Written by Juan Palenzuela, Associate
Edited by David Gaffney, Partner
Elon Musk is no stranger to controversy. Last week, he tweeted calling for the break up of Amazon, drawing a fair amount of attention to himself.
However, on this particular issue, Musk is not necessarily alone – It is certainly not the first time that such calls have been made for the ecommerce behemoth to be reined-in somehow. While the initial issue that sparkled Musk’s comments was later resolved, one could argue that the case for breaking up big tech, and Amazon specifically, is gaining momentum, for a variety of reasons.
It would not be the first time that American antitrust authorities took action to break up a monopoly, either, the most notable example being AT&T in 1982. But the fact that Amazon and its big tech peers operate seamlessly across borders complicates matters. A lot.
In the UK, over 30% of all ecommerce sales occur through Amazon, more than the next eight competitors combined. The picture is bleaker still in the US, where half of ecommerce is dominated by Amazon. Besides its main business, Amazon is also becoming the hegemon in cloud computing (33% of global market share), digital publishing and even logistics.
It must be said, of course, that Amazon’s size allows for economies of scale that benefit customers with low prices, extremely fast deliveries and cheap and reliable cloud computing. This reality led Lina Khan, a legal scholar, to describe a phenomenon she calls the Amazon antitrust paradox, which notes that dealing with monopolies is becoming ever harder in this modern world due to rapidly evolving technology. More than ever before, break-ups could create friction, leading to higher prices, less investment and slower innovation.
Amazon is by no means immune to the law of diminishing returns: as it gets larger, the benefits it gains from economies of scale dissipate. The risk to society, however, increases and the threat to competition is real. If regulators are to succeed in protecting consumer interests, they will need to understand the tech as much as they understand the market.
For the first time since 28 February, New Zealand has no active cases of Covid-19. In total, 1,154 confirmed cases were reported and 22 people have died from the virus. The question now is how will the country manage its opening up to the rest of the world? Strong contact tracing and mandatory quarantine for visitors will likely be key to the new strategy.
In a quest to improve its image, Huawei has launched a campaign to mark 20 years of operations in the UK. The company remains "as committed as ever" to provide "the best equipment" to the UK's 5G mobile and fibre operators, Huawei said in a letter. The campaign comes amid a new security review that could lead the UK government to ban use of Huawei's 5G network kit.
According to reporting from the Financial Times, six ministers – including chancellor Rishi Sunak – calling themselves the “save summer six”– have identified 22 June as the potential date when England’s pubs and restaurants should be allowed to reopen. In theory, the hospitality sector is not due to open until 4 July, but the new plans, which will be discussed tomorrow, hope to ameliorate the impact on the very fragile sector.
Business and economy
Representatives from the international shipping industry warned over the weekend of a threat to global trade from a mounting crisis on board merchant vessels, where up to 400,000 crew are at risk as they remain stranded either at sea or at home due to the pandemic. In response, Guy Platten, the secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping, called for an easing of measures imposed currently on the industry.
A £1.5bn High Court case against Barclays will begin today. Private equity firm PCP Capital is suing Barclays for alleged deceit over the terms of its 2008 emergency fundraising, in which the bank turned to Qatar and Abu Dhabi to raise capital, allowing it to shun a UK government bailout. Barring any last-minute settlement, the trial, which will last around nine weeks, will give fresh insight into the events of October 2008.
With its new acquisition of Deutsche Bank’s brokerage and equities business, BNP Paribas is reportedly seeking to displace Goldman Sachs in becoming one of the top three global prime hedge fund brokers, and become the dominant European player in the industry. BNP is one of the few remaining European banks still committing resources to prime finance, a risky but lucrative activity.
Columns of note
Writing for the Financial Times, Patrick Jenkins questions the capacity of some executives to back both the protests over the killing of George Floyd and Xi Jinping. While double standards are nothing new, bosses need to at least look like they care, he argues.
In The Times, Graham Ruddick says that society must support those businesses that are adapting and innovating in spite of the current situation, as they are better suited to lead the recovery.
Source: The Times
The week ahead
On Friday, global equity markets surged after surprisingly good news in the US jobs market as the economy added 2.5 million jobs, instead of losing as many as nine million, as several commentators expected. If other economic indicators follow suit this week, we will see further rallying of investors.
Several countries will report trade balances, with China reporting Sunday, Japan reporting current accounts (another measure of trade) on Sunday, Germany reporting trade balances tomorrow, and the UK on Friday. The one to watch is China, as it reopened first.
America’s Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey for the month of April is also released tomorrow and will give a fuller picture of the job market.
Besides that, the UK will release Q1 GDP data on Friday, where a small contraction is expected; and several countries will release CPI data, which will provide useful information into the extent of inflation.
What's happening today?
Final dividend payment
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production (GER)
Did you know?
The Scottish island of Inchconnachan is one of the few places outside Australia and Tasmania with a viable population of wild wallabies.
House of Commons
Home Office (including Topical Questions)
Conduct of House business during the pandemic - Mr Alistair Carmichael
Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords]: Second Reading - Robert Buckland
Business of the House (Private Members’ Bills) - Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg
Electoral reform - Wendy Chamberlain
House of Lords
Private notice orders
Orders and regulations