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A Company You've Never Heard of Might Have the Biggest IPO Ever


Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The largest initial public offering of a company ever, which is expected to happen this week through the New York Stock Exchange, will likely raise more than $24 billion. But many Americans have likely never used or even heard of the firm.

It's an Internet company, not surprisingly, and it's called Alibaba. The company has four main areas of revenue, according to Santosh Rao, head of research of Manhattan Venture Partners. And here's what they are:

1. Retail E-Commerce

The first and main category is Alibaba's retail marketplaces, which comprised 81.6 percent of the firm's revenue in its fiscal 2014 year, which ended in March.

This includes:

  •     Taobao, described as China's largest consumer-to-consumer shopping site, similar to eBay.
  •     Tmall, China's largest third-party business-to-consumer platform.
  •     Juhuasuan, China's most popular group buying marketplace.

Through these sites, Alibaba takes a cut when there's a transaction, plus there's the business of advertising and search results when people are looking for an item. Some vendors can pay more to be listed first in search results.

2. Alibaba's Wholesale Marketplace

Alibaba's second biggest way to make money is its wholesale selling and buying business, which allows manufacturers to supply retail merchants. The website 1688.com is Alibaba's local wholesale business while Alibaba.com is involved in international commerce.

Alibaba's local wholesale business last comprised about 4.4 percent of revenue in 2014, while international commerce provided 9.2 percent.

3. Payments

As the folks at Apple can attest to, with its introduction of Apple Pay last week, the online and mobile payments industry is only getting started. Alibaba previously spun off Alipay, which describes itself as the "China's leading third-party online payment solution," and is similar to PayPal. But it's still in the Alibaba ecosystem, facilitating business in both the retail and wholesale marketplaces.

"These guys facilitate the transactions," Rao said of Alipay, which is a big and an essential business in China, because "there is a big slice of unbanked and underbanked population there," especially in the non-urban areas.

4. Alibaba's Ancillary Services

Alibaba has its hand in a number of other services, such as cloud computing and online marketing, which comprise 3.3 percent of the company's revenue.

"Alibaba is getting into a number of other businesses, such as gaming, taxi service, ticketing, movie studios, among others," Rao said. "They first take a small minority position in these emerging growth areas before acquiring them fully or take a major position."

But other times, the company just takes a bite of the apple. Alibaba has invested in other companies with no sign of total domination yet, including the American ride-sharing firm Lyft and member shopping site ShopRunner.com.

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Meet the Vine Stars Who Turn 6 Seconds of Fame into Big Bucks


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Spending the afternoon making short funny Vine videos with friends may seem like a total slacker thing to do, but for a select few, it’s a pathway to fame and fortune.

Cody Johns, Brent Rivera and Greg Davis, Jr., who goes by the username "Klarity," are top Vine influencers, rising stars on the six-second-video app. All three say they pull down six-figure salaries with their Vine videos.

These guys are the new Don Drapers, creative guys who have figured out how to connect with consumers -- which is worth big money.

Johns, a 24-year-old from Florida, said they were making Vines for a year before they gained traction on the app, and now they have caught the attention of major companies like Coca-Cola, willing to pay these Viners a lot of money to make Vine videos with their products and share it with their followers.

“Vine's average audience are…13 and 15 year olds,” Davis said. “We have the ability to affect an audience in any way simply by saying go do it. They come to us because we can reach an audience that they can't.”

Davis, 30, also from Florida, has two million followers on Vine -- more than Miley Cyrus' 1.4 million. Johns has 2.4 million -- 300,000 more than Justin Bieber. Los Angeles native Brent Rivera, just 16 years old, has five million followers.

In addition to all those followers, the three Vine stars have something else going for them: a squeaky clean image.

“I'm clean. I'm very kid friendly I guess,” Rivera said. “My mom is a fourth grade teacher and the kids in her class watch my videos. I get a young audience 8 to 20…It's pretty crazy. I can't believe it's happening."

One six-second ad on Vine can be worth anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000, according to according to Rob Fishman, the co-founder of Niche, a combination advertising and talent agency for the digital age. The Vine ads don’t look anything like the traditional 30-second TV spots. They’re shorter, grittier, and often wittier.

Coca Cola is one of many big corporations reaching out this way. Procter and Gamble, Hewlett Packard and Warner Brothers, among others have also used top Vine influencers to reach new audiences.

This sort of home-grown, user-generated ad style is called “native advertising,” and industry analysts say corporate America is forecast to spend $4 billion this year alone on it -- probably twice that much by the end of the decade.

Fishman said connecting big corporate brands with social media stars is the best position to influence target audiences because fans can relate to them.

"We see tons of people on the site who see better engagement on their social channels than Miley Cyrus, and yet Miley Cyrus is a world famous recording artist,” Fishman said. “Vine stars and Instagram photographers are more influential, more popular, and more relevant with audiences.”

