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.


Saudi paper manufacturer MEPCO posts 216% leap in profit on higher revenues

Saudi paper manufacturer MEPCO posts 216% leap in profit on higher revenues
Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi paper manufacturer MEPCO posts 216% leap in profit on higher revenues

Saudi paper manufacturer MEPCO posts 216% leap in profit on higher revenues

RIYADH: Saudi papers maker MEPCO has posted a 216 percent leap in profits during the first half of 2022 fueled by higher revenues.

Profits of the company, formally known as Middle East Paper Co., rose to SR192 million ($51 million) in the first half, up from SR60 million in the prior year period, it said in a bourse filing.

This was coupled with a 45 percent increase in revenue to SR652 million during the same period owing to higher demand and pricing.


 


Saudi dairy giant Almarai re-appoints chairman and vice chairman

Saudi dairy giant Almarai re-appoints chairman and vice chairman
Updated 11 min 18 sec ago

Saudi dairy giant Almarai re-appoints chairman and vice chairman

Saudi dairy giant Almarai re-appoints chairman and vice chairman

RIYADH: Saudi-based dairy giant Almarai has re-elected Prince Naif bin Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Kabeer as board chairman and Suliman Al Muhaideb as vice chairman.

The new term takes effect from Aug. 7 and will last for three years, according to a bourse filing.

Last month, the dairy giant announced strong results as it recorded an 8.4 percent increase in profit for the first half of 2022 to SR940 million ($250 million).


 


GCC needs to secure its investment landscape: Report

GCC needs to secure its investment landscape: Report
Updated 07 August 2022

GCC needs to secure its investment landscape: Report

GCC needs to secure its investment landscape: Report
  • Call to focus on frontier sectors based on emerging technologies to attract FDI

CAIRO: Real and perceived political risks, the lack of focus on non-oil sectors, laxity in regulatory policies and a restrictive business environment are some of the factors impeding the growth of foreign direct investment in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, said a recent study.

According to Oliver Wyman’s recent report titled “De-risking the Investment Landscape: High-impact FDI Policies for the GCC,” the region needs to prioritize regulations and policies to de-risk investment. 

This approach should help them attract additional FDIs, the report recommended.

“The best way to attract FDI may be to focus on frontier sectors, which are based on emerging technology, generate high growth, and have few incumbent players to disrupt,” the report stated.

The policies adopted earlier in the GCC were unfocused and aimed to attract all possible investments in all potential sectors, which proved unsuccessful, according to the report.

Although most Gulf countries have been proactive in developing initiatives to stimulate FDI, few have successfully attracted foreign investment in the region.

“Historically, FDI into GCC economies has fluctuated with the rise and fall of commodity prices,” explained Wyman’s report. “However, it has failed to materialize as a consistent driver of economic opportunity in non-oil economic sectors.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Oman and Bahrain are the only two GCC economies that saw FDI inflows over outflows in each of the years from 2016 to 2021.

• While Kuwait registered FDI outflows totaling $3.6 billion in 2021, it saw a sharp drop from $8 billion in the previous year.

“With such readily available domestic capital, many GCC states have historically not needed to prioritize FDI as a source of development finance,” it added.

The report further revealed that GCC states are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of FDI and its potential impact on their economies, which could enhance productivity.

Foreign investment provides a good source of finance, promotes interactions of local suppliers and consumer markets, and stimulates human capital by training local workers and employing foreign ones.

As stated by the report, an increased level of private competition, an enhancement in technological know-how and a surge in cross-border activity are additional favorable consequences that arise from increased FDI.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development recently released the “World Investment Report 2022,” which showed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the largest economies in the GCC, saw 2021 FDI outflows exceed FDI inflows by $4.6 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively. 

The difference for all GCC members stood at $6.4 billion, although a noticeable improvement from 2019 and 2020, where the differences were $11.1 billion and $8.3 billion, respectively.

Oman and Bahrain are the only two GCC economies that saw FDI inflows over outflows in each of the years from 2016 to 2021, according to the UNCTAD report.

In comparison, FDI inflows to Indonesia in 2021 surpassed the outflows by $16.5 billion. Similarly, FDI inflows to Vietnam and Malaysia trumped outflows by $15.4 billion and $6.9 billion, respectively, UNCTAD data show.    

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia witnessed the highest FDI outflows in the GCC in 2021. It recorded $23.9 billion in net outflows in 2021 compared to only $4.9 billion in 2020. It is worth mentioning the Kingdom’s FDI inflows stood at $5.4 billion in 2020.

 The UAE came in second with $22.5 billion worth of FDI outflows in 2021 compared to $18.9 billion the year before, the UNCTAD data showed.

While Kuwait registered FDI outflows totaling $3.6 billion in 2021, it saw a sharp drop from $8 billion in the previous year, the report stated.


Saudi Arabia targets $3.3tr of cumulative investments till 2030, says deputy minister

Saudi Arabia targets $3.3tr of cumulative investments till 2030, says deputy minister
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi Arabia targets $3.3tr of cumulative investments till 2030, says deputy minister

Saudi Arabia targets $3.3tr of cumulative investments till 2030, says deputy minister
  • Saudi Arabia’s regulatory transformation is directly impacting the base economy, Al-Shahrani says

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has enacted over 600 economic reforms since the launch of the Vision 2030 blueprint in a bid to attract SR12.4 trillion ($3.3 trillion) of cumulative investment and SR1.8 trillion in foreign direct investment inflows between 2021 and 2030 as part of the National Investment Strategy, said a deputy minister from the investment ministry. 

Speaking to Arab News Saad Al-Shahrani, the acting deputy minister for investment promotion in the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia, said the Kingdom achieved an 18 percent increase in foreign direct investment in 2020, even as the global FDI declined by 35 percent due to the pandemic. 

