Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 25/03/2019

This week’s news includes; EU approves controversial copyright directive, Lyft launches its IPO, Apple unveils new credit card and streaming service, Wow airline collapses

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: 

  • City A.M – It’s not about copyright – The EU is trying to destroy the internet
  • Bloomberg – The World Better Get Used to Negative Rates
  • City A.M – What’s Mike Ashley’s game with Debenhams?

1. BREXIT

It has been a historic week in Parliament and in short, Brexit is in crisis.

MPs held a number of indicative votes on Wednesday. This was meant to determine whether there was a majority in the house for any potential options. Eight options were voted on. This included; a second Referendum, a customs union, Labour’s Brexit plan, revocation of Article 50, Common Market 2.0, No-deal Brexit on 12 April, Malthouse Plan B and EFTA + EEA membership.

None of the eight options won a majority. The option of a customs union however, lost by just 8 votes and analysts believe some MPs could be persuaded to back this option. The option of revoking Article 50 to avoid no deal lost only by 109 votes. The votes indicate what Parliament likes the least but illustrate how deeply divided Parliament is over Brexit.

On Friday, Theresa May then brought her deal back to parliament for a third time. Speaker of the House, John Bercow, prohibited the government from bringing back the negotiated deal. Theresa May removed the non-legally binding Political declaration and MPs voted solely on the withdrawal agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement lays out the terms on which we leave the EU and includes the £39 billion divorce bill and the contentious Irish backstop. Labour called it a blind Brexit to support a withdrawal without any indication of the future relationship. Despite efforts to persuade MPs, Theresa May’s deal was defeated convincingly by 58 votes.

The default position is that the UK leaves the EU on 12 April 2019. MPs will have further indicative votes on Monday to narrow down the options. The EU will hold an emergency summit on 10 April 2019. At this point, all options are on the table. While a no-deal appears most likely, there is increasing chance that a second referendum could occur.

2. CONTROVERSIAL COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE APPROVED  

The EU Parliament has passed the controversial Copyright Directive which could change the internet as we know it. Parliament approved the legislation by 348 votes to 274 and rejected an amendment to remove Article 13 by just 5 votes.

The two most controversial clauses are Article 11 and Article 13. Article 11 is the “link tax” where content publishers can change aggregators like Google News for displaying small snippets of news stories. Article 13 requires all platforms to prohibit the unauthorised use of copyrighted material by their users. It is predicted that social media platforms will implement “upload filters” to scan user content before publishing.

Advocates claim that the Directive will provide content producers with necessary protection. Critics argue that the Directive will stifle how the internet operates and restrict free speech. The details of the legislation will still be worked out at member state level so the full impact is not yet clear. The EU member states will now have 24 months to embed the directive in national law.


3. EU ANNOUNCES COMPULSORY SPEED LIMITERS

The UK is set to adopt new EU rules requiring all European vehicles to have speed limiters. Cars will be fit with intelligent speed assistance (ISA) technology that recognises the road speed limit using GPS and internal cameras capable of reading road signs. Many manufacturers such as Volvo, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have already included preparing ISA technology in their new models. The technology can be overridden by pressing the accelerator hard. Crucially, however, all new models will be required to be fitted with “black boxes”. These would record whether the ISA system had been overridden as well as other data. The requirements are set to come into force in 2022.

The decision has split opinions. Road safety campaigners claim this will help reduce deaths on our streets. Although many including AA argue that exceeding the speed limit is necessary in some instances.  The EU aims to bring the number of road deaths to 0 across the bloc by 2050.

4. LYFT IPO

Lyft floated on the New York Stock exchange last week and its value soared. Lyft was valued at $24.3 billion after its share price soared by 21% to $87.24. This makes it the largest IPO since Alibaba’s $25 billion floatation in 2014. The firm raised $2.3 billion from the IPO allowing it to invest more in self-driving and electric technology.

Lyft was founded in 2012 but has is yet to make a profit. Despite revenue of $2 billion in 2018 it posted $911 million in losses. Lyft claims to have 40% of the US ride hailing market, behind Uber. Uber is set to launch its IPO in the next two months, expected to be valued at up to $120 billion.

