6th December 2019
Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate
Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner
This week, between the highs and lows of unrelenting Christmas merriment and miserable dark mornings, I had a good laugh at the Peloton Christmas advert. It’s your classic fairy-tale really: ethereal, bony house-maiden meets over-engineered digital exercise bike. A gift from dead-behind-the-eyes hubby, eternally grateful and genuinely frightened wifey falls head-over-heels, becoming even more skeletal and repressed as the year goes on and she languishes in self-loathing, motherhood and a glossy gaff. Oh, and a lot of cycling. The hilarious dystopian ad saw the company wipe $1 billion from its market capitalisation in three days, with stock falling 10.5% amid the media frenzy. In this case, the marketing mishap had remarkably devastating effects due primarily to the nature of the business. The company is totally reliant on the views of their customers – of whom at least half have got to be women. And an even greater proportion are likely to be humans, with eyes. You see, it costs to be oblivious – at least in the short-term. In an investor note earlier this week, analysts wrote that the “significant backlash” will not adversely affect holiday sales. Unfortunately, there will always be demand for skinny women. Still, it made me think about the people who sign these things off. And of the fact that more Steves than women are FTSE 100 chief executives. This means that strategies and solutions are conjured up every day without consideration of their impact on society as a whole. Now, this is not necessarily the fault of the Steves – we can’t expect them to think as someone else, of course – but of a system that enabled so many of them to get to the top. A quick example is Transport for London’s decision to strip Uber of its licence to operate. Admittedly, there are some truly horrible system glitches and these need to change. But, to what extent did TfL’s predominantly male leadership team consider the impact of a blanket ban on the city’s women? And how could we expect them to? Of nine chief officers, one is female. What may have seemed like a quick fix for the men at the table, ultimately made London’s women feel less safe, removing from them a degree of agency and choice. For many, Uber is peace of mind. For me, it’s knowing that I can always get home late and cheaply without the fear of being harassed on the night bus or subject to a nervy walk in the dark. This not only allows me to function socially, but also professionally. Men simply don’t have to think about safety in these terms. And so, in what seems an endless argument, I’ll say it again. We need representative perspectives at every level of business, government and civil society to generate productive solutions that work for all.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are set to go head-to-head this evening in a second live BBC election debate. It comes following criticism from Andrew Neil, who challenged Boris Johnson to submit to a half-hour grilling. The other main party leaders have all been interviewed, but the Conservative leader has yet to agree. You can watch the hour-long programme on BBC One at 8.30pm. Indian police have shot dead four men accused of the gang rape and murder of a young vet in Hyderabad. The men had become high-profile objects of hate throughout the country following their alleged premeditated attack on a 27-year-old woman last Wednesday. Political campaign groups with no obvious affiliation to any of the UK’s main parties have bought thousands of Facebook ads in the first month of the general election campaign. According to analysis by the Financial Times, these non-party groups, or shadow companies, have spent more than half a million pounds on ads in a digital battle for votes that transparency activists warn is too opaque to be adequately monitored. The biggest sum - £14,000 - was spent by the Capitalist Worker group in their campaign against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. It is alleged the group has links to the Brexit Party. (£)
Business and economy
State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco has raised a record $25.6 billion in its initial public offering in Riyadh. The share sale was the biggest ever, surpassing that of China’s Alibaba, which raised $25 billion in 2014 in New Work. Aramco relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake, after lukewarm international interest. More than £5,000 a second was withdrawn from British property funds in a year because of uncertainty over Brexit. A net £2.97 billion was taken from 15 open-ended funds that offer daily liquidity to investors, according to analysis by data firm Morningstar. The scale of withdrawals was highlighted after asset management group M&G stopped redemptions from its £2.5 billion property fund on Wednesday because it was not holding enough cash to support outflows. France is set for a second day of disruption as unions warned there would be no let-up in the strike against President Macron’s plans to implement a universal points-based pension system. It would replace France’s current system which has 42 different pension schemes across its private and public sectors, with variations in retirement age and benefits. More than 800,000 workers took to the streets yesterday, with violent clashes reported in a number of cities.
Columns of note
Zoë Schlanger examines the effectiveness of carbon credits in Quartz this week. The UN’s COP25 climate change conference appears to be highlighting what we already know: current pledges to cut carbon emissions are not enough to curb global warming. So, in theory, using carbon credits to offset emissions and paying to meet climate goals is a good idea. Funding can flow to halt deforestation, for example, in countries where it is most needed. In practice, however, offsets are controversial. Fundamentally, politicians are unreliable, and you simply can’t buy your way out of the climate emergency. In today’s Times, Rhymer Rigby asks: is there a good reason to have five cameras on your phone? Companies seem to have reached a dead end in their search to be cutting edge, with the proliferation of cameras evident across the board. Manufacturers say that multiple cameras allow small devices to compete with large cameras; or rather they’ve reached an innovation plateau. Is there an opportunity then for a buccaneering underdog to smash through, poaching bored customers with a simpler, more effective offer? Rigby hopes so. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.7% yesterday, a comparative underperformance against its major European peers. This was due mainly to gains in sterling as markets anticipate a Tory win at next week’s general election. The more representative FTSE 250 ended the day 0.2% higher. The pound was up 0.44% against the dollar at $1.32, and 0.24% against the euro at €1.19. More broadly, trade relations between the US and China remained in focus after Bloomberg reported China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng as saying that Chinese officials are in “close contact” with US counterparts on trade negotiations. He also reiterated that tariffs should be reduced proportionately as part of a phase one deal.
What's happening today?
Agronomics AGMs AB Foods Fidelity Asian Values Gfinity James Halstead Jubilee Metals Volta Fin
Int. Economic Announcements (07:00) Industrial Production (GER) (13:30) Non-Farm Payrolls (US) (13:30) Unemployment Rate (US) (15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US) (15:00) Wholesales Inventories (US) (20:00) Consumer Credit (US)
UK Economic Announcements (08:30) Halifax House Price Index
Did you know?
Prospective radio announcers in 1920s America were given the following paragraph to read in order to pass a pronunciation test: ‘Penelope Cholmondeley raised her azure eyes from the crabbed scenario. She meandered among the congeries of her memoirs. There was the Kinetic Algernon, a choleric artificer of icons and triptychs, who wanted to write a trilogy. For years she had stifled her risibilities with dour moods. His asthma caused him to sough like the zephyrs among the tamarack.’
TODAY House of Commons The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019. House of Lords The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019.
Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.