Daily business and finance update 20th November 2023
Inflation cools down
Good morning. Today we're talking about the UK’s cooling inflation, the AI boss possibly making a swift comeback and Hotel Chocolat’s new owner.
Inflation cools down
UK inflation was 4.6% in October, a marked decrease from the previous month’s 6.7% and the lowest rate in two years suggesting price rises may finally have peaked. The decline was driven largely by lower energy prices which had been a major contributor to inflation since last year when the war in Ukraine disrupted global energy markets sending inflation to 10.1% earlier this year. The Bank of England has also been actively raising interest rates to curb inflation. While these rate hikes may slow economic growth, the Bank believes they are necessary to bring inflation back within its target range of 2%. The news will not only be welcome relief to consumers but also the government who pledged in January to halve inflation before the end of the year.
AI boss tipped for return
Three days after he was fired as CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman is reportedly in talks to return. In a shocking move that reverberated across the business landscape, OpenAI’s board of directors pushed out Altman, one of the world’s most prominent tech executives on Friday. The company said that Altman “was not consistently candid in his communications with the board,” and thus the board lost its confidence in Altman’s ability to lead. OpenAI, and Altman, became household names this year after the company’s ChatGPT chatbot sparked a frenzy around the field of generative artificial intelligence. OpenAI, which has received $13bn in investment from Microsoft, is reportedly valued at $86bn. The board announced that CTO Mira Murati will act as interim CEO for now. But now a source close to the matter told Reuters news agency that Altman has been talking to executives at OpenAI about improving governance structures and could be reinstated as CEO.
Hotel Chocolat taken over
American food giant Mars has acquired British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat for £534m, a 170% premium to the stock market value. The company’s two founders are expected to net £144m each. The deal will see Mars add Hotel Chocolat's premium chocolates and innovative retail experiences to its portfolio of brands, which includes M&M's, Snickers and Twix. Founded in 2004, Hotel Chocolat has quickly established itself as a leading player in the luxury chocolate market, known for its high-quality products and unique retail concept that blends chocolate sampling, education and retail. The company has a strong presence in the UK and under new owners it will look to expand internationally.
Tech boost: Google parent company Alphabet is in talks to buy a stake in fintech Monzo.
Taxing speculation: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has not ruled out cutting income tax in Wednesday's Autumn Statement, as he insisted economic growth was his priority.
Shopping slowdown: Retail sales took an unexpected fall last month, suggesting a slump to COVID lockdown levels with only online operators seeing growth.
Open all hours: London businesses struggling with sales due to the cost-of-living crisis are calling on the government to relax Sunday trading rules in the capital.
Number of the Day
Average UK house price, down 0.1% year-on-year for the first time in 11 years.
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