The week’s news included; Digital Services Act comes into force, Microsoft – Activision merger bid gets resubmitted, Subway sold to Dunkin Donut owner, Wilko receives last minute rescue bids.
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. – Mass tech layoffs appear to be over – so when will the hiring start again?
- CNBC – Today’s top AI firms may not be the best long-term investments.
- BBC News – How robotaxis are dividing San Francisco
- City A.M. – The CMA’s hardball approach to the Microsoft deal paid off -but EU gamers will be left out
1. DSA COMES INTO FORCE
The Digital Services Act (DSA) has come into effect, bringing in new strict rules for big tech firms that operate within the EU. Large social media platforms and search engines with over 45 million users now face significant new obligations. These obligations include preventing election interference, removing illegal content, and introducing stronger safeguards for children. Algorithms that determine what content is shown to users must now be shared with regulators. Targeted advertising based on profiling children is now banned. The rules and many more are now in force for these very large firms.
All firms have taken action to comply with the DSA. TikTok and Meta for example, both said over 1000 people respectively worked on DSA compliance within their companies. This was done for good reason too. Breaches of the rules could see huge fines of up to 6% of turnover. For example, a fine for Amazon could be over $30 billion. Smaller companies have until next year to implement their required changes.
The nineteen very large platforms named are Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon Store, the Apple App Store, Booking.com, Facebook, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), Wikipedia, YouTube and Zalando. Search engines Google and Bing. The UK’s Online Safety Bill is still making its way through Parliament.
2. MICROSOFT – ACTIVISION BLIZZARD MERGER
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has blocked Microsoft’s attempt to buy Activision Blizzard but Microsoft has submitted a new bid. The CMA blocked the deal on the grounds that it would harm competition in the cloud gaming sector. Microsoft swiftly submitted a revised bid that was “substantially different”. The new bid will see streaming rights for Activision cloud games transferred to game publisher Ubisoft for 15 years. This means Microsoft would not have exclusive control over Activision Blizzard’s cloud games and instead would share control with Ubisoft. Microsoft believes this deal should be approved. Although US regulators are trying to block the deal, US courts have rejected their arguments thus far. The UK remains the last major hurdle for the deal. The CMA will review the revised offer by 18 October.
3. BRICS SUMMIT
Last week was the 15th BRICS conference. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South African leaders convened to discuss plans for growth and investment. BRICS are a group of fast growing nations who now cooperate to boost political and economic development. It is seen as a counter to the G7 of advanced economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA and the UK)
Last week saw two key developments. Firstly, 6 countries have been invited to join BRICS. Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will become new members of the bloc. The enlarged group will account for 46.5% of the world population and 32% of global GDP. Secondly, discussions were had over the introduction of a new BRICS currency. BRICS already has a bank, the New Development Bank that could issue the currency. Our new article explores the implications of the BRICS summit.
4. SUBWAY SOLD TO DUNKIN DONUTS OWNER
Subway has been bought by private equity firm Roark Capital for $9 billion. The sandwich chain had been looking for a buyer for months. Although it felt the pinch of rising inflation, the company posted strong half-year sales for 2023, up 9.8% from 2022. Roark also owns US chains Dunkin Donuts, Arby’s and Baskin-Robbins. This deal makes it one of the world’s largest restaurant owners. Subway’s management were pleased with the deal given Roark’s expertise in the restaurant field.
5. WILKO STRUGGLING TO FIND BUYER
Wilko could close the majority of stores as it struggles to find a buyer. Parts of the business could still be saved as talks are ongoing. There is a £90 million offer from private equity firm M2 Capital and it has pledged to retain all employees’ jobs for two years. Administrators are considering the offer amongst others. The owner of HMV, Sunrise Records, is also in the running to rescue part of Wilko.
For now, stores will remain open but Wilko’s administrators say that unless a satisfactory deal is found it is likely there will be redundancies and store closures. The GMB Union that represents Wilko workers expects “significant job losses” and notes that the “devil is in the detail” regarding the received offers. Wilko has 400 stores and employs 12,500 people in the UK.
6. SPACE X SUED FOR DISCRIMINATION
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has said it is suing Elon Musk’s SpaceX over discrimination allegations. The space exploration firm is accused of discriminating against refugees and asylum seekers in its recruitment process. SpaceX claimed in its recruitment criteria that it cannot hire non-US citizens or non-green card holders due to “export control laws”. This is materially false and the DoJ says no such restrictions apply. Now, the DoJ is suing SpaceX saying their policy discriminates against refugees and asylum seekers who have the legal right to work in the US. The DoJ is seeking back pay for those who were wrongly denied work at the company.
7. MORGAN STANLEY £5.4M FOR COMMS RECORDING FAILURE
Morgan Stanley has been fined £5.4 million by the UK’s energy regulator for failing to record and retain communications between traders. The US investment bank failed to monitor communications between traders regarding energy market transactions between 2018 and 2020. This breached both regulations and its own internal policies. Communications regarding transactions at financial services firms must be recorded in order to prevent market abuse and retain information about business. Many discussions at Morgan Stanley were held over WhatsApp, which was an unmonitored platform.
Typically, financial services regulators like the FCA would issue such fines. Given the transactions and discussions in question were related to energy markets, Ofgem had the power to issue a fine. Morgan Stanley settled and cooperated with the investigation and got a 30% discount as a result.
8. ARM FILES FOR NASDAQ LISTING
UK tech giant Arm has filed to list on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. The chipmaker could be valued at up to $70 billion. Although Arm is a UK company, it snubbed a UK listing in favour of the US. This spurred the UK listing authority to relax rules in order to prevent other giants being lured away from a London listing (see previous top 10).
Arm is currently owned by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank. This listing comes just 7 years after SoftBank took Arm private in a $32 billion deal. SoftBank had even sought to offload Arm to Nvidia for $40 billion last year but competition regulators shut down any prospect of this.
Arm is dubbed the crown jewel of British tech. It produces and licences key electronic and chip components that are found in 99% of all smartphones. It is a key supplier for Apple and Qualcomm and turned over $2.68 billion last year.
9. SFO DROPS CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST MINING FIRMS
The Serious Fraud Office has dropped its corruption charges against two mining giants. Rio Tinto and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) were both probed over allegations of bribery. The SFOs investigation into Rio Tinto launched in 2017 and was over its involvement in corruption in the Republic of Guinea. Last week however, the SFO said that it was not in the public interest to proceed with a UK prosecution and closed the case.
In ENRC’s case, they were accused of bribery to secure mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not only did ENRC deny the allegations, they sued the SFO for misfeasance in public office and inducing breach of contract. Last week, the SFO said all lines of enquiry had been exhausted and there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
10. PIZZA HUT ON THE BRINK
The UK arm of Pizza Hut is facing collapse following weak sales and a mounting debt pile. Pizza Hut’s auditor PwC warned that there is uncertainty over the ability of the business to continue operating. The chain is sitting on a £73 million debt pile and with rising interest rates, it is struggling to meet its obligations. Pizza Hut posted two consecutive annual losses with a £16.5 million loss last year. Pizza Hut has more than 12,000 UK staff.