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News Apparatus
Jun 14, 2022
In Current Affairs
Singapore-based ecommerce giant Shopee is set to implement “mass layoffs” across its international operations, multiple sources told Tech in Asia. The job cuts will primarily affect ShopeeFood and ShopeePay workers in several markets, one of the sources said. Apart from its home market of Southeast Asia, the company is present in Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia. The decision was announced to employees earlier today in an international town hall meeting, which was led by an executive from Sea Group, Shopee’s parent firm. The executive, however, did not elaborate on the reason for the move. Shopee staff were told to expect an email “listing the names” of affected employees soon. Tech in Asia has reached out to the company for confirmation. The development comes only a couple of months after news broke of Shopee’s decision to shut down its operation in India, laying off over 300 workers in the country. Source: Tech In Asia
Shopee set for mass layoffs content media
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News Apparatus
May 16, 2022
In Current Affairs
The U.S. and its allies are trying to fast-track Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership in what would be a remarkable diplomatic and security defeat for Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. Finland’s president and prime minister said Thursday, the day after Helsinki signed a joint security pact with the United Kingdom and Sweden, that the country “must apply” for NATO membership “without delay.” Sweden is expected to announce its own bid to join NATO in the coming days, and the security pact seeks to warn Russia off taking action against the two Nordic countries as the path to membership plays out. Finland has an 830-mile border with Russia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will join the foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden and NATO countries for a meeting in Berlin on Saturday, where they are likely to lay the groundwork to offer membership during a leaders-level summit in Madrid in June. “The United States would support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden, should they choose to apply,” a State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Hill. “Both Finland and Sweden are close and valued defense partners of the United States, and of NATO.” Karen Donfried, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, told lawmakers Thursday that the discussions in Berlin are likely to include how NATO members can help provide Finland and Sweden a security pact in the intervening months. After ascension, the two countries will be protected by NATO’s Article V mutual defense pact, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all. Donfried said Finland and Sweden’s turn towards NATO “marks another piece of the mounting evidence of what a strategic failure [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is suffering today.” “I am struck by how so much of what Putin says he was seeking to avoid, he has brought about.” Putin views NATO as an existential threat to Russia’s security and has used Ukraine’s close relationship with the alliance as one of the reasons to justify his orders to invade the country on Feb. 24. Moscow slammed Helsinki’s announcement on Thursday, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that Finland has joined in “unfriendly steps” alongside the European Union “and is a reason for corresponding symmetrical responses on our side,” but did not detail those responses. Finnish politicians warned that Russia could cut off gas to the country as soon as Friday, Reuters reported, citing local media. Russia had cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria last month in response to Western sanctions. “I certainly think that Finland in particular, having been a part of the Russian Empire, is right to start considering their security,” Daniel Fried, distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council and former U.S. ambassador to Poland, told a British news program on Thursday. “The Russians are perfectly capable of harassment, border incidents, all manner of difficulties, especially if Putin succeeds in subjugating Ukraine, which happily, thanks to the reaction of the U.K., U.S. and Europe, is less likely than it seemed two months ago.” NATO expansion will require each of the 30 member-state governments to ratify Finland and Sweden’s ascension. Support for Helsinki in NATO was quickly announced by member states including the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium and Iceland, to name a few. Full story at The Hill
US, allies look to fast-track Finland and Sweden joining NATO content media
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News Apparatus
Mar 16, 2022
In Current Affairs
Illustrative image: A technician collects a nasal swab sample for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on March 02, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90) Israel has detected cases of a new COVID variant that is a hybrid of Delta and Omicron, according to national broadcaster Kan. The network reported on Monday night that the variant surfaced in swab samples that were sequenced in labs. The Hebrew-language report has not been confirmed by the Health Ministry. According to Kan, a limited number of cases have been detected among people who returned from Europe, and there is no community spread. World Health Organization COVID-19 technical lead, epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist, spoke about the variant last week, acknowledging a strain that combines Delta and Omicron. She noted that it has been detected in a few countries, including France and the Netherlands, but at low levels. The variant has been in circulation in Europe for around two months, and so far has not shown signs of spreading faster, according to Van Kerkhove, though this is still under investigation. Israeli experts say that this variant is par for the course. “The emergence of the variant isn’t surprising — and neither is the fact that it would reach Israel from Europe, as there is lots of travel to Tel Aviv,” immunologist Prof. Cyrille Cohen, of Bar Ilan University, told The Times of Israel. Illustrative image: A medical worker processes a rapid antigen test for the coronavirus (Yossi Aloni/Flash90) “So far, the variants we saw were altered forms of one previous COVID strain, while this is a combination of two. It demonstrates the feasibility of the ‘recombination’ concept, meaning that two different strains can combine into one. This was, so far, theoretical with COVID.” He said the development isn’t cause for particular concern, given there are no indications that the new strain causes worse illness than others — and said that based on its slow spread so far, he doesn’t expect it to become dominant. “Since it wasn’t able to overcome Omicron or other variants in the weeks it has existed, it doesn’t seem that it can, for now, spread widely in the population,” he said. Discussing the concept of recombination, Cohen commented: “So far, the variants we knew were the results of gradual mutations in individual spots in the viral genome — the genetic code composed of 30,000 letters — meaning one letter here and one letter there. With a recombinant variant whole chunks of two viral genomes get combined. We knew early on that recombination is possible in coronaviruses.” Van Kerkhove said at last week’s briefing: “The recombinant, itself, this is something that is expected given the large amount of circulation… that we saw with both Omicron and Delta.” She added: “We have not seen any change in the epidemiology with this recombinant, we haven’t seen any change in severity, but there are many studies that are underway.” Source: The Times of Israel
