Amazon to buy vacuum maker iRobot for roughly $1.7B

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2022 Roomba robot vacuums made by iRobot are displayed on a shelf at a Bed Bath and Beyond store in Larkspur, California. (AP)
In this file photo taken on August 5, 2022 Roomba robot vacuums made by iRobot are displayed on a shelf at a Bed Bath and Beyond store in Larkspur, California. (AP)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Amazon to buy vacuum maker iRobot for roughly $1.7B

Amazon to buy vacuum maker iRobot for roughly $1.7B
  • The move is part of Amazon’s bid to own part of the home space through services and accelerate its growth beyond retail, said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail

NEW YORK: Amazon on Friday announced it has agreed to acquire the vacuum cleaner maker iRobot for approximately $1.7 billion, scooping up another company to add to its collection of smart home appliances amid broader concerns from anti-monopoly and privacy advocates about Amazon’s market power and ability to gain deeper insights into consumers’ lives.
iRobot sells its products worldwide and is most famous for the circular-shaped Roomba vacuum, which would join voice assistant Alexa, the Astro robot and Ring security cameras and others in the list of smart home features offered by the Seattle-based e-commerce and tech giant.




In this file photo taken on August 5, 2022 Roomba robot vacuums made by iRobot are displayed on a shelf at a Bed Bath and Beyond store in Larkspur, California. (AP)

The move is part of Amazon’s bid to own part of the home space through services and accelerate its growth beyond retail, said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. A slew of home-cleaning robots adds to the company’s tech arsenal, making it more involved in consumers’ lives beyond static things like voice control. The latest line of Roombas use sensors to map — and remember — a home’s floor plan, offering a trove of data that Amazon could potentially integrate with its other products.
Amazon’s Astro robot, which helps with tasks like setting an alarm, was unveiled last year at an introductory price of $1,000. But its rollout has been limited and has received a lackluster response.
Amazon hasn’t had much success with household robots, but the iRobot acquisition and the company’s strong market reputation provide a “massive foothold in the consumer robot market” that could help Amazon replicate the success of its Echo line of smart speakers, said Lian Jye Su, a robotics industry analyst for ABI Research.
Su said it also illustrates the shortcomings of consumer robotics vendors like iRobot, which struggled to expand beyond a niche product and was in a “race-to-the-bottom” competition with Korean and Chinese manufacturers offering cheaper versions of a robotic vacuum.
On Friday, iRobot reported its quarterly results. Revenue plunged 30 percent primarily on order reductions and delays, and the company announced it was laying off 10 percent of its workforce.
Amazon said it will acquire iRobot for $61 per share in an all-cash transaction that will include iRobot’s net debt. The company has total current debt of approximately $332.1 million as of July 2. The deal is subject to approval by shareholders and regulators. Upon completion, iRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle, will remain in his position.
Noting that iRobot has been running its robotics platform on Amazon’s cloud service unit AWS for many years, Su said the acquisition could lead to more integration of Amazon speech recognition and other capabilities into vacuums.
In afternoon trading, iRobot shares rose 19 percent. Amazon’s were down 1.7 percent.
The deal comes as anti-monopoly advocates continue to raise concerns about Amazon’s increasing dominance. The purchase of iRobot is Amazon’s fourth-largest acquisition, led by its $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods in 2017. Last month, the company said it would buy the primary care provider One Medical in a deal valued roughly at $3.9 billion, a move that expanded its reach further into health care.
On Friday, groups advocating for stricter antitrust regulations called on regulators to block the iRobot merger, arguing it gives Amazon more access into consumers’ lives and furthers its dominance in the smart home market.
“The last thing American and the world needs is Amazon vacuuming up even more of our personal information,” said Robert Weissman, president of the progressive consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen.
“This is not just about Amazon selling another device in its marketplace,” Weissman said. “It’s about the company gaining still more intimate details of our lives to gain unfair market advantage and sell us more stuff.”
Landmark antitrust legislation targeting Amazon and other Big Tech companies has languished for months in Congress as prospects for votes by the full Senate or House have dimmed.
Last month, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, who heads the Senate Judiciary antitrust panel, urged the the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the One Medical acquisition, in the mold of other critics who’ve called on regulators to block the purchase over concerns about Amazon’s past conduct and potential implications for consumers’ health data. Regulators also have discretion to challenge Amazon’s $8.5 billion buyout of Hollywood studio MGM, which was completed earlier this year.
Founded in 1990 by a trio of Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists, including Angle, iRobot’s early ventures led to rovers that could perform military and disaster-relief tasks in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The profits from defense contracts allowed iRobot to experiment with a variety of other robots, producing some duds and one huge commercial success: the first Roomba, introduced in 2002, which pioneered the market for automated vacuum cleaners.
The company spun off its defense robotics division in 2016 to become almost exclusively a seller of vacuums and some other home robots, such as the Braava robotic mop. It planned to launch a robotic lawn mower in 2020 but backed off, citing problems tied to the pandemic.


Dubai sees air travel surge, expects World Cup boost

Dubai sees air travel surge, expects World Cup boost
Updated 17 August 2022

Dubai sees air travel surge, expects World Cup boost

Dubai sees air travel surge, expects World Cup boost
  • The airport handled 160 percent more traffic over the past six months compared to the same period last year

DUBAI: Dubai International Airport saw a surge in passengers over the first half of 2022 as pandemic restrictions eased and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will further boost traffic to the city-state’s second airfield, its chief executive said Wednesday.

Paul Griffiths, who oversees the world’s busiest airport for international travel, told The Associated Press that the airport handled 160 percent more traffic over the past six months compared to the same period last year, part of an air travel rebound around the world.

