Amazon starts Australian trial after months of hype

Australia has long had Amazon-registered sellers but they have been limited to sending goods offshore as Amazon had no warehouse in the country. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Amazon starts Australian trial after months of hype

SYDNEY: Amazon.com’s Australian arm began an order-taking trial on Thursday, giving life to the hype which has preceded its arrival in the world’s No. 12 economy and weighed on the shares of the brick-and-mortar retail sector.
The trial kicked off at 3pm with the Amazon Australia website’s search box filling in product names automatically. A representative for Amazon, which has never given a start date for Australia, declined to comment.
“It’s obviously working because auto-population is there,” said Liz Cassidy, founder of Amazon-registered beauty products retailer Third Sigma.
Cassidy, who already sells product overseas via Amazon, said she had made no Australian sales in the first hour, but noted that the trial involved a limited number of shoppers.
Australia has long had Amazon-registered sellers but they have been limited to sending goods offshore as Amazon had no warehouse in the country. Until now, Australians have had to wait long periods and pay sizable shipping costs for deliveries.
While online vendors are excited about the opportunities, Australia’s more traditional shopkeepers have faced pressure to convince investors they can compete against the US giant since it confirmed its plans for Australia in April.
Shares of Harvey Norman, Australia’s biggest electronics retailer, are down 9 percent since April 17, the day before Amazon said it was coming to Australia. Shares of Australia’s biggest department store chain Myer Holdings Ltd. are down 39 percent.
“It’s not as if the majority of retailers in Australia are making a fortune and growing their businesses,” said Gerry Harvey, executive chairman of Harvey Norman.
“If you’re in clothes and shoes and handbags, you can’t take a lot more pressure.”
Amazon set up its warehouse in Australia’s second-biggest city of Melbourne, on the east coast where four-fifths of the country’s 24 million people live.
Shoppers will watch delivery times closely with Christmas just around the corner.
“It will be really interesting to see whether it lives up to the hype,” said Tim McKinnon, the Australian managing director for eBay Inc, an Amazon competitor.
Some shoppers took to social media to voice frustration that the Amazon Australia website had not begun taking orders publicly.


Unaoil’s former Iraq partner pleads guilty to bribery

Updated 3 min 35 sec ago
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Unaoil’s former Iraq partner pleads guilty to bribery

  • It is the first guilty plea to result from a three-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into suspected bribery and money laundering
  • Unaoil is a Monaco-based oil and gas firm

LONDON: The former partner in Iraq for Unaoil, a Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy, has pleaded guilty to five counts of bribery in the first conviction in a three-year criminal investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Basil Al Jarah, 70, pleaded guilty on July 15 to conspiring to give corrupt payments in connection with the award of contracts to supply and install single point moorings and oil pipelines in southern Iraq, the SFO said.
Al Jarah’s conviction, which comes six months before three other defendants in the case face a criminal trial in London, was announced after a judge lifted reporting restrictions in a pre-trial hearing on Friday, the SFO said.
Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former territory manager for Iraq and Stephen Whiteley and Paul Bond, who worked for Dutch-based oil and gas services company SBM (Offshore), have pleaded not guilty.
Akle, 44, has been charged with three offenses of conspiracy to make corrupt payments. Bond, a 67-year-old former senior sales manager with SBM (Offshore), and Whiteley, a 64-year-old former vice president of SBM (Offshore) and one-time Unaoil general territories manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan and Angola, each face two counts.
Sam Healey, a lawyer at JMW Solicitors who is representing Whiteley, said his client “strenuously denied” all alleged offenses.
“Mr Whiteley co-operated fully with the SFO as they opened their enquiries and will rigorously defend the charges,” he said.
Lawyers for Al Jarah and Bond declined to comment. A lawyer for Akle was not immediately available for comment.
A spokeswoman for Unaoil declined to comment, while SBM Offshore has said it is company policy to not comment on past or current employees.