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Business this week

The pound fell sharply after Theresa May reiterated her position that Britain’s exit from the EU would be a clean break, frightening investors who want the government to pursue a more nuanced negotiating strategy that prioritises trade deals with Europe. The prime minister has said that she will not provide a running commentary on Brexit; her remarks helped push sterling to a three-month low against the dollar at $1.21.

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A limited intervention by Turkey’s central bank to halt the slide of the lira did little to stop the currency from plunging further. The lira has declined by almost 10% since the start of the year, partly because the political crackdown that followed an attempted coup last July shows little sign of abating amid a wave of violence. This week the central bank increased the supply of dollars to Turkey’s financial system and said it would take the “necessary measures” to curb “unhealthy” currency speculation.

The Trump effect

The Mexican peso fell to a new low against the dollar after Fiat Chrysler warned it might have to shut factories in Mexico if the new American government imposes tariffs on imported cars. Meanwhile, the share prices of drug companies plunged following Donald Trump’s comment that they “are getting away with murder” in what they charge the government for medicine. The industry has taken a political battering for what some claim are exorbitant price increases for certain drugs.

Mark Carney told Parliament that Brexit is no longer the biggest risk to Britain’s financial stability. The governor of the Bank of England said greater risks were posed by high consumer credit and the weak pound, among other things, which a messy Brexit could magnify.

Slowly getting there

The British government reduced its stake in Lloyds Banking Group to below 6%, meaning that it is no longer the bank’s largest shareholder (that is now BlackRock, a titan in asset management, which holds 6.3% of the shares). The Treasury bailed out Lloyds during the financial crisis in 2008 along with Royal Bank of Scotland, in which it still holds a majority stake. The public’s remaining stake in Lloyds is expected to be sold this year.

Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges in America related to its cheating in emissions tests on diesel cars and a subsequent cover-up, and will pay penalties amounting to $4.3bn. Reinforcing the government’s tough stance against VW, six of its executives were charged for their role in the scandal, including the person responsible for the carmaker’s compliance with emissions standards in America. He was arrested trying to catch a flight to Germany.

In South Korea, Lee Jae-yong, the vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics and heir apparent for the top job, was questioned as a suspect in an influence-peddling scandal that has led to the impeachment of the country’s president. Investigators are looking at ties between Korea’s chaebol and politicians, and at claims that the president ordered the state’s pension fund to vote for the merger of two Samsung businesses in which it held shares.

The annual battle for orders between the world’s biggest aircraft-makers was won by Airbus last year. It chalked up 731 net orders, including 320 in December alone, compared with Boeing’s 668. The American company bested its European arch-rival in supplying jets to airlines however, delivering 748 aeroplanes to Airbus’s 688.

Takeda, a Japanese drugs company, said it was ready to make further global acquisitions, following its $5.2bn agreement to buy Ariad, which is based in Massachusetts and specialises in treatments for cancer. Takeda was founded in 1781 selling traditional Japanese and Chinese remedies. It entered the American market in the 1970s and has situated some of its research in Boston’s meditech hub.

Publishers can legally use software to detect if an online reader is using an adblocker and can ask them to switch it off, according to a proposed rule in the European Union. Privacy groups have argued that the detection software is illegal and requires readers’ consent before being enabled.

Alexa takes the biscuit

The default setting on Amazon’s Echo, a voice-driven internet-connected device, caused the company some embarrassment. An American news channel reported that a girl had asked Alexa, the device’s voice-operated system, to order a doll’s house and biscuits. That caused Alexa to go rogue in other households and order the same goods, apparently prompted by the TV presenter repeating the instruction. Amazon has added voice-ordering from restaurants to the Echo’s skills, so this might not be the only Alexa incident to make a meal of.

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Summary | 7 Annotations
The Mexican peso fell to a new low against the dollar after Fiat Chrysler warned it might have to shut factories
2017/01/13 14:22
share prices of drug companies plunged following Donald Trump’s comment that they “are getting away with murder” in what they charge the government for medicine.
2017/01/13 14:22
Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges in America related to its cheating in emissions tests on diesel cars and a subsequent cover-up,
2017/01/13 14:24
the vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics and heir apparent for the top job, was questioned
2017/01/13 14:24
Investigators are looking at ties between Korea’s chaebol and politicians, and at claims that the president ordered the state’s pension fund to vote for the merger of two Samsung businesses
2017/01/13 14:25
Publishers can legally use software to detect if an online reader is using an adblocker and can ask them to switch it off,
2017/01/13 14:26
Privacy groups have argued that the detection software is illegal and requires readers’ consent before being enabled.
2017/01/13 14:27