China Mobile shares rise in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn in China’s biggest public offering in a decade

( via – – Wed, 5th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

China Mobile shares have risen as they started trading in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn (£5.7bn) in China's biggest public offering in a decade.

China Mobile shares have risen as they started trading in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn (£5.7bn) in China's biggest public offering in a decade.

The shares opened 9.4% higher before easing back in morning trade.

China Mobile's smaller rivals, China Telecom and China Unicom, have already made the move to their home country.

The three firms were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after a Trump-era decision to restrict investment in Chinese technology companies.

China Mobile's Hong Kong-listed shares also rose in early trade after the company said it would press ahead with a plan to buy back up to 2.05 billion shares, worth nearly $13bn.

Nina Xiang, the author of US-China Tech War, told the BBC that the Chinese government would have made sure that China Mobile's Shanghai debut went well.

She said: “It's important for Beijing to ensure this listing appears successful and smooth to prove that China has the wherewithal to accommodate its own companies on its own stock exchanges.

“But it won't be great for Chinese companies to lose the access to the US capital markets as it will be another step in the downward spiral of deteriorating bilateral relations,” she added.

The policy introduced by the Trump administration to clamp down on investments in Chinese technology firms has remained in place under President Joe Biden as tensions continue between Washington and Beijing.

Ms Xiang also highlighted that more US-listed Chinese firms may take similar steps to safeguard their share listings: “There are dozens of Chinese companies listed on US exchanges that might seek a listing in Hong Kong this year to secure their shares remain publicly traded, in case the two countries couldn't reach a solution for Chinese firms to remain listed in the US.”

The company has said it plans to use the cash raised from the offering to develop projects including premium 5G networks, infrastructure for cloud resources and artificial intelligence software.

China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network operator by total subscribers.

Last month, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has announced plans to take its shares off the New York Stock Exchange and move its listing to Hong Kong.

The firm had come under intense pressure since it raised $4.4bn in its US debut at the end of June.

Also, within days of the New York initial public offering Beijing announced a crackdown on technology companies listing overseas.

Didi shares have lost almost 65% of their value since their US market debut.

Apple becomes first US company to reach $3tn valuation

( via – – Tue, 4th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

New year trading pushed Apple shares to a new high of $182.80 after tripling in value in under four years

Apple became the first US company to be valued at over $3tn on Monday as the tech company continued its phenomenal share price growth, tripling in value in under four years.

A pandemic-era surge in tech stocks has driven the major US tech companies to new highs, pulling US stock markets with them. Apple became the world’s first trillion dollar company in August 2018, passed $2tn in 2020 and hit its new high as trading began after the holidays and its shares passed $182.80 a piece before dipping lower to end the day valued at over $2.9tn.

Apple alone is now more valuable than the combined values of Boeing, Coca-Cola, Disney, Exxon-Mobil, McDonald’s, Netflix and Walmart. Its shares have risen 38% since the beginning of 2021, one of the largest gains on the Dow Jones industrial average stock market index.

The company released its last quarterly earnings in October and made a profit of $20.6bn over the previous three months despite suffering from Covid-related supply chain issues.

It is unlikely to remain the only $3tn company as analysts expect Microsoft will also hit the mark later this year.

The news came as US markets edged higher and European shares bounded to record highs in the first day of trading in 2022 as investors bet on a steady economic recovery despite the rising number of Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Europe’s benchmark stock index, the Stoxx 600, rose to a record intraday high of 491.73 points on Monday, surpassing its November peak of 490.58, as global oil and equity markets climbed. It later closed at 489.99, up 0.45%.

The Stoxx 600 recorded a 22.4% jump last year, its second-best yearly performance in over a decade, after the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and government stimulus spending encouraged investors to pour money back into the markets.

The share price of airlines Lufthansa and Air France–KLM were two of the biggest climbers across Europe’s equity markets after analysts at Citi forecast that the reopening of travel routes to Asia could help bolster the beleaguered travel sector. Lufthansa shares rose by almost 8.9% to €6.73 a share, and Air France KLM rose by 4.9% to €4.06.

Europe’s record start to the new year set the stage for US markets to continue their late 2021 recovery. The opening of the S&P 500 index, which climbed by a record 47.7% last year, was bolstered by a 9% jump in Tesla shares after the company’s quarterly deliveries exceeded expectations.

In another boost to US markets global oil prices, which last year recorded their biggest annual rise since at least 2016, resumed their rise towards $80 a barrel as fears that emerged late last year over the impact of the Omicron variant waned. The oil price helped shares in US oil majors Chevron and ExxonMobil climb by 1% each.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE), which has lagged behind its European and US rivals by climbing 14.3% last year, was closed on Monday for the new year bank holiday. The FTSE 100 has been criticised as “old-fashioned” due to its dearth of tech companies and a glut of oil and bank stocks. It remained 6.5% below its May 2018 peak last year while the US, German and French markets all hit record highs.

Sean Darby, a global equity strategist at Jefferies, said: “Although Covid-19 variants permeated the global economy, 2021 was the year of records with many bourses closing at or near record highs, while inflows into equities surpassed their largest accumulation ever. Peering into 2022, we expect volatility to rise.”

Global oil markets are also expected to face ongoing volatility in the year ahead as traders balance the risk that the Omicron variant may stall a rebound in demand for transport fuels, against uncertain supplies from the world’s biggest oil producers.

Reporting by Dominic Rushe and Jillian Ambrose 

Toyota poised to outsell General Motors in the U.S. as sales leader for 2021

( via — Tue, 4th Jan 2022) London, UK —

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) is poised to outsell General Motors Co (GM.N) in the United States in 2021, which would mark the first time the Detroit automaker has not led U.S. auto sales since 1931.

In the first nine months of 2021, Toyota sold 1.86 million vehicles in the United States compared with GM's 1.78 million, or just over 80,000 more vehicles. For all of 2020, GM's U.S. sales totaled 2.55 million, compared with Toyota's 2.11 million and Ford Motor Co's (F.N) 2.04 million.

The year has been marred by a shortage of semiconductors used heavily in vehicles, forcing automakers to focus on their most profitable models.

The automakers are set to report full-year 2021 U.S. sales results on Tuesday. GM has been the largest seller of vehicles in the United States since 1931, when it surpassed Ford, according to data from industry publication Automotive News.

Toyota isn't boasting about the expected accomplishment. Senior Vice President Jack Hollis said in a statement that the automaker is “grateful” for its loyal customers, but “being No. 1 is never a focus or priority.”

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the Detroit automaker had a very strong sales year in the United States in full-size SUVs and pickup trucks as it has focused on profitability, and as the supply of semiconductors improves, so will sales.

“I wouldn't rush out, if I were (Toyota), and get a ‘We're No. 1' tattoo,” he said.

GM under Chief Executive Mary Barra also has emphasized profitability over volume, abandoning such money-losing markets as Europe and Russia.

Edmunds auto analyst Jessica Caldwell said Toyota will outsell GM in 2021 “unless the Detroit automaker pulls off a miracle.” But she added “it's unlikely that this is indicative of a long-term shift” and noted GM sells more brands than Toyota.

Cox Automotive forecast Toyota will outsell GM for all of 2021 in the United States: “Toyota has successfully managed tight inventory all year.”

For the entire industry, Cox Automotive forecast U.S. new vehicle sales will be down 32% in December over December 2020 — the slowest pace since May 2020, when the country remained mostly closed during the first wave of the COVID pandemic.

Industry analysts forecast around 15 million vehicles sold for all of 2021 in the United States. U.S. vehicle sales will remain well below the five-year average of 17.3 million from 2015-2019.

IHS Markit forecasts U.S. sales are expected to reach nearly 15.5 million in 2022, up an estimated 2.6% from the projected 2021 level of approximately 15.1 million vehicles.

Auto buyers have seen prices jump dramatically. Edmunds said average transaction prices for new vehicles hit another new record in November at $45,872 — compared with $39,984 in November 2020. Edmunds also forecast used vehicle prices will surpass the $30,000 mark for the first time in 2022.

IHS Markit forecast worldwide new light vehicle sales of nearly 82.4 million in 2022, up 3.7%, while 2021 sales are expected to be up just 2.9% globally from 2020.

Reporting by David Shepardson

Chinese giant Tencent joins backers of £3.3bn digital bank Monzo

( via– Mon, 3rd Jan, 2022) London, Uk – –

Tencent Holdings, which has a market value equivalent to more than £400bn (£296bn), is taking a small stake in Monzo, the UK-based lender, as part of a $600m (£444m) fundraising, Sky News learns.

Tencent Holdings, the Chinese technology behemoth, is taking a stake in Monzo, the British-based digital bank which has confounded expectations by securing a $4.5bn (£3.3bn) valuation.

Sky News has learnt that Tencent, which has become a prolific investor in Europe's burgeoning tech sector, has subscribed to shares as part of a $100m (£74m) top-up to Monzo's latest funding round.

A source close to the process said Tencent was investing a minority of the $100m capital injection.

The Chinese company's involvement adds another prominent investor to the bank's share register, weeks after it confirmed that the likes of Coatue and the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund had become investors.

Tencent has previously backed European banking start-ups such as Germany's N26, which had a brief presence in the UK market but rapidly withdrew citing Brexit-related complexities.

It also holds stakes in major US tech companies, including Tesla and Snap.

Its Hong Kong-listed shares have a market capitalisation equivalent to more than £400bn (£296bn).

The $100m top-up funding takes the total amount raised in Monzo's latest round to $600m (£444m), with its surging valuation aided by the addition of thousands of customers in 2021.

TS Anil, Monzo's chief executive, said: “The high level of investor interest we've had in this round is testament to our performance as well as the huge opportunity that lies ahead.

“With the backing of some of the best names in the investment community, we're going into next year with big ambitions – and we're just getting started.”

Monzo claims to have seen a doubling in revenues this year, and has more than 5m customers in total, with 100,000 being added each month.

More than 300,000 of those customers are now using paid and business accounts.

The bank has nevertheless had a turbulent couple of years, with a number of ongoing regulatory probes and a setback in its efforts to break into the US.

Monzo is chaired by Gary Hoffman, one of Britain's most experienced bank executives and the soon-to-depart chairman of English football's Premier League.

It employs more than 2,000 people.

Tencent has been contacted for comment.

