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Chlorinated chicken ain’t the way

The European Union will insist that the UK retains the current ban on chlorinated chicken as part of any free trade agreement that might be struck by the end of this year. It taps into one of the most symbolic arguments made during the last three years by those who worry that the UK will slash regulatory standards as a way of finding a competitive edge against EU member states once we leave. For the uninitiated, the ‘chlorinated chicken’ refers to an industrial disinfectant process used widely in the United States, involving soaking raw chicken in chlorine to kill germs and then soaking it in another liquid that neutralises the chlorine and renders it non-toxic. 

It is a clever tactic from the EU because it will force the UK government to essentially say it is cool with a food process that is widely reviled by British people. They’re not just saying it for effect either: it has been inserted as a clause in the EU negotiating mandate (at the request of France), which will insist that the two sides commit to “health and product sanitary quality in the food and agriculture sector”. Further, it goes on to say in the same section that some pesticides, ‘endocrine disrupters’, and chlorine cleaning processes for poultry will not be allowed in the UK.

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No 10, for its part, has insisted ever since Boris Johnson won his election victory that the UK intends to diverge on a number of areas, and some government figures have gone as far as saying that the ability to do so amounts to the entire point of leaving in the first place. Brace yourself – if you thought the Withdrawal Agreement process was fraught, this is going to be a real roller-coaster. 

Revolut, a digital banking app, has become the UK’s most valuable fintech start-up and is now valued at £4.2bn after Airbnb and a backer of Spotify injected some investment cash and sent its valuation soaring. The new valuation is more than triple what it was, and sends it well ahead of Monzo – arguably the better known banking solution among millennial consumers. Revolut managed to raise $500m (about £387m) in a funding round led by Technology Crossover Ventures, a US fund which backed some huge winners of the last decade including Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb. 

The company was only founded in 2015 and started life as a pre-pay card solution which acted as a free currency exchange to circumvent fees and inflated exchange rates. 

A US hedge fund has taken a big stake in Prudential and now wants it broken up into two separate companies. Third Point, which is led by an American billionaire named Daniel Loeb, has written to the insurance giant’s board saying that his fund has become the second biggest individual shareholder in the business with a nearly 5% stake. He wants the Asian and US divisions to be cleaved in two, and the request comes only a few months after Prudential spun off its European division and its fund management business into a new company which was listed as M&G on the London Stock Exchange back in October 2019.

It’s a funny old game, the world of big business investment, but it can often be boiled down to a simple notion of: what’s the best way of driving up the market value of the business? It’s why asset stripping takes place, its why companies choose to list on stock markets, and in this instance, it’s why Loeb wants the divisions broken up. He thinks PruAsia and Jackson, the names of the business operations in question have “distinct strengths” but do not derive any “discernible benefit” from existing under the same “corporate umbrella”. Loeb’s fund is notorious for what’s known as ‘shareholder activism’, where big investors buy chunks of companies and try to force strategy changes from outside the business with the aim of simply increasing the value of their own stakes. It’s like being a board member but without all that boring old responsibility for departments and staff. Indeed, Third Point summed up the aim perfectly with another line in the letter: it wants to “close the yawning gap between the current share price and intrinsic value”. Simple, then.

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