This week’s news includes; 21ST Century Fox to takeover Sky, Pfizer fined £84 million for overcharging the NHS, Samsung wins patent legal battle against Apple, JP Morgan & 2 other major banks fined nearly half a billion pounds.
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Opinion articles of the week:
- Trump’s protectionism and corporate bullying will not make America great again. Click here for more.
- Tesco is set to dominate the UK again. Click here for more information.
- Europe will suffer if Brussels shuts the City of London out of EU markets. Click here for more information.
- Greece, Not Italy, Still Poses Biggest Challenge to Eurozone. Click here for more.
1. 21st CENTURY FOX TO BUY SKY FOR £11 BILLION
21st Century Fox Inc. reached a preliminary deal to acquire full control of Sky Plc for 11.2 billion pounds ($14.1 billion), as billionaire Rupert Murdoch seeks to consolidate his television empire.
Fox, which already holds a 39 percent stake in Sky, proposed acquiring the rest for 10.75 pounds a share, according to a filing Friday in the U.K., a premium of 36 percent over Thursday’s closing price. The bid revives a 2010 deal that was derailed amid a phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch newspapers.
Gaining total ownership of Sky would give Fox, which owns cable networks including FX and Nat Geo, a powerful distribution platform in Europe for pay television and internet. Sky, Europe’s top pay-TV company, provides service to 21.8 million customers across the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Austria and Germany. A deal would marry the global content business of 21st Century Fox with Sky’s direct-to-consumer capabilities, Fox said in a statement.
The deal was reached between independent directors of both boards, though other elements of the transaction remain under discussion, and there’s no certainty an official offer will be made by Fox, London-based Sky said.
Fox is looking to boost its earnings with the acquisition, according to a person familiar with the matter. The drop in the pound relative to the dollar, driven by the U.K’s June vote to leave the European Union, also served as a catalyst by reducing the cost to Fox, said two people familiar, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. Fox made the approach four days ago, said one of the people. (Bloomberg)
2. PFIZER FINED RECORD £84.2M FOR OVERCHARGING NHS
Drugs giant Pfizer has been fined a record £84.2m by the UK’s competition watchdog for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug. Around 48,000 patients take the anti-epilepsy drug in the UK
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined distributor Flynn Pharma £5.2m for the 2,600% overnight price increase for the drug in 2012.
NHS spending on the capsules, used by 48,000 UK patients, rose from £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013. Pfizer rejected the findings and said it would appeal against the decision. UK prices for the drug were many times higher than in Europe, the CMA said.
The firms have between 30 days and four months to reduce the price to a level acceptable to the CMA, and two months to appeal against the CMA decision to the Competition Tribunal.
The fine will go to the Treasury rather than the NHS directly, although the health service could try to seek damages. (BBC News)
3. NON-OPEC COUNTRIES AGREE TO CUT OIL OUTPUT
Eleven oil-producing countries, who are not members of the Opec oil cartel, have agreed to cut their output to boost prices.
The group of states, which includes Russia, said on Saturday that they will cut supplies by 558,000 barrels per day. Opec announced last month that it would be slashing its own production to ease an oversaturated global market. It is the first time in 15 years that a global pact has been struck.
The agreement was made at a meeting at Opec’s Vienna headquarters. Opec, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has already committed to halting the supply of 1.2 million barrels a day, starting from January. Opec said then it was seeking for non-member states to also lower their output, and Russia had signalled it would co-operate.
The moves come after more than two years of depressed oil prices, which have more than halved since 2014, due to a supply glut on the market.
Among the non-Opec countries attending the meeting were Azerbaijan, Oman, Mexico, Malaysia, Sudan, South Sudan and Bahrain. Opec will also have its next meeting on 25 May 2017 to monitor the progress of the deal. (BBC News)
4. EU FINES THREE TOP BANKS £410m FOR INTEREST RATE RIGGING
Credit Agricole, HSBC and JP Morgan have been fined for rigging the Euribor interest rate benchmark as European Union antitrust regulators ended a five-year investigation into the scandal.
The European Commission’s competition watchdog fined the banks a total of €485m (£410m) for participating in a cartel in euro interest rate derivatives.
In a statement the European Commission said the banks had colluded on euro interest rate derivative pricing elements, and exchanged sensitive information, in breach of antitrust rules.
JP Morgan was fined €337.2m, HSBC got a €33.6m penalty and Credit Agricole must pay €114.7m. The fines were set on the time they participated in the cartel and the value of products involved.
The three banks held out against a 2013 settlement with the European Commission that imposed almost €1bn of fines on Deutsche Bank, Société Générale and Royal Bank of Scotland. US bank JP Morgan, which was hit with the heaviest fine, has left the door open to a possible appeal. (The Independent)
5. SAMSUNG TRIUMPHANT IN US SUPREME COURT PATENT ROW BATTLE WITH APPLE
The US Supreme Court has sided with Samsung in the South Korean company’s long-running patent fight with Apple. The court rejected an earlier ruling that Samsung must pay $399m to Apple for copying some iPhone designs.
At issue was how much Samsung must compensate Apple under a 1887 law that patent infringers pay “total profits”. The top US court ruled that paying all profits was wrong, as the features at issue in the Samsung phones formed only a small part of the devices.
However, the dispute is not over. The case now returns to a lower court to decide the amount of compensation that Samsung should pay.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision followed a legal battle between the world’s top two smartphone manufacturers that began in 2011 when Apple sued Samsung, asserting that its rival stole its technology and the iPhone’s trademarked appearance.
