This weeks news includes; 21st century Fox & Sky merger gets EU approval, U.S job figures released, Tesla sells record number of cars Asos profits rise.
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.
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Opinion articles of the week:
- City A.M asks As the far-left and the far-right pick up support in presidential polls, is France simply unreformable?
- Wall Street Journal looks at How Amazon’s deal with the NFL could bring TV advertising into the digital age.
- City A.M Brexit is definitely happening, but here’s why it won’t deter overseas buyers in London’s prime property market.
1. EU REGULATORS APPROVE 21 CENTURY FOX & SKY MERGER
EU European Commission competition authorities have cleared 21st Century Fox to buy the 61% of broadcaster Sky that it does not yet own. Both Sky and Fox are controlled by businessman Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Times and the Sun newspapers. However, the £18.5bn deal could still face regulatory obstacles in the UK, where Sky is based.
UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has asked regulators to investigate the deal. Last month she told MPs that Ofcom, the media watchdog, and the Competition and Markets Authority, would report to her by 16 May. Part of Ofcom’s investigation will include whether Sky’s potential new owners are “fit and proper”. Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan Murdoch are both joint chairmen of 21st Century Fox and News Corp, while his other son, James Murdoch, is chief executive of Fox.
Labour has raised objections to the takeover and has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to keep her promise of standing up to powerful interest groups.
The US company is offering £11.7bn for the stake in Sky it does not already own. Sky shareholders would receive £10.75 cash for each share, valuing the entire company at £18.5bn. Shares in Sky closed up 1p at 963p on Friday. The satellite broadcaster has 22 million customers in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria.
In 2011, Rupert Murdoch abandoned a bid to take full control of Sky in the wake of that year’s phone-hacking scandal involving journalists at his UK newspapers. One title, the News of the World, was subsequently shut down. (BBC News)
2. UNILEVER MARGARINE BUSINESS SELL OFF
Unilever, which owns some of the UK’s most famous household brands, has announced plans to sell its margarine business, including Flora and Stork. The move comes as part of a wide-ranging review at the Anglo-Dutch firm, which recently saw off a takeover bid from US food giant Kraft Heinz.
Analysts have said the sell-off could fetch $6bn (£4.8bn).
Unilever also intends to look at changing its historic status as a dual-listed company in two countries.
He said Unilever would not change its long-term business model, which he described as one of “sustainable value-creation”. Alluding to the failed takeover bid, Mr Polman added that “the events of the last few weeks have pointed out that we have opportunities to drive further value in the business”.
Mr Polman said the firm would step up its cost-cutting, aiming for a 20% margin by 2020.
Mr Polman said Unilever was studying whether to change its status and was looking at the wider “legal structure” of having bases in both the UK and the Netherlands. It will decide by the end of the year. The sale of Flora and Stork, two staples of the British kitchen, had been flagged up in advance, and was a predictable response to the takeover approach from America’s Kraft Heinz three months ago. (BBC News)
3. CHEM CHINA’S £43 BILLION ACQUISITION GETS APPROVAL
China National Chemical Corp. won European Union antitrust approval for its $43 billion takeover of Swiss pesticide maker Syngenta AG, a day after the U.S., bringing China’s largest foreign acquisition closer to the finish line.
The EU approval is conditional on ChemChina’s offer to divest “a significant part” of its Adama unit’s pesticide business, some generic pesticides the unit is developing, a plant growth regulator and some of Syngenta’s pesticides along with related assets and personnel, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement.
The takeover, announced a year ago, is one of a trio of mega-deals that would reshape the global agrochemicals industry. Dow Chemical Co.’s bid to merge with DuPont Co. cleared its biggest hurdle last week when it won EU approval with hefty concessions. Bayer AG still needs approval for its purchase of Monsanto Co. The combined transactions would whittle down six industry players to three behemoths: one American, one German and one Chinese.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it was requiring the companies to divest three types of pesticides in the U.S. as a condition for completing their deal. China’s antitrust authorities are also reviewing the proposed tie-up. The companies expect to close the deal by the end of June. (Bloomberg)
Huawei faces sales injunction in the UK
Huawei faces a sales injunction on smartphone sales in the UK after the High Court ruled that it must pay a global licence for infringed patents. The Chinese mobile phone giant has been in a long-running legal battle with Unwired Planet, an American patent owner, over royalty payments related to key networking technology used in its devices.