By Mark Kleinman

El Salvador Adopted Bitcoin, Then Bought the Dip

( via — Thur, 30th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

The country’s adoption of BTC as legal tender wasn’t enough to keep the cryptocurrency near $50K in September.

El Salvador buys in

In June, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, announced that bitcoin would become legal tender, making his country the first to make that move, which also meant no capital gains taxes for bitcoin holders there.

Bitcoin rose about 70% from a low of around $30,000 toward a high of nearly $50,000 in early September as traders reacted to the news from El Salvador – seen by many fans of the 12-year-old digital asset as a long-awaited validation of its potential to serve a global currency. El Salvador’s bitcoin’s law went into effect in September.

Bitcoin dips

When the law actually took effect, bitcoin’s price began to sell off – a classic “buy-the-rumor, sell-the-fact” scenario. (A similar thing had happened earlier in the year, when the big cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase held its direct stock listing on the Nasdaq exchange.)

Bukele tweeted that El Salvador was ready to buy on price dips even as BTC continued to fall. A growing number of users on social media platforms, including Twitter and Reddit, called for people to buy small amounts of bitcoin in support of El Salvador’s bitcoin policy, Bloomberg reported. Many investors were already betting the news could give the oldest cryptocurrency a price boost.

On Sept. 13, software company MicroStrategy purchased an additional 5,050 BTC for about $242 million in cash. Still, BTC continued lower.

BTC declined from $50,000 toward $40,000 and ended September on a down note.

Concerns were growing over a possible credit default by the Chinese property developer Evergrande Group, shaking speculative assets including equities and cryptocurrencies; lower risk appetite among investors also contributed to bitcoin’s September slump.

The takeaway for crypto traders from the July-August price action was that El Salvador’s decision to make BTC legal tender wouldn’t be enough to keep the cryptocurrency’s price elevated at $50,000. Bitcoin’s correlation with stocks increased along with the credit concerns in China.

Still, the nearly 7% BTC drop in September looked far less severe than the 50% price crash in April and May. After some ups and downs, bitcoin’s price had again stabilized at well above 2020 levels as some traders began to anticipate a $100,000 BTC price by year end.

By Damanick Dantes

TikTok ousts Google to become top online destination

( via – – Mon, 27th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Move over Google, TikTok is the world's new most popular online destination.

The viral video app gets more hits than the American search engine, according to Cloudflare, an IT security company.

The rankings show that TikTok knocked Google off the top spot in February, March and June this year, and has held the number one position since August.

Last year Google was first, and a number of sites including TikTok, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Netflix were all in the top 10.

Cloudfare said it tracks data using its tool Cloudflare Radar, which monitors web traffic.

It is believed one of the reasons for the surge in Tiktok's popularity is because of the Covid pandemic, as lockdowns meant people were stuck at home and looking for entertainment.

By July this year, TikTok had been downloaded more than three billion times, according to data company Sensor Tower.

The social network, which is owned by a Chinese company called Bytedance, now has more than one billion active users across the world, and that number continues to grow.

In China, to comply with the country's censorship rules, the app is called Douyin, and runs on a different network.

Douyin was originally released in September 2016. This year, China ruled that users under the age of 14 would be limited to 40 minutes a day on the platform.

Security concerns

TikTok was launched internationally in 2018, after merging with another Chinese social media service,, an app which allowed users to share videos of themselves lip-synching to songs.

The social media platform is no stranger to controversy. In 2019, it garnered a temporary ban in India, a US counter-intelligence investigation and a record £4.3m fine after was found to have knowingly hosted content published by under-age users.

As one of the only internationally successful Chinese apps, politicians and regulators outside China have raised concerns about security and privacy.

Last year TikTok was forced to deny it is controlled by the Chinese government.

Theo Bertram, TikTok's head of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said it would refuse any request from China to hand over data.

The app hosts a variety of short videos, covering genres such as comedy, dance and politics.

In the UK, the most popular creator is make-up artist @abbyroberts with 17.4 million followers.

This year @Francis.Bourgeois, with 1.6 million followers, quit his job to become a full-time trainspotter as a result of his viral videos at railway stations talking about trains and cheering them as they pass.


Food and recipe videos have become a key part of TikTok's success, with viral clips getting millions of views.

As a result, in the US, a new food delivery service called TikTok Kitchen will launch in March, allowing people to order dishes originally created in viral videos.

The menu will be based on the app's most viral food trends and will include courses like the baked feta pasta which was ranked the most searched dish of 2021 by Google.

TikTok Kitchen is being co-founded by Robert Earl, who owns the US food outlets Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo and Bertucci's.

He said about 300 TikTok restaurants are planned across the country for the launch, with more than 1,000 expected by the end of 2022.

TikTok Kitchen will operate out of many of the restaurants belonging to the chains owned by Mr Earl.

How Pre-loved fashion is on the rise through global technology platforms

Source: Bloomberg

Pre-loved fashion is on the rise as old clothes find new wearers through global technology platforms. What are the risks and rewards of this resale revolution? At Vestiaire Collective’s authentication center in Northern France, CEO Max Bittner shows Imran Amed how countering counterfeits can secure growth. Back in London, he meets with Maria Raga, CEO of social e-commerce company Depop, as she looks to further build out a young online community.

