Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 14/12/2020

There will no Top 10 next week. See you in the new year!

The week’s news included; EU approves Google’s FitBit merger, Bentley Motors loses trademark lawsuit against Bentley Clothing, Twitter fined for GDPR breach, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty seeks $100m in new fund raising round,

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 – Tier 4 restrictions could put thousands of jobs at risk, retail sector warns
  • The Economist – What if a gold standard were still in use?
  • City A.M – Combining technology with human ingenuity can level the workplace inclusion gap
  • BBC News – Brexit: How to prepare for changes in 2021

1. GOOGLE FITBIT MERGER APPROVED

The European Commission has approved Google’s $2.1 billion takeover of FitBit. There were a number of concerns about Google’s use of FitBit users’ data, as well as competition issues. Following a four-month investigation, the EU Commission feels satisfied that the concerns have been mitigated. Google has promised to segregate FitBit user data, retain third-party access to FitBit’s platform and not decrease the third-party experience of other smartwatches linked to Android phones. These promises must be kept for 10 years.

Google’s claim that it would not use FitBit’s data for advertising baffled many commentators. FitBit was one of the first fitness and health trackers. The company has 30 million active users. It posted a $132 million loss last year so many analysts questioned why Google would buy FitBit, if not for its data. FitBit as a market pioneer has, however, formed alliances with health organisations worldwide, which could prove beneficial for Google.

2. UK MEXICO DEAL

The UK has signed a continuity agreement with Mexico, allowing for trade to continue on the same terms as the current EU arrangement. Talks on a new trade agreement will begin but both sides are keen to avoid any trade disruption in the interim.

Trade with Mexico is currently worth £5 billion annually. This follows the securing of continuity agreements with numerous nations such as Canada and Singapore. Trade with non-EU countries appears like it will face limited disruption post-Brexit. Furthermore, the vast number of trade deals now in progress with non-EU does provide some optimism about the prospects of post-Brexit Britain.

The core problem currently lies with the EU negotiations. Hope of a free trade agreement is still slim given the large differences between the sides. Many analysts, however, are still optimistic that a last-minute deal may be struck. In any case, businesses, and consumers alike hope that some certainty will be provided soon, whether deal or no-deal.

3. GOOGLE FACES US LAWSUIT

Google is facing a lawsuit from ten US states over its monopoly in the online advertising business. The US is on a campaign to stem the unfettered dominance of Big Tech. Earlier this month, Facebook faced a lawsuit from nearly every state over its own practices. Google and Facebook hold around 80% of the online advertising market. Furthermore, state prosecutors claim the means by which Facebook and Google retain their dominant positions constitutes unlawful practices. This includes for example, highly restrictive contractual terms, market price collusion and undercutting any measures publishers use to circumvent its fees.

The states launching the legal action include, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho. Google firmly denies all allegations and will challenge the lawsuit.

4. TWITTER FINED FOR GDPR BREACH

Twitter has been fined €450,000 in Ireland for breaching GDPR. The social media giant identified a data breach in January 2019 but failed to notify the data protection regulator quickly enough. A bug meant Android users with private twitter accounts saw their tweets become public if certain unrelated actions were made by the user. The bug had been affecting users since 2014 but was only identified in 2019. Under GDPR companies must notify the regulator within 72 hours of identifying a data breach. Furthermore, the incident was not documented properly. The Irish Data Protection Commission therefore deemed it appropriate to fine Twitter. Twitter accepted full responsibility.

5. BENTLEY LOSES TRADEMARK BATTLE

Luxury car maker Bentley Motors has lost its trademark appeal against Bentley Clothing, meaning the car maker cannot use its name on any of its clothing. The courts initially threw out Bentley Motors’ case and ruled they cannot use the name or logo on its clothing range. Bentley Motors appealed, and the Court of Appeal upheld the previous ruling.

Bentley Clothing has held the trademark for the name Bentley in relation to clothing since 1982. The car maker and clothing company have been in dispute since 1998. Bentley Motors can now only feature its name and logo on jackets, silk ties, caps and scarves but no other clothing.

6. TALKTALK GOES PRIVATE

Broadband provider TalkTalk will be taken off the London Stock Exchange into private ownership. Toscafund, the second largest shareholder will purchase shares from shareholders in a £1.1 billion deal. Broadband services have not been exempted from the Covid downturn. TalkTalk has seen profits dip by 13% due to the pandemic. TalkTalk boasts 4 million customers and is the fourth largest broadband provider in the UK after BT, Sky and Virgin Media.

7. BITCOIN HITS RECORD HIGH

Bitcoin’s rally keeps getting better as it reached a record $23,000 last week. Breaking the $20,000 mark was a key milestone for investors. The market has become filled with more institutional investors such as PayPal, who bought millions worth of the currency. The currency is up nearly 200% this year and over 700% up from its 2018 lows. Had someone bought 1 Bitcoin in 2011 it would now be worth $230,000.

8. SAVAGE X FENTY FUND RAISING

Savage X Fenty, the lingerie brand of Rihanna, is reportedly looking to raise $100 million to move into athletic wear. The money is also reported to be used to increase its presence in European markets.

Savage X Fenty has raised $70 million in its 2-year history. The Fenty brand also became the first black owned brand to enter the prestigious LVMH luxury group. The brand also secured backing from Jay-Z’s venture capital firm Marcy Venture Partners. This latest fund raising could see Savage X Fenty achieve a $1 billion valuation.

9. METRO BANK SELLS MORTGAGE PORTFOLIO

Metro Bank is selling its £3 billion mortgage portfolio to Natwest. Natwest has shaken off its pandemic related losses, as it recently returned to profitability. Natwest posted a £355 million profit for the three months to September. Under the deal, Metro Bank’s 13,000 customers will transfer to Natwest. The deal will provide a welcome windfall for Metro Bank who saw a £240 million loss in the first half of the year.

Lenders have been cautious during the pandemic. Job losses and business failures have led to high levels of bad debt, much of which banks have had to write off entirely. European banks collectively set aside £30 billion to cover COVID-19 related losses. Natwest appears to have turned a corner and will hope it can continue despite the latest lockdown measures. RBS formally changed its name to Natwest earlier this year.

10. BESTWAY BUYS COSTCUTTER

Bestway has bought retailer Costcutter for an undisclosed sum. As an essential store Costcutter had a strong year, seeing sales rise 10% to £426 million. Wholesaler Bestway will buy around 1500 Costcutter shops as part of the deal. Current owner, Bibby Lane had previously rejected a £15 million takeover bid for Costcutter from Co-Op. Bestway’s deal with Bibby Lane is expected to be completed in early 2021, subject to regulatory approval.  Bestway is one of the largest wholesales in the UK and owns stores including Best-One, Bargain Booze and Wine Rack. The company turned over £3.4 billion last year.

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