Several of the largest U.S. retailers warned that Alibaba Group Holding may “decimate” local companies unless Congress closes tax loopholes for online retailers, singling out the Chinese company before it has even established a major U.S. consumer presence.
In TV and radio ads over the weekend, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which includes Best Buy, Target, J.C. Penney and other major chains, called on Congress to end special tax treatments for Alibaba and other online giants.
“Main Street will never look the same,” it said.
The ad marks one of the biggest public marketing campaigns against a Chinese company that handles more e-commerce than Amazon and eBay combined, even though Alibaba only surfaced in the American consciousness after it went public in the world’s largest IPO in September.
U.S. retailers and industry analysts expect Alibaba to soon launch a service targeted at American consumers, armed with its IPO war chest.
However, the company has said it remains primarily focused on the Chinese market, from which it gets most of its revenue.
Alibaba sells to U.S. consumers through its global retail service AliExpress. But its core Taobao service, often likened to eBay’s marketplace, is not yet available to U.S. customers in English.
Vox Media, a Washington media group that owns SB Nation, has received a $46.5 million infusion led by General Atlantic, an investment firm based in New York City and Greenwich, Conn.
The investment places Vox’s worth at nearly $380 million, a sign of increasing values among Web publishers such as San Francisco-based Reddit and PopSugar and New York-based BuzzFeed.
Vox is led by chief executive Jim Bankoff, a former AOL executive. Its media brands include the technology site the Verge, the news site Vox.com, the food blog Eater, the fashion and shopping brand Racked, the Curbed real estate site and the Polygon game site.
Vox.com’s editor in chief is former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, who oversaw the Wonkblog for the newspaper.
Bankoff compared Vox and its growing business to earlier forms of media, such as magazines and television.
“A couple of generations ago, magazines about news, sports and food took root. When I was a kid, cable networks about news and sports and food took root and grew to become valuable companies,” Bankoff said in an interview. “New forms of advertising were created around both of those industries. Now, there’s a new medium and new brands that take advantage of this medium and what audiences and advertisers are looking for. We believe there’s an opportunity to create a great company based on that.”
Vox, located near Dupont Circle, plans to use the money to expand its brands. Anton Levy, head of General Atlantic’s Internet and technology sector, said in a statement on the firm’s Web site that Bankoff “is not only one of the foremost minds in digital media, he is also a proven business builder.”
“An investment from General Atlantic, no matter what the dollar figure, is a crystal clear sign that Vox is hitting the ball hard,” said serial entrepreneur Mark Walsh, executive chairman of Homesnap, a real estate site. “I continue to be amazed at the dollar figures that are being spent on these non-public properties. The numbers are eye-popping.”
In some cases, investors are estimating the future worth of the companies to be higher than the values placed during the dot-com bubble in 1999-2001, when prices were also steep.
The difference, Walsh said, is “there are actually fewer companies getting these large investments” than there were in 2000.
— Thomas Heath
● U.S. factories were slightly less busy in November, as production and hiring slowed, though the level of activity remained strong. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its manufacturing index slipped to 58.7 last month from 59 in October. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. October’s figure matched a three-year high reached in August.
● The National Labor Relations Board upheld a ruling that Mercedes violated federal labor laws by stopping United Auto Workers union supporters from handing out literature inside its Alabama plant. The ruling by the three-member NLRB panel requires Mercedes to update its employee handbook to say that workers are allowed to discuss union issues during non-work times and that they can solicit their colleagues in mixed-use areas such as team centers and atriums. Mercedes must also post notices at the plant near Tuscaloosa to acknowledge the violation and to reaffirm that management won’t “interfere with, restrain, or coerce” workers seeking to unionize the plant.
● Inadequate design and testing caused last year’s battery fire that led to the grounding of Boeing’s Dreamliner jets for more than three months, investigators concluded. Boeing had certified that overheating in one cell of the lithium-ion battery couldn’t spread to others, and the Federal Aviation Administration approved the design and testing. The National Transportation Safety Board faulted both in a final report for not anticipating how the power packs might fail, and cited battery maker GS Yuasa for poor manufacturing.
● Trump Entertainment Resorts said it is closing its newest hotel tower and is no longer issuing credit as it prepares for a Dec. 12 shutdown of the Taj Mahal, its lone remaining casino. The company filed a petition last week with the state Division of Gaming Enforcement asking for formal permission to close the Atlantic City casino. The company said it was taking two actions effective Monday, the day the filing was made public: closing the Chairman Tower, the newer of its two hotel towers, and halting the issuance of credit. The division has not acted on the petition, a spokeswoman said.
● The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is investigating whether Graco took too long to report a safety defect in its child car seats. Graco Children’s Products, a division of Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid, recalled more than 6 million car seats this year because their buckles could get stuck. It is the largest child seat recall in U.S. history. Federal rules require a manufacturer to report a safety defect within five days of becoming aware of it. If the investigation finds the company failed to report the defect in a timely manner, the company could face up to $35 million in fines. A Graco representative could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.
— From news services
● Daylong: Automakers release vehicle sales for November.