The week’s news included; UK non-competes to be limited to 3 months, Ryanair pens $40bn new aircraft deal, Goldman settles gender discrimination lawsuit for $215m, Adidas to sell Yeezy’s to avoid €1.2bn loss.
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. – Why you should never, ever bet against UK house prices.
- BBC News – Is the UK too late to beat the US in the global trade war?
- Sky News – Should I buy now or wait? Will there be a crash? Advice for renters
1. US DEBT CEILING
The US government could soon run out of cash unless Congress can agree to raise its debt ceiling. This could potentially cause a global financial crisis as if the US defaults on its debt then this would create a devastating domino effect.
The US has set itself a $31.4 trillion cap on the amount of money the government can borrow to fund its expenditure. When this limit is reached, Congress must agree to raise the “debt ceiling”, allowing it to borrow more money to pay its bills. This money goes towards paying for its military, education, Medicare and key federal services. Without this, federal employees will not be paid, government agencies would shut down and the US would default on debt payments.
Raising the debt ceiling is as much a political decision as it is economic. Republicans would be agreeing to pay for Biden’s proposals such as student loan forgiveness and tax incentives. They believe that borrowing to spend on many of the Democrats’ proposals is irresponsible. There is now disagreement over what to include and exclude and how high to raise the ceiling.
A deal must be reached to raise the ceiling before 1 June to avoid a default. The US has never failed to raise the debt ceiling in time and it is unlikely that an agreement will not be reached. Given the potential catastrophe that would occur if an agreement isn’t reached however, markets are understandably concerned. In 2011, a deal was reached just hours before the deadline but the delay saw the US’s credit rating decline. A similar situation or worse could occur if no agreement is reached.
2. UK NON-COMPETE CLAUSES
The UK government has announced plans to limit employment non-compete clauses to a maximum of just three months. It is hoped that reducing these restrictive covenants will improve competition between employers and allow workers to get better paying roles. Non-compete clauses prevent ex-employees from joining a competitor for a specified period of time. This period of time can be of any length as long as the employer can prove it is reasonably necessary to protect business interests. In some sensitive industries this can be up to 5 years. Now, the government seeks to make the maximum length just three months. The new legislation on non-compete clauses will not affect non-solicitation or confidentiality clauses. Non-solicitation clauses prevent ex-employees from poaching clients and can be implemented as far as necessary to protect legitimate business interest.
This forms part of a wider government plan to scrap many EU laws at the end of 2023. The government stopped short of introducing a “Sunset Clause” which would have seen EU laws which were not included in the Retained EU Law Bill scrapped. Campaigners argued that important laws could be overlooked and unforeseen legal loopholes could arise. This “Brexit bonfire” is designed to deregulate the economy and make it more competitive.
3. RYANAIR PENS RECORD $40BN DEAL
Budget airline Ryanair has penned a record deal with Boeing to buy 300 new planes worth $40 billion. 150 new 737 Max 10 aircraft will be delivered and Ryanair will have an option to receive 150 more between 2027 and 2033. The 737 Max 10 has 20% more seats (228 in total), is 20% more fuel efficient and 50% quieter than Ryanair’s current planes. The deal is expected to create 10,000 new jobs and increase its capacity to 300 million passengers per year by March 2034. By comparison, Ryanair served roughly half that number, 168 million, in the year to March 2023. This deal marks an end to a long running dispute between Boeing and Ryanair over pricing of the new aircraft. The exact amount to be paid by Ryanair has not been disclosed. Given the size of the order, Ryanair would have paid less than the $40 billion listed price for the aircraft.
4. GOLDMAN SACHS SETTLES US CLAIMS
Goldman Sachs has agreed to pay $215 million in the US to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit. The investment bank is accused of offering female staff up to 20% lower pay and fewer opportunities than their male counterparts. The lawsuit involved 2800 claims from US female staff members. The case had been ongoing since 2010 and was due to go to trial in June. Goldman has now agreed to settle and will compensate the claimants. Some staff who worked for the bank as far back as 2002 may be eligible to receive compensation. Goldman Sachs has said it is now reviewing its pay patterns and paths to leadership positions. The bank aims to ensure 40% of its vice presidents are women by 2025, up from 29% currently.
