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In Europe, Google recently lost its appeal against the anti-trust fine by the European Commission amounting to US$2.8bil (RM11.8bil) for giving preferential treatment to its own price-comparison shopping service over rival services.While this fine appears exorbitant, it is not the largest. The record fine was back in 2018 when Google was slapped with a total sum of US$5.1bil (RM21.6bil) related to its Android system dominance over rivals. (FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, - Reuters)

EXXON Mobil was once the most valuable company in the world in 2013 by virtue of its market capitalisation of US$438bil (RM1.85 trillion). It was a global oil giant with footprints everywhere, including Malaysia.

Interestingly, Exxon Mobil belongs to the lineage of the illustrious Standard Oil, owned by legendary entrepreneur and the richest man in modern history, John D Rockefeller.

If there is a single individual which is an embodiment of the essence of monopoly, it would be none other than Rockefeller. Of course, there were Astor, Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Morgan who were equally prominent, but none could come close to Rockefeller in terms of dominance.

To put it in context, at its peak, Rockefeller controlled 90% of the oil in the whole of the United States.

This led to the historic anti-trust lawsuit brought by the US government against Rockefeller in 1911 under the Sherman Antitrust Act, causing the eventual break up of Standard Oil into 34 business entities. Chevron, Marathon and Exxon Mobil, for instance, were all part of Standard Oil.

Even as early as 1911, the big government approach relying on its machinery and power of the law to control businesses had been used for the purpose of serving the agenda of their time.

Global regulatory waves

What made me relate to this story during a colourful period of the US’ business history is the increasing regulatory wave in various economic sectors across countries globally.

While it did not start in China, the expediency and the force of the regulations imposed were something that has taken businesses and investors by surprise. It isn’t just Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd losing US$416bil (RM1.76 trillion) in market capitalisation in the span of one year that is frightening. Many other sectors such as private tutoring and after school education, casino, gaming, technology and even the entertainment industry were not spared.

The MSCI China Index, which captures 85% of the China equity universe, was down 19% as at Dec 10, 2021. The last time the MSCI China Index fell at such magnitude was back in 2018 during the start of the US-China trade war while posting its slowest gross domestic product or GDP growth.

It was also the worst performance of China’s stock market in a decade then. At present, the Hang Seng Index has fallen year-to-date 14%, closing in on the April lows of 2020 during the Covid-19 global markets selloff.


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