HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Beware any chief executive without a Plan B. Westfield boss Peter Lowy is the latest to lack one, declaring on Thursday that despite a big drop in the value of a takeover bid from Unibail-Rodamco, there is no alternative to the sale he and his mall operator agreed in December, originally worth $25 billion including debt. The French buyer also says it has no intention of changing the deal terms. Investors could be forgiven for having other ideas.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - “What about that stock market?” Share prices are a bit like the weather, an easy topic for conversation. U.S. President Donald Trump is fairly typical in gloating when American stocks go up. However, some sensible people – economists and central bankers – also take share prices seriously, especially when they drop as far and fast as they did in the recent selloff. But really, what about that market? Is there any good reason to care?
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - António Horta-Osório wants the UK’s largest retail bank to be simple and safe. His new plan needs conduct charges, which grew by a fifth last year, to abate, and the economy to behave. Still, a plan to cut costs could help double earnings even if revenues stay flat.
SINGAPORE (Reuters Breakingviews) - Santos could shift from prey to predator. Full-year results show the Australian gas producer is on the mend, with a narrowing net loss, less debt and more cash. That vindicates last year’s rejection of an opportunistic private equity-backed bid. The next challenge is shifting to growth - which could send the $9 billion group hunting for deals.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - KFC’s penny-pinching ways have left it stuffed. The fried-chicken chain owned by Yum Brands had to close hundreds of its UK restaurants after running out of poultry. Its plan to cut costs by ditching its old food supplier for a cheaper one backfired. The cock-up shows that chasing higher margins is no sure way to feather your nest.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Stuart Gulliver claims to have left behind a “simpler, stronger” bank than the one he took charge of in January 2011. The departing HSBC chief executive is mostly right. He has shrunk the Asia-focused lender’s geographical footprint and boosted its common equity Tier 1 capital ratio to a hefty 14.5 percent. Though return on equity fell short of Gulliver’s target last year, following winds should help his successor clear that hurdle.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Foxconn is aiming to manufacture something different in a new location. The Taiwanese assembler of Apple's iPhones plans to spin off a subsidiary in Shanghai. Fresh funds will help it push into new technologies. Given the nature of stock trading in China, it also could be retooling its valuation.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Should Jeremy Corbyn win Britain’s next election, his Labour Party has said it will end private sector ownership of natural monopolies like water companies. The received wisdom is that returning utilities to the public sector will be exorbitantly expensive. But that depends how it’s done.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Wall Street is turning the task of paying chief executives into something akin to snowboard cross. The Winter Olympics sport features half-a-dozen contestants hurling themselves down a narrow, twisting course with massive jumps, each trying to grab a few inches of advantage over the other while avoiding collisions. The pay race for six of America’s top bank bosses is becoming similarly bunched up.
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - It can be difficult to stay on when all your peers are retiring. That’s the case for Haruhiko Kuroda who will be reappointed Bank of Japan governor. The continuity at the helm of the Japanese central bank contrasts with a changing of the guard in the United States and Europe and reduces the chances of major monetary policy shifts in Tokyo. But Kuroda faces some tricky challenges.
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.