Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 12/08/2019

The week’s news included; Argentina stock market crashes 48% in one day, Verizon sells Tumblr for just $3m, WeWork files for IPO, Deloitte and Clyde & Co sued

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: 

  • BBC News – Is Hong Kong’s unrest scaring businesses away?
  • CNBC – Bond markets are sending one big global recession warning
  • City A.M – Danske thinks US Fed will slash rates to one per cent by March

1. DOW JONES SUFFERS WORST DAY OF 2019

The US stock market suffered the worst day of the year last Wednesday, falling 3%. The drop along with falling Treasury bond yields, are symptomatic of a looming recession. Many commentators claim a global economic fuelled by the US-China trade war is pushing the US economy closer to recession. Despite this, the US economy looks robust enough not to enter a recession anytime soon. The US is predicted to grow by around 2% for the rest of year. In addition, although the 800 point drop was the 4th largest single day drop in history, in terms of percentage drop, it was not as signficant.

Donald Trump has had to scale back on measures, seemingly due to the economic impact of the trade war. He recently announced that he would delay and reduce incoming tariffs due to be implemented on 1 September.  Trump however, primarily blames the US Federal Reserve for the weakening economy. He believes the Fed raised interest rates too quickly following the last recession and failed cut them quickly enough. The Fed cut interest rates two weeks ago to a target range of 2.00-2.25%.

2. ARGENTINA STOCK ROUT

Argentina’s stock market suffered the second largest one-day fall since 1950. Argentina’s primary vote shocked investors as incumbent President Mauricio Macri lost by a significant margin, casting his chances of re-election into doubt. Macri has implemented a series of austerity measures to balance the books. This has made him very unpopular with voters. Macri was 15% behind leader Alberto Fernandez who had 47% of the vote. Investors are concerned that a renegade on austerity measures will see an increased likelihood of Argentina defaulting on its debt. In response to the result, Argentina’s stock market crashed by 48%. The only larger drop was Sri Lanka’s 61.7% single day drop in 1989 when the country fell into civil war. Analysts put the chance of Argentina defaulting on its sovereign debt within one and five years at around 50% and 82.5% respectively. Argentina’s currency has fallen by 25% against the dollar in the last week alone. The country received a $57 billion bailout from the IMF last year, the largest ever. There is now concern that we could see the Argentinian economy go into reverse.

3. VERIZON SELLS TUMBLR

Verizon is selling social network Tumblr for 99.9% less than it was bought for in 2013. Verizon acquired Tumblr bundled within its $4.48 billion purchase of Yahoo in 2017. Automaticc the owner of WordPress.com will buy the struggling website for an undisclosed fee. Reportedly however, the deal is worth just $3m. This is an enormous mark down from the $1.1 billion Yahoo paid for Tumblr in 2013.

Tumblr is a micro blogging website, founded in 2007. It has had a tumultuous time in recent months. The app was temporarily banned from the Apple app store after child pornography was found on the site. Subsequently, Verizon banned all adult content on the site, and this received a backlash from users and usage declined. Automaticc does not intend to reverse the ban but it will be interesting to see whether they can revive the platform.

4. WEWORK IPO

Workspace leasing company, WeWork, has filed for an initial public offering. The company rents out flexible workspaces to companies of all sizes. It boasts 527,000 members and operates in 111 cities. WeWork’s parent company, WeCompany, is now worth $47 billion and is expanding into areas such as apartment rentals and education.

The company posted increased sales of $1.82 billion in 2018 but also huge losses of $1.9 billion. Founded in 2010, WeWork has warned that it may never become profitable in its prospectus. There is increasing scepticism among investors about fast growing but unprofitable unicorns. Uber is a prime example of this scepticism. The ride hailing app’s recent IPO was disappointing as investors weren’t enticed by the company’s prospects. Uber’s share price is now trading over 15% below its IPO price. Whether WeWork can buck the trend remains to be seen.

5. DELOITTE AND CLYDE & CO SUED

Deloitte and law firm Clyde & Co have been sued for £20 million by a businessman. He alleges a conflict of interest meant the firms failed to act independently during the administration of his company. The lawsuit purports that Barclays exerted “informal control” over the two firms, which prevented him from recovering losses in a product mis-selling claim.

