How Much Are Competing Companies Willing to Bid for Wine?

Treasury Wine Estates

IMG: via Treasury Wine Estates

TPG Capital Management and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) must really love wine – both private equity firms have made significant bids on Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates.

Treasury Wine Estates, which owns popular wines such as Penfolds and Rothbury Estate, announced on Monday that it had received a bid from TPG Capital, competing with KKR’s $3.2 billion buyout offer. TPG Capital’s bid only matched KKR’s offer of 5.20 Australian dollars ($4.82 a share), so a possible bidding war could be about to ensue! Investors are predicting that one or more of the companies will raise their current bids.

At 10:00pm EDT on Sunday, Treasury Wine Estates was valued at $3.4 billion. Investors were bidding the stock up 2.4 percent, anticipating that the battle will continue.

KKR is a private equity company based out of New York, and was co-founded by Henry R. Kravis and George R. Roberts, who still are active in the company. The company offered $2.8 ($4.70 per share) billion for Treasury Wine in April but was rejected. TPG Capital is based out of Fort Worth, Texas, and was founded by James Coutler, William S. Price III, and David Bonderman. Each firm is a strong contender in the impending bidding war for Treasury Wine.

Maybe these competing companies are gearing up for the holiday season and hoping for some free samples? More likely than that, both companies see a great investment opportunity. Treasury Wine also owns Lindeman’s, Rosemount Estate, and Wolf Blass labels, among over 80 other wine brands. Michael Clarke, a former senior executive at Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola was recently hired as the company’s chief executive. Clarke is hoping to resolve this matter quickly so it isn’t a distraction, a spokesman said.

Who do you think will get this investment?

Target to Stay Open Late

Target has decided to keep half of its U.S. stores open past midnight in order to cash in on late night shoppers. Traditionally, Target’s 1,800 stores open at 8 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closing at 9 p.m. on Sunday. Its new expanded hours will give night owl shoppers a few extra hours each night, hopefully bringing in more revenue for the retailer, which has struggled since last year’s massive security breach during the holiday season.

Although the added hours aren’t particularly heavy in traffic, Target feels that enough people will show up to make it worth keeping the store open later. Currently around 0.3% of American shoppers will shop after 10 p.m. on a typical night. Wal-Mart keeps 70% of its stores open 24 hours a day, and Target is still trying to repair its lagging foot traffic in U.S. stores.

The new extended hours for stores will be starting this month and continue through the holidays, when the company will then re-evaluate and see if it wants to continue the late night extravaganza. Target isn’t the only large retailer fighting lagging sales; many others are also having difficulties in lieu of the fact that more shoppers are choosing the convenience of shopping online or smaller businesses over large department stores.

Amazon is one of the companies reaping the benefits of the shifting market balance. The largest ecommerce platform in the world, Amazon brought in more than $19 billion in revenue in the most recent fiscal quarter. Other huge ecommerce sites are also coming into the market, including the recent Google Express.

“We did a lot more analysis into how big an opportunity this is, and there is a really big opportunity here,” Target spokesman Eric Hausman said. We’ll see what, if any, benefits Target reaps from its extended hours come first quarter 2015.

App-Based Taxi Service Uber Banned in Germany…For Now

Uber

Uber

Uber, an app-enabled taxi service, faced set backs in Germany recently when the Berlin city government voted to ban its use. Citing concerns over passenger safety, Berlin ruled that Uber allows “unverified drivers in unlicensed vehicles” to transport passengers. Uber also does not include insurance in case of accident or injury The company is likely to face €25,000 fines if they violate the ban once it has gone into effect.

Berlin is the second German city to push back against Uber: Hamburg also banned its use, but for a different reason. They argued that taxi drivers should be “protected
from illegal competition by unlicensed transport . . . especially when this is carried out with the scale and intention to displace the taxi industry.”

Uber is not terribly concerned about the response, however, having faced it many times before when the service rolled out in 80 North American cities, 24 in Europe,
seven in the Middle East, four in Africa, and 27 in Asia.

