Lidl overtakes Waitrose as UK’s seventh biggest supermarket

( via – – Tue, 22 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

Lidl has overtaken Waitrose as the nation’s seventh biggest supermarket after proving a hit with family shoppers, new figures show.

Lidl increased its market share to a record 5.2pc in the 12 weeks to August 14, according to research from Kantar Worldpanel.

The discount retailer has gained 0.7 percentage points of share in the last year, taking it above Waitrose and into the UK’s top seven supermarkets, as consumers turn further towards discount retailers.

During the three weels, Lidl sales grew by 18.9pc overall as it was boosted by families buying bigger baskets.

“Lidl is growing sales 40pc faster with families than with households without children,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retailer and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel.

“Families tend to buy more items each time they shop, so strong growth with this demographic has helped Lidl to increase its average basket size year on year.”

Fellow discounter Aldi, the fifth biggest chain, also enjoyed strong growth as sales jumped 17.2pc.

Overall, supermarket sales grew 4pc in the three months, although disappointing weather meant that sales of ice creams and burgers fell by 9pc and 25pc respectively.

Sales grew at the ‘big four’ supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – for the fifth consecutive period, but their collective grip on the market continued to slip.

“This welcome period of sustained growth has not been enough to entirely offset pressure from the discounters,” said Mr McKevitt. “The big four now account for just 69.3pc of the UK grocery market – down from 76.3pc five years ago – and that looks set to fall further in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, like-for-like grocery inflation picked up as it increased slightly to 3.3pc, which equates to an additional £138 on the average household’s annual grocery bill. UK-wide, inflation stood at 2.6pc in July, according to the Office for National Statistics.

By Sam Dean

Ford to Launch Car Scrappage Scheme in Britain

( via — Tue, 22 Aug 2016) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Ford on Tuesday became the latest carmaker to launch a car scrappage scheme in Britain, joining the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, after months of procrastination from the government over whether to begin a national program.

The U.S. automaker is offering customers a 2,000 pound discount off a range of many Ford models when they trade in their vehicles registered until the end of 2009.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Vauxhall, the British version of the Opel brand sold on the continent, have all launched similar schemes in recent weeks to incentivize motorists to reduce emissions by replacing their gas-guzzling models with greener cars.

The plans come after Britain once again delayed in July a decision over whether to introduce a nationwide or targeted vehicle scrappage scheme, with a consultation due to take place later this year, despite worries over emissions levels.

“Ford shares society’s concerns over air quality,” its managing director in Britain Andy Barratt said on Tuesday.

“Removing generations of the most polluting vehicles will have the most immediate positive effect on air quality.”

Ford, BMW, Vauxhall and Mercedes sell around 1 million cars in Britain, more than a third of all new car registrations.

The scrappage schemes will help support sales at a time when demand for new cars is beginning to slide substantially for the first time in around six years.

In July, new car registrations fell for the fourth consecutive month in a row, hit by a number of factors including uncertainty over Brexit and lack of clarity over future government plans around new levies on diesel models.

Britain’s last government-backed scrappage scheme came in the wake of the financial crisis and ran for nearly a year from mid-2009, helping to support the car sector, which had been hit by nose-diving sales.

By Costas Pitas

Total to Buy Maersk’s oil and gas business in $7.45 billion deal

( via — Mon, 21 Aug 2017) London, UK —

PARIS/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Total (TOTF.PA) is buying Maersk’s oil and gas business in a $7.45 billion deal which the French energy major said would strengthen its operations in the North Sea and boost earnings and cash flow.

For Danish company A.P. Moller Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), the sale of Maersk Oil, with reserves equivalent to around 1 billion barrels of oil, fits with a strategy of focusing on its shipping business and other activities announced last year.

The world’s top oil companies have been back on the takeover trail over the last year, helped by signs of a recovery in the oil market.

Total expects its biggest oil deal since it acquired Elf in 2000 to generate financial synergies of more than $400 million per year, in particular by combining assets in the North Sea.

Total has been betting on new rather than mature fields in the North Sea and the acquisition gives it further economies of scale by making it the second largest player in the region.

The deal illustrates Total’s strategy of using a strong balance sheet to acquire attractive assets from competitors having emerged from the prolonged oil downturn stronger than some of its rivals.

“It was time for us to do what a real oil and gas company would do in a period such as this when prices are lower and costs are down. Either launch new projects or acquire new reserves at attractive prices,” Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne told reporters.

The purchase also signals some oil majors are prepared to invest to replenish reserves and boost production, anticipating an oil price recovery. With current prices of $50 per barrel most majors are simply struggling to balance their books.


