Enterprise

US Senator proposes a ban on Big Tech acquisitions

But will it see daylight?

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Big Tech

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has introduced a new bill that aims to stop Big Tech companies from acquiring a smaller company ever again. Any company with a market capitalization greater than US$ 100 billion will not be able to acquire or merge.

The new bill is called “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” and is specifically designed to hamper the growth of companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. But due to its wording, it’ll also affect companies like Pfizer, Nike, Costco, and McDonald’s because their market cap is greater than US$ 100 billion.

Hawley accuses the biggest social media companies of stifling conservative voices, making sectors too concentrated and often biased. The bill seeks to reform the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts, making it clear that evidence of anticompetitive conduct is sufficient to bring an antitrust claim. In turn, making it easier to prosecute.

The Big Tech companies are under increasing scrutiny across the globe because of their massive size. They can easily acquire a smaller company, stifle competition, and monopolize the market. Regulators have failed to take action because existing legislation cannot gauge a technology company’s new-gen nature. And, the big five are trying their best to lobby the Senate for a favorable outcome.

Hawley also argues that antitrust claims should be pursued without debating a specific market definition. Facebook is his prime example since it acquired Instagram, another social media network. Today, Facebook also controls WhatsApp, which added another socially engaged product in one basket.

This isn’t the only bill that’s being introduced, though. In the House of Representatives, Representative David Cicilline plans to introduce a series of antitrust bills. Do keep in mind, these are just bills at the moment and need to go through months of bureaucracy. If it doesn’t get the required support, it’ll be shelved.

Read Also: Everything you need to know about the congressional big tech hearing

Enterprise

iPhone sales surge like never before despite raging pandemic

Apple’s daily revenue was $1 billion in Q2

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Apple reported record revenues of US$ 89.6 billion for Q2 2021, an increase of 54 percent year over year. The company’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac lineups are producing strong growth.

The iPhone range, headlined by the iPhone 12 quartet, brought in US$ 48 billion in revenue alone between January and the end of March. iPhone revenue in the previous quarter was roughly US$ 29 billion, marking a rise of 66 percent. iPad sales came in at US$ 7.8 billion while Mac sales were US$ 9.1 billion.

Apple said it would increase its dividend by 7 percent to US$ 0.22 per share and authorized $90 billion in share buyback, which is significantly higher than last year’s US$ 50 billion.

The subscription services, which include the Apple One bundles, also hit an all-time high with US$ 16.9 billion in sales. These services include Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and more. Wearables like AirPods and the Apple Watch had a record-setting quarter, too, drawing in US$ 7.8bn.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said on a conference call with analysts that all five of the best-selling smartphones in the U.S. during the quarter were iPhones. Though, Apple did not disclose official guidance for what it presumes in the quarter ending in June.

Apple sales grew at least 35 percent in every region, and while the majority was still in the Americas, China played a pivotal role too. The company did say that future growth could be hampered due to the acute shortage of semiconductors. Its new M1 chipset is class-leading and designed on the latest ARM-based architecture. This adds a layer of complexity that could slow down shipments.

Apple said it didn’t know how long the chip shortage would keep supply from meeting demand, but it’s sure that the demand far outweighs the supply.

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Enterprise

Jeff Bezos says Amazon should treat its workers in a better way

His final letter to shareholders before stepping down as CEO

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Amazon

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos used his final letter to Amazon shareholders to focus on employee well-being and its significant carbon footprint. The transition is closely watched by everyone as the legendary co-founder hands over the reigns to Andy Jassy.

The e-commerce giant has always been customer-centric, which was the prime reason it was able to garner trust and support. Now, Bezos thinks it time to put the company’s workforce on priority.

Jassy, the former head of Amazon Web Services, is taking over the top job so that Bezos can step back from day-to-day responsibilities. It’ll now be his responsibility to ensure Amazon continues its growth trajectory and sustains the pandemic-induced boom.

It’s currently hounded by regulators, labor unions, and activists around the world. There are multiple allegations — unfair treatment of warehouse workers, stifling competition, discouraging unionization, and shortchanged partners. It’s a long list, and the pressure keeps mounting as the company’s stock increases in value.

