News from last week:

1. A bad week for mergers…

merger cartoon

Maybe I’m just noticing it now – but it feels like there has been a sudden upsurge in the size and scale of the big international mergers since the Fed started to slow its tapering. It’s almost as though these big companies collectively thought: “Recovery coming… Let’s get some deals done while it’s still cheap.”

Even if it really isn’t that cheap.

Anyway, in Britain, US drugmaker Pfizer is attempting to buy British-Swedish AstraZeneca for $106 billion. Pfizer if famous for being the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world (by sales of prescription drugs) and for making Viagra. AstraZeneca is famous for being the seventh largest (on the same scale). Initially, the British government was all for the deal. Now David Cameron is being forced to have second thoughts. Pfizer is promising that no British jobs will be lost. It’s the same promise that Kraft made when it bought Cadbury’s. And then Kraft changed its mind on that promise part.

In France, General Electric is trying to buy the energy division of Alstom for $16.9 billion. The French government has declared the deal “not good enough” with concerns around nuclear sovereignty and “but Alstom makes the turbines for our nuclear reactors”. Most believe that this is just political posturing. After all, empirically speaking, it’s not like Mr Hollande ever really acts on a political promise.

And the big advertising deal to combine Publicis and Omnicon and create the world’s biggest ad agency collapsed. The whole idea was to create economies of scale. The trouble is: advertising is getting more micro by the day. Who cares about negotiating lower prices for television ads and magazine space? I get targeted on my Facebook page and in my Google search… Oh, and on youtube, where I go to watch the Dove ads that everyone is sharing.

2. The Alibaba IPO Filing.

Alibaba, which controls 80% of the e-commerce in China, has filed its prospectus for an imminent listing on a yet-to-be-decided American stock exchange.

Everyone is very excited.

3. Barclays does some firing.

Barclays seems to have realised that it’s not going to be a big Wall Street bank. What with all its leaky investment banking activities.

So it’s firing the investment bankers. At least, it’s firing some of them – and focusing on its retail banking side.

FYI: an “investment banking arm” is where all the sexy stuff happens: IPOs and trading activities and almost everything you find discussed in a Michael Lewis book. Retail banking involves branches and savings accounts and someone demanding your proof of address.

4. Thailand removed its Prime Minister, then sued her for negligence.


Thailand’s constitutional court has ordered that Yingluck Shinawatra be removed from office for being a bit nepotistic when she transferred the secretary general of the Security Council into another job and appointed a relative in his place.

Curiously, this is the third time since 2006 that a court has removed a Thai Prime Minister. And even more curiously, this is not the most bizarre reason the court has had for removing a prime minister – in 2008, Thailand removed Samak Sundarajev after he accepted payment for appearing on a cooking show.

The day after her removal, Yingluck was indicted for negligence over her ridiculous rice subsidy plan. I’ve actually written about the madness of her rice subsidy before: Thailand’s Ridiculous Rice Piles.

So so crazy.