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Almost 8,000 people have reported issues with the virtual assistant. Reports suggest the outage is widespread across the UK as well as Europe.

People went on social media to complain about the outage – with some complaining their household devices were not working.

“My whole house relies on Alexa for lighting, heating, security, doors etc – I’m sitting in a dark house in the cold and the door won’t open,” wrote one complaint.

“She is refusing to acknowledge me!!” wrote another. “On all 4 devices, fire TV and no music. Thankfully I can still control lights on app.”

Amazon has not yet responded to the problem publicly, reports Birmingham Live.



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Bust the tech mega deals: Microsoft’s bid for gaming domination could lead to higher prices and less choice, says ALEX BRUMMER










The accumulation of market power by the digital giants is frightening.

Yet craven US politicians show no inclination to embrace the anti-trust crusading of Teddy Roosevelt, who dismantled Standard Oil when he occupied the White House more than a century ago.

Microsoft has a market capitalisation of £1.7 trillion and is the dominant force in computing software. It wants more with its meaty £50billion bid for video game creator Activision Blizzard. 

Microsoft has a market capitalisation of £1.7 trillion and is the dominant force in computing software. It wants more with its meaty £50bn bid for video game creator Activision Blizzard

Microsoft has a market capitalisation of £1.7 trillion and is the dominant force in computing software. It wants more with its meaty £50bn bid for video game creator Activision Blizzard

It threatens to use its monopoly power to dominate a competitive market for computer games. 

The concern must be that it will seek exclusivity for leading edge games such as Call of Duty, blocking access to other systems.

This is analogous to the issues raised by Nvidia’s offer for Softbank-owned Arm Holdings. 

There is anxiety that if Cambridge-based Arm is merged into Nvidia, the new owners will offer exclusive deals to its main clients, destroying the open access model to its smart chips.

As matters stand, a lack of anti-trust fervour in Washington is allowing the mega-tech companies to dominate cyberspace and purloin intellectual property. 

The jobs networking site LinkedIn was swallowed by Microsoft in 2016 for £20billion. Google took control of Fitbit for £1.5billion in 2019. 

Salesforce spent £19.8billion on messaging site Slack in 2020. Facebook spent £14billion on WhatsApp in 2014. All such deals lessen competition for data services and content or both.

Word is that President Biden is determined to scrutinise tech mergers more closely. But with approval ratings languishing close to the lowest level of any modern president, and mid-term elections in November, the idea that Biden might show boldness in the face of corporate autocrats is fanciful.

Financial markets are giving the Microsoft deal a thumbs down. Activision’s share price has fallen well below the bid so investors plainly see it as imperilled.

Truth is that regulatory interference is far more likely to come from the European Union, China or our own Competition & Markets Authority rather than US enforcers at the Justice Department or Federal Trade Commission.

There was no surprise when Trump held back on interfering with Silicon Valley. It might have been hoped that Biden would see political value in becoming a trust buster. 

If the president fails to intervene in the latest Microsoft transaction, consumers will ultimately face higher prices and less choices. A chilling outcome.

Good health

Terry Smith deserves an accolade for Fundsmith’s post-mortem note on Unilever’s botched effort to purchase the Glaxosmithkline Consumer Healthcare arm.

We hear far too little from buy-side analysts and asset managers in the face of corporate actions, so the intervention is welcome. But as clear-eyed as Smith is on Unilever’s sub-optimal performance vis-a-vis other fast moving consumer goods groups, the note is not convincing.

Smith says he never heard from Unilever’s shareholder relations team for eight years.

Given the scale of the Fundsmith holding, there was nothing to stop him picking up the phone or doing an Elliott by going public. 

Smith contradicts his complaint when he acknowledges he was contacted over the frustrated move of domicile to the Netherlands, and admits that communications have improved post Paul Polman.

The suggestion that Unilever should stick to its knitting rather than seeking transforming deals doesn’t bear scrutiny.

Nestle’s outperformance is a result of buying into the wellbeing market back in the noughties when it took over the Novartis nutrition brands. Reckitt has been built on adding health to its hygiene portfolio. Cutting off Unilever from beauty, where it has built £1.5bn of revenues, is counter-productive.

Alan Jope’s talk about business with purpose might look like corporate waffle. ESG warrior investors who have put down a resolution for Unilever’s AGM, calling for targets for healthier foods, would disagree.

Price points

A political narrative has developed suggesting the cost-of-living crisis is unique to the UK. Not true.

Consumer prices are rising at a 7 per cent rate in the US despite plentiful natural gas supplies. 

Data from the eurozone shows prices rising at 5 per cent with energy accounting for almost half the gain. In monetarist, anti-inflation Germany consumer prices are rising by 5.3 per cent.

