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Year In Review: The 12 Days Of Business

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2012 has been a monumental year for business in the UK as the recession continued to bite and a high number of retailers were wiped from our high street.

Below, we take a look at the 12 most iconic days and weeks in the business calendar for 2012.

1) Banking bonus days in January

With the arrival of the new year, all eyes were on the tax-payer owned banks to see if any of them would be brazen enough to grant bonuses for their senior staff - never mind the fact that most bankers rely on their bonuses (and indeed have them written into contracts), tax-payers were outraged!

RBS chief Stephen Hester was eventually convinced to turn down his controversial £1 million bonus, which was only ever going to be in shares for the bank, after receiving "enormous political pressure" to do so. Indeed, Labour was considering putting a vote to the House of Commons if he had not rejected his bonus.

And it wasn't just politicians - Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King got in on the act too, attacking pay packages among bankers and called on banks to moderate pay ahead of the bonus season, adding that rewards should not go disproportionately to a small elite, especially one that benefited from the support of taxpayers.

The result? Historically low banker bonuses - The amount paid out in bonuses fell to £4.4 billion in 2011/12, less than half the peak of £11.6bn before the financial crisis and the lowest for eight years, according to economics consultancy CEBR.

2) Budget 2012

March brought one of the most austere Budgets the UK had seen in quite some time. George Osborne admitted it was taking longer for Britain to recover from the financial crisis than he hoped amid warnings that he will not meet his debt targets unless he hits households and businesses with more harsh austerity measures (sound familiar?), the Office for Budget Responsibility slashed its growth forecasts (also familiar) and public sector borrowing actually increased by £5m to £73.3bn.

Then you had the rather laughable Pasty Tax debacle which made a hero out of Greggs' chief executive, as well as u-turns on charity tax and caravan tax - which if nothing else, put government noses out of joint.

3) Facebook launches on the stock exchange - and then bombs

Facebook shares are were offered to the public on 18 May for a whopping $36 (£24) in one of the biggest ever US stock flotations. And despite the enormous price tag, millions of people bought shares. And then three months later, dumped them.

Despite a slight lift in September when Facebook announced it would launch Gifts - a service that enabled members to send virtual gifts to each other for real money - the stock slump continued.

And then to cap it all off, Morgan Stanley - the lead underwriter for the IPO - was fined $5 million by Massachusetts' securities regulators after they accused it of disclosing a revenue shortfall only to certain analysts and not the general public.

How much can you buy them for now? A mere $26. #fail.

4) London gets a #whalefail

No, not that image that Twitter used to put up when its servers fell over - this was JP Morgan Chase's London Whale which racked up £3.7bn in losses through disastrous trade decisions.

JP Morgan Chase admitted on 13 July that a series of botched bets designed to hedge against other investments had created losses of $5.8bn over the first half of 2012, much higher than its previous estimate of $2bn.

The three senior traders associated with the losses - believed to be one known as The London Whale and two other senior managers in London - swiftly followed chief investment officer Ina Drew out the door. And if you thought that was a bad trader...

5) Kweku Adoboli accused of being a rogue trader

After having his trial set in January, 14 September saw the start of the trial of the so-called Rogue Trader; Kweku Adoboli was accused of losing £1.4bn by recklessly trading on behalf of his employer Swiss bank UBS.

By 14 November, Adoboli had been found guilty of two counts of fraud and was jailed for seven years.

That wasn't the end of UBS's troubles however - A £940m fine for manipulating the London inter bank lending rate (more on that later), topping off a dreadful year which saw it fire 20 traders after conducting its own review into its processes, get fined £29 million for its systemic failings which allowed Adoboli's actions, lose £233 million on the flop that was the Facebook IPO, and binning up to 10,000 jobs, most of which will be from London.

6) Yahoo hires super-mum

Six months after Scott Thompson took over online giant Yahoo (and subsequently got found out for ever-so-slightly fibbing on his CV), the company appointed Marissa Meyer - who was mere weeks away from giving birth, making her the first pregnant woman (and the youngest person) to take charge of a Fortune 500 company.

She was six months pregnant when her appointment was announced and her decision to only take two weeks maternity leave prompted much debate amongst working women.

Sheila Lawlor from the thinktank Politeia suggested maternity leave was actually a burden for women, sparking outrage when she said in the Telegraph: "Companies are reluctant to give jobs to women of childbearing age."

July also saw the first rumblings of what would become known as the Libor crisis...

