Watson’s Weekly 25-10-2019

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.


  • For those of you who can even stand to read the word “Brexit”, BoJo kicked the week off in a confident mood (Monday) but then it sort of fell apart and now Europe looks like it’ll give us an extension while BoJo pushes for a general election on December 12th (Friday) which MPs don’t seem to be terribly enthused about either
  • Mario Draghi hands over the reins to Christine Lagarde as head of the ECB (Friday) with things in the eurozone in a bit of a state. Germany is looking tricky, while Switzerland edged a bit to the left (Tuesday) as the Swiss Green party and the Green-Liberal party got a boost from Sunday’s elections. Justin Trudeau won another term as Canadian PM (Wednesday) but with a smaller majority and a fragmented remit
  • In commodities, corn prices continue to weaken (Monday) as demand for pig feed (which uses a lot of corn) has cratered due to the pig population in China falling by 41% since the “start” of the African swine fever epidemic in August last year. There was the potentially very exciting discovery of battery-grade lithium in California by Rio Tinto (Wednesday). If tests are confirmed, this could make the company North America’s biggest producer! The beauty of this discovery is that Rio Tinto found the lithium in piles of waste rock that had just been lying around for almost a hundred years at its Boron site – so no need for any additional digging for now! China has been hoarding lithium supplies for itself and so, given the US-China trade war, a big lithium discovery in the US would mean one less bargaining chip for the China side


  • Car manufacturers are having a terrible time of things at the moment. The world’s biggest car market, China, continues to slow down with Ford, Hyundai, Daimler and Volvo among those suffering from a cooling in demand. However, Tesla is now churning out cars from its Chinese gigafactory and surprised investors by turning a profit (Thursday). Meanwhile, it is continuing to put pressure on Europeans to relax restrictions on Tesla’s Autopilot system (Monday) following the proposals it put forward last month
  • It’s not only car manufacturers who are suffering, though – Continental took a €2.5bn hit due to the steep decline in the car industry (Wednesday) and I am sure that other parts suppliers will follow given things don’t look like changing any time soon


  • Just Eat was minding its own business, getting ready to merge with Takeaway.com, and then – BOOM – along comes South African internet firm Prosus with an all-cash offer (Wednesday), which Just Eat’s board flatly refused. Clearly, other potential bidders may emerge from the woodwork after this approach, so things may get a bit tasty. Talking of tasty, Uber Eats signed a a deal whereby Costcutter, the convenience store chain with over 1,700 shops, will sell groceries via Uber Eat’s app (Wednesday). This follows other similar tie-ups in the sector e.g. Asda launching an express grocery delivery service with Just Eat and the Co-Op working with Deliveroo. Convenience stores just got convenienter. I think I’ve just invented a new word 😱
  • Meanwhile, in the world of fast food, US outlets are fighting over brekky (Wednesday) although McDonald’s is losing ground to its rivals on account of it not having a compelling meatless offering. Talking of which, I saw the story British diners offered bite of the Impossible (The Times, Tom Knowles) in today’s edition where it said Impossible Foods is applying for a permit in the EU to market soy leghemoglobin (aka “heme”) which is the company’s “magic ingredient”. So it sounds like things like the Impossible Whopper etc. will be over here pretty soon!


  • OK, so WeWork is still alive, but it has had to eat a ton of humble pie since its recent failed attempt at a stock market flotation. Its valuation fell further this week over its uncertain future (Tuesday) and then it decided to make some major changes (Thursday), including cutting 4,000 jobs. What a fall from grace!
  • Meanwhile, back home, Regis UK went into administration (Friday) leaving 1,200 workers at 220 Supercuts salons up and down the UK in the lurch. The administrators are in and operations will continue as usual, presumably until they find a suitable buyer for some of all of the business


I thought I’d pick two stories from this week. The, quite frankly, bleurrrgh Man saves his nail clippings for a year and turns them into engagement ring (The Mirror, Courtney Pochin https://tinyurl.com/y57ojwcz) and then, on the altogether more pleasant end of the scale, Have coffee with adorable piggies at Tokyo’s brand-new micro pig cafe in trendy Harajuku (SoraNews24, Casey Baseel https://tinyurl.com/y3cdcejs).

Whatever you get up to this weekend, I hope you have an enjoyable one!