After stunning growth streak, Amazon ambitions seem boundless

This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows the logo of US electronic commerce and cloud computing company Amazon in Vertou, France. (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2018
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After stunning growth streak, Amazon ambitions seem boundless

SAN FRANCISCO: Triumphant in online retail, cloud computing, organic groceries, and streaming television, Amazon founder and chief disruptor Jeff Bezos is turning his seemingly limitless ambition to health care.
Amazon, launched as an Internet bookseller nearly 24 years ago, has branched into offerings including voice-commanded speakers infused with Alexa artificial intelligence and original TV shows streamed online at its Prime subscription service.
Health care now appears ripe for Bezos, who has earned a reputation for attacking high costs and inefficiencies.
A possible step in that direction was taken last month, with Amazon announcing an alliance with billionaire Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon to provide a health care system for employees of the three companies.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon would also like to become a supplier of medical equipment for hospitals.
“I think Bezos is methodical and thoughtful,” eMarketer senior analyst Patricia Orsini told AFP.
“He has identified a market that is ready for disruption. The health care system in the US is ripe for reform.”
Bezos faces the challenge of taming skyrocketing costs throughout US health care from insurance and medicine to supplies and therapy.
“Just as with every other industry Amazon has entered, Bezos is envisioning lower-priced alternatives with frictionless services that could, over time, make a lot of money for Amazon,” Orsini said.
Barclays analysts said in a recent research note on Amazon’s potential in health care, “We are never dismissive of anything disruptive that Amazon is involved in. Amazon arguable has the best technical abilities of any company we cover.”
Amazon has been on a stunning growth streak of late, expanding its international retail operations as far as India and Australia, while devouring the US organic supermarket Whole Foods group.
With increased scale, it has been ramping up profits in recent quarters, helping Amazon leapfrog in market value to one of the top companies in the world and making Bezos the world’s richest individual with a net worth well over $100 billion.
Amazon has repeatedly shaken up sectors with technology and efficiency.
With success has come leverage to pressure suppliers and manufacturers for better deals it can use to be the preferred venue for online shopping.
Standard & Poor’s retail analyst Robert Shulz noted that Amazon has succeeded with a patient strategy of investing for the long term.
“Their approach is growing the business,” Shulz said, even if some of the efforts don’t yield a quick profit.
For years, Amazon invested heavily in distribution networks so it could get goods to buyers fast while controlling delivery costs.
A report surfaced this month that Amazon is preparing to test a delivery service that would compete directly with services like Fedex and UPS.
Amazon did not directly comment on the report but said, “We’re always innovating and experimenting on behalf of customers and the businesses that sell and grow on Amazon to create faster lower-cost delivery choices.”
Separately, Amazon this month unveiled plans to deliver groceries in a number of US cities for Prime subscribers using its recently acquired Whole Foods supermarket chain.
It is the first major effort to integrate Whole Foods — a chain of 460 stores — into Amazon’s e-commerce effort.
Bezos, whose personal investments have included buying the Washington Post, has been referred to as the “ultimate disruptor” with a long-term view that only recently has begun to yield hefty profits.
Amazon recently reported its profits had more than doubled in the past quarter to $1.9 billion as revenue grew 38 percent to $60.5 billion.
But Amazon has been vilified for trampling on traditional practices at home and abroad. It also earned a reputation for high-pressure work conditions to minimize costs in warehouses, and a sometimes difficult corporate culture for executives.
Its search for a new “HQ2” or second headquarters meanwhile has set off an intense competition among cities desperate for the estimated $5 billion investment, drawing comparisons to the dystopian “Hunger Games” story.
Amazon’s pattern of success has caused fear to ripple through sectors it eyes.
When Amazon last year made the surprise buy of Whole Foods, shares sank of major retail chains Wal-Mart and Target.
S&P Global Ratings said in a research note that Amazon “has brought price transparency and convenience to many retail segments,” while shifting consumer expectations, thus creating problems for rivals.
“Legacy retailers are in various stages of adapting to the new landscape and not all have been successful,” the analysts said.


OPEC will balance oil markets, but spare capacity limited — Nigerian official

Updated 58 min 54 sec ago
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OPEC will balance oil markets, but spare capacity limited — Nigerian official

  • ‘OPEC will do everything to stabilize, to balance the market’
  • Nigeria’s current crude oil production is about 1.7 million bpd

SINGAPORE: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will act to balance the market after oil prices hit their highest in four years, but its options may be limited by available spare capacity, a Nigerian oil industry official said on Wednesday.
“It’s obvious that if you have high prices it’ll affect demand, so you have to do some market balance,” Malam Mele Kyari, head of crude oil marketing at Nigeria’s state oil firm NNPC and also the country’s OPEC representative, said.
“OPEC will do everything to stabilize, to balance the market but I’m sure you’re also aware that there’s a limit to what they can do. You must have the spare capacity,” Kyari said.
Oil prices surged this week on uncertainty over the global supply outlook following US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and also as Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any immediate boost to output.
Kyari said Nigeria planned to increase its crude oil, condensate output by 100,000 barrels per day by the end of the year, up from about 2 million bpd currently.
The country’s current crude oil production is about 1.7 million bpd, he said.
In 2019, the African producer is aiming for an average output of 2.3 million bpd by boosting output from existing fields as well as starting new production from an ultra-deepwater field, Kyari said.
Located some 130 kilometers off Nigeria’s coast at water depths of more than 1,500 meters, the Egina oilfield is expected to start production in December and its output could peak at 200,000 bpd.
Kyari was in Singapore to launch the new Egina crude grade with field operator French oil major Total at APPEC.
The crude has an API gravity of 27.3 degrees and has a sulfur content of 0.165 percent, a provisional crude assay from Total showed.
The grade has a higher yield of gasoil and vacuum distillates compared with other products, according to the assay.