Top 10 Stories of the Week! 21/03/16

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

Opinion articles of the week:

Will leaving the European Union lead to more sovereignty for the UK? Click here for the debate.

Russia are coping with the oil price collapse better than other oil producing nations. Click here for the Financial Times’ free article on how they are dealing with this issue.

Does living near a Waitrose can raise your house price? Click here for more.

Why is the UK’s legal sector vital to the City’s international success? Click here for more.

1. BRUSSELS ATTACK

At least 28 people were killed and 340 injured in explosions at Brussels airport and a metro station last Tuesday. Twin blasts struck the main terminal of Zaventem international airport, in the north-east of the city. Another explosion hit the Maelbeek metro station in the city centre, close to several European Union institutions. The so-called Islamic State group said it was behind the attacks. (BBC News)

Belgian prosecutors have charged a man with terrorist offences, in connection with the attacks. Zaventem – Brussels international airport – will not reopen before Tuesday, authorities have announced. Meanwhile a demonstration against the attacks, planned for Sunday in central Brussels, has been cancelled after a request from the authorities.

For more information on the attacks click here. (BBC News)

2. OBAMA VISITS CUBA

President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba this week was peppered with memorable moments. It has been almost 90 years since the last US president visited the island, and certainly the first since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, it was always going to be historic.

For an overview of Obama’s trip to Cuba,click here. (BBC News)

3. US ECONOMIC GROWTH

The US economy grew at an annualised rate of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to official figures. The US Commerce Department revised its fourth quarter GDP to upward from an initial estimate of 0.7%. Overall, the US economy is estimated to have grown at a rate of 2.4% for all of 2015.

One reason for the revised figure was greater consumer spending than officials initially thought, boosted by an improving labour market. Analysts had expected the fourth quarter growth rate to remain unchanged from the last estimate of 1%. (BBC News)

4. OIL PRICES

Global oil prices slipped under the $40 per barrel mark today, putting it on course for its biggest weekly slide in two months. Brent crude, the global benchmark, fell 1.6 per cent to $39.81 per barrel this morning. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate crude, the US benchmark, slumped 1.9 per cent to $39.05. The oil price was driven lower by soaring US crude stockpiles in the US and a weaker dollar. (City A.M)

Britain’s oil industry is set to lose a further 45,000 jobs in 2016 (City A.M), while the oil crash has created America’s worst housing markets (Business Insider). Click on the links for full stories

5. MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

The UK appears to be losing its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) appeal in 2016. UK-targeted M&A activity has fallen 39 per cent year on year in the first quarter to $45.9bn (£32.6bn), according to a global report from Dealogic. The fall in UK-targeted M&A has been linked to the looming EU referendum and a weakened pound.

Dealogic’s first quarter report, made up of preliminary figures, found global M&A has fallen 25 per cent on the same period in 2015 to $701.5bn. This followed three successive quarters in which total deals value exceeded $1 trillion in a record-breaking year for global M&A.

So far in 2016, technology has been the top sector for deals, with $100.3bn worth announced. This is up 10 per cent year on year and marks the sector’s best first-quarter performance since 2000. (City A.M)

Furthermore, it has been the slowest start to year for IPOs since 2009. (The Financial Times)

6. EDF HINKLEY POINT DECISION

The boss of EDF Energy has told MPs the controversial new Hinkley nuclear plant “will go ahead” despite uncertainty remaining over the £18bn project.

Vincent de Rivaz made the announcement while reading a statement at the start of his evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on the benefits of nuclear energy. It came as a surprise, given comments only yesterday by a minister in the French government, which owns a majority stake in the EDF group that a final investment decision would be made in May.

Mr de Rivaz said that it had been a “long road” to clear regulatory and other hurdles and he expected the final go-ahead to be made “soon” – in reference to economy minister Emmanuel Macron’s remarks. He refused to be drawn on an exact date but told MPs that EDF had invested £2.4bn in the project so far and continued to spend £55m a month.

