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AT&T’s merger with Time Warner goes on trial

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AN ANTITRUST trial over AT&T’s $109bn acquisition of Time Warner, which begins on March 19th, will have more keen observers than one courtroom can handle. Disney, Comcast, 21st Century Fox, Verizon, Charter Communications, CBS and Viacom will be watching. So will Netflix, Amazon and Google.The reason is simple. If AT&T wins the case against the Justice Department, and the “vertical merger” of the distribution and content businesses goes through, a wave of consolidation deals will follow. Companies that rely on large numbers of people to watch video will want to bulk up to compete with each other and Silicon Valley’s mightiest.Comcast may make a hostile bid for Fox’s assets, setting off a bidding war with Disney, which has already agreed a $66bn deal with Fox. (Comcast already wants to buy

Which firms profit most from America’s health-care system

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EVERY year America spends about $5,000 more per person on health care than other rich countries do. Yet its people are not any healthier. Where does all the money go? One explanation is waste, with patients wolfing down too many pills and administrators churning out red tape. There is also the cost of services that may be popular and legitimate but do nothing to improve medical outcomes. Manhattan’s hospitals, with their swish reception desks and menus, can seem like hotels compared with London’s bleached Victorian structures.The most controversial source of excess spending, though, is rent-seeking by health-care firms. This is when companies extract outsize profits relative to the capital they deploy and risks they take. Schumpeter has estimated the scale of gouging across the health-care

Unilever picks Rotterdam

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PROUDLY overlooking the River Thames, Unilever House looks more royal palace than office building. Built on the site of a Tudor estate, for nine decades it has been the London home to Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer-goods firms. Since a merger of British soapmakers and Dutch margarine merchants in 1929, Unilever has been a dual-nationality company. It is legally domiciled in Britain and the Netherlands, with headquarters in both the London building and in Rotterdam.The appeal of dual citizenship has faded. After a year-long review, on March 15th Unilever’s board announced plans to move its legal base to Rotterdam. (The firm will continue to have a listing in London, and claims no British jobs will be lost.) Many in the City of London finger Britain’s decision to leave the Eur

Germany’s two biggest utilities strike a deal

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Windy with a chance of profitsWHEN Johannes Teyssen took control of E.ON in 2010, it was Germany’s second-biggest company after Siemens, an industrial giant. From its headquarters in chic Düsseldorf, the utility looked down on RWE, its longtime rival, based in Essen, a down-at-heel former coal-and-steel town 40 minutes’ drive away.The illusion of superiority did not last. The following year Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, reacted to the meltdown at Fukushima in Japan by starting a process to shut down Germany’s nuclear-power plants, on which both companies relied. Other aspects of the Energiewende, or energy transition, added to their woes, as lavish support for renewables clobbered the country’s wholesale electricity prices. The companies’ profits slumped, as did their share prices (

The reckoning at Theranos

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“The Next Steve Jobs”“THE Next Steve Jobs” is how Inc., an American business magazine, described Elizabeth Holmes when her photograph appeared on its cover in 2015. They may share an affinity for black turtlenecks but the reputations of Ms Holmes and Apple’s celebrated late boss could not be more different. On March 14th Ms Holmes was accused of fraud by America’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). She has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine, not serve as an officer of a public company for ten years and turn over much of her stake in Theranos, the startup she founded (she has neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing).Only a few years ago Ms Holmes, who is 34 years old, was touted as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, a shatterer of Silicon Valley’s reinforced-glass ceiling.

Protectionism may impede Delta’s expansion plans

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AS AMERICA’S oldest airline still aloft, Delta makes much of its southern roots. At its biggest hub, Atlanta airport, the company museum recounts how it became the world’s second-biggest carrier. The answer: by buying up domestic rivals. With few takeover targets left at home, Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, is looking abroad. But his plans for more foreign joint ventures (JVs) face regulatory headwinds.Last year Mr Bastian announced a flurry of JVs. In May Delta launched one with Aeromexico and in June another with Korean Air. In July Delta formed one of the world’s biggest JVs with Virgin Atlantic of Britain and Air France-KLM, a European group. In December it sealed one with WestJet, Canada’s biggest low-cost carrier. It wants closer relations with China Eastern and GOL of Brazil,

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi has become the world’s biggest carmaker

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RENAULT unveiled the EZ-GO, a concept for a robotaxi, at the Geneva motor show, which opened on March 5th. Nissan, in conjunction with DeNA, a Japanese software firm, recently began trials of driverless taxis in Japan. The two companies are pursuing their own paths towards the future of mobility. Yet both are bound together in a close alliance, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. In 2016 they were joined by Mitsubishi. Last year the trio sold 10.6m cars between them, one in every nine worldwide.It is a unique carmaking liaison, neither a full merger nor as loose as the many tie-ups forged to spread the cost of developing pricey pieces of technology. Each firm remains autonomous but shares a growing number of links in the supply chain with the other two. It all looks hugely suc...

Online starlets are refashioning Chinese e-commerce

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Ms Jiang and Mr Liang, salespeople of the yearLIANG TAO shifted 80 pink Givenchy bags in 12 minutes. Becky Fang offloaded 100 turquoise Mini Cooper cars in just five. Both are wanghong, literally “red-hot on the web”. Every day millions of Chinese trawl social media for wanghong posts or tune in to live-streams for opinions on everything from a French fashionista’s essentials to rampant sexism in China. The fans are helping this new breed of Chinese internet star to monetise their popularity—and to shake up the country’s e-commerce industry in the process.Unlike conventional luxury-and-beauty brand ambassadors, many wanghong have built their fan bases through compelling online content rather than a famous name. Some of the most successful are not especially glamorous. “Pudgy Luo” is a midd