But, Fishman cautioned, social media stars have to think carefully about turning their personal accounts into an advertising mechanism.

"These creators can do whatever they want on their channels,” Fishman said, but noted that Fortune 500 companies comb through the videos on the lookout for anything that could hurt their brand image.

“It's not so different from a political candidate who has to think about not what am I saying on the campaign trail, but what am I doing in my private life,” he said.

The Viners also have to be choosey. They don’t want their videos to seem like they’ve been sanitized by the corporate PR team, potentially diminishing the authenticity that made them popular in the first place.

“We don't want them to think, yeah we're just using them,’” Davis said, sensitive to being called a sell-out. “So it makes us think about doing brand deals, it makes us think about doing stuff for any other advertisers.”

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Apple Gives Instructions on How to Delete Free U2 Album


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- There's a way to remove that free U2 album you didn't ask for.

Apple's event last Tuesday was like a holiday for fanatics, as the company unveiled two new iPhones, the Apple Watch, Apple Pay and iOS 8. The banner event was capped off when CEO Tim Cook and U2 frontman Bono revealed that 500 million iTunes users would automatically be gifted the band's new album, Songs of Innocence.

Plenty of people have said "thanks but no thanks" to the gift -- which has shown up anyway in users' cloud-based iTunes accounts.

In response, Apple unveiled a website Monday to make it easier for users to rid their accounts of the album, if they so choose.

Check out the website here
. Then click "remove album." Sign in with your Apple ID and password and you should be good to go.

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Ride-Sharing Company Sidecar Says It Raised $15 Million, Richard Branson Is New Investor


Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ride-sharing company Sidecar plans to continue towards its goal of nationwide expansion -- with Virgin founder Richard Branson joining as a new investor.

According to a post on the Sidecar blog, the company has raised $15 million towards this proposed growth. In the post, Branson says that the transportation industry, "has been ripe for disruption for decades," and that Sidecar, "can take on the big guys with innovation and ideas, not just big bank accounts."

Sidecar connects drivers with people in need of rides nearby. Earlier this year, the company introduced "Shared Rides," in which drivers are matched with nearby riders going in the same direction.

The company currently operates in 10 markets across the U.S.

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Gas Prices Drop Significantly


FeelPic/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gas prices dropped by almost five cents in the last week, an impressively large dip, bringing the average price of a dollar of unleaded gas to $3.41.

That figure, released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is nearly 14 cents lower than this date one year ago. California was once again the state with the highest average price for gas, with one gallon costing $3.79 on average.

The most notable drop occurred in the Midwest region, where the average gas price dropped by slightly more than eight cents per gallon from last week.

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Deaths from GM Ignition Switch Defect Exceed Initial Estimate


General Motors(NEW YORK) -- The number of people who’ve died in connection to GM's failed ignition switch and are eligible for compensation is higher than the automaker's initial estimate and will likely increase further, according to independent administrators handling the claims process.

GM had previously estimated that at least 13 deaths resulted from its defective ignition switches, but Ken Feinberg, who’s the independent administrator of GM's compensation program, and his deputy administrator, Camille Biros, on Monday said 19 deaths are eligible for a claim.

"That’s only our first report," Biros told ABC News. "This is an ongoing process."

Biros explained that the families of the 19 who died and are eligible for a claim have not yet been contacted.

The overall compensation program, which launched on Aug. 5, is open for submission until Dec. 31 through GMIgnitionCompensation.com. Biros declined to comment on whether the 13 deaths that GM counted were included in Monday's total of 19, citing the program's confidentiality.

"We will expect to get a significant number of claims from now until end of submission process," she said, adding that some families have received letters requesting more information because their submissions were deficient.

Biros says the claim program had received 445 applications for compensation from GM, as of Sept. 12, including 125 claims that a death resulted from GM's ignition switch defect.

Feinberg was hired to design the submission and settlement process of the related death and physical injury claims. He previously administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, the One Fund Boston 2013 Victim Relief Fund and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

In addition to the 19 deaths, the program announced that there were four claims eligible that resulted in a "category one" injury: quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns. There were an additional eight claims categorized as "category two," which required hospitalization.

In a statement from a GM spokesman, the company said, "We have previously said that Ken Feinberg and his team will independently determine the final number of eligible individuals, so we accept their determinations for the compensation program. What is most important is that we are doing the right thing for those who lost loved ones and for those who suffered physical injury."

While there is no payment range for death and category-one claims, the amount paid to category-two victims will be based on length of hospital stay, among other factors.

"The deceased and category-one claims are all individualized," Biros said.

The final payment offer for the death claims will depend on earnings and the noneconomic impact on the deceased's family members, an arduous process that is just beginning, she said.

"This is just a snapshot in time in terms of where we are in eligibility," Biros said, describing Monday's announcement.

