Morning Briefing Global Edition

The End of Naiveté

A good night of sleep is often invoked as a cure all. For us Düsseldorfers, though, it gave no relief. We learned yesterday that Islamic State has set a target on Germany after three Syrian men were arrested for plotting to attack the historic center of our city. The men slipped into the stream of refugees we welcomed as guests. The carnage was thwarted, but our freedom-loving society took a hit. Yesterday does not mark the end of our compassion for people fleeing war. But it marks the end of our innocence.

 

America, meanwhile, which lost part of itself to terror years ago, is still trying to reconcile with damning truths. This month, a top secret report made back in 2002 naming Saudi government members and charities as “systematic supporters” of the 9/11 hijackers will be made public. Senator Bob Graham, lead investigator after the terror attacks, told ARD magazine Monitor that Saudi diplomats stationed in America were involved in financing the terrorists, but the details of the investigation’s findings were hidden from the public. This report will rewrite history, to the detriment of the U.S. government.

 

The German government also took a pen to history books yesterday with parliament voting to deem atrocities committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians during and after World War I as genocide. The Turkish government feels no love for our parliamentarians. The Turkish taboo is now broken, and the ambassador in Berlin has been recalled. For German-Turkish relations, the vote is a symbolic breakthrough – and a breakdown.

 

New Bayer CEO Werner Baumann is both clever and foolhardy. Barely a month into his post he takes a stab at the biggest corporate takeover in German history. He wants to buy U.S. seed specialist Monsanto for $60 billion. The problem? Monsanto thinks it’s worth more; U.S. farmers are against it; the markets doubt it; and Bayer doesn’t have the wherewithal to finance it. Our top story today asks, is this genius or megalomania? We assess Baumann’s chances, and discovered he’s living by an anarchist motto: You have no chance, so take it.

 

Perhaps he took a cue from Donald Trump, who harnesses the power of political anarchy like a pro. The Bayer bid could meet strong opposition from big U.S. farming states like Iowa. This being an election year only compounds the problem; Senate members are expected to criticize the deal next week. Trump, as the Republican front-runner, has promised protectionism if he wins the White House. After yesterday’s endorsement from Paul Ryan, the Republican House speaker, Trump is one step closer to getting what he wants – and Baumann one step further away.

 

Speaking of protectionist policies, economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has come under fire from economists and politicians for trying to scupper a Chinese appliance company’s bid for Kuka, a Bavarian robot maker. Gabriel’s interference in the deal seems strange, if not provincial. The motto of the Social Democrats used to be “international solidarity.” Today it is apparently “Germany first.” You don’t need to be a socialist to feel nostalgic about this debate.

 

But I will end the week instead with a lighter debate. Financial journalists have the honor and privilege of regularly sitting down with the titans of industry. Now, we welcome our readers to interview newsmakers yourselves. We want to know which visionary CEO or outstanding entrepreneur you would like to chat with. The new head of Deutsche Bank, the CEO of Allianz or Daimler, or the man leading chemical giant BASF? And don’t forget the impressive list of family-owned SMEs, including Trigema chief Wolfgang Grupp or Trumpf-driver Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller. The digital economy has its own ideas and ambitions, just ask Rocket Internet founder Oliver Samwer youself.

In short: It’s your turn. Cast your vote by next Wednesday, and live the life of a finance journalist for a day with us. It’s not a lottery, or first come first served, so take your time, think on it, then send me your wish! steingart@morningbriefing.de

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