11 July 2019

@sayhisalowe

11 July 2019

Good morning, 

Before making the move to Scotland, I lived most recently in sunny Barcelona. Rich cerulean skies and plenty of vitamin D were the norm, and I quickly became accustomed to the city’s languid atmosphere as I strolled down Avinguda Diagonal each day to and from class. Besides the cantankerous screeching from the hordes of green parakeets plaguing the city, my walks were relatively peaceful. There was just one thing I had to watch out for: the electric scooters.  

Those who operate electric scooters in Barcelona seem to view themselves as occupying the grey area between pedestrian and motorist, most often following the rules of neither category. I found myself constantly tripping about as I narrowly dodged e-scooters while crossing the street or walking along the pavement. Numerous times I saw riders tempt fate as they whizzed across the road, seconds after cars had already shifted gears to speed past the green light.  

Like the companies from which they rented their scooters, the preferred MO is to ask forgiveness rather than permission. For pedestrians, motorists, and city governments, this attitude would prove to wear thin. 

In 2017, startup companies Lime and Bird offered dockless, shared e-scooter rental services in San Francisco. By finding a niche in the micro-mobility market, the companies struck gold and in less than a year reached billion-dollar valuations. The rental system was simple: using the app, a customer could locate and unlock scooters for as little as $2 a ride.

When their chosen destination was reached, the customer could drop the scooter wherever they liked and walk away. 

Theoretically, the benefits of shared e-scooter services are to decrease carbon emissions and allow commuters a faster journey to relatively nearby destinations. 

Scooter-mania swept the US, Europe, China and Latin America, with new companies springing up left and right to battle for dominance. In a commercial race characterised by speed and greed, many of these startups launched without explicit permission from city governments. Scrambling to keep up and effectively regulate these new ventures, governments had issued cease-and-desist letters, required permits, and deemed only certain areas acceptable for e-scooter parking.  

However, the drawbacks were still massive. Reports of e-scooters ending up in lakes, lying in piles on pavements, causing injuries, and being stolen at knifepoint left governments peeved and doubtful that this form of micro-mobility was worthy of long-term investment. Last month, France announced a ban of e-scooters from the nation's pavements, imposing a fine of €135 on riders who deviated from the road or cycling paths. 

I must admit that although my personal experience with e-scooters has been more perilous than perfect, with some tweaks to the renting system, micro-mobility could be part of the answer to decreasing urban emissions and traffic congestion. Even the UK is thinking of overturning its longtime ban in the name of sustainability.

As my Spanish tan fades and I recommission my raincoat for daily use, I'll continue to ponder the pros and cons of the scooter revolution.

News

Tensions between the US and Iran continue to rise with President Trump threatening new sanctions that would accelerate his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. In tweets, Trump accused Iran of secretly enriching uranium for a long time, despite official inspections judging that Tehran had fully complied with the 2015 nuclear deal until it changed its policy in May. Trump’s “toughest ever” sanctions threaten to cover banking, oil, and metal sectors, with some analysts believing sanctions might even extend to food and medicines that are exempted by a humanitarian carveout. The US is criticised for speaking out against Iran’s moves to break the nuclear deal, since they themselves withdrew from the 2015 pact last year.

Kim Darroch resigned as the UK’s ambassador to the United States yesterday, following the row over leaked emails in which he described the Trump administration as “clumsy and inept.” In his resignation letter, Darroch said that given the circumstances “the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.” On Tuesday, Boris Johnson had refused to say if he would keep Darroch in his post after the emails were leaked, making an already difficult position almost untenable.

Greek police have announced that an American scientist who had gone missing on Crete and whose body was later found in an old military bunker, was asphyxiated. A murder investigation has been opened into the death of Suzanne Eaton, 59, who had visited Crete for a conference at the Orthodox Academy and was reported missing on 2 July after going for a run.

Business & Economy

The UK and Canada have joined forces to contribute more than $4 million to a new global media defence fund, which will support, train and provide legal services to journalists worldwide. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the plan in London on Wednesday, also adding there will be funds to promote press freedom in the event that the media comes under attack. Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will serve on a panel of legal experts to advise governments on how their laws or actions may affect press freedom.

After France announced its plans to tax tech giants, specifically targeting Google and Facebook, the US ordered an investigation into the decision and one of its trade representatives claimed the move unfairly targeted American companies. The French tax targets companies with revenues over €750m, of which at least €25m is generated in France. This year the tax is expected to raise about €400m ($450m; £360m).

