Tuesday, January 31, 2006

France: A Third World country...

At least when it comes to entry in the US: since October 2005, all countries part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are required to issue digital passports to their citizen for them to enter the US without a visa. Of the 27 countries part of the VWP, only 1 did not make it one time to issue the digital passports... You've guessed which one... And this is because of a typical French thing: unions!

This is so shameful for the French who now have to queue in front of US consulates to get a visa in order to visit the country or even transit there while going to another country. THe US tourism agency is not too happy either since French are spending Euro 500m annually while visiting this country.

Read the IHT article if you want to know more.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Job offer

This is it! The consulting firm who wanted me in Switzerland has agreed (after long negotiations...) for me to start in their London office. I have received the updated contract that I will sign this week. I'm quite happy about that and I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic experience. We haven't discussed about the starting date but September seems good to me. I need my summer break to backpack a bit in Latin America before working like crazy in London...

On the MBA side, I've just finish writing my Brand Management exam: 3000 words about the brand strategy of a Mexican food brand in the US... That was not the most interesting thing I've done lately :) I now have to prepare for my 2 classes tomorrow by reading God knows how many papers and prepare 2 cases, including one on a painting company entering into Brazil.

Finally, I'm closely following the recent largest M&A deal in the steel industry. Will Mister Mittal succeed in his hostile acquisition of Arcelor? That's a huge deal and interesting for many reasons: it's hostile, it's transformational (of the steel industry) and it involves a Netherland based company owned by an Indian living in London, with operations scatered around the world, trying to buy a Luxembourg based company traded in Paris, managed by a Frenchman with operations scatered around the world. Talk about globalisation... For first year students interviewing for IBD internships, my guess is that you ought to be ready to talk a bit about that deal.

For the French speakers, Le Monde has an interesing edito on the decline of Europe to China and India and uses this deal as an starting point.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Where being American can get you out of trouble...

... and being French can kill you: Ivory Coast. Newsweek has an article about the current situation in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast and it's really worth reading.
"No, no, he's an American," the police chief said. "Quickly—show them your passport." The passport was locked in the trunk. Hands shaking, I fumbled for my wallet and extracted my California driver's license. "American! American!" I said, thinking: this must be one of the few places left in the world where such a declaration can get one out of trouble. After inspecting the license, the Young Patriots gave me the thumbs up and waved us through.
France is accused by the partisans of Laurent Gbagbo, the current president, of all the things that went wrong in this country. Since a few days, the Young Patriots, group of young Gbagbo loyalists, are back in the streets looking for some white faces, automatically assumed to be French, at roadblocks in the capital. You can assume that they are not looking for French to engage in a nice little chat.

It's unbelievable how a country can drown so quickly. Back in 1996 when I visited Ivory Coast, it was one of the richest countries in West Africa and now it's under a state of quasi-civil war. Poor Africa!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Million Dollar Home Page under attack

For those of you who followed the great success story of The Million Dollar HomePage, the story ended very well for Alex who managed to make $1m with his idea (his latest 1,000 pixels were sold on eBay for $38,100). But now, the web site is under attack by Russian hackers who are asking for $50,000 to bring it back on-line as reported by the Financial Times.


I’ve signed up for too many electives this term. We are only in week 2 of the term (still 8 to go) and I’m already exhausted. I’m attending four classes plus Spanish classes, which might not seem a lot, but three of those classes do require some heavy preparation and I’m not used to that anymore. The good thing is that I will have enough credits at the end of this term to graduate so I can take my last term off. I haven’t decided anything on that yet since it will depend on my starting date for my full-time job.

On this subject, I’m meeting with some people in the London office next week to negotiate staying in London instead of moving to their Swiss office. I hope it will go there since I’d really like to stay at least one more year in London and it will be better for my girlfriend as well who just moved this year to London.

Friday, January 13, 2006

China is reinforcing its presence in Africa

A very good article from Le Monde about the increasing importance of Africa for Chinacan be read here (in French). The continent is very important for China due to its natural resources as exemplified by the recent $2bn investment of CNOOC in a Nigerian oil field. With the US currently trying to reduce its dependence on Middle-East oil by investing into Africa, a conflict of interest is bound to develop between the two blocks.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Return to London

Those holidays were too short! Two weeks was not enough to change my mind but I had a fantastic time in Cameroon. I spent a few days in Douala, the economic capital and then we went to Kribi, a city with amazing beaches just a two-hours drive from Douala. The food was great and the weather was fine. I could not resist posting some pictures below.

Fresh lobsters and fishes grilled on the beach

Not too crowded :)

Pygmy familly in their village

Sunset on the Atlantic

Don't worry, you can still enjoy a Guinness

Yet, it was a bit depressing to see so little progress in Africa. Even in Douala, buildings and roads are in a poor state; corruption is everywhere and there are very few factories (except beer breweries). With little working opportunities, people are creating small businesses and when I mean small, it's a one man operation with a table on the street selling cigarettes and other small items such as the one below.

But Africa is a fantastic place to visit and if you are at the London Business School, I urge you to register with the Africa Club that is organizing a trip to West Africa next Spring. It will be a trip you'll always remember.