Salesforce considers takeover of Twitter

Salesforce.com Inc. is considering a takeover of Twitter Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, as the social-media company’s efforts to ignite growth sputter.

The exploration is in early stages, one of the people said, and might not lead to a deal. It’s unclear who else might be circling Twitter, which had a market value of about $13 billion as of Thursday’s close, down from its all-time high of $40.7 billion in December 2013, according to Thomson Reuters.

Shares of Twitter rose 20 per cent to $22.44 on Friday morning after CNBC reported on a possible sale. Before Friday, the stock had fallen 30 per cent over the past year.

Salesforce shares fell 4.3 per cent to $71.35. A tweet from the verified account of Vala Afshar, which lists his title as Salesforce’s chief digital evangelist, gave apparent reasons why someone would want to buy Twitter. It said “Why @twitter? 1 personal learning network 2 the best realtime, context rich news 3 democratize intelligence 4 great place to promote others.” However, a subsequent tweet indicated those were Afshar’s personal views.

Salesforce considers takeover of Twitter In the years since its November 2013 initial public offering, which was priced at $26, Twitter has grappled with slow user expansion and shrinking revenue growth. Last year, the company brought back co-founder Jack Dorsey as its chief executive after some investors lost confidence in former CEO Dick Costolo’s ability to spark growth in the business.

But all told, Twitter has added just 9 million monthly users — and only 1 million in the US—since Dorsey returned as interim chief in July 2015. In comparison, Facebook Inc. has added more than 164 million monthly users in the same time frame. In its February results report, Twitter for the first time failed to show any user growth. Then in the second quarter, Twitter’s revenue rose 20 per cent to $602 million, its smallest gain and the eighth-straight period of declining growth, as advertisers continued to shy away from the platform.

Dorsey’s hiring last year was hailed as a triumphant return by the co-founder who had previously been fired as Twitter’s CEO in 2008. Many in the tech industry believed that the company required the touch of a co-founder to get Twitter back on track. But Dorsey, who splits his time as CEO of payments company Square Inc., has in recent months been increasingly stressed out about the difficulty of fixing Twitter amid a steady march of negative press reports, according to people close to Dorsey.

Twitter’s struggles, alongside a deal-friendly climate in Silicon Valley, have raised questions around the company’s future as an independent public company.

Under Dorsey, Twitter has attempted to sharpen its focus. Dorsey has sought to reinvigorate its ad business around video and revive user growth by making the short-messaging service he invented easier to use and by getting rid of rules that some find confusing. Last October, the company released its Moments feature, which curates tweets, photos and videos shared on the service around sporting events, entertainment and breaking news, to help pull in newcomers.

Last week, Twitter introduced its first live stream of a National Football League game. An average audience of 243,000 viewers a minute watched the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills. Still, that paled in comparison with the average of 15.4 million people who watched the game on CBS and the NFL Network.

The football game was one of the first major events for Twitter’s live-streaming strategy, the cornerstone of its plan to become a major destination for live events. Twitter is trying to appeal to advertisers by capitalizing on its strength as a real-time service and the growing trend of cord-cutting among viewers. Twitter plans to also stream the presidential and vice presidential debates. Executives hope the push into live-streaming will attract the more premium ad dollars that come with video ads. It has also made tackling the rampant user abuse on the platform more of a priority.

Despite these efforts, the needle on user growth has barely moved. In July, Twitter said it added just 3 million net users in the second quarter, reaching 313 million users who log in at least once a month.

Salesforce, for its part, has indicated an interest in continuing to grow through acquisitions. In August, it posted a 25per cent increase in second-quarter revenue and swung to a profit, boosted by a gain related to income taxes. But Salesforce, which has a market value of nearly $50 billion, offered a disappointing forecast, and its shares have since sagged.

Twitter would in some ways be an odd fit for Salesforce, which is focused on providing software services to businesses. But Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff has been a voracious acquirer, and the company has indicated an interest in branching into new areas. Salesforce tried earlier this year to buy social-networking company LinkedIn Corp. but lost out to Microsoft Corp.

Twitter and Salesforce have some intriguing ties. Salesforce last month acquired productivity-software make Quip in a deal worth $582 million. Quip was co-founded by Bret Taylor, a former Facebook Inc. executive and Twitter’s newest board member. Taylor is expected to report directly to Benioff.

Salesforce also has a partnership with Twitter to feed social-media data into Salesforce’s analytics systems to give its customers insights on things like how their customers are talking about their products and brands. That alliance, started in 2012, provides Salesforce access to the full firehose of public tweets on Twitter, giving Salesforce insight into the value of that information for its products.