The nearly 28 million people who traveled through the airport over the past six months represent some 70 percent of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels, even as Dubai’s key source market of China remains closed due to severe pandemic restrictions. Griffiths said he expects the airport’s traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.

“It’s a very, very welcome surge of traffic,” Griffiths said.

The first World Cup in the Middle East, he added, will send foreign soccer fans flocking to Al-Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, or DWC. From there, they will travel daily to Qatar, a tiny neighbor that faces a hotel squeeze.

“We’ve actually seen a huge demand at DWC for slot filings for airlines wanting to operate a shuttle service,” he said. “I think the city has a lot to offer and a lot to gain from the World Cup.”

Among the airlines buying extra slots to shuttle soccer fans to the tournament from DWC are Qatar Airways, low-cost carrier FlyDubai and budget airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, he said.

During the first half of 2022, Dubai International Airport dealt with nearly 56 percent more flights than the same period in 2021, when contagious coronavirus variants clobbered the industry.

Now, in a sign of the health of the industry, Emirates said on Wednesday that it would pour billions of dollars into retrofitting much of its Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet. At the height of the pandemic, the airline received a $4 billion government bailout.


Russian consumer prices dip for 6th straight week

Russian consumer prices dip for 6th straight week
Updated 17 August 2022

Russian consumer prices dip for 6th straight week

Russian consumer prices dip for 6th straight week

MOSCOW: Consumer prices in Russia declined for the sixth week running, data showed on Wednesday, as the rubles appreciation in the past few months and a drop in consumer demand weighed on the pace of price growth.

The consumer prices index dipped 0.13 percent in the week to Aug. 15 after easing 0.08 percent a week earlier, the federal statistics service Rosstat said.

Inflation remains high but is slowing after prices of nearly everything, from vegetables and sugar to clothes and smartphones, have jumped sharply since Feb. 24 when Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

The CPI extended its decline even after the central bank slashed its key rate by 150 basis points to 8 percent last month and indicated it was ready to consider further monetary easing to limit the depth of economic recession.

A separate set of Rosstat’s data showed on Wednesday that the producer price index, the gauge of prices that suppliers are charging their clients, fell sharply in annual terms to 6.1 percent in July from 11.3 percent in June, well below levels above 30 percent seen in April.

High inflation has been the key concern among households for several years as it dents living standards, something that this year will be aggravated by recession in the economy.

Russia’s economy will contract less than expected and inflation will not be as high as projected three months ago, the Economy Ministry forecasts seen by Reuters showed, suggesting the economy is dealing with sanctions better than initially feared.

So far this year, consumer prices have risen 10.72 percent compared with a 4.69 percent increase in the same period of 2021, Rosstat data showed. 


Emirates steps up plans for ‘biggest-ever’ fleet retrofit

Emirates steps up plans for ‘biggest-ever’ fleet retrofit
Updated 17 August 2022

Emirates steps up plans for ‘biggest-ever’ fleet retrofit

Emirates steps up plans for ‘biggest-ever’ fleet retrofit
  • Multibillion-dollar project will aim to refurbish four aircraft per month over next two years

DUBAI: Emirates has moved forward with plans to revamp the interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

The multibillion-dollar project will begin in November and will be managed entirely by Emirates Engineering, which aims to totally refurbish four aircraft each month over the next two years.

On completion in April 2025, almost 4,000 new premium economy seats will be installed, 728 first-class suites refurbished and over 5,000 business-class seats  upgraded to a new style and design.

Carpets and stairs will also be upgraded, and cabin interior panels will be given new tones and design motifs, including the ghaf trees native to the UAE.

Emirates said that no other airline has attempted an in-house retrofit of this magnitude. 

Engineering teams have carried out extensive planning and testing to streamline processes, and anticipate any potential roadblocks. 

Trials began on an A380 in July, with engineers disassembling each cabin piece by piece and logging every step.

“From removing seats and paneling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out,” the airline said on Wednesday.

A cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to monitor the planning process until the start of the project in November.

 


Saudi Arabia’s jewelry sector tops economic activities, with 36% jump in sales in Q2

Saudi Arabia’s jewelry sector tops economic activities, with 36% jump in sales in Q2
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s jewelry sector tops economic activities, with 36% jump in sales in Q2

Saudi Arabia’s jewelry sector tops economic activities, with 36% jump in sales in Q2

RIYADH: Sales in Saudi Arabia’s gold and jewelry sector witnessed a jump of 36 percent, as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic-induced recession, Al-Watan reported.
Consumer spending in the Kingdom also rebounded in the second quarter exceeding SR124 billion ($33 billion) with an annual growth rate of 7 percent, the report added.
Citing recent data issued by the Jazan Chamber of Commerce, the report said the gold and jewelry sector was followed by clothing and footwear, which grew by 24 percent.


KSA’s drive to localize livestock sector successfully underway: Top official

KSA’s drive to localize livestock sector successfully underway: Top official
Updated 17 August 2022

KSA’s drive to localize livestock sector successfully underway: Top official

KSA’s drive to localize livestock sector successfully underway: Top official

RIYADH: The success rate of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture localization initiatives has exceeded 50 percent, a top official told Al-Ekhbariya. 

The ministry’s director of localization initiatives, Mosa Al-Kinani, said work is underway to localize professions of beekeeping, fishing, and livestock breeders.

The ministry’s strategy is yielding results as more Saudis are joining the above-mentioned professions.

Kinani said his ministry is working with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to develop appropriate plans to boost the success of the localization drive.