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23 April 2012

Sir Richard Branson backs Facebook rival Path; Olympic gold not on the cards for Virgin


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SEATTLE - Sir Richard Branson has invested in Path, the "private social network" hoping to take on Facebook.

Path, a 'mobile-centric social network', which limits its members to 150 friends, was created by former Facebook employee Dave Morin in 2010.

Original backers included Hollywood actor and serial technology investor, Ashton Kutcher. However, during the site's latest round of funding, in which the company managed to raise more than US$30 million (S$37.5 million), Sir Richard has added his name to Path's investor list.

Last month Path came under fire after it emerged that the site was automatically uploading users' mobile phone address books and storing the information on its servers, without gaining consent from its members.

Consequently Mr Morin was forced to apologise and change the service's mobile settings. Path members are now asked first if they wish to opt in to share the content of their mobile address book.

An Apple spokesman said at the time: "Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines."

The Daily Telegraph lists other new Path investors as Mr Yuri Milner, the Russian investor with stakes in Facebook, social games company Zynga and Twitter, and chief executive of Zynga Mark Pincus.

The news comes only a week after Facebook acquired Instagram, a popular photo-sharing app which has yet to generate revenues from it 40 million users, for US$1 billion.

Path, which has two million users, also has yet to fully roll out a commercial model.

Such large investments and buy-outs of companies without strong revenue models have prompted much conversation about a new technology bubble forming.

Virgin Casino New Football Online Slot...

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The Euro Cup bonus round can be triggered by three bonus symbols or the player can buy the bonus by paying 30 times the current total stake value selected. Buying the bonus gives the player a slightly higher chance of winning the progressive jackpot. The bonus game is a simulation of the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League. Players can play the bonus normally with highlights of goals and near misses or just see the scores of the games. The former method displays some stunning visuals of a simulated football game. The player selects his team from the 16 displayed and the further that team gets in the simulated cup competition then the more money he will win. Better teams are more likely to progress through the tournament but will pay out less as in any real betting scenario. If the chosen team wins a knock out round it will go through to the next. If the team loses then the player wins the bonus amount accumulated till then. Each knock out round is played over two legs just as in the actual league. For a Virgin Casino player to win the progressive jackpot his chosen team must score ten or more goals in one round, adding together the scores for the home and away leg.

Sir Richard Branson says FA Cup final kick off time should change to ease Liverpool FC travel chaos...

Virgin boss Richard Branson has asked the Football Association (FA) to rethink the timing of next month's FA Cup final, in the light of travel problems faced by Liverpool fans.

Major maintenance work means rail travel, of which Virgin is the main provider, is likely to be severely disrupted over the May public holiday weekend.

That means supporters traveling from the north-west to Wembley for a 5:15pm kick-off against Chelsea on May 5, and hoping to return on the same day, will be affected.

"We have a strong relationship with Liverpool Football club and twice recently have worked with them and Network Rail to bring many fans to Wembley," said Branson in a letter emailed to the Liverpool Echo.

"On this occasion we would ask the FA to look again at the timing of the game."

The FA did not respond to Branson's call for a rethink on the kick-off time but stressed they felt there would be enough coaches to ferry fans back and forth.

"In light of the disrupted rail service to London, The FA can confirm that National Express, a partner of Wembley Stadium, will provide dedicated services between Liverpool and Wembley for the FA Cup Final," said an FA spokesman.

"We went on record last year to state that the 2011-12 FA Cup final would have a later kick-off time while May 5 was announced almost 12 months ago to allow the Premier League to conclude in plenty of time for England to prepare for this summer's European Championships."

But with all but three of Virgin's Liverpool to London trains having been cancelled that day and the last return service leaving just after 8:00pm, some fans still face being stranded in the capital.

The matter was even discussed in Parliament on Thursday, with Transport Secretary Justine Greening telling the House of Commons, "The underlying problem that we are trying to solve is that the FA Cup starts later than it was originally planned to start."

Six lawmakers have signed an early day motion, calling on "all involved to take the action necessary to ensure disruption is minimised as much as possible."

Virgin Casino offering blackjack bonus...

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Olympic gold not on the cards for Virgin...

RICHARD Branson's Virgin Atlantic is not counting on the London Olympics delivering it a ''bonanza'' in demand for flights on the Australia-UK route as the games are likely to keep the British at home.

After passenger growth of 10 per cent on the route last year, the British airline expects a more moderate rise of 6 per cent in 2012 due to recession in European economies and competitive pressures.

Airlines including Qantas have struggled to stem losses on routes to Europe because of intense competition from Middle Eastern and Chinese airlines and high fuel prices.

Virgin Atlantic's chief commercial officer Julie Southern said the impact of the London Olympics on travel demand in late July and August would be ''net neutral''. While it would encourage an influx of tourists to the UK, she said the sporting event would lead to a reduction in the number of British travelling abroad. ''It is not a curse but is is not a bonanza either,'' she said. The airline is yet to see a trend emerge for Australians' interest in travelling to the Olympics.

Big events such as the Olympics tend to be a mixed blessing for airlines as they create operational headaches due to a surge in demand for travel in one direction. The soccer World Cup in South Africa two years ago failed to deliver Qantas the spike in passenger numbers it was expecting on flights between South Africa and Australia.

To ease its exposure to recession-hit Europe, Qantas will this month reduce flights on the route to London from five a day to three. The flights it drops from Hong Kong and Bangkok to London will be filled by Qantas' joint-venture partner, British Airways.

''It is tougher flying internationally, which is what we are seeing with BA and Qantas,'' Ms Southern said. While Australians flock overseas in record numbers - egged on by the high Australian dollar and cheap fares - she said it was ''more of a challenge'' to encourage the British to fly here because the weakness of the pound made Australia a more expensive destination.

Ms Southern said she was hopeful a code-share arrangement with Virgin Australia on flights between Australia and Hong Kong would boost demand.

The code-share deal does not include flights from Hong Kong to London because Virgin Australia has a strategic alliance with Etihad between Australia and Britain via Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Virgin Atlantic flies daily between Sydney and London via Hong Kong. Sir Richard's Virgin Group has a 51 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic. (Credit: Fairfax Media)

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