Snow patrol, the ‘flying bum’ and why ‘the squirrels are winning’

Planet Business: This week’s round-up: January profit warnings and the story of Italy’s Ray Ban magnate

In numbers: Rogue rodents


Number of "attacks" on critical global infrastructure (mainly power cables) by squirrels since 2013, according to security expert Cris Thomas, aka Space Rogue, who gave a conference presentation in Washington called The Squirrels are Winning.


The squirrels may be the ringleaders, but they have not been acting alone. In his study, Thomas found this number of power cuts had been prompted by squirrels, birds, snakes, raccoons, rats, martens and frogs – though, to be fair, the frogs have only been found guilty on three occasions.

5 million

Number of people affected by these outages, according to Thomas. The security expert has been tracking outages caused by animals in order to contextualise what he calls the “ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels of government and industry”.

Image of the week: Snow patrol

The security operation at the World Economic Forum in Davos can be relied upon to look effortlessly Bond-like, and here we are again in 2017 with a police sniper "securing" a roof next to the congress centre in the Swiss town. At least some of the 3,000 members of the world's political and business elite attending Davos will officially be there to discuss "responsive leadership", which Davos founder Klaus Schwab says means recognising the "increasing frustration and discontent" in the world, and presumably doing something other than retreating behind gated communities. The conversation in the bar, meanwhile, will sound a bit like this: "Trump, Trump, Trump, Trumpety-trump. Trump, Brexit, Trump, Brexit, Trump ... Trump!"


The lexicon: The flying bum

To aviation, now, and the "flying bum", aka the Airlander 10, which is the world's largest aircraft and in the news because the British company that makes it, Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), is reportedly planning to float in London. The 92-metre long flying bum, originally a US government surveillance project, is part plane, part helicopter and part airship, but it mostly just looks like a massive blimp, while a quick but careful Google will reveal that its nickname is indeed deeply accurate. The "flying bum" sustained some damage to its cockpit in a rough landing during a test flight last August, but if HAV can raise some cash from a flotation, it will put it in a more comfortable position for fulfilling its very first orders for giant airborne posteriors.

Getting to know: Leonardo Del Vecchio

Born in Milan in 1935, Leonardo Del Vecchio was sent to an orphanage as a child because his widowed mother couldn't afford to keep him. After starting out as an apprentice tool and dye-maker, he moved on to spectacle parts, setting up a company called Luxottica in 1961. It is now a global eyewear giant, owning brands such as Ray-Ban, Oakley and Sunglass Hut, and this week agreed an eye-watering €46 billion mega-merger with French lens maker Essilor. The still very much hands-on Del Vecchio (81) is Italy's richest man (its richest person being Nutella widow Maria Franca Fissolo), with six children from three marriages. On his 80th birthday, he gifted €9 million in shares to his 8,000-strong Italian workforce, describing them as his family.

The list: profit warnings, a recap

January is a depressing month, or at least it is for this lot. These are just five of the companies that have started the year by admitting things are a bit rubbish at the moment, really.

1. Pearson: The education giant will continue its corporate slash-and-burn by selling its stake in book publisher Penguin Random House.

2. Macy’s: The US retailer is cutting more than 10,000 employees, blaming in part a drop-off in tourist custom for the closure of 68 stores.

3. Next: Last Christmas was a quiet one for Next, which says people are quite simply spending less on clothes. Maybe it should try getting into cosmetics?

4. William Hill: An unbroken run of Chelsea wins and some unfavourable racing results in December contributed to the bookmaker's new year blues.

5. Premier Foods: The pound is weak and there's not a thing Mr Kipling can do about it.