Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 18/10/2021

The week’s news included; Facebook launches its digital wallet and announces plans to rebrand for its “metaverse” project, Deutsche Bank whisteblower awarded record $200m, WeWork finally goes public, Klarna takes action ahead of crackdown.

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. – Streaming has changed the music industry, now artists need to be paid a fair sum
  • BBC News – Will Apple be the last US tech giant left in China?
  • City A.M – Opinion-in-brief: Zuckerberg’s rebrand could give Facebook a new lease of life
  • Sky News – What do businesses want out of Rishi Sunak’s budget?

1. FACEBOOK

Facebook is planning to rebrand and hire 10,000 new EU workers as it revealed its ambition to build the “metaverse”. The metaverse is a digital world where people can interact in a 3D environment. For example, Facebook revealed an app where people can hold meetings in virtual reality. The tech giant will be hiring engineers across Europe over the next five years. In order to reflect its new push into metaverse development, Facebook will change its name later this month.

Last week, Facebook also launched its digital wallet, Novi. The pilot programme has been launched in the US and Guatemala and will allow users to send and receive currency instantly with no fees. The wallet will, however, only hold the Paxos stablecoin, not Facebook’s controversial Diem coin. Diem, formerly named Libra, was Facebook’s own cryptocurrency backed by major partners, but it was plagued by problems from the start. Major partners such as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard quickly pulled out while governments expressed strong opposition. Libra was rebranded as Diem to distance itself from Facebook and the group will seek to limit the ambition of the project. Currently, Diem is still facing regulatory hurdles and has not launched.

Facebook was also slapped with a £50 million fine for failing to cooperate with the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA launched an investigation in Facebook’s £400 million purchase of Giphy. he regulator provisionally found that the merger harms competition between social media platforms and could limit the quality and choice of GIF images on other social media platforms. Now, Facebook has been “consciously refusing” to provide information to the regulator required by the CMA’s enforcement order. Facebook argues it complied with all requirements and will review its options.

2. DEUTSCHE BANK WHISTLEBLOWER PAID $200M

A former Deutsche Bank employee who blew the whistle on LIBOR manipulation has been awarded a record $200 million. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued the award last week for providing key information and documents in 2012 on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) manipulation. Banks and traders colluded to fix the rates at which they lend to each other. Regulators ultimately fined Deutsche Bank a whopping $2.5 billion and traders faced criminal charges over the conduct. This $200 million award is the largest amount ever issued to a whistleblower by any US regulators.

3. WEWORK GOES PUBLIC

Two years after its catastrophic IPO failure, WeWork has gone public via a SPAC merger. WeWork shares rose by as much as 13% on the listing and was valued at $9 billion through the SPAC merger. The merger was agreed in March this year and was finalised last week.

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.

4. CREDIT SUISSE FINED £147M OVER TUNA SCANDAL

Credit Suisse has been fined £147million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) over its involvement in Mozambique’s tuna fishing corruption scandal. In 2013, the investment bank had helped arrange $1.3 billion in loans and raised $500 million in Mozambique government bonds for a state-owned tuna fishing company. Around $137 million of the funds went missing and it transpired Credit Suisse received $50 million in kickbacks over 4 years in return for favourable loan rates. The company defaulted and the situation spiralled into an economic crisis in Mozambique.

Regulators found that the investment bank had failed to manage the risk of financial crime Credit Suisse has agreed a $475 million settlement with UK, Swiss and US regulators. The UK FCA has issued a $200 million (£147 million) fine while the US Department of Justice issued a $275 million fine. Furthermore, Credit Suisse will forgive a $200 million loan that Mozambique owes it. Credit Suisse will now be under intense monitoring from regulators.

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse was involved in the dramatic Archegos Capital collapse and lost a whopping $5.5 billion. Check out our article explaining one of the wildest collapses in recent months.

