The week’s news included; Wirecard forged fake client data to gain €900m Softbank investment, Morrison – McColl’s deal under investigation, Euro falls below the dollar, Netflix teams up with Microsoft for new ads subscription plan.
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:
- Legal Cheek – Has the Magic Circle lost its magic?
- City A.M. – Tax cuts won’t cut it; the new Tory leader must bring about innovation
- Music Business Worldwide – What will music streaming services look like in a Web3 world?
- CNBC – JPMorgan CEO Dimon sums up U.S. economy in one paragraph — and it sounds bad
1. WIRECARD FRAUD
German payment processing company Wirecard was found to have forged client data to secure €900 million in investment from SoftBank. This manipulation made Wirecard look more stable than it was before its spectacular collapse in 2020. SoftBank wanted to see Wirecard’s client data as part of its general due diligence after suspicions were raised in a Financial Times report. Wirecard initially refused to show anything but then fabricated client data to show Softbank in 2019. The list showed all operating profit and half of its revenue deriving from opaque Asian clients. Based on this, along with other assurances, SoftBank pumped €900 million into the company, and helped it raise another €500 million in debt. In 2020 however, a huge €1.9 billion black hole was found in its books and the company collapsed. Former executives have been arrested but deny wrongdoing.
2. CMA INVESTIGATES MORRISONS – MCCOLL’S DEAL
The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is launching an enquiry into Morrisons’ £190 million rescue of McColl’s. The CMA revealed that it has concerns that the deal could lead to a lessening of competition. McColl’s is already partnered with Morrisons and operates 200 Morrisons Daily shops. Bringing McColl’s entirely under Morrisons could bring less choice for consumers. The CMA ordered the two companies to remain separate until all enquiries were complete. The CMA has launched a formal investigation into the merger and will allow interested parties to express their views. Morrisons swooped in to rescue McColl’s out of administration in May, saving 1,100 shops and 16000 jobs. The CMA has until September 8 to provide its phase one decision.
3. HEATHROW PASSENGER CAP
Heathrow Airport has announced that it will impose a new cap on daily passengers and has asked airlines to stop selling summer tickets. The airport has set a limit of 100,000 daily passengers which started last week and will last until 11 September. This will see 4000 fewer daily passengers travel from Heathrow. Heathrow has been in turmoil as it faces staffing problems. It doesn’t have enough ground staff to cope with the significantly increased demand. This has led to late baggage, missing baggage and huge disruption to services. Heathrow recognises that airlines will have already sold excess tickets so more cancellations and travel disruption is inevitable.
Emirates airline has staunchly criticised Heathrow, calling the move “unreasonable and unacceptable”. The airline was given just 36 hours to cut passenger numbers and was threatened with legal action for not complying. It is a torrid time for travellers as airlines like BA and Ryanair are also dealing with strikes, compounding the problems and leading to thousands of cancellations.
4. EURO DOLLAR PARITY
The Euro has fallen below the dollar for the first time since 2002. One euro bought $0.998 last week as fears over the Ukraine crisis hammer the currency. There are concerns that Russia may cut off energy supplies for more European countries as it has done with Finland, Poland and Bulgaria. Russia has already cut down supplies to Europe by 60% and as winter approaches it could lead to a crisis. Another key factor in the currency decline is the European Central Bank’s slow move to raise interest rates. Its first interest rate rise came in June, well behind the UK and US who had been raising rates for months. The Euro is down nearly 12% against the dollar since 2022 alone. The weakening of the Euro means that imports will be more expensive at a time where inflation in the Eurozone already runs at 8.6%.
5. NETFLIX MICROSOFT PARTNERSHIP
Netflix will be teaming up with Microsoft to roll out its new subscription plan with adverts. Microsoft will become Netflix’s global advertising technology and sales partner. The deal will see advertisers on Microsoft’s platforms gain access to Netflix’s audience. Two weeks ago, Netflix confirmed that it would offer a new cheaper subscription plan that will contain adverts. Users will remain on their current plans but will have the option to move to the cheaper plan. Although prices for the plan have not been disclosed, in the UK it is expected to cost £5.99 per month. For Netflix, the deal with Microsoft brings the expertise of the tech giant allowing them to create an effective and profitable solution. For Microsoft, this gives marketers an additional incentive to advertise with Microsoft. Netflix’s push to introduce ads has stemmed from financial difficulties and declining user numbers.
