The week’s news included: UK budget summarised, Amazon launches UK checkout-less supermarket, Goldman restarts crypto desk, Square buys majority stake in Tidal, Molly Mae warned over giveaway.
Opinion articles of the week:
Opinion articles of the week:
- Reuters – Alarm bells ring again for emerging debt
- City A.M– Unlocking the UK could trigger 6 years of economic growth in just 10 months
- Sky News – Budget 2021: What’s in it for younger people?
1. UK BUDGET
The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the budget for the upcoming financial year and made some huge pledges. We summarise the key announcements below;
- The furlough scheme will be extended to September, with the government paying 80% of wages until July. From July, employers will contribute to employee wages incrementally. Support for self-employed people will also continue to September.
- Minimum wage will be increased to £8.91. Contactless payment limit will rise to £100.
- Corporation tax will rise from 19% to 25% in April 2023 on company profits over £250,000. Any profits under £250,000 will continue to be taxed at 19%.
- Stamp duty holiday will be extended until 30 June.
- Hospitality firms will continue to pay 5% VAT. A £5 billion Restart grant to be available for retailers who have been forced to close. Business rates holiday will continue to apply until June.
BBC News looks at the budget in more detail.
Another highly controversial announcement last week was the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers in England. This was not announced in the Budget but was separately recommended by the Department for Health and Social Care last week.
2. APPLE FACING ANTITRUST CHARGES
Apple is facing formal antitrust charges from the EU Commission over its alleged distortion of competition in the music streaming sector. The charges derive from Spotify’s 2019 complaint against Apple over its 30% cut of in-app purchases and undue favouritism for Apple Music. They claim Apple unfairly restricts rivals of Apple Music on its platforms and the EU appears to have agreed. The EU is expected to issue charges against Apple in the coming weeks.
Apple has sought to soothe concerns by reducing fees for smaller developers from 30% to 15%. Bigger developers are still however, protesting that Apple is breaching competition laws. Fortnite maker, Epic Games, is currently battling Apple in the courts over the same issue. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is also launching an investigation into Apple’s App Store terms.
3. DELIVEROO IPO
Deliveroo has selected London for its IPO destination. This comes in anticipation of the UK’s plans to overhaul stock market listing rules. The rules would allow founders to retain greater control of their companies following a floatation (link). Although London was already tipped to be Deliveroo’s choice, the incoming rule changes helped sway Deliveroo to list in London ahead of New York or Amsterdam. The food delivery firm is targeting a $10 billion valuation.
Deliveroo is yet to make a profit. With competition heating up in the sector, this IPO will help it expand and bolster its books. Food delivery firms have been one of the few beneficiaries of lockdown with unprecedented levels of takeaway orders.
Last week, Deliveroo also announced it will launch a £16 million fund for Deliveroo riders after its floatation. This fund could provide bonuses of up to £10,000 to its most active riders.
4. AMAZON GO LAUNCHES IN THE UK
Amazon has opened its first UK supermarket. The Amazon Go store will not have any checkouts. It has launched in Ealing, West London. Shoppers simply fill their basket; cameras register what they pick up. Customers are then charged via the Amazon Go app when they leave the stores. Amazon Go has already been rolled out in numerous locations in the US. The tech giant is potentially looking to expand the stores to 30 UK locations. Check out what the store looks like here.
5. GOLDMAN RESTARTS CRYPTO DESK
Goldman Sachs has restarted its cryptocurrency desk, according to Reuters. The investment bank will be trading Bitcoin futures and forwards on behalf of its clients. It has no plans to invest directly in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies. Despite this, it recognises the growing demand for access to crypto markets from clients.
The desk will be within Goldman’s Global Markets division which also gets involved in blockchain technology and digital currencies. Bitcoin has soared over 900% since last year and investors are looking to get involved in the frenzy.
