1. BORIS JOHNSON’S LOCKDOWN ROADMAP
Following Monday’s announcement, it was confirmed that Stage 2 of easing lockdown restrictions will go ahead, allowing non-essential shops, gyms, outdoor hospitality venues and beauty salons to reopen next Monday 12th April. This follows months of being forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Weddings of up to 15 people can also take place, as well as funerals of up to 30 people.
It is expected that customers will be required to shop alone or with household groups as these premises reopen.
Retailers will be allowed to open until 10pm to allow customers to social distance and help retail shops recoup some of its losses. A new campaign is calling for a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ initiative, designed to save Britain’s independent high street shops, which have taken a financial hit during the pandemic and remained closed since 6th January.
Stage 3 is expected to begin on 17th May which will see hospitality venues allowing customers indoors, allowing up to 30 people to attend weddings or other life events, six people or 2 households can meet indoors, groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors, cinemas museums theatres and hotels can reopen, as well as indoor group exercise classes and sports to restart.
Stage 4 is hoped to begin on 21st June which will see all legal limits on social distancing being removed, limits on numbers of people to events will be removed, and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen after being closed for over 15 months.
2. GAMESTOP SHARES FALL
GameStop shares have fallen sharply after they announced it may sell up to $1 billion of additional shares as it tries to reap the rewards of the Reddit-driven trading frenzy this year.
The video-game retailer said it would sell up to 3.5 million shares and use the proceeds of this to contribute to its shift to e-commerce lead by Ryan Cohen, its largest shareholder, and shore up its balance sheet.
In January, GameStop found itself at the centre of a ground-breaking battle between Wall Street and amateur investors on Reddit, which lifted its valuation to as high as $34 billion.
The sale could fetch GameStop up to $670m based on Thursday’s closing price of $191.45. GameStop’s 3.5m shares represent about 5% of its outstanding stock.
Photograph: John Minchillo/AP
3. DELIVEROO’S DISAPPOINTING DEBUT
Despite being London’s biggest flotation for a decade since the IPO of Glencore, shares in the food delivery company have plummeted after a number of major UK investors expressed concerns about its gig economy worker model. Riders for the firm are classed as self-employed contractors and therefore are not entitled to the benefits of minimum wage, holiday or pension contributions.
Shares in Deliveroo had been offered at 390p each and closed 14% lower at 284p per share, despite initially hoping for a share price of up to 460p. Deliveroo said last Monday it had chosen to “price responsibly” due to “volatile” market conditions.
By comparison, US rival DoorDash saw its share price jumped more than 86% on its first day of trading in New York in December 2020, giving it a market cap of over $60 billion at the time.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said earlier last month that Deliveroo was a “true British tech success story” that could lead more IPO’s for fast-growing technology firms.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
The poor working conditions of Deliveroo’s riders was a fundamental reason why many investment fund managers, such as Legal and General Investment Management, M&G and Aviva Investors, chose not to buy shares in Deliveroo. This indeed highlights how the treatment of workers plays a role in the decisions some of the biggest UK investment fund managers make regarding which company’s to buy shares in. It can only be hoped that company’s, such as Deliveroo, are left with no choice but to improve the working conditions of their riders, otherwise risk facing extreme financial consequences.
Uber’s defeat before the Supreme Court last month also may play a huge role here in why investors have become more reluctant to invest in companies who do not invest in their employees. Deliveroo nevertheless insists that Uber’s ruling has no relevance to its business, but investors evidently disagree.
Equity analyst Sophie Lund-Yates argued that, if Deliveroo were to offer more traditional employee benefits such as holiday pay, minimum wage and pensions, it would make the road to profitability “very tough indeed”.
The IPO has also possibly come at a bad time. Food delivery services such as Deliveroo were able to capitalise on lockdowns as people wanted restaurant-quality food delivered to their homes. However, once hospitality venues reopen later this month, many people will be eager to eat out instead of ordering in. Holding an IPO now seems bad timing when taking this into consideration.
Read more about the investors who expressed concern about the working conditions of Deliveroo’s’ riders in a recent blog post here.
