Media Watch 22/4/15

By Rowan Williams

Tesco has recorded the worst annual losses in its 96-year history, posting a loss of £6.4 billion in the year to the end of February 2015.  A year previously, it had recorded profits of £2.26 billion. The loss is the biggest ever suffered by a UK retailer. The primary reason for the losses was a £4.7 billion reduction in the property value of Tesco’s stores, 43 of which Tesco last month announced it would close. Tesco paid £7 billion in one-off charges in total last year. Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis has said that he does not expect the coming year to be much better for the company. Lewis was brought in to replace Philip Clarke in 2014, under whose leadership Tesco’s sales went into an alarming slide. Tesco is still being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for overstating its half-year profit forecast by £263 million in August. The firm’s sales have also been negatively affected by the rise of discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl.

A UK financial trader has been arrested after US authorities accused him of causing the 2010 Wall Street ‘flash crash’. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is seeking the extradition of Navinder Singh Sarao, 37, on 22 charges, including wire fraud, commodities fraud, and market manipulation. Civil charges are also to be made against Sarao. Working from his suburban home in Hounslow, west London, Sarao allegedly placed £134 million worth of false trades using computer programmes. The DoJ claims Sarao’s manipulation contributed to the £500 billion Wall Street ‘flash crash’ of 6 May 2010, during which 600 points was wiped off the Dow Jones in five minutes before rebounding. Sarao reportedly made £27 million over five years of trading. A DoJ spokesman refused to comment on how one person would be able to crash the world’s financial markets using widely available software.

Hong Kong’s government has unveiled the proposed reforms for its 2017 election. As expected, candidates for the leadership of the territory will be screened by authorities. Pro-democracy activists claim that such screening means the proposed reforms will not be democratic. The reforms follow months of protests from Hong Kong citizens in 2014, during which protesters called for greater democracy. The decision to screen candidates had first been announced in August 2014. Some have speculated that the unveiling of the reform blueprint could stir up political tensions in the territory. Democratic lawmakers have vowed to try and veto the proposals once formal approval is sought.

The Papers

Headlines are mostly mixed today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that a Briton has been detained “over £500bn Wall Street ‘Flash Crash'”. The trader is accused of “manipulating commodity prices from a modest semi-detached home in London”, the paper reports. The trader, Navinder Singh Sarao, made triggered a £500 billion shares crash in 2010. The Financial Times leads with the same story, reporting that US authorities are seeking Sarao’s extradition for a trial in Illinois on 22 charges, including fraud and commodities manipulation. The Guardian leads with news that Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps has been accused of “secret slurs against top Tories”. The paper reports that Shapps is suspected of editing the Wikipedia pages of Conservative rivals, as well as editing his own Wikipedia page to remove potentially embarrassing details. The Independent leads with news that the Home Office has been ordered to “bring back child it deported to Nigeria” so that the child and her mother can have their asylum case heard again. The verdict is a “huge challenge” to Theresa May’s policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’, the paper writes. The Times leads with news that Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders faces a “new onslaught over Janner”. Politicians have united to call for Labour peer Lord Janner to stand trial for historical sex abuse charges. Janner had been ruled unfit for trial due to Alzheimer’s disease.

British Media on China

On Hong Kong: the unveiling of Hong Kong’s proposed electoral reforms received coverage from the BBC and The Daily Telegraph. Both highlight the decision to pre-screen leadership candidates. The BBC cites democratic activists, who say that “the elections will not be democratic”. The BBC explains the proposed leadership nomination system in its piece. The Daily Telegraph writes that the reforms “signalled that China’s Communist Party would maintain an iron grip” over leadership selection. Activists have threatened “new protests”, the paper reports. The paper writes that pro-democracy lawmakers blocking the proposals could lead to a return to the current selection process, seen as even less democratic.

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