Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed that it was seeking a merger with Renault, a combination that would create the world’s third-largest car company behind Volkswagen and Toyota. FCA and Renault hope the merger will save cash to bolster investments in electric vehicles and self-driving cars. But Renault is also in a close partnership with Japan’s Nissan and Mitsubishi. That alliance has been strained since the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, its former boss, on charges of financial misconduct at Nissan (which he denies) and its future is now in question.
The Huawei effect
Alibaba was reportedly considering a second listing of its shares, but in Hong Kong rather than New York, where its $25bn stockmarket debut in 2014 remains the world’s biggest IPO. This time it is seeking to raise $20bn. Its decision to list in Hong Kong comes amid uncertainties over the future treatment of Chinese companies by the American authorities. Alibaba is using its profits from e-commerce to invest in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other sensitive tech areas where America and China are competing aggressively.
The latest skirmish in the trade war saw China threaten to limit supplies to America of rare earths, a group of 17 metals vital to fast-growing businesses such as electric cars but also widely used in the defence industry. China accounts for the vast bulk of rare-earth production; for some of the metals it is the sole producer. In 2010 it cut exports to Japan during a maritime dispute.
Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company, gave a downbeat assessment of the effect of global-trade tensions on its industry. It estimates that container trade grew by 1.7% in the first quarter compared with the same period a year earlier. That is less than half the average for 2018.
Boeing’s 737 max aircraft is unlikely to return to service until at least August, according to the International Air Transport Association. A recent meeting of global safety-regulators avoided putting a date on a return for the max, which has been grounded following two crashes. iata stressed that it will be regulators who make the final decision.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a gene therapy developed by Novartis for treating spinal muscular atrophy in children. Priced at $2.1m, Zolgensma is the world’s most expensive drug, though it costs half the current treatment for SMA over the first ten years of a child’s life.