Pouyanne said that Total had proposed a deal to Maersk as an alternative to floating the business.

“There was a debate within Maersk and they finally accepted given that it was attractive and also the fact that an IPO in a tense oil market would not be a right move,” he said, adding that no other oil major was bidding for the assets.

Under the terms of the deal, A.P. Moller Maersk will get $4.95 billion in Total shares and Total will assume $2.5 billion of Maersk Oil’s debt.

Maersk said it plans to return a “material portion of the value of the received Total S.A. shares” to shareholders in 2018 and 2019 in the form of extraordinary dividend, share buyback or distribution of shares in Total.

Soren Skou, who took charge of Maersk last year, has embarked on a major restructuring to concentrate on its transport and logistics businesses and separate its energy operations in the face of a drop in income.

Skou said he had not decided whether to take up the offer of a seat on the Total board.

Analysts at Jefferies said the price was 5 percent ahead of its estimates and 18 percent more than consensus of $6.3 billion.

AP Moller Maersk shares were up 3.7 percent by 0900 GMT while Total shares dipped 0.7 percent.

The Danish oil company has access to high-quality fields in the Norwegian and UK North Sea.

Maersk has a 8.44 percent stake in the giant Johan Sverdrup project led by Norway’s Statoil (STL.OL) which is expected to start pumping 440,000 barrels per day in 2019, rising to 660,000 bpd by 2022.

Maersk is currently developing the Culzean gas field which is expected to start production in 2019 and which could supply up to 5 percent of Britain’s gas demand.

Maersk lost a long-standing agreement to operate Al-Shaheen in Qatar to Total last year, but is according to media reports in talks with Iran to develop the oil layer of the South Pars field, which is an extension of the Qatari field.

Total last month signed a major deal with Iran to develop the gas part of South Pars.

Total also said it was investing $3.5 billion over five years in Qatar’s offshore Al Shaheen oilfield .

By Bate Felix and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Karolin Schaps, Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

China’s Great Wall Motor Company interested in bidding for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Alessio Costantini/Flickr

( via – – Mon, 21 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

China’s Great Wall Motor Company has said it is interested in bidding for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which owns brands including Jeep and the truck maker Ram.

A company official confirmed it was pursuing all or part of FCA after the US publication Automotive News reported that a “well-known Chinese automaker” had made an offer this month, triggering a jump in FCA’s Milan-listed shares.

“With respect to this case, we currently have an intention to acquire,” a statement from Great Wall said on Monday. “We are interested in [FCA].”

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive, is seeking a partner or buyer for the Italian-American group to help it manage rising costs, comply with emissions regulations and develop technology for electric and self-driving cars. An acquisition by Great Wall Motor would be audacious, and one of China’s highest profile manufacturing deals to date.

Earlier on Monday, two sources said Great Wall Motor had asked for a meeting with FCA, with the aim of making an offer for all or part of the world’s seventh-largest carmaker. Citing an email from Great Wall’s president, Wang Fengying, Automotive News reported that Great Wall had contacted FCA to express interest specifically in the Jeep brand.

The industry publication said the Chinese company had not made a formal offer or met FCA’s board. Automotive News quoted a spokesman as saying: “Our strategic goal is to become the world’s largest SUV [sport utility vehicle] maker.” “Acquiring Jeep, a global SUV brand, would enable us to achieve our goal sooner and better [than on our own].”

FCA shares rose 3.9% to €11.12 in early Milan trading, outperforming a flat market. Great Wall Motor shares were up almost 3% in Shanghai.

FCA was not immediately available to comment on interest in the group.

Yale Zhang, head of the Shanghai consultancy Automotive Foresight, commented: “Jeep is the most logical choice since (Great Wall) wants to be the largest SUV maker in the world.” Ram could be an option, he added, but “the Jeep brand is recognised globally. I think Great Wall Motor is eyeing a global strategy, not just the United States.”

A move for FCA or one of its main brands, if successful, would allow Great Wall Motor to accelerate a planned push into the U.S. market, the two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

They said Great Wall Motor had been making plans for some time to enter the U.S. market, mainly by upgrading some of its key products and improving branding.

The company this year launched its Wei brand of potentially US-market-ready vehicles. Wei is the surname of the Great Wall founder and chairman Wei Jianjun.

5 Things Successful People Never Say


Thinking about giving up that lightbulb moment idea, think again. When you believe you have truly run out of steam maybe there might be just one little thing you may not have thought of. So in order to achieve that goal here are five things true successful entrepreneurs never let enter into their vocabulary.


