CEO Daily: Monday 22nd August
The Rio Olympics ended last night with an unlikely scene: Japan’s normally buttoned-up prime minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a green pipe in the middle of Maracana stadium dressed as video character Super Mario, symbolizing the hand off for the 2020 Tokyo games. How’s that for a pivot to Asia?
The G-20 leaders are also looking east, preparing for their meeting next month in Hangzhou, China. This will be the first meeting of world leaders since Brexit and the U.S. elections have raised questions about public support for continued globalization. (If you missed it, read GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s piece in Fortune here.)
The Wall Street Journal has a related story this morning saying failure of the Trans Pacific Partnership will have foreign policy ramifications that go far beyond its importance in trade. “We’re a vote away from either cementing our leadership in the region or handing the keys of the castle to China,” says U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman. The article says no one has more at stake than Abe, the closest U.S. ally in the region, who has made the pact central to his domestic and foreign strategies. Those arguments, however, appear to be having no impact on the two U.S. presidential candidates, or on most members of Congress, who oppose the agreement.
Alibaba’s Jack Ma – the unofficial host of Hangzhou summit – has given Fortune exclusive access to a new video in which he touts his home town, defends globalization, and calls for an “eWTP” – an electronic World Trade Platform that empowers small businesses around the world . You can watch’s Ma’s pitch here.
Also this morning, the World Economic Forum released a survey of 25,000 millennials (ages 18-35) from 140 different countries showing they, at least, increasingly see themselves as citizens of the world. Now if only they will go out and vote.
More news below.
• Pfizer Close to Buying Medivation
Pfizer is close to agreeing a deal for San Francisco-based biotech firm Medivation for $14 billion in cash, according to The Wall Street Journal. If it comes to fruition, it will be a triumphant vindication of Medivation’s management for refusing offers of $9.3 billion and then $10 billion from France’s Sanofi, the first of which represented a 50% premium to market value back in April. Celgene and Gilead had also reportedly been interested in bidding for the company. The deal will strengthen Pfizer’s position in the $80 billion a year oncology drugs segment (Medivation makes Xtandi, the world’s best-selling drug for prostate cancer). It will also move another slice of the U.S.’s drug industry offshore for tax purposes, thanks to Pfizer’s Irish domicile. FT, metered access
• ChemChina Gets the Green Flag From CFIUS
Signs of movement in the great global chemical merger chain. The Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency body that has thwarted many a proposed deal over national security concerns, has approved ChemChina’s $43 billion bid for Swiss-based Syngenta. The news drove Syngenta shares up 11%. If that deal goes through, then the pressure to complete the Dow-Dupont merger will also increase, as both companies will feel threatened by an expanded ChemChina that would account for some 20% of the U.S. agrochemicals market. It would also put more pressure on Monsanto to accept Bayer’s offer (or, conversely, on Bayer to raise its offer to a level that Monsanto thinks acceptable). ChemChina’s bid still has to clear antitrust regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere. Fortune
• Samsung Will Start Selling Refurbished Phones in the U.S.
Samsung Electronics is looking to start selling refurbished, used versions of its premium smartphones next year, according to Reuters sources. The world's top smartphone maker, which is riding something of a wave after the enthusiastic reception for its latest S7 Galaxy phone, will refurbish high-end phones returned to the company by users who signed up for one-year upgrade programs in markets such as the U.S. and South Korea. It will then re-sell the phones at a lower price. As growth in the global smartphone market hits a plateau, Samsung wants to maximize cost efficiency and keep operating margins above 10%. The step should help raise resale prices in the U.S., an area where it currently lags Apple. According to BNP Paribas, a used Galaxy re-sells for around 51% of its original value today, compared to 69% for a comparable iPhone. Both companies are trying to develop their refurbished phone strategy for India, where their premium products are out of reach for the vast majority of buyers. Reuters
• Angry Supplier Halts VW Factories
Volkswagen reacted to its diesel emissions scandal by trying to cut a billion euros from its annual cost base. The trouble is, its freedom to do so is limited by its reliance on expensive in-house labor, so it puts most of the pressure on its suppliers. Now one of those suppliers, Prevent Group, is rebelling. VW said it would idle parts of six assembly plants Monday, halting work on both the Golf and Passat models, after Prevent stopped supplies of seat covers and transmission parts in protest at VW canceling a $550 million deal that was due to start next year. Prevent wants 58 million euros in compensation. The stoppage could cost it 100 million euros a week, according to UBS analysts. Bloomberg
Around the Water Cooler
• NBC Sees Olympics Ratings Slip
Call it the Millennial Factor. NBC’s $12 billion bet on the rights for the Olympics, is looking to be in trouble. Bloomberg reports that ratings fell for the summer games fell for the first time since 2000, despite the fact that the Rio games were held in a more congenial time zone for U.S. viewers than London. By contrast, the drop in ratings in 2000 was because the games moved from Atlanta to Sydney. Prime-time viewing has been down around 17% from the London games, while viewing in the 18-49 year-old age group fell 25%, according to Bloomberg’s in-house research. NBC has said it still expects to make money, as the slicing and dicing of its content (think: viral clips of Michael Phelps’ face) allows it more ways to monetize the content. How much of that is additional revenue, and how much is just cannibalization, will only be clear when Comcast reports its next quarterly earnings. Bloomberg
• Renesas Closes in on Intersil
Intersil, a big supplier of electronics to the automotive and aerospace businesses, is on the verge of being bought by Japan’s Renesas Electronics for $3 billion, according to business daily Nikkei. That would represent a premium of nearly 50% over current market value for the Milpitas, Ca.-based company, which has annual revenue of over $520 million. Intersil specializes in components that form the building blocks of intelligent and mobile devices, a specialization that has commanded some hefty premiums in the wave of M&A activity among chipmakers over the last two years. WSJ, subscription required
• The New Crude Bull Market That Wasn’t
It seems only yesterday that people were hailing the start of a new bull market in oil after the Brent crude benchmark breezed past the $50 a barrel mark for the first time in over a month. By this morning in Europe, it was down over $1.50 a barrel from its heady pre-weekend heights and still falling, after the market took a more sober view of the prospect of cuts or at least a standstill agreement from OPEC countries when their ministers meet next month. Both Iraq and Nigeria appear set to raise exports as the threat of localized violence recedes. U.S. drillers, meanwhile, added rigs for an eighth straight week last week, according to Baker Hughes. Demand is still having to work hard to keep up with supply. Good news for drivers and the rest of the supply chain, bad news for producers. Bloomberg
• Ben Hur: A Tale of the Turkey
The drama of the summer box office carried on its merry way with a dismal opening for Paramount’s latest iteration of Ben-Hur, which took only $11.4 million on its debut weekend. Another $10.7 million from foreign box offices brought it up to $22 million, but that’s still a long way from its $100 million price tag. Previous Bible-era blockbusters such as Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings eventually made their producers’ money back and more but both had better reviews and better openings. Elsewhere, Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad continued to defy the critics and topped the box office for the third straight week, puling in an estimated $20.7 million. It’s now racked up an impressive $262 million, a record for any movie with an August opening. Fortune