Image of the Week: Reverting to type
Image of the week: Reverting to type
Who needs iMacs? Who needs Netbooks? Who needs a laptop that can connect to wifi without having a mid-life crisis? Not Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), the secret service agency responsible for the protection of the president and other high-ranking officials. It recently put out to tender the delivery of new typewriters and ink ribbons - a move widely regarded as a search for hacker-proof office equipment. Russian firms have recently ordered 20 electronic typewriters from German company Olympia Business Systems, according to its chief executive Heinz Prygoda, who poses here with one of his products, the “Carrera de Luxe”. But he says “no one from the secret service has called”.
Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters
In numbers: Barbie blues
Percentage fall in sales of Mattel’s Barbie in the second quarter of the year - the doll’s fourth consecutive quarter of declining popularity.
Estimated revenues that Mattel still manages to collect from the 54-year-old Barbie, despite her fading appeal.
Percentage drop in the toymaker’s net income in the three months to the end of June, as the rise of its more goth-like Monster High dolls and other ranges couldn’t quite compensate for the Barbie blues.
The lexicon: “Mini-Schengen”
The Schengen area is a group of 26 European countries that eschew passport controls at their borders and adopt a common visa policy. Now Schengen “opt outs” Ireland and Britain plan to create their own “mini-Schengen” zone that would enable Asian tourists and business travellers to move between the two countries on a single visa - effectively, “mini-Schengen” would mean an extension of the Common Travel Area to visitors. In “Big Schengen”, the vision of borderless harmony originally agreed in the Luxembourg town of Schengen was disrupted a couple of years ago by a squabble between France and Italy, after the latter granted more visas to North African migrants than France thought proper.
Getting to know: Simon Calver
Once upon a time, Simon Calver was chief executive of LoveFilm, Britain’s answer to early-days Netflix, which he eventually sold to Amazon for a pretty sum. Now Calver has ditched movies for babies, having been brought in last year to rescue Mothercare. The turnaround procedure so far has involved the usual mix of nurturing profitable stores and cutting the cord on failing ones, and though the company’s sales are still falling, Calver now has a new stimulus in his sights. Mothercare’s UK customers will be treated to a Royal baby “celebration range” including “Born to Rule” sleepsuits and “Princess/Prince in Training” bibs and vests. Calver is a believer in a royal “feelgood factor”, but let’s hope this last remark to Reuters was a joke: “Who knows in nine months’ time there may even be a tick-up in the birth rate.”
The list: Second-quarter slumps
Earnings season is in full swing, and there’s no shortage of heavyweight corporates reporting weaker-than-forecast sales that have the temerity to disappoint stock analysts and their ridiculous expectations. Here’s a selection:
1. Intel: Second-quarter profit at the chipmaker fell 29 per cent and revenue dropped 5 per cent as it suffered from the great switch away from PCs.
2. Coca-Cola: Coke’s sales lost their fizz in North America. Its chief financial officer reluctantly blamed the unusually rubbish weather during the period.
3. eBay: Profits fell at the online retailer and auction site, prompting it to warn of economic “headwinds” in Europe and South Korea. (Tailwinds are less often mentioned in trading updates.)
4. SCA: Europe’s biggest maker of hygiene products (nappies, mostly) posted lacklustre profits, as the Swedish firm grappled with the general economic malaise.
5. Samsung: Earlier this month, the smartphone-maker’s earnings sparked unimpressed faces among the tech-watchers who had thought it would shift more shiny Galaxy S4s.