Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 19/07/2021

The week’s news included; US drugmakers to pay $26bn in opioid settlement, Saudi Aramco data ransomed for $50m by hackers, UK government to create new visa for graduates of top global universities, Amazon steps into blockchain.

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: 

  • The Economist – Are the Olympic games a bad deal for host cities?
  • City A.M – Have Bezos and Branson ushered in a new era of space tourism?
  • BBC Sounds – Business Daily: will the Tokyo Olympics pay off?
  • The Economist – As food prices soar, big agriculture is having a field day


1. PINGDEMIC EXEMPTIONS

UK supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers are set to be exempt from self-isolation measures after the “Pingdemic” has seen around 600,000 people told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app. Users of the app are “pinged” and told to self-isolate when they have come into close contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19. The vast number of affected people has had a severe impact on productivity as employers are seeing swathes of staff required to self-isolate. Now there are concerns this could cause food supply problems as supermarkets are feeling the effects of the Pingdemic. There have been shortages of some products due to the lack of available staff at depots. In response, the government will now introduce daily testing sites for workers at 15 key depots and around 10,000 workers will be exempt from self-isolating when pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app.

Flaws have been highlighted in the app, but the government has refused to make adjustments. In apartment blocks for example, where users come within 5 metres of someone who contracted, regardless of whether they are separated by walls and live in completely separate flats.

2. US DRUGMAKERS TO PAY $26BN IN OPIOID SETTLEMENT

Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen) have collectively agreed to pay $26bn to settle claims of their involvement in the US opioid addiction crisis. This deal will cover around 4000 claims in various US states. As discussed in previous top 10 articles, J&J’s primary alleged offense was the use of unlawful payments to physicians and downplaying the addictiveness of their drugs. McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen on the other hand, all ignored evidence of their painkillers being shifted through illegal channels.
Although the companies deny wrongdoing, the US states involved in the deal will all receive a share of the $26 billion penalty. The money will primarily go towards public health and opioid treatment/prevention programmes. Nearly 500,000 people in the US have died from opioid overdose in the 20 years to 2019.

3. ARAMCO RANSOMWARE ATTACK

Hackers are demanding $50 million from state owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco after stealing data from one of their contractors. One terabyte of Aramco data is held by hackers and the hackers offered to delete the data if a $50 million ransom in cryptocurrency was paid. The proposal was posted on the dark web. The contractor from whom the data was taken has not been identified.

Oil and gas firms are often targeted by hackers due to a chronic failure in the industry to improve data security. Aramco was hit by a cyber-attack in 2012 while just 2 months ago in the US, Colonial Pipeline faced a ransomware attack. Saudi Aramco became the largest publicly listed company after its $26 billion IPO in 2019. The company was valued at a huge $1.7 trillion.

4. APOLLO PULLS OUT OF MORRISONS TAKEOVER BID

Apollo Global Management has dropped out of the bid to acquire UK supermarket Morrisons. Instead, the private equity firm will only seek a buyout of Morrisons alongside Fortress Investment Group. Talks are currently in preliminary stages and no formal consortium has been formed between Apollo and Fortress. Fortress had already seen their £6.3 billion takeover deal accepted by Morrisons. Currently however, there is still scope for rival bids to be submitted. Apollo has dropped out individually, but may become directly involved in Fortress’ offer.

5. ZOMATO IPO

Indian food delivery app, Zomato, launched its IPO last week and reached a $12 billion market capitalisation. The app is backed by Chinese conglomerate Ant Group and this marks India’s first unicorn stock market listing. Zomato shares soared as much as 80%, and eventually settled 65% up on the day. Like many of its Western cousins in the food delivery space, Zomato is unprofitable. The company posted losses of $110m last year, but losses are shrinking.

6. NEW HIGH POTENTIAL VISA

The UK government is unveiling a new visa that will enable graduates of top global universities to move to the UK without a job offer. This new route of entry will be for “High Potential Individuals”. Further details, including the list of universities considered “top global” have not been announced. The government has said it will explore expanding eligibility criteria for “High Potential Individuals” beyond university. It hoped this simplification of the immigration process will attract top talent and spur innovation in the UK.

7. AMAZON STEPPING INTO BLOCKCHAIN

Amazon is reportedly preparing to accept Bitcoin payments and may even launch its own token. The tech giant has launched a job ad for a cryptocurrency and blockchain expert. The successful candidate will help Amazon develop a new strategy with regards to blockchain. This will likely involve long term blockchain integration into Amazon’s operations. Cryptocurrency markets have faltered over the past couple of months, with Bitcoin losing its gains this year. Despite this, Amazon is the latest big institution that sees long term benefits of cryptocurrencies.

8. ZERO EMISSIONS PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT

The first major zero emissions UK property development is to be built in London. Developer Native Land will be creating the new Bankside Yard neighbourhood in London’s South Bank. The development will host over 700 apartments, 350,000 and 50,000 Square ft. of offices and amenities respectively. In total the development will be worth over £2.5 billion. Crucially, this development will be built without fossil fuels in its operations and will be carbon neutral. Bankside Yard will have an all-electric energy network and will use heat pumps and “high-efficiency building services systems”. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

9. BURGER OWNER PLOTS SALE

Burger King UK’s owner, Bridgepoint Group, is reportedly looking to sell the chain for £500 million. The plans are in the preliminary stage and discussions are ongoing with investment banks. Any sale would be likely to take place in 2022.

Bridgepoint foresees a rapid recovery in sales over the next 12 months as the world returns to normality. At the start of lockdown, it said it would not pay rent at its sites. Like many fast-food chains however, it weathered lockdowns relatively well due to partnerships with Deliveroo, JustEat and UberEats. Furthermore, its drive thru stores provided steady revenue when lockdown restrictions began to ease. The group is now eyeing further expansions. Burger King UK owns around 150 outlets and is buying more franchisee sites recently launched its IPO and was valued at $3.9 billion.

10. WPP DROPS OUT OF FACEBOOK CONTRACT

WPP, which currently handles Facebook’s lucrative media planning and buying account, has pulled out of the social media’s agency review. Communications and PR giant, WPP, has pulled out of Facebook’s agency review. WPP’s media subdivision, GroupM, had a mandate for Facebook’s media planning and ad purchasing for the entire company. They have held this lucrative contract for 7 years and control $1 billion of ad spending. Facebook had sought to introduce greater liability for agencies in the ad-purchasing process. Due to this, GroupM decided not to compete to retain the contract.

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