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Simon Steven’s slice serve

Written by Maria Julia, associate 
Edited by Scott Reid, associate partner
3 December 2021

Good morning,

Andy Murray will probably go down in history as one of Scotland’s most loved exports; not just for his tennis prowess but also for speaking up on feminist issues throughout his career. When, in 2016, a BBC presenter called him the first person to win two Olympic golds, Murray was quick to remind him that both Venus and Serena Williams hold four each. A year later, in a post-match press conference a reporter declared Sam Querrey—to whom Murray had lost the match—”the first American player to reach the semi-final of a Slam since 2009”. He quipped back, “male player. First male player.” American players Serena and Venus Williams, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys had all reached Grand Slam semi-finals since 2009.
 
Murray isn’t the only tennis figure willing to speak up as Simon Steven, chairman and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) became the latest to address misogyny, inadvertent or otherwise. On November 2nd, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared from the public eye after accusing a senior Communist Party leader of sexual assault on Weibo, the Chinese social media website. And despite pictures of her released by the CCP, and a Zoom appearance before the International Olympic Committee, Peng has yet to be seen in person.
 
Yesterday, the tennis industry took action. Following a month of unsatisfactory claims as to her whereabouts, Steven announced a suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. He reasoned that “Peng Shuai’s message had to be listened to and taken seriously. The players of the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less.”
 
Speaking to Erin Burnett on CNN’s OutFront after the news broke, Steven said that the decision was a costly one, but ultimately the right thing to do: “If we walk away from this, we’re basically telling the world that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness it requires is OK because it’s difficult to do. It’s something that we simply cannot let happen and it’s not what we stand for as an organisation.”
 
The WTA’s move is bold, to say the least. The Association stands to lose substantial revenue that originates in China (according to Sports Illustrated, at least one-third of proceedings come from the country), as all 10 scheduled tournaments of 2022 could be suspended. However, what is even more surprising is Steven’s brazen riposte to the CCP —a position many world leaders would be squeamish to take.
 
In recent years, China’s growing and globally mobile middle class has spurred the government to burnish its soft power and increasingly open itself, its viewers and celebrities up to Western entertainment. But when the WTA amped the heat on Chinese authorities to investigate Peng’s allegations—instead of turning a blind eye—the CCP muddled its response. When Agence France-Press asked the party for comment, a foreign ministry spokesman said: “I have not heard of the issue you raised”, adding, “this is not a diplomatic question”.
 
Much to the foreign ministry’s dismay, it may very well end up being one. When people in China who speak up disappear, then reappear because of international pressure, the insincerity burns and the world takes note. In this standoff between the WTA and China, the more the CCP garbles its response, the more Simon Steven stands tall.

News

Prime minister Boris Johnson has urged people not to cancel their work Christmas festivities over the Omicron variant, and carry on as normal, despite government departments cancelling their own Christmas parties. The minister for science, research and innovation George Freeman had earlier told the Today programme on Radio 4 that individual businesses should make their own judgment calls but to “be sensible”. (£)
 
The Ministry of Defence has announced that military personnel have been deployed to Aberdeenshire to help in the recovery effort in the wake of Storm Arwen.The troops will focus on welfare checks within affected communities still impacted by loss of power, providing essential support.
 
Outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel and incomer Olaf Scholz have announced further restrictions for unvaccinated people following crisis talks with regional leaders. Unvaccinated people will now be banned from accessing all but essential businesses such as supermarket and pharmacies. Tightening restriction comes amidst a proposal in parliament for mandatory vaccinations, which, if voted into law, would take effect from February.

Business and economy

Opec+ has agreed to continue increasing global production of crude oildespite market fears over the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. The news follows weeks of pressure from various governments who called on Opec to boost supply in order to stabilise consumer prices. (£)
 
The Information Commissioner’s Office has fined the Cabinet Office £500,000after it leaked the addresses of prominent honourees on its 2020 New Year Honours list. A file was published on the government’s website which contained the names of multiple celebrities and distinguished officers, including Elton John, former NHS England chief executive Simon Steven and TV chef Nadiya Hussain.
 