Futures and forwards are regulated derivatives that allow investors to bet on whether an asset will appreciate or depreciate over a given time frame. Crucially, investments in derivatives are financial contracts that operate outside of the market of the underlying asset. So, no money would actually be invested in Bitcoin itself, in this case.
Goldman Sachs set up a cryptocurrency desk in 2018 but shut it down following a depression in the cryptocurrency market. Now however, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $58,000 following a staggering rally. It subsequently sank to around $50,000 but still boasts a total market value nearing $1 trillion. Furthermore, mainstream financial players are throwing their support behind cryptocurrencies and the wider digital asset space. Many others are likely to follow suit if Bitcoin can sustain some level of price stability.
6. LLOYDS BANK STEPS INTO RENTAL SECTOR
Lloyds Banking Group will become a private landlord, buying and renting out properties in the UK, according to the Financial Times. The “Project Generation” will see the UK’s largest mortgage lender step into new territory. It hopes to provide better quality housing services for tenants than other landlords. With interest rates at record lows of 0.1%, mortgage lenders are exploring new streams of income. Lloyds Bank posted a pre-tax profit of £1.2 billion in 2020, down 70%. They also scrapped bonuses in 2020 due to the pandemic.
7. KLARNA FUND RAISING
Payments firm Klarna has reached a huge $31 billion valuation in its latest funding round. The “buy now pay later” company raised $1 billion in the latest funding round and is by far Europe’s largest fintech unicorn. The valuation puts Klarna amongst the likes of Barclays and Deutsche Bank. Klarna has seen an astonishing rise in value. Just 18 months ago, Klarna reached a $5.5 billion market value and has seen a nearly 500% growth since then. But Klarna isn’t done yet and is eyeing further expansion into other financial markets. Its business model has however, come under fire from regulators over failures to protect customers.
8. SQUARE BUYS JAY-Z’S TIDAL
Payment processing firm Square has announced it will buy a $297 million majority stake in Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal. Tidal’s current shareholders, including Jay-Z, will receive a mixture of cash and shares while retaining a minority stake in Tidal.
Tidal will continue to operate separately from Square but Jay-Z will join Square’s board of directors. The deal will help Tidal provide greater financial solutions to artists on its platform. For Square, the deal will help the firm begin transcending payment processing. Square was created by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
9. MARRIOTT GIVES VACCINE BONUS
Staff at the Marriott International hotel chain will receive a bonus for taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The hotel chain will begin providing educational resources for staff in the US and Canada to encourage vaccination. They reiterated that no staff will be forced to get vaccinated. They believe however, that widespread vaccination will help reignite the beleaguered hospitality industry. Staff will receive a bonus the equivalent of four hours pay for taking the vaccine.
Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel chain. It has over 30 brands and 7000 properties in 131 countries. It suffered heavily due to the pandemic and posted a huge $267 million loss in 2020, its first annual loss since 2009.
10. MOLLY-MAE WARNED
Love Island celebrity Molly-Mae Hague has been warned by the Advertising Standards Authority for breaking giveaway rules. Hague was found to have unfairly administered an £8000 giveaway. She held a giveaway to celebrate reaching 1 million YouTube subscribers. The winner was selected by choosing 100 entrants followed by a computer programme randomly choosing 1 winner from these 100. Twelve people complained that entrants were not given a fair chance of winning. The ASA found that Hague did not evidence that the initially selected 100 entrants were chosen at random. The ASA warned that the rules did apply, and prizes must be awarded to “genuine winners in accordance with the laws of chance.” Hague appeared on ITV’s Love Island in 2019 and now boasts 5.2 million Instagram followers.
This is symptomatic of a wider crackdown on social media influencers. In 2018, the ASA obliged all influencers to inform followers when products shown on their pages were paid adverts. This is to prevent followers thinking the celebrities genuinely use or endorse the products, without payment. The social media ecosystem has grown faster than regulators have been able to contend with and more regulation is likely to be introduced in the coming years.