Afternoon Coffee: British Regulator Suggests Breaking Up Big Four Accounting Firms, Glencore Sells Portion of Cobalt Production to Chinese Company

The head of the U.K.’s Financial Reporting Council is urging an inquiry into the competitive dominance of KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY in the consulting and audit industries there, according to the Guardian. By spinning off those firms’ audit practices into separate businesses, the decision would seek to “increase competition and eliminate conflicts of interest arising from the dominance of the four firms.”

Glencore Cobalt Sale

Mining giant Glencore has sold a chunk of its cobalt production to GEM Co., a Shenzhen-listed chemicals firm, the Wall Street Journal reports. The agreement provides more than 50,000 metric tons of cobalt over three years, helping China to further secure supplies of the scarce metal. Skyrocketing demand for lithium-ion batteries has sent companies scrambling to lock down their own supplies of cobalt, prices for which have soared as a result.

Concur-Slack Partnership

Travel and expense spend management provider Concur announced earlier this week it has made its expense bot available in beta to Slack users, as well as introduced a new Concur Travel bot, the company writes in a blog post. The two bots can be engaged via Slack to handle tasks such as getting expense report approval, saving receipts, searching for flights and calling up itineraries, and linking payment to a user's loyalty programs.

Oil Demand 

And finally, an energy update: The International Energy Agency said Thursday it expects global oil demand to pick up more quickly than expected this year, Reuters reports, although supply is still growing at a faster pace. The Paris-based group raised its forecast for oil demand this year to 99.3 million barrels per day (bpd), from 97.8 million bpd in 2017.

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