Daily business and finance update 23rd May 2023
Government trims Natwest position
Good morning. Today we're talking about the government cuts back on Natwest, free train wifi could end, Meta's record fine and improving banker behaviour.
Government trims Natwest position
Natwest will buy back £1.26bn of shares from the Treasury taking the state’s shareholding below 40% for the first time since the bank’s emergency bailout during the global financial crisis of 2008. At its peak the government owned 84% of Natwest after taxpayers spent nearly £50bn to stop the bank failing and damaging the wider economy. The government has set the target of fully selling down its remaining stake by 2026 but will only sell its remaining shares when it represents value for money to do so.
Free wifi on trains could be scrapped as part of government cost cutting plans. The Department for Transport, which controls the finances of most operators in England, said it is reviewing whether the service “delivers the best possible value for money”. The government argues that free wifi is a lower priority among travellers than value for money fares, reliability, punctuality and personal security. Critics say rail services should be doing all they can to attract people back, with peak commuter numbers still significantly lower than pre-Covid levels.
Meta’s record fine
Facebook owner Meta was hit by a record €1.2bn fine by the Irish data protection regulator for mishandling user data. Meta was found to have transferred Facebook’s EU user data to the US for processing, even after it was told by the EU that the data was insufficiently protected from US spying agencies. The company has been given five months to stop transferring data between the EU and US. The ruling does not impact data transfers at Meta’s other main platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp. Meta said it would appeal against the decision.
Improving banker behaviour
According to new research bankers appear to be more well-behaved when working from home compared to being in the office. The study of UK banks demonstrated that traders working from home had a 7.3% chance of triggering a misconduct alert compared to 37.6% for those working in the office. Researchers say that when bankers operate from the confines of their homes, their ability to access privileged information become significantly restricted, thereby reducing the temptation to engage in illicit activities. Also when they are not in the office there is less of a herd mentality to weaken individual ethical standards.
Flying high: Budget airline Ryanair has reported its first profit since the pandemic as fares and passenger numbers rebounded.
New features: WhatsApp says it will allow users to edit messages, in a move that will see it match a feature offered by competitors like Telegram and Signal.
Walking out: Junior doctors in England will stage a 72-hour strike next month in their long-running dispute over pay.
Stepping down: Uber has suspended its head of diversity after employees complained about the workplace events she moderated including events called “Don’t Call Me Karen”.
Number Of The Day
How much the average UK household has lost to inflation over the past two years, according to new research.
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