1. Buyers beware

As many as five special purpose acquisition companies (Spacs) were launched every working day in January, raising $26bn, reports The Economist. Spacs are publicly listed pots of capital run by investors who find firms to take public via merger, often quicker than an IPO. Hundreds made their debut in 2020. Spacs holding $100bn are hoping to buy companies worth $500bn in the next two years. But some experts see such structures as a cause of speculative booms and busts.

2. So, how are you?

In the competition to offer an education prized by employers, one university has cornered the market in small talk, reports The Times. BPP University Law School, a private UK college, is offering what’s thought to be the first module in chitchat and networking. Course head Georgie Nightingall said small talk was often maligned, but was important for opening social doors and expanding perspectives. An internal poll found 43% of its students feared they would be judged by the way they speak. A reader commented: "Quite a few politicians have been known for their lack of small talk: [Theresa] May, [Edward] Heath, Gordon Brown, etc. But the most famous was Enoch Powell. At the barber’s, when asked how he wanted his hair cut, he replied: ‘In silence.’"

3. Guilty pleasure?

Top chocolate maker Barry Callebaut has been named as a defendant in a case filed in the US on behalf of eight former Malian child labourers who allege that large cocoa processors "knowingly profited from the forced labour of children" in West Africa. A fast-growing antislavery chocolate brand, Tony’s Chocolonely, has been dropped from Slave Free Chocolate’s list of ethical makers because it is partly made using Barry Callebaut’s liquid chocolate. The Swiss-based firm opened its first Chocolate Academy in Africa in Sandton in 2018.

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