The week’s news included; Post-Brexit EU food import charges revealed, McDonald’s buys all 225 Israeli franchises to repair image amid boycott, Boeing pays $160m to compensate Alaska Air after aircraft door blows off mid-flight.

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. – Subscription overload: Why people are cancelling Netflix, Dazn and Disney+.
  • BBC News – Can troubled Thames Water avoid collapse?
  • City A.M. – Why are UK companies like Natwest using share buybacks more?

1. NEW BREXIT IMPORT CHARGES ANNOUNCED

From 30 April, companies will have to pay new fees to import food from the EU as part of new post-Brexit charges. Animal product imports of foods such as fish, yoghurt, cheese and sausages will face fees of up to £145. Consignments with multiple types of products will be charged per type of good imported but the total charges will be capped at £145. Individual imports will face charges of up to £29. Imports of plants and plant products will also face the same charges. These fees were announced by the UK government last week and cover imports coming through the Port of Dover and the Folkestone Eurotunnel. These charges will reportedly go towards investments in border facilities. These additional import costs are almost inevitably going to be passed on to consumers. Some sellers could even stop importing from the EU altogether as a result.

2. US AND UK SIGN AI SAFETY DEAL

The US and the UK have struck a deal to collaborate on artificial intelligence (AI) safety testing. This will involve reviewing the safety of AI tools and developing a better understanding of the underlying systems. Some of the hot topics which this new collaboration will cover are; generative chatbots like ChatGPT, deep fakes and data privacy. The US and UK will work together to assess the risks of AI and implement relevant measures. This marks the first bilateral deal of its kind covering AI. The EU also recently announced its own comprehensive AI framework (see previous top 10). 

3. MCDONALD’S BUYS ISRAELI FRANCHISES

McDonald’s is buying all 225 of its Israeli franchises in an attempt to repair its reputation. This comes as a boycott over its perceived support for Israel is taking its toll. The Israeli franchise of McDonald’s offered IDF soldiers free meals at the outset of the Israel-Gaza war. This sparked a global call for a boycott of McDonald’s. Sales were hit significantly in the Middle East, Indonesia and France. McDonald’s franchises in Muslim-majority countries issued statements distancing themselves from the Israeli franchises. In January, McDonald’s confirmed that the boycott had “meaningfully impacted” business as it missed quarterly sales targets. The fast food chain claimed the calls for boycott were based on misinformation. Now, McDonald’s is buying the Israeli franchise from the franchisee Alonyal in order to try and improve its reputation. 

4. BOEING PAYS $160M TO ALASKA AIR

Boeing has paid out $160 million to Alaska Air to compensate them for losses due to an aircraft door blowing off mid-flight in January. Four bolts that were supposed to attach the door securely had not been screwed on. Thousands of flights were cancelled and Alaska Air took a significant reputational hit. This payout covers Q1 of 2024 but Alaska Air expects more payouts over the coming months. In January, Alaska air anticipated a $150 million financial hit. This saga is expected to cost Boeing a huge $4 billion in Q1 of 2024. The aerospace giant is facing a criminal investigation over the incident. This marks yet another scandal for Boeing after the 2018 737 Max disasters. Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, has also announced he is stepping down as CEO by the end of 2024. 

5. VODAFONE THREE MERGER FACING PHASE 2 INVESTIGATION

The merger between Vodafone and Three is in jeopardy as the Competition and Markets Authority is launching a major Phase 2 investigation. There is concern that the £15 billion deal will lessen competition in the sector and cause higher prices for consumers. The combined company would have 27 million customers and would become the UK’s largest mobile network. Furthermore, it would reduce the big four network providers to just three. In March, the CMA gave Vodafone and Three the opportunity to offer “meaningful solutions” to address its concerns or face an investigation. The pair did not offer any solutions hence the start of this investigation. This investigation will take at least 6 months and could ultimately see the deal blocked. 

6. AMAZON AXES WALKOUT SUPERMARKETS

Amazon is scrapping its checkout-free technology from all of its Amazon Fresh supermarkets in the US. The tech giant’s “Just Walk Out” system used cameras to track items that users picked up in store then automatically charged customers for items when they left. Amazon said that it will prioritise smart trolley technology instead. Smart trolleys provide enhanced shopping experiences offering shoppers with item locations, stock data and providing alternative suggestions. These plans will not affect UK Amazon Fresh stores. Amazon has already closed multiple of its London branches of its Fresh stores and has paused further rollouts just 2 years after opening. These closures however, have been attributed to weak demand at these locations. 

7, BIG TECH JOB CUTS 

Following its decision to axe its self-driving vehicle production, Apple is cutting 614 jobs. Most jobs will be cut from the self-driving car project. Apple was in the early stages of development but was still years away from producing a prototype. It reportedly had a team of 2000 workers on the project but many of these staff will be transferred to AI projects. Aside from this, Apple has avoided cutting jobs as numerous of its competitors in the tech space have done. 

Amazon is also slashing hundreds of jobs in its cloud computing business. Cloud computing has become a huge revenue generator for Amazon, accounting for 14% of its total income. The precise number of cuts has not been disclosed but it will affect hundreds of roles within the business. BBC News looks closer at the plans.  

8. TESLA SALES SLUMP

Tesla has posted a significant 9% fall in sales as competition in the electric vehicle space heats up. This is Tesla’s first year-on-year quarterly sales decline since 2020. The automaker shipped 386,810 vehicles in Q1 2024, down from 423,000 in the same period last year. The automaker blamed disruption to shipping in the Red Sea and an arson attack at its German gigafactory. 

Although Tesla is the world’s largest retailer of electric vehicles, it remains largely a luxury brand. Chinese competitors BYD and now Xiaomi are venturing into the space at a lower price point. This could compound the issues for Tesla and significantly hit Tesla’s market share. Tesla has already slashed its prices in China in an attempt to remain competitive but whether this will help retain its market position remains to be seen. 

9. THAMES WATER PARENT DEFAULTS 

The parent company of Thames Water, Kemble Water, has defaulted on its debt. Kemble Water did not make an interest payment on a £400 million debt and is now effectively insolvent as it announced it is unable to repay lenders. Fortunately for Thames Water, the insolvency is not expected to affect subsidiaries. This comes as Thames Water did not receive a £500 million cash injection from shareholders as it failed to meet key criteria (see previous top 10). There is now growing concern that Thames Water could collapse under its £14.7 billion debt pile. Thames Water however, has assured markets that it has enough cash and overdraft to last for another 12 months. 

10. JOE LEWIS AVOIDS PRISON FOR INSIDER TRADING

Billionaire Joe Lewis has been fined $5 million for insider trading but has avoided jail time. Lewis will face three years of probation but could have faced two years of jail time. Prosecutors and defence requested leniency from the court given his cooperation with the authorities and poor health. 

The 87-year-old and his family trust own Tottenham Hotspur FC. For 8 years until 2021, Lewis gave sensitive information about his company to friends, romantic partners, pilots and other staff. This information helped his associates collectively make millions of dollars. For example, he told a partner to invest in a biotech company which he knew was about to release positive clinical trial results. Ultimately, that trade alone made $849,000 in profit. Lewis is worth £5 billion and is the 39th richest person in the UK.