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from Breakingviews:

Asia’s top-down corporate reforms vary in promise

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Asia is in the throes of a top-down corporate reform drive. Newish leaders in China, India, South Korea and Japan are pushing to overhaul the way companies work. Their efforts to increase corporate efficiency are welcome. But investors eyeing better returns will find not all reforms are equal.

The need for intervention is clear. The spread between the return on invested capital and the weighted average cost of capital for non-financial corporations in Asia, excluding Japan, has sunk from 3 percentage points in 2010 to just 0.6 percentage points last year, according to CLSA.

Graphic: Company returns are languishing

In China, historical emphasis on growth and employment over profitability at state-owned entities – combined with a lack of effective checks and balances - has led to inefficient capital allocation. In an effort to solve the problem, President Xi Jinping has promised to bring in more private investors. Officials have already engineered a backdoor Hong Kong listing of state-controlled CITIC Group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates. Energy giant Sinopec is evaluating offers for a 30 percent stake in its retail business.

from Breakingviews:

Qualcomm turns from predator to prey in China

By Ethan Bilby

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Bad news keeps piling on for Qualcomm. Beijing has branded the U.S. chipmaker a monopolist, even as its dominance, which rests on smartphone chips and 3G patents, may be sliding. If that weren’t enough, some Chinese customers aren’t paying their dues. As friction over U.S.-China spying persists, things may only get worse.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba is case study in U.S.-China legal gulf

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Alibaba’s coming U.S. initial public offering will probably value the Chinese e-commerce firm at more than $100 billion. But will shareholders actually own the business? That’s the timely concern raised by a U.S. congressional commission. Lack of clarity in PRC law is mainly to blame.

from Breakingviews:

Glaxo wrestles with its past

By Neil Unmack

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Investors keep taking hits on GlaxoSmithKline. The pharmaceutical group’s stock price has fallen nearly 10 percent in the last year on the back of weaker sales and bribery accusations in China. News of a criminal investigation in the United Kingdom knocked almost $2 billion of its market capitalisation on Wednesday morning.

from Breakingviews:

Astra has small tactical advantage over Pfizer

By Christopher Hughes and Neil Unmack
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Time often benefits bidders rather than targets – that’s why U.S.-based food group Kraft left Cadbury flailing for months after making a takeover approach for its UK competitor. But the dynamics of Pfizer’s interest in rival pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca are unusual. Pfizer has good reason to seek a quick, agreed deal.

from Breakingviews:

China’s capital flight may be banks’ next headache

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Western banks’ next regulatory headache could be made in China. Most of the recent scrutiny of financial institutions’ business practices has come from the developed world – particularly the United States. But as Chinese citizens become more aware of the offshore wealth held by the country’s elites, banks are increasingly at risk of a regulatory backlash.

from Breakingviews:

Deutsche is wasting its Libor crisis

By Dominic Elliott and Olaf Storbeck

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Deutsche Bank is wasting a crisis. In September 2012, newly appointed co-Chief Executives Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain said the German lender would be at the forefront of cultural change in the banking industry. That goal keeps moving away from them.

from Breakingviews:

China’s bureaucrats play online war games

By Robyn Mak 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Who governs the internet? Authorities in China can’t decide. The Ministry of Culture, a relatively unknown agency, staked a claim by clamping down on online games on Dec. 13. China’s leaders say they want to foster an innovative economy, but the tussle between the young internet sector and an outdated bureaucracy raises questions about whether they really mean it.

from Breakingviews:

Benefits of being “G-SIFI” seem to outweigh costs

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

The benefits of being labeled “too big to fail” may just outweigh the costs. Since regulators first published their list of global systemically important financial institutions, or G-SIFIs, the banks concerned have boosted capital and tamped down balance sheets. But smaller lenders, particularly in Europe, have done the same without joining the club. And shareholders seem not to notice much of a difference.

from The Great Debate:

Antisocial genesis of the social cost of carbon

The day after his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama committed to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

He vowed to build on “transparency [that] promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the government is doing,” “participation [that] allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise,” and “collaboration [that] actively engages Americans in the work of their government.”

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