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Breakingviews-WPP underestimates pinch from corporate austerity

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LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - WPP has underestimated the pinch from corporate austerity. The world’s largest ad group cut its forecast for its preferred measure of sales, blaming lower spending by consumer-goods giants it counts as clients. Boss Martin Sorrell reckons this will reverse. Alternatively, marketing frugality might become the new normal.

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Tencent’s team has upper hand in Chinese food fight

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - In a food fight between China’s three web giants, Tencent looks strongest. A food-delivery business backed by Alibaba is close to buying a Baidu-owned rival, says a person familiar with the matter. The combined firm will nonetheless struggle to unseat the Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping, which 86Research says is now the market leader.

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Breakingviews-Jeep sale would leave Marchionne nowhere to hide

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Selling Jeep would leave Sergio Marchionne nowhere to hide. The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief executive advocates using M&A to stop carmakers wasting precious capital. Offloading the company’s top brand to China’s Great Wall Motor, whose president has indicated interest, could raise billions. But it would leave an emaciated rump.

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Murdoch’s Sky bid looks ever less rational

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Sky looks ever less rational. The media mogul’s Twenty-First Century Fox in December offered 11.7 billion pounds to buy the 61 percent it doesn’t own of the UK pay-TV group. Murdoch will struggle to make the deal pay – though that may not stop him.

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BHP uses commodity rally to fortify position

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - BHP is using a commodity rally to fortify its financial position and placate critics. The Anglo-Australian miner swung to an annual net profit of $5.9 billion - missing forecasts but still improving on last year's $6.4 billion loss. Plans to exit a troubled shale business and hold off on investing in fertiliser mining chime with some demands from Elliott, the activist hedge fund. That compromise, plus a continued focus on financial strength, looks sensible.

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Holding: The law rides shotgun on Uber obfuscation

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - With the law riding shotgun, Uber is on an open road to obfuscation. Whether the ride-hailing service illegally fixed prices, for example, may now remain a secret after a court last week ordered the issue resolved in arbitration. It’s the same deal with whether drivers were stiffed on expenses; sexual-harassment claims against the company are also subject to confidential proceedings. Making the $68 billion firm fess up is mighty tough when the courts and others

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O2 – and Britain – are losers in 5G spectrum fight

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - A high-stakes legal fight is brewing in the esoteric world of mobile-spectrum licensing. Telefonica’s O2 has much to lose, as do British consumers waiting for ultra-fast 5G internet.

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China's M&A controls trap firms in a warped market

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Beijing has officially put its foot down on foreign takeovers of hotels, sports clubs and other sectors it deems "irrational". Some argue this was prompted by worries about bad debts resulting from silly deals. Perhaps, but the crackdown misses the root issue: domestic distortions that encourage companies to offset low profit margins at home with racier investments abroad.

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Economic nationalists still linger in White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Economic nationalists still linger in the White House. The departure of Steve Bannon, the chief strategist who advocated protectionist, "America first" policies, represents a plus for the global economy. But other foes of open trade and immigration will continue to try to influence Donald Trump. The centrists’ economic fight waged by National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and others will get easier but it’s not over.

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Merkel matters less than her next coalition allies

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Winning brings its own problems. Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to land a fourth term in German elections on Sept. 24 yet may be forced to govern with a small majority in partnership with the Free Democrats (FDP).  That would be bad news for Germany and the European Union.

About Breakingviews

Reuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time. Sign up for a free trial of our full service at http://www.breakingviews.com/trial and follow us on Twitter @Breakingviews and at www.breakingviews.com. All opinions expressed are those of the authors.