She said she hopes to release a weekly update on the program's statistics each Monday.

The submission process can be an emotional process that can include working with claimants lawyers, if they have any, to make sure they submitted all documentation about the car crash and individual.

"We have a whole lot of work to do in reviewing the other documentation for submitted claims," Biros said.

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Mixed Day on Wall Street, US Manufacturing Output Down


stu99/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After the first week of losses in nearly a month, Wall Street was mixed on Monday, with two of the major indices posting losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 43.63, finishing back above 17000 at 17031.14.

The Nasdaq dropped 48.7 to a close of 4518.90, while the S&P 500 slipped 1.41 to 1984.13. Last month, the S&P 500 had reached 2000 for the first time.

For the first time since January, manufacturing output in the U.S. dropped in August, and the gains for July were revised lower. Still, overall industrial production was 4.1 percent higher than at the same time last year.

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Urban Outfitters Apologizes for Insensitive Kent State Sweatshirt Sale


Urban Outfitters(NEW YORK) -- Retail clothing store Urban Outfitters is apologizing Monday after selling a sweatshirt on its website that some see as trivializing a campus shooting from the Vietnam War era.

The red faded Kent State University sweatshirt, billed by the company as a vintage find, retailed for $129 and is now listed on the site as sold out after someone purchased the company’s single available sweatshirt.

“Get it or regret it!” the company urged in its description for the article of clothing.

People on social media immediately identified the offensive connotations of the sweatshirt, pointing out that it looked blood-stained and seemed to refer to the 1970 Kent State deaths when the Ohio National Guard killed four unarmed students and wounded nine others during a protest against President Richard Nixon’s campaign to expand the Vietnam war into Cambodia.

Urban Outfitters prompted some Twitter outrage.

"Just bought a bunch of stuff from Urban Outfitters yesterday. Contemplating returning it all after this disgusting sweatshirt situation," tweeted Jenna Wright.

Rob Peterson added, "Hey @UrbanOutfitters, thanks for proving that History classes are actually important. Ignorance is not bliss."

Kent State University has responded to the situation through a statement that reads in part, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”

The company responded through Twitter, writing Monday morning, “Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.”

The sweatshirt is now being resold on eBay for $550 by user kentstatesweater who claims to have ordered the piece of clothing and is waiting on its arrival. The description says the owner plans to donate 50 percent of the profit to The Southern Poverty Law Center.

KSU spokesperson Emily Vincent told ABC News in an email that Urban Outfitters reached out to the university with the same statement they released on Twitter.

Urban Outfitters and eBay user kentstatesweater did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

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Microsoft Buys Minecraft Creator in $2.5 Billion Deal


Miles Willis/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse(REDMOND, Wash.) -- Microsoft will pay $2.5 billion to acquire the maker of one of today's most popular online games. Microsoft Xbox head Phil Spencer announced deal to buy Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, Monday on the company's website.

"This is a game that has found its audience on touch devices, on phones, on iPads, on consoles and obviously, its true home on PC. Whether you're playing on an Xbox, whether you're playing on a Play Station, an Android, IOS device, our goal is to continue to evolve and innovate with Minecraft across all those platforms," Spencer said about the game's appeal among its diverse community of players.

Minecraft, a game that lets players contruct their own 3D virtual world, is the most popular online game on Microsoft Xbox, and the top paid app for both Apple and Google. The game has been downloaded more than 100 million times on PCs alone since its launch in 2009.

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Why iPhone 6 Could Be Apple's Biggest Success Ever


Apple(NEW YORK) -- The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are bigger than their predecessors in more ways than one.

The devices, which boast larger screens, are so popular since their unveiling last week that they have broken all iPhone pre-order sales records.

More than four million pre-orders for the phones were placed when they went on sale Friday, according to Apple.

Demand has been so high that Apple said it has exceeded the pre-order supply, meaning that some customers won't receive their new phones until October.

If you haven't pre-ordered a new iPhone but are clamoring to have one by the end of the week, there's still a glimmer of hope if you're willing to wait hours or days in line. Apple said a limited supply of phones will be available in its stores for walk-in customers beginning Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. local time.

The iPhone 6 Plus was also in high demand from mobile carriers, who projected delivery dates stretching into October.

What makes the iPhone so hot, aside from having the latest Apple product, is the larger screen sizes.

The iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches, while the iPhone 6 Plus measures 5.5 inches diagonally, giving Samsung, which has dominated the giant phone market, some competition.

The iPhones are also packed with new features, including "reachability." With a double touch, the display can slide down so users can reach "anything" at the top of the phone, an ideal feature for multitasking.

Apple Pay, the company's digital wallet that is aiming to be a credit card killer, will also be supported on the new iPhones.

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New Film Features E-Cigarettes Product Placement


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- E-cigarettes are coming to the movies.