Harmonie Krieger, Founder of Pop Your Shop, Success Story


Harmonie Krieger, Founder of Pop Your Shop, says you have to be nuts. You have to love what you do. You have to change your mindset in order to be a good entrepreneur.

Starting a business is TOUGH. Wanting to give up everyday is not a crazy thing, you have to power through it. Harmonie’s advice: change the way you think. She was so overwhelmed, didn’t know where to begin, couldn’t relax. So she started with deep breaths, self-help books, and changing her mindset.

Harmonie believes determination, being hungry, and having the drive are fundamental for success. “Just go for it, just keep going because if you stop, the hustle stops. The passion dies. You don’t have it anymore… It doesn’t matter what the hustle is, it just matters that you move forward.”

She talks about the importance of allocating the things you aren’t good at to other people, so that you don’t spend more time on the things you can’t really do well.

Last words of advice: Find a mentor. Ask for help.

The Worlds 10 Coolest Cinemas to Watch A Movie


10 Best Looking & Coolest Cinemas You Will Want to See a Movie
when’s the last time you went to see a movie at the cinema? How was the experience? Did it raise up to the expectation?
This video takes a look at some of the coolest cinema concepts in the world where going to the movies is more than ordinary.

The Department Store Evolution and How They Changed The Way We Shop

( via – – Sat, 19 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

“No, I’m just looking.” Words most of us have said when approached politely by a sales assistant while browsing in a shop. Most of us will not have then experienced the sales assistant snarling: “Then ‘op it, mate!”

Hearing those words in a London shop made quite an impression on Harry Gordon Selfridge.

The year was 1888, and the flamboyant American was touring the great department stores of Europe – in Vienna, Berlin, the famous Bon Marche in Paris and then Manchester and London – to see what tips he could pick up for his then-employer, Chicago’s Marshall Field.

Field popularised the phrase “the customer is always right”. Evidently, not yet the case in England.

Two decades later, Selfridge was back in London, opening his eponymous department store on Oxford Street – now a global destination for retail, then an unfashionable backwater, but handily near a station on a newly opened Tube line.

Selfridges caused a sensation, partly due to its sheer size: the retail space covered six acres (24,000 sq m).


Selfridge also installed the largest glass windows in the world – and created, behind them, the most sumptuous shop displays.

But more than scale, what set Selfridges apart was attitude.

Harry Gordon Selfridge introduced a whole new shopping experience, one honed in the department stores of late-19th Century America.

“Just looking” was positively encouraged.

As he had in Chicago, Selfridge swept away the previous custom of stashing merchandise behind locked glass doors in cabinets, or high up on unreachable shelves.

Instead, he laid out the open aisle displays we now take for granted, where you can touch a product, pick it up, and inspect it from all angles, without a salesperson hovering by your side.

In the full-page newspaper adverts he took out when his store opened, Selfridge compared the “pleasures of shopping” to those of “sightseeing”.

Shopping had long been bound up with social display.

The old arcades of the great European cities, displaying their fine cotton fashions – gorgeously lit with candles and mirrors – were places for the upper classes not only to see but to be seen.

Selfridge had no truck with snobbery or exclusivity. His adverts pointedly welcomed the “whole British public”: “No cards of admission are required.”

‘The bottom of the pyramid’

Management consultants nowadays talk about the fortune to be found at the “bottom of the pyramid” – Selfridge was way ahead of them. In his Chicago store, he appealed to the working classes by dreaming up the concept of the “bargain basement”.

Selfridge did perhaps more than anyone to invent shopping as we know it. But the ideas were in the air.

Another trailblazer was an Irish immigrant named Alexander Turney Stewart. Stewart introduced New Yorkers to the shocking concept of not hassling customers the moment they walked through the door, a novel policy he called “free entrance”.

AT Stewart and Co was among the first stores to practice the now-ubiquitous “clearance sale”, periodically moving on old stock at knockdown prices to make room for new.

Stewart also offered no-quibble refunds. He made customers pay in cash, or settle their bills quickly. Traditionally, shoppers had strung out their lines of credit for up to a year.

He also recognised that not everybody liked to haggle, with many welcoming the simplicity of being quoted a fair price, and being told to take it or leave it.

Stewart made this “one-price” approach work by accepting unusually low mark-ups. “[I] put my goods on the market at the lowest price I can afford,” he said, “although I realise only a small profit on each sale, the enlarged area of business makes possible a large accumulation of capital”.

This idea wasn’t totally unprecedented, but it was certainly considered radical.

The first salesman Stewart hired was appalled to discover he’d not be allowed to apply his finely tuned skill of sizing up the customer’s apparent wealth and extracting as extravagant a price as possible. He resigned on the spot, telling the youthful Irish shopkeeper he’d be bankrupt within a month.

