Amazon ramps up profit with cloud, new services

Amazon ramps up profit with cloud, new services

PHOTO:AFP

Online giant Amazon said Thursday profit in the second quarter surged ninefold as cloud computing and other services helped produce a fifth consecutive profit.

Net profit soared to $857 million from $92 million a year earlier. Revenues jumped 31 percent to $30.4 billion, Amazon said in stronger-than-expected results.

While Amazon developed a reputation for delivering little or no profit in its retail operations, its earnings have been growing over the past year as it expands into video and new delivery services and boosts its cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The strong profit came a year after earnings of $92 million, which began a string of improvements for Amazon.

Amazon shares rose two percent in after-hours trade on the results.

The company has also been building loyalty with its Amazon Prime subscription service, which provides access to its online video and music as well as fast delivery for most items.

Amazon has also been expanding globally, notably to India, where it is producing original content.

“The team in India is inventing at a torrid pace, and we’re very grateful to our Indian customers for their welcoming response,” Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos in a statement.

Amazon has offered few details on its Prime subscriber base or the number of its Fire brand devices sold.

But analysts at Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated Amazon Prime now has 63 million US members, spending on average about $1,200 per year, compared to about $500 per year for non-members.

In its statement, Amazon said its second annual “Prime Day” was the biggest day ever for the company, and was also a record day for Amazon devices globally.

It said worldwide orders grew by more than 60 percent.

Amazon has been bringing in customers to Prime by touting its streaming video, which competes with the likes of Netflix and Hulu.

Its Amazon Studios received 16 Emmy nominations for its original programs.

Amazon has also been ramping up its delivery of groceries and fresh items in several markets, as it has been testing drones.

On Monday, it unveiled plans to test delivery drone technology in Britain, after US authorities announced rules that would preclude most robo-deliveries.

The rise in Amazon shares have boosted the personal fortune of Bezos, who according to Forbes magazine this week became the world’s third richest person with a net worth of over $65 billion, topping Warren Buffett.

Aside from his Amazon investment, Bezos also heads the private space exploration Blue Origin and owns the Washington Post newspaper.

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Microsoft further trims smartphone division jobs

Microsoft further trims smartphone division jobs

PHOTO:Getty/AFP

Microsoft is cutting more jobs from its smartphone hardware and global sales divisions by shedding an additional 2,850 positions, the company said Thursday.

The news came in a corporate annual report filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

It noted the company had announced in May it was cutting 1,850 jobs and that the new cuts were “an extension of the earlier plan.”

The cuts are expected to be completed by the end of June 2017. As of late last month, Microsoft employed about 114,000 people.

Part of Microsoft’s strategy “involves focusing our phone devices on a narrower range of customer categories and differentiating through the combination of hardware and software we are uniquely positioned to offer,” the filing said.

“As anticipated, our change in phone strategy resulted in a reduction in units sold and associated expenses in fiscal year 2016, and this trend is expected to continue in fiscal year 2017.”

Microsoft purchased Nokia in 2013 in a bid to get a leg up in mobile.

Nokia was the world’s leading mobile phone maker from 1998 until 2011 when it bet on Microsoft’s Windows mobile platform which proved to be a flop.

The Finnish company sold its unprofitable handset unit in 2014 for some $7.2 billion to Microsoft, which is closing the entire unit.

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NUC, ICT firm to deploy solar power in universities

NUC, ICT firm to deploy solar power in universities

NUC

The National Universities Commission(NUC), says it will partner with OMATEK Ventures, an Information Communication Technology(ICT) firm, to provide solar power in Nigerian universities.

NUC’s outgoing Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, disclosed this at the inauguration of the “247 Alternate Power Solution,” provided by OMATEK for the commission on Friday in Abuja.

According to Okojie, when it comes to energy provision, Nigeria is in crisis because of inadequacy of supply.We are doing this as a pilot project and we plan to replicate this for the students in our various universities.

It also acts like a UPS, when the light goes off, it works. It is the solution to major problem we have in this country and I am happy that OMATEK is keying in appropriately.

It is a challenge to us; by now we should have been doing some of these things ourselves.To address that, we are already sending some of our ICT students to OMATEK factories for computer assemblage and learning, ‘’ he said.

On her part, OMATEK’s Group Managing Director, Mrs Florence Sekiru, said that electricity available in Nigeria could never be enough for the large population.

She said that China, with a very large population, had to reduce consumption through solar power alternative.Sekiru said that the firm had provided solar solutions in many places including University of Lagos.

Setting this up in the NUC is to tell the university community that this is a big way to reduce cost by up to 50 per cent.

We deploy solar technology solutions to reduce power consumption in Nigeria by as much as 85 per cent,’’ she said.According to her, many banks have started using OMATEK solar solutions.

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The Evolution and Revolution of Business Networks in Africa

The Evolution and Revolution of Business Networks in Africa

Trade is in Africa’s blood. Its rich resources, numerous societies and access to the world have created a hotbed of trade civilisations. One could go back millennia to the early kingdoms around the continental horn – the forefathers and peers of the Ancient Egyptian world – or the mysterious Kingdom of Nok in West Africa as examples.

But even in the last 2,000 years Africa never shied away from trade. The Kingdoms of Ashanti and Kongo were world-famous business hubs. In Libya vast desert cities can be found where ancient Berbers built elaborate irrigation systems. The Zimbabwe ruins and South Africa’s Mapungubwe had yielded evidence of extensive trade with Asian and Middle Eastern nations.

But most striking is the legacy of kingdoms that existed along the Sahel: the transitional area between the Sahara and the rest of the continent. Here numerous societies sat shoulder to shoulder, controlling the vast trade moving between Eurasia, West and Central Africa for ages.

Today the world is shifting gears into a new revolution, creating an opportunity for Africa to assert its legacy as the birthplace of business networks. Computational power and connectivity is shrinking the globe, changing how we compete and cooperate. Mastering pace, scale and complexity, creating channels and fostering partnerships have never been more achievable. Some have called this the Network Revolution and it is Africa’s greatest business opportunity yet.

The continent’s recent historical deficit ironically puts it in a very convenient position. Whereas other regions have paid the expensive price of being early adopters, African companies and states can readily adopt the best in modern technology, resulting in real gains on the ground. If there are any doubts about this, just look at the spectacular penetration of mobile devices in Africa: more than any other region in the world. Consider the remarkable growth of Rwanda, which thanks to savvy technology investments has tripled its GDP since 2000.

Success and growth is almost a given when developing markets jump onto the Network Revolution bandwagon. The real question is how to go about it. Here are three steps defining the transition:

From manual to electronic and Internet-based. The Network Revolution is a shift from manual processes kept separate in silos. Automation and accessibility are among its pillars, opening both resources and the ability to cross-pollinate ideas. South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has dramatically improved its service, auditability and turnaround times by going paperless. It captures all data electronically, which is shared across its footprint. This not only made for happier citizens, but opened the way to adopting the country’s award-winning Smart ID cards.

From an entity and chain to a network. Business networks are the oldest and most vital components to any enterprise’s survival. These are jealously guarded because of their fragility: all it takes is for that proverbial weak link in the chain to break. But today digital sourcing marketplaces such as Aruba are making it easy to find suppliers, partners and buyers. The mobile phone is a cornerstone to these networks: Africa is currently undergoing a farming revolution in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, where mobile services help farmers get daily prices, share advice and even gain micro-insurance for their crops across a web of networks, not flimsy top-down chains.

From need to reach and fusion. The biggest impact of the Network Revolution is being born from data. We are increasingly able to quantify aspects of the world through data, be it consumer behaviour, environmental shifts, mechanical maintenance or anything that generates information about its behaviour. That may soon become everything as the Internet of Things brings sensors to every nook of our world. And fusing the resulting data in creative ways to offer new insights will be the differentiator between the haves and have-nots of tomorrow. This is extending the reach and proactivity of companies and governments beyond their traditional boundaries. One example is the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, which has accelerated its delivery and boosted efficiency by adopting data-centric thinking.

