The daily business briefing: March 20, 2017

Harold Maass
Angela Weiss/Getty Images
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Uber No. 2 Jeff Jones quits

Uber's president, Jeff Jones, is leaving the ride-hailing company after just six months on the job, Recode reported Sunday. Jones left Target last fall to join Uber as its No. 2 executive, and one of his jobs was repairing the business' image, which has been tainted by charges of sexism and sexual harassment. "It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber," Jones said in a statement. His departure comes shortly after Uber's embattled CEO, Travis Kalanick, began a search for a chief operating officer to help him get the company back on track. [Recode, CNN]


Beauty and the Beast smashes Hollywood records

Beauty and the Beast took in $170 million at the North American box office over its debut weekend, breaking the record for the biggest March opening that was set last year by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Disney musical, which mixes live-action scenes with fully digital characters, also made $180 million in overseas ticket sales, putting it on track to make $1 billion worldwide before it leaves cinemas. "The world is a pretty cynical place right now, and Beauty and the Beast gave audiences an opportunity to go back to a time of innocence," said Greg Foster, chief executive of IMAX’s filmed entertainment. [The New York Times]


G20 shift on protectionism weighs down stocks

Global stocks fell early Monday after the Group of 20 finance ministers' decision to drop a pledge to avoid protectionism from the joint communique they issued at the end of their weekend meeting in Germany. European shares dropped by as much as 0.3 percent, and U.S. futures were down by 0.2 percent before the markets opened. Many observers interpreted the shift on protectionism as a victory for President Trump, who has argued that the U.S. has not been served well by multilateral trade agreements, and threatened to impose restrictions against some trading partners to keep relations fair. Many nations, including European powerhouses, China, and Australia, opposed dropping the anti-protectionist language. [Reuters, Bloomberg]


Vodafone and Idea Cellular agree to India deal

Britain's Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular said Monday they would merge their Indian operations in a $23 billion deal. The combined entity would leap past market leader Bharti Airtel to become India's largest telecommunication business, with nearly 400 million customers. The deal came after India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, ignited a price war last year with the launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm, offering free services for months, transforming the nation's mobile industry. [Reuters]


France clears Opel but finds emissions fraud evidence related to other car makers

French investigators said Monday that they had found evidence of possible emissions fraud in Fiat, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, and Volkswagen vehicles sold in France, but not in Opel cars. The Finance Ministry said it was closing its investigation into Opel, but sending courts evidence of fraud involving Volkswagen, Renault, Fiat Chrysler, and Peugeot Citroen. French justice officials now will decide whether to bring any of the automakers to trial. The investigations were prompted by the 2015 discovery that VW had used software to cheat on diesel emissions tests in the U.S. [The Associated Press]