Happy New Year!

The week’s news included; US retreats from French tech tax battle, Boeing settles 737 Max criminal lawsuit, Roblox to go public via direct listing, Social media giants purge Donald Trump accounts

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 (by EY) – What the Brexit deal means for UK nationals and EU migration
  • BBC News – Six tips for success from the richest person on the planet
  • City A.M – London set for initial public offering (IPO) ‘bonanza’ in 2021.
  • Business Insider – No one wants to host the Olympics anymore — will they go away?

1. US RETREATS FROM FRENCH TECH TAX BATTLE

The US has said it will not proceed with the proposed tariffs on French goods over the nation’s controversial tech tax. A 25% tax was due to be placed on $1.3 billion worth of French goods such as handbags and cosmetics. The decision not to proceed was because numerous other nations are also exploring the imposition of similar tech taxes. The OECD is also moving forward with its plan for an international framework to tax big tech firms effectively. The US Trade Department deemed imposing tariffs on France alone was not appropriate.

The tech tax imposes a 3% levy on all revenue earned from digital services in France. The tax will only apply where firms generate over €25 million revenue in France and have global revenue exceeding €750 million. France stated that if a new OECD framework was not in place by the end of 2020, it would collect its ‘tech tax’ in December. OECD members agreed to continue negotiations into mid-2021. France will, however, remove the levy once an OECD agreement is in place.

In response, the US threatened to impose tariffs. Tariffs were a weapon of choice for the incumbent President Trump, but incoming Joe Biden is expected to take an alternative approach towards international relations.

2. BOEING SETTLES 737 MAX CHARGES

Boeing is to settle criminal charges with the US Justice Department for $2.5 billion. The US Justice Department found that Boeing concealed critical safety flaws with regards to the planes’ stability systems and insufficient information was given to pilots about the systems. This failure was driven by desires for greater profits, according to the Justice Department.

In 2019, the second of two deadly crashes of the 737 Max took place. 346 people died across the two crashes. Aviation authorities across the world subsequently grounded Boeing’s 737 Max Eight and Nine jets. $500 million of the sum will go to the affected families. $1.77 billion of the $2.5 billion sum will go Boeing’s customers who were impacted by the grounding of the 737 Max. $243 million will be paid as a penalty.

The 737 Max was reapproved for service by US aviation authorities in November 2020, but Boeing will undoubtedly be closely watched for the foreseeable future.

3. BOOTS OWNER SELLS WHOLESALE BUSINESS

The owner of Boots, Walgreens Boots Alliance, has agreed to sell most of its Alliance Healthcare wholesale business for a huge $6.5 billion. Drug wholesaler AmericsourceBergen will be buying the business. This deal will not affect Alliance HealthCare’s distribution agreements with Boots in the UK and Walgreens in the US.  Walgreens Boots Alliance is selling the business as it looks to focus on its core retail business.

This comes as Amazon has made plans to enter the pharmacy business in the UK. The tech giant has already launched its pharmacy business in the US. Large pharmaceutical retailers like Boots will no doubt look to prepare to fight for their market share. For smaller pharmacies however, Amazon’s entry to the market could be fatal.

4. ROBLOX GOES PUBLIC

Roblox has announced that it will go public via direct listing rather than an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The number of shares to be listed has not been confirmed and the move is contingent upon approval from the SEC. Roblox had previously announced that it would delay its IPO plans due to fears of a market bubble. They were weary that the market frenzy that saw Airbnb’s blockbuster IPO will be short-lived. It will now opt for a direct listing as an alternative means of raising cash.

A direct listing sees the company’s outstanding shares put on the market without the fanfare that comes with an IPO. It also, however, comes without the help of expert underwriters to facilitate sales of shares. An IPO would see new shares created and sold to the public, with the help of underwriters. Direct listings are cheaper and allow current owners to retain their current share of the business.

Roblox is a popular online video game and it boasted 150 million monthly users as of 2020. It is aimed largely at children and has even provided learning tools on the platform as schools closed over lockdown. Roblox Corp is worth an estimated $8 billion.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA GIANTS CRACK DOWN ON TRUMP

Social media platforms have been shutting down President Trump’s accounts and purging Trump related content as they seek to restrict his online presence. Trump has consistently and baselessly protested that the recent US election result was fraudulent and encouraged his followers to take action. Last week, Trump-supporting rioters stormed and ransacked the US Capitol, attempting to somehow overturn the election result. Five people died, including one police officer. Instead of condemning the violence, Trump took to social media reiterated his election claims, and told the supporters to go home but praised their efforts.  

