Walmart-Humana Deal, Microsoft Reorg, Cathay Pacific Clothing: CEO Daily for March 30, 2018
Good morning. Fortune digital editor Andrew Nusca here, filling in for Alan.
Summer demand for H-2B visas, issued for seasonal or temporary nonagricultural work for everything from holiday resorts to fisheries, is outstripping supply once again. Some lawmakers tried earlier this month to obtain an increase—there’s an annual cap of 66,000, split between the summer and winter seasons—but failed. Their argument: With a U.S. unemployment rate of just 4.1%, businesses need foreign workers where American ones are scarce. (The counterargument: Businesses simply need to try harder.)
The situation puts the Trump administration in a somewhat precarious position, pitting part of the business community against its America-first policies. (It also puts the president in an awkward spot, since some of his personal properties employ these kinds of workers.) With a record 81,000 requests for summer H-2Bs, it’s clear that the business community needs relief. Whether the administration in its second year can better balance politics and economics, well, that’s the question.
The news below. Have a wonderful weekend.
Walmart’s Largest Deal
Walmart is reportedly in preliminary talks to buy insurer Humana in yet another megadeal that would make major waves in the health care industry. With a market cap of about $37 billion, Humana would be Walmart’s biggest acquisition by a long shot. It would also turn the world’s largest retailer into a drugstore king. Wall Street Journal
Global M&A Gets Real
Speaking of deals: Global mergers and acquisitions reached a record high in first quarter of 2018, totaling $1.2 trillion in value. (Among them: Cigna-Express Scripts, E.ON-RWE.) Clarity on taxes and strong equity and debt markets instilled confidence in corporate chiefs to be more aggressive. M&A volume was up substantially in Europe and the U.S. and modestly in Asia. Reuters
Trump’s Trade Zeal
In his first public appearance in an almost a week, the U.S. president applauded a new trade agreement with South Korea, yet suggested that he’d delay it as leverage in ongoing negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program. “You know why?” he asked. “Because it’s a very strong card.” The remarks undercut White House efforts to promote the initiative. New York Times
Facebook’s Data Spiel
In an internal memo written in 2016, a top executive at the social networking company weighed the costs of the company’s practices with the value of its mission. “We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified,” the exec wrote. “All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.” Facebook’s data collection practices continue to receive scrutiny. BuzzFeed
Around the Water Cooler
Cathay’s Wardrobe Compunction
After more than 70 years of requiring its female flight attendants to wear skirts, Cathay Pacific, one of Asia’s largest airlines, will allow them to wear pants (that is, trousers) instead. Flight attendant unions earlier this month called on Cathay to drop its skirts-only policy. (Its uniform for female flight attendants includes a red skirt, black stockings, and black heels.) It remains one of the few airlines in Asia to make the change. The Guardian
Microsoft’s Major Reorganization
On Thursday Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed an overhaul of the company’s org chart that aims to bolster its best-performing businesses (such as the cloud platform Azure and its business productivity suite Office 365) and deemphasize Windows. Nadella lieutenant Terry Myerson, who led the latter group, will retire. Fortune
Time Warner-AT&T’s Exhortation
In the fifth day of an antitrust trial, attorneys for media giant Time Warner argued that the U.S. government’s evidence that its proposed sale to AT&T could adversely affect rivals was disconnected from the real world. TWX lawyers even managed to get a government witness from Comcast to back their argument on cross-examination. Bloomberg
Huawei’s 5G Orchestration
The U.S. government may call its progress in 5G wireless technology a national security threat, but the Chinese telecom giant is working to influence peers anyway by sending large teams of representatives to industry gatherings to “swamp” conversations with technical recommendations. Analysts widely believe China will lead the 5G push. Wall Street Journal