CEO Daily: Wednesday, 20th July
This morning, we are releasing our list of the Fortune Global 500 – the largest companies in the world, ranked by revenue. Among its surprises: Chinese companies now hold three of the top four spots on the list.
Walmart still takes top honors. But up next are three giant, state-owned Chinese energy companies – State Grid; China National Petroleum; and Sinopec.
While the U.S. presence at the top may be sagging, its overall presence on the list grew in 2015. There were 134 U.S.-based companies, up six from the year before.
Overall sales by the 500 fell 11.5% last year, and profits slumped by an equal amount, reflecting a slowdown in China, the collapse in oil prices and a surging dollar.
You can see the full list here. More below.
• Q. When is a Coup not a Coup?
A…When it follows a failed coup from the other side. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyipe Erdogan is carrying out sweeping purges of the parts of society that have resisted his efforts to take the country back to its Islamic roots. Having sacked thousands of judges and prosecutors Monday, Erdogan has now also dismissed nearly 1,600 university deans and 21,000 teachers. This morning, Erdogan has also banned academics from work trips abroad. Images suggesting the torture of alleged perpetrators are circulating widely on the Internet, and the government has blocked the Wikileaks site which released a data dump of official e-mails in the weeks leading up to the failed coup. President Barack Obama urged Erdogan to respect Turkey’s democratic values, but the evidence suggests that Erdogan is bent on concentrating more powers in his office, which is bad news for secularists, Kurds (15% of the population), all of Erdogan’s legitimate opposition—and, most likely, for business too. The currency, stock and bond markets all remain under pressure. BBC
• Antitrust Regulators Set to Kill Health Mergers
Two big healthcare mergers announced last year are set to be killed off by antitrust officials, according to Bloomberg sources. The Department of Justice is concerned that both deals--Anthem's acquisition of Cigna and Aetna’s takeover of Humana--would hurt customers by reducing competition and driving up prices. While concerns about Anthem/Cigna’s dominance of the large employer segment had been well aired, the negative view of Aetna/Humana was less expected. The biggest overlap in Aetna and Humana's business is in Medicare Advantage, where it would have 25% of the market nationwide. The companies reportedly presented a divestment plan and possible buyers to the Justice Department less than two weeks ago. The administration is walking a fine line: it needs competition to work to ensure that the U.S.’s health costs—already by far the world’s highest—stay within reason. But it also needs to keep healthcare providers on board with its plans to broaden insurance coverage. Bloomberg
• U.S. Set to Seize $1 Billion of 1MDB Assets
The Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors are set to seize up to $1 billion in assets tied to the Malaysian development bank 1MDB, the U.S. government’s first action in the scandal and one of the largest actions of its kind in U.S. history. The 1MDB case is a big test for the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, which is stepping on the toes of an important U.S. ally in Southeast Asia. It also puts an uncomfortable spotlight on Goldman Sachs, which was 1MDB’s chief financial adviser at the time that its managers were allegedly misappropriating billions of dollars in funds. WSJ, subscription required
• Goldman Tightens its Belt
Goldman Sachs announced its biggest quarterly lay-offs since the financial crisis in 2008, after headcount fell by 5%, or 1,700 positions, in the three months to June. In all, it has trimmed over 2,100 jobs in the last nine months, as market volatility and tighter regulation have combined to depress its bottom line. Although CFO Harvey Schwartz said the company is looking to cut costs by $700 million a year (around 3.5% of total costs). Goldman had a better-than-expected second quarter all told, as a strong performance in bonds and currencies compensated for a paralyzed IPO market and depressed appetite for deals, but its return on equity, at 8.7%, is less than half what it was in the halcyon days before Lehman.
Around the Water Cooler
• Roger and Out
Roger Ailes’ time at Fox News is all but up, according to multiple reports out yesterday. They asserted yesterday that the conservative network’s chairman, CEO and co-founder will be out of the company by the end of the week, one claiming that he will take a $40 million package with him (that particular report was later withdrawn, albeit). Fox star Megyn Kelly may have sealed Ailes’ fate yesterday, after reportedly telling internal investigators that he had sexually harassed her on a number of occasions in her early days at the network. Fox has also reportedly released its staff from any non-disclosure agreements they may have signed as part of their employment, which may embolden further employees to come forward. 21st Century Fox, the network’s parent company, said only that its review into the case is “ongoing”. Fortune
• Unilever Buys Dollar Shave
Unilever is getting into the razor business, by agreeing to acquire Dollar Shave Club for a sum estimated at around $1 billion. Dollar Shave Club founder and CEO Michael Dubin will continue to run the company, which will operate its direct-to-consumer razor business as an independent entity. The deal should help Dollar Shave Club expand faster into new geographies beyond the three where it currently works (albeit replicating its massively successful marketing campaigns in foreign languages without Dubin’s own star quality will be an interesting challenge). Dubin himself looks set for a huge windfall. The company had raised some $160 million in venture capital funding, most recently last November at a $539 million valuation. Fortune
• PIMCO Gets a New CEO
Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO) has hired Emmanuel (aka ‘Manny’) Roman, currently CEO of the world's biggest listed hedge fund Man Group plc, as it tries to reverse a slump in fortunes since co-founder Bill Gross left in 2014. Roman will take over asset manager PIMCO on Nov. 1, Man Group said on Wednesday, replacing the incumbent Douglas Hodge. PIMCO, which built its reputation largely through its management of fixed-income assets, is under pressure to reverse a drop in assets under management since Gross's abrupt and ill-tempered departure. That continued through the first quarter of 2016, according to its German parent Allianz. Allianz said in May that it expected flows to stabilize in the second half of the year, even before Roman’s appointment. Man’s shares are down 3.5% in London this morning, which is as good a testimony as any to the caliber of the new hire. Fortune
• The Clouds Part for Microsoft and SAP
Two software giants who have struggled with the challenge posed by Cloud-based technologies to their core businesses both reported higher-than-expected profits in the second quarter, although it wasn’t clear how much that owed to their new generation of solutions. Microsoft yesterday said revenues from its Azure Cloud-based solution doubled year-on-year in the three months to June, but didn’t give any specific figures. Meanwhile in Germany this morning, SAP handily beat market expectations, but due rather to a better-than-forecast performance in its traditional packaged software business, where licensing revenues rose 10% adjusted for foreign exchange, rather than the 1.8% expected. SAP does break out figures for its Cloud businesses, but these were only in line with expectations. Microsoft's shares rose 4%, while SAP's were up 4.2% this morning in Frankfurt. Fortune