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Dec 8, 2014

Breakingviews: United Tech shows way for other company boards

By Richard Beales

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Like company bosses
themselves, boards sometimes think chief executives are
indispensable. Not at United Technologies. Late last
month, Louis Chenevert stepped down unexpectedly. It turns out
he was spending too much time thinking about the construction of
his yacht and other personal matters. Kudos to the company’s
board for letting him go.

The directors had a strong in-house replacement at hand in
Gregory Hayes. That ensured that investors barely blinked at the
changeover at the top of the $100 billion UTC, which makes
Sikorsky helicopters and Pratt & Whitney jet engines, among
other products. The main point, though, is that lead independent
director Edward Kangas, now chairman, had enough courage and
support from his fellow board members to challenge the CEO.

Nov 18, 2014
via Breakingviews

Valeant’s activist deal too clever by half

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By Richard Beales and Robert Cyran

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

Valeant has tried a seven-month M&A experiment that boss Michael Pearson – and other corporate chiefs – should think twice about repeating. The $45 billion drug company’s failed tilt at Allergan alongside Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square landed a $400 million windfall. But with Actavis snatching the quarry, Ackman and Allergan’s owners have made out best. Valeant lost time and risked legally questionable tactics.

Oct 20, 2014
via Breakingviews

Spreadsheet bungles alive and well in high finance

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By Richard Beales

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

There’s no rule about Excel’s infallibility. Yet obvious spreadsheet errors still occur, even in the citadels of high finance. No less a practitioner than Goldman Sachs double-counted some of Tibco’s shares in calculating the business software company’s value in a sale worth $4.3 billion – oops, make that $4.2 billion. Both the firm and its client must have been distracted.

Oct 15, 2014
via Breakingviews

Rampant market fear clarifies global divide

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By Richard Beales

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

Suddenly, fear has overwhelmed greed. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds slumped below 1.9 percent at one stage on Wednesday, and the 2 percent slide in the S&P 500 Index erased what remained of this year’s gains, although the index ended the trading day down just under 1 percent. It all augurs poorly for the expected end next month of the Federal Reserve bond-buying program. Yet the domestic economy has been steadily improving. Slowing growth elsewhere presents the bigger worry.

Oct 9, 2014
via Breakingviews

Facebook and Google catch glimpse of split future

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By Richard Beales

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

The likes of Facebook, Google and Alibaba keep dabbling in new, new things. The U.S.-based social network’s $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR earlier this year is a prime example. At the same time, old-school technology companies are headed for splitsville. They offer a glimpse into the future for their younger counterparts.

Sep 19, 2014
via Breakingviews

VC bigwigs reveal Valley’s contradictions

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By Richard Beales

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

A venture capitalist who can co-opt the opening lines of “Anna Karenina” to make a business point deserves attention. In Peter Thiel’s case, he also started PayPal and Palantir Technologies and invested early on in Facebook. His new book, “Zero to One,” describes possible features of the next peerless, world-changing startup – another Google, say.

Sep 16, 2014
via Breakingviews

Hedge-fund-free – the latest Californian fad?

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By Richard Beales

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

Call it the Sacramento Model. In contrast to the famed Yale Model for endowments, Calpers, the $300 billion Californian pension manager, is exiting its $4 billion of hedge fund investments. For retirement funds, Calpers’ hedge-fund free regime could be more than the latest fad from the Golden State.

Sep 3, 2014
via Breakingviews

Home Depot hack scarier than Hollywood breach

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By Richard Beales

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

It’s no surprise that stolen nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence attract more attention than a nerdy report on Home Depot’s security breach. But it’s an unfortunate reality that Hollywood celebrities need to guard their privacy, whether threatened by paparazzi or hackers. Corporate breaches that expose millions of people to financial loss are, on the other hand, in a different league.

With Home Depot, it’s not yet clear what the scale of any hacking may have been, or whether the company’s systems were violated despite strong defenses. But security blogger Brian Krebs said he had received information suggesting the Home Depot episode could be larger than last year’s hack of Target. That attack, which he first publicized, exposed the credit card data of at least 40 million customers.

Aug 4, 2014
via Breakingviews

Vladimir Putin is the new bad weather

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By Richard Beales and Jeffrey Goldfarb

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

Vladimir Putin is not just bad news but also bad weather. Unrest in Ukraine has become the bogeyman to replace snow when a company’s profit hopes need to be managed downward. Just ask Volkswagen or McDonald’s. The World Cup goes the other way, helping Twitter and maybe Walt Disney. The message could be muddled in four years when Russia and soccer converge.

Jul 31, 2014
via Breakingviews

Yahoo’s Mayer nears post-Alibaba reckoning

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By Richard Beales

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

Yahoo is a big company with a much smaller one struggling to get out. A 22.5 percent stake in Alibaba accounts for well over half the U.S. internet group’s roughly $36 billion market capitalization, according to a new Breakingviews calculator. With the Chinese e-commerce giant likely to go public next month, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer will find out how investors value the businesses she actually runs.

    • About Richard

      "Richard Beales joined Breakingviews.com in 2007 from the Financial Times, where he was US markets editor and a Lex columnist. Prior to the FT, he spent more than 10 years as an investment banker, based largely in Hong Kong. He was a director in Citigroup’s mergers team, and before that head of Schroders’ regional project finance group. He has also lived briefly in Sydney, Australia, and began his working life in London at Mars & Co, a management consultancy, in 1989. Richard holds a masters in business journalism from New York University and a degree in biochemistry from St John’s ..."
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