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Alibaba broke its own single-day e-commerce sales record during Singles’ day, despite slowing growth and trade war tensions. The Hustle Alibaba broke its Singles’ Day sales record, selling $30.8B despite its trade-war slump Yesterday, Alibaba sold $30.8B of goods in its 10th annual Singles’ Day, breaking its own record for the highest sales in a […]


November 12, 2018

Alibaba broke its own single-day e-commerce sales record during Singles’ day, despite slowing growth and trade war tensions.

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Alibaba broke its Singles’ Day sales record, selling $30.8B despite its trade-war slump

Yesterday, Alibaba sold $30.8B of goods in its 10th annual Singles’ Day, breaking its own record for the highest sales in a single day.

The world’s largest made-up holiday grossed about 2x as much as last year’s Cyber Monday ($6.59B), Black Friday ($5B), and Prime Day ($4.2B) combined. But, in spite of its record-setting sale, Alibaba’s stock has slid more than 30% since June.

Blacker than Black Friday

The first year that Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang launched Singles’ Day as a marketing promotion in 2009, the ‘holiday’ brought in $7m in revenue over the course of the day.

This year it took Alibaba 85 seconds to sell its first $1B of merchandise, and a little over an hour to sell $10B worth of stuff.

While Singles’ Day started as a simple promotional event for 27 Alibaba partner brands, it has grown into an integral part of Alibaba’s overall strategy.

Pop culture meets profit

Alibaba uses Singles’ Day to build hype for its brand, broadcasting extravagant launch parties to engage users.

As a part of this year’s show, Alibaba paid artist Liu Wei to rap about the features of a new SUV and hired Cirque du Soleil acrobots to perform on the live broadcast in front of the event’s corporate sponsors.

But the hosts of the event, who constantly begged viewers to use their phones to check out all of the Singles’ Day deals throughout the broadcast, revealed how high the Singles’ Day stakes are for Alibaba.

Too many eggs in a Singles’ basket?

Singles Day masks a challenging financial position for Alibaba: Despite the event’s success, Alibaba’s shares are down nearly 16% on the year, and the ecommerce powerhouse recently lowered its sales forecasts 6%.

As Alibaba attempts to overcome all of these obstacles, Singles’ Day will become even more important to the company’s success in the future.

Now Zhang, who will take over Jack Ma’s role as chairman, has to fill Ma’s big, flamboyant shoes, ward off growing competitors like Pinduoduo, and deal with the US-China trade war.

Buy Buy Baba

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Takeda set to win approval from the EU to acquire Shire

Sources say Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical will likely win EU antitrust approval for its $62B bid for London’s Shire.

Once official (it’s scheduled for ruling by Nov. 20), the deal will be the biggest ever overseas acquisition by a Japanese company.

One for them, one for you, ya know?

Though regulators in the US, Japan, China, and Brazil have already greenlit the deal, the EU enforcer remained leary of Takeda and Shire’s overlap — most notably, the two companies’ gastrointestinal medications.

Takeda’s drug Entyvio brought in $1.82B for the Osaka-based drugmaker last year, and the EU thinks acquiring Shire’s compound would make the company far too powerful — so, last month, Takeda offered to divest Shire PLC’s compound along with a few other unnamed associated rights.

Shareholders also need some convincing

This is a huge deal for Takeda. If the acquisition is approved, the pharma company will make the list of the top 10 global drugmakers.

Takeda still needs two-thirds support from shareholders, but some of Takeda’s shareholders fear the resulting debt from the deal (the company secured a $30.9B bridge loan to help finance) will be too big a burden.

» Takeda the domineda

Greece’s economy has dried up — and it’s great for saffron sales

Although most economic opportunities in Greece have shriveled in the aftermath of the country’s debt crisis, one financial bright spot has blossomed: the saffron industry.

The number of saffron farmers in Greece has more than doubled since 2008, increasing the country’s saffron output by more 130x and creating a thriving export industry for the priciest spice.

The spice is right

Saffron is made from the dried, tiny red stigmas of crocus flowers, which bloom for just 2 harvestable weeks in an entire year. An entire football field of 70k flowers yields just 1 pound of that nice nice spice.

But, people love saffron enough to pay as much as $10k for a pound of the spice, making it one of the most valuable substances on the planet.

Naturally, saffron is also sensitive to climate and grows only in a narrow band that stretches from Spain to India — and happens to cross through northern Greece.

Stopping to sell the flowers

After the financial crisis hit, the unemployment rate in northern Greece rose to 23.5%, inspiring Greeks working in stagnant industries to head north in search of ‘red gold.’

Greece’s annual saffron production grew from its old domestic average of 30 kg to more than 4k kg as the number of farmers in Greece’s saffron cooperative soared from 494 in 2008 to 1k today.

Now, Greece’s saffron farmers export more than 70% of their saffron. Greek saffron slingers already export the spice to the US, and they plan to start selling saffron in China.

» The Spice Race

Sir David Attenborough leaves the BBC to Netflix and binge

David Attenborough, The 92-year-old naturalist with a knack for Mother Nature play-by-plays, is packing up his voice box and headin’ to Netflix.

The iconic commentator behind beloved nature documentary series Planet Earth and Blue Planet has worked for decades with the BBC, but is jumping ship to voice Netflix’s forthcoming original nature documentary series, Our Planet.

David Attenborough: a national treasure

Since the ’70s, Attenborough has voiced and hosted countless BBC nature documentaries — some of which are streamable on Netflix. But, the 8-part nature series will be his first original series with the company.

The series, described as a conversation starter around environmental conservation (rather than pure nature porn), has been 4 years in the making and filmed in 50 countries around the world.

Another get for the ’flix

A-list talent has been migrating to Netflix over the past few years as the streaming giant tries to remain a television powerhouse — this year alone, Netflix is spending $8B on its lineup.

It makes sense; Disney’s new streaming platform Disney+ is just around the corner, which means Netflix’s subscriber numbers are in danger of dipping.

The question is, will the streaming giant be able to keep up the pace with its monstrous spending budgets as it continues to grow?

» Mary Berry stayed loyal
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