Business this week

, Internet, Retail, Tarjetas y Pagos Electrónicos, Telecomunicaciones

Donald Trump’s intent to impose tariffs of 25% and 10% on steel and aluminium imports precipitated talk of a new trade war. China warned that it would retaliate in an “appropriate” way, but the announcement also rattled America’s allies. Republicans pushed back against the idea in an open letter. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, publicly called on the White House to drop the plan. The Aluminium Association, representing 114 American companies, was also opposed, warning that tariffs could cause job losses in downstream manufacturing. See article.
A few days after Mr Trump issued his proclamation Gary Cohn resigned as the president’s chief economic adviser. Mr Cohn, who had been in the job since the start of the Trump administration, had strong misgivings about the tariffs. See article.
The American government said it would look into potential national-security concerns over Broadcom’s hostile takeover bid for Qualcomm. Based in Singapore, Broadcom has been pursuing a reluctant Qualcomm for months, offering $142bn in what would be the tech industry’s biggest-ever acquisition. This week the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States ordered Qualcomm to postpone a shareholders’ meeting to discuss the offer while it investigates the implications of transferring its chipmaking technology to an overseas rival. Broadcom went on the offensive, criticising Qualcomm’s board for “secretly” requesting an official review by the committee. See article.
CVS Health, America’s largest chain of pharmacies, issued $40bn-worth of bonds across several maturities, one of the biggest sales of corporate debt to date. It is using the proceeds to fund its proposed $69bn takeover of Aetna, a health insurer.
Renault’s share price surged amid a flurry of reports that Nissan wanted to buy the French government’s 15% stake in the carmaker, which would be a prelude to a full merger. Nissan and Renault have operated a strategic alliance since 1999. They, and the government, denied the reports.
Dieter Zetsche, the boss of Daimler, welcomed the recent investment by Geely, a Chinese carmaker, in his company, but said any working alliance would require the backing of BAIC, Daimler’s current partner in China. Mr Zetsche also scotched press reports in Germany that Daimler had been alarmed by the speed at which Geely accumulated its 9.7% stake.

Its bricks are not clicking
Lego reported its first decline in annual profit for 13 years. In 2017 pre-tax profit fell by 18% to DKr10.2bn ($1.7bn), despite cutting nearly a tenth of its worldwide workforce in an attempt to “reset” the business. The Danish toymaker said that last year had been “challenging” but hoped the improvement in sales in its established markets in the fourth quarter could be maintained and provide the building blocks to increase revenue in 2018.

South Africa’s economy grew by 1.3% last year, helped by a better performance than had been expected at the end of the year. Rebounding from drought in 2016, the country’s agriculture industry expanded by 37.5% in the fourth quarter compared with the previous three months. Trade was also buoyant. Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration as president has raised expectations that the government will contemplate serious economic reforms.
AXA, a French insurance company, offered $15.3bn to buy XL Group, which has its headquarters in Bermuda. The deal strengthens AXA’s pivot towards commercial insurance and away from life insurance and savings.
Following last October’s revelation that the safety-inspection records on some aluminium, copper and steel products it had shipped to customers had been forged, Kobe Steel purged its senior management ranks and said its chief executive would resign. The Japanese steelmaker also acknowledged that the practice of falsifying safety data stretched back 50 years.

We chat a lot
WeChat reached a new milestone of 1bn user accounts (its users often operate two accounts). Launched in 2011 by Tencent, one of China’s internet giants, the Chinese social network now hosts a wide range of online services in addition to its messaging features, such as food deliveries and bank payments.
Jeff Bezos topped the Forbes annual list of billionaires for the first time with an estimated net worth of $112bn. Mr Bezos owns 16% of Amazon, which saw its share price soar in value last year. There are now 2,208 billionaires in the world, worth $9.1trn in total with an average net worth of $4.1bn. Because of the decline in the value of his properties in Manhattan, Donald Trump tumbled 222 places in the ranking to 766. He is worth $3.1bn.

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