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Happy New Year! Now Get to Work.

Happy New Year! Now Get to Work.

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019 - 13:00

Right now, people are contemplating their pointless New Year’s resolutions. You might vow to write in a journal every day, or eat only two cookies at breakfast. Others will have an even tougher time meeting their 2019 goals. Consider, for example, Larry Merlo, chief executive officer of the expanding CVS Health Corp. Merlo, a trained pharmacist and 28-year company veteran, recently guided CVS’s $69 billion purchase of insurer Aetna. He’s now in a position to remake American health care — or fail spectacularly, Max Nisen writes. CVS will be in the business of dispensing medicines, negotiating drug costs for health-care providers, ensuring medical benefits for 22 million people and helping patients stick with comprehensive care plans for chronic diseases such as diabetes. There’s a version of the CVS-Aetna merger that delivers a modest set of financial outcomes. But Merlo now has the power to refashion how American health care functions, Max writes. That is quite a resolution. Over at Ford Motor Co., CEO Jim Hackett has annoyed investors by failing to flesh out Ford’s much-needed restructuring and going backward with sales in China. In 2019, Hackett needs to shift into value-creating action, Chris Bryant says. Among the tasks Chris says fall to Hackett: Fixing Ford’s China business, providing clarity on the company’s restructuring, possibly lining up outside funding for its autonomous driving unit and sharing the load in manufacturing and product development with a partner such as Volkswagen AG. You know who else has tough resolutions for 2019? Any American retailer not named Amazon. (Actually, Amazon too.) Sarah Halzack writes that while the industry benefited in 2018 from upbeat shoppers and their own investments in e-commerce and supply chains, the to-do list is long for next year. Many retailers will have to deal with U.S. tariffs on imports from China, which may swing the advantage to the largest retailers that can squeeze vendors and rework factory contracts. Sarah says stores must also do the boring but important work of managing inventory without running out of popular items, or going broke. Landlords may be facing a glut of empty stores if Sears and Kmart liquidate. And Sarah notes that even mighty Amazon is up against the much-improved e-commerce and delivery operations of big box stores. Fix the US health care system. Remake an American auto legend. Survive a sea change in shopping habits and geopolitical tensions. That’s daunting. I’m going to stick to resolutions about my journal and cutting out sweets. Two of the dirtiest words in Silicon Valley are Margrethe Vestager, the Danish politician who has become “the trailblazing regulator of big tech” in her five years as European competition commissioner, Alex Webb writes. After accusing Alphabet Inc.’s Google of anti-competitive activity and Apple Inc. of tax avoidance, Vestager’s term is coming to a close next year. Expect the end to be more of a bang than a whimper, Alex predicts. Vestager recently opened an inquiry into whether Amazon.com Inc. mines information about shoppers’ habits to unfairly boost its competitive position. The economics of Apple’s app store is an obvious target, too. Alex says that Vestager at times has been too hard on telecom companies, and there’s room for her successor to change direction to encourage consolidation that could bolster spending on next-generation internet and mobile infrastructure. Even when she steps down from the EU antitrust authority, Vestager may stay in the spotlight. She has a shot at becoming the next president of European Commission, which Alex says would give Vestager a different seat from which to challenge corporate powers. Bonus Technology Reading: China’s tech-and-telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. has three leaders, or maybe five. Tim Culpan sorts out the unusual leadership structure and says it will be telling which boss will publicly defend Huawei from renewed US government claims that the company is a tool for Chinese spying. (Huawei has consistently said those fears are unfounded.) And Leonid Bershidsky says artificial intelligence technology made much progress in 2018 but still has a long way to go. There’s no shortage of conflicts in the world’s oceans. Yet illegal fishing needs to be taken seriously as a global security threat, Bloomberg’s editorial board says. With fish stocks growing increasingly depleted, there may be food shortages and forced population movements that fuel war and crime. Fleets operating illegally to hunt for seafood have increased tensions between nations including in the South China Sea and the Patagonian coast. And many illegal fishing operations enslave their crews and use their ships for serious criminal activity. The editorial board writes that data, closer cooperation among countries and stronger enforcement will all be needed to crack the problem. The biggest acquisition of a Hong Kong company this year looks pricey, but it shows the allure of insurance as a way to access the vast pool of mainland Chinese savings, writes Nisha Gopalan. (The Guardian)


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