Thursday, 8 November 2007

Charles Dunstone's group, Carphone Warehouse, is to enter into a joint venture with Best Buy, the American electrical retail giant, as a possible takeover. Carphone Warehouse said it will roll-out 1 000 stores in the US in the next two years. Best Buy recently bought a 3% stake in Carphone Warehouse, with some analysts suggesting it was the first stage in a takeover campaign. Some 70 stores have been piloted in the US, both as stand-alone Best Buy shops and mobile units within general Best Buy stores.

Mr Dunstone, the chief executive who founded Carphone Warehouse with £6 000 in 1989 said: "We have made good progress across the Group in the first half. The Retail business continues to prosper across Europe, and we are announcing today a major roll-out of our US venture. Our US trial has continued to go well, giving us the confidence to pursue a roll-out to 1 000 Best Buy stores over the next two years. In addition, we are exploring opportunities to expand the venture into other markets where Best Buy has a presence." Canada has been earmarked as a possible area of expansion.

A rise in pre-tax profit of £14 million ($29.4 million) last year to £56 million ($117 million) for the first half of the year to September 29, in line with expectations were announced yesterday. Revenue, at £2.14 billion ($4.5 billion), was slightly below analysts' forecasts. Carphone Warehouse said it expected a strong second half, buoyed by the release of the iPhone, which it stocks exclusively. (souce: Timesonline)

Facebook are to introduce plans to use “you” as ad-executives to advertise products on behalf of companies in a move that will increase significantly the number of corporate messages on the site. Users of the social networking site will be given the opportunity to alert people they know when, for instance, they buy a product from another website, in which case their friends will receive a message with an advertisement attached.

Facebook users will not be paid for their role as “brand ambassadors” but the adverts will tie into one of the site’s main features, a stream of messages known as a “newsfeed” that constantly updates friends about one another’s activities.

Advertisers will pay for the privilege of having their product referred by one user to another, which will be akin to word-of-mouth marketing. If Facebook users download a film from Sony’s website, they will be given the option of letting their friends know in their messages, which will include a Sony advert.

More than 60 companies, including Coca-Cola, Blockbuster, Microsoft, Sony, Verizon and The New York Times, have signed up to take part in the new advertising platform, which is scheduled to start this week.

Advertisers will be able to set up profiles on Facebook that will enable customers to interact with them. They will also be able to take advantage of the rich trove of personal information that Facebook has gathered about its users, who number more than 50 million, to pinpoint their commercial messages. (source: Timesonline & Google News)

It appears as if Virgin Media, the pay-television and broadband group is fighting back against rival BSkyB after adding 13 000 new customers in its third quarter. The communications giant, which has struggled to fulfill its aim of becoming Britain’s top communications provider, had been expected to continue to lose customers.

Analysts had forecast a decline in the Nasdaq listed group’s total base of around 31 000 compared to its actual gain of 13 000 new customers. Last quarter the group lost 70,000 customers. Virgin’s results for the quarter to the end of September revealed it had added 20 400 new television customers and 115 800 new broadband customers. Its residential telephony customer base declined though by 1 300.

Operating income in the quarter was £46.7 million ($98 million), up from £3 million ($6.3 million) in the previous quarter and a loss of £9.6 million ($20.16) a year ago.

A poor performance left investors continually disappointed with one publicly castigated the group after an expected $23 billion (£10.9 billion) private equity sale was canned amid the global credit crunch. In an embarrassing U-turn Virgin Media, in which Sir Richard has a 10.5% stake, has now abandoned the quadruple play strategy and is instead seeking to win customers by focusing on its broadband service. Virgin is further struggling with issues including a bitter legal wrangle with BSkyB, a search for a new chief executive, the distraction of a potential sale once the markets have recovered and fierce competition on the broadband market with BskyB & Carphone Warehouse. (source: Metro & Timesonline)

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