A round-up of some of the week’s corporate events and news stories.
Saab lands key Brazil fighter contract
In a surprise move this week, Brazil announced that Saab’s Gripen would become its next fighter jet, sending the Swedish company’s shares nearly 30 per cent higher and the company’s bigger French and US rivals home empty-handed, writes Carola Hoyos.
The $4.5bn contract to supply 36 fighter jets is the biggest export contract that Saab has ever won and extends its fighter jet production life to 2023.
Gripen beat France’s Rafale, built by Dassault, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet built by Boeing of the US.
Successive French presidents lobbied Brazil over 15 years to buy the Rafale. The jet fighter was long viewed as favoured over the Gripen. Boeing was also believed to be ahead of its Swedish rival until revelations that the NSA had spied on Brazil’s leaders soured relations and dashed its chances, according to analysts and people close to the deal.
But one person close to the deal said the Brazilian Air Force had “always wanted Gripen”.
Many who had followed the contest since 1998 had expected Brazil to delay the purchase for another two years because of the slowdown of the nation’s economy.
But its Mirage fighter jets were getting so old and expensive to maintain that they needed to be grounded, prompting the decision.
Gripen helped seal the deal with its lower
price tag and willingness to transfer technology to Brazil and allow much of the fighter to be built there.
BP in $1.1bn Brazil writedown
BP has announced a flurry of multibillion-dollar deals and has said it made a “significant” discovery in the US Gulf of Mexico. But the good news was offset by a $1.1bn writedown following poor results from a well off the coast of Brazil, writes Guy Chazan.
Also this week, a former BP engineer became the first person from the company to be convicted for an offence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
A jury in a US federal court in New Orleans found Kurt Mix guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, based on his deletion of a text exchange with his BP supervisor regarding the flow-rate from the stricken Gulf of Mexico well. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The first big deal BP announced this week was a
$16bn agreement with Oman to develop a huge “tight” gasfield, Khazzan.
Also last week, a BP-led consortium fired the starting gun on a $28bn gas development in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea, known as Shah Deniz 2. The gas will be brought into the heart of Europe through pipelines stretching across Turkey and Greece into Italy.
Meanwhile, in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, BP said it had made a “significant” oil discovery in its Gila prospect.
But a well drilled off Brazil – Pitanga – turned out to be a duster. As a result, BP said it was relinquishing the block where the well was drilled, which it acquired as part of a $7bn deal with Devon Energy in 2010, and writing off a total of $1.1bn.
GSK shakes up sales practices
GlaxoSmithKline this week unveiled plans to scrap individual sales targets for its marketing employees around the world, as part of efforts to remove incentives perceived as encouraging inappropriate prescribing, writes Andrew Jack.
The idea, building on a programme already rolled out in the US in 2011, is to link bonuses to broader company-wide financial targets and individual performance of representatives in provide information of value to doctors.
Those obliging drones
No wonder Jeff Bezos wants to build delivery drones. Amazon workers in Germany have gone on strike over higher pay and the right to collective bargaining. Drones won’t want to unionise. Better yet, they won’t mind when Amazon says, as it did of its German workers: “Some have not even properly finished school.”
Separately, the UK-based pharmaceutical group aims to scrap payments made to external doctors to give talks on its behalf to their peers, and to stop funding their travel and expenses conferences. AstraZeneca and some other companies have taken similar moves.
The moves come as GSK seeks to reform after paying a record $3bn regulatory fine last year in the US, and to conclude a probe over alleged bribery in China.
They follow recent legislative efforts in the US and France to increase transparency over the size of payments made by companies to doctors against a backdrop of concerns over the practice. In the US alone last year, 12 companies paid doctors more than $1bn.
GSK and other drug companies have also announced voluntary plans to step up disclosure of payments in other countries.
Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive, insisted that the reforms were not a response to the situation in China, but reflected a broader shift in society’s attitudes and a reflection of the need to meet doctors’ and healthcare systems’ expectations.
Ex-SAC portfolio manager convicted
US prosecutors won their 77th insider trading conviction when a New York jury found a former
SAC Capital portfolio manager guilty of trading securities after learning confidential earnings information, writes Kara Scannell.
Michael Steinberg, the former portfolio manager and friend to SAC founder Steve Cohen, is the fund’s seventh former employee to be guilty of illegal trades.
Mr Cohen, who was sued by securities regulators for failing to supervise his employees, has not been charged with insider trading. SAC has pleaded guilty and paid $1.8bn to resolve criminal and civil charges.
Not half bad
Better call Netflix
! Fans of the shady lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad will have to turn to the video streaming site for the first look at the upcoming spin-off series Better Call Saul. But there will be no binge viewing – Netflix’s rights only allow it to show each episode internationally immediately after its US broadcast.
The conviction bolsters the reputation of Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan who was on the cover of Time magazine as the man busting Wall Street. It also comes as Mr Bharara finds himself in the unusual position of defending his office after criminal charges were filed against an Indian consular officer for allegedly filing false statements to US authorities to gain a visa for her housekeeper.
US authorities continue to investigate corruption on Wall Street.
Mr Steinberg was convicted of trading in advance of Dell and Nvidia earnings, which made more than $1m in profits for the hedge fund.
Next up for prosecutors is Mathew Martoma, a former SAC money manager, who is due to face trial on January 6 on a charge of trading drug company stocks in advance of negative clinical trial results. He has pleaded not guilty.
House of Fraser talks to Galeries Lafayette
British retailer House of Fraser is in advanced talks to be acquired by Galeries Lafayette, the French department store chain, the Financial Times revealed this week, writes Andrea Felsted.
The family-controlled French retailer is in exclusive talks with House of Fraser, and has exclusivity until the end of January.
Don McCarthy, chairman, is looking for a price tag of at least £450m from a sale, according to some people familiar with the situation.
The talks come as House of Fraser prepares to float on the London Stock Exchange early next year, in a move that could value the retailer at £350m.
House of Fraser is expected to run a dual-track process while the talks with Galeries Lafayette continue. It has hired Rothschild to manage the process, and has been holding a beauty parade for advisers over recent weeks. Appointment of banks to advise on the float is expected shortly.
House of Fraser and Galeries Lafayette both declined to comment.
A deal with Galeries Lafayette would end House of Fraser’s informal efforts over the past two years to secure a buyer.
Mike Ashley, who controls Sports Direct, last year looked at buying a minority stake in House of Fraser, but this came to nothing. House of Fraser has also previously held talks with Qatari investors.
However, news of the talks came at a tough time for the department store sector. Rival Debenhams demanded a 5 per cent discount from suppliers just eight days before Christmas.
And finally …
● While easyJet attempts to woo business travellers, Virgin Atlantic
appears to be borrowing tactics from the budget airlines. Economy passengers will soon have to pay up to £25 to reserve a seat before check-in, part of Virgin Atlantic’s plan to stem losses. Rumours of charging for toilets being the next innovation are unconfirmed.
● Banks were minded to shoot the instant messenger this week. JPMorgan
banned its staff from using chat services, which are at the heart of market manipulation investigations. Bloomberg
said banks could monitor staff’s use of its popular chat function, and even block suspect words, such as Bollinger and steak dinner.