TIME Money

Amazon Pricing Glitch Loses U.K. Businesses Thousands

Some items were sold for as little as a penny

There’s more to being a successful retailer than keeping your buyers happy.

U.K. businesses that sell via Amazon.com’s local site are up in arms over a software glitch late Friday that led to their items being sold for as little as a penny. Some ended up out of pocket to the tune of up to $30,000.

The incident was down to a problem with a software tool developed by Derry-based RepricerExpress, which allows businesses to offer their goods on Amazon.co.uk.

The software automatically changes prices for the items on sale to guarantee that they stay competitive, but in this instance, it generated a self-reinforcing loop in which goods were automatically re-priced down to a penny.

One user complained on an Amazon bulletin board that stock worth $15,000 had been sold in this fashion within 40 minutes.

“Being they are not based in the US (sic) It takes away lots of options for us to recoup our loses,” the user wrote. “Last night I had to explain to my wife and 3, 4 and 5 year old that we could not take our trip to Disney in February.”

City AM cited one fancy dress company owner as saying her company had lost over $30,000 overnight.

Amazon said it was unable to cancel orders that had been dispatched and charged to customers, but another user on the bulletin board noted that it had been able to cancel those that weren’t slated for urgent shipping.

RepricerExpress chief executive Brendan Doherty said on the company’s website he was “truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers,” and said Amazon had reassured him that sellers’ accounts wouldn’t be penalized as a result.

It wasn’t clear what degree of compensation would be available to the businesses that had suffered. RepricerExpress didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment from Fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Australia

Uber Charged 4 Times Its Usual Rate During Sydney Hostage Siege

The company has now backtracked after customer outcry

Uber faced a new controversy Monday when it began charging customers four times the usual rate after a gunman took several hostages in downtown Sydney, Australia. Uber apps told customers they must pay a minimum of A$100 ($82) per ride.

Uber made the following statement on Twitter:

Following an outcry on social media, Uber Sydney changed tack and is currently offering free rides for passengers trying to leave the city “to help Sydneysiders get home safely.” The company said in a statement that it will refund fares charged for earlier journeys.

[Financial Times]

MORE: Central Sydney is in lockdown amid a developing hostage crisis

TIME deals

BC Partners Buying PetSmart for $8.7 Billion

The Petsmart store in Westminster
The Petsmart store in Westminster, Colo., is seen Nov. 18, 2014 Rick Wilking—Reuters

Pet retailer goes to a British bidder in the year’s largest U.S. private equity deal

London-based private equity firm BC Partners has won the auction for retailer PetSmart Inc. in an $8.7 billion deal. This would suggest that BC Partners made a last-minute move to best Apollo Global Management, which yesterday was reported to be the front-runner.

According to a press release, BC Partners will pay $83 per share for Phoenix-based PetSmart. That represents a 6.86% premium over PetSmart’s closing price on Friday, but a whopping 46.2% bump over its 2014 nadir on May 22.

Shares stayed fairly low until activist hedge fund Jana Partners disclosed on July 3 that it had amassed a 9.9% stake in Petsmart, and only continued to climb as the company’s board responded by launching an auction process led by J.P. Morgan. Jana had threatened to nominate its own slate of directors if it wasn’t satisfied with the results of the auction, although it’s hard to imagine that it would oppose $83 per share.

Longview Asset Management, PetSmart’s second-largest outside shareholder with a 9.02% position, will roll its shares into the company as part of the BC group. Also participating are several limited partners of BC Partners limited partners, including La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and StepStone Group.

The purchase price represents a 9.1x EBITDA multiple for the 12 months ending November 2, 2014. No word yet on specifics of the debt package, except that lenders will include Citigroup, Nomura, Jefferies, Barclays and Deutsche Bank. There has been recent Federal Reserve pressure on banks to keep leverage multiples below 6x EBITDA, and deals that surpass that threshold have had some difficulty getting syndicated.

In addition to Apollo, PetSmart reportedly received a joint bid from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Clayton Dubilier & Rice.

The retailer operates 1,387 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Social Media

Facebook Unfriends Microsoft Search Engine

Facebook offices in Paris, France in 2010.
Facebook offices in Paris, France in 2010. Tomas van Houtryve—VII for TIME

The social media behemoth may be angling in on Google-dominated web search

Facebook has officially dropped from its website search results from Bing, the search engine owned by Microsoft Corp.

The move comes on the heels of Facebook unveiling a new search tool on its own site, allowing the site’s 1.35 billion users to easily search for old Facebook activity on theirs and others’ pages, perhaps indicating an increased emphasis on the lucrative web search market currently dominated by Facebook rival Google.