Crisis, what crisis?

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This is the year when Netflix, Disney+, Amazon and the other streaming services appear determined to demonstrate to sceptical investors that there really is no business like show business. 

These giants are set to spend more than $230bn on films and other content in 2022, double the total of a decade ago, according to the Ampere Analysis consultancy

But the scale of this expenditure, which aims to capture more subscribers and earn a lot more revenue from them, is turning a spotlight on the sector at a time of heightened scrutiny of all tech stocks. 

Streaming, which gained a huge fanbase during lockdowns, is becoming an ever more competitive sphere. 

Other names in the fray include Viacom CBS – owner of Paramount – and Warner Media, whose HBO Max gave us Succession, the family drama about the powerful media-owning Roy clan. 

Warner Media is merging with Discovery this year to create yet another contender. 

There is a particular focus on the ambitions of Apple which became, albeit briefly, a $3trillion company earlier this month. 

The group, whose Apple TV division has delivered such shows as Ted Lasso, is something of a bit part player but could easily afford to splurge billions more than its rivals in the streaming wars. 

Shares in the market leader Netflix, maker of Bridgerton, Emily In Paris and many other hits, have recently dipped. Some enthusiasts see this as an opportunity to back a company whose shares have soared by 5000 per cent to $530 over a decade. 

But, given Apple’s ample finances, is it wise to back Netflix, a $259billion business.

It will need to deliver more hits like the surprise 2021 smash Squid Game and also make a success of video games. 

Squid Game, a Korean drama about a contest where competitors play deadly versions of a children’s game, could be a metaphor for the current state of the streaming sector, in which survival will be tough and more consolidation highly likely. 

The market senses that the big profits may have now been made and that future gains will be hard won. Many agree with the assessment of Michael Nathanson of analysts Moffett Nathanson. 

He says: ‘We think we are at the cusp of an inflection in investor thinking. This isn’t a business for the faint of heart, the short-termers, or those constricted by non ethereal worries like free cash flow or net debt.’ 

Investing in any aspect of entertainment is always a thrill ride. I have shares in Walt Disney and Netflix is in some funds I hold. 

It is also in the portfolios of several well-known investment trusts, like Alliance, F&C, Polar Capital Technology and Witan, and is held by Monks and Scottish Mortgage, two trusts in the Baillie Gifford stable. 

Among the challenges facing combatants in the streaming wars is heightened US regulatory scrutiny of tech companies.

One deal that could be affected is Amazon’s $8.45billion purchase of MGM, a deal struck in order to turn the studio’s major asset James Bond into a Marveltype franchise. 

The kingdom of Walt Disney may encompass Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, Pixar and other franchises whose global appeal is supported by its resorts and theme parks. 

Yet its shares have fallen by 13 per cent to $152 over the past 12 months largely because Wall Street appears to be unsure whether Bob Chapek, who took over as chief executive a year ago, has the superpower to arrest the slowdown in sign-ups to Disney+. 

This doubt has led Morgan Stanley to lower its target price for the shares from $210 to $185, posing the question: ‘Disney has the content goods, can it execute?’ 

Goldman Sachs’s target is $205. Netflix’s growth has also been less stellar after its pandemic surge in 2020 when it added about 37m new subscribers.

In next month’s full-year results, it should announce that it has 222m worldwide, a respectable but not remarkable rise of 18.4m. 

Already there is talk that the UK may be at ‘peak Netflix’. 

Younger demographics have been won over, but older generations are more resistant, hinting that the 25-year-old company may be entering ‘its mature phase’, in the sense that early rapid expansion could be coming to an end. 

David Coombs of Rathbones says that households of all ages may limit their expenditure on subscriptions to these services as cost of living increases bite, instead relying more on free services such as those from the BBC and Channel 4. 

There will be much focus on subscriber numbers for all the companies in the streaming business over the next few months. 

A decline will hit share prices, presenting a chance to buy if you have nerves of steel. 

Long term, the performance could be dazzling but there will be many shocks and surprises on the way. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Britain’s  biggest internet companies have been targeted by stock market traders in a £1billion bet their share price will fall. 

Fashion giant Asos is the latest to find itself in the firing line of short-sellers – who use financial contracts to borrow stock in order to gain if the share price falls – with nearly 8 per cent of its stock now on loan, according to research. 

The sudden increase in the number of short positions at Asos, which rose by a third in recent weeks, emerges amid a rout in technology stocks. 

Other stocks that have been targeted include Ocado – the largest short position by value at £703million, or 6 per cent of its stock – as well as Boohoo, AO World and Made.com. 

Squeezed: Asos faces supply issues and more returns with parties cancelled

Squeezed: Asos faces supply issues and more returns with parties cancelled

Deliveroo has also been dumped by investors. Last week its shares dipped below £1.95 – half its £3.90 flotation price of just nine months ago – though the size of short positions in Deliveroo is low at less than 0.2 per cent. 