One element underpins all of the above: the platform. For any business or government to take advantage of the Network Revolution, it must consolidate its processes into a unified software platform: a powerful foundation where everything ties together. Called the 3rd Platform, this is the next step in digital technology, taking advantage of the power and scale provided by modern data centres and connectivity. One example is SAP HANA, the pioneering in-memory platform. Think of it as an operating system for the entire enterprise: a single space upon which all other processes – be it internal tasks, external collaboration, differentiating applications or new technologies – can find a home.

This consolidation pays dividends. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that networked enterprises using collaborative technology to connect processes to customers, suppliers, and partners outpace their peers in nearly every category of business performance. Africa is primed to take the Network Revolution by the horns and reassert itself as the birthplace of business.

By Brett Parker, MD for SAP Africa

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South Africa: Accenture launch mobile application for municipal elections

South Africa: Accenture launch mobile application for municipal elections

South Africa: Accenture launch mobile application for municipal elections.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa and Accenture have launched a mobile application designed to provide voters with the electoral information ahead of the Municipal Elections taking place on August. 03 2016. This collaborative approach demonstrates how private and public sectors can work together to unlock greater value for customers and citizens in delivery quality of services. Through the application, voters will be able to view their registration details and status, voting stations information, and navigate to their voting stations and view the results live during the elections.

They will also be able to apply for a special vote and view application status, view their registered home addresses, celebrate their votes, share key election moments, view their candidates, set the notification preferences for results, read news and information on the election processes as they happen, and view their ward councillors. They will be able to view the Electoral Commission’s contact information and address, report the voting station issues, follow the Electoral Commission’s social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with developments as they happen.

The application is available to download on Google Play and App Store.

“We are thrilled to introduce the mobile application together with Accenture Digital, one of Accenture’s business units. The application will make the voting information and process accessible to all voters, especially young people who will be taking part in the Municipal Elections for the first time this year,” said Dr Nomsa Masuku‚ Deputy Chief Electoral Officer for Outreach at the Electoral Commission.

According to Libisi Maphanga, Chief Information Officer at the Electoral Commission, Statistics South Africa’s latest General Household Survey shows an increase in the number of South Africans accessing the Internet with the main driver being smartphones penetration (which stands at over 40%). “As a result of this growing trend, South Africans are demanding easy and personalised experiences whenever they need them and in real-time. I’m pleased to proclaim that we are now able to put voters first and provide them with these experiences,” he said.

“At Accenture, we help Governments, State Owned Enterprises, Chapter 9 Institutions and private sector companies to leverage digital technologies and innovation to improve citizen and customer experiences,” said Livingstone Chilwane, Health and Public Services Managing Director at Accenture.

“The Digital evolution is exposing customer-centricity and it is time to truly put the citizen experiences at the heart of the organisation. Consumers are more demanding than before. Their expectations are a moving target. Building out the digital ecosystem to engage with citizens and consumers, is the primary vehicle to deal with this moving target.  This application is a great example of a progressive organisation, like the Electoral Commission, doing just that,” Willie Schoeman, Managing Director Technology at Accenture.

As cutting edge innovators, Accenture improves citizen and customer experiences for millions of end users by enabling its clients to better satisfy the needs of their customers through the power of digital.

Staff Writer

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Veeam hails behind-the-scenes specialists that keep businesses running

Veeam hails behind-the-scenes specialists that keep businesses running

Veeam hails behind-the-scenes specialists that keep businesses running. (Image Credit: Darryl Linington).

Veeam is shining the light on the unsung superheroes that keep businesses of all shapes and sizes running 24.7.365. This System Administrator Appreciation Day (July 29th), it’s time to put aside preconceptions and share some love for the vital technicians who are tasked with keeping the Always-On Enterprise running… especially as the System Admin’s job is getting tougher.

Enterprise employees are working more remotely than ever before, so System Admins have more endpoints, network traffic and potential points-of-failure to deal with. A single downtime incident can cost just under $80,000 per hour to an enterprise, according to Veeam’s 2016 Availability Report.

