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When Coca-Cola announced its £3.9bn purchase of Costa Coffee last week, chief executive James Quincey was defensive in his message to analysts: “This is a coffee strategy, not a retail strategy,” he insisted, positioning Coke alongside other food and drink companies that have been snapping up coffee brands and chains.

But John Gapper sees things differently. He points out that Coke began as a flavoured syrup sold in soda fountains in the 19th century, served up by “soda jerks” — the baristas of their day. Later it became a textbook “asset light” business, flourishing without direct contact with its customers and beaming out its message through advertising. But this move is a return to its roots in coffee-house culture, says John. Whether Coke likes it or not, the coffee business is all about human contact.

Janan Ganesh argues that the confirmation of the conservative Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice would be seen as a coup for the Christian right. But it could be the last hurrah: the religious influence on American conservatism is on the wane.

Minouche Shafik, the director of the London School of Economics, writes that Britain needs a long term approach to higher education, and radical new thinking to tackle the skills deficit. Obsessing about student fees and university placements is not enough.

Geoffrey Boisi suggests that the crisis in the Catholic church over sexual abuse is an opportunity for a management overhaul. He and his colleagues at the Leadership Roundtable say the scandal is a chance to address leadership failures going back years.

What you’ve been saying

The ancien régime has had a good financial crisis: letter from Guy Wroble, Denver, CO, US

Philip Stephens provides a masterful analysis of the current situation. He should, however, have extended his time horizon just a bit. A further result of the crisis is that the wealthy have had the opportunity to purchase assets at knockdown prices with money borrowed at negative real interest rates. […] As debt has been piled collectively on taxpayers, social services that were put in place during a period of progressive taxation and greater income equality are in danger of vanishing. The result has been not so much the demise of the ancien régime as its restoration to full glory.

In response to “Wonga’s demise will not set workers free from the labour trap”, Mysterion says:

I think the missing concept here is ‘risk transfer’. Companies have been allowed to transfer the risk of over capacity onto their workforce via casualisation. This may has some benefits for young workers able to pick up additional casual work, but it has a large downside for families who need stable incomes.

Amortise goodwill swiftly and with a preset formula: letter from David Myddelton, Cranfield School of Management, Bedford, UK

It’s all very well calling for “neutral or unbiased” views; but is a board of directors that has recently approved overpaying for goodwill in an acquisition likely to be “unbiased” in deciding whether or not shortly afterwards to provide for subjective “impairment”? To avoid any conflict of interest, I continue to prefer the prudent approach of amortising purchased goodwill against profits according to a pre-set formula, preferably over a short period not exceeding five years.

Today’s opinion

FT Alphaville: The UK parliament’s blockchain APPG continues, sans Shapps

Donald Trump’s earthly bargain with the evangelical right
Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice would be seen as a coup

Saudi Arabia’s curious romance with Silicon Valley
The kingdom hopes technology partnerships will sow the seeds of a knowledge economy

Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ offers nothing good to Palestinians
The US administration is simply ticking off most of the Israeli right’s wishlist

The crisis in the Catholic Church is also an opportunity
Sexual abuse scandal is a chance to address leadership and management failures

Free Lunch: Why Europe needs a ‘high-pressure’ economy
Macroeconomic policy should pay more attention to the margins

FT Alphaville: Further reading

FT Alphaville: One more reminder that the US dollar is dominant

Cafés are the real thing for Coca-Cola
The acquisition of Costa Coffee brings Coke back to its main street origins

The Art of Persuasion: The problem with the ‘People’s Vote’
The term echoes some of history’s most dishonest sloganeering

Markets Insight: China’s policy choices crucial for global financial stability
Despite risks the real threat stems from the impact of a crisis on economic growth

FT View

The FT View: Italy needs real economic plans, not empty slogans
Government’s budget reassurance is welcome but needs to go further

The FT View: Jeremy Corbyn casts doubt on his ability to lead Britain
The opposition leader’s failure on anti-Semitism exposes wider flaws

The Big Read

The Big Read: The story of a house: how private equity swooped in after the subprime crisis
Blackstone has bought thousands of properties that were caught up in the mortgage meltdown

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