Fabien Nestmann, Uber’s general manager for Germany, said that “the decision from the Berlin authorities is not progressive, and it’s seeking to limit consumer choice for all the wrong reasons.” Uber intends to challenge the decision, he said, also
stating that the Uber system allows for a variety of safety measures not available before app-based taxi services existed, including allowing a friend or family member
to track a ride and providing access to details about the driver once a travel request has been confirmed.

Still, the dissenting voices remain. Authorities in Seoul have also banned Uber based on its impact on taxi drivers, while taxi drivers in London, Paris, Madrid, and Berlin
coordinated a taxi protest in June. More than 30,000 cab and limo drivers caused traffic jams in major European tourist areas.

Despite this, Uber remains confident that these protests and bans are merely temporary setbacks. The company’s deep pockets have allowed it to challenge
similar obstacles in the US with results in their favor.

Google to Sell Mystery Barges

Google Logo

IMG: via Google

The sudden discovery that Google owned barges led to great bewilderment and fascination when news broke about it last year. Google eventually confirmed that it owned the barges; when reports emerged about the location of one in Stockton, CA and another in Portland, Maine, the leading technology company claimed they were being turned into “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

Reportedly, the company has recently sold the two barges. News reports speculated that Google wanted to turn the barges into invitation-only showrooms for the Google Glass smart glasses. An information packet assembled by Google-affiliated By and Large, LLC describes the describes the project: “The artistic structure combines innovative architecture with a bit of nautical whimsy — creating a surprising environment that inspires conversation, community and ‘aha’ moments,” of Google’s original vision for the barges.

However, new reports reveal that Google won’t utilize the barges after all.

When owned by Google, the Portland barge had 63 shipping containers, which were arranged to form four stories; it was an ideal arrangement for an exclusive interactive space. According to The Los Angeles Times, “the Portland barge was towed to a new location where the containers will be disassembled and the boat will be prepared for an ocean voyage,” of the decision to ultimately cancel the project.

Some are speculating that one of the reasons the company may have dissembled the barge is to lean away from the impression that Google Glass is only for the elite tech crowd. Cashman Equipment Corporation bought the barge in Maine, but Google is still paying a $10,000 monthly fee to keep the other barge in Stockton. Project Manager, John McNulty said the Portland acquisition was finalized this week.

Google has confirmed it sold the barge but did not offer any other information as to why. “We’re working on the next step. It’s somewhat of an unknown at the moment,” McNulty told Computerworld. “Right now, it’s in a hold pattern till that plan is finalized. Whatever I tell you, it could change in 10 minutes.”

IBM’s TrueNorth Allows Computers to Mimic the Human Brain

IBM

IMG: via IBM

For the second time, IBM has created a processor that thinks and acts like a human brain. Code-named “TrueNorth,” the chip has 5.4 billion transistors and a network of 4096 neurosynaptic cores, out-doing its first-generation counterpart from 2011 by hundreds of thousands of synapses.

“It’s a new landmark of the brain-inspired computers,” says Dharmendra Modha, IBM Research fellow.

“Our architecture is designed to approximate the structure and function of the brain in silicon, while being efficient in terms of power,” Modha continues.

In fact, once the chip is commercialized, it could be put to a plethora of uses, both with mobile devices and within large supercomputers. The chip would significantly boost a computer’s learning powers and network-based computations.

“It could transform the mobile experience as we know it,” Modha enthuses.

Scientists with IBM have even put together sixteen of these chips into four-by-four arrays, the equivalent of 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses, showing that the chips could easily be scaled for larger projects.

Like the human brain, each core has its own memory (“synapses”), a processor (“neuron”), and communication conduit (“axons”), driven to respond to particular events. And like the brain, the chip requires very little power to run—only 70mW during normal operation, far lower than what standard processors would require for the same task.

The possibilities for such a set-up are endless. With their ability to recognize visual and multi-sensory data, they could be used to eliminate the need for streaming video; to make general computers and related software stronger and easier to use; to build glasses for the visually impaired; or to create sensors to be used in the ocean to gather information such as temperature, air pressure, and humidity.

