Ballooning Problems: 10 Things We Learned This Week

It's been a rough week for quite a few businesses and their staff

Ollie Smith 17 February, 2023 | 7:00AM
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Royal Mail

Betwixt a Rock and a Hard Place

I grew up the son of a health and safety inspector, so I still haven’t thrown off the feeling of intrigue when things go wrong in the workplace. Step forward Mars Wrigley, which is the latest employer to be fined over safety failings in one of its factories in Pennsylvania. This week the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration charged the company $14,500 (around £12,000) over an incident involving two contractors who fell into a mixing tank used to make Galaxy chocolate. More than two dozen rescue workers attended the scene, and cut a chunk out of the tank to release the trapped personnel. Needless to say, the investigating body accused the company of not providing its contractors with enough training.

Our Criminals Really Are The Crème of The Crop

One of the things that so attracted the attention of the media to the Hatton Garden heist a few years back was the sheer audacity of the job. In the Netflix era, we’re used to hearing about sophisticated technology-based scams and fraud, but every so often there comes along a crime story that’s more braun than brains. So it was this week when a man was charged with the theft of a trailer-load of 200,000 Cadbury’s crème eggs from an industrial unit. Investigating, West Mercia Police said a number of other chocolate brands had also been stolen. Given our penchant for handing bucketloads of chocolate to our loved ones on Valentine’s Day, one wonders who he was trying to impress.

This Soft Drink Has Just Been Canned

I have fond memories of walking to the quayside in Norfolk as a child – Lilt can in hand. But my kids will get no such pleasure. Coca-Cola, which owns the now-not-so-popular fizzy drink brand, is scrapping it after nearly 50 years. All is not lost though. The tropical thirst-quencher (fact check: sugary drinks actually dehydrate you) will be immediately relaunched as a new brand of Fanta. Lilt made its debut in the UK in 1975, the year sitcom Fawlty Towers first hit the BBC. It too is getting a re-launch, though one doubts whether it too will impress the kids on their way to the quay. BASIL!

Louis Vuitton Thinks Happiness is The Truth

"I could have my Gucci on / I could wear my Louis Vuitton / But even with nothin’ on / Bet I made you look (I made you look)". So sang Meghan Trainor in her TikTok sensation-causing 2022 hit Made You Look. But it’s not the US singer’s name that’s been chosen to front the latter luxury brand. None other than Pharrell Williams has taken on the role of creative director at the company, showing once more the overlap between the worlds of celebrity, music, fashion, and culture. Years ago you could live off your talent alone, but today’s top names need more strings to their bow than just 13 Grammy awards, a judging spot on The Voice, and an Oscar nomination for the (awful) song Happy.

Weird Things Are Being Shot Out of The Sky

A certain degree of mystery surrounds the emergence of Chinese "spy balloons" shot down by the US during the last week. Four such devices have been removed from the sky by US jets in recent weeks, one of which was over Canada’s Yukon. Commentators have been quick to point out that shooting down spy balloons is only one half of the battle. Arguably just as concerning is the billions of pieces of data western TikTok users hand the app every day. TikTok has been likened to a modern trojan horse by some, and even President Trump declared at one point that the short-form video platform was a national security threat. For once he may have had a point.

More Billions Are About to Enter Football

If a report in the Financial Times is anything to go by, billionaire MSP Sports Capital chair Jahm Najafi could be preparing a bid to purchase North London football club Tottenham Hotspur. The reported bid values Spurs at around £3 billion, though the club has not confirmed receipt of an official club from the investor. MSP Sports Capital had originally begun the process of investing in Everton Football Club, but the Mersey side will now supposedly have to wait for inward capital.

Royal Mail Has Been Hacked

It was bad news for Royal Mail this week, when the delivery giant revealed it was unable to send letters and parcels abroad because of a ransomware hack. The problem was apparently first obvious when the company’s printers at a distribution site in Belfast starting printing out ransom notes from “LockBit”, a criminal gang with ties to Russia. The National Cyber-Security Centre and National Crime Agency are aware, as are the many businesses who have encountered the weaponisation of hacking for nefarious means. One such organisation is The Guardian, which reported the Royal Mail hack by mentioning it too had fallen prey to a cyberattack in January.

It's Time For a Dram in Delhi

Ask anyone which country they most associate with whisky and the answer would almost certainly be Scotland. But that is not the UK’s biggest market for the drink, oh no. Business Today this week reports India has overtaken France to become the UK’s largest market of Scotch by volume. India saw a 60% hike in imports of the peaty stuff in 2022, according to the Scotch Whiskey Association. Last year India imported 219 million 70cl bottles of Scotch. France only imported 205.

Flybe is Still Stuck on The Runway

It’s around this time of year that people start booking their summer holidays. Christmas is safely in the rearview mirror, there’s still a whole load of work to do in the office, and everyone (frankly) needs something to look forward to. But you probably won’t be flying Flybe this year, as talks to buy the stricken airline have failed. Flybe reportedly only has 45 staff left on its books.

Paperchase Staff Need a Fresh Start (And a Hug)

And speaking of stricken, one business soon to disappear from our high streets is premium stationer and card retailer Paperchase, whose notepads, pens, and quirky water bottles once adorned the shelves of every university student in about 2013. But it’s all over for the business, whose brand has been bought (minus its shops) by Tesco. As I perused the aisles of my local branch this week buying a certain type of card, I was informed by my downbeat-looking cashier that she found out the news from the TV.

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Ollie Smith

Ollie Smith  is editor of Morningstar UK

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