The High Court ruled on Wednesday that Huawei should pay Unwired a global licence fee for the patents, dismissing its claims that payments should only be made in the UK, which is a relatively small market for the Chinese giant. If it does not, the court can grant an injunction on sales of Huawei phones in Britain, an unprecedented move it said it would consider within weeks. Huawei, however, welcomed the ruling, as the global royalty rates ordered by the court were much lower than Unwired Planet had originally sought. It said the ruling was unlikely to have an effect.
Huawei is the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer, although it is a much smaller player in the UK, with a 2.5pc share of sales in the first quarter of the year. Unwired Planet’s telecoms patents had already seen it successfully reach deals with Google and Samsung in the UK after taking legal action against all three companies. (The Telegraph)
Huawei successfully beats Samsung in patent dispute
The Chinese smartphone-maker Huawei has won a patent victory over its South Korean rival Samsung. A Chinese court in Quanzhou has ordered the Galaxy S8-maker to pay 80m yuan ($11.6m; £9.3m) to Huawei for infringing the firm’s smartphone cellular technologies. The two are also suing each other over patents in other courts.
Huawei’s victory was tempered, however, by news that it could face a sales ban in the UK. Huawei launched the legal action against Samsung last May and has subsequently followed with other claims filed in its home city of Shenzhen and California, covering more than 10 patents. It has alleged that more than 20 models of Samsung’s phones and tablets make use of its technologies without permission. Samsung countersued in July over six alleged infringed patents, saying it had attempted to resolve the dispute “amicably”.
Huawei was the world’s third-bestselling smartphone-maker in 2016 and Samsung the first, according to market research firm IDC. (BBC News)
5. U.S JOB FIGURES
The US unemployment rate fell to its lowest in almost a decade in March, despite the economy adding a smaller than expected number of jobs. Employers added 98,000 jobs last month – far fewer than the 180,000 expected by economists and less than half the figure for January and February.
However, the unemployment rate fell from 4.7% in February to just 4.5% – the lowest since May 2007.
Anything under 5% is considered to indicate “full employment”. The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs a month to keep pace with growth in the working-age population.
The US had added more than 200,000 jobs in both January and February, but March brought lower temperatures and a major storm to the North East, which was likely to have hit hiring.
Aberdeen Asset Management investment strategist Luke Bartholomew said the decline in job creation was another sign of a “pretty tight” labour market. The dollar rose against the euro and sterling, while the Dow Jones and S&P 500 were flat in morning trading in New York.
The US Labor Department also revised the number of jobs created in February down from 235,000 to 219,000, while the figure for January was lowered from 238,000 to 216,000. The percentage of people in work or looking for a job held steady at 63%. (BBC News)
6. $50M DEAL WILL SEE AMAZON STREAM LIVE NFL GAMES
Amazon will pay $50m for the rights to live stream NFL American football games, in one of the most significant developments yet in the disruption of sports broadcasting. The deal, which gives Amazon the rights to 10 Thursday night games next season, represents a significant upgrade on the $10m Twitter paid NFL for last year’s fixtures.
Amazon will include the NFL games as part of its $99 year Prime membership package that also includes free shipping and on-demand movies and videos. The games will still be broadcast on TV channels CBS and NBC, who have five games each, and won’t be available on mobile where streaming rights are owned by Verizon.
Twitter’s experiment with the NFL failed to attract significant viewers, with an average of 266,000 viewers per minute watching the games on the platform as opposed to the average of 16m viewers who watched on TV. Yet Amazon said the deal represented just the first major step in their expansion into sports, after successfully producing critically-lauded TV shows and movies. (City A.M)
7. TESLA SELLS RECORD NUMBER OF CARS
Tesla, the US luxury electric car maker, said on Sunday first-quarter vehicle deliveries jumped 69 percent from a year ago to a quarterly record of 25,000 vehicles, bouncing back from delays in the previous quarter.
The company said of the total vehicles delivered, about 13,450 were Model S sedan and about 11,550 were Model X sports utility vehicle. Tesla has said it expects to deliver 47,000 to 50,000 Model S and Model X vehicles combined in the first half of 2017.
