Morning Briefing

Adieu, Hollande

French President François Hollande has thrown in the towel. The socialist leader, the most unpopular in post-war French history with an approval rating of just 4 percent, is declining to run for a second term. His presidency began without luster and is ending dismally. The Franco-German machine is running out of gas.

In his annual address to the nation yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on the domestic economy. Cherry-picking statistics, he described a stability that doesn’t really exist for most Russians. Gross national product has plummeted this year, and a big IT push remains a claim, not a reality. The country clearly needs more influential friends than the mullahs in Teheran or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s future won’t be won in Aleppo; it can only be lost there.

Digitalization is both a blessing and a curse. It makes everything so horribly effective, just not us. Is that reason for concern? Definitely. Artificial intelligence technology today is smarter in some ways than the most gifted humans and, according to new studies, automation will eliminate every second job in its current form. In today’s issue, we look at the impact of this digital revolution – on the workplace of the future and what kinds of people we will meet there.

The Oetker family has cut its expansive empire in half. The tradition-steeped Bielefeld maker of baking products and processed foods will keep its breweries, luxury hotels and Lampe Bank, but part with its loss-making shipping business, Hamburg Süd. With this divesture, €6 billion in revenue goes out the door. But the sale could help end the nasty ownership dispute among the eight heirs from three marriages of late founder Rudolf-August Oetker. What the feuding family really lacks isn’t money, but a common plan to take the company forward.

For Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube, there’s one big wish that will go unfulfilled this Christmas – a guarantee to keep his job a while longer. The 65-year-old executive, whose term expires at the end of 2017, had hoped the supervisory board of the state-owned railway would renew his contract this month as planned. But the board wants more time to review his performance and postponed a decision until next year, Handelsblatt has learned. Why should the Bahn’s boss be treated any differently than his passengers who know plenty about waiting. In the end, Grube will likely celebrate a new contract – just not in time for Christmas.

When Sergio Ermotti, the head of Swiss bank UBS, started searching two years ago for a place to headquarter a new pan-European subsidiary, London was his favorite. Twenty four months and a Brexit referendum later, Frankfurt was declared the winner. If the city council of Germany’s financial hub a sense of gratitude – and humor – they’d make the anti-European Union activist and new British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson an honorary citizen.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche was the featured guest of Handelsblatt’s latest “Deutschland Dinner” event Thursday evening with 500 readers. They had the opportunity to learn more about the strategic thinking and personality of the world’s most successful auto executive. He won over not only the eyes and ears of everyone in the vast Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, but their sympathy, too. Zetsche came as a chief executive – and left as a friend.

 

Image of the Day

12-02
Posters from the far-right political movement Casapound call to vote “noˮ at Sundayʼs referendum in Italy. The ballot on a planned comprehensive reform of the constitution has gained additional importance as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has linked his political future to the outcome. Filippo Monteforte/AFP
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