Good morning. Yesterday Microsoft announced it had made a multibillion dollar investment in OpenAI, the maker of the revolutionary artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT. It comes the same day it was revealed that ChatGPT is smart enough to pass some of the toughest professional exams including the US Medical Licensing exam and the Bar law qualification.
Households paid to turn the lights off
Yesterday National Grid began its first energy saving exercise with up to a million households and businesses asked not to use appliances like ovens during a two-hour period of peak demand. Customers will receive a discount of about £3 for every kilowatt hour saved compared to their normal usage. The aim is to ease pressure on electricity supplies as a cold snap hits the UK. National Grid says it plans to run the scheme again today with 26 suppliers, including British Gas, Octopus Energy and EDF taking part. More than 1m households and businesses have signed up to participate but most suppliers have closed the initiative to new participants.
Other contingency plans to avoid energy blackouts include placing on standby three coal-fired power stations that were due to be retired as the UK phased out the use of coal power.
Pub chain loses out over rail strikes
Pub group Fuller’s has warned that full year profits will be lower than previously forecast after last year’s rail strikes led to a £4m drop in festive sales. The company has over 400 pubs mainly in London and southeast and relies on custom from commuters travelling into city centres. But the largest series of industrial action across the rail network in decades meant sales in December and early January were 5% lower than the same period in 2019, before Covid.
Nigeria begins $11bn UK legal battle
Yesterday the Nigerian government began a trial in the UK High Court to avoid paying out $11bn over a natural gas development project gone wrong. The legal dispute started in 2012 when Process & Industrial Development, an Irish engineering firm, struck a deal to turn Nigeria’s vast natural gas reserves into power. But the project never started, and P&ID sued the west African state for breach of contract. P&ID was awarded a payout of $6.6bn in 2017 – now $11bn with interest - which Nigeria is contesting. The potential settlement equates to more than Nigeria’s most recent budget for its health, education and justice ministries combined.
Funeral home agrees takeover
Yesterday Dignity, the UK’s largest funeral provider agreed a £281m buyout that will take it off the London stock exchange and into private hands. The company operates from more than 700 locations and has struggled in recent months, despite the above average mortality rate post-Covid, as customers opt for cheaper funerals. It has also faced rising costs as the war in Ukraine spiked energy prices and crematoria are heavy consumers of gas. The new owners are a consortium of investors who say they will increase investment in modernising Dignity’s infrastructure, increasing marketing and growing its crematoria business.
Falling energy: The energy price cap might drop below the £3,000 mark as early as April, the boss of Ofgem has said in a prediction that could save the government billions of pounds.
Taxing issues: The prime minister has ordered for an independent investigation over Tory chairman Nadim Zahawi's conduct over his tax affairs.
Tuning down: Spotify has said it is cutting about 600 jobs, as it became the latest big tech company to admit it expanded too quickly during the pandemic.
Taking the stand: Elon Musk testified on Monday that he was sure he had backing from Saudi financiers in 2018 to take Tesla private, as he defended against claims he defrauded investors by later tweeting about his electric car company.
Record profits: Citadel is now the most successful hedge fund ever after it made $16bn last year — the biggest annual windfall on record.
Rolling back: Ford plans to cut up to 3,200 jobs across Europe and move some product development work to the US.
Royal rent due: Twitter is being sued by the Crown Estate, which manages a property portfolio belonging to the monarchy, amid allegations of unpaid rent at its London headquarters.
Number Of The Day
The number of mass shootings in the US in just the first 3 weeks of the year with the massacre in California over the weekend the latest.