The week’s news included: Asda loses £8 billion Supreme Court case, WeWork to go public via SPAC merger, Big investors call Deliveroo “uninvestable” over employment rights scandal,
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:
- Business Insider – 2 reasons why buying a Tesla with bitcoin is a bad idea
- City AM – Should we have a right to work from home?
- BBC News – How will ‘chipageddon’ affect you?
- CNBC – The U.S. will remain richer than China for the next 50 years or more, says economist
1. ASDA LOSES SUPREME COURT BATTLE
The Supreme Court has ruled that the work of Asda shopfloor staff may be considered equal to that of warehouse staff. This legal dispute has been brewing since 2016 where claimants, predominantly female shop-floor workers, allege that they are paid less than the mainly male warehouse staff. The crux of this dispute is whether this payment structure constitutes sexual discrimination. For the claimants to be entitled to equal pay, they must prove their work is of “equal value” to warehouse workers.
In this ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the previous court and deemed the work to be comparable. Crucially however, this ruling does not affirm whether the work is of “equal value”, it simply paves the way for further legal action to be taken.
Asda had attempted to argue that the work of shop floor workers was not comparable to warehouse workers, an argument dismissed by the Supreme Court. The supermarket will now argue that the work is not of equal value and that any differences in wages are not due to gender.
44,000 workers joined the legal action against Asda. Warehouse workers were paid up to £3 per hour more than shop floor workers, according to the claimants’ lawyers. The stakes are huge for Asda, as it could face a bill for £8 billion in backpay. Furthermore, this could have significant consequences for other retailers with similar structures.
2. WEWORK GOES PUBLIC (ROUND 2)
WeWork is to go public through a SPAC merger in a deal valuing the firm at $9 billion. It will merge with SPAC BowX led by Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive is a vocal advocate of SPAC firms and is the owner of the NBA team Sacramento Kings.
Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are publicly listed shell companies that are designed solely to buy and invest in other companies. When SPACs list on an exchange, the entity itself typically has no track record or operations. Investors buy into SPACs primarily based on the calibre of the team running the SPAC. Once money has been raised, the SPAC will scout companies to merge with or invest in to generate returns for investors. For target companies, SPAC mergers are often a simpler way to go public than a traditional IPO, which is why WeWork is opting for it.
WeWork’s $9 billion valuation is a far-cry from the $47 billion touted in 2019 ahead of its IPO, which later failed. This failure saw it forgo $10 billion in crucial funding and the company’s value tanked over 80% in a few weeks. WeWork was on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2019 and IPO plans were shelved. SoftBank subsequently bailed out WeWork in a $8 billion deal and CEO Adam Neumann agreed to step down. He did, however, receive a huge $1.7 billion severance package. This listing through a SPAC deal could mark the beginning of a new chapter for WeWork.
3. UK AND EU AGREED FINANCIAL SERVICES BREXIT DEAL
The UK and the European Union have struck a crucial agreement for financial services. Both sides have agreed in principle a “Memorandum of Understanding” covering financial services cooperation. It is expected to mirror the framework between the EU and US where regulators from both sides cooperate and share information. This agreement still requires approval from the EU member states but the wording has been finalised. Both sides are confident this can be finalised quickly and ease the challenges faced by financial services firms.
The financial services world, particularly in the UK, have been keen for the sides to agree regulatory equivalence. The loss of automatic unfettered access to all EU financial markets has been a challenge for UK firms. Teething pains are still ongoing but there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
4. DELIVEROO IPO
Deliveroo is facing the heat from investors ahead of its £8.8 billion IPO. Major investors are saying they will avoid Deliveroo over their poor treatment of workers. A recent study showed a third of delivery riders earned less than minimum wage of £8.72 per hour, while some earned as little as £2 per hour.
Legal & General Investment Management, M&G, BMO Global, Aviva Investors and Aberdeen Standard have all expressed opposition to the IPO. This could prove a huge blow for Deliveroo and BMO described the issues as making Deliveroo “uninvestable”. Deliveroo classes its 100,000 riders are self-employed and has rejected calls to class them as workers. The recent Uber ruling could significantly affect their position going forward.
Despite this, Deliveroo is ploughing ahead, and this will make a number of parties a lot of cash. Founder, Will Shu, could gain £550 million when he sells some of his 6.2% stake. Riders may also receive bonuses of up to £10,000 following the IPO. 16% shareholder Amazon will sell around 23 million shares raking in up to £107 million.
