Oracle Corp to buy Australia's Aconex for $1.19 billion

Sydney (Reuters) – Australia’s Aconex Ltd (ACX.AX) said on Monday it had received a A$1.56 billion ($1.2 billion), or A$7.80 in cash-per-share, buyout offer from U.S. software major Oracle Corp (ORCL.N), sending the target’s share price up 45 percent.

Aconex said in a statement its directors unanimously recommended the offer, with shareholders of the cloud-based project management company scheduled to vote on the bid at a scheme meeting in March next year.

The Australian company specializes in web-based project management software that allows input from different teams. Its technology has been used on global projects including the Panama Canal extension.

“Oracle’s offer of A$7.80 per share represents a significant premium and a high degree of certainty of value to shareholders through the cash offer and limited conditionality,” Aconex Chairman Adam Lewis said in a statement.

Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, who both have holdings of just over 5 percent, declined interview requests on Monday.

The company has experienced massive share price fluctuations since listing in 2014 at A$1.90, and peaking at just above A$8.50 last year.

The share price rose 45 percent immediately after trading resumed on Monday to just below the A$7.80 cash-per-share offer.

Aconex, which focuses on construction projects, said it would be liable to pay Oracle about 1 percent of the deal’s equity value as a break-up fee under certain conditions which it did not specify.

Oracle said in a statement that the transaction was expected to close in the first half of 2018.

The proposed transaction was one of two major U.S.-Australian technology deals unveiled on Monday, with Australian data centre provider Metronode receiving a A$1.04 billion ($791.2 million) bid from U.S. company Equinix Inc(EQIX.O).

($1 = 1.3074 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru, Editing by Stephen Coates

China's Tencent, invest $863 million in online retailer Vipshop

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese social media firm Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) and e-commerce platform Inc (JD.O) on Monday said they will jointly invest $863 million in Chinese discount online retailer Vipshop Holdings Ltd (VIPS.N).

Tencent will invest $604 million in exchange for a 7 percent stake in Vipshop, while will invest $259 million for 5.5 percent. The investment amounts represent a 55 percent premium over Vipshop’s closing share price on Friday of $8.44.

“We look forward to providing Vipshop with our audiences, marketing solutions, and payment support to help the company provide branded apparel and other product categories to China’s rising middle class,” Tencent President Martin Lau said in a statement.

The deal represents a major alliance in China’s e-commerce market, where competition for retail brands between and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N) has grown increasingly fierce.

A sign is seen during the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song

It also comes as Tencent, which derives most of its profit from gaming and social media, pushes into retail, leveraging its relationship with and popular app WeChat. Last week it said it would buy five percent of Chinese department store operator Yonghui Superstores Co Ltd (601933.SS).

Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $473 billion, is a major stakeholder in, and the two have recently upped cooperation on data and payments to better compete with Alibaba. Chief Executive Richard Liu recently said roughly 100 Chinese apparel merchants had left the firm’s platform in the last quarter due to what he called “coercive” tactics by competing platforms.

“The strength of Vipshop’s flash sale and apparel businesses, as well as its outstanding management team, create clear and strong synergies with us,” Liu said in the statement.

After the Vipshop deal closes, Tencent will allow Vipshop to capture traffic from WeChat, and will integrate Vipshop features into its own app and assist the firm in reaching sales targets, the companies said.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Apple Orders New Sci-Fi Series From Battlestar Galactica Mastermind Ronald D. Moore

For fans of high-end TV, Ronald D. Moore might not quite rank alongside creators like Mad Men’s Matthew Wiener or The Wire‘s David Simon – but he should. Moore was the mastermind behind 2004’s very serious, very good reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a series that arguably paved the way for everything from The Walking Dead to Westworld to, most obviously, Game of Thrones.

Now it looks like we’ll get a new space drama from Moore, thanks to Apple. Deadline reports that Apple has ordered an entire series to be created and written by Moore, along with two executive producers of the also-excellent Fargo TV series. Engadget reports that the series will “explore what would have happened if the space race between the United States, Soviet Russia, and the rest of the world hadn’t ended.”

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More important than the subject matter, the show’s pedigree suggests it will be full of deep characters, convoluted twists, and a fair bit of social commentary, putting it in the sweet spot for binge-worthy content that can attract broad attention as viewing habits shift from cable to streaming.

