Apple hires retail chief in one interesting experiment !

Summary: John Browett doesn’t have a lot of fixing up to do with Apple’s retail stores. On the flip side, he could be the one that botches a well-oiled machine.

Apple named its John Browett as its new retail chief and the move is going to be interesting to watch from a management perspective. First, Browett comes from U.K.-based Dixons Retail, which has a mixed history of customer service. And then there’s Apple’s move to hire an outsider.

Browett (right) will report to Apple CEO Tim Cook and the retail unit isn’t small potatoes by any stretch. Apple’s retail stores in many ways are its show piece for its hardware and software. The last person to run the Apple retail unit was Ron Johnson, another outsider hired from Target. Johnson is now CEO of JC Penney.

ZDNet UK: Apple nabs Dixons chief to head up retail stores

In other words, Apple usually has to hire an outsider to run its retail stores. It would be far more notable if Apple hired an outsider to run product development, hardware design or software.

In a statement, Cook said “our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met.”

That quote poses a conundrum. A few consumers in the U.K. are already scratching their heads at the Browett hire. Dixons’ customer service was spotty at best.

The reaction via Twitter was also mixed. Turns out Dixons’ major brands—Currys and PC World—aren’t exactly beloved. GigaOm also raises questions about Browett’s history nicely. Browett has been an executive at Tesco too. In other words, Browett seems to know the crossroads between big box and mass consumer-Best Buy retailing. Neither approach exactly touches on the Apple vibe.

At Dixons, Browett came to the retailer in 2007 as a turnaround guy. The U.K. retailer had institutional issues with customer service.

Add it up and it’s possible that Browett is the right guy for Apple’s retail strategy. However, there are more than a few questions about how Dixons and Tesco translate to Apple. Dixons had positive same store sales in 2010, but saw declines in 2009, 2011 and likely 2012, according to Deutsche Bank estimates. Dixons ability to hit its earnings targets is also questionable.

In any case, the stakes are very high. For the three months ended Dec. 31, Apple’s retail unit delivered operating income of $1.85 billion on revenue of $6.12 billion, up from $3.85 billion a year ago. For Apple’s fiscal year, the retail unit delivered revenue of $14.13 billion, up 44 percent from a year ago. Apple could spin its retail unit off and have a hot IPO.

Fortunately, Browett doesn’t have a lot of fixing up to do with Apple’s retail stores. On the flip side, he could be the one that botches a well-oiled machine.

Last Facebook valuation before IPO filing: $83.5 billion

Summary: If Facebook were to go public now, it would be valued at $83.5 billion. Of course, that’s not going to happen, since the company is only expected to file for its initial public offering (IPO) this week.

Facebook is rumored to file papers for an initial public offering (IPO) this week (possibly as soon as Wednesday), and the biggest question is of course: how much is the social networking giant really worth? For a while now, employees and early stakeholders have been able to sell shares privately onSecondMarket and SharesPost. The latest auction from the latter ends Thursday, and at a share price of $35.50, gives Facebook an implied valuation of $83.5 billion.
It’s important to note that even if Facebook files for its IPO this week, we won’t know the company’s valuation until right before the offering, which typically occurs about three months later, and by the way lines up with timing stated by at least one rumor: May 2012. Nevertheless, investors are always eager to know what would happen if Facebook would go public right now. The SharesPost estimate is the closest we’ve got right now, but even it will change: private shares can still be traded on secondary markets after the filing, though of course Facebook will restrict transactions as the date of the public offering nears.
In December 2010, Facebook announced that it had raised $1.5 billion at a valuation of approximately $50 billion, but that it had no immediate plans for the funds and would simply continue to build and expand its operations. The transaction consisted of two parts: in January 2011, Goldman Sachs completed an oversubscribed offering to its non-US clients in a fund that invested $1 billion in Facebook Class A common stock, while in December 2010, Digital Sky Technologies, The Goldman Sachs Group, and funds managed by Goldman Sachs, invested $500 million in Facebook Class A common stock at the same valuation.
Facebook is projected to raise $10 billion, giving it a valuation of around $100 billion. If those end up being the numbers, the company will create more than 1,000 new millionaires (will your friend be one of them?). That’s just a nice round number though: the real valuation is unlikely to have the perfect 10 digits, but of course everyone wants to know how close it will be to it.
In short, the only official number we have is $50 billion. Investments have been made valuing the company at $70 billion while sales on secondary markets have priced it in the $80 billion range. The expected valuation is anywhere between $75 billion to $100 billion.

EPIC: Facebook Timeline changes users’ privacy settings ( c0nfirmed)

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is working very hard to point out Facebook privacy issues to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). A big part of its onslaught is centered on privacy through obscurity; EPIC insists the FTC’s November 2011 settlement with Facebook doesn’t allow this, but Facebook strongly disagrees. There’s more though: EPIC claims Timeline makes changes to default privacy settings users set before the new profile rolled out, specifically related to the event of friending someone on the social network.


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