Biz briefs: Fairfax buys Pricemaker stake

Fairfax buys into Pricemaker

Fairfax Media has bought a 50 per cent stake in e-commerce start-up which lets shoppers advertise intended purchases so they can get the best deal from suppliers.

The move is part of a strategy by Fairfax, owner of the Stuff website, to leverage its online and print audience to generate new revenues from e-commerce.

Fairfax product development director Robert Hutchinson said its investment in Pricemaker comprised a "substantial seed investment" and a marketing commitment. The purchase price was confidential.

Pricemaker was launched by former Westpac foreign exchange trading head Erin Walshe in 2012.

His original idea was that shoppers could use its website and app to invite retailers to participate in "reverse auctions". Retailers could bid down the price of items shoppers had asked to buy such as televisions and whiteware until the cheapest supplier won out.

But he said reverse auctions were hard to explain so now suppliers were notified when a shopper posted that they wanted to buy a product in a relevant category and were left to follow up with their own questions, suggestions and offers.

Because of the small number of leads to date, Pricemaker had not yet begun charging businesses to receive them, but Walshe said he expected it would in "the next couple of months".

Esquires expands in China

The Esquires cafe chain has opened its 14th store in China.

The Beijing-based master franchisee of the NZX-listed Cooks Global Foods, is a joint venture between local entrepreneur Ellen Zhang and the Yunnan Metropolitan Construction & Investment Company, a real estate development business owned by the provincial government of Yunnan.

Cooks chairman Keith Jackson said the Chinese market was growing rapidly and was proving resilient.

"Esquires' same-store sales in China are ahead of last year by around 30 per cent, while overall sales are 80 per cent up on 2013," he said.

"Much of the overall increase in sales can be attributed to Esquires' growth programme which has seen seven new Esquires Coffee Shops open in China in just 12 months."

Xero hits revenue milestone

Accounting software business Xero passed $100 million in annualised subscription revenue for the first time in May.

Xero hit monthly recurring subscription revenues of $8.6m during the month, while its full-year operating revenue to March 2014 was $70.1m.

Xero chief executive Rod Drury said passing the $100m annualised revenue mark is a "huge milestone for any tech company".

"We're proud to have got there so quickly," he said.

The company gets 70 per cent of its annualised subscription revenue from outside of New Zealand, with more than 120,00 customers in Australia and more than 50,000 in Britain.

It made a $35.5m loss in the year to March.

Dairy futures hits milestone
The NZX Dairy Futures Market has reached a milestone with 100,000 tonnes traded since the launch of the market in late 2010.

Year-to-date volume is at 28,203 tonnes, more than 300 per cent more than the same period last year.
International participants are capitalising on the early trading hours, with the market open from 2am New Zealand time.

In 2014 a third of all volume has been traded between 2am and the previous opening time of 8am.

''It's significant not only to see a boost in trading from Europe and the US, but also increased trading coming from Asia,'' NZX Head of Markets Aaron Jenkins said.

''This increase in activity is thanks to a lot of hard work from our broker firms and participants who have been critical supporters in the growth of this young market.''