The week’s news included; HS2 northern leg scrapped, Musk sued by SEC over Twitter purchase, Easyjet owner sues UK band Easy Life over trademark infringement, Biden forgives $9bn in student loan debt.
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. – The age of new tech titans isn’t over and London should be the base for these firms
- BBC News – HS2: Why Rishi Sunak’s big gamble may not pay off
- City A.M. – Tough new US tech laws could open up a whole new UK market
- CNBC – The big AI and robotics concept that has attracted both Walmart and Softbank
1. HS2 NORTHERN LEG SCRAPPED
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that plans to build the northern leg of HS2 have been scrapped. The northern leg of the high speed railway was due to run from Birmingham to Manchester. The north eastern leg towards Leeds was scrapped in 2021. With costs spiralling out of control, the government shelved the plans. They promised to reinvest the £36 billion budgeted for HS2 into northern transport. Additional projects have already been announced. Using the HS2 funds the government will; build the Midlands rail hub, connecting 50 stations, upgrade the A1, the A2, the A5 and the M6, along with other transport investment.
Reactions to the news have been mixed. Some argue that this undermines the government pledge to “level up” the North. Conversely, others welcome the decision and say that better transport within and between northern cities would benefit the North more than a faster train between Birmingham and Manchester. BBC News looks closer at the situation.
2. AMAZON AND MICROSOFT FACING COMPETITION PROBE
Amazon and Microsoft have been hit by a competition probe in the UK over their dominance in the cloud computing space. Cloud computing refers to the storage of data online that can be accessed remotely. The sector is worth £7.5 billion a year in the UK. Ofcom, which regulates media, referred the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority. It expressed concern that businesses have limited options to switch cloud computing providers. Amazon and Microsoft together hold up to 80% of the market. Their nearest competitor Google holds around 10%. The CMA will now look into the issue. Both Amazon and Microsoft have said that they will cooperate with the regulator.
3. METRO BANK SHARES SUSPENDED
UK-based challenger bank Metro Bank saw its shares suspended from trading after falling by almost a third. Metro Bank announced last week that it needed to raise £600 million through bond and share sales. This is six times more than its market value of roughly £100 million. Furthermore, this is a far-cry from its peak value of £3.5 billion in 2018. Investors sold off Metro Bank stock in droves causing the bank’s share price to fall by 29%. The sell-off was so severe the London Stock Exchange’s automatic circuit breaker kicked in twice to suspend Metro Bank shares from trading. Metro Bank is short of cash but faces no immediate threat of collapse. That being said, raising funds will be a challenge. BBC News looks closer at the matter.
4. MUSK SUED BY SEC REGARDING TWITTER PURCHASE
Elon Musk is being sued for failing to comply with an investigation into his purchase of Twitter, now called X. Musk bought the app for $44 billion but the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating whether he broke securities law in the process. The billionaire had bought Twitter stock in 2022 before he fully bought the company and made comments about his purchase, potentially affecting the stock. Musk had given testimony twice over the issue but now accuses the SEC of harassment. The SEC requested that he faces a third testimony session but Musk refused. Now, the SEC has filed a lawsuit in federal court to force him to appear in court.
5. EASYJET OWNER SUES UK BAND EASY LIFE
The owner of Easyjet, Easygroup, has sued a UK band Easy Life over alleged trademark infringement. Easygroup claims the use of the word Easy in the bands name. The airline group owns the trademark of using Easy in their name. They have taken action against many other businesses in the past. They claim such companies were “thieves” unfairly using Easygroup’s brand without authorization. The band said the action was “hilarious” as they have “in no way…ever affected their business.” They did express frustration that they are “are virtually powerless” against such a massive corporation.
6. SNAP HIT BY ENFORCEMENT NOTICE OVER AI CHATBOT
Snap, the owner of Snapchat, has been hit by an enforcement notice over its AI chatbot. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has found a “worrying failure” regarding its data process and privacy measures. Snap’s chatbot, my AI, has been integrated into Snapchat and works like other generative AI chatbots such as ChatGPT. The Information Commissioner’s Office has provisionally found failures relating to childrens’ privacy and inadequate risk assessments. Snap could be forced to pull the plug on its chatbot until a proper risk assessment has been completed.
7. META TO CHARGE EU USERS FOR FB AND INSTAGRAM
Meta has announced that it will charge EU users $14 per month for mobile Instagram. A free option would still be available but more user data would be available to Meta. This follows the introduction of the EU Digital Markets Act which limits the amount of data that big tech firms can collect. This new paid plan will be ad free and would minimise the data provided to Meta. Under the free option it would be mandatory to accept targeted ads. Currently, UK users will not be affected by these changes. If the UK’s own version of the Digital Markets Act comes into force then Meta could take a similar approach in the UK.
8. BIDEN APPROVES $9BN IN STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
US President Joe Biden approved $9 billion in student loan forgiveness last week. Roughly 125,000 Americans will receive the forgiveness. Those eligible for forgiveness include some of those who have worked in public service for over 10 years, disabled graduates, and some of those on income driven payment plans. Earlier this year, Biden had sought to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans but the Supreme Court blocked these plans (see previous top 10).
9. PRADA GETS NASA CONTRACT
Fashion designer Prada has secured a contract to help design a Nasa spacesuit for the next moon mission. In 2025, Nasa will launch a manned mission to fly around the moon. The mission is called Artemis 3 and the suits will be used by astronauts for space walks. Prada will work with Axiom Space to create the suit. Prada has experience with creating sailing gear as well as its typical high end fashion products. Consequently, the company has good experience manufacturing products with different materials.
10. FOOTBALL CLUBS UNPAID TAX CRACKDOWN
Football clubs are facing a crackdown over unpaid tax. This year, HMRC collected more than twice the amount of unpaid tax it collected in the previous year. Over £124 million was collected in the year to March 2023 compared to £58 million the year before. HMRC is targeting Premier League clubs and individuals over irregular tax affairs. Benefits, agents fees and image rights in particular are sometimes obscure and the correct amount of tax is not being paid. Clubs often overvalue image rights or undervalue benefits in kind. HMRC is looking to clamp down on these areas and the wider industry. Manchester United and Newcastle United have both recently faced investigation from the watchdog.