There will be no top 10 until 2023. Thank you for all your support this year and we hope you a great festive period!

The week’s news included; Microsoft buys LSE stake, JD sells 15 brands to Frasers Group, TikTok facing ban in the US, CMA investigates antibiotics price hikes amid Strep A outbreak.

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: 

  • BBC News – US-China chip war: How the technology dispute is playing out  
  • City A.M – 2022: The year the UK economy soured
  • CNBC – Here’s what America’s top CEOs are saying about a possible recession in 2023 
  • BBC News – Will slowing price rises stop rows over pay? 

1. HARBOUR ENERGY REVIEWS UK INVESTMENT

The UK’s largest oil and gas producer, Harbour Energy, has said it will not bid for a new exploration licence due to the new windfall tax. This is the first new oil and gas exploration licensing round since 2020. Harbour Energy said that the extension of the windfall tax has led them to review their investment levels. The Energy Profits Levy will see oil and gas producers pay 35% tax in addition to their special tax rate of 40% until 2028.  The whole oil and gas industry has expressed their dissatisfaction with the new levy. Shell, BP and Total Energies have all reviewed their investment plans. The government has no plans to U-turn on the levy but the pressure is certainly mounting. 

2. MICROSOFT BUYS LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE STAKE

Microsoft is buying a 4% stake in the London Stock Exchange and will gain a seat on the board. The deal forms part of a wider collaboration on cloud computing and data analytics. A consortium consisting of investment management behemoth Blackstone and media company Thomas Reuters will sell the stake to Microsoft. The consortium has been on a selling spree after selling data company Refinitiv to LSEG for £22 billion last year.

LSEG runs the FTSE 100 stock index which tracks the top 100 most valuable companies listed on its exchange. The London Stock Exchange has been stagnating post-Brexit as investors navigate the new normal. Listings on the exchange accounted for 9% of Europe’s $20.9 billion of cash raised, the lowest percentage since the 2008 crisis. London is no doubt still the most prestigious market in Europe but LSEG will hope the Microsoft deal can bolster its services and boost listings.

3. JD SELLS BRANDS TO FRASER GROUP 

JD Sports has sold 15 brands from its portfolio to Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group. The deal will see brands such as Pretty Green and Tessuiti offloaded to Frasers Group for £47.5 million. JD has said the sale of these non-core brands will allow it to focus on other priorities. The retailer is keen to expand its international and digital offerings and the proceeds of the sale will provide a welcome warchest.

JD is under new leadership after Peter Cowgill left the firm in May. The retailer was fined £4 million for breaching competition rules with its planned merger with Footasylum.

Frasers Group, on the other hand, just keeps adding to its high street retail empire. Its portfolio already includes House of Fraser, GAME, HMV, Missguided and Jack Wills. Finance director Chris Wootton says he expects more deals over the coming months.

4. APPLE TO ALLOW COMPETITOR APP STORES

Apple is reportedly planning to allow competitor app stores on iPhone and iPad across the EU. This comes ahead of the new Digital Markets Act (DMA) which will radically change the competition rules for tech giants in Europe. App developers have long complained that Apple’s dominance has left them subject to unfair terms. Soon, new marketplaces may be available on iOS giving developers a lot more choice. Apple is still considering the proposals under the DMA and while it will reportedly open up to other app stores, it may resist other elements. The EU will begin enforcing the DMA in mid-2024.

5. UK INTEREST RATES

The Bank of England has raised rates yet again to their highest level since 2008. Interest rates rose from 3% to 3.5% last week. The increases are designed to stem inflation which fell to 10.7% last month. Economists believe we have reached the peak of inflation and we should see a sharp decrease in 2023, failing any other major economic shocks. Still, inflation is well above the Bank of England’s target of 2% so we are unlikely to see interest rates drop for some time. For homeowners and buyers this creates greater costs, compounding the energy price and wider cost of living crisis. BBC News looks at the wider economic picture.

6. TIKTOK FACING US BAN

TikTok is facing a nationwide ban in the US. A new bill has been proposed which would block and prohibit all transactions from any social media company in, or under the influence of, China, Russia, and “other foreign countries of concern”. TikTok, owned by Chinese giant ByteDance, would fall under this category. There is a concern that TikTok is a threat to national security given the risk of influence from the Chinese government. India banned TikTok in 2020 over security concerns. Critics however, don’t believe a ban will do much to protect national security.

TikTok has found itself in controversy now under two Presidents. In 2020, Trump wanted TikTok’s US arm to be US-owned and faced a total ban when this did not occur. The ban never came into force and the executive order was revoked by President Biden. Now, the debate has been reignited and the app’s US presence is in jeopardy.

7. MAZARS HALTS CRYPTO WORK

Auditor Mazars has temporarily paused all of its proof of reserve work with cryptocurrency firms. Major exchanges including crypto.com, KuCoin and Binance are affected. Following the collapse of FTX crypto firms scrambled to assure investors that they were sufficiently liquid and issued proof of reserves reports to prove this. Mazars provides proof of reserves services for cryptocurrency firms. This confirms that the company has the asset reserves it claims to have. It is not however, an official audit opinion or an official assurance. Mazars believes these proof of work reports could be misunderstood by the public, hence why it decided to pause this service. No announcements have been as to when or if they will restart the service. Check out our article exploring the FTX collapse

8. STREP A ANTIBIOTICS INVESTIGATION 

The UK Competition and Markets Authority has begun investigating the rapid rise in the price of antibiotics following an outbreak of Strep A in the UK. Strep A (Group A Streptococcus) is a bacterial infection that commonly presents flu-like symptoms along with a rash and is potentially fatal. At least 19 children have died across the UK in the latest outbreak and many more infections have been recorded in schools. 

This outbreak has led to a shortage of antibiotics along with meteoric price rises. The Department of Health issued a medical supply notification last week, noting there may be limited supply. In some pharmacies, the prices have risen by 850%, costing as much as £19 per box. Pharmacies are blaming the drug makers for raising prices and the CMA is now looking into it. They reminded companies that it is illegal for them to abuse their market positions by charging excessive prices. 

9. UK STRIKES 

Rail strike went ahead last week as RMT union members rejected Network Rail’s latest pay offer. A pay increase of 5% this year and 4% in 2023 was offered as its best and final offer. Along with this, 1900 jobs would be cut and significant changes to working practices. The deal was rejected by 63.6% of members. More strikes are planned for 3,4, 6 and 7 January 2023. RMT Union leader Mick Lynch is confident however, that a deal can be reached soon.

Nurses and health workers also went on strike last week with more scheduled for this coming week. Even workers at luxury automaker Rolls-Royce threatened to go on strike. This was averted through a 10% pay increase and a £2000 bonus pay out. For the first time, Amazon workers in the UK will also go on strike in a dispute over pay. Workers have rejected the offered 3% pay increase and seek a £15 per hour minimum wage.

10. NETFLIX ADS PLAN TEETHING PAINS 

Netflix suffered a 9% drop in share price after its new ads based subscription plan faces teething problems. A report by Digiday found that Netflix is not meeting its promises to advertisers regarding viewer numbers. Only around 80% of the anticipated audience are tuning in on the ads plan. Advertisers can now recoup some money if viewer targets are  missed. This spooked investors and led to the largest intraday drop in Netflix’s share price since April. Netflix’s share price is already 50% down since the start of 2022.