The Economist: Business

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Elon, Masa and Boris in low-Earth orbit

SCHUMPETER IS ONLY an amateur stargazer. His equipment is no fancier than a pair of eyes and a place in the countryside, away from London’s light pollution. That is enough to make out Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn—and, occasionally, the International Space Station crossing the firmament. In the past few years a new spectacle has appeared, in the form...

How CEO pay in America got out whack

“TOO OFTEN, executive compensation in the US is ridiculously out of line with performance…The deck is stacked against investors.” It was with these words that in 2006 Warren Buffett, a legendary investor and red-blooded capitalist, challenged the received wisdom in corporate America about CEO pay. This maintains that bosses deserve generous rewards...

Why SMIC is surging

TIMES SEEM tough for China’s chipmaking champion, the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC). Over the past year America has attacked its supply chains, cutting it off from essential high-tech tools. It has slapped export controls on SMIC’s customers and enacted new rules which threaten to designate the firm as subservient to the...

Meituan-Dianping and Pinduoduo embody the excitement over digital China

CHINA’S BUSTLING digital economy has spawned thousands of startups. Yet in the eyes of many it remains “BAT or bust”, to cite a saying among jobseekers from the country’s elite universities. The BAT in question refers to the original trio of Chinese internet stars: Baidu, a search engine; Alibaba, an online emporium; and Tencent, a mobile-payments and...

Slackers and Stakhanovites

AS LAWS GO, the dictum devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, a naval historian, was admirably succinct: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” His essay, first published in The Economist in 1955, has stood the test of time, in the sense that people still refer to “Parkinson’s law”. But the experience of working life during...

The pandemic is giving unmanned deliveries a fillip

UNMANNED VEHICLES, airborne or earthbound, have been pressed into anti-pandemic service the world over. In Mexican slums they spray disinfectant from the sky. “Shout drones” with loudspeakers scold socially undistanced Americans, Chinese and Europeans. Most consequential, the popularity of contactless provision of food and medical supplies is boosting...

Keeping stakeholderism practical

MODERN EXECUTIVES are often told they should worry about a lot more than their balance-sheets. They should be aware of their company’s environmental impact, of how well they treat their employees and suppliers, and whether their workforce is sufficiently diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity. Sometimes, this pressure comes from customers unhappy...

Airlines blame covid-19 for rowing back climate commitments

“THE WORST year in the history of aviation” is how the International Air Transport Association (IATA) describes 2020. The global airline-industry body expects carriers’ revenues to fall by half and debt to swell by $120bn to $550bn. To cut costs airlines have grounded planes and put staff on unpaid leave. Another slashed expense is that of climate...

FedEx tries to think beyond the pandemic

YOU WOULD have thought that lockdowns were a bonanza for courier services like FedEx. Not so much, it turns out. On June 30th the American pioneer of express delivery reported that operating profits fell by 64%, year on year, in the three months to May. Although demand from locked-down consumers has ballooned, so have coronavirus-related costs, from...

How Chesapeake Energy changed the world

DRILLING FOR oil and gas is a contest of man and machine against nature. In America’s shale formations, nature takes the form of rocks, rich in hydrocarbons, buried about a mile (1.6 kilometres) below ground. It is a geologist’s job to find those rocks. It is an engineer’s job to develop the right mix of water, chemicals and drilling technology to “hydraulically...

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