Week in Review: Blockbusters

It has been an action-packed year for the US healthcare sector. Already, we’ve seen a whopping $310 billion of deals and tie-ups. This week, it was the turn of pharma giant AbbVie, which bid $63 billion for Allergan, the maker of anti-wrinkle treatment Botox. On the surface, the move appears to make sense. AbbVie is looking to find a replacement for its blockbuster arthritis drug Humira, which falls out of patent protection in 2023. Step forward Allergan. It gives AbbVie a readymade portfolio of popular drugs, allowing the company to bypass the costly – and risky – R&D process. Despite this, shareholders were unimpressed. Many balked at the 45% premium the company is paying for Allergan. AbbVie’s stock tumbled 15% at the opening bell on Tuesday.

(Yet another) Brexit divided

As the Conservative party leadership contest bumbled on into another week, further sobering numbers about the true cost of Brexit hit the headlines. According to consultancy firm EY, UK financial services firms have already shelled out nearly £4 billion in perpetration for the UK leaving the EU. Outlays include legal fees, contingency planning and relocation costs (totalling £1.3 billion). The remaining £2.6 billion has gone towards capital injections as firms set up shop on the Continent. But that’s not the half of it. The figures, for example, don’t take into account the extra cash the major banks have squirrelled away to cover defaults. Further, only a fraction of the largest corporations have reported potential losses. The eventual bill could therefore dwarf the $4 billion figure.

Don’t do a do-over

Turkey’s President Erdoğan should have asked our very own soon-to-be-ex-PM Theresa May about reruns. Indeed, it could be argued that her decision to replay the general election in June 2017 – thereby blowing her Parliamentary majority and unleashing Brexit uncertainty – was the beginning of the end for her premiership. Which takes us back to Turkey. This week, voters in Istanbul elected Ekrem İmamoğlu as mayor of the city. Again. Mr İmamoğl, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party, had previously defeated former PM Yıldırım, and staunch ally of President Erdoğan, in March this year. However, his rivals called for a do-over due to what they called “irregularities in voting”. This time round, İmamoğl won by 800,000 votes – a far larger margin than at the previous count. Commentators heralded the result as a “stunning setback to Erdoğan” and a “victory for democracy”. It’s also a lesson in quitting while you’re behind.

On the markets…

It was a fairly subdued week for equity markets ahead of the G20 summit, which got underway today in Osaka, Japan. All eyes, as ever, will be on presidents Trump and Xi. The two will parlay privately on Saturday to try and breathe life into faltering trade talks. Expectations of a breakthrough are pretty low. It appears neither side is willing to blink first. Success also partly depends on which Donald Trump shows up. His latest tweet doesn’t inspire optimism: “On Air Force One. Off to save the Free World!” Not to be left out, Vladimir Putin declared that liberalism was “obsolete”, and that his model of government was the way forward. Dinner tonight should be fun.

Meanwhile, bitcoin was ‘mooning’ again this week (not like that: it means 'climbing quickly'). The cryptocurrency hit $13,850 a coin on Wednesday – its highest level in one-and-half years. This renewed enthusiasm comes hot-on-the-heels of Facebook’s move into the crypto world with its own currency, Libra. The euphoria, however, was short-lived: Bitcoin plunged to $11,500 on Thursday morning. Back in the old-fashioned real-world, gold touched a six-year high on Tuesday, reaching $1407 per ounce. Unsettled investors are seeking safe havens, with cash pouring into bullion ETFs (exchange-traded funds) in particular.

All told, market responses were fairly muted – the FTSE All-Share, MSCI Europe and S&P 500 indices were all down less than 1% over the week to close Thursday. A bit of half-year profit-taking, perhaps? Elsewhere, France’s 10-year government bond briefly joined the negative yield club – although is currently trading just above zero.

And finally…

What a hulla-Baloo! A US couple returned to their home this week only to find a giant black bear snoozing away in their wardrobe. Bearly able to contain their fright, the couple quickly alerted the police. Upon arrival, the officers in question roused the unconscious Ursidae by banging on the window. Startled, the not-so-gentle-Ben proceeded to rip the room apart. The beast was eventually tranquilized and removed. As for the damage? The couple will just have to grin and bear it.


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