Good morning. Four days after voting to leave the European Union, the British are acting like the dog that caught the bus, not sure what to do with it. Reuters lays out ten different scenarios, including remaining in the EU after all.
Goldman Sachs predicts the U.K. is headed for recession, regardless. And prolonged uncertainty seems likely to slow investment spending at U.S.-based global companies. Reacting to all of this, financial markets are down again, modestly for the moment, but gathering a moment.
The biggest question that remains to be sorted out is what happens in a world where “the people” so happily reject the guidance of assembled “leaders” and “experts.”
Meanwhile this morning, we are publishing Stephen Gandel’s story from our July magazine on how one big bank – Citigroup – is preparing for a disruptive fintech storm. It’s worth a read, here. Also, our picks for the five hottest companies in fintech.
And if you – like me – were stunned by the quick rise and fall of tech superstar Nikesh Arora as the successor to Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, you will want to read Erin Griffith’s interview with him, here.
More Brexit fallout below.
• A Hard Pounding, Gentlemen
Those who thought that things would calm down after the world had had 48 hours to reflect on the impact of the vote is going to be sorely disappointed: the pound has hit a new 30-year low against the dollar; U.K. stocks are down 1.2%, continental stocks, after a stronger start, are now down in line. In the bond markets, the 10-year Treasury note, which yielded 1.67% before the Brexit vote, now yields 1.47%, while U.K. 10-year yields have plunged below 1% for the first time ever and Germany’s are now at -0.10%. The European Banking index is down 6.1% for its worst two-day loss in history. Seven out of the nine worst performers in the Euro Stoxx 50 are banks or insurers, while trading in RBS and Barclays was briefly suspended in the FTSE100. The worst-hit stock was EasyJet, down 18%, after a post-Brexit profit warning. EasyJet makes most of its money ferrying E.U. migrant workers to the U.K. and British tourists to the Mediterranean. Reuters
• Anarchy in the U.K.
The U.K. is in the middle of a full-blown political and constitutional crisis. Scotland is already preparing another vote on breaking away from the U.K., and there are reports of a flood in applications for Irish passports from people in Northern Ireland (which, like Scotland, voted to Remain). The country has lost its Prime Minister, the Tory Party has lost its leader and the Labour Party leader is facing a no-confidence vote after nearly half his shadow cabinet resigned over the weekend. Establishment voices are already looking for a way to ignore or rerun the referendum, oblivious to the signal this would send to the disaffected masses who voted Leave (but consistent with the time-honored E.U. tradition of holding referenda until the electorate gives the desired answer, as happened in France and Ireland in recent years). Meanwhile, media report a surge in hate crimes, both verbal and physical, against immigrants over the weekend, as the xenophobic wing of public opinion throws its usual fear of the law out of the window. BBC
• Can the U.S. Mediate?
Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit both Brussels and London Monday to urge both sides to keep calm heads and limit the damage both to the European economy and to cooperation efforts on international security. As expected, reaction among other E.U. governments has been split, with France leading calls for the U.K. to start official divorce proceedings by invoking Article 50 of the E.U.’s treaty as soon as possible (David Cameron dodged that issue when he resigned on Friday, and the Treaty leaves the decision entirely in the hands of the U.K.). However, the most powerful voice in Europe, that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been more accommodating, under intense pressure from the BDI German industry lobby, which has a $56 billion trade surplus with the U.K. at risk. Merkel is hosting a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and E.U. Council President Donald Tusk in Berlin later today. FT, metered access
• Spain Got Scared Straight
Anyone hunting for a silver lining to the turmoil might find some solace in Spain, where the shock of the Brexit vote appears (although there’s no irrefutable analysis to back this up yet) to have resulted in a last-minute swing away from the radical left Unidos Podemos. According to most polls heading into the election, UP looked set to be in the driving seat to form the next government. Instead, the status quo parties of the right and left made unexpected gains. The bad news is that there is still no obvious way of forming a stable parliamentary majority, with the parties of the left refusing to get into bed with Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister whose center-right Partido Popular won the most votes. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• The World Really Is Ending
Back home, in unrelated news, there’s further proof that the world is ending as The Wall Street Journal reports that the Waldorf Astoria, ‘The Greatest of Them All’ in the words of its former owner Conrad Hilton, is due to be gutted and turned for the most part into private apartments by Anbang, the Chinese insurance group that bought it last year. The refurb will cost around $1 billion, on top of the record-breaking $1.95 billion price tag for a U.S. hotel that it set last year. The WSJ cites analysts as saying that Anbang may have missed the best moment for bringing hundreds of luxury condos to market. WSJ, subscription required
• Globalization Marches on ( Over-Budget and Overdue)
The march of globalization hasn’t been halted, though. The Panama Canal inaugurated its $5.4 billion expansion at the weekend, a testimony to the long-term growth in global trade, but also a testimony to the pressures of a sharp cyclical downturn in the wake of the Great Recession. Shipping companies have moved as much freight as possible to larger ships to save money as seaborne trade struggles with overcapacity. For the U.S., it’s expected to benefit east coast ports at the expense of west coast ones, with the export of liquefied natural gas from the Gulf coast to Asia another potential beneficiary. The project is two years late and $3.6 billion over budget, meaning that it will be a while before the expansion pays for itself. It’s expected to bring in an extra $2.1 billion a year by 2021, according to the Panana Canal Authority. Reuters
• Energy Transfer Wriggles off Williams’ Hook
Shareholders in Williams Cos., one of the U.S.’s biggest oil and gas pipeline companies, may deliver the last rites today to one of the most bitter and misjudged merger deals of recent years—its proposed takeover by rival Energy Transfer Equity. Energy Transfer has been trying to get out of the deal it originally proposed for months, after the collapse in oil and gas prices shifted its math dramatically in favor of Williams. ETE won a key court ruling on Friday that will effectively allow the takeover offer to lapse without penalty on Tuesday. The court accepted ETE’s argument that its failure to get a positive legal opinion from its lawyers on the tax implications of the merger didn’t constitute bad faith—contrary to the claims of Williams’ management. WSJ, subscription required
• Chinese Steel Giants to Slash Capacity
Two of China’s biggest steelmakers are in joint restructuring talks, in what appears to be a sign at concrete progress in reducing a disastrous level of oversupply in the global steel market. The Financial Times reports that Baosteel and Wuhan Iron & Steel, the country’s number 2 and 4 steel producers, will have a key role to play in the government’s aim to reduce steelmaking capacity by up to 150 million tons a year over the next five years. China currently accounts for more than half the world’s steelmaking capacity, and its domestic slowdown has led to it flooding the world market (hastening, among other things, the end of the U.K.’s steel industry, a development which loomed large during the referendum campaign) FT, metered access