Huawei saw phone handset sales fall by 42% in the final quarter of 2020, after struggling to access microchips due to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on US companies selling Huawei vital components. Huawei has also been frozen out of 5G development in the US, Australia and the UK. So it's now turning to pig farming to bring home some extra bacon. It's a good idea considering China has the world's biggest pig farming industry. Huawei is going to apply its technology to modernise the industry and make it more efficient. It has already been working on facial recognition technology and is set to use it to identify individual pigs, while other tech will monitor pigs' weight, diet and exercise. However, Huawei is not the only tech company working on this. Tech giant Alibaba is just one of several companies working with pig farmers to use AI (pictured are piglets at a farm just outside Beijing).
In early February Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei (pictured in 2015) revealed that Huawei is also focusing on technology to help the mining industry, and has set up an innovation lab for mining in China's Shanxi Province. The aim is to help the industry utilise technology so that it can benefit from "fewer workers, greater safety, and higher efficiency". At the same time, Huawei's founder also indicated that the tech firm was looking to bolster its offering of consumer products to include TVs, computers and tablets. It seems that the Chinese company is adapting to a market where the US is unlikely to remove its restrictions, and its founder is confident that through its other lines Huawei "can still survive even without relying on phone sales".
Did you know that Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX also wants to be an internet provider? Its satellite broadband subsidiary Starlink was set up in 2015, with the first satellites launched in 2018, and there are more than 800 currently in orbit. It plans to provide global coverage by 2021, with the specific aim of connecting remote areas that currently have little to no internet access. In December last year, SpaceX was granted $856 million (£625m) in federal subsidies to help with its broadband rollout across rural America and it has now launched across the world.
When you think about the Dr. Oetker brand, frozen pizza or baking ingredients probably spring to mind. Certainly not finance or luxury hotels. Yet the German company has an enviable portfolio that includes an insurance firm, a publishing business, several breweries and a collection of high-end hotels, including Paris' Le Bristol and the swish Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France. Until last year the baking brand also owned German bank Bankhaus Lampe, but it sold it to a Chinese conglomerate in March 2020. The company’s latest acquisition is German high-speed drinks delivery start-up flaschenpost ("bottle post"), which it bought for €1 billion ($1.2bn/£887bn) in November last year.
The Italian retailer is best-known for its knitwear and controversial ad campaigns, but Benetton's parent company Edizione boasts a diverse portfolio of interests. The holding company is Argentina's largest private landowner and controls tens of thousands of hectares of land in Patagonia that is also claimed by the indigenous Mapuche people. Edizione also owns just over 50% of roadside restaurant chain Autogrill, several five-star hotels and trophy assets including the Champs-Élysées building in Paris. Until recently, it had a stake in the company that operates Italy's motorways, but in July last year it was announced that the Benetton family would be giving up its share to state control, following the deadly collapse of a bridge in Genoa in 2018.
Altria, which was formerly known as Philip Morris, is one of the world's leading producers of tobacco products, but not many people know that the firm has a major interest in alcohol too. The company, which changed its name to Altria in 2003 to avoid the negative connotations associated with the Philip Morris brand, owns Washington State winery Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of America's leading producers of premium wines.
Renowned for its quality home appliances and trains, Siemens is also one of the world's top producers of healthcare technology. Siemens Healthineers, the colossal German conglomerate's healthcare division, makes everything from state-of-the-art X-ray generators to MRI machines, and brought the world the first commercial PET-CT scanner. During the coronavirus pandemic, the company has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help standardise antibody testing for COVID-19.
Cars and motorcycles may be Toyota's bread and butter, but the Japanese multinational has other interests too. Toyota's non-automotive interests include higher education – it owns the Toyota Technological Institute in Japan, focusing on science and technology, which also has a branch in Chicago focused on computer science. On top of this the automaker owns a number of biotech start-ups, a thriving robotics division, not to mention a minority stake in aerospace firm Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. Toyota’s varied offerings also include sewing machines and computerised looms, which hail back to its origins as Toyoda Spinning and Weaving Company after Sakichi Toyoda invented the world's first automatic loom.
Sony is famed for its music label, movie studio and electronics, but the huge Japanese conglomerate has a massively successful financial services division too. Sony Financial Holdings offers life insurance and other types of insurance, banking and other financial services through its subsidiaries, and it's one of the conglomerate's most profitable businesses. In May last year, Sony took full control of its financial services division, of which it already had 65% ownership, and delisted it from the stock exchange in a $3.7 billion (£2.9bn) deal.
Another company with a financial side hustle is Ford, which has been managing money in the UK through its financial subsidiary Ford Credit since 1963. The company's financial arm gained a UK retail banking licence in 1997 and, 20 years later, launched Ford Money, which provides Brits with savings products and is 100% owned by Ford Motor Company.
Not to be confused with the defunct American and British chains, Woolworths Limited is one of the leading retailers in Australia and the eighth largest company on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The firm's core business is retail but Woolworths Limited also holds a majority stake in hotel and slot machine company ALH Group, for which it has attracted criticism from anti-gambling organisations. In March 2020, it was reported that ALH Group would be standing down 8,000 employees as coronavirus hit the hospitality and gambling industries hard.
Mars is known globally for being a confectionery giant and its chocolate bars are enjoyed the world over. The conglomerate doesn't just produce treats for humans, however. Mars actually owns some of the planet's most recognised pet food brands, including Pedigree and Whiskas. The company’s interest in pets also goes beyond what they eat, and in 1994 Mars Petcare started to provide healthcare for domesticated animals. Mars Petcare currently operates more than 2,000 pet hospitals and employs more than 85,000 associates across the world.
