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CEO Daily: Monday, 28th November

Good morning.

Americans shopped from their sofas this weekend, as e-commerce soared past in-store commerce on Black Friday weekend. Fortune’s Phil Wahba – who fought off the tryptophan to spend the long weekend reporting – writes that an estimated 108.5 million Americans shopped online over the four days, well above the 99.1 million shopping in stores. Last year, the two numbers were roughly equal.

Adobe told Wahba that U.S. online sales from Thursday to Saturday rose a remarkable 17 percent over last year, to $7.23 billion. Many big retailers, Walmart included, began their online sales right after midnight on Thanksgiving morning, cooling the Thanksgiving evening rush to the stores that has characterized previous years. Walmart reported 60% of its online orders were coming from mobile phones.

And it’s not over. Some 122 million Americans are expected to shop online today – although the early start to online sales will clearly drain some of cyber Monday’s surge.

“The brick-and-mortar retailers have made a big leap with their online efforts this year,” Moody’s analyst Charlie O’Shea told Fortune. “They’re really getting it.”

More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

Markets Get Referendum Fatigue

Global stock markets have started the week badly, having apparently decided that discretion is the better part of valor ahead of Italy’s referendum on electoral reform this coming Sunday. There’s no point in trying to explain the politics of that vote here. For markets, the key point is that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he’ll quit if, as seems likely, he loses.  That could expose the fragility of Italy’s banks, a festering sore in the flesh of the Eurozone. Their stocks are down by between 3% and 7.5% this morning. Oil and energy stocks are also faring badly, while those who have gained most during the Trump Rally are ripe for a bit of profit-taking.  The dollar index, meanwhile, is down nearly 2% from its high on Thursday. Reuters


Saudi Bluster Over Output Cut Hits Crude Prices

Crude oil prices fell heavily over the weekend after Saudi Arabia indulged in some brinkmanship ahead of OPEC’s ministerial meeting on Wednesday. Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih hinted that Saudi could walk away from a proposed deal to cut output by saying that he expected the global market to rebalance in 2017 even without intervention by producer countries. Such comments are how Saudi Arabia typically pressures others to spread the pain of output cuts. But the Desert Kingdom has a gaping budget deficit and has lost a quarter of its foreign reserves in the two years since it started the current price war. Rivals like Russia, Iran and Iraq are betting that it needs a price-supporting deal more than it is admitting. Fortune

Schlumberger Puts Down a Marker in Iran Schlumberger Ltd. said Sunday it had signed a preliminary deal to study an Iranian oil field, in what looks like an effort to create facts on the ground before the incoming administration can reverse President Barack Obama’s move to end the Islamic Republic’s isolation. The contract is one of the most prominent signed since the Nov. 8 election. U.S. firms are still banned from investing directly in Iran’s oil and gas fields, creating an opportunity that other countries’ oil groups have been quick to exploit. Norway’s DNO signed a similar deal earlier this month, while France’s Total and China’s CNPC signed a $6 billion deal to develop part of a giant offshore gas field. WSJ, subscription required

Around the Water Cooler

Samsung Mulls Split

Samsung Electronics’ board is to consider splitting the conglomerate into two on Tuesday, as proposed by activist hedge fund Elliott Management, according to the Seoul Economic Daily’s sources. A split would allow the heirs of the founding Lee family to strengthen their grip on the global smartphone leader, the crown jewel of the Samsung Group business empire. Elliott proposed a split in October to boost shareholder value. It wants Samsung to divide into a holding vehicle for ownership purposes and an operating company, pay a $26 billion special dividend, pledge to return at least 75% of free cash flow to investors and agree to appoint some independent directors. The board’s decision will hinge on whether the Lee family can reconcile such aims with their own various priorities.   Fortune

A New Favorite in France’s Presidential Race

Francois Fillon won the primary race to represent the center-right Republicains in France’s presidential election next year. He looks a shoo-in for the second-round run-off in May, given that the Socialist Party’s vote could be split between three or more candidates. Opinion polls suggest that he would defeat the far-right Marine Le Pen in the run-off, but his Thatcherite leanings, his desire to scrap the 35-hour week and his social conservatism (he’s opposed to gay marriage and abortion) will make it harder for him to mobilize some of the segments of society that have already been responsible for this year’s two big political shocks in the U.S. and U.K.. BBC

Mobile Payments Startup Hits $9 Billion Valuation

Payments software company Stripe said it was raising another $150 million at a valuation of $9.2 billion. That’s nearly double the $5 billion valuation it had at its last funding round in July last year, The company, which has now raised $450 million in total, said it wants to use the funds for acquisitions and for a broader international expansion. It has already launched in Japan, Singapore, France and Spain this year. The Wall Street Journal cited a person close to the deal as saying that Stripe’s payment volume is growing faster than that of Square, but hasn’t yet overtaken it. Stripe’s software is used by businesses to accept and track digital payments.   

Johnson & Johnson Targets Rare Disease Specialist

Johnson & Johnson said Friday it has approached Actelion, Europe’s biggest biotech firm by market value at around $20 billion, about a potential takeover. Much of that value is attributable to Actelion’s Opsumit and Uptravi drugs for treating high blood-pressure, whose success has stopped it from falling off the patent cliff after its blockbuster Tracleer’s patent protection lapsed.  Actelion has successfully fought off unwanted interest in the past, notably from Elliott Management, but the news took the share price to nearly four times where it was only three years ago, which may swing Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel. Either way, it’s an interesting way for J&J to deploy its cash right ahead of a promised revamp of the corporate tax code’s treatment of offshore cash.   Fortune