Round-up news from across the Atlantic . . .

BattleFor10 David Cameron and Ed Miliband both faced a grilling from Britain’s most fierce interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, as the General Election race officially kicked off this week. The “debate” proved particularly popular online with #BattleForNumber10 trending on Twitter in the UK and globally. This has led to predictions that GE2015 might be the UK’s first “social media election”.

The Prime Minister found out this week, however, that older voters may be the toughest audience to please. When speaking to the Age UK conference, Mr. Cameron was heckled and mocked during his speech – definitely worth a watch!

Britain edged a step closer to deflationary territory this week as it was revealed that inflation fell to zero for the first time since the current records began. However, this may not necessarily be bad news. According to Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, “the drop in inflation is a boon to the economy, providing households with greater spending power at a time when pay growth remains frustratingly weak."

Finally, are you sitting comfortably? Well, maybe you shouldn’t be. A survey by the British Heart Foundation has found that too many people are inactive at work, leading to a number of negative health consequences. Luckily, the helpful chaps at City AM have put together some tips to help you keep the blood pumping whilst you’re at work. End of Story

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The-World-in-2015I’ve always been a fan of magazines (and getting mail in general), so by December of last year, a subscription to The Economist had been on my mind for a while. I was even more convinced by our fearless leader’s recent recommendation to subscribe. But if that wasn’t enough, I found a Groupon deal for a year’s subscription shortly after Christmas, which finally tipped me over the edge and made reading the magazine my New Year’s resolution.

Three months later, having experienced many successes and struggles of becoming an official reader of The Economist, I wanted to share my three takeaways so you may too embark on this tempting, yet intimidating journey.

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Media Navel Gaze

The Week Unpeeled

News outlets focused last week and all weekend on the growing threat of terrorism with deadly attacks in Tunisia and Yemen, showing an ever-increasing influence of ISIS with well more than 100 killed in one of the bloodiest attacks in Yemen ever.

Elsewhere:

  • Prime Netanyahu of Israel flip flops on Palestine after winning fourth term (but The New York Post has best front-page headline on victory, “BiBi King”);
  • Fed loses “patience” and markets react, remaining volatile, a likely theme for a while;
  • As a result, the Dow ended 2.1 percent higher on the week to close at 18,127 and Nasdaq at a 15-year high at 5,026;
  • Jinx You’re It: Robert Durst “hot mikes” his murder confession on HBO and AP has to issue a correction that Fred Durst is the former front-man of Limp Bizkit and not the suspected murderer;
  • The White House issued rules on fracking that fueled immediate lawsuits from energy companies and cries of too lenient by environmental groups;
  • Out@NBC Universal become first gay group to march in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade;
  • The Guardian named Katharine Viner as its first-ever female editor, replacing Alan Rusbridger who held the top spot for 20 years;
  • Facebook introduces epayments through its messaging service;
  • A totes solar eclipsed happened, forcing protective goggles in Europe and elsewhere and causing little feared disruption to the power grid; and
  • March madness and sadness.

LatAm Gaze

  • Honduras this week became host to Latin America’s largest solar energy project, valued at US$23 million.
  • At the 78th annual Mexican Banking Convention, BBVA Chairman Luis Robles Miaja projected that credit extended to the private sector will account for 40% of Mexico’s 2018 GDP.
  • Five Brazilian banks are joining Standard Chartered in seeking early repayment of loans to oil rig producer Sete Brasil Participações SA, which has been significantly impacted by the Petrobras corruption scandal.End of Story
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Round-up news from across the Atlantic . . .blighty 4

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the 2015 Budget this week. The annual statement, which outlines the government’s cuts and allowances for the coming year, was the final one of this parliament, and a last chance for the coalition to offer “goodies” to voters ahead of the election. The opposition, however, described it as “having nothing in it” meaning they wouldn’t need to reverse any of the policy measures announced by the Chancellor. Read More

TSB, the UK’s leading high street challenger bank, today accepted a takeover offer of £1.7bn from Spanish bank Sabadell. Although this is well over twice the valuation given to them by the British government, some in the City are unhappy that we are allowing a relatively unknown Spanish bank to take over a British one. Read More

The Guardian newspaper announced this week the appointment of Katharine Viner as its editor-in-chief, replacing Alan Rusbridger. She will be the first woman to lead the newspaper in its almost 200-year history. Read More

As mentioned last week, Jeremy Clarkson, the lead presenter of Top Gear has been suspended from the show, dividing the nation into “ClarksONs” and “ClarksOFFs”. The ClarksONs have been out in force though; millions of viewers have shown their support in the form of a petition that demands he is rehired. If that wasn’t enough, they delivered the petition to the BBC today in a tank! Read More End of Story

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proxy_season2015Proxy season, the time of year when corporations hold their annual meetings and shareholders vote on proposals and director elections, begins next month. These affairs were traditionally, and at many corporations continue to be, routine events where management’s proposals are passed by an overwhelming majority. However, recent years have seen an increase in contentious contests as activist shareholders, and other institutional investors no longer willing to blindly follow management, take issue with what they see as corporate misbehavior and investors become more engaged on matters such as board composition and say-on-pay.

In that vein, four expected hot button areas for this year include shareholder activism, the composition of the board of directors, proxy access , and executive compensation:

  • Shareholder Activism: The rise of activism in recent years has certainly been well documented, and considering that last year saw a 20% year on year increase in activist campaigns a 16% rise in their effectiveness in securing board seats via proxy fights, it should come as no surprise that they will be major force during the 2015 proxy season. While activists are increasingly pursuing avenues outside of the annual meeting to affect change and more companies are settling before a campaign reaches that point, there still may be some fireworks this year. For example, DuPont, the 200+ year old chemical company with a $70+ billion market cap, is facing a proxy fight from experienced activist Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners.

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