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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

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World business briefs

  • February 10, 2014 - 7:22 PM

Global business

Microsoft named Satya Nadella as its new chief executive. With the company 22 years, he headed its cloud-computing and enterprise division. Microsoft also replaced Bill Gates as chairman with John Thompson, who joined as a director in 2012 after running Symantec, a computer-security company, from 1999 to 2009. Gates is staying on as an adviser to Nadella as Microsoft redoubles its effort to catch up with Apple and Google in the shift from personal computers to mobile devices.

The European Commission’s lengthy tussle with Google over its search business neared a conclusion. Google agreed, among other things, to promote the shopping services of three rivals, which will be “selected through an objective method” and “displayed in a way that is clearly visible to users.” The provisional deal with the European competition regulator lifts the threat of a formal antitrust investigation into Google.

Twitter’s share price slumped after its latest earnings revealed that the growth in its number of users had slowed for the fourth quarter in a row. Although revenues of $243 million in the last three months of 2013 beat expectations, the company reported another net loss, of $511 million.

Sony said that it expects to post another annual loss for the financial year ending March 31. The Japanese electronics company confirmed that it wants to sell its Vaio personal-computer division and make its television business a subsidiary. It is also selling fewer PlayStation 4 game consoles than it had forecast.

Coffee prices continued to rally amid worries that a record heat wave in Brazil will damage harvests. Having fallen by 23 percent in 2013, the price of arabica coffee, a premium bean, has risen by a quarter since the start of the year.

BP said that its cumulative pretax legal costs for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill were $42.7 billion at the end of 2013. The energy company’s headline profit fell by 22 percent last year, to $13.4 billion, partly because of the continuing effects of selling off assets to help cover costs from the spill.

The cigarette industry received another blow when CVS became the first large U.S. drugstore chain to announce that it will quit selling tobacco, because it “is inconsistent with our purpose.” It is launching a program to help its customers stop smoking.

Political economy

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Puerto Rico’s credit rating to junk status. The U.S. territory is burdened with $70 billion in debt, a recession and a 15.4 percent unemployment. The island’s government is trying to cut its budget deficit and tackle weighty public pensions, but S & P is concerned about its ability to raise cash.

The State Department released its assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast. The report infuriated greens by suggesting the project would have no significant effect on carbon emissions as the oil would otherwise be transported by other means.

North and South Korea’s announcement that reunions for families separated after the Korean War would be held this month was thrown into doubt by the North’s complaints about annual drills involving U.S. and South Korean troops.

A senior U.S. official called on China to “clarify or adjust” its claims in the South China Sea in accordance with international law. Daniel Russel said China’s vague territorial claims had created “uncertainty, insecurity and instability.”

A governor appointed to Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, denied that the Japanese army was responsible for the 1937 massacre of civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Chinese scientists expressed concern about a new bird flu after an elderly woman died and another person became ill. H10N8 is the fifth new influenza strain to emerge in 17 years. A similar virus, called H7N9, has killed about a quarter of those infected in China.

The Economist

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