President Donald Trump moved swiftly to restart two controversial oil-pipeline projects that the Obama administration had abrogated: an addition to the Keystone XL pipeline that will transport crude from Alberta’s tar sands to Nebraska, and the Dakota Access pipeline which cuts through Sioux Indian land. Both ventures had been vigorously opposed by greens. Mr Trump’s early action to restore them affirms his intention to prioritise jobs and the economy over the environment.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average stockmarket index passed the 20,000 mark for the first time, buoyed in part by investors cock-a-hoop at the prospect of lucrative infrastructure deals under a Trump presidency.
Bringing jobs home?
Terry Gou, the boss of the world’s biggest contracted electronics manufacturer, confirmed that he was considering building a factory in the United States to make TV screens, which could create up to 50,000 jobs. Foxconn makes devices for Apple, Samsung and others at its plants in China. Opening a facility in America would be a coup for the new Trump administration, but Mr Gou said that it had been under consideration for years and he would be lured to America only by the right kind of incentives.
Apple filed antitrust lawsuits against Qualcomm in China and America that accuse the chip-design company of overcharging for its intellectual-property licences. This comes shortly after America’s Federal Trade Commission lodged a complaint against Qualcomm for allegedly abusing its dominant position in the semiconductor market. See article.
A federal judge blocked the $37bn merger of Aetna and Humana, siding with the Justice Department’s argument that it would reduce competition in health insurance. A wave of consolidation hit the industry two years ago as it adapted to new regulations under Obamacare. A court will rule soon on the proposed $48bn merger between Anthem and Cigna.
Johnson & Johnson announced a $30bn takeover of Actelion, Europe’s biggest biotech company, which is based in Switzerland. Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition adds Actelion’s expertise in treatments for blood pressure to its existing line of drugs.
The descent of a high-flyer
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation brought charges against Vijay Mallya in relation to the alleged misuse of state funds that were intended for his Kingfisher Airlines, which collapsed after running up a pile of debt. Mr Mallya, a tycoon who was once dubbed “King of the Good Times”, moved to London in 2016 as his various legal woes in India mounted.
Prosecutors in Italy opened an investigation into accounting irregularities at BT’s subsidiary in the country. The British telecoms company now thinks the scandal will cost it £530m ($670m), much more than it had previously expected. The news wiped a fifth off the value of BT’s share price, its biggest-ever daily fall.
Royal Bank of Scotland set aside $3.8bn to cover a potential penalty from regulators in America for mis-selling mortgage securities before the financial crisis. The bank is still majority-owned by the British taxpayer—more than eight years after receiving a bail-out.
The Turkish lira came under further pressure following a surprise decision by the central bank to leave its benchmark interest rate on hold (it lifted overnight lending rates instead). Markets had expected the bank to raise its key rate to help the lira, which has been battered amid concerns about the effects of Turkey’s political instability on the economy.
China’s economy grew by 6.7% last year (and by 6.8% in the fourth quarter), in line with the government’s target range for growth of 6.5-7%. But the veracity of official data has been questioned once again after the current governor of Liaoning province, in China’s industrial heartland, admitted that his region’s fiscal numbers had been fabricated between 2011 and 2014.
A prominent hedge-fund manager in China was sentenced to more than five years in prison for market manipulation and reportedly fined 11bn yuan ($1.6bn). Xu Xiang was a leading member of the zhangting gansidui (go-for-max kamikaze squad), a group of investors who drove up share prices and quickly cashed out. He was arrested after China’s stockmarkets crashed in 2015.
Waving the chequered flag
Bernie Ecclestone’s colourful 40-year career at Formula One motor racing came to an abrupt end when he was ditched as the business’s chief executive with immediate effect by its new owner, Liberty Media. The sport’s new CEO is Chase Carey, who used to work for Rupert Murdoch. See article.