David Ross

What I think I learned last week #26

France is making it easier for the government to stop foreign takeovers, extending it to the fields of artificial intelligence, microchips, space and data storage. So, in terms of French national strategic assets, artificial intelligence now rates right up there with yogurt.


By increasing 0.6% for the year, Orange revenues rose in France for first time in 9 years. Chief executive and chairman Stephane Richard called 2017 “a remarkable year for Orange.” It is remarkable that the CEO thought a 0.6% increase was remarkable.


Air France, better known to flyers as Air Chance, had half its long-haul flights cancelled on Thursday due to a strike. The airline said they regretted the situation; flyers noticed no difference compared to the airline’s normal service.


French farmers held protests to complain about negotiations between the European Union and the Mercosur block of South American countries. The French farmers are opposed to reports that EU negotiators have offered more market access for South American beef. The farmers say that the cheaper South American beef does not meet the same sanitary and environmental standards. And that is why people all over the world refuse to go to Brazilian and Argentinian steak houses in favor of French and German steak houses.


Reuters reports that French supermarket chain Intermarche could be fined after competition investigators found it breached rules with its hefty discounts on products such as the Nutella chocolate spread offer that caused rioting in stores last month. The French competition agency found that the company broke the law by selling a product cheaply, thereby encouraging shoppers to visit their stores and save money.


The World Economic Forum published a list of the world’s most spoken languages. The top three, in order, are Chinese, Spanish and English, which account for 2 billion people. The rest of the top ten, in order, are: Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russia, Japanese, and Lahnda. Even I would have thought French would beat out Lahnda.


Walmart suffered its worst day, in percentage terms, in over 30 years by dropping 10.18% after stating its online sales slowed to 24%. The three previous quarters had seen online sales growing at rates above 50%. Additionally, Walmart reported the lowest operating margin in its history. Congratulations Walmart, you just got Amazoned!


Reckitt Benckiser joined the parade of disappointing consumer goods companies as it fell 7.5% in its worst day of trading in 15 years after reporting sluggish sales and declining margins.  The CEO went on to say that consumer goods deflation will persist. Congratulations Reckitt Benckiser, you just got Amazoned!


Royal Bank of Scotland just made its first full year of profits in ten years.


A drought in Argentina and the US Midwest has led to speculators having to close down their bearish bets as agricultural commodity prices rise.


KFC was forced to close most of its British stores due to a chicken shortage. Customers cried “Fowl!”


Speaking of fowl, Angry Birds just got angrier. Rovio, the maker of the game “Angry Birds” lost half its value after a profit warning.


Also losing half of their value are women working for Barclay’s investment bank. Barclays disclosed that it pays female employees at its investment bank division just under half as much as male colleagues.


Not losing value was oil, which hit a two-week high as there was a surprise drawdown in US inventories. Crude in storage fell by 1.6 million barrels; analysts expected a gain of 1.9 million barrels.


Cryptojacking is now a thing. Tesla’s cloud service was hacked and used for cryptocurrency mining. Other firms known to have been cryptohacked include Aviva and Gemalto.


BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, upgraded its view on US stocks, saying American profit growth strength is unmatched. While calling for investors to overweight the US, BlackRock lowered its opinion on European stocks, stating that lower relative earnings growth will limit their potential to outperform.


The US Federal Reserve released their January meeting minutes. The result was an upward revision to the economic projections they had just established at the previous meeting. More interest rate hikes are now expected.


Anbang Insurance, the hyper-acquisitive Chinese insurer best known for buying the Waldorf Astoria in New York, has been seized by Chinese regulators who said it was necessary to avoid a collapse of the firm. The regulators also said that Anbang had “illegal business operations which may seriously endanger the company’s solvency.”


And that’s what I think I learned last week…..