Deliveroo was founded in 2013 and will list on the London Stock Exchange. It turned over £476 million in 2019 but has never made an annual profit.
5. ROBINHOOD IPO
Online brokerage Robinhood has confidentially filed for an IPO. The app will list in the US but further details have not been disclosed. As of 2021 is its expected to be worth around $20 billion. The brokerage has gained popularity in recent years due to its accessibility for young, inexperienced investors. In 2020 the company processed $350 billion worth of transactions and turned over $682 million.
Robinhood was however, at the centre of controversy in January during the GameStop frenzy. Investors flocked to Robinhood to invest in GameStop in an act of defiance against Wall Street short sellers. We explored the frenzy here. It is currently facing investigation over its conduct in this matter.
6. NATIONWIDE ALLOWS STAFF TO WFH INDEFINITELY
Nationwide will allow its 13,000 office staff to work from home indefinitely. This is part of its new flexibility scheme which will allow staff to work from anywhere. Staff may still work from the office if they wish but three of its Swindon offices will be closing. Instead, staff will have the opportunity to work from home, a local office, Swindon HQ, or even a local branch.
57% of Nationwide staff said they would want to work from home full-time post lockdown. A further 36% said they wanted a mixture of office and home-based working. Nationwide is the UK’s largest building society and has 18,000 staff.
The pandemic has accelerated a huge shift away from traditional office working towards greater flexibility. Companies are rethinking their need for huge office spaces and are exploring new alternatives. Santander also announced it would shut 111 branches as customers are doing more banking online. Furthermore, it is reducing its office space and allowing staff to work from home.
7. JESSOPS CALLS IN ADMINISTRATORS
Camera retailer Jessops has issued a notice to appoint administrators after running into financial difficulty. It had already hired advisors to help restructure the business and its considering undertaking a CVA to strike a deal with creditors. Its notice to appoint administrators protects it from creditor claims for 10 days.
Jessops is owned by Dragons’ Den business mogul Peter Jones. Jessops’ issues are longstanding, and it has run into trouble many times in the past. Jones purchased Jessops from administrators in 2013 and in 2019 it issued a similar notice to appoint administrators. Jessops had a huge £81 million debt pile in 2013 but just £280,000 in operating profit. The pandemic is highlighting and exacerbating structural issues within our high street shops. As stores are set to reopen in April, the face of our high street is likely to continue changing.
8. CINEWORLD LOSSES
Cineworld has reported a loss of over $3 billion for 2020. The firm also posted $852 million in revenue for the year, down roughly 80%. Cinemas faced the brunt of lockdown measures, as they were often the first to shut and one of the last to reopen. Now, the company has announced $213 million in new funding via a convertible bond. This will allow it to sustain itself long term. It already secured $750 million in funding last November but the path out of the pandemic remains treacherous.
The chain hopes to reopen most of its sites throughout Spring 2021. With new Covid variants causing lockdowns throughout Europe however, companies are taking precautions. Cineworld is the second largest cinema chain in the world after AMC and turned over $4.3 billion in 2019.
9. TESLA CAN BE BOUGHT WITH BITCOIN
Tesla founder Elon Musk has announced that customers can now buy their vehicles using Bitcoin. The electric car maker has bet heavily on Bitcoin investing $1.5 billion in the cryptocurrency. Tesla has even set up its own internal software to process and store payments. Any payments will be kept in Bitcoin and not converted to Fiat currency, thus boosting the cryptocurrency ecosystem. The fluctuation in Bitcoin’s price means that customers can pay significantly more (or less) for the vehicle depending on the market.
10. AMAZON DRIVERS TO SIGN BIOMETRIC CONSENT FROMS
Amazon is requiring its delivery drivers to sign “biometric consent” forms or risk losing their jobs. Their consent will allow Amazon to collect and store drivers’ biometric data, location and movement. Amazon will take a photo of drivers and automatically connect them to their account when they enter their van. They will also get live detailed information on the movements of the vehicle such as speed, breaking and mileage. Amazon says this tracking will allow for improved driver and pedestrian safety as delivery drivers will be conscious of the monitoring.
Some raised concerns about the increased level of personal data being collected but Amazon dismissed such concerns, claiming the new measures were purely for safety.