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SPI Management Newsletter 19.05.23

Massive Layoffs Hit Major Corporations in Europe Despite Economic Fortitude

BT Group, one of the UK's largest telecom firms, recently announced a plan to slash its workforce by a staggering 42% (equivalent to around 55,000 workers) by the end of the decade. This announcement marks the climax of several months of widespread job cuts across European corporations. This decision from BT Group closely follows the news from its competitor, Vodafone Group, which also declared it would be making about 11,000 jobs redundant over the forthcoming three years.

Interestingly, these significant job cuts are happening in a period where unemployment rates across Europe have been steadily at record lows for months. While the US has seen numerous high-profile white-collar staff reductions, large-scale company-wide cutbacks have been less frequent in European firms. Nevertheless, companies across Europe, including some of the largest corporate entities, have been shedding staff in a calculated manner akin to their American counterparts.

The first quarter of this year witnessed a spate of corporate downsizings in Europe when the economic outlook seemed less optimistic. A case in point is the German business-software company SAP, which revealed a plan to cut 3,000 jobs in January after reporting a significant profit decline in 2022.

Other notable layoffs include Ericsson, the Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer, which announced the shedding of approximately 8,500 employees globally, attributing it to cost-cutting measures as orders for its 5G equipment slowed in the US and other markets. Additionally, Ford Motor declared its intention to cut 3,800 jobs in Europe over the next three years, aiming to reduce costs, boost profits, and facilitate its shift towards electric vehicles. Companies such as Volvo, Stellantis, and the UK grocery chain J Sainsbury, have also made minor staff cuts. Furthermore, the Dutch medical equipment manufacturer, Royal Philips, disclosed its plan to reduce its workforce by 6,000 by the mid-decade, including 3,000 in the current year, as part of a reorganization aimed at boosting its performance.

Japan Experiences Economic Uptick in Q1 Thanks to Tourism Revival

Japan's economy demonstrated a stronger-than-predicted resurgence in the first quarter of the year, driven primarily by a recovery in tourism. The country, which only lifted border restrictions for foreign tourists last October, has begun to reap the benefits of pent-up demand that other nations, such as the U.S., had experienced much earlier. This resulted in a 0.4% economic expansion over the previous quarter, exceeding expectations and outpacing the U.S. growth rate.

The main driver behind this growth remains Japan's robust domestic demand. Consumption increased by 0.6% from the previous quarter, spurred by government travel subsidies that boosted hospitality sectors like hotels and restaurants. Moreover, recent wage negotiations led to the most significant pay increase in three decades, which could further enhance spending in the coming months.

However, concerns persist over potential slowdowns in global markets, such as the U.S. and China, which could impact Japan's economy. Notably, Japan saw a 4.2% drop in exports in the first quarter due to slowing growth abroad and weaker chip demand. While domestic spending is projected to remain healthy, these global economic uncertainties remain a significant risk.

UK Unveils $1.2 Billion Strategy to Bolster Domestic Semiconductor Industry Amid Global Chip Investment

The investment, scheduled to roll out over the next 20 years, aims to cultivate the UK's domestic chip sector, safeguard against supply chain disruptions, and secure national interests. Initial funding of up to £200 million will be allocated between 2023 to 2025, with further commitments expected to reach £1 billion over the following decade. The funds are slated to enhance the talent pipeline, enable access to prototyping and business support tools.

The UK strategy diverges from the substantial investments pledged by the US and EU, instead focusing on its areas of expertise. Acknowledging the impracticality of establishing large-scale fabrication plants like Taiwan's TSMC, UK officials are concentrating on other aspects of the semiconductor industry, such as intellectual property and design, as well as the production of non-silicon chips. The UK semiconductor sector can look forward to targeted growth and enhanced competitiveness in the global arena.

Adapted from WSJ, Reuters, CNBC, NYT

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