After a string of attacks on the perils of public markets – from investor Marc Andreessen, Blackrock CEO Laurence Fink, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris – it was a relief yesterday to talk to a CEO who recently took his company public, and is happy about it. Renaud Laplanche is founder of Lending Club, which is an online marketplace for “peer to peer” loans. He is almost certainly who J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon had in mind last week when he said “Silicon Valley is coming” after the banking industry. The $7 billion company had a successful IPO late last year, is growing at a triple digit pace, and trading at about 20% above the IPO price.
Laplanche says he doesn’t pay much attention to the general angst about short-term pressures of public markets. He went public, not because he needed capital, but for credibility. “The goal was really to establish ourselves as a standalone entity that is here to stay,” Laplanche told me. Dimon’s comment suggests he hit his mark. Disruption is coming.
Have a pleasant tax day. And if you are wondering why the French laid down the red carpet for Nokia’s purchase of one of their national treasures, read correspondent Geoffrey Smith’s take.
• China’s growth slows to six-year low
Most nations would love to report a 7% increase in economic growth. But for China, that figure represents the weakest pace of expansion since 2009. Encouragingly, the gross domestic product increase for the first three months of the year met expectations and also matched the target set by China’s leadership for the full year. So for now, China is on track.
• Nokia to pay $17 billion for Alcatel-Lucent
Just a day after Nokia said it was in talks to buy Alcatel-Lucent, the Finnish company pulled the trigger and agreed to buy the French firm in a deal to bulk up and potentially stay competitive in the investment-heavy telecoms networks business. Nokia was once the world’s dominant maker of handsets before an Apple-led smartphone revolution, though it sold its mobile phone business in 2013 to focus on telecoms infrastructure. In fact, Nokia’s success was so greatly linked to the Finnish economy that the company contributed a quarter of growth from 1998 to 2007, reported the Economist, citing figures from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
• Google faces antitrust accusations in Europe
The European Commission on Wednesday accused the search giant of violating the region’s antitrust laws, an action that comes after a five-year investigation. Google could end up facing a fine of up to $6.6 billion in what would be one of the EU’s largest-ever antitrust battles. The company commands more than 90% of the market in Europe, which is larger than the share of the company’s U.S. market.
• Over 100,000 layoffs planned by energy firms
The U.S. has reported 54 straight months of employment gains but one sector is causing major problems for the jobs market: the energy industry. Higher production of shale oil in North Dakota, Texas and several other states has led to an energy boom in the U.S. but also added too much supply to the global market, resulting in lower prices at the pump. But that has also led to profitability concerns, so oil companies and the businesses that serve them are cutting costs. At least 91,000 layoffs have already materialized, with the majority coming in oil-field-services and drilling companies.
Around the Water Cooler
• When a private e-mail triggers a SEC filing
The next time you send out an e-mail with a misspelling or perhaps addressed to the wrong person, remind yourself it could have been worse. Your e-mail could have trigged your company to file a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid running afoul of regulators. That’s what happened to J.C. Penney when an executive inadvertently told a securities analyst the company’s sales results for part of the first first quarter, figures that weren’t publicly available. It is one of the few times when a retailer’s sales report wasn’t the center of attention.
• The next viral sensation is a math problem
The dust has barely settled on that dress debate (we still see white and gold) and another viral Internet sensation is exploding, this time in the form of a word problem. The latest hysteria started in Singapore but is now going global, with numerous stateside publications now picking up the news, further perpetuating the viral trend. We won’t spoil the answer, though the question “So when is Cheryl’s birthday?” is deceptively innocuous.
• Gender gap narrows among low-income earners
Statistician Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight will likely get a lot of attention during the ongoing 2016 presidential race for its extensive political coverage, though the website is also developing a reputation for its nifty charts. FiveThirtyEight celebrated the 19th annual Equal Pay Day by posting a clean chart explaining the gender pay gap by income level. The chart, which cites data from a left-leaning nonprofit think tank, points out that the pay gap is most narrow among low-income earners, likely due to the minimum wage, which is the same for men and women.
• Sallie Krawcheck’s “Lean In” advice
Speaking of equal pay, Sallie Krawcheck once the most powerful woman in banking and now running her own firm, gave the following advice to both genders: “Ask for the raise!” Krawcheck, who spoke at a lunchtime speaker series at Fortune’s parent Time Inc., said male bankers consistently bargained for higher pay while women never sought an increase in salary. “People who ask get more money, and people who don’t ask tend to get less,” Krawcheck explained.