Kraft Heinz approaches Unilever, British biscuit crunch, data mining dilemmas

US company in potential takeover of the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group

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Kraft Heinz, the food conglomerate backed by Brazil’s 3G and Warren Buffett, confirmed on Friday that it has approached Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group, about a potential takeover. Commenting on a deal worth £112bn, the US company said it “has made a comprehensive proposal to Unilever about combining the two groups to create a leading consumer goods company with a mission of long-term growth and sustainable living”. (FT)

In the news

Samsung’s problems are worsening The company’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong has been arrested for bribery, embezzlement and perjury in connection with a massive corruption scandal that has already resulted in the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. It could hinder the succession and restructuring plans for South Korea’s biggest conglomerate. The developments cast a long shadow over the group, which had started 2017 on a high after a tumultuous 2016, marred by tensions, lawsuits and the humiliating $5bn termination of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. (FT)

Please reconsider Donald Trump is trying to persuade Robert Harward, the ex-navy Seal chosen to succeed Michael Flynn as national security adviser, to take the job. After the US president’s 77-minute news conference on Thursday at which he brushed off suggestions Mr Flynn had done anything wrong, he sought to reverse the rejection by his preferred replacement candidate. He blamed the media for complicating relations with Russia. While disorder reigns in Washington, Moscow resets expectations. (FT)

Former PM calls for Brexit fight Tony Blair issued a rallying cry on Friday to opponents of Brexit, urging them to fight against Theresa May’s plans to take Britain out of the EU and warning that the country is on a “cliff edge”. It is his first major political intervention since last year’s referendum but his comments are being criticised as “arrogant and utterly undemocratic”. (FT, BBC)

Greek breakthrough hopes shelved The eurozone is set to miss the deadline for a Greek bailout deal, with EU officials still unable to reach an agreement with the IMF. It means the bailout fight will be pushed into the Dutch and French election season where diplomats fear it could become highly politicised. French bonds are being traded at volumes not seen since the eurozone crisis as investors become concerned the result will deliver the world’s next populist upset. (FT)

Shake-up for Norway’s $900bn fund Oslo has proposed the biggest changes to the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in decades, cutting the amount of oil money the country can spend each year and tilting the fund towards higher risk by investing about $90bn more in stock markets. (FT)

Japan’s reward dilemma Stuck in an outdated seniority-based evaluation system, Japanese companies are reluctant to identify key performers and reward them monetarily. (NAR)

Test your knowledge with the week in news quiz. How many electric vehicles does South Korea want on the road by 2020?

It’s a big day for

Global security Mike Pence, US vice-president, is due to top the bill at the Munich Security Conference, Europe’s leading defence forum, amid uncertainty about transatlantic relations after Donald Trump’s election.

Food for thought

China’s North Korea headache The firing of a ballistic missile towards Japan and the murder in Malaysia of the North Korean leader’s half-brother have exasperated Beijing just as it was seeking to improve relations with a troublesome neighbour that had angered the international community with two nuclear tests last year. Two more suspects have been arrested in connection with the assassination. (FT)

Trump, Putin and a fatal attraction After Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, the FT’s Philip Stephens says smiles in Moscow are turning to scowls. (FT)

Wikipedia’s army of fact-checkers With newsroom budgets shrinking and the traditional authoritative institutions increasingly treated with scepticism, Wikipedia’s ever-changing verification structure has redeemed its credibility problem. Now, in unusual online collaboration, the company is cultivating an army to battle fake news. Separately, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has posted a manifesto to counter concerns about fake news. (Pacific Standard Magazine, FT)

Crunch time From pink wafers to party rings, British consumers are losing their taste for traditional biscuits. On top of crumbling sales, manufacturers are grappling with higher prices of wheat and sugar, alongside fierce competition. (FT)

The graffiti kids who sparked the Syrian war They were giggling school boys with black spray paint. But their simple rebellion had an effect similar to the assassin’s bullet fired at the outbreak of the first world war. Without that act of teenage impetuousness — and the Assad regime’s violent reaction to it — would the refugee crisis be on the scale it is now? One reporter goes back to the beginning, in 2011, to try to find out. (Globe and Mail)

The data arms race Watch out, social media lovers. The financial sector is well advanced scrutinising the trends. The negativity of someone’s tweets increases the risk of dying of heart disease; the education levels of your Facebook friends can help reveal how likely you are to repay a loan. (Economist)

Video of the day

Murder reveals nature of North Korean dictator The assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the elder brother of Kim Jong Un, at a crowded airport demonstrates the power and paranoia of the North Korean leader. The FT’s Jeevan Vasagar reports from Kuala Lumpur airport. (FT)


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