Charlotte Street Partners



Satellite's gone, way off to Tonga

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate 
Edited by Tom Gillingham, partner
19 January 2022

Good morning,

In a hyper-connected world, Tonga is disconnected. On Saturday, Hunga Tonga erupted, causing a tsunami and major damage to the Pacific kingdom. Almost everything we know about the disaster has been gathered from space. The lone subsea cable connecting Tonga to the outside world has appears to have been broken along with the country’s limited satellite internet infrastructure. Despite aeroplanes and aid struggling to reach the island , we already know a great deal about the eruption and its consequences. This is thanks to the network of satellites circling the earth. The picture is remains incomplete, but information from orbit is already being processed to identify areas most in need of aid. As well as identifying humanitarian problems, satellites are providing an increasingly clear picture of the environmental damage. Scientists can trace the extent of the eruption’s ash cloud, identifying areas where it could harm plant and animal life. This information has already indicated, in one small mercy, that the eruption’s overall environmental impact is likely to be small. Satellites have given researchers unprecedented power to track and tackle environmental issues like oil spills and changes in forests and ice caps. The loss of the major Copernicus Sentinel-1B satellite before Christmas has highlighted the importance of that capacity. In this area, the UK, and especially Scotland, is well-placed to lead. Extreme latitudes make for advantageous launch sites: centres in Sutherland and Shetland are competing to launch a satellite this year. Meanwhile, Glasgow is manufacturing more satellites than any city outside the US. From building satellites to processing the data they collect, Scotland is home to 18% of the UK’s space jobs while accounting for only 9% of the population. While it may not prevent disasters like Tonga’s, satellite technology – in many cases produced, managed, and processed in the UK – is increasingly helping the world confront humanitarian and environmental challenges. Tonga’s disaster has shown our hyper-connected world can be better connected yet. Satellite technology is helping us to get there.


The UK government is today expected to announce the easing of ‘Plan B’ Covid measures in England. The measures include mandatory face masks in public settings and requirements for a Covid pass in some situations. Having been introduced last month, they were due to expire on 26 January in any case. 20 MPs of the 2019 intake are expected to submit letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson after prime minister’s questions today. So far seven MPs have publicly announced that they have submitted letters of no confidence; however, the overall number is understood to be edging towards the 54 required to trigger a no-confidence vote among Conservative MPs. In the US, President Biden’s planned reforms to voting rights are facing obstruction in the senate. This comes as a further setback after dissenting Democrat senators blocked his Build Back Better spending plan last month. (£)

Business and economy

The EU has announced it will continue to allow banks based in the bloc to use London clearing houses until at least June 2025. The EU had hoped to block banks from using London clearing houses, which currently process the vast majority of Euro-denominated financial contracts, but has slowed plans down in the face of reluctance from companies who fear added costs. The existing permit was due to expire in June 2022. US airports face major disruption after the Federal Aviation Administration expressed concerns about the safety of 5G masts near airports. Emirates, Air India, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have all cancelled US flights. The ONS’s Consumer Price Index shows that, in December, inflation rose to 5.4%: its highest level since 1992; meanwhile wages have rose only 4.2% in the three months to November. Other ONS figures show the unemployment rate fell to 4.1% in the three months to November, almost where it was pre-Covid. Job vacancies, which hit record numbers in December, appear to be levelling off.

Columns of note

Insiders understand Boris Johnson is waiting on Sue Gray’s findings before he sacks leading staffers including Jack Doyle, his director of communications; and Dan Rosenfield, his chief of staff. How, though, did No10’s organisation become so chaotic? In the New Statesman, Harry Lambert looks at how basics like paperwork and meeting management are remaining undone in the court of Johnson. (£) What do Seinfeld, Spiderman, and Miles David have in common? They’re all part of Sony’s multimedia empire. In the Financial Times, Leo Lewis and Christopher Grimes look at how the 76-year-old Japanese company has transitioned from sprawl to stealth. The answer lies in having a lot of luck and in avoiding streaming. (£)


The week ahead

A US Treasury sell-off yesterday saw markets pricing in four interest rate increases from the US central bank this year for the first time. On Wall Street, the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.7% and the S&P500 index fell 1.4%. In Europe, the both the FTSE100 and the Stoxx600 index dropped one per cent while the latter’s tech index dropped 2.2%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.4%. The pound was trading at 1.36 dollars and at 1.20 euros.

In company news: Microsoft has agreed to buy video game company Activision Blizzard in a $68.7bn deal. Goldman Sachs’ profits have fallen short of expectations with the bank reporting profit of $10.81 per share in Q4 2021, compared with $12.08 in Q4 2020. Unilever’s stocks have slid for a second day as the company tries to reassure stakeholders over its failed $50bn takeover approach on GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare division.

What’s happening today?

Trading announcement
BHP Group     Wetherspoon (J.D)Antofagasta


Source: Financial Times

did you know?

It is taboo for native Tongans to touch the king’s head. Coronations are therefore conducted by an Australian minister.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questionsCOP26 (including topical questions) Prime Minister’s Question Time LegislationRemaining Stages of the Building Safety Bill

House of Lords 

StatementMedia update Oral questionsVarious Legislation

Scottish parliament 

Portfolio questionsHealth and Social CareSocial Justice, Housing and Local Government Ministerial statementStrengthened Fire Alarm Standards Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party DebateProtecting Local Government Funding in ScotlandEducation Failures and Guaranteeing the 2022 Exam Diet Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body DebateAppointment of Member of the Standards Commission for Scotland

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