If Twitter were to sell, it could join the ranks of Silicon Valley startups that have recently been taken over at near or below their initial public offering values. Last year, QVC bought Internet retailer Zulily Inc. for $2.4 billion. The price tag was about half Zulily’s market value when it went public in 2013. At its peak, Zulily’s market value was close to $9 billion.

Salesforce considers takeover of Twitter

L&T Technology Services lists 7% higher at Rs 920

L&T Technology Services opened at Rs 920 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) today, against an issue price of Rs 860 per share, translating into a premium of around 7%. The issue was oversubscribed over 2.5 times.

However, by 10:10am, the stock had trimmed some of the gains, and was trading 4.4% higher at Rs 897 levels with a traded volume of around 3.94 million shares. It hit a high of Rs 931.45 in intra-day deals on the NSE.

The company provides engineering, research and development (ER&D) services to manufacturing, technology and process engineering companies. It operates in five industry segments – transportation, industrial products, telecom and hi-tech, process industry and medical devices.

Also Read: IT sector slowdown to hit mid-caps worst

“While PER of 21x FY16 is at a premium to the large-caps and is expensive in the current IT services business environment, we believe that it provides good investment opportunity for long-term as it has the potential to deliver higher growth than the industry,” analysts at IDBI Capital had said in a pre-IPO note.

Also Read: L&T to scale up avionic software biz, acquires Thales software unit in India

Earlier in July 2016, another subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro (L&T) – L&T Infotech – had tapped the primary market for funds. The Rs 1,243 crore IPO was oversubscribed nearly 12 times with over a million applications – the highest in five years, but saw a tepid listing. The stock had debuted 6% below its issue price of Rs 710 per share.

Also Read: L&T Tech forms JV with Thales to strengthen avionics business

“Considering the strong growth potential of the company, which is ahead of some of the industry peers, coupled with 38%+ return on equity (RoE) levels in FY2016; FY2015-16 average cash flow from operations of Rs 446 crore; strong around 64% dividend payout (translating to around 4% dividend yield), we are of view that L&T Technology Services stock has the potential to trade at premium to the peers,” Angel Broking said in a pre-IPO note.

L&T Technology Services lists 7% higher at Rs 920

Diwali dhamaka: How Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal are gearing up for festive sales

Amazon, the runner up in India’s e-commerce space, will host its annual five-day festive sale called The Great Indian Festival, a day ahead of rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal as it looks to outdo the competition with larger bigger discounts, faster delivery times and sweeter deals.

Retailers see the highest sales during the week of Diwali, helping several retailers rake in nearly half of their earnings in the October-December holiday quarter. For e-commerce players Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon, bets are on doubling or tripling sales during the five day period, compared to their average sales in an entire month.

ALSO READ: Flipkart’s Big Billion Day sale on Oct 2, eye customers with affordable products

“These marathon 120 hours of the event mark our continuing commitment to work closely with our partners and together bring the biggest sale yet for our customers, with the best ever shopping experience powered by Prime,” said Amit Agarwal, Country Head of Amazon India, in a statement.

ALSO READ: E-commerce vendors signal slow festive season with low credit appetite

While Amazon will be looking at its Diwali sale as a way to grab even more market share away from rival Flipkart, the latter company says its major focus is to bring new shoppers online. By growing the market, claiming to have hit 100 million registered users earlier this week, Flipkart is confident that it can fend off a hungry Amazon.

The festive season sales could be among the most important for e-commerce marketplaces as it could reverse the slump in online buying witnessed all year long. According to research firm RedSeer, sales on e-commerce marketplaces fell by 19 per cent in the Jan-Mar quarter and fell by a further 5-10 per cent in the Apr-Jun quarter.

ALSO READ: Indian e-commerce market could reach $28 bn by FY2020: Report

While it’s highly unlikely that Flipkart or Snapdeal try to outprice the much better funded Amazon, they’re instead looking at making it much easier for customers to afford large ticket purchases. Flipkart will use its no-cost EMI offer to bag as many smartphone, television and large appliance sales while Snapdeal is betting big on buyer upgrades with attractive exchange offers.

“In line with its positioning to offer upgraded options to its users, the sale will also provide pocket friendly exchange offers and convenient EMI options on electronics and mobile phones. Another special feature of the sale will be special Snapdeal Diwali packs curated by leading consumer brands,” Snapdeal said in a statement earlier this week.

ALSO READ: Flipkart grows user base to 100 million

Amazon, which has been chasing Flipkart’s tail in India for nearly two years now, might have surpassed the India firm in gross merchandise value during the months of June and July, but knows a successful festive sale could put it at a disadvantage once again. It plans to ensure staying ahead with not just the best prices, but also faster shipping and early access deals to have people sign up for Prime.

