This week’s news includes; Aston Martin IPO fails to pick up speed, Unilever scraps post-Brexit move plans, Tesla hits production targets, UniLad owner falls into administration
Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page and Facebook page for regular posts of important headlines. Get all the important stories and insights straight into your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list here.
Opinion articles of the week:
- Sky News Europe ‘not ready to cope’ with a new financial crisis, experts warn
- The Independent As watchdogs approve CYBG and Virgin Money’s merger, should the big five banks be worried?
- Sky News It was England’s hottest summer on record – but did the sun shine on business during the heatwave?
1. CHINESE SPYING CHIP
A new Bloomberg report claims China has infiltrated Apple and Amazon through the companies’ production plants. The report explains that microchips may have been inserted into equipment operated by Amazon Web Services and Apple. It is believe that the chips may have been introduced by parts manufacturer Super Micro.
The US government had been investigating this possible infiltration since 2015. There has been a long-standing suspicion that China has been spying on the US through Chinese made hardware. Most US tech companies primarily use components manufactured in China for their products.
Apple, Amazon and Super Micro all strongly deny the allegations. Apple and Amazon said it did not find any evidence of malicious chips in its products. Apple and Amazon share prices fell slightly in response to the report. NASDAQ listed shares in Super Micro however, crashed 40% in response to the news.
2. ASTON MARTIN IPO
Aston Martin launched its IPO last week but failed to entice investors. Share prices fell by over 6% on opening day and only recovered slightly. This was the first UK carmaker to list for many years but the hype wasn’t sufficient. Aston Martin will raise over £1 billion from the IPO and could sell as much as 27% of the company. Shares were valued at £19 per share, giving the company a value of £4.5 billion. Prices fell as low as £17.75 per share on opening day. Shares are traded on a conditional basis last week and will be fully traded from this week.
Aston Martin posted half-year profits of over £42 million. Aston Martin is an iconic brand, featuring as James Bond’s vehicles of choice. Aston Martin also develops luxury homes, submarines and even flying cars. Despite this, in previous years the firm has struggled to maintain profitability. Founded in 1913, the company has gone bust 7 times. (BBC News)
The Guardian argues Aston Martin’s reverse shows there is still too much hype in flotations.
3. UNILEVER SCRAPS POST-BREXIT DEPARTURE
Unilever has abandoned its plans to move its HQ from the UK to Rotterdam. Unilever has a joint HQ in both London and Rotterdam. Unilever wanted to move its HQ solely to the Netherlands.
Unilever had planned a vote later this month, where shareholders would decide whether to action the move. A number of key shareholders had however, already indicated their opposition to the move. It would have needed a whopping 75% of shareholder approval in order for the move to go through. Last week it became clear that no such majority could be attained. Already, 12% of shareholders had openly objected to the move.
Many shareholders objected because the move would have seen Unilever drop out of the FTSE 100. Due to regulations, a number of current shareholders would be forced to sell their Unilever shares. Ultimately, the deal was not in the best interests of shareholders or their clients.
Many analysts criticised these plans as a gestural objection to Brexit rather than a pragmatic attempt to move. Unilever is one of the largest consumer goods manufacturers in the world. It produces household names such as Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Marmite. It turned over €53.9 billion last year.
4. AMAZON RAISES MINIMUM WAGE FOR STAFF
Amazon employees in the UK and US are to receive a pay rise. Workers in London will receive a minimum of £10.50/h while those outside will receive £9.50/h. Amazon currently pays London staff a minimum of £8/h. This increase will surpass the real living wage of £10.20/h. Over 37000 workers will see their wages rise. In the US, workers will receive a minimum of $15/h. More than 250,000 staff are expected to benefit from the changes.
Amazon has received criticism from many angles. Amazon recently became the second company in history to reach a $1 trillion market cap and CEO Jeff Bezos is worth over $165 billion. Despite the staggering revenue, staff often complain of excessively pressured working conditions. This ranges from highly unrealistic performance targets for delivery drivers to draconian work restrictions where staff are penalised for toilet breaks. Many also argue that given the $17 billion profit it made last year, it can afford to pay its staff better.
While this move has been welcomed by unions, they argue much more still needs to be done to improve conditions for workers.
5. HONDA DRIVERLESS INVESTMENT
Honda has announced that it will invest £2.1 billion into General Motors self-driving car unit. This marks another move by a big manufacturer looking for a slice of the self-driving vehicle pie. Japan’s Softbank invested has also invested $2.25bn in GM Cruise. Honda’s investment in GM Cruise is worth $14.6bn.Toyota, Mercedes and even Uber have all invested in self-driving technology.
