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from Breakingviews:

The perks and pitfalls of depending on Jack Ma

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Buy a share in Alibaba and you place your trust in Jack Ma. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s founder, executive chairman and spiritual sultan will remain a controlling force even after the company completes its massive initial public offering later this year. The $100 billion-plus question for prospective shareholders is whether they can depend on him to always act in their best interests.

Given Alibaba’s success, the question may sound absurd. Under Ma’s leadership, the Hangzhou-based retail marketplace has grown into a colossus. Almost 85 percent of China’s e-commerce activity passes through its Taobao and Tmall platforms. Revenue in the first quarter of 2014 increased 39 percent to 9.4 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). When the long-awaited IPO debuts in September, it could be one of the largest ever, likely surpassing the $16 billion raised by Facebook in 2012.

But the company and Ma are at a turning point. After years of expanding its market share, Alibaba is now under attack from Chinese rivals like JD.com, which resembles Amazon. The group is straying into new areas from mobile messaging and maps to cable TV and football. It has spent at least $7.3 billion on acquisitions since January 2014. What Alibaba’s leader does next is integral to the company’s value.

from Edward Hadas:

Google and the right to be forgotten

The public has a right to know. Individuals have a right to privacy. The common good is served by both these contradictory statements, so someone has to decide how to balance them when they come into conflict. When it comes to internet search, the European Union’s Court of Justice has given the job to search engine providers such as Google. In a way, that’s a good call.

The court decided in May that some internet links deserve to be “forgotten” because certain data can over time become “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”. The search operators were held responsible, in the first instance, for judging whether to grant requests to remove links.

from Breakingviews:

Supercharged IPO tax spoils need splitting

By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Initial public offerings that generate extra tax spoils are in the spotlight. KKR and Silver Lake are listing web hosting company GoDaddy, three years after buying it for $2.25 billion. The use of what’s called an “Up-C” structure means the company will float with big potential tax deductions on its books. In GoDaddy’s case, investors and sponsors will both benefit. But other IPOs with Up-Cs have seen more dubious arrangements.

from The Great Debate:

Why urban myths like Slenderman have become more deadly

Slenderman (2)

The Internet doesn’t just help suspend disbelief. It rolls right over it.

Exhibit A: Two 12-year-old girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin, charged with attempted murder for stabbing a friend 19 times and leaving her for dead. (She miraculously survived.) They appeared in court Wednesday.

The savage crime attracted international attention not only because of the age of the alleged perpetrators and the barbarity of the deed but also for something far more bizarre. The stabbing was apparently triggered by an Internet-generated fictional character named “Slenderman,” a sepulchral figure with long tentacles who kidnaps children and, by the girls’ accounts, requires acolytes to commit murder to be admitted to his realm. In trying to kill their friend, the girls said, they were attempting to appease the Slenderman so they could join him.

from Breakingviews:

Solving the second-class stock conundrum

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Over dinner in San Francisco recently, an activist investor and an internet entrepreneur got into a heated discussion. The two men, with a gap of about two decades between them, were debating the practice of many young, growth businesses in the technology world – though it happens elsewhere too – to issue multiple classes of stock, generally one for hoi polloi investors in public offerings and another for founders and other insiders with super-charged voting powers.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Rebooting banking – with Google’s help

 By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brett King may be, as his own author’s note claims, “the foremost global expert on retail banking innovation.” But his latest book is let down by an excess of acronyms and gushing advertorial.

from Breakingviews:

Hollywood’s hopes in China rest on Youku

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Look around the subway in Beijing or Shanghai and maybe nine of 10 passengers are watching videos on their mobile devices. Chances are most of them are watching content delivered to them by Youku Tudou. The country’s leading internet television operator streams 400 million videos a day. In that sense, Youku is Netflix and YouTube - plus Comcast and Liberty Media - stuffed into one dumpling. It is also the nexus for Hollywood’s high hopes in the Middle Kingdom.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba’s slow unveiling shows good and bad sides

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Alibaba is lifting its veil to reveal both good and bad sides. The e-commerce giant has released more information ahead of its highly anticipated initial public offering. Though some of the disclosures will persuade prospective investors its business is relatively robust, the rapid shift by users to mobile phones is squeezing margins.

from Breakingviews:

Priceline’s OpenTable buy is costly appetizer

By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Priceline definitely didn’t pick the budget option in its own search for expansion. The online travel outfit is paying a 46 percent premium – $2.6 billion in cash – to snag OpenTable, the listed restaurant reservation site. Each helps small businesses and customers find each other. But the tariff only makes sense if Priceline can plug many more of both into OpenTable worldwide.

from Jack Shafer:

Thanks, Internet, for facilitating the golden age of death threats

A man surfs the internet using a wireless connection in the lobby of a hotel in Havana

It's never been easier to send an anonymous death threat.

In the old days, issuing one required a stamp, an envelope and a trip to a post box. You had to wear gloves to prevent embossing the page with incriminating fingerprints. Spell it out longhand? Good God no! Given a few leads, the boys in police forensics could compare it to other samples of your handwriting. Use a typewriter? Typewriters leave tell-tale signatures on the page by which the machine and potentially the owner can be identified. Cut and paste from newspaper headlines, ransom-note style? A very time- consuming  project just to put the fear of death into somebody. Use a telephone? C'mon, phone records can be traced.

As with so many of life's labors, advanced technology has removed most of the work and hazard from sending cowardly messages to people to frighten them. The cautious and methodical know to anonymize their browsers with Tor and to use other cloaking techniques to reduce the odds of being apprehended.

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