As computer technology rapidly advances, processors such as TrueNorth bring computation closer and closer to the abilities of the human brain.

Despite Successful Second Quarter, BIS Warns Against Lowered Interest Rates

Financial Crisis

Financial Crisis IMG: via Shutterstock.

With the United States and global economy beginning to slowly recover from the 2008 financial crisis, there has been an increase in the call for new debt ratings and bond issuances. This has caused Moody’s profit revenue to surge even higher than analysts expected.

Moody’s CEO Raymond McDaniel stated that the second quarter results reflected “healthy market conditions and good demand for a wide range of our products and services.” Moody’s announced that its earnings were $319.2 million this quarter, or $1.48 a share. This is up from $225.5 million in 2013’s second quarter. Analysts predicted that estimated earnings would be $1.01 a share and revenue at $803 million.

In Moody’s second quarter report, the company touched on global interest rates, which are very low compared to expectations. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) warns that this is a negative trend that could destabilize the global economy. “Overall, it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally,” the bank wrote.

BIS explains that this disconnect is mainly due to continued monetary stimulus in the form of money printing and increasingly low interest rates by several large banks. “Systemic financial crises do not become less frequent or intense, private and public debts continue to grow, the economy fails to climb onto a stronger sustainable path, and monetary and fiscal policies run out of ammunition,” explains BIS of these fiscal trends. “Over time, policies lose their effectiveness and may end up fostering the very conditions they seek to prevent.”

Claudio Borio, head of the monetary and economic department at BIS, warned that the beginning of another financial crisis could cause a retreat towards protectionism that would “spell the end to the current open global economic order” as we know it. “Focusing our attention on the shorter-term output fluctuations is akin to staring at the ripples on the ocean and losing sight of the more threatening underlying waves,” he said.

BIS was the only major international financial organization to warn of the great financial crisis in 2008, so international financial group is definitely an authority that is worth listening to. What do you think? Are lower interest rates going to cause another financial crisis?

Lorde to Write, Perform, and Pick Artists for Mockingjay – Part 1 Soundtrack

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Poster.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Poster. IMG: via Lionsgate.

The Hunger Games series is known for recruiting great artists for their soundtracks. Taylor Swift sang and wrote “Safe and Sound” for the first movie, The Hunger Games. Other popular artists include Coldplay, Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, Arcade Fire, Miranda Lambert, and more. The “Royals” sing, Lorde, will be creating and singing a song for the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 soundtrack.

Not only will she be featured on the album, but Lorde will actually be selecting the artists who will appear on the soundtrack.

Lorde may never be a royal, but she’s the perfect ruler for Lionsgate, which has tapped her to curate the Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 soundtrack.

Lionsgate, Republic Records and Songs Music Publishing announced her involvement with the soundtrack on Thursday, a few days after the Mockingjay trailer was released.

Lorde also had a song on the second soundtrack.”Her immense talent and keen understanding of Mockingjay’s characters and themes not only have enabled her to create a song of her own that completely captures the film’s essence,” Lawrence added, “but her insight and passion for our project make her the perfect creative force to assemble the other songs on our soundtrack.”

The soundtrack will come out this fall, and the film will hit theaters on November 21, 2014.

Check out the entire Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer below:

Vevo Restructures Assets Before Sale

Vevo

IMG: Vevo

If you’ve ever watched music videos online, you’ve likely watched the majority of them on Vevo. The video hosting service, which is partners with YouTube, reportedly generates six billion views each month, and is considered a crucial factor in YouTube’s success, and to that of the music industry at large.

Over the last few months, many speculations have been made about how the popular video company is planning on putting itself up for sale. As Forbes contributor Hugh McIntyre notes, “Talks of video platform Vevo putting itself up for sale have been reported for months now, and all signs are continuing to point towards what looks to be a sizeable transaction.” Vevo is estimated to be worth between $700 million and $1 billion, so “sizeable” is certainly one way to describe the high stakes future sale of the video streaming giant.

