LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Spaniards face an uncomfortable choice between political paralysis and separatist confrontation. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday called a snap election for April 28 after the country’s parliament refused to support his budget. His right-wing opponents, if victorious, could provoke a flare-up in tensions with Catalan secessionists.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Brexit supporters like Jacob Rees-Mogg are both right and wrong about carmakers in Britain. The eurosceptic member of parliament correctly argues that Nissan Motor’s U-turn on production at its Sunderland plant has little to do with Britain’s impending departure from the European Union. But he’s mistaken to be blasé about the sector’s prospects if Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Carlos Ghosn is gone but the same cannot be said for tensions in the alliance between Nissan and Renault . More than two months after his arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct, Ghosn on Wednesday night resigned as Renault chief executive and chairman, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said. Successors may feed Nissan’s paranoia about political meddling.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Europe risks sacrificing its antitrust principles at the altar of global competitiveness. That’s a dangerous precedent, particularly since would-be partners Siemens and Alstom are hardly desperate for a deal.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Cracks are showing in the $97 billion Vision Fund. That undermines the idea of SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son as a tech sage, and makes life harder for his dealmakers.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - U.S. President Donald Trump has a knack for claiming credit for others’ achievements. In 2019, his use of trade tariffs to boost domestic manufacturing will look like it’s working. But technologies such as factory automation are going to be the real reason global companies will manufacture more products locally. Trump’s tariffs on China and other trade partners like Europe are a headache for companies that ship goods between the world’s three major economic blocs. Manufacturers like carmakers and pharmaceutical groups built low-cost, cross-border supply chains in the 1990s and 2000s, during which time worldwide trade doubled as a share of global economic output. BMW and Daimler import more than half the vehicles they sell in America, but also export more than half the vehicles produced at their U.S. plants, according to Moody’s. That’s changing. BMW, for example, is mulling making more SUVs in China rather than incurring levies by shipping them halfway across the world from its South Carolina plant. And medical supplier Philips said in October it was “rearranging” its supply chain to make more American and Chinese products locally to avoid higher U.S. and Chinese tariffs. But trade wars are only the latest force braking global trade growth. Having peaked at almost one-third of world GDP in 2008, trade flows shrank to just over one-quarter of output in 2016, according to McKinsey. And while the volume of global trade in goods grew at more than twice the pace of real GDP between 1990 and 2010, both grew at roughly the same average rate between 2012 and 2017, World Trade Organization data shows. The aftermath of the global financial crisis bears a chunk of the responsibility. But a more structural change is that the benefit of making goods in distant countries with low wages is falling as machines replace people. High-tech plants run by software are easier to retool to make different products according to demand or geopolitics. Meanwhile consumer goods companies like Inditex, the owner of “fast-fashion” brand Zara, can quickly boost supplies of popular designs by producing them close to customers. That trend should spread beyond retail as 3D-printing techniques allow manufacturers to build complex, customised products more quickly. Companies will produce goods closer to customers in 2019. Given the trend has as much to do with the switch from humans to machines as trade wars, the workers that Trump claims to be helping may not reap as many benefits as he touts.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Jonathan Tepper’s book “The Myth of Capitalism” is full of scary facts: two companies control 90 pct of America beer, while five banks account for half the country’s banking assets. He joined Breakingviews to explain the inexorable rise of monopolies and what we can do about it.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - SoftBank's Vision Fund is due a writedown. The Saudi Arabia-backed tech investor, with $97 billion at its disposal, reported a 27 percent gain on $28 billion of investments as of September. That success will reverse in 2019.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - A global anti-Huawei push risks making an already concentrated market even less competitive. The drive is defensible on security grounds, but could lead to higher mobile bills, less investment and more widespread outages like the one caused on Thursday by Swedish group Ericsson’s glitchy software.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Alan Jope’s tenure at Unilever will be like the company’s popular British spread Marmite: smooth at first with a bitter aftertaste. The consumer giant’s new chief executive can cruise until 2020, but may then have to revisit controversial reforms to its dual-share structure.