Category Archives: News

Unilever selling Ragu and Bertolli for £1.25B

FMCG Giant Unilever has announced that it will be selling pasta sauces Ragu and Bertolli for £1.25B, putting yet more pressure on the average consumer’s shopping basket.

“I don’t know how we’ll cope,” worries Jane Saunders, 37.  “First the price of bread went up by 10p, and now this. We’re really going to have to cut back on the bolognese.”

The big supermarkets were baffled when Unilever first approached them.  “It seemed like a big jump to us,” reports a Sainsbury’s insider, “particularly as the price of a jar of Ragu was previously only around £1.80.  We managed to negotiate them down from £1.5B per jar, but they wouldn’t budge from £1.25B, and we had to pass the higher cost on to the consumer.”

This is not the first big price jump in recent months, with Burton’s raising the price of their Cadbury’s Fingers and Jammie Dodgers to around £350M a packet. It remains to be seen how much price inflation the average household can withstand.

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Junior Sales Rep’s ducks very much not in a row

A junior Pharmaceutical Sales Rep has found themselves in hot water after admitting that they didn’t understand a key piece of business terminology.  Sam Watkins, 21, was making notes in a team meeting, when his manager emphasized the importance of “getting their ducks in a row”.

“I’m not sure what came over me, but instead of just writing it down, I piped up and asked what that meant,” explains Sam. “I immediately wished the ground would swallow me up.”

His colleague Phil witnessed the awkward moment: “You really do hate to see that from a new hire. Just Google it later! Managers spend their whole time saying strange business things, you’ve just got to get used to it.”

Meanwhile Sam’s manager was slightly put out by the question.  “I mean, what do these kids learn in university these days? Next he’ll be telling me he doesn’t know what synergy is!”

As a result of his misstep, Sam is currently undergoing a remedial crash course in business jargon. “At first I was skeptical,” he reports, “but now that we’ve dealt with the low-hanging fruit, we’ll soon be back in the black.”

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Graduate applies for non-dream job

A recent university graduate has left onlookers puzzled, after she applied for a job role that was not a key part of her life plan.  Felicity Sawyer, 21, applied for a place on Deloitte’s Risk Consulting graduate scheme, despite the fact that she had only recently heard of Deloitte, let alone Risk Consulting.

“I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” explained Felicity.  “I graduated last year, and didn’t have any plans, so went travelling for a few months.  When I got back my parents told me I needed to get a job, so I just applied to the first thing I came across.”

Such a glib approach to application left the HR team at Deloitte dumbfounded.  “We were shocked, I must say,” said Deloitte’s recruiting representative.  “The majority of applicants for this program have wanted to work for Deloitte as a Risk Consultant since they sprung into the world, so to have such a misguided, last-minute application left us quite frankly appalled.”

Felicity’s parents, Mel and John, were embarrassed at the whole situation. “We didn’t realise she had gone so far off the rails.  When we told Fi to follow her dreams, we presumed she understood that meant building your life plan around a specific graduate role at one of the Big Four.”

So pastures new, for Felicity.  She was upbeat when we left her.  “I still don’t really know what Risk Consulting is, to be honest.  I think I’d much rather start writing some kind of business satire blog.  I’m sure there’s lots of money in that.”

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Bank of England interest rates remain low

The Bank of England released its quarterly inflation report this week, prompting much discussion in the Square Mile. There had been speculation in the City that interest rates would rise, however the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street soon put those rumours to rest.

“While there are some who believe that the general public’s interest in the state of the economy should be increased, that is not our current objective,” the Bank explained. “While the economy is on the road to recovery, at the moment we are keen to keep the public’s awareness and interest in economics as low as possible.”

The general population’s interest in the world of finance is currently been at an all time low, having fallen to 0.5% in 2009, staying at that level ever since. This sudden decrease was the result of a concerted effort among money-makers to distract the man on the street from what was going on. “With Lehmann and the whole sub-prime thing, we honestly had no idea what we were doing,” reports one industry insider. “We thought that the best thing to do was to make everything about the economy as boring and un-interesting as possible.” This strategy was a great success, allowing the banking industry to get back to business as usual.

