Oxfam’s Time to Care report also highlighted gender-based economic disparities, saying women and girls were burdened with disproportionate responsibility for care work and fewer economic opportunities.
“Economic inequality is out of control,” with 2153 billionaires having more wealth than 4.6 billion people in 2019, it said.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women,” said Oxfam India chief executive Amitabh Behar. “No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist.”
“That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc, has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.
“At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 ($A33,868) since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the US would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 ($A16) hourly minimum.”
It also revealed the family’s “jarring” and “near-unprecedented” wealth had soared by $39 billion since June 2018.
But who are the mysterious Walton family, and how did they amass such a “jarring” stack of cash?
By the age of 34, Akiko Naka has already experienced more career-wise than most people do in a lifetime.
She started by getting hired by Goldman Sachs, where she worked as an equity saleswoman. When she left that job, she tried to make it as a professional manga comic artist. When that didn’t work out, she landed a job at Facebook.
And not content to leave it at that, she quit to establish her own company, a recruiting social network called Wantedly Inc. She took it public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last year, and is one of the youngest women to head a Japanese listed company.
Finding clean, affordable hotels in India can be a traveller’s hideous nightmare. Too often, what looks great on a website turns out to be a disapointing roach-infested room in a crumbling old building where water has to be schlepped to the bathroom in a bucket.
Ritesh Agarwal’s solution is a booking app that promises truth in advertising and branded hotels that don’t deliver unpleasant surprises. The chain he started in 2013, Oyo Hotels, has already become the largest in India, a chaotic market worth $US4.5 billion ($6.2 billion), according to New Delhi-based researcher Hotelivate.
Now Agarwal is going overseas with his franchise model, which combines a reservation site with a full stack of services for small hoteliers who want to up their game. Yesterday the company said it’s raising $US1 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital and other investors to fund expansion in countries including China, where Oyo opened in November. Last week it started service in the UK, bringing the business to a developed market for the first time.
“By 2023, we will be the world’s largest hotel chain,” the 24-year-old founder said in a recent interview at an Oyo hotel in a suburb of New Delhi, where the company is based.
“We want to convert broken, unbranded assets around the globe into better-quality living spaces.”
Oyo employs hundreds of staffers in the field who evaluate properties on 200 factors, from the quality of mattresses and linens to water temperature. To get a listing, along with a bright red Oyo sign to hang street-side like a seal of good-housekeeping approval, most hoteliers must agree to a makeover that typically takes around 30 days or so. Oyo then gets 25 per cent of every booking. Rooms usually run between $US25 and $US85.
Why let university interfere with my education?
“Oyo is going all out to build a very large base of hotel partners and become a bona-fide brand,” said Mrigank Gutgutia, an analyst with RedSeer Management Consulting. “Their app model works well because price-conscious travellers who search by location like to feel they have lots of choices.”
Agarwal wouldn’t disclose sales nfigures, but he said the number of transactions has tripled in the last year, with 90 per cent coming from repeat travellers — and no money spent on advertising. There are now 10,000 hotels in 160 Indian cities, with in excess of 125,000 rooms, listed on the site, he said. That’s about 5 per cent of India’s total room inventory, according to RedSeer estimates.
“Over 150,000 heads rest on our pillows every night,” said Agarwal, a trim man who tugs at a sore ear as he talks. Constant airplane travel has given him an ear ache–one unwanted side effect of the company’s hyper growth.
Not everyone is happy with the Oyo experience. Payal Gupta, a recent guest, was disappointed by her stay at a place near Delhi Airport, which she said felt like a house that had been hurriedly converted into a hotel. The sheets were dirty and the bathroom was cramped. “It isn’t enough to have Oyo-branded shampoo and moisturiser,” she said.
Gutgutia, the RedSeer analyst, said the company will need a steady stream of capital and an army of people on the ground to maintain standards. “Sustaining a high-quality experience could be a real challenge,” he said.
Indian startups have been on a tear recently, with more than a dozen worth now more than $US1 billion, according to researcher CB Insights. Walmart last month paid $US16 billion for a majority stake in Flipkart, an online retailer founded in 2007.