New combo COVID strain Deltacron detected in Israel, report says content media
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News Apparatus
Feb 05, 2022
In Current Affairs
Image: Roman Martyniuk/Unsplash Facebook is dying. The signs have been out there for a while, of course: slowing growth around the world, an increased focus on Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger and then a hard pivot toward the metaverse, including a whole-ass name change so that Meta's potential might not be brought down by Facebook. But all we saw until now was slow growth, not decline. Facebook users have now declined for the first time ever, Meta announced on its earnings call yesterday. The numbers are still ludicrous, obviously — 1.929 billion people still log on to the Facebook app every day, and Meta turned nearly $40 billion in profit last year, so don't pour one out for the blue app just yet — but the number is down about a half a million users from the previous three months. • Meta's overall product portfolio — which includes WhatsApp and Instagram — was up a hair, to 2.82 billion per day. But it's pretty clear that after nearly two decades of literally unprecedented growth, Facebook's flagship app has plateaued. • The largest culprit is almost certainly that there just aren't enough people in the world for Facebook to grow forever. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg is so interested in appealing to youths. Meta's stock has dropped about 20% since the earnings call. Big price swings have come for Meta before, but this one's particularly problematic: Zuckerberg needs time, money and patience to pull off his metaverse play, and he may not have as much of any of the three as he thought. Facebook is playing with both hands tied behind its back right now. TikTok is a formidable competitor, but Facebook can't even buy a GIF company without getting antitrust scrutiny. Apple's privacy moves continue to hurt, too: “The accuracy of our ads targeting decreased, which increased the cost of driving outcomes,” Sheryl Sandberg said on the earnings call, and Zuckerberg added that the company has had to rebuild "a lot of our ads infrastructure." Ultimately, CFO Dave Wehner said, that could cost the company about $10 billion in lost revenue — which is about as much as Meta lost on all its metaverse projects last year. Reels is the bright spot, at least until the metaverse becomes a thing. Zuckerberg underscored how important Reels is to the company as it tries to take on TikTok, and called it "our fastest-growing content format by far." • That's the other shift that's becoming clear: While Meta shifts to the metaverse, its social apps are becoming entertainment apps. Adam Mosseri said as much last year, but the change is already upon us. Meta has been the most interesting company in earnings season so far. The sun rises, Big Tech makes money. But here are a few things we've learned from the other companies reporting: • Google's ad business is doing just fine. Some think it's actually benefiting from Apple's privacy push, as advertisers look for a new way to reach and target people. In general, there are few companies better positioned than Alphabet — which is increasingly vertically integrated, controls multiple massive properties and holds vast quantities of first-party data — for the next few years. • TikTok is the future of everything. Sundar Pichai said that Shorts is growing fast, even as YouTube's momentum fell short of expectations (partly thanks to TikTok). If you're not in the vertical-video game, you're apparently nowhere. • Streaming services may be headed for a slowdown. Netflix's subscriber growth has slowed recently, as has Spotify's. Both may be running up against the same sort of total-addressable-market ceiling Facebook is, and they won't be the only ones. • Spotify led its earnings call with the Joe Rogan controversy, in case you're wondering whether Spotify's actually worried about the blowback there. • Supply chain problems hurt everyone, but the chip shortage continues to be good to chip companies. Qualcomm had a big quarter, as did AMD, and both predicted even better things to come. And Apple, which definitely counts as a chip company at this point, was optimistic as well. • Absolutely everybody is in the creator business now. You can hardly tune in to an earnings call without a CEO talking about how they're building tools for creators, helping creators monetize, giving creators new ways to make content. Why? Because creators bring audiences more reliably and cheaply than any other mechanism. If you're in the content biz, it's as simple as that. This year, it seems, is going to be a year full of transition. The ad market continues to change; the supply chain should improve eventually; the digital transformations of so many industries continue apace; regulation is coming; the (hopefully, please, seriously) end of the pandemic will bring a sweep of change in everyone's lives. Even the biggest companies won't be immune to the change. But all that money they keep making will surely help. Source: Protocol
It's the beginning of the end of Facebook  content media
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News Apparatus
Dec 03, 2021
In Current Affairs
Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant Grab fell sharply on its first day trading on the Nasdaq, after becoming the largest-ever company to close a SPAC merger and go public. Shares opened the trading day at $13.06 apiece under ticker symbol “GRAB,” following a deal with Altimeter Growth Corp. that valued the four-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company at nearly $40 billion. But they lost more than a fifth of their value by Thursday’s closing bell, finishing more than 20% lower at $8.75 apiece. Grab, ranked No. 16 on last year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, sells an array of digital services such as transportation, food delivery, hotel bookings, online banking, mobile payments and insurance services from its app — earning the “super app” title. It operates in most of Southeast Asia, serving more than 187 million users in over 465 cities across eight countries. Still, revenue at the company was down 9% year-over-year as net losses expanded to $988 million, up from $621 million. Grab’s early backers include SoftBank, Toyota, Hyundai Motor and China’s Didi Chuxing, among others. “We don’t view growth and profitability as mutually exclusive. We operate in a market with a large market opportunity and low penetration across our verticals,” Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We do believe we have a cost leadership advantage.” A SPAC, which stands for special purpose acquisition company, is created to raise capital from public markets and then use that cash to merge with a private company and take it public within a two-year timeframe. Investors in SPACs as a rule do not know the identity of the firm that will be targeted for merger. After a blockbuster year, there are currently over 400 SPACs actively looking for a target company, according to data from Wolfe Research. The Grab deal included a record $4 billion private placement led by Altimeter Capital Management. So-called PIPE financing is a mechanism for companies to raise capital from a select group of investors that make the final market debut possible. BlackRock, T. Rowe Price Associates, Morgan Stanley Investment Management’s Counterpoint Global arm and Janus Henderson Investors are also participating. “Anthony, [Tan Hooi] Ling, and the rest of the talented management team at Grab have built a superapp across mobility, delivery, and financial services — together which has the potential to fuel the dramatically changing and growing digital economy in Southeast Asia”, said Denny Fish, portfolio manager and technology sector lead at Janus Henderson Investors said in an email to CNBC. “Given its purpose based mission, Grab is in a unique position to benefit from this historical shift.” The proprietary CNBC SPAC 50 Index, which tracks the 50 largest U.S.