Selfridges luxury department store chain sold for £4bn to Thai-Austrian alliance

( via – – Fri, 24th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

British luxury department store chain Selfridges is being sold to a Thai retailer and an Austrian property firm.

The deal for the majority of Selfridges Group is worth around £4bn ($5.4bn), the BBC understands.

Founded in 1908 by US retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge, the company is best known for its flagship department store on London's Oxford Street.

The Canadian wing of the billionaire Weston family bought Selfridges for nearly £600m in 2003.

“It is a privilege to be acquiring Selfridges Group, including the flagship Oxford Street store, which has been at the centre of London's most famous shopping street for over 100 years,” Central Group's chief executive Tos Chirathivat said in a statement.

It was revealed earlier this month that Central Group was close to agreeing a deal to take over Selfridges.

Selfridges Group employs around 10,000 people and owns 25 stores worldwide, including in major cities in England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Canada.

Signa and Central will take over 18 of the 25 stores. Selfridges Group's seven Holt Renfrew department stores in Canada were not part of the deal and will remain in the ownership of the Weston family.

Selfridges' new owners said they plan to build on the existing brand to develop luxury online stores as well improving its physical sites.

“Together we will work with the world's leading architects to sensitively reimagine the stores in each location, transforming these iconic destinations into sustainable, energy-efficient, modern spaces, whilst staying true to their architectural and cultural heritage,” Signa's chairman Dieter Berninghaus said.

Analysis By: Katie Prescott

Unique Brand

Selfridges is known for its bright yellow cardboard bags and its flagship store on London's Oxford Street is a magnet for shoppers and tourists alike.

Home to luxury brands, a visit is just as much about the experience and beautiful displays as what it is selling.

It even inspired a TV series about the American founder Harry Selfridge, who decided to build the “biggest and finest” department store in the world in 1908.

Now that “big, fine brand” and its buildings have brought its owners, the Weston family, a £4bn Christmas present.

Chief Executive of rival Fenwick, John Edgar, a former chief financial officer at the Selfridges Group, described it as a “great price for a fantastic business”

Analysts say that despite the well-publicised woes of retail through the pandemic, this sale shows that the Selfridges brand is unique. And it also underlines just how popular UK property still remains with international investors.

The Weston family – which also owns Fortnum & Mason and has majority control of Primark owner ABF – launched the sales process in June, a few months after the death of W Galen Weston, who oversaw the move to take the department store.

Alannah Weston, chair of Selfridges Group and daughter of Galen Weston, said the move is testament to her “father's vision for an iconic group of beautiful, truly experiential, department stores”.

“Creative thinking has been at the heart of everything we did together for nearly twenty years and sustainability is deeply embedded in the business,” she added.

Central, which is owned by the billionaire Chirathivat family, is involved in wide range of businesses including real estate, retail, hospitality and restaurants.

The Bangkok-based firm opened its first department store in 1956 and has grown to become Thailand's biggest owner of shopping malls.

It also has an e-commerce joint venture with China's and a stake in south east Asian ride-hailing and delivery giant Grab.

Vienna-based Signa Group was founded by entrepreneur René Benko in 2000 and has become Austria's largest privately owned real estate company.

The two firms already jointly own major department stores across Europe.

The Central-Signa 50/50 bid reportedly beat rival offers from the Qatar Investment Authority, which owns Harrods, and Lane Crawford, a Hong Kong-based department store chain.

Before the impact of the pandemic, Selfridges had doubled its profits and reported sales growth of more than 80% since being taken over by the Westons.

The family has received more than £580m in dividends from the business over the past decade, but also injected investment into improving the store's experience, with new concepts including an indoor skate park at its London store.

UK tech sector enjoys record year after start-ups attract more capital than ever before

( via– Wed, 22nd Dec, 2021) London, Uk – –

During what was the tech sector's best year since 2014, some £29.4bn was raised by start-ups and scale-ups, according to figures prepared for the government's Digital Economy Council.

The UK's tech sector has enjoyed a record year with start-ups attracting more capital than ever before, new data shows.

During what was the tech sector's best year since 2014, some £29.4bn was raised by start-ups and scale-ups, according to figures prepared for the government's Digital Economy Council, which were released on Monday.

That was more than twice the sum raised last year and reflects the way in which the pandemic and the lockdowns that followed it have accelerated so-called digitisation.

Many aspects of daily life have moved online during the last two years as working from home has been widely adopted, while communicating through social media and apps has exploded, as has e-commerce.

Record sums of venture capital have flowed into start-ups and scaling tech companies, with the likes of the car-selling platform Motorway, the second hand clothes selling site Depop and the banking challenger Starling Bank all raising money that pushed them north of a $1bn valuation – helping them achieve so-called unicorn status.

The analysis suggests that vast sums being poured into UK tech companies, along with the increased valuations being placed on them, mean that UK tech companies founded since the start of the century are now worth some £540bn.

Chris Philp, the digital minister, said that the tech sector's growth was not just confined to London and the South East.

He pointed out that almost £9billion of all money invested in the sector by venture capital firms had gone into start-ups and scale-ups outside London and the South East – with the regions accounting for nine of the 29 unicorns formed in the UK this year.

Mr Philp added: “Capitalising on this fantastic investment across the country is a crucial part of our mission to level up, so we are supporting businesses with pro-innovation policies and helping people to get the skills they need to thrive in this dynamic industry.”

