team8 confirmed that Microsoft had been an investor since last June.
“The expectation of our investors is to build independent companies that will lead their sectors,” he said.
Israel has a well established high tech industry, using skills of workers trained in the military and intelligence sectors. Tax breaks and government funding have encouraged start-ups, and also drawn in entrepreneurs from abroad.
Launched in 2014, Team8 employs 180 people in Israel, the United States, Britain and Singapore and plans to hire 100 more workers in 2017.
Two companies it created are Illusive Networks, which uses deception technology to detect attacks and has been installed at banks and retailers, and Claroty, which secures critical infrastructure sites such as oil and gas fields.
Details of two more companies it has set up will be announced this year, Zafrir said.