Spectator Money

The post-Brexit takeover bids begin

27 February 2017

1:42 PM

27 February 2017

1:42 PM

UK workers are near the bottom of the wage-growth table compiled by the TUC, says the Independent. The average wage across 112 countries rose by 2.3 pc per year in the period 2008 – 2015. Meanwhile UK workers saw their wages fall by 1 pc. Great Britain comes 103rd in the table, ahead of the West Bank, Greece, Kenya and Iran and far behind France, Germany and Sweden. The lack of wage growth, coupled with soaring inflation, is likely to mean that many Brits find their disposable income will be squeezed to the point of non-existence. ‘[If the Government is] serious about the post-Brexit economy working for everyone, both decent wages and quality work must be the destination,’ said the TUC.

A proposed merger between the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and its German equivalent, Deutsche Börse, is likely to fail due to anti-trust measures put in place by Brussels, the Guardian reports. The £24 billion merger is the third of its kind to hit the skids, after similar deals in 2000 and 2005 both ended in failure. The LSE owns concerns in the Milan stock exchange and, until last month, had French interests as well. But pro-competition rules mean that last night the LSE announced that ‘Based on the commission’s current position, LSE believes that the commission is unlikely to provide clearance for the merger.’ Shares in LSE dropped 3 pc overnight, while those in Deutsche Börse fell by 5 pc.


It’s a drama worth of a spy novel, says the Telegraph, but the murder of Kim Jong-nam is having serious real-world economic consequences. The brother of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-nam was killed in mysterious circumstances earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur – just days after North Korea had launched a ballistic missile test. Now China has banned coal exports from North Korea, and President Trump is said to be considering ‘secondary sanctions’ against countries that trade with North Korea. This would largely affect China, which is thought to be responsible for 90 pc of trade. It is notoriously tricky to measure the North Korean economy in the usual terms, due to the extreme secrecy of the country. Nonetheless, researchers have used various measures to extrapolate that the economy is no longer in the free fall it saw during the 1990s, when one million of the population (of 23 million) died of famine. Many of the country’s industries – particularly extraction – are controlled by Kim Jong-un, so his pockets will be directly depleted when sanctions kick in.

The vultures have started circling over the still-breathing body of Unilever, says the Times, and it won’t be long before others follow suit. The Anglo-Dutch group, responsible for Dove soap, Marmite and Hellmann’s, has annual sales of €50 billion but was victim of a hostile takeover bid by Kraft Heinz this month. After news leaked, the proposed takeover was abandoned – but more are likely to come. The fall in the pound means that British companies are vulnerable. ‘The Kraft Heinz-Unilever example has accelerated people’s thinking,’ opined Michel Dreissen, a transaction advisor. ‘Companies have started to consider whether they are untouchable because a potential takeover of the size of Unilever was unexpected. There are a number of sectors that have become more vulnerable too after the Brexit vote, for example, the leisure, support services and general retailer sectors, followed closely by the travel, specialty retail and real estate sectors.’

Atom bank is booming after offering savers a 2 pc interest account over one year, This Is Money tells us. The account is 0.4 pc higher than its closest rival, and is also above inflation. Atom has also raised its two-year deal from 1.65 pc to 2.1 pc, beating Charter at 1.75 pc. Meanwhile five years with an account looks to raise 2.4 pc interest. The app-only bank, of which Will.i.am allegedly owns a share, does not offer current accounts. The company says it can afford to be so generous because of its very low running costs: no stores, small call centres, everything online. Atom is said to attract millennials who find the app easy to use; savers are usually in their 50s or 60s.

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