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Friday, 4 April 2008

Apple iTunes to be taken on by MySpace

Apple iTunes is taken on by the world’s largest social networking group, MySpace, as they have plans to set up a music downloading service. Three of the “big four” record labels have signed up to the service, which will give users access to the music of big artists. With MySpace’s 30 million users a month, it is viewed as an ideal hub to showcase new music.

MySpace will be able to cash in on its vast community of loyal users. MySpace has more than 25 localised websites, in countries including, India, Brazil and Australia. The site will also sell ringtones, artist wallpaper, ticket sales and merchandise. There will also be a number of advertising-funded free services, from free downloads to video clips.

The online music store iTunes has sold more than four billion songs since its launch in 2001, and claims to be the No one music retailer in the US. However, iTunes users can only listen to song clips through the Apple store.

The launch comes as welcome news to the music industry, with many concerned about a lack of competition for iTunes in the digital music market. In the US, for example, iTunes takes more than 70% of digital download sales. Concerned about Apple’s increasing influence over its business, the music industry has been keen to see other sizeable players. (source: Timesonline)

After 18 years of offering the in-flight beauty therapy for its upper class executive customers, it appears as if Virgin Atlantic might withdraw this service. The airline has called its entire crew of 280 in-flight beauty therapists to London next week for a review of its Upper Class offering. This service was introduced to allow upper class travellers to arrive at their destination looking relaxed and refreshed with treatments such as the Handsome Hands mini-manicure and the Back in the Clouds upper back massage.

With a much smaller fleet than rival British Airways, Virgin uses the quirky treats to woo transatlantic passengers away from its more stuffy competitors which offer many more departures each day from London to the US.

However, the move appears to underline fears that the worsening economic climate is hurting business air travel and that mounting costs for airlines, particularly for aviation fuel, are dragging down margins.

“We are calling our in-flight beauty therapists in to get their input into the product and service review of our Upper Class cabin. We constantly look to review our Upper Class service to make sure that our investment is where it should be and that it is meeting the expectations of our customers,” a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said.

One aviation analyst said: “It could be a huge mistake for Virgin to get rid of its service frills. Virgin’s treats have always been hugely enjoyed and a large part of the brand’s identity. Airlines are so competitive on price now that passengers look at other things, and Virgin doesn’t have the frequency of services that other airlines do because it only has 38 planes” (source: Timesonline)

Luqman Arnold is understood to have built up an 0.7 per cent stake in UBS, in a bid to push through a break up of the struggling Swiss bank. A former chief executive of UBS, Mr Arnold has been acquiring his shares, worth $450 million (£226 million), through Olivant, his London investment firm.

It is thought that he is also pushing for the separation of the bank’s investment and private banking arms and the sale of its asset management division. His proposals are detailed in a letter sent to Sergio Marchionne, the UBS chairman and recommend drastic changes to the bank’s board.

Mr Arnold’s activist campaign follows the announced resignation of Marcel Ospel, UBS’s chairman, earlier this week. Mr Ospel said that he was quitting as he revealed that losses had more than doubled to $37 billion (£18.6 billion). Mr Arnold, who recently led a failed rescue bid for Northern Rock, left UBS in December 2001 due to “differences of opinion,” between him and the board. (source: Timesonline)

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