Digest

Amazon invests $175 million in LivingSocial

PepsiCo Europe chief executive Zein Abdalla, left, shakes hands with David Iakobachvili, a director of Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, in Moscow.
PepsiCo Europe chief executive Zein Abdalla, left, shakes hands with David Iakobachvili, a director of Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, in Moscow. (Sergey Ponomarev)
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Online retail giant Amazon.com is investing $175 million in LivingSocial, a District-based Web site that offers daily discounts with local merchants, LivingSocial announced Thursday.

The minority investment by Amazon values LivingSocial at about $1 billion.

"To be the biggest player in the local commerce space there is no one better to work with than Amazon," LivingSocial co-founder and chief executive Tim O'Shaughnessy said in a statement.

LivingSocial said in a news release that it would use the investment, including $8 million more from Lightspeed Venture Partners, to fuel growth.

LivingSocial is grossing $1 million a day and expects to reach $500 million in revenue next year. The company has 10 million subscribers and operates in more than 120 markets across five countries.

Amazon's investment in social commerce comes amid reports that Google will buy Chicago-based Groupon - a LivingSocial rival - for billions of dollars.

LivingSocial's Washington area investors include former AOL chairman Steve Case and Grotech Ventures, a Tysons Corner venture capital firm. O'Shaughnessy is the son-in-law of Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham.

- Thomas Heath

INTERNET

Google vows tougher action on piracy

Google promised Thursday to do a better job of weeding out copyright violations on the Internet, vowing to respond to complaints about pirated material posted on its YouTube video site and other services within 24 hours.

The search giant did not specify what its average response time is now, but many copyright holders have griped in the past about the company taking too long to remove videos or other content that had been posted illegally.

YouTube was swamped with pirated video in its early days, outraging television broadcasters and movie studios. The rampant violations prompted Viacom to sue Google and YouTube, but a federal judge concluded in a ruling earlier this year that Google and YouTube had followed the law.

Google has tried to prevent pirated video and music from appearing on YouTube by introducing technology that automatically detects unauthorized content. Without providing specifics, Google said it would introduce more tools next month to make it easier and quicker to flag copyright violations.

- Associated Press

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

PepsiCo plans major expansion in Russia

PepsiCo is buying a majority stake in Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods for $3.8 billion, a deal that will make it the biggest food and beverage company in Russia.

The deal is Pepsi's largest international acquisition. It gives the company dominant position in the fast-growing Russian market and furthers its plan to build its global nutrition business.

Combined, the companies will hold six of Russia's 20 largest food and beverage brands and will be about twice the size of its nearest competitor in the country. PepsiCo said the deal will make Russia its second-largest market behind the United States.

Wimm-Bill-Dann, whose shares are traded in Moscow and on the New York Stock Exchange, produces dairy products, juices, mineral water and baby food. Founded in 1992 shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, it has grown from handful of employees working in one room to launch its first juice brand, J7, to more than 16,000 people and 38 plants in Russia, the Ukraine and Central Asia. The company had revenue of about $2.4 billion for the year ended in June 2010.

- Associated Press


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