The US-based firm is offering same day, one-day and two day deliveries to customers even during the festive season sale, a time when order volumes being handled each day could be higher than what e-tailers usually handle in a month. Snapdeal, which according to RedSeer has industry leading delivery times, says it has hired 10,000 temporary logistics staff in order to handle the increase in orders.

“Price is not the only thing, it is about quality products made affordable,” said Binny Bansal in an interview with Business Standard on Wednesday. “We are confident that our value proposition and the delivery experience that we provide is going to be way ahead of anybody else.”

ALSO READ: Amazon makes customers pay more for popular products

While it’s too early to put bets on who might emerge victorious after these sales, all e-commerce vendors are hoping the spike in sales seen during the festive season becomes the norm for next year. While festive sales are great to grab market share, e-commerce marketplaces are also looking at it as a way to grow the market.

With online sales growth remaining flat during the first half of this year, all players are expecting the market to return to normalcy in the coming weeks. Moreover, if Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon can pull off successful festive season sales, they could be setting the stage for an e-commerce market to grow to nearly three times its size next year.

Diwali dhamaka: How Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal are gearing up for festive sales

Supreme Court sends Sahara chief Subrata Roy back to Tihar

The Supreme Court on Friday terminated the parole and other interim arrangements allowed to Sahara chief Subrata Roy after the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) informed that it had received intimation from the Income Tax department that the group’s properties that were being put on auction were already under provisional attachment. Two other directors, Ashok roy Choudhary and Ravi Shankar Dubey, are also likely to go back to jail.

Roy was released on a two week parole in May to attend the funeral of his mother. He had since been allowed a few extensions on conditions of payment of part dues. Two group firms were ordered to repay Rs 24,029 crore to investors alongwith 15 per cent interest in 2012. The regulator claims the dues have now swelled to about Rs 40,000 crore.

As various efforts by Roy and his group to repay the sum failed, the Supreme Court had directed Sebi to auction 67 properties to collect the amount due.

According to Sebi, of the 67 properties of Sahara group that are being put on auction according to the Supreme Court’s directions, 63 stood provisionally attached on account of assessed dues of Sahara City Homes for the assessment year 2012-13.

“Sebi informed it has filed an IA (interim application) informing about the income tax letter and seeking directions on whether sale certificates need to be issued despite the attachment orders. It said even out of the eight properties already sold, five are under attachment,” a lawyer who attended the proceedings said.

Following this, the bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, ordered the interim arrangements for Roy and others terminated. He questioned the group on how it could present properties already attached for auction to the court.

Sahara lawyer Rajeev Dhawan protested that the regulator has not shared the details of attachment. Earlier, Dhawan had sought time till September 30 for extension of the interim arrangement.

The court allowed Sahara group to file a fresh plea, which would be taken up for hearing in due course.

The action now moves to Lucknow, from where Roy needs to be brought back to Tihar Jail.

Supreme Court sends Sahara chief Subrata Roy back to Tihar

India, France ink Euro 7.8 bn deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets

India and France on Friday signed the Euro 7.87-billion deal for Rafale fighter jets, equipped with latest missiles and weapon system besides multiple India-specific modifications that will give the IAF cutting edge capability over arch rival Pakistan.

The deal was signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his visiting French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian sixteen months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s plans to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly away condition during his trip to France.

The deal comes with a saving of nearly 750 million Euros, gained through hard negotiations by the Indian side, over the one struck during the previous UPA government, which was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50 per cent offset clause.

The 50 per cent offset clause means that Indian businesses, both big and small, will gain work to the tune of over three billion Euros.

These combat aircraft, delivery of which will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like ‘Meteor’ and ‘Scalp’ that will give IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.

The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF include its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km.

Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India’s territorial boundary.

Pakistan at present has only a BVR with 80 km range. During the Kargil war, India had used a BVR of 50 km range while Pakistan had none.

However, Pakistan later acquired 80-km-range BVR, but now with ‘Meteor’, the balance of power in the air space has again tilted in India’s favour.

‘Scalp’, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km, also gives IAF an edge over its adversaries.

Sources said the “vanilla price” of just the 36 aircraft is about 3.42 billion Euros. The armaments cost about 710 million Euros while Indian specific changes, including integration of Israeli helmet-mounted displays, will cost 1,700 million Euros.

Associate supplies for the 36 fighter jets will cost about 1800 million Euros while performance based logistics will cost about 353 million Euros.

India, France ink Euro 7.8 bn deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets