Planet Business

This week: Swiss watches, luxury sunglasses and infectious diseases

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 01:00

Image of the week: Watch the mannequins
This terrifying still image is from a lost episode of Doctor Who called The Timepiece of the Doctor. The mannequins pictured at the Roger Dubuis stand at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie – otherwise known as a Swiss watch fair – are carrying luxury wristwatches in glass cases, which is frankly an inconvenient way to keep track of time.

Still, these are good times for exhibitors at the annual Geneva trade get-together. Luxury watchmakers predict the market will grow this year, thanks to rising demand from North America and Europe, which will offset slowing sales to China. The total market for Swiss watches is worth about 20 billion Swiss francs (€16 billion), so that’s nice. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

In numbers: Ray-Bans of sunshine
4%
Percentage gain in the share price of eyewear company Luxottica, the maker of Ray-Ban sunglasses, on Monday after analysts at Deutsche Bank raised its rating on the company to “buy”.
11%
Percentage increase in sales at Luxottica’s retail division, aka Sunglass Hut, during the 2013 summer season, as it strengthened its leading position in “the fashion sun segment” and opened a flagship store in New York’s Times Square.
€7bn
The Italian company’s net sales in 2012. Standard & Poor’s this week raised the long-term credit rating for the company, which also provides eyewear to US armed forces under the Oakley brand.

The lexicon: The SIR model
The “SIR” in “SIR model” stands for Susceptible, Infectious and Recovered, which are categories used by epidemiologists when they are mapping the spread and recovery from epidemics.

But now researchers at Princeton University have applied an adapted version of the model to Facebook, comparing its growth curve to an infectious disease and concluding that 80 per cent of its users will become immune to its attractions by 2017.

Now as “Facebook is doomed” theories go, theirs is pretty good. They suggest that when certain users “recover” from the social network, they will inspire a recovery in others. This “quitters breed quitters” model was back-tested on MySpace, to which the world discovered the antidote sometime in 2008.

But social networks never die, they only mutate and come back stronger, and it is worth remembering that a healthy 1.2 billion monthly active Facebook users remain contagious.


Getting to know: Chris Kermode
“One of the greatest sports on the planet” is tennis, or at least it is if you’re Chris Kermode, the British man now heading up the ATP, the men’s tour body. Kermode, who in his own journeyman playing days reached a ranking of 742, has, since 2008, overseen the “crown jewel” event, the ATP World Tour Finals – a big pay day for the top eight players – and was appointed to the top job late last year.

In between dealing with concerns about extreme heat on the Melbourne courts, he’s now working on generating more prize money for the lower-ranked players who find it difficult to make a living from tennis without the support of national funding.

The longer-term challenge is to sustain ticket sales after the “Big Four” champions retire. When UK tennis body the LTA was looking for a new chief last year, Andy Murray suggested that, as Kermode “loves the game”, he probably wouldn’t get a look-in. Sure enough he didn’t, but the ATP’s backing means it’s game, set and match to Kermode anyway.

The list: Davos no-shows
Blah blah blah Bono. Yadda Yadda Yadda Matt Damon. The list of people who have joined what Boris Johnson once called “a constellation of egos” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is certainly impressive. More interesting still is who’s not there.
1
The Pope: He’s told the super-elite at Davos that wealth must serve humanity, not the other way round, and best of all he managed to do this without helicoptering in.
2
Warren Buffett: The billionaire whom it’s okay to like never goes to Davos. It’s just not his scene.
3
Mohamed El-Erian: “For me, it has been and remains an issue of efficient time management,” the departing head of Pimco, one of the largest bond investors in the world, told the New York Times. He prefers less rushed meetings at lower altitudes.
4
Tim Cook: The Apple chief executive has better things to do quite frankly. Or maybe he just hates skiing.
5
Women: Just 15 per cent of this year’s attendees are women, down from 17 per cent last year, as pretty much only Marissa Mayer got invited. “You can bring a spouse to the World Economic Forum and people will often just look and assume that I’m a spouse,” said Randi Zuckerberg, sister.

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