Image: SOPA Images
4. PAYPAL CUSTOMERS CAN USE CRYPTOCURRENCY
Paypal announced last week that their US customers will be able to checkout with cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.
Paypal Chief Executive said that this would be the first time you can use cryptocurrencies in the same way as a credit card or a debit card inside your PayPal wallet. He described this development as “the next chapter in driving the ubiquity and mass acceptance of digital currencies”.
“We think it is a transitional point where cryptocurrencies move from being predominantly an asset class that you buy, hold and or sell to now becoming a legitimate funding source to make transactions in the real world at millions of merchants,” the chief executive added.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
Evidently, confidence is growing in cryptocurrencies and the announcement follows Tesla’s lead of allowing the purchase of cars with Bitcoin last month, which you can read about in my latest news roundup here.
5. WETHERSPOONS EXPANSION PLANS
Wetherspoons has announced plans to refurbish dozens of their pubs and open 18 more. This plan is expected to cost £145 million and create 2,000 new jobs, but is very much conditional on no more lockdowns or more changes of the rules.
It expects to follow this with a £750m investment to open 15 new pubs and enlarge 50 existing pubs each year for 10 years. This ambitious project would result in a further 20,000 jobs.
The company already has 871 pubs and new ones are planned in locations including Leeds, Birmingham, Newport Pagnell, Heswall, Sheffield, Felixstowe, Dublin, Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Glasgow.
Tim Martin, founder and chairman of the pub-chain, has been an out-spoken critic of the government’s quickly changing lockdown rules. He said that the governments approach since the start of the pandemic has “…contributed to the UK having one of the biggest hits to the economy of any country, and the worst health outcomes of any large country”.
Photograph: Western Mail
6. MASTERCARD FINED £31M
Mastercard have been fined £31m after being accused of running a cartel to reduce competition in the market for pre-paid cards, along with four other companies Allpay, PFS, Sulion and APS.
The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) alleges that from 2012 to 2018, the card providers agreed not to poach each other’s clients or compete when bidding for local authority contracts.
This scheme was designed to assist local authorities to provide pre-paid cards for vulnerable people such as asylum seekers, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
Due to the reduced competition, this meant local authorities could have missed out on better services and lower prices.
Chris Hemsley, Managing Director of the PSR says that collusion in payments is “absolutely unacceptable” and the parties acted as a “cartel”.
Despite Mastercard, Allpay and PFS admitting involvement, Mastercard has agreed to pay almost all of the £32m fines which they insist reflect its much larger size, not the degree of culpability.
Image: Getty Images
7. SUEZ CANAL BLOCKAGE BECOMES COSTLY
A huge container ship, the Ever Given that has been blocking the Suez Canal since 23rd March 2021, was freed last week. The ship is one of the world’s largest container vessels and was carrying 18,300 containers and $3.5 billion worth of cargo.
The ship is operated by Taiwanese transport company Evergreen Marine, and became stranded after becoming lodged sideways across the waterway. As a result of this, there were 369 ships stuck in a tailback waiting to pass through the 120-mile canal.
About 12% of global trade, one million barrels of oil and around 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day. The blockage was holding up an estimated $9.6 billion of trade along the waterway each day, which equates to $6.7 million a minute.
Other ships had to redirect their routes to go around the Cape of Good Hope, which added around 6,500km onto their journeys and 8.5 days.
Overall, German insurer Allianz expects the blockage could cost global trade between $6 – $10 billion a week.
THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS
As many vessels elected to redirect around the Cape of Good Hope, this required an increase in their fuel bills and a further issue of 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide being discharged into the atmosphere. Inevitably, these longer journeys are likely to have some serious repercussions on the contracts surrounding the goods on the ship.
Plans to make a Suez 2, which would involve creating an additional canal along the Egypt/Israel border with ships running through Iraq and Syria, are being discussed. This was originally rejected due to political issues and worries that it would be too dangerous, but the UN believes that technology has since come a long way and the creation of the Suez 2 would accommodate approximately 28% of all of the ships that travel through the Suez canal.
Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
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