President-elect's stance on trade, infrastructure and taxes reshapes firms' prospects
By Ted Mann, Bradley Olson and Andrew Tangel
Executives world-wide encountered a political and economic landscape radically changed by Donald Trump's surprise election, which reverberated through the energy, health-care and manufacturing sectors.
U.S. businesses braced for revamped trade pacts and a potential crackdown on overseas operations, coupled with the promise of lower taxes, lighter regulation and higher infrastructure spending at home. Executives in Asia and Europe said they were hopeful their close ties with the U.S. economy would endure the political upheaval and heated campaign rhetoric.
"This election is the latest step in a longer-term, global trend that we have been adjusting to for a while -- one that's marked by political volatility and populism," Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric Co., wrote in a message to his employees.
For the energy industry, Mr. Trump's victory fanned expectations that he would clear the path for new pipelines, end U.S. participation in global climate change pacts and undo environmental regulations to boost American coal mining.
Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources Co., said Mr. Trump would perk up the country's stagnant drilling boom by making it easier to build pipelines that unlock areas rich in oil and gas. "His message about creating jobs is why he broke the blue wall" and attracted votes from Democrats in some states, Mr. Sheffield said.
Continental Resources Inc. chief Harold Hamm, Mr. Trump's chief adviser on energy issues, said subsidies for renewable energy like solar and wind, and credits for electric cars, should be eliminated. "None of it should be subsidized, none of it," Mr. Hamm said Wednesday. "If it makes it in the market, fine."
Still, some rooftop solar executives voiced optimism, saying green power enjoys support from a bipartisan majority of consumers. "We do not see this election as changing its course," said Ed Fenster, chairman and co-founder of San Francisco-based Sunrun Inc.
Mr. Trump's victory also sent waves through the U.S. health-care industry, providing relief to drugmakers worried about the specter of government price limits but fanning fears for hospital operators and some health insurers that the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama's health law could get rolled back. That provision had brought those companies more paying customers.
Mr. Trump has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though many analysts think it is unlikely all of the health law's effects would be undone. Mr. Trump also took aim at high drug prices during his campaign, hinting at measures such as re-importation of drugs and giving Medicare powers to negotiate drug prices to limit price rises.
"Health-care reform is in place, it's going to be modified, it's going to move forward," said J. Mario Molina, the CEO of Molina HealthCare Inc., a large insurer of Medicaid patients. "We're going to see Obamacare 2.0, maybe they will call it Trumpcare, or Ryancare" after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). He suggested that Medicaid may extend under the new administration and the law's exchanges might also survive -- perhaps with reduced subsidies and more flexibility for insurers.
Despite the election outcome, the industry still has to reckon with "the very real concerns the public has" about drug prices and health-care affordability, said Ron Cohen, CEO of drugmaker Acorda Therapeutics Inc. "Those issues have not changed substantively just because we have a new administration," he said.
Mr. Trump took aim at several big names in technology during the campaign. He called for a consumer boycott of Apple Inc. over its refusal to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation access a terrorist's iPhone over privacy concerns. He accused Jeff Bezos of using the Washington Post, which he owns, to advance the interests of Amazon.com Inc ., the e-commerce giant he founded and runs -- a claim the Post and Mr. Bezos strongly disputed.
And, as he did with other companies outside technology, he claimed International Business Machines Corp. was moving jobs overseas.
Casino industry executives were initially nervous about market reaction to Mr. Trump's win thenight before as they gathered together Wednesday for a board meeting of their main trade group, the American Gaming Association, executive director Geoff Freeman said in an interview later that day.
But the group largely soon came around to the belief that the opportunity for a less aggressive federal agency enforcement approach was a significant win, Mr. Freeman said.
Another advantage for the industry is the fact that Mr. Trump himself is a former casino owner, said Mr. Freeman. That should help the trade group's efforts to portray the industry as a mainstream one.
Mr. Trump has promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure projects, a position that was applauded by Caterpillar Inc. "We've got a lot to do at home on building our own infrastructure in this country," said Kathryn Dickey Karol, Caterpillar's vice president for global government and corporate affairs.
But Martin Richenhagen, CEO of farm-equipment maker Agco Corp., said he is concerned about Mr. Trump's repeated support for trade protectionism. "That would be a nightmare if we make life difficult for imports and exports," said Mr. Richenhagen.
The President-elect has pledged to cut corporate tax rates and boost infrastructure spending, but has criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact to lower or eliminate tariffs between the U.S. and 11 other countries including Japan and Vietnam. He has also been critical of China, the biggest U.S. trading partner.
In an open letter Wednesday to Mr. Trump, a group of CEOs including the leaders of Boeing Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. expressed an "urgent need to restore faith in our vital economic and government institutions."
Manufacturers are eager to work with the Trump administration on boosting infrastructure-spending and easing regulatory and tax burdens,said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
But Mr. Timmons acknowledged the industry was at odds with Mr. Trump's trade rhetoric, and said the manufacturing group would need to mount a better public case highlighting how open markets can increase U.S. exports. "We just have to do a better job at communicating that, and frankly we haven't done so."
--Trisha Thadani, Joseph Walker, Anna Wilde Mathews and Bob Tita contributed to this article.
Write to Ted Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org, Bradley Olson at Bradley.Olson@wsj.com and Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 10, 2016 02:48 ET (07:48 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.