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On the money

An ice cream war for Ben & Jerry’s

Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

🍦 Unilever is fighting battles on two fronts after its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary said it would stop selling ice cream in occupied Palestinian territories from next year. Israel’s ultra-nationalist PM, Naftali Bennett, has threatened to take legal action, calling the move an “anti-Israel step”. The foreign minister described it as a “shameful surrender to anti-semitism”.

The multinational is also under fire from within over its clumsy handling of the affair. “The spat highlights the pitfalls of brands attempting to satisfy polarised political opinions,” says the FT. The consumer goods industry has hitherto regarded Ben & Jerry’s as a “trailblazing example” of a brand known for strong ethical stances that has retained its social mission despite being taken over. It strongly supported the Black Lives Matter movement “and acted before Unilever last year in joining a boycott of advertising on Facebook in a protest against racist and hateful content”.

Ben & Jerry’s is certainly continuing to cause trouble. The New York Times says this “unabashedly political company” appears to be offering its support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to put economic and political pressure on Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Chilling figures at Netflix 

🎬 Is Netflix stalling? Only 1.5m new people signed up for its services in the second quarter of 2021. That’s 85% fewer than a year ago. And subscriber numbers in the US and Canada have fallen by 430,000 in the same period.

It’s not surprising, says The Economist. As rich markets mature and rivals snap at Netflix’s heels, “growth must come from elsewhere”. The company’s “third season” – the first was rented DVDs by mail, the second its invention and domination of video streaming – “promises exotic new locations and perhaps a big plot twist”. International markets could account for two-thirds of revenues by 2025.

There are financial and cultural barriers too. Most foreigners are poorer, and analysts point out that programmes made by, say, British broadcasters are richer in local idiom than those commissioned by foreign streamers. Sex Education, a Netflix series set in rural England, had fewer than five British references an hour, while home-grown hit Peep Show had more than 35, from “johnnies” (condoms) to Findus crispy pancakes.

On the plus side, Netflix rarely competes with more than two serious rivals in international markets, compared with a dozen or more in North America. And the company, moreover, is thinking “outside the goggle box” – it has “nabbed” a new gaming boss, Mike Verdu, from Facebook, and plans to offer subscribers videogames on its mobile app within a year.

Some suspect a big acquisition could be on the cards, but The Wall Street Journal is sceptical. It cites the company’s letter to shareholders insisting that it has not yet found any large-scale assets “sufficiently compelling to act upon.”

A tale of two tycoons

🤑 Jamie Dimon, billionaire chief executive officer of JP Morgan Chase, has been awarded 1.5 million stock appreciation rights – worth almost $50m – to persuade him to stay in the job, according to Bloomberg. The bank’s share price has nearly quadrupled in the past decade and is up 18% this year.

💰 Meanwhile, after returning from the edge of space, Jeff Bezos is giving $100m to chef José Andrés, a Nobel peace prize nominee. His not-for-profit World Central Kitchen feeds and supports people in disaster-stricken areas around the world.