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Saks Fifth Avenue owner to split Saks.com into separate business

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Saks Fifth Avenue owner to split Saks.com into separate business

HBC, the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue said Friday it will split the luxury department store’s website into a separate business from its stores after it raised $500 million.

The separation allows Saks.com, which has about $1 billion in annual sales, to raise money to fuel its growth, the company said. E-commerce has experienced explosive growth during the coronavirus pandemic with several luxury retailers showing resilience.

“Luxury ecommerce is poised for exponential growth,” said HBC chief executive officer Richard Baker on Friday. “Saks is primed to win significant market share.”

HBC said few changes will be noticeable to customers. Saks Fifth Avenue will remain the brand name for both the stores and e-commerce business, and shoppers will be able to buy online and pick up their purchases in stores. They will also be able to make returns and exchanges using their Saks credit cards either at stores or online, the company said. The online business will oversee marketing and merchandising for both segments.

Venture-capital firm Insight Partners has put up $500 million for a minority stake in Saks.com, giving the business a $2 billion valuation. The money will be used to invest in faster shipping, easier returns and better customer service, Saks’ 40 brick-and-mortar stores will become a separate business known as SFA, which will remain wholly owned by HBC.

Marc Metrick, who was CEO of the combined Saks businesses, is set to become CEO of the new digital company.

Metrick touted the spinoff, adding: “As a standalone company, we are well-positioned to make the appropriate investments to drive exponential growth and deliver the same exceptional experience online.”

Former WeWork and Amazon exec Sebastian Gunningham is joining the e-commerce company’s board, and Saks veteran Larry Bruce has been appointed president of the SFA business, reporting to Baker.

HBC was taken private last year by a group of shareholders that includes Baker. HBC also owns the Hudson’s Bay department store chain in Canada, and the discount business Saks Off Fifth.

Insight Partners’ other investments e-commerce platform Shopify, social media site, Twitter and subscription meal kit service, Hello Fresh.

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Domino’s to start robot pizza deliveries in Houston this week

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Domino's to start robot pizza deliveries in Houston this week

Domino’s Pizza will be delivering pies with the help of driverless robot cars as part of a pilot in Houston beginning this week.

The largest pizza chain in the US is partnering with Nuro, a self-driving delivery company that has raised more than $1 billion from investors including Softbank, and which received regulatory approval last year to begin unmanned deliveries.

The companies announced their partnership in 2019, but the pilot for the service launches this week, the companies said on Monday.

Nuro also launched a pilot in Houston with CVS last year to deliver prescriptions to consumers and it has been working with Walmart and Kroger as well.

The collaboration with Domino’s comes amid a severe shortage of drivers available for food delivery, Nuro told Reuters in a statement.

Consumers who are part of the pilot — which is being run out of the Woodland Heights Domino’s — can track the vans’ route via text alerts. They pre-pay for their delivery online and once the vans arrive they use a PIN code to retrieve their order from the vans, which are smaller than a regular vehicle. The ceiling doors open upwards and the pie is presented to the customer.

“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space,” Domino’s chief innovation officer, Dennis Maloney said in a statement. “This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations.”

Houston, the fourth-largest US city, has one of the country’s highest road fatality rates. “Houston’s roadways create challenging scenarios for our technology to work with,” said Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations.

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Microsoft in talks to buy Nuance Communications: report

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Microsoft in talks to buy Nuance Communications: report

Microsoft is in advanced talks to buy artificial intelligence and speech technology company Nuance Communications for about $16 billion, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The price being discussed could value Nuance at about $56 a share, the source said, adding that an agreement could be announced as soon as Monday. Nuance shares closed Friday at $45.58.

Bloomberg News, which first reported the deal (paywall) between Nuance and Microsoft, said talks are ongoing and the discussions could still fall apart.

Burlington, Mass.-based Nuance whose voice recognition technology helped launch Apple’s assistant Siri, makes software for sectors ranging from healthcare to the automotive industries.

The deal with Nuance would be Microsoft’s second-biggest deal, after its $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016.

Microsoft and Nuance did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

Soho House — the London-based group of posh private clubs — is planning to go public across the pond, a new report says.

The British company filed confidential paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of more than $3 billion, the UK’s Sky News reported Thursday.

The filing comes about three years after the iconic chain last mulled plans for an IPO in 2018, according to reports from the time.

The latest bid has been in the works since at least February, when The Times of London reported that Soho House had hired Wall Street stalwarts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as it looked to take advantage of the frothy US stock market.

The company raised a batch of private funding last summer but decided to pursue more capital through the public market as it expands, according to Sky News.

Soho House declined to comment Thursday.

Soho House runs 27 clubs in 10 countries, including three in New York City, along with event venues and a group of co-working spaces dubbed “Soho Works.

The chain’s business has reportedly held up through the coronavirus crisis. Just about 10,000 of its 110,000 members — whose ranks include Prince Harry and supermodel Kate Moss — canceled their memberships even as the pandemic shuttered its venues, the Financial Times reported last year.

While Soho House shares its name with the London neighborhood where its first club opened in 1995, the company is mostly owned by billionaire American investor Ron Burkle.

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