The Great Bike-Sharing Collapse of China

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As I was driving home on a rainy Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, I passed a man on a bicycle with a small cage on his handlebars. Inside the cage were two ducks. Just another day here, really.

I thought of them Monday while reading Grady McGregor’s fine piece out of China about its demise of the over-invested bike-sharing craze. There’s a truism in tech-industry investing that parallels the adage about a waddling creature that walks and quacks like a duck very likely being one. Well, an investment craze that looks like a bubble and acts like a bubble—billions in, losses out, more investors than users—almost certainly is a bubble.

This one has burst completely.

The biggest players are discredited, acquired for a song, or gone completely. Chinese investors proved they are no different from tech investors everywhere else: They are perfectly capable of pumping too much money into a good idea and then ruining it. Here’s my photo of just another street corner in Guangzhou last month:

bikes piled on a corner in Ghuangzhou

Somehow, otherwise smart people, such as the fine business minds at Alibaba and Tencent, convinced themselves that the normal laws of supply and demand didn’t matter when “platforms” needed building and competitors needed vanquishing.

McGregor’s hunch is that Chinese artificial intelligence investments are next, and that sounds right. A.I. investments, in China and elsewhere, fit the bill: tremendous promise, even more hype, plenty of suckers afraid they’ll miss the opportunity if they don’t invest now.

If you listen carefully you can hear the quacking.

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A well-placed source suggested a Google executive as a potential No. 2 to newly promoted Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai: Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. She is as O.G. as anyone senior at Google, has known the founders since they were pups, and runs a giant business inside the company.

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Fortune published a list of travel tips from its far-flung journalists, including me. It’s fun. And might help relieve the pain.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashin

Read more: https://fortune.com/2019/12/10/great-bike-sharing-bubble-china/

The U.K. Election Means Big Change for Business—No Matter Who Wins

Thursday’s general election in the United Kingdom will change the country’s course. Parties and the electorate are more polarized than they have been in decades, so major change is coming, one way or the other.

There is no doubt that one issue dominates the election: Brexit. Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party wants to urgently push ahead with it; Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour opposition wants to renegotiate it and hold a second referendum that includes the option to remain in the European Union; and Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats—a smaller party but one that may soon play kingmaker—want to simply scrap the whole thing.

However, while the fate of Brexit will have an enormous impact on companies operating in the U.K.—many of which have been paralyzed by years of uncertainty—it is not the only issue on the table that will heavily affect them.

So here’s what the big parties’ election manifestos say regarding four other big issues that will also shape how business is conducted in the country for years to come. Because while the election’s winners will likely be determined by their Brexit policies, they will enter 10 Downing Street with many more promises to fulfil.

Corporation Tax

When the Conservatives took power in 2010, in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, corporation tax stood at 28%. By the end of the coalition five years later, it was down to 20%. Later that year, the Conservatives—by now ruling alone—knocked it down to 19%.

They were due to cut it further to 17% in 2020, but that plan has now been shelved, so the Conservatives are now effectively promising no change from the 19% rate. Labour swings furthest in the other direction, promising to hike the corporation tax rate back up to 26% by 2022. The Liberal Democrats are targeting a much smaller increase to 20%—the level that applied when they left government four and a half years ago.

It is worth noting that the amount of corporation tax raised in the U.K. has in fact increased consistently over the past six years, despite the falling rate, with multinationals paying ever more into the coffers. The U.K.’s comparatively low corporation tax rate is a likely factor in attracting business to the country—for example, across the English Channel, French rates start at 31%.

Employee Ownership

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are talking about boosting employee ownership schemes—where workers get dividends from shares held in employee-controlled fun

Read more: https://fortune.com/2019/12/10/uk-election-manifesto-business-promises/

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