LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - The first act of superhero movies has the protagonist slowly waking up to their new powers, perhaps trying them out on a few unfortunate toughs. That’s roughly where the European Union is in its industrial tussle with China. Thanks to the Netherlands, the bloc might finally get serious.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Roquefort producers are just one casualty in the brewing Franco-American cheese war of 2020. The conflagration’s abiding and potentially more economically damaging effect will be to impede a set of global reforms to the way countries tax large technology businesses.
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.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Chess pawns are weak pieces with lots of potential. Get one to the opposite side of the board, and you effectively add a second queen to your ranks. World Chess Chief Executive Ilya Merenzon is making a similar pitch to potential investors in a “hybrid initial public offering” of the broadcaster, which is developing an “Armageddon” chess league for TV. His ploy is less absurd than it sounds.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Few investment-bank bosses have displayed the staying power of Samir Assaf, the HSBC executive who may soon be replaced after running the $150 billion lender’s global banking and markets business since 2011. The division’s return on equity in recent years has been solid if unremarkable, and hides the underperforming U.S. and European businesses. His departure leaves those regions looking vulnerable.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Japan is overdue a digital-payments pickup: Its ageing population still settles four out of five purchases in cash. SoftBank Group’s restless 62-year-old founder Masayoshi Son is doing his bit, with a potential merger of his indirect holding in the operator of search engine Yahoo Japan and the controlling stake in Line, the country’s leading messaging and payments app.
LISBON (Reuters Breakingviews) - It’s a good thing they serve wine with lunch at Web Summit, the gargantuan technology bash held in Lisbon each year. Some exhibits are hard to fathom with a sober lens. The gathering held last week featured an almost full-size boxing ring inviting startup founders to deliver a “knockout pitch” to investors against the clock. Nearby was a mountable plastic unicorn on a raisable plinth that lifted riders above the 70,000-odd assembled investors, entrepreneurs and hangers-on.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group is a giant tech-investment machine whose gears are greased by generous dollops of debt. Borrowing worked well for the $80 billion company as asset values rose; it could become a problem as they go into reverse.
PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Europe’s venture capitalists sometimes joke that they’re glorified civil servants, since government agencies are still the largest contributors to many funds. Returns have historically been humdrum compared with U.S. peers, who also raised about five times more capital than Europe’s $10 billion haul in 2018.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Fifty years ago, NASA landed the first people on the moon. Today, billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are blasting satellites into space to boost global internet coverage. Adrian Steckel of SoftBank-backed OneWeb explains why there’s a brewing gold rush in low-earth orbit.