Cathedrals of Commerce

By the time Stewart died, over five decades later, he was one of the richest men in New York.

The great department stores became cathedrals of commerce. At Stewart’s “Marble Palace”, the shopkeeper boasted: “You may gaze upon a million dollars’ worth of goods, and no man will interrupt either your meditation or your admiration.”

They took shopping to another level, sometimes literally.

Corvin’s in Budapest installed a lift that became such an attraction in its own right that they began to charge for using it. In London, Harrods’s moving staircase carried 4,000 people an hour.

In such shops, one could buy anything from cradles to gravestones.

Harrods offered a full funeral service. There were picture galleries, smoking rooms, tea rooms, concerts. The shop displays bled out into the street, as entrepreneurs built covered galleries around their stores.

It was, says historian Frank Trentmann, the birth of “total shopping”.

The glory days of the city centre department store have faded a little. With the rise of cars has come the out-of-town shopping mall, where land is cheaper.

Tourists in England still enjoy Harrods and Selfridges, but many also head to Bicester Village, a few miles north of Oxford, an outlet that specialises in luxury brands at a discount.

But the experience of going to the shops has changed remarkably little since pioneers such as Stewart and Selfridge turned it on its head. And it may be no coincidence that they did it at a time when women were gaining in social and economic power.

There are, of course, some tired stereotypes about women and their supposed love of shopping. But the evidence implies that the stereotypes aren’t completely imaginary.

By Tim Harford

Duty Free Booze Cruise Looks Set to Return

( via – – Fri, 18 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

It could happen in March 2019 when the UK leaves the customs union. Or it could be two or three years later if the proposed transitionary period is adopted. Nobody knows until it is settled at the Brexit talks. But the return of duty-free shopping on travel to and from the UK appears to be only a matter of time. After two decades docked in port, the booze cruise is set for a comeback.

The abolition of intra-European Union duty free on July 1st, 1999, was a landmark for the single market. It was one of those tangible moments that punctured the pall of Brussels bureaucracy for citizens, reaching into their everyday lives. No more cheap Superkings on the ferry back from Holyhead.

The abolition was originally pencilled in for 1993, when the single market was established, but European governments gave duty free a six-year reprieve after howls of protest from airports and airlines, ferry operators and the trade unions whose members staffed their duty-free shops.

Intra-EU duty free was an estimated €5 billion market back then, when the bloc had just 15 members. In the current age of high-frequency, low-cost air travel, who knows what the pot might reach this time on travel in and out of Britain?

Ireland-UK air passenger traffic is now approaching 12.8 million annually, with another 2.2 million on ferries. For Irish and British travel companies, that’s a new, 15 million-strong retail market that will soon be ripe for tapping.

But when? As soon as possible, if the industry gets its way.

‘Potential benefit’
Kevin Toland, the outgoing chief executive of airport operator DAA, told an Oireachtas committee in June that duty free on UK flights should commence “immediately” upon Brexit in 2019, “regardless of any transitional arrangements”.
The DAA said this week that, overall, “Brexit is a negative” but the potential reintroduction of duty free is “clearly a potential benefit” for Dublin and Cork airports.

“The exact relationship between the UK and the European Union post Brexit still remains unclear, but our hope would be that duty-free sales on travel between EU states and the UK would resume as soon as the UK leaves the EU rather than having to wait for the end of any transitional period,” it said.

The UK Chamber of Shipping, whose members include Irish Ferries, P&O and Stena, also wants the British government to push for the “automatic” reintroduction of duty free in 2019. Politicians on both sides have so far remained coy.

Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, says it is too early to speculate on the reintroduction of duty free on its flights to and from the UK. But the airline, ever alert for opportunities to boost ancillary revenues, has a plan.
“We have contingency plans in place for all eventualities,” Jacobs said.
For Irish travellers to the UK, a cursory examination indicates that the potential savings on alcohol and cigarettes – the most common duty-free fare – will be significant: up to 60 per cent on cigarettes and more on many spirits.

But given the fact that not even the most senior Brexit negotiators in London and Brussels have a clue what it will look like, we must make a few assumptions.

Let’s assume that, post Brexit, duty free returns at the pre-1999 allowances, which still exist for travel to all areas outside the EU. This means passengers returning to Ireland from the UK should each be able to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, one litre of spirts, four litres of wine, 16 litres of beer, and €430 worth of other goods.

Duty free must be carried across a customs border under the rules. So Irish passengers flying to Britain from Dublin, for example, will not be able to use the airport’s intra-EU “shop and collect” service, which allows them buy goods on the way out and pick up on the way home. Irish shoppers will have to buy their inbound duty free aboard the ferry or aircraft home, or airside in a British airport.

