24 May 2019

Scott Reid

24 May 2019

Good morning,

If you missed the memo for Theresa May’s leaving drinks, which may or may not be in a Whitehall pub later today, then you’re definitely in luck. Because it’s tomorrow’s festivities that promise to be a doozy.
 
What’s the occasion you ask? As one of the most-read business commentators in the Charlotte Street Partners office, Simon English, reminded us yesterday, it’s the first anniversary of GDPR, of course!
 
And what a year it’s been. After heralding the end to years of tyranny from company spam emails on May 26, we have found the next 12 months filled with consent forms and, yes, company spam emails that are now doubly irritating because we thought we weren’t going to get them anymore. But the small print reveals (as if you bothered to read it) that there might be a canny loophole you’ve missed that keeps you on the list, or maybe companies might be just be flouting the new GDPR rules because they are a nightmare to implement.
 
If you’re a bit rusty on acronyms, GDPR stands for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which warranted a flurry of panic from companies this time last year as they scrambled to renew consent to contact their audiences. Failure to get that box ticked might land them with a fine for four per cent of their total turnover.
 
An alternative definition for the acronym, as English rather witheringly put it, might be God-Dam Pointless Regime. Inboxes haven’t been decluttered, consumers remain confused and we still read more stories than ever before of personal details being hacked. A survey by Ogury suggests only eight per cent of us have a better understanding of how companies are using our data since last May.
 
I’ll stick my neck out to voice some optimism. GDPR was only ever going to be the start of a direction of travel to ensure companies are playing fair. As we all become digitally deft, this stuff – like banking transparency in the decade after 2007/8 – must become second nature. If not, the mistrust pandemic in organisations only worsens, and the potential penalties to companies with it.
 
Change may be coming. 206,000 official cases have been logged by the European Commission so far, including fines across 11 countries and 95,000 complaints totalling €56 million in fines. Although a white whale has yet to be harpooned, Reuters reported earlier this week that Google is facing its first GDPR probe in Ireland over claims that it misled consumers on their consent to ad-tracking.
 
And if found guilty, that’s a lot of cash up for grabs. What better warning sign to potential GDPR mavericks that government is serious in its threats? It’d certainly be a good start to the budget for our next PM leaving party.

News

Theresa May is expected to announce a fixed date for her resignation as prime minister later this morning. According to senior cabinet members reports to the BBC, the most likely date is June 10 when the official leadership race will begin, hoping to be concluded by the end of July. May will meet with Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Tory backbencher 1922 Committee this morning, with the suggestion than a party rule change could be invoked to force her resignation if she is unwilling.
 
Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party and its coalition partners look set to gain 340 of 543 lower house seats in India’s general election. While vote-counting continued overnight, the largest opposition party, Congress, was ahead in only 50 seats whilst also losing the seat of its leader, Rahul Gandhi. Voting was held over six weeks, with turnout among women reach a new high of 67%. (£)
 
Facebook removed a record 2.2 billion fake accounts from its systems in the first three months of 2019, the company has announced. The social media giant has employed artificial intelligence to block the accounts within minutes of their appearance, with the number of accounts only slightly less than Facebook’s 2.38 billion monthly active users. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested the company’s scale and speed in tackling the issue, which uses a budget greater than the entire turnover of Twitter, was a reason against breaking-up Facebook. (£)

Business & Economy

Facebook is finalising plans to launch its own crypto-currency in 2020. Announcing the plans yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg said the company was in discussions with both the Bank of England and Western Union, aiming to test the blockchain programme later this year. Referred to internally as GlobalCoin, the payment systems is intended to make it cheaper and faster for people without a bank account to send and receive money.
 
Huawei could still be included in a US-China trade deal, President Trump has suggested. Announcing a $16 billion bailout package for US farmers hit by escalating tariffs between the two countries yesterday, Trump said there was a “good possibility” that negotiations could resume having broken down earlier this month. Huawei is currently blacklisted by the US government, and several US companies including Google, over security fears. (£)
 
The owner of The Body Shop, Natura, has acquired cosmetics firm Avon in a deal valued at £1.6 billion. Brazil-based Natura, which also owns luxury brand Aesop, said the agreement would create the world’s fourth largest beauty company, including a 47% share in its domestic market. The deal is likely to be concluded by next year, following approval by internal shareholders.

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Another volatile day in the halls of Westminster was matched by an equally pessimistic day on the London market, with the FTSE 100 ending the session 1.41% lower at 7,231.04 points. Sterling remained at its worst level against the dollar, down 0.02% at $1.27, and 0.15% weaker against the euro at €1.13. Analysts also suggested the market was unlikely to rebound any time soon, weighed down by nerves over a likely surge in anti-EU sentiment expressed at the ballot box on Thursday.
 
In equity markets, ex-dividend stocks including WM Morrison (down 5.80%), Provident Financial (down 3.78%) and others only added to the gloom. Royal Mail suffered heavy losses, falling 10.86% a day after cutting its own dividend by 10p to 15p from 2020 in order to help fund the next phase of its turnaround strategy.
 
On the upside was strong performances from Serco (up 7.43%) after the outsourcer announced it was acquiring Alion’s Naval Systems Business Unit (NSBU), which supplies ship and submarine engineering services to the US Navy for $225 million. Defence technology company Qinetiq jumped 5.26% following better-than-expected results, and pub operator Mitchells & Butlers rose 10.92% after a snow-free winter helped keep footfall up.
 
Merlin Entertainment posted a rise of 7.55% as the entertainment park owner rejected a call from of its principal shareholders to find a buyer to take it private.

Finals  
Mothercare
Urban Logistics Reit
Tiger Resource
Westminster Group
 
Trading Announcements
Spectric

Annual Report
Tiger Resource
 
Intl. Economic Announcements
(13.30) Durable Goods Orders (US)

AGMs
Bodycote
Bezant Resources
Fevertree Drinks
Global Ports Holding
Headlam Group
Informa
Luceco
Old Mutual Limited NPV (DI)
Pagegroup
Spectris
Yew Grove Reit

Columns of Note

In The Times, Oliver Kamm suggests that the biggest contributor to UK inequality isn’t regional but generational. He points out that whilst northern regions including Yorkshire and the Humber might have seen falling prosperity, inflation and the cost of living mean that it’s not necessarily better for a family living in London. Pensioners, by behaviour and legislative design, have been protected from the main whack of this crisis, leaving younger workers to pick up the bill. (£)
 
Jon Alsop comments in The Atlantic on the EU election race in the South West and suggests that a ‘circus’ of candidates has trivialised the debate. He writes that the pitch of candidates like Change UK’s Rachel Johnson and the Brexit Party’s Ann Widdecombe has turned voters off from policy specifics, instead focusing on personalities and generalised visions for Britain’s future where voters already made up their minds on those questions in 2016.

Did you know?

There are now at least 25 species of parrots with breeding colonies living in the United States. At least 23 of these species have descended from escaped pets.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

House of Commons

No business scheduled.  

House of Lords

No business scheduled.  

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled.