LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Who gets to tax Google and Facebook? That’s the kernel of a highly technical debate going on between 130 countries via the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Major European governments want more cash from Big Tech groups, but the Americans are likely to resist. It makes a self-imposed 2020 deadline tricky - and raises the possibility of uncoordinated local levies followed by punitive U.S. countermeasures.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - SoftBank is stretching the concept of “skin in the game” to breaking point. The Japanese technology group wants to lend up to $20 billion to employees, including Chief Executive Masayoshi Son, to buy into its $108 billion Vision Fund 2, the Wall Street Journal reported. Son’s backers, like Apple and Microsoft, will welcome the move to align staff’s incentives with their own. But it magnifies SoftBank’s losses if the vehicle blows up.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - How much is a song worth? Two people who should know are the Chic founder and his manager, who have started a company to buy some of the world’s most famous back catalogues. They explain how music investing works and why many songwriters are miffed with Spotify.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Never doubt Vincent Bolloré. That’s one lesson from Tuesday’s announcement that Vivendi, which is controlled by the French tycoon, may sell 10% of Universal Music Group to China’s Tencent Holdings at a price that values the label at 30 billion euros. The second lesson is less heartening: more asset sales will be required to erase Vivendi’s persistent conglomerate discount.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - It’s summer, which means top teams like Barcelona and Manchester United are brandishing their cheque books in the player-transfer market. But the way soccer clubs choose their stars and fund the purchases is changing. Researcher Sophie Tomlinson and financier Jason Traub explain.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Renault is on a campaign of de-Ghosnification. Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard is axing advisers linked to the former chief executive, and recent Japanese jailhouse guest, Carlos Ghosn, helping Senard put a firmer personal stamp on the carmaker. But with a government shareholder still breathing down his neck, any hopes of reigniting merger talks could easily be dashed. Investors in the 16 billion euro French group are still rueing a collapsed deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The proposed combo promised about 5 billion euros of annual cost savings, Fiat reckoned, but fell apart in early June after the Italian-American carmaker decided “political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed”. So, Senard is clearing house. Renault is parting ways with Ghosn’s long-time financial advisers Ardea Partners, according to people familiar with the matter. The boutique, founded by former Goldman Sachs bankers, proved controversial in Paris because it was advising Renault on the Fiat deal while one of its top executives sat on Fiat’s board. Renault is also severing ties with Ghosn’s favoured communications shop Les Rois Mages, run by Claudine Pons, and security consultant Alain Bauer. Management changes within the company are also likely. It’s healthy to put some distance between the embattled carmaker and its former boss, who denies accusations of financial impropriety made by Renault’s alliance partner Nissan and prosecutors in Tokyo. The French group’s 15% government shareholder might understandably balk at any association with the disgraced former executive. But shuffling around the advisory deckchairs does little to remove the primary roadblock to a merger with Nissan or Fiat, or both. The former deal would help solidify the alliance and eliminate the huge valuation discount investors apply to Renault’s 43% stake in the Japanese group. The latter option would give Senard a larger fleet of cars over which he could spread the French group’s electric-vehicle technology, and the costs sunk to achieve it. The real obstacle is the French state, whose request to postpone Renault’s board meeting on the Fiat deal caused Senard’s opposite number, John Elkann, to pull the offer, and whose double voting rights understandably make Nissan wary of political meddling. Finding advisers clever enough to overcome that impediment will be a tougher call.
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Ford Motor boss Jim Hackett says the self-driving joint venture he struck with Volkswagen’s Herbert Diess on Friday “instantaneously makes it the biggest platform” in the industry. Autonomous vehicles can potentially reduce congestion and traffic-related fatalities, improve carmaker margins and more. The trouble is that working out how to value these outfits is a quest in itself.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Donald Trump has landed a pre-emptive blow in a brewing fight over how to tax technology giants like Facebook. The U.S. president on Wednesday initiated a probe into whether France’s digital levy unfairly targets American companies. The move gives him more leverage in talks about how to revamp international corporate tax but also means there’s more riding on the success of those discussions.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - BMW Chief Executive Harald Krueger will bequeath a well-oiled machine when he steps down next year. The 44 billion euro carmaker’s boss said on Friday he won’t seek a second term after his current one runs out in May 2020. The big challenge for his successor – possibly production chief Oliver Zipse, according to Reuters – will be to tune up the company’s electric-vehicle strategy.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - After much unedifying horse-trading, European leaders have finally agreed on who will head the commission, central bank and other top roles. That has implications for the bloc’s future. Plus: Why Africa’s growth figures make worrying reading for the continent’s democrats.