Business Chief Brief: 5 things to know this week
1 Tech show CES returns to Las Vegas
The world’s biggest consumer electronics and technology show returned to Las Vegas this week, though a number of heavyweights including Microsoft, Meta, Google, Amazon, Twitter and Intel pulled out at the last minute due to surging Covid-19 cases. Despite this, CES 2022 delivered a slew of innovative announcements and launches, both real and virtual, among them gadgets designed to make life easier during a pandemic, a wave of AR, virtual reality and metaverse announcements, and a firm focus on EV solutions.
The highlights? Sony Group unveiled its first-ever electric SUV, as it announced the set-up of a mobility company (Sony Mobility Inc.) to focus on electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz set a record for EV range with the virtual launch of its new, all-electric concept car with a 648-mile range (Lucid offers 520 miles, Tesla 402). Dubbed the most-efficient Mercedes-Benz ever built, the Vision EQXX is solar-powered and designed with recycled and sustainable materials including mushroom fibres, ground-up cacti and trash such as food scraps.
Qualcomm and Microsoft announced to the world that they intend to partner on chips for future AR glasses; while Samsung has given its 2022 smart TV range the ability to trade in NFTs, adding a trading app so users can discover, purchase and trade digital artwork, as well as display the artwork via ‘art mode’ on the TV.
2. NFT’s first unicorn OpenSea closes new funding round with value of US$13bn
This week saw the largest and most popular NFT marketplace OpenSea closed a US$300m Series C funding round, valuing the four-year-old startup at a staggering US$13bn. Funding was led by investment firms Coatue Management and Paradigm and follows on from OpenSea’s US$100m series B fundraising round last July, which saw basketball star Kevin Durant and actor Ashton Kutcher contribute.
This valuation comes on the back of a buzzing year for NFTs (non-fungible tokens), unique digital assets linked to the blockchain, where some were sold for millions of dollars. According to OpenSea, trades on its platform rose 600-fold in 2021, facilitating US$14bn in transactions.
This year, the startup plans to use the funds to grow its staff of 90 employees especially in customer support and trust and safety teams, and launch a grant program to support creators in the NFT space. bring NFTs to a broad consumer audience.
3. Apple becomes world’s first three-trillion-dollar company
Consumer tech giant Apple has become the world’s first-ever three-trillion-dollar company, as CEO Tim Cook celebrates a decade at the helm of the consumer tech giant formed 45 years ago. Such an achievement is not surprising given Apple’s performance last year with its fiscal Q4 revenue hitting a record US$83.4bn, up a staggering 29% year-on-year.
While Apple is the only company to date to reach such staggering valuation heights, other firms are hot on Apple’s heels with data showing that US companies make up eight of the top 10 companies by market capitalisation. While other tech titans like Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Tesla and Meta are all creeping towards the trillion-dollar mark, according to CNBC, it’s likely that Berkshire Hathaway, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, will be the next in line for the trillion-dollar market capitalisation club.
The reason? The finance conglomerate has a 5% stake in Apple (bought for US$36bn in 2018 and now worth US$160bn), arguably one of the strongest investments Berkshire has made in the last decade.
4. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes found guilty
The founder and former CEO of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that claimed to be a breakthrough health technology company, has this week been found guilty on four counts of fraud following a four-month trial.
Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 and convinced investors and clients (including Walgreens) that it had technology that could run over 10,000 blood test with just a drop of blood. Not only was the startup backed by high-profile investors including Rupert Murdoch and Henry Kissinger, but Holmes was named by Forbes in 2015 as the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America based on Theranos’ US$9bn valuation.
But in 2015, a Wall Street Journal article revealed the devices only conducted a handful of tests and many did not work. Found guilty on four counts, Holmes faces up to decades in prison. Throughout the trial she testified that she did really believe that the technology could deliver the results.
5. Banks up commitments to office space in New York City
This week, two major banks announced plans to take on more office space in New York City. Morgan Stanley signed a deal to take over BlackRock’s former headquarters – a 400,000 sqft space in Park Avenue Plaza at 55 East 52nd Street, where the bank already has some space, via a 15-year lease. This follows BlackRock’s plans to vacate 12 floors and relocate its headquarters to 50 Hudson Yards.
This week also saw Signature Bank more than double its current office at 1400 Broadway in NYC, expanding by 168,310sqft across 100 floors for a lease of 15 years.