Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 13/05/2019

This week’s news includes; WhatsApp hack, Amazon invests in Deliveroo, Apple faces class action lawsuit over app store, Sony and Microsoft strike video game streaming deal

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: 

  • E Financial Careers – The US-China trade war is the perfect excuse for Hong Kong private bankers to move jobs
  • BBC News – What has happened to energy since privatisation?
  • City A.M – Are staff-owned firms better for the economy?
  • Sky News – Why the UK steel industry is facing another fight for survival

1. WHATSAPP HACK

WhatsApp revealed that a vulnerability in its messenger app that allows hackers to install spyware on users’ phones. Hackers cannot break the end-to-end encryption through the flaw, but they can view messages on users phones at each end. End to end encryption scrambles messages once sent and can only be decrypted by the end user. Law enforcement agencies have even criticised the encryption as they are unable to access potentially useful evidence from users’ phones. Despite this, the vulnerability could have potentially affected all 1.5 billion users though this is unlikely. Only a few cases of exploitation have been identified.

The vulnerability was exposed by Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO. Hackers would launch an infected WhatsApp call, which would not need to be answered nor would it necessarily show up on the call log. Once the call had been sent, hackers would have access and control of user’s phone including their personal data, the microphone and the phone’s camera. The company has since been sued in a class action lawsuit, backed by Amnesty International over allegations of illegal surveillance.

Messages are still secure on the platform. The vulnerability has been patched and an update has been issued. The encryption is still functional meaning gaining access users messages is exceptionally difficult.

2. BREXIT

The next meaningful Brexit vote will take place in the first week of June as talks between Labour and Conservatives have collapsed. Theresa May will bring her withdrawal agreement back to Parliament and if approved the UK will leave the EU on August 1. The collapse of talks with Labour means that securing the numbers to pass the bill is still exceptionally unlikely. Many MPs have again, committed to rejecting the deal so we still appear no closer to breaching the impasse.

Theresa May has also agreed to set a date for her departure as Conservative leader after the vote. Boris Johnson has stepped forward to take over and is currently a strong front runner.

The pound slipped to a four-month low against the dollar to $1.273. Investors are increasingly factoring in the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

3. AMAZON INVESTS IN DELIVEROO

Amazon has made a significant investment in food courier Deliveroo. Deliveroo had a fund raising round and raised $575 million where Amazon emerged as the biggest investor. Deliveroo has now raised over $1.5 billion since its founding in 2013. Deliveroo will use this latest funding to improve its service, for international expansion and for delivery only kitchens. These “dark kitchens” provide restaurants with small workspaces to make food for delivery in new areas, without the costs of opening a new restaurant.

Deliveroo currently operates in 13 countries and has over 60,000 couriers, registering global sales of £277 million. Despite this, the firm is not yet profitable, as it posted losses of £185 million in 2017.

Deliveroo is still far behind the dominant JustEat. Deliveroo only operates effectively in big towns and city whereas JustEat has captured the small towns. Over 60% of JustEat customers are from small towns which has cemented its dominance in the food delivery sector.

4. COMCAST HANDS OVER HULU

Disney has acquired full operational control over streaming service Hulu. Comcast handed over control immediately to Disney last Tuesday in return for payment for Hulu Content over the next 5 years. Comcast will only then be able to sell its 33% stake in Hulu in 2024 for a minimum $27.5 billion.

Both Comcast and Disney are scrambling to launch their streaming services. Comcast aims to release its NBC Universal service next spring. Disney recently announced plans to release its Disney + streaming service. As Netflix steams ahead competitors are now seeking to catch up.

5. BANKS FINED OVER CARTELS

The EU Commission has slapped five major banks with a total fine of €1.07 billion due to their part in a foreign exchange trading cartel. The cartel was called and involved collusion in the trading of over 10 different currencies. Traders from the different banks formed close relationships and coordinated trading activities and plans via chatrooms. The chatroom was called “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy”. This was because all the traders in the chat room lived in Essex and met on a London-bound train, except one.  

The banks fined were Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JP Morgan and MUFG. UBS was also named in the investigation, but it blew the whistle on the collusion so was spared punishment.

6. APPLE CLASS ACTION

Apple is facing a hefty class action lawsuit over app prices. Apple charges 30% commission on all sales from every app on its App Store. There is no other place to download apps for iPhones, so developers claim Apple is breaching anti-trust law. Apple refutes this argue because it claims it’s only an agent and does not release its own app. The US market for apps purchases hit a staggering $46.6 billion in 2018.

Apple is turning to a service-based company rather than reliance on its iPhone. It recently announced the launch of its own credit card. Check out our insight article exploring how successful it will be.

7. SONY AND MICROSOFT VIDEO GAME STREAMING DEAL

Despite being two dominant rivals in the gaming sector, Sony and Microsoft have struck a new streaming partnership. Sony will host its Playstation streaming service on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. Gaming companies are now scrambling to get involved in game streaming as the industry grows. Microsoft is also trialling its own Xbox streaming services.

While Sony is a rival, collaboration is essential for Microsoft to expand its cloud services. Microsoft’s cloud business is its fastest growing section, as it shifts away from its core Windows software product. This deal could prove very lucrative for Microsoft as it seeks to keep up with Amazon’s own cloud business.

8. PANAMA PAPERS INVESTIGATION

Tax investigators have raided 11 banks and 8 homes in Germany as part of an investigation related to the Panama Papers. The Panama Papers in 2016 unveiled the tax haven habits of the wealthy and famous. Investigations subsequently followed upon evidence of potential tax evasion.

The individuals raided have been accused of creating offshore companies to evade capital gains tax, helped by a BVI based arm of Deutsche Bank. The individuals also gained help from a number of tax advisors and asset managers. The investigation is however, aimed at the individuals not the banks but crucial evidence will no doubt be held by the bank.  

This case follows a separate raid on six Deutsche Bank offices, including their HQ in November last year. The bank denies all wrong doing.

9. VODAFONE LOSSES

Vodafone posted a staggering £6.6 billion last year and slashed shareholder dividends by 40%. The company wrote down the value of some assets and also suffered losses on the sale of Vodafone India. This is the first time ever that Vodafone has cut shareholder dividends. The company claims that this is to help pay off some of its whopping £23 billion debt. It will also need to invest in 5G technology in order to stay competitive.  

This is a huge fall from grace as the firm posted profits of £2.8 million two years ago. Last year, revenue also fell 6.2% to £37.9 billion. This loss also comes as Vodafone picked up the title of worst UK mobile network for the seventh year in a row.

10. THOMAS COOK TUMBLES

Thomas Cook has posted a hefty half year loss of £1.46 billion. The travel company blamed challenging trading conditions and Brexit uncertainty for the slump. Many people have put off summer holiday plans due to uncertainty and this has hit sales. The main cause for the slump, however, was the decision £1.1 billion write down in the value of sections of its business.

Thomas Cook has been seeking to adapt amid the tough trading environment. The firm has cut 300 jobs at 21 stores and will also slash 150 head office jobs in order to cut costs. Thomas Cook’s airline business is also being put up for sale.

This huge loss dwarfs it losses over the same period last year by over £1.1 billion. It has issued third profit warning in less than 12 months. Thomas Cook’s shares crashed by as much of 21% in response to the news. Business analysts have claimed Thomas Cook shares are worthless as its debt is equal to its value, implying “zero equity value”.

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