Line, WeChat: Asian social networks move to conquer Europe
“(It’s) crunch time for Berlusconi,” he said. “He knows over the next three or four weeks that it is basically the last phase of his political battle.” U.S. stocks were sharply lower Friday, with major averages poised to finish lower for the week, following the latest consumer sentiment report and as mounting concerns of a potential government shutdown weighed on markets. Congress must reach an agreement on the budget before October 1, next Tuesday, to prevent a government shutdown that could result in federal employees taking unpaid temporary leave and a delay in the payment of military personnel. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Senior Republican Jeff Sessions said there will be no shutdown or government default. House speaker John Boehner said a Republican proposal is coming that will tie federal government spending cuts to a U.S. debt limit increase. (Read More: Brawl in US Congressshould the world care? ) On the data front, the European Commission released figures on Friday showing that euro zone confidence picked up in September. An economic sentiment index, that gauges both businesses and consumers, rose to 96.9 in September from 95.3 in August, reaching its best level for two years. Nationwide released its house price index for the U.K. which showed a 5 percent (year-on-year) rise amid growing concerns that stimulus in the country is fueling a bubble in prices. House builder Persimmon led Britain’s FTSE lower on the prospect of less stimulus from the Bank of England and signs that politicians are fearful of a property bubble.
and Iranian presidents. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, in New York. (Photo: Brendan McDermid, AP) Story Highlights World leaders are somewhat optimistic about the prospect of a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran Despite the first high-level communication between the two countries in more than three decades, caution is being urged by some Israeli leaders are concerned after news of the Obama-Rouhani call SHARE 307 CONNECT 64 TWEET 73 COMMENTEMAILMORE BERLIN Europeans expressed cautious optimism after a historic telephone call between President Obama and Iranian leader Hasan Rouhani on Friday, hailing Iran’s change in tone while questioning its seriousness about future concessions. “The tone we have heard from President Rouhani is new an alternative to that which has been seen in previous years,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “Because of this, there is a reason for cautious optimism: Iran could be serious about a new, constructive attitude. But of course, great caution is still needed because it is crucial that through talks substantial new offers be made.” In the first top-level U.S.-Iranian contact in more than three decades, President Obama held a 15-minute call with Rouhani in which they discussed Iran’s nuclear program and a possible agreement over Iran halting its ability to develop nuclear weapons. The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program a program they fear will allow the country to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is intended only for energy. The call followed a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday at the United Nations. On Monday, President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is deeply concerned over the call and questions Iran’s motives. “The smile offensive conducted by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. has not been greeted with smiles in Israel,” said Michael Herzog, a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces in an opinion piece in the British newspaper, The Guardian.
Europe shares close down as Italian crisis persists
This week, Line executives travelled to France and Italy for a public relations offensive aimed at raising awareness of the mobile app, which already counts some 230 million users around the world including 47 million in Japan alone. The social network has already taken root in other parts of Europe. In Spain, for instance, Line has forged heavyweight partnerships with football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola or tennis star Rafael Nadal. FC Barcelona, for instance, has a home page on the app where it posts photos that has already drawn more than 8.2 million friends. Line even has a permanent office in Spain, where it counts some 15 million users already. A French version of the mobile app, meanwhile, is to be launched before the end of the year. One of the main selling points for Line, which was launched at the beginning of 2011, is its “stickers” — funny, cartoon-like figures that express emotions in a way deemed far more original and fun than traditional emoticons. On WeChat, users can post figures that move about dancing, blowing kisses or punching the air. Both social networks also supply a selection of “stickers” that users have to pay for. “We’re betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers,” Sunny Kim, assistant director general of Line Europe and America, told AFP on a trip to Paris. This part of the business represents 30 percent of Line’s overall turnover and in July alone, users bought eight million euros ($10.8 million) worth of stickers. The company makes the rest of its money on the sale of games integrated in the mobile app (50 percent) and from partnerships and products on the side. Line’s logo is green with a conversation bubble inside, and looks remarkably similar to the icon of WeChat, which began in January 2011.