There have however, been a number of accidents with self-driving vehicles. A Tesla driver was killed earlier this year while testing a self-driving car. Uber’s autonomous vehicles were also, involved in a fatal accident. There is evidently still much work to be done until self-driving cars will become widespread. Safety is still a significant concern but there is no doubt driverless cars will soon be on our roads. (BBC News)
6. TESLA MEETS PRODUCTION TARGETS
Tesla announced that it has hit its ambitious Model 3 quarterly production targets. Tesla produced 5031 Model 3 cars in the final week of June, narrowly surpassing its self-imposed target of 5,000. Tesla may be on a path to profitability if it can sustain this growth. Unfortunately, investors weren’t encouraged as share prices fell by 2.3% following the news. The concerns about the sustainability of this production rate still linger. In addition, Tesla is still burning through cash with plans to spend $3 billion in 2018. This year however, CEO Elon Musk claims Tesla does not need to raise equity or issue new debt to fund this expenditure. (CNBC)
Tesla also plans to expedite the opening of its Shanghai factor due to the US-China trade wars. US-China trade wars are having a significant impact as China imposed a 40% tariff on US cars. China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles so the tariffs pose a significant challenge for US car manufacturers.
Check out our company watch page for more information on Tesla
7. STANDARD CHARTERED FINED OVER SANCTIONS BREACH
Standard Chartered may face a $1.5 billion for breaching US sanctions on Iran. Regulatory authorities are investigating whether Standard Chartered had sufficient controls to ensure compliance with sanctions and whether any failures were reported in 2012. It is alleged that clients with Iranian interests conducted transactions through Standard Chartered. The final figure has not yet been agreed and Standard Chartered has not commented on the sum.
Standard Chartered had already been fined $667 million in 2012 for helping clients circumvent sanctions through alteration and deletion of payment related data. This latest investigation forms another legacy claim against the British bank. (Financial News)
8. PRIMERA AIR COLLAPSE
Budget airline Primera Air has collapsed after 14 years in the industry. On Tuesday 2nd October Primera Air announced that all operations would cease immediately. Flights to the US were grounded and customers were advised not to go to the airport.
The cease of operations was so abrupt that many customers were stranded in various locations. The UK Civil Aviation Authority advised passengers to make their own arrangements home. For those with limited funds, this created a huge headache.
The airline had only just began offering long-haul flights from the UK to the US and Canada. Flights from Stansted to; New York, Boston and Toronto started at just £149 each way. Primera air mainly catered for those in Scandinavia, travelling to popular Mediterranean destinations.
The airline was unable to secure long-term financing and was forced to file for bankruptcy. It was primarily the unsustainability of its rapid expansion and growth that led to its demise.
Check out our insight article on the collapse and what other budget airlines can learn.
9. TESCO BANK FINED
Tesco Bank has been fined £16.4 million by the FCA over failure to protect consumers. The fine relates to cyber attack suffered by Tesco Bank in 2016. This is the first time the FCA has issued a cyber crime related fine. Cyber criminals exploited a flaw in Tesco Bank’s debit cards, stealing £2.26 million of customer money. No customer data is thought to have been stolen.
The FCA found that the attack was largely avoidable. Tesco had received numerous warnings about a potential flaw but had failed to act. This constituted a significant failure to protect customer money. The fine was set to be £33.4 million but was reduced due to Tesco’s cooperation.
All customers who suffered losses have been fully reimbursed. Tesco says it has now significantly enhanced its security measures. Tesco Bank has over six million customers and turned over £200 million last year. (Sky News)
10. UNILAD OWNER FALLS INTO ADMINISTRATION
Bentley Harrington, the owner of online viral publisher UniLad has fallen into administration. The company has succumbed to mounting debts. The firm has over £6.5 million of debt, £1.5 million of which, is taxes owed to the HM Revenue and Customs. Lindon Capital has however, issued a £10 million bid for the company, which if accepted, could help service the debts.
The directors and creditors have all agreed that administrators should be appointed. The company may also be wound up if litigation brought by HM Revenue & Customs is successful.
UniLad posts viral videos and stories. Founded in 2010, it now has over 39 million Facebook followers and employs over 200 people. It turned over £7 million in 2017. (BBC News)