New Look was founded in 1969 and is an iconic budget retailer found on most British high streets. In its history, it has been a family business; it has been listed on the London stock exchange; returned to a private company and then had the potential to be re-listed. Now, it is moving into South African ownership for £780 million.

90% of New Look will now be owned by Christo Wiese who controls Brait and who has been linked with other take-overs of British retailers in recent years. The remaining 10% will remain in the hands of the founding family. The company has been struggling for some time and in 2010 did have plans to relist the company on the London Stock Exchange. However, volatile market conditions meant that this never occurred and the two private equity firms, Apax and Permira, appeared very eager to sell. New Look’s Chairman, Paul Mason, said:

“This is an ideal outcome for New Look. The Brait team demonstrated to us that they have the long-term vision to help Anders and the team grow this brand.”

It is not yet clear what this move will mean for the retailer, New Look, but with an estimated £1 billion debt, it is expected that changes will have to be made. It is certainly an attractive investment opportunity and New Look does have a history of high rates of growth, despite its current debt. Furthermore, the debt levels are likely to have helped Mr. Wiese obtain a deal for New Look. Fashion retailing is a highly competitive market, but demand always appears to be growing. It is still relatively ‘new’ news, so we will have to wait to see what this means for the number of stores we see on the high streets and the number of jobs lost or created. The following articles consider this new New Look.

South African tycoon buys New Look fashion retailer BBC News (15/5/15)
South African tycoon enters UK retail fray with New Look purchase Financial Times, Andrea Felsted, Clare Barrett and Joseph Cotterill (15/5/15)
New Look snapped up by South African tycoon The Guardian, Sean Farrell (15/5/15)
New Look sold to South African billionaire for £780m The Telegraph, Elizabeth Anderson and Andrew Trotman (15/5/15)


  1. Why might a company become listed on the London stock exchange?
  2. How would volatile economic circumstances affect a company’s decision to become listed on the stock market?
  3. What do you think this purchase will mean for the number of New Look stores on British high streets? Do you think there will be job losses or jobs created by this purchase?
  4. How do you think the level of New Look’s debt affected Christo Wiese’s decision to purchase New Look?
  5. Which factors are likely to affect a firm’s decision to take-over or purchase another firm?

For all households, energy is considered an essential item. As electricity and gas prices rise and fall, many of us don’t think twice about turning on the lights, cooking a meal or turning on the heating. We may complain about the cost and want prices brought down, but we still pay the bills. But, is there anything that can be done about high energy prices? And if there is, should anything be done?

The worlds of politics and economics are closely linked and Ed Miliband’s announcement of his party’s plans to impose a 20-month freeze on energy prices if elected in 2015 showed this relationship to be as strong as ever. The price freeze would certainly help average households reduce their cost of living by around £120 and estimates suggest businesses would save £1800 over this 20 month period. The energy companies have come in for a lot of criticism, in particular relating to their control of the industry. The sector is dominated by six big companies – your typical oligopoly, and this makes it very difficult for new firms to enter. Thus competition is restricted. But is a price freeze a good policy?

Part of the prices we pay go towards investment in cleaner and more environmentally friendly sources of energy. Critics suggest that any price freeze would deprive the energy sector of much needed investment, meaning our energy bills will be higher in the future. Furthermore, some argue this price freeze suggests that Labour is abandoning its environmental policy. Energy shortages have been a concern, especially with the cold weather the UK experienced a few years ago. This issue may reappear with price freezes. As Angela Knight, from Energy UK, suggests:

Freezing the bill may be superficially attractive, but it will also freeze the money to build and renew power stations, freeze the jobs and livelihoods of the 600,000-plus people dependent on the energy industry and make the prospect of energy shortages a reality, pushing up the prices for everyone.

There is a further concern and that is that large energy companies will be driven from the UK. This thought was echoed by many companies, in particular the British Gas owner Centrica, commenting that:

If prices were to be controlled against a background of rising costs it would simply not be economically viable for Centrica to continue to operate and far less to meet the sizeable investment challenge that the industry is facing…The impact of such a policy would be damaging for the country’s long-term prosperity and for our customers.

Share prices naturally fluctuate with global events and a political announcement such as this was inevitably going to cause an effect. But, perhaps the effect was not expected to be as big as the one we saw. Share prices for Centrica and SSE fell following the announcement – perhaps no great shock – but then they continued to fall. The market value tumbled by 5% and share prices kept falling. This has led to Ed Miliband being accused of ‘economic vandalism’ by a major shareholder of Centrica, which is hardly surprising, given the estimated cost of such a price freeze would be £4.5 billion.

