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E-Commerce@Ten; CNOOC of Hong Kong Withdraws Unocal Offer

I’m Barbara Klein with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

On July sixteenth, nineteen ninety-five, a new book store opened in the American city of Seattle. No one steps inside to buy anything. Yet the store, if you could call it that, had sales last year of seven thousand million dollars.

Ten years ago, few people bought things over the Internet. Few thought it was safe. Amazon-dot-com changed many people's minds.

Ten years later, an estimated seven out of ten American adults have used a computer to buy something. Market researchers at comScore Networks estimate online spending last year at one hundred seventeen thousand million dollars. That was for goods and travel services.

The person who started Amazon, Jeffrey Bezos, remains its leader. In the nineteen nineties he urged employees to help Amazon "get big fast." Yet Amazon invested in many similar businesses that failed.

Amazon lost plenty of money. It did not make a profit until two thousand three. Its most recent profit and earnings report, released last week, was better than many market watchers had expected.

Today people can buy not just books and music but also many other products through Amazon. It competes with eBay, which celebrates its tenth birthday in September.

EBay calls itself "the world's online marketplace." It does not sell anything. Instead, it provides a way for others to sell goods and services. People who want to buy something make competing offers through online auctions. EBay has grown to include several other businesses. These include PayPal, a company that processes online payments.

As online sellers grew, traditional stores saw the future. Today, stores from the smallest to the biggest sell on the Internet. These include the biggest of all, Wal-Mart.

Finally, we reported on the offer for the American oil company Unocal from CNOOC (see-nook) Limited of Hong Kong. This week, CNOOC withdrew its offer because of what it called the "political environment" in the United States. Opponents raised national security concerns. The Chinese government owns seventy percent of CNOOC.

CNOOC had offered eighteen thousand five hundred million dollars for Unocal. Now, Unocal shareholders will vote Wednesday on an earlier offer from Chevron. The American company has offered to buy Unocal in a deal worth about seventeen thousand million dollars.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at I'm Barbara Klein.

UPDATE: As the trading week ended on August fifth, Chevron's offer for Unocal was worth over seventeen and one-half thousand million dollars. (Chevron increased its offer on July nineteenth. Sixty percent is stock, and share prices change daily.) For more information, see the earlier story at the top of the right column.