Thursday, 22 November 2007

Silverjet gets new lifeline

Silverjet, the business class only airline founded by Lawrence Hun, has secured a funding lifeline from a group of wealthy private investors including the billionaire property tycoons the Reuben brothers (Simon & David). The AIM-listed airline, flying from Luton to New York and also Dubai, postponed its results this week, triggering a wave of speculation over its future.

The Sunday Times has learned that the delay was to accommodate negotiations over a new funding package. The airline has raised £12 million from a placing of new shares, and £10 million in a loan from a company controlled by the Reubens. The loan can be converted to shares at a later date.

The Bombay-born Reuben brothers have amassed a fortune estimated at £2.5 billion, and are best known in the UK for a string of big property deals. Details of the deal are expected to be announced tomorrow when the company publishes its results.

Silverjet raised £25 million from a float in 2005 and in April this year it raised another £24.6 million by issuing new shares at a slight discount to the market price. Silverjet is likely to use the new funds to buy two new aircraft and expand services.

The business-class only airline has a luxurious private terminal at Luton, and flies 100-seat Boeing 767s twice a day to New York and daily to Dubai. (source: Timesonline)

The co-founder of Hotmail, the web-based e-mail service bought by Microsoft for $400 million a decade ago, is challenging the American software giant’s core $20 billion (£9.7 billion) office desktop business. Yesterday Sabeer Bhatia released a free online rival to the bestselling Office suite of applications that will allow users to view, share and edit documents from any computer.

The Indian-born Stanford graduate said that Live Documents would pose a “significant” challenge to Microsoft’s propriety software business, which eventually would be made redundant by the evolving internet applications industry. Office, bundling the Word word-processing, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation tools, accounted for a third of Microsoft’s total revenues last year. It is forecast to top $20 billion (£9.7 billion) this year.

Mr Bhatia said “We are just a few years away from the end of the shrink-wrapped software business. By 2010, people will not be buying software. This is a significant challenge to a proportion of Microsoft’s revenues.”

Live Documents is similar to Google Apps, launched in February and used by companies including Proctor & Gamble, General Electric and Capgemini as a cheaper alternative to Microsoft. However, Mr Bhatia claims that his product is superior to Google’s in its range and quality, most crucially because it mimics Office 2007. Most of Office’s estimated 500 million customers have yet to upgrade from the 2003 version, while it is not available for Apple computers.

He said. “This will do for documents what Hotmail did for e-mail. Why spend $400 on an upgrade when you can get it for free?” Mr Bhatia and Jack Smith devised Hotmail, named after HTML, the language of the web, soon after leaving Apple in the mid1990s. Today it has more than 450 million users. (source: Timesonline)

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