Until last week, Twitter and Facebook merely issued warnings about fake news on Trump’s posts. Now, almost every major social media site has restricted or banned Trump. Twitter, Facebook and Twitch have suspended Trump’s accounts indefinitely. TikTok, Snapchat and Reddit have banned Trump’s speeches and related content that could incite violence regarding the election.

Parler, a predominantly right-wing platform, has also faced a huge clampdown. It had been a hot bed for encouraging Trump supporters to get involved in the Capitol riot. This breaches rules for both Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as platforms have a responsibility to remove any dangerous content. Both Apple and Google suspended Parler until measures are put in place to effectively moderate content on its platform. Amazon has now banned their access to web hosting services, meaning the website will be offline from Monday.

6. DPD STOPS EU PARCEL DELIVERIES

Courier DPD has announced that it will halt UK deliveries to the EU due to Brexit. New requirements and restrictions have seen nearly 20% of parcels being returned due to “incorrect or incomplete” data.  Furthermore, due to additional processes for exporting to the EU, there is significantly more congestion at the UK’s ports. This has slowed down transit times and has an impact on profitability. As a result, DPD has said it will temporarily pause road delivery services to Europe. Under the Brexit deal, although no tariffs are applied, all goods leaving the UK to the EU require export and safety declarations. Customs checks and inspections also apply.

Many retail stores are facing similar difficulties moving goods. Debenhams and John Lewis have shut down their online services for Ireland. The dust will eventually settle but disruption is likely to continue as businesses adapt to the post-Brexit reality.

7. HMRC ISSUES RECORD MONEY LAUNDERING FINE

HMRC has issued a record £28.3 million fine to money transfer company, MT Global, over breaches of money laundering rules. MT Global failed to carry out sufficient risk assessments and had inadequate controls and record keeping. The offending conduct took place between 2017 and 2019. This is by far the largest money laundering fine issued by HMRC. In 2019, HMRC issued penalties amounting to just £9.1 million from over 2000 investigations.

8. BITCOIN BOOM CONTINUES

The price of Bitcoin has surpassed an astonishing $40,000 for the first time. The price of the cryptocurrency has doubled in less than a month and risen over 700% in the past 10 months. This all-time high was driven by large institutional investors along with countless retail investors jumping on board. Media frenzy is now also contributing as investors seek to make quick gains.

JP Morgan analysts predict that Bitcoin could hit a staggering $146,000. There are over 100 million bitcoin wallets in existence and 1 million transactions per day. Analysts say Bitcoin will be due a correction, but no one knows at what point or how large it will be. As the price grows, Bitcoin’s use a store of value could become increasingly popular.  

To put Bitcoin’s growth into context, if you bought $30 worth of Bitcoin in January 2011 and held it till today, your holdings would now be worth $4,000,000.

9. MUSK BECOMES RICHEST PERSON

Tesla founder, Elon Musk, has leapfrogged Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world. His net wealth reached a huge $190 billion last week. This was spurred by Tesla’s astronomical share price growth as it hit a $700 billion market capitalisation. Despite only producing 500,000 cars in 2020, it is now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM and Ford combined. Tesla only turned over $24.6 billion in 2019, less than one tenth of Volkswagen’s $300 billion turnover. Investors are, however, confident of Tesla leading the electric revolution and are putting their money behind this.

Despite this, Michael Burry, has predicted that Tesla’s share price will collapse. Burry is the famous investor who predicted and bet on the 2007 housing bubble as dramatised in the film “The Big Short”. (BI)

A tweet of Musk is pinned to his twitter account and it reads “About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth, and half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves.” Make of that what you will.

10. ASOS CREATES 2000 JOBS

Asos has announced that it will create 2000 UK jobs in its new warehouse. The £90 million facility will be based in Staffordshire and will serve customers nationwide. Asos currently has around 4000 employees so this hiring spree is significant.

2020 was a good year for Asos and it turned out to be one of the few beneficiaries of lockdown. Many customers invested in active and loungewear over lockdown and Asos reaped the benefits of this trend. Its full year pre-tax profits soared over 300% to £142 million. Asos now boasts of market capitalisation of £5.4 billion.