Watson’s Weekly 22-11-2019

This is an amalgamation of the “best bits” of the daily weekday newsletter/blog woven together to form a concise and coherent view on the things that matter in the commercial and economic news of the week. 

THE DAY IN BRACKETS REFERS TO THE EDITION WHERE THE STORY APPEARED IN WATSON’S DAILY. Clicking on the day will take you to the appropriate edition of Watson’s Daily.


  • The Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Saudi Aramco featured a great deal this week – unsurprising considering that the company is being valued at around $1.7tn (which will make it the biggest quoted company in the world)! However, the wheels started falling off the international portion of the offering as the US and Japan roadshows were cancelled (Monday), then the European roadshow was cancelled (Tuesday) which then led to almost all the non-local banks in the syndicate apart from HSBC being snubbed by Saudi Aramco (Friday). Foreign investors said that the valuation was too high, so the state-owned company is having to rely on its neighbours to buy into it. I suspect that the IPO will go well, but I would have thought that the Saudi regime will have to support it a great deal in the background to ensure that it at least looks successful
  • The French government managed to raise a useful bit of cash in the Francaise des Jeux IPO (Friday) as Macron’s plan to sell of a bit of family silver to boost the coffers kicks in. The government reduced its holding and the €2bn will come in handy to finance other initiatives, but it is also looking to raise cash from stakes that the state holds in Engie and Aeroports de Paris, for instance


  • In tecchie stuff, Yahoo Japan and chat app Line agreed to merge (Monday) in a 50-50 joint venture. They aim to become “one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence technology companies” using AI to optimise marketing, e-commerce and digital payments online. HP rejected Xerox’s friendly takeover bid (Monday), saying that the price was too low, but then Xerox threatened to make it a hostile takeover bid (Friday) if HP didn’t get back to the negotiating table by next Monday. Google is also running into resistance to its recently-proposed purchase of Fitbit (Friday) due to data privacy concerns
  • In fashion-related stuff, Kylie Jenner managed to sell a 51% stake in her four-year old cosmetics company to Coty (Tuesday) for $600m and LVMH decided to increase its offer to buy Tiffany’s (Friday) in a bid to get the deal over the line
  • In finance-related stuff, PayPal bought discount coupon hunter Honey Science (Thursday) for $4bn and Charles Schwab put in a $25bn bid for rival TD Ameritrade (Friday) as the sector consolidates in the face of pressures on commissions and continued popularity of passive funds


  • Google launched its game-streaming service Stadia (Monday) as it aims to gain a foothold in a potentially very exciting growth area. However, it has less on offer than Sony (which already has its own games streaming service, PlayStation Now) currently. It will also have to compete with Microsoft when it launches its xCloud game-streaming offering next year
  • ByteDance is preparing to launch a music-streaming service (Monday) and will try to differentiate itself from others including Spotify, Tencent and Apple by focusing on user-generated content


  • Retail was a mixed bag in the US as the gloom continued for Home Depot, Kohl’s, JC Penney and Sears (Wednesday) as well as Macy’s and Kroger (Friday) while things were decidedly more upbeat at Walmart (Tuesday), TJX (Wednesday) and Target (Thursday). Home depot rival Lowe’s reported weaker quarterly sales but raised its profits forecast for the year
  • In the UK, Crew Clothing did well from its link with the LTA (Thursday) but online electrical goods retailer AO.com decided to pull the plug on its business in the Netherlands (Wednesday)


My favourite “alternative” stories this week were the dodgy window in Woman spots very x-rated detail in church’s window featuring Jesus and Mary (The Mirror, Courtney Pochin https://tinyurl.com/ud3p6re) and Jesus He Knows Me: Huge church statue in Mexico is Phil Collins lookalike (Sky News https://tinyurl.com/rxa8rrj) although I will say that Japan’s YouTube knife-maker is back at it again–this time with a knife made entirely of fungus (SoraNews24, Dale Roll https://tinyurl.com/rxa8rrj) is actually quite hypnotic if you’ve got the time to watch it!

I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!