Sunday newspaper round-up: Three, Royal Mail, Google…

by | Dec 31, 2023

(Sharecast News) – Telecoms giant Three has paid out a record £2 billion dividend to the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate of billionaire Li Ka-shing, as it cashes in on the sale of mobile phone masts across Europe. Hutchison 3G, which trades as Three and has ten million customers and more than 4,500 employees in the UK, paid out the money months before increasing some of its contract prices by 14 per cent. The British company is owned by 95-year-old Li’s CK Hutchison Holdings, which has drawn scrutiny in the past for dividends taken from its other UK assets. The latest payout marks the first time that CK Hutchison has taken a dividend from Three, which it launched in the UK market 20 years ago. – The Sunday Times
Royal Mail failed in the year to September to hit its target for next-day delivery of first-class mail in every single area of the UK, an analysis of performance figures by the Observer reveals. Performance results for more than 120 postal areas in the UK show that none hit the target for 93% of first-class mail to be delivered within one working day. Royal Mail has already been fined £5.6m by the regulator, Ofcom, for failing to hit its first- and second-class targets in the 2022-23 financial year. – The Guardian

Google has settled a £4billion lawsuit over claims the tech giant secretly tracked the internet use of millions of consumers who thought they were browsing privately. A trial in the US has been put on hold after lawyers for Google and the internet users reached a preliminary agreement. The terms were not disclosed but lawyers had sought £4billion, including at least £4,000 in damages per user. The case alleged Google’s analytics, cookies and apps tracked online activity even after users set their browser to ‘incognito’ mode, which is supposed to be private. – Mail on Sunday

A fintech billionaire currently under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was the biggest winner on the London market this year. Kristo Kaarmann, the co-founder of Wise, has seen the value of his stake in the payments firm hit £1.65 billion – up more than £600 million since January 1. His shareholding has made gains at an average rate of more than £1.6 million a day in 2023. The 43-year-old entrepreneur, who confirmed this month that the City watchdog is still examining the circumstances of a six-figure fine over his personal tax, owns about 18 per cent of the £9 billion business. Wise shares rose about 57 per cent in 2023. – The Sunday Times

US law firms are ending 2023 with pay rises and bonuses as they try to compete with rivals in spite of a slump in demand, though some lawyers face a cut to payouts if they break office attendance rules. Top New York law firms including Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Milbank have raised salaries for senior associates by as much as $20,000 in recent weeks and handed out year-end bonuses worth between $15,000 and $115,000. Bonus season arrives at the end of the calendar year for most US firms, many of which have experienced a slowdown due to sluggish M&A markets, but raced to match rivals on pay to try to keep hold of staff. – Financial Times

Midwinter energy price increases should be abolished to protect households from unaffordable bills “at the worst possible time”, according to a coalition of leading charities. Charities and campaign groups have called on Ofgem, the energy regulator, to scrap future January bill increases as it prepares to raise the cap on energy prices by 5% from Monday. […] Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said: “Ofgem needs to abolish this January price hike.” He added that the “cruel impact” of a change in bills at this time of year cannot be overestimated. – The Guardian

Former Conservative chancellor Norman Lamont has urged Rishi Sunak to ignore calls from his own MPs to ditch inheritance tax. The Tory grandee said he does not “buy” the argument that the tax on inherited wealth is widely hated – telling the PM to focus on cutting income tax instead. Mr Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are under pressure to deliver tax cuts by 6 March, with the PM and his chancellor said to be considering moves to scrap or cut inheritance tax. – The Independent

Record inflows into US money market funds in 2023 have triggered a multibillion-dollar fee bonanza for the asset management industry, which for years treated the product as a loss-leader. US money market fund providers – such as Fidelity, Vanguard and Charles Schwab – collectively earned $7.6bn in fees in 2023 as assets passed $6.3tn, according to government figures. That was more than $1bn higher than in 2022 and a jump of around 35 per cent from 2021, before US interest rates began to rise, according to the data from the Office for Financial Research, a government agency. – Financial Times

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