FDI flow in 2021 increased by 257 percent compared to 2020 largely driven by a SR46.5 billion infrastructure deal closed by Aramco with a global investor consortium in Q2 2021.

If Aramco's huge deal is excluded, the Kingdom attracted SR5.3bn in Q2 last year.

Al-Shahrani added that the NIS launched in 2021 is a blueprint for turning the Kingdom into a global hub for business and talent. 

Saad Al-Shahrani

During the interview, the minister revealed that FDI flow in the first quarter of 2022 increased 10 percent to SR7.4 billion compared to the same period last year.

He further stated that NIS helped MISA achieve 49 investment deals valued at SR3.5 billion in the second quarter of 2022, creating 2,000 jobs across industries. 

“These figures are a testament to the sound execution of the government’s strategy and the impact of new reforms, initiatives and investment opportunities,” said the deputy minister. 

He added: “The Kingdom has achieved remarkable progress in many economic and investment indicators, ranking third in Ease of Protecting Minority Investors Index out of 132 countries, for the year 2021.”

Fastest growing among G-20 countries

The deputy minister further noted that the Kingdom achieved the top spot among 22 countries in the May 2022 Ipsos’ Global Consumer Confidence Index. 

Citing the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook 2022, Al-Shahrani said that the Kingdom is now the fastest-growing nation among the Group of 20 countries, with a growth rate of 7.6 percent. 

“Saudi Arabia’s regulatory transformation is directly impacting the base economy. Alongside healthy demand and investor interest in the oil sector, our non-oil economy has shown strong growth,” he added. 

The deputy minister said that flash estimates of real growth in the gross domestic product in the second quarter showed 11.8 percent year-on-year growth, the highest rate since 2011, supported by the growth in real GDP of oil and non-oil activities by 23.1 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

Industrial production on the rise

Commenting on the rise in Industrial Production Index, Al-Shahrani said: “The IPI expanded by 24 percent year on year in May 2022, with manufacturing growing by over 28 percent. These figures are a direct consequence of the government’s active diversification efforts.” 

He also asserted that the Kingdom will become one of the world’s most competitive economies and attractive investment destinations by 2030. 

The deputy minister further noted that digital transactions are rising in Saudi Arabia, aligning with the government’s goal of having 70 percent of all transactions are digital by 2025.

“Policymakers have listened to the needs of investors and have responded appropriately to create an investment ecosystem that rivals the best in the world,” he continued.

Saudi Arabia’s future is tourism

The deputy minister further conveyed that tourism will soon become one of the prime drivers of the Saudi economy as the economic diversification effort continues. 

He revealed that the Kingdom has already issued over 3,500 tourism investment licenses, a crucial leap to achieving 10 percent of the national GDP from tourism by 2030. 

Al-Shahrani added that the Kingdom will welcome over 100 million tourists by 2030 and generate one million jobs in the sector. 

“NEOM, The Red Sea Project, AlUla, Soudah, AMAALA and Diriyah Gate are massive opportunities for investors,” he continued. 

The deputy minister further divulged that the Kingdom’s flag carrier SAUDIA will add 94 new destinations to bring visitors to the Kingdom by 2030. 

Apart from tourism, MISA is also signing deals with companies in the renewables, logistics, and pharmaceutical sectors, the deputy minister added. 

“It is quite clear that the headwinds souring global investor appetite are not blowing in the direction of Saudi Arabia. Government strategy, inspired leadership, talent at every level, well-executed reforms and a clear vision for the future have combined to make the Kingdom an investment powerhouse,” Al-Shahrani said.


Dubai received 7.12m international overnight visitors in H1 20

Dubai received 7.12m international overnight visitors in H1 20
Updated 07 August 2022

Dubai received 7.12m international overnight visitors in H1 20

Dubai received 7.12m international overnight visitors in H1 20
  • Western Europe accounted for 22 percent share

DUBAI: Dubai attracted 7.12 million international overnight visitors between January and June 2022, an increase of more than 183 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to the latest data from its Department of Economy and Tourism.

The figure puts the city on track to meet its tourism targets for 2022.

“The vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai the city of the future and the world’s best place to live, work and invest in has resulted in a resurgence of Dubai’s tourism sector,” said Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. “The growth in tourists reflects the resilience and dynamism of the emirate’s economy. His Highness’s vision has helped Dubai create a strong and stable economic foundation and a dynamic business ecosystem, enabling it to become a leading global hub for diverse sectors.

“The rapid rise in international tourist arrivals puts Dubai on track to achieve its ambitious target of becoming the world’s most visited destination. In the years ahead, Dubai will continue to develop itself further as a destination that offers compelling value to international travelers.”

The number of tourists recorded in the first half of the year was close to that achieved in the first six months of 2019, which saw 8.36 million tourists arriving in Dubai.

Western Europe accounted for 22 percent of the total international visitors in the first six months of 2022. Visitors from the MENA region and Gulf Cooperation Council accounted for 34 percent, followed by South Asia with a 16 percent share.

The geographic spread reflects Dubai's strategy of attracting visitors from a diverse range of countries and visitor segments, mitigating the risks associated with over-reliance on any one region.

Between January and June 2022, the average hotel occupancy rate was 74 percent, one of the highest in the world.

The hotel industry outperformed pre-pandemic levels in all key metrics, including occupied room nights, average daily rate, and revenue per available room.

The Dubai government said the highly encouraging industry performance was primarily due to its hugely successful six-month-long Expo 2020 Dubai, which had attracted 24 million visitors by the time it ended on March 31.

It also attributed the industry performance to the many events the city had hosted, including the Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Food Festival, the World Government Summit, Finance Blockchain Week, and the Dubai International Boat Show.