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Apple and Amazon’s moves in health signal a coming transformation

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THE past decade has seen the smartphone become a portal for managing daily life. Consumers use their pocket computers to bank, buy and befriend. Now this array of activities is expanding into an even more vital sphere. Apple has spent three years preparing its devices and software to process medical data, offering products to researchers and clinical-care teams. On January 24th it announced the result. The next big software update for its iPhone will include a feature, Health Records, to allow users to view, manage and share their medical records. Embedded in Apple’s Health app, the new feature will bring together medical data from participating hospitals and clinics, as well as from the iPhone itself, giving millions of Americans direct digital control of their own health information for

What a takeover of Dr Pepper says about a secretive family’s plans

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EUROPE is home to some extraordinary wealth creators who often try to hide their success. Ingvar Kamprad, a Swedish farmer’s son, constructed IKEA, a seller of flat-pack furniture that became a global giant with annual revenues of €38bn ($47bn). He died at the age of 91 on January 27th, after a famously frugal life. Amancio Ortega, the Spanish son of a railway worker, founded Inditex, a fast-fashion giant, and shuns any media attention. Then there is the reclusive Reimann family of Germany, members of which reportedly take a vow at the age of 18 not to talk publicly about their business, JAB Holding, a Luxembourg-based investment group.Yet JAB’s habit of gulping down big, famous firms at a frenetic pace is making it hard for it to stay in the shadows. On January 29th it said it will pay $1

A big Blackstone deal shows how private equity has changed

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THE financial crisis a decade ago brought the glory days of private equity to a screeching halt. The debt-fuelled megadeals on which the industry had built its fame (or notoriety) seemed over. But on January 30th a group of investors led by Blackstone, the world’s largest private-equity firm, announced a $17bn deal to carve out Thomson Reuters’ financial and risk business (F&R), a financial-data provider. The deal would be Blackstone’s largest since the crisis. But if the megadeal is making a comeback, it is in a new guise.In the mid-2000s, huge transactions abounded. Deals from 2006 and 2007 alone account for nine of the ten largest ever. But, looking purely at value, the only true drought in big deals was from 2008-12. Every year since 2013 has seen at least one buy-out of more than $10b

Pakistan’s biggest private-sector firm bets on a fabled coal mine

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Engro’s national missionPAKISTAN’s enormous mineral wealth has long lain untapped. Since a 1992 geological survey spotted one of the world’s largest coal reserves in Thar, a scrubby desert in the southern province of Sindh, prospectors have hardly dug up a lump. Among those to flounder is a national hero. Samar Mubarakmand, feted for his role in Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme, has just shut the coal-gasification company he founded in 2010, when he vowed on live television to crack Thar.Environmentalists, many from abroad, argue the reserve’s 175bn-ton bounty should remain underground. They point out the coal is lignite—dirty, poor-quality stuff that, in adding to carbon emissions, increases the risk of climate change for Pakistan. Other critics note that by locking itself into coal,

A new sort of health app can do the job of drugs

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LUANN STOTTLEMYER has had diabetes for 23 years, but it was only in 2016 that her doctor prescribed a treatment that changed her life. It has allowed her to bring her blood-sugar levels under control and lose weight. Yet this miracle of modern science is not a new pill. It is a smartphone app called BlueStar.The program is one of a growing number of apps that America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved to treat everything from diabetes to substance abuse. The FDA has encouraged firms to join a scheme that aims to streamline the regulatory process for such treatments. There are many candidates: at least 150 firms globally are developing some form of “digital therapeutic” (“digiceutical” in the lingo), says Mark Sluijs, who advises Merck, a big American drugmaker.Unlike other s

Why sub-zero interest rates are neither unfair nor unnatural

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DENMARK’S Maritime Museum in Elsinore includes one particularly unappetising exhibit: the world’s oldest ship’s biscuit, from a voyage in 1852. Known as hardtack, such biscuits were prized for their long shelf lives, making them a vital source of sustenance for sailors far from shore. They were also appreciated by a great economist, Irving Fisher, as a useful economic metaphor.Imagine, Fisher wrote in “The Theory of Interest” in 1930, a group of sailors shipwrecked on a barren island with only their stores of hardtack to sustain them. On what terms would sailors borrow and lend biscuits among themselves? In this forlorn economy, what rate of interest would prevail?One might think the answer depends on the character of the unfortunate sailors. Interest, in many people’s minds, is a reward f

Telegram’s initial coin offering is hot but controversial

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IN A few years, millions of people will use a messaging app to make instant payments to friends across the globe or in a digital marketplace. But instead of state-backed money, they will use a cryptocurrency, the Gram, denoted by a gemstone emoji. They will be able to pay to store data—and perhaps to view content—securely and away from governments’ prying eyes. All of this will take place on a single platform, TON, or “The Open Network”, built by Telegram.This is the vision that Telegram’s founders, the brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, are flogging to investors ahead of their initial coin offering (ICO). A “presale” round to institutional investors is under way, with a wider sale of Grams to retail investors expected in a few weeks. Reports suggest the offering could raise as much as $1.2

Cancer is a curse, but also a growth market for investors

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CANCER is a grim sort of growth market. By 2030 there will be over 22m new cases a year, up from 14m in 2012, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. But as the world marks World Cancer Day, on February 4th, scientists are speaking of a revolution in the battle to beat it. Money managers’ ears have pricked up. Oncology investing is “hot”.The most straightforward way to invest in treating cancer is through shares in companies that sell blockbuster drugs. Alternatively, biotech indices track a basket of companies, of which typically 40% are oncology-related. Big Pharma now buys rather than builds much of its innovation. So backing oncology startups can be an especially lucrative (if risky) approach. According to CB Insights, a research firm, equity investment in cancer-

Collaborations are becoming more common in popular music

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DJ Khaled has some wild thoughtsFEW who have given an address at Harvard Business School have a CV like that of Khaled Mohamed Khaled, who spoke there in 2016. The 42-year-old music producer began his career as a record-store clerk and radio host. Today DJ Khaled, as he is known to fans, is one of the world’s most successful hip-hop artists. Although critics may disagree on the merits of Mr Khaled’s music, his selling strategy—bringing together the hottest pop stars of the moment—is worthy of any business-school classroom. America’s music industry is increasingly following his formula.Collaborations like those assembled by Mr Khaled are nothing new. Ever since the hip-hop group Run-DMC teamed up with Aerosmith, a rock band, to record “Walk This Way” in 1986, record labels have recognised t

Cars block the road to a renegotiated NAFTA

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ROBERT LIGHTHIZER, the United States Trade Representative, wants renegotiation of the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to speed up. When the sixth round of talks ended on January 29th with only three chapters agreed, he griped: “We owe it to our citizens, who are operating in a state of uncertainty, to move much faster.” But given the changes he wants, any more speed risks a crash.One of the biggest fights is over Mr Lighthizer’s desire to rewrite NAFTA’s rules about cars. Seen one way, the deal has been a boon for the industry. Trade in vehicles and their parts accounts for a quarter of America’s two-way trade with Mexico and Canada. But NAFTA’s critics see it as a big reason for America’s trade deficit with Mexico, and for its falling share of car assembly (see chart). Rules r