-based pre-merger blank-check deals by market cap, soared earlier this year but has since suffered a steep decline and is now negative on the year. The CNBC SPAC Post Deal Index, which is comprised of the largest SPACs that have come to market and announced a target acquisition, has seen its year-to-date gains wiped out. Still, the SPAC market staged a comeback before the recent market turmoil triggered by the omicron variant, with issuance hitting an eight-month high as the industry continues to ride out regulatory challenges. The number of new deals in October nearly doubled that in September and was also higher than the total during the same time last year, according to SPACInsider and CNBC calculations. Source: CNBC
Softbank-backed Grab falls more than 20% in first day of trading following largest-ever SPAC merger content media
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News Apparatus
Aug 15, 2021
In Current Affairs
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to tender his resignation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong tomorrow. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to tender his resignation to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong tomorrow. Malaysiakini reported that Muhyiddin informed of his decision during a high-level meeting with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) leaders this morning. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof told the online news portal that Muhyiddin informed the MPs that he had exhausted all avenues to sustain his administration and resigning was the last resort. “We just finished the meeting. Tomorrow, there will be a special Cabinet meeting. After that, he will head to Istana Negara to submit his resignation,” Redzuan said. Earlier when leaving PN headquarters at Publika along Jalan Dutamas, Mohd Redzuan told reporters that an announcement would be made by Muhyiddin tomorrow. “God willing, there will be an announcement tomorrow. Let us just wait for tomorrow,” Redzuan said. Bersatu supreme council member Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof is seen leaving the Publika compound after a special meeting was held, August 15, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara He also criticised certain quarters for putting their own agendas first while keeping Malaysia’s well-being aside. “We serve the Constitution. If they withdraw their support out of self-interest, it needs to be managed properly. “Now it falls on the Agong to ensure the rakyat and the nation will be led by a government concerned for their welfare,” Redzuan said. Bersatu deputy president and special adviser to the prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu is seen leaving the Publika compound after a special meeting was held, August 15, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara Bersatu deputy president and former Perak mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu was also seen leaving but declined to comment beyond confirming that party leaders had attended the meeting. Several Bersatu ministers and MPs were in attendance, some having arrived before the meeting began at 9am. They included Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. Others include Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, and Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar. Datuk Xavier Jayakumar, formerly of PKR but now an independent MP, was also reportedly in attendance, as was Deputy Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Edmund Santhara Kumar Ramanaidu, and Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon. Source: Malay Mail
Report: PM Muhyiddin informs Bersatu MPs of decision to resign tomorrow content media
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News Apparatus
Jun 23, 2021
In Current Affairs
The paper reported extensively on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure, in a blow to media freedom in the city. The tabloid's offices were raided last week over allegations that several reports had breached a controversial national security law. Police detained the chief editor and five other executives, and company-linked assets were frozen. The publication had become a leading critic of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership. The Apple Daily management said that "in view of staff members' safety", it had decided "to cease operation immediately after midnight" - making Thursday's publication the final printed edition. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the paper's closure was a "chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong". The digital version of the 26-year old paper will no longer be updated after midnight. A separate announcement by publisher Next Digital thanked the readers for their "loyal support" as well as its journalists, staff and advertisers. The tabloid has long been a beacon of media freedom in the Chinese-speaking world, and is a widely read and supported by political dissents in Hong Kong. Chinese officials have repeatedly said media freedoms in Hong Kong are respected, but are not absolute. Ronny Tong, a member of Hong Kong's government, accused the paper of orchestrating a political stunt in its decision to shut down. "People around the world probably will accuse the Hong Kong government of forcing Apple Daily to close down. But the fact of the matter is, they don't need to," he told the BBC. 'A knife over your head' The closure comes after sustained pressure on the paper from the authorities. Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, who has long been a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, is already in jail on a string of charges. Last Thursday, some 500 police officers raided the publication's newsroom, saying its reports had breached the city's new national security law, which makes undermining the government a criminal offence. Activist Alexandra Wong is carried away by police officers while holding a copy of the Apple Daily during a protest on Saturday The arrests struck fear in employees at the paper and a number quit the publication soon after. An editorial staff member at the paper described the feeling of unease as "having a knife over your head". "If you don't leave by yourself, you may be held criminally responsible," she told BBC Chinese. A current affairs reporter for Apple Daily said after last week's raid: "I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was angry at the ruthlessness of the regime. I was also sad that Hong Kong might not have Apple Daily but I also felt fear." Full story at BBC News
Apple Daily: Hong Kong pro-democracy paper announces closure content media
