Republicans celebrated their big tax win yesterday at the White House, with President Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan acting like BFFs. Trump hugged McConnell. Ryan said “something this big, this profound, could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership.”
There were quieter celebrations in corporate offices around the country, where an overhaul of a broken corporate tax system has been sought in vain for years. A few companies, recognizing the danger of voter backlash, had the good sense to promise the tax changes will result in investment and jobs in the U.S., as well as benefits for workers.
AT&T, for instance, issued a press release saying that once the bill is passed into law, it will “invest an additional $1 billion in the United States in 2018 and pay a special $1,000 bonus to more than 200,000 AT&T U.S. employees.” Boeing said it will earmark $300 million for “employee-related and charitable investment” as a result of the tax bill. And Fifth Third Bancorp said it would “raise its minimum hourly wage for all employees to $15, and distribute a one-time bonus of $1,000 for more than 13,5000 employees.”
While most businesses will benefit from the change, the biggest winners include:
- Retailers, who pay among the highest average corporate tax rates and need help competing against more lightly taxed Amazon;
- Health insurers, who could reap an estimated 15% to 20% increase in earnings as a result, according to some analysts;
- Telecom companies, like AT&T, who earn most of their income in the U.S.;
- Refiners, who could reap more than $150 billion in tax savings next year; and
- Pharmaceutical companies and tech companies, who may repatriate some of the trillions of dollars in earnings they have stashed overseas, at reduced rates.
You can read a more thorough review of the effects on various industries here. While businesses are the big winners, most individuals will get tax cuts as well. For individuals, tax brackets will change as of January 1, and new guidance about tax withholding should be out by the end of the month, leading to paycheck changes as early as February.
Other news below.
• How High Can Bitcoin Go in 2018?
The question on a lot of people’s lips finds an exhaustive answer in Robert Hackett and Jen Wieczner’s feature from our January edition, which we’re publishing online today. The answer largely lies in the factor that distinguishes this from all other bubbles: Bitcoin is the first truly global mania. The supply of gullible and greedy people willing to chase it higher is accordingly higher and supply is, famously, inelastic (even before the hackers raid your wallet). The lack of legitimate uses for it, and the acute volatility that renders it useless as either a means of exchange or a store of value, remain its biggest weaknesses.
• Guess Who Wants to Buy U.S. Energy Assets
Saudi Arabia is looking to buy energy assets in the U.S., in a move that speaks volumes about the changing dynamics of the global energy market. According to The Wall Street Journal, national champion Saudi Aramco is looking to buy either a stake in LNG developer Tellurian, or tie up a long-term supply agreement with it. It has also held talks about buying assets in the Permian and Eagle Ford basins in Texas. Elsewhere, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said he only expects the world oil market to come back into balance in the second half of next year. U.S. shale producers are poised to ramp up production in the first half, having been able to hedge their output through the futures market. That leaves the U.S. on course to break historical records for oil production next year.
• Shell, Eni Face Trial Over Nigeria “Bribes”
Executives from Royal Dutch Shell and Italian group Eni will face trial for corruption in Italy over alleged kickbacks paid to a former Nigerian Oil Minister, Chief Dan Etete. The investigating magistrates had been reviewing initial allegations—that the two companies paid off a company controlled by Etete to drop its claim to offshore oilfields that they both coveted—since February. Among those charged include current Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi. Eni said it has full confidence in Descalzi and—like Shell—denies wrongdoing.
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• Didi Ker-ching
Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing app that is Uber’s biggest rival overseas, has raised another $4 billion to aid its international expansion. Softbank (already an investor) and Mubadala Capital, a state fund of Abu Dhabi, both participated. Didi said it would use the cash to buy a fleet of 1 million new-energy vehicles (NEV) and the expansion of charging infrastructure, a commitment that will be music to the ears of OEMs and their supply chains for whom electrification is fraught with risk. It means that Didi has raised nearly $10 billion this year alone.
Around the Water Cooler
• Oh No, Here It Comes Again
Chipotle stock had its worst day in two months, falling 4.6% on reports of an illness outbreak in its food safety standards. Even before the news, the stock had fallen 17% this year amid fears that it would never recover the mojo it lost with the multi-state outbreak of e.coli in 2015.
• Oh Him. Yeah, He Was Terrible. Don’t Worry, He’s Been Fired
Swiss financial watchdog FINMA said the Swiss subsidiary of J.P. Morgan had committed serious anti-money laundering breaches in relation to the now-notorious Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. A two-year corruption scandal has heavily implicated both Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Nazak and executives at Goldman Sachs, all of whom deny wrongdoing. J.P. Morgan issued a statement to Reuters that blamed back office underlings who had long been fired.
• Catalonia—and Spain—in the Balance Again
Catalonia goes to the polls today, in an election called by the central government to restore constitutional order and end the chaos caused by the region’s illegal declaration of independence in October. Opinion polls suggest that pro-independence parties will narrowly lose their overall majority, but everything will depend on the relative levels of voter motivation. The election could still end 2017 on a low note for a Europe that has largely defied the doomsayers, both on the political and economic fronts. Unresolved tensions still abound, though. The EU announced yesterday it would start the process of imposing sanctions on Poland for undermining the rule of law with its judiciary reforms.
• Dyson Settles With Former CEO
Dyson, the U.K. appliances company seeking its own piece of the electric vehicle action, has settled its legal dispute with former CEO Max Conze. Founder James Dyson had accused Conze of leaking secrets to third parties (including, reportedly, Tesla), prompting threats of a countersuit from the German.
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[Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; email@example.com]