Watson’s Weekly 30-08-2019

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.


  • President Trump started off in typically bullish style talking about the prospects of a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani (Tuesday) which was subsequently rebuffed (Wednesday). There were also positive noises aimed in the direction of China (Tuesday) while he maintained that his domestic economy is still in rude health, despite rising investor concerns to the contrary (Friday)
  • Boris Johnson started the week off in a generous mood by announcing an increase in the allocation of cash to Britain’s high streets for specific projects (Tuesday) which is designed to give a shot in the arm to city centres. He then proceeded to shock everyone by announcing that he would be shutting parliament down for five weeks (Thursday) in order to scupper opposition plans to take away the no-deal option and followed this up with increasing the frequency of talks with Brussels to hammer out an improved deal (Friday)
  • Elsewhere, Indonesia’s President Widodo announced plans to move the capital away from Jakarta (Tuesday) due to it being one of the fastest sinking cities in the world and Ukraine got its youngest ever prime minister (Friday)


  • Philip Morris International and Altria announced talks to merge (Wednesday) ten years after they demerged but investors didn’t seemed to be bowled over by the terms (Thursday) and increased scrutiny on vaping will be something both parties will need to consider (Friday) as investigations intensified over Juul’s marketing practices
  • BP sold its Alaska business to Hilcorp for $5.6bn (Wednesday) with a view to the funds raised being funneled into its shale operations. This is a major moment for BP as the sale signals the end of its 60-year history in Alaska
  • Celgene agreed to sell its hugely popular psoriasis treatment, Otezla, to Amgen for $13.4bn (Tuesday), clearing the path for the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Celgene merger which is currently under scrutiny by the competition regulator


  • In the US, CostCo was greeted by frenzied scenes at the opening of its first China store (Wednesday), Guess managed to surprise everyone on the upside (Thursday) as it said it managed to mitigate the tariff madness by reaching new agreements with suppliers – but Tiffany lost its lustre (Thursday) due to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong affecting sales in Asia and fewer tourists loading up at its US stores
  • In the UK, the prices we pay in shops fell at their fastest rate in a year (Wednesday) as the BRC blamed “weak consumer spend and intense competition” as retailers have been forced to rely more on discounting to shift product. WH Smith continued to see strong sales (Thursday) from its airport, hospital and railway outlets although its high street store sales continue to weaken and Ted Baker signed a deal with Sojitz Infinity (Thursday) where the latter will use its local knowledge to sell Ted Baker merch in Japan’s department stores


  • Pizza Express encapsulated the general high street gloom (Thursday) as it said that it had suffered in the first half of the year and put new restaurant openings on hold while smaller chains Franco Manca and Loungers continue to knock it out of the park (Thursday) helped by decent sales and keeping outlet opening costs down by taking advantage of landlords’ weakening position and refusing to pay high rents
  • In meatless developments, KFC said that it is working with Beyond Meat in the US to launch “Beyond Fried Chicken” (Tuesday), which are plant-based “chicken” nuggets and wings . A new meatless burger chain called Neat Burger is opening in the UK next week (Friday) with a view to expansion into Europe and the US over the next few years


I know this is very juvenile of me, but the story that made me laugh the most this week was Couple mortified by mother-in-law’s engagement gift with very awkward design flaw (The Mirror, Courtney Pochin https://tinyurl.com/yyvblatu), which shows how kind intentions can sometimes go awry…

I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!