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News Apparatus
Jun 09, 2021
In Announcements/Broadcasts
A screenshot of the HungryGoWhere homepage on Jun 8, 2021. SINGAPORE: HungryGoWhere will cease operations next month, the food and beverage portal said on Tuesday (Jun 8). “After serving Singapore’s diners for an amazing 15 years, HungryGoWhere.com will be ceasing operations, and our last day of service is Jul 11, 2021,” it said in a Facebook post. “We hope that we’ve helped make dining out a better experience for you, and that you will continue to support the awesome restaurants, eateries and hawkers in Singapore. "Thank you for being with us all these years and we are really proud to have served you." In response to CNA queries, a Singtel spokesperson said that the closure was a result of the "severe challenges" faced in the industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "In line with the Group’s business refocus, we have conducted a detailed review of HungryGoWhere and explored various options for the business," the spokeperson said. "However, it has faced severe challenges posed by competitive pressure in the industry which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. "As a result, we have decided to exit the restaurant reservations market." The spokesperson said that most of HungryGoWhere’s 13-member team had been redeployed to other roles within the Singtel Group and that re-employment assistance was offered to the rest. "We thank the F&B community and diners for their support over the past 15 years," the spokesperson said. "We remain committed to innovating new digital products and services, as well as building and strengthening partnerships that enrich our customers’ lifestyles." REWARDS PROGRAMME AND RESERVATIONS As part of the closure, the HungryRewards programme will be discontinued on Jun 30. Users can transfer outstanding “Hungry$” into Singtel Dash credits. Hungry$ not transferred by Jun 30 will be voided. "If you have made a reservation with us, the restaurant would have already received your information and the reservation is confirmed," HungryGoWhere said in an FAQ published for customers. "If your reservation date falls on July 12, 2021, or later, please call the restaurant to re-confirm your booking." The portal will continue to accept reservations for dates until Jul 11. Existing reservations can also be changed via the portal until then. Full story at Channel News Asia
Singtel-owned F&B portal HungryGoWhere to cease operations after 15 years content media
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News Apparatus
May 14, 2021
In Current Affairs
People wearing face masks at Marine Terrace on Sep 16, 2020. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo) SINGAPORE: The current size of group gatherings allowed will be reduced from five people to two people, following a spike in COVID-19 community cases, said co-chair of the multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong on Friday (May 14). This, and other new measures under what the Health Ministry labelled as "Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)" will take effect from May 16 through Jun 13. Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Friday, Mr Wong said: “This will apply across the board, so if you want to go out for anything, grocery shopping, exercise, maximum of two persons henceforth. “In fact, we strongly encourage everyone to stay home as much as possible, go out only for essential reasons. “We will do a review at the midway point, meaning two weeks after the measures have been implemented, and at that point, we will look at the prevailing public health situation and see if there’s a need to adjust the measures further,” said Mr Wong, who is also Education Minister. Responding to questions about whether Singapore could enter another “circuit breaker” after the midpoint review, Mr Wong said: “If indeed the situation does not improve, we certainly will not rule out even more stringent measures thereafter. “But there is also a chance that things may improve, and therefore, we may also consider the other way around, easing some of the restrictions.” “We are in a stage of heightened alert. I would urge everyone to be vigilant and minimise unnecessary social interactions,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. “We need to act decisively to disrupt the virus transmission. We will therefore further tighten safe management measures in the community” DINING-IN SUSPENDED, WORK-FROM-HOME AS DEFAULT Dining-in at F&B establishments will also not be allowed, said Mr Wong. This includes hawker centres and food courts, both indoors and outdoors. “We will take tighter measures around the higher-risk settings, and these higher-risk settings are the ones where people are gathered together in an indoor environment without their masks on,” said Mr Wong. “All dining-in will have to cease … All F&B establishments will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery options. In line with this, wedding banquets will also have to cease because it’s a dining activity.” Working from home will also be the default at workplaces, he added. “All employees who are able to work from home will have to do so. Work-from-home will be the default.” Full story at Channel News Asia
Group sizes down from 5 to 2, dining-in suspended as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures content media
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News Apparatus
May 06, 2021
In Current Affairs
A view of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) building in Toa Payoh. (File photo: TODAY/Najeer Yusof) SINGAPORE: Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) will transfer its media business into a not-for-profit entity amid the ongoing challenge of falling advertising revenue, the company announced on Thursday (May 6). The restructuring exercise involves transferring the entire media-related business of SPH to a newly incorporated wholly owned subsidiary, SPH Media Holdings. The transfer involves relevant subsidiaries and employees, the News Centre and Print Centre and their respective leaseholds, as well as related intellectual property and information technology assets. SPH will provide the initial resources and funding to capitalise SPH Media with a cash injection of S$80 million, S$30 million of SPH shares and SPH REIT units, and SPH's stakes in four of its digital media investments. SPH Media will eventually be transferred to a not-for-profit entity for a nominal sum. This entity will be a newly formed public company limited by guarantee (CLG). After the transfer of SPH Media to the CLG, SPH will no longer be subject to shareholder and other relevant restrictions under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, said the company. "UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION" The media industry has faced "unprecedented disruption" in recent years, SPH said in explaining the rationale for the move. The company's operating revenue has halved in the past five years due largely to a decline in print advertising and print subscription revenue, it said. SPH's media business has since fallen into the red, recording its first-ever loss of S$11.4 million for the financial year ended Aug 31, 2020. If not for the Government's Job's Support Scheme (JSS), the loss would have been a deeper S$39.5 million, said SPH. For the six months ended Feb 28, 2021, pre-tax profit fell 71 per cent to S$3.1 million compared to the same period a year ago. SPH would have incurred a pre-tax loss of S$9.7 million if