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Feeding the dragon


WITH roughly a fifth of the world’s population but less than a tenth of its arable land, China has had to look outside its borders to feed itself.

In the dark ages


FLORENCE is a city more associated with oil on paintings and salads than the stuff that comes out of the ground.

The dominant dozen


  When Cisco was crowned as the world’s biggest company by market value in April 2000, its boss hoped it would go on to become the first firm worth over $1 trillion.

If the game goes against you


IT IS one of America’s biggest family firms, with revenues last year of more than $30 billion. Yet unlike peers such as Mars, a maker of confectionery, Pilot Flying J is all but unknown overseas.

Bad romance


Another cost to cut? SHAREHOLDERS cheered in December when Dow Chemical and DuPont, the world’s fourth- and fifth-most-valuable chemicals companies, worth a combined $130 billion, announced plans to merge.

The big fight


T-MOBILE touts itself as America’s mobile-phone “Uncarrier”, having vowed to shake up its industry with customer-friendly ideas like ditching annual service contracts.

Succession failure


THE grand mufti of Saudi Arabia recently added a surprising new item to the familiar list of worries plaguing his region.

Of profits and prophesies

A GOOGLY is a ball bowled in cricket with unexpected spin. For years, Google was similarly hard to read, sharing only basic figures about its business.

Going once, going twice, going online


EVERYONE seems to agree that online auctions are important to the art world’s future. In 2013 Daniel Loeb, an activist investor, seethed over Sotheby’s “inability to even develop a coherent plan for an internet-sales strategy, much less implement one.” Sotheby’s has worked to remedy that, for example by joining forces with eBay and holding five online-only auctions last year.

Going once, going twice, going online


EVERYONE seems to agree that online auctions are important to the art world’s future. In 2013 Daniel Loeb, an activist investor, seethed over Sotheby’s “inability to even develop a coherent plan for an internet-sales strategy, much less implement one.” Sotheby’s has worked to remedy that, for example by joining forces with eBay and holding five online-only auctions last year.

Coming clean?


Sharp screens, fuzzy future FEW tasks are more urgent for Japan than the clean-up of the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

iPhone, therefore I am


STEVE JOBS once visited an apple orchard while on a fruitarian diet, and it gave him the idea for the name of the company that he, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne went on to found.

House pride


BETWEEN them Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the Western world’s two largest auction houses, have been in business for 522 years.

Flexible figures


IF A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, as Lord Darlington observes in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, then it is getting progressively harder to be a cynic.

A corrosive climate


Clouds over Scunthorpe’s future FOR 151 years blast furnaces in Scunthorpe, a town in northern England, have been churning out pig iron and steel.

More than mobility

FOREIGN internet giants often struggle in China. Facebook, Twitter and Google are largely irrelevant on the mainland.

Don’t get carried away


IN 2013, Europe’s two largest low-cost carriers, Ryanair and easyJet, were having an annus horribilis.

The collaboration curse


IN MODERN business, collaboration is next to godliness. Firms shove their staff into open-plan offices to encourage serendipitous encounters.

Gold stars


A whole lot of sauce WHEN he left a job in banking to join a “company that sells fish sauce” in Vietnam, Michael Nguyen’s parents wondered if he was throwing away a lucrative career.

Hanging loose


WILLIAM HEATH ROBINSON would have felt at home at one of Indutrade’s many factories. The English cartoonist, who drew outlandishly elaborate machines that performed simple tasks, could have made imaginative use of the endless variety of valves, hydraulic hoses, couplings and other parts churned out by the Swedish engineering group.


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