Connect with us

News

French businesses court Marine Le Pen after taking fright at left’s policies

Published

on

French businesses court Marine Le Pen after taking fright at left’s policies

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

France’s corporate bosses are racing to build contacts with Marine Le Pen’s far right after recoiling from the radical tax-and-spend agenda of the rival leftwing alliance in the country’s snap parliamentary elections.

Four senior executives and bankers told the Financial Times that the left — which polls suggest is the strongest bloc vying with Le Pen — would be even worse for business than the Rassemblement National’s unfunded tax cuts and anti-immigration policies.

“The RN’s economic policies are more of a blank slate that business thinks they can help push in the right direction,” a Cac 40 corporate leader said of Le Pen’s party, which is ahead of other groupings in the run-up to the two-round vote on June 30 and July 7. “The left is not likely to water down its hardline anti-capitalist agenda.”

Advertisement

Another major business leader and investor in France added: “If you had told me two weeks ago that the business world would be rooting for the RN and counting [President Emmanuel] Macron out, I would not have believed it.”

Both spoke anonymously out of fear of commenting publicly on politics during the lightning legislative election campaign triggered by Macron after his centrist alliance was crushed in European parliament elections by the RN. 

Le Pen’s lieutenant Jordan Bardella, who is expected to be prime minister if the RN wins an outright majority, had already begun to woo business leaders in closed-door meetings in recent months, said investment bankers in Paris and executives.

Jean-Philippe Tanguy, an RN MP who works on economic policy, said he had been getting calls from lobbyists, investors and companies eager to understand the party’s plans. 

“We’ve told them that the RN will hold the line on deficits and present a credible plan,” he said. “The markets will be severe on us, so we really have no choice but to do so.” 

Advertisement

Markets responded to the political uncertainty by sending the blue-chip Cac 40 index down more than 5 per cent between the announcement of the elections just over a week ago and Monday’s close.

The spread between benchmark French and German bond yields — a market barometer for the risk of holding France’s debt — has risen 0.31 percentage points since the election was called in the sharpest weekly move since the Eurozone debt crisis in 2011.

Another high-level executive said the prospect of either far-right or leftwing parties setting France’s economic strategy was “a choice between the plague and cholera”.

Both the far right and the leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance want a radical break with Macron’s business-friendly economic policies. 

The president has cut production taxes on corporations, made it easier for companies to fire workers and wooed foreign companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer and Amazon, to invest in France. Unemployment has fallen and recession has not set in as elsewhere in Europe.

Advertisement

But his government has also hugely expanded public borrowing during the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy shock linked to the war in Ukraine.

Skyline of La Défense financial district in Paris
The financial district of La Défense in Paris. Le Pen has sought to reassure business, claiming that markets find the party’s project ‘reasonable’ when they read the details © Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

The RN, which has not issued a full economic programme, has signalled it could revoke Macron’s flagship pensions reform later in the year after an audit of public accounts. It has made this a key campaign promise.

The party has said it will keep its promises to cut value added tax on energy and fuel, which the government says will cost €16bn. But in a sign of the far-right’s attempts to reassure voters and the markets, Bardella on Monday night postponed a €7bn VAT cut on household necessities. The RN also says it would give French companies preference in procurement, a violation of EU competition rules.

Le Pen has sought to reassure business. “Financial markets don’t really understand the National Rally’s project,” she told Le Figaro on Sunday. “They have only heard the caricature of our project. When they read about it, they find it rather reasonable.”

The leftwing NFP alliance has not made similar overtures. But it depicts its economic plans as more responsible because of billions of euros in planned tax rises to pay for the increased spending. 

“We will finance this programme by dipping into the pockets of those who can most afford it,” said Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist party.

Advertisement

The NFP’s programme includes scrapping Macron’s pension reforms, increasing public sector salaries and welfare benefits, while raising the minimum wage by 14 per cent and freezing the price of basic food items and energy.

It would reintroduce a wealth tax, scrap many tax breaks for the better-off and raise income tax for the highest earners. 

