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Suez Canal logjam could stretch on for weeks, slam world economy

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The growing traffic snarl in the Suez Canal could take weeks to untangle — and is threatening to wreak havoc on the world economy in the process.

The giant cargo ship that’s wedged across the canal is blocking an estimated $9.5 billion worth of shipments daily. The crisis — now in its third day — could stretch on for weeks, taking a devastating toll on global commerce as it traps shipments of everything from oil to electronics.

At least 150 ships are now stuck behind the Ever Given, a 200,000-ton cargo vessel that ran aground in the narrow channel on Tuesday. International crude prices surged 6 percent the following day — a move some analysts blamed on worries about oil shipments coming out of the Suez.

Meanwhile, logistics experts said the blockage would likely spur delays and added costs as deliveries of crucial goods between Europe and Asia, as deliveries of heavy equipment, clothing and even crucial medical supplies continue to get further backed up.

“We can’t exclude it might take weeks, depending on the situation,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, told media on Thursday. “It’s an enormous weight on the sand. We might have to work with a combination of reducing the weight by removing containers, oil and water from the ship, tug boats and dredging of sand.”

Built over a decade in opened in 1869, the Suez Canal is an artificial waterway in Egypt that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Nearly 19,000 vessels passed through it last year carrying 1.2 billion tons of cargo, according to the Suez Canal Authority, the Egyptian state institution that operates the channel.

This handout satellite image shows the Taiwan-owned MV 'Ever Given' (Evergreen) container ship, a 400-meter- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-meter wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal.
This handout satellite image shows the Taiwan-owned MV ‘Ever Given’ (Evergreen) container ship, a 400-meter- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-meter wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt’s Suez Canal.
CNES/AFP via Getty Images

The Ever Given — a 440 million-pound cargo ship that’s as long as the Empire State Building is tall — was en route from Rotterdam to China when it ran aground Tuesday after high winds turned it sideways, according to shipping data.

The bow of the ship is still lodged deep into one side of the canal, and dredging will be required, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Workers also will need to take off fuel, ballast water and possibly some of the ship’s cargo. That could require the help of helicopters Officials are hoping a higher-than-normal tide expected over the weekend could help lift the ship free.

The stranded vessel is blocking a route that carries about 13 percent of the world’s trade. On Thursday, the ship’s owner apologized for the mess.

“We are determined to keep on working hard to resolve this situation as soon as possible,” Shoei Kisen Kaisha said in a statement Thursday. “We would like to apologize to all parties affected by this incident, including the ships traveling and planning to travel through Suez Canal.”

The 400-meter, 224,000-ton Ever Given container ship, leased by Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp, blocks Egypt's Suez Canal in a BlackSky satellite image.
The 400-meter, 224,000-ton Ever Given container ship, leased by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, blocks Egypt’s Suez Canal in a BlackSky satellite image.
via REUTERS

If the logjam can’t be undone, experts say cargo companies will be forced to reroute their shipments around the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa — a detour that typically adds 14 days and 5,000 nautical miles to the commute.

That could send prices for vital goods including cars, lumber and even critical medical supplies soaring in the coming weeks and months, officials said.

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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