17th January 2020
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner
Good morning, As if January wasn’t bad enough, you might be one of the half a million Brits trying veganism out for size. If so, I tip my hat to you; I’ve had soy yoghurt and it’s terrible. Couple that with bad weather and short days, conflict and a climate catastrophe, and you’ve got yourself a sorry state of affairs. Worse, your “wellness regime” undoubtedly precludes all fun, including for the friends you force to sit with you in the pub while you sip a coke and look at your phone. Your only escape then, from relentless veggies and an increasingly sparse social circle, is the Greggs vegan sausage roll. And getting your mitts on one is about to become easier than ever. The pastry jewel in our high street’s crown has struck a partnership with Just Eat to offer exclusive delivery of its cakes, pies and sarnies across the UK. The deal is a real win for Just Eat, which recently signed a £6 billion merger with Amsterdam-based Takeaway.com and is currently fending off competition from rivals Uber Eats and Deliveroo. And why is it such a boon, you ask? Because all Brits love Greggs, of course. So much so that the chain has managed to double its profits since 2013 and quintuple its market value to nearly £2.5 billion, thanks in part to a canny social media presence and a penchant for responsible capitalism. Some analysts predict it’s not far away from the FTSE 100. In recent years, the company has upped the nutritional stakes, adding a series of vegan, gluten-free and healthy options to reinvigorate its stodgy image. What’s more, Greggs shares 10% of its profits with employees; gives one per cent of profits to its foundation, feeding 36,000 children free breakfast every school day; and provides training and work experience to prisoners at the end of their sentences. It is also a model employer, paying more than the minimum wage, eschewing zero-hours contracts and providing employees with regular shifts that make it easier to manage family commitments. Yes, the bakery truly is a national treasure. And what better treat to brighten dark winter days than an ethical sausage roll and proof that impressive growth goes hand-in-hand with good business?
A report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has called on technology companies to share data on how children use social media – not just how much time they spend online. Without it, leading UK psychiatrists say they will never understand the risks and benefits of social media use. The report also calls on technology companies to pay a tax to fund important research. A British teenager who was found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus has launched an appeal against her conviction. The 19-year-old woman had claimed she was assaulted by up to 12 Israeli tourists while on holiday in Ayia Napa last July – but was charged herself after signing a retraction statement. Last week, a judge gave her a four-month jail term suspended for three years. According to a global study, one person dies every three seconds from sepsis, making it a “bigger killer than cancer”. Researchers of the condition, also known as blood poisoning, have said they are “alarmed” at the high death rates and say sepsis now accounts for almost a fifth of global deaths.
Business and economy
The boss of Flybe has confirmed that the airline is in talks with the government over a loan, but says the financial support would not constitute a bailout. Rival airlines have called for further details on the UK government’s role in helping the troubled regional carrier, arguing that support may contravene competition rules. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary yesterday wrote to chancellor Sajid Javid threatening to take legal action against the government if it failed to clarify its role. Two hospitals that were being built by Carillion when the contractor collapsed two years ago will cost more than £2 billion and are being delayed by several years. According to the National Audit Office, the anticipated cost to build and run the Royal Liverpool Hospital has risen by 42% to £1.1 billion, and the estimated cost of the Midland Metropolitan in Sandwell has risen by 44% to £988 million. China’s GDP growth last year was 6.1%, the slowest rate since political turmoil ravaged the country 29 years ago. The figure, announced today by the National Bureau of Statistics, follows a year of uncertainty for the Chinese economy, which was hammered by US tariffs as a result of the trade war.
Columns of note
In The Atlantic, Derek Thompson exposes the shocking truth behind Manhattan’s skyscrapers: half of them are empty. Approximately 50% of the luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years remain unsold. Juxtaposed with the 80,000 people sleeping either in New York City’s shelters or on its streets, and it’s clear that the real-estate bubble of 2008 might not be the only defining housing crisis of the century. Bill McKibben explores Blackrock’s decision to move away from fossil fuels in the New Yorker. Chief executive Larry Fink explained in his annual letter to investors that climate change has now put us “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance”, marking a watershed moment in climate history. But his rhetoric is far more dramatic than Blackrock’s policy. Coal, the first stock to go from the actively managed portfolio, has tanked in value anyway. Further, BlackRock’s main business is passive index funds, which aren’t addressed at all. Still, the move marks a colossal shift in sentiment and if, for a moment, you want to feel hopeful about the future, now’s your chance. (£)
What happened yesterday?
It was a flat day of trading for the FTSE 250, which ended pretty much where it started after being pulled in both directions by a slew of corporate updates. It closed up 0.04% at 21,721.23. The FTSE 100 fared worse in the offing, lagging a fairly flat set of European indices through the session to close in the red. Shares were stung by the rising pound and a string of poor corporate results which dragged things down. The index closed 0.43% lower at 7,609.81. Germany’s defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said that the US threatened to impose a 25% tariff on European car exports if continental heavyweights continued to back a nuclear deal with Iran. The news weighed heavily on European carmakers shares. Meanwhile US stock was surging, with strong US earnings and the US-China trade truce boosting the S&P 500 to over 3,300 for the first time. The index climbed as much as 0.6% in the day, led by gains of 0.6% in industrials and 0.7% in tech stocks, before trimming its advance.
What's happening today
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Did you know?
Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Hayden Christensen, and Laura Dern would ruin takes because they couldn’t help mimicking the ‘zhhjummmm’ of lightsabers and the ‘pew pew’ of blasters while filming various episodes of Star Wars.
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