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Capital Calls

27 September 2021 By Breakingviews columnists


– U.S. life expectancy

– Baidu’s video deal

Spend more, get less. Discussions of American exceptionalism in healthcare revolve around the 18% of GDP that the country pays each year to keep its population alive and well. But the pandemic shows how badly the population is being served despite that astonishing sum.

American male life expectancy at birth dropped 2.2 years in 2020, according to University of Oxford researchers. The United States witnessed the largest decline among 29 nations. Europe saw life spans fall mostly due to deaths among those 60 and over, whereas, across the Atlantic, there was a large increase in mortality in those under 60.

The United States is the only developed nation to not guarantee health services for all. While most elderly have Medicare, the government-supported insurance scheme, about 30 million mostly poor, working-age people have no health insurance. That can leave them without basic care, or fearful of seeking treatment that could incur giant bills.

The researchers blamed healthcare access as a likely contributory factor for deaths. Even the mightiest U.S. employers have tried and failed to crack the code. After this sobering shift in American longevity, the ball is in lawmakers’ court. (By Robert Cyran)

Joyy-less. What is the fun in being a Big Tech boss if you can’t swallow smaller peers? Baidu’s Robin Li, who runs the $55 billion search-engine operator, is facing resistance from anti-trust authorities over the $3.6 billion purchase of a local video app from streaming specialist Joyy. If derailed, it would be the second major deal flop since Tencent’s unsuccessful merger of two e-sports companies in July.

Regulators may stall the approval process rather than try to find a legal block: Neither Joyy’s domestic short video-app nor Baidu’s own offering has made a dent against TikTok-owner ByteDance or Kuaishou, so there’s little monopolistic threat. It’s more likely that Beijing is sending a fresh signal to web giants that it doesn’t want them to get any bigger.

A handful of other deals, including JD.com’s investment in an electronics-components trading business, are under scrutiny too. It wouldn’t be so bad if executives knew they could build size organically but it’s unclear if China’s regulators are opposed to size or just the manner in which it is attained. (By Robyn Mak)


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