March news round-up
Welcome to this month’s news round-up of all the major stories that have kept us talking this March.
The British economic recovery was further showcased by the latest round of labour data from the Office for National Statistics. Labour figures showed a record number of UK residents are currently in work, which was welcome news for Chancellor George Osborne ahead of May’s general election. Unemployment figures remain near seven-year lows and wage growth continues to far surpass inflation levels as the UK’s economy continues to thrive.
The world watched as tech giant Apple announced its new collection of smartwatches at a press event in San Francisco. The Apple Watch is due to go on sale 24 April, with prices ranging from $349 to $17,000, depending on the materials they are made with and the straps selected. While there is already criticism of the device, the success of an Apple product has beaten forecasts before, when sales of the iPad surged ahead in the face of analysts’ predictions.
Less than a year after rejoining the stock market, TSB will be sold off to Spain’s fifth-largest bank, Sabadell, in a deal worth £1.7 billion. Lloyds will also sell its remaining 50 per cent stake in TSB to Sabadell for 340p per share. Once the takeover is complete - it awaits the seal of approval from UK regulator the Prudential Regulatory Authority - it will give Sabadell its first European business outside of Spain and bring it one step closer to competing with Spanish rival bank, Santander.
China’s technology hub, Zhongguancun, is producing 49 new startups every day, according to Wan Gan, the minister of science and technology in China. While the figure is hugely impressive, it’s not really any surprise since the region has over 1,600 technology incubators designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Mr Wan also pointed out that investment in startups surpassed $56 billion last year, showing that budding businesses are booming.
Small businesses in Britain are achieving turnover and profits last seen before the financial crisis in 2008, according to the latest government survey. Over the last 12 months, Britain’s small firms increased turnover, raised profits and expanded workforces, and this trend looks set to continue in 2015. Business minister Matthew Hancock said the data shows the government is on course to making Britain “the best place in the world to start and grow a business”.
Kraft and Heinz are set to merge and create the world’s fifth-largest food group and the third-largest food and drinks company in the US. A deal crafted by Warren Buffett is likely set for success, especially when teamed up with Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital. "This is my kind of transaction,” said Mr Buffett. “I'm excited by the opportunities for what this new combined organisation will achieve." It’s expected that the deal will be finalised in the second half of this year.
Investment in financial technology companies tripled last year, according to a report from Accenture. The report, The Future of Fintech and Banking: Digitally disrupted or reimagined?, pointed out that worldwide investment in fintech companies grew by a staggering 201 per cent last year, far outpacing growth in overall venture capital investments (63 per cent). It highlights how the digital revolution in financial services is picking up steam.