Trading partners, Aria, cannabis, Uber, Ford and JLR, Lloyds Pharmacy: your commercial news round-up

updated on 18 February 2021

Companies around the world have taken a hit following the outbreak of covid-19 last year. But what aspects of the pandemic impacted these companies? What can they do to facilitate their recovery? And what might they need to prepare for going forward? These are all questions you can be asking yourself to help you think more commercially. Read this week’s commercial round-up below and then start analysing one of the stories in more depth.

  • China is officially the EU’s biggest trading partner, after overtaking the US in 2020. Despite trade between Europe and most of its major partners falling during the covid-19 pandemic, trade between China and the EU was valued at £511 billion in 2020. Following China’s economic downturn due to the pandemic at the start of last year, its economy recovered to support “demand for EU goods”, according to the BBC. Medical equipment and electronics were among the products in high demand.
  • A new £800 million US-style research facility called the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (Aria) that will invest in “high-risk, high-reward” projects is set to be announced by the government as soon as this week. The project, initiated by Dominic Cummings who has since left Downing Street, is now being led by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. Based on the US’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), Aria is being set up “so it can take fast, agile decisions without bureaucracy”, according to The Times.
  • Medical cannabis company Kanabo Group enjoyed its first day listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), as its share price soared some 66.64% by mid-morning. The group, which manufacturers vaporised marijuana pods and inhalers for medicinal use, is continuing to see its share price rise as investors show an interest in this expanding sub-sector. Kanabo’s CEO Avihu Tamir said: “With the support of the Financial Conduct Authority and LSE, the medical cannabis industry is set to take off in the UK and in Europe, similar to what’s happened in North America in recent times. This is just the beginning.”
  • The UK has the highest number of “distressed” companies in Europe, following the covid-19 pandemic, according to analytics from Moody’s Investors Service. Companies are deemed ‘distressed’ if they have a B3 negative rating or lower – 28 UK companies fell into this category. Moody’s Vice President and Senior Analyst Kristin Yeatman said: “We expect the number of companies rated B3 and lower to remain broadly stable over the first six months of 2021 as defaults, upgrades, and withdrawals are set to outnumber downgrades at those levels.”
  • A judgment based on Uber’s appeal against a ruling that determined its drivers as ‘workers’, rather than ‘independent contractors’ is to be handed down by the Supreme Court on Friday. The dispute, which has been ongoing since 2016, was initiated by two former Uber drivers who brought a case to the Employment Tribunal against the company. The successful outcome was upheld in 2017 by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and in 2018 by the Court of Appeal. Friday’s Supreme Court ruling is likely to have a significant impact on the gig economy.
  • Car manufacturing giant Ford has announced its commitment to sell only electric cars in the UK and Europe by 2030, with electric or plug-in hybrid options available in every passenger car model set to be ready by 2026. The firm also revealed its plans to invest $22 billion in electric technology on a global scale by 2025. Meanwhile, Volvo Cars and luxury car brand Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) confirmed their commitment to be fully-electric globally by 2030. JLR said its first electric Land Rover will be ready by 2024, with an additional five models set to launch within five years; its Jaguar arm also intends on exclusively producing fully electric vehicles by 2025.
  • In other manufacturing news, more than one million cars made by luxury and commercial car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz are being recalled in the US following a safety defect relating to the cars’ emergency call system. A fix is also being prepared for customers in other countries too.
  • US-owner of Lloyds Pharmacy, McKesson, is in negotiations to sell the drug retail and wholesale group following concerns about the sector’s future. Barclays is working with the owners to sell the business and prospective bidders have been contacted, according to Sky News' sources.

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