Top Stories

December 19, 2016


Dublin claims Brussels exceed powers over Apple tax

Ireland has laid out the grounds for its appeal against the European Commission’s demand that it claw back €13bn of state aid from Apple, accusing Brussels of interfering with national sovereignty. Ireland decided to appeal soon after the decision at the end of August, which found that Dublin had given Apple illegal tax breaks for a quarter of a century. Brussels said Apple had avoided taxes by channelling the bulk of its non-US sales and profits through corporate entities that did not have to pay tax anywhere. Michael Noonan, the country’s finance minister, argued that the case was politically motivated and aimed at undermining Ireland’s low corporate-tax regime, which has helped the island become the home to the European operations of nearly all big US tech companies. In its appeal, Ireland will argue that the commission wrongly applied EU state-aid rules, which render individual sweetheart tax deals within the bloc illegal. (Financial Times}

Corporate Reputation

US drugmaker charges 200 times UK price for common worm pill

A US drugmaker has put a price tag of more than $800 on a pinworm treatment — 200 times more expensive than the equivalent medicine on British pharmacy shelves, in the latest example of “price gouging” in the world’s largest healthcare market. Most cases of pinworm, require two pills, meaning a course of treatment costs about $884. The drug is available prescription-only in the US but can be bought over the counter in the UK, where Boots, a British chemist chain, charges £6.99 for a pack of four pills, or £1.75 each. In the developing world it can be bought for less than 1 cent per pill. “In my opinion, this is the latest example of a pharma bad actor cornering the US market and taking advantage of payers and consumers,” said Michael Rea, chief executive of Rx Savings, which makes software to help reduce the cost of medicines. (Financial Times)

Sustainable Development

Costa partners with bio-bean to give waste coffee new lease of life

Coffee giant Costa has revealed that waste coffee grounds from more than 850 stores nationwide are now being used to make low-carbon fuel thanks to a new partnership with biomass specialists Bio-bean. Costa’s energy and environment manager Oliver Rosevear explained that the partnership with Bio-bean will deliver “significant cost reductions” in Costa’s waste disposal process, as sending the coffee to Bio-bean is cheaper than using alternative waste disposal methods such as incinerators or anaerobic digestion plants. For Bio-bean, the deal represents a significant scaling up of its renewable fuel business, allowing it to send more feedstock to its factory in Cambridgeshire, which can handle up to 50,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds every year. Founder and chief executive Arthur Kay said “Costa has proven that this can work at scale, save companies money and save a huge amount in terms of emissions in the process”.  (Business Green)


Solar power becoming world’s cheapest form of electricity production, analysts say

Solar power is becoming the cheapest way to generate electricity, according to leading analysts. Data produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed the cost of solar in 58 lower-income countries – including China, Brazil and India – had fallen to about a third of levels in 2010 and was now slightly cheaper than wind energy. In August, an auction to supply electricity in Chile achieved the record low price of $29.10 (£23.30) per megawatt-hour – a record low price and about half the price of a coal competitor. BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a note to clients: “Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting [fossil fuel prices].” (Independent)

Climate Change

 Farmers in Sudan battle climate change and hunger as desert creeps closer

In Sudan’s eastern state of Gedaref, nicknamed “the granary” for its vast rows of sesame, sorghum and millet, banks of sediment and gravel are popping up as high as hills around the farms – the result of deforestation and erratic rains causing watering holes to overflow”. Khalid Hashim Ibrahim, the state agricultural coordinator, says: “All of Sudan is affected by the low production in Gedaref, and also the production here is exported to other countries, especially neighbouring countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea and also the Gulf countries, like Saudi and the Emirates. The UN development programme has been running pilot climate change adaptation programmes in Butana, Wad Hassan and Sirag Elnour to try to stop good soils from shifting or drying up, and farmers waiting on rains and grains to survive. Solar-powered water pumps have eased the reliance on rain-fed agriculture and allowed people to plant a greater range of crops. (Guardian)

Image source: Looking north through the entrance hall of the Apple Store, Manhattan, NYC by Marlith. (CC BY-SA 4.0)