According to Re/Code’s Peter Kafka, “Vevo is a joint venture, controlled primarily by Universal Music, the world’s largest music label, and Sony Music.” He also notes, “Abu Dhabi Media is also an investor, as is Google, whose YouTube site is Vevo’s primary distribution network.” Because Vevo is controlled by so many music industry heavyweights, business insiders are speculating that the company is going to try to do a bit of internal restructuring before it officially goes up for sale. Kafka explains how despite continual interest from potential buyers, investors have inevitably refused to purchase a stake in the company unless its current owners work on making Vevo even more profitable.

Potential buyers include Google, which already holds a stake in the company because of its partnership with YouTube, as well as DreamWorks, Liberty Media, and Guggenheim Digital Media, among others. Vevo has already found immense success in the realm of online music video streaming, and with music videos making up 40% of what people watch on YouTube, it’s no wonder that major companies are looking to invest in a rapidly growing media sector.

Vevo has recently confirmed that some restructuring within the company is going to take place, but there are no reports yet about who is most likely to invest in the company after it officially puts itself up for sale.

Forbes Names Best Places in America to Work

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina. IMG: via Shutterstock

There are a plethora of lists naming the best places to live in America, visit in America, eat in America, and even sleep in America. These lists are often lighthearted and interesting, but aren’t particularly meaningful. Forbes took a different approach to this kind of “Best of…” compilation and recently released its 16th annual list of the best cities for business and careers in America, providing valuable information about where the best places to work in America are. Forbes factored business costs, college educated populations, migration to the city and business development in its findings.

It looks like Raleigh, North Carolina is blowing away its competition, taking the top spot after coming in third last year (although it’s worth mentioning that Raleigh sat in the top four other times in the past seven years). Raleigh boasts business costs that are 18% below the national average and 42% of its workforce have at least a bachelor’s degree. The North Carolina city is home to good schools and is currently the sixth fastest growing city in the nation.

Low regulation is another factor that brought Raleigh back up top, as it is one of the easiest cities in the country for small businesses to prosper. The projected annual job growth rate through 2016 is 3.7%, ranking Raleigh seventh best among the 200 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Last year’s top city, Des Moines, Iowa, fell to number two but is still a prize for business owners. The financial services hub has business costs falling 17% below the national average, along with living costs sitting 6% below the national average. According to Moody’s Analytics, the city’s $38 billion economy is projected to grow at a 4% annual rate over the next three years.

The following cities make up the top ten best places for business and careers:

1. Raleigh, North Carolina

2. Des Moines, Iowa

3. Provo, Utah

4. Denver, Colorado

5. Fort Collins, Colorado

6. Lincoln, Nebraska

7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

8. Salt Lake City, Utah

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Nashville, Tennessee

Richard Sarnoff to Take Over as Head of KKR’s Americas Media and Telecommunications Team

Digital Media

Digital Media IMG: via Shutterstock

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), a private equity company founded in 1976, just announced that Richard Sarnoff will be taking over as head of its Americas media and telecommunications industry team. Sarnoff, a former senior executive at European media conglomerate Bertelsmann SE & Co KGaA, will succeed Alex Navab.

This change in management will allow Navab to focus on his new position as head of KKR’s Americas private equity group. He has been co-leading this group alongside Michael Michelson since 2008, and has had to focus even more energy on this asset since Michelson stepped down from this position in May to focus his efforts on investing at KKR.

Richard Sarnoff will also be a managing director at KKR, the private equity firm said in a memo this week announcing his appointment to its investors. Business insiders are speculating that Sarnoff’s experience working in media firms such as Bertelsmann will allow him to thrive in KKR’s Americas media and telecommunications team.

Bertelsmann is a German multinational mass media corporation that was founded in 1835. It is best know for its book publisher, Random House, which is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. This company has published popular books including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girls, and Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black. Sarnoff left the company in 2011 to work as a senior advisor for KKR and sit on the board of directors of music rights management company BMG, a joint venture between KKR and Bertelsmann.

Sarnoff is credited with leading Bertelsmann’s digital media efforts and orchestrating its acquisition of Random House. Sarnoff’s transition into a more prominent role has been seamless, and he is expected to make a big impact at KKR.

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