Aesop's Foibles? 10 Things We Learned This Week

It's bad news for Richard Branson, good news for Alan Sugar, and even better news for the founder of Gymshark. The only problem? We're still missing women billionaires

Emma Simon 6 April, 2023 | 3:45PM
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn


Happy New Tax Year!

Unlike the start of a new calendar year, the new tax year rarely prompts any fireworks. For the vast majority of us it won’t be a prosperous new tax year, with council tax bills, water rates and vehicle excise duty all going up (by an average of 5%, 7.5% and 10.1% respectively, depending where you live). The government might not have increased income taxes directly, but it is freezing tax bands, which means some people getting pay rises will be pushed into a higher tax bracket. The Office of Budget Responsibility estimates that keeping these thresholds level until 2028 will create 3.2m new taxpayers and 2.6m more higher-rate taxpayers. State pension benefits are rising with inflation, but don’t be popping the champagne corks just yet. Although inflation adds an extra £972 to a full state pension, higher food prices alone have added £837 a year to the average shopping bill.  

Elon Isn't The World's Richest Man

Ill-advised tweets have proven costly for celebs, but buying the social media platform has been even more disastrous for Elon Musk than we originally though. According to Forbes, Musk is now worth just $180bn compared to LVMH's Bernard Arnault's estimated net worth of $211 billion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is in third place with an estimated fortune of $114bn. This list was shorter than last year, with more than 250 people losing their "billionaire" status. The most high-profile absence is probably FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who now faces wire fraud charges in the US. Good news, meanwhile, for Gymshark founder and chief executive Ben Francis, who is the UK's youngest ever billionaire aged 30. 

The Gender Super-Rich Gap is Still a Chasm

There were 2,640 billionaires on the Forbes list this year, but only 337 of them were women. This doesn’t look like it's changing any time soon, with new data showing men earn more than women in eight out of 10 UK companies. In recent years British firms have been forced to publish gender pay gaps but the policy does not seem to be driving pay equality in the workplace. The wage differential is still 9.4% — the same as it was in 2017/18 when companies started publishing this information. These figures don’t relate to men and women doing the same job, but reflect the fact that men are more likely to hold senior and higher-paying roles in many businesses. The data, collated by the BBC, showed that the biggest gaps were in the banking and finance sectors, with women typically earning 22% less than men. In fact, a separate survey published this week, this pay gap was actually widening at some of the biggest investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and HSBC.

Virgin Orbit is Grounded

Rather than blasting off into space, one senior Virgin Orbit executive has blasted the leadership team at the now-bankrupt satellite launch company for failing staff. In an email to all employees, the chief operating officer, Tony Gingiss, said they "deserved better than this" and appeared to criticise the chief executive for failing to offer a proper apology to staff, most of whom are now losing their jobs. Gingiss added he had tried to persuade the board to take a different route to administration, giving the company more time to secure the funding it needs after its failed launch in January. If it had been successful, this would have been the first commercial satellite launched from the UK. Virgin Orbit, which for now is part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is separate from his Virgin Galactic brand, which is trying to pioneer space tourism.

The Wealth Management Margins Squeeze Continues

There was been further consolidation in the wealth management sector this week with Rathbones announcing a deal to buy the UK wealth management arm of Investec. The two FTSE 250-listed companies said the tie up will create "synergies" with Invsetec providing banking services and Rathbones offering wealth management to the two companies' high-net-worth clients. The move comes as traditional wealth managers face competition from lower-cost DIY platforms utilising ready-made portfolios of cheap exchange-traded funds and tracker funds. Last year Brewin Dolphin was acquired by the Royal Bank of Canada while Charles Stanley was sold to the American Bank Raymond James. 

Credits Aren't Rolling at Cineworld  

There’s to be a sequel to the Cineworld saga after all, as it looks like the world’s second biggest cinema chain has brokered a restructuring deal with the majority of its lenders. Cineworld filed for bankruptcy in the US last September, but this new deal will see it swap debt for equity, giving control to its lenders — while arranging new equity and debt financial deals. At the same time the group has also been looking at potential sale options in US, UK and Ireland, but this has now been ruled out. Despite this flurry of behind-the-screens action, Cineworld’s 750 cinemas have remained open. It remains to be seen what sort of films the company’s new financial owners would like to see. The Money Pit?

Will This Acquisition Be 'Worth it'?

French cosmetics group L'Oreal has bought the Australian premium skincare brand Aesop for $2.53bn. The price might have surprised some investors, but L’Oreal chief executive Nicolas Hieronimus thinks it is definitely worth a punt, describing Aesop as "the epitome of avant-garde beauty" and for good measure adding that the company’s products (which include geranium leaf body balm, citrus melange body cleanser, and parsley seed anti-oxidant eye cream) as "a superb combination of urbanity, hedonism and undeniable luxury". It goes without saying these products also have an undeniably high price tag, with a 10ml jar parsley seed eye cream retailing for £63. Whoof!

Johnson & Johnson is Settling its Talc Torment

Johnson & Johnson has described claims its baby powder and talc products cause cancer as "specious." But it is now offering to pay a whopping $9 billion to resolve 40,000 of lawsuits claiming this in the US and Canada. The healthcare company says the claims are based on "misinformation" – but this hasn’t stopped the lawsuits rolling in. Despite selling baby powder for 130 years, Johnson & Johnson pulled the product three years ago, blaming the bad publicity around these cases for falling sales. Although this might seem like a high price to pay for what it believes is a false claim, Johnson & Johnson argues that it would take decades to resolve these cases in the court system in the US. While it has won a number of individual cases on this issue, it has been hit with some judgements against it, including one where 22 women were awarded $2 billion. 

The Roof Has Come Off Skandi Housing

We learned just what a "weaker housing market" means in terms of price this week, with online estate agent Zoopla calculating that property prices are 4% less than they were a year ago (meaning that buyers have saved themselves £14,000 on the average home). However, rather than dampening an already slow market, Zoopla says that sales are up, with more supply and sellers being realistic about price. This might explain rather contradictory figures from Halifax, showing house prices rising for the third month running. All of which might leave house buyers and sellers scratching their heads — are we in for a Scandinavian style crash, where prices have fallen by 15% in the last year? This Morningstar article takes an in-depth look at house prices across Europe to see which countries might be vulnerable to a more severe correction in the wake of higher interest rates and stretched affordability.

Sugar's Payout Tastes Sweet

Regular viewers of The Apprentice might be surprised to learn some of the contestants actually have credible business plans, and aren’t simply looking for their fifteen minutes of fame on reality TV. This week we learned Lord Sugar is set to collect a multi-million-pound payout after selling his 50% stake in Tropic Skincare, the company set up by Susie Ma, a contestant on the show in 2011. Sugar invested £200,000 to help develop the business and it has clearly flourished; in 2020 it paid a £10 million dividend to its two owners, Sugar and Ma. Perhaps what is more surprising is that Ma didn’t even win. She came third. 

That Was The Week That Was

Sign up to Our Newsletters to Stay Informed

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.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

About Author

Emma Simon

Emma Simon  is a financial journalist, specialising in investment and consumer issues, writing for

© Copyright 2024 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Terms of Use        Privacy Policy        Modern Slavery Statement        Cookie Settings        Disclosures