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Breakingviews - Podcast deals put new spin on sorry old tale

Most podcasts are basically blogs with microphones. So media companies looking to invest in the relatively new medium – such as audio streaming company Spotify Technology – should consider the rocky history of blogging titans like Nick Denton and Arianna Huffington. Even blogging’s success stories have struggled to live up to expectations.

Breakingviews - Viewsroom: China’s latest viral threat

The outbreak of a contagious disease before the Lunar New Year holiday evokes memories of SARS’ human and economic toll in 2003. Beijing’s swift reaction this time, imposing travel bans on five cities as 18 died, is encouraging. Plus: the cost of the UK royal family’s new schism.

Breakingviews - Do-gooder one-upmanship fuels optimism at Davos

For once, society may tangibly benefit from the do-gooder optimism among global elites at Davos. Corporate chiefs are brimming with purpose. Enterprises ranging from Russian aluminium smelters to Dutch ice cream makers are high on stewardship and sustainability - themes of this year’s confab. But they’re also making pledges to which they can, and should, be held accountable.

Breakingviews - Italian banks will yield to M&A imperative

Italian banks are facing a renewed urge to merge. A decade after the euro zone crisis erupted, the country’s lenders have shed most of their bad loans, while doubling their capital ratios. The problem now is that they can’t earn decent returns. Ultra-low interest rates and attempts to limit their holdings of government bonds make the need to join forces with rivals all the more pressing.

Breakingviews - Flying cars are a cool solution to a tiny problem

Flying cars are almost a thing. Toyota Motor is investing close to $400 million in Joby Aviation, a startup that wants to cut commutes by floating over congestion. China’s Geely is backing rival Volocopter; Hyundai is collaborating with Uber Elevate. But an investment by a $232 billion automaker lends much cred to what was once a metaphor for the impossible. New technology has put air taxis within reach, and regulators are wrapping their heads around the idea.

Breakingviews - Banks feel the heat of global warming in Davos

Banks are feeling the heat of global warming in Davos. Climate change is the dominant topic at this year’s elite gathering in the Swiss mountain resort, and financial institutions are firmly in the spotlight. Fund management giant BlackRock’s pledge to vote against directors of companies that aren’t taking enough action may force some to make changes. But demands by regulators that banks manage the risks of a warmer planet will have more bite.

Breakingviews - Alstom-Bombardier rail M&A would face faulty track

Henri Poupart-Lafarge clearly isn’t one for regrets. The chief executive of 10 billion euro Alstom expressed remorse for using the term “European champion” during his ill-fated hook up with Siemens’ train business, which competition authorities blocked. A potential union with Canadian peer Bombardier’s rail division, as the two sides are discussing according to Bloomberg, would create a transatlantic train-building champion instead. It will still test antitrust l

Breakingviews - Lotte scion gets chance to inspire Korea Inc

The passing of Lotte’s patriarch sets the stage for a turnaround. Battered shares in the listed units of the South Korean retail-to-chemical conglomerate rallied on Monday after Shin Kyuk-ho died at 98. That may reflect investors' hopes that his younger son, group chairman Shin Dong-bin, will accelerate a restructuring. A respite from political, legal and family spats gives him room to manoeuvre, and less excuse for delay.

Breakingviews - Netflix investors risk ruing streaming-stock binge

Netflix has ripped up the standard script. It stands virtually alone among rivals in having little if any need for the usual metrics that media companies abide by. Instead, investors have focused on its rapid subscriber and revenue growth. That has fueled its stock-market success. But the $150 billion video-streaming service’s fourth-quarter performance, unveiled on Tuesday, shows how that is coming under threat.

About Breakingviews

Reuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time. Sign up for a free trial of our full service at http://www.breakingviews.com/trial and follow us on Twitter @Breakingviews and at www.breakingviews.com. All opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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