John Gapper

There is something peculiarly impressive about the video below of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, talking in Mandarin to students at Tsinghua University in Beijing. If nothing else, it shows a dedication to the country’s customs that very few foreign business leaders can match.

 

Forty years ago, when Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the US Federal Reserve, was an economist at Harvard University, she was interested in the film Five Easy Pieces. She noted the scene in which a diner waitress refuses to bring Jack Nicholson’s character an omelette with coffee and wheat toast because it serves omelettes with cottage fries and rolls. “I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want,” he retorts.

Technology has its eyes on banking. Apple is expected this week to launch Apple Pay, its touchless payment system for iPhones; venture capital funds are pouring money into “fintech” start-ups; and Marc Andreessen, the technology entrepreneur, talks of “a chance to rebuild the system. Financial transactions are just numbers; it’s just information.”

John Gapper

Mark Carney

Mark Carney   © Photo by Chris Watt – WPA Pool /Getty Images

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, would not win a popularity contest among directors of banks at the moment. Yet he and the Bank are taking a stance on individual responsibility that most people think is long overdue. 

Star fund managers are very valuable people, but not as valuable as they think they are. In a world of precise calculations and spotting the arbitrage opportunities between prices, this is one gap they fail to notice.

John Gapper

It is just about possible to regard Meg Whitman’s decision to split Hewlett-Packard in two as consistent. Her first move when appointed three years ago was to keep the whole thing together but now may simply be a better time to attempt a separation than the rushed effort by Léo Apotheker, her predecessor.

All the same, despite the greater discipline and focus that Ms Whitman has brought to HP since Mr Apotheker’s unhappy period at the helm, the underlying logic was relentless. HP is no longer the technology growth stock it once was so all roads tend to lead to corporate re-engineering. 

Every so often, a company announces that it is considering its “strategic options” for one of its businesses, which means that it wants to ditch it as soon as possible. This would be a good time for technology companies to consider their strategic options for their global tax arrangements.

On Thursday, Scotland may set out on the bumpy path to independence from the rest of the UK. Its banking system is likely to work only if it is braver and more far-sighted than Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party leader, during the campaign.

In the last months of the current European Commission, Google is in deep trouble. Its effort to reach an antitrust deal with Joaquín Almunia, the competition commissioner who is to be succeeded by Margrethe Vestager, is failing amid an outcry from politicians and rivals that it is being let off the hook.

John Gapper

Dan Doctoroff might have known what was coming when Michael Bloomberg decided on the location for his new desk upon returning “part-time” to his eponymous company after three terms as mayor of New York City.

Mr Doctoroff, the man Mr Bloomberg chose to lead Bloomberg in his political absence, told employees in January that the founder would “most likely spend a few hours a day working from his new desk on the fifth floor,” at Bloomberg’s offices on Lexington Avenue in New York. 

Another week, another regulatory battle for Uber, the Silicon Valley private car hire network with a German name. This time it is in Germany, where a Frankfurt court has banned its Uber Pop “ride-sharing” service that introduces passengers to unlicensed drivers through a smartphone app.

It rained on Burning Man this week, delaying the start of the experimental, utopian festival in the Nevada desert attended by many technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Burning Man’s usual meteorological challenge is dust storms, so it made a change for the desert to imitate Glastonbury by turning to mud.

Bernie Ecclestone, the 83-year-old supremo of Formula One, this week brought his empire-threatening bribery trial to an end by agreeing to pay $100m to the German court that was hearing the case. That is right: he paid off the state of Bavaria to escape a bribery charge.

John Gapper

My first reaction to the $73bn bid from 21st Century Fox for Time Warner, which this week settled in for a prolonged fight as Time Warner blocked Fox from mounting a rapid assault on its board of directors, was to ask: what problem is Rupert Murdoch trying to solve?

The longest line at the Farnborough International Airshow this week was for a model aircraft. In the absence of the F-35 Lightning, the colossally expensive and accident-prone stealth fighter that was scheduled to be the show’s highlight before an engine failed on a test aircraft, Lockheed Martin brought a replica.