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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

United Technologies is breaking up. General Electric is a shadow of its former self. The great conglomerates of the past, names like ITT and Gulf + Western and Hanson Trust, are dim memories at best.

The bottom line: Maybe the big cloud providers — Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle — are in some way the new conglomerates. They don't own the companies they power, but they deliver impressive and valuable synergies all the same.

The big picture: One of the few conglomerates still alive is Berkshire Hathaway. And it won't long survive the death of its founder, Warren Buffett, who's 88 years old. The other claimants for conglomerate status are the private-equity shops, but they, much like Berkshire Hathaway, are ultimately built on financial engineering rather than genuine economies of scale.

What they're saying: Edward Hadas reckons that conglomerates are far from dead. "Without the ability to bring disparate businesses and skills together, costs in most firms would be higher, revenues lower and many new and improved products would never have been created," he writes for Reuters. "Diversified enterprises, by one name or another, will play a big role in the business world for a long time."

  • Hadas doesn't mention the cloud; he should. The reason to build a conglomerate is to centralize certain skills and apply those skills across multiple business lines. You can do that the laborious way, via acquisition and regular senior-management retreats, or you can just move a large part of your business into a cloud that provides state-of-the-art services on demand.

Go deeper: The end of industrial conglomerates

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook is a news media magnet

Expand chart
Data: Signal AI; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

New data finds that Facebook has been mentioned in more online stories in the U.S. in the past year than all of its major tech competitors combined.

Why it matters: Press scrutiny of Facebook has become so intense and negative that the tech giant is reportedly planning to rename itself as soon as next week to signal that it's more than just a social media company.

Amazon is now a bigger shipper in the U.S. than FedEx

Expand chart
Reproduced from Supply Chain Dive; Chart: Axios Visuals

Amazon is not primarily known as a logistics company, but in 2020 the company shipped more parcels than FedEx.

Why it matters: Logistics is a $1.5 trillion business — and it has long been controlled by a handful of key players, like FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Now Amazon is poised to conquer it.

Updated 1 hour ago - Technology

Trump says he plans to launch new social media network in 2022

Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Wednesday announced plans to launch a social media network called "Truth Social," and that it would go public via a SPAC.

Why it matters: Most ex-presidents are focused on their legacies, by creating presidential libraries or engaging in philanthropic endeavors. Trump, however, remains consumed by social media.