For the past 16 years, tobacco companies have been forbidden from product placement in the industry. But those restrictions don't apply to e-cigs.

“I don’t see a problem with glamorizing something that saves lives,” SmokeStik’s CEO Bill Marangos tells The Wall Street Journal.

Marangos' company paid for product placement in a new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

In the movie, actress Milla Jovovich is shown puffing on a SmokeStik. And, as the newspaper notes, signs for the brand can be seen hanging in a convenience store during one scene.

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KFC-Owner Yum Brands Tries Saigon Street Food


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Is America ready for Saigon street food?

Yum Brands -- the owners of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC -- is betting that many people will like the taste of banh mi sandwiches, Asian salads and wok-fried food.

On Friday, Yum opened its first “fast casual” Banh Shop in Dallas.

“With Southeast Asian cuisine growing in popularity in the U.S., we saw an opportunity to design a unique fast-casual concept that emulates delicious Saigon street food, with a focus on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich,” Yum Brands executive Christophe Poirier told Nation’s Restaurant News.

Vietnam is famous for its Chinese and French-influenced cuisine, and for years many business travelers and tourists have been raving about the quality of its fresh and spicy street food.

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Nike Drops Contract with Oscar Pistorius After Guilty Ruling


Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Multinational corporation Nike terminated its endorsement contract with South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius following a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the athlete's girlfriend.

The company originally suspended Pistorius' contract in February 2013 when he was charged in the case, but subsequently terminated the deal after he was found guilty of culpable homicide on Sept. 12, a Nike spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com.

The decision comes days after Nike ended its contract with former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was cut from the football team and suspended by the NFL after video surfaced of him assaulting his then-fiancée, now wife, inside an elevator.

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Pop-Tarts Celebrates 50th Birthday: Five Decades of Flavor Hits and Misses


Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just like Brad Pitt, Pop-Tarts are 50 and they're still fabulous after all these years.

The breakfast treat from Kellogg's is celebrating 50 years Sunday -- and over that time it has created a series of bestselling, tried-and-true fruit-fillings snacks as well as several flavor mishaps that now belong to a bygone era.

Among those flavors Pop-Tarts should try to forget: "Chocolate Peppermint," "Wild Water Mellon," "Cherry Chip" and "Raspberry Apple." But fans still forgive Pop-Tarts. They have been able to charm millions of hungry kids and adults, especially with their vintage 1973 "Milton the toaster" ad.

Despite a company-wide drop in profits, Pop-Tarts are the tasty silver lining in Kellogg's repertoire of food products. In fact, the food's sales have increased consecutively for the past 32 years.

In August, Kellogg’s reported earnings dropped 16 percent in the second quarter, while sales in North America fell 3.7 percent. Many consumers are turning away from old-school packaged goods with preservatives to opt for healthier, protein-laden alternatives, like yogurt.

Sure, Pop-Tarts are about 30 percent sugar and made with filling that is 10 percent fruit. And yes, the Children's Advertising Review Unit didn't like that Pop-Tarts used to have the marketing phrase "made with real fruit." (Now the company says they are "baked with real fruit.")

Somehow, in spite of apple slices in Happy Meals and kale chip snacks that fill lunch boxes these days, Pop-Tarts remain the sweet shield that protects America's taste for sugary nostalgia.

The most popular Pop-Tarts flavor are Frosted Strawberry, followed by Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon, according to a spokesman for Kellogg's.

And the company continues to experiment with new flavors despite past mistakes: "Gone Nutty! Peanut Butter" and "Gone Nutty! Chocolate Peanut Butter" are the most successful new varieties, the company says.

To celebrate the big 5-0, Kellogg's recently introduced a sprinkled "Birthday Edition" Chocolate Vanilla Crème Pop-Tart with frosting.

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Atlanta Hawks CEO Apologizes to Fans and City for Controversial Remarks


Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Atlanta Hawks Chief Executive Officer Steve Koonin issued an apology Saturday to the NBA team's fans and home city in light of the recent scandal surrounding a controversial email from co-owner Bruce Levenson.

Levenson announced he would be selling controlling interest of the basketball team last week after admitting to writing an "inappropriate and offensive" message with racial comments.

"We know enough today, based on investigations conducted by the league, by external legal counsel on behalf of the team, and information that has appeared in the media, that our shortcomings are beyond a single email, a single person, or a single event," Koonin said in a statement.

"To the contrary, over a period of years, we have found that there have been inflammatory words, phrases, inferences, and innuendos about race," he added. "We as an organization did not correct these failures. We did not do the right thing."

On Friday, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence, also coming under fire for racial comments about Miami Heat forward Luol Deng.

"To be clear, I am angry that this has happened," Koonin said of the recent incidents. "I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain."

The CEO also addressed steps being taken to facilitate change, including work with a diversity consultant, the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer, and a new owner.

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