World Duty Free is the biggest UK operator, operating at airports such as Heathrow. This week, it was advertising duty-free one-litre bottles of Jameson whiskey for £15.89 (€17.40). The same bottle was this week listed in Tesco Ireland for €36, and €47 in SuperValu, a saving of up to 62 per cent.
A one-litre bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin in Heathrow’s duty free currently costs €23.47. In Tesco Ireland, the same gin is priced at €42.85 per litre (based upon the €29.99 cost of a 70cl bottle), or 82 per cent more expensive.

One litre of Absolut Elyx top-shelf vodka is €51.56 at World of Duty Free in Heathrow, but currently €64 in SuperValu for 70cl (€91.42 a litre). That is a saving of 43 per cent on the Irish price. Another Cosmopolitan, please!

World of Duty Free doesn’t list cigarette prices online, but British Airways lists 200 Benson & Hedges on its “high-life” shop (where you purchase online and collect on the aircraft) for £41 (€45.04). It would cost €115 to buy 200 B&H in an Irish shop, a saving (for your wallet, if not your blackened lungs) of 60 per cent.Duty free means no VAT, customs or excise taxes. As excise is a volume-based tax, regardless of the product’s value, its effect is more pronounced on cheaper items. For example, excise adds the exact same cash cost to an €8 bottle of plonk as a €1,000 of the finest Bordeaux, but proportionally more.

Therefore, the savings can be less stark when buying high-end wines on duty free, and sometimes there is no saving at all. A bottle of 2011 Chateau Lynch-Bages, a fine Pauillac, is £165 (€180) at World of Duty Free in the UK. You can pick up the exact same wine in Le Caveau in Kilkenny for €119.

But overall, Irish travellers to the UK are in line for cheaper prices on booze and drink on the way home. The alcohol retail industry in Ireland is worried about the impact of the reintroduction of duty free on sales here, especially at peak times. The manufacturing industry should be broadly unaffected.
“It will be quite damaging at key holiday periods, such as Christmas,” said Evelyn Jones, public affairs director of off-licence lobby group Noffla and the owner of the Vintry in Rathgar, south Dublin.
“Lots of Irish emigrants would be travelling home at Christmas, and you can be sure they’d use their allowance to bring a bottle. It will have a particular impact on premium spirits.”
Noffla is signed up to the wider drink industry’s campaign for a budget cut in excise taxes, which in Ireland are among the highest in Europe. The industry wants an across-the-board cut of 15 per cent, which seems unlikely as it would cost the exchequer €223 million. Try selling the cost of that policy to the public when there’s an acute homelessness crisis.
But Jones says a cut would help offset the effects of a reintroduction of duty free to the UK: “Duty free will also encourage more illicit trade.”
Aviation industry
Britain’s departure from the EU is, overall, likely to be huge negative for the aviation industry. The possible reintroduction of duty free will not be enough of a silver lining to make the Brexit more bearable. Analysts have not built any potential boon into the forecasts for listed airlines, such as Ryanair.
“It might help airlines at the margins,” said Stephen Furlong of Davy stockbrokers. “This is probably something that will be bigger for the ferry operators, where onboard spending and the historical capture of duty-free sales was more material to their performance.”
Gerard Moore, an analyst with Investec, says Irish Continental Group, the stock-market owner of Irish Ferries, generated as much as “roughly half” its net profits from onboard duty-free sales in the late 1990s. That old rythmical clinkety-clink of the duty-free shop rolling on the waves was the sound of philharmonic profitability for ICG and its boss, Eamonn Rothwell.
“It would be a big silver lining once again for ICG,” said Moore. “The company’s view now is, if duty free came back, they’d do a much better job of retailing it this time round. But it might not make up such a significant slice of profits.”
He agrees that airlines would have less to gain, but “if anyone can do it, Ryanair can do it”.
Datalex, the stock market-listed travel software company backed by Dermot Desmond, helps airlines design digital systems to boost their ancillary earnings from activities such as retail.
Ornagh Hoban, its chief marketing officer, said Ireland-UK airlines could “invent a digital marketplace for duty free” by pushing sales on passengers at the booking stage or on the airline’s website, allowing travellers to pick up their goods at the airport or on the aircraft.
“Duty free as an opportunity could evolve to a greater stage. It might be an even bigger opportunity than before,” she says.
The return of duty free is often conflated with customs and the issue of Ireland’s border with the six counties of Northern Ireland, which upon Brexit will become the EU’s only supra-national frontier with the UK.

