It’s accepted wisdom that the pace of change in business is accelerating. When we asked Fortune 500 CEOs last year whether their companies would change more in the next five years than in the last five years, 96% agreed. “Disrupt yourself, or be disrupted,” has become standard management advice.
And yet, there are corners of the business world where disruption has been predicted for years—even decades—and still hasn’t arrived. Home real estate is one. In a world of online markets, instant videos and Zillow pricing, why should anyone turn 5% to 6% of the take on a home sale over to a real estate agent? Investment banking is similar. In today’s super-efficient financial markets, is there any reason to pay an investment bank up to 7% for an Initial Public Offering? And yet, companies still do.
Maybe—just maybe—2018 could be the year that last one begins to change. Spotify, the music streaming company, has filed to do a “direct listing” in which it will sell its shares directly to the retail-investing public, without going through the usual process of using underwriters who round up institutional investors. As a result, The Wall Street Journal reports, the company’s three financial advisers—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Allen & Co.—stand to collect only $30 million in fees—less than 1% of the total take, and well below the $100 million, or 2.5%, that Snap paid for a similarly sized IPO last year, or the $300 million record paid by Alibaba in 2014. Bankers fear that if the Spotify issue goes well, other unicorns lined up to go public may follow a similar path. About time.
By the way, here’s another prediction of imminent disruption that’s gone bust: the gig economy. Not long ago, pundits said we were on our way to having more than half the U.S. workforce becoming freelancers. But in fact, Jeff Wald, co-founder of Work Market and one of the smartest people I’ve met on this subject, says the freelance share of the workforce has remained stuck at about 34% for the last few years, and is likely to stay there for the indefinite future. Why? Because regulations make it difficult for big employers to shift to freelancers as much as they, or their employees, might like. So don’t write off your day job yet.
More news below.
AT&T Urged to Cut the Huawei Cord
U.S. lawmakers want AT&T to sever its commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies, and they oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market due to national security concerns, Reuters reports, citing two congressional aides. The pushback comes as the Trump administration takes a hard line against Beijing’s efforts to gain access to U.S. industry. Reuters
Carillion on Monday announced that it would go into compulsory liquidation after the British construction giant’s last-ditch efforts to broker a deal with the U.K. government and its lenders failed over the weekend. The British government assured employees working on the company’s public-sector contracts that they’d be paid, but no such promises were made to workers on Carillion’s contracts in the private sector. Financial Times
Oil Is Up, Up, Up
Brent crude oil prices held near $70 a barrel this morning, up almost 15% since early December to a level not seen since the market’s dramatic slump in 2014. What’s behind the rise? The ongoing efforts by OPEC and Russia to withhold production (the cuts are set to last through 2018) and healthy demand. Reuters
A Convenient Friendship?
The Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell story on Monday, reporting that U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner last year that Wendi Deng Murdoch could be using her close friendship with Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump to advance interests of the Chinese government. A spokesperson for Murdoch said the Chinese-American businesswoman (and ex of Rupert Murdoch) has no knowledge of the FBI’s concerns or of the Chinese matters in question. Wall Street Journal
Around the Water Cooler
Another False Alarm
A Japanese public broadcaster issued a false alarm about a North Korean missile launch today. The error followed the false emergency alert that prompted mass panic in Hawaii this past weekend, but in this case, the mistake was corrected in a matter of minutes. In Hawaii, it took 38 harrowing minutes to confirm the false alarm. Reuters
The value of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple plummeted this morning, dropping 15%, 21%, and 29%, respectively. The dips seem to be tied to a report that China—which banned cryptocurrency exchanges last year—is taking more action against other online and app-based services that offer exchange-like functionality. Fortune
No More Touch-Ups
CVS Health is aiming to eliminate the use of “materially altered” imagery for its beauty items by 2020. The move is seen as appealing to female customers and as an attempt to bolster the company’s beauty products business, which generated 4.2% ($3.4 billion) of CVS’s retail sales in 2016, a decrease from the previous year. Fortune
Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly against Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and his unfavorables are even higher there now. Those factors should be dooming the re-election prospects of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, but just the opposite is happening. Not only is Baker the most popular politician in the solidly blue state, he’s the most popular governor in the nation. Politico