Breakingviews

U.S. probe forces Alibaba in the right direction

May 26, 2016

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s accounting is under investigation. Depending on the outcome, Alibaba may have to consolidate its loss-making logistics business. If the scrutiny helps shed light on some of the group’s many blind spots, investors will be better off.

Bayer’s Monsanto bid flags conglomerate curse

May 23, 2016

The German group can only muster a $62 bln swoop on the U.S. seed maker because of its big healthcare arm. Without that, Bayer’s crop science unit would be prey not predator. The bidder’s management may see this as a perk of being diversified. For shareholders it’s the opposite.

Deutsche’s latest mess looks like a Protium moment

May 20, 2016

The German bank is probing a deal that enabled ex-trading boss Colin Fan and others to profit, with leverage provided by their own employer. The investigation is ongoing. But it looks to have similar flaws to Barclays’ Protium deal - with staff interests above shareholders’.

BASF best leaving Monsanto seeds for the birds

May 19, 2016

Bayer’s bid for the U.S. seed maker puts its German rival on the spot. Monsanto and BASF work together on research and there are few other potential merger partners. Yet the maths of a $50 bln-plus counterbid would be a stretch. BASF has sat out other big deals; it can again.

Tehran timidity says more about banks than Iran

May 13, 2016

European lenders seem reluctant to follow U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s entreaties to do business in the republic. An avalanche of legal and practical banana skins hint at why. These could be surmountable - if bank bosses believe their systems are up to the job.

Daimler’s emissions snootiness grinds to a halt

April 22, 2016

The German carmaker has vigorously refuted environmentalists’ accusations it is another VW. Now U.S. authorities have requested an emissions probe. It’s possible that any infringements are technical, relating to disclosure oversights. But shareholders have grounds to feel edgy.

Saudi’s sweet debt deal could rebound on banks

April 21, 2016

The kingdom is close to its first international debt deal in 25 years to plug a hole in its finances caused by weak oil prices. Vast oil reserves make Saudi debt enticing, but the price slump is changing the game in several ways. And Middle East states have defaulted before.

Investors need help to stop cheap Chinese buyouts

April 21, 2016

Minority shareholders are upset about a wave of stingy take-private offers from Chinese groups with U.S. listings. But they can’t do much because the firms are domiciled in offshore centres with fewer protections. Investors could find a sympathetic ear in a China-weary Congress.

Saudi U.S. selloff threat not to be trifled with

April 20, 2016

The kingdom has told lawmakers it would dump some $750 bln of assets should Congress pass a bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue. These funds are its last line of defense to lower oil prices. That the alternative - having assets frozen - is an even worse outcome is scarier still.

Deals can help Japan’s banks offset dollar drought

April 13, 2016

Mega-banks MUFG, SMFG and Mizuho are making new loans abroad faster than they can amass matching deposits. This headache has boosted the cost of swapping funds from yen to dollars, and made regulators in Tokyo wary. Buying smaller U.S. lenders would help reduce the mismatch.