Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 02/05/2022

The week’s news included; Chelsea takeover deal agreed, Interest rates hiked for fourth consecutive BoE meeting, Musk secures $7.1bn in investor pledges to fund Twitter takeover bid.

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: 

  • Music Business Worldwide – Is TikTok (or Bytedance) slowly morphing into a record company?
  • Law Careers.Net – All in good faith: where does the law stand on acting in good faith?
  • City A.M – Forget a windfall tax, our pension funds need to give up their fossil fuel addiction
  • BBC News – Newport: Can an Instagram-able market save a city centre?

1. CHELSEA TAKEOVER DEAL AGREED

A consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner, Todd Boehly, has agreed to buy Chelsea Football Club for £4.25 billion. The consortium will also include US private equity firm Clearlake Capital, LA Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter and Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss. This deal will bring an end to 19 years of ownership by Roman Abramovich which was marred by the UK’s recent sanctions regime. Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government due to his links to Vladmir Putin and Chelsea then became a frozen asset. The club was given a special licence to continue operating until 31 May by which time a sale of the club to a new owner must be completed. 

Chelsea’s new owners will pay £2.5 billion for the club’s shares. They have agreed not to sell their holdings until 2032 and will invest £1.75 billion in the club’s stadium, academy and women’s team. The deal now requires approval from English football bodies and the UK government. All directors and shareholders owning over 30% of the club will need to undergo the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test. 

Todd Boehly is an investor and sports business magnate. He part owns the LA Dodgers baseball team along with LA Sparks women’s basketball team and he holds a stake in the LA Lakers NBA team. Boehly is worth an estimated $4.5 billion. 

2. EU TO BAN RUSSIA OIL IMPORTS

The EU has proposed to ban all imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022 and remove Russia’s largest bank from the SWIFT payments messaging network. As discussed last week, Russia’s energy export revenue has doubled since the outset of the war in Ukraine. Most of this revenue derives from the EU. Putin holds significant leverage and has been blackmailing countries to evade sanctions and pay in Rubles or see its gas supply turned off. Now, the EU is looking to end its reliance on Russian energy. Hungary however, has rejected proposals to end imports by the end of the year. It said it would need more time to phase out Russian oil given the risk of a severe economic shock. The EU has reportedly offered Hungary an extended transition period.

Under the plans announced last week, Sberbank is set to be removed from SWIFT. The Swift messaging system underpins global financial markets and allows banks to make quick and secure cross border payments. 

3. INTEREST RATE HIKES 

The Bank of England has raised interest rates for the fourth consecutive meeting. UK interest rates now sit at 1%, the highest rate since 2009. In the US, The Federal Reserve raised rates to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the biggest rate increase in 22 years. Central banks across the world are hoping that raising rates will dampen the rate of inflation which is spiralling out of control. Inflation in the UK is predicted to hit a staggering 10% by the end of 2022 as energy use increases and households feel the pinch of the energy price cap hike. 

The Bank of England also issued a stark warning of an impending recession. The war in Ukraine along with restricted consumer budgets is expected to bring about a 0.25% contraction in the UK economy in 2023. This recession will be somewhat self-inflicted as raising rates will further curtail consumer spending thus weakening the economy. This is considered a necessary evil however, to prevent the price of goods and services spiralling to unaffordable levels. 2022 was predicted to be an economically challenging year for consumers due to rising energy prices and tax increases. The war in Ukraine has added an unforeseen challenge, affecting energy prices as well as creating global shortages of key products like sunflower oil and fertiliser. The cost of living crisis appears to be getting a lot more challenging.

4. CD&R OFFERS TO SELL OFF PETROL STATIONS

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) have offered to sell off 87 petrol station forecourts in order to push its £7 billion takeover of Morrisons through. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that the deal could lead to higher petrol prices and reduced competition. CD&R owns the UK’s largest independent petrol station operator, Motor Fuel Group. Motor Fuel Group runs 921 forecourts while Morrisons operates 339. The CMA found 121 areas of concern where Motor Fuel Group operates near a Morrisons forecourt. Now, CD&R has offered to sell off 87 Motor Fuel Group sites in an attempt to avoid a full investigation into the deal. A full investigation could take over six months to complete. Morrisons the UK’s fourth largest supermarket. It currently employs 120,000 staff and turned over £17.6 billion last year. 