WHAT: Today marks the 17th annual System Admin Appreciation Day – a day where we thank our System Admins for their contributions to the seamless operation of IT in the enterprise.

WHY: To quantify the importance of the System Admin to the enterprise, we need to consider what might happen without them and how, without their laser-focused drive to deliver 24.7.365 Availability, modern businesses would falter. The job extends far beyond the clichéd view of a System Admin as someone who fixes printers, laptops, and replaces key cards. The role of the System Admin is one of the most important, but perhaps one of the most undervalued.  What might a typical day in the life of a System Admin look like?

06:15 – You receive text upon text – all urgent of course – waking you up. The message says it’s the office, and it’s critical. You roll out of bed.

08:00 – You arrive at the office and start to read the 50 or so emails that hit your inbox last night. These include six new requests, 34 demands for updates on ongoing projects, and an email from your boss saying that budget won’t stretch to hire another technician.

08:30 – One of the junior members of staff is frantic (as the early text messages suggested), they rush over claiming nobody in the entire office can print and that there’s an important pitch proposal that must be submitted in hardcopy by the 9am deadline, and if not submitted could lose the company millions in new business.

08:45 – You realise the printer is turned off, you turn it back on. Hundreds of pages start spitting out because of multiple failed attempts to print by various staff.

9:01 – Just about everyone has tried to grab you on your way to your desk, including a senior member of staff who thinks they’ve deleted a project document, that if not located, could land them (and you) in hot water.

9:10 – The document had been deleted, but you found a copy. Another crisis averted.

9:15 – You log in and run a scan on the networks, which had been struggling since all the sales team had been given new tablet devices and they’re eating up capacity. You make some tweaks and ensure that mission-critical folders and files are backed up, just in case.

9:30 – First coffee. And breathe…

10:00 – Someone else enjoyed their first coffee – or half of it at least – as the other half ended up on their laptop. You set up a new one for them.

11:00 – Time to get back to everyone on the urgent requests that came through on email overnight. You assure them that their requests and projects will be supported by the deadline they requested.

12:30 – Someone is downloading a mammoth file and it’s killing the network. You locate the culprit (it’s the same junior member of staff you tell every week to avoid downloading large files at peak times).

14:00 – Multiple pings via your Instant Messenger on your desktop. ‘The server is playing up’ – this could be any number of things, you run a check to locate if and where the compromise happened. The CFO seems to have opened an email containing the Melissa Virus hidden in an Excel file macro. That’s the next few hours or so swallowed up trying to contain it.

16:30 – You have a late lunch delivered to the office.

17:00 – With two new hires to prepare for the following day, you’ve got this process down to a fine art; orchestrating network and database privileges and setting up login information. All this while your inbox is still filling up.

18:10 – You’re still not finished eating lunch, but your boss overrides your phone’s Do Not Disturb to urgently request your attention for a senior member of staff’s problem. You know it’s user-related, because you fix every week but the associate won’t listen to your advice.

19:00 – Not a ‘work’ problem, but an exec has somehow deleted family pictures. You find them, and you’re a hero.

20:00 – You’re about to leave, but the Head of Sales claims that the database is playing up for the sales team out on the road. You make some tweaks, and rectify it. The new tablets needed a software update.

20:45 – You work out the plan for tomorrow, hope you can stick to it with all the incoming requests, and head home.

HOW: Veeam is encouraging users to connect and engage on Twitter for System Admin Appreciation Day https://twitter.com/veeam. Share your own experiences of what it means to be a System Admin using the hashtags: #sysadminday, #veeamalwayson.

Staff Writer

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Cat S60 smartphone launches in South Africa

Cat S60 smartphone launches in South Africa

CAT S60 Smartpnone. (Image Credit: Darryl Linington).

Cat has launched its latest device, which the company has dubbed the “The world’s first smartphone with an integrated thermal camera, and the world’s most waterproof smartphone.”