5. ADIDAS TO SELL YEEZY STOCK
Adidas has announced that it will sell some of its Yeezy merchandise to avoid incurring heavy losses due to its collapsed partnership with Kanye West. The sportswear retailer was facing a €1.2 billion loss if it did not sell the products. The company is facing its first loss in 30 years as a result of this debacle. Shareholders are also suing the company over its failures regarding the partnership. Now, Adidas will sell some products and give some proceeds to charity. The details on how much will be sold or donated have not yet been disclosed. Adidas cut ties with Kanye West in October last year following a series of controversial rants by the rapper and entrepreneur. West will still be entitled to 15% of the turnover if the goods are sold.
6. SOFTBANK VISION FUND LOSS
SoftBank’s Vision Fund has posted a staggered $33 billion loss for 2022. The Japanese investment bank’s fund holds significant stakes in major startups such as Arm, Klarna and ByteDance. Tech stocks have been hammered over the past year as rising global inflation hits consumer demand. This has caused trouble for the Vision Fund and led to the 4.3 trillion Japanese yen ($32 billion) loss for its financial year ending March 31 2023. SoftBank had foreseen problems last year and had entered “defence mode” selling off holdings and choosing new investments more carefully. In August, it sold off all its remaining holdings of Uber. SoftBank Group turned over $55.372 billion last year.
7. BANK OF ENGLAND RAISES RATES
The Bank of England has raised interest rates for the twelfth consecutive meeting. Interest rates now sit at 4.5% up from 4.25%. Unfortunately, inflation is not budging and remains above 10%, well above the Bank’s target rate of 2%. The Bank has not given any indication that the rate rises will stop. Despite this, economic growth remains near 0%. Although the UK is expected to avoid falling into recession this year, there is still concerns about the rapid rise in rates could further squeeze households.
8. DEPOSIT FREE MORTGAGES
Skipton Building Society has announced that it will launch deposit-free mortgages to help renters get on the housing ladder. Many prospective buyers complain they are rejected for mortgages on affordability grounds yet the rent they currently pay is more than the proposed monthly mortgage repayments. Skipton’s product addresses this directly. Renters who can show 12 months of on-time rental payments and a good credit history can get approved without a guarantor. Interest rates on these products sit at 5.49%, higher than the 5% rate on their other products.
The Bank of England has warned both lenders and customers to be careful of these 100% mortgages. This is primarily because the repayments are so high and people often end up stuck with mortgages that they can’t get out from. While many have welcomed the move, many highlight the lack of affordable properties as the main obstacles to first time buyers. Skipton is the UKs fourth largest building society with one million customers.
9. DISNEY DROP IN SUBSCRIBERS
Disney’s magic spell in the streaming sector is wearing off as its service lost 4 million subscribers last quarter. The company’s streaming service, Disney+, also posted a $400 million operational loss for the quarter. The drop in subscriber numbers came as a surprise as analysts expected subscribers to increase by 1 million. This spooked the markets as shares in Disney fell by 9% in response to the news. This amounted to a $15 billion drop in Disney’s market value. Like many competitors Disney had also planned job cuts. The media giant is axing 7000 jobs.
Last week, Disney also unveiled plans to combine Disney+ and Hulu streaming services in the US. Content from both platforms will be available within one app.. Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ will also continue to be available as separate platforms. The cost of the combined platform has not been disclosed. Hulu is jointly owned by Disney and NBCUniversal. It is known for television shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale.
10. ASOS LOSS
Asos reported a £87.4 million loss in the six months to the end of February. The fashion retailer blamed poor sales and a significant restructuring last October which saw excess stock sold at huge discounts. This loss compares to a £14.8 million profit in the same period last year. Sales in the UK and US dropped by 10% and 7% in the period respectively. Sales across the rest of the world also tumbled by 12%. The cost of living crisis is putting a strain on household budgets and retailers across multiple sectors are seeing reduced revenues. Asos has said however, that it is confident that it would return to profitability in the next half of the year.