Business this week

A federal investigation began into the explosion of a SpaceX rocket as it was undergoing tests on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Led by Elon Musk, SpaceX is a pioneer in private-sector space transport. But the accident has prompted questions about its safety record. A satellite leased by Facebook that was to provide internet services to poor countries was destroyed in the blast. Spacecom, which owned the satellite, said it would want SpaceX to conduct several safe flights before using its services again. See article

Piping hot

Enbridge, which is based in Canada and shifts crude oil around North America, agreed to buy Spectra, a natural-gas company in Texas, for $28 billion, creating a giant in energy infrastructure. Enbridge is one of the biggest owners of oil tanks in Cushing, Oklahoma, a hub for West Texas oil. Spectra has assets in the Marcellus shale-gas basin. With the industry under pressure to consolidate because of the plunge in oil prices, more mergers are thought to be in the pipeline.

Exor, an Italian investment company controlled by the Agnelli family, confirmed it was moving its legal headquarters to Amsterdam, from Turin. Exor, which is The Economist’s largest shareholder, says the move will simplify its operations. Its Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari businesses are legally based in the Netherlands. The company will remain listed on the Milan stock exchange.

The first corporate bonds from the private sector to be sold with negative yields were issued in Europe. Henkel, a German company, and Sanofi, a French one, sold bonds with a yield of -0.05%, meaning that investors who buy them are prepared to end up with less money in return. The European Central Bank’s expansion of its asset-buying programme to include corporate debt has driven yields to new lows.

Markit said that its monthly survey of activity in Britain’s services industry had posted a record gain in August. The financial-data firm now thinks the economy is unlikely to fall into recession, reversing its forecast following Britain’s vote in a referendum in June to leave the European Union. But it does think the economy will slow considerably.

The ultimate insider

The EU’s ombudsman raised concerns about the decision of José Manuel Barroso to join Goldman Sachs. Mr Barroso is a former president of the European Commission and oversaw reforms to the financial industry that were often resisted by the City of London. The ombudsman said Mr Barroso’s appointment to the investment bank had caused “public unease”, and asked for clarification on how officials who used to work with Mr Barroso, including those who will head the EU’s Brexit negotiations, should liaise with him.

South Africa’s economy grew by an annualised 3.3% in the second quarter, the fastest pace since late 2014. In the first three months of the year GDP contracted by 1.2%, leading to fears of recession, but mining, the mainstay of the economy, has since rebounded. 

Bayer sweetened its takeover offer for Monsanto, to $65 billion, the latest move in a spell of consolidation in the agricultural seeds and chemicals business. Monsanto has softened its response to the approach from its German rival, describing the latest negotiations as “constructive”.

After a decade of ownership by a private-equity firm, Formula One was sold to Liberty Media, an American company, in a deal that values the racing-car championship at $8 billion. Bernie Ecclestone stays on as F1’s chief executive.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise decided to sell most of its remaining software assets to Micro Focus, a British tech company, for $8.8 billion. The assets include what is left of Autonomy, a former star of British tech. Its purchase, in 2011, in a deal that rapidly turned sour, precipitated the splitting of HP into two companies last year.

Augmenting its business in 3 D-printing, General Electric said it was buying Arcam of Sweden and SLM Solutions of Germany, two of the leading companies in metal-based additive manufacturing. GE will use the firms’ technologies to enhance its business in printing aircraft parts.

Ear today, gone tomorrow

Apple unveiled the iPhone 7. Sales of the device have slowed recently, in part because consumers have awaited its latest iteration. The new phone is waterproof and, controversially, does away with the headphone socket, so those who still want to use their top-of-the-range noise cancellers will have to carry an adaptor. Meanwhile, Apple’s arch-rival, Samsung, issued a safety recall for its new Galaxy Note 7 smartphone because of a fault in the battery that can cause the device to catch fire. See article