Watson’s Weekly 24-10-2020

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.


  • China’s GDP was up according to official figures (Monday) and the International Monetary Fund reckons it’ll be the only major world economy to grow this year
  • Europe’s economy is looking increasingly fragile (Monday) as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have all been putting in tighter measures to stop the spread of a second wave of the coronavirus. These restrictions will clearly limit any growth while they remain in force
  • Rishi Sunak put implemented new measures to support jobs and businesses over the next six months (Friday) in order to avoid mass unemployment going into winter


  • Big Tech looks like it’ll suffer whoever wins the US presidential election (Monday), just for different reasons. For now, though, the US Department of Justice filed a competition case against Google (Wednesday) saying that it has shut out competitors by signing exclusive contracts with other companies. For instance, Google is thought to pay Apple a huge amount of money to be its default browser. Although there has been no official word on this, it is thought to be worth up to an astounding 20% of Apple’s annual profits! If Google gets pressured on its search engine though, ironically it could be Microsoft (another giant!) who benefits most (Friday) as it is the only real competitor Google has! Anyway, it seems that momentum against Big Tech is building
  • Facebook launched Facebook Dating in the UK and Europe (Thursdaysome months after its planned original launch of February 14th. Facebook is aiming to make inroads into an online dating market that is thought to be worth about £3.8bn. It is differentiating itself from the competition by giving users a “more authentic look at who someone is”, but I think that there are potential dangers here of Facebook collecting even more sensitive material from users. Let’s hope they treat it right. Having said that, Facebook is also facing the possibility of a massive fine (Monday) that could run into the billions as it is now facing allegations of leaking contact details of under-18s
  • The number of Snapchat users continues to increase (Wednesday) and the company is doing well from advertising. This surprised the market on the upside to the extent that the company’s share price shot up by 20%! The year’s final quarter is usually Snapchat’s best, so there are hopes of even better things to come


  • It was quite interesting to see that Americans are now touring developing countries urging them to use non-Chinese tech (Monday) in return for more “safety” and more reasonable financial terms. This looks like the next phase of what seems to be an all-out American attack on Chinese tech companies following last year’s (and this year’s!) ongoing hatchet job on Huawei!
  • The Swedish government banned Huawei and ZTE (Wednesday) from its 5G networks, becoming the latest European country to do so
  • Ericsson announced a decent set of figures (Thursday) mainly due to strong performance in China. However, given the Swedish government’s rejection of Huawei, you would have thought that Ericsson could easily be targeted for retaliation. This may mean that the likes of Nokia and Samsung get a boost


  • There were two big deals among shale producers this week. Conoco Phillips bought Concho Resources for $9.7bn (Tuesday) and the following day Pioneer bought Parsley Energy for $7.6bn (Wednesday) as the sector continues to consolidate. It seems to me that after the massive shake-out the sector went through as prolonged low oil prices forced many players out of the industry, we are now well and truly in a consolidation phase. Chevron bought Noble Energy in July for $13bn and Devon Energy bought WPX for $12bn in September, so there may well be more to come!


  • Tesla announced its fifth consecutive quarter of profits (Thursdaybut it turns out that this is largely due to other car companies buying “green credits” from Tesla in order to avoid fines from the EU for breaching emissions limits. If Tesla did not get this income, it would have lost money in the last four quarters!
  • PayPal is now accepting Bitcoin (Thursday), which I think is historic – as it means that Bitcoin is edging ever closer to the mainstream!
  • Quibi, the much-hyped short-form video streaming service shut down (Thursday) after less than one year of being in operation! What a massive failure! I think it was precisely the wrong product at the wrong time as it came into being at the beginning of lockdown just at a time where people suddenly had a lot of time on their hands and wanted to watch box sets!
  • The European Parliament voted down plans to stop vegan foods from referring to their products as “burgers” and “sausages”. The meat industry was, unsurprisingly, pushing to stop meat substitute producers from using words usually associated with meat. They claimed that it was to stop consumers from being “confused”, but we all know that they wanted to do it to make the food sound unappetising! This isn’t going to be the end of the meat industry, but I do think that this is an important development for meat alternatives


  • Watson’s Yearly updates: watch this space!


My favourite “alternative” stories were quite tame this week. There was the article which showed you how to make your own cola in How to make craft cola with all natural ingredients (SoraNews24, Oona McGee) which looked pretty good and then there was the unusual trend identified in Rubber chicken handbag everyone is obsessing over and where to buy it (The Mirror, Paige Holland). Nice!