The digital business week


6 Dec 2010

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A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

E-invoicing would save Europe €240bn in six years

The European Commission says it wants to see e-invoicing become the predominant method for businesses to invoice in Europe by 2020 in a move that could save the European Union €240bn over a six-year period.

The EU says that providing invoice data electronically could allow businesses to benefit from shorter payment delays, fewer errors, reduced printing and postage costs.

Most importantly, structured e-invoices facilitate business process integration from purchase to payment, meaning that invoices could be sent, received and processed without manual intervention.

Currently, exchanging e-invoices is often complex and costly, in particular across borders and for SMEs.

In Ireland, inaction on the part of the Government and businesses themselves to pursue electronic payments is costing the economy an estimated €1bn a year.

At present, 78pc of all transactions in the Irish economy are cheque-based, undermining the country’s ambitions of being a smart economy.

According to a study carried out on behalf of the Commission in 2008, replacing regular paper invoices by e-invoices across the EU could result in about €240bn in savings over a six-year period.

Amazon invests US$175m in LivingSocial

Amazon.com has invested US$175m in LivingSocial, another group buying site with revenues of US$1m a day.

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial allow hordes of internet shoppers in a given city or region to buy normally expensive items at discounts because as groups they can buy items in bulk.

The result is a grassroots e-commerce movement that is so successful that ordinary businesses in the US can barely keep up with demand and are turning customers away.

LivingSocial has a user base of more than 10 million, revenues of US$1m a day and potential revenues of US$500m a year. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., LivingSocial is an online source for people to find handpicked experiences at a great value, inviting anyone to save up to 50pc to 70pc each day on their favourite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities.

As well as the US$175m investment from Amazon.com, LivingSocial has also secured an additional $8m investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners.

LivingSocial says it will use this investment to maintain a steady drumbeat of worldwide launches and overall business growth

Aspect adds new facilities to its Galway operations

Two new customer technical support facilities have been announced in Galway that will see US company Aspect expand its presence in Ireland.

The support facilities will cater for software production and distribution and serve as a shared services centre for select administrative functions.

"These new facilities enable Aspect to continue to manage its growth while providing the outstanding levels of service and quality our customers deserve," said Jim Foy, chief executive officer and president at Aspect.

"We are making a substantial long-term commitment to Ireland because it offers considerable advantages for doing business, including its attractive corporate tax rate and access to a highly-skilled, multilingual workforce, which is particularly important for our technical support activities for the region."

Aspect is a global provider of unified communications and collaboration services and software.

Foreign direct investment shows green shoots, OECD says

While international investment remained flat well into the fourth quarter of 2010, there are signs of improvement over two years of steep declines in 2008 and 2009. In Ireland, foreign direct investment may be up 50pc on last year.

The OECD projects that global foreign direct investment flows will decline by around 8pc in 2010, a markedly better performance over the 19pc drop in FDI flows seen in 2008 and the 43pc decline in 2009.

If current trends hold, international M&A investment – an important component of FDI – will hover near US$670bn in 2010, an increase of 6pc over 2009. This would be the first increase in international M&A activity since 2007, following declines of 21pc in 2008 and 53pc in 2009, according to the report.

Ireland may actually be bucking the FDI trend. According to a spokesman for IDA Ireland, the country, which attracts more FDI than Brazil, Russia, India and China combined, secured 72 projects – mostly technology-based – this year, with more on the way.

Realex reports profits of €780k on €7m revenues

E-commerce payments company Realex has reported revenue growth of 8pc for the year ending in April 2010. Year-end statements reveal a turnover of €7m, up from €6.5m a year earlier.

Pre-tax profits at the 10-year-old company increased by 9pc, reaching €783,000, leaving Realex Payments with accumulated profits of more than €3m at the end of April last.

The value of payments processed in the last 12 months increased by 44pc to €9bn.

In excess of €1bn was processed in November – double what was processed during the same month last year. 

The volume of payments processed by the company also increased by 26pc.

Consumers are spending more money online: the average transaction value in November 2010 was €252, increasing from €182 in November 2009.

Samsung chairman’s son, daughter promoted

Samsung has promoted Lee Jae Yong, the chairman’s son, to the position of president. His younger sister, Lee Boojin, was made president of Samsung Everland, CEO of affliate Hotel Shilla Co and adviser to Samsung C&T corp.

This is a reflection of the “chaebol” model in South Korea, a form of business conglomerate.

The Samsung Group chaebol consists of numerous other businesses, including leisure, finance and construction. It owns 67 affiliates which generated 220 trillion in sales last year, which is the equivalent of one-fifth of South Korea’s gross domestic product.

The sibling promotions highlight the control that the Samsung founding family has over the corporation. Lee Jae Yong and Lee Boojin will use these positions to prove they can lead the companies this chaebol runs.

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