The Net Closes in: 10 Things We Learned This Week

In a week of more atrocities, readers were greeted with the dissonant topic of International Women’s Day, and the question of whether there was anything to celebrate  

Ollie Smith 11 March, 2022 | 8:51AM
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Roman Abramovich

Russia Might Default

As the Russian government scrambled to raise interest rates to cool soaring inflation, at least one major ratings agency declared the nation on the brink of default. Fitch Ratings downgraded its assessment of the Russian Federation’s debt on Wednesday, saying a default was “imminent”. Rarely in the mood for saying anything even vaguely truthful at the moment, Moscow did at least concede payments on its government bonds might be delayed. Elsewhere, some of Russia’s richest men started to feel the pain. Roman Abramovich has now been sanctioned by Whitehall, near enough ending the 55 year-old non-dom’s 19 year relationship with Chelsea Football Club, and, indeed, the UK as a whole.

Ukraine is Now a Quagmire War

Assisted by highly lethal western weaponry, the Ukrainian armed forces have proven themselves a highly determined adversary in battle. Indeed, it is now clear that, if the current state of affairs on the battlefield was the Russian plan all along, it sure was an incredibly complex and risky one. As plucky Ukrainian tractor owners were opening up a new front all of their own (by nicking stranded Russian tanks), Russians citizens back home braced for a new reality in what looks to be an increasingly drawn out conflict. 

#MeToo Compromised the NDA

International Women’s Day always presents an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary contributions women make to the world, but it’s also important to take a sober look at the status quo. This week, my colleagues Leslie Norton and Ruth Saldanha described the impact of the #MeToo scandal on corporations’ sexual harassment policies, taking in non-disclosure agreements, executive decision-making, and impropriety as a business risk. In short: businesses are finally waking up to the risks of being a woman in the workplace, but there is still more to do.

The Twitter Bots Know What’s What

And for those companies who were perhaps celebrating just a little bit too much, there was a handy Twitter bot taking them down a few pegs. International Women’s Day is undeniably a marketing opportunity, but that’s a risky game to play when your gender pay gap is off the charts. Emblazoned with a cover photo entitled “deeds not words”, the Gender Pay Gap Bot took aim at companies living it up in name of IWD by helpfully quoting their tweets with evidence of their (in some cases quite startling) gender pay disparity. And, as if by magic, there was also a bot tracking down how quickly companies were deleting their tweets after being called out by the internet. There’s a tool for everything these days.

Transparency is Our Friend

All that happened in the name of transparency, and there was one person at Morningstar leading the way on that topic this week. Morningstar.co.uk’s data journalist Sunniva Kolostyak is absolutely in her element looking at this stuff, producing an interactive guide to the board diversity of the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. Before you feel all warm and fuzzy reading through company prospectuses and results, take a look at some of your favourite names in the table she created. You might be in for a bit of a shock.

The Daves are Finally on the Back Foot

And speaking of Sunniva, a change of methodology she masterminded produced different results in our annual look at the number of fund managers named Dave. To be specific, this is our regular investigation into whether there are more fund managers named Dave than actual women fund managers altogether. It would appear the tide has now finally turned, though I have to post a quick retort to the bloke (and I assume it was a bloke) who contacted her via DM to joke that he would change his name to Dave to bolster the numbers: not funny. Stop sending unsolicited messages to women.

The John Lewis Bonus is Back

Having axed its employee bonus scheme last year for the first time since 1953, embattled department store and supermarket business John Lewis this week announced the bonus’s return, amid a cost of living crisis reaching all four corners of the UK. The outcome will be 3% of employees’ salaries, or around a week-and-a-half’s wages per partner. John Lewis is employee owned, so when I say partners, I’m not just talking about top executives driving around in chauffeured BMWs. Hopefully many people will benefit.

Amazon Joins the Cool Kids

All the cool kids are doing them nowadays. No, I’m not talking about “Tik Toks”, I’m talking about stock splits. This week, Amazon joined fellow megastocks Apple, Alphabet, and Tesla in splitting its stock 20-1. Thankfully, another outstanding Morningstar employee was on hand to explain how the process works, and reassure readers that no, the value of their holdings in the company would not be reduced as a result of the move. Read Ruth Saldanha’s excellent explainer here, including some helpful maths, and a section on reverse stock splits.

Shackleton's Ship Has Been Found

If you’re into underwater photography, you’ll be revelling in new snaps of Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was discovered this week, 107 years after it sank in the Weddell Sea (Antartica). Locating the wreck has been described as one of the most challenging underwater projects ever undertaken, despite the fact that, at 3,008 metres, it sits somewhat higher than doomed passenger liner Titanic, which sank to a depth of 3,800 metres in 1912.

No Longer Neighbours, Still Good Friends

Quite apart from launching the careers of a host of household names (Kylie Minogue, Delta Goodrem, Margot Robbie), Australian soap Neighbours was a much-loved staple of TV schedules. But “was” is now the operative word, as the show has been scrapped after 37 years. Production company Freemantle was reportedly unable to find new broadcasters for the programme, whose iconic and long-standing characters included "Toadie" Rebecchi (loveable), Paul Robinson (conniving), Karl Kennedy (naïve), and Drew Kirk (much-missed). Personally, I’ll never forget all those classic moments in the café with Harold and his tuba. It’s the end of an era on Ramsay Street. This, a final word from Morningstar Australia editorial manager Emma Rappaport: 

“This is the end of the great British-Australian cultural pact … One soap set in the suburbs, one of the beach in bikinis – only one survives…Sydney beats Melbourne (finally) …This is what happens when you pick the wrong Hemsworth.”

And in true circle of life fashion, what links our first story with our last? The rumoured buyer for Chelsea is property tycoon Nick Candy, who's married to Holly Valance, a former Neighbours star who went on to hit the big time.

 

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK