LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Western luxury is binge-eating humble pie. In the last few days, storied brands - including Swarovski, Versace and Givenchy - have submitted grovelling apologies for offending Chinese sensibilities. With Hong Kong protests against the mainland getting worse, it’s the thin end of a potentially very awkward wedge.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - It’s a bad time to be National Grid. The listed company tasked with overseeing Britain’s gas and electricity networks had a day to forget on Friday. A major power cut left trains at a standstill and 1 million homes without power. Even if the blame lies with someone else, failure on this scale hands powerful ammunition to the company’s critics.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Glencore’s bull case just took another hit. The Swiss miner and trader’s half-year results on Wednesday saw adjusted EBITDA fall almost a third from the same period in 2018. The drop largely reflects Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg’s chosen business mix – but Glencore also added a Congo-shaped reason to mark down its shares.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Iain Conn has got the message. The Centrica chief executive on Tuesday said he would step down next year as the UK utility announced plans to slash its full-year dividend. Conn made plenty of missteps, but Centrica’s woes defy easy fixes.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - The UK is once again talking a good game in the battle against climate change. Fresh from committing to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 - without explaining how it would get there - the British government on Tuesday said it was considering forcing listed companies and pension funds to disclose how their activities would be hit by global warming. Such mandatory disclosure sounds tough, but might not achieve much.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi are involved in a high-stakes game of double or quits. The kingdom and its Gulf ally’s wealth funds jointly put up $60 billion of the near-$100 billion pledged to SoftBank Group’s giant Vision Fund. Now they have to decide whether to participate in the sequel planned by Masayoshi Son, the Japanese group’s founder. Walking away could undermine confidence in the vehicle’s current batch of startups.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Steel is a tricky candidate for a UK government bailout. The fate of 4,000 workers employed by British Steel is in question after the operator of the Scunthorpe steelworks entered insolvency in May. Unless one of the private enterprises now examining its books steps in, public cash will be needed. Unfortunately, three decades after it was privatised by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, neither company nor sector looks sufficiently strategic or sustainable.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Greg Clark has one of the worst jobs in the UK government. The business secretary needs to decide whether to nationalise British Steel, let it go bust with the loss of at least 5,000 jobs, or apply a sticking plaster to let it limp on. All three are bad options, but the last is the worst.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Donald Trump is calling in a favour. In November, the American president publicly exonerated Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, over his alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Five months on, Trump’s quid pro quo for MbS - to help him mitigate the effect on oil prices of stymieing Iran via tough sanctions – looks clear-cut.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Aramco’s debt is both cheap and overpriced. That’s the takeaway from the Saudi oil giant’s maiden $12 billion bond sale to international investors. While a success, it’s also contradictory.