The figures also highlight the attractiveness of the UK to tech investors compared with other European countries. The £29.4bn raised by UK start-ups and scale-ups was double the £17.4bn raised in Germany and almost three times the £9.7bn invested in French companies during the year. The UK accounted for £1 in every £3 invested in European tech companies during the year.

Expectations are that the UK's tech sector will continue to attract investment and continue growing as UK venture capital firms have raised more money than ever before this year. UK venture capital firms raised some £7bn during 2021 with the likes of Index Ventures, Balderton Capital and 83North all completing record-breaking fundraisings.

American investors are also keen to back fast-growing UK tech companies at an increasingly early stage in their development. Competition for deals among venture capital funds is heating up as an increasing number of US venture capital firms launched offices in the UK, including Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst and Sequoia Capital.

The figures, which were compiled for the Digital Economy Council by the data and intelligence provider Dealroom, suggest that 37% of all funding now comes from the US, up from 31.5% last year, with the majority of it going into fintech and health tech companies. Some 28% of UK venture funding came from domestic capital.

Saul Klein, partner and co-founder at LocalGlobe and Latitude, an investor in Oxford Nanopore, Wise and Cazoo, which have all listed on either the London or the New York stock exchanges this year, said: “It's taken 20 years for UK tech to get to the starting line and things start to get interesting in the next 20 years. We have all the ingredients to become the leading tech ecosystem in the world, with record levels of research and development, financing and established tech hubs across the country from New Palo Alto in Kings Cross, to Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester.”

Cities outside London proving particularly strong in building a tech economy and supporting start-ups include Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol. Leeds, Newcastle and Belfast also made it into the top 10 of regional cities, ranked by Dealroom on a combination of venture capital raised, tech jobs available, tech salaries and the number of companies valued at more than $1bn with their headquarters there.

The increased sums being poured into UK tech is also translating into increased job vacancies in the sector, which is experiencing difficulty in recruiting skilled staff. There has been a 50% rise in overall UK tech job vacancies advertised this year compared to 2020's figures, with advertised tech vacancies hitting 160,887 in November.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of the recruitment firm Adzuna, said: “The number of IT job openings is higher than it's ever been and is consistently growing week on week. In particular, it's great to see strong hiring in cities like Manchester and Birmingham which are showcasing some of the highest figures outside of London. The struggle for businesses across the country is having enough skilled staff to fill these positions to allow them to keep growing.”

Currently, tech vacancies make up 12% of all available jobs in the UK, with just over 50% of these jobs available outside of London and the South East. Remote working has been a useful tool for tech companies seeking to recruit people, with more than a fifth of all job ads in the IT sector advertised as remote roles.

The publication of Lord Hill's UK Listings Review in March is also seen as having contributed to the strong number of tech companies listing in the UK. Some 118 companies have chosen to list in the UK so far this year, raising more than £16.8billion, the most capital raised since 2007. This made the UK the most active venue globally for stock market flotations outside the US and Greater China.

Julia Hoggett, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, said that 37 of these companies were in the tech and consumer internet sectors, of which, 30 were founder-led.

She added: “Intent matters and the changes to listing regime have supported a great year for the London Stock Exchange. It provides a platform for an equally exciting 2022.”

According to Dealroom, the value of UK tech companies that either listed on stock markets or were taken over during the year hit a record £84bn, with the likes of Deliveroo, Darktrace, Cazoo, Arrival, Babylon and Depop all either listing or being taken over.

By Ian King

Zee-Sony merger to form Indian’s second largest entertainment network

( via – – Wed, 22nd Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Japanese conglomerate Sony's Indian arm has finalised a deal with local rival Zee Entertainment to form the country's second largest entertainment network.

The merged entity will include over 75 television channels, film assets and two streaming platforms.

It is poised to become a major player in the country's fast-growing entertainment industry, challenging rivals such as Walt Disney's Hotstar.

India has over 900 million TV viewers and over 800 channels.

These channels offer a variety of shows ranging from sports, melodramas to reality television.

As per the merger, which was announced on Tuesday, the combined entity will be nearly 51% owned by Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI). It will be headed by Zee's Chief Executive Officer Punit Goenka after a 90-day due diligence period.

Mr Goenka called the deal a “significant milestone”.

“The combined company will create a comprehensive entertainment business, enabling us to serve our consumers with wider content choices across platforms,” he said, according to an official release.

Both firms have operated in India for years and own streaming platforms ZEE5 and SonyLIV. They also have a vast TV following with popular channels such as Sony MAX and Zee TV.

“It's a hugely complementary deal,” media and entertainment industry specialist Vanita Kohli Khandekar told the BBC.

“For example Sony does not have the pan-India, small town and regional reach that Zee has. And Zee does not have a kids or sports business like Sony.”

Ms Khandekar said the deal will also propel Zee to an international stage. “The company has now been absorbed by Sony, a $82bn (£61bn) corporation. So, Zee now becomes a foreign company, which gives it a bigger platform.”

Although most Indians are still dependent on direct-to-home TV entertainment, the country is also a lucrative destination for streaming platforms that have been tapping into the vast internet market to target a young digital audience.

The past few years have seen a surge of competition from streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar as many desert television for digital shows.