While Swiss multinational Nestlé is still one of the world's leading producers of confectionery, the company has been on a mission since 2010 to transform itself into a health and wellness enterprise. Nestlé Health Science, the firm's health and wellness division, owns a number of nutrition and healthcare-focused brands, selling products which range from formulas for babies with cow's milk allergies to diet meal replacement products and nutritional supplements for those with Crohn's disease. The company’s latest acquisitions in this area are UK-based recipe kit business Mindful Chef and New York City’s meal delivery service Freshly.
You may think agribusiness company Tate & Lyle, which is based in the UK, is all about producing mounds of refined sugar, but the enormous multinational is also a major player in the biomaterials industry. Since 2004, Tate & Lyle has partnered with chemical company DuPont to pioneer the development of bio-based substance 1,3-propanediol, which has applications in plastics, adhesives and more.
Gamers will associate Japan's Konami with the wildly popular video games series it has created, which include Silent Hill, Suikoden and Pro Evolution Soccer. They may not be aware that Konami operates a chain of health and fitness clubs across Japan. The company also designs, manufactures and sells fitness machines and health products.
Known for its ever-reliable printers, Epson has a far more exciting sideline that may not have hit your radar: robots. The Japanese corporation is a leader in factory automation solutions and manufacturers a wide range of industrial bots. In fact, it's the number one manufacturer of SCARA robots (Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm robots) – a particular type of robot used in factories – in the world, and offers over 300 different models.
Like Nestlé, telecoms firm Vodafone has branched out into healthcare and wellness in recent years, capitalising on the growth of the mobile health industry. Vodafone's Internet of Things (IoT) division already provides a wealth of services to hospitals and clinics, from cloud computing for enhanced record-keeping, to mobile and mobile-to-mobile technology for remote patient monitoring. IoT technology is also being employed in the development of smart cities, in logistics, and in the financial services sector.
South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group is primarily associated with cars, given it's one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world, but the firm has interests in plenty of other industries. These range from IT, advertising and finance to tourism – the company owns the Haevichi Hotel & Resort in Jeju outright. The Motor Group has also been making some big investments in the field of robotics recently, including purchasing an 80% stake in Boston Dynamics in December.
Staying in South Korea, LG is one of the country's biggest conglomerates. Although LG is most associated with consumer electronics in the West, the gigantic company has lots of unrelated interests. These include LG Solar Energy and LG Chem, a booming chemical and pharmaceutical firm. On 29 September last year, shares in LG Chem rose after the media reported that Tesla was looking to acquire a stake in a battery unit that is part of LG Chem. While there has been no confirmation of a deal, LG Chem later announced that it will be producing a new battery cell – the specifications for which match the specs for Tesla’s new 4680 battery. LG Chem does supply batteries to the electric carmaker.
Red Bull is known for making energy drinks and bankrolling various sports teams, so it may come as a surprise to you to learn that the Austrian company has its very own magazine publishing house. Red Bull Media House publishes several titles for the Austrian market, including science and nature magazine Terra Mater and lifestyle title Servus.
Samsung may have lost its title as the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world to Huawei in July last year, but the company has plenty more strings to its bow. It has a life insurance business in South Korea, Samsung Life Insurance, which is the largest insurance provider in the country. It also operates a machinery and heavy industries company, Samsung Heavy Industries, which is the world leader in shipbuilding and offshore development. Samsung also owns the hotel chain Shilla Hotels and Resorts, and offers a number of financial services to customers in South Korea.
Baidu is a Chinese technology company best-known for providing the search engine used by most of China, and it was named as the sixth most popular website in the world in December last year by SimilarWeb. While most of Baidu’s services only exist online, such as Baidu Maps, encyclopaedia Baidu Bike and cloud storage service Baidu Wangpan, the company established its own autonomous driving unit, Apollo, in 2017, hoping to employ its vast technological know-how in the world of electric cars. Earlier this year, Baidu joined forces with auto manufacturer Geely, one of the biggest carmakers in China, to make smart electric vehicles.
It may be news to you, but IKEA has been making serious forays into the hotel industry since 2013. The Swedish flat-pack furniture giant has partnered with Marriott to create the Moxy chain of affordable design hotels, which are aimed at style-conscious millennials on a budget. The chain already has 106 hotels across North America, Europe and Asia. It also owns Ikano Bank, which offers financial products across Europe.
Tech giant Apple is looking to branch into the electric car market under the codename Project Titan. Apple has been in talks with Hyundai and Kia about working on a vehicle, although those discussions are thought to have come to an end. But Apple is reportedly in talks with other manufacturers. As part of the project, Apple is looking to create a battery that could "radically" reduce costs but provide cars with greater range.
Global business media company Forbes is known for its rich lists and success rankings, such as the Forbes 30 Under 30, but the brand announced a new foray into apparel on 26 July. The Forbes Store features clothing and accessories advertising the Forbes brand, such as this “Agents of Change Magazine” T-shirt, which costs $30 (£22), and this oversized hoodie, which is $195 (£140). Forbes has launched its merchandise collections in an attempt to “connect with [its] audiences on a personal level”, according to the company’s vice president of e-commerce, Emily Jackson.
The Porsche Design Group has teamed up with Deutsche Hospitality to launch a chain of luxury hotels. The Steigenberger Porsche Design Hotels brand "will boast an unusual and exceptional spatial and lighting concept" and plans to open at least 15 hotels in cities such as London, Shanghai, Singapore, and Dubai. By combining hospitality with design and technology, the company aims to meet "growing requirements for individuality, exclusivity, design and an inimitable hotel experience", according to Deutsche Hospitality CEO Marcus Bernhardt.
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