Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Armin who?

Written by Iain Gibson,  associate partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
18 January 2021

Good morning,

Until yesterday, the name of Armin Laschet was as unfamiliar to me as I am guessing it was to most of you. Yet, if certain events go a certain way, by the end of 2021 that name will be a household one.

Over the weekend, Mr Laschet, currently the premier of federal Germany’s most populous state (North Rhine-Westphalia), was elected as the new leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. This in itself does not invest him with any new executive power, but it does put him in pole position to succeed Angela Merkel as the CDU’s choice for chancellor in the elections to be held later this year. 

At 59, the slightly portly Mr Laschet does not perhaps represent an exciting vision of a bold new future. However, at a time of great uncertainty, his centrist, technocratic style is what Germany, and Europe, need more of. He saw off a challenge from the right of the party, with Merkel’s tacit support. His politics positions him well to work with the incoming Biden administration, especially on issues such as climate change. And he is generally regarded to have performed well in his role as premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, a region that traditionally prefers the CDU’s main opponents, the Social Democratic party.

It is not guaranteed that Mr Laschet will be the CDU’s candidate. He may, if the polls show that he cannot win, decline to press for the nomination and support another prominent CDU figure, especially as his predecessor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (who succeeded Merkel as party leader in 2018), was unable to make her own brand of reconciliatory politics work.

That said, if he is the nominee, and then becomes chancellor, history suggests he will be around for a while. Angela Merkel is only the fourth chancellor of Germany (including pre-reunification) since 1974. The ‘grand alliance’ between the CDU and the SDP is not to everyone’s taste, and the rise of the right-wing AfD party in recent years is cause for concern, but overall Germany has a political stability that, right now, is the envy of the UK and other western nations.

So, this is a heads up – Armin Laschet may be a familiar presence in our lives for years to come. Or he may drift away almost as quickly as he arrived. Whatever his own personal fate, the shoes that need filling at the end of this year are immense, and we hope that Angela Merkel’s successor proves to be as equally formidable.

News

From today, people aged 70 and over in England, as well as the clinically vulnerable, will begin receiving offers of a coronavirus vaccine. This amounts to more than five million people. At the same time, 10 new mass vaccination hubs have now opened across England.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been detained by police upon his return to Moscow. He had been recuperating in Germany since last August, from an attempt at poisoning with novichok.

A team of Nepalese climbers has become the first ever to scale the peak of the world’s second-highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan, in winter.

Business and economy

China has confirmed this morning that it was the only major economy to see an upswing in 2020, with final quarter growth of 6.5% contributing to an overall annual rise of 2.3%. The economy had fallen 6.8% in Q1 2020, before beginning its recovery.
 
According to property company Savills, the flow of money into the UK retail logistics sector hit a record high last year, as investors sought to shift their focus away from office properties and shopping centres. The investment into distribution warehouses of £4.7bn was 25% more than in 2019, and £500m more than the previous record set in 2014. (£)
 
The chief executive of Audi has said in an interview with the Financial Times that the company will delay the production of some of its high-end cars because of the “massive” shortage of computer chips across the automotive industry at present.

Columns of note

Writing in The Guardian, John Harris challenges the notion that the UK government is handling the Covid-19 crisis as well as could be expected, and expresses his incredulity that the Conservatives are still neck and neck, or even slightly ahead, of the Labour party in the polls. He suggests that the government, and what he terms the right-wing media, will keep pushing the narrative of an impatient public and highlighting those still breaking the rules, as a way of making everyone complicit.

In the Financial Times, Rana Foroohar profiles Gary Gensler, the man expected to be Joe Biden’s choice for head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She says his credentials as a “born-again regulator”, and his history of increasing transparency during his time at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission under President Obama, mean he is exactly the right person for the job. (£)

Cartoon source: The Times

Markets

The week ahead

It was a day that some feared would not come, but the inauguration of Joe Biden as the United States of America’s 46th president is set to take place on Wednesday. Thousands of National Guard troops will be deployed for the occasion. Biden will immediately set to work on a legislative agenda that includes the quick passage through congress of a $1.9trn economic stimulus.

Elsewhere, countries across the world are attempting to ramp up their Covid-19 vaccination efforts, including the launch of ambitious plans to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people in India. Africa is suffering a particularly bad second wave, with authorities in Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo saying that hospital capacity is already running out.

In Italy, prime minister Giuseppe Conti is facing a parliamentary vote on his future on Tuesday, after former prime minister Matteo Renzi and his Italia Viva party resigned from the governing coalition.

Earnings-wise, we will see results from US banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, following on from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup last week. Netflix will also post its latest quarterly numbers (for Q4 2020) and in the UK we will see earnings from the likes of Burberry, WHSmith, Dixons Carphone and JD Wetherspoon.

Flash PMI data from a number of nations will further demonstrate the impact of the latest restrictions, with UK PMIs demonstrating if there has been much disruption to trade since the new arrangements with the EU came into force. UK consumer and retail indices will also be published this week. Heading east, there will be a keen eye on a number of figures from China, including GDP (see Business and Economy section above), as well as retail sales and industrial production.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Afh Financial 

AGMs
Craven House Capital

Source: Financial Times

did you know

For 100 years from the late eighteenth century, almost all maps of Africa contained a mountain range that did not exist, called the Mountains of Kong.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Education (including Topical Questions)
 
Opposition Day Debate
Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit – Keir Starmer, Jonathan Reynolds, Angela Rayner, Anneliese Dodds, Bridget Phillipson, Mr Nicholas Brown
 
Opposition Day Debate
Access to remote education and the quality of free school meals – Keir Starmer, Kate Green, Angela Rayner, Wes Streeting, Tulip Siddiq, Mr Nicholas Brown
 
Adjournment
Effect of the covid-19 outbreak on schools- Derek Thomas
 

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Role of the BBC in their international soft power strategy – Lord Wallace of Saltaire
 
Oral questions
Review the Airports National Policy Statement – Lord Randall of Uxbridge
 
Oral questions
Encouragement of a circular economy and the elimination of waste – Baroness Boycott
 
Oral questions
Situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region – Baroness Cox
 
Private Notice Question
TUC report: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Lord Woolley of Woodford
 
Legislation
Trade Bill – third reading – Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
 
Statement
Mental Health Act Reform – Lord Bethell
 
Legislation
Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill and Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill – second reading – Lord Greenhalgh

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

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