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from Breakingviews:

GE/Alstom deal rumours test French reform drive

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By Pierre Briançon

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

In an ideal world where free people would roam across free markets, there would be much to like in a takeover of engineering group Alstom by General Electric. The French turbine and train maker, bailed out by taxpayer money 10 years ago, has been hit hard by the economic slump and Asian competition. Its future as a standalone company is in doubt. It needs cash that its shareholders - including Bouygues, with a 29 percent stake – are loath to fork out. Being folded into much larger GE would help it through bad times while some of its assets would fit nicely into the U.S. group.

Reports that the two were talking takeovers sent Alstom shares soaring 14 percent on April 24 - in spite of, or maybe because of, the French group’s  non-denial denial stating that it had not been “informed of any potential public tender offer” for the company.

But in the real world, any sale of the TGV maker to the U.S. group would face major political hurdles. It would test the French government’s new reform drive just as its business-friendly policies are proving hard to sell - both to public opinion and to the restive, ruling Socialist party.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Putin learning what U.S. didn’t

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After America’s ignominious defeat and hurried departure from Vietnam in 1973 -- when the world’s richest and mightiest nation was humbled by the stolid determination of ill-equipped, ideologically inspired peasants -- it was generally assumed the United States would not wage war again until the lessons of the Viet Cong victory were taken to heart.

When Soviet forces hastily retreated with a bloody nose from their nine-year occupation of Afghanistan in 1989, similar lessons were suggested about the impossibility of militarily holding a country with a universally hostile population.

from Photographers' Blog:

Nevada showdown

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Bunkerville, Nevada

By Jim Urquhart

"I've got a clear shot at four of them," the man with a rifle beside me said, as he aimed his weapon in the direction of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officers.

We were on a bridge in southern Nevada in the midst of a tense standoff between the BLM and a group of angry ranchers, milita-members and gun-rights activists. It seemed as if we were a hair’s breadth away from Americans killing Americans right in front of me.

from MacroScope:

Will French numbers add up?

French President Francois Hollande’s cabinet meets to adopt a new debt reduction plan.

After outlining 50 billion euros of savings for 2015-2017 to help pay for consumer and business tax cuts, the government is due to sign off on already delayed deficit reductions to bring it, eventually, to three percent of output as demanded by Brussels.

from The Great Debate:

No drama in Obama’s Ukraine policy

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Many are asking: How can we stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from moving into Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory in the east? The actions of forces that resemble the Russian special operations troops who created the conditions for annexation of Crimea suggest that other parts of Ukraine may also be in the Russian strongman's sights.

The fact is, however, we cannot stop Putin. Or, to be more precise, we should not try to stop him physically. Doing so would require military threats or troop deployments to Ukraine. The stakes do not warrant such a step. It is not worth risking World War Three over this.

from Breakingviews:

Manchester United’s crisis has silver lining

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By Olaf Storbeck

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

Manchester United fans won’t like this, but the club’s crisis is exactly what the soccer business, and United itself, needs. A manager ditched after 10 months, a lowly seventh place in the league, an enforced absence from European football: this is the kind of drama that keeps the sport exciting and secures future revenue streams. Nothing is more boring than a league dominated by an overwhelming team.

from MacroScope:

Five days on, Ukraine accord at risk of unravelling

An international agreement to avert wider conflict in Ukraine, brokered only five days ago, is teetering with pro-Moscow separatist gunmen showing no sign of surrendering government buildings and Kiev and Moscow trading accusations over who was responsible for killings over the weekend.

Washington, which signed last week's accord in Geneva along with Moscow, Kiev and the European Union, said it would decide "in days" on additional sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement the agreement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Kiev where he is expected to announce a package of technical assistance.

from Edward Hadas:

Don’t bother with share-based pay

Coca-Cola’s plan to give generous awards of shares to executives has angered some of its shareholders. They have good reason to complain about the potential transfer of about 15 percent of the company to the top 1 percent of its staff. But Coke is only pushing the already bad idea of share-based pay to a foolish extreme.

The justification for paying workers in their employer’s paper is simple and superficially appealing. Worker-owners might be more motivated to push for higher profit than if they just received salaries, even salaries which have bonuses in the millions tied to company performance.

from Breakingviews:

Europe’s banks lose their cover on leverage ratio

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By Dominic Elliott

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

Europe’s banks have lost their cover on the leverage ratio. European lenders used to contend that American rivals had an easier ride on newly vogue-ish equity-to-asset yardsticks. New rules published on April 8 mean they can carp no longer.

from Edward Hadas:

When credit is too much of a good thing

What does credit do after it has finished the job it was designed for? The supply of credit ought to stop at funding productive activity. But the reality is different. Surplus credit fuels dangerous asset price inflation and funds profligate governments. As leverage increases, so too does the risk of crisis and recession.

Credit, otherwise known as debt or loans, is not necessarily monstrous. It can be a most helpful economic beast of burden, carrying resources to the places where they can be best used. Loans from households to businesses fund helpful investments, and loans from rich older households to poor younger ones help spread property, especially houses and cars, more equitably. Even loans to governments can be a useful alternative to taxes.

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