Monthly Archives: December 2011

John Gapper

This time last year, I wrote a New Year column with seven predictions for events that would occur in business in 2011. It is time for reckoning and I must say that I scored poorly, with only three out of seven correct.

To be fair to me, the predictions were deliberately provocative. As I noted at the time:  ”They are intended to be adventurous enough to be interesting – even if I turn out to be wrong, they should at least be things to watch.”

I was at least right about that. With no more excuses, let’s take a look at my predictions and what happened. Read more

Those asking themselves if they can trust Britain’s tabloid newspapers any more won’t have been reassured this week by Piers Morgan, the CNN chat show host, who appeared before an official inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal to cast doubt on both his memory and his memoirs.

Andrew Hill

Luxury goods companies increasingly seem to inhabit a parallel universe.

Many ordinary shopkeepers – at least in the recession-blighted west – are grappling with slumping sales, falling share prices and the threat of bankruptcy.

In the US, in an effort to offset worse than expected post-Thanksgiving trading, many stores caused confusion, according to the New York Times, by bringing forward “Super Saturday” – a day of pre-Christmas discounting – to December 17. In the UK, the bleak outlook for the likes of HMV, Peacocks and Blacks Leisure, is a symptom of what one analyst forecasts will be the worst Christmas for a decade.

Contrast that gloom with the great expectations of the luxury brands. On Wednesday, Mulberry announced it would appoint Bruno Guillon, a director of Hermès, the high-end French company, as its next CEO. He’ll lead the UK bagmaker’s push into Asia. The group’s shares added another 3 per cent, having risen 60 per cent in the past year. Read more

The corner office has gone open plan, the company jet is passé, and stock options are so last century. What do you give the manager who has everything? Here’s my catalogue of must-have presents to help executives shape strategy into 2012.

John Gapper

AT&T has spent the past few weeks denying that it was about to drop its bid for T-Mobile USA, despite the heavy regulatory opposition. It has now done precisely that.

I was originally against the deal, arguing in March that:

The US performs badly in fixed-line broadband services in terms of price and speed compared with other countries, hurt by Verizon and AT&T having shrugged off the imposition of competition. The last thing the US now needs is AT&T, which already has mobile operating margins of more than 40 per cent, pulling that trick again.

Come on, DoJ. Just say no.

The US Department of Justice subsequently came out against the deal, along with the Federal Communications Commission. AT&T has taken the medicine, paying the proposed deal’s $4bn break-up fee and going back to square one. Read more

John Gapper

The protests in the southern Chinese village of Wukan, which has now established its own administration outside the control of Guangdong province, cap an extraordinary year of street protests from the Middle East to Wall Street.

It is worth watching this FT video filmed inside Wukan by Ben Marino, with commentary by Jamil Anderlini, our Beijing bureau chief. It features villagers speaking openly of their defiance of the local and regional Communist Party structure and calling for Beijing to step in.

It reminds me of my visit to Guangdong this autumn, talking to migrant workers who come to the Pearl River Delta to find relatively high-paying jobs. Although they are far better off than their parents, they also see others profiting – sometimes illicitly – from special treatment.  Read more

John Gapper

It’s never a good sign when politicians resort to nationalism, or start to complain about other countries. When a central bank governor does it, things must be bad.

Christian Noyer’s suggestion that ratings agencies should downgrade the UK before they downgrade France would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that he is the governor of the Bank of France.

I can understand, and even be amused by, the knockabout spectacle of French politicians trying to counterattack against the threat of France losing its triple-A rating by criticising the Brits.

But a central bank governor who is supposed to be above the political fray and to co-operate with other monetary authorities in easing the financial crisis? It isn’t very dignified. Read more

John Gapper

Whoever thought up Amazon’s latest idea for squeezing other retailers – offering money off to people who scanned prices in US stores with its smartphone app and then bought the goods on Amazon – deserves an award for bad timing.