not for the JSS grant, said the company. Even with the resumption of business activities after Singapore's reopening from a COVID-19 "circuit breaker", decline in advertising revenue is expected to continue at a similar pace to the last five years, it said. SPH's digital circulation now surpasses its print circulation, with digital transformation efforts nearly doubling the average monthly unique audience across all its titles to a record 28 million over the past two years. But digital subscription and digital advertising have been unable to offset the decline in print advertising and print circulation revenues, said SPH. The company has undertaken strict cost management measures in recent years to mitigate this. "However, there is little scope for further cost cuts without impairing its ability to maintain quality journalism," said SPH. "SPH's media business plays a critical function in Singapore with the provision of quality news and information to the public, in particular in the vernacular languages," said the company. Given this, winding up the media business or selling it off were not feasible options, it said. "However, remaining part of a publicly listed company where it is subject to expectations from shareholders of profitability and regular dividends is no longer a sustainable business model," said SPH. "Hence, a not-for-profit structure that allows SPH Media to seek funding from a range of public and private sources with a shared interest in supporting quality journalism and credible information is the optimal solution." Full story at Channel News Asia
SPH to restructure media business into not-for-profit entity amid falling revenue content media
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News Apparatus
Apr 26, 2021
In Current Affairs
An Indonesian navy patrol ship returns after a search operation for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing while conducting a training exercise, April 21, 2021, off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia, April 25, 2021. The Indonesian submarine that sank in the Bali Sea has been found, broken into three pieces, and all 53 crew members have been declared dead, the country’s military said Sunday. The vessel’s wreckage was located Saturday on the ocean floor, the military announced, by a sonar scan that detected the submarine at 850 meters (2,790 feet), far beyond its diving range. Rescuers found new objects, including a life vest, believed to belong to those aboard the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 submarine. Indonesia lost contact with the sub Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill. "The KRI Nanggala is divided into three parts, the hull of the ship, the stern of the ship, and the main parts are all separated, with the main part found cracked. There are scattered parts of the submarine and its interior in the water," Military chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters. President Joko Widodo sent the families of the victims his condolences. "All of us Indonesians express our deep sorrow over this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew,” he said. The cause of the sinking has not been determined. The Indonesian navy had previously said an electrical failure could have prevented the submarine from executing emergency procedures to resurface. Indonesia police said it would deploy teams to Bali and the Java town of Banyuwangi to help identify the victims once the bodies are retrieved. Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday said he was deeply saddened to learn of the sub’s sinking. In a statement Saturday he said that “as sailors, we share a love for the sea and have a bond of fellowship with all who sail on it. We have a respect for its dangers and also understand the importance of the world’s oceans to our collective way of life.” Gilday reaffirmed that Indonesia is a good friend and partner of the United States. “Despite this tragic loss,” he said, “it is my hope that we will continue to operate together in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Source: https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/indonesian-submarine-broke-3-pieces-53-confirmed-dead
Indonesian Submarine Broke Into 3 Pieces; 53 Confirmed Dead content media
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News Apparatus
Feb 16, 2021
In Current Affairs
A shopper looking at the Taobao e-commerce website. (File photo: Tang See Kit) SINGAPORE: The Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be imposed on imported low-value goods from 2023, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech on Tuesday (Feb 16). This will apply to goods imported via air or post that are valued up to and including the current GST import relief threshold of S$400. These goods are currently not subject to GST to facilitate clearance at the border. GST will also be imposed on business-to-consumer (B2C) imported non-digital services, which refer to services supplied over the Internet or other electronic networks that require human intervention. This includes live interactions with overseas providers of educational learning, fitness training, counselling and telemedicine. The changes will “ensure a level playing field for our local businesses to compete effectively”, Mr Heng said on Tuesday, noting that this is one aspect of a fair and resilient tax system. The changes are also being introduced against the backdrop of the growing popularity of online shopping, including from overseas suppliers. Full story at Channel News Asia
Budget 2021: GST to be imposed on all imported goods purchased online content media
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News Apparatus
Feb 10, 2021
In Current Affairs
(CNN) Former President Donald Trump was unhappy with his impeachment lawyer Bruce Castor's opening argument on the Senate floor Tuesday, two people familiar with his reaction told CNN. Castor, who is representing Trump alongside attorney David Schoen, delivered a meandering argument during the first day of the Senate impeachment trial, including praise for the House impeachment managers for a presentation that he said was "well done." Trump was almost screaming as Castor struggled to get at the heart of his defense team's argument, which is supposed to be over the constitutionality of holding a trial for a president no longer in office. Given that the legal team was assembled a little over a week ago, it went as expected, one of the sources told CNN. Still, Trump's allies were flabbergasted when the attorneys switched speaking slots at the last minute. Castor's discursive presentation featured lengthy praise of the Senate, including his home state Pennsylvania senators -- Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey -- while arguing that the Senate should not be holding the trial. He warned that a second impeachment trial in 13 months would "open the floodgates" to future impeachments, even making the unfounded rhetorical suggestion that former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder could be impeached. The Senate ultimately voted 56-44 that the impeachment trial is constitutional. An adviser to Trump's team offered a candid assessment of the messy opening day, asking pointedly, "What the hell is going on?" The adviser said the former President could be in serious jeopardy if he finds himself charged in criminal court, given his inability to attract a high-powered legal team for the impeachment trial. "Trump is f--ked if anyone ever charges him. No one wants to work with