Apple has said it will spend $1 billion on original TV content, partly in response to a dramatic drop in iTunes’ share of online movie rentals in recent years. Apple’s first tentative steps into original programming, including the reality show Planet of the Apps, are included with an Apple Music membership, but Apple may also launch a new video service.

Sci-fi and fantasy series have been front and center in the streaming wars. So much so, in fact, that CBS recently anchored a big push for its All Access streaming service around a new Star Trek series – the franchise where Moore got his start.

San Francisco Security Robot Fired After Public Outcry

A San Francisco animal shelter has announced it will no longer use a Knightscope security robot to patrol its office, after a widely-circulated report that described the robot being used to “deter” nearby homeless encampments and rising crime.

In a statement to Ars Technica, the San Francisco SPCA said it has “received hundreds of messages inciting violence and vandalism against our facility” after the story of the robot went viral. In response to that pressure, the organization will seek “a more fully informed, consensus-oriented, local approach” to the use of security robots. San Francisco authorities had already advised the SPCA to stop using the robot on sidewalks without proper approval.

Mountain View-based Knightscope has said in a statement that the robot “was not brought in to clear the area around the San Francisco SPCA of homeless individuals,” but only to “serve and protect the SPCA.”

The fracas reads as the latest installment in a long-running cultural and economic war over the present and future of San Francisco. The recent influx of tech companies and their high-paid employees has helped drive income inequality and make the onetime bohemian mecca the most expensive place to rent an apartment in the United States.

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Those underlying tensions have boiled over in protests against tech companies, including over private shuttles run by companies including Google. According to Ars Technica, the San Francisco SPCA facility is located in a rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood where inequality is particularly acute, contributing to the rise of homeless encampments on sidewalks. The SPCA reported a recent rise in vandalism and theft, which it has said declined after the security robot was put into service.

But in San Francisco’s current context, the optics of even a nonprofit using a high-tech robot to deter homeless people could hardly have been worse. In a further layer, the robot could be seen as taking a job from a human. SF SPCA President Jennifer Scarlett earlier told the San Francisco Business Times that the robot cost about $6 an hour to rent, while San Francisco’s minimum wage is $14 an hour. Scarlett said having humans perform the same duties would be “cost prohibitive,” though, suggesting no new workers will be hired to replace the laid-off robot.

Meet the Publicly Traded Company Paying Employees in Bitcoin

What if your paycheck for this December could be worth more than ten times its face amount next December? That’s the scenario that many employees of Japan’s GMO Internet Group who opt to be paid in Bitcoin will no doubt be hoping for when taking payment in the cryptocurrency becomes an option starting in March of 2018.

You may have seen some headlines flying around this week about the new company paying salaries in crypto bucks, but it’s not necessarily a sign that the Bit-revolution is swamping everything just yet. 

Getting paid in Bitcoin isn’t unheard of for employees in the Blockchain and crypto world, but GMO is a large, publicly traded company with thousands of employees. Some industry watchers see it as yet another sign Bitcoin is making baby steps into the mainstream. 

The problem, of course, is that Bitcoin’s stratospheric rise in value from less than $1,000 in 2016 to over $17,000 today is certainly not guaranteed to continue and could be a bubble ready to pop at any moment. Typically, you want employees with a stable and positive cashflow situation, so paying them in one of the most volatile currencies around can be problematic to say the least.

This is why it would be technically illegal if GMO employees were given no choice but to be paid via Bitcoin. The company’s program instead gives workers the option of having a portion of their pay deducted and used to purchase Bitcoin at current rates. Obviously, any worker could just as easily be paid in Japanese yen and exchange a portion of their salary for Bitcoin on their own; GMO is just offering to automate the process of investing in Bitcoin for workers.

It’s all a clever means of promoting a few of GMO Internet’s latest ventures in to Bitcoin trading, mining and mining hardware development. So getting paid in Bitcoin at GMO is really a way to show that you’re with the company program, not to mention that more circulating Bitcoin in the world is now also good for the company bottom line. 

When major companies not engaged with the Bitcoin universe in any other way start to conduct payroll and other big transactions with cryptocurrency, I’ll definitely take notice.

