Italian businessItaly SpA offers an object lesson in corporate declineHow the leopard lost its spotsFEW WORKS of literature capture the challenges of managing decay better than “The Leopard”, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece about Sicilian blue bloods struggling to adapt to the changes ushered in by Italian unification in the 1860s....
BartlebyWhat the armed forces can teach businessFighting spiritWHEN CAPTAIN Gareth Tennant was patrolling with the Royal Marines in the Gulf of Aden in 2010, his team intercepted some Somali pirates on two skiffs. The pirates’ weapons were confiscated and the marines waited for clearance to release their prisoners. The plan was...
What nextMeet NextEra, America’s most valuable energy firmThe clean-energy utility has surpassed ExxonMobil in market capitalisaion—and shows no signs of slowingTO MANY INVESTORS, backing an American oil company looks only slightly shrewder than stuffing cash in a blender. Facing covid-19 and old concerns over low returns, the industry is scrambling to...
A new career in a new townHow Berlin has become a centre for European venture capitalOnce edgy, the tech scene is in danger of going mainstreamFOR BRITS of a certain age and inclination, Berlin is a city that is forever linked with David Bowie. When he lived there in the late...
Disaster profiteeringPrice gouging: a cautionary taleNew York City’s new rules show the difficulties of regulating pricesUNSCRUPULOUS TRADERS use a crisis to charge exorbitant prices. Politicians, wanting to protect consumers, crack down on profiteers. But how to work out what price is too high, and what redress is appropriate? The story of...
The rule-makersWho decides what counts as an emerging market?A glimpse into the mysterious world of benchmark providersWHAT DOES Saudi Arabia, with an income per head of $23,000, lavish public services and oodles of oil, have in common with Zambia, where incomes are 94% lower and the government is on the brink...
The home straightNgozi Okonjo-Iweala is the favourite to lead the WTOThe leadership race tells you something about thorny trade issuesMEMBERS OF THE World Trade Organisation (WTO) are not known for co-operating with each other. So when in June they began the process of choosing a new director-general, many feared deadlock. But...
Free exchangeCan too many brainy people be a dangerous thing?Some academics argue that unhappy elites lead to political instabilityTEN YEARS ago Peter Turchin, a scientist at the University of Connecticut, made a startling prediction in Nature. “The next decade is likely to be a period of growing instability in the United...
Top contenderThe front-runner for Joe Biden’s Treasury boss has a mighty CVLael Brainard, a Fed official, has worked for two presidentsIN EARLY 2009, faced with an economic crisis and a host of jobs to fill, Barack Obama, the newly inaugurated president, went hunting for talent. For the role of the Treasury...
SchumpeterWho owns the web’s data?The fightback against Big Tech’s feudal lords has begunSIR TIM BERNERS-LEE had a Romantic vision when he created the World Wide Web in 1989. In his words, he helped “weave” it together as a way of connecting anything to anything—as if he were sitting at a loom,...
Fertile groundThe pull of India’s tractor-makersDemand for farm equipment has soared amid the pandemicWERE ANY more evidence needed to reflect how surprising 2020 has been, consider tractor sales. In April Hemant Sikka, president of Mahindra & Mahindra’s farm-equipment business—which makes around 300,000 of the things a year, more than any other...
The future of SoftBankWhat SoftBank’s Masa does nextCan the coronavirus-induced digital revolution restore Son Masayoshi’s reputation for investing brilliance?EARLIER THIS year the covid-19 pandemic brought SoftBank Group to its knees. As bondholders fled heavily indebted firms, the junk-rated Japanese tech conglomerate looked shaky. In March its flamboyant boss, Son Masayoshi, announced...
SchumpeterShould big tech save newspapers?No. They need to save themselvesIN THE EARLY 17th century the best place to gather news in London was the old cathedral of St Paul’s, a place that buzzed with gossip on politics and was described—unusually for a house of worship—as “the ear’s brothel”. Some of the...
Turning a cornerConvenience stores may benefit from covid-19—if they adaptMinimarts let people shop little, often and locally—just the ticket in pandemic timesCORNER SHOPS are within walking distance of many homes, open long hours and small enough not to require customers to linger too long inside. They no longer sell just basic...
The iPhone gets up to snuffRather later than rivals, Apple unveils a first 5G-enabled phoneHAVING more or less invented the smartphone in 2007, Apple has lately lagged behind other gadget-makers. On October 13th it caught up, unveiling its first 5G-enabled iPhones. Expect sales to pick up as users who have put...
Red capitalismWhy Chinese firms still flock to American stock exchangesWashington is increasingly hostile to Chinese firms. Not Wall StreetCHINESE FIRMS get a frosty reception in America these days. President Donald Trump is a relentless China-basher. His administration has tried to crush Huawei, a telecoms giant, ban TikTok and WeChat, two popular...
BartlebyCountering the tyranny of the clockHow flexible working is changing workers relationship with timeTWO HUNDRED years ago, a device began to dominate the world of work. No, not the steam engine—the gadget was the clock. With the arrival of the factory, people were paid on the basis of how many hours...
The calm after the stormWall Street says it is braced for losses. Now what?One question is what they do with their earningsMOST BANKERS have been working frantically for the past six months. Traders handled record-high volumes in choppy markets. Their colleagues issued mountains of equity and debt as companies sought to...
The real dealCan China’s reported growth be trusted?Economists have constructed alternative gauges, some less flattering than othersNO SOPHISTICATED ANALYSIS is needed to show that China is in better economic shape than most other countries these days. Just look at its bustling shopping malls, its jammed roads in rush hour and its...
ButtonwoodThe tale of Iran’s stockmarket bubble is familiar—but also strangeThere is more to it than savings having nowhere else to goAROUND FIVE years ago emerging-market investors were greatly excited by the prospects for Iran’s stockmarket. The lifting of sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme was in sight. Exports...

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