GE finally exorcises Jack Welch’s financial demons

By Rob Cox
April 10, 2015

It took a near-death experience and flat-lined shares, but Jeff Immelt is ditching banking and returning GE to its industrial roots. The timing works on many levels: asset values are high and lending businesses can be funded. Immelt also keeps a step ahead of prowling activists.

Immelt’s SIFI escape route is tough to follow

April 10, 2015

The $280 bln GE is offloading most of its finance unit and should be able to ditch the systemic tag imposed by watchdogs. That will free CEO Jeff Immelt’s remaining empire from onerous rules. Big U.S. banks might fancy similar liberty, but they are more tightly hemmed in.

Investment banks within reach of adequate returns

April 9, 2015

Banks’ wholesale units are destroying value. To lift returns they must cut costs, raise revenue and boost capital – while avoiding big fines. If firms can do that, a Breakingviews calculator suggests the biggest ones could exceed a combined 12 percent return on equity by 2017.

Tencent’s discount to Facebook harder to justify

April 7, 2015

The Chinese social media giant generated about the same revenue as its U.S. counterpart last year and was more profitable, despite having fewer users. Yet it trades at a lower multiple of earnings. As the two business models converge, the valuation gap needs a rethink.

Request for IBM activism likely falls on deaf ears

April 6, 2015

Some big shareholders are begging for a Big Blue shake-up. They have reason to be dissatisfied – 11 quarters of falling revenue have sent the shares into a slump. Snag is IBM has already exhausted the typical activist playbook of tapping the balance sheet, buybacks and disposals.

NY judge gives 1970s sitcom a Silicon Valley spin

April 2, 2015

A “Three’s Company” parody didn’t breach rights to the TV hit, despite similarities. Like rulings on Google Books and Aereo’s video streaming, the verdict reflects Big Apple legal thinking that ideas are for sharing. It’s a philosophy tech firms might want more courts to follow.

Nestlé called out for bottling, selling California water during drought

April 2, 2015

The $243 bln Swiss giant faces populist protests for bottling and selling H2O from Canada and drought-hit California. The potential harm to its reputation may not be worth the effort. It’s Nestlé’s least profitable business, and consumers might just as well drink from the tap.

Swiss say-on-pay bodes ill for rainmaker wallets

April 2, 2015

UBS and Credit Suisse face binding shareholder votes on executive compensation for the first time. These will judge aggregate, not individual awards. But Swiss banks must also disclose their top-paid executive. That makes it harder for dealmakers to out-earn their CEOs.

April 1 jokes expose greater fools of finance

April 2, 2015

A Tesla prank involving a fake new product caused its shares to twitch. Meanwhile, Tinder for Uber seemed all too credible in a Silicon Valley littered with this-for-that business models. When investors can be easily duped, it’s a sign markets are high on hype and distortions.

Silicon Valley trials start as sexism lawsuit ends

March 29, 2015

Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins beat gender discrimination allegations, but the likes of Facebook and Twitter face similar lawsuits. The court of public opinion also has yet to deliver its verdict. Scrutiny of how the tech world treats women is just getting under way.