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Business winners and losers, and the lumpy recovery

The Thaiger

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Business winners and losers, and the lumpy recovery | The Thaiger

As we slowly start to emerge from enforced lockdowns, how have things changed? There have been early ‘winners and losers’ but the profound changes to our lives will now start to morph into lingering economic hardships and unpredictable business outcomes.

Different countries are going to restart their economies at varying speeds and retain some restrictions and drop others, depending on both health concerns and in some cases, political will.

Some of the world’s biggest companies have become even bigger. Small to medium size companies are running on meagre savings or government handouts. Mum and dad stores are struggling to re-open. Start-ups, in the early days of disrupting the bigger players, have been wiped out. Be assured that there will be no return to ‘normal’. Everyone is now charting new business territory.

Whilst the ‘lockdowns’ and travel restrictions around the world have, generally, slowed the infections rate – flattening the curve – they’ve also left the world economy in tatters. Central banks have thrown untold trillions at boosting their battered economies but all this has to be paid back, sooner or later.

But there have been a few winners who, more by luck than good planning, have had the right business model at the right time.

Amazon.com has had to hire more staff – a reported 100,000 – to keep up with a surge in demand from millions of house-bound consumers. It’s reported in Bloomberg that Amazon sales jumped 26% to a record US$75.5 billion, though actual earnings fell 29% compared with the same period last year.

Google’s revenue has exceeded analysts’ expectations for the first quarter. Facebook shares have soared on after results eased investor concerns about advertisers pulling their spend during the pandemic. And social media short-form video platform has been dragging users away from the former preferred Facebook and Instagram.

Even Apple posted a surprising 1% revenue increase in revenue during Q1 to US$58.3 billion.

In Thailand, food delivery services, logistics, online sales, insurance brokers, YouTubers and restaurants that quickly pivoted to the delivery model, have all survived and thrived during the country’s lockdowns. And April’s online traffic results show that most news media have increased their readership during the month as well.

People, stuck at home, have discovered a whole new world of online services. Surely online grocery shopping is going to become a new ‘norm’ in the future. Some businesses have discovered their staff have functioned perfectly well during the lockdowns making business owners take another look at their monthly office rentals.

But there is no doubt retail, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, airlines and hotels are struggling. Some will simply never re-open their doors. And who’d want to be the owner of a cruise ship at the moment?!

We will see some of the companies that have been able to continue trading during the lockdowns pounce on opportunities to buy-up smaller, struggling competitors. Some of the legacy airlines that have been able to ‘hang-on’ will gobble up some of the lean and mean, but cash-poor, low-cost airlines.

Bloomberg reports that the pandemic could reshape the American economy in many ways. Some established companies will begin to teeter and corporate defaults are projected to soar in coming months.

Fears of a “consolidation wave” are leading US lawmakers to try and limit any opportunistic take-overs. The chairman of the House Antitrust Panel is calling for a moratorium on acquisitions in the US.

“As millions of businesses struggle to stay afloat, private equity firms and dominant corporations are positioned to swoop in for a buying spree,”

Two other US Senators are proposing legislation to ban corporate mergers while the pandemic persists. Meanwhile both Democrats and Republicans are raising concerns about the power wielded by big companies, particularly Google and Facebook.

As the pandemic accelerates Amazon’s grip on US online retail sales – its market share already around 40% – it could also permanently shift consumer behaviour toward online shopping, further dooming bricks-and-mortar stores and the traditional retail model.

Netflix, the online streamer, has seen subscriber numbers surge in the first quarter this year. Almost 16 million people created accounts during that period. That is nearly double the number of new sign-ups it saw during the same period last year. Amazon Prime and Disney streaming services have also seen big growth.

Video-conferencing start-up Zoom has benefited massively. Almost unknown before the outbreak, Zoom is an instant household name. The company’s sales and share price are already up over 50% this year. Webex, Skype and Teams are also seeing major growth.

In France, the chairman of cosmetics giant L’Oreal, Jean-Paul Agon, suggested they are on the lookout for weakness in their smaller competitors.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the Darwinian side of this industry. We are pretty sure to be able to get out this crisis even stronger. So will there be opportunities for interesting acquisitions? We will see.”

The ‘sextech’ industry has also thrived over the last few months. Experiencing massive spikes in online orders, from vegan condoms to erotic audio apps, online pornography to AI sex toys, the demand for services has never been stronger. Earlier projections that the international industry will grow to $122 billion by 2026 have been revised upwards as the industry has surged during the lockdowns.

And any businesses to do with health, from face masks, hand sanitisers and business PPE, to insurance ‘top-ups’ and new policies, have all thrived.

SOURCES: Bloomberg | BBC

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Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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