The funding announced yesterday by Oyo values the business at $US5 billion , according to a person familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified. That makes the startup India’s second most-valuable, after One97 Communications, owner of Paytm, a digital payments company with financial backing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
A college dropout in a country where university pedigree is obsessed over, Agarwal has become an unlikely business legend, with frequent appearances on televised award shows and a cover story last year in Forbes of India.
Agarwal says he never stayed at a hotel until he was picked to represent his school at a trivia competition held in a town a few hours away from home when he was 12. He got the idea for Oyo a few years later, while traveling India on a shoestring budget and lodging at some truly horrible guest houses. It wasn’t enough to aggregate hotels on a website, you also had to repair them, he realised. To learn the hotel business from the ground up, he spent a year cleaning rooms at one of them.
In 2013, he got a $US100,000 fellowship from Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who subsidises students who drop out to start their own companies. The big break came in 2015, when he got $US100 million in venture funding from investors including Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.
In November, Agarwal brought the OYO business to China, starting with a single listing in the industrial city of Shenzen. Now, less than a year later, travellers in the world’s most populous country can choose from more than 1,000 Oyo-branded hotels and 87,000 rooms in over 170 Chinese cities.
For Agarwal, though, there’s still a small hitch. He says his mother keeps nagging him to take a break from the business and go back to college. “But why let university interfere with my education?” he said with a contented laugh.
(Reuters) – A Missouri jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) to pay a record $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Illustration
The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.
The company is battling some 9,000 talc cases. J&J denies both that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.
Thursday’s massive verdict, handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.
J&J in a statement called the trial “fundamentally unfair” and said it would appeal the flawed decision.
J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award. They had risen $1.52 during regular trading.
The jury’s decision followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts from both sides.
The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to advise consumers about the risks.
“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process,” the company said in a statement. The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.
“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were far worse than those in the previous trials which have been reversed,” J&J added, saying that it would pursue all available appellate remedies.
J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.
Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state usually regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs. The practice of combining plaintiffs in such jurisdictions, commonly criticized as “forum shopping” by defendants, will be challenged on appeal.
Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, in a statement following the verdict called on J&J to pull its talc products from the market “before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”
“If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning,” Lanier said.
The majority of the lawsuits that J&J faces iare about claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.
The cases that went to trial in St. Louis effectively combine those claims by alleging asbestos-contaminated talc had caused ovarian cancer.
Previous talc trials have produced verdicts as large as $417 million. But that 2017 verdict by a California jury, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, was overturned on appeal, and challenges to at least another five verdicts are yet to be determined through the courts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including of J&J’s Baby Powder. No asbestos elements were found in any of the talc powder samples, the agency said.
But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the adequate detection of asbestos fibers.
Talc, the world’s softest rock, is a mineral closely connected to asbestos and the two substances can appear in close proximity in the earth.
Plaintiffs claim the two can become intermingled in the extraction process, making it almost impossible to remove the carcinogenic substance. J&J denies those allegations, saying rigorous testing and purification processes ensure its talc is clean.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien
China’s Meituan Dianping just became the world’s fourth-most valuable start-up, reaching a $US30 billion ($38 billion) valuation that puts it ahead of high-fliers like Airbnb and Space X.
Never heard of Meituan? You’re not alone. The Beijing-based company, led by Wang Xing, is almost unknown beyond its home country. It delivers food to people’s homes, sells groceries and movie tickets, provides reviews of restaurants, and markets discounts to consumers who buy in groups. It’s a sort of mashup of Groupon, Yelp, Foodpanda and Uber Eats.
Meituan’s appeal for investors is its dominant position in a market of more than a billion people. It was formed through the 2015 merger of Meituan.com and Dianping.com, creating the leading player for internet-based services ordered via smartphone apps. It raised $4 billion in the latest round from Tencent Holdings, Sequoia Capital and US travel giant Priceline Group.
“It’s a quasi-monopoly built on the stomachs of 1.4 billion people,” said Keith Pogson, global assurance leader for banking and capital markets in Hong Kong at consultant EY.
Flipping smart $4 billion funding round by Meituan
Wang started Meituan.com in 2010 as a group-buying site similar to Groupon, where people can get discounts by buying electronics or restaurant meals together. Dianping was founded in 2003 in Shanghai with reviews of restaurants and other local businesses, then diversified into group discounts. The companies were valued at $US15 billion when they merged two years ago.
The combined companies have far surpassed their US peers. Chicago-based Groupon, once a sensation in the US, has dropped to a market value of less than $US3 billion. Yelp, based in San Francisco, has tumbled from its peak in 2014 to $US3.6 billion.
Meituan Dianping has expanded well beyond its original businesses. With a few taps to navigate its smartphone apps, Chinese customers can order hot meals, groceries, massages, haircuts and manicures at home or in the office. One popular service offers the ability to have your car washed while you’re at work and it’s parked on the street – the service sends a photo to your phone to verify the job. Meituan says it now has 280 million annual active users and works with 5 million merchants.
The offerings, collectively known as online-to-offline or O2O services, may ultimately prove more successful in China than in the US. Labor costs are lower in China, cities are more densely populated and there are more people. The country’s O2O market surged 72 per cent to 762 billion yuan ($US115 billion) last year, according to estimates from consultant IResearch.
“China’s market is big enough for a company this size,” said Wang Ling, an analyst with IResearch. “After years of consolidation, Meituan is one of the few contenders in areas with gigantic revenue.”
Meituan is facing increasingly stiff competition from China’s technology giants and their proxies. In particular, Alibaba Group Holding has backed a rival service called Ele.me, which recently acquired Baidu’s business, Waimai. Alibaba, Tencent’s primary rival, is boosting its investment to bankroll expansions into more cities and businesses.
“Meituan faces so many competitors because of its wide range of business,” said Cao Lei, director of the China E-Commerce Research Centre in Hangzhou. “Lifestyle e-commerce, which includes online travel and dining reservations, is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.”
Travel is becoming the latest competitive ground. With the recent fundraising, Meituan plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three to five years to become a leading travel booking site. It’s also exploring opportunities to collaborate with Priceline as part of the investment. That may present a challenge to China’s biggest online travel site, Ctrip.com International, which is backed by Baidu. Ctrip shares fell 8.2 per cent in US trading.
It’s a quasi-monopoly built on the stomachs of 1.4 billion people.
China’s tech titans take their battle to a new frontier
In the latest funding, Meituan also received money from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Trustbridge Partners, Tiger Global Management, Coatue Management and the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC. Meituan said it would use the cash to expand in artificial intelligence and drone-delivery technology.
Meituan is one of the new generation of Chinese technology companies that has rapidly gained popularity thanks to the rise of smartphones. Where Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have come to be collectively known as BAT, new media upstart Jinri Toutiao, Meituan Dianping and ride-sharing king Didi Chuxing have now earned their own acronym: TMD.
The $30 billion financing ranks the company fourth in the world in start-up valuations, according to CB Insights. The first three are Uber Technologies, Didi and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp.
EY’s Pogson however cautioned that valuations in China may be getting a bit overheated. Shares of private companies like Meituan and Uber aren’t traded in liquid markets every day, so valuations change only rarely and typically go up. In addition, many of the fundraisings in China and the US are done with ratchets, or protections so that investors get compensation if the valuations fall later on.
“You have to take these numbers with a grain of salt,” he says.
Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan 18, 2017.
HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Mr Jack Ma’s net worth surged US$2.8 billion (S$3.87 billion) overnight as Alibaba Group Holding forecast sales growth that topped every analyst’s estimate, despite China’s decelerating economy.
Mr Ma, 52, is now the richest person in Asia and 14th wealthiest in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His net worth has climbed US$8.5 billion this year to US$41.8 billion.
The latest surge came after China’s largest e-commerce company forecast 45 per cent to 49 per cent revenue growth in the year ending March, demonstrating how investments beyond online shopping are paying off. Shares in Alibaba, where Mr Ma is chairman, rose 13 per cent to a record high
Alibaba and Tencent Holdings – which dominate online shopping and social media, respectively – have ventured further into new areas, from cloud computing services to streaming music and video, as the country’s economy slows. Alibaba is capturing more digital advertising spending by incorporating social elements such as video in its shopping sites.