Central Retail Group, a Thai conglomerate who owns upmarket department stores in Italy, Germany and Denmark, is in final talks to buy luxury department store Selfridges for an estimated £4 billion. Selfridges is still currently owned by the Weston family, who hired Credit Suisse to run an auction process to attract bidders after the death of the 80-year-old head of the family, W Galen Weston.

Columns of note

Following on the heels of the SNP party conference last weekend, Ipsos Mori released its latest poll that showed 55% support for independence. Looking at the issue in The Guardian, Martin Kettle suggests Covid is not the only impediment to holding another referendum soon. More simply, he argues, it comes down to a relative even-split in voting intentions, which makes a campaign risky for both sides. In practice, Kettle suggests that the independence question should be looked at like “a poker game, not a battle for freedom”.
 
In her latest Times column, Emma Duncan argues that the furlough scheme has had a negative effect on job creation in Britain. Duncan suggests that while the US government’s scheme was intended to protect people’s finances directly, its British counterpart was only intended to protect employment. And while America experienced devastating levels of unemployment, it is now reaping the upsides: similar unemployment levels as the UK, but much higher levels of business formation. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?

The Omicron coronavirus variant and a potential rate hike continued to drive market volatility on Thursday, causing investors to sell stocks to profit in this year’s gains. The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.55% from the day before, while sterling was trading strongly, gaining 0.23% on the dollar at $1.33, and 0.4% on the euro at €1.17.
 
In equity markets, retail footfall fell in November by 14.5% from 2019, according to retail analyst Springboard. Elsewhere, Abrdn stock was down 3.77% following an announcement by the asset manager that it was buying Investor for £1.49 billion in cash. Aston Martin Lagonda lost 8.05% after its chief financial officer stepped down for personal reasons. On the upside, oil giants BP and Shell gained 1.11% and 1.33% respectively, after investors were reenergised by Opec+ announcing firmer oil prices and global oil supply.
 
On the continent, the pan-European regional Stoxx 600 index dropped 1.2% while the German Dax fell 1.4%, after Urusla van der Leyen announced it would follow Germany’s suit and consider the idea of imposing mandatory vaccinations.

What’s happening today?

AGMs
Fidelity Asian Values 
Bluefield Solar
Ruffer Inv. Co.
Ferro-alloy Re.           
 
EGM
Acron Regs    
 
Final Dividend Payment Date

Sylvania Pl     
Cvs Group     
Tr Euro.growth           
 
Final Results
Impax Asset Man       
 
Interim Dividend Payment Date
Sthree
Ecofin U.s.     
Maruwa          
Ecofin U.s. $  
Starwood Eur 
Hilton Foods  
Cvc Credit Eur
Bytes Tech     
Empiric           
Cvc Credit Gbp          
Coral Products           
Young & Co ‘A’          
Bloomsbury    
Maven Income 1        
Aquila Euro.   
Gabelli Merger           
Prs Reit          
Schroder Bsc S.         
Young & Co N/v         
Secure Income Reit   
The Mission Group    
Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Fund         
Scottish Mortgage

Interim Results
Indust Reit     
Duke Royalty 
Mind Gym Plc
 
Quarterly Dividend Payment Date
Icg Ent Trst    
Honeywell Int.
 
Special Dividend Payment Date
Alternative Liq
 
International Economic Announcements
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)
(15:00) ISM Services (US)
(14:45) PMI Services (US)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(13:30) Unemployment Rate (US)
(08:55) PMI Composite (GER)
(14:45) PMI Composite (US)
(15:00) Factory Orders (US)
(08:55) PMI Services (GER)
(09:00) PMI Services (EU)
(13:30) Non-Farm Payrolls (US)
(09:00) PMI Composite (EU)
(09:30) PMI Services

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The Khasi people of India make bridges by shaping live tree roots. Since the trees and roots are still alive, a living bridge can last as long as the tree lives – potentially hundreds of years.
(source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Private Members’ Bills
Various
 
Adjournment
King’s College Hospital and the recovery from the covid-19 outbreak

House of Lords 

Legislation
House of Lords (Hereditary Peers) (Abolition of By-Elections) Bill [HL] – second reading
Cigarette Stick Health Warnings Bill [HL] – second reading
Education (Environment and Sustainable Citizenship) Bill [HL] – committee stage

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled.

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