The economic implications of such a move are significant. The announcement itself has caused massive changes in the FTSE and if such a move were to go ahead if Labour were elected in 2015, there would be serious consequences. While families would benefit, at least in the short term, there would inevitably be serious implications for businesses, the environmental policy of the government, especially relating to investment and the overall state of the economy. The following articles consider the aftermath of Ed Miliband’s announcement.

Miliband stands firm in battle over fuel bills plan The Guardian, Patrick Wintour and Terry Macalister (25/9/13)
Michael Fallon calls Miliband’s energy prices pledge ‘dangerous’ Financial Times, Elizabeth Rigby and Jim Pickard (26/9/13)
Britain’s labour treads narrow path between populism and prudence Reuters (26/9/12)
Ed Miliband’s radical reforms will make the energy market work for the many Independent (26/9/13)
Has Labour fallen out of love with Business? BBC News (26/9/13)
Top Centrica shareholder Neil Woodford accuses Labour leader Ed Miliband of economic vandalism The Telegraph, Kamal Ahmed (25/9/13)
Centrica and SSE slide after Labour price freeze pledge The Guardian (26/9/13)
Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze pledge is a timely but risky move The Guardian, Rowena Mason (24/9/13)


  1. Why are energy prices such a controversial topic?
  2. How are energy prices currently determined? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer. By adapting this diagram, illustrate the effect of a price control being imposed. How could it create an energy shortage? What impact would this have after the 20-month price freeze
  3. Why would there be adverse effects on energy companies if prices were frozen and costs increased? Use a diagram to illustrate the problem and use your answer to explain why energy companies might leave the UK.
  4. How would frozen energy prices help households and businesses?
  5. Why were share prices in Centrica and SSE adversely affected?
  6. Is there an argument for regulating other markets with price controls?
  7. Why is there such little competition in the energy sector?

The growing interdependence of economies has never been more true than over the past few years. The credit crunch began in the US and gradually spread to the rest of the world. As the saying goes, ‘when America sneezes, the world catches a cold’. The US economy is the largest in the world and with such a close relationship to the UK, its economic situation is critical. GDP growth in the first quarter was a mere 0.4% and in the second quarter, it was revised down from the US Commerce Department’s original estimate of 1.3% to just 1%. This was attributed to weaker growth in business inventories, a fall in exports and less spending from the state and local governments. Personal consumption expenditure and exports did rise, but the increase in the former was hardly noticeable (0.4%) and in both cases, the second quarter increase was significantly down on that in the first quarter.

With GDP growth remaining low, there’s not much better news when it comes to US unemployment, which remained at 9.1% from July. It was expected that a further 70,000 jobs would be created in August, but the latest figures suggest that no new jobs were created. It seems that the data on growth and the components of aggregate demand are enough to bring consumer and investor confidence down. Virginie Maisonneuve said:

‘Companies that are overall doing OK are hesitating to hire and invest further, creating some fragility for the economy… We will need some help from the Fed and the government to avoid a recession.’

President Obama is due to make a speech in which he will outline a new plan to boost economic growth. Crucial to this will be restoring confidence, as without it, businesses will not invest, consumers will save rather than spend, jobs will not be created and growth will remain sluggish. This will do nothing to help the still weak economies of Europe. Indeed, following news of the US job situation, stock markets across the world fell, as fears of recession set in. The Dow Jones opened 2% down, the FTSE 100 ended 2.3% down (although this was also affected by a weakening in the construction sector), markets in Germany, France and Spain were down by over 3% and in Italy by over 4%.

US GDP revised down to 1pc in second quarter as growth stalls Telegraph (26/8/11)
US economy: no new jobs added in August BBC News (2/9/11)
Jobs data confirm US growth fears Financial Times, Robin Harding and Johanna Kassel (2/9/11)
Markets fall on weak U jobs data BBC News (2/9/11)
FTSE falls after weak US jobs data The Press Association (2/9/11)
European stocks knocked by dire US jobs data Reuters (2/9/11)
Fears over US economy cause world market route Economic Times (2/9/11)
FTSE 100 extends losses after poor US non farm payroll figures Guardian (2/9/11)


  1. What is aggregate demand? Which component is the biggest engine of growth for an economy?
  2. Why did markets decline following the data on US jobs?
  3. Why is the economic situation in America so important to the economic recovery of other countries across Europe?
  4. Why are there suggestions that the US is underestimating its inflation?
  5. Why is the US economic data for the second quarter of 2011 so much worse than that of the first quarter? What could have caused this downturn?
  6. What action could the government and the Fed take to boost confidence in the US economy and stimulate economic growth? Can any of this be done without causing inflation?

