Top 10 Stories of the Week! 22/02/16

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page for regular posts of important headlines. Click on the links for full stories.

Opinion articles of the week:

  • Some new start-up companies are moving away from venture capital and looking to stock markets to raise money. Forbes looks at a tech start-up company valued at $150m which hasn’t taken a penny of venture capital. Click here to find out about this company and some of the disadvantages of venture capital. Click here to find out more about what venture capital is and how it works.
  • Four of the country’s largest banks released their results this week, all confirming they were strong enough to withstand another economic downturn. Just how far is the health of our banks connected to the health of our overall economy? Click here for more.
  • The Economist argues that a Brexit would not be harmful to the UK but also to other Western economies. Click here for the debate.

 

1. UK ECONOMIC GROWTH

UK economic growth in the last three months of 2015 has been confirmed at 0.5%, figures show, supported by steady growth in the services sector. The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) second estimate of GDP growth for the quarter was unrevised. The growth estimate for 2015 was also unchanged at 2.2%, which was the slowest annual pace since 2012. However, the UK economy remains one of the fastest growing of the developed nations. (BBC News)

2. FIFA

Gianni Infantino has succeeded fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter as president of world football’s governing body FIFA. The Uefa secretary general polled 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.

Infantino is a 45-year-old lawyer from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland.  He entered the presidential race when it became clear that Michel Platini, boss of European football’s governing body Uefa, could not stand. (BBC Sport)

 

Delegates from Fifa’s 209 member associations have also voted to enact a package of reforms the governing body hopes can help it regain the trust of football fans around the world. Of the 201 associations who voted, 179 backed the reforms while 22 apparently saw no issue with the way Fifa was currently run.

The reforms include a separation of Fifa’s football and commercial arms to prevent the latter operating undue influence over the former, fixed term limits on the president and executives and a commitment to disclosing their pay every year. For the reforms to be passed an absolute majority of the 207 member associations eligible to vote – Kuwait and Indonesia are currently suspended – must vote for them to be enacted. If that’s achieved, the new Fifa will come into place 60 days later.

Unlike Blatter, who ruled Fifa for the best part of two decades, the new Fifa president will then be limited to three terms of four years as will members of a new Fifa Council that will replace the existing executive committee.

Perhaps most significantly, however, will be the insistence that all of Fifa’s member associations adopt the same practices including independent audits – a measure the governing body hopes will address the unaccounted for disappearance and misappropriation of Fifa funds by individual associations. (City A.M)

3. FRENCH GOVERNMENT DEMANDS GOOGLE TAXES

The French government has demanded that US internet giant Google pays £1.3bn (€1.6bn) in back taxes, it has been reported. It came on the same day that a report by MPs criticised an agreement for the firm to pay £130m in UK taxes to cover the last 10 years – saying the amount seemed “disproportionately small”.

Google has been criticised over the apparent low levels of tax it pays, amid wider criticism of multinational firms that use complex corporate structures to minimise their tax bills. It maintains that it obeys tax rules in all countries where it operates. (Sky News)

4. JOHNSON & JOHNSON $72 MILLION PAY OUT

Consumer health care company Johnson & Johnson, has been ordered to pay $72m (£51m) to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to the company’s talc-based baby powder. A jury in Missouri awarded $10m of actual damages and $62m of punitive damages to the family of Jacqueline Fox, her family’s lawyers said.

The lawsuit alleged the health products firm actively covered up studies that suggested a link between ovarian cancer and their baby powder in order to boost sales. Several hundred similar lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, but Monday’s verdict was the first in the US to award damages over the claims.  (Sky News)

5. STOCK EXCHANGE MERGER TALKS

London Stock Exchange (LSE) has confirmed merger talks with Germany’s Deutsche Boerse.

Shares in the LSE soared 17% after it said it was in “detailed discussions” with the German company about a “merger of equals”. Shares in Deutsche Boerse rose 7%. Both companies said all their key businesses would continue to operate under their current brand names.

