Here is a game everyone across the nation can play. Where is the nearest Sainsbury’s and Asda, and what is the travel time between them?
In Birmingham it is reckoned there are six Midlands supermarkets in danger because of proximity. In south-west London, where I live, by zipping through Richmond Park you could render at least one superstore irrelevant.
Across the country the worst-case scenario suggests as many as 100 shops will have to be sold or closed. So much for flimsy pledges of no store job losses from the £15billion merger.
The biggest challenges are in the supply chain. Groceries ombudsman Christine Tacon says her goal would be to ‘bring Asda up to Sainsbury’s standard’.
A Sainsbury-Asda tie up would mean that together it and Tesco would have up to 65pc of the market
How that will contribute to the promised 10 per cent cut in everyday prices is not clear.
I must confess to not being much of an expert on pork.
But Pig World reports that Sainsbury’s scores 100 per cent for the quality of its pork and sources 65 per cent of its pig products in Britain. Asda is described as ‘rock bottom’ among ten retailers surveyed.
Thank goodness then that MPs are lifting their eyes from the esoterica of the Customs Unions and thinking about shopping baskets.
The chairs of the business and environment select committees are pressing the Competition & Markets Authority to look at the impact of the deal on the supply chain as well as the consumer.
A Sainsbury’s-Asda tie-up would mean that together it and Tesco would have up to 65pc of the market. A basket of prices might be reduced but the ability of behemoths to dictate price and choice would be strong.
The City loves a good takeover. The bigger, the better, the more handsome the fees and the more opportunities for executives to lock themselves into lavish bonuses and long-term incentives. But it is the consumers, suppliers and workforce who will end up bearing the costs.
Elon Musk’s earnings update from Tesla was a classic. He turned on stock analysts, calling them ‘boring and bone-headed’ for firing off micro questions about performance.
Anyone who has ever listened in to a results conference call will be familiar with ‘jargon syndrome’.
At one of a handful of times a year when access to the chief executive is granted, instead of testing strategic vision analysts feel the need to immerse themselves in the technical minutiae.
If there is a quirk in earnings, cash flow or production schedules this could just as easily be explored with the finance director or investor relations team afterwards.
Admittedly at Tesla, as in the early days of Amazon, the big numbers look scary.
Cash has been flowing out at an alarming rate, with £740million disappearing in the first quarter, almost four times the amount in the previous period.
To give credit where it is due, Musk has recognised that extreme automation of the kind he has pioneered in both lithium battery production and on the motor assembly lines has not provided consistency. So he is reintroducing traditional human engineering skills and the changeover is costly.
Where the Amazon and Tesla stories are parallel is that the entrepreneurial giants in charge prioritise investment and innovation above all else.
Analysts who bang on about quarterly earnings per share, cash burn and caps don’t get it. Amazon was mocked for huge investment in the cloud for storing data, now it is the world’s major supplier of capacity. Tesla’s stock may be overpriced and the £1.5billion post-results hit to shares demonstrates the downside of honesty.
But Tesla is changing the face of motor manufacturing. It is streets ahead of highly engineered German producers and the American mass market. No wonder the dry questions, to quote Musk, ‘are killing me’.
What mischief Elliott Management are up to at Smith & Nephew one hates to think.
Sure, S&N recently has been an underperformer, failing to meet sales and profit margin targets.
But along with Glaxo, AstraZeneca et al it is a vital part of Britain’s world-class life sciences industry, which must be nurtured.
Newly installed Sri Lankan-born chief executive Namal Nawana, with a muscular grounding in the US market for artificial limbs and dressings, looks to be the right person for the job.
He must enlist the support of long-term investors, such as Blackrock and Invesco, to resist Elliott destabilisation.