Afternoon Coffee: Previse raises $11 million; European supply chains vastly hurt by COVID-19; Amazon closes French warehouses; China doubles U.S. agricultural imports

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Previse, provider of a platform for early payment and supply chain finance programs, announced an $11 million round of funding led by Reefknot Investments and Mastercard, according to a press release. Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Hambro Perks and Augmentum Fintech are also participating.

Previse's co-Founder and CEO, Paul Christensen, said: “This backing and investment from our new partners will support Previse as our instant payment technology, InstantPay, moves to adoption by more large corporate buyers all over the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to increase the resilience of supply chains and support SMEs that economies across the world depend on. The best way to do this is for large corporates to pay invoices fast."

Reefknot, which specializes in supporting supply chain technology start-ups globally, chose to invest in Previse because of its potential to influence global commerce, according to the press release. Previse’s platform allows for invoices to be paid instantly, rather than having to wait for months. Meanwhile, Previse’s AI tracks the invoices that need to be handled manually.

The funding will support growth for Previse as it rolls out InstantPay to more large companies, and Mastercard has used InstantPay with a group of its own suppliers, the press release said.

Check back tomorrow for a Spend Matters' review of Previse's solution.

More than 75% of European supply chain affected by COVID-19

Supply Chain Movement has posted its new survey revealing that three-quarters of European supply chains are negatively affected by the coronavirus crisis and that more than one-third of European companies have temporarily shut down factories. The results come from 143 supply chain decision-makers across Europe. The survey was conducted during the last week of March and asked participants how they were assessing the COVID-19 situation, bottlenecks, changes for supply and demand, action taken and impacts on their companies.

Of those surveyed, 78% are experiencing short-term negative impacts, 17% are experiencing positive impacts and 5% are not affected at all. The crisis has caused supply chains in Europe to assess their operational levels. These assessments include risk analysis of their own operations (94% of respondents), operational risk of incoming materials (85%) and the outgoing flow of products (76%), according to the survey.

Additionally, most companies explored how much capacity their suppliers had available, and how to keep supply and demand aligned. The survey also found that executives overseeing global supply chains were paying more attention to the financial health of their strategic suppliers than those who worked exclusively in Europe. Additionally, 62% of respondents found that the biggest bottleneck to their supply chains involved inbound flow of supplies.

In response to these issues, 63% of European companies have placed additional orders with suppliers. Most have also accelerated their strategic planning schedule to a weekly or daily pace, instead of monthly.

Amazon closes all warehouses in France

Amazon has closed all six of its warehouses in France after a French court ruled that the company needed to reassess protective measures for its workers, according to a new report from Business Insider. The court ruled that Amazon could ship only essential items, and imposed a fine of  $1.1 million for each day Amazon continued shipping non-essential items after the ruling.

The report states that Amazon’s decision to close the warehouses stemmed from the risk of accidentally shipping non-essential items. The temporary warehouse shutdown will last a minimum of five days, Amazon said.

JD Logistics partners with Blue Yonder to enhance e-commerce with AI

The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has partnered with U.S. artificial intelligence (AI) company Blue Yonder. The partnership aims to increase the efficiency for merchants in China amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arizona-based Blue Yonder is a digital solution provider that uses machine learning to develop supply chain solutions. The Post reports that the partnership will help Chinese merchants improve their efficiency and reduce resource wastage, the companies said.

China doubles imports of U.S. agricultural products

China revealed it had purchased twice as much U.S. agricultural products in the first quarter of this year than a year ago, according to a new report from CNBC. China’s import agency says that the country imported $5.1 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products in the first quarter. The volume of soybeans imported doubled, and pork imports increased more than six times. China also imported 43.5% more cotton in the same time period.

The increase comes after China agreed to phase one of a trade agreement with the U.S. in January. The countries have been in a trade war for 18 months, and more negotiations are expected to resolve phase two of a deal.

United cuts May flight schedule by 90%

United Airlines has revealed it had reduced its flight schedule by 90% in May, adding that it expected a similar cut for June because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Reuters. The airline disclosed its outlook in a memo from CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby to employees that was publicly released.

United revealed that it saw a 97% drop in passengers flown in the first two weeks of April. The report quotes the memo as saying that United expects to fly fewer people in the month of May this year than in a single day of May from last year.

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