Corporate bosses recoil at such ideas. “The left’s economic programme is totally unacceptable and would amount to France leaving the capitalist system,” said a high-profile entrepreneur anguished over the choice in the election. “Bardella may look reassuring but the far right represents a threat to democracy, not only the economy.”

Others are more sanguine. Matthieu Pigasse, an investment banker at Centerview who specialises in sovereign debt advisory, said the French economy was “protected by the euro” and the EU itself, even if the Eurosceptic RN has long criticised them.

“In a historical irony, the euro will immunise [the economic impact] from the left or the far-right,” he told L’Express magazine.

Advertisement

Additional reporting Ben Hall in Paris

Video: Why the far right is surging in Europe | FT Film
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

News

Deadline looms for Warner Bros Discovery with NBA broadcasts on the line

Published

on

Deadline looms for Warner Bros Discovery with NBA broadcasts on the line

Stay informed with free updates

Warner Brothers Discovery has until Monday to match proposals for purchasing the next round of broadcast rights to the US National Basketball Association, which are set to more than double in value to roughly $75bn over 11 years.

The negotiation between the league and media company, whose TNT network has aired NBA games since the 1980s, has become a referendum on the future of live sports rights. For WBD the stakes are high: it is at risk of losing its cornerstone live sports programming amid changes in the broader media landscape.

Last week NBA team owners approved proposals from Disney, Amazon Prime Video and Comcast’s NBC for broadcast rights beginning with the 2025-26 season. WBD’s current contract gives it a chance to match any third-party offers — in this case, those from Amazon and NBC. It has until Monday evening to furnish its own proposal. 

Advertisement

People familiar with the discussions, which are ongoing and subject to change, told the Financial Times the definition of what terms constitute a “matching offer” is complex in the current landscape, as traditional cable and linear companies compete directly with tech platforms.

In this case, WBD is more likely to target the proposal by Amazon, the people said, in part because the $1.8bn average annual value for its proposed rights is closer to the $1.2bn per year WBD pays now. The proposal from NBC is worth roughly $2.5bn per year.

It is unclear what could happen next, depending on WBD’s response. One person familiar with the process stressed that WBD would match one of the offers or not, but “this is not a bidding war”.

A spokesperson for TNT Sports said the company had received the proposals from the NBA and was “preparing a response in view of our matching rights”. The NBA, NBC and Amazon all declined to comment.

People familiar with the league and WBD agreed that dollar figures would not be the only criterion evaluated for determining who will prevail. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said last week the league’s goals in negotiating the next round of media rights were partly economic and partly fan services, including offering a mix of broadcast and streaming options as well as international capabilities.

Advertisement

“That’s something that we’ve been very focused on in these deals, not just reach in the United States but reach globally as well,” Silver said, adding that details needed to be worked through “with existing partners” before the contracts could be finalised.

One point the stakeholders are quibbling over is the size and reach of streaming platforms. Amazon Prime Video has more than 200mn monthly viewers as of last year, while WBD’s direct-to-consumer streaming has reached nearly 100mn subscribers through the first quarter of 2024. That includes Max, where US viewers were able to watch simulcasts of NBA games on TNT this season.

A person familiar with WBD noted the disparities between the two companies’ streaming subscriber bases but said any assessment of the NBA rights in question — for domestic US distribution — should be limited to domestic comparisons.

The discussions come at a critical time for WBD, whose executives have weighed a potential break-up of the company as it contends with a $39bn net debt load. Its market capitalisation has fallen by a third to $20.8bn over the past year. 

Those circumstances, particularly the market capitalisation, are a consideration for the league, one of the people said. 

Advertisement

People on all sides of the negotiations stressed “unknowns remain unknown”, as one person put it — meaning the final rights contracts will not be determined until WBD submits its counterproposal. When all is said and done, however, the overall value of the rights package is set to double, in a reflection of how important live sports are to keeping cable and streaming subscribers.

Analysts at MoffettNathanson wrote this spring that “having the NBA has been a significant source of leverage in driving [affiliate] rates for TNT and across WBD’s broader linear portfolio”.

Some of TNT’s A-list talent have also been outspoken about wanting to keep NBA games on the network, including Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, a co-host of the company’s flagship basketball programme, Inside the NBA. In interviews in recent months, he has criticised WBD chief executive David Zaslav for publicly equivocating over the decision to keep the rights.

