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Daily business and finance update 16th March 2023

Budgeting for growth

Good morning. How's this for irony. Executives at the recently failed Signature Bank produced a cringeworthy music video to launch the firm in the early 2000s. The song branded the bank “the stupidest idea I ever heard” and even quipped that it could “diminish and fail.” It was just one of several cringeworthy videos the executives would create over the years, spending millions of dollars to do so.

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Budgeting for growth

Yesterday chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his budget setting out the government’s plans to kickstart economic growth by tackling the cost of living crisis and labour shortages. Key measures included: 1) a three-month extension to the Energy Price Guarantee, which caps bills at £2,500; 2) a shake-up of the benefits and pensions system intended to get more people over 50 back to work; 3) additional spending on childcare to help get parents back to work. Elsewhere the independent Office for Budget Responsibility is now forecasting the UK will avoid recession this year. Inflation is also on track to halve by December, falling from 10.7% at the end of 2022 to 2.9% by the end of this year.

Credit Suisse’s woes grows

Yesterday shares in Switzerland’s second largest bank plunged more than 20% to an all-time low after major shareholder Saudi National Bank said it wouldn’t provide any more financial support. There is growing speculation over the future of Credit Suisse as investors remain on edge amid the ongoing banking sector crisis precipitated by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Last night Credit Suisse arranged to borrow as much as $54bn from the Swiss central bank and offered to repurchase debt in a bid to reverse a collapse in market confidence.

Credit Suisse has spent recent years swerving from one scandal and crisis to another and is undergoing a major restructuring in a bid to revive its fortunes. This week alone its auditor PwC said there were “material weaknesses” in the bank’s internal controls over financial reporting.

Inditex’s strong year

The world’s biggest fashion retailer reported an 18% increase in 2022 revenues to €32.6bn as performance exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Last year was the first since Marta Ortega, daughter of founder Amancio Ortega, became CEO of the Spanish company which owns brands including Zara, Pull & Bear and Bershka. Inditex has extended its lead over Swedish rival H&M thanks to a less price-sensitive customer base. As manufacturing costs increased, H&M took a profit hit while Inditex was able to pass on costs to shoppers. Inditex is also in the process of selling its Russian business of 502 stores – once its second biggest market – following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

A first for John Lewis Partnership

The parent company of the John Lewis department store chain and Waitrose supermarket has hired retail veteran, Nish Kankiwala, as its first CEO in its 94-year history. Kankiwala, who is a former Hovis and Burger King executive, will report into Dame Sharon White who will remain as chair. The group says the appointment will help the business “thrive for another century” amid a transformation plan to turnaround its ailing fortunes. Last year it made a loss as it faced rising costs and cost-conscious consumers as well as stiff competition from rivals like M&S and Next. John Lewis is almost halfway through a five-year plan to cut costs and diversify into other areas such as financial services to compensate for declining margins in its core retail business.


Budget 2023 calculator: See if you are better or worse off.

Staying put: The chief executive of Silicon Valley Bank’s UK arm has abandoned plans to leave the role following its £1 rescue takeover by HSBC.

Pressing pause: Apple is reportedly delaying bonuses for some of its employees while also more closely watching travel budgets and leaving some vacancies open.

Grounded: Virgin Orbit is reportedly furloughing nearly all its employees and pausing operations for a week as it looks for a funding lifeline.

Robo-lawyer: PwC it will give 4,000 of its legal professionals access to an artificial intelligence platform for legal work.

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The number of games to be played at the next World Cup in summer 2026, a steep jump from the 64 matches played last year in Qatar. It’s the result of more teams in the tournament (48 vs. 32 previously) and a bigger group stage.

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