Fears of growing debt problems in the EU have caused global stock markets to plummet. On 25th May, the FTSE was down by 2.6%, Germany’s Dax index fell by 2.34% and in France the Cac 40 was also down 2.74%. Shares across Asia fell, including those in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand. On top of this, there are concerns of rising military tensions between North and South Korea. This has only added to the pessimism of investors.

Then came the rescue of the Spanish bank Cajasur by the Bank of Spain, which did little to restore confidence in the world economy. The Spanish deficit has reached 11% of GDP, which is nearly 4 times higher than eurozone rules allow. Spain is also suffering from unemployment of more than 20%, which has led the IMF to call for massive structural reform in the country. The euro has also weakened, as investors sell the currency, because of growing fears of debt default amongst the eurozone countries.

Amid concerns of possible default by Greece, Spain and other countries, the IMF and the members of the European Union have agreed an emergency package of €750 billion (£650 billion). €250 billion comes from the IMF, with €440 billion available as loan guarantees for struggling nations and €60 billion from emergency European Commission funding. We can only wait to see how effective this rescue package will be in restoring confidence in the Eurozone economies.


Global stock markets see sharp falls BBC News (25/5/10)
Spain must make wide ranging reforms, weak recovery – IMF Reuters (24/5/10)
FTSE falls another 2.5% after Europe’s debt crisis sparks fears in Asian markets Mail Online (25/5/10)
IMF raises fresh concerns about the Spanish economy BBC News (24/5/10)
IMF Chief Economists – doubts over Greek aid remain Reuters, John Irish (24/5/10)
Markets still tense over eurozone debt Independent, Ian Chu (21/5/10)
FTSE falls below 5,000 due to eurozone crisis Telegraph (21/5/10)
FTSE plunges nearly 3% in opening seconds (including video) Sky News (25/5/10)
The contagion of austerity BBC News blogs: Gavin Hewitt’s Europe (25/5/10)
Europe debt crisis threatens recovery, OECD warns BBC News (26/5/10)


In graphics: Eurozone in crisis BBC News (24/5/10)
For macroeconomic data for EU countries and other OECD countries, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Korea, see:
AMECO online European Commission (especially sections 1, 6, 16 and 18)


  1. Using a diagram, illustrate why the euro has weakened.
  2. Explain why stock markets have fallen across the world.
  3. What type of reforms are needed in Spain?
  4. What factors are likely to determine the effectiveness of the IMF emergency package?
  5. Are the austerity measures in the Spanish economy likely to lead to the similar outcomes that we saw in Greece, such as widespread strikes?
  6. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the rescue package. Does rescue involve a moral hazard?

A keenly awaited Budget, but what should we have expected? Chancellor Alistair Darling had warned that it wouldn’t be a ‘giveaway’ budget. The aim to cut the budget deficit in half over 4 years still remains and the UK economy is certainly not out of the woods yet.

You’ve probably seen the debate amongst politicians and economists over what should happen to government spending and it might be that the lower than expected net borrowing for 2009-2010 provides a much needed boost to the economy. With the election approaching, it seemed likely that some of this unexpected windfall would be spent. The following articles consider some key issues ahead of the 2010 Budget.

Budget 2010: Alistair Darling’s election budget BBC News, Stephanie Flanders (21/3/10)
Build-up to the Budget Deloitte, UK March 2010
Pre-Budget Report: What Alistair Darling has announced before Guardian, Katie Allen (9/12/09)
Budget 2010: Darling warns of ‘no giveaway’ BBC News (11/3/10)
FTSE climbs ahead of UK Budget Financial Times, Neil Dennis (24/3/10)
Bank bonus tax could net Treasury £2bn, E&Y says Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (24/3/10)
Alistair Darling set for stamp duty move BBC News (24/3/10)
Labour has run out of steam, says David Cameron Guardian, Haroon Siddique (24/3/10)
Ten things to look out for in the 2010 Budget Scotsman (24/3/10)
Sammy Wilson predicts ‘neutral budget’ BBC News, Ireland (24/3/10)
Do the right thing, Darling Guardian (24/3/10)
What do we want from the Budget? Daily Politics (23/3/10)
Budget boost for Labour as inflation falls to 3% TimesOnline (24/3/10)


  1. Why has the FTSE climbed ahead of the Budget?
  2. Why is there a possibility of a rise in stamp duty again? To what extent do you think it will be effective?
  3. Net borrowing for 2009/10 is expected to be lower than forecast. What should happen to this so-called ‘windfall’?
  4. What is expected from the Budget 2010? Once the Budget has taken place, think about the extent to which expectations were fulfilled.
  5. Why are excise duties on goods such as taxes and alcohol likely to be more effective than those on other goods?