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Thursday, 18 December 2014

BREAKINGVIEWS

Thomas Jordan, chairman of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) delivers a public speech at a church in the town of Uster, near Zurich November 23, 2014.

Swiss give positive lesson in negative rate policy

18 December 2014

A safe-haven currency can invite economic trouble. The Swiss central bank is up to the challenge. It started with market intervention and has now introduced a negative overnight rate. The Swiss realise that money is more of a policy tool than a store of value.

Daniele Nouy, chair of the Supervisory Board of the European Central Bank, speaks at a Thomson Reuters newsmaker event at Canary Wharf in London November 28, 2014.

Europe’s bank supervisor constricted by slump

18 December 2014

The ECB wants to follow its stress test with further harmonisation of European lenders. But as the central bank toys with QE, financial stability may take a back seat. The reform agenda of supervisory chair Danièle Nouy will have to accommodate fears for the area’s growth. 

avon products

Avon exposes ugly side of doing business in China

18 December 2014

The U.S. cosmetics company’s Chinese subsidiary gave officials handbags, holidays and cash to access a huge market. The rationale: muddy markets make dirty hands. Avon has learned its lesson with a $135 mln fine. Elsewhere in China, the belief that bribery pays remains engrained.   

Janet Yellen

Fed builds in wiggle room for rate surprises

17 December 2014

The U.S. central bank now puts “patience” above needing “considerable time” for changing monetary policy. It suggests Chair Janet Yellen is focusing more on data than anything else. That could stoke interpretive disagreements on the committee – but also spark unexpected hikes.

Chief Executive of WPP Group Martin Sorrell

WPP chair should be vertical as well as horizontal

17 December 2014

Martin Sorrell says the ad group’s Chairman-designate Roberto Quarta will help its “horizontality.” The word also sums up the partnership aspect of good CEO-chair relations. But given the WPP CEO’s run-ins with investors, Quarta will want to be a degree higher, not on a level.

Ferdinand Kirchhof (L), vice-president of Germany's Constitutional Court and judge Reinhard Gaier arrive for an inheritance tax law trial at Germany's Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe July 8, 2014.

German Mittelstand will survive higher death tax

17 December 2014

The country’s constitutional court has shot down the privileges benefitting the heirs of family firms. Bigger companies face a higher burden, but they can cope. The tax code will be fairer and fiscal revenue could be higher – all without harming Germany’s economic backbone. 

A phone running the Uber application is held above the traffic in central Bangkok December 10, 2014.

Baidu's Uber stake is more hype than substance

17 December 2014

The Chinese web giant is already behind rivals Alibaba and Tencent in mobile taxi-apps. Strategically the tie-up looks like a coup. But without financial terms, investors are left in the dark. Uber’s controversial track record and Baidu’s shrinking margins add to the uncertainty.

China's superlative growth looks hard to sustain

18 December 2014

Assume the economy expands as briskly in the next 20 years as in the past decade. Its share of world GDP could top 35 percent, a Breakingviews calculator shows. A static workforce would have achieved heroic productivity gains. If it doesn’t, China’s slowdown has only just begun.   

Raul Castro

Uncle Sam closer to nixing one of dumbest policies

17 December 2014

President Obama intends to relax the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The egregious restrictions failed in their intent, won little support abroad and served only domestic political purposes. Removing trade barriers will bring a mini economic windfall and, ultimately perhaps, freedom.

European court

Europe could edge past U.S. in race to courthouse

17 December 2014

New rules and bank scandals boost financial fraud and class-action filings in Britain. Patent combatants flock to German judges. And spats over failed investments clog EU courts. The upshot: a lawsuit boom that may topple America as the world’s business litigation capital.

A Sri Lankan man holds an umbrella as he cycles past an overcast bay in the town of Kalmunai on Sri Lanka's east coast.

M&A "clear day" defenses can cloud investor rights

17 December 2014

Anti-takeover protections adopted before threats arise are more apt to weather legal scrutiny. It’s one reason Allergan was able to resist Valeant’s $52 bln bid. When triggered reactively, they’re considered unfair surprises. Either way, shareholders often get unneeded cover.

A reflection of a yearly chart of U.S. dollars and Russian roubles are seen on rouble notes

Russia’s foreign banks have varying pain barriers

17 December 2014

With the Russian banking system hobbled by sanctions, Raiffeisen, UniCredit and SocGen are well placed to grab market share in commercial lending. The vital factor will be how insulated they are against the current turmoil. Some look better placed to tough it out than others.

Dollar signs are seen alongside the signs for other currencies at a currency exchange shop in Hong Kong November 1, 2014.

The too-big-to-fail club will shrink in 2015

17 December 2014

The list of global banks deemed systemically important has hardly changed since 2011. But membership now comes with ever-larger capital requirements and increased regulatory meddling. In an attempt to escape, some lenders will decide to become smaller or less interconnected.

BREAKINGVIEWS TV ON INSIDER

Columns

Rob Cox

Rob Cox: Sony email shareholders would like to see

17 December 2014

The hacking scandal at the Japanese conglomerate’s Hollywood studio isn’t just embarrassing. It’s a business problem for a company already struggling to turn itself around. Herewith, a fictional selection of internal messages Sony’s board ought to be fielding.

Hugo Dixon

Hugo Dixon: Greece still several steps from chaos

15 December 2014

Athens has entered a period of political instability, which could lead to an election won by Syriza. This radical left group’s policies could prompt Greece’s exit from the euro if fully implemented. But this is unlikely, as Syriza will struggle to execute its plan.

Features

Forgotten Depression

Review: "Forgotten Depression" worth remembering

12 December 2014

James Grant’s new book on the U.S. government’s response to the 1921 crash is a timely reminder that our forebears knew of other, apparently more efficacious, remedies to cure financial hangovers than the hair of the dog.