Bloomberg Businessweek December 7, 2020

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2 min
in brief

Coronavirus cases have topped 63.4 million, and almost 1.5m people have died. The U.K. became the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine when it cleared Pfizer and BioNTech’s shot. Exxon Mobil will cut the value of its North and South American natural gas fields by up to $20 billion. The writedown, following this year’s steep decline in energy prices, could be the industry’s largest impairment in a decade. Cyber Monday in the U.S. set a sales record, based on reports from 80 of the top 100 online retailers. U.K. retail emporium Arcadia filed for protection from creditors on Nov. 30. The holding company of billionaire Philip Green operates 466 stores with 13,000 employees. Brands include Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, and Burton. S&P Global agreed to buy IHS Markit for about $39b in stock. The deal,…

3 min
biden must build u.s. diplomacy back better

In January, Joe Biden will take charge of an executive branch in woeful disrepair. Practically every important federal institution has been scorched during four years of sustained assault by his predecessor—none more so than the State Department. Donald Trump has harmed U.S. diplomacy in word and deed. His secretaries of state, first Rex Tillerson and then Mike Pompeo, have damaged the department deeply. Their open hostility toward career foreign affairs professionals has led to an exodus of talent, leaving important roles either unfilled or, worse, manned by unqualified political appointees. As a result, morale in the department has plummeted, as has its prestige. The Colombian ambassador to Washington was caught on tape lamenting that “the U.S. State Department, which used to be important, is destroyed, it doesn’t exist.” He might have been…

1 min
one meeting for many crises

The European Central Bank decides on interest rates on Dec. 10. Economists predict the ECB will expand and extend its pandemic bond-buying program by about €500 billion. On Dec. 8, the National Federation of Independent Business monthly report on U.S. small-business optimism is expected to show that companies are more upbeat about the future. The Milken Institute holds its virtual Future of Health Summit on Dec. 7-9. Participants will explore the converging crises of public health, economic insecurity, and social injustice. Goldman Sachs’s U.S. Financial Services Conference on Dec. 8 features JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, KKR co-President Scott Nuttal, and Citigroup CFO Mark Mason as speakers. New York’s school system is set to resume in-person classes beginning on Dec. 7, with students in 3-K and pre-K programs among those being allowed to return. Online pet-food…

7 min
a global reckoning for big tech

The U.S. and China don’t agree on much these days. Germany and France share a border and a currency but are frequently at odds. The U.K. and India like to march to their own drum. But there’s one issue on which all these countries see eye to eye: Technology companies are too big, too powerful, and too profitable. And that power is only likely to intensify, leaving governments with no choice but to confront it head-on by taking the companies to court, passing new competition laws, and perhaps even breaking up the tech giants. China is the latest to implement an antitrust crackdown, unveiling anti-monopoly rules last month that wiped $290 billion off the stock market valuation of China’s biggest companies in two days. The draft rules followed the surprise suspension…

5 min
musk’s german charm offensive

As Tesla Inc. builds its first European car factory, in a patch of forest outside Berlin, Elon Musk has been on a relentless charm offensive. He’s pledged to create thousands of jobs; he tweets in surprisingly good German; and at a September event he donned a heavy cord vest and wide-brimmed black felt hat like those traditionally worn by local craftspeople. The message has been warmly received, with politicians fast-tracking approvals for the factory and locals clamoring for jobs in a region that struggles to attract investment. On Nov. 30, the Tesla chief executive officer swooped into the German capital for the third time in as many months to accept an award for his entrepreneurial achievements from the publisher of the influential Bild tabloid. But there’s one corner of the German economy…

4 min
where ‘made in china’ is beautiful

In 2008 at least six babies died and 300,000 fell ill after drinking made-in-China infant formula tainted with toxic chemicals. In response, many Chinese parents embraced foreign brands, catapulting the likes of Danone SA’s Aptamil and Nestlé SA’s Illuma to the top of the market. Yet for the past two years, the leading formula brand in China has been made by China Feihe Ltd., a Beijing company that emphasizes its local roots rather than seeking to obscure them. “More suitable for Chinese babies,” the company’s advertising boasts. In categories ranging from baby food and bottled water to sportswear and skin cream, Chinese brands are putting pressure on global rivals that depend on the country for much of their growth. While increasing nationalism has boosted the momentum of domestic products for the…