him," the adviser said. Schoen was supposed to present first, not Castor, two people familiar with the plan told CNN. But Castor told the Senate that Trump's legal team "changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers' presentation was well done." After Castor yielded to Schoen, the tone of the defense team changed starkly. Schoen charged that Democrats were using impeachment as a political "blood sport" to try to keep Trump from running for office again, accusing them of trying to disenfranchise pro-Trump voters. Though the former President was displeased by his defense team's early performance, his staff remained confident that he was headed for acquittal and it would not change the outcome of the trial. Two separate sources close to Trump say he's lying low through the end of the trial but talking with aides about how to reemerge and help Republicans around the midterm elections. A separate senior adviser to Trump insisted that Castor was attempting to lower the emotional temperature in the Senate before Schoen began his presentation. "This is about lowering the temperature following the Democrats' emotionally charged opening, before dropping the hammer on the unconstitutional nature of this impeachment witch hunt," the adviser said. But even some GOP senators signaled they were unimpressed with the presentation. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas -- who nonetheless voted that the trial was unconstitutional -- told reporters bluntly, "I thought the President's lawyer -- the first lawyer -- just rambled on and on and on and didn't really address the constitutional argument." "Finally the second lawyer got around to it, and, I thought, did an effective job." He quickly added, "But I've seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments and that was -- it was not one of the finest I've seen." Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who was the only senator to vote differently than in a procedural vote last month on the constitutionality of the trial, told reporters that the "House managers were focused, they were organized" and "made a compelling argument," while in contrast, "President Trump's team were disorganized." "They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand, and when they talked about it they kind of glided over, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments," Cassidy said. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska similarly said: "Today was supposed to be an opportunity to, to be briefed on the constitutionality of whether or not you can move forward with an impeachment of a former president." "I thought that -- that the House presented a pretty good, pretty good legal analysis. In fairness, I was really stunned at the first attorney who presented for former President Trump. I couldn't figure out where he was going, spent 45 minutes going somewhere, but I don't think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this," Murkowski said. A source who advised the Trump campaign said plainly, "Getting criticized by both sides. Yikes." Castor and Schoen, each of whom has a history of being involved in controversial legal matters, were tapped to lead Trump's legal team one day after CNN first reported that five members of his defense had left abruptly. One point of friction with his previous team was that Trump wanted the attorneys to focus on his election fraud claims rather than the constitutionality of convicting a former president. A source close to the first Trump impeachment team said the former President's current lawyer shouldn't be compared with the attorneys who represented him at his first trial. "It is hard to compare to our team," the source said of Trump's first impeachment team, noting it featured the likes of Bill Clinton impeachment veteran Judge Ken Starr, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. "Different level of experience." Despite the criticism, Castor simply told reporters after the day's session: "I thought we had a good day, thank you." Source: CNN
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Feb 04, 2021
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Bezos, who founded the company in1994, will step down after company recorded $100bn in sales for last three months of 2020 Jeff Bezos in Las Vegas in June 2019. Bezos said: ‘Right now, I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.’ Photograph: John Locher/AP Jeff Bezos, billionaire founder of Amazon, will step down as chief executive, the company announced on Tuesday. Bezos, who will remain executive chair, will hand the reins to Andy Jassy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast-growing cloud computing business. The surprise news came as Amazon released its latest financial results. Few companies have thrived like Amazon during the coronavirus pandemic, and in the last three months of the year, the company recorded sales of more than $100bn for the first time. Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and built it into one of the largest companies in the world, amassing a fortune of $185bn. Amazon, which started as an online bookseller, is now a dominant force in cloud computing, groceries, electronics and entertainment, and employs more than 1.1 million people. “Amazon is what it is because of invention,” said Bezos. “If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. “Right now, I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.” Bezos has stepped back from the day-to-day running of Amazon in recent years to pay more attention to his other interests, including space exploration and his ownership of the Washington Post. But his departure as chief executive was unexpected. Jassy, 52, has long been seen as Bezos’s heir apparent, vying with Jeff Wilke, who ran Amazon’s retail business until he announced plans to retire last year. Amazon Web Services (AWS) – which provides cloud computing and storage for governments and companies including McDonald’s and Netflix – has become one of the company’s most important businesses, accounting for 10% of sales in the last quarter and 52% of the company’s profits. The company had a “record-breaking holiday season” last year, Amazon said, reporting sales of $125.56bn, its largest quarter of all time. Full story at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/feb/02/jeff-bezos-amazon-ceo-resigns-steps-down
Jeff Bezos to resign as chief executive of Amazon content media
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Dec 04, 2020
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SINGAPORE - A venture between Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm Grab and Singapore Telecommunications and internet platform company Sea Ltd have each won licences to run Singapore's first digital banks, in the city-state's biggest banking shakeup in two decades. Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Group and a consortium comprising China's Greenland Financial Holding Group also won licences, Singapore's banking regulator said on Friday. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) expects the new digital banks to start operations from early 2022 after meeting the necessary pre-conditions of Singapore, one of the world's top financial centres. "We expect them to thrive alongside the incumbent banks and raise the industry's bar in delivering quality financial services, particularly for currently underserved businesses and individuals," said Ravi Menon, managing director of the MAS. Analysts have said the development is likely to have little impact on incumbents DBS Group Holdings, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank, although licensees could use the opportunity as a step towards expanding into larger Southeast Asian markets. Grab's venture and Sea have won digital full bank licences that will allow them to take deposits from and offer services to both retail and non-retail customers. Ant Group and the Greenland consortium were awarded digital wholesale banking licences. Source: TodayOnline
