Good morning. Meta has become the latest social media platform to test out a paid subscription service. Yesterday CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that "Meta Verified" will allow Facebook and Instagram users to be verified along with other perks like extra protection from impersonation accounts and direct access to customer support.
Booming NatWest profits
Last year the UK’s biggest corporate lender NatWest had its best performance since it was bailed out by the government during the global financial crisis 15 years ago. Profits jumped by a third to £5.1bn from the £3.8bn posted a year earlier. The strong trading was driven by higher interest rates paid by loan and mortgage customers. However the bank, still 44% owned by the taxpayer, and its rivals have faced criticism for not increasing interest rates on savings accounts at the same pace as the rise in the Bank of England base rate. There’s also been backlash from NatWest’s decision to increase its staff bonus pool by £70m to £367.5m amid a cost of living crisis for millions of households. .
Estate agent up for sale
Online estate agency Purplebricks announced that it would put itself up for sale after it warned that losses for this year would be even higher than expected. The company has failed to live up to the hype of an online disruptor to the estate agent industry since launching a decade ago. At its peak in 2017 Purplebricks was worth £1.4bn but its shares have since plunged 98%. The company expanded internationally following early success in the UK but saw losses pile up as it did so. In recent years it has pulled out Australia and the US and also been plagued by costly compliance issues in its lettings business. The company said it believed that Purplebricks' business and brand still has significant value.
YouTube CEO logs off
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced she would be stepping down after nine years in the role. She’s played a pivotal role in the video site’s growth, last year it generated $29.2bn in ad revenue or about 10% of Google parent company Alphabet’s total sales. But Wojcicki’s time at the company far predates YouTube - in fact, she was Google’s 16th employee in 1999. She was also its first landlord: In 1998, Wojcicki rented out her garage in Menlo Park, CA, to Google’s co-founders for $1,700 a month. Wojcicki said she would now take on an advisory role across Google and Alphabet.
Surprising jump in retail sales
UK retail sales rose unexpectedly in January after post-Christmas discounting brought people into stores. Sales increased by 0.5% from December, against forecasts for a 0.5% drop. In spite of the rise, sales volumes were 1.4% below pre-Covid February 2020 levels with inflation meaning consumers are getting less items for their spending. Online sales, which had fallen in December during Royal Mail strikes, rose by 2%. With grocery inflation at 16.7%, consumers cut back on food and drink spending by 0.5% last month, after a fall of 0.7% in December.
Powerful profits: The UK arm of the French state-owned energy company EDF has become the latest power producer to profit from high power costs.
Red concerns: The Qatari bid to buy Manchester United has been criticised by humanitarian organisations.
Back to the office: Amazon has asked staff to be in the office at least three days a week from May.
Selling up: Tesco is reportedly considering the sale of its banking arm, Tesco Bank, launched in 1997.
Cut backs: Wilko plans to cut more than 400 jobs in the troubled retailer’s latest effort to control costs.
Healthy sale: Planet Organic, the organic supermarket chain, has drafted in advisers to explore a possible sale.
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Number Of The Day
Months since European gas prices have been as low as they are now. Thanks to a mild winter and a team effort, one analyst said Europe has “weaned itself off Russian gas.”