But there is unlikely to be any duty free between the North and the republic. Duty-free sales happen in transit or at ports of exit. There are currently no direct flights between the Republic and the North. Duty free is unlikely to be much of a factor, unless someone opens a drive-through facility on the M1.
There has always been smuggling across the Border, however. Here’s a potential scenario to finish up that might help illustrate the unintended consequences of the Brexit vote, and the spaghetti bowl of problems facing the negotiators.
This summer, a new car ferry began operating across Carlingford Lough from Co Louth to Co Down. Its owners have said the reintroduction of duty free to UK travel could create an opportunity for the business.
It is only a 15-minute crossing, however. That wouldn’t leave much time to ditch the car on the ferry and leg it up to duty free for a carton of Marlboro and a few bottles of Campo Viejo.
But let’s assume duty free is allowed on the short crossing. What will there be to stop some enterprising soul spending all day, every day, crossing over and back from each side of the lough on the ferry, maxing out their duty free allowance on each journey, and “gifting” the haul to accomplices on either bank?

UK Exports to the EU benefits from surge in sales in the first half of this year

( via – – Fri, 18 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Britain’s factories benefited from a surge in sales to the EU in the first half of this year as export growth outstripped import growth.

The UK still imports far more than it exports leaving the country with a goods deficit amounting to €53bn (£48bn) for the six months to June in its trade with the EU, but that is down from €57.8bn in the same period of 2016.

A weaker pound means British-made goods are more competitive abroad, while imports are more expensive to UK companies and consumers.

Britain exports €104bn of goods to the rest of the world, outweighing the €94.7bn of goods it sends to EU customers. But UK imports from the EU amount to €147.7bn, while those from elsewhere come in at €134.7bn.

The UK’s total trade deficit has shrunk from €102.2bn in the first half of 2016 to €83.7bn this year.

The annual snapshot of international trade, published by Eurostat, lends weight to arguments that the EU depends heavily on Britain’s market for its products but also showed that British business relies on trade with the bloc.

The British trade deficit could give leverage to British Brexit negotiators who travel to Brussels for the third round of talks next month. This week the government published a position paper calling for UK-EU trade to remain as frictionless as possible.

In June Germany exported almost twice as much to Britain as it imported – €6.8bn to €3.6bn – leaving the UK with a €3.2bn deficit in the month.

France, the other member state with the most influence on the Brexit talks, sold €2.9bn-worth of goods to Britain and imported just over €2.7bn, leaving a more modest gap of €178m.

But Britain sold more goods to Ireland (€1.9bn) than it imported (€1.2bn). Preserving the “invisible border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be discussed by British and EU Brexit negotiators in the week of August 28.

At the same time the Food and Drinks Federation said exports from Britain soared 8.5pc to a record high of £10.2bn in the first half of the year.

“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU Member States,” said the group’s director general Ian Wright.

“The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still.”

By James Crisp Tim Wallace

Minimum Wage Workers Compensated £2m Refund

Scott Lewis/Flickr

( via – – Thur, 17 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

Workers whose bosses failed to pay the National Minimum Wage are to be refunded a record £2m, the government has revealed.

In its latest “name and shame” campaign, it lists 230 employers which have not complied with the law.

In total 13,000 employees have received – or will receive – compensation for their loss of pay.

Among the worst offenders was the retailer Argos, as well as hairdressers and beauty treatment businesses.

About 50 employers in the hospitality sector – including two fish and chip shops – were fined for not paying the minimum wage or the National Living Wage for those aged over 25.

  • Hundreds of firms failing to pay minimum wage
  • The National Living Wage and you


However the largest fine, of £800,000, was levied on Argos.

In February Argos admitted failing to pay 37,000 staff an average of £64 each. However, only a third of those are included in the latest figures, as the others were no longer working for the company at the time.

Employees had been required to attend briefings before their shifts started, but without being paid. They also had to undergo security searches after their shifts ended.

Sainsbury’s, which bought Argos a year ago, has already apologised for the mistake.

“I am pleased to say the issue was resolved quickly, and processes have been updated to ensure this cannot happen again,” said John Rogers, the chief executive of Argos.


Despite the government’s apparent success in cracking down on pay, it is thought that hundreds of thousands of workers are still not getting their legal entitlement.

In October last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) put the figure at 362,000.

The TUC said the problem was still far from being solved.

“We know there are more wage-dodging employers out there,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary. “TUC research suggests there are at least a quarter of a million workers being cheated out of the minimum wage.”

The current rate for the National Living Wage is £7.50 per hour.

The adult rate for the National Minimum Wage is £7.05 for those between 21 and 24.

