Amazon is raising the price of annual Prime memberships to $139

The company said it is increasing the price because of “expanded Prime membership benefits,” such as added Prime Video content and expanded free same-day shipping, as well to compensate for the rising costs of labor and transportation in its distribution network. The move comes as prices for just about everything — from food to energy — have gone up in recent months. Amazon (AMZN)‘s global workforce has doubled over the past two years, to 1.6 million employees, and the company also said last year that it had increased wages for thousands of workers.
The company last raised prices for Prime in 2018, when it bumped the annual membership up from $99. The latest price hike represents a 17% increase.

The change will go into effect on February 18 for new Prime members and after March 25 for existing members.

The Prime price hike wasn’t the only major news in the report. The company’s profits also doubled during the December-end quarter, to $14.3 billion, blowing past Wall Street analyst expectations. The huge jump in profit was due largely to the company’s accounting for its investment in electric vehicle company Rivian Automotive, which had a massive IPO in November.

And while the company posted operating losses in both its North America and international e-commerce business, its biggest profit driver, Amazon Web Services, reported a nearly 49% increase in operating income, to $5.3 billion. AWS also added more revenue year-over-year than in any other quarter in its history, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with analysts Thursday.

Overall sales from the quarter were up more than 9% from the year-ago quarter, to $137.4 billion, just shy of the $137.6 billion analysts had forecast.

Amazon shares jumped as much as 17% in after-hours trading following the report Thursday.

Despite the positive initial investor reaction, some analysts noted that Amazon faces an uphill battle in the coming quarters, as it combats rising costs and laps a period in which people may have been more reliant on online shopping before Covid-19 vaccines were widely available. The company forecasted net sales growth of between 3% and 8% for the first quarter of 2022, a huge decline from the nearly 44% growth in sales it posted during the same period a year earlier.

Zomato IPO: Indian food delivery startup is raising $1.3 billion in major public offering in Mumbai

Food delivery startup Zomato is looking to raise some $1.3 billion this week in an initial public offering in Mumbai, the company said in a recent regulatory filing. It expects to close its books on Friday, and is the biggest offering in the country so far in 2021, according to Dealogic.

The company plans to sell shares priced between 72 and 76 rupees (97 cents to $1.02) per share. At the upper end of the range, Zomato would be valued at almost $8 billion.

Its founder Deepinder Goyal began Wednesday with a nervous tweet: “Just ordered a triple breakfast @zomato. Stress eating.”

Investors are closely watching the offering, which will give some insight into the market’s appetite for Indian startups. The country has a ton of tech unicorns — companies that have reached a valuation of at least $1 billion — but none of them have ever gone public before.

Analysts have expressed concern that Indian startups — many of which have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from private markets at extremely high valuations — need to start showing consistent profits and healthy exits for investors.

“This IPO is in some sense the beginning of the Indian digital ecosystem’s promises starting to get fulfilled,” Ashish Fafadia, partner at the Indian venture capital firm Blume Ventures, told CNN Business.

He said investors will be looking at how the company performs after it lists, along with how well Zomato is able to hit quarterly targets.

“The ultimate long-term test would be if they are able to become a profitable business,” he added.

Paving the way

Zomato was founded in New Delhi in 2008 by Goyal. The company has built a name for itself as one of India’s most successful startups, with a team of more than 5,000 employees and a reach across more than 10,000 cities in two dozen countries, from Sri Lanka and Slovakia to South Africa.

The firm made waves in January 2020 when it bought Uber Eats in India, handing Zomato a big win in its home market. California-based Uber (UBER) picked up a nearly 10% stake in Zomato as part of the deal.

Zomato’s public offering this month could also pave the way for more Indian unicorns to go public down the road.

Walmart-owned Flipkart, which is the only Indian tech unicorn to have been acquired at a valuation of more than $1 billion, is considering a public offering, according to media reports.
That e-commerce firm raised $3.6 billion in its latest round of funding from investors including GIC, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Walmart (WMT), the company said this week. Flipkart is now valued at nearly $38 billion.

Zomato’s IPO will also serve as another test for the closely watched global food delivery industry. Deliveroo’s IPO crashed in London earlier this year despite great fanfare, becoming the city’s worst debut on record.

— Michelle Toh contributed to this report.

See the calendar raising money to diversify Houston business

HOUSTON – Last July, Eugenia Brown came up with the idea to help 50 women of color earn their Certified Beer Server status in an effort to promote diversity in the craft beer industry.

Now, the initiative started by Brown, who is the founder of Charlotte-based brand Beer Chick, is on the road to 100.

“My hope is that by helping minority women achieve Cicerone Level 1 Certified Beer Server, I can help better prepare them for jobs in the beer industry, while also increasing their overall beer knowledge,” Brown said on her website.

In order to raise funds to support the initiative, Brown began a successful T-shirt campaign that raised more than $6,000.

Now, continuing with her effort to diversify the industry, Brown has brought the project to Houston.

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“This is a movement that I want to start here in Houston and beyond,” she said.

Following her t-shirt campaign, Brown is now selling an 18-month calendar featuring everyday women of color in the craft beer business in Houston, which she says a portion of the proceeds will go towards The Road to 100 initiative.

Women of Color in Craft Beer, Houston
Women of Color in Craft Beer, Houston (www.blackbeerchick.com)

According to Brown, her reason for designing the calendar was to highlight women of color in craft beer who are bankers, teachers, college students, pharmacy technicians, veterinarians, etc., that are underrepresented in the industry.

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