The Boston Consulting Group is out this morning with its 50 Most Innovative Companies list. It is based on a survey of 1,500 C-suite executives, who are asked to rank companies across industries and within their own industry. The list also gives weight to total returns to shareholders.
Top three on the list – Apple, Google, Tesla – will come as no surprise. But it gets interesting after that. Samsung clocked in at a very respectable number 5. Automakers, including Tesla, earned four spots in the top ten, including Toyota (6), BMW (7) and Daimler (10.) Study co-author Andrew Taylor says the strong showing reflects how much autos have changed in the last decade, both in their power trains and as “delivery systems for other innovative technologies.”
Another surprise is how few inroads Chinese companies have made. There’s not one in the top ten. Tencent is first at 12, and then there’s a big jump to Huawei (45) and Lenovo (50). Taylor says that’s an increase from a decade ago, when there were no Chinese companies on the list, and he thinks their presence will grow. “The rate of innovation of Chinese companies is increasing, and the perception of their innovation is increasing,” he said, “but with a lag.”
The U.S. is still home to a majority of the companies – 29 of 50 – although that includes Pfizer (44), which is soon off to Ireland. (Have I mentioned that before?)
The BCG survey found the importance of speed is on the rise, with executives citing overly long development times as their biggest obstacle to innovating. It also noted the changing role of technology. “Technology used to live in its own silo – the IT department. Today, digital, mobile, big data and other technologies are used to support and enable innovation across the organization, from new product development to manufacturing to go-to-market strategies, in multiple industries.”
Separately, we are releasing this morning Roger Lowenstein’s provocative essay from Fortune’s upcoming annual Investor’s Guide, which looks at the mediocre performance of private equity firms since 2006. “As an industry, mutual funds long ago dropped any pretense of beating the market,” Lowenstein writes. “Can private equity be far behind?”
• Yahoo’s board weighs a sale
As a number of high-level executives at Yahoo jump ship, media stories have begun to float the idea that the Internet company’s turnaround plan led by Marissa Mayer isn’t working. Now, it is being reported that Yahoo’s board is mulling the sale of the company’s core Internet business, implying a major turning point for the struggling Web portal. Yahoo previously faced pressure to spin off the company’s $30 billion stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. But after the IRS declined to give early approval to that plan, which meant Yahoo could face hefty taxes, major investor Starboard said the company should hold the stake and instead dump the core business.
• Puerto Rico avoids default
Puerto Rico made a key $355 million debt payment that was due on Tuesday but the government signals that making its next payment, $1 billion due New Year’s Day, would be a far greater challenge. The U.S. commonwealth is struggling beneath a $72 billion debt load, and the many moves it has made the past decade, including laying off thousands of government workers, closing schools and raising taxes, haven’t helped the island rebound. The financial collapse is leading some to worry about Puerto Rico in Washington, where the Obama administration and some members of Congress have proposed changing the law to allow Puerto Rico to use bankruptcy protection to resolve its debt with its creditors.
• Shutterfly CEO to step down
Shutterfly Chief Executive Jeffrey Housenbold will step down early next year, after leading the digital photo company for more than a decade. Housenbold, who also holds the president title, has served as CEO since early 2005. He said he made the decision because the time has come “to recharge my batteries and find a new career adventure.” Shutterfly’s board had sought to avoid this outcome. After the company ended a search for a potential buyer in late 2014, it boosted Housenbold’s compensation to $16.9 million in 2016 from $9.34 million in 2014.
Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• VW argued for easing E.U. tests
An internal email shows that German auto maker Volkswagen successfully lobbied to remove two key parts of Europe’s forthcoming auto emissions tests, including a provision to measure the significant pollution released when an engine is started but hasn’t yet warmed up. The new tests, which face a battle in the European Parliament, would be the first in Europe to require screening car pollution outside of a laboratory in road tests that are meant to more closely reflect real driving. Volkswagen has been in the news since it admitted in September that it had cheated on traditional lab tests by installing special software in 11 million diesel vehicles that would sense when a car was being tested.
New York Times (subscription required)
Around the Water Cooler
• Zuckerberg to donate his wealth
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that they are the parents of a baby girl named Maxima – while simultaneously saying they plan to donate 99% of their ownership in the social network to the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. That pledge, worth $45 billion today, is a promise to invest in areas such as health, education, and scientific research. The couple promised to share more details on the donations in the coming months.
• Gun sales were huge on Black Friday
Fortune reports that there were 185,345 background checks on November 27, the date of Black Friday this year and easily exceeding the previous all time high of 177,170 on December 21, 2010, which was shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data are widely considered to be the best proxy for gun sales. Big gun retailers including Cabela’s and Sportsman Warehouse were promoting deals for guns heading into the Black Friday shopping season.
• Starbucks hit by E. coli scare
Coffee giant Starbucks became the latest major U.S. food and beverage purveyor to be hit by an E. coli scare, last week moving to remove its holiday turkey paninis from some 1,347 coffee shops. The paninis were recalled in parts of three states – California, Oregon and Nevada – as they had celery sourced from the same supplier connected to a recall that hit Costco Wholesale. Costco’s outbreak sickened 19 people, while Starbucks says it has not received any reports of illness. Those cases comes just weeks after an E. coli outbreak has been linked to Chipotle, where 45 diners in six states have reportedly been ill since October.
• What the Morgan Stanley layoffs mean
Reports that Morgan Stanley is planning to cut 25% of its fixed income operations is problematic because while other Wall Street banks have also moved to resize their bond trading operations in the past year, the cuts at Morgan Stanley are larger than its rivals. As Fortune reports, Morgan Stanley has been trying to sell itself as the safest bank on Wall Street – but that sell hasn’t always worked out. With fixed income trading not where it once was for any Wall Street firm since the financial crisis, the cuts imply Morgan Stanley is convinced the business isn’t going to rebound any time soon.