14th March 2022
Bite-sized business news from the UK and beyond
Good morning Last Friday marked two years since Covid-19 was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Back then we all wondered when life as we knew it would return to normal. The stats below, which compare to pre-pandemic levels, show that although most restrictions have been lifted in the UK it’s taking time for previous behaviours to return:
- Cinema attendance: 83%
- National Rail passengers: 70%
- London tube passengers: 60%
- Office occupancy: 23%
- City watchdog bans crypto cash machines
- Publisher rejects £7bn takeover offer, again
City watchdog bans crypto cash machines
What’s going on?
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a stern warning to companies providing cryptocurrency cash machines - either shut down or face enforcement action.
Why is this important?
Crypto ATMs look like ordinary cash machines but they allow users to buy cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, with a bank card.
Of the 34,000 operating across the world only 81 are in the UK but the country’s financial regulator wants to banish them. It’s part of the FCA’s long running campaign to protect consumers from crypto which it believes is high risk.
Despite the FCA repeatedly warning that “people should be prepared to lose all their money if they choose to invest in them” an estimated 2.3m Brits hold crypto assets.
Cryptocurrency has come under increasing scrutiny from regulators worldwide as it’s feared that it can potentially play a role in fraud and money laundering.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, crypto has become an important source of fundraising for the Ukrainian government, which has received over $60m in crypto donations.
There are concerns that crypto could be used to get around the heavy economic sanctions imposed on Russia. To that end, the FCA and the Bank of England issued a joint statement calling on crypto firms to play their part and not help any sanctioned individuals.
There have been calls for crypto platforms to block Russian accounts but so far a blanket ban has resisted by the world’s largest crypto exchanges including Binance, Coinbase and Kraken.
Other stories to keep you in the loop
- Refuge and employment: UK firms open doors to refugees fleeing Ukraine
- For the fans: Property mogul bids for Chelsea and wants fan rep on club’s board
- Ads plus: Disney Plus to introduce ad-supported subscription tier
- Shine bright like a diamond: Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty eyes $3bn IPO
- Crypto exit: Revolut executive walks out for crypto startup
- More sanctions: US to ban Russian diamond and vodka imports
- Marks & Learning: M&S to open Early Learning Centre outlets in stores
- New name: Delivery firm Hermes changes name to Evri after parcel mishandling allegations
- Meta ban: Russia bans Facebook and Instagram
Publisher rejects £7bn takeover offer, again
Last week publisher Pearson announced that, for the second time since November, it had rebuffed a takeover bid from US private equity giant Apollo.
The most recent offer of 854.2p a share, 4p higher than the first one, values Pearson at around £6.5bn.
The FTSE 100 company, which operates in over 200 countries, believes the bid “significantly undervalues the business and its future prospects”.
Apollo has until 8 April to announce a firm intention to make an offer or to withdraw, according to UK takeover rules.
In recent times Pearson has been trying to pivot its business model away from physical books in the wake of the shift to online learning, accelerated by the pandemic.
Last year it launched a Netflix-like subscription service in the US, its biggest market, that gives users access to educational materials for $10 a month.
In the past few years British listed companies have been targeted by private equity firms due to their relative cheapness compared to other major markets.
The gap in valuations first came about after the result of the Brexit vote in 2016, when the pound fell sharply against the dollar and the euro. Brexit uncertainty then dogged the UK economy, making takeover and acquisition deals more attractive for overseas buyers.
Stat of the day
UK households will be offered £350 a month for hosting Ukrainian refugees
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