All posts by Alison Meadows

Alison Meadows

About Alison Meadows

Alison Meadows has a PHD in Economic Trends in Modern Times and is a known writer who focuses on hedge fund investments. Meadows, her husband, and three kids live in Boston, where she grew up and attended college. Contact Alison at alison[at]businessdistrict.com

Italian Confectioner Ferrero Buys Nestle USA

Photo courtesy of Avelinak

After considering several buyers for its US chocolate business, food giant Nestle picked the Italian luxury chocolate brand, Ferrero in a deal worth about $2.5 billion. Last week it was reported that Ferrero had outbid its rival Hershey for the prize.

The deal makes Ferrero the third largest chocolate company in the US, after Mars, Inc. and Hershey. Before the buyout, Ferrero was the fifth largest confectioner, but only controlled 3% of the market. The Hershey group had 31.5% of the industry and Mars with 27.1%.

Ferrero also makes Ferrero Rocher pralines and Kinder chocolate eggs. It was founded in 1946, in the small Italian town of Alba, in Piedmont, by the grandfather of the present CEO, Giovanni Ferrero.

In 2011, after the death of his brother, Giovanni became the sole CEO of the company. Until that point the business grew solely through internal growth. After that the company started growing through acquisitions of other companies.

G20 Avoiding Commitment to Strong Free Trade Endorsements

Steven Mnuchin’s Official Portrait as the 77th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

US finance officials attending the G20 summit in Baden-Baden, Germany, refrained from signing a document committing the US to free trade as a policy. The refusal is a 180-degree departure from a decade-old policy of supporting free trade. The non-move stymied the chance of any deal from being forged. US intervention also led to any cooperative actions from taking place to stem the tide of climate change.

The talks between the world’s 20 most important world powers, known as the G20, ended with no joint position statement that would have definitively renewed the country’s long-standing promise to develop and nurture free trade among the nations.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin led the US delegation and its push-back against free trade. As a result, the G20 finance ministers’ statement reneged on past commitments made by the body, including an unequivocal rejection of protectionism and a strident backing of free trade.

The statement the ministers did issue was a mildly worded, non-committal statement that said that the G20 countries “are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to their economies.”
Also conspicuously missing were the usual commitments to multilateral trade systems, like the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The summit and the G20 are both an informal forum and a non-binding body of nations. Statements do not obligate any of the countries to any particular policy or practice. However, the discussions between the G20 nations and the statements they publish do have and impact on economic and financial policy in the year to come.

Will Putin Retaliate or Not?

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to once again do the unexpected when he announced that he was not going to retaliate in response to President Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. It seemed he only had to wait a mere three weeks or so for the bruhaha to die down when Donald Trump is sworn in as the next US president.

Now, however, there are reports that Russia is taking some steps to punish the US for its actions. Last week CNN reported that Russian authorities ordered the closing of the Anglo-American School in Moscow, siting an unnamed source who said he knew personally about the development. The school is for the children of Western embassy personnel from Britain, Canada and the USA.

The Russian foreign ministry denied the allegation.

CNN also reported that Russia ordered the closing of a vacation home used by US embassy personnel, about 16 kilometers west of Moscow.

In contradiction to earlier reports that there would be no reprisal against US diplomats in Russia, Russian spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova said that a Russian response to Obama’s actions would be similar which would “immediately backfire at US diplomats in Russia.”

“The outgoing US administration has not given up on its hope of dealing one last blow to relations with Russia, which it has already destroyed,” her statement said.

The Kremlin had previously stated that the US would “receive an answer” if it did anything to punish Russia. Obama sought to impose sanctions on Russia for its role in tampering with the recent US elections via hacking of email accounts associated with people in the Democratic Party. Several US intelligence agencies have stated the Russian actions were deliberately designed to interfere with the US elections, specifically, to help Donald Trump with the election.

Fox Buys Sky

Rupert Murdoch at Les Misérables red carpet movie premiere, Sydney, Australia. Photo by Eva Rinaldi.

It took five years, but Rupert Murdoch has finally acquired the rest of the UK-based Sky Network. Murdoch is the Australian-American media mogul billionaire owner of 21st Century Fox, who tried, but failed a complete buyout of Sky in 2011. Now he is getting the 61 percent that he didn’t already own for almost $15 billion, $13.52 per share. The price is a 36 percent increase over the closing price of the stock on December 8. Fox projects that it will be able to close the deal for $14.6 billion before the end of 2017.

The sale was scrapped in 2011 due to News Corp.’s phone hacking and alleged bribery scandal. Because of this summer’s Brexit decision, the value of the pound dived, making the price of Sky’s shares a relative bargain.

“We have been thoughtful, disciplined and focused as we have contemplated the best use of our capital to drive the growth of the business into the future,” said Lachlan Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s executive chairman.

The deal with Sky is Fox’s largest transaction to date. Sky will add value to Fox by providing its own programming, library to sports broadcasting rights, and more during a time when large telecom and content providers are consolidating.

“All in all, even taking into account the sports cost issue, this is probably a better and more durable business than most US. investors would presume,” said Michael Nathanson, of MoffettNathanson Research, who lowered its rating on Fox shares to Neutral from Buy and increased the target price $2 to $32.

Rupert Murdoch owns 21st Century Fox with his sons James and Lachlan, including Fox TV network, Fox News and Hollywood study 20th Century Fox.

Business Schools Could Lose Overseas Students in President Trump America

Until the election of Donald Trump to become the US president beginning in early 2017, US business schools were a desirable option for students from overseas looking to earn an MBA. Now some of these prospective students are reconsidering US business schools as an option.

“I want to be able to work in the country where I study after graduation,” one marketing executive from India said. “So it is important to be in a place that is immigrant-friendly.”

US business school deans are hopeful that this prospective student is not the sign of a trend.

Douglas Skinner, dean of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business says he is “cautiously optimistic,” about the backlash from a Trump presidency. He pointed out that even if the economy was to stall, (something he does not think will happen,) domestic demand for MBA places would rise, since that is the trend when jobs are more scarce.

But Skinner is afraid that the threatened proposals to immigration will seriously effect enrollment in his school’s MBA program. More than one-third of the full-time students attending the Chicago Booth School of Business come from overseas.

“If there was a restriction on visas to students that would clearly be somewhat harmful to us,” Prof Skinner says. He adds that other schools are even more dependent on students from abroad than Booth is.