Breakingviews

Apple’s tax spat could blight European banks

August 31, 2016

The tech giant’s $14.5 bln EU tax bill has shades of a $9 bln U.S. fine handed to BNP Paribas in 2014. Despite big differences, both have the whiff of a transatlantic raid on those deemed able to pay. EU banks awaiting U.S. fines, like Deutsche Bank and RBS, have cause to fret.

Europe’s bite at Apple could leave bad aftertaste

August 30, 2016

The European Commission wants companies to pay their fair share of tax. Zeroing in on Apple’s alleged sweetheart deal with Ireland fits that agenda. But it could misfire. Reeling from Brexit, Dublin might feel pressure to make itself even more friendly to corporate taxpayers

EU offers vitamin pill to dying media patient

August 26, 2016

Brussels wants to give media the right to seek compensation from search engines like Google that use online content. The intention is laudable - some publishers may be losing out. But the proposal has similarities with schemes in Germany and Spain - which haven’t worked.

Iconoclasts needed to topple central bank targets

August 25, 2016

A reboot of global monetary policymaking is the best thing that could emerge from rate-setters’ annual Jackson Hole shindig. An overhaul is pressing as reality upends more and more economic orthodoxies. Ditching simplistic and discredited inflation targets would be a good start.

UK housing crisis jars with builders’ fat returns

August 24, 2016

In a normal market, Persimmon’s 36 pct return on capital would get competed away. Instead, sclerotic planning and smaller rivals’ limited access to finance act as barriers to entry. Builders’ fat returns could be vulnerable if the new UK government decides to take bold action.

Fund managers take long view by scrapping bonuses

August 23, 2016

Star investor Neil Woodford is paying his staff fixed salaries, while former trade body head Daniel Godfrey is launching a trust on the same principle. Fund costs won't necessarily fall. But a bonus system can prompt unhelpful short-termism while ratcheting up overheads.

Britain’s haul: 27 gold medals and a wooden spoon

August 22, 2016

China underwhelmed in the Olympic medals table, while the tiny UK excelled. That’s a poor guide to more important competitions. Though Britain still has soft power, its value as a role model is on the wane. China no longer needs gold medals to secure its place on the podium.

Saudi building bust may demolish prince’s reforms

August 19, 2016

Low oil prices have left thousands of foreign construction workers stranded without pay, and some building companies in financial trouble. Saudi is trying to diversify away from oil, make economic reforms and avoid disrupting the social order. It’s not easy to do all three.

Post-Brexit UK consumers are oddly rational

August 18, 2016

Flagging confidence didn’t stop Britons from spending a month after their vote to leave the EU. Consumers may be blind to the recession threat. Or they may be anticipating that a slumping pound will push up the price of imported goods, and pre-empting higher inflation.

Contrary smoke signals bedevil Brexit firefighting

August 17, 2016

An unexpected drop in the number of people claiming jobless benefit jars with other, grimmer survey data. Monetary policy has already been eased to manage any post-vote slowdown and a fiscal stimulus is likely. Clashing signals make it harder for policymakers to target such help.