Category Archives: Companies

Smyth Toys Buys European Divisions of Toys ‘R’ Us


Toys R Us Quioccasin Rd Richmond, VA. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Smyth Toys, a company based in Galway, Ireland, has agreed to purchase some of the European divisions of Toys ‘R’ Us. This is Smyth’s first time selling on the mainland of Europe. When the deal is implemented Smyth will run 93 brick and mortar shops and four online stores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The buyer was found by Lazard, an investment bank, which was employed to look for buyers for Toys ‘R’ Us international subsidiaries after the giant US retailer filed for bankruptcy in March.

Smyths was founded in County Mayo and is owned by four brothers from Galway; Tommie, Tony, Liam and Padraig Smyth. The brothers own 21 stores in the Republic of Ireland and an additional 90 or so in Britain and Northern Ireland. The company has been growing quickly since 2007 when it entered the UK market, and is planning on opening more shops in Luton and Dundee in the near future.

Toys ‘R’ Us announced in January that it was going to close about 20% of its US stores as part of its strategy to come out of one of the largest in history bankruptcies by a specialty retailer. The plan did not work out and the Toys ‘R’ Us subsidiary in Britain was forced to close all 100 shops after not finding a buyer.

A bid was made on the Canadian division of the toy retailer by Fairfax Financial Holdings for $300 million.

Apple and Tools for Parental Control

 JANA Partners – one of Apple Inc.’s biggest investors – earlier this year wrote to the multinational technology company about technology and children safety.  Apple Inc. only found out about JANA’s (and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) that co-wrote the letter request) sentiments, before the letter was publicized.

Apple Inc. claimed the letter was not a result of prior talks that had taken place with either JANA or CalSTRS but nonetheless immediately responded with a promise to upgrade its current child safety features – something it has been offering since 2008.

The letter publicly reported on the Think Differently About Kids website, included the following statement:

“In partnership with experts including Dr. Michael Rich, founding director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Professor Jean M. Twenge, psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book iGen, we have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.”

The letter also offered initial steps for Apple to follow.

ECS Federal Acquired by On Assignment

In recent news, ECS Federal has been acquired by On Assignment. The deal is said to have come to $775 million and brings On Assignment into the federal market. As Roy Kapani, ECS’ majority owner and founder said,

“This is a terrific outcome for our company, partners and talented employees.”

ECS CEO George Wilson said, “Same strategy, same management team, more resources.”
On Assignment has big plans with the acquisition. They will change their name when the deal finishes to be ASGN Inc. They hope that ECS will become a $1 billion platform by the target date of 2021. ECS will now have access to digital, creative and life sciences; while On Assignment will have access to ECS’s development capabilities and cloud, cyber and artificial intelligence.

The acquisition is an interesting example of a commercial company that is turning its attention to the federal market. As investment banker Jean Stack of Baird explained,
“This is illustrative of strong buyer interest in companies with scale and demonstrated growth, with priority national security customers, and in growth markets like cyber, analytics and IT modernization.”

Alibaba & Malaysia Forming an Interesting Partnership

Last year, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launched an “e-hub” facility. One of their goals was to remove trade barriers for smaller locations and emerging nations. Now, Alibaba plans to set up a traffic control system that would use artificial intelligence for Kuala Lumpur. This would be their first time offering a service of this sort outside of China.

They plan to make live traffic predictions and recommendations by looking at the data they collect from video footage, traffic bureaus, public transportation systems and other locations. The technology will be integrated into 500 inner city cameras by May and Alibaba will work with the state agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Kuala Lumpur city council to implement these changes.

A similar system in the Chinese city of Hagnzhou has reported traffic violations with as much as 92% accuracy, an increase in traffic speed of 15%, and an ability for emergency personnel to reach their destinations in half the previous time.



Italian Confectioner Ferrero Buys Nestle USA

Photo courtesy of Avelinak

After considering several buyers for its US chocolate business, food giant Nestle picked the Italian luxury chocolate brand, Ferrero in a deal worth about $2.5 billion. Last week it was reported that Ferrero had outbid its rival Hershey for the prize.

The deal makes Ferrero the third largest chocolate company in the US, after Mars, Inc. and Hershey. Before the buyout, Ferrero was the fifth largest confectioner, but only controlled 3% of the market. The Hershey group had 31.5% of the industry and Mars with 27.1%.

Ferrero also makes Ferrero Rocher pralines and Kinder chocolate eggs. It was founded in 1946, in the small Italian town of Alba, in Piedmont, by the grandfather of the present CEO, Giovanni Ferrero.

In 2011, after the death of his brother, Giovanni became the sole CEO of the company. Until that point the business grew solely through internal growth. After that the company started growing through acquisitions of other companies.