Good morning, Peter Vanham here, filling in for Alan.
Some companies like risk. Others don’t. And then there’s Nestlé, the consumer goods company that makes things like Nespresso, KitKat, and baby formula. The Swiss giant announced this week it is investing $43 million in the construction of a new food factory in Ukraine. The plant will be located in the west of the country and produce food both for local consumption and European export.
What drove the 156-year-old company to invest in Ukraine? Bravery, or just good business sense?
“It is a proof of our commitment,” Nestlé chairman Paul Bulcke told me over the phone from Chile. “We want to show the Ukrainian people that they can count on us. We want them to know we are consistent in our beliefs and dependable in our commitment to them.”
Nestlé is not a newbie to committing to war-torn countries, or countries facing other types of instability. It stayed in Myanmar throughout the junta, in Cuba and Venezuela throughout the Communist takeovers, and in Zimbabwe throughout the sanctions era. (The fact that its headquarters are in neutral Switzerland helped in that regard.)
But in the past year its commitment to serving consumers, regardless of the political situation, got its harshest test yet. True to its history, but unlike many of its Western competitors, Nestlé remained active in Russia, though it focused only on essential food products such as baby formula. “Luxury” items such as chocolate and coffee were discontinued.
The Russia stance wasn’t welcomed everywhere, and it particularly angered Ukrainians. It is in this context, too, that the Ukraine plant decision must be seen, Bulcke added. “By investing in Ukraine we send a signal. We won’t abandon the Ukrainian people. One day, the war will end.”
That doesn’t mean the investment is only about the values, though, Bulcke told me: “We’re not in the business of philanthropy. But with our activities, we are a force for good in society. The agricultural inputs are there, and we count on it that the West of Ukraine is safe.”
Is there a lesson for other companies? “In an increasingly ambiguous world, you have to live up to your beliefs, and you have to stand behind them,” the Nestlé veteran said.
“If you allow yourself to be conditioned by externalities,” Bulcke concluded, “you turn into a Ping-Pong ball.”
More news below.
The world’s biggest crypto exchange, Binance, saw as much as $3 billion in withdrawals yesterday, according to blockchain analytics firm Nansen. CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said the sum was little over $1 billion and was “business as usual for us.” Meanwhile, a U.S. government investigation into Binance’s regulatory compliance has reportedly stalled owing to intra–Justice Department squabbles over the investigations conclusion. CZ has told his staffers: “While we expect the next several months to be bumpy, we will get past this challenging period—and we’ll be stronger for having been through it.” CNN
The European Commission has formally proposed a replacement for the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield agreement, which gave U.S. companies an easy way to legally import Europeans’ personal data, and which was—like its predecessor—struck down by the bloc’s highest court. The Commission’s move follows an executive order by President Joe Biden that promised enhanced safeguards for U.S. intelligence practices, which were the EU court’s big worry. Privacy activists don’t think the new deal would survive the court’s scrutiny, and even the Commission gives it a “seven or eight out of 10” chance of survival. TechCrunch
Arm has for the first time decided not to sell its most advanced chip designs to a Chinese company in the face of U.S. and U.K. opposition to such sales. The loser here is Chinese tech giant Alibaba, which can’t get its hands on Arm’s Neoverse V series—the high-performance processor designs could have military as well as standard commercial uses. Arm’s designs are ubiquitous, powering almost all mobile devices and many other gadgets; the company is British but owned by Japan’s SoftBank. (Bonus read: a big Reuters investigation into how Russia skirts Western tech sanctions.) Financial Times
AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
Prosecutors give a stark warning to other crypto platforms in the wake of the SBF indictment and call it ‘one of the biggest financial frauds in American history,’ by Tristan Bove
Sam Bankman-Fried is denied bail over FTX’s collapse after judge rules his ‘risk of flight is so great,’ by Bloomberg
‘Literally, there’s no record-keeping whatsoever’: FTX’s new CEO is flabbergasted and D.C. is laughing at SBF using QuickBooks, by Associated Press
‘Santa is coming after all’: Investors celebrate a cooler-than-expected inflation report, by Will Daniel
Intensified housing market correction has homebuilders offering sweetheart deals to Wall Street, by Lance Lambert
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.
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