Facebook’s decision was confirmed to Reuters on Friday by a company spokesperson. “We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” a spokesperson said. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.


TIME movies

Sony Hack Reveals Concerns Over New Bond Movie’s Script

Sony execs were not happy with its third act

The email leak resulting from the Sony hack is so massive, it has even taken down the world’s favorite superspy.

According to emails released in the leak, which include insider details of the lives of celebrities and embarrassing exchanges between high-profile Hollywood executives, the third and final act of the new James Bond film Spectre was considered so bad by executives that one screenwriter after another was dispatched to rewrite the ending.

“For what it’s worth, I think first 100 pages are fantastic,” MGM executive Jonathan Glickman wrote on October 9, Defamer reports. It’s all downhill from there. ”You guys set me up for a let down on climax,” writes Glickman. “So I was not surprised.”

With a projected budget clocking in at the “mid $300ms”—as revealed by the leak—Spectre is set to be one of the most expensive movies ever made. No small wonder then that the filmmakers were scrambling to fix an ending that readers of the leaked script felt was difficult to follow and at times both nonsensical and bland.

“Also, there needs to be some kind of a twist rather than a series of water chases with guns,” reads one memo attached to the script in August.

If you want to ruin the movie for yourself or an annoying family member over the holidays, you can read more at Defamer.

TIME Economy

Americans Get Sunnier About the Economy

Ahmad Ali, Ghalzal Ali
Shoppers patronize a Target store just after midnight on Black Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in South Portland, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty—AP

Economic optimism is at its highest level in almost eight years

Americans’ confidence in the economy is returning after years of doubt and pessimism, with economic output, jobs figures and retail sales in a strong upswing.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment rose to a near eight-year high in December, according to data released on Friday, similar to levels seen in boom years like 1996 and 2004, and the best since January 2007.

The increased optimism is a result of strength in many sectors of the economy. Economists expect a sharp drop in gasoline prices to help boost the economy in the coming months. The federal government forecasts the price of a gallon of gas will drop to $2.60 nationwide next year, compared with $3.37 this year, translating to greater spending rather than savings—particularly for low-income Americans.

Reasons for concern remain, including sluggish wage growth and the plight of the long-term unemployed. The drop in oil prices is also rattling the stock market, with the Dow dropping more than 300 points on Friday.

But the most recent jobs report was promising, with 321,000 jobs added to payrolls around the country in November—the biggest monthly increase in three years—holding the unemployment rate at 5.8%. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.9% in the third quarter of 2014, and in the second quarter GDP grew 4.6%.

“Everything is pointing in the right direction for the consumer,” chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics Paul Ashworth said, according to Bloomberg. “We expect a pretty good run for consumption growth in the fourth quarter. It is a big boost for the economy.”

Americans are finally feeling the effects of the improving economy. According to the Reuters poll’s director, Richard Curtin, more consumers had good news than bad news when asked about the economy than in any month since 1984. But the first quarter of 2014 still saw a deep contraction in the economy of 2.6%, partially due to an unusually cold winter in many parts of the country.

The improving sentiment is likely to further boost the economy and could translate into higher worker wages and more consumer purchasing.

TIME stocks

Another Day of Huge Losses Caps Dow’s Worst Week in 3 Years

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the end of the trading day in New York on Dec. 12, 2014.
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the end of the trading day in New York on Dec. 12, 2014. Justin Lane—EPA

The Dow fell more than 300 points

A seven-week streak of stock market gains abruptly ended this week amid investor concerns about the continued decline of oil prices and sluggish European and Asian economies.

A sell-off Friday cemented the loss with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling 316 points, or 1.8%, to close at 17,281. For the week, the blue clip index slid 3.7%, the worst showing since November 2011.

The Dow Jones average has now fallen more than 700 points since it came tantalizingly close to hitting the 18,000-point milestone just last week. The index crossed the 17,000-point mark for the first time ever in July.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 fell 1.6% on Friday and finished the week down by 3.5% while the Nasdaq composite fared slightly better by dropping 1.2% for the day and 2.7% for the week.

Yesterday, a strong November retail report kicked off a temporary rebound that helped offset at least some of the week’s losses. For the most part, though, the major indices were in full treat with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 falling four out of five days while the Nasdaq dropped three times.

Thursday also saw the price of crude oil drop below $60 for the first time since 2009, which added to investors’ concerns about plummeting price oil and a global supply glut. Oil prices dropped again on Friday, with both Brent crude oil and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude prices falling by more than 2%. WTI finished well below $60, at $57.70, while Brent finished the week at $61.68.

