5 things you should know about tech today

- March 5, 2020 3 MIN READ
No Time To Die - especially from COVID-19. Photo: MGM/Universal

1. Airbnb’s IPO may call in sick

007 is not the only one (see below) laid low by coronavirus. Airbnb’s much-anticipated IPO, previously announced for 2020, may be delayed until 2021, Bloomberg reports.

Like many in the travel and tourism sector, Airbnb’s been hit hard by the sudden contraction brought on by travel bans and conference cancellations. Bookings in China have fallen by 80% on a year ago according to one source Bloomberg spoke to, and the company could end up being unprofitable this year and investors have been pretty savage of tech companies that fail to deliver over the last 12 months.

Airbnb has reportedly posted a $US322 million in the first nine months of 2019 loss on an EBITDA basis, after two years in the black – and that was before COVID-19 rocked up.

New York University Professor Arun Sundararajan told Bloomberg that if the Olympics are canceled, Airbnb should delay its IPO.

“It’s not a good idea for them to go public when the pandemic is still underway; there’s too much uncertainty to realistically price the stock,” he said.

Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas remained upbeat, telling Bloomberg: “Although nobody can know the extent of the impact that the coronavirus outbreak may have, we believe that history shows that when global disruptions happen, the travel industry has bounced back in the long run.”

More from Bloomberg here.


2. Alibaba backs Klarna

Swedish BNPL platform Klarna, which launched recently in Australia and counts the CBA among its key investors, has a new backer, Ant Financial, part of Alibaba Group and running payments platform Alipay. The terms of the investment are undisclosed and said to be for less than 1% of the business. The two ventures already collaborates on payments for the e-commerce site AliExpress.

Klarna is now valued at more than  US$5.5 billion, with CBA pouring US$300 million into the venture for a 5.5% stake.

3. Google adds Melbourne to its cloud

Four years after it made Sydney its first Australian cloud region, the search giant says it will launch a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) region in Melbourne in 2021.

The region will have three zones to protect against service disruptions, and will launch with our portfolio of key products.

Since opening our first cloud region in Sydney in July 2017, we’ve continued to invest in secure and sustainable infrastructure to support our growing customers.

The company counts NAB, ANZ, Australia Post, Macquarie Bank, Optus and Woolworths among its cloud client base. Google says the new region will bring lower latency to businesses and offer the infrastructure to support disaster recovery and regulatory needs.


4.  Telstra dials zero

A day after software venture Xero announced it was now carbon neutral, Telstra boss Andy Penn has pledged that the telco giant is stepping up its efforts and plans to hit the same target in 2020.

“Offsets will be sourced largely from renewable energy projects both in Australia and the countries where we operate,” Penn said in a blog post that revealed the business burns through around 5.9 petajoules of energy annually, producing 1.3m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Pointing his recent speech saying  climate change is the defining challenge for business in this decade, Penn outlined three key goals, starting with Telstra’s 2020 net zero goal.

His other two goals are “to be renewable leaders by enabling renewable energy generation equivalent to 100% of our consumption by 2025” and “reduce our absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2030” in line with the company’s Paris Agreement commitment.

“We will lead by example. We will hold ourselves to account in terms of our own targets and the support we offer other businesses on their climate emission management journeys,” he wrote.

Read what he had to say here.


5. Un-certain regard

We’ve previously mentioned Senate Estimates this week – when politicians grill bureaucrats about what they’ve been up to. It’s the most fascinating part of the political process, with unexpected revelations emerging and Senators often trying to show how they’re the smartest people in the room.

So this exchange between Queensland Senator Gerard Rennick, who has a Masters Degree in taxation law, and serial startup entrepreneur and CSIRO boss Dr Larry Marshall, a PhD-level physicist, over Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as it applies to climate change modelling, was, shall we say, educational.

After name-dropping Einstein and Max Born – father of quantum physics and grandfather of Olivia Newton-John (the latter an important detail the Senator failed to mention), Rennick pondered the difficulties of understanding the properties of infrared radiation based on Heisenberg’s theory.

As Marshall says “those uncertainties are so tiny, they’re irrelevant to the world we live in”.

BONUS ITEM: There’s some irony in news that the release of the new and 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, has been delayed several months from the planned April 10 premiere, due to coronavirus. So it’s now Die Another Day.

BONUS BONUS: The NT News printed 8 blank pages in today’s edition as “limited edition one-ply” emergency loo paper. Well played.