It was fun while it lasted, but the clock's being turned back on the 35-hour workweek. Pushed by labor unions in Germany and France who hoped it would create jobs, the measure instead jacked up the cost of doing business. Siemens just negotiated a return to a 40-hour week for the 4,000 workers at its two phone plants in Germany. Philips is discussing increasing working hours at its Hamburg semiconductor plant as part of a cost-cutting plan. Automakers DaimlerChrysler and Opel, the German arm of General Motors, and railroad firm Deutsche Bahn are currently negotiating longer hours with their unions.
The German rollback has become possible because of new union contracts that allow for extended working hours in exchange for investment guarantees. But companies are also talking tough. Siemens isn't paying more wages for the extra hours, but it agreed not to move operations to Hungary. French firms are watching enviously. Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently hinted he might cave in when
'Tis The Season To Go Public
It's summer, and the IPOs are in full bloom. After years of drought, this is comeback time for the initial public offering; European IPOs for June have already trumped the $6.6 billion fetched during all of 2003, according to Dealogic. Shares in Spanish broadcaster Telecinco had soared by more than 20% at the end of its debut week, while Italy's state-controlled utility Enel cheered the flotation of its national power-grid owner Terna. And even after a bungled lead-up, investors piled in for a 33% share of Postbank, Germany's largest retail bank, generating €1.55 billion for parent Deutsche Post.
Will investors tire? "The cash is there," insists Walter Kemmsies, head of European equity strategy at JPMorgan. "The market for IPOs is open." Next up: France Télécom hopes to raise €1.8 billion in July from the sale of a 30% stake in its Pages Jaunes directories business. Seems they've found the market's number.
Chicago-based newspaper publisher Hollinger International agreed to sell the Telegraph Group including Britain's Daily Telegraph to the U.K.'s Barclay brothers for $1.2 billion. Hollinger's controlling shareholder, ousted chairman Conrad Black, may yet try to block the deal.
|The Bottom Line|
|The criminals are making great progress.
|JURGEN STORBECK, director of police agency Europol, on the increasing amount of counterfeit currency. In late June, French officials uncovered €1.8 million worth of fake euro bills near Paris|