When you look at the data over a longer time period, it is clear that this decrease is not just a one-off, with the decrease in general interest in the economy part of a larger trend.

(Created with DataWrapper, Source: Bank of England)

Official Bank of England figures indicate that interest has fallen from 10-15% in the 70’s and 80’s, to the low single digit numbers that we see today. Economist Henry Kelsey-Wilkinson believes that this is due to the range of other more interesting things on offer in the modern world. “In the 80’s, there honestly wasn’t that much going on, so reading about GDP and FDI didn’t seem like such a bad thing. These days the FT is up against Netflix, and there’s only one winner in that fight.”

However regardless of the underlying reason, the fact remains that interest rates are staying low in the near future. Governor Mark Carney had the last word: “We continue to think that interest rates will remain on hold until the second half of next year, later than the markets and most economists expect.”

 

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Pfizer offer fails to impress AstraZeneca

UK business news is awash with Pfizer’s thus far unsuccessful attempt to purchase fellow pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.  The US Viagra manufacturer’s latest bid of £63B left the AstraZeneca board unimpressed.

AstraZeneca are reportedly keen to do the deal, with an insider reporting that “this is on Pfizer to get the price up.  I know they’re 165 years old, but that’s no excuse, we’re an attractive asset.  They’ve got to do better than that”

Called upon for comment, a Pfizer board member was just confused.  “This has honestly never happened to us before.  We’ve never had stage fright, and we’ve made lots of acquisitions.”

Meanwhile some onlookers are more long-termist, concerned as to whether Pfizer are really in for a serious commitment, with both MPs and Unions demanding guarantees that Pfizer will protect jobs and research spending in the UK, and not just leave in the morning.

Talks continue in earnest.

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Apple invests in growth with acquisition of Beets

Apple’s acquisition of Beets by Dre was widely rumoured in the blogosphere and the press, and the sale was drunkenly confirmed by Dre in a video posted on Tyrese Gibson’s Facebook page.

This has sparked a wave of articles across the internet on the exact rationale behind the acquisition. While some pundits are skeptical about the deal, in this onlooker’s opinion it is a sound business decision.

Apple is one of the most popular fruits in the world, with 250 million bushels produced in the US alone; the average person in the United States consumes approximately 10 pounds of fresh Apple per year.

It has also successfully built on the fruit itself, introducing Apple Juice and Cider as apple based drinks, and bringing out a number of related products, such as Apple Crumble.

However in recent times it has struggled to replicate its former growth, with consumers increasingly steering clear of high-sugar juices, while Banana has taken Apple’s spot as the most consumed fresh fruit.

As a result the pressure is on Apple to innovate, which has perhaps been the motivating factor behind this recent deal.

The deal is certainly unprecedented – this is the first time that Apple has acquired another food-type, let alone one with Beets’ scale.  However the formerly under-appreciated Beetroot is a hot-topic in the industry, as its numerous health benefits come to the fore, from blood pressure to cancer-protection; Beets even improve running times!

It is this that piqued Apple’s interest, as Beets are a solid bet going forwards, with a long runway of future growth as people become increasingly health-conscious.  In addition, Farmer Dre will be joining Apple as a senior executive, and will bring the company a youthful cool, which has perhaps been lacking in the last few years.

So while it may not be to everyone’s taste, this is a good decision for Apple in the long run, though your correspondent certainly hopes that there will be no Apple/Beet flavour combinations as a result.

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Amazon change photography game

Amazon have done it again.  First, they revolutionized the world of retail by bringing the store to the consumer.  Now they have finally overcome photography’s greatest conundrum – how to take a photograph of an object in front of a white background without leaving a shadow, with a patent approved by the US Patent Office.

This will have drawn sighs of relief from the photography industry, as well as from the world of fashion, where back-drop shadow puppets have long plagued designers’ shoots, and e-commerce, where unsightly shadows in the background of product-shots have historically made consumers reluctant to buy online.

Amazon’s move here is business done right – finding solutions to pressing problems, and filing them appropriately with the regulatory authorities so as to monetize them effectively.  Needless to say photographers worldwide will be paying Amazon a huge debt of gratitude, on top of the obligatory license payment whenever they take a shadow-free photograph against a white background.

 

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