Tech firms around the world, including Britain’s online shopping success stories, found favour during the pandemic. 

But Wall Street’s tech-heavy Nasdaq share index took a hammering last week in an investor rout that rocked markets

The big sell-off even hit stock-market darlings Apple, Amazon and Tesla. Energy companies and banks have gained: businesses that are regarded as less sensitive to interest rate rises, as the Federal Reserve dials down its emergency economic help in the US. 

It follows revelations in The Mail on Sunday last weekend that hedge funds and other traders had built up record short positions in The Hut Group, the owner of the LookFantastic and MyProtein brands. 

THG’s shares subsequently plummeted 10 per cent on Tuesday, the first trading day after the weekend, and are struggling to bounce back. 

In late September the number of Asos shares on loan was less than 1 per cent. The share price has dwindled 34 per cent since then. 

Though Asos shares have not fallen significantly in recent days, the data suggests an increasing number of traders believe they may fall further. 

Short-selling is controversial because critics say it can be used to engineer a quick drop in a share price. 

But short traders and research companies are increasingly seen as an indicator that there are fundamental issues with management strategy, a company’s prospects – or that a company is overvalued for other reasons. 

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority publishes individual short positions the first time they have reached more than 0.5 per cent of company stock at the end of a trading day. However, because only such big positions are declared, it is hard to pinpoint the exact volume of short positions, other than looking at figures for loaned stock. 

So while FCA data currently records that just one hedge fund, Marshall Wace, holds 1.5 per cent of Asos shares, the financial information provider IHS says its figure of almost 8 per cent from lending data provides a ‘close proxy’ for total short-selling volumes at the end of each trading day. 

Sources said traders believe Asos, a favourite among Britain’s fashion-conscious 20 and 30-somethings, faces a squeeze despite assurances from the board in November that it could double profit margins long-term as sales rise. 

It is without a chief executive after Nick Beighton left with immediate effect in October, adding to the uncertainty. 

Its rival Boohoo’s shares have fallen too – by 58 per cent since September. Last month, Boohoo halved sales growth forecasts for the year to February 28, 2022, and slashed profit guidance. 

The cost of materials and shipping has soared, more items have been returned than before the pandemic with parties cancelled due to Covid scares – especially last month – and competition from Chinese internet shop Shein grows. By contrast the fortunes of physical shops have rebounded. 

Tesco shares are at their highest since before an accounting scandal in 2014, while Marks & Spencer’s share price has soared to levels not seen for almost three years.

At just 0.23 per cent, the number of M&S shares on loan also appears to suggest short-selling traders believe its turnaround is bearing fruit. 

This week will see market updates from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, JD Sports and Asos, among others. WH Smith, AO World, SuperGroup and Hotel Chocolat will report the following week. 

Next on Thursday said trading had been better than expected and predicted it would reap record profits this year. 

It said full-price sales were 20 per cent higher in the festive period than the comparative weeks in 2019, before the pandemic began.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Tech stocks tumbled again as the prospect of faster interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve caused panic in the markets.

The Nasdaq Composite index on Wall Street, which is dominated by tech behemoths, fell more than 2 per cent in early trading amid concerns some share prices have been inflated by the influx of new money printed during the pandemic.

The prospect of the cheap money tap being turned off caused traders to swap growth stocks for safer alternatives, triggering the rout.

Tech wreck: The Nasdaq Composite index on Wall Street fell nearly 2% amid concerns some share prices have been inflated by the influx of new money printed during the pandemic

Tech wreck: The Nasdaq Composite index on Wall Street fell nearly 2% amid concerns some share prices have been inflated by the influx of new money printed during the pandemic

It was bad news for some British savers as investment trusts with large holdings in US tech companies took a hammering in London.

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust was down 4.9 per cent, or 58.5p, at 1139p, while Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust slumped 4.5 per cent, or 12p, to 256.5p and Allianz Technology Trust fell 5.7 per cent, or 18.5p, to 305p.

The sell-off meant the Nasdaq was down almost 10 per cent from its all-time high reached in November, putting it close to a key threshold indicating a market correction. 

A correction is a decline in the value of a stock or other asset of 10 per cent or more from its most recent peak.

Stock Watch – Avacta

Diagnostic firm Avacta lost over a quarter of its value after pausing sales of its Affi DX Covid-19 test.

Lab analysis had shown the test was less effective at detecting the Omicron variant in low viral loads compared to other variants of the virus, the firm said.

Avacta has stopped sales while it replaces the antibodies used in Affi DX in order to boost its effectiveness. It did not give a date for when sales would resume. 

