Saturday, June 12

Bebo’s return, Big Oil’s slide and the fashion for red tape


Image of the week: Out of style

Populated only by the fragments of decommissioned mannequins, a deserted Topshop in London is pictured through the window in a sorry illustration of retail woes. Now the British fashion and textile industry – of which Topshop was once a great supporter – is now wrapped in Brexit red tape and travel restrictions. This week, models Twiggy and Yasmin Le Bon were among those to put their names to a letter to British prime minister Boris Johnson to demand “urgent action” to save it. Katharine Hamnett, best known for designing T-shirts with slogans like “Choose Life” and “Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now”, called for “a radical overhaul of customs arrangements including VAT on all goods shipped into the EU by the end of February or British brands will die”. Mercifully, the T-shirt version of this is simply “Fashion Hates Brexit”.

In numbers: Bebo right back

8

Years that noughties social media site Bebo – the name stood for “blog early, blog often” – was in operation, though its cultural “moment” died long before it did.

$850 million

Sum that AOL paid for the site in 2008. Married founders Michael Birch and Xochi Birch later bought it back for $1 million and turned it into an e-sports streaming service, before selling the business again (to Amazon subsidiary Twitch) for $25 million. But they kept the rights to the brand.

40 million

Users that Bebo, which was unusually popular in Ireland for some reason, had at its peak. The founders now say a new Bebo (with new user accounts) will return this month and that Donald Trump is already banned.

Getting to know: Andy Jassy

Andy Jassy (53) is “the cloud guy” – the boss of Amazon cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS) tapped by Jeff Bezos to take over as chief executive of the whole shebang, so Bezos can spend more time with his spaceships. Jassy is a “long-time acolyte” of the Amazon founder, as the Wall Street Journal put it. He joined the company in 1997, three years after it was set up and just the Monday after he finished his last exam at Harvard Business School. Married with two children, he is a part-owner of the new ice hockey franchise the Seattle Kraken and confidently describes himself on his Twitter bio as an “experienced buffalo wings eater”. Inside Amazon, Jassy is reported to hold meetings dubbed “the Chop”. Amazonians who have attended them say the experience has the potential to be as painful as this name suggests.

The list: Smaller oil

Time to start panic-shopping for tiny violins: Big Oil has been suffering in this pandemic too. So what have its leading lights been telling investors?

1. Exxon Mobil. The oil major this week reported its first annual loss in 40 years. Oh, and there was a $19 billion assets writedown.

2. BP. The slump in demand led to BP’s first annual loss in a decade. Warmer weather in the US than expected and colder conditions in Asia also hindered its natural gas trading performance.

3. Chevron. It was “a year like no other”, said chief executive Mike Wirth of 2020 and he didn’t mean it in a good way, obviously.

4. Royal Dutch Shell. It cut its shareholder dividend in 2020 for the first time since the second World War.

5. Total. The French energy giant’s full-year earnings aren’t due until next week, but the signs are it hasn’t escaped the big slash-and-burn.



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