Published: 23 March 2021
Location: London, UK
One year ago today, PM Boris Johnson announced the UK’s coronavirus lockdown. Today is also the one-year anniversary of the day the stock market reached its nadir, sinking 33.8% since the start of 2020. Topping the list of best-performing FTSE companies over the year, as monitored by Hargreaves Lansdown, was betting company William Hill: its shares have risen 641% as lockdows led to an increase in home entertainment. The firm also attracted the attention of the casino giant Caesar whose advances were accepted in a £2.9bn takeover deal. The worst performer was defence contractor Babcock, whose shares are still 27.95% down on the year on this morning’s pre-opening valuation. Profits at the firm fell by more than a third as the coronavirus pandemic hit its civil aviation business.
Unemployment has dropped unexpectedly to 5%. The Office for National Statistics confirmed this morning that the jobless rate was down from 5.1% in December, in the three months to January. Economists had expected the rate to tick up to 5.2%.
The Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, has announced the launch of four regional trade and investment hubs to boost economic growth across the UK. The hubs, in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and Darlington, will aim to boost exports by providing localised advice from export and investment specialists to firms.
Transport for London (TfL) has secured another £485m in rescue funding, until 18th May.
Tony Blair’s son Euan is one of 30 people appointed to a new government task force aiming to improve socio-economic diversity in financial services. The City of London Corporation, which is running the group on behalf of the government, said 18% of the task force members were from black, Asian or minority ethnic background and 50% were women. 41% are from "non-professional" backgrounds, defined based on the occupation of the candidate's parents at age 14. Yale-educated Blair now runs Multiverse, an education start-up he founded in 2016 that offers an alternative to university education through a combination of apprenticeships and professional coaching. Multiverse raised $44m (£31m) from investors in January, a deal which valued the company at $200m, and one which probably made Euan Blair richer than his father.
The Competition Markets Authority is looking into whether the merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would reduce competition in the publishing marketplace. The £2.18bn acquisition of Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS was agreed last year in a move Penguin hoped would strengthen its presence in the US. At the time, Penguin's owner, Bertelsmann, outbid Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Rabe has previously said the merged entity would have a market share of less than 20%, making the deal passable, however The Authors Guild has criticised the deal, as has News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, saying it had an "anti-market logic."
Exports of fish and meat from the UK to the EU saw a dramatic dip in January compared with the previous year. According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), among the hardest hit export foodstuffs were salmon, which saw a 98% dip from the year earlier; beef, which fell by 91.5%; and cheese which also declined 85.1%. The UK's export market suffered a fall of £750m, a total 75.5% decline from the previous January, the FDF said.
Deliveroo will be valued at between £7.6bn and £8.8bn when it floats on the London Stock Exchange, the company says, having set a price range for its Initial Public Offering (IPO) of between £3.90 and £4.60 per share. It will make Deliveroo the biggest market debut in London for a decade.
Barclays has expanded its private banking business to France and Italy as it seeks to grow its European wealth business in the wake of Britain's exit from the EU. The bank plans to target ultra-high-net worth individuals, defined as having investable assets of around $100 million, as well as ‘family offices’ that look after the wealth of rich families.
OakNorth bank, a British start-up advised by former chancellor Philip Hammond saw profits jump 18% to £77.6m last year, despite a £17.4m charge to cover potential losses linked to the pandemic. “We had a very good 2020," founder and chief executive Rishi Khosla told Yahoo Finance UK. Founded in 2013 and operational since 2015, OakNorth focuses on what it calls the "missing middle" in UK business banking — mid-sized, entrepreneurial businesses that are looking for money to help them grow.
Investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown is said to be facing legal action following the collapse of Woodford Equity Income. RGL Management, a litigation specialist, is representing some 2,000 investors who allege the loss of thousands of pounds either by investing directly in Woodford Equity Income, or by missing out on the opportunity to invest elsewhere. The Times reported that Hargreaves Lansdown clients had a total £1.6bn exposure to the fund, which Hargreaves Lansdown kept on its 'Best Buy' list right up until the fund was suspended in June 2019, despite its own analysts flagging concerns about the illiquidity of stocks held by the fund several months earlier. The Financial Conduct Authority is continuing to investigate the fund's collapse.
B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher says its 44% rise in full-year profits is down to a new generation of young DIY-ers. Sales climbed to £12.3bn in the year to 31 January, and Kingfisher boss Thierry Garnier said the company’s research showed the Covid crisis had led to more 18-34 year-olds doing home improvements than any other age group.
