After a turbulent few months, the last week of Q3 seemed to peter out with as much fortitude as Theresa May’s efforts at keeping Boris Johnson under control. Throughout the week, the UK found itself caught increasingly in the crossfire of a budding trade war between the US and Canada, as the former proposed imposing enormous tariffs on Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier in a bid to provide some protection from its US-based counterpart, Boeing.
The proposal suggested imposing tariffs of up to 219% on Bombardier’s C Series jet amid allegations from Boeing that the Canadian company was able to undercut it through UK and Canadian subsidies. Bombardier currently employs more than 4,000 staff in its Northern Irish facility that makes wings for several of its aircraft, including the C Series – a plane the company believes can challenge the grip that Airbus and Boeing have on the US market.
In the UK, this potential trade war has, perhaps predictably, sparked off cries of panic about the validity of Donald Trump’s offer of a ‘quick and generous’ deal between the two countries in the wake of Brexit. It has also added another dimension to the increasingly complicated situation in Northern Ireland post Brexit, especially after Leo Varadkar – the PM in Dublin – sought to whip up political tension by suggesting this would lead to a ‘full-on US–UK trade war’. However, as is common practice with US presidents in relation to high-stakes trade disputes, Trump has remained firmly on the side lines and it by no means indicates that protectionism will come to dictate the US attitude towards global trade in the coming years.
In the world of electric vehicles (it seems like I’m writing about this every week…), Dyson threw its hat into the ring with the announcement of plans to develop an electric car to go on sale in the UK. The vacuum developer released plans to spend £2bn over the next two years in the development of a solid-state cell battery and the car itself. Entering an already crowded market, this move is by far the company’s most ambitious project to date – it takes a brave man to take on Elon Musk – however, James Dyson believes the development of the battery will be where the company can compete against such powerful rivals.
In 2015 Dyson bought Sakti3 – a US-based startup that specialises in solid-state cells. Solid-state cells can hold higher power and charge in less time than the more common lithium-ion batteries and Toyota have previously commented that electric vehicles will run primarily on the former by the mid-2020s. If Dyson’s previous escapades are anything to go by, this will certainly be a development to watch over the next couple of years.
In Europe and the US, private equity deals are making a resurgence as reports came in this week that PE transactions had surged 25% year on year to bring in more than $212bn in the first nine months of 2017. These figures were the highest since 2007 and most likely due to companies looking to take advantage of cheap debt and record amounts of unspent capital before expected rate rises at the end of the year. Globally, private equity accounted for almost 10% of M&A deals, the most significant being Bain Capital’s $18bn takeover of Toshiba’s memory chip unit. With companies such as Unilever and Azko Nobel looking to dispose of multibillion-dollar units, rumours of a private equity deal of more than $10bn before Christmas is causing increasing excitement within Europe and the US.