Ant Group and Grab's venture win Singapore digital banking licences content media
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Nov 21, 2020
In Current Affairs
HuffPost has a new owner, with its current parent company Verizon Media reaching an agreement to sell the site to BuzzFeed. The Wall Street Journal broke the news and described this as a stock deal. Verizon Media is also making an investment in BuzzFeed and becoming a minority shareholder in the digital media company. The deal also includes an agreement to syndicate content between the two companies while collaborating on advertising and creating a joint innovation group to explore other monetization opportunities. As BuzzFeed’s press release notes, this deal brings HuffPost full circle, since BuzzFeed co-founder and CEO Jonah Peretti was also one of the founders of what was originally known as The Huffington Post. “I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come,” Peretti said in a statement. “With the addition of HuffPost, our media network will have more users, spending significantly more time with our content than any of our peers.” AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million nearly a decade ago, just a few months after it acquired TechCrunch. The acquisition was seen a major move into the world of journalism and digital media, but there have been a series of corporate changes since then, with AOL subsequently acquired by Verizon, Verizon also acquiring Yahoo then rebranding the combined organization first as Oath and then as Verizon Media (which still owns TechCrunch). Tim Armstrong, the executive behind the acquisition, left the company in 2018. There have been on-and-of rumors of a HuffPost sale over the years. Last year, Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said that the company was “not selling HuffPost” because it was “so core to our content.” BuzzFeed is also searching for a new editor-in-chief at HuffPost. The position has been empty since Lydia Polgreen departed in March. Update: The Writers Guild of America, East — the union that represents HuffPost — sent the following statement: The HuffPost employees represented by the Writers Guild of America, East will remain represented by our union, and our collective bargaining agreement will remain in full force and effect. We look forward to working with BuzzFeed, and we are confident that our members’ work will be valued and their voices will be heard. Source: TechCrunch
BuzzFeed acquires HuffPost content media
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Nov 04, 2020
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Shanghai exchange cites ‘major issues’ when suspending debut Ma was called into a meeting with top regulators on Monday Jack Ma's Wealth Plunges by Nearly $3 Billion After Ant IPO Suspension It was heralded as China’s answer to JPMorgan -- a homegrown financial giant on the cusp of the biggest stock-market debut the world has ever seen. Instead, with billions on the line and an initial public offering all but sealed, Chinese authorities have abruptly thrown into doubt the future of Ant Group Co. and its celebrated founder, the billionaire Jack Ma. Only days before the financial-technology juggernaut was to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong -- a coup for China’s financial markets that once would have been unimaginable -- the $35 billion IPO was halted on Tuesday after Ma was summoned by regulators. In an extraordinary turn of events, authorities announced that they had belatedly discovered an array of shortcomings that, by some accounts, might require the sprawling Ant to be overhauled. “The way I’d read it, it’s a deliberate public relations move,” said Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist at Jefferies. “This has happened before when companies appear to have become too big versus the state for the authorities’ liking.” Reaction in the financial market was swift. Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which owns a third of Ant, plunged 7.1% in Hong Kong, after falling by the most in almost six years in New York. The sell-off reduced Ma’s fortune by almost $3 billion. Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd., owner of the city’s bourse, dropped 2.2%. Jack Ma Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg The move upends what had been one of China’s biggest business success stories, as well as what was to be a pivotal step in the development of the nation’s fast-growing capital markets. “It’s definitely surprising,” said Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners. “If there is something strange going on on the macro side for China’s financial markets or in the company, that would be worrisome.” In just a decade, Ant, an affiliate of Ma’s Alibaba Group, has exploded into the world’s largest financial technology company, reshaping the lives of many ordinary Chinese. But its ascendance -- and Ma’s growing global reputation -- has also posed a threat to China’s state-run lenders and their political benefactors. Tuesday’s developments left bankers and global investors groping for answers. The immediate fate of the many billions already tied up in the IPO is for now uncertain. Changes Needed Chinese authorities didn’t give much detail about the issues behind the suspension, beyond saying that the much-anticipated debut couldn’t go ahead because there had been “significant change” in the regulatory environment. The company will have to make changes that include capital increases at its lucrative micro-lending units, according to people familiar with the matter. It will also have to reapply for licenses for the units to operate nationwide, the people added, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. The IPO is expected to be delayed by about six months, and funds will be returned to investors in the meantime, news portal QQ.com reported, citing an unidentified person. Major gray market brokers for the deal, including BTIG LLC, told clients all transactions will be canceled, according to people familiar with the matter. Millions of shares were traded in the over-the-counter market prior to Ant’s planned debut, many at about a 50% premium to the listing price of HK$80 ($10.32). BTIG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Full story at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-03/ant-group-says-hong-kong-ipo-also-suspended
China Halts Ant Group’s IPO, Throwing Ma Empire Into Turmoil content media
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Oct 30, 2020
In Announcements/Broadcasts
