Colgate-Palmolive

Andrew Hill

Rakesh Kapoor has been in charge of Reckitt Benckiser for less than a  year but already he’s changed the world. Or, more accurately, he’s changed Reckitt’s view of the world, by merging its European and North American operations into one Amsterdam-based unit, and splitting the rest of the world into two reporting areas.

Like three ugly sisters, the new operations are called Ena, Rumea (Russia, Middle East, Africa) and Lapac (Latin America and Asia-Pacific). Stefan Wagstyl has pointed out on the FT beyondbrics blog that the clear message is that “emerging markets matter” for the multinational consumer goods group.

Reckitt’s change is more than a laborious redrafting of the corporate organigram. Pankaj Ghemawat wrote in World 3.0 that General Motors’ decision to make many of its non-US, non-European operations report to China was “a basic realignment of power”. The impact of Reckitt’s move to aim resources more directly at growing markets could be just as profound. 

John Gapper

Warren Buffett’s foray into IBM, acquiring a 5.5 per cent stake in the company, seems to defy his longstanding antipathy to investing in technology companies. But it depends on what the meaning of “technology company” is.

Mr Buffett’s main objection to technology has always been its unpredictability, as he explained in this discussion with Bill Gates in 1998, which was published by Fortune magazine:

“I look for businesses in which I think I can predict what they’re going to look like in 10 or 15 or 20 years. That means businesses that will look more or less as they do today, except that they’ll be larger and doing more business internationally.”

“So I focus on an absence of change. When I look at the internet, for example, I try and figure out how an industry or a company can be hurt or changed by it, and then I avoid it. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s a lot of money to be made from that change, I just don’t think I’m the one to make a lot of money out of it.”