Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Alibaba sales forecast tops estimates; Global coal demand falls for second year; Uber boss to stay away

1 Alibaba sales forecast tops estimates (Straits Times) Alibaba Group Holding forecast sales growth that topped every analysts' estimate, defying expectations that growth must slow by dint of a decelerating economy and its own sheer scale.

China's largest e-commerce company forecast 45 to 49 per cent revenue growth in the year ending March, sustaining a near-unbroken run of 40 per cent-plus annual rises and underscoring how investments into businesses beyond its bread-and-butter of online shopping are paying off.

Alibaba and Tencent Holdings - which dominate online shopping and social media, respectively - have ventured deeper into new areas from cloud computing services to streaming music and video as the country's economy slows. The online shopping giant founded by billionaire Jack Ma is capturing more digital advertising spending by incorporating social elements like video in its shopping sites.

Alibaba is spending billions of dollars on new businesses in part to counter Tencent's increasing dominance of online social media and entertainment through WeChat, a messaging and networking powerhouse.

Considered a barometer of Chinese consumer sentiment, Alibaba has also expanded abroad since buying control of Lazada Group SA to establish a foothold in South-east Asia, potentially setting up a clash with Amazon.com Inc. Its AliExpress site remains for now the main window through which it targets foreign shoppers.

2 Global coal demand fall for second year (Adam Vaughan in The Guardian) Global demand for coal has fallen for the second consecutive year, according to a BP study, helped by the US and China burning less of the dirtiest fossil fuel.

The UK was described as the “most extreme example” of the trend away from coal, which has resulted in use of the fuel returning to levels not seen since the start of the industrial revolution. The 1.7% fall in worldwide consumption in 2016 marks a striking reversal of fortune for coal, which was the largest source of energy demand growth until four years ago, BP said.

Presenting the 66th edition of BP’s annual statistical review of energy, the oil company’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, said: “It feels to me like we’re seeing a decisive break with coal, relative to the past. I think the big story here is coal getting squeezed.”

In the US, coal has been crowded out in power generation by cheaper, cleaner gas from the fracking boom and even US coal executives believe Donald Trump’s promise to bring back jobs in the industry cannot succeed. Coal consumption has now been declining for three years in China, as its economic boom and output has tailed off in energy-intensive sectors such as iron, steel and cement.

3 Uber boss to stay away (BBC) Uber boss Travis Kalanick plans to take time away from the company, and could return in a diminished role. The move comes after a review of management and practices at the firm, which is facing a number of scandals.

The review was sparked by a former employee's claims the company ignored her complaints about sexual harassment. Uber's board voted in favour of the recommendations from the review. Another board member resigned Wednesday after a sexist remark. Some of Mr Kalanick's responsibilities could be shifted to other executives.

In the email to staff, Mr Kalanick said the decision to take leave, which also comes after the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident, is part of an effort to create "Uber 2.0". Mr Kalanick's email did not say how long he would be away from the firm.

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