Shares dived 33.6 per cent, or 39p, to 77p.  

The jitters on Wall Street also hit the FTSE 100, which dropped 0.5 per cent, or 40.03 points, to 7445.25, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 was down 1.5 per cent, or 351.44 points, at 23001.81.

Shares in The Hut Group took a battering after it handed over documents to regulators supposedly showing a plot to drive down its share price. 

Shares in the online shopping specialist sank 7.7 per cent, or 14.9p, to 179.5p after reports over the weekend said the firm had provided data to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) related to what it said was irregular trading of its shares. 

Despite floating with much fanfare in September 2020, THG’s stock has dropped by nearly two-thirds in value amid concerns about the potential of the business as well as the influence of its founder Matt Moulding.

However, the firm has alleged the share price plunge was instead part of a coordinated plan of mass selling designed to push down its value, according to The Sunday Times. 

Despite the sharp decline, analysts at Liberum were upbeat, rating THG’s shares at ‘buy’ with a target price of 750p.

The broker said the fundamentals of the business ‘have not changed’ since its listing and that the share price decline was ‘excessive’.

Currency exchange group Wise slumped to an all-time low after analysts at Citigroup told their clients to dump the shares.

In a note, the bank downgraded their rating to ‘sell’ from ‘neutral’ and slashed their target price to 650p from 1030p, saying the shares were trading on ‘excessive long-term growth expectations’. 

The assessment caused Wise shares to tumble 10.7 per cent, or 72.4p, to 606.4p during the session. Banking shares climbed amid hopes of more interest rate increases, with HSBC up 2 per cent, or 9.7p, to 492p while Barclays jumped 1.3 per cent, or 2.65p, to 207.9p and NatWest ticked up 0.2 per cent, or 0.5p, to 247p.

Hikma Pharma launched a business focused on ready-to-use injectable medicines for the US healthcare market. Called Hikma 503B, it is aiming to build on the firm’s position as a leading supplier of injectable drugs to US hospitals and will operate out of a facility in New Jersey. Shares were down 1.5 per cent, or 31p, at 2103p.

Elsewhere, Nightcap, owner of the London Cocktail Club bar chain, toasted a strong rise in sales in the second half of 2021.

Sales for the 26 weeks to December 26 were £15.5million, 46.2 per cent ahead of pre-pandemic levels, while around 70 per cent of the 7,500 bookings cancelled over the festive period had been rescheduled for the first three months of 2022. Shares jumped 5.1 per cent, or 1p, to 20.5p.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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MIDAS SHARE TIPS UPDATE: Cash in on making dealing with red tape easier with tech expert Ideagen










Every year, businesses, governments and other organisations spend more than £20 billion on technology that allows them to comply with multiple regulations, from environmental to financial to medical.

Ideagen specialises in software that makes these tasks simple and effective. 

The group has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014 and the shares have soared, from 33p when Midas first recommended them to £2.70 today. 

Based in Nottingham, Ideagen has around 7,500 customers worldwide, including more than 250 UK and American hospitals, nine of the top ten accountancy firms and three-quarters of all major drug companies, as well as numerous aviation and defence groups. 

Opportunity: Ideagen has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014

Opportunity: Ideagen has grown rapidly since floating on the junior AIM market in 2014

Customers tend to stick with the business for years. Its software has won multiple awards and is widely recognised as efficient and easy to use. 

However, chief executive Ben Dorks has no intention of resting on his laurels and last month raised £103million on the stock market to accelerate growth both organically and through buying new businesses. 

The company has made its ambitions clear. Brokers forecast revenues of £92million for the year to April and Dorks is aiming for £200million of sales by 2025, with £70million coming from acquisitions. 

The regulatory software market is full of small firms, many of which are keen to sell out, particularly as the sector becomes more complex and the rules grow more demanding. 

The pandemic has also encouraged business owners to consider their future, with several opting to sell to larger operators. 

Ideagen is well positioned to benefit from these trends and Dorks has a track record of buying firms and integrating them successfully into the group. 

Profits are rising steadily too, with £24million predicted for this year, increasing to £31million in 2023. 

Dividends have increased consistently over the years and a payout of 0.4p has been pencilled in for 2022, rising to 0.5p next year.

Midas verdict: Investors who bought Ideagen shares in 2014 have already made an eightfold return on their money and may feel as if now is the time to sell. But at £2.70 the shares have significantly further to run. 

Regulations are increasing in almost every sphere of business life and companies have to comply. Ideagen makes the process as painless as possible and the shares are a long-term hold. New investors could even snap up a few at the current price and celebrate this home-grown winner in the technology market. 

Traded on: AIM Ticker: IDEA Contact: ideagen.com or 01629 699 100 

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