According to the company, the Cat S60 includes an embedded Lepton Thermal Microcamera Module, powered by FLIR, which visualises heat that is invisible to the naked eye, highlighting temperature contrasts. It is accessed on the S60 via the specially designed MyFLIR app which brings a rich range of features for capturing and analysing thermal imagery, unique among smartphones. The Cat S60’s thermal camera allows Cat phone users to detect heat loss around windows and doors; spot moisture leaks and missing insulation; identify over-heating electrical appliances and circuitry; and see in complete darkness.

“Since we unveiled the product in February, our team has been in the field, gathering feedback and generating multiple test cases amongst our varied target audiences. From plumbers to horse trainers, architects to site managers, firemen to park rangers, we have been putting the S60 through its paces and the feedback has been overwhelming,” said Peter Stephens, CEO Bullitt Group, global mobile device licensee for Caterpillar. “We have also engaged the developer community, sponsoring a Hackathon to bring thermal imaging capabilities to a whole host of relevant apps –  and we will launch the Cat S60 thermal camera SDK in the coming days, initially through an early developer program, for which there has been substantial demand.”

Having a thermal camera integrated into the mobile device, according to the company, provides endless time-saving efficiencies from on-the-job report generation to email integration. Only having to carry one device around that has all the capabilities of a high end smartphone, plus can detect and measure surface temperatures, will enable a huge range of use cases for building professionals, utility workers, emergency first responders and gadget lovers, to name but a few.

The Cat S60 is, according to the company, capable of withstanding depths of up to five meters of water for one hour. The physical buttons can be used underwater to access the camera and video camera, pushing the boundaries of mobile technology, and how and where it’s used.

The Cat S60 will be available at a recommended retail price of R12,999, or on contract with selected network operators.

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Why South Africa’s online storefront still lacks wider appeal

Why South Africa’s online storefront still lacks wider appeal

This year, online retail in South Africa will reach 1% of overall retail for the first time. While the number appears small, it marks a significant milestone for a sector that is attracting robust investment from both established and new players in the retail game. It underscores that online retail is now gathering momentum in South Africa, having maintained a growth rate of above 20% for several years, according to the World Wide Worx Online Retail in South Africa 2016 report. The report revealed that in 2015, the rate of growth was 26%, taking online retail to the R7.5 billion mark. This year, growth in Rand terms is expected to remain the same as in 2015, taking the total to above R9 billion.

However, while these figures are encouraging for the country’s growing number of e-tailers, payment gateways and online merchants, there are undoubtedly still many hurdles to overcome before they can enjoy sustainable returns. Compared to traditional retail, the profits are still paltry and the number of online shoppers spending regularly remains low. The majority of South Africans spend between R250 and R1000 when making a purchase online, and 33% of those surveyed made 10 or more purchases online per year.

Limited Range, Limited Appeal
The most commonly cited challenge for local online retail is that South Africans remain hesitant to transact online, and are afraid to hand their banking details to payment gateways plagued by fraud.

Although online security is indeed a factor, it is less of an issue than the quality of what South Africans are presented with online. Indeed, the primary challenge is in fact the dearth of innovative business models and – as a direct result – the availability of products online (or the lack thereof).

As several reports have illustrated, most local e-tailers – both established names and newcomers – have a very limited range of products listed online, which deters potential customers and drives them into physical stores in order to enjoy the wide range of choices they have naturally become accustomed to. Lacking confidence in what they can find online, local shoppers will be less inclined to spend time looking, leading to less time spent overall on various e-commerce sites. This is a psychological barrier that e-tailers will need to work at overcoming. But as it stands, for various reasons, local merchants and brands have sparse product ranges listed online – which is often coupled with poor or unreliable delivery. As such, many local shoppers only hop online to research price points and find favourable deals, at which point they then travel to physical stores to complete the purchasing process.

For South Africans to move online and actually spend significant amounts (on a regular basis), they need to be presented with better quality products, and more of them. As it stands, local e-tailers are expecting to simply win on price, but it is arguably diversity and quality that will both differentiate them and drive the growth of South African e-commerce.

Showcasing the Standouts
The good news is that there are an increasing number of new players entering into this space that are experimenting with and pioneering different models. As mentioned above, infrastructure and delivery remain difficult, and there are psychological barriers to overcome before local online retail can reach its critical tipping point. The upcoming PriceCheck Tech & E-Commerce Awards will draw attention to some of the strides being made by individuals and companies, and will also highlight where some of the weaknesses lie.