Waitrose says it will no longer sell children's magazines with plastic disposable toys, saying they have a short lifespan and cannot easily be recycled, and that publishers should replace "pointless plastic" with sustainable alternatives. It said the move was inspired by Skye, a 10-year-old from Gwynedd, who launched a campaign to persuade publishers to stop giving away the disposable toys in magazines.
Sky News reports that Monselez, the American owner of Cadbury is striking a £200m deal to buy Grenade, the fast-growing maker of sports nutrition protein bars, from its majority shareholder, Lion Capital. Grenade was launched by husband-and-wife team Alan and Juliet Barratt in 2010.
Bernard Looney, who heads up BP, has received the smallest salary package the company has paid a CEO for at least 18 years, as the oil giant cut all bonus payments in response to the covid pandemic. Looney, who took the job just weeks before the European shutdown, will receive £1.735m for the year.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has calculated that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a £251bn blow to the UK economy so far. The CEBR reached its figure by comparing its final pre-COVID forecasts from the beginning of 2020 with the most recent data on actual economic output. The reduction is roughly equivalent in size to the entire annual output of the South East, in pre-COVID circumstances, and nearly twice the output of Scotland.
The average Brit racked up £2,263 worth of personal debt in the past year, according to research by savings site VoucherCodes.co.uk. Millennials aged between 25 and 34 built up the most debt since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, at an average of £2,673, while the over-55s accrued an average £1,777 of debt. More than a third (36%) of the 2,026 Brits surveyed admitted to worrying about finances every day since March 2020, while 34% felt anxious about life returning to “normal” from a financial point of view, as lockdown has meant less of a need to budget.
According to a new study by KPMG, company bosses across the globe are reassessing plans to downsize their company’s physical footprint and move to home-working. Just 17% of executives are now looking to reduce office space, compared to 69% of CEOs who said in August last year that they planned to reduce their office space over three years. The main reason given for the shift in attitude is that they believe remote working poses fresh data security risks.
Analysis by consumer group Which? of Action Fraud figures suggests victims lost at least £1.7bn over 12 months to scams, which works out at £3,234 lost every minute. While one in seven victims (15%) were targeted by phone, an overwhelming majority were lured in via online methods: 39% were targeted via email; 12% by search engines; 10% by adverts on Facebook, 9% on other non-social media; or search engine online adverts (8%). Average losses to “clone” scams, those using websites that replicate legitimate firms, average £45,000, but Which? heard from victims who have lost six-figure sums. Although tech giants claim to take fraud seriously, Which? also found Google and Microsoft’s Bing receive significant sums of money from scam adverts, which can remain live for weeks even after financial regulators have issued warnings about them. Which? concluded that the Financial Conduct Authority appears unable to police online fraudsters using these sites.
A US special forces veteran and his son have been charged with illegally helping smuggle the former chairman of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, out of Japan to Beirut in 2019, when he was on bail awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges. The Tokyo prosecutors' office alleged that American Michael Taylor, 60, and his 28-year-old son Peter were paid $1.3m to help escape by hiding him in carry-on luggage aboard a private jet. They face three years in jail if convicted. Ghosn denies the charges against him and is still a fugitive in Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Leon Black has quit his leadership roles at Apollo Global Management after his links to the dead paedophile Jeffrey Epstein came to overshadow the company he co-founded. Black said in January he was stepping down as chief executive after an independent review of his relationship with Epstein found he paid the dead money manager $158m over five years. The review found no evidence that Black knew about Epstein's offences but reported that he paid Epstein more than was previously disclosed for financial advice.
The fast-food chain that caused such a feeding frenzy in the United States with its chicken sandwich that it ran out of chicken, has announced it will launch in the UK this year. Popeyes Chicken plans to open hundreds of restaurants in Europe. Parent company Restaurant Brands International also owns Burger King and Tim Hortons. The first restaurant here is expected to open by the end of 2021.
Warner Music has joined rivals Universal Music and Sony to sign a deal with China's Tencent to help it break into the fast-growing Asian market. Warner and Tencent have also launched a record label to develop artists together. Despite hosting nearly a fifth of the world's population, China accounted for less than 3% of the $20bn (£14.4bn) global record industry, but the market is growing because of increasing interest in streaming services such as those owned by Tencent and fellow tech giant Alibaba.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey's first ever tweet "just setting up my twttr," has been sold for the equivalent of $2.9m (£2.1m) to a Malaysia-based businessman who paid using ether, a cryptocurrency rival to bitcoin. The tweet, first published on March 21, 2006, was auctioned off by Mr Dorsey for charity.
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