5. MORRISONS TAKEOVER APPROVED

Morrisons shareholders have formally accepted private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R)’s £7 billion takeover bid. 99.2% of shareholders voted in favour of the bid. Morrisons found itself at the centre of a bidding war between CD&R and its rival Fortress Investment Group. Its valuation was a mere £4.3 billion in June. After multiple bids by both parties, regulators intervened and set up an auction to settle the matter. The bid was finalised in an auction where CD&R edged out its fellow US competitor. The deal is now expected to be completed on 27 October. Morrisons will delist from the London Stock Exchange. Morrisons is the UK’s fourth largest supermarket and turned over £17.6 billion last year.

6. VIRGIN & O2 LAUNCH POST-MERGER PRODUCT

Virgin Media O2 have launched their first post-merger product which will see boosted broadband and data allowances for customers. Customers on pay monthly mobile plans with Virgin or O2 will see their monthly data allowances double. Its new Volt service will provide customers who link a Virgin or O2 mobile plan with a broadband plan free roaming in 75 countries and access to WiFI pods which provide better home broadband coverage. Broadband customers will also see their speeds upgraded to the next available tier free of charge.

This marks a statement of intent by the newly formed £31 billion company. The company is keen to launch a serious offensive against BT & EE which currently sits at the top of the mobile & broadband food chain. Virgin Media O2’s latest move will undoubtedly increase competition and ultimately lead to cheaper deals for customers.

7. UK SCRAPS TECH TAX

The UK is scrapping its 2% tech tax after global tax reforms have been agreed. The government introduced the tax last year targeting tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google. These firms were accused of channelling profits made in the UK to low tax jurisdictions. The tax was successful and raised £300 million last year. It is also predicted to raise £400 million this financial year.

The new rules, agreed by 136 countries, will be introduced in 2023. This will see companies with profit margins above 10% reallocate 25% of profits over this threshold to the countries where they operate. These profits will then be taxed in each respective country accordingly. Furthermore, a global minimum of 15% will be introduced as agreed at a recent G7 summit. These tax reforms are certainly a landmark shift but whether it will see tech giants pay a “fairer share” of tax remains to be seen.

8. KLARNA ACTS AHEAD OF CRACKDOWN

Buy-now-pay-later company Klarna is reforming how it operates ahead of an anticipated crackdown later this month. Industry insiders have warned that FCA regulation governing the currently unregulated sector will be announced by the end of October. The £3 billion industry has come under scrutiny for failing to do adequate credit checks and can ultimately exploit vulnerable users and leave some with damaged credit ratings. Although there is no interest charged by buy-now-pay-later firms, the possibility of getting into huge debt remains.

Klarna is now introducing a “pay now” option to allow customers to pay off the debt in full. This will give customers more control and clarity. Klarna will also introduce more thorough credit checks to improve standards. Klarna is attempting to stay ahead of regulation with these changes and avoid any unwanted scrutiny.

9. TESCO OPENS CHECKOUT FREE STORE

The UK’s largest supermarket, Tesco, has launched its first checkout-free store. An existing branch in High Holborn was converted to allow customers to pick up groceries without using a checkout. Customers simply need to sign in the Tesco.com app then cameras and weight sensors will detect items they pick up and charge them automatically once they leave the store. Tesco’s checkout free system will be known as GetGo. This mirrors Amazon’s “Amazon Go” checkout free stores and Aldi’s new stores too.

10. TESLA PROFITS

Tesla has shrugged off the global microchip shortage and reported record high quarterly profits and sales. The automaker posted a huge $13.76 billion in revenue, up by around 60% from 2020. Tesla also posted $1.6 billion in net profit for quarter three. These figures smashed analysts’ predictions and the world’s most valuable carmaker is planning to ramp up its manufacturing capacity.  Its main Gigafactory in Shanghai will see a boost in its capacity along with factories in Texas and Berlin. Tesla predicts a 50% rise in annual car sales due to this production increase. A global microchip shortage has acutely affected automakers, but Tesla has managed to keep production high. Check out our article explaining the shortage in more detail.

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