Shell said it would buy BG Group, an oil-and-gas company based in Britain, for $70 billion, the biggest sign yet of the pressure to consolidate on the energy industry following the sharp fall in oil prices. BG's share price had dropped by over 30 percent since last summer, making it a tempting takeover target. Shell's acquisition will increase its energy reserves by 25 percent and make it the world's third-biggest producer of liquefied natural gas.
Vivendi, a French media group, started exclusive talks with Orange, which used to be known as France Telecom, to buy its Dailymotion video-sharing website. The French government did little to assuage critics who think it meddles too much in business matters when it blocked any attempt by Orange, in which it holds a 25 percent stake, to sell Dailymotion to a foreign bidder. Separately, Vivendi said it would return $7.3 billion to shareholders, resolving a dispute with P. Schoenfeld Asset Management, an activist hedge fund that had put pressure on the company to pay out more to investors.
In a busy week for the French government, it also temporarily increased its stake in Renault to 19.7 percent in order to get the carmaker to adopt a rule at its annual meeting that gives double voting rights to long-term investors who have held shares for at least two years. The rule became law last year, but Renault has resisted implementing it.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng stock market index soared, jumping above 27,000 for the first time since January 2008, thanks in part to rising trading volumes on the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect scheme, which links the mainland and Hong Kong markets. Volumes had been disappointing since the link's launch last year, but it has been boosted by a government decision to allow domestic mutual funds to use it.
In another blockbuster deal in the drug industry, Mylan tendered an unsolicited $29 billion offer to buy Perrigo. Both companies used to be based in America but moved their registered offices to European countries to take advantage of lower corporate tax.
FedEx was confident it could surmount any competition concerns in Europe over its $4.8 billion bid for TNT Express, a delivery company based in the Netherlands that has operations in 40 countries. UPS, FedEx's main rival in America, tried to buy TNT in 2012, but Europe's antitrust regulator withheld its approval. FedEx believes its deal is different; it wants to combine its air-delivery service in Europe with TNT's extensive road-based logistics network.
Ramalinga Raju, the founder of Satyam Computer Services, was found guilty along with nine others of accounting fraud in India's biggest corporate scandal to date. His misconduct came to light in 2009 when he admitted that Satyam's books had been cooked for years, and that a $1 billion cash pile did not exist.
The IMF's latest "World Economic Outlook" report warned that many countries face lower economic "speed limits", i.e., reduced potential for growth, and should "adjust to a new reality" of stagnant living standards. In rich economies the fund reckons that aging populations will be the biggest hindrance to the type of expansion seen in the 1990s and 2000s, whereas slower productivity in emerging markets will be the main factor holding those countries back.
Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, gave his strongest backing yet to the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that has been proposed, and will be led, by China. America has raised concerns about transparency at the AIIB, even though many of its allies have signed up. Kim plans to place the issue high on the agenda of the forthcoming spring meeting of the World Bank and IMF.
Switzerland became the first country to date to issue a 10-year sovereign bond with a negative yield. This is part of a general move in Europe toward negative yields (marked in some bonds with maturities shorter than 10 years) prompted by fears of deflation and the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program.
The United States deported to El Salvador a former general who has been held responsible for torture and killings during the country's civil war in the 1980s. Eugenio Vides Casanova, who was head of El Salvador's national guard, had lived in Florida since 1989. Under an amnesty law he will not be tried at home.