Prices have dropped more than 40% over the past six months, in part, because increased production in the U.S. and other countries is contributing to an oversupply. Predictions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that supplies will continue to outpace demand next year has helped to depress prices even further. Also, on Friday, the International Energy Agency cut forecasts for growth in global oil demand for the coming year.

Global stocks also took a hit this week due to sinking oil prices while massive sell-offs in China and Greece also put a drag on foreign markets. London’s FTSE index slogged through its worst week in three years, dropping 6.6%. Germany’s DAX fell nearly 5% for the week while the Nikkei dropped 3% despite recording gains on Friday.

It has been a turbulent second-half of 2014 for the U.S. market, which entered this week on a seven-week winning streak that included a number of record finishes for the Dow Jones and S&P 500 while the Nasdaq hovered near its highest point since 2000. That followed a broad sell-off in early October that briefly erased all of the year’s gains.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Security

Leaked Sony Emails Reveal How Much Movie Studios Hate Google

The Google logo is seen at the company's offices on August 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

They codenamed Google "Goliath"

It’s no secret that some big movie and music companies hate Google, which they have long accused of making it easy for users to find pirated content online. But newly leaked emails reveal just how far movie studios are willing to go in their battle against online piracy, and, by extension, Google.

A group of lawyers from Sony, six other studios and the Motion Picture Association of America have been coordinating a legal and technical plan to fight online piracy, according to Sony Pictures emails leaked by hackers and analyzed by The Verge. The studios have been discussing how to get state prosecutors to go after Google—which they codenamed “Goliath”—for offering links to pirated content (or sites that then link to pirated content) in its search results.

The report also found the movie studios are looking at ways to partner with Internet providers like Comcast to block sites found to host infringing content, a strategy that’s already being used in other parts of the world.

Read more at The Verge

Read next: Who Is Amy Pascal? Meet the Exec Tangled Up in Sony’s Leaked Emails

TIME celebrities

Who Is Amy Pascal? Meet the Exec Tangled Up in Sony’s Leaked Emails

The Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment has been the executive behind successful movies like Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty

Sony executive Amy Pascal found herself in the headlines this week after her company was hit by hackers, exposing emails ranging from racially insensitive exchanges about President Obama to reports that she served as an intermediary between the company’s brass and Seth Rogen in toning down Kim Jong-un’s death scene in The Interview (though Rogen has thanked Pascal for having “the balls” to make the movie at its Thursday premiere).

Though Pascal’s name may be unfamiliar to some readers, her films surely are not: she’s overseen major blockbusters from When Harry Met Sally to The Da Vinci Code.

Pascal is currently the Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, the division responsible for the company’s film production. Alongside Michael Lynton, she’s also co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), the umbrella over the Motion Picture Group, the Television Group, Networks and other operations. Lynton is CEO of SPE, and as such is Pascal’s boss.

Pascal began her career as a Hollywood secretary and soon climbed the ranks to become Vice President of Production at 20th Century Fox. She joined Columbia Pictures, a division of SPE, in 1988, overseeing movies like Groundhog Day and A League of Their Own. She left in 1994 to become President of Production at Turner Pictures, but returned to Columbia two years later as President. She was promoted to Chairman of SPE’s Motion Picture Group in 2003, and became Co-Chairman of SPE in 2006.

Pascal and Lynton have had a fruitful relationship as business partners, with Pascal acting as the intuitive pro at picking scripts likely to succeed and Lynton functioning as her business-minded counterpart. According to a 2009 New York Times story, Lynton couldn’t fathom Superbad becoming a profitable film when he read the script, but since it wasn’t very high-budget, Pascal was able to convince him they should take it on. It was a good bet: the movie cost only $18 million to make, but yielded $120 million at the domestic box office.

Though Pascal engaged in racially inappropriate emails with producer Scott Rudin (for which Pascal apologized), speculating on President Obama’s taste in films with African-American narratives, she’s been a generous donor to Obama and other Democrats.

Pascal is on Forbes’ 50 Most Powerful Women list and was elected to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors last year.

Read next: Hackers Sent Sony Employees a Terrifying New Message

TIME Companies

Nike Exec Leaves the Company Because He Hates Portland

"It was a culture shock"

The dream of the ’90’s may be alive in Portland, but for Nike’s rising star chief information officer, it wasn’t worth dreaming.

Anthony Watson announced he was quitting the Oregon-based company on Wednesday, citing “personal reasons.” But Fortune, citing an unnamed source close to him, reports the real reason for his departure is that he found just found Portland to be too boring “As a single gay guy from London,” the source said, he “underestimated what it would be like. It was a culture shock.”

Read more at Fortune

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