22nd February 2022
Bite-sized business news from the UK and beyond
Good morning The crowded streaming market is about to get even more crowded. Paramount+ is launching in the UK this summer, going head-to-head with Netflix, Amazon Prime, AppleTV, NowTV and Disney+. Exclusive content will include 14 (!) new South Park films and a Sonic the Hedgehog series but the question is do we need another streaming service?
Gov sets out living with Covid plan
British startup raises $190m to take investing to the masses
ECONOMYGov sets out living with Covid plan
What’s going on?Yesterday Boris Johnson confirmed plans to roll back the remaining Covid restrictions and support measures for England under the “Living with Covid” plan.
From Thursday there will be no more legal requirement to self-isolate for those with the virus, although there remains the advice to stay at home.
The £500 isolation payment for people on low incomes will also end this week.
1 April will also see the end of free universal testing with this only available for the most vulnerable.
Why is this important?
It’s been said many times how unprecedented the past two years have been. During the pandemic over 160,000 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the UK. The associated restrictions created huge economic disruption and drove the largest recession on record, with the UK economy shrinking by 9.4% in 2020.Now the government believes that the rapid rollout of Covid vaccines, with 90% of over 12s having had at least one shot, means that the country is ready to live with Covid with fewer restrictions and support packages.The decision has also been financially motivated. Government pandemic support schemes have cost around £400bn to date. The free testing system alone cost £2bn a month. The new rules are expected to help ease staff absences which soared especially during the Delta and Omicron waves. During the pandemic, sick pay rules were extended to cover isolation periods. But from 24 March those with the virus will no longer be able to immediately claim statutory sick pay and will have to wait until the fourth day.
Boris Johnson says that now is the time to move from government restrictions to people exercising personal responsibility and treat Covid in a similar way to the flu. But as Britain already has one of the lowest levels of statutory sick pay in Europe, critics argue that scaling back on free testing, isolation payments and sick pay could mean that low income workers are forced to work when sick with coronavirus. And if infected people become widespread in society, passing the virus to others this could lead to further outbreaks that could still end up disrupting business and livelihoods.
FINTECHBritish startup raises $190m to take investing to the masses
Softbank Vision Fund, the world’s biggest tech investor, has invested $190m in British fintech firm PrimaryBid, valuing it at close to $700m.PrimaryBid’s platform lets retail investors, that is ordinary people and not professionals, buy shares in companies raising money on the stock market either for the first time (via an IPO) or follow-on fundraising. This is usually reserved for institutional investors like banks and pension funds. PrimaryBid’s vision is to democratise investing by putting retail and institutional investors on a level playing field. Founded in 2016, PrimaryBid flourished during Covid when interest in investing grew. The UK retail investor market has grown by a third since 2020 fuelled by the extra savings for some during lockdown with the near 0% interest rates motivating people to look for higher returns outside of saving accounts. There are now 8.6m DIY investors.PrimaryBid has worked with more than 200 public companies that wanted to include retail investors when raising cash including Deliveroo, PensionBee and Ocado. The new investment from Softbank will be used to fund its expansion beyond the UK to the rest of Europe and the US. The funding from Softbank is the latest in a series of investments it’s made into British tech firms. It’s backed the likes banking app Revolut, chip designer Arm and invested $100m in meal prep company Gousto.
Stat of the day
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