5. APPLE UNVEILS NEW SERVICES

Apple has revealed its new virtual consumer credit card for iPhone. The tech giant has teamed up with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard to create the system which will be integrated with Apple Pay. The credit card will work any place where Apple is accepted and can be tracked through the app. Users will be offered Titanium credit cards to use where Apple Pay isn’t accepted. There will also be a cash back rewards programme providing cash back on purchases of Apple products or App Store purchases. The card will also have no late, annual or international fees.

This comes as another key move to diversify its revenue streams as iPhone sales stutter. Goldman Sachs has also been making moves away from investment banking into retail banking. In 2017 Goldman launched its own savings bank, Marcus. With this new venture, Apple is hoping to replicate the success of its Apple Pay. The credit card will be available in the US from summer 2019.

Apple also revealed its new TV + service to challenge the likes of Netflix. The service provide series from HBO and Hulu as well as original content. Steven Spielberg said he will be creating content for the platform. The service  will also be available on rival platforms such as Samsung, LG, Sony and Amazon Firestick.

Check out our company watch page on Apple for more information.

City A.M claims that Apple has a credit card and is out to steal banks’ supper

6. WOW AIRLINE COLLAPSE

Wow Airlines collapsed last Thursday, leaving 10,000 people stranded. Operations ceased and all flights were cancelled. The budget airline offered flights between the UK Washington and Boston as well as number of European destinations. The company become another victim in the increasingly competitive airline sector. Airlines have been struggling with rising fuel and carbon costs. This comes only a month after the collapse of Flybmi, who was also struggling. Affected passengers who paid by credit card or via a EU travel agent may be entitled to get their money back through them. Wow has been strongly criticized for selling tickets right until it collapsed.  

7. GRINDR TO A HALT

Gay dating app Grindr has been forced to shelve it IPO plans after the US government deemed it a national security risk. Grindr announced IPO plans in August. The app is owned by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd, after it bought a majority stake in the app for $93 million in 2016. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) has expressed concerns that the app could collect personal information from users who are members of US intelligence or military.

The firm will now seek to auction its shares directly, avoiding the IPO process. A number of US firms are interested in purchasing the app.

8. EU PARLIAMENT BAN SINGLE USE PLASTIC

The EU Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastics, allowing for the law to be introduced by 2021. The legislation will affect the use of plastic cutlery, straws and polystyrene cups. This comes in response to a global crisis of plastic pollution. Oceans and beaches have become filled with plastic waste which does not decompose. Some plastics disintegrate into tiny microplastics and have now been found to been ingested by marine animal, putting microplastics in the food chain.

Plastic waste is killing numerous ecosystems and global agencies have stressed the urgent action required to address this. The EU is currently devising a number of initiatives in addition to the single use plastic ban. By 2025, plastic bottles should be made of 25% recycled material. Despite, 25 million of tonnes of plastic waste created by Europeans, only 30% of it is recycled.

The UK would have to adopt this rule, if the Brexit transition period is extended and agreed.

9. SPOTIFY ACQUISITION

Spotify has acquired Parcast, a crime series podcast studio. This is Spotify’s third podcast producer acquisition of 2019 after the purchase of Gimlet and Anchor. This forms part of Spotify’s strategy for dominance of the streaming market, where it already leads. Spotify currently has over 96 million paid subscribers globally. This year, the firm also posted its first quarterly profit.

Spotify recently launched a scathing attack Apple as it launches legal action against the tech giant. Spotify claims that Apple is breaching competition rules through its app store. See Spotify’s campaign video below;  

10. DEBENHAMS RECEIVES LIFELINE

Debenhams has secured a £200 million refinancing package with lenders, giving it a crucial lifeline. The funding will not prevent the closure of stores earmarked for cuts. The refinancing makes £101 million immediately available to Debenhams. The remaining £99 million will be contingent upon a takeover. The amount will be available if a majority shareholder with over 25% stake makes a firm offer for Debenhams including the refinancing debt or alternatively Sports Direct could provide funding. If neither happen, Debenhams could only receive the £99 million if its lenders take over the business. Mike Ashley has been vying to take full control Debenhams, increasing its 29.7% stake in the retailer. A new offer could be tabled in the coming week. The refinancing does not solve Debenhams’ integral issues, but it does pave the way for the struggling retailer to climb out of the financial hole it finds itself in. Debenhams share price spiked over 40% in response to the refinancing deal.

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