Kingfisher Home Improvement Retailer Report Fall in Quarterly Sales

( via — Thur, 17 Aug 2017) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Kingfisher (KGF.L), Europe’s largest home improvement retailer, reported another fall in quarterly sales on Thursday, hurt by a slowdown at its B&Q business in the UK, weak sales in France and continued disruption from its restructuring plan.

The firm, which trades as B&Q and Screwfix in Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said it remained cautious on the outlook for the second half.

Kingfisher is in the second year of a plan to boost annual profit by 500 million pounds from 2021 that will cost 800 million pounds over five years to deliver. It involves unifying product ranges across the business, improving e-commerce capabilities and driving efficiencies.

The group said like-for-like sales fell 1.9 percent in its second quarter to July 31 – a deterioration from a fall of 0.6 percent in the previous quarter.

Like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland fell 1.0 percent and were down 3.8 percent in France.

In the UK B&Q’s like-for-like sales fell 4.7 percent – worse than analysts’ expectations of a fall of about 3 percent. It reflected a 10.7 percent dip in the sales of seasonal goods such as barbecues and garden furniture, after a strong first quarter boosted by better weather. Screwfix’s like-for-like sales rose 10.8 percent.

“Having been very aware that this year would be challenging given the step up in transformation activity, we already have self-help plans in place to support our overall Year 2 performance,” said Chief Executive Véronique Laury.

Kingfisher said it was comfortable with analysts’ average forecast of underlying earnings per share of 26 pence for the full 2017-18 year.

Shares in the firm, down 12 percent so far this year, closed Wednesday at 307.4 pence, valuing the business at 6.72 billion pounds.

By James Davey

UK Watchdog Fine PWC £1.5m Over Auditing Misconduct

( via – – Wed, 16 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

Britain’s accounting watchdog has fined audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP a record £5.1 million (€5.6 million) and given it a severe reprimand after it admitted misconduct when auditing collapsed accounting firm RSM Tenon.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said PwC and senior audit partner Nicholas Boden admitted a series of failures when they signed off RSM Tenon’s accounts for the year to June 2011.

“The admitted acts of misconduct include failures to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence and failures to exercise sufficient professional scepticism,” it said in a statement.

The FRC warned last month that accountants should challenge information provided by clients.

RSM Tenon, which had been listed on the London stock market, collapsed in 2013 and its assets were taken over by Baker Tilly.

The FRC said PwC’s misconduct was extensive, comprising five separate admitted acts in relation to the accrual of bonus payments, the accounting for a lease, the assessment of goodwill impairment and other aspects of the audit.

The FRC said PwC had to pay a fine of £6 million, reduced to £5.1 million after a settlement discount as well as a 500,000 pound contribution to the watchdog’s costs.

Boden, who was PwC’s senior audit partner for RSM Tenon, was fined £114,750 and given a severe reprimand.

PwC, one of the world’s top four accounting firms, said it accepted the FRC’s findings and was sorry that aspects of the audit carried out in 2011 fell short of professional standards.

“We continually review and update our audit processes in response to both internal reviews and external inspection findings. Audit quality is of paramount importance and our annual Audit Quality Reviews show year-on-year improvements,” PwC said in a statement.

In May, PwC was fined a then record £5 million over the way it checked the books of collapsed social housing maintenance company Connaugh

UK to Propose Interim Customs Agreement with EU After Brexit


The British government is proposing an interim customs agreement with the European Union after Brexit to allow trade to continue as freely as possible once the UK leaves the EU.

The Brexit Minister David Davis says that under the plan, existing customs arrangements would broadly stay in place during an interim period.

The UK has said it will leave the EU’s Customs Union – its tariff-free trading area – and the Single Market when its membership of the bloc ends in March 2019.

Rail Fares Hit by Biggest Annual Increase in Five Years

David Baldock/Flickr

( via – – Tue, 15 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Rail fares for commuters in England and Wales will increase by 3.6% from next year, adding pressure to incomes already squeezed by higher prices.

The rise, the biggest annual increase in five years, is set by the government and linked to July’s retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation announced by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday. The higher fares will take effect from January.

Economists had expected RPI to increase to 3.5% in July, while rail fares rose by 2.3% at the start of 2017 based on last year’s figures.

The change applies to about 40% of rail fares, including season tickets on many commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and anytime tickets around major cities. So-called regulated fares are set by the government but normally provide the benchmark for rises across the network.

