Monday, September 5, 2016
Bayer offers $65bn for Monsanto; Bidding goodbye to paper currency; Exodus in Norway church after online exit is allowed
1 Bayer offers $65bn for Monsanto (BBC) Germany's Bayer has raised its offer for Monsanto to $65bn, or $127.50 a share, in a bid to create a global seeds and pesticides giant. Bayer said it was in advanced talks with Monsanto, but warned there was no guarantee a deal would result.
Its initial offer of $122 a share in May was rejected by the US firm for being "financially inadequate". The record all-cash offer valued Monsanto at $62bn. Bayer raised its offer to $125 a share in July but was again rebuffed.
Combining Bayer and Monsanto would create the world's biggest agricultural supplier and be a market leader in the US, Europe and Asia. Bayer's farm business produces seeds as well as chemicals to combat weeds and insects, but it is better known for its healthcare products such as Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer.
Monsanto is primarily known for its genetically modified seeds for crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat and sugar cane. Such seeds have attracted criticism from some environmental activists.
The higher offer comes amid a wave of mergers in the agriculture sector. Rivals including Dow Chemical, DuPont and Syngenta have all announced tie-ups recently, although some have yet to be cleared by regulators. The drop in commodity prices has put pressure on companies such as Monsanto, with farmers' cutting orders for supplies.
2 Bidding goodbye to paper currency (Kenneth Rogoff in The Guardian) The world is awash in paper currency, with major central banks pumping out hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth each year. All this cash is facilitating growth mainly in the underground economy, not the legal one.
I am not advocating a cashless society, which will be neither feasible nor desirable anytime soon. But a less-cash society would be a fairer and safer place. With the growth of debit cards, electronic transfers, and mobile payments, the use of cash has long been declining in the legal economy.
Cash facilitates crime because it is anonymous, and big bills are especially problematic because they are so easy to carry and conceal. A million dollars in $100 notes fits into a briefcase, a million euros in €500 notes fits into a purse.
Sure, there are plenty of ways to bribe officials, engage in financial crime, and evade taxes without paper currency. But most involve very high transaction costs (for example, uncut diamonds), or risk of detection (say, bank transfers or credit card payments).
A plan for reining-in paper currency should be guided by three principles. First, it is important to allow ordinary citizens to continue using cash for convenience and to make reasonable-size anonymous purchases. Second, any plan should move very gradually (think a decade or two). And, third, reforms must be sensitive to the needs of low-income households, especially those that are unbanked.
3 Exodus in Norway church after online exit is allowed (San Francisco Chronicle) Norway's state church has seen a record fall in membership after making it possible to join and leave the church electronically.
The Church of Norway says almost 25,000 members left in August by using a new function on the church's website. Meanwhile, about 1,200 new members joined online.
Even though the church has seen a steady decline in membership in recent decades, that's by far the biggest monthly loss in recorded history. By comparison, the church lost 8,588 members in the first seven months of 2016, before the online option was introduced.
Still, church officials appear to have no regrets, saying in a statement that the online function makes it possible to "clean up" the membership list. The Church of Norway counted about 3.8 million members in 2015, about 73 percent of the population.
Like neighboring Sweden and Denmark, Norway is among the most secular countries in the world. In all three Scandinavian countries, membership in the main Lutheran church is falling, while Catholic and Islamic communities are growing, mainly due to immigration.