The 10 biggest business stories in 2019

What will the biggest stories be in 2020?

Two reporters at the Wall Street Journal feel 2019 was the year of unicorns or those startups valued at more than a billion dollars, but in 2020, the financial world will be focused on much bigger issues.

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Business editor Jamie Heller and financial editor Charles Forelle told FOX Business' Gerry Baker on WSJ at Large this year’s top headlines about stock market unicorns really were mostly about failure.

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Adam Neumann speaks in Los Angeles, Jan. 9, 2019. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images, File)

“One major fall from grace was WeWork,” Heller said. “The real-estate company that got a tech valuation of $47 billion and was on track for an IPO and then imploded at the finish line.”

She said, in retrospect, no one should have been surprised the company that specializes in the shared office space market was in over its head.

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“The Wall Street Journal reported two years ago that people were overvaluing this company, looking at it as a tech company when it really was a real-estate company with a sort of startup, cool vibe around it,” Heller said. “And the investment community got enthralled with the founder, and it was journalists and investors giving scrutiny at the end that felled the deal.”

Heller's 5 biggest business stories in 2019

  1. WeWork
  2. Boeing
  3. PG&E
  4. Streaming wars
  5. Food delivery

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Forelle points out WeWork was really the poster child for several much-hyped “new economy” companies whose bottom line never matched the excitement surrounding them.

“WeWork was just sort of the epitome of that, which was this company wasn't even close to profitable, not even close, and still people were throwing enormous amounts of money at it,” he said.

Forelle believes investors have learned their lesson.

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Adam Neumann juxtaposed next to the WeWork location in Manhattan, New York.

“What was fascinating about what happened with WeWork was it really marked a turn,” he said. “You think about where we were in the end of 2018 going into 2019, this is going to be the biggest year for IPOs in 20 years. It's a new generation of unicorns."

“The Wall Street Journal reported two years ago that people were overvaluing this company, looking at it as a tech company when it really was a real-estate company with a sort of startup, cool vibe around it."

- Jamie Heller, Wall Street Journal business editor

Forelle's 5 biggest business stories of 2019

  1. IPO freeze
  2. Repo puzzle
  3. Fed rate cuts
  4. Race to zero
  5. Royal baby and taxes

Forelle said WeWork really turned the tide for people.

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So if the tide has turned for unicorns, what will be the big stories of 2020?

Heller is looking at two that could have a very broad impact:

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Boeing, which just replaced CEO Dennis Muilenburg with Chairman David Calhoun, and some of the most powerful U.S. technology companies.

“Boeing, now that they've halted production [of the 737 MAX], that's going to be a huge economic story,” she said. “There's like 600 companies in the supply chain that could be affected. And there's really no visibility right now on when the MAX is going to come back, so that's a huge economic story.

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She also believes the antitrust debate over big tech companies will be another huge story in 2020.

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AAPLAPPLE INC.
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Forelle is looking forward to the start of the new decade.

“It's going to be a fascinating year,” he said. “A bunch of things to keep an eye on. We've seen a couple of big episodes of volatility in the markets, and part of this is a big shift, I think, towards sort of sector investing and other ways that people think about the markets as in, not just thinking about, ‘Do I want to buy Microsoft or buy Apple?' but 'I want to have exposure to these technical factors inside the markets.' And that's something to keep an eye on for the coming year."

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