The China Trade War Has Already Begun: CEO Daily for January 4, 2018

Good morning.

Yesterday’s CEO Daily took note of news that Jack Ma’s Ant Financial has dropped its $1.2 billion bid for MoneyGram because of opposition from CIFIUS. If you aren’t familiar with CIFIUS, it’s time to start paying attention. It’s a government committee created to review foreign investments for their impact on “national interests.” Historically, its focus has been defense technology and critical infrastructure. But the Ant decision is a sign that focus has expanded. CIFIUS also seems to have put the brakes on Anthony Scaramucci’s sale of his hedge fund-of-funds, Skybridge Capital, to China’s HNA. (Critical infrastructure?) Gordon Orr, director emeritus of McKinsey and long-time China hand, wrote recently that many Chinese investors now “simply assume that they could not get approval for investment in the United States, and so won’t try.”

Optimists may hope this is a negotiating tactic that will be used to negotiate market opening with China. But count me as one who sees it as a dangerous turn toward protectionism. Ma’s Alipay, from which Ant Financial was created, has been a cutting-edge innovator in financial services. Blocking Ant from the U.S. market will only slow innovation here. Moreover, Orr notes U.S. obstacles are pushing Chinese tech companies to focus their investments elsewhere— Israel, Scandinavia, the U.K. Is that in America’s interest?

The Trans Pacific Partnership—which Trump axed—was an effort to surround China with open trade arrangements that would ultimately pressure it to follow suit. Now, with TPP dead and Washington building trade walls, China has taken the initiative, pushing a Belt and Road initiative that envisions closer economic ties with virtually every country in the world except the U.S. Hard to see how that makes America great.

Separately, apologies for including the wrong link yesterday to Ian Bremmer’s list of the top ten foreign policy risks of 2018. (I linked to the 2017 list by mistake. The correct link is here.) But it’s worth noting that number one on that list is “China rising.” “At a moment of policy incoherence in Washington,” Bremmer writes, “China’s government has redefined the country’s external environment, set new rules within it, developed the world’s most effective global trade and investment strategy, and uses Chinese tech companies to advance state interests.” His bottom line: “U.S.-China conflict, particularly on trade, will become more likely in 2018.”

News below.

Alan Murray

Top News


Intel working on fix for huge chip security flaws.

Intel said Wednesday that it is working with rival chip designers ARM Holdings and Advanced Micro Devices to fix massive security flaws in their chips that can make it possible for hackers to swipe users' confidential information. Intel's shares dipped yesterday after initial reports suggested that the tech company's chips were the only ones with security issues, but others later came forward to confirm that many of the processors running computers and mobile devices around the world are affected. Fortune

U.S. auto sales growth skids to a halt.

In 2017, the number of annual car sales in the U.S. dropped for the first time since the financial crisis, falling 1.8% to 17.2 million vehicles sold. While that number marks the first time the auto industry has seen three straight years above 17 million sales, it also ends a streak of seven straight years of sales growth. Meanwhile, IHS Markit predicts the number will slip again in 2018, amid higher interest rates and higher-quality cars that require fewer upgrades.  The New York Times

Tesla disappoints Wall Street.

Tesla reported disappointing fourth-quarter sales for its Model 3 electric sedans on Wednesday. Elon Musk's electric car company delivered only 1,550 Model 3s in the final three months of 2017, the company said, which came well short of analysts' average estimates (2,900 units) that had already been lowered as Tesla again pushed back its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s per week. The company now expects to hit that milestone in the middle of this year. Fortune

The Spotify IPO is apparently humming along.

Spotify reportedly filed confidential IPO documents with the SEC at the end of December. The music streaming giant, which boasts roughly 60 million paid subscribers, has been expected to go public via a relatively rare direct listing sometime in early-2018. An IPO could value the company at as high as $20 billion. Axios

Around the Water Cooler

Apple's cheaper battery replacements could slump sales.

Apple's older iPhones could see a sales hit after the tech giant lowered the price of some replacement batteries in response to complaints that the company was intentionally slowing older iPhones to prevent sudden shutdowns. Apple apologized (but said it never slowed its iPhones to convince users to upgrade their devices) and cut the price of battery replacements on older models. Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz said on Wednesday the move could prevent roughly 16 million iPhone users from buying newer models for the time being.  Bloomberg

Cryptocurrency has a new #2, behind bitcoin.

Ripple is now the second most valuable cryptocurrency after it broke the $3 mark in the first few days of 2018. Ripple gained roughly 29% in value in a 24-hour period as of Wednesday, bringing its market value to more than $120 billion, which is almost half of bitcoin's $250 billion value. The gains moved Ripple past Ethereum ($94 billion), long considered bitcoin's main competitor. Fortune

AT&T looks to win 5G race.

The telecoms giant says it plans to be the first U.S. carrier to offer 5G (fifth-generation mobile service) to its wireless customers. While rivals Verizon and T-Mobile have made it clear they are also working on developing commercial 5G service, AT&T now says it plans to roll out 5G for customers in more than a dozen U.S. cities later this year.  Bloomberg

China's Didi Chuxing goes after Uber in Latin America.

Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing service, said Wednesday it's buying control of Brazil's 99 from investors that include Qualcomm Ventures and Softbank Group in a deal reportedly valued at roughly $1 billion. The deal is a step toward Didi's goal of globalization and it could create an intimidating rival to Uber in a major Latin American market. Reuters

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Tom Huddleston Jr. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board