7) The nation learns what Libor is, and how it affects our pockets (sort of)

July saw the financial services watchdog the FSA announce it was investigating seven UK banks over their roles in manipulating the London interbank lending rate (Libor), following its £450m fine of Barclays for its part in the scandal in June.

But the FSA itself quickly faced accusations of being asleep on the job, with politicians continually asking awkward questions of chief executive Adair Turner about why the area was so little watched in the first place.

Then the Serious Fraud Office waded in, leading to a suggestion of criminal prosecutions on the horizon and bankers facing charges in court.

UK representatives of Barclays, HSBC and RBS were summoned by the Americans to explain themselves in August, and September saw the British Bankers Association step down from its role as Libor monitor - a role it never really wanted.

The SFO investigation will rumble into 2013, with three British nationals - aged 33, 41 and 47 - being taken to a London police station following searches at a property in Surrey and two premises in Essex in December.

8) Apple named the most valuable brand

Steve Jobs' legacy will be the continuing rise of the tech brand Apple, which was named by several different trend agencies as the top brand for 2012.

Stellar sales in both developed and emerging markets, along with continued innovation and the launch of the next generations of iPhones, iPods and iPads helped it to see off competition from its rivals.

The release of the iPhone 5 in September drew enormous crowds around the world - but a spat with Google resulted in it having inferior maps for several weeks - resulting in many mocking articles across the global press.

9) Half of British engineers threaten to leave the UK

Bit of a quirky one this, but it touched the hearts of thousands of our readers - a survey from a specialist recruitment agency revealed half of the UK's engineers were considering moving abroad because there was no work for them to do here.

Keith Lewis, Matchtech's managing director, told Huffington Post UK: "It’s no secret that the industry is currently struggling to attract the next generation of engineers, but, this is not a new issue, it's simply got worse over the last couple of decades.

"In recent years we have seen successive governments paying only lip service to what actually needs to be done and, as a result, other careers such as IT have emerged as more attractive avenues."

A number of blogs appeared on the subject, including suggestions that we were woefully under-manned when it came to the engineering projects of tomorrow.

Business secretary Vince Cable also seems to care however - announcing a wave of initiatives to try to bring back the passion for one of Britain's most well known industries.

10) Superstorm Sandy

While the devestation in the States was there for all to see, many British businesses were affected by Superstorm Sandy on 28 October too - not least the aviation industry.

British Airways had to axe most of its services to New York and neighbouring Newark and thousands of Brits stranded elsewhere in the US were unable to travel to New York to start making their way back to Blighty.

Oh, and a small news organisation called the Huffington Post was forced to come up with ingenius ways to get the news out after its servers were sunk six feet under water. Just saying.

11) Comet collapses into administration

And we thought people got emotional over Woolies. Comet went into administration on 1 November after its owners OpCapita failed to turn the business around.

Private equity firm OpCapita bought Comet for just £2 in February 2011, including taking on its substantial pension liabilities.

It had been hoped that OpCapita would be able to find a buyer for the chain, which employs 6,000 people, but a cash crunch in the run up to its crucial peak Christmas trading season, has led to OpCapita to call in Deloitte.

Then in the first week of December, it became clear the stores weren't going to be saved. Despite numerous rumours of entrepreneurs coming in to save the brand, or take it online only, administrators Deloitte said it had no choice but to close all of Comet's stores on 17 December.

Comet's demise was one of several in the retail space throughout 2012 - Blacks Leisure, La Senza, Peacocks and Clintons Cards all fell into administration, though some of them have since been revived in one form or another.

12) Tax, tax and more tax

2012 will be remembered as the year when Britain's got (sort of) tough on companies who weren't paying much corporation tax. Google, Amazon and Starbucks in particular got collared by MP Margaret Hodge during a committee hearing, but eBay, Vodafone and others were also highlighted throughout the year.

Google appeared less than bothered about the accusations, Amazon came out badly against Hodge and co, but it was Starbucks' whose name was most firmly dragged through the mud. Unlike Amazon and Google's services, coffee was quite easy to get somewhere else, and a mass social media campaign saw Starbucks bosses become worried about its reputation to the point where it volunteered more tax than it was legally required to pay.

Who knows what will happen in 2013, but chancellor Osborne has vowed to "get tough" on companies who seek to avoid paying tax through efficient overseas arrangements.

There's lots of areas Huff Post UK hasn't managed to squeeze in - such as the business impact of the Olympics, our declining pubs, the UK floods and their impact, the government introducing flexible parental leave - so let us know your biggest business moments of the year in the comments below.

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