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Business
02 ноября, 18:51

Remember corporate Europe? It wants to be noticed again

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WHEN Emmanuel Macron first started work as a mergers-and-acquisitions banker at Rothschild in Paris in 2008, technicians of the trade were not impressed. “He did not know what EBITDA was,” sniffed a former colleague, according to the Financial Times (it is a measure of company profits). Yet Mr Macron had ideas and made things happen, and four years later persuaded Nestlé to spend $12bn buying Pfizer’s nutrition business. Now that he is France’s president, Mr Macron is trying to revive the grandest idea of all in European business: creating continental champions capable of taking on American and Chinese firms. It is an ambitious mission that will prove highly frustrating. Mr Macron laid out his vision at the Sorbonne in Paris in September, promising a “re-foundation of Europe”, and that he would bolster its “industrial and monetary power”. The same day Alstom, a French transport firm, agreed to merge with the transport arm of Siemens, a German...

02 ноября, 18:51

Japan Inc gingerly embraces more foreigners

MICHAEL WOODFORD, the first non-Japanese president of Olympus, likened the camera-maker’s board members who sacked him in 2011 to “children in a classroom”. Mr Woodford had confronted Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the company’s imperious chairman, over a $1.7bn hole in its finances. Mr Kikukawa responded by orchestrating a show of hands in a boardroom coup that sent the Englishman packing. It all fitted a cliché of Japan’s boardrooms as an all-Japanese, all-male club where wizened bosses ruthlessly enforce wa, or harmony. Gradually, the serenity is being disrupted. Nearly 15% of companies in the Nikkei 225 stock index now have at least one non-Japanese on their boards. That is still less than half the share in Britain’s FTSE 100, but it is up from 12% in 2013 and the trajectory seems set. Japan’s biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Takeda, its largest pharmaceuticals company (which in 2015 appointed its first foreign chief executive, a Frenchman) announced the appointment of foreign directors this...

02 ноября, 18:51

The airline industry’s most outspoken boss goes global

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AIRLINE bosses are often household names due to their attention-seeking behaviour—from the foul-mouthed rants of Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, to the model-flanked antics of Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic. But even in an industry filled with characters, Akbar al-Baker, Qatar Airways’ chief executive, stands out. He is known in the industry for behaving unpredictably at press conferences and for his colourful attacks on rival airlines. The word “crap” often comes up, as a description for new jets from Airbus and Boeing, and also (in a quote from July): “there is no need to travel on these crap American carriers” on which “you will be served by grandmothers”. Mr Baker could do with some allies just now. Since June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Qatar, banning its flag carrier’s jets from their skies. That has resulted in the cancellation of over 50 daily flights to these countries, costing the airline...

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02 ноября, 18:51

A merger between CVS Health and Aetna could be what the doctor ordered

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STANLEY and Sidney Goldstein would scarcely recognise their creation. In 1963 the brothers opened a humble storefront in Lowell, Massachusetts, selling health and beauty products. Determined to put customers first, they named their enterprise Consumer Value Stores. Today the Goldsteins’ startup, soon afterwards sold to a bigger firm, is nothing short of a health-care Goliath. Revenues at CVS Health reached $177bn last year, riches which come from 9,700 retail pharmacies and from its operations in mail-order drugs and sales of more expensive speciality medicines. The firm commands nearly a quarter of the American market for prescription drug sales (see chart). It is also the biggest pharmacy-benefit manager (PBM) in America, a type of middleman that negotiates bulk discounts on drugs with large pharmaceutical firms on behalf of employers and insurers. ...

02 ноября, 18:51

Many Japanese-made cars enjoy an afterlife in Myanmar, but not for much longer

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Gridlock in Yangon THE Japanese make cars that last but replace them relatively quickly. The average car in Japan is three years younger than in America. This combination of durable manufacturing and dutiful consumption of a prized national product works out well for the rest of the world; many countries import older Japanese cars in bulk. Secondhand vehicles fill vast parking lots in Japan’s port cities, awaiting shipment to New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. The third-most-popular destination is Myanmar, which imported over 80,000 used Japanese vehicles in the first nine months of this year, according to Japan’s International Auto Trade Association. Drivers believe that Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans can stand up to the country’s pockmarked roads, a faith not yet shown in South Korean and Chinese cars. There is only one problem, which is that Japan drives on the left, Myanmar on the right. As a consequence, most of Myanmar’...

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02 ноября, 18:51

IKEA undertakes some home improvements

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You snooze, you lose ON A Sunday afternoon, just beyond London’s M25 ring road, shoppers participate in the ritual that is a trip to IKEA. Fuelled by a lunch of Swedish meatballs, they negotiate their way around the 400,000-square-foot maze of a store, past children playing hide and seek and couples arguing over the merits of a PAX over a HEMNES wardrobe. Hours later, they emerge, wearily pushing trolleys loaded with flat-pack furniture and far more tea lights than they had intended to buy. The joy of assembly still awaits them. This experience has changed remarkably little since the late 1950s, when IKEA, which is still privately owned, set up its first store in southern Sweden and found that people would travel long distances for low-cost, self-assembled goods. IKEA has become the world’s largest seller of furniture, with over 400 shops around the world and €38bn ($42bn) of revenue. But now it is acknowledging that customers might want to...

