Love Island is Smoking: 10 Things We Learned This Week

From private equity to potential PMs, we've got you covered with another news round-up

Ollie Smith 10 June, 2022 | 10:27AM
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People Are Calling in Sick to Avoid an Empty Tank

It’s been a grim week for families running cars. The average cost of filling the typical family car with petrol has now surpassed the £100 mark for the first time, leading some workers to call in sick lest they risk an empty tank. The RAC’s fuel spokesperson Simon Williams declared the milestone “truly dark”, and urged the chancellor Rishi Sunak to do more than just stick with the “paltry” 5p fuel duty cut launched three months ago. For its part, the AA wants an immediate duty cut of 10p alongside the introduction of a so-called “fuel duty stabiliser”, which would dynamically reduce fuel duty as prices increase, and increase it when they fall.

Private Equity is Feeling The Pain at The Pump Too

Speaking of petrol pumps, Supermarket chain Morrisons is set to be bought by US private equity firm Clayton, Dublier & Rice (CD&R) in a £7bn takeover deal, and the Competition and Markets Authority has just given the transaction a green light. The issue at stake? Fuel. CD&R also owns Motor Fuel Group (MFG), which runs just shy of a thousand forecourts across the UK. Because the deal would potentially hand CD&R a further 335 fuel outlets, the CMA was reportedly concerned the PE firm would end up running more than 1,200 of the UK’s 8,000 petrol stations. The answer? The CMA has accepted CD&R’s commitment to sell 87 MFG forecourts in order to push the deal through. Let’s just hope they don’t get sold to, er, Morrisons.

Michael Owen’s Having a Totally Normal One

Once a 17 year-old football boy wonder, former England striker Michael Owen has had an interesting time since hanging up his boots, and never seems averse to a new project. Horses have taken up much of the two-time sports personality of the year winner’s time since the glory days, a passion he shares with his oldest daughter Gemma, who is part of the starting lineup of this year’s Love Island. Moreover, Owen has in recent months been dabbling in financial services promotions. That’s all much to the chagrin of the Advertising Standards Authority, which contacted the 42 year-old asking him to remove a tweet declaring that his non-fungible tokens (NFT) would be the first never to lose their initial value. Maybe don’t put all your eggs in that basket.

Boots Might Go For a Bargain

Advisers on the sale of pharmacy retailer Boots were reportedly trying to shift the deal into £7 billion territory, but it now looks like the shop chain could go for around £2 billion less. The company boasts 170 years of helping customers with their health and hygiene, but the downside to that is that certain customers view it as a “tired” brand. Its staff are certainly among the most trustworthy around, but in a world where the cosmetic very much matters, one can see why the joint bid by Reliance Industries of India and US private equity fund Apollo low-balled the business's board. Despite targeted store refreshers, one often feels you're just as likely to encounter a dirty store floor as you are a handy health bargain. Perhaps that's now what its new potential owners are going for too. 

Musk Has Been Offered The Firehose

World’s richest man and Twitter owner-to-be Elon Musk is reportedly being offered access to the company’s “firehose” of raw tweet data in a bid to give him a better insight into how the company works. Musk recently threatened to withdraw from the $44 billion deal after arguing that Twitter was significantly underestimating the number of “spam” accounts present on its platform. Last month he put the deal on hold, before declaring he should receive a discount based on the percentage of spam bots on the its site. It is still not yet clear whether the legally-binding deal will go ahead. There could be a law suit ahead.

A Plan is Afoot to Declare War on Smoking

The leader of an independent review into Britain’s efforts to cut smoking has reportedly recommended the government increase the legal minimum age for tobacco purchase every year in England. The current age is 18, but Javed Khan, who formerly ran children’s charity Barnado’s, says the country is at risk of missing its 2030 smoke-free target. “Without immediate and sustained action, England will miss the smoke-free target by many years and most likely decades,” he said. “A smoke-free society should be a social norm – but to achieve this, we must do more to stop people taking up smoking, help those who already smoke and support those who are disproportionately impacted by smoking.” The proposals create something of a tension for ministers, who may well find themselves stuck between instinctive laissez-faire politics and the more paternalistic side of public health intervention seen during the pandemic.

Ryanair is Embroiled in a Racism Row

It’s not a great time to be a shareholder or a customer of an airline. If it’s flight cancellations we’re talking about, you certainly don’t want to be easyJet, which is facing serious heat over its handling of the UK’s summer holidays. But if it’s a very Ryanair scandal you’re looking for, look no further than the backlash at the often-controversial-for-other-reasons Irish airline, which is insisting on screening its South African passengers in Afrikaans. Ryanair says it’s an essential policy because of a rise in fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the UK. Critics say Afrikaans is a language synonymous with the racism of the apartheid era. There are at least 35 languages indigenous to South Africa, 11 of them are official languages. For its part, Ryanair has not explained why it picked Afrikaans over the other 10.

And Wizz Air Isn’t Doing Much Better

And as if that wasn’t enough, the boss of Wizz air is now facing a safety backlash from unions and pilots’ representatives after suggesting staff should “go the extra mile” to assist during the travel chaos. In a recording obtained by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), chief executive József Váradi is reported as saying: “We cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is, is fatigued. We are all fatigued but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile.” The ECA has demanded an investigation, declaring the comments to be the equivalent of handing car keys to drunk drivers.

Rishi Sunak May Have Had His Gordon Brown Moment

Gordon Brown never really had a Rishi Sunak moment as chancellor (and by that I mean people didn’t exactly think he was dashingly handsome at a point of national crisis). But it appears Sunak may have had a Gordon Brown moment. Between 1999 and 2002, Brown’s Treasury sold around 401 tonnes of the UK’s 715 tonne gold holdings, and at pretty much rock bottom prices. It’s been called one of the worst investment decisions in history. Sunak hasn’t quite gone that far (at least not with gold anyway), but he is facing criticism for supposedly failing to save £11 billion of taxpayer cash used to pay interest on the UK’s national debt. Other similarities between Brown and Sunak are obvious. Brown wasn’t to be the first chancellor to want the top job, though it now looks likely Sunak will end up spending even less time in Number 10 than Brown ever did…

A New List of Potential PMs Has Emerged

And on that note, the prime minister’s recent survival in a bruising no confidence vote turned political journalists’ attention to the question of his successor once more. Former leadership contender Jeremy Hunt is clearly eyeing a second bid, but there are plenty of other options for members to choose from. Defence secretary Ben Wallace is reportedly seen as a safe pair of hands, though his military background hardly makes him look like a moderniser. Priti Patel and Liz Truss could both make history as Britain’s third woman prime minister. Patel will undoubtedly face questions over her conduct in office and the ministerial code, while Truss will struggle to be taken seriously after the cheese memes and pork market remarks of yesteryear. Then there is trade minister Penny Mordaunt, who made history as the first female defence secretary after the unceremonious sacking of Gavin Williamson. That leaves Sajid Javid, a veteran of cabinet, and Nadhim Zahawi, whose time as vaccines minister was pretty successful. Given the party has chosen its last two leaders during crises, you really cannot discount anything from happening.

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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Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK