Ten top global business stories of 2019

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 00:00 |
An ecstatic Eliud Kipchoge after completing the race in 1:59.40 in Vienna, Austria during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge on October 12. PD/FILE

2019 was a bag of mixed fortunes for business across the globe. Some flourished while others, otherwise thought to be rock solid, tumbled. Thomas Cook, for instance, a 178-year-old travel company collapsed in September, leaving more than 150,000 tourist stranded around the world. Here are the top global business stories of 2019 according to BBC and other news agencies


1. Major marketing coup: Eliud Kipchoge’s Ineos challenge

Ineos 1:59 Challenge was a successful 2019 project to break the two-hour mark for running the marathon distance.

The event featuring Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge was sponsored by Ineos, a multinational chemicals company, and held in Vienna, Austria, on 12 October 2019. 

This was perhaps the biggest marketing coup by little known Ineos whose name became globally known after the successful run.

In days prior to the endurance race, the name Ineos resonated for the first time across the globe from a virtually unknown position prior to the marathon’s build up.

2.  A second Boeing 737 Max aircraft crashes

The air disaster in Ethiopia, which followed the crash of a 737 Max a few months earlier in Indonesia, left hundreds dead and Boeing’s reputation in tatters.

The fleet of 737s was grounded, though not as quickly as some thought it should be. Rectifying the problem has proved even harder, as details gradually emerged of what lay at the heart of the problem.

By the end of the year Boeing had fired its chief executive and decided to call a temporary halt to production from January.

3. US and China blow hot and cold on trade

The US-China trade dispute ground on through 2019, with partial resolutions giving way to new tariffs then new de-escalations.

Relations between the US and China appeared to warm up in May when vice premier and economic adviser Liu He visited Washington for trade talks.

China agreed to “significantly increase” its purchase of US goods to help reduce America’s trade deficit and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declared that the trade war was “on hold”. Days later, however, it was business as usual.

4. Saudi Aramco scales back listing

The oil giant raised a record $25.6 billion (Sh2.6 trillion) in its initial public offering in Riyadh - the world’s largest share sale to date.

It had originally considered floatations abroad but chose instead to sell the shares at home.

The initial public offering (IPO) of 1.5 per cent of Aramco’s shares was at the heart of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to modernise the Saudi economy and wean it off its dependence on oil.

5. Huawei bites dust in US

The ill-will between the US and China was sharpened by the US decision to target the Chinese technology giant Huawei.

Huawei is a world leader in systems that send out signals to mobile phones; in particular, fifth generation or 5G networks. But the US has banned the use of Huawei’s equipment in America and encouraged its allies to do the same.

The US also stopped Huawei using systems developed by American companies including Google’s Android operating system that was formerly installed on Huawei’s mobile phones.

6. Thomas Cook leaves 150,000 high and dry

Many customers are still waiting for refunds after the 178-year-old travel agent collapsed in September.

Some 150,000 UK holidaymakers had to be repatriated during a two-week operation run by the Civil Aviation Authority, which apologised this month to the many out-of-pocket travellers who still have not been paid back their money.

7. Nissan and Carlos Ghosn part ways 

The 64-year-old Frenchman had led the Japanese carmaker for nearly two decades before a whistleblower made claims about Mr Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.

He was sacked as chairman shortly after he was first arrested in November 2018, but his ousting from the board at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting completed his fall from grace.

On 30 December it was reported that Mr Ghosn had travelled to Lebanon after leaving Japan while awaiting trial in Tokyo.

8. Brexit uncertainty doused

The biggest uncertainty facing UK businesses in 2019 was what will happen with Brexit. But the fears were cooled a little by the decisive outcome of December’s general election. 

The UK is now set to leave the EU in January. It does not mean all anxiety is gone. It is still not clear what the UK’s future trading relationship will be with its nearest and largest trading partner, and it is not clear how smooth the transition will turn out to be.  Those remain concerns for the next 12 months.

9. When three become one: Facebook marries WhatsApp and Instagram

A leak forced Facebook to reveal plans to merge the behind-the-scenes tech of messaging on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.  The effort was reported to be a pet project of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. 

He later justified the move saying it would draw the three products closer together, making it easier for users to send posts between them. He said it would also help the firm expand its end-to-end encryption features, which help keep messages secure.

Many observers noted, however, the action would also make it more difficult to split the company apart. 

10. Facebook to launch its own crypto-currency

The social media giant unveiled plans to launch a new digital currency, called Libra, next year.But the project immediately ran into trouble, with the head of the US House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee saying the company should wait until the US Congress had examined the project.

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