Tag Archives: Internet

Next sales on target as online business outperforms

Total sales at the clothes retailer between 1 August and 24 December rose 3.1% compared with a year earlier, ignoring the effect of rising VAT.Next Directory sales grew 16.9%.
But its High Street business, which sees some two-thirds of sales, recorded a 2.7% fall, sending Next’s share price 4.3% lower in early London trading.Next has seen its share price rise 39% over the past 12 months, easily outperforming a 5% fall in the broader FTSE 100 index.Shares in some other big retailers also fell in the wake of Next’s announcement, which was the first trading update of the year from a major High Street chain.

Home Retail Group – owner of Homebase and Argos – dropped 4.7%, while car accessories chain Halfords was down 3%.
Profit margins
Next reconfirmed its full-year profits forecast at £565m, narrowing the range to plus-or-minus £7m.
The total sales growth figure of 3.1% was in the middle of its previous guidance of 2.5% to 4%, despite the “slightly disappointing” numbers from its 500 stores.

Next expressed uncertainty in its statement as to why the High Street performance had been so weak, particularly considering that last year’s sales had been hurt by cold weather.One possibility cited in its statement was its long-standing policy of not cutting the price of its products in the run-up to Christmas.

“Next’s own admission of disappointment is a setback to its hitherto robust growth story,” said Richard Hunter, head of equities at brokerage Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The fact that the company did not discount its products in the approach to Christmas may have been a factor, whilst the more general consumer malaise has yet to be corroborated by updates from its rivals.

“In addition, higher sales do not necessarily translate to higher profits, so the fact that the company has been able to maintain operating margins may yet play into its hands.”

Richard Perks, analyst at research firm Mintel, confirmed this view.

“These figures from Next are really pretty good I think,” he told the BBC.

“OK, Next may be – in sales terms – held back by the fact that it wasn’t discounting, but in profit terms it will be a lot better off.”

Mr Perks said he was optimistic about retail sales across the UK – predicting a 4% rise in December.

“People are reluctant to cut back any more on retail, and are cutting back elsewhere, particularly on leisure,” although he added that the rising cost of food was still crimping spending.

Next said it was cautiously optimistic about its end of season sales – which began after the end of its latest reporting period – and expected results to be slightly ahead of budget.

The retailer said it expected sales this year to be helped by a probable freeze in the price of its products.

It forecast generating £200m surplus cash in the year ahead, which it said it would return to shareholders via share buybacks.

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Cable makes big promises for African Internet

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Cable makes big promises for African Internet

An undersea cable plugging east Africa into high speed Internet access went live Thursday, providing an alternative to expensive satellite connections. SEACOM, the cable provider company, opened its 17,000 kilometer submarine cable, capable of 1.28 terabytes per second, allowing the region true connectivity.

Most Africans rely on expensive and slow satellite connections, which make the use of applications such as YouTube and Facebook extremely trying. “This is going to reduce the cost of doing business in Africa, within Africa and with international parties” said Suveer Ramdhani, SEACOM spokesman in South Africa.

“The cable is as thin as a hair strand, and in one second it can download the same amount of data that 160 people use in a month.” SEACOM, privately funded and 75 percent African owned, will provide retail carriers with open source access to inexpensive bandwidth.

It has taken less than three years to complete the mammoth project, providing landing stations at South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar and other points along the east coast of Africa.

But telecoms analyst James Hodge said that some of the more ambitious hopes for the system — such as impacting the continent’s socioeconomic problems — will be long-term, and that initially it will be those already connected who will see the benefits.

The launch was delayed by a month because of increased activity by pirates along parts of the African coast. Security teams were beefed up to protect the slow moving cable layers. Neotel, a South African communications network operator, is the largest shareholder in SEACOM.

It is also the anchor tenant and the South African landing partner, providing both the coastal landing station and Johannesburg data center for the submarine cable. Neotel managing director Ajay Pandey is excited about the opportunities for growth presented by the SEACOM cable.

“With this cable coming in, the pipe size opens up, so more and more people are able to get faster and better connectivity, hopefully at a lower price. It can’t be more expensive than what it is today.”

SEACOM Chief Executive Officer Brian Herlihy added: “Turning the switch ‘on’ creates a huge anticipation, but ultimately, SEACOM will be judged on the changes that take place on the continent over the coming years.” South Africa has been hobbled by high costs and extremely slow bandwidth, effectively keeping the country on an information back road rather then the superhighway.

There is much anticipation and hope that the cable will ensure Africa keeps up with the developed world in Internet connectivity, providing greater speed, flexibility and, potentially, a complete socioeconomic transformation.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said in his opening address: “It’s the ultimate embodiment of modernity.”

His speech was beamed via SEACOM from a launch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to the simultaneous launch in Johannesburg,South Africa.

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Deadly floods ravage Brazil’s Minas Gerais

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A total of 66 towns cities in Minas Gerais state have declared a state of emergency.In the town of Ouro Preto two taxi drivers died when a bus station was destroyed by a landslide.
Flood waters are also threatening hillside communities in Rio de Janeiro state that were devastated a year ago.

Flooding is common in southeastern Brazil during the rainy season. Nationwide, more than 2m people have been affected by this year’s rains, Brazil’s civil defence force says.

About 10,300 people have been evacuated, and 3,000 homes have been destroyed.

Many roads have been blocked, making it difficult to get help and supplies to affected areas.

Early warning

Last year floods killed more than 800 people, in what officials said was the worst natural disaster ever to befall Brazil.
Most of the deaths were in towns in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro such as Nova Friburgo, which are again suffering from intense rains.

Since then, the Brazil government has set up an early warning system to monitor weather rainfall and ensure people evacuate before floods strike.

There has also been heavy investment in flood protection.

Minas Gerais state governor Antonio Anastasia said disaster prevention measures had proved effective.

“Given the quantity of rain, we can observe that the system of alerts and evacuation are working well,” he said.

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