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Markets Today: 16 July

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Markets Today: 16 July
  • Companies news: Darktrace ups expectations, Avast confirms merger talks, Maerson puts its put down
  • Jeff Bezos and the route to the stars

Bezos’ unbound innovation moves skywards 

The pace and direction of innovation is currently a little confusing. Here on earth, scientists and companies are (rightly) striving for a zero-emissions future and (controversially) a world without drivers. 

But in space the rules are different. Next week Amazon’s (US: AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos will become the first billionaire businessman to pilot an all-commercial space flight. Richard Branson might have been the first of his kin to journey to the edge of space, but Bezos wants to do it without a crew. On Tuesday, Bezos, his brother, aviator Wally Funk and an as-yet-unidentified person who paid $28m for a spot aboard the spacecraft, will launch from West Texas to the edge of the atmosphere. 

Is Bezos’ boundless energy for all things new - the type of mentality that makes one willing to climb into a spaceship with no astronauts in it - going to continue to impact the direction of Amazon now that Bezos is no longer the CEO? Lauren Almeida examines the outlook with the help of Brad Stone’s follow-up to the Everything Store, Amazon Unbound.

Darktrace: a bad taste?

For UK investors starved for many years of quality tech companies, the Darktrace (DARK) IPO has been a chance to satiate their cravings. Here is a company which claims “a large total addressable market, a predictable, subscription-based model and a strong balance sheet” - and has the numbers to back that up.

In this morning’s trading update, Darktrace increased its forecasts for the 2022 financial year based on the current excellent run-rates and salesforce improvements which should improve the pace at which it can generate new revenues. 

But something leaves a bad taste. Megan Boxall explains why she isn’t convinced about the long term growth prospects here.

MPs call for regulatory probe into Big Three record labels 

You may think the pop star lifestyle is a steady stream of opulent hotels, designer clothes and hedonistic parties. But today, Fiona Bevan says top songwriters are “driving Ubers” just to make ends meet.

Bevan, who has worked with artists including Ed Sheeran and One Direction, is one of many successful musicians who gave evidence to a report published by MPs this morning, which has called for a “complete reset” of the economics of music streaming.

While the rise of services like Spotify (US:SPOT) is delivering historic profit margins to the Big Three record labels (Sony (US:SONY), Warner Music (US:WMG) and Universal), MPs warn it is offering only “pitiful returns” to artists who have become increasingly reliant on income from live concerts

They are now recommending an investigation into the Big Three by the UK competition regulator, and calling for legislation that would force the labels to split royalty income more evenly with artists. 

Reviewing Universal’s muted IPO earlier this year, Investors’ Chronicle suggested the increasing scrutiny of artists’ pay was now the biggest threat to the major labels, who have largely pushed back against the new proposals. Shares in Warner Music, which have soared since the company listed last year, were down nearly 1 per cent today.

But the recommendations have been broadly welcomed by musicians, as well as investors in music royalties. In an update this morning, the Hipgonisis Songs Fund (SONG) backed a probe into the “unhealthy control” exercised by the biggest record companies.

Join in the conversation and catch up on today's reactions to the top news stories below: