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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 29 March 2019

Daily briefing - 29 March 2019

Brexit was once meant to happen today, 29 March 2019, but as we've written consistently, the English parliament is tearing itself apart, and giving the impression that lunatics have taken over the asylum. There may indeed be some kind of vote today, but almost everyone in the UK has given up hope of making any sense of what's actually happening now. Here's an English journalist quoting a Government minister's response to a question about why Theresa May is pushing for a vote that she knows she will lose again: "F*ck knows. I'm past caring. It's like the living dead in here."

Tim Sloan is retiring as chief executive of Wells Fargo (according to Wells Fargo). "In a press release, the bank today (March 28) announced that Sloan, who took the top job in Oct. 2016, would be retiring," reports QZ. "Allen Parker, the bank's general counsel, is to step in as its interim CEO and president until a permanent replacement can be found." That doesn't look like a well-planned succession. Other outlets suggest he is "suddenly stepping down". At Lafferty News, it looks pretty much that Sloan was pushed out, and not just because of the legacy of scams and scandals. "About damn time," tweeted Elizabeth Warren, who has been on to Wells Fargo since the days it still pretended to be a big wholesome bank. Wells has been lagging its competitors for the last couple of years. Sloan's departure caps a week of movement on the personnel front: Swedbank chief executive Birgitte Bonneson was dramatically fired as the Baltic money laundering scandal widens. Will Mr Sloan exit with a big bag of cash? "By the way, getting fired shouldn't be the end of the story for Tim Sloan," Warren continued. "He shouldn't get a golden parachute. He should be investigated by the SEC and the DOJ for his role in all the Wells Fargo scams. And if he's guilty of any crimes, he should be put in jail like anyone else." We await the reaction of Warren Buffett.

Huawei, the world's biggest telco manufacturer, announced a 25 percent rise in its calender-year profits, served up with two fingers to the US. "The US government has a loser's attitude," said rotating chairman Guo Ping. "They want to smear Huawei because they can't compete with us." Indeed. We've two or three fascinating stories about China for you to dig into, starting with the commercial cycles of modern China. There's always a newcomer. PayPal was born just twenty years ago. Alibaba is 20 years old next week. Stripe isn't even ten. From outside China, Alibaba looks unassailable. But inside China, there are up-and-coming competitors who would happily eat Alibaba's lunch. Among those is Meituan, the challenger delivery service which currently makes 20 million deliveries a day. Meituan's chief executive Wang is a blunt speaker, ready to criticise Jack Ma, who has assumed demigod status inside China and out. As Bloomberg reports: "I still think he has an integrity problem," says Wang, adding that Ma did lasting damage to the global reputation of China's business leaders by spinning off digital-payments subsidiary Alipay without the approval of Alibaba's board. The incident happened in 2011, which may make it ancient history to most people--but not to Wang. "They tried to lie about that. They even tried to say the Chinese government forced them to do that. That was wrong," he says. "I think the impact of that incident is still underestimated." Follow that Bloomberg story with another excellent long read on China's relationship with milk, and how long-term food security is part of the reason for the Belt and Road initiative.

In the markets of Lagos, Chinese traders now work and live with the locals. Locally, there's some indignation as western governments, particularly the incumbent US regime, warns Africa against Chinese investment. The FT this week has a long read (paywalled) about Chinese expansion in Africa, which points out that despite the alarmist calls for monitoring Chinese state involvement in Africa, ninety percent of Chinese investment into Africa is from private businesses. "Yet large companies such as Huawei, and big state-affiliated companies, such as China Bridge and Road, are not the only Chinese actors reshaping the continent. What officials in Washington may not fully understand is that thousands of hardscrabble entrepreneurs like Mr Wu, involved in everything from retail and factories to farming, are having just as big an impact."

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