Experts say the merger between Sony and Zee is expected to further ratchet up this competition.

Sir Dave Lewis ex-Tesco chief to lead £40bn separation of GSK consumer healthcare arm

( via– Mon, 20th Dec, 2021) London, Uk – –

Sir Dave Lewis will be named this week as non-executive chairman of the GSK arm which owns Panadol and Sensodyne ahead of its separate listing next year, Sky News can reveal.

Sir Dave Lewis, the former Tesco chief, will this week be appointed to lead the £40bn separation of GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) consumer healthcare arm.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Dave, who became one of Britain's most respected corporate figures during his six years running Britain's biggest retailer, has agreed to become non-executive chairman of the arm of GSK which owns brands such as Panadol painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste.

An announcement about his appointment could come as soon as Monday morning, according to one source.

The recruitment of Sir Dave will be viewed in the City as a major coup for GSK, whose management has been under pressure in recent months from Elliott Advisers, the activist investor.

GSK's consumer healthcare business, which will be given a new corporate name at a capital markets day in the spring of next year, is one of the largest in the world, with sales last year of £10bn.

It is a joint venture with Pfizer, and was formed in 2019, with GSK owning a 68% stake and the US-based pharmaceuticals group the remainder.

Sir Dave will be charged with assembling a board for the new company, which is expected to attain a premium London listing when it becomes a separately traded company in the summer of 2022.

Since leaving Tesco last year, Sir Dave has joined the board of PepsiCo, the US-based snacks and beverages manufacturer, and become chairman of WWF-UK, the animal conservation charity.

In October, he was asked by Boris Johnson to advise the government on tackling the supply chain crisis, which left a range of industries facing severe stock and raw materials shortages.

Sir Dave's transformation of Tesco pulled the UK's biggest grocer back from the brink, having joined the company in the midst of a financial reporting scandal and with its operating performance in sharp decline.

He was knighted earlier in this year's new year honours list for services to retail.

The businessman had previously spent 27 years at Unilever, the consumer goods behemoth which has been occasionally tipped by analysts as a potential bidder for the GSK arm that he is now about to chair.

Reports during the autumn suggested that major private equity firms were assessing the possibility of a joint bid for GSK's consumer healthcare operation, although most observers regard such a move as unlikely.

GSK has already announced that Brian McNamara, who runs the joint venture between it and Pfizer, will be chief executive of the newly listed company when it is demerged from GSK in the middle of next year.

It has also confirmed a number of other executive appointments to the separated business's leadership team.

Dame Emma Walmsley, GSK's chief executive, said in October that the company “continue[d] to make excellent progress towards unlocking the value of Consumer Healthcare through a successful demerger in mid-2022”.

Sir Dave and Dame Emma served together on the prime minister's business council, jointly chairing its consumer, retail, and life sciences subgroup during Theresa May's premiership.

GSK's break-up will leave the rest of the company focused on pharmaceutical products and vaccines, which it has argued it to allocate capital more efficiently.

Nevertheless, it has faced increasing pressure from Elliott and Bluebell Capital Partners, another shareholder, as they have demanded faster corporate action and questioned Dame Emma's leadership.

GSK declined to comment on Sunday, while Sir Dave could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by Mark Kleinman

Pret A Manger customers complain over drinks subscription deal

( via – – Mon, 20th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Pret A Manger has received thousands of complaints over its drinks subscription service following frustration that not all promised beverages are available.

The £20 a month deal offers unlimited hot and cold drinks.

But the BBC understands the High Street chain has received 5,000 complaints about the offer, such as smoothies often being unavailable.

Ex-Pret staff have also told the BBC its introduction has meant workers feel overwhelmed by the increased workload.

Pret a Manger launched the subscription in September 2020 after sales plunged during Covid lockdowns.

The company said it was “really pleased” with the response to the subscription offer where it pledges: “If our Baristas brew it, blend it or steam it, you can have it!”

“It's been incredibly popular with Pret customers. We continue to work with shop teams to ensure they have what they need to keep team members and customers happy,” the company said.

But some customers said that this is not always the case.

Rachel, from Watford, who had been on furlough for months, recently started commuting again. “As I was now travelling into London again I thought I'd treat myself to drinks I wouldn't usually try,” she told the BBC.

“But most of the time I'm told that I can't have a cold drink because they're unavailable.”

Another customer, Brendan, also subscribed, limiting himself to two drinks a day “to stay healthy”. But he told the BBC that by mid-afternoon mango and pineapple preference is often not available.

“It's become a long standing joke with the staff now,” he said. “I laughed it off for a while, but now I'm getting angry and I'm starting to feel I've been ripped off`.”

Meanwhile another customer, Isabelle, tweeted: “Have been to four Prets this morning that have ‘stopped doing smoothies'. Is this because of the subscription? The smoothies were a key part of me wanting to sign up.”

Other customers have taken their complaints to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).


The regulator has contacted Pret a Manger to say that they should “consider reviewing the ads for their subscription service”.

The ASA said it informed Pret “that their ads should not state or imply that the service was available in all store locations, or that it covers their entire range of products if that wasn't the case”.

Pret said: “We have spoken with the ASA to ensure all Pret marketing for the coffee subscription is in accordance with their latest guidance.”

