Our UK-wide analysis of Google data on travel to work and to other destinations, at the granular level of Local Authority Areas, reveals the early return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility in smaller urban and rural areas, driving the UK’s economic recovery to date, while travel within cities remains depressed 18 months into the pandemic

On weekdays, work-from-home (WFH) for office workers is a core driver of reduced mobility in London and other cities reliant on public transport, recovering on weekends, but mainly to local destinations. Outside cities, the car is used for transportation, explaining the faster recovery of mobility there

Disposable income inequalities have widened between office workers that saved due to WFH and essential workers and those in B2C activities in cities have not had the privilege of WFH. The quicker return to offices in smaller urban and rural areas has restored pre-pandemic expenditure patterns

Apple’s latest software update continues its drive to limit the data that can be collected about iPhone users as they browse the internet. Prior changes have had an effect on ad prices for publishers, and on advertiser results

The new changes target cornerstones of profiling and targeting: IP and email addresses. The impact will be gradual, but could be profound if takeup is high

The lesson for publishers is that no technical implementation of targeted advertising is safe. Layering third-party data on top of anonymous audiences is not a future-proof business model

Netflix’s decision to launch games as part of the subscription bundle is smart business: rewarding current subscribers, leveraging its IP, and signalling that subscription is the best long-term revenue model in the games space. 

Expect technological innovation to be central to Netflix’s ambitions with games. Netflix will make it easier for different game experiences to occur, and ways to attract external developers will inevitably follow. 

For Disney, Netflix just made the battle for customers more difficult and more expensive.  Disney will need to make hard decisions about how to approach the games business—something it has shown before it finds difficult to do. 

European mobile growth was essentially zero year-on-year—a significant improvement thanks to annualisation of the pandemic but there is little evidence of the reversal of its negative impacts.

Italy saw the biggest improvement in its underlying trend as the pandemic continued to suppress Iliad’s momentum, while elevated competitive tension in Spain and France ate into their annualisation boost.

Mobility and flight data suggests that Q3 will evidence a bigger boost from renewed travel than in Q2—positive for roaming revenues—but that the improvement in mobility will be weaker than in the June quarter.

After China updated its Anti-Monopoly Law to cover platform companies, the Government is bringing to heel privately owned ‘national champions’, including via antitrust measures in their home market—the key source of their astronomical cash flow—and through interference in their expansion outside China

China lacks any tradition of anti-monopoly activity, given its gradual shift to the market from state-owned enterprises, it offers an example of theory in practice for antitrust reformers targeting platforms in the West

The global implications are huge: up to $2 trillion of Wall Street shares are exposed as China tightens controls on foreign IPOs. Regulators could also use enhanced antitrust powers to disrupt global dealmaking for economic leverage

  • The three lockdowns since Q1 2020 shifted the sales of ‘non-essential’ stores (e.g. clothes) to online, with deconfinement releasing the oxygen of pent-up demand to the high street, eroding online’s share
  • For vendors of ‘essential’ goods (e.g. food and drink), which stayed open, Work-From-Home (WFH) shifted a large portion of spend to in-home purchases, with both offline and online spend remaining elevated in Q2
  • The share of online in retail sales (excluding fuels) dropped from its peak of 34.7% in Q1 2021, when the UK was in its third lockdown, to 27.6% in Q2. This is still up 10 ppts from 18.7% in Q2 2019, evidence of a new post-pandemic normal, as mobility to retail and recreation destinations remains impaired

Vodafone’s growth this quarter was a touch disappointing; the annualistion of the COVID hit was a clear boost but no evidence of any tailwinds. The 1.1% growth in the European markets should be the real focus for investors.

We see some evidence of positive initiatives from Vodafone such as its new EVO tariffs in the UK but it still has much to prove on operating momentum, especially in Germany.

There are signs that Vodafone is slow-pedalling in some markets and with demanding EBITDA targets and with leverage still finely balanced, we expect this focus on profitability to continue. The UK may be a special case.

Mobile growth dipped again to -3.3% for what we hope is the final time as widespread lockdowns impacted paid-for usage in most countries.

BT and Vodafone joined the other European MNOs in guiding to improving trends in 2021—expecting EBITDA momentum to be 7-10ppts better—slightly ahead of the 5-7ppts for the European operators.

We may even see positive revenue growth next quarter thanks to the simple annualisation of the first lockdown, with the UK the most to gain and Germany and Italy the least. Investment is creeping up too with higher capex guidance and better 5G momentum.

A channel dedicated to personality-led opinion breaks from TV’s strong range of rolling news, bulletins and standalone debate programmes. Conceptually GB News is more like talk radio: audiences can dip in at any time of day to hear takes on stories.

A linear launch—especially one based on a new interpretation of Ofcom’s due impartiality rules—has generated headlines, but the stark commercial reality of sustaining TV news by itself remains.

Its own linear audience and paying member forecasts are optimistic for a service with limited prominence and a streamlined budget, though profitability may not be its only measure of success.

Three lockdowns since March 2020 greatly reduced mobility in Greater London, an area with high reliance on public transport. Risk aversion even reduced mobility in cities like Seoul and Auckland that effectively contained the virus.

The concentration of air pollutants in the Greater London area dropped 50% below the 2019 baseline level in March 2020, remaining below baseline for much of the period since, despite increasing road vehicle traffic. The biggest rises in air quality occurred in wealthier boroughs like Richmond, a glaring inequality.

Another stark inequality of the pandemic is the much higher share of residents of wealthier boroughs than poorer ones able to stay at home, also saving more precious time by reduced trips to the workplace. These benefits are much less available to low-income, and disproportionately BAME, residents of London, often essential workers.