Under the terms of a potential deal, the LSE would own 45.6% of the merged group and Deutsche Boerse would hold the remaining 54.4%. The combined business would have a single board, made up of an equal number of directors from the two companies.

It is the third time the LSE and Deutsche Boerse have tried to strike a deal, first in 2000 then in 2004-5.  In 2000, the LSE and Deutsche Boerse announced they were in merger talks. However, the LSE was forced to pull out of discussions when the deal was gatecrashed by Sweden’s OM Exchange which made a £808m hostile bid for the British business. The LSE rejected the offer.

In December 2004, Deutsche Boerse made a £1.3bn approach for the LSE but saw its offer rebuffed. (BBC News)

6. RBS LOSSES

The Royal Bank of Scotland announced its eighth consecutive annual loss, blaming restructuring and past conduct costs. Shares pluged by 9% in response to the news.  The bank, which is still 73% owned by the taxpayer following its bailout at the height of the financial crisis, said losses for 2015 totalled £2bn – an improvement on the £3.5bn reported the previous year.

RBS confirmed it had booked £3.6bn in conduct charges – announced last month – including £2.1bn to cover legal action in the US relating to the sale of mortgage products. There was also £600m more in provisions for the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal. Restructuring costs came in at almost £3bn. (Sky News)

7. LONDON CITY AIRPORT BOUGHT FOR £2 BILLION            

London City Airport has been bought by a consortium led by a major Canadian pension fund. The price paid has not been disclosed, but the airport’s value has been put at about £2bn. City Airport, which is near Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands, is popular with bankers and City professionals because of its proximity and its small size. Last year, a record 4.3 million passengers used the airport.

The deal involves Alberta Investment Management Corporation, and investment funds the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Wren House, part of the Kuwait Investment Authority. They already own a string of airports, including Belfast International Airport, Birmingham Airport, Bristol Airport, Brussels Airport and Copenhagen Airport. They described London City as “a highly attractive infrastructure investment in the UK”. (BBC News)

Slaughter and May, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters are advising on the sale. (Legal Week)

8. ALTON TOWERS OWNER PROSECUTED

The owner of Alton Towers is to be prosecuted over the Smiler rollercoaster crash which left five people seriously injured. Two women lost a leg and three others were seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track last year.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre on 22 April. It will face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. (BBC News)

9. BRAKES FOOD SUPPLIER SOLD

Brakes, the London-based food supplier that had been considering a flotation, has been sold to US company Sysco in a deal worth $3.1bn (£2.2bn).

Brakes is majority owned by the private equity group Bain Capital, which took the company private for about £1.3bn in 2007.

Bain postponed a meeting with investors considered most likely to participate in an initial public offering for Brakes in the latter part of January, leading to speculation that another option was being given top priority.

The IPO market has made a difficult start in London in 2016, with fewer deals getting off the ground, and those companies that have succeeded, such as CMC Markets and Clydesdale, only doing so at modest prices. (The Guardian)

10. BLACKBERRY ACQUIRES CYBERSECURITY CONSULTANCY

Former smartphone king Blackberry is doubling down on its security credentials revealing that it has acquired UK-based cybersecurity consultancy.

Midlands-based Encription has been snapped up for an undisclosed sum by the struggling smartphone maker which once dominated the market. Encription has clients including the UK government and local authorities, conducting testing that emulates the way a hacker would work in order to identify the risks to business.

The company will become part of Blackberry’s newly launched professional cybersecurity service, which will offer consulting and tools in the area of risk and security for businesses and other organisations, particularly in areas such as automotives and Internet of Things (IoT)

Blackberry said the increasing risk of cybercrime and attacks is estimated to cost $400bn a year to businesses and is eyeing a slice of the cybersecurity consulting pie, estimated to be worth $16.5bn a year and $23bn by 2019. (City A.M)

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