Icahn FILE - In this March 16, 2010 file photo, financier Carl Icahn poses for photos upon arriving for the 32nd annual New York City Police Foundation Gala in New York. Under a deal announced Thursday, April 10, 2014, Icahn is backing down from his push to remake eBay, settling an acrimonious dispute just ahead of what promised to be an awkward annual shareholders meeting. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, File)

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Berlusconi Italian former Premier and Forza Italia, Go Italy, party leader Silvio Berlusconi arrives at a press conference to present his party’s candidates for the upcoming European Parliament elections, in Rome, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Berlusconi was ordered Tuesday to spend four hours a week helping the elderly to repay society for his tax fraud conviction, a sentence that imposes few restrictions on his campaigning in the upcoming European elections. The 77-year-old three-time former premier cannot run in the elections due to the conviction, but he remains influential in politics as head of the Forza Italia party. His support is also crucial for a constitutional reform to abolish the Senate sought by Premier Matteo Renzi. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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World briefs from The Economist

  • April 21, 2014 - 5:15 PM

Global business

Carlos Tavares, the new boss of PSA Peugeot Citroën, outlined his turnaround plan for the French automaker. It includes cutting the number of models the company produces from 45 to 26. Peugeot has lost more than $9.7 billion since 2012 and has overhauled its owner­ship structure, selling stakes worth 14 percent each to the French government and Dongfeng, a Chinese carmaker. However, investors were not impressed with the eight-year timeline for the latest restructuring plan; Peugeot’s share price fell by 7 percent.

The recent broad sell-off in technology stocks showed no sign of deterring companies from making acquisitions. Zebra, a company used by Amazon to help control its inventory flow, bought a unit of Motorola Solutions that specializes in high-tech logistics in a deal valued at $3.5 billion. And Twitter bought Gnip, a leading provider of social data.

Meanwhile, Google agreed to buy Titan Aerospace, a start-up in New Mexico that makes solar-powered drones. Like Facebook, which snapped up a British dronemaker earlier this year and was itself considering a swoop for Titan, Google is hoping to use drones and other airborne technology to bring Internet connections to remote parts of the planet.

Carl Icahn, an activist investor who made headlines last year with an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to stop Dell’s buyout, dropped his campaign to get eBay to spin off its PayPal unit after other major investors backed eBay’s chief executive, John Donahoe. Icahn’s effort had been hostile at times, with personal criticism of Donahoe, but the sides reached a friendly settlement in the end.

America’s big banks began posting their earnings for the first quarter, starting with ­JPMorgan Chase. It did less well than expected, reporting a net profit of $5.3 billion, its worst start to a year by that measure since 2010, as trading revenues fell sharply.

TIAA-CREF, a financial-services company that specializes in pension plans for academics and the nonprofit sector, agreed to buy Nuveen Investments for almost $6.3 billion. The new company will have $800 billion in assets under management, propelling it into the top ranks of American money managers.

Retail sales in America grew by 1.1 percent in March compared with February, the fastest pace in 18 months, albeit from a low base in February as severe winter weather chilled Americans’ desire to spend. Car sales drove the increase in March, rising by 3.1 percent in the month.

Glencore Xstrata confirmed that it was selling its Las Bambas copper mine in Peru to a Chinese consortium, though the price, $5.9 billion, was at the high end of expectations. Last year China’s antitrust regulator instructed Glencore to sell the mine as a condition for approving its merger with Xstrata.

A city court in Brussels ordered unlicensed taxi drivers to stop picking up passengers through the popular Uber app, which has been developed by a start-up in San Francisco and backed by Google. The case was supported by city officials, but the decision was criticized by a European Union commissioner for “protecting a taxi cartel.”

A firm in China claimed to have built the world’s first house made from 3D-printed materials. The structural components of ten 2,153-square-foot houses were printed in a Shanghai district for around $4,800 each in less than a day from recycled building materials. Some wonder if this could one day alleviate the housing crisis of sky-high prices and overcrowded properties that besets many cities around the world, such as London.

Political economy

Official figures showed that China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace in almost two years. GDP rose by 7.4 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year. The government’s target is for GDP to increase by 7.5 percent this year, which some economists think it will be hard-put to achieve.

The World Trade Organization slightly raised its forecast for growth in the exports of goods to 4.7 percent for this year and 5.3 percent for next (5.3 percent has been the average growth rate in trade over the past 20 years). It said it was encouraged by the signs of recovery in America and Europe.

Silvio Berlusconi, a former Italian prime minister, was sentenced by a court in Milan to community service, following his conviction last year for tax fraud. Berlus­coni, 77, will help out in a home for the elderly. He is subject to a ­curfew and is banned from meeting people with criminal convictions. He is still the leader of Forza Italia, a conservative opposition party.

Turkey put more pressure on Twitter by demanding it pay taxes on any profit it makes in the country. In March the government banned the micro­blogging site, a popular forum for protesters, though this was overturned by the courts. It wants Twitter to close user accounts that the government deems a threat to security and to set up an office in Turkey.

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