Elon Musk to plant computers in human brains to prevent AI uprising In the fourth quarter, deliveries had fallen 9.4 per cent due to short-term production hurdles from the transition to a new autopilot hardware.
Tesla had said production challenges, which started at the end of October and lasted until early December, shifted vehicle production towards the end of the fourth quarter, resulting in delayed deliveries.
Ultimately, about 2,750 vehicles were missed being counted as deliveries in the fourth quarter either due to last-minute delays in transport or because the customer was unable to physically take delivery.
In addition to the first quarter deliveries, about 4,650 vehicles were in transit to customers at the end of the quarter and will be counted as deliveries in the second quarter, Tesla said in a statement on Sunday. Production in the first quarter also hit a quarterly record at 25,418 vehicles. (The Independent)
8. APPLE ENDS CONTRACT WITH CHIP DESIGNER, SHARE PRICE PLUMMETS
Shares in UK chip designer Imagination Technologies have plunged more than 60% after Apple said it would end a deal to use its products. The US company uses the UK firm’s chip technology in its iPhones, iPads, and iPods under a licensing agreement.
Apple’s royalty payments account for about half Imagination’s revenues.
Shares fell 165p to 103p, valuing the company at about £250m – down from about £765m before the announcement was made on Monday morning.
Imagination said Apple, its largest customer, would stop using its products in “15 months to two years”. Apple is developing its own technology, but Imagination said this would be difficult without infringing patents.
Apple has told Imagination that it is “working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products and will be reducing its future reliance on Imagination’s technology”. Imagination, like the UK’s ARM Holdings, is at the forefront of computer chip technology globally. ARM was sold last year to Japan’s Softbank, a deal criticised as selling out of the UK’s winners.
The Financial Times reported last year that Apple, which owns 8% of the UK company, had held talks about buying Imagination. (BBC News)
LLOYDS TO PAY £100m IN FRAUD COMPENSATION
LLoyds has announced that it is setting aside a further £100m, to compensate customers who lost money in a fraud scandal. Six people, two of whom had worked for Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) – owned by Lloyds – were jailed in February.
The court heard they stole hundreds of millions of pounds from small businesses who were their clients. At the same time, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that it is re-opening an enquiry into the fraud.
Lloyds has already set aside at least £250m to cover other costs arising from the case, which was centred on the HBOS office in Reading.
Some of the small businesses that lost money from the fraud collapsed as a result. The bank said it would provide such victims with immediate payments on a case-by-case basis. Those in financial difficulty will be helped with day-to-day living costs. They will also be helped with legal fees, and have their existing debts written off. (BBC News)
LLOYDS TO SHUT 100 BRANCHES CUTTING 400 JOBS
Lloyds Bank is planning to close 100 branches between July and October this year, leading to 400 job losses. The lender said the closures were part of an announcement it made in July last year, when it said 200 branches will close. However, it added today that it will create another 96 roles, meaning the total number of role reductions will be 325.
“These branch closures – previously announced in July 2016 – are in response to changing customer behaviour, and the reduced number of transactions being made in branches,” said a spokesperson.
“The continuous stream of branch closures announced by the UK’s retail bank branches appears to show no signs of ending. The loss of a further 100 local banks will be painful for high streets across the country to absorb,” added Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer.
The news comes months after the lender announced plans to close 29 branches and cut its workforce by 10 per cent, with thousands of tech roles being outsourced.
Earlier this month the government cut its stake in Lloyds to below two per cent. Until January it was the lender’s largest shareholder following its bailout during the financial crisis. (City A.M)
10. ASOS PROFITS UP
Asos has bumped up its full-year sales guidance for the second time this year after “a strong set of results”, weathering tricky market conditions for fashion retailers. However, shares fell, with analysts citing cost headwinds and the news that full-year profit before tax expected to be “broadly in line with market consensus”.
In its interim results up to 28 February 2017, the online retailer said revenues were 37 per cent higher than the same period last year at £911.5m, propelled by a 54 per cent rise in international sales to £548.4m.
Pre-tax profits increased 14 per cent to £27.3m. The firm reported UK growth of 18 per cent, while overall retail sales rose 38 per cent on a reported basis, up 31 per cent on a constant currency basis. Asos reported 23.3m orders were shipped – a 33 per cent increase, year-on-year. (City A.M)