14th October 2021
Good morning After one of the most audacious abuses of the furlough scheme, HMRC has claimed back nearly £27m from £40m of furlough cash that was paid in a single month to a set of companies that appear to have no employees.
The Treasury paid out the sums from its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to a mystery group of companies despite their shoddy or non-existent websites and no evidence of any actual staff.
- EU proposes easing trade rules with the UK
- $1bn music fund
EU proposes easing trade rules with the UK
What’s going on?
In the latest chapter of the Brexit saga, the EU has proposed the reduction of checks on goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Why is this important?
As part of the Brexit deal signed in 2019, Northern Ireland was kept in the single market while the rest of the UK left in a rule known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
To avoid doing checks on goods entering the EU along the Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland border, the protocol said they would be done between Great Britain and Northern Ireland instead.
This allowed free movement of trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This means lorries don't have to stop and prove their goods follow EU rules when they go between Northern Ireland (in the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (in the EU).
The protocol came into place at the start of the year and has caused headaches for the UK and EU due to the checks and controls which has led to delays in delivering goods.
The EU has now proposed getting rid of 80% of these checks which they estimate would cut customs paperwork by half.
Negotiations between the EU and UK on the new proposals are now likely to go on for months.
Sticking points could be around the EU’s demand for the UK to build properly equipped border posts at Northern Ireland's ports, allow access to real time trade data and implement "only for sale in UK" labelling.
Brexit is the gift that keeps giving, Boris Johnson’s so called “oven ready” deal is looking more half-baked and the issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol are likely to continue.
$1bn music fund
US private equity fund Blackstone has joined forces with Merck Mercuriadis, the man behind Hipgnosis Songs Fund, to create a $1bn investment fund.
Hipgnosis is the British company that owns the rights to music from artists like Beyonce, Shakira and Barry Manilow.
It earns royalties every time one of the 65,000 songs, including 14,000 top-ten hits, it owns gets played.
It became a public company in 2018 and has since spent about $2bn acquiring the music rights of some of the biggest artists in the world.
The music industry has undergone a resurgence in recent years thanks to the boom in streaming services, after the death of the CD threatened its existence.
Total global music revenues are up more than 50% since 2014, with over 400m users of Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
The pandemic led many artists to sell the rights to their songs to make up for the loss of income from live events.
Blackstone’s $1bn will be used to buy even more music rights.
It’s not alone in appreciating how lucrative the music industry has become. Other big investment funds have made similar bets.
Earlier this year KKR took a majority stake in the back catalogue from producer Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic frontman and Adele producer).
Carlyle invested in Beats Music, the forerunner to the Apple music streaming service.
Stat of the day
4.3 million Americans quit their job in August, a new record
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