Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 28/06/2021

The week’s news included; Google and Microsoft end their truce on legal action against each other, Ireland rejects proposals to overhaul global tax framework, Facebooks hits $1 trillion market cap, Juul agrees to pay $40m to settle marketing lawsuit.

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: 

  • City A.M – City leaders are constantly proposing ‘green initiatives’ but is the Square Mile really doing everything it can for climate change?
  • BBC News – Covid: What impact has the furlough scheme had?                                           
  • Sky News – Nissan’s ‘gigafactory’ is welcome but battery power production will need boost to compete with EU rivals.

1. MICROSOFT AND GOOGLE END TRUCE

Microsoft and Google have reportedly ended their six-year truce on legal action. In 2015, the tech giants agreed not to take legal action against each other or lodge complaints to regulators. This agreement ceased in April and now the gloves are off.

It is due to this agreement that Microsoft and Google have been eerily silent about each other. Last year, Google was facing an antitrust investigation from regulators over its search engine business. Microsoft was totally silent on this matter despite its direct competition with Google in this field.  

By contrast this year, Microsoft vocally supported Australia in its plans to force Google to pay news publishers for content. Microsoft also was critical of Google’s control of the online ad market. We are likely to see many more skirmishes between the two tech giants over the coming months.

2. IRELAND REJECTS GLOBAL TAX DEAL

Ireland has rejected proposals, brokered by the OECD, to overhaul the global corporation tax structure. The deal would have seen a minimum global corporate tax rate of 15% and higher taxes for the world’s largest companies. This would prevent corporate giants moving their profits through the lowest bidders.

Details are still being finalised but 130 countries have signed up, while 10 countries, including Ireland, refused. Countries with low taxation rates have been those primarily opposed to the deal. All G20 countries supported the deal while Estonia, Barbados and Nigeria all snubbed the deal. Ireland has said it is still open to further negotiations as more details emerge. The deal is expected to be finalised by October 2021.

3. FACEBOOK HITS $1 TRILLION

Facebook has joined the exclusive $1 trillion club as its share price crossed $355.64 last week. The tech giant won two important antitrust cases against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US state attorneys representing 46 states. A US District judge ruled on both cases and held there was insufficient evidence to prove the FTC’s claim that Facebook controlled over 60% of the social network market. Separately, the judge ruled that Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp could not be challenged on antitrust grounds by the state attorneys. This is because they had waited too long to file their claims. Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The FTC can relodge its complaint, but this didn’t stop investors pumping Facebook’s stock. Facebook’s share price rose 4.2% on the day. While Facebook was only the fifth US company to hit $1 trillion, it is by far the youngest. Facebook reached the illustrious mark in just 17 years. Facebook stock has risen by $592 billion in the last 16 months alone.

4. DIDI IPO

Didi, commonly referred to as China’s Uber, has launched its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, reaching a $68.49 billion valuation. The ride-hailing giant raised $4.4 billion and marks the largest listing by a Chinese firm on US markets since Alibaba in 2014. Alibaba however, dwarfs Didi as it raised a record $25 billion and was valued at $230 billion.

Didi faces the same profitability struggles as most of its western competitors. The company only posted its first profitable quarter this year, after 8 years in business. Furthermore, Didi posted a $1.6 billion loss for 2020. Uber currently owns 12% of Didi. This was acquired as part the sale of Uber China to Didi.

5. MORRISONS ACCEPTS £6.3BN TAKEOVER BID

Morrisons has accepted a £6.3 billion takeover bid from a consortium led by Fortress Investment Group, an affiliate of SoftBank. Under the deal, the consortium will take on Morrisons £3.2 billion of debt and Morrisons shareholders will receive 254p per share. This will take Morrisons into private ownership ending over 50 years on the London Stock Exchange.