02 ноября, 18:51

Japanese cars enjoy an afterlife in Myanmar, but not for much longer

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Gridlock in Yangon THE Japanese make cars that last but replace them relatively quickly. The average car in Japan is three years younger than in America. This combination of durable manufacturing and dutiful consumption of a prized national product works out well for the rest of the world; many countries import older Japanese cars in bulk. Secondhand vehicles fill vast parking lots in Japan’s port cities, awaiting shipment to New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. The third-most-popular destination is Myanmar, which imported over 80,000 used Japanese vehicles in the first nine months of this year, according to Japan’s International Auto Trade Association. Drivers believe that Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans can stand up to the country’s pockmarked roads, a faith not yet shown in South Korean and Chinese cars. There is only one problem, which is that Japan drives on the left, Myanmar on the right. As a consequence, most of Myanmar’...

01 ноября, 01:46

Dark tourism spooks its way into the mainstream

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The new Bali ONE recent morning in Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, a witch ran out of wands. Teri Kalgren, the owner of Artemisia Botanicals, an apothecary and magic shop, attributed the shortage to a boom in visitors. People have long flocked to Salem to learn about the infamous witch trials of 1692, in which Puritan hysteria led to the executions of 20 people (and two dogs). But since 1982, when the city introduced Haunted Happenings, a day-long Halloween festival for local families, the event has expanded into a celebration that lasts for a month and attracts 500,000 tourists. In 2016 tourism pumped $104m into Salem and funded some 800 jobs. On America’s opposite coast, Scott Michaels can also attest to the allure of the macabre. He has watched his Hollywood-based company, Dearly Departed Tours, grow from a one-man gig to an operation with seven employees who take tourists to celebrity grave sites every day of the week. “Just a few...

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26 октября, 17:47

Reports of the MBA’s demise are exaggerated

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THE MBA is both revered and reviled. To boosters it has advanced the science of management and helped firms, and countries, to grow. Detractors say it offers little of practical value and instils in students a sense of infallibility that can sink companies, and knock economies sideways. The critics are currently the louder of the two, claiming that particularly the full-time, campus-based MBAs have reached saturation point, with too many mediocre courses chasing too few candidates. The Financial Times recently likened them to “the Grand Tour of business education in an age of Airbnb”. There is a widespread feeling that full-time MBAs are on their last legs, concedes Sangeet Chowfla, the president of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), a business-school association. Decline is allegedly hastened by competing qualifications, such as the Masters in Management. MiMs have much the same syllabus as MBAs, but unlike them, take students...

26 октября, 17:47

How leading American newspapers got people to pay for news

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Past ... SOMETIMES it feels like the 1970s in the New York Times and Washington Post newsrooms: reporters battling each other to break news about scandals that threaten to envelop the White House and the presidency of Donald Trump. Only now their scoops come not in the morning edition but in a tweet or iPhone alert near the end of the day. It is like old times in another way: both newspapers are getting readers to pay, offsetting advertising revenue relinquished to the internet. After years of giving away scoops for nothing online, and cutting staff, the Times and Post are focusing on subscriptions—mostly digital ones—which now rake in more money than ads do. Their experiences offer lessons for the industry in America, although only a handful of newspapers have a chance at matching their success. A subscription-first approach relies on tapping a...

26 октября, 17:47

The Cambodian government threatens labour rights

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AT THE Gladpeer Garments Factory outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, seamstresses, dyers and embroiderers huddle over rows of work stations. It is a hard slog. But at least they can count on labour representatives to ensure they get a proper break. About four-fifths of the factory’s 4,800 employees belong to a union, reports Albert Tan, the general manager. Many in his position distrust organised labour. Mr Tan sounds positively proud. So is H&M, a giant Swedish fashion chain that is Gladpeer’s biggest customer. Like other Western brands that cater to increasingly ethical consumers, the Swedes are therefore nervously watching Cambodia’s autocratic government squeeze workers ahead of a general election next year. With annual revenues of $5bn, the Cambodian apparel industry is dwarfed by those of Bangladesh or Vietnam. But it has been growing fast. In a country of 16m, it already employs around 700,000 people and accounts for four-fifths of exports. It supplies...

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26 октября, 17:47

Avianca is rocked by striking pilots and warring owners

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HERNÁN RINCÓN has big plans for Avianca. He has run the Colombian airline since leaving the top job at Microsoft’s Latin American business last year. Now he wants to turn the world’s second-oldest carrier into a “digital company that flies planes”—using technology to improve customer experience and operations—and rival Chile’s LATAM, the regional leader. And he hopes soon to seal a strategic partnership with United Airlines, America’s fourth-biggest by passenger numbers. However, progress towards these goals has stalled. A month-long strike by pilots demanding better pay has disrupted journeys of 375,000 passengers. Complicating life further for Mr Rincón is a court battle between two shareholders: Germán Efromovich, a Bolivian businessman, and Roberto Kriete, a tycoon from El Salvador. A dispute over how to run the airline turned nasty after Mr Efromovich announced the United tie-up in January. Mr Kriete sued both airlines, Mr Efromovich, his brother José and Synergy (...