Meanwhile, some former Pret employees said working conditions became “unbearable” after the subscription was launched.

One claimed that staff deliberately turned blending machines off as it takes one-and-a-half minutes to prepare a smoothie.

If a “mystery shopper” is in store they'll be marked down – with the team missing out on financial bonuses – if they don't deliver drinks within a strict time frame.

He also alleges that other colleagues pretend the machines are broken, are being washed or there's a supply issue and they've run out of the small blue bags which contain a carefully portioned amount of fruit.

Low morale

“Staff are just frustrated and tired with the endless smoothie and frappes giveaway, and they just boycott it, ” he said. “It is just easy to say that ice or smoothies or frappe are gone for today.

“They are really time consuming. Try to make 50 smoothies daily one by one and you will feel it.”

A Pret barista who recently quit revealed that he had worked for his store in the Thames Valley since it opened three years ago: “But the whole demeanour changed when they brought in the subscription. The blending machines can't take it.

“I can understand why Pret think it makes commercial sense but the staff can't take much more.”

Another Pret worker was so disgruntled with the conditions that she set up a website to gather complaints. The site,, is kept up to date with the latest frustrations, as she felt no one was listening to her or her colleagues.

Pret claims that less than 1% of the complaints about their subscription are about the lack of smoothies or frappes.

A spokesman added that when Pret suggested frappes and smoothies would be removed from the subscription earlier in 2021: “There was a public outcry so Pret listened and kept them as part of the subscription.”

In the same month Pret launched the deal, rival Leon offered a similar promotion for £15 a month – but it was limited to 75 coffees a month and excluded other drinks such as teas and hot chocolate.

Leon has since suspended it, stating: “To help our teams during these difficult times, we have stopped taking on new subscribers.”

Where Do The Clothes At Stores Like TJ Maxx Come From?

Source: CNBC

As demand for traditional department stores falls, off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and Burlington are seeing a surge in popularity. But as more consumers join the ranks of bargain hunters and deal chasers, less of them know where their favorite affordable clothes, shoes and other items come from. The supply chains behind these stores have evolved in the last decades to meet rising demand, and they’ll likely continue to change as e-commerce grows in popularity and consumers emerge from the pandemic.

Could Robots End Animal Captivity In Zoos And Marine Parks

Source: Freethink

Could robotic dolphins help marine parks become more humane spaces where people can learn about and connect with nature? Edge Innovations thinks so.

The first step toward that future could be Delle, an 8.5-foot-long, 600-pound animatronic dolphin that’s able to swim semi-autonomously using simple AI, or remotely under control of a human operator. Delle swims and behaves so naturally that some audiences — and the fish it shares tanks with — can’t distinguish it from the real animal.

From an industry perspective, what’s probably most alluring about robotic dolphins isn’t what they can do, but what they don’t need: food, sleep, training, and veterinary care. That’s not to say robotic dolphins are cheap: Delle costs between $3 to $5 million, while a live dolphin can cost marine parks about $100,000.

It’s too early to determine exactly how much money marine parks could save with robotic dolphins, but making the switch would almost certainly save massive amounts of suffering among these smart, social sea creatures.

Rothermere family win battle to take Daily Mail publisher private

( via — Thur, 16th Dec 2021) London, UK —

The Rothermere family on Thursday won its battle to take the publisher of Britain's Daily Mail private after the owners of 57% of the shares backed their recommended offer.

The Rothermeres, who already controlled all of the ordinary shares in the company, agreed a deal to take Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) private last month after the sale of the group's insurance business, Risk Management Solutions, and a listing of online car seller Cazoo, which it partly owned.

They increased the cash component of their offer to buy out other shareholders to 270 pence per share earlier this month.

The offer also included a special dividend of 568 pence a share, 0.5749 Cazoo shares for each DMGT share and final dividend of 17.3 pence.

The total return to shareholders will be valued at about 1,278 pence per share.

NFTs market hits $22bn as craze turns digital images into assets

( via – – Thur, 16th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

Critics of non-fungible tokens say they are symptomatic of unsustainable digital gold rush

The global market for non-fungible tokens hit $22bn (£16.5bn) this year as the craze for collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Matrix avatars turned digital images into major investment assets.

NFTs have drawn from veteran investors similar warnings to those issued about cryptocurrencies: that they are symptomatic of an unsustainable, digital gold rush. NFTs confer ownership of a unique digital item – whether a piece of virtual art by Damien Hirst or a jacket to be worn in the metaverse – upon someone, even if that item can be easily copied. Ownership is recorded on a digital, decentralised ledger known as a blockchain.

Data from DappRadar, a firm that tracks sales, showed that trading in NFTs reached $22bn in 2021 and that the floor market cap of the top 100 NFTs ever issued – a measure of their collective value – was $16.7bn.

The most valuable NFT sale this year was The First 5000 Days, a digital collage by Beeple, the name used by the American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, that was auctioned for $69.3m in March, making it one of the most valuable pieces of art ever sold by a living artist. Another Beeple NFT, Human One, sold for $29m.

Other multimillion-dollar NFTs included the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of 10,000 NFTs represented as cartoon primates that are used as profile photos on the social media accounts of their owners and which raised $26.2m. Celebrity BAYC owners include the talkshow host Jimmy Fallon and the rapper Post Malone.