6. UK ECONOMY
The UK economy enjoyed surprise growth in May, rising 0.5% over the month. This comes despite inflation rising 9.1% in May, meaning higher costs for businesses and consumers alike. Experts had anticipated negligible or no growth at all so the figures came as a welcome surprise. Every sector of the economy grew in the month but with inflation expected to hit 11% by the end of 2022, celebrations are muted. Interest rates are expected to rise again next month and the energy price cap will rise again in October. The core message of all candidates for the new UK Prime Minister is to restore economic growth. With all these inflationary pressures, whether significant growth can be achieved remains to be seen.
7. SAUDI PIF INVESTS IN ASTON MARTIN
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF has bought a 16.7% stake in luxury carmaker Aston Martin. This deal will make the Saudi Public Investment Fund the second largest shareholder in Aston Martin. PIF will usurp Mercedes for second-largest shareholder, as Mercedes will cut its stake to 9.7%. Aston Martin’s largest shareholder is the Yew Tree consortium.
Aston Martin has had a rough few years. In 2020 before the pandemic, Aston Martin sought emergency funding to stay afloat. By May, its share price had collapsed 98% just 2 years after its 2018 IPO. The carmaker was now seeking to raise £653 million to pay its debts and balance the books. Saudi Arabia’s investment will bring £78 million and £575 million will be brought in via a rights issue.
Aston Martin is best known as the car model of choice for the fictional character James Bond, featuring in all films. As of July 2022, Aston Martin had a market capitalization of $500 million. Shares in the luxury car maker rose 25% in response to the PIF investment news. Check out our article exploring how Saudi Arabia is remodelling itself.
8. BOOHOO CHARGES FOR RETURNS
Boohoo has announced that it will start charging customers £1.99 to return products. The fast fashion retailer is feeling the pinch of rising inflation, particularly regarding shipping costs. Many customers enjoyed the freedom of free returns, buying multiple items online to try on with the intention of returning most of them. This practice will become a lot more costly. Retailers such as Next, Uniqlo and Zara already charge for online returns. Boohoo experienced a steep drop in profits last year, falling 94% to £7.8 million. Although sales were up 14% to £2 billion, shipping and production costs also rose, eating profits.
The £1.99 fee for returns will be deducted from any refund amount. This fee would not apply for goods which are damaged or faulty. Boohoo owns a range of brands including Debenhams, NastyGal, PrettyLittleThing, Oasis, Warehouse and Karen Millen.
Amazon has announced that it will create 4000 new UK jobs, bringing its total UK workforce up to 75000. Last year, the tech giant opened four new warehouses and created 25000 jobs to keep with rising demand. Amazon is now one of the top ten private sector employers in the UK. The new roles will be in warehouses in Wakefield and Knowsley, for corporate work in London and Manchester and for technology in Edinburgh and Cambridge. 85000 SMEs sell on Amazon which support an estimated 250,000 jobs across the UK. Despite its huge beneficial investment, Amazon is facing investigation over anticompetitive practices and harming smaller competitors (see previous top 10).
10. BMW PAYWALL
BMW has launched a subscription model for hardware of its new cars. Drivers will be able to pay monthly or yearly for features such as a heated front seat of their car or adaptive suspension. In the UK, a heated front seat would cost £15 per month, £150 per year, £250 for three years or £350 for permanent fixtures.
There has been much criticism of BMW for this move given these features are present at the point of production. BMW then actively removes them to place them behind a paywall. These features are available as standard in most modern vehicles so customers see this move as a cash grab. The paywall will only be rolled out in a few markets including the UK, Germany and New Zealand. BMW has no plans to roll out the plan in countries like the US. The automaker has a much lower market share in the US than in markets such as the UK. BMW is one of the top five most popular brands in the UK as of 2022.