Apple Watch, ho hum. Apple shares jumped by up to 2.4% as the company unveiled its much-anticipated Apple Watch in San Francisco overnight as well as a new, thinner MacBook notebook computer. But the gains faded and the shares finished only 0.4% higher as second and third thoughts set in. Wall Street is gung-ho about the Apple Watch (after all, many missed the significance of the iPhone back in 2007). Forecasts for the device’s unit sales in its first full year on the market range between 20 million and 30 million. Only owners with iPhones launched since 2012 — estimated to be more than 300 million people — will find their smartphone is compatible with the Apple Watch when it goes on sale next month. So Wall Street reckons up to 10% of those people will buy a watch in the next year. According to the Apple spin at the launch, the Apple Watch has health-tracking, messaging, payment and timekeeping functions. But other apps on offer include ones from social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, WeChat and Twitter, sports scores from ESPN and Major League Baseball and Uber and American Airlines ticketing. Those apps will have to be changed for non-US markets. Apple’s cheer squad say the Apple Watch will reduce the estimated 150 times a day that smartphone owners check their mobile devices. Apple also announced a streaming video venture with HBO (price US$14.999 a month), which got a lot of positive comment. Will a Rolex owner really change her ticker for an Apple Watch? — Glenn Dyer
Why the NT News stands out. The Murdoch clan’s Darwin-based NT News is the best-performing Australian paper not only for number of crocodiles pictured, but also as far as job ads are concerned. The monthly job ads series from ANZ said yesterday: “Despite the overall rebound in newspaper job ads this month, the growth is trending downwards, falling 20.4 y/y. The pace of deterioration appears to have improved slightly for NSW and QLD.” In actual numbers there were 3311 job ads (seasonally adjusted) last month in major capital city newspapers, down from 3664 in September of last year and 4007 in February 2014. But the detailed state-by-state data shows that the Northern Territory, with 413 job ads in newspapers in February, had more than Victoria (411), Queensland (382) and South Australia (162), and more than Tasmania (157) and the ACT (109) combined. And why? Well, the NT and Darwin are still enjoying the dying embers of the boom, with a big liquefied natural gas project still under construction and several smaller projects being built. And that’s no croc. — Glenn Dyer
Alphatise in administration. You heard it here first. A high-profile Australian e-commerce startup that gained notoriety by hijacking the iPhone 6 launch in Australia and offering the “world’s best” internship has collapsed into voluntary administration. Alphatise, whose shareholders include Rich Lister and Western Australia-based technology entrepreneur Zhenya Tsvetnenko, appointed Deloitte as administrators of the company on March 5.
Vaughan Strawbridge, Deloitte restructuring services partner, confirmed the appointment late Friday afternoon. “It’s still very early days as far as our appointment is concerned,” said Strawbridge. “We are continuing to trade the business while we are assessing options around recapitalising the business.”
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The first meeting of creditors will take place on March 16 in Sydney. Crikey understands a number of Alphatise shareholders have concerns about the leadership of the company. Alphatise allows consumers to request a product they want to buy and say how much they’re willing to pay for it. The company then gives retailers the opportunity to match that deal.
Adam Schwab, founder of e-commerce player Aussie Commerce, last week criticised the Alphatise model in Crikey:
“What isn’t explained is why a distributor or retailer would bother with such a confusing platform, or how the retailer and Alphatise are both able to make a satisfactory margin on the sale.”
The Sydney-based business has previously raised $3 million, and co-founder and chief executive Paul Pearson previously told Crikey sister site SmartCompany Alphatise was planning another $12 million capital raise by the end of 2014. “We have had expressions of interest from a lot of venture capital firms out of Silicon Valley and locally as well,” Pearson previously said. — Kirsten Robb (previously published at SmartCompany)
Google wags the WPP dog? WPP is the world’s biggest advertising and marketing company and overnight reported record sales for 2014 of 11.53 billion pounds (around $22.4 billion) and operating profits of 1.45 billion pounds, or more than $2.8 billion. But buried in the results were a couple of troubling details for the ad industry and WPP shareholders. Google is the company’s single biggest client, bringing in more than US$3 billion of revenues last year (more than $3.8 billion). WPP’s digital business now accounts for 36% of revenues, or around $8.06 billion. Google is now close to half that. WPP wants to boost digital’s share to 40%-45%, according to the company’s briefing overnight. Operating margins were 16.7% for the year (up slightly from 16.5%. Google by the way had revenue of US$66 billion, so WPP’s US$3 billion was less than 3% of Google’s revenue. For all its size, WPP needs Google a bit more than Google needs WPP. — Glenn Dyer
All Black hair shirt, Sir? For years, if not decades, the Reserve Bank of NZ has made something of a fetish out of being purer than pure when it comes to monetary policy. From Don Brash to Alan Bollard and the current head, Graeme Wheeler, RBNZ governors have assiduously prosecuted a tough monetary policy line. At the moment, the bank is in the midst of wondering if the latest bit of monetary policy-rucking, which resulted in rate rises in four of its eight meetings in 2014, was a couple too many. At 3.50%, New Zealand’s official cash rate is much higher than that of Australia, the US, Japan or Europe. Yes, NZ economic growth has been very solid and for a while inflation looked like it was about to break out, but cue the great oil slide and suddenly that 3.5% looks horrid — too high for a currency that last week got to within 3 cents of parity with the Aussie. Kiwi exporters, led by the dairy lobby and logging, have been moaning about the high exchange rate, and even the RBNZ has been wringing its hands and urging the currency to fall. The Kiwi is down nearly 4% in the past three trading days. We will know Thursday morning. According to some in the markets there is more chance of the Kiwis missing out on the Cricket World Cup than there is of a rate cut this Thursday. — Glenn Dyer
Ten steady: In yesterday’s nasty 1.3%, $24 billion sharemarket sell-off (Oh, Miss Henny Penny cried, the Fed could put up interest rates, the sky will fall, again!) that followed a small dip on Friday, Ten Network shares have remained steady at 24 cents. The shares have been round that level now for around four days trading. Is that a big hint the long-mooted deal between Foxtel/Discovery and Ten is coming, at 24 cents a share, even though the dynamic duo was said to be “fatigued” in yesterday’s Financial Review, which is code for about to drop the whole thing if something happens? Ten shares didn’t move despite that big hint — is something about to happen with Ten? — Glenn Dyer