Tag: ma

Alibaba’s Ma says Internet should be a utility

Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma said the internet should be a utility available to the whole world.

Ma is putting his weight behind a UN call for e-commerce to boost developing economies and help fight poverty.

Ma has some weight as a UN advisor to its trade and development agency UNCTAD for small business and young entrepreneurs.

He said that the internet should be treated as a utility and should be treated also as the infrastructure of global development.

“Everything will be online and everything online will have data. And data will be the energy for innovation.”

UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said he and Ma would meet in Kigali in July with 10 African presidents and young entrepreneurs, aiming to persuade the politicians of their responsibility to help their young populations realise their potential.

Ma said his first trip to Africa would focus on e-commerce payment to support inclusive and sustainable development, as well as education and environmental protection.

He said Alibaba had created 33 million jobs in China because each small business online could create at least three jobs. He met US President-elect Donald Trump in January and said the firm would create a million US jobs.

Earlier, a group of developing countries launched a roadmap for using e-commerce to drive growth, narrow the digital divide and help poorer countries develop.

Yahoo faces blood in the boardroom

Yahoo chief executive, Scott Thompson is facing a proxy war with hedge fund Third Point that will decide whether he or a group of directors nominated by the hedge fund’s founder, Dan Loeb, get to sort out the troubled search engine outfit.

Thompson is working on his plans to overhaul Yahoo’s operations, but Third Point has its own ideas about what to do with the company.

According to Reuters, Third Point wants to stick four directors on the board and has officially launched a campaign to have them installed. Its cunning plan is to have a fire sale of Yahoo assets and return cash to shareholders.

The hedge fund is Yahoo’s largest institutional shareholder with a 5.8 percent stake and is hacked off that the search engine is ignoring it. It said that the current board is “sorely in need” of restructuring capabilities and media strategies.

Loeb has nominated former NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker, long-time media consultant Michael Wolf, and Harry Wilson, a turnaround specialist, for election to Yahoo’s board. He also is nominating himself.

Market watchers say that if Thompson survives the annual meeting and successfully navigates the grilling he is going to get, he’s going to be seen as a more credible and effective CEO. If he is seen as weak, Third Point and he shareholders are going to strip him to the bone faster than a school of piranha strips someone from Aldebaran.

Thompson, a former president of PayPal and Yahoo’s fourth CEO in five years, is preparing for a massive re-organisation that could come within weeks and could result in layoffs of several thousand of its roughly 13,000 employees and kill entire business lines. 

Yahoo turns into a patent troll

Troubled search outfit Yahoo has looked at the various patent wars that are making tiny companies a lot of cash and has decided “I’ll be ‘aving some of that.”

Apparently m’learned friends working for Yahoo have penned a stiff letter to Facebook demanding that the social notworker pay licensing fees for use of its technology.

Although patent wars are now becoming commonplace in the rest of the IT industry, the social notworking realm has been relatively quiet.

M’learned friends for Yahoo said that the patents include the technical mechanisms in the Facebook’s ads, privacy controls, news feed and messaging service.

The too have already had words about the 10 to 20 Yahoo’s patents but could not come to any agreements on how many zeros should be on the cheque, or if a cheque should be written.

Yahoo claimed other outfits had already written cheques on some of the technologies at issue, and that it would act unilaterally if Facebook refused to pay up.

Facebook was a little more cynical about it. According to Reuters, it pointed out that Yahoo contacted it at the same time it called the New York Times and broke the story. So far Facebook has not had time to look at the claims properly.

Others might point out that the patent claims follow Facebook’s announcement of plans for an initial public offering that could value the company at about $100 billion.

Apparently it is traditional amongst dotcoms to see an uptick in patent claims asserted against them as they move through the IPO process.

Normally these claims are from people who make a living from being patent trolls and not large tech companies such as Yahoo. But then again Yahoo has been running into a few problems lately. 

New Yahoo boss admits that things are bleak

Yahoo’s new CEO has just emerged from his office having seen all the books and realised what a poisoned chalice he has taken on.

Scott Thompson said that there was no question that Yahoo needed to do a lot better and he thinks that reviving the company’s flagging display advertising business was the way forward.

This is stage one of a cunning plan which will involve something a little more bolder later on.

Thompson told Reuters that Yahoo needed to “get innovative products that matter into the market.”

Wall Street appears to be willing to give the former PayPal president some breathing room to settle in and figure out a strategy.

The fact that he seems to be talking with a greater sense of urgency than his predecessors seems to indicate that he has got the hang of the sense of panic which should be required for his job.

However, other than that, Thompson, along with Chief Financial Officer Tim Morse, was cryptic about the progress of Yahoo’s strategic review.

Thompson said that Yahoo would invest the majority of its resources into its core businesses, while remaining open to potential acquisitions and looking for “revenue streams that look different from what we’re doing today.”

