Global Business Daily: Dr. Martens floats and Parler goes offline
Louise Greenwood
Europe;United Kingdom

"Our iconic brand appeals to a diverse range of consumers around the world who wear our footwear to express their individual style," says Kenny Wilson, CEO of Doctor Martens. 

Once the favoured choice of grunge rockers, students and radicals, more recently beloved of celebrities including Gigi Hadid, Kristen Stewart and Rihanna, the maker of the famed chunky lace-up boot has take a taken a surprise step in a new direction. 

Dr. Martens is to enter the world of high finance by floating on the London Stock Exchange. In and out of fashion over the years, the Northamptonshire, UK-based firm is hoping to cash in on an uptick in global sales online during the pandemic. 

Elsewhere, in more news on the slowdown in bricks-and-mortar retail, another fashion chain, this time Germany's Adler Modemärkte has announced insolvency, while mall owner British Land says just a third of shops in its holdings have opened under the latest UK-wide national lockdown, signaling more pain to come.

Social media platform Parler has been all but taken out of service after the latest crackdown on the online mobilization by right-wing groups after last week's events in Washington DC. Amazon and Apple, perhaps hoping to pre-empt a tougher legislative stance on "Big Tech" by the incoming Democrat administration, have both removed Parler from their cloud and web-hosting services. 

And if you are looking for a career change in the COVID-19 gloom, Tesla may have just the job for you. In what promises to be a challenging, although undoubtedly lucrative position, the U.S. electric car giant is reportedly seeking a new a design director to oversee the development and roll-out of its Chinese volume model. Auto experienced "bi-cultural" candidates are welcome.

Elsewhere, should British schoolchildren from low-income homes be given access to free laptops and broadband, as the new lockdown threatens their schooling?

And while some FTSE bosses have gainfully given up bonuses rather than sack staff as the downturn bites, have no fear – as a group they have already pocketed more this year than their staff earn annually on average.

Read on for all the day's business news in full.

Louise Greenwood,

Digital correspondent

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The owner of shoemaker Doctor Martens is planning to float on the London markets in what looks set to become one of the biggest IPOs of early 2021. Private equity group Permira, is seeking to sell down its stake in the Northamptonshire-based firm, which it bought in 2013. Long touted as an icon of British design, variations on the classic leather lace-up boot sell more than 11 million pairs annually in more than 60 countries, with revenues of $906 million in the last financial year. Sales, largely driven by online orders, rose 18 percent in the six months to September despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Management is reported to have engaged Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to coordinate the flotation.

German fashion retailer Adler Modemärkte is to file for insolvency, and has ordered the closure of all but two of its 171 stores across the country until the end of the month. In a statement, management said, despite intensive efforts, the company had been unable to raise sufficient cash from backers to make up for the drop in sales during the pandemic, leaving it "with no other choice… than closure of almost all stores." 

Meanwhile, one of the UK's largest commercial landlords, British Land, says it collected less than half the rent due, as lockdown conditions forced many businesses to close their doors. The company, which owns Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping center and London's Broadgate office and retail district, says it received just 46 percent of the rent owed by retailers in the three-month period from the quarter to December 25, while around just a third of shops in its holdings have been open for trade during the recent UK-wide lockdown.

Amazon has become the latest "Big Tech" firm to curtail the activities of right-wing organizations on its platforms. The group has announced it will follow in the steps of Apple and block the social network Parler from its web-hosting services. Parler, which has 4 million users worldwide, has gained ground as a popular forum for many right-wing and conspiracist groups banned from mainstream platforms such as Twitter. Last week, both Facebook and Twitter said they would suspend the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump, as he prepares to leave office.  

Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay U.S. authorities nearly $125m rather than face criminal charges over an alleged breach of bribery and fraud laws. The German banking giant has entered into a deferred prosecution deal over claims it used a network of business development consultants to mislead traders on precious metals futures contracts and other investments in Saudi Arabia between 2008 and 2017. The deal means Deutsche will avoid prosecution on the condition it improves its compliance procedures.

France's data privacy watchdog has handed out its biggest ever fine to Alphabet's Google for breaching the laws on the use of online advertising trackers, known as cookies. Handing down a penalty of $121 million, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) stated that prior consent of visitors had not been sought before advertising cookies were launched, and that Google and Amazon had also failed to provide clear information to internet users about how their data would be used. The regulator also rejected both companies' defence that the fine was invalid as their respective European headquarters are based in Ireland and Luxembourg.

