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Aug. 9 2016 12:22 PM

Japanese Messaging App Line Is Now Beating Facebook in Its Home Country

Messaging is already huge.

And Line is perfectly positioned to ride the trend to untold riches. The app—which has more than 200 million monthly active users globall—has four to five times the number of monthly active users as Facebook in Japan and is similarly popular in Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia.

David Gibson, an analyst at Macquarie Research, thinks the company’s stock price will shoot up 32 percent higher on the Japanese markets. The main attraction isn’t even the crazy popular messaging app, but rather it’s the ad platform behind it.

“Our report is differentiated from others in the market because we met with six major ad agencies to understand their attitude to the LINE Ad Platform,” Gibson said in a note to clients.

The biggest markets for mobile ads in Japan are Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Japan. These markets are great but are not expanding, meaning prices are rising as more demand meets a stagnant supply.

Aug. 5 2016 2:45 PM

Why Nike Is Giving Up on Making Golf Equipment

Nike is ending its golf-equipment business, as the sport fails to connect with millennials.

On Wednesday, the athletic-apparel brand announced that it will transition out of selling golf clubs, balls, and bags. The company will, however, continue to sell golf footwear and apparel.

The news comes after a rough patch for Nike golfers, as well as a decline in interest in the golf industry as a whole.

Aug. 4 2016 3:58 PM

SeaWorld Is Trying to Give Its Inhumane Image a Makeover. It’s Not Working.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

SeaWorld Entertainment reported dismal attendance numbers for the first half of 2016, and the stock is nose-diving.

SeaWorld reported earnings right in line with analyst expectations at $0.21 per share. However, it missed on revenue with a reported $371.1 million for the second quarter against analyst expectations of $375.1 million.

Additionally, the company lowered its guidance for profits this year, projecting EBITDA of $310 million to $340 million, lower than its previous projection of $335 million to $365 million.

The biggest factor, however, is attendance. Attendance at the company’s parks has been on the decline for some time after the documentary Blackfish took aim at SeaWorld’s controversial treatment of its famous orcas. This inspired backlash against the parks and contributed to the drop in attendance.

Attendance for the second quarter was down by 494,000 guests compared with the same quarter in 2015, a 7.6 percent drop.

The company had been heavily investing in a positive public relations campaign to turn around attendance and has even announced it will phase out its ownership of orcas and theatrical shows featuring the whales, its main attraction, because of animal welfare concerns.

CEO Joel Manby tried to explain the drop in a release accompanying earnings:

While implementation of our plan through the first half of 2016 is delivering early indications of progress outside of Florida, second quarter overall was below expectations we shared in May, primarily due to an accelerated decline in Latin American guests at our Florida park locations, an overall downturn in the Orlando market in the latter half of June, and the impact of Tropical Storm Colin. Latin American attendance is down approximately 40 percent, or 235,000 guests, year-to-date.

The release did not offer an explanation why Latin American attendance had dropped so significantly.

Following the news, SeaWorld's stock fell 13.75 percent, down $2.04, to $12.80 a share, as of 10:03 a.m. ET. The stock is now down over 50 percent over the past two years.

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Aug. 3 2016 1:43 PM

Starbucks Is Recalling 2.5 Million Stainless Steel Drinking Straws

On Tuesday, Starbucks issued a recall on its stainless steel beverage straws, after reports of mouth injuries.

The recall includes reusable stainless steel, Cold-to-Go drinking straws for both Grande and Venti sizes.

“Starbucks has received three reports in the U.S. and one in Canada of mouth lacerations to young children while drinking,” the company said in its recall announcement. “Consumers should not allow children to handle or use the stainless steel straws.”

The straw and items featuring the straw have been pulled from Starbucks’ online store. The coffee giant sold about 2.5 million units of the straws in the U.S., and an additional 301,000 in Canada.

Aug. 1 2016 2:38 PM

A McDonald’s in Wales Is Piloting a Drive-Thru for Pedestrians

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

McDonald’s is testing a drive-thru for customers without cars.

A McDonald’s in Llandudno, North Wales recently opened a drive-thru lane for pedestrian customers, reports the Sun. The test was reportedly an immediate success, leading to the restaurant making the walk-thru lane a permanent fixture.

July 29 2016 11:26 AM

Yahoo Is Being Sold, but It’s Hiring Like Crazy. Huh?

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

July 18 was a big day at Yahoo: It announced its second-quarter earnings and took the final bids for the auction of its core business, which eventually sold to Verizon.

But it appears that day marked the start of a new trend at Yahoo as well—a massive hiring spree.

