Planet Business: No love for Trudeau as he cosies up to China

Sports Direct, Fox News, corporate governance and ‘weakest links’

Hong Kong  commerce secretary Greg So poses for a selfie with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau   . “Does Justin Trudeau realise how desperate his China love-in looks?” asked a commentator at the Spectator.

Hong Kong commerce secretary Greg So poses for a selfie with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau . “Does Justin Trudeau realise how desperate his China love-in looks?” asked a commentator at the Spectator.

 

In numbers: Fox News payouts

$20 million

Sum that Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox will pay former Fox News presenter Gretchen Carlson to resolve her sexual harassment case against the former head of the channel, Roger Ailes. After Carlson launched her lawsuit, it was reported that a dozen women came forward to report similar experiences.

$40 million

The noticeably larger payoff received by Ailes when he parted company with Fox this summer after 20 years.

$140 million

Amount that libel lawyer Charles Harder won in damages on behalf of Hulk Hogan in his case against the now bankrupt and defunct site Gawker. According to the Financial Times, Harder has now been hired by Ailes to take on New York magazine, which has run a series of exposés on the culture at Fox News.

Image of the week: Trudeau Love

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, whom you may know from such headlines as “19 Reasons Why the World has Fallen in Love with Canada’s Justin Trudeau”, was in Hong Kong this week, where he posed for a selfie with its secretary for commerce and economic development, Greg So, at a Canadian Chamber of Commerce event, which followed his attendance at the G20 summit in China. Not everyone was a fan of Trudeau’s eagerness to make diplomatic embraces: “Does Justin Trudeau realise how desperate his China love-in looks?” asked a commentator at the Spectator. For Trudeau, the price of expanding the Canadian economy through better ties with China seems to include saying things such as: “Canada is not immune to criticisms on human rights either.” Photograph: AFP Photo/Anthony Wallace/Getty Images

The lexicon: Weakest links

In the heady world of global debt markets, “weakest links” are defined by Standard & Poor’s as indebted companies with junk bonds rated B-minus or lower with a negative outlook, marking them out as being in danger of default. The thing about “weakest links” is that there are now rather a lot of them. About a year ago, S&P put the tally at 167. It has now shot up to 251. Oil and gas companies account for about a quarter of these troubled corporates, some 13.5 per cent of them hail from the finance sector and about 10 per cent of them from media and entertainment. The last time the credit ratings agency had picked out so many “weakest links” in the fragile chain that is global capitalism, it was the default-strewn year of 2009 – October to be precise. The record, for the record, was 300 in April 2009.

Getting to know: Keith Hellawell

Keith Hellawell is, at the time of writing, chairman of the under-fire Sports Direct, a position from which he attempted to resign at the weekend, only to find his offer knocked back by chief executive and majority owner Mike Ashley and the board. The company’s working practices are “not good enough”, the former chief constable (74) has conceded. No stranger to controversy – his memoir is subtitled “The autobiography of one of Britain’s most controversial policeman” – Hellawell hit the headlines in 2002 when he resigned as a government “drugs czar” after it downgraded cannabis to a class-C drug. He once suggested that people should be randomly tested for drug use in the workplace, which is one of the few indignities not to have been uncovered at Sports Direct’s “Dickensian” warehouse.

The list: FTSE 100 corporate governance

The Institute of Directors has been poring over the blue chips on the FTSE 100 index and trying work out which ones are best on corporate governance and which ones have either very colourful board meetings or ones that speed by suspiciously smoothly. British American Tobacco intriguingly came out as the top performer, but which companies were ranked at the bottom?

1. Tesco: the supermarket chain was the worst performer, ranked 100th thanks to an accounting scandal. It might be time to ditch that “every little helps” slogan now.

2. Berkeley Group: the good news is the London housebuilder is unlikely to be propping up next year’s list. The bad news is that’s because it’s about to drop out of the FTSE 100 altogether.

3. Rolls-Royce: profit warnings and a fraud investigation have seen its reputation splutter.

4. Associated British Foods: the owner of Primark /Penneys is big in sugar, but its ranking on corporate governance is not so sweet.

5. WPP: the whole business of its chief executive getting paid £70 million has soured relations between the advertising giant and its shareholders.

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