Bezos also talked about creating wealth for shareholders, the fact that climate change is real, the recent warehouse union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, US. Among his proposals are new staffing rotations to reduce physical stress at warehouses. He said that 40 percent of Amazon’s work-related injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as strains and sprains from repetitive motions. These injuries tend to occur in the first six months of an employee’s tenure.

The founder also touted the company’s decision to increase Amazon’s minimum wage to US$ 15 per hour, a rate that labor groups have been advocating for the longest of time.

When it comes to workers who can’t consistently meet the company’s expectations, he says Amazon provides coaching to them, with 82 percent of it being “positive.” He also added that less than 2.6 percent of the staff was fired for not meeting the job expectations.

Amazon is also trying to cut down its carbon emissions and has pledged to have 100,000 electric delivery vans by 2030. Bezos has personally committed US$ 10 billion in grants for climate-oriented companies and organizations.

Read Also: Everything you need to know about the congressional big tech hearing

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Enterprise

Why is Amazon starting a $250 million venture fund in India?

Aims to bring 1 million offline stores online by 2025

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Amazon has announced a US$ 250 million venture fund called Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund that’ll invest in small and medium-sized businesses. The goal is to boost India’s export by using technology and the marketplace’s reach.

Amazon Smbhav will be focusing on the digitization of small businesses, agri-tech innovations to raise farmer productivity, and health tech for quality universal healthcare. The fund was announced at Amazon India’s annual Smbhav Summit.

It intends to tap offline sellers and professionals via the fund and on onboarding a million shops by 2025. Another initiative is “Spotlight NorthEast,” which will bring 50,000 artisans, weavers, and small businesses online from India’s North-Eastern states. The region is known for its local produce like honey, tea, and spices.

The announcement came at a fireside chat at the summit between Andy Jassy, incoming CEO of Amazon and Amit Agarwal, Global Senior VP and Country Head, Amazon India. They also revealed the first bet Amazon was making through the new fund — invoice discounting platform M1xchange, in which it has led a $10 million investment.

Amazon said it created close to 300,000 jobs since January 2020 and one million in total. It also boasted of having almost 70,000 sellers, exporting Indian goods to other markets totaling US$ 3 billion in sales.

The timing of Amazon India’s announcement is key because the e-commerce companies have been barred from delivering in the state of Maharashtra amid a Coronavirus-led curfew. While the restrictions are regional, businesses are unable to get necessary and basic supplies. In a work-from-home world, getting an emergency mice/keyboard or mattress should be easy via digitization, but there are antitrust concerns.

Due to a lockdown, offline sellers cannot operate and thus, don’t want online businesses to eat their share. The Narendra Modi-led government has historically sided with the offline traders since they constitute a majority of India’s market. The offline market is still the king, and the gap between the two is very substantial.

If online players operate exclusively for too long, they’ll start gobbling up market share gradually, killing the smaller businesses. While the aim is to maintain a level-playing field, the current rules aren’t helping anybody at the end of the day. The region also fails to collect indirect taxes over the possible transactions, leading to a cash crunch while the pandemic rages.

The FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) rules for the retail market were changed in 2019, meaning Amazon India could no longer directly sell its products. It had to act like a marketplace to maintain healthy competition since 100 percent FDI is allowed in e-commerce as a tech platform, but not as a retailer.

Thanks to the fund, Amazon can show its commitment to India and its initiatives to encourage online trade. India’s new farm laws also make it easier for private companies to invest in agriculture or partner with farmers for contracts.

Amazon had announced an investment of US$1 billion in January 2020 and its purpose was also the same — digitizing India’s small and medium businesses. Founder Jeff Bezos had said back then, “We are doing this now because it is working. And when something works you should double down on it.”

For now, the concerns of a monopoly are diminished because Amazon is going up against India’s homegrown Flipkart, which Walmart now backs. Reliance is also eyeing this segment and has already kicked off a hyperlocal service called JioMart. Lastly, many other retailers like Dmart, Tata CliQ + Bigbasket, and Grofers are available.

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