Until then, the bigger indicator of Bitcoin gaining mainstream acceptance is the steady stream of headlines about the currency during 2017 and the numerous new exchange accounts being opened everyday. 

However, this only indicates Bitcoin’s growing acceptance as a viable investment. Mainstream acceptance as an actual currency to purchase goods and services still seems a ways off, even for those working at GMO Internet.

Fortune Brainstorm Tech International 2017 Livestream

The inaugural Fortune Brainstorm Tech International conference convenes world leaders to discuss innovation, technology, and the economy from December 5 to 6 in Guangzhou, China.

The event taps into the strength of two Fortune powerhouse series: Brainstorm Tech, which takes place each July in Aspen, and Global Forum, our long-running CEO summit. (Indeed, Brainstorm Tech International will colocate with this year’s Global Forum.) It takes place in Guangzhou, China’s southern gateway and an emerging center of tech innovation.

Fortune Brainstorm Tech International will explore the innovation revolution unfolding in China, a trend that is not yet fully appreciated or well understood around the world. The old notion of China as a tech copycat nation is being rapidly replaced by the emerging new reality of home grown innovation and mass implementation in fields that include artificial intelligence, social media, biotech, fintech, VR, automotive, the sharing economy, and mobile platforms. The conference program will feature the China innovators who are rewriting the rules and reshaping the landscape, in combination with tech leaders from around the world.

Fortune Brainstorm Tech International is at capacity but you can watch most of the program right here on this page. The festivities begin at 7:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Dec. 5 (or 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Mon. Dec. 4).

This Year's Holiday Office Party Should Be Extremely Simple. Here Is a New Way to Do It.

Most of us celebrate too little, recognize the work of others too infrequently, and honor others’ contributions too timidly. The holiday season offers an opportunity to correct that. And yet, most company year-end parties end up being an obligatory time commitment —  and sometimes even a personal intrusion.

If the year-end forces phony holiday cheer or silent suffering (or self-medication!) something has gone wrong. I’d suggest taking a fresh look at how you can celebrate the progress your organization has made, and especially the people in your organization. With some intentional planning around inclusion, meaning, and tradition, year-end parties can become important annual celebration.

My family has a favorite year-end celebration that I’ve often wondered if its spirit might be transferred to a work-related setting. Every New Year’s Eve, we take a large sheet of paper and make a column for each month.

Then, we ask for everyone’s help to fill in the big moments and milestones of each month — whatever anyone wants to remember or be recognized for.  It could be chicken pox, or a first job, or a big school project — anything worth remembering by any family member.

Over the years, we’ve assembled the month-by-month tapestry of our family’s entire history, a summary of what mattered most to various family members along the way. It allows us to see in a single decade, for example, an evolution of losing baby teeth, getting their replacements straightened, and ultimately the liberation from braces.

Why a “year in review” moment is a great idea

Businesses go through toddler, childhood, adolescent and young adult stages, too, with similar and predictable milestones: first paying customer, first profitable quarter, new office location, opening cities, adding product lines, going global, going public or shooting for a different peak. 

If you’re not careful, business milestones can dissolve into never-ending deadlines of budgets, timetables and deliverables. You’ll never take the time to step back and admire your progress, celebrate even minor milestones, or honor those who made it all possible — including suppliers, investors, customers and team members. The year-end party is a way to celebrate the progress the organization has made that creates a running history of contributions and achievements that might not otherwise be acknowledged.

At JetBlue, former CEO Dave Barger used to make an annual word chart, which would be the jumping off point for the events and people who best illustrated something meaningful that happened that year and that bound us together as an enterprise. 

A variation on his year-in-review might feature video or photo highlights and milestones. Whatever your medium, taking stock of the year for the organization, and especially its people, should be an important part of every year. If done right, it should be an authentic celebration.

In any company, there’s a lot to celebrate — even if it’s prospective and still just out of reach. Stepping back at year-end to get the view at 30,000 feet and to share it is worth a party.

Doing something meaningful is more likely to create a tradition that celebrates the essence of the enterprise and its mission, and more focused on honoring those at every level who’ve made the company what it is. This kind of celebration can likely evolve over time into a meaningful year-end tradition that people will look forward to and plan for. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.