“When we merged [with Discovery in 2022], that’s the first thing our boss said, ‘we don’t need the NBA’,” Barkley said on The Dan Patrick Show in May. “Well, he don’t need it, but the rest of the people [on TNT], we need it.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

News

The FDA misses its deadline again to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair products

Published

on

The FDA misses its deadline again to propose a ban on formaldehyde in hair products

A hairdresser straightens a woman’s hair by applying a hair product. A delayed proposal by the Food and Drug Administration would ban the use of formaldehyde as an ingredient in hair relaxers and hair straighteners.

Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Advertisement

Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration’s proposal to ban the use of formaldehyde as an ingredient in hair relaxers and hair straighteners on the market in the U.S. has been pushed back yet again. The deadline for the agency’s proposal, at this time, still remains unclear.

The FDA’s proposed rule takes a large step in shedding light on the potential harm that formaldehyde — a highly toxic, colorless gas — can cause to the many Black women and other women of color who typically use straightening products.

In October, NPR reported that the federal agency proposed the ban and scheduled its implementation for April 2024. The first deadline for the scheduled ban implementation was missed and pushed back to July 2024. Most recently, the agency moved the target date to September 2024.

Advertisement

On April 3, the FDA told NPR in an email that the action date for the proposed ban was set for April 2024 and that officials were “still developing the proposed rule.”

At that time, a spokesperson declined to comment further about the timing or the ban’s detailed content.

But when pressed about the status of the ban to the federal agency in May and, most recently, this month, an FDA spokesperson told NPR that the proposed rule “continues to be a high priority.” They declined again to comment further about its timing or content.

When asked Friday for clarification about why there have been numerous delays in implementing the proposed ban, a spokesperson told NPR that the process for implementing proposed rules “takes time.”

“Before a proposed rule can be published in the Federal Register for public comment, it must be reviewed and approved within FDA and other parts of the Federal government,” the FDA spokesperson said in a statement.

Advertisement

Allison Stevenson, an attorney who represents product manufacturers and retailers, says that while we should expect to see a ban on formaldehyde, it’s no surprise that the FDA has delayed the proposed ban several times.

“There are a lot of moving parts … this all falls under legislation that is still relatively new, in almost all respects. And so it’s not uncommon to see things get delayed for one reason or the other,” she said.

Stevenson predicts that the ban will likely not occur until 2025. She says the proposed ban is necessary to protect the health and safety of communities of color.

“The regulation is necessary to protect the health and safety of communities of color, Stevenson said. “I certainly don’t believe that the delay should be indicative to anyone that the FDA is not making this issue a priority,” she added.

What are the health risks associated with formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a toxic, colorless and strong-smelling gas that presents health hazards when breathed into the lungs or when it comes into contact with the eyes or skin, according to the FDA.

Advertisement

In 2022, researchers at the National Institutes of Health released a study that showed an increased risk of hormone-related cancer in women who have used the chemicals in their hair. The findings in the report were especially concerning for Black women, who are far more likely to report using such products, including many kinds of chemical relaxers, Brazilian blowouts and keratin treatments.

“We estimated that 1.64% of women who never used hair straighteners would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk goes up to 4.05%,” lead author Alexandra White, the head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Environment and Cancer Epidemiology group, told NPR in 2022.

Once the gas is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 parts per million, those in contact with it can experience harmful side effects such as watery eyes, burning in the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation. (Essentially, the more exposure one has to products containing formaldehyde — in terms of time and concentration — the higher the health risk.)

The long-term effects associated with the use of formaldehyde

The use of formaldehyde can have several long-term effects associated with it, which can include an increased number of headaches, asthma, contact dermatitis and possibly cancer.

Hair relaxers and hair straightening products have also been linked to risks associated with uterine cancer, breast cancer and even ovarian cancer — especially for Black women.

Advertisement

According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 150 hair-straightening products on store shelves contain formaldehyde. Investigators discovered that products that claimed to be “formaldehyde-free,” “organic,” or even “natural” actually contained the highly toxic chemical when tested.

