LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - For the euro’s many critics, the sovereign debt crisis that peaked in 2012 was a sign that the single currency is doomed. For Olli Rehn, one of the lessons is that its members need to integrate further and share more risks. In “Walking the Highwire: Rebalancing the European Economy in Crisis”, the former European Union commissioner describes his experience of firefighting to keep the euro zone intact. Though the book was written before the coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic has revived debates about sharing financial burdens among its members. Reluctance to support weaker countries suggests Rehn’s vision remains out of reach.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Frantic stockpiling has given unfashionable food brands a new lease of life. Widespread lockdowns sent consumers rushing to hoard humdrum products like PG Tips tea or frozen Hot Pockets. The shift is forcing chief executives of consumer giants such as Unilever and Nestlé to rethink their priorities.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - The coronavirus is making 2020 a tough year for consumer goods companies, particularly when Asia is their main engine of growth. Distiller Diageo said the outbreak could cost it as much as 325 million pounds in sales. Yoghurt and baby food maker Danone, meanwhile, reckons the hit could be 100 million euros in the first quarter. Both forecasts, however, look a little rosy.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Dolly Parton is a unifying force in a divided United States. That’s the central theme of the podcast series “Dolly Parton’s America”, released late last year by New York public radio. She made her fortune by becoming a multi-channel commodity, attaching her name and iconic image to theme parks, fashion and television, as well as music. The country star also explains the business benefits of being nonpartisan.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - After two decades in power Vladimir Putin is shaking things up – sort of. At an annual address broadcast on television screens across the country on Wednesday, the Russian president told the nation of his plans to hand more power to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. As with the fake villages erected during Catherine II’s visit to Crimea in 1787 by the Russian empress’s lover Grigory Potemkin, there’s an illusory feel to it all.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Britain’s grocery wars are growing ferocious. Big supermarkets are losing market share to discounters and the biggest of them all, Tesco, said on Thursday that its domestic sales barely rose over Christmas and New Year. Improving online services and stocking sought-after premium goods may do more to halt the rot than trying to sell products ever more cheaply.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Turkey will enjoy a reprieve from economic turbulence in 2020. There will be more government spending and interest rate cuts to ensure the economy gets somewhere close to President Tayyip Erdogan’s growth target of 5% for the year. Yet inflation may well remain under control. The reckoning will come later.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Consumer giant Unilever is creaking. The $161 billion maker of Bovril meat paste warned revenue in 2019 will grow below its 3%-5% target. Lucky that CEO Alan Jope doesn’t have the likes of Dan Loeb’s Third Point snapping at him, like Swiss rival Nestlé. But channelling the spirit of an activist would help avoid any more misses.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Anheuser-Busch InBev has a chance to put investors’ minds at ease a whole year sooner. Reuters reported on Wednesday that it is considering selling part of its U.S. packaging operation. Even a minority sale would help the world’s biggest brewer ditch debt faster.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Monday is statistically the most common day for heart attacks. Bankers’ pulses would have been particularly elevated this week, with over $70 billion of deals announced worldwide. Yet the excitement will probably prove temporary. Mergers and acquisitions are in a lull compared with recent years, and a sustained pickup seems unlikely.