Looking ahead, there are infinite opportunities for South Africa’s emerging e-commerce players – both established and entrepreneurial – but the key to long term success will surely lie in providing consumers with far more than what the local mall can offer.

By Kevin Tucker, CEO of PriceCheck

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Djibouti joins Africa Finance Corporation

Djibouti joins Africa Finance Corporation

Djibouti joins Africa Finance Corporation. (Image Source: Bloomberg.com).

Djibouti has become the newest member of Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), an international investment grade multilateral finance institution investing in key infrastructure projects across Africa.

Mr Ali Guelleh Aboubaker, Minister of Investments in the Office of the President, commented on his country’s membership of AFC: “I am delighted to announce that Djibouti has become a member of Africa Finance Corporation, an international DFI with a proven track record in large-scale infrastructure investment. The government of Djibouti is committed to proactively investing in essential infrastructure to drive economic growth and doing what we can to attract international private investors to infrastructure investment opportunities. We look forward to working with AFC to deliver projects with real and positive economic and social impact across the country.”

Andrew Alli, President & CEO of Africa Finance Corporation, welcomed Djibouti to the Corporation: “Djibouti is a small but important market, with natural strengths as a transport and logistics hub thanks to the government’s successful free trade policies and its location at the gateway to the Red Sea. Djibouti offers some great investment opportunities and AFC is delighted to be assisting Djibouti to meet its full growth potential and to create jobs for its citizens.”

Djibouti is the 14th country and the third east African country to join the AFC. The Corporation’s other members are: Cape Verde; Chad; Ghana; Guinea-Bissau; Guinea; Liberia; Nigeria; Sierra-Leone, The Gambia, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, and Uganda. As with all other members, Djibouti’s membership enables AFC to receive preferred creditor status within the country, the benefits of which reduce AFC’s investment risk, enabling the Corporation to provide more competitive financing solutions.

Staff Writer

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Samsung extends lead over Apple in smartphone market

Samsung extends lead over Apple in smartphone market

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Samsung extended its lead in the global smartphone market over Apple in the second quarter, gaining from the launch of its updated flagship handsets, surveys showed Thursday.

The South Korean giant delivered 77 million smartphones in the quarter, up 5.5 percent from a year ago, for a market share of 22.4 percent, research firm IDC said.

That compared with a 15 percent drop in sales for Apple’s iPhones, which accounted for 11.8 percent, IDC said.

Samsung got a lift from the March launch of its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge flagship models, with an upgraded processor, waterproofing and other features, IDC noted.

Apple, despite the launch of its more affordable iPhone SE, failed to keep pace and reported weaker sales compared to a year ago.

A separate survey by Strategy Analytics had a similar estimate, with Samsung at 22.8 percent to 11.9 percent for Apple.

Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said he sees Samsung making further gains this year.

“With a new Galaxy Note 7 flagship model rumored to be on the way, Samsung will be able to strengthen its smartphone leadership into the second half of the year,” Mawston said.

“Apple continues to face iPhone fatigue among consumers and the new iPhone SE model has not been able to stem that trend.”

IDC’s Ryan Reith said the saturation of many markets has forced makers to rethink their strategy. “Apple is beginning to put more emphasis on ‘device as a service’ to try to prevent lengthening replacement cycles,” he said.

“This is a growing theme we have heard more about from PCs to smartphones. Additionally, the overall China market slowdown continues to ramp up competition in other high growth markets like India, Indonesia, and Middle East.”

Both surveys showed China’s Huawei the number three vendor with a 9.4 percent market share.

Other Chinese vendors were in the top five.

According to IDC, Oppo and Vivo were fourth and fifth with 6.6 and 4.8 percent respectively.

The Strategy Analytics report showed Oppo with 5.3 percent and Xiaomi fifth with 4.3 percent.

IDC said overall smartphone sales rose 0.3 percent to 343.3 million units, while the second survey showed a one percent rise to 340 million.

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