The outfit said that its net revenue in the first quarter would range between $1.025 billion and $1.105 billion.

The company earned $296 million in net income in the three months ended December 31 compared with $312 million during the same time last year. 

Yahoo boss quits

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, the man who is credited with making the company what it is today, has stepped down from his post as chief mucker-upper at the troubled search engine outfit.

To be fair, Jerry didn’t act alone, and if it was not for him there would have been no Yahoo. But the outfit he started in 1995 has jumped from the frying pan to the fire too many times on his watch.

Shareholders had been gathering a mob including a rabid priest, a couple of screaming women and men armed with torches and pitchforks for sometime. There had been talk of a guillotine being set up outside Yahoo HQ and toothless crones had been seen knitting aggressively with large needles near potential sites.

Yang’s exit comes two weeks after Yahoo appointed Scott Thompson its new CEO, with yet another order from the board to return the once-leading Internet portal to the heights it enjoyed in the 1990s.

It might be that Thompson’s first decision was to order that Yang be kept away from him and preferably the entire outfit. Yahoo is trying to negotiate some extra cash from private equity companies and having Yang sloping around would not make the job any easier.

This is partly because Yang is one of the people who is rumoured to be making a bid for the company himself, although it is not clear at this point if that cunning plan is going ahead.

It is telling that following the announcement shares of Yahoo gained three percent in after-hours trade.

Some of this is due to the fact that Yang is believed to have stuck a spanner in the works in sorting out the mess with the Asian side of the business. Wall Street does not like him because he is interested in creating a viable company rather than give shareholders any value.

Yang is severing all formal ties with the company by resigning all positions including his seat on the board of directors.

One of his most silly decisions was turning down an overpriced offer for the company from Steve Ballmer. Ballmer was lucky that the deal fell through as it would have cost Microsoft an arm and a leg and ended up losing the company a lot of money. However Yahoo and its investors would have been laughing all the way to the bank.

Microsoft’s bid was worth about $44 billion. Its share price was subsequently kicked to death following the failure of the deal and its current market value stands at about $20 billion.

Yang blocked it because he did not like Microsoft very much and felt that the company would do fine on its own. Of course it didn’t.

The company did not say where Yang was headed or why he had suddenly resigned. CEO Thompson told employees practically nothing.

It is not as if Yang and his less public co-founder David Filo, both of whom carried the official title “Chief Yahoo,” are going away. Both own sizeable stakes in the company. Yang owns 3.69 percent of Yahoo’s outstanding shares, while Filo owns six percent as of April and May 2011.

Yang said he was leaving to pursue “other interests outside of Yahoo” and was “enthusiastic” about Thompson as the choice to helm the company. He is also quitting from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group Holdings.

Morningstar analyst Rick Summer told Reuters that Yang was an impediment toward anything happening. Yahoo was mired by a bunch of competing interests going in different directions. It was never clear what the board’s direction was. 

Report tears open Olympus' enormous loss hiding scandal

A 200-page report on the biggest corporate scandal Japan has ever faced, Olympus’ billion dollar loss-hiding, has been published, and it really is quite messy.

The report, writes the Wall Street Journal, says Olympus’ management was “rotten” and that “contaminated other parts around it”. The scandal, unearthed by ex-CEO Michael Woodford who was thanked with a sacking, has seen Olympus’ shares plummet and risked having the company delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Rather than face up to the dire situation the company was in, it allegedly created bogus funds around the world to buy off billions and billions of yen in bad assets. Later it tried to write everything off by buying start-ups at a hugely inflated price which subsequently vanished.

In the report, execs like Hisashi Mori, who was an executive vice president and his boss Hideo Yamada led the plans, along with a few others, to hide losses and make them disappear through made-up acquisition prices.  

The WSJ says, as Olympus faced a financial downturn in the mid-80s when the US dollar was devalued following the Plaza Accord, then-president Toshiro Shimoyama decided the best thing to do would be to plough money into other companies as part of its core business strategy. Many of the deals went sour and, coupled with other factors like the rise of the yen, it wasn’t looking good for Olympus. Mori and Yamada tried to fix it by gambling with derivatives and structured bonds.

Ex prez Toshiro Shimoyama denies any wrongdoing and used the useful line: he can’t really remember, said the WSJ.

Shimoyama left the company with the losses and was followed by Masatoshi Kishimoto as president, who, the report claims, didn’t do enough to fix the mess and left it up to Mori and Yamada to keep doing what they were doing. Kishimoto’s replacement, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, was from Finance and well aware of Olympus’ situation.

Things really took a turn for the worse when changes to Japan’s accounting rules meant Olympus would have to go public with the securities losses – and the company had over $1 billion of that. It was then, the report says, that Mori and Yamada approached two brokers, Akio Nakagawa and Hajime Sagawa, to hatch a cunning plan.