DappRadar said a key factor in the surge in NFT trading was mainstream businesses entering the fray.

Coca-Cola raised more than $575,000 from selling items such as a customised jacket to be worn in the metaverse world of Decentraland while the Matrix star Keanu Reeves failed to keep a straight face when told by an interviewer that his Matrix film series now had NFTs attached to it.

“Hollywood, sports celebrities and big brands like Coca-Cola, Gucci, Nike, and Adidas, made their dent in the space, providing NFTs with a new level of exclusivity. The power of attraction of these famous names profoundly impacted NFTs and the blockchain industry overall,” said DappRadar.

Football fans have been targeted with NFT marketing – including with NFTs backed by the former England players John Terry and Wayne Rooney – and have been warned by experts that they are risky assets, unregulated in the UK. It will take years before NFTs behave like a conventional market, said George Monaghan, analyst at research firm GlobalData.

“2021 NFT activity was frenzied. That’ll subside in coming years and NFTs will settle into something more akin to today’s modern art market, where consensus on value is more solid. That said, it’ll be years before any crypto market, let alone NFTs, comes to resemble anything conventional markets would call stable. I wouldn’t throw your rainy day fund into any meme NFTs quite yet,” he said.

By Dan Milmo

M&S was Britain’s fastest growing food retailer in last quarter -NielsenIQ

(( via – – Tue, 14th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) was Britain's fastest growing food retailer in the 12 weeks to Dec. 4, market researcher NielsenIQ said on Tuesday, providing more evidence the group's latest turnaround plan is delivering.

NielsenIQ said M&S's sales rose 9.1% in the period year-on-year, outpacing German-owned discounters Lidl and Aldi, which recorded growth of 8.3% and 4.6% respectively.

They were the only three retailers to grow sales against the same period last year.

Market leader Tesco (TSCO.L) was the best performing of the so-called big four grocers, with its 0.7% sales decline significantly outperforming Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), Asda and Morrisons, who recorded declines of 4.6%, 4.2% and 5.6% respectively.

Comparative numbers were tough as in the same period last year Britain was in COVID-19 lockdown.

Rival market researcher Kantar does not include M&S in its monthly reports. 

Last month M&S, which also sells clothing and homeware, beat forecasts for first-half profit and upgraded its earnings outlook for the second time this year, sending its stock soaring on bets that one of Britain's most elusive turnarounds could finally materialise. Its shares are up more than 70% so far this year. 

NielsenIQ said total UK till grocery sales fell 2.5% in the four weeks to Dec. 4 year-on-year.

However, it said spending has picked-up with sales down just 0.9% in the first week of December.

The researcher forecast British shoppers would spend 6.8 billion pounds ($9 billion) at supermarkets in the two weeks to Dec. 24.

It said British shoppers were seeking to treat themselves to more premium and higher value items this Christmas, with the average value of the shopping basket running 2.6% higher this year.

Reporting by James Davey

National Express and rival Stagecoach seal a £1.9bn all-share deal

(( via – – Tue, 14th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Proposed £1.9bn company will boast a 40,000-strong vehicle fleet and employ around 70,000 people National Express and rival Stagecoach have sealed an all-share deal that will forge a £1.9bn transport operating group.

The proposed merger is expected to be completed in late 2022, bringing Stagecoach’s UK local bus operations together with National Express’s intercity coach network.

Stagecoach, which shrank back after selling its US operations and being squeezed out of UK rail, will be valued at about £500m, a third of National Express. Its Megabus intercity coach operation will be sold off, to alleviate any competition concerns.

The group will be headquartered at National Express’s home in the West Midlands, where it runs most bus services. The combined group will have a 40,000-strong vehicle fleet and employ about 70,000 people. National Express also exited UK rail after selling its last franchise in 2017 but still runs trains in Germany and buses in the US, Canada, Morocco and Spain.

Souter invited interest in the takeover when he started to sell down his holding this year. News of talks with National Express leaked out in September. Stagecoach’s board and Gloag, another major shareholder, have now all approved the deal, which will need to be ratified by shareholders from both companies.

In a joint statement, the boards of both companies said on Tuesday that the deal was “a highly compelling strategic proposition, with significant growth and cost synergies delivering strong value creation for both sets of shareholders as well as substantial benefits to the customers, employees and other stakeholders of both National Express and Stagecoach”.

The boards estimate the savings from combining operations at £45m a year. Stagecoach’s executives are expected to leave but its chair, Ray O’Toole, will become chair of the new group, with National Express’s chief executive, Ignacio Garat, remaining at the helm.

By Gwyn Topham

15 Incredible Destinations That Make For The Perfect Workation

Source: Alux

This Alux video we will be answering the following questions: What is the meaning of Workation? How do you get a Workation? Why is Workation important? Where can I go for Workation? How do you travel with WFH? What is digital nomad? How long is a Workation? What should I bring for Workation? How do you plan a Workation? What countries are best for digital nomads? Where can you be a digital nomad? Where do the most digital nomads live? Can you be a digital nomad in Bali? Do digital nomads pay tax? Is being a nomad illegal? How do I become a digital nomad with no experience? How much money do I need to be a nomad? Where do nomads stay? How do you become a nomad in 2021? Where to live if you can work remotely?

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