FB Roundup: Simon Arora, Elon Musk, Nandan Nilekani

By Glen Ferris

B&M discount chain boss Simon Arora set to retire

Simon Arora, the billionaire co-owner of UK discount chain B&M has announced his retirement after acquiring the then-failing business from Phildrew Investments in 2004.

Over the course of 18 years, the British-born businessman, along with his brothers Bobby and Robin, rebuilt the company from 21 regional stores to an empire of more than 1,100 shops across the UK and France, eventually employing more than 32,000 staff and listing on the FTSE 100 in 2014 with a market valuation of £5 billion.

The retailer saw huge success during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was classified as an essential retailer and allowed by the UK government to keep trading during multiple lockdowns. A combination of out-of-town retail park locations and low prices saw a rise in customer spending worth more than £4 billion per year.

Simon Arora’s retirement announcement comes after the brothers’ family office, SSA Investments, sold B&M shares worth more than £234 million in January this year, following a similar share sale worth £214 million in 2021. The family, who still own a 7% stake in the business, are estimated to be worth £2.5 billion.

“On behalf of the board and all stakeholders of the group, I would like to thank Simon for his leadership over the past 17 years,” said B&M chairman Peter Bamford. “The remarkable growth of the business from its humble beginnings to where it is today reflects his exceptional passion, determination, and ability.

“Moreover, he has established a firm foundation from which the group will continue to deliver its successful growth strategy and great value for its customers. We are all very grateful for his tireless efforts."

Simon Arora will step down from his role within the year, while Bobby Arora will remain as B&M group trading director and Robin Arora will retain a seat on the company’s board.  

Elon Musk reaches deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion

Following extensive discussions, Twitter has reached an agreement with billionaire Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk to buy the social media platform for $44 billion.

The deal, which was unanimously approved by the platform’s board of directors and is expected to be completed later this year pending regulatory approval, was initiated by Musk when he publicly announced a proposal to buy the company on April 14 for $54.20 a share.

Once the deal is finalised, Musk – who previously bought a 9.2% stake in the company, making him the single-biggest shareholder – plans to take Twitter private.

“The Twitter board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon's proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing,” said Twitter board chair Bret Taylor. “The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter's stockholders.”

The deal comes despite the company previously planning a “poison pill” strategy to wrestle control away from a single owner.

The wealthiest man in the world (according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index), Musk is a regular Twitter user and has often been outspoken about the platform, claiming it has not lived up to its potential as a platform for democratic discourse.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk in a statement.

“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential - I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

“Once the deal closes, we don’t know which direction the platform will go,” said Twitter’s chief executive officer, Parag Agrawal, who took over the reins from co-founder Jack Dorsey in late 2021. “Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world. [I am] deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important.”

Nandan Nilekani builds tech platform to take on Amazon in India

Billionaire tech pioneer Nandan Nilekani has announced he is working with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build an open technology network that will allow small merchants to compete against retail titans like Amazon and the Walmart-owned Flipkart.

The not-for-profit system, known as the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), will create a free online system for traders and consumers to buy and sell a variety of services and wares.

A government-funded e-commerce ecosystem, ONDC is designed to “Loosen the stranglehold” of companies like Amazon.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Nilekani. “We owe it to the millions of small traders to show an easy way to participate in the new high-growth area of digital commerce.”

With ONDC, traders will have a direct consumer-facing showcase for their products, allowing them to gain extra visibility against competitors who currently control around 80 per cent of the entire e-commerce market of India, according to News18.

Business Standard reports that ONDC will be rolled out soon with government assistance in test cities Delhi, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Bhopal, and Shillong. If successful, the platform will expand it 100 cities across India within the next six months.

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