Aside from hair straighteners and smoothers, formaldehyde is used in glues, resins, dyes, textiles, disinfectants, building materials, automobile parts, embalming, and laboratories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Continue Reading

News

The retro charm of ‘getting your colours done’

Published

on

The retro charm of ‘getting your colours done’

“Oh, we left the four seasons behind somewhere towards the end of the last century,” Cliff Bashforth, managing director of the colour and image consultancy company Colour Me Beautiful, tells me. “Now, we have a palette of 24 tones, and it’s all about are you light or deep, warm or cool, clear or soft. We don’t tell people what colours to wear any more, we show them how to wear colour.”

“Getting your colours done” — common shorthand for the colour analysis service that famously assigned everyone a season — is as synonymous with the 1980s as leg warmers and leotards. It was transformational for a generation of women. I remember how excited my mother was to have been anointed “spring”, embracing a wardrobe of apricot and peach for the next three decades; my half-sister had hers “done” in the early 1990s, and has been happily wedded to her winter palette ever since, favouring silver over gold jewellery and not being afraid of lilac. “My aunt had it done,” a friend told me. “And she still only wears turquoise.”

I had presumed that the phenomenon of having your colours done died out along with leg warmers. But recently, after hearing that it has been trending on TikTok (#coloranalysis has been tagged more than 278,000 times), where various filters allow you to DIY your own colours, I discovered that it’s also having a moment IRL. On a weekend away with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on why she was looking quite so good. “I’ve had my colours done,” she admitted sheepishly, adding, “I know, I know,” before I could say anything about time-travelling to 1984. “I didn’t know you still could!” I replied. 

Carole Jackson’s ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ bestseller came out in 1980 . . .
Rebecca and Angi are seen in a desk mirror, with coloured swatches on Rebecca’s shoulder
. . . and many stick for life with the colours chosen in their consultation © Greg Funnell

She confided that she had visited a woman in north London who had been a colour consultant for many years and prescribed my friend warm autumnal shades, which she instantly espoused, all but doing away with any clothes that were not rust, olive, burnt orange or mustard. Along with a pop of her “wow” colour — a soft red for lipstick and earrings — it all hung together so nicely that I lost no time in signing up for a consultation myself. This is, of course, just how it took off over 40 years ago — as a word-of-mouth hit. 

Colour Me Beautiful, or Color Me Beautiful as it began, has been going strong ever since American founder Carole Jackson’s bestseller of the same name came out in 1980 and remained on the New York Times top 500 list for many years. It took off predominantly with women of a certain age in the US, leading many of them to train to become a “colour consultant” themselves — a popular late career option for women in possession of a garage or spare room, as well as a good dose of get up and go. 

“It was in a time when women were looking for a part-time job that had some glamour attached to it that they could also do from home,” says Mary Spillane, the image and communications consultant who brought Color Me Beautiful — the book and the business — to the UK in 1983, shortly after moving here. 

Advertisement

“No one knew me in this country, so I thought I’d give it a go. It became a runaway success. I set it up in 35 countries.” A host of rival colour consultancy companies sprang up — some of which still adhere to the original “four seasons” doctrine today. 

Spillane is tickled to see how younger generations are embracing it as a retro trend. “I’ve seen it on TikTok and Instagram and it has really cracked me up,” she says. Her take is that eco-conscious Gen Z-ers spurning fast fashion are wanting to shop wisely and invest in pieces that suit them and will last. TikTokers are either videoing professional colour consultations, engendering long comment threads — “I def like the cool WAY better”; “I vote warm 100% 😬😬😬” — or attempting to work it out for themselves using special rainbow filters.

In Spillane’s view, there is no substitute for an in-person consultation. “None of us are objective and women tend to be more negative and have hang-ups . . . we have all these stupid things that we have closed off to ourselves. It’s great to have someone look at you fresh, and say ‘Come on, give it a go.’”