Alibaba is holding meetings with investors this week. Mr Ma is scheduled to appear on Friday (June 9) to discuss the company’s initiatives.
It might happen tomorrow. It could take until the end of the week. Heck, it might even take until the end of the month. But any day now the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will become the world’s richest person. After yet another powerful set of results, and yet another surge in the company’s share price, Bezos is a mere $US5 billion away from the Microsoft founder Bill Gates and likely to overtake him very soon.
True, on one level, the “world’s richest man” is just a statistical footnote, of no great significance. On another, however, the title sets a role model that entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world aspire to.
FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2012, file photo, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, speaks at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif. The Washington Post Co. agreed Monday, Aug. 6, 2013, to sell its flagship Washington Post newspaper to Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com for $250 million. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)
After all, if making more money than anyone else doesn’t tell you they are doing something right, it is hard to know what might. So what lessons can we learn from Bezos’s rise to the top of the pile? That you should think big, innovate furiously, ignore failures, forget about obsessing over profits, and avoid major acquisitions. Those are pretty good guidelines for any business heading into the 2020s.
The rising value of Bezos’s net worth has been almost as relentless as the hard sell of Amazon Prime memberships over the past few years. His stake in the web giant he founded slightly over two decades ago is now worth US$81 billion. In the past five years, Amazon’s share price has more than quadrupled, rising from US$220 to more than $900 as the company powers into new industries and markets. He has already overtaken Warren Buffett and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of Zara owner Inditex, to become the world’s second richest. It will only take a few more dollars on the share price for him to race past Gates – and given the relatively stagnant performance of his Seattle neighbour, that seems just about inevitable.
SANTA MONICA, CA – SEPTEMBER 6: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveils new Kindle reading devices at a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Amazon unveiled the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire HD in 7 and 8.9-inch sizes. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Although there were times when he was briefly overtaken by Buffett, and also for a few weeks by Ortega, Gates has hung onto that title for a long time. He became the world’s richest man all the way back in 1995, when it took a mere US$12.9 billion to take that slot. In the past, the title has been held by tycoons such as John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, or indeed, if you want to go back far enough, by Musa I of Mali, the 14th-century African king, who many historians now reckon was the richest person of all time, with a net worth of $400 billion in today’s money. After 22 years, however, the baton appears about to pass onto a new man. So what are the lessons that every business – and investor for that matter – can learn from Bezos? Here are five of the most important.
One, think big. Amazon was started in 1994 as an online books retailer. But books were only chosen because Bezos could see they were a relatively easy way into online retailing. They come in standard sizes, you don’t need to try them on, they fit easily into parcels, and there was plenty of space to compete on choice and price. But its ambitions always went way beyond that. As it moved into CDs, DVDs, and then just about everything, it became clear that Bezos wanted Amazon to be the biggest retailer in the world. He was thinking big right from the beginning – and working out the best starting place to get to his ultimate destination.
Secondly, keep innovating. Amazon is now far more than just an online retailer. It has built a massive cloud computing business that serves some of the biggest web companies in the world. It is making films and TV series for its Prime streaming service. It has developed publishing, physical shops, grocery sales, own-label products, and drone delivery systems. It is rare that more than a few weeks go by without Amazon trialling something or other – right now it is making a huge push with its Alexa voice-activated assistant. Whatever it does, it invariably brings something new to it – for example, shops with no check-out staff. Most companies come up with one or two good ideas Google’s parent Alphabet has created both the search engine and the Android operating system – but Amazon comes up with dozens of them. That is hard to emulate – but it is an incredibly powerful model if you can get it right.
Thirdly, don’t fret about failure. As you might expect for a company that is always trying out new stuff, Amazon also has plenty of flops. Its smart phone was a complete turkey – it cost US$170 million in investment, but has made no progress so far. Its web payment service went nowhere, and so did Amazon Destinations, its travel unit. Askville, its questions and answers service, was shut down after several years of investment, and Amazon Local was no match for competitors such as Groupon. But so what? Bezos accepts that if you don’t try out lots of stuff, you won’t ever have more than one or two businesses. He just moves on to the next one.
