News Round Up – w/c 24.4.17

Here are this week’s headlines:

The French Election

The first round of the election is complete, with Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!) and Marine Le Pen (Front National) as the top two candidates. Le Pen remains the underdog, having been beaten by Macron in this first stage of the election.  The polls had accurately predicted this result. The two candidates will go into a run-off election in two weeks. The election presents the recent issue of fake news, with suggestions that the founder of the Front National had a marijuana farm on his estate, and that Macron was being funded by past employers with the aim of defending capitalism. There were also fake tweets pretending to be the Russian government, saying that they would help Marine Le Pen win the election. Fake polls were also presented to the public, showing Le Pen in the lead. In France alone, Facebook has had to delete over 30,000 fake accounts which create this fake news.

Read more in The Guardian, Bloomberg and Reuters.

Book sales hit record high

According to the BBC, the Publishers Association has stated that UK book sales reached a record £3.5 billion last year. This represents a 6% rise and is largely due to the increase in popularity of children’s books. Sales of children’s books increased 16%, reaching a total of £365 million. This is largely due to an increase in the sale of printed works, as ebook sales have reportedly fallen by 3% across the UK book market. Despite the fall in ebook sales, revenues for digital distribution did increase in other media forms. For instance, online journal subscriptions have increased by 10%.

UK Children’s books are also proving popular in other jurisdictions as exporting rose by 34%. The current figures represent the highest level of printed book figures since 2012. Other trends saw increases in fitness and self-help books, causing sales of non-fiction titles to rise by 9%.

Read more in The Financial Times or the BBC.

China’s tech giants

China’s technology sector could be broken down into 3 companies. First of which is clearly Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce group, boasting a 70% market share in China. It’s chairman, pledges to serve 2bn consumer worldwide within 20 years. Tencent which specialises in mobile apps, most notable product being WeChat, which is now the world’s tenth most valuable public firm. Baidu, a search engine much akin to America’s google.

However, amongst the three there is clearly a weakest link, Baidu. Other than its obvious drop in revenue from 35% in 2015 to 6.3% in 2016, Baidu is being eclipsed by Tecent’s WeChat. What started out as a messenger app from Tencent has now mutated into, for a lack of a better word, ‘super-app’. WeChat allows for third-party apps to run on it’s app, which means that you can use the app to hail a cab, send money, even manage your bills, the list is endless.

The functionality of the app, has cause it to act like a browser, which has incentivised companies to shift their marketing to networks like WeChat. Causing Baidu which ‘gets nine-tenth of its revenues from online ads’ to suffer and business consultants to deem them to be ‘irrelevant in five years.’

This is not to say that Alibaba has nothing to show. Alibaba’s newest venture, Ant Financial has been dubbed by Jack Ma, Alibaba’s chairman, as their weapon for going global. Ant not only offers a wide range of financial products, it also runs China’s first proper credit-scoring agency, Sesame Credit. Ma is also clearly not content and is constantly looking to the future, raising its offer by a third MoneyGram International, a money-transfer firm.

China’s technological titan has an interesting business model, unlike its western counter parts which usually focuses on a few areas, it adopts a multi prong strategy, taking multiple projects at the same time. This makes them something to look out for as they are able to synergise their different products and market it to their online platforms to reach a larger consumer base.

Read more in Forbes and The Economist.

United passenger forced off plane compensated

A Vietnamese-American doctor violently forced off a United airlines flight has received a settlement.

The airline had asked Mr Dao to get off the plane to make space for staff members on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, but he refused claiming he had patients to see to the next day.

The video of him being violently apprehended and bleeding went viral. The fact that he suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost his two front teeth has created international outrage at such treatment by airline enforcement officers.

Quite frankly the incident has been described by several as a ‘PR catastrophe’.

It has been agreed that the “amount remain confidential”, but as a consequence of his case congressmen have been prompted to consider introducing new regulations for the industry. In addition, United passengers will now be offered up to $10,000 for giving up their seats.

Furthermore, the agreement to make Mr Munoz, responsible for the handling of the incident, the company’s chairman in 2018 has been reversed by United’s board of directors, and Mr Munoz has expressed his regret at for what occurred.

Read more on the BBC and The Telegraph.

UK economy grows by 0.6%

The UK economy has grown by only 0.3% which is the slowest growth rate since the first three months of 2016, according to official figures. It is fair to attribute this slow economic growth to Brexit as the slump in the pound after the referendum which led to inflation.

This is less than economists had forecasted. Economists had expected the GDP growth to slow down to to decreased consumer spending due to inflation however they had expected a higher figure of 0.4%.

Chris Williamson, chief economist, IHS Markit, said: “The message is clear: the start of the year saw the weakest pace of growth for a year as rising prices have started to hit household spending.” Nevertheless, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has stated that the British economy is resilient.

Barclays analysts have predicted that this slow economic growth will prevent the Bank of England from raising interests further. They stated that “In our view, given rising inflationary pressures and the increasing likelihood of negative real wage growth in the coming months, household consumption will continue to ease over the course of 2017. All in all, we believe this strengthens our view that the Bank of England MPC will leave its monetary policy stance unchanged over our forecast horizon”

Read more in The Guardian or the BBC.

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