Jason Schofield’s storage firm, Rhino Enterprises, collapsed in 2008 after being mis-sold an interest rate hedging product by Barclays. Deloitte was the administrator and appointed Clyde & Co to review the mis-selling claim. Schofield claims that Barclays held undue control over the firm’s due to their close professional relationship. Barclays has placed Deloitte on its preferred panel for insolvency work and offers secondments to its employees. In addition, Clyde & Co had recently advised Barclays on a multimillion pound deal and the two had developed a strong professional ties. Schofield claims these relationships meant Delotite and Clyde & Co failed to pursue litigation against Barclays despite encourage his encouragement. Clyde & Co refute the allegations.

6. L’OREAL LOSES US PATENT DISPUTE

L’Oreal has lost a patent dispute against Olaplex LLC in a David vs Goliath case. Olaplex is a small startup based in California, with no physical stores and under 30 employees. L’Oreal on the other hand, is a multinational cosmetics giant and turned over $30 billion in 2018. Olaplex alleged that L’Oreal had stolen trade secrets and breached two patents relating to a popular hair protection during bleaching treatments. Some secrets were allegedly stolen when L’Oreal was in talks to buy Olaplex four years ago. The jury deemed L’Oreal to have breached the patents, contracts and stolen the trade secrets. Loreal were ordered to pay Olaplex $91.3 million but Olaplex shall only receive $37.4 million as they can’t recover damages for each breach related to the same wrongdoing. The judgement only applies to the US market. (Reuters)

7. GRANT THORTON DITCHES SPORTS DIRECT

Grant Thornton has quit as Sports Direct’s auditor after a challenging saga with its latest financial statements last month. Sports Direct received a £600 million unpaid tax bill from Belgian tax authorities, causing the firm to delay the release of its financial results.

The audits of Sports Direct are complex work. The recent acquisition of House of Fraser proved problematic as the issues at the retail have been described as “terminal”, after posting a £54.6 million loss last year. Sports Direct had hoped to reappoint Grant Thornton but discussions had also been held with Big Four auditors given the growing complexity. Grant Thornton and Sports Direct later issued a joint statement confirming the auditor’s decision not to seek reappointment. The Big Four seem reluctant to take the job though. PwC expressed concerns about the dominant control of Mike Ashley, the majority shareholder and CEO. EY, Deloitte and KPMG all cite potential conflicts of interest for not wanting the job. Sports Directs shares sank by 10% in response to the news.

Check out our insight article asking whether the Big Four should be broken up.

8. DELIVEROO LEAVES GERMAN MARKET

Deliveroo has announced that it will be exiting the German market after four years. The food delivery company said it will focus on growing operations in other markets. Deliveroo’s exit has been a long time coming as it reduced the number of German cities it served last year. Affected Deliveroo’s riders and employees will receive compensation and a goodwill payment of either 10 days or 2 weeks’ pay based on their average earnings over the quarter.

Deliveroo has not ruled out returning to Germany but a highly saturated market has made Germany  unprofitable for Deliveroo. There has been a lot of consolidation in the market, making life much more difficult. Most recently, Delivery Hero sold its German business to Takeaway.com.

9. TUI

Airline operator Tui has revealed strong sales despite the grounding of Boeing 737 jets. Tui, like most airlines, has been forced to replace the 737 jets in its fleet after the models were grounded globally following 2 fatal crashes. Tui’s total cost of the grounding is expected to hit €300m (£279m) for the year. The company still managed sales of €100.9m which pleased investors as shares rose by 3%.

The outlook for the company however, is not positive. The falling value of the pound is hitting customer demand for foreign travel. With a no deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, the pound is likely to fall further, meaning holidays will cost more and in turn, lower customer demand.

Check out our insight article explaining the Boeing crisis

10. UK RAIL FARES RISE

UK railway fares are set for a 2.8% increase in January. This increase is in line with the July Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation index. For some consumers this increase will see as much a £100 increase. The hikes will affect all regulated fares, including annual season tickets.  

Rail companies have been urged to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is invariably lower than the RPI as it does not include housing costs. The UK currently has the highest rail fares in Europe but the quality of service certainly does not warrant the cost for many consumers. Trains are often overcrowded and delays and cancellations are all too common for many commuters. The TUC has urged for renationalisation of railways to reduce fares for travellers but whether this is would be viable remains to be seen.

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