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When GlaxoSmithKline was trying to recruit Emma Walmsley from L'Oreal to head its consumer health division, she initially had doubts about whether she was up to the job, writes Sarah Neville in a profile. But her husband encouraged her, so she uprooted her family from Shanghai and jumped at the chance. Since then, the fast-talking Latin scholar has risen to become chief executive of the FTSE 100 company. This week she unveiled a consumer health joint venture with US competitor Pfizer and a long-term plan to split GSK in two.

Despite her warm demeanour and ready smle, Sarah writes, Ms Walmsley can be steely to the point of ruthlessness. Since taking the top job last year, she has replaced or moved two-thirds of the senior leadership team.

Gideon Rachman writes that Xi Jinping has changed China’s winning formula. He describes how the legacy of Deng Xiaoping has been threatened during the past year.

Tim Harford provides a guide to having an actually happy Christmas: keep the spending under control and invent your own social rituals.

Katie Martin defines the latest Year in a Word: Crypto

Janan Ganesh delves into the difficulties of managing millennial footballers. José Mourinho’s departure from Manchester United after feuding with Paul Pogba is due to a culture clash.

Camilla Cavendish argues that Britain’s immigration debate is about more than economics. Culture, identity and a sense of fairness matter just as much to many people.

This is the last opinion email until 2019. Thanks very much for reading and have a relaxing festive season.

Best of the week

Wedding excess has reached giddy new heights— John Gapper

Brexit Britain has imported a political virus— Roula Khalaf 

Who owns our data when a company dies? — Gillian Tett

America, China and the art of confrontation— Gideon Rachman

The threat of catastrophes calls for radical tech regulation— John Thornhill

America’s future is Asian not Hispanic— Janan Ganesh

The Faustian bargain of nationalism— Martin Wolf

A new regulator would bring long-overdue auditing changes— Brooke Masters

What you've been saying

EBRD should embrace its role as a transition bank, letter from Alex Doukas, Washington DC, US

China’s Belt and Road Initiative must indeed focus more on low-emission development if it is to bolster China’s claim to international climate change leadership ( December 14). But those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The EBRD may also want to look inward: while its new energy strategy rules out most coal investments, it still promotes financing for fossil fuels and for polluting fossil gas. It should set a clear example by supporting the clean energy transition, rather than spending public money on carbon-intensive infrastructure.

In response to “ Student finance distortions show official statistics are awry”, fionathecelt says:

From an accounting perspective this mechanism was always in the ponzi category. Saving on spending, creating a stream of Income and no impact on balance sheet debts was a deception deluxe. 

Break-up of the Big Four would lead to a rise in fees, letter from Jan Schoombee, London, UK

There is a false correlation assumed in the efforts to break up the Big Four. The reason audit quality has fallen is the commodification of audit services. It is normal to significantly under-recover fees on large audits. Corporations view audits as a compliance tick and the efforts are to obtain it for as little as possible. Taxation and consultation services provide high-margin lines of business to supplement the low-margin audit business. A break-up of the firms might lead to fewer accounting scandals, but inevitably auditing fees will rise as a consequence.

Today's opinion

Footballers have changed and managers must adapt
Mourinho’s departure after feuding with Pogba is due to a culture gap

Norway’s oil fund sitcom laughs at an ambiguous attitude to wealth
Tentative enjoyment of natural riches has protected the country from the curse of crude

Lex: Drone menace: jam tomorrow
Gatwick disruption raises questions about foreseeable downsides of new tech

On Wall Street: Markets are tumbling but it’s not time to panic yet
The final, more volatile leg of the post-crisis bull run still has a way to go

Without trees we are lost
Once one has begun to sense that Fibonacci thrill, one’s daily walks become more interesting

Ageism in the workplace ‘starts at 40’ for women
Employers urged to retain and retrain older workers

Lex: Goldman/1MDB: sad Sachs
Malaysia seeks $7.5bn reparation from the US bank for its role in the state fund

Lex: Delivery Hero/ mealpolitik
Combination of German operations will raise trust busters’ eyebrows

Lex: Lexically dissecting 2018
The stories that grabbed the most eyeballs

Britain’s immigration debate is not only about economics
Culture, identity and a sense of fairness matter just as much to many people

Christmas books for investors
How a republished 1840s classic sheds light on the bitcoin bubble

FT Magazine: No-deal Brexit stockpiling? Don’t forget the sumac
‘We are all going to have to make sacrifices: there are Leavers near me who are ready to eat white bread to make this work’

Xi Jinping has changed China’s winning formula
The legacy of Deng Xiaoping has been threatened during the past year

Free Lunch: 2018 in economics
The year when the global economy may have peaked

The FT View: Markets deliver a sharp jolt to an unwary Fed
The US central bank needs to pay more attention to downside risks

The Long View: There will be a painful wait for clarity on this market tempest
Investors face stormy conditions until we know more about the US economy and the Fed’s intentions

Theresa May should take a business approach to Brexit
Transformational deals require a supermajority to show shareholder approval

Has Google killed the trivia star?
Even as search engines find answers in a flash, there is a role for nurturing knowledge

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: No Confidence
Parliamentary pantomime

Lex: Oil outlook: wild at heart
Looming production cuts should calm nerves among traders

Year in a Word: Crypto
A long overdue dose of common sense seems to have killed the digital token fad

Where is San Francisco’s Bonfire of the Vanities?
The city is home to the biggest story in US commerce — yet the tech boom does not yet have its Tom Wolfe

Serious Money: Leave or Remain? The Brexit holiday booking dilemma
As fears of ‘no-deal’ rise, I’m opting for a staycation next year

Undercover Economist: A guide to having an actually happy Christmas
Keep the spending under control and invent your own social rituals

City Insider: A return to the norm for RBS
New finance director Katie Murray is an accountant and a Scot

Tail Risk: Markets gloominess risks becoming self-fulfilling
Sharp moves in financial markets will eventually do damage to the economy

Inside London: UK student loans accounting the worst kind of trick
It’s the sort of sleight-of-hand that helped bring down Carillion

Instant Insight: Jim Mattis’s exit is a watershed for the Trump presidency
Defence secretary was the last grown-up remaining from the White House axis of adults

beyondbrics: EBRD steps up support for renewables over coal in Europe
Europe’s polluting smokestacks show need to ban coal and back renewables, says EBRD

FT View

The FT View: Gatwick chaos highlights the risks of the drone
Lawmakers are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovations

The FT View: Markets deliver a sharp jolt to an unwary Fed
The US central bank needs to pay more attention to downside risks

The Big Read

The Big Read: Luxury goods: minting money on the Orient Express
An intimate dinner at the Musée Picasso? Companies are cashing in on a desire for memorable experiences

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