5. BINANCE SECURES FRANCE APPROVAL

France has become the first major European country to grant cryptocurrency exchange Binance regulatory approval. France’s AMF approved Binance as a digital asset service provider allowing it to lawfully provide trading and custody services. The cryptocurrency exchange currently has no official headquarters but it will now seek to set Paris as its global base. Binance is one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platforms  and handles $14 billion of spot trades every single day. Binance also has regulatory approval in Lithuania and is close to approval in Sweden. Regulators are keen to create a safe environment for crypto traders and introducing new rules and requirements for market participants. The UK government has recently expressed its desire to turn the UK into a global crypto hub. These developments clearly indicate a mainstream interest and acceptance of the potential of cryptocurrencies.

6. MUSK SECURES BACKERS FOR TWITTER TAKEOVER

Elon Musk has secured 19 new investors to back his $44 billion takeover of Twitter. Investors have committed $7.1 billion to go towards the bid. Musk’s friend and Oracle co-founder, Larry Ellison committed $1 billion. Crypto Exchange Binance, committed $500 million while Dubai based Vy Capital firm committed $800 million. 

Despite all these commitments, there is still scepticism whether this deal will go through. Alongside the pledges, Musk has sold $8.5 billion in Tesla shares and has obtained a $13 billion loan secured against his Tesla holdings.This still leaves a significant amount of the $44 billion unaccounted for. Many analysts believe the financing could prove a stumbling block. With Musk needing just $1 billion to pull out of the deal, there is a strong chance the deal could fall through.   

Musk’s takeover is focused on improving transparency and reducing moderation. He has also suggested introducing a small fee for business and political users. No firm commitments have been made. 

7. M&A ACTIVITY 

The value of merger and acquisition (M&A) deals globally fell more than 20% in Q1 of 2022 compared to the previous quarter. The war in Ukraine along with other inflationary pressures have weakened appetites for M&A as businesses tread more cautiously. Globally, M&A transactions hit a total of $725 billion for the quarter. The end of 2021 saw increased optimism and consolidation as the world slowly came out of the depths of the pandemic. M&A activity has since dwindled but analysts are uncertain of an immediate bounce back later in 2022 given the challenging global economic and political climate. The tech sector has been leading the way in M&A however, with some huge deals agreed so far this year. Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion while Take-Two bought Zynga for $12.7 billion. 

8. MCCOLL’S FALLS INTO ADMINISTRATION

Convenience store McColl’s fell into administration last week after it failed to secure funding to stay afloat. EG Group owned by the Issa Brothers, new co-owners of Asda, are reportedly planning a takeover bid for the struggling chain. McColl’s has been struggling since the pandemic as demand dipped. The chain shut down 179 stores in 2020 and raised £30 million from shareholders last year for investments. It is sitting on a huge £170 million debt pile which has taken its toll on the business. Lenders rejected a proposed rescue deal from Morrisons and the firm was put into administration. PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP has been appointed as administrators. McColl’s runs 1100 stores and employs 16,000 people. It is hoped that EG Group can successfully rescue the firm. 

9. AMAZON TARGETS FAKE REVIEWERS

Amazon is threatening legal action against four fake review websites. The sites allegedly have 350,000 reviewers on their platform and Amazon claims they fill its platform with fake reviews. Reviewers are given free products and a fee by these “broker” websites for writing reviewers and these websites in turn charge Amazon sellers for boosting their ratings. Many of these reviews however, are fake. Amazon is now keen to crack down on this practice. The tech giant claims it prevented 200 million fake reviews from being published in 2020. Given these broker websites communicate with reviewers and sellers outside of Amazon’s ecosystem, tracking them becomes difficult. Amazon has identified four firms and has threatened legal action against all of them. One of these firms, Matronex, has ceased trading following Amazon’s warning.  This comes ahead of new plans to make writing or paying for fake reviews illegal in the UK. Check out our previous top 10 for more information. 

10. SHELL PROFITS

Shell has reported its highest ever quarterly profits, raking in $9.13 billion in the Q1 alone. This is nearly triple the profits it generated in the same period last year. The energy giant is benefiting from the rapid rise in oil and gas prices. Shell noted however, it took a $3.9 billion hit from ending all its business in Russia due to the war in Ukraine. The war is, however, a huge factor in causing this rapid increase in energy prices. Global supplies have been disrupted and with EU leaders calling for a complete ban on Russian oil, there is likely to be even more disruption over the coming year. Shell has said it will invest $25 billion over the next 10 years, primarily in green technology. 

The UK Labour party have recognised this bumper period and are calling on the government to introduce a windfall tax. This would see a one-off tax levied on the largest energy firms to boost the Treasury’s income. The government has, however, rejected these plans to date.  

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