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CEO Daily: Monday, October 19

Chinese growth officially slowed to a 6.9% pace in the third quarter. Unofficially is another matter. Power output has been virtually flat in China this year and commodity imports are down sharply, signaling a more serious slump in the industrial sector. But consumer spending and services continue to rise.


Fortune’s Scott Cendrowski cites one estimate that puts the actual growth rate at 4.5%. The Economist parses the numbers and comes up with a growth rate of 5%. Either way, China’s growth is significantly slower than the official rate, but not in a hard landing.


Meanwhile, unicorn hunting season continues, with biotech firm Theranos still taking the most buckshot. Jean-Louis Gassee, a former Apple executive and now a popular tech blogger, writes of his personal experience using Theranos’ blood testing technology and comparing it to standard blood tests. The results raise serious concerns about accuracy


Elizabeth Holmes, who founded Theranos and can claim roughly half of its supposed $9 billion valuation, is scheduled to speak Wednesday at a technology conference in Laguna Beach, California, put on by the Wall Street Journal, which eviscerated the company in an investigative piece last week. Watch that space. And don’t expect this to be the last billion-dollar-startup to come under fire.


More news below.


Alan Murray

Top News

United silent on CEO’s condition

Oscar Munoz, the chief executive of United Continental, was admitted to the hospital Thursday after he reportedly suffered from a heart attack. As of Sunday night, the airline has declined to provide any updates about the CEO’s health. His health problems come barely a month after Munoz took the job to help improve the profitability and reputation of United. Reuters

The challenge as Netflix goes abroad

Netflix this week is dipping its toes into new European markets including Italy and Spain, but the video-streaming service faces challenges building an international base because of regulatory restrictions and some stiff competition in some of those individual markets. In many nations, well-established rivals have already echoed Netflix’s service, while also promoting local content. New York Times (subscription required)

Wal-Mart probe coming up empty

Back in 2012, Wal-Mart Stores found itself in the middle of some controversy when the New York Times reported top bosses at the retailer’s Mexican division sought to hide a bribery scheme from the company’s U.S. headquarters. The allegations went all the way back to 2005. But over the weekend, Wall Street Journal reported that a Justice Department probe has failed to find a big smoking gun. As a result, it looks like a much smaller case has emerged than the government initially anticipated. Fortune

Mega mergers challenge antitrust limits

Data from the University of Southern California has sound that in nearly a third of industries, most U.S. companies compete in markets that would be considered “highly concentrated” under current federal antitrust standards. That’s up from about a quarter in 1996. Big deals like the Anheuser-Busch InBev-SABMiller are continuing massive concentration in categories like beverages, household appliances, mobile-phone service and air travel. Mergers like these can preserve jobs in industries that are too weak to survive if fragmented, but generally lead to higher prices. WSJ (subscription required)

Around the Water Cooler

Ad-free YouTube to debut

Google-owned YouTube is expected to debut an ad-free subscription service for the video website at an event that is being held this week. The price of the service isn’t known and the release date has also not yet been reported. YouTube had attempted something similar in the past, but that venture was considered a failure. Fortune

The sweet spot for auto-parts suppliers

While the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has slipped 1.3%, the three largest U.S. suppliers of auto replacement parts have all posted gains of at least 20%. So what’s working for O’Reilly, AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts? An aging fleet of cars, partly due to the lingering effects of the recession, has helped. Limited competition from e-commerce websites has also been a factor. The three retailers are also pivoting to focus a lot more on their professional businesses, as more advanced cars that are being sold today could make it tougher for car owners to attempt fixes themselves down the road. Bloomberg

5 things to know this week

Google’s Alphabet reports, Canada’s election, and rugby — 5 things to know this week. Today’s story can be found here.