Hinkley would be the first nuclear power plant to be built in Britain in two decades. EDF is financing two-thirds of the project – with help expected from the French state – with the rest coming from Chinese investment. (Sky News)

7. SPORTS DIRECT SHARES

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct empire has seen shares slump for a second day after the business issued a “clarification” on profits following media interviews given by its controversial founder. The stock fell by more than 5%, adding to a decline of more than 10% in the previous session. It means the company has dropped by more than 15%, seeing around £400m wiped off its value, since Mr Ashley’s interviews with a series of outlets including Sky News on Monday. The interviews saw the tycoon come out fighting over demands by MPs to quiz him on working conditions.

But shareholders were taken aback by the strength of his remarks on how badly the controversy had affected the group’s performance, after he told The Times: “We are in trouble, we are not trading very well. We can’t make the same profit we made last year.”

The comments sent Sports Direct’s shares more than 10% lower on Tuesday prompting it to issue a clarification a day later “in the light of recent press coverage” – but it only saw shares fall again. (Sky News)

8. SONY SOUNDCLOUD DISPUTE

Music streaming site SoundCloud has resolved a dispute with Sony Music, removing a major obstacle to its plans to launch a subscription service.

Sony had previously pulled its music – including songs by Adele, Kesha and Hozier – from the site in protest at “a lack of monetisation opportunities”.

But a year of negotiations has ended in a new licensing deal. It gives SoundCloud access to all of Sony’s artists, including those on subsidiaries The Orchard and Sony Red Distribution, worldwide.

The site, which offers more than 100 million songs for free, already has deals with the other two major labels – Warner Music and Universal – as well as hundreds of independents. In a statement, SoundCloud said it would launch its long-awaited subscription service “later this year.” Record companies favour such platforms over free ones because they pay higher royalty rates. (BBC News)

9. APPLE’S NEW IPHONE

Apple has announced smaller versions of the iPhone and iPad Pro at an event hosted in San Francisco and streamed online.

The iPhone SE has the same processing and graphics performance of the larger Apple 6S, the firm said, and can capture 4K video. It will be available in 110 countries by the end of May. With a starting price of  £277, the new iPhone is the “most affordable” handset Apple has ever released, Apple said.

Apple said it sold 30 million four-inch handsets last year, however its handset sales have slowed in recent months in line with the overall smartphone market. (BBC News)

The company is rolling out the new phone two months after saying quarterly sales were likely to decline for the first time in more than a decade, highlighting concern that iPhone growth has reached its limits. While analysts predict that shipments of the iPhone SE — the expected name of the new model — will be about 15 million annually, its smaller size and lower price could encourage existing customers to step up at a time of year when sales often decelerate. Apple sold more than 231 million iPhones in 2015, with sales dipping between April and September, as has been the case in previous years. (Bloomberg)

 10. CREDIT SUISSE JOB CUTS

A slump in investment banking revenues pushed Credit Suisse to accelerate its cost-cutting plan as Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam admitted he had been unaware of trading positions that triggered more big writedowns in the first quarter.

Switzerland’s second-biggest bank said on Wednesday it would shave an additional 800 million Swiss francs ($821 million) off costs and cut 2,000 more jobs from its Global Markets division. The unit is expected to record a 40 to 45 percent drop in first-quarter revenues and is selling off holdings of illiquid assets that the bank’s senior management had not had on its radar.

Rival Deutsche Bank’s finance chief said on Tuesday the first two months of 2016 were the worst start to a year for banks that he has seen in his banking career.

Credit Suisse said job cuts would come mostly in London and New York. The latest cuts bring the total to 6,000 job losses announced by Thiam, who took over last year. Thiam disclosed that he had asked for his 2015 bonus to be cut by 40 percent, even more than the 36 percent cuts in bonuses for staff in the Global Markets division. (Reuters)

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