July 28 2016 12:27 PM

Why Sports Authority’s Bankruptcy Has the Rest of the Retail Industry Feeling Spooked

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Sports Authority’s bankruptcy and total liquidation means more than just the end of an iconic sporting goods dealer.

It could spell trouble for retailers.

Bloomberg reports that Sports Authority’s collapse has made retailers concerned about the way they have been operating.

“You could make the argument that given the state of retail, everyone’s going to be analyzing—whether or not it’s retailers or lenders—what makes the most sense and, in particular, vendors,”  Mike Murray, senior managing director at Wells Fargo & Co, said to Bloomberg.

The consignment business model is one area that retailers are concerned about, as Bloomberg notes that Sports Authority explained in court documents that the business had $85 million worth of consigned items in stores at the beginning of its bankruptcy.

July 25 2016 12:39 PM

Nintendo’s Stock Plummeted After It Said Pokémon Go Would Have a Limited Effect on Its Business

This post originally appeared in Business Insider Australia.

Shares in Nintendo, which owns 32 percent of the global phenomenon Pokémon Go, have tanked in trade on the Nikkei.

The stock closed down by more than 17 percent on Monday, following a statement from the company late Friday that the financial impact of the smartphone game would be “limited.”

July 22 2016 1:11 PM

Watch a State Department Spokesman Catch a Reporter Playing Pokémon Go in a Press Conference

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

On Thursday a U.S. State Department press briefing was interrupted when spokesman John Kirby stopped to ask a reporter if he was playing Pokémon Go.

Kirby stopped mid-sentence to say, “You’re playing the Pokémon thing right there, aren't you?”

Here's the exchange via the State Department transcript:

Kirby:  ... As the amount of anti-ISIL content continues to eclipse pro-ISIL content online, the working group renewed its commitment to launching innovative international campaigns and expanding regional and global networks and accelerating global efforts to confront them in the information space.
As the Secretary said earlier today, though, and I think it’s an important reminder—you’re playing the Pokémon thing right there, aren’t you?
Reporter: I’m just keeping an eye on it.
Kirby: It’s an important reminder – we know this won't be easy. We recognize it’s a challenge, and we’re clear-eyed about the work we still have to do. This is why we convened this important ministerial and will continue to work with our coalition partners to defeat Daesh—did you get one?
Reporter: No. The signal is not very good.
Kirby: Sorry about that.

Here’s the full video of the press briefing:

July 21 2016 1:20 PM

The Google Lab Whose A.I. Beat the World’s Go Champion Has a New Job: HVAC

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Google forked out over $500 million for a little-known London startup called DeepMind in 2014 without specifying how the company’s artificial-intelligence technology would be used to increase Google’s revenues, which already run into tens of billions of dollars every year.

That all changed on Wednesday when DeepMind announced that Google had found a use for DeepMind’s technology in its enormous data centers.

Since being acquired by Google, DeepMind’s AI has been used to beat humans at board games and create free apps with the National Health Service. Neither application has helped Google make—or save—any money.

But now Google is using a DeepMind AI system to control the huge air-conditioning units in its power-hungry data centers, where servers consume enough energy to power entire cities and get very hot in the process.

The AI system does this by predicting how much air conditioning will be needed to deal with an anticipated change in data-center temperature, which fluctuates as demand for services like YouTube, Google Maps, and Gmail rises and falls.

DeepMind says its AI can make the cooling units in Google’s data centers 40 percent more efficient, ultimately cutting the data centers’ overall electricity consumption by 15 percent.

DeepMind’s technology has been deployed across only a handful of Google’s data centers, but Google is planning to introduce the company’s machine-learning software to all 15 of its data centers by the end of the year, potentially resulting in massive energy savings on Google’s sizable electricity bill.

DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman was unable to say how much money Google stood to save on its electricity bill, but the figure could run into tens or even hundreds of millions given the size of Google’s data-center operation. In 2011, Google’s data centers reportedly used 0.01 percent of the world's electricity.

But data centers aren’t the only place where DeepMind can have an effect on Google’s bottom line.

The company has also said in the past couple of months that it intends to sell its products and services to healthcare providers like the NHS at some point, providing Google with an additional revenue stream.

All of this adds up to make DeepMind an interesting acquisition that could create significantly more than the $500 million Google paid for the startup.

“DeepMind looks to be an acquisition of YouTube/Android significance for Google,” Chris Lacy, an entrepreneur and software developer, wrote on Twitter, prompting a retweet from one of DeepMind’s employees.

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