Breakingviews

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.

M&A activist twist suits almost everyone

August 11, 2016

Activist hedge fund Elliott won a bump in value on two agreed deals - for brewer SABMiller and UK retailer Poundland. Both results are good for shareholders in the targets, and not too bad for the bidders. It should, though, provoke a subtle shift in how deals get done.

Wal-Mart has long unicorn ride in Amazon chase

August 4, 2016

The $220 bln retail titan is reportedly in talks to buy Jet, a fledgling online-shopping site. Wal-Mart has been accelerating acquisitions of tech startups in a bid to beef up digital efforts. Amazon, however, keeps moving ahead with efforts like one-day shipping and groceries.

UK slaps capitalism in its “unacceptable” face

July 25, 2016

Lawmakers angry at retailer BHS's collapse are mulling further regulation to protect jobs and pensions. The fiasco epitomises what Prime Minister Theresa May decries as "anything goes" business. It takes UK corporate life into interesting - and potentially painful - moral areas.

Sports Direct scandal debunks UK employment glory

July 22, 2016

UK lawmakers have issued a damning report on the retailer and say working conditions hark back to Victorian times. Founder Mike Ashley has big problems to fix. But there’s a wider economic malaise if workers put up with such poor treatment even when the jobless rate is very low.

Alibaba highlights hurdles in Russia’s pivot east

July 12, 2016

Moscow wants closer economic ties with China, rather than dealing with an unfriendly West. But Russia's poor business climate makes life hard for Chinese companies, although they are used to draconian rules at home. Even e-commerce giant Alibaba has only made modest inroads.

British retail sleepwalks into Amazon-ageddon

July 8, 2016

Real-world stores are burdened with poor demand, too much property and thinning profit. The U.S. tech giant, meanwhile, is hiring 1,000 UK staff and pushing into fashion and groceries. The UK's economic problems could be a decisive moment in the online land grab.

Local brands lead race for China’s savvy consumers

June 29, 2016

From shampoo to snacks, upstart Chinese companies are challenging foreign rivals, a new report shows. They heed digital trends, adapt to local tastes and respond to customers' increasingly sophisticated demands. Western firms that don't follow their lead risk being left behind.

Poundland’s bargain bin status is in question

June 16, 2016

The single price discounter is being eyed by South Africa’s Steinhoff. With shares off by a third since a 2014 flotation, Poundland looks relatively cheap. But online pressures, a struggle to integrate a recent acquisition and tough UK trading will make its suitor cautious.

Debenhams plucks new CEO from arms of its nemesis

May 26, 2016

Amazon is the worst thing that could happen to stodgy old department stores. Yet that’s where Britain’s Debenhams found new boss Sergio Bucher. That makes it one of a handful of UK high-street names headed up by a digital ace. The hire sounds odd, but could be inspired.