Say “ni hao” to Jack Ma’s Amazon-style volatility

January 29, 2015

Alibaba’s boss, like the U.S. group’s Jeff Bezos, has built online retail dominance. But there are downsides. Unpredictable earnings are Exhibit A. The Chinese group also has fickle regulators. It may not be the last time investors suffer nearly $40 bln of losses in two days.

Rob Cox: ITT’s ghost hangs over Silicon Valley

May 20, 2014

As Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba and Google have become the new conglomerates, it’s instructive to consider the experience of Harold Geneen, who turned ITT into the original M&A machine. The internet approach may be different, but the driver is the same: a fear of obsolescence.

Mini-me tech bubble is mere shadow of 2000 excess

May 5, 2014

The run-up may have paused, but dozens of companies are in line to float, hubris is rampant, oddball metrics abound, and revenue-free startups are still worth fortunes. Even nerd culture has become hip. The latest internet boom is as absurd as the last, but it’s far smaller.

Amazon hedges against the rise of the machines

March 20, 2012

That’s one way to explain the kooky $775 mln purchase of Kiva. Either that or Jeff Bezos has a robot fetish. It’s not clear what the deal offers shareholders. Automating Amazon’s warehouses makes sense. Buying Kiva droids, rather than their maker, seems the more rational approach.

Why do investors prefer Amazon to Apple?

October 24, 2012

Sure, the gadget maker’s market value is far larger. Yet investors are willing to pay almost nine times as much for the retailer’s estimated earnings. That’s expensive in any case. But it’s also odd, because Amazon perpetually promises more jam tomorrow, while Apple delivers it.

Will Netflix star in “The Easter Island Effect”?

April 23, 2013

The Internet video service seems to be using up resources faster than it can produce them. New series like “House of Cards” lure customers, at a cost. Netflix cash flow remains negative and obligations are rising. It’s starting to evoke the centuries-old Polynesian society.

EBay spinoff of Paypal looks inevitable

March 17, 2010

Should Ebay change its name to PayPal? The Internet group’s auction business is mature. Yet its online payments business is growing fast. Plans announced on Wednesday to double PayPal’s Asian staff by the end of the year accentuate the point. A better idea than changing the stationery, however, is spinning off PayPal.

Amazon’s drone promise is yet more jam tomorrow

December 2, 2013

The online retailer expects airborne deliveries just a few years hence. It’s a striking vision, but it seems as overly optimistic as investors’ expectations of the company overall. Amazon’s market value has ballooned to $180 bln despite big profits always hovering in the future.

Time for Larry and Sergey to invest in journalism?

December 30, 2013

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is funding a new reporting venture. But take a look at the numbers, and few have made their money at the expense of the fourth estate quite as obviously as the Google guys.