Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sometimes the most obvious and tempting strategy is the stupidest. That applies to Argentina’s decision to seize a majority share in YPF, its biggest oil company, from Repsol, the Spanish energy group.

Andrew Hill

Warren Buffett’s early stage prostate cancer is so commonplace and treatable that you might legitimately ask whether it was worth declaring. But there is no question that it was better for Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman to make his statement than to conceal the condition.

While there are good reasons to respect the privacy of patients, Apple’s failure to detail Steve Jobs’ condition during his leave of absence for health reasons in 2009 spread unnecessary uncertainty about the future of the company and its succession planning.

If Mr Buffett had any doubts about whether to make his statement, he could have asked a fellow senior citizen: Rupert Murdoch. Read more

Andrew Hill

If mergers of equals are risky and hostile takeovers riskier, where does expropriation rank on the scale of management disruption?

Pretty high, I would guess. So, a day after Argentinian government officials walked into YPF’s headquarters with a list of senior Spanish executives they wanted to expel and an order to renationalise most of Repsol’s majority stake, I feel for the oil company’s staff. Read more

John Gapper

Sarah Gordon points out that Nokia and Sony have a set of problems that undermined their capacity for innovation. But they are far from alone in being victims of Apple’s success.

In fact, the list of Apple victims is long and stretches across the media and technology. Since Steve Jobs unveiled iTunes and the iPod in 2001, starting Apple’s decade long rise to  dominance in consumer technology and electronics, his company has left many of its competitors wounded. Read more

Andrew Hill

Embattled defenders of horseracing in the UK and Ireland will allow themselves a wry smile at China’s decision to buy into Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding expertise. Just as communist China is trying to breathe new life into a sport it once outlawed, racing is under fire in the decadent west.

The 2012 Grand National at Aintree – next time, Tianjin? (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The news that Ireland will help China set up a $2bn national equine centre came the day after critics renewed calls for a ban on the Grand National – English racing’s best-known and most gruelling steeplechase. Two horses had to be destroyed after falling in Saturday’s race. Read more

John Gapper

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

So the US Department of Justice has struck, pushing three of the major book publishers into a settlement that will allow Amazon to resume discounting of electronic books, with three others left outside the settlement.

I’ve argued before against the anti-trust actions in the US and Europe to limit “agency pricing” by  publishers and hand power back to Amazon, so I won’t rehearse that here. Instead, I’ll consider briefly what the effect of the settlement is likely to be.

In short, although it is clearly good news for Amazon and bad news for the big publishers, the outcome may not be as clear-cut as the headlines suggest. Read more

It is no wonder that Mark Zuckerberg got so defensive this week. As he was paying $1bn to eliminate the threat to Facebook from Instagram, an 18-month old photo sharing site, the web’s former giants were being humbled.

John Gapper

President Barack Obama’s proposed “Buffett rule” – that no household making over $1m annually should pay a smaller share of its income than middle-class families pay – may turn out to be good politics but it has a numerical weak spot.

The issue is that the top 0.1 per cent in the US are already paying a higher rate of tax on average than the middle quintile of earners, on the White House’s own figures – 26 per cent compared with 16 per cent in 2010. Read more