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CEO Daily: Friday, 21st July

Happy Friday.

This morning we are releasing Clay Chandler’s fascinating deep dive into Tata Sons and its new CEO, Natarajan Chandrasekaran. Tata is a sprawling conglomerate that touches almost every aspect of Indian life. Its biggest business is Tata Motors, which ranks No. 247 on this year’s Fortune Global 500 list (released yesterday, and available here.) It also owns India’s second largest steelmaker, its largest power company, a leading chemical manufacturer, a chain of luxury jewelry boutiques, and more.

Chandrasekaran formerly ran Tata Consultancy Services, which is India’s largest IT firm with a market cap of $71 billion. The company is known by those of us here in New York for the fabulous app it built that allows you to track specific runners in the New York City Marathon, and see exactly where each runner is in real time. That’s a labor of love for Chandrasekaran, who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 44, and decided to lick the disease without medication by becoming a marathon runner. He’s completed all six of the world’s major marathons – Boston, Berlin, Chicago, London, New York, Tokyo. And he insists it has made him a better leader. “Running has made a world of difference for me,” he says. “It has made me calmer, more reflective, and given me more perseverance.”

The story appears in the August issue of Fortune magazine. You can read it online this morning, here.

Enjoy the weekend!

Alan Murray


Top News

To Embarrass One Senior Cabinet Member May be Seen as Unfortunate…

The Treasury fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for breaking U.S. sanctions on Russia in 2014. Exxon sued to challenge the fine, saying that Barack Obama’s White House had advised it at the time that its actions had been legal. The development is an embarrassment for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was Exxon’s CEO at the time. The Treasury’s chief complaint revolved around deals between Exxon and Russian oil major Rosneft that were signed by its CEO Igor Sechin. While Sechin personally was under sanctions at the time, Rosneft wasn’t (it was added to the list later). Sechin, who brought the bulk of Russia’s oil industry back under state control with a series of legally questionable moves, will appreciate the irony of the U.S. adopting Russian standards of legal predictability. Fortune

 …But to Embarrass Two Seems Like Carelessness

If nothing else, the Treasury’s move did serve to distract some attention, at least temporarily, away from a more direct show of strife within the administration. In an interview with the NYT, President Trump lambasted Attorney-General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the FBI’s investigation into allegations of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Sessions said he wouldn’t resign. In the interview, Trump also indicated he would challenge the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which took over the investigation after Trump fired FBI chief James Comey. Elsewhere, it emerged that federal investigators are seeking further information about Deutsche Bank’s loans to Trump. The WSJ also reported that Mueller’s team is investigating possible money laundering by Trump’s one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort. NYT

Variations on a Theme: Siemens Exits Russia JV After Sanctions Breach

German engineering giant Siemens said it had sold its 46% stake in its Russian venture Interautomatika, after four gas turbines that it had built for a Russian power plant had been “locally modified and moved illegally to Crimea.” EU and U.S. sanctions had banned the use of energy-related technology in the annexed Ukrainian province. Berlin will be pleased to see Siemens keeping its nose clean. It doesn’t want any mishaps while it lobbies Washington against expanding U.S. sanctions to a new Russian pipeline that will take natural gas to Germany. For Russia, it seems the short-term expedient of keeping the lights on was more important than keeping any vestige of trust with a company it once considered a valuable source of technological expertise. Reuters

Insouciant Draghi Sends Euro to Two-Year High vs. Dollar

The dollar fell to its lowest in over two and a half years against the euro as the news out of Washington further undermined belief in the President’s ability to deliver growth-enhancing reforms. ECB President Mario Draghi tried (not too hard, albeit) to stop the euro’s rise, promising that the removal of monetary stimulus would be “very gradual” and said that an unwarranted tightening (through the foreign exchange market) would be “the last thing we may want.” The markets, literally, weren’t buying it. European companies’ results are already showing the strain from the euro’s rise, with Philips and auto parts maker Valeo both citing currency factors in disappointing earnings releases Friday. WSJ, subscription required

Around the Water Cooler

Pepsi’s Heir Presumptive

PepsiCo appointed Ramon Laguarta as president, after leaving the post vacant for the last three years. However, CEO Indra Nooyi quashed any talk of Laguarta being groomed to succeed her, saying that she intended to stay in her post “for the foreseeable future.” Laguarta’s current duties of overseeing Europe and sub-Saharan Africa will be assumed by Latin America director Laxman Narasimhan. Both of those two, as well as finance chief Hugh Johnston, are seen as potential successors one day. They will get the chance to ‘stretch’ themselves, in Nooyi’s words, until the time to make a decision comes. Fortune

Tech Giants Back Apple Against Qualcomm

A group representing major tech companies – including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook – sided with Apple in its legal dispute with Qualcomm by calling on regulators to reject the chipmaker’s attempt to ban the import of iPhones to the U.S. In a filing with the  International Trade Commission, the Computer & Communications Industry Association argued that barring Apple from importing foreign-assembled iPhones that use Intel chips (as Qualcomm has requested) would cause “significant shocks to supply” for phones and would hurt consumers.  Fortune

Microsoft Heads Towards a Virtual Office

Success in growing its Cloud-based service Azure helped Microsoft to a better-than-expected second quarter. Azure revenues nearly doubled in the quarter, while overall revenue from the Cloud services rose 11% to $7.43 billion. The company’s big bet on moving its core suite of software to a subscription model is paying off: the online offering of Office 365 now generates more revenue than the traditional version installed on people’s computers. Group net profit more than doubled to $6.5 billion, meanwhile. The company’s shares retreated about 1% from an all-time high that they hit earlier in the week. Fortune

IMF Dangles a Carrot to Greece, Eurozone

A major earthquake hit the Aegean overnight, causing extensive damage in coastal resorts in both Greece and Turkey. Two people were reported dead. The earthquake overshadowed a fresh turn in Greece’s low-level skirmishing with its creditors earlier. The International Monetary Fund agreed ‘in principle’ to resume lending to the country. However, none of the $2 billion standby package will be made available unless the Eurozone agrees significant debt relief measures first. The Eurozone likes to have the IMF on board, rather than be seen as the sole villain of the piece in Athens. But going soft on the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras may have to wait until Angela Merkel is safely re-elected as German Chancellor in September. Fortune

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith;