Business

Breaking Up With Russia

“Russia is half of our business,” said Moira Amaranti of the Italian shoe company she manages. “And now we have a problem.”Credit…Clara Vannucci for The New York Times

Collateral damage

Calls for companies to cut ties with Russia have taken on a new urgency, as world leaders push for even tougher sanctions in response to the horror of images of scores of dead civilians in parts of Ukraine recently occupied by Russian forces. The next steps could include a ban on Russian coal exports and further restrictions on Russia’s ability to access foreign currency.

At the same time, there is a growing realization in the corporate world, especially in Europe, of how difficult and costly it will be for businesses large and small to shift away from Russia quickly, The Times’s Liz Alderman reports from Paris.

Sanctions intended to punish Russia are blowing back to companies in unexpected ways, disrupting supply chains, pushing up prices and undermining plans. Many small firms are scrambling to make up for the loss of a key export market. Large multinationals pulling their investments from Russia face the risk of asset seizures or nationalization.

  • Moira Amaranti, who runs the Italian shoe company Sergio Amaranti, said that Russia accounts for half the company’s business. She recently had to decide whether to stop making some shoes that Russian retailers had ordered but would probably be unable to receive anytime soon. The company went ahead with production, because they had already bought the leather and soles.

  • Johann Reiter, the chief of Vetropack, a Swiss maker of glass storage containers, had to stop production at its plant near Kyiv after the invasion. He is now keeping an eye on Moldova, where another of the company’s factories operates. He has already put evacuation and shutdown plans in place.

  • Uwe Aichele, who handles international sales at the Eichbaum brewery in Germany, said that in addition to losing its Russian export market, the company has been hit by a jump in the price of hops and other grains, one of Ukraine’s largest exports; a lack of aluminum cans and glass bottles, also sourced from Ukraine; and the high price of energy in Germany, which relies on Russian gas.

Countries have promised huge subsidies to offset the effects of sanctions and the war. The E.U. has loosened its state aid rules to provide grants, tax credits and other guarantees for companies affected by sanctions against Russia and struggling with high energy bills. But if the war continues, and sanctions get tougher, many economists fear those subsidies will only delay the pain.

More on the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Satellite images refute Russian claims about the killing of civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.

  • Here’s how Russia has avoided defaulting on its debt, and why the recovery in the ruble isn’t what it seems.

  • More than $2 billion worth of yachts owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs have been seized in European ports.

  • For the latest developments, see The Times’s live blog and updated maps.

HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING

Speculation is rife about why Elon Musk bought a big stake in Twitter. The purchase, which makes him the largest shareholder of the company, was disclosed as a passive investment, but legal experts said that doesn’t preclude him ultimately pushing for changes at the company. In one of Musk’s first tweets after his stake was revealed, he asked his followers if they wanted to be able to edit their tweets.

Senators announce a $10 billion coronavirus aid deal. They agreed on the package after dropping a proposal to direct billions for the global vaccination effort. In other news, the C.D.C. announced a comprehensive review of its operations amid a barrage of criticism about its handling of the pandemic.

The trial of a former Goldman banker nears its end. Lawyers made their closing arguments in the case of Roger Ng, who is accused of receiving $35 million in illegal kickbacks from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. The case could go to the jury as soon as this afternoon.

Efforts to halt global warming are running out of time. A major new report from a U.N. panel warned that countries need to accelerate their shift away from fossil fuels, or the goal of avoiding an overheated planet will be out of reach by the end of this decade.

Brian Moynihan has quietly turned Bank of America around.Credit…Ian MacLellan for The New York Times

A victory lap for Wall Street’s ‘boring’ CEO

In the 12 years since Brian Moynihan took the helm at Bank of America, he has steered the company from the brink of collapse to generating record earnings last year. “I just try to get stuff done,” he told The Times’s Lananh Nguyen, who is out this morning with a profile of the low-key Bank of America chief.

More than a few prominent Wall Streeters had doubts about Moynihan. He’s not the longest tenured C.E.O. of a major bank — Jamie Dimon has a few years on him at JPMorgan Chase — but what makes Moynihan’s run notable is how he has proved doubters wrong over that time. Here are a few who questioned whether he was the best person for the job:

  • Bank of America’s board of directors initially pursued Robert Kelly, then the C.E.O. of Bank of New York Mellon, for the top job. The board later picked Moynihan, a former in-house lawyer, after negotiations with Kelly fell apart.

  • Hank Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and chief of Goldman Sachs, told The Times that he had been skeptical that Moynihan could make the switch from general counsel to chief executive.

  • Mike Mayo, a prominent bank industry analyst at Wells Fargo, repeatedly called for Moynihan to be fired in the first few years of his tenure. Mayo is now a Moynihan fan. The analyst said Moynihan’s “disarming, unassuming and at times boring demeanor is an advantage, because his actions speak louder than his words.”

Moynihan’s strategy has been to make Bank of America less risky and more dependable. The bank’s shares have more than doubled during his time as C.E.O., outpacing some (but not all) of its rivals. Perhaps more important, Moynihan has steered Bank of America through the fallout of its 2008 mortgage woes — it was one of the worst offenders when it came to foreclosures during the financial crisis — and has largely avoided major blowups and scandals since. But some of its investment bankers have been frustrated after losing out on deals because of the bank’s strict terms for loans and transactions.