The UK's financial regulator has warned that consumers looking to profit from the boom in crypto currency must be ready to "lose all their money." In a statement, the Financial Conduct Authority said: "Investing in crypto assets ... generally involves taking very high risks with investors' money, "while also voicing concerned about the complexity of investment products linked to virtual currencies. The FCA is understood to be acting after the recent boom in the value of Bitcoin on the markets and the rise of internet-based crypto and blockchain offers led to a rush in investor cash into the sector, which remains largely unregulated.

Electric car giant Tesla is seeking a design director in China as part of its plans to roll out a fully functioning studio operation in Shanghai or Beijing producing cars for the local market, according to Reuters. The news agency reports that headhunters have been seeking experienced "bi-cultural" candidates in recent months, with understanding of both the Chinese and U.S. markets to spearhead the project. Demand for all-electric cars in China is expected to propel sales to 1.5 million this year. Tesla founder Elon Musk has previously hinted at developing a volume model, priced around $25,000 for the market.

Staying in China, Chinese consumer prices unexpectedly rose last month, although core inflation weakened to a 10-year low. Prices were up 0.2 percent on the year, with gains largely caused by rising food prices. Consumer price growth in China had been generally weak in recent months, with the country's rapid recovery from the COVID-19 crisis fueled largely by rising industrial production.

Fund manager Global Infrastructure Partners is buying the UK-listed private jet provider Signature Aviation for $4.5 billion, outbidding rival interest from private equity giant Blackstone and Cascade Investment, wealth manager to Bill Gates. The firm said it had accepted an offer of $5.50 per share, valuing the firm at $4.6bn. While Signature, formerly known as BBA Aviation, does not operate jets, it provides buyers with exposure to suitor firms via its operation of refueling and maintenance bases. Private flying has boomed during the pandemic, by providing high-net-worth clients the opportunity for risk-free international travel.

Russia says it will restart construction of its $9.5 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, despite the threat of ongoing U.S. sanctions. Russian oil giant Gazprom will recommence pipe laying in the Baltic Sea after Germany's northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern announced plans for a foundation to support its completion. Work on the 1,200 km-long pipeline came to a halt in December 2019 when Swiss construction firm Allseas pulled out, with 94 per cent of the length completed. Eastern European states led by Poland have protested that the project is designed to increase the region's energy reliance on Moscow by bypassing existing routes through Ukraine. Russia and Germany claim Nord Stream is a purely commercial venture to meet the eurozone's increasing gas demands.



Global share prices have continued to defy expectations, soaring to record highs as investors look beyond rising coronavirus cases and political unrest in the U.S. to focus on hopes for economic recovery later in the year. As the Trump administration enters its final few days, CGTN Europe spoke to Jane Foley, head of FX strategy at Rabobank, to discuss what's behind the frenzied market activity. 


We can look at the economic indicators and we can look at the amount of coronavirus cases and certainly look at the extra restrictions that we've seen, for instance, in the UK and various other European economic countries. And we can deduce that Q1 as well as Q4 is going to be a very difficult time economically but we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines. And this factor, combined with a huge amount of monetary policy and, of course, stimulus coming from governments means that investors are generally looking quite optimistic. 


What about the recent political turmoil in the U.S.?

[It] is something which, of course, is going to have a very long legacy impact on U.S. politics, [but] I think the bigger factor has been the results of the Georgia election, coming about the same time as that pressure on Capitol Hill. It gave the upper hand, if you like, to the Democrats in the Senate they now have the casting vote. That meant, as far as markets are concerned, that there could be more fiscal spending, funded by bigger budget deficit, and that meant perhaps more growth and more inflation.


And currencies? Because Bitcoin popped its head over $40,000 dollars last week.  

Bitcoin, gold, a lot of these ... are running on this expectation that there is, you know, a lot of people looking for yields, where there isn't very much yield on interest rates on bond yields, et... And so this search for yield really has been a big driver of the markets potentially for years. But, certainly since last spring, there's a big savings gap, people pushing into high yield assets, and Bitcoin is really joining the party. In terms of whether or not we're looking at a bubble, I think we probably are. But what is going to actually burst that bubble? That's still very difficult to say. 


WATCH: With schools closed for all but the children of "key workers," many families are struggling to provide the tech they need. Some are having to use already-stretched mobile data, while one parent said she only had one device to share between her six children at home.



And finally, pay for bosses at the top FTSE 100 listed firms has already outstripped that of their average paid employees for the year. While one-off wage and dividend cuts by top management, often taken to protect their firm's viability, has pulled down the headline rate of pay, FTSE 100 bosses are still working on average 34 hours for the same remuneration that their middle-paid staff are awarded in a year according to new data from the High Pay Centre.

Source(s): Reuters

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