LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - “An army marches on its stomach”, Napoleon reputedly said. Nearly 160 years later the French government is using a similar argument to protect its largest grocer Carrefour from a possible 16 billion euro takeover by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard. Yet while concerns over jobs and supply chains have been given new prominence by the pandemic, a foreign owner is unlikely to threaten either.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Canada’s petrol pump giant may struggle to pull off its cheeky grocery raid. Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard is plotting a tie-up with European supermarket chain Carrefour. It’s a deal that may be driven more by the French group’s depressed share price, and the acquirer’s desire to diversify than any industrial logic. Convincing the target’s shareholders will be the hard part.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Calling a race before the first hurdle is ill-advised. The same applies to countries scrambling to vaccinate citizens. The UK and Israel have surged ahead while France is lagging. But to inoculate a significant portion of the population, countries ideally require a centralised approach, a willing populace, and no goofs. Investors should be wary of betting on early leaders.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Sprucing up a run-down property is a quick way to add value. That’s what landlords are banking on in 2021, as Amazon.com buys defunct malls and offices become flats. It could boost valuations in the $33 trillion global commercial property market. Even so, assets will still be worth less than five years ago.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Britain is giving a worrying glimpse of where the pandemic could go next. A more contagious variant of Covid-19 spreading through the south-east of England prompted major European Union states, Canada and India to suspend air links with the United Kingdom on Monday, while France has halted road freight for 48 hours. The next act has a local and a global component.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Big Pharma’s vaccine victory lap may be cut short. The industry’s triumph in dispensing inoculations less than a year after the discovery of the deadly coronavirus has partially vindicated the business models of groups like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. But as governments took on much of the risk, pharma groups’ pricing will remain a target after the pandemic.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Heathrow Airport’s expansion plans may face a long Covid-19 quarantine. Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the hub’s path to build a third runway that would boost capacity by two-thirds, overturning environmental objections. But the long-delayed 14 billion pound project now faces existential questions about whether airline travel will ever fully recover from the pandemic.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - A speedy vaccine rollout faces several bottlenecks. Western countries are poised to follow Britain in approving Covid-19 jabs in coming weeks. Fast-tracking remedies for the most vulnerable will allow authorities to begin easing lockdown restrictions. But logistical challenges and educating a sceptical public could yet slow things down.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - AstraZeneca’s vaccine home run is in danger of turning into a curveball. The $134 billion drug giant is planning to review its Covid-19 vaccine candidate to clarify how effective it is. While it’s doing so, the UK group should probably do a separate review of how it communicates.
LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Norwegian offices have become the surprise must-have asset. That at least is what two Swedish companies have signalled this week by launching a bidding war for real estate firm Entra, valuing the Oslo-based company at more than $3.3 billion. Steady cash flows from reliable public sector tenants may be alluring, but the Norwegian company’s shareholders stand to benefit the most.