This is an amalgamation of the “best bits” of the daily weekday newsletter/blog woven together to form a concise and coherent view on the things that matter in the commercial and economic news of the week.
THE DAY IN BRACKETS REFERS TO THE EDITION WHERE THE STORY APPEARED IN WATSON’S DAILY. Clicking on the day will take you to the appropriate edition of Watson’s Daily.
BIDEN AIMS TO SPEND EVEN MORE, EUROPE'S WOES CONTINUE WHILE HOPES INCREASE IN THE UK...
- In the US, Biden is trying to push through a massive $2.3tn infrastructure plan (Monday) to fund long term infrastructure, education and childcare projects. It will all come with strings attached and will also be financed by tax increases on individuals and businesses.
- In Europe, Macron extended the French lockdown (Thursday) as infection rates increased while, in the meantime, Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen continues to consolidate her position (Wednesday) as she is currently neck-and-neck with Macron in the opinion polls. There is only one year until the next presidential election and although things aren’t looking good for Macron at the moment, you would have thought that, by the time the election rolls around, vaccine distribution will be better and the economy will be on the up. Le Pen ran Macron close in the initial stages of the election last time but was roundly defeated in the end – so she probably needs to get as far ahead of Macron as she can before things start turning around for him to give herself the best chance of winning. And while we are on Europe, Merkel and Macron approached President Putin to ask him to use the Russian vaccine (Wednesday) on the very day that Merkel announced a suspension of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-60s. Rather embarrassingly for Macron, his foreign minister had criticised Russia for using the Sputnik V vaccine as a “propaganda tool”. That must have been an awkward Zoom call 😂
- UK economic data continues to surprise on the upside (Monday), and indicators would suggest that we are heading towards a recovery (Wednesday) and firms say that they are planning to hire (Tuesday).
- In markets-related news, the Suez Canal blockage caused consternation (Tuesday) but was unblocked (Wednesday) but although it is thought that the backlog of ships will take a few days to clear, repercussions are likely to be felt as ships will all be in the wrong places as a result of the disruption so it’ll take a while to reset. Also, Archegos Capital Management, which had big exposures to ViacomCBS and a number of Chinese tech stocks, saw massive drops in its shareholdings (Monday) and a number of banks were affected as a result. The repercussions will continue to play out…Also, the S&P500 broke the 4,000 mark for the first time ever at the end of the week, powered by tech stocks, expectations of massive economic stimulus and a successful vaccine rollout.
IPOs, SPACS AND M&A ACTIVITY JUST KEEP ON ROLLIN'...
- Bankers raked in record fees in Q1 (Wednesday) from deal-making, listings and capital raisings. Asian tech companies are raising huge sums of money (Monday) and there was news at the end of the week that the owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Endeavour Group, is looking into listing on the New York Stock Exchange sometime this year! It announced the prospect of Elon Musk joining its executive team (where will he get the time to do this??), which will, no doubt, be the cause of a great deal of excitement!
- On the other hand, Deliveroo started the week by getting shunned by yet more investors (Monday), they then lowered the IPO launch price (Tuesday) and still had a disastrous market debut (Thursday)! I think that the real reason for this is because Deliveroo wanted to raise as much money as possible while the figures are still looking good and thought they’d take some short term flak for long term gain. I’ve always maintained that Deliveroo probably didn’t want to postpone this launch because I think that there was a risk that it would be delayed a long time before they could get such a high valuation again and they wanted the money right now! Interestingly, it seems that they were approached about listing in New York via a SPAC, but it turned down the opportunity…FWIW, I think that takeaway demand will drop off as lockdown eases, but one idea that they could pursue to keep punters interested is to have online-only items as per Applebee’s in the US (Monday). It’ll be interesting to see whether that idea comes over here!
- SPACs continue to raise huge amounts of money as the volume of deals done in Q1 was the most since 1980 (Thursday). The UK’s financial regulator, the FCA, said that it would change UK IPO rules to accommodate SPACs (Thursday) in order to get a piece of the action but London continues to lose out to New York (Tuesday) as companies like Cazoo think that the grass is greener on the other side of the Atlantic. Interestingly, the company planning the UK’s first battery “gigafactory”, Britishvolt, is looking at flotation options – including via a SPAC – but it must be said that not all such flotations go well. Companies listing via SPACs and trying to surf the EV wave such as Canoo, Romeo Power, Lordstown Motors and XL Fleet have all had to reign in projections since flotation.
- In M&A news, Spotify bought Locker Room (Wednesday) and intends to rebrand it into something that has sports, music and pop culture content. This sounds great from a strategic point of view and is a logical move given that they are trying to make up for lost time in podcasts by buying in content (remember Joe Rogan’s $100m podcast??) because they don’t have the luxury of letting it grow organically.
THINGS ARE CHANGING FOR THE UK CONSUMER...
- It’s all going on for the UK consumer at the moment! Britons continue to pay down record levels of debt (Tuesday), but the house price growth rate is slowing down (Thursday), with London likely to get hit the most (Tuesday) – but Londoners will get another wallet-wallop as they’re likely to have to pay more tax (Tuesday) in order to save their transport services. The over-65s are returning to the shops (Wednesday) and paths to restart travel are under discussion (Thursday), with Boris Johnson expected to announce more details on Monday.
...WHILE TESLA REACHES NEW HEIGHTS AND TECH COMPANIES DABBLE IN EV ACTION...
- Tesla deliveries reached a record number of deliveries in Q1, more than doubling the number delivered in Q1 of 2020. Foxconn is making inroads into making EV platforms (Wednesday) and Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi announced its own plans to make EVs (Wednesday). The trend for tech companies to get into car making continues!
AND IN UPDATES FOR WATSON'S YEARLY...
- Watson’s Yearly updates: These will be left until the next edition of Watson’s Yearly that will be published shortly
My favourite “alternative” story this week were the hilarious Little girl’s ‘genius’ note for mum trying to find out her birthday presents (The Mirror, Paige Holland), an important guide in Best sausages around the world – and top places where you can find them (The Mirror, Nigel Thompson) and a rather bizarre concoction that you might like to try this weekend in Woman makes hot cross bun burger but people can’t tell if it’s ‘genius or scary’ (The Mirror, Paige Holland). It’s a clean sweep for The Mirror this week – so let’s hope that some of the other sources can come up with the goods!