Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 16/09/2019

The week’s news included; WeWork delays IPO plans, Purdue enters bankruptcy following opioid lawsuits, JD-Footasylum merger to face extra scrutiny, Gatwick to launch facial recognition technology

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: 

  • The Lawyer  – What do family lawyers do?
  • FT – Big corporate mergers take a hidden toll on staff.
  • BBC News – Has the US flotation (IPO) bubble burst?


1. SUPREME COURT PROROGATION HEARING

The Supreme Court will deliver its ruling on the legality of Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament this coming week. Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament last week, shutting down all Parliamentary activity until 18 October. This sparked outrage from opposing MPs and legal action was launched seeking to invalidate the prorogation. If the court deems the prorogation to be illegal then Parliament will resume “as soon as possible”. The prorogation has been considered unlawful and undemocratic as it prevents Parliamentary scrutiny.  Johnson claims that the prorogation does not prevent scrutiny and argues that Parliament does not usually sit in this period due to party conference season. The decision is expected early this week.

2. OIL PRICES SURGE AFTER SAUDI DRONE ATTACKS

Two Saudi Arabian oil fields were attacked by drones last week, allegedly by Iran, sparking a surge in oil prices. The Abqaiq facility and the Khurais oil fields produce nearly 6% of the world’s global oil supply. They are both owned by state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco. Brent crude futures spiked by as much as 19.5%, the highest increase in 28 years. The attack wiped out 5.7 million a day of output and the damage could take weeks to completely repair. The US say they have clear evidence that Iran was behind the attack and claim it was an act of war. Iran deny the allegations. Oil prices are likely to remain high for the foreseeable future.

3. WEWORK DELAYS IPO PLANS

The owner of WeWork has shelved IPO plans after investors gave the company the cold shoulder. Stakeholder SoftBank had valued We Company at roughly $47 billion initially but the IPO roadshow was thrown off track after the company opaque corporate governance structure was revealed. Investors were concerned that the CEO Adam Neumann held too much control of the company. We Company scrambled to reshape its structure and pledged to introduce an independent director but to little effect. WeWork revealed last week it was seeking a value as low as $10 billion. This value is under 50% less than the total sum of money it has raised since it’s founding. The IPO would therefore raise only $2 billion, a billion less than its target. The target is significant as a $6 billion credit line for WeWork is contingent upon raising $3 billion from IPO by the end of 2019. This led to the decision to put the floatation plans on ice.

WeWork is an office space leasing company but like many silicon Valley unicorns is unprofitable. The company has never turned a profit and posted a $900 million loss in the first six months of 2019.
AirBnB has revealed plans to go public next year. The property rental platform is seeking to raise funds for expansion. The company turned over $1 billion in the last quarter. The company has not posted information on profits. The company has not made clear whether it will launch an IPO or a direct listing.  Like most silicon Valley tech giants going public, investors will be concerned about profitability. WeWork pushed back it’s own IPO last week after weak appetite from investors (see above).

4. APPLE IRISH TAX CASE

The EU appeals court is hearing the appeal against the commission’s decision to force Ireland to collect 13 billion in back taxes. The EU deemed Ireland’s tax framework as gave it an unfair advantage and turned Ireland into a tax haven. Ireland allegedly allowed Apple to channel EU sales through its Irish head office and avoided paying tax on revenue where it was generated elsewhere in the EU. Both Ireland and Apple appealed the decision. Ireland wishes to disprove that it operates as a tax haven. Ireland has the second lowest corporation tax rates in the EU of just 12.5%. Numerous multinational corporations have their corporate EU headquarters in Ireland, largely due to the low tax rate.

5. PURDUE FALLS INTO BANKRUPTCY  

Drugmaker Purdue Pharma has announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company has been inundated with some 2600 lawsuits from cities and counties alleging they fuelled the opioid crisis in the US. Purdue allegedly marketed its OxyContin painkiller aggressively while misleading doctors and patients about the addictive effects of the drugs.

Chapter 11 protection postpones company obligations to creditors. Purdue will be dissolved and the proceeds along with cash contributions will go towards settling the lawsuits. The dissolution is expected to raise up to $12 billion. The company has already reached settlement deals with 24 US states and territories.

6. JD FOOTASYLUM MERGER

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will further scrutinise the £90 million merger between JD Sports and Footasylum. The CMA has raised concerns that the deal could lead to “a worse shopping experience for customers”. The initial investigation found that the merger could remove JD’s closest competitors and hike up prices for customers. JD and Footaslyum both offer many of the same sports brand and both primarily target young shoppers. The UK sports fashion industry is worth £5 billion a year. JD has 400 stores and is seeking to add Footasylum’s 70 stores to its portfolio which includes Size? and Scotts.

7. THOMAS COOK ON THE BRINK

Update 23/09 – Thomas Cook has fallen into administration after talks collapsed. Full story on our Twitter and Facebook and next week’s top 10.

Thomas Cook has warned that it will need £200 million in new funds to stay afloat. The tour operator received extra time to find the money as creditor banks have requested the additional funds on top of the initial £900 million secured in a previous deal. Thomas Cook had emergency meetings with creditors and lenders to decide its fate over the weekend. The company has now turned to the government for financial support. If it collapses the UK government will have to spend £600 million to repatriate stranded British tourists. Customers have been barricaded in foreign hotels and customers turned away from airports due to fears of non-payment from Thomas Cook. Thomas Cook’s share price has plummeted 94% in the past 12 months alone.

There are currently 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday so its collapse would these holidaymakers stranded. The company employs 22000 people and 9000 UK jobs are at risk. Check out our Twitter and Facebook for developments.

8. ALDI STORE OPENINGS

Aldi has announced plans to open a new store in the UK on average every week for the next two years. Aldi is on a plan for mass expansion after consistently strong sales figures. Company sales were up 11% last year and the company brought in 800,000 new customers. Aldi will now invest £1 billion over the period. The supermarket has more than 840 stores in the UK and is now targeting expansion in London. Aldi is the UK’S 5th largest supermarket and holds 8.1% of the market.

9. KPMG JOB CUTS

KPMG has announced that it will be cutting over 200 jobs in the UK. The Big Four consultant is on cost cutting drive and will shed as much as 250 out its 630 administrative assistants. Employees who remain will have their roles changed to “executive assistant” and new support roles will be created. The plan is to “refocus” the business and invest in its audit business to improve client service. KPMG, like much of the audit sector has been facing increasing scrutiny following numerous high profile audit failures. The cuts come as more of a shock as restructuring partners received a 25% pay increase.

10. GATWICK TO LAUNCH FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY

Gatwick has become the first UK airport to use facial recognition technology to carry out ID checks before boarding. The technology should reduce queue times for boaring. Customers will still need to scan their passports at departure gates and boarding passes will still need to be presented at security check zones.

Facial recognition software was trialled last year at the airport with some EasyJet flights. 90% of passengers found the technology easy to use and faster queues were reported.
One of the main concerns is data protection. People should be able to opt out of having their biometric data stored through facial recognition. Gatwick say that customers will be able to opt out of the technology and may have their passports checked by humans instead. In addition, children will require guardian consent to apply facial recognition. Some analysts argue an opt of procedure at the departure gate is too late if it’s not immediately clear to passengers what their legal rights are. It will be interesting to see how legal developments in this field as they roll out the technology.

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