Pierre's Feed
Dec 31, 2010
via Breakingviews

Khodorkovsky verdict shows Putin still rules

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

LONDON — There was no surprise after all. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian billionaire who ran afoul of Vladimir Putin, was handed the maximum sentence after a 22-month sham trial based on the same facts that had already landed him an eight-year prison term. The former head of oil giant Yukos will remain in jail until 2017. Those who were hoping that Russia might take the opportunity to send the signal that it is getting closer to a rule of law will have to wait — maybe for a long time.

Dec 17, 2010
via Breakingviews

EU clouds bailout scheme in appropriate fuzziness

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

LONDON — You’ve got to know when to show ‘em — and now is not the time. In a nutshell this is the message to investors from European Union leaders in spite of investors’ eagerness to see the details of the permanent bailout mechanism being introduced in 2013. This week’s Brussels summit agreed on a small but significant treaty amendment that makes it possible to aid a euro zone member in financial difficulties. The words chosen are deliberately vague. This is partly the result of divisions. But it is also intentional: keeping markets guessing is the best thing governments can do for the moment.

Dec 10, 2010
via Breakingviews

Wikileaks exposes corporate cowardice

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

LONDON — Will Visa Europe prevent its clients from subscribing to the Guardian? Will Mastercard allege it can’t handle payments to the New York Times because its behavior is “illegal?” That would be ridiculous. Yet the two credit card giants have been the latest to cut off Wikileaks for supposed unlawful behaviour in what looks like a pandering to U.S. sensitivities. This is hardly taking a stand: they don’t go against the two influential newspapers — or their equivalent in France, Spain and Germany — which published the contents of the 250,000-odd U.S. diplomatic cables. It is corporate cowardice.

Dec 9, 2010
via Newsmaker

Europe can’t afford to ignore IMF warning

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

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters Breakingviews) — Dominique Strauss-Kahn is stepping up his criticism of Europe, and Europe should listen. The director general of the International Monetary Fund is a skilled politician and uses words with caution. He wants the euro zone to adopt a more comprehensive approach to the debt crisis. He says its piecemeal methods have a limited shelf life. This comes after the IMF suggested that the zone’s bailout fund should be enlarged and be more flexible, as Reuters revealed at the weekend.

Dec 7, 2010
via Breakingviews

Hermes can’t deal with LVMH by stiffing minorities

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

LONDON — The Hermes family thinks it has been wronged. But in its fight against an unwanted shareholder, it seems intent on sacrificing the French luxury group’s remaining minority investors.

Oct 27, 2010
via Breakingviews

Arnault’s Hermès deal needs tough scrutiny

PARIS – French luxury conglomerate LVMH insists that it was “fully compliant” with French regulations in amassing its surprise stake in iconic luxury house Hermès International. Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the French markets regulator, demands a formal declaration every time an investor crosses a 5 percent threshold in a listed company. Yet the maker of Vuitton bags only disclosed on Oct. 23 that it held 14.2 percent of Hermès — a stake it has since taken to 17.1 percent after settling some derivatives contracts. LVMH says what it did was legal, but this may simply be proof that the rules must change.

There are obvious oddities in LVMH’s announcement that its average acquisition price for the Hermès stake was 80.5 euros a share — a price last seen in March 2009. The stock is currently trading at more than twice that level. Hermès’ controlling family says it still collectively owns 75 percent of the company’s shares, and that no significant family-owned stake was sold to its larger rival.

Aug 30, 2010
via Breakingviews

Sanofi, Genzyme play chicken over price

“Let me in and I might go higher.” That in a nutshell is the message Sanofi-Aventis chief executive Chris Viehbacher is sending Genzyme’s management in making public his $18.5 billion offer to buy the U.S. biotech company. The all-cash structure is intended to show that the French pharmaceuticals group is serious. But the lowball $69-a-share price has failed to move Genzyme’s board. Viehbacher will be hoping that changes — his threat of a hostile bid looks hollow for now.

One of his problems is that the price is hardly going to bowl Genzyme’s shareholders over. Despite amounting to a near-30 percent premium over the undisturbed price before rumours started flying more than a month ago, Sanofi’s offer values its target at about four times sales when biotechs usually go for five or six times.

Aug 6, 2010
via Breakingviews

Wheat panic raises spectre of food crisis

The fires that are scorching Russia’s earth are of more immediate concern to Vladimir Putin than the situation on world commodity markets. The Russian prime minister’s decision to “temporarily” ban wheat exports is an emergency measure he hopes will help shield his people from food inflation or shortages.

But there’s no doubt it will add to the market distortions and to the panic that has gripped operators in the last weeks, as the extent of the Russian drought became clear. This all adds up to a highly dangerous situation. Wheat markets fundamentals remain sound for this year. But look beyond, and the spectre of a repeat of the great food crisis of 2008 cannot be ruled out.

Jan 1, 2010
via Breakingviews

Five reasons why 2010 will be greener

Economics, rather than politics, will be the main driver of the fight against global warming in 2010.

In 2009, the global recession had a greater impact than all the diplomatic efforts that ended in the Copenhagen flop: energy production hadn’t declined on such a scale since 1981, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Here are five economic reasons for the world to become slightly greener in the coming year (just a few of them could be wishful thinking…)

    • About Pierre

      "Pierre Briançon is Reuters Breakingviews' Paris correspondent. He joined Breakingviews.com in 2006, after heading the Dow Jones Newswires Paris Bureau Chief for three years. Previously, he had been: business editor of Libération, then the newspaper's Moscow and Washington correspondent; deputy editor of L’Expansion; and a producer/columnist for French radio and TV. He is also the author of Messier Story (2002), on the fall of Vivendi’s former chief executive, Héritiers du désastre (1992) on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and San Quentin Jazz Band (2008)."
    • Follow Pierre