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Top business stories of 2013

From the Cyprus crisis to coked-up bankers, the horsemeat scandal and the sad death of a young German student, it was another dramatic year in the business world. Based on web visits, here are the top 10 stories of 2013.

1. Aldi confirms up to 100% horsemeat in beef products

At 1.8m page views – and counting – the story on Aldi confirming some of its products contained 100% horsemeat was by far the most popular story on the business site this year. But it had a strange journey to the top of the charts, producing only modest numbers on its launch in early February.

Seven months later, however, there was a sudden and extreme spike in traffic, generating 300,000 page views in just three days in early September. Its traffic continues to spike, although at a less extreme rate, regularly pushing the story into our daily “most read” list, 10 months after it was first launched, and further boosting traffic.

The trigger for the September spike may have been this story on Tesco being rapped for implying the horsemeat scandal affected the whole food industry. This was followed by huge referral for the original story from Facebook – it has been shared almost 230,000 times to date – possibly by people not realising it was an old story.

2. Bank of America intern’s death puts banks’ working culture in spotlight

The tragic death of a young intern working in the London office of Bank of America Merrill Lynch triggered calls for an enquiry into excessive working hours in the City. Moritz Erhardt, a 21 year old German student, was found dead in the shower after having regularly worked through the night at the bank. An inquest later found that he died as a result of an epileptic seizure, but heard that fatigue could have been a trigger.

3. Cyprus bailout: last-ditch deal agreed – as it happened

The Cyprus crisis shook world stock markets and threatened to trigger fresh turmoil in the battered eurozone. Five of our top 10 stories in 2013 were on Cyprus, charting the fear and chaos that led to the controversial bailout on 25 March.

The progress of the rescue deal was dramatically recorded by Graeme Wearden, aided by Ben Quinn, in a marathon live blog that began on the morning of 24 March and ended in the early hours of the following day.

4. Cyprus crisis: MPs approve bank restructuring and solidarity fund – as it happened

The fate of Cyprus hung in the balance as the clock ticked towards the Monday deadline set by the European Central Bank.

Britain dispatched a task force of top civil servants to advise the stricken island on how to pull its banking system back from the brink of collapse.

5. Cyprus races to rework savings tax after closing banks till Thursday – as it happened

Banks in Cyprus shut their doors to head off a run on deposits amid confusion created by the controversial bailout proposals and levy on bank accounts. There was widespread anger at the decision to tax savers and hundreds of protestors marched carrying anti-government banners.

A scheduled vote in parliament was cancelled when it became clear the government could not win.

6. Eurozone crisis live: Cyprus crisis deepens as MPs reject bailout terms

The Cyprus crisis deepened as MPs rejected the controversial plan to skim €5.8bn from savers’ bank accounts, in a move that risked plunging the eurozone into a fresh crisis and heightened expectations that the cash-strapped nation would seek a funding lifeline from Russia. Cyprus had just 24 hours to find a solution to its funding gap before its banks were due to reopen.

7. Cyprus bailout crisis shakes markets

The euro dived and shares suffered sharp losses after the controversial bailout package for Cyprus threatened fresh turmoil in the eurozone.

Eurozone finance ministers demanded that Cypriots pay up to 10% of their bank deposits in exchange for a €10bn (£8.5bn) bailout, prompting panic across the island as people rushed to cash machines to withdraw their savings.

8. Sports Direct: 90% of staff on zero-hour contrac

Simon Neville’s revelation that the entire 20,000 part-time workforce of Sports Direct were employed on zero-hour contracts sparked outrage, particularly as 2,000 full-time staff were about to cash in bonuses of up to £100,000.

In the following weeks, numerous other companies were shown to be widespread users of the controversial contracts, which leave employees not knowing how many hours they will work from one week to the next, often with no sick pay or holiday pay, and no guarantee of regular work.

9. Did cocaine use by bankers cause the global financial crisis?

Did coked-up bankers cause the credit crunch? Former City analyst and author Geraint Anderson, who “certainly saw my fair share of sniffly noses and gurning jaws at City bars every Thursday night,” believes they did.

“Greed, selfishness, ignorance and ruthlessness also played their part, of course, but I think it would be foolish not to see the role that the drug played in creating the bubble.”

10. British sugar giant caught in global tax scandal

One of Britain’s biggest multinationals, whose brands include Silver Spoon sugar, Twinings Tea and Kingsmill bread, avoided paying millions of pounds of tax in an African state blighted by malnutrition, according to a report published by ActionAid.

The Zambian sugar-producing subsidiary of Associated British Foods, a FTSE 100 company, contributed virtually no corporation tax to the state’s exchequer between 2007 and 2012, and none at all for two of those years.


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