Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 12/04/2021

The week’s news included; Colin & Cuthbert to clash in court, Crypto exchange Coinbase debuts on NASDAQ, Virgin Media – O2 merger gains regulatory approval, Elon Musk’s Space X wins NASA moon travel contract.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page, Facebook page and Instagram 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: 

  • BBC News – Is Alibaba’s fate a warning to China’s tech giants?
  • MarketWatch -This dogecoin chart offers the clearest explanation for the buzz surrounding the ‘joke’ crypto.
  • City A.M – Are the IMF’s proposals for a one-off wealth tax a good idea?
  • CNBC – U.S. sanctions on Russia ‘mostly symbolic’ and will not trouble Moscow, economists say

1. CUTHBERT VS COLIN CAKE LEGAL CASE

Marks & Spencer has launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against Aldi over its Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake. M&S claims Aldi’s cake is too similar in design to their Colin the Caterpillar cake. The retailer has lodged a claim at the High Court and seeks Aldi to stop selling the product. M&S has been selling its Colin the Caterpillar cakes since the 1990’s and has three trademarks relating to the product. Many commentators have noted however, several other supermarkets sell their own caterpillar cakes similar to Colin, raising questions as to why Aldi has been singled out here.

Aldi has taken the legal action somewhat lightly as their official Twitter page begun the hashtag #freecuthbert. The supermarket tweeted “This is not just any court case, this is #Free Cuthbert” , mocking M&S’ slogan.

For some of the best tweets click here.

2. COINBASE IPO

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase launched on NASDAQ reaching a huge $75 billion valuation. Shares debuted at $381 but later fell to roughly $330. Coinbase’s growth has been exponential in the past few years. In 2018, Coinbase was valued at roughly $8 billion. Now, it has grown nearly 10 times. This values it higher than the majority of firms on the FTSE 100.

The exchange has 56 million retail customers and is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US. It turned over $1.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021 alone.  Coinbase’s listing has been considered a watershed moment for cryptocurrencies. There is growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies amongst traditional financial market players, and this IPO symbolises this.

The buzz around Coinbase’s IPO saw Bitcoin reach a new record high of nearly $65,000. On Sunday, however, talks of US regulatory crackdown saw the market tank by over 10%.

3. VIRGIN MEDIA O2 MERGER APPROVED

The £31 billion merger between Virgin Media and O2 has been provisionally approved by the Competition and Markets Authority. This deal will create a behemoth, collectively holding a 30% share of market and around 40 million customers. There were concerns that the venture could cause higher prices for wholesale customers and a lessening of competition. Following its investigation, the CMA has provisionally found that the two companies are not in close enough competition, primarily in the wholesale market.

Liberty Global, the owner of Virgin Media and Telefonica, O2’s owner, agreed to merge the companies last May. The two owners will receive a combined £7.1 billion from recapitalisation proceeds.  

4. SPACE X WINS NASA CONTRACT

Elon Musk’s Space X has won a $2.9 billion NASA contract to take humans to the moon. NASA plans to use the moon as a station from which astronauts can fly to Mars. Space X’s ultimate goal is to put humans on Mars, but the company is still someway off achieving this. The space exploration company has suffered a number of setbacks including failed landings and exploding spacecraft.  Despite this, both NASA and investors are confident of Space X’s ability to get humans back on the moon. NASA is keen to work with private companies who now have deep pockets and huge investor backing. Space X beat Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics.

The last manned mission to the moon was in 1972. Since then, astronomers have looked far beyond the moon to other. Furthermore, the development of robotics allows scientists to collect rocks and images from space without the cost and risk of sustaining and returning a human.

5. EU COULD BAN ADVANCED AI

The EU has drafted legislation to ban the use of artificial intelligent for mass surveillance and social monitoring. The legislation would seek to prohibit indiscriminate surveillance of people where the surveillance is applied generally. It would also ban the use of social credit scoring.

All of the aforementioned technology is already deployed in China. China uses mass surveillance to undertake social credit scoring. In some cities, the government monitors social conduct and those who commit “social misdeeds” will receive lower social credit. Social misdeeds can be acts like smoking on trains, spreading false information online or travelling without a valid ticket. Social credit will determine an individual’s ability to access education, jobs and even ability to use public transport or enter certain buildings in China.

The EU is taking pre-emptive action to prevent the use of such technology by any nation or body within the EU. Guidelines will be detailed for companies developing the technology and breaches will come with hefty fines. While the EU has said it wishes to ensure the bloc stays competitive in the development of new technologies, there must be restraints to prevent the infringement of civil liberties. Whether this balance can be achieved remains to be seen.

6. MICROSOFT SET TO BUY NUANCE FOR $20 BN

Microsoft is on the brink of buying AI firm Nuance Commissions for $19.7 billion. The deal would help Microsoft boost its artificial intelligence division, specifically with regards to healthcare. Nuance Communications creates products for the healthcare industry such as note dictation technology and report generation software. It was also instrumental in the development of Apple’s Siri speech recognition tool. Around 80% of US hospitals use Nuance and the company turned over $1.479 billion in 2022. This purchase would be the second largest in Microsoft’s history, after its acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion.

7. SALT BAE HIT WITH $5m COPYRIGHT LAWSUIT

Turkish chef and restaurateur, Nusret Gokce, commonly known as Salt Bae has been slapped with a $5 million copyright infringement lawsuit. A US artist, Logan Hicks, claims Gokce used his artwork in his restaurants without permission.

The artwork consists of Gokce’s signature sprinkling pose, a pose which sparked his rise to global fame in 2017. Hicks claims that the artwork is being used across Gokce’s entire business, from his branded seasoning to his restaurant menus. Gokce runs high-end restaurants across globe. His Dubai restaurant at Jumirah Beach has attracted the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

Hicks issued a cease-and-desist letter to Gokce. Gokce did not respond and allegedly increased his use of the artwork. How successful this lawsuit will be remains to be seen.

8. SOUTHAMPTON AGREES CRYPTOCURRENCY DEAL

Southampton FC has signed a shirt sponsorship deal with Coingaming Group which will see the club receive performance bonuses in Bitcoin. The three-year deal is the largest in Southampton FC’s history. Sportsbet.io is the brand of Coingaming Group and will continue to appear on the club’s shirt. This innovative deal was agreed as Southampton seeks to cash in on the rapidly growing cryptocurrency.

9. LEON BOUGHT BY ISSA BROTHERS

The new owner of Asda, the Issa brothers, have bought fast food chain Leon.  The deal is estimated to be worth £100 million and covers 71 restaurants, including franchise sites. This deal will boost the Issa brothers’ food business. EG Group, the holding company of the Issa brothers owns petrol forecourts throughout Europe and turned the British brothers into billionaires. They currently operate 700 food outlets, including KFC and Greggs franchises.

Leon operates in the UK and across mainland Europe. It is known for a cookbooks and signature healthy fast-food dishes. The restaurant turned over £95 million in 2018.

10. OCADO SELF-DRIVING DELIVERY

Ocado is teaming up with Oxbotica to develop self-driving delivery vehicles. The online supermarket aims to slash its costs of delivery. Furthermore, in times of increased demand, Ocado can more quickly expand its capacity to cope. The pandemic accelerated these plans given its inability to cope with the sharp increase in demand during lockdown.

The prototypes will be developed by 2024 but it will still be several years before autonomous Ocado delivery vehicles hit our streets. The vehicles will initially be trialed in UK urban environments with typically low speeds. Ocado then hopes to expand its service to foreign markets.

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