Samsung had been seeking to pare back the money it paid Apple in December following a 2012 jury verdict that it infringed Apple’s iPhone patents and copied its distinctive appearance.
After the trial, Apple was awarded nearly $930m in damages. In May 2015, a US appeals court upheld the patent infringement verdict, but said the iPhone’s appearance could not be protected through trademarks. As a result, the court reduced Samsung’s payment. (BBC News)
6. UK TRADE GAP NARROWS TO £9.7 BILLION
Britain’s trade gap narrowed to a better-than-expected £9.7 billion in October after exports soared to a record monthly high.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the goods deficit – the gap between exports and imports – narrowed by £4.1 billion in October from £13.8 billion in September, with exports rising £2.1 billion to £26.8 billion and imports dropping £2 billion to £36.5 billion.
With services included, the trade gap narrowed by £3.8 billion to £2 billion in October, as exports increased by £2 billion and imports dropped by £1.8 billion.
The brighter picture for the UK’s trade deficit was driven by strong goods exports to non-EU countries, which jumped to a new high of £14.4 billion, while exports of goods to EU countries came in at £12.4 billion.
However, ONS Statistician Hannah Finselbach said there was only “limited evidence” that the plunge in the value of the pound following the Brexit vote had led to a marked increase in UK exports. (Business Reporter)
7. IRAN SIGNS $16BN DEAL TO BUY 80 BOEING AIRCRAFT
State airline Iran Air says it has signed a deal to buy 80 passenger planes from US aircraft maker Boeing. The 10-year deal includes 50 of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and 15 of the 777-300 ERs planes plus 15 777-9s jets. It is the biggest US-Iran deal since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Boeing confirmed that the deal was worth $16.6bn at current list prices, and had been approved by the US government. The first aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2018.
“Today’s agreement will support tens of thousands of US jobs directly associated with production and delivery of the 777-300ERs, and nearly 100,000 US jobs in the US aerospace value stream for the full course of deliveries,” the company said.
The deal, which follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties in June, will help Iran modernise and expand its ageing commercial aircraft fleet.
Today’s agreement will support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs directly associated with production and delivery of the 777-300ERs and nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs in the U.S. aerospace value stream for the full course of deliveries. The first airplanes under this agreement are scheduled for delivery in 2018. (BBC News)
8. AFTER EXITING CHINA, UBER SHIFTS FOCUS TO LATIN AMERICA
After retreating from China this year, Uber’s plans for world domination hinge on its big bet in Latin America.
Mexico City is now the busiest city in the world for Uber. Second is Sao Paulo, Brazil. The company has experienced a tenfold increase in rides across the region in the last year and plans to be in around 200 cities by the end of 2017. It’s currently in 92 cities.
In just two years in Mexico City, the ride sharing giant has become an integral part of urban life, with around 50,000 drivers navigating the megacity. The Mexican capital was a clear candidate for Uber: a population of 23 million people living in low-rise housing across a vast urban sprawl.
Security is one reason Uber has excelled in Mexico. Traditional street taxis in Mexico City are a known method of “express kidnapping,” when riders are forced to pay a small, immediate ransom — often at the ATM machine.
The company carries out extensive background screening on drivers, and its platform allows passengers to share their ride with friends and family. (CNBC)
9. RBS SETTLES THREE CLAIMS OVER 2008 FUND RAISING
Royal Bank of Scotland has reached a deal with three of the five shareholder groups who allege they were misled over the bank’s £12bn fund raising in 2008. RBS said it had reached a “full and final settlement” with the three, and would now seek to agree terms with the two remaining groups.
Investors argued they were misled over RBS’s health, and so bought shares just months before it was bailed out. RBS has set aside a total of £800m to settle all the claims.
RBS – which is still 73%-owned by the government following its 2008 bailout – said the three shareholder groups it had settled with represented 77% of the total claims by value.
It added it would now seek to agree final terms with the remaining shareholder groups, but said that “any claims for which settlement is not achieved will… continue to be vigorously defended”.
Since its bailout by the government in 2008, RBS has continued to struggle. It reported a loss of £1.98bn for 2015, its eighth consecutive year of annual losses.
The recent stress tests run by the Bank of England found that RBS was the worst prepared of the UK’s biggest lenders to cope with another financial crisis. (BBC News)
10. UK SERVICES SECTOR GROWS AT FASTEST RATE SINCE JANUARY
The new figures suggest the UK economy is maintaining momentum, despite ongoing uncertainty following the Brexit vote. The economy is more reliant on the service sector than any other G7 country, according to the index.
The UK services sector grew by more than expected in November, registering its biggest jump since the beginning of the year. According to the Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) the services industry grew to 55.2, up from 54.5 in October. The reading was highest than even the maximum expectation from economists.
PMI figures are a well-respected measure of the economy’s overall health, with any score above 50 indicating growth in the sector while a fall below 50 would mean the industry was contracting. The 55.2 reading marked the fastest pace of growth since January, and follows better-than-expected results from the construction industry last week.
Manufacturing, while also registering growth, missed its expectations and unexpectedly slowed in November thanks to the double-edged effect of the fall in sterling since June’s Brexit vote.
The services industry PMI is particularly closely watched as it accounts for almost 80% of the UK’s overall economy. However the sector has seen a sharp squeeze on profits over the last three months, according to figures from the CBI. (Sky News)