Paris climate talks got underway this morning – a massive meeting that will include 150 heads of state in one of history’s largest triumphs of hope over experience. The door-stopping tome expected to emerge won’t come close to the restrictive emissions regime envisioned in Kyoto in 1997, but rather will be a chaotic assemblage of pledges by individual countries designed mainly to satisfy domestic constituencies. Added together, they still won’t be enough to meet the somewhat arbitrary goal of preventing a temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius.
The talks are backed by a modest consensus of global opinion. My former colleagues at the Pew Research Center found a median of 54% in 40 nations believe climate change is a “very serious problem,” and 51% believe it is “harming people now.” Concern was lowest, however, in the two countries contributing most to the problem – China, where only 18% rank it as a “very serious” problem, and the U.S., where only 45% see its as “very serious.” U.S. opinion is driven by polarized politics, which leads to sizable minorities on the right denying climate change is a problem while sizable minorities on the left demand unrealistic solutions.
But I remain an optimist – not in the bureaucrats in Paris or Washington, but rather in all the business leaders and entrepreneurs I’ve talked with in the last year who are devoting significant money and brainpower to addressing this issue. They see potentially big changes on the horizon – whether in battery technology, or nuclear fusion, or even politically-incorrect geo-engineering projects – that have the potential to change the calculus. That’s why one of the best outcomes of Paris may be the one announced this morning – a multi-billion dollar research and development fund spearheaded by Bill Gates. If the Paris gathering sparks a significant increase in R&D funding, it will have been worth it.
Enjoy the final days of the warmest year on record. More news below.
• E-commerce outshines physical retail
An estimated 103 million Americans shopped online over the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend, slightly more than the 102 million who went out to physical stores. This marks the first time e-commerce shoppers outnumbered brick-and-mortar customers during the biggest shopping weekend of the year, and further highlights how the shift in shopping patterns can be problematic for retailers. While many physical retailers have reported higher online sales in recent years, the worry is that e-commerce rivals like Amazon.com are continuing to steal market share.
• U.S. firms ditch IPOs for M&A deals
The Wall Street Journal has reported that the dollar volume of U.S. initial public offerings has dropped 63% this year from last year’s total, while at the same time, more than $2.3 trillion worth of merger and acquisitions deals have been announced. The M&A action is at a record pace that is up 46% from the total volume in 2014. Why is this occurring? IPOs haven’t been faring well recently, so investors are looking at alternatives when considering a sale. At least 18 firms have stopped pursuing IPOs filed in the U.S. this year because they were being acquired.
Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• InBev may sell Peroni, Grolsch brands
Anheuser-Busch InBev has been very busy arranging side deals so it can complete the brewer’s $107 billion purchase of SABMiller. Already it has offloaded a 58% stake in U.S. brewer MillerCoors, with the joint venture set to be fully acquired by Molson Coors. That deal was meant to appease U.S. regulators and it is now being reported that InBev is mulling the sale of the Peroni and Grolsch brands to ease worries in Europe. Grolsch, a Dutch beer, was founded in 1615 while Peroni has been made in Italy since 1846.
Around the Water Cooler
• Is Tribune selling its newspapers?
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch seems to think that a deal could soon occur. Murdoch, chairman of Wall Street Journal owner News Corp., tweeted that there was strong word that the Tribune Publishing’s newspaper group would be sold to a “big Wall Street firm.” He offered no other details and didn’t identify the possible buyer of the newspaper group, which includes the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel. Murdoch did call out the Los Angeles Times – saying it would be sold to a group of local investors including philanthropist Eli Broad.
• Adele smashes sales record
In a music world dominated by streaming apps that have dented record sales, British superstar Adele proves that some artists can still dominate the charts – in a historic fashion. Adele’s new album sold a record 3.38 million copies in the U.S. alone in the first week, becoming not only the best selling album of 2015 but also breaking a 15-year record held by N’Sync’s 2000 album “No Strings Attached.” Adele has proved she commands broad appeal, but the album’s sales were also helped by the decision not to release it to Spotify and other streaming services.
• Buffett to join Clinton in Nebraska
The “Oracle of Omaha” – billionaire investor Warren Buffett – will next month stump with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton at an event in the Nebraska city, where Clinton is expected to talk about tax reform with the Berkshire Hathaway CEO. Nebraska’s Democrats will caucus on March 5, about a month after the nation’s first presidential test is held in neighboring Iowa. Clinton is likely hoping Buffett will give her a boost locally in Nebraska, a state she lost to Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008.
• The Google Glass …. monocle
While Google Glass hasn’t become an electronic gadget that has resulted in mass consumer appeal, the search giant is still tinkering with a way to make the wearable gadget resonate. One patent recently filed by the company suggests a monocle could be a possible option, a device that would only attach to one side of the user’s head and display images and videos above a single eye. It is important to note that while the patent was granted, a product may never be developed or released to the market.
5 things to know this week
Cyber Monday, Climate Talks, and November Jobs — 5 Things to Know for the Week Ahead. This week’s story can be found here.