Two hands hold swatches with various colours
A range of swatches help to fins the right shades © Greg Funnell

In response to this surprise uptick, Colour Me Beautiful last year launched an “Express Colour” service lasting about 40 minutes (costing from £40) instead of 90 minutes (from £160), for “attention-shy young people”, says Bashforth. He trained as a consultant in 1988 and has worked for the company ever since, buying it out in 2016. Thousands have been trained over the decades, with a current stronghold of 800-plus consultants across the world. It is a particular hit in South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland — but the French, apparently, aren’t so keen. The demographic has evolved and it is no longer the preserve of that gloriously ’80s cohort “ladies who lunch”, but a potentially lucrative part-time option for those with children at home, or who are simply wanting to diversify. Is it still mainly women who sign up for training, I ask Bashforth. “Ninety-nine to one. I am the exception,” he laughs. 

It costs £2,000 (plus VAT) for 24 hour hours’ online training over six days, but, once you’ve bought your swatches of colour, “you can literally start the next day”. Some have stuck at it for 35 years, but others, such as Spillane, “ran out of puff”. The average tenure is — impressively — somewhere around the 15-year mark, according to Bashforth. 

Angi Jones, who operates out of her bright ground-floor flat in London’s Muswell Hill, has been with Colour Me Beautiful for nearly 20 years. Her living room is set up with a table piled high with neatly pressed samples of assorted coloured fabrics, and a chair placed in front of a mirror. Jones is stylish and smiley with blonde hair, wearing neutrals and a splash of apple green — “as bright as I go”, she tells me, “given my colouring”. She eyes my white T-shirt and pale pink cardigan, but refrains from comment.

Advertisement

I sit down in the chair and Jones covers my shoulders with a sequence of “pelmets” that are divided into colourful segments like Trivial Pursuit wedges. As I look in the mirror, guided by Jones, the pelmets immediately reveal whether I am warm or cool, light or deep, clear or soft (muted is the term preferred by men, apparently). It is clear by how washed-out I look against certain pale tones that I am warm, deep and clear. Jones, now totally in her stride, begins to drape the swatches from the various piles of colour across me. “My mother told me I must never wear beige,” I venture, when she holds up the next set — neutrals. “Raincoats, handbags, basics,” replies Jones, “that’s what they are for.” I’m surprised that charcoal is in my remit, and disappointed that bright white is definitely out — though soft white is allowed. FT bisque is in, but my cardigan is a no.

Jones has strong views about the meaning and power of colour. “Red excites people — children like it,” she tells me. “Purple is a learned colour — people think you are more intelligent if you wear purple.” I admit that purple is the one colour I really don’t get on with. “That’s fine!” she says breezily, putting it to one side and pulling out a deep teal. “Ah! Look at that! That really brings out the contrast between your skin and your eyes and hair, which is what we want.” The teal goes into a shortlist pile of possible “wow” colours. 

People tend to smile when they find a colour that really works for them, she says. I grin like mad when she lays a daffodil yellow swatch across my shoulders — mainly because it is one of my favourite colours, and I’m happy I’m allowed to wear it. 

Then we go into colour combinations — the more striking the better, apparently, for my colouring. Mahogany and primrose: Dalai Lama gravitas. Chocolate brown and lapis — “The French do that, it’s very clever” — is smart, pulled together, like posh luggage. Chocolate and periwinkle is more air stewardess, however.  

At the end of the session, Jones assembles my wallet of personalised miniature swatches — small enough to slip into my beige handbag for a shopping trip to town. I feel myself itching to rashly bin my staple white T-shirts and pale jeans in favour of French navy and ivory. Perhaps with a splash of teal. 

Advertisement

Not everyone responds well to being told what they should and shouldn’t wear: one FT journalist recounted how horrified she had been when her husband bought her a colour analysis consultation for her birthday. Others like to rebel, sporting colours they know aren’t in their wallet.

Having rushed out after my consultation and spent a small fortune on a coral jumpsuit and coffee-coloured trousers, a week later I found myself slipping back into my off-duty uniform. In flaunting Angi’s advice, I felt a pang of guilt, but also an illicit thrill.  

Rebecca Rose is the editor of FT Globetrotter

Find out about our latest stories first — follow FT Weekend on Instagram and X, and subscribe to our podcast Life & Art wherever you listen           

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending