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FB: Roundup: Serum Institute of India, Ferrero, News Corp

Poonawalla family’s Serum Institute under pressure to deliver Covid-19 vaccines, Ferrero-owned Thorntons exits shop estate for e-commerce, Murdoch’s News Corp wins content compensation from Facebook.

Poonawalla family’s Serum Institute under pressure to deliver Covid-19 vaccines

Serum Institute of India, the second-generation Poonawalla family business and the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, has delivered half of the agreed 10 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses from India to the United Kingdom, contributing to the delay of the UK’s vaccination programme.

Adar Poonawalla, 40, the next-gen chief executive, warned of a potential delay a month ago. He appealed for patience from governments and countries awaiting supplies of Covishield, the brand name for Oxford-AZ in India.

“Serum Institute has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world,” Poonawalla tweeted on 21 February.

“We are trying our best.”

The family business has produced 100 million doses of the Oxford-AZ vaccine and aimed to scale up production to 100 million doses per month by April. The pharmaceutical giant was also contributing more than half of the doses towards the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s COVAX target of delivering 1.3 billion shots for 92 low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021.

However, Poonawalla told Bloomberg last week that countries were holding on to their vaccine supplies and limiting access to the materials needed to make more.

Vaccines manufactured by Serum Institute are accredited by the WHO and used in the immunisation programmes of 170 countries. An estimated 65% of children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute.

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, 76, founded Serum Institute in Pune in 1966 with the aim of manufacturing life-saving immuno-biologicals, which were in short supply in the country and imported at high prices. Dr Poonawalla, India’s eighth richest man, is the chairman and managing director while his only son is chief executive.

What started as a laboratory on Dr Poonawalla’s thoroughbred horse breeder’s stud farm 55 years ago has grown into the world-class Poonawalla Bio-Tech Park across 17ha at Manjari in Pune. Serum Institute made its debut international expansion by acquiring Bilthoven Biologicals, a bioengineering and pharmaceutical company, from the Dutch government in 2012. The family invested $78 million over three years to boost capacity.

Ferrero-owned Thorntons exits shop estate for e-commerce

Thorntons, the UK’s largest chocolate maker and owned by Italy’s Nutella-making Ferrero dynasty, has become another high street casualty of Covid-19 with its closure of all 61 shops, putting more than 600 jobs at risk.

Ferrero Group, the world’s third largest chocolate and confectionery business, acquired the former family-owned Thorntons for £112 million ($145 million) in 2015, when it had 252 stores. The new owners invested more than £45 million ($62.2 million) in efforts to revitalise the struggling brand, including new format shops and cafes. There was a peak of more than 450 shops by the turn of the millennium. Founder Joseph William Thornton opened his first shop in Sheffield in 1911.

However, customers were often able to buy the same Thorntons products for less money in supermarkets, undercutting its own stores and dismaying franchisees.

The company said shifting customer behaviour to online in tandem with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions over the past year, especially over Easter and Christmas, prompted the permanent closure of its entire retail store estate.

Adam Goddard, retail director at Thorntons, said as customers continued to change the way they shop, the company must change with them.

“We have seen a strong growth in our online presence with a 71% increase in net sales over the last year and this will remain a key strategy for us,” Goddard said.

“In addition, we continue to invest in building our brand with our existing franchise partners on the high street and our grocery partners in supermarkets in order to meet the demand from our loyal customers. We are also continuing on our journey to produce more assortments for the international market through our Alfreton factory.”

Ferrero Group’s digital strategy with the chocolate brand contrasted with its acquisition of the manufacturing sites for the British heritage brand Fox’s Biscuits for £246 million ($318 million) in October 2020. Fox was Ferrero’s second European biscuit acquisition within 12 months after it acquired the Danish Kelsen Group from the Campbell Soup Co for $300 million. Both deals were made through CTH Invest, a Belgium holding company associated with Ferrero.

Cookie consumption has increased while many Britons work from home. The global cookies market will be worth $44.01 billion by 2025, according to market research.

Billionaire Giovanni Ferrero (pictured), 56, the youngest son of the late Michele Ferrero, creator of the hazelnut spread Nutella, is the third-generation executive chairman. The diversifying group closed its financial year in August 2020 with a consolidated turnover of €12.3 billion ($14.6 billion), an increase of 7.8% over the previous year.

Murdoch’s News Corp wins content compensation from Facebook

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News Corp is claiming victory after Facebook agreed a multi-year deal to pay for its news content in Australia, for an undisclosed sum.

The denouement was the outcome of a test-case battle between new tech and legacy media giants and between Silicon Valley and a sovereign nation state, which saw Facebook unilaterally cut its users’ access to Australian News Corp content for almost a week in February 2021. The cut by Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerberg (pictured below), was in response to the Australian government’s legislation to make Facebook and Google pay for news content on their platforms, which News Corp lobbied for.

The deal brokered between News Corp and Facebook covered content from The Australian national newspaper, the website, major metropolitan mastheads like The Daily Telegraph in New South Wales, Herald Sun in Victoria and The Courier-Mail in Queensland plus regional and community publications.

The announcement followed an agreement reached in October 2019 in which News Corp publications in the United States began to receive payments in exchange for access to additional stories for Facebook News. News Corp said it now had agreements with Facebook, Google and Apple to provide access to its journalism and related content for a potential audience of millions around the world.

Robert Thomson, 60, non-family chief executive, praised Rupert Murdoch (pictured), 90, News Corp’s founding executive chairman, and heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch, 49, co-chairman.

“Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch led a global debate while others in our industry were silent or supine as digital dysfunctionality threatened to turn journalism into a mendicant order,” Thomson said.

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