Fortune publishes its Best of 2017 in Business list this morning. Some highlights:
The rich get richer: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos saw his net worth increase $33.1 billion this year to $97.5 billion; Chinese real estate tycoon Hui Ka Yan reaped a $27.5 billion increase to $34.9 billion; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg added $22.5 billion to his wealth, now estimated at $72.2 billion; LVMH Moet’s Bernard Arnault enjoyed a $22.1 billion increase to $61.3 billion; and Tencent’s Pony Ma’s net worth went up $18.2 billion to $39 billion.
CEO quote of the year: Elon Musk, in a Rolling Stone interview on how he rallied after a breakup: “It took every ounce of will to be able to do the Model 3 event and not look like the most depressed guy around. For most of that day, I was morbid. And then I had to psych myself up: drink a couple of Red Bulls, hang out with positive people and then, like, tell myself: ‘I have all these people depending on me. All right, do it!’”
You can find the full list here. News below.
• P&G’s Pyrrhic Victory
Procter & Gamble finally appointed Nelson Peltz to its board, even though the final count in their proxy battle showed the activist investor had fallen short of victory. Peltz appears to have dropped some of his bolder ambitions in return for his new leverage: P&G said they had agreed the company won’t borrow heavily, cut R&D spending or move the company out of its Cincinnati HQ. The company also appointed Joseph Jimenez, the outgoing CEO of Novartis, as a director, in what looks like a statement of intent regarding the health products business.
• Lights Out at Atlanta
A nine-hour power outage at Atlanta Airport, the world’s busiest, snarled air traffic throughout the U.S. on Sunday. Over 1,100 flights were canceled, including 300 this morning, after a fire knocked out both a facility connecting the substation to the airport, and a backup system that provides emergency power. Some passengers had to wait several hours to disembark from planes that had landed just as the lights went off. Georgia Power said it hadn’t yet found out what caused the fire.
• EU Probes IKEA’s Sleek, Ingenious Way of Storing Its Profits
The EU said it will investigate IKEA’s tax arrangements with the Netherlands, which it suspects of giving the Swedish furnishings retailer an unfair competitive advantage. IKEA uses a Dutch-based vehicle to collect franchising fees from its outlets around the world. However, the EU Commission said it shifted a large part of this vehicle’s profits to another unit in Luxembourg to depress its tax liability still further. The Netherlands’ rules on holdings companies were also at the heart of the EU’s clampdown on Starbucks two years ago.
• Fixing The Mortgage Market Is Too Much Trouble
The Trump administration and lawmakers from both parties are close to abandoning plans to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-backed mortgage finance giants whose lax gate-keeping contributed to the 2008 crisis. Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Friday that: “We’re looking for a more simplified approach that protects the taxpayer, preserves the 30-year fixed mortgage and includes stronger access and affordability provisions.” The change of heart in government reflects the failure of market-based alternatives to develop in the last decade. That boils down a collective lack of effort from a banking and an investment industry that prefer a cozy government backstop to actual due diligence, and from a political class too scared of restricting the supply of housing, even temporarily, to stamp out moral hazard.
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Around the Water Cooler
• Thales Branches out With Gemalto Bid
Aerospace and electronics group Thales appears to have outwitted its French rival Atos. It persuaded the board of Dutch-based payments and security company Gemalto to accept a bid of 4.76 billion euros ($5.6 billion). Gemalto had said Atos’ bid “significantly undervalued” the company, but Thales’ offer was only 11% higher. The key difference appears to be that Gemalto CEO Philippe Vallee gets to keep his job. For Thales, it’s the biggest piece of M&A for CEO Patrice Caine since he took over three years ago. The deal appears to represent a whole new direction for Thales, which says it doesn’t expect to cut jobs as a result. The logic of Atos’ bid had, by contrast, been largely about cost savings.
• CSX CEO Hunter Harrison Has Died
CSX CEO and railroad guru Hunter Harrison died at the weekend, aged 73, after “unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness,” the company said. Harrison had taken the helm of the freight hauling company in March with an eye-popping $300 million deal, and had overseen a 36% increase in its valuation since then. COO Jim Foote has been named acting CEO.
• The Last Jedi Ends Disney’s Year on a High
The Last Jedi met the high expectations set for it at the box office, netting $220 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada. That puts it on course to be the biggest grossing movie of 2017. It generated another $230 million across the world—and it doesn’t open in China for another month. FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s attempts to ride the wave with a cameo as a jedi earned him a sharp rebuke on Twitter from Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, however.
• Citic Coughs Politely as it Waits for HNA to Pay
HNA, the Chinese airline-turned-global-conglomerate, is having trouble repaying its short-term debt, according to Bloomberg. Citic, one of China’s biggest finance houses, said it was “working with” HNA to resolve a “situation” around bankers’ acceptances. HNA director Zhao Quan had said earlier this month that the group had a “healthy and stable debt structure” and that there would be no default in the coming year. HNA CEO Adam Tan had acknowledged in November, however, that it was considering the sale of some assets, reversing a multi-billion dollar shopping spree.
Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; firstname.lastname@example.org