Unions and campaigners have been holding protests against the rises at railway stations around the country.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said government policies of holding down wages while allowing fares to rise was a “toxic combination”. He said: “The private operators and government say the rises are necessary to fund investment but the reality is that they are pocketing the profits while passengers are paying more for less with rail engineering work being delayed or cancelled, skilled railway jobs being lost and staff cut on trains, stations and at ticket offices.”

The Aslef general secretary, Mick Whelan, called for the system to be reformed, saying: “The government must intervene to make fares simpler, fairer and cheaper in Brexit Britain. Passengers and taxpayers will rightly be asking what they are paying for.”

He said fares should at the least be linked to the consumer price index (CPI), which rose by 2.6% in July, rather than RPI.

Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, called for a fares freeze: “[The government’s] frozen fuel duty for the last seven years and we think rail fares should be given the same treatment.”

Joseph also said it was unacceptable that the government continued to use the higher RPI rate to calculate rail fare rises. “Passengers would be forgiven for thinking they are being taken for a ride when RPI has been dropped as an official measure for most other things.”

The rail industry defended the steep increase. Paul Plummer, the chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train companies and Network Rail, said: “Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain. It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI.”

Inflation had been expected to rise again after an unexpected fall in June, helped by falling fuel prices, which offset the rising costs of food, clothing and household goods.

Although CPI did not resume its upward trajectory last month, it is still running above the government’s 2% inflation target and outstripping the pace of wage rises. That has led to a rising cost of living, heaping pressure on households. Consumers are using credit cards to fund spending and the Bank of England has expressed alarm about the increase in personal debt.

Chris Williamson, the chief business economist at data company IHS Markit, said there were still risks “skewed towards inflation rising in coming months”, while wage growth is expected to remain below 2%.

ames Tucker, the head of CPI inflation at the Office for National Statistics, said RPI was not seen as a good measure by the statistics authority. However, the Treasury said the use of RPI was “consistent with the general approach adopted across the rail industry”, while the measure is used to account for inflation in the cost of running train services.

“Although inflation is likely to start falling next year, we understand some families are concerned today about the cost of living,” a Treasury spokesperson added.

Labour said the latest rise meant the average commuter will be paying £2,888 for their season ticket in January, £694 more than they paid in 2010. Some are paying over £2,500 more to travel to work than in 2010, it added.

A Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston will now cost £10,567, while season tickets on some routes have risen by more than 40% since 2010. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said the rises were “truly staggering”, adding: “The truth is that our fragmented, privatised railway drives up costs and leaves passengers paying more for less. The railways need serious reform.”

In Scotland, the blow for some rail travellers will be eased slightly as the Scottish government plans to limit regulated off-peak fares to an increase of 1% below RPI, or 2.6%, although season tickets will rise at the RPI rate.

By Richard Partington and Gwyn Topham

Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset 11bn Merger

( via – – Tue, 15 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

The £11bn merger between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management has completed, creating Europe’s second-biggest fund manager.

A Stock Exchange announcement confirmed the deal’s conclusion, following court approval for the merger last week.

The enlarged company, which will trade as Standard Life Aberdeen, will hold £670bn under management.

Co-chief executive Keith Skeoch described the move as the “beginning of a new chapter” in the firms’ history.

Mr Skeoch said: “Our leadership team is in place and we have full business readiness from day one.”

The merger, which was agreed in March, is targeting cost savings of £200m a year, with about 800 jobs expected to be lost over three years from a global workforce of 9,000.

The new company will be jointly led by Mr Skeoch and Aberdeen boss Martin Gilbert.

Mr Gilbert said: “As ever our priority remains the delivery of strong investment performance and the highest level of client service.

“The merger deepens and broadens our investment capabilities and gives us a stronger and more diverse range of investment management skills as well as significant scale across asset classes and geographies.”

Overall, Standard Life Aberdeen will have offices in 50 cities around the world, servicing clients in 80 countries.

ALDI takes on Amazon by Launching US Online Grocery Delivery Service

( via – – Mon, 14 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Aldi is ramping up its ambitions in the US and taking on retail giant Amazon in the process with a new venture into online grocery delivery.

The German discounter has partnered with Instacart, the US venture-backed same-day delivery startup, to get its products into customers’ hands.

Not content with giving the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s a run for their money in the UK, Aldi outlined its ambitions to become the third biggest grocery chain in the US in June.

And now, the Instacart partnership will bring groceries – including fresh fruit and veg – to customers in three US cities (Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas), in as little as an hour in an initial trial “with potential for future expansion”.

Five-year-old Instacart rivals Amazon Fresh and serves more than 30 states and cities in the US. The deal comes after Amazon’s blockbuster $14bn takeover of Whole Foods.

Aldi launched home delivery in the UK for the first time last year for wine, furniture and other items