Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Ice cream with a side of corporate activism

Written by Li-Ann Chin, associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham,  associate partner
27 July 2021 

Good morning,

Originally set up in 1987 in a renovated gas-station in Burlington, Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s was founded by two childhood friends as a humble ice cream scoop shop before being acquired wholly by global consumer goods company Unilever in 2000. It has since then become one of the world’s most beloved ice cream brands.
 
Last week, Ben & Jerry’s announced its decision to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, stating that continued sales would be “inconsistent with our values”. The company has a long history of bold policy stances on contentious subject matters that include criminal justice reform, voter registration and same-sex marriage, so this is typically on-brand for them.
 
What is unprecedented, is perhaps, the ferocious backlash incurred as a result. Ben & Jerry’s political snub has been slammed as “a new kind of terrorism” by Israeli president Isaac Herzog. The country’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, called it “a shameful capitulation to antisemitism.” The Israeli government is now threatening to use anti-boycott laws passed in more than 30 US states including Illinois, Florida and New Jersey to take legal action against the ice cream maker for its decision. Pro-Israel Americans have filmed themselves throwing out tubs of ice cream on social media. 
 
The past two years have witnessed the rise of purpose-led brands, with the watershed #BlackLivesMatter protests that started in May last year often cited as a key catalyst for this movement. And indeed, research indicates that more than 60% of consumers tend to prefer brands that are aligned with their values and those that step up on political and social issues.
 
But what if speaking out constitutes a business risk to the company? Should corporations still take a stand? Can they afford to? Unilever’s share price has, as of this week, hit a three-month low and is predicted to dip even further. The nosedive can be attributed to a myriad of reasons, but this latest tussle is unlikely to have gone unnoticed. The statement the consumer goods giant issued makes it clear that it disapproves of, and is seeking to distance itself from, Ben & Jerry’s controversial decision.
 
Answers to the questions above are obviously more complex than what can be distilled into a morning briefing, but former Unilever chief executive Paul Polman’s comments on how businesses in the 21st century have an “an obligation to speak up” and need to “fight for what is right” seem appropriate for this instance.

News

Sources have told The Times that England is poised to reopen its borders as soon as next week to allow fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the US enter without restrictions. Countries beyond the EU and US could also be added to the quarantine-free travel list at a subsequent date. Research suggests that the economy is losing up to £639 million a day as a result of the lack of international tourists. (£)
 
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles pulled out of the women’s gymnastics team final – after scoring 13.766, her lowest Olympic vault score – citing the need to focus on her mental and physical health. “I have to focus on mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now,” she tweeted. It is undecided whether she will return to compete in her next event on Thursday.
 
Britain secured its best ever start to the Olympics, as Team GB bagged six medals on Tuesday – namely one gold, two silvers and three bronzes – which elevated the team’s tally to 13 overall and placed them at fifth in the medal table. This year more than doubles Britain’s previous best medal haul of six after the first four days, achieved at the 2000, 2008 and 2016 Olympic games. 
 
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse report that heard evidence of over 700 children being sexually assaulted and abused from 1960s to the 1990s concluded that staff at Lambeth Council presided over a culture of cover-up and demonstrated “a callous disregard for the vulnerable children they were paid to look after”, allowing abusers to infiltrate care homes and the foster system. (£)

Business and economy

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) updated forecasts anticipates that the UK economy would grow up 7% this year, higher than that of Germany (3.6%), France (5.8%) and Italy (4.9%), despite the UK economy contracting more than those countries last year. In 2022, the UK is predicted to grow an additional 4.8%, according to the IMF.
 
The UK government is expected to publish its highly-anticipated hydrogen strategy report next week, which will reportedly include a consultation on adding a new levy on to household gas bills as a subsidy to hydrogen producers, as a part of the UK’s plan to achieve its ambitious 2050 net zero carbon target. (£)
 
The EU paused its legal action started in March against the UK for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland protocol, which saw the UK delay new checks on food, parcels and pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The EU confirmed that it is doing so in order to create the “necessary space” to consider UK proposals for reforming the deal.
 
A report by the transport select committee called for a clear plan by the UK government on how it plans to deliver sufficient charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across the UK by 2030, warning that drivers who live in rural or remote areas or who do not have off-street parking risk being left behind. “Charging electric vehicles should be convenient, straightforward and inexpensive and drivers must not be disadvantaged by where they live or how they charge their vehicles,” committee chair Huw Merriman said.

Columns of note

We have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of extreme weather on the world, from heatwaves and wildfires sweeping across North America, to the floods and heavy rain in parts of Europe and cities in China. And these issues are only set to worsen from here. With less than 100 days to go until COP26 takes place, William Russell, Lord Mayor of London, cautions in City A.M that the highly anticipated conference might be our last chance to collectively tackle climate change before it’s too late.
 
The world’s biggest companies – Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Tencent – all have one thing in common, namely their platform business models. Indeed, the rapid takeover of overall stock market capitalisation by a small group of digital platforms have beguiled investors, so much so that ‘platform’ has become somewhat of the buzzword dujour that companies are increasingly deploying in their investor communications, hoping to boost valuation multiples or just to attract interest. This piece in the FT from Jonathan Knee is well-worth your time. (£)

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

Shares in London closed Tuesday’s session on a sour note as investors waded through a raft of earnings and Reckitt Benckiser disappointed analysts as the consumer goods giant missed its quarterly sales estimates.
 
The FTSE 100 ended the session in the red, down 0.42% at 6,996.08, and the FTSE 250 was lower 0.24% at 22,877.01.
 
Sterling, on the other hand, surged to a two-week high, as the pound increased 0.48% against the dollar this afternoon to $1.39, simultaneously gaining 0.26% against the euro to change hands at €1.17.
 
Wall Street’s tech-heavy benchmark suffered through its worst day in two months or so as worries about a regulatory clampdown by Beijing swept across US markets.
 
The Nasdaq Composite index was down 1.21% at 14,660.58 – the index’s largest daily fall since mid-May. The S&P 500 index was off 0.47% at 4,401.46.

In company news
 
Google, Apple and Microsoft reported record-breaking quarterly sales and profits as big tech firms continue to benefit from the pandemic. Apple made a $21.7bn profit in the second quarter of 2021, while Alphabet, Google’s parent company reported a revenue of $61.8nm. Microsoft, on the other hand, reported revenues of over $46bn – a 21% increase compared to the same period last year.
 
Accounting firm PwC is facing legal action from the administrators of JD Classics, a racing car dealership, for allegedly failing to spot fraud which resulted in losses of over £41m.
 
Silchester International Investors, Morrison’s largest shareholder, announced that “it is not inclined to support” a £6.3bn takeover of the supermarket chain by a consortium led by Softbank-owned Fortress.

What’s happening today?

Interims
Aptitude
Barclays
British American Tobacco
Conduit Lkdg
Getbusy
Hutchmed
Musicmagpie
Primary Health
Quartix Tech
Rathbone
Rio Tinto
Smurfit Kappa
St James Place

Q1 Results
Wizz Air

Q2 Results
Glaxosmithkline
Lancashire Holdings

UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index

Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Gross Domestic Product (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

 

 

Source: Financial Times

did you know?

Cohen — the “Ben” in Ben & Jerry’s — suffers from anosmia, meaning that he has almost no sense of smell. Ben & Jerry’s distinctive style of ice cream was developed to compensate for Cohen’s anosmia, as he kept adding larger and larger chunks to the ice cream to satisfy his need for texture in food.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

House of Lords 

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on 6 September 2021.

Scottish parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess until 30 August but will be recalled on 3 August for Covid updates.

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