The exit puts an end to the at least six years of losses that Robinsons has chalked up against declining revenues. PHOTO: CMG ROBINSONS Singapore, one of the oldest retailers in the Republic with more than a century in business, will close down for good following losses in recent years. But its last two stores at The Heeren and Raffles City Shopping Centre may remain open for a while more for final sales. The Business Times (BT) on Thursday found that the department store operator had been put under a creditors' voluntary winding-up. Robinson & Co (Singapore) confirmed it in a statement on Friday. Its senior general manager, Danny Lim, said: "We regret this outcome today. Despite recent challenges in the industry, the Robinsons team continued to pursue the success of the brand. However, the changing consumer landscape makes it difficult for us to succeed over the long term and the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated our challenges." He added that it has been "an honour" for Robinsons to serve the Singapore market and that he was "grateful for the dedication of (the) team, and for the support shown by (its) customers over the years". Robinsons employees have been informed by management and the provisional liquidators of this news. The company said that employees will be paid in line with the next payment cycle, "well in advance of the usual liquidation process timing which would usually take months". It added that the liquidators will also work with The Singapore Manual & Mercantile Workers' Union (SMMWU), E2i and the NTUC Job Security Council to ensure that employees are supported and will also leverage existing government schemes such as SkillsFuture's SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. The exit puts an end to at least six years of losses that Robinsons has chalked up against declining revenues. Full story at https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/consumer/robinsons-singapore-throws-in-the-towel-after-162-years
Robinsons Singapore throws in the towel after 162 years content media
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Jul 28, 2020
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A Singapore Airlines passenger jet at Changi International Airport terminal, 8 June, 2020. (PHOTO: Roslan RAHMAN via Getty Images) Singapore Airlines Ltd., consistently voted one of the world’s best airlines by Skytrax, is poised for another hefty quarterly loss after the coronavirus left it flying a tiny fraction of its usual number of passengers. The airline warned this month that it expects a material operating loss in its fiscal first quarter. It already suffered a record net loss of S$732 million ($530 million) in the three months through March, when it was hit by fuel-hedging losses as well as a collapse in demand triggered by the outbreak. That left the carrier with its first annual loss in its 48-year history. The net loss could widen to S$1.2 billion for the quarter through June and revenue may slump 87% because of a 96% drop in capacity, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analysts James Teo and Chris Muckensturm. Fuel-hedging losses will again take a toll, and this time there are also S$124 million in liquidation costs for NokScoot Airlines Co. Singapore Airlines owned a 49% stake in the low-cost Thai carrier that collapsed in June. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to torment the global aviation industry, which is forecast to take at least another three years to recover from the plunge in traffic caused by tight border controls and a reluctance to travel. Singapore Airlines is in a particularly tight spot as it is dependent on international flights. The carrier and its SilkAir and Scoot units flew 17,700 passengers in June, compared with 3.2 million a year earlier. “Progress towards a global lifting of border controls and travel restrictions, which could facilitate or result in the easier movement of travelers between countries, is slower than earlier expected,” Singapore Airlines said on July 15. The airline, which has raised about S$11 billion through loans and a rights issue in June, said at its annual general meeting Monday that passenger traffic could take two to four years to recover. The company will release a first-quarter business update after trading hours Wednesday. Singapore Airlines’ shares slipped 0.3% to close at S$3.61. They’ve slumped 43% this year, among the worst performers on a Bloomberg gauge of carriers in the Asia Pacific region. Unlike many of its peers, the carrier hasn’t cut any jobs, though it has redeployed some staff to work at hospitals and on the city state’s public transport network. The government is spending S$93 billion -- 20% of gross domestic product -- to help people stay in work and support businesses. Yet job cuts aren’t being ruled out at Singapore Airlines, the Straits Times cited Chief Executive Goh Choon Phong as saying last month. The carrier, whose shares are down 43% this year, had about 28,000 staff as of the end of March. Singapore Airlines is gradually restoring some routes, but there have been setbacks as fresh outbreaks flare up in places such as Melbourne, forcing it to suspend services to the Australian city. The airline expects passenger capacity in August and September to only be about 7% of pre-pandemic levels. Source: https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/singapore-air-bracing-for-another-record-loss-with-travel-halted-030053299.html
Singapore Airlines braces for another record loss on virus content media
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Jun 26, 2020
In Current Affairs
In a move that will upset many and surprise very few, Olympus is selling its camera business to an investment firm. In short, Olympus, a beloved brand that has been making cameras since 1936, is no longer in the camera industry. Olympus’s camera division had survived various catastrophes in recent years, including several accounting scandals — one of which led to a fine of $646 million — that some thought might irreversibly impair the company. A year ago it was reported that the photography branch of Olympus had incurred $157 million in losses and in November it was rumored that Olympus would be selling off its camera division in as little as eight months. A mere seven months after politely denying these rumors, Olympus’s camera business is in the process of being sold to Japan Industrial Partners. The Verge reports that this deal is expected to be completed later this year. The value of the sale is yet to be announced, but details will become clear when the definitive agreement is signed at the end of September. The announcement from Olympus details some of its previous efforts to counter the dramatically shrinking camera industry that has been effectively decimated by the rise of the smartphone, market saturation, and a failure to produce equipment that integrates seamlessly with an increasingly online world. Olympus has confidence that JIP will “utilize the innovative technology and unique product development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus, and will realize continuous growth of the business by bringing better products and services to the users and customers.” In effect, while Olympus is divesting itself of its consumer photography equipment, production will continue under new ownership. The new company will “maintain the research and development” and “continue to offer high-quality, highly reliable products.” The announcement also describes structuring reforms to make the new business “profitable and sustainable,” and one imagines that this may involve job losses, office closures, and reduced output. While cameras with the Olympus name seem set to continue for the immediate future, this marks an incredibly sad day in the camera industry. Source: https://fstoppers.com/news/no-more-olympus-cameras-olympus-sells-its-camera-division-495765
No More Olympus Cameras: Olympus Sells Its Camera Division content media
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