The 62-year-old remains solidly in control of the bank. Moynihan oversaw a management reshuffle last year, and the bank veterans Thomas Montag and Anne Finucane retired. Some industry observers saw the moves as Moynihan getting rid of his competition. When asked about this, Moynihan said: “There’s no power to consolidate — I was the C.E.O. before, and I’m C.E.O. now.”


“I don’t think we’re going to go into a recession in the next 12 months. I think it’s possible in the 12 months after that.”

Megan Greene, the global chief economist for the Kroll Institute, on the economic outlook. Rapid inflation and global instability have led forecasters to raise the odds of a recession.


Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s former antitrust chief, is joining private practice.Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Makan Delrahim’s new gig

Makan Delrahim is joining Latham & Watkins as a partner in its antitrust and competition practice. Delrahim led the Justice Department’s antitrust division as assistant attorney general under President Donald Trump. He sued to block AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner (and lost) and argued against excluding streaming services from the Oscars (and won), among other actions.

The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global Economy


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Rising concerns. Russia’s invasion on Ukraine has had a ripple effect across the globe, adding to the stock market’s woes. The conflict has already caused​​ dizzying spikes in energy prices and is causing Europe to raise its military spending.

The cost of energy. Oil prices already were the highest since 2014, and they have continued to rise since the invasion.  Russia is the third-largest producer of oil, so more price increases are inevitable.

Gas supplies. Europe gets nearly 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, and it is likely to be walloped with higher heating bills. Natural gas reserves are running low, and European leaders worry that Moscow could cut flows in response to the region’s support of Ukraine.

Food prices. Russia is the world’s largest supplier of wheat; together, it and Ukraine account for nearly a quarter of total global exports. Countries like Egypt, which relies heavily on Russian wheat imports, are already looking for alternative suppliers.

Shortages of essential metals. The price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.

Financial turmoil. Global banks are bracing for the effects of sanctions intended to restrict Russia’s access to foreign capital and limit its ability to process payments in dollars, euros and other currencies crucial for trade. Banks are also on alert for retaliatory cyberattacks by Russia.

His hire comes as dealmakers are preparing for tough antitrust scrutiny from the Biden administration, which has already taken its toll on M.&A. In his new role, Delrahim expects to specialize in media and entertainment — Latham & Watkins recently advised MGM in its sale to Amazon.

DealBook spoke with Delrahim about the state of competition policy and what lies ahead for antitrust enforcement. The conversation was edited and condensed.

What will be your advice to clients on how to navigate the current antitrust regime?

There’s nothing more important than the planning that goes into a transaction ahead of time. Does the transaction allow for a potential review in an extended period of time by the agency? Do the parties need to respond? How do you cooperate with agencies in extended reviews? What do you do when you have potential litigation?

There are going to be deals that pose antitrust problems that, no matter who is running these agencies, would have a problem. And I think that there are deals that shouldn’t have a problem that, right now, may get extra screening.

Will the E.U.’s Digital Markets Act, which targets Big Tech, have an impact in the U.S.?

I think we will see how it’s implemented and what challenges it poses. I think the political process we have in the U.S. for approving legislation is going to pose a different set of challenges for the current pending bills in Congress. I still think there’s an ample opportunity for Congress to pass legislation.

What sorts of bills might make it through?

I think some aspects of the Klobuchar-Grassley bill as well as some from Senator Mike Lee’s legislation. For example, changing some of the burdens of proof and presumptions in certain kinds of mergers.

What do you think of using geopolitics as an antitrust defense? For instance, tech companies saying that their power is necessary to repel cyberattacks by Russia.

​​You always hear, whether it’s merging parties or companies that are subject to antitrust scrutiny because of some conduct, “We’re doing this for you to have a national champion. We’re doing this because of the international competition. We’re doing this to save the environment. We are doing this because we need a solution for Covid.” I think there are limits.

THE SPEED READ

Deals

  • AMD plans to buy the chip start-up Pensando for $1.9 billion, a quick return to dealmaking after its blockbuster $35 billion purchase of Xilinx. (WSJ)

  • Citigroup will reportedly pause its work on SPACs as it seeks clarity on new S.E.C. rules. (Bloomberg)

  • Roelof Botha is set to take over from Doug Leone at the venture capital giant Sequoia Capital. (WSJ)

  • The embattled Chinese property developer Evergrande has reportedly offered to pay the advisory fees of foreign bondholders who are threatening to sue it. (FT)

Policy

  • The S.E.C.’s Gary Gensler outlined a four-point plan for crypto regulation. (Axios)

  • Britain’s Royal Mint will issue its own NFT as the country pitches itself as a global crypto hub. (CNBC)

  • “Sarah Palin Knows How to Get Attention. Can She Actually Win?” (NYT On Politics)

Best of the rest

  • The chief executives of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna collectively earned more than $100 million in pay during the pandemic. (FT)

  • Books about the ultrawealthy reveal some of Americans’ darkest fantasies. (NYT Mag)

  • Two senior executives at former President Donald Trump’s social media start-up have quit after the app’s glitchy launch. (Reuters)

  • Is David Solomon actually a good DJ? An assessment of the Goldman C.E.O.’s side hustle. (FT)

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