Christopher's Feed
Apr 23, 2012
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Growth gap puts IMF in endless campaign mode

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By Christopher Swann

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

It’s not just America’s electorate that’s at risk of campaign fatigue. At the International Monetary Fund spring meetings held this past week, the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – were in full campaign mode even before the ink has dried on previous increases made to their voting strength at the international lending body.

Apr 12, 2012

Green energy may yet survive poison of cheap gas

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

By Christopher Swann

NEW YORK, April 12 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The cheapest
natural gas price for a decade is a boon for American
homeowners. At less than $2 per million British thermal units,
though, it looks toxic for its already troubled rival, the solar
energy sector. But gas isn’t close to chocking the life out of
it just yet.

Apr 11, 2012
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Long life may cost world’s governments dear

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

Underestimate the elderly at your peril is the warning from the International Monetary Fund. Statisticians and economists may be downplaying the lengthening of the human lifespan. If they’re doing so by the same three years as in recent decades, the IMF reckons the cost of pensions and healthcare will be 50 percent higher than estimated. Something, almost certainly the age of retirement, will have to give.

Mar 28, 2012
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Dodger blue outshines gold after $2 bln deal

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By Christopher Swann and Martin Hutchinson
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The $2 billion deal for the Los Angeles Dodgers is a home run for sports owners everywhere. The near five-fold rise in the value of the West Coast baseball team since it last changed hands in 2004 underlines a surge in the value of top sports franchises. Only gold comes close to keeping pace as an investment. Rising television revenue is bringing in more cash. But it’s the swelling ranks of the ultra-rich in search of trophy investments that’s stoking prices.

These new owners usually stem from the ranks of high finance. Last year, Apollo co-founder Joshua Harris bought basketball’s 76ers in Philadelphia while Tom Gores and his buyout firm Platinum Equity snapped up the Detroit Pistons. And only last month, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen bought a 4 percent slug of the Mets.

Mar 28, 2012
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Pricey exploration means dear oil is here to stay

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By Christopher Swann and Kevin Allison

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Gas guzzlers may wait in vain for a return to cheap oil. Big producing nations like Saudi Arabia, which handed out cash to restive citizens during last year’s Arab Spring, need higher oil prices to balance their books. Meanwhile, a three-fold increase in the costs associated with extracting crude over the past decade has made expensive oil more a necessity than a luxury for energy firms, according to a Morningstar study. Put the two trends together and it looks like dear oil is here to stay.

Mar 23, 2012
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Obama doesn’t even name banker to run World Bank

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By Christopher Swann

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

Barack Obama’s pick to head the World Bank comes out of the blue – or, rather, Dartmouth green. Bypassing the usual array of bankers and ambassadors, the president has opted for Jim Yong Kim, a disease-fighting medic who heads the Ivy League college. Kim’s Korean birth and physician’s pedigree may mollify critics of America’s monopoly on the top job. But without the customary grounding in diplomacy or finance, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Mar 19, 2012
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Declining U.S. coal still has bright spots

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By Christopher Swann

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

U.S. coal has crossed an ominous milestone, with its share of power generation falling below 40 percent for the first time since 1978, the Energy Information Administration reported last week. Cheap gas and tougher pollution rules should extend the trend. But investors can still make winning bets if they plan for the industry’s decline.

Mar 12, 2012
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Icahn targets given red alert by Dynegy debacle

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

Carl Icahn’s reputation already precedes him when he turns up to agitate. Now a court-appointed official has shredded a retooling at Dynegy, where the uppity investor meddled and installed directors. Companies on the receiving end of his tactics, like CVR Energy, have all the more reason to spurn Icahn.

Once a $13 billion powerhouse, Dynegy’s equity is now worth a mere $70 million. The 76-year-old raider-cum-activist has played a significant role in the latest step of the downfall, ever since he helped block a $600 million leveraged buyout by Blackstone at the end of 2010. With a stake of nearly 15 percent, he is the largest shareholder – and responsible for two of Dynegy’s six directors.

Mar 5, 2012
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U.S. natural gas looks irresistibly cheap vs oil

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

America’s natural gas is looking irresistibly cheap. With crude prices rising and gas sliding further, oil is now about eight times dearer than gas based on energy content, according to consultancy Navigant – the biggest gap since Harry Truman was in the White House in the 1950s. Global shifts dictate the price of the black stuff, but local market forces should work on U.S. gas.

In fact they already are, even in gasoline-loyal Detroit. General Motors, for instance, said on Monday that it will start selling dual gasoline and compressed natural gas-powered pickup trucks later this year. In power generation, too, gas has been making most rival fuels – including nuclear, renewables and even coal – look pricey. A glut following several years of aggressive shale drilling has pushed the U.S. gas price down by 37 percent over the past year to its lowest level in decades.

Feb 28, 2012
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Globalization stops short at the corporate suite

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By Christopher Swann and Agnes T. Crane The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.  

The global war for talent is a popular justification for exorbitant chief executive pay. But with few exceptions, expatriate chiefs are a tiny minority at most major publicly traded corporations. It’s bad news for shareholders, especially in high-pay hubs, who could find better-value stewards overseas.

Multinationals are constantly in search of cheaper workers. The one exception appears to be the most expensive staff of all, in the boardroom. Particularly in the United States and Britain, boards have shown little desire to get the maximum bang for their buck by insisting companies cast wider recruitment nets. Anglo-American companies continue to tolerate steep rises in pay at the top that far exceed returns.

    • About Christopher

      "I am a columnist at Thomson Reuters focusing on the energy industry and hedge funds. Prior to this I worked at Bloomberg and the Financial Times."
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