HNA and Deutsche Bank, Moonves Talks, Elon’s Joint Venture: CEO Daily for September 7, 2018
Good morning. David Meyer here, filling in for Alan from Berlin.
The public comment period for President Trump’s proposed new round of tariffs on Chinese goods—worth an escalation-tastic $200 billion this time—ended yesterday. That means the 25% levies could start to hit any time now, although Bloomberg reports that big American tech companies and retailers have been making a last-minute effort to change the president’s mind.
Companies such as Cisco and Hewlett-Packard say tariffs on Chinese networking equipment will ultimately make it more expensive for American consumers to access the Internet. The National Retail Federation says manufacturers and small-to-mid-sized firms will also bear the brunt of raised costs. China is promising to retaliate if the White House moves ahead with the new tariffs. No surprise that U.S. CEOs are losing sleep over all the unknowns being thrown into the mix.
Meanwhile, Trump is now hinting at a new trade rumble with Japan. Add this to the pile of unresolved disputes, which includes not only China but the European Union, Turkey, Canada and—until the fine print is out and the ink dry—Mexico.
The president says these battles are necessary because the U.S. is “losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with,” but, at the same time, the U.S. economy continues to boom and jobs continue to be added. Today’s jobs report is expected to show an unemployment rate of just 3.8%, with growth in new jobs slowing mainly because there aren’t enough people out there to fill all the vacant positions—though Goldman Sachs also reckons some companies are delaying new hires because of tariff uncertainty.
There’s little doubt that these disputes will be a major topic of conversation at the 2018 Fortune Global Forum, which is being held at the invitation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto on October 15-17.
A bevy of Fortune 500 CEOs will meet there with innovators and experts from around the world, with participants including Louisa Cheang of Hang Seng Bank, Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm, Chuck Robbins of Cisco, Joe Kaeser of Siemens AG, and many, many more. Here’s a list of participants and here’s the program.
HNA and Deutsche Bank
HNA Group, the giant Chinese conglomerate, is reportedly planning to offload most of its recent overseas investments, under pressure from authorities in Beijing who want it to shrink its balance sheet. According to The Wall Street Journal, the plan includes a complete divestiture from Deutsche Bank, in which it holds a 7.6% stake. HNA is apparently also looking to sell California-based Ingram Micro and the Swiss cargo handler Swissport International. WSJ
CBS is trying to negotiate Les Moonves’s exit as CEO, and the board has reportedly offered him $100 million in stock to go away. Moonves’s contract says he is owed up to $180 million in severance and a production deal. CNBC’s sources say the board’s offer would allow it to claw back some of the stock if the sexual harassment allegations that Moonves faces are shown to be true. CNBC
Elon’s Joint Venture
Tesla CEO Elon Musk partook of a joint and drank whiskey on a livestreamed broadcast of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast Thursday night. He also said he has a design for an electric plane, though he conceded that his work on electric cars, solar energy and energy storage are “much more important” right now. “The momentum to sustainable energy is too slow,” he said, according to The Verge. Meanwhile, a prominent short-seller is suing Musk and Tesla over that abortive going-private-oops-maybe-not episode. Reuters
Shares in International Consolidated Airlines fell by as much as 4% this morning after British Airways, one of the group’s main carriers, admitted hackers stole customer card data in a “sophisticated” breach of BA’s systems between August 21 and September 5. BA CEO Álex Cruz promised to “compensate any financial hardship suffered” as a result of the compromise of around 380,000 payment cards. Guardian
Around the Water Cooler
The frontrunner in Brazil’s upcoming presidential election, the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, was stabbed at a rally. He sustained serious injuries, and had to have surgery on his intestines. The alleged assailant, who officials said is mentally disturbed, was beaten by Bolsonaro’s supporters. The incident creates a bizarre situation where one leading candidate is in a hospital bed and the other—the left-wing former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva—is in prison after a corruption conviction. BBC
JD.com CEO Richard Liu—arrested and released last week after a rape accusation—is “willing to cooperate further” with Minneapolis law enforcement if requested, the company has said. “The situation in Minnesota did not have, and is not expected to have, any impact on JD.com’s day-to-day operations,” the Chinese company said. Investors aren’t so sure—JD.com has lost 16% of its market value since Liu’s arrest. South China Morning Post
Elliott on Hyundai
Activist hedge fund Elliott Management wants to see a big shakeup, of Elliott’s design, at Hyundai Motor Group. Elliott previously sunk Hyundai’s own restructuring plans and is now complaining that its attempts to discuss a new plan are being blanked by the car giant. Hyundai said it expects to “share our thoughts on how to improve shareholder value with all of our shareholders in due course.” Reuters
Twitter has finally (as in permanently) kicked Alex Jones and his far-right conspiracy site Infowars off its platform, citing “abusive behavior” by their accounts. The straw that broke the camel’s back was apparently a video Jones posted of him insulting the appearance of CNN reporter Oliver Darcy. Jones’s take: “I was taken down not because we lie but because we tell the truth and because we were popular.” NBC