It was as easy as moving Olympus’ dodgy assets away from the company and over to others that weren’t at all connected – avoiding having to disclose any at all on the official books. Nakagawa and Sagawa started a set up fund in the Cayman Islands called Central Forest Corp. This bogus company was to buy off Olympus’ assets. To fund the transactions, Mori and Yamada allegedly got Olympus to put ¥21 billion in Japanese government bonds into an LGT Bank account. The bank was then asked to give Central Forest an ¥18 billion loan.

To finance the whole operation, Mori allegedly lied to LGT bank and explained the whole bizarre situation away – claming Olympus was on a shopping trip to make a string of secret buys in Europe. Altogether, Olympus managed to shift ¥65 billion from Olympus in Europe.  

This scheme was, by and large, repeated in Singapore using accounts through Commerzbank AG and Societe Generale SA to move ¥60 billion away from its books, though the report doesn’t accuse the banks of being at fault.

Later, Olympus started another investment fund in Japan with an ex Nomura broker. That, too, was used to buy bad assets. Presidents Kishimoto and Kikukawa were told about the schemes, the report says. 

Olympus did get found out once. Auditor KPMG AZSA spotted some mysterious figures in the books and Olympus owned up to the loss-hiding – but it only admitted to one fund. 

Eventually the execs realised the decades-long plot was doomed and tried to write the whole lot off. They used three start-ups, a waste recycler called Altis, a cosmetics company called Humalabo and a microwave container company called News Chef. Olympus bought them all for  ¥73.2 billion before getting rid of them for good.

The report says Olympus then used that money to repay loans from LGT and shut down its dodgy European operations. Later, it offset the funds in Singapore, according to the report, by using $687 million it got from buying UK medi-tech company Gyrus Group PLC, which went through as recently as March 2010.

According to the report, there was a bizarre pervasive atmosphere at Olympus which discouraged anything other than yes-men: “The head of the company ran an autocratic regime over a long period, generating an internal atmosphere in which people hesitated to disagree. Among executives there was a rampant tendency to treat the company like their private possession. There was little awareness of loyalty to shareholders.”

Certainly that still rang true when current president Shuichi Takayama said of ex-CEO Woodford’s findings: “If this secret information hadn’t been leaked there would have been no change in our corporate value”.  

The accused orchestrators Mori and Yamada held onto their positions at the troubled cameramaker until the scandal was blown wide open. Olympus is now under a great deal of pressure to replace the entire board. Ex-CEO Woodford claims a takeover is out of the question because it isn’t normal business practice in Japan, but he does say Olympus needs a shareholders meeting ASAP and a different set of directors, as picked by the managers, urgently. 

Olympus is still on deadline for 14 December to post its most recent earnings or it risks being delisted.

Olympus admits enormous losses cover-up

Olympus has owned up to the longest ever running corporate snafu in Japanese corporate history – having fiddled the books for decades.

Executives instead opted to use a bunch of mysterious acquisitions to tidy up the grim reading. The camer-maker, which is almost 100 years old, makes it the longest running loss hiding activity in Japanese corporate history according to the Wall Street Journal.

Now Olympus is under the watchful eye of authorities from both the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the US FBI. The company had been embroiled in a bizarre scandal of its own doing by British ex-CEO Michael Woodford,  who detected some odd movements at Olympus. That included buying a string of companies registered in the notorious Cayman Islands, all of which ended up dissolved or shut down.

Olympus wrote off the value, according to an investigation from the Wall Street Journal

Woodford, in his efforts to fix the mess, was rewarded with a sacking. Chairman Shuichi Takayama blamed him for Olympus’ mess, arguing that if he hadn’t been playing Sherlock Holmes the company might have got away with it for a bit longer. “If this secret information hadn’t been leaked there would have been no change in our corporate value,” Takayama said at the time.

Woodford, who is reportedly shocked by the confession, still thinks Olympus needs a full investigation. Takayama insists Woodford has no place at Olympus anymore. After all, he was sacked for his management style. Er…

Share prices have been struggling. The cover up knocked 29 percent off immediately Monday to $9.40, the lowest they’ve been since 1995. The Wall Street Journal says stock has dropped 70 percent since the scandal cropped up in October.

Now, Takayama has shifted the blame onto three top Olympus execs. Ex chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, vice president Hisashi Mori and corporate auditor Hideo Yamada. Takayama says he had no idea until Mori let slip to him on Monday. 

There’s a chance Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission will further get involved. “We will carry out the necessary inspection if there is suspicion of false statement in financial reports,” a spokesperson told the WSJ.

Yahoo board clings on to power

The people who put the once successful Yahoo search outfit in the place it is in today are hatching a cunning plan to cling on to power.

The Yahoo board, which once turned down a grossly over inflated price for a sale by Microsoft, is now trying to work out how it can continue making similar sorts of decisions.

So far the board has managed to stick a spanner in the works of those who might want to buy the outfit by coming up with some strange rules about them not being allowed to swap information.

Now, according to Reuters, the Board’s latest plan is to flog a minority stake to a private equity firm followed by a large share repurchase.

The move will make it difficult for a complete buy out and give the outfit time to turn around the Internet company, Reuters reported.

The plan is one of many options being considered by the board, but it will mean that a private equity firm would take a stake in Yahoo of around 20 percent, and ally itself with Yahoo co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, who together own another 9.5 percent of the company.

What is clever about the scheme is that by keeping the private equity firm’s initial investment below 20 percent. Yahoo does not have to put the proposal up for a shareholder vote. Shareholders are screaming at the outfit to flog itself off so that they can make some money before the share price drops down the loo. They are unlikely to vote for anything that sniffs of an attempt to keep the status quo.

After the buy out is completed, the private equity firm and the two co-founders would then increase their combined stake to around 40 percent to 45 percent through a share buyback to reduce the number of Yahoo shares. Yahoo would finance the buyback through borrowing.

Yahoo is hoping that it will get more time to seek out partnerships with social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp or move into mobile. Although we wonder why it has not been thinking of doing that for years.

It could be a lot worse. Reuters has also been told that Yang is interested in a deal with private equity firms that would take the company off public markets. Yang was CEO when most of Yahoo’s problems struck. 

Olympus Cayman Islands scandal confuses

Japanese camera manufacturer Olympus has found itself embroiled in a controversy with some mysterious Cayman Islands-based companies.

The Wall Street Journal says that Olympus paid much of the $1 billion it spent on three Japanese start-ups to mysterious businesses in the Cayman Islands. The WSJ saw an independent 2009 panel report by auditors for Olympus’ board. At the same time, the biggest shareholders in the start-ups were reported as “European funds”.

The start-ups were not exactly raking it in. None had over $12 million in revenue according to their most recent records. They were a recycling company called Altis, a dietary supplement company called Humalabo and a microwave-safe food container manufacturer called News Chef. 

Two of those were owned by a company called Neo Strategic Venture. That particular outfit was started in the Caymans in 2000 and dissolved by 2008.

A company executive said he hasn’t a clue about the companies, claiming the only information is the name of them along with their bank account details. After Olympus gave them the money, it’s reported that three companies were either dissolved or shut down.

Later, reports the WSJ, Olympus  allegedly wrote off most of the value of the start-ups.

Bizarre, then, the amount of money  which was reportedly funneled through. 

British CEO Michael Woodford, who was sacked this month, was trying to get to the bottom of the matter.

Woodford had sent Olympus’ chairman at the time a letter saying the company had made “calamitous errors”.Olympus’ reasoning for Woodford’s departure, the Wall Street Journal reports, is rather different. It was his “managerial style” the board had problems with. 

Olympus’ handling of the case has done it no favours. The Telegraph reports that stock market analysts have ‘deserted’ the company, Goldman Sachs being the first to pull the plug. 

Share prices have accurately emulated a yo-yo. But new chairman Shuichi Takayama, replacing the resigned Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, refuses to take the blame.

Instead, it’s Woodford at fault for exposing the scandal in the first place, according to Takayama.

“If this secret information hadn’t been leaked there would have been no change in our corporate value,” he correctly declared, sort of missing the point.

Yahoo stuffing up its own sale

Troubled search engine outfit Yahoo is working out ways to stuff up its own sale to another company.

The outfit’s board, which has managed to sabotage a sale to Microsoft which would have made it a killing at Vole’s expense, and lost millions in value, is trying to stop bidders talking to each other.

According to Reuters, Yahoo is insisting that those who want a slice of the action cannot get to get together to talk about joint bids.

This effectively stops companies forming an alliance so that they can keep bidding.

Not surprisingly potential buyers of Yahoo think this is stupid, but Yahoo insists that interested parties this week take a “no cross talk” provision, part of a non-disclosure agreement that must be signed to gain access to Yahoo’s sensitive financial data.

Already some private equity firms that had planned to jointly bid for Yahoo have refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement, and one source dubbed the the provision a deal-breaker.

Even after it has been gutted, Yahoo is still worth about $20 billion which mades it too big for any one party to swallow. Even Vole was thinking of making a team bid, with Silver Lake Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment board .

If Yahoo insists on the “no cross talk” provision, it could heighten pressure on Yahoo’s co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, who has been slammed for not acting in the best interest of shareholders. Yang derailed the Microsoft talks in 2008. Now he insists that there are shedloads of options for Yahoo and a sale is just one of them.

It is starting to look like he is preparing to shove another spanner in the works. Yang has muttered about doing a deal with private equity firms to take Yahoo private. This would keep his connection to the company which is proving so wonderful for shareholders.