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  • Daily business and finance update 22nd February 2023

Daily business and finance update 22nd February 2023

Surprising public finances boost

Good morning. If you still own an unopened first generation iPhone from 2007 then you may want to locate it. This week one sold for over $63,000 at auction, 100x more than its original price.

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Surprising public finances boost

Tax revenue was £5.4bn higher than government spending in January creating an unexpected surplus. Borrowing ran £22bn below the level forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility in November with tax receipts driven by the highest self-assessed income tax since records began in 1999. The better than expected performance could mean that the chancellor Jeremy Hunt has more room for giveaways in next month’s budget. He will face pressure to not only cut taxes but to also yield to public sector demands for higher pay thus ending ongoing strike action. But in interviews yesterday Hunt stuck to his message about the need to tackle the UK’s national debt which stands at nearly £2.5tr or almost 99% of economic output.

HSBC doubles profits

Rising interest rates around the world helped the banking giant report a 100% increase in profits in the last three months of 2022 to $5.2bn. Under pressure from its largest shareholder, in recent years HSBC has sold off European and North American assets in an effort to focus on its more profitable Asian business. Last year it completed the sale of its US retail business, announced the exit from its French retail bank and the planned sale of its banking business in Canada. The proceeds from the sales will allow HSBC to raise its dividend to the highest level in four years and gives it the option to make a special return to investors next year.

Four days beats five

That’s according to the results of the largest ever trial of the four-day working week. In a UK study conducted by Cambridge University with 61 organisations and 2,900 workers, while three firms “paused” the experiment, most participating firms liked it and are not looking back. A third are ready to make the change permanent — and about one in six employees said no amount of money would convince them to return to five days a week. Just as Henry Ford popularised the five-day, 40 hour week in his car factory to increase productivity and reduce turnover, the study showed that going down to four days from five also saw “revenue gains, drops in turnover and lower levels of worker burn out.” The UK data is also backed up by smaller trials from the US, Ireland and Australia.

Microsoft defends gaming merger

At a hearing in front of EU regulators, Microsoft has said it is “willing to address concerns” to save its $69bn takeover of Activision Blizzard, the maker of Call of Duty and Candy Crush games. Buying Activision would give Microsoft control over the video game supply, which it could further leverage by selling products exclusively on its Xbox console. The deal which would be the largest in gaming history, has faced opposition from regulators across the world who are concerned it could harm consumers through lower competition, higher prices and less choice. The UK has already said it was opposed to the deal for these reasons but has yet to announce its final ruling.


In the red: A local council in Surrey has signalled it is close to effective bankruptcy after amassing debts worth almost £2bn to fund a property investment spree.

Less liquids: Pret A Manger has announced that it will stop selling all smoothies, frappes and milkshakes.

Tough times: Government officials will fly to China to convince the owner of British Steel to finalise plans for a state funding package amid hundreds of job cuts at the company.

Back in business: All Royal Mail international services have been reinstated at post offices following disruption caused by a cyber attack.

Veg rations: Asda and Morrisons are rationing fresh produce including tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers amid shortages.

Sporting changes: BT Sports and Eurosport are to disappear from UK television in a shake up to sporting channels.

Cutting back: Consulting giant McKinsey & Co is planning to cut about 2,000 jobs in one of its biggest round of layoffs.

Flying pains: The UK's worst short-haul airline has been named, with customers criticising its smaller seats and lack of value for money and cleanliness.

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Number Of The Day


The number of retail job losses announced so far on the UK high street this year, according to analysis from the Centre for Retail Research.

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