Investment promises from politicians—should we believe them?

As the UK general election approaches, voters are being seduced by promises from all the parties about how much they will invest in improving the nation’s infrastructure over the next Parliament. What should we make of these promises? This question is not just about political credibility (or even honesty); it has a hard economic edge. The injection of a slew of new major and minor projects would have implications for the quality of public services, employment, inflation, taxation and government debt. It is worth asking ourselves how much of this spending will actually happen—and when.

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What are firms for? Redefining corporate purpose

What should be the purpose of a firm? To maximise profits or shareholder value, or to pursue wider societal objectives? Professor Julian Franks of London Business School, and Oxera Partner, discusses the roles of trust and implicit contracts in redefining corporate purpose. He looks at changes that may be required in regulated utilities, with a focus on water

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Political control of state-owned utilities in the UK

The UK Labour Party’s proposal to nationalise core utilities has renewed debate about whether nationalisation is a good or a bad thing. Tim Tutton, Associate at the Centre for Competition Policy (University of East Anglia, UK), takes a different approach. Focusing on the issue of political control, he explores whether lessons can be learned—from both the nationalised era and the privatised era—and how any future (potential) nationalisations might be made to work more effectively than in the past

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Unbundling: what’s the impact on equity research?

The EU’s second Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), introduced in January 2018, requires brokers to charge separate fees for trade execution and for research, thereby ‘unbundling’ them. Since these rules came into force, there have been concerns about their impact on the provision of research and, more generally, the development of capital markets. What market failures does the unbundling rule intend to address, and what are its potential unintended consequences?

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Why is Black Friday growing in Europe?

Black Friday was born in the USA, but recent years have seen the sales event become a phenomenon in Europe. Across Belgium, France, Germany, Italy the Netherlands, and the UK, sales on Black Friday are now over double the...

What is the purpose of business?

Why are so many firms insisting on telling us what their ‘purpose’ is? David Jevons, Oxera Partner, has been looking at the role of business in today’s society and discusses the purpose of a corporate purpose. Since the 1970s, introductory economics and finance classes have taught that the purpose of a firm is to maximise shareholder wealth; yet today, some of the most successful and high-profile firms are keen to communicate a different purpose.

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Risky business: political uncertainty and the cost of capital for regulated firms

Statements by politicians about nationalising or intervening in the functioning of regulated industries have attracted substantial media attention in recent times, leading to an increase in political and regulatory risk for regulated industries. A case study focusing on National Grid, the energy transmission company in the UK, suggests that increased political and regulatory risk can affect the valuation of regulated utilities through a combination of lower expected cash flows and a higher cost of capital

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State aid spotlight on tax: the General Court’s judgments on Fiat and Starbucks

In 2015, the European Commission ordered Starbucks and Fiat to each pay €20m–€30m in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, respectively, as their tax arrangements were found to constitute illegal state aid. On 24 September 2019, the General Court upheld the Commission’s Fiat decision, but annulled the Starbucks decision. What were the key economic issues in these cases, and what are the implications of the judgments?

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