Next, profits matter much less than market share. Amazon appears to hardly care whether it makes any money. It is interested in moving into new markets, and dominating the ones where it has already established itself. Profits will take care of themselves. It is not quite as relentlessly unprofitable as it used to be – it has actually made money for eight quarters in a row now – but its overall margins are wafer-thin given its vast size. Investment in expansion is far more useful than racking up cash in the bank, like Apple, or returning it to shareholders through dividends or stock buy-backs, like just about every other major company. Investors love it – and are rewarded via the share price.
Finally, forget acquisitions. It would be wrong to say that Amazon doesn’t buy companies. It paid US$1.2 billion for the online shoe shop Zappos in 2009 and $900 million for the video gaming streaming site Twitch in 2014.
There have been a steady stream of agreed takeovers. But they are all small scale stuff given the size of the company. It is clearly determined to take on Netflix in content, but it is spending massive sums on its own programmes rather than bidding for its rival.
Likewise, it’s trying to compete with Spotify in music, and Sainsbury’s and Tesco in groceries, rather than taking them out in a bid. Most acquisitions destroy value. It is far better to build your own rival from the ground up.
Amazon is far from perfect. It can ride roughshod over the competition, and it can be difficult place to work. But with its relentless drive to innovate and create new products, there could be many worse role models for entrepreneurs and business leaders.
In his annual letter to shareholders last month, Bezos urged people to “experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.”
That formula won’t work for everyone. But it is about to make Bezos the richest man in the world – and any business could do a lot worse than follow that formula.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Monday revealed a new stake in Apple Inc, in a bet that the stock’s price could rebound after iPhone sales fell for the first time.
Berkshire held 9.81 million Apple shares worth $US1.07 billion ($1.47 billion) as of March 31, according to a regulatory filing detailing most stock holdings of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate.
It is unclear whether the Apple investment was made by Buffett or by one of his portfolio managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who each invest about $US9 billion.
Apple shares look ‘stunningly cheap’: Wallman Investment Counsel founder Steve Wallman.
Buffett typically makes Berkshire’s multibillion-dollar investments, while Combs and Weschler make smaller wagers.
The investment deepens Berkshire’s commitment to the technology sector, which Buffett has largely shunned apart from a big stake in International Business Machines Corp, which grew slightly in the first quarter.
Apple last month reported its first quarterly decline in revenue in 13 years as an increasingly saturated market hurt iPhone sales.
Apple shares have taken a beating over the past month.
Chief Executive Tim Cook is looking to develop other technologies, and last week unveiled a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.
Shares of Apple have fallen by nearly one-third since April 2015. They were up $US2.13, or 2.4 percent, at $US92.65 in Monday morning trading, likely because of Berkshire’s imprimatur.
“The stock is stunningly cheap, and it has a massive pile of cash,” said Steve Wallman, founder of Wallman Investment Counsel in Middleton, Wisconsin, who has owned Berkshire since 1982 and Apple since 2003. “Apple is not getting credit for research and development it is doing behind the scenes, which will eventually show up in new products.”
An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite his aversion to technology sector, Buffett told CNBC on Monday, he offered to help Dan Gilbert, the chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, finance a bid for Internet company Yahoo Inc.
Reuters first reported Buffett’s support on Friday.
The Apple investment may have been made with proceeds from the sale of AT&T Inc stock, as Berkshire exited what had been a $US1.6 billion stake in the quarter.
Berkshire’s investment also puts it at odds with investors that have retrenched from Apple.
Last month, billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn said he sold his entire Apple stake, on concern that China could make it harder for the company to do business there.
David Tepper’s Appaloosa LP also shed his Apple stake in the first quarter, while Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates cut its investment by two-thirds.
In Monday’s filing, Berkshire also reported higher stakes in Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Deere & Co and Visa Inc, and lower stakes in MasterCard Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.