Economist 7/14/14

  1. Eight days earlier, Philips had said part of its lighting division—the industry it started out in, in 1891—would be hived off, and outside shareholders sought.. Mr van Houten gained a reputation for taking hard decisions in his previous job running NXP, a semiconductor business that Philips sold in 2006. Since taking charge of its former parent in 2011 he has got Philips out of making televisions.What will be left of Philips after the latest restructuring is three main divisions. The largest, in medical equipment and allied services, is a significant global competitor, despite the troubles revealed this week. What will remain of the lamps division will still be big, but its sales of incandescent bulbs are falling rapidly. Philips’s fastest-growing business last year was one that involves little cutting-edge technology: “consumer lifestyle”, where sales rose by 10%.
  2. The term “Manhattanhenge“, a play on England’s Stonehenge, was coined by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and head of the Hayden Planetarium. Twice a year, as if designed by the gods, the sun perfectly aligns with Manhattan’s streets and skyscrapers, just as it does with the standing stones of Stonehenge. Streets runs east to west from the East River to the Hudson River and roughly north to south—28.9 degrees east of north, to be exact. Because the street grid is not strictly laid out to true north, Manhattanhenge takes place around May 28th and again around July 11th, each date roughly three weeks before and after the summer solstice.
  3. Alibaba is now expected to float on the New York stock exchange next month in what may be one of the biggest initial public offerings ever. Analysts speculate that the offering, which may approach $20 billion in size, could value the firm at well over $150 billion. The firm itself has just updated the prospectus it filed with America’s Securities and Exchange Commission, and has revised its own estimate of its valuation from $117 billion in June to some $130 billion now. The technology giant took two other steps in the revised SEC filing.Perhaps prodded by American regulators, Alibaba has tried to explain why it spun out Alipay, a vital online-payments division, in 2011. new measures that give even tighter control of the firm to Mr Ma and some two dozen associates. This so-called partnership already had the right to nominate four of Alibaba’s nine directors. SoftBank, a Japanese investment company with a big stake, was expected to nominate a fifth friendly director;n the revised filing, he makes clear that his partners have the right to expand the board by two members from nine to 11—and that these two additional directors are to be named by the controlling partnership.
  4. Pakistan’s decision to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb (loosely translated: “strike of the Prophet’s sword”) on June 15th in a bid to clear North Waziristan of militants suggests it has at last understood that a shocking increase in domestic terrorism far outweighs any possible advantages from the long-standing policy of backing militants.  The Pakistani army has renewed calls for Afghanistan to catch Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP). Known also as the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP is an umbrella grouping of violent Islamists and is Pakistan’s gravest threat.Indeed, many in the Pakistani establishment have actively assisted a movement regarded as useful in Pakistan’s obsessive struggle to lessen Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan has other reasons to resent Afghanistan, which voted against Pakistan’s membership of the UN in 1947. It thinks Afghanistan vies for the affections of ethnic Pashtuns living in Pakistan.any of them live in a part of Pakistan that Afghanistan claims the British Raj took unfairly. For all these reasons, since the mid-1970s Pakistan has backed Islamist militants as proxies in Afghanistan.
  5. The A330neo is a redesigned version of a plane launched 20 years ago. It is meant to fill a gap in Airbus’s line-up of wide-bodied long-haul jets and allow the European firm to compete better with Boeing, which is starting to build a big lead in selling such planes. The A330neo boasts a tried and trusted air frame, but is fitted with new engines, exclusively supplied by Britain’s Rolls-Royce. These make it around 14% more efficient than the current models, according to Airbus.Airbus has had some success putting new engines on old aircraft. The order book for its updated single-aisle workhorse, the A320neo, is bulging: Airbus already has orders for nearly 2,700 planes—700 more than Boeing has for its equivalent, the 737MAX. Indeed, Airbus has had its troubles. The success of the A380 superjumbo is still under question. The vast majority of the A380s have been ordered by one airline, Emirates.Airbus’s high-tech A350s, with their fuselage and wings made of composite materials, will only be delivered later this year. Boeing’s competing 787 Dreamliner already took to the skies carrying passengers in 2011 and has over 1,000 orders, a couple of hundred more than the A350.
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