Business

Business in 2014: BBC's most-read stories of the year

There were scandals aplenty in 2014, but the stories that captured our readers' attention were not necessarily the ones that dominated the headlines.

Here is a run-through of the most-read BBC business stories over the past 12 months.


January: Parental banks

Troubles with cash withdrawals caused public outrage at the start of the year, when the BBC's Money Box programme found that some HSBC customers were refused requests for sums in excess of £5,000 - because they couldn't show evidence of where the money would be spent. Douglas Carswell, an MP who would dominate the headlines a few months later for defecting to UKIP, was outraged. "In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent," he said.

Meanwhile, TSB's boss apologised on Twitter for a technical problem that rendered thousands of ATMs kaput for a few hours. Tales of woe poured in to the BBC from across the country, mostly from people whose cards were declined at petrol stations - after they'd filled up the tank.


February: Tech twists

Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook's surprise acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp for a whopping $19bn - essentially shelling out $40 for each user - caught even some of the BBC's hardened hacks by surprise. Analysts scrambled to explain the logic behind the purchase, but if the social network had grand plans for the start-up with just 55 employees, it has yet to reveal them, 10 months later.

In less surprising news, company veteran Satya Nadella was named as Microsoft's third boss in almost 40 years, succeeding the ebullient Steve Ballmer. The promotion of Mr Nadella, who was born in Hyderabad, was widely celebrated in the Indian press, and was seen as proof that the country's many tech prodigies could go all the way to the top.


March: Purse strings

Image copyright Getty Images

George Osborne's pension-reforming Budget sent millions of readers rushing to our Budget calculator, to see just how many pennies they would save on bingo and beer.

But the most-read story was a report on Singapore being named the world's most expensive city - a finding that drew some animated comments from readers. "Something wrong with study!" exclaimed Andy. "I live in Singapore for many years and find it much cheaper than many cities!" Kosherdod had similar objections: "Hell none of those places are as expensive to live in as Clapham!! MARK MY WORDS."


April: Difficult questions

Image copyright Getty Images

Do you gamble? How much do you spend on alcohol? The prospect of being asked invasive questions like these when applying for a mortgage left many of us outraged, but industry leaders insisted that it would help banks lend only to people that could easily afford repayments.

Probing questions were also being asked of the business secretary, as the government was accused of rushing through the privatisation of Royal Mail and selling it on the cheap. At the time, shares were more than 70% higher than the 2013 sale price, but the intervening months have been kinder to Vince Cable - Royal Mail shares are just 18% higher today.


May: Contaminated comestibles

Coca-Cola's plans to remove a controversial ingredient from its drinks left many wondering why it had been allowed in the first place. It turned out that BVO, which according to some doctors can cause memory loss and skin and nerve problems, was a legal ingredient in the US, but pressure from campaigners caused the beverage giant to get rid of it altogether.

A proliferation of fruit flies led to an EU-wide ban on mangoes from India - where more than half of the world's mangoes are grown. The ban also included aubergines and two types of squash, but the mangoes got most of the headlines.


June: Planes and plans

Image copyright Airbus

For the second year running, aviation fans fed the ratings in June, putting planes at the top of the most-read charts. News that Dubai's Emirates Airline had cancelled an order for 70 of Airbus's A350 wide-bodied aircraft was seen by some experts as evidence that the carrier now favoured rival Boeing's 777X.

Meanwhile, a more grounded policy by the Bank of England was our second most-read story, as the central bank proposed that lenders should not be allowed to approve any more than 15% of residential mortgages at more than 4.5 times a borrower's income.


July: Micro and macro

Image copyright Getty Images

Emma Simpson's report on how a group of local councils in England were asking the government for new powers to tax large supermarkets made the top of the charts in July. The so-called "Tesco tax" seemed like a David v Goliath idea at the time - little did we know what woes would befall the retail giant in the coming months.

But July ended with cheerful news for the wider economy, after official figures showed the UK had returned to pre-crisis levels by expanding 0.8% in the second quarter, even though many of us might not have felt much richer.


August: House and home

Image copyright Getty Images

Is my postcode better than your postcode? A Royal Mail survey on the most desirable places in England, Scotland and Wales got our readers clicking. The top spot in England went to Tidworth in Wiltshire, famous for its polo clubs.

Meanwhile, a rush to vacuum up powerful vacuum cleaners ahead of new EU regulations was our second most read story.


September: Balance sheet woes

Image copyright Getty Images

September was a bad month for UK companies. First, we learned that mobile phone retailer Phones 4U had gone into administration, putting 5,596 jobs at risk. Boss David Kassler blamed large network providers, some of whom had terminated their contracts with the firm.

Very soon, however, a much larger UK business was in the spotlight. Tesco suspended four executives, including its UK managing director, after the supermarket chain was found to have overstated its half-year profit guidance by £250m. The firm lost almost half of its market value as a result.


October: Feeling the pressure

Image copyright Thinkstock

The fragility of Europe's banks led the agenda once again, with news that 24 lenders had failed so-called "stress tests", which assess the ability of a bank to withstand another financial crisis. Mercifully, all UK banks involved passed the test.

However, the most-read story was about car tax - specifically the teething problems experienced as the UK moved from paper discs to an all-digital system. Thousands of drivers were unable to renew their car tax online, after the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency website was swamped.


November: Rules and regulations

Image copyright Thinkstock

A seminal ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, in which it was decided that some people working overtime could claim for additional holiday pay, led to protests by business groups, who claimed it would come at a significant expense to employers.

But one business sector thought better than to complain when it received some bad news. Six banks were collectively fined £2.6bn by UK and US regulators over their traders' attempted manipulation of foreign exchange rates, leading to contrite statements from RBS boss Ross McEwan, among others.


December: The mighty fall

Image copyright PA

As the year drew to a close, the plummeting price of oil dominated headlines, but the most-read story on the subject was about the effect of the fall on the North Sea energy industry. Economics reporter Ben King spoke to one executive who warned that the Granite City's main economy was "close to collapse".

Meanwhile, readers may have indulged in some schadenfreude, as they read that the City watchdog had banned a hedge fund manager who regularly avoided buying a train ticket from working in the financial services industry.

Related Topics