This bid brings the end to an ongoing search for a buyer which saw Morrisons reject a number of bids from private equity groups. Last month, Morrisons rejected an unsolicited £5.5 billion offer from a US private equity firm. Morrisons claims the firm undervalued the deal and did not add “genuine value”. The deal with Fortress pleased directors but still requires shareholder approval. Morrisons is the UK’s fourth largest supermarket. It turned over £17.53 billion last year and employs nearly 120,000 people.

6. JUUL AGREES $40M SETTLEMENT

Juul has agreed to pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit claiming they unlawfully marketed their e-cigarettes to young people. The US state of North Carolina sued the e-cigarette maker in 2019 following a spike in youth use of e-cigarette. From 2018 to 2019, the number of North Carolina high school students allegedly using e-cigarettes rose 78%. The state claims Juul’s sweet flavours and colourful advertising were part of a campaign targeted at young people.

Juul denied all wrongdoing but agreed to pay the $40 million sum and change its advertising practices. It will be prevented from targeting anyone under the age of 35 in North Carolina. Furthermore, Juul agreed to shut down its social media pages that promote its products.

The vaping sector has been burnt in the US after lawmakers banned certain flavoured e-cigarettes in 2020. Juul is also facing similar lawsuits in other states throughout the US.

7. LONDON RETAINS FINANCIAL STRENGTH

The City of London has reclaimed its crown as the largest European trading centre. Amsterdam has briefly overtaken London as the city of choice, post-Brexit. But in June, London narrowly edged out Amsterdam, boasting the highest volume of shares traded daily on its venues. London also recorded its best start to a year for IPOs since 2014. In the first 6 months of 2021, £9 billion was raised across 49 IPOs. This is also the highest volume of listings since 2017. This undoubtedly comes as a welcome boost and can alleviate fears that London’s dominant position as a financial district is in jeopardy due to Brexit. This is despite the fact that Brussels has not granted the UK regulatory equivalence.

8. ROBINHOOD FILES FOR IPO

Retail investment app, Robinhood, has filed for an IPO. The app is designed to make investment easy for novices and is renowned for allowing users to trade without paying commission fees. Robinhood primarily makes money from “payment for order flow”. This is where brokers channel trade requests to other firms in return for a commission. Although the commission received per small trade is negligible, when millions of trades are processed this practice can become highly profitable. Robinhood holds $80 billion in assets across 18.5 million funded accounts.

Robinhood’s popularity soared during the pandemic. It also found itself at the centre of a scandal when GameStop’s stock was purchased en masse by retail investors targeting the balance sheets of short selling hedge funds (link). This didn’t stop Robinhood’s revenue soaring 245% in 2020. The company is still moving forward tentatively, as it posted a $1.4 billion loss in the first quarter of 2021. Financial regulator FINRA fined Robinhood $70 million last week for misleading customers about system outages.

9. NISSAN CONFIRMS SUNDERLAND GIGAFACTORY

Automaker Nissan has confirmed it will open its £1 billion gigafactory in Sunderland. The plans will create over 6200 jobs. This deal has been hailed as a sign of confidence in the post-Brexit UK economy. The new factory will produce electric batteries and will be largest producer in the UK.

Like their competitors Nissan is striving to reach carbon neutrality within the next 20 years. Furthermore, it will invest £423 million to develop a new all-electric car. The Nissan Leaf is a pioneer in mass market electric vehicles, retailing at roughly £20,000.  

10. GAP CLOSES ALL UK STORES

Gap has announced it will close all 81 of its stores in UK and Ireland. These stores will close in a “phased manner” between July and September. Gap will now operate exclusively online, bringing an end to Gap’s 30-year presence on our high streets.

The US retail giant has been haemorrhaging money, posting a nearly $1 billion loss in a single quarter last year due to the pandemic. While it expects business to return to normality over the coming year, the retailer is keen to restructure. In the US, Gap had already announced plans to close 350 stores by 2023. Furthermore, Gap will hope to sell of its stores in France and Italy.

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