Despite Reuters reporting that Europe’s manufacturing sector has inched higher with a 0.2% month-on-month growth in industrial production, the European Commission still warned that certain sectors like manufacturing may bring a downturn to momentum. The commission predicts growth will be only 1.2% this year, which would represent the worst performance in seven years.

Markets

What happened yesterday?
On Wednesday the dollar climbed higher and Wall Street closed near record highs upon Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell’s warning to Congress that uncertainty remains in the US economy. This has reinforced investors’ expectations that the central bank will cut interest rates later this month.

Revenue is set to fall for Superdry, with underlying profits down almost 60% for the latest financial year. Founder Julian Dunkerton warned shareholders to expect things to get worse before they get better as it will take time to fix the struggling British fashion firm.

The FTSE 100 closed at 4.8 points, 0.06% ahead to 7,541.11. Just Eat led the close, and is up two per cent to 647.1p. Just Eat has recovered from its Tuesday drop, when Berenberg analysts downgraded its shares from "buy" to "hold" and slashed its price target from 880p to 600p.

The FTSE 250 closed at 29.3 points, 0.2% lower at 19,438.04. The recruiter PageGroup, dropping 14.7% to 430.4p, is the top of the losers. This drop could be attributed to the profit warning PageGroup announced due to global economic uncertainty.

What's happening today?

Finals
Dart
Ilika Plc
Reneuron

Trading Announcements
Kier
Workspace

Interims
No new announcements.

AGMs
Attis Oil & Gas
Biotech Gwth
Blackstone Gso
Dragon-ukr.
Helical Bar
Land Securities 
LondonMetric
Mercantile Ports & Logistics
Northern 2 Vct
Octopus Ap
Personal Assets Trust
Renewi Plc       
Speedy Hire     
Telford Homes 
Templeton Emerging Markets   
Workspace

UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey

Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Columns of Note
Philip Salter argues in City AM this morning that immigrants are responsible for Britain’s fastest-growing businesses. He cites that 49% of these accelerated firms have at least one immigrant co-founder, despite only 14% of UK residents being foreign-born. The firms that are analysed have seen the largest increase in value over the last three years, with seven of the evaluated businesses being worth more than $1 billion or more. Salter mentions familiar names like Monzo and Deliveroo, and also points out that immigrant co-founders hail from 29 different countries and have collectively attracted £3.7 billion in investment with their ingenious start-ups. Salter urges readers to change their perspective of associating immigrants with negative connotations, and warns that if Brexit prevails, the next generation of brilliant entrepreneurs will set their sights on other nations to deliver prosperity.

The former head of Venezuela’s congressional budget office Francisco Rodriguez places responsibility of the country’s decline on punitive economic sanctions imposed by Washington. Rodriguez asserts that US sanctions have throttled Venezuela’s access to external financing, and in an attempt to detract revenue from the Maduro regime, this economic warfare is causing the suffering of innocent Venezuelans. As Maduro retains power and increases oppression over Venezuelans, Rodriguez argues that the policymakers responsible for these outcomes are too focused on opposing the regime to remedy their errors. He points out what Washington refuses to acknowledge: that ignoring the suffering of the people will not bring democracy to Venezuela.

Did you know?
The sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter in the English alphabet.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

UK Parliament

Oral questions
International Trade (including Topical Questions)

Women and Equalities (including Topical Questions)

Business Statement
Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mel Stride

Backbench Business
General Debate on 20 Years of Devolution - Pete Wishart, David T. C. Davies

Backbench Business
Debate on a Motion relating to Leasehold Reform - Mr Clive Betts

Adjournment
Centenary of GCHQ - Alex Chalk

House of Lords
Oral questions
Imposition and operation of public spaces protection orders - Lord Clement-Jones

Availability of NHS dentistry services - Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Whether the number of frigates in commission available for operations will fall below 13 in any year before 2026 - Lord West of Spithead

De-escalating tensions in the Gulf of Oman - Lord Bates

Debate
Creating an environment which encourages business growth and job creation, especially in relation to the tax system - Baroness Neville-Rolfe

Church of England’s social media community guidelines published on 1 July and steps to promote positive social media behavior - The Lord Bishop of St Albans

The extent of persecution of people of faith in this century - Lord Elton

Grand Committees
No business scheduled.

Select Committees
Science and Technology Committee (Lords) - Private Meeting

EU External Affairs Sub-Committee - Private Meeting

EU Internal Market Sub-Committee - Private Meeting

Services Committee - Private Meeting

Joint Committees
No business scheduled.

Scottish Parliament
On recess until Monday 1 September.

TOMORROW

House of Commons
No business scheduled.


House of Lords
No business scheduled.


Scottish Parliament
On recess until Monday 1 September.