US Democrat race, ANC state of nation, Renault and Nestlé results
The FT's Josh de la Mare previews some big stories the FT will be watching this week, including the next primary in the US presidential election in New Hampshire, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's statement, and full-year results from French carmaker Renault, and the world's largest foodmaker Nestlé
Written by Simon Greaves, Peter Campbell, Judith Evans and Courtney Weaver. Studio filmed by Nicola Stansfield and Rod Fitzgerald. Produced by Josh de la Mare
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JOSH DE LA MARE: Here are some of the top stories the Financial Times will be watching this week. US Democratic presidential candidates will focus on the New Hampshire primary after chaos at a count in Iowa.
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address as the ruling ANC comes under pressure.
Renault's full-year results will see if the French car company can put its difficulties behind it.
And figures also out from Nestle will indicate how the world's biggest food maker is adapting to rapidly changing consumer tastes.
First, the Democratic presidential race moves on Tuesday to a primary in New Hampshire, the second state to pick a favourite from among the candidates, and coming after the debacle of the count in Iowa.
COURTNEY WEAVER: New Hampshire voters head to the poll on Tuesday in the second contest of the US primary season. In Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor, overperformed expectations, while Joe Biden, the former vice president, did much worse than expected. And Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, also did quite well and is leading in the polls in New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire contest is really important because it could be a make-or-break moment for a lot of the candidates left in the race. For Joe Biden's supporters and his donors, this really could be a do or die moment after Iowa. While the former vice president is expected to do well in South Carolina, which votes later this month, really people are going to want to see some greater traction for him before then to ensure that he stays in the race.
Meanwhile, for the Democratic Party, New Hampshire has a chance to reclaim the narrative after a pretty chaotic and disastrous caucus in Iowa. Days after the caucuses were over, Democratic Party leaders were still counting votes in the state due to a glitch in the app that precincts were using. So they're hoping for a much smoother vote in New Hampshire to ensure that people aren't questioning the results going forward.
JOSH DE LA MARE: South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation address this Thursday. It comes at a time when many question the ability of the ruling ANC party to sort out a worsening economy. Mr Ramaphosa's speech will set out the political direction for the country in a decisive year. And his priorities are likely to include the economy, education reforms, and the performance of state-owned enterprises South African Airways and blackout-prone energy group Eskom.
Critics see the governing party as faction ridden and short on ideas to tackle economic growth and development issues. And a battle for control of the ANC is looming, too, with the party's national general council being held mid-year.
Troubled French carmaker Renault brings out its full-year results on Friday, and investors will be particularly focused on three areas of concern, the health of Renault's core business, its strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and finally its difficult relationship with alliance partner Nissan.
PETER CAMPBELL: Renault's sales fell last year. Though in its home market of Europe, they grew, and in the important international markets of Brazil and India, they grew as well. How the business's profitability fared will be key, especially since it's five months until the new chief executive Luca de Meo joins the business from Volkswagen.
Secondly, there's the emissions strategy. All carmakers must lower their average CO2 emissions across the cars sold in Europe to 95 grammes per kilometre or face the prospect of massive fines. Renault, which, like many of the other businesses, has seen its emissions creep up as its diesel sales fall, has said it's determined to meet the goals. This year, it has a range of hybrid electric cars hitting the market that it hopes will help it achieve that.
Finally, there's the state of its troubled relationship with Nissan. Now, this is more than just wanting to end the Shakespearean saga that's engulfed the alliance in the year following the arrest of its former leader, Carlos Ghosn. In fact, many Renault investors think the shares are fundamentally undervalued because of its 43% stake in Nissan. Resolving the alliance difficulties should, they believe, push Renault's shares up significantly.
JOSH DE LA MARE: Nestle reports annual results on Thursday, with investors keen to see what chief executive Mark Schneider will do next as he pushes to adapt the portfolio of the world's biggest food maker to suit rapidly changing consumer tastes.
JUDITH EVANS: Following pressure from activist investors Third Point, Mr Schneider has already sold off a series of divisions, such as the US confectionery and ice cream arms. He has bought companies like Sweet Earth, which makes meat substitutes, as Nestle seeks to cater for people focused on healthy, vegetarian, and organic foods. These trends are testing the largest consumer goods company's ability to adapt, hurting rivals like Kraft Heinz, which also reports results on Thursday.
So far, investors have applauded Mr Schneider's efforts at Nestle. Its shares are up by more than half since he took on the job in 2016. Analysts think Thursday's results will show him meeting his operating margin target early. But the most obvious disposals have been made, while there are questions over how quickly Mr Schneider can accelerate growth.
One question is the direction of Nestle's bottled water division, given environmental concerns around plastic bottles. Another is whether Mr Schneider will sell units in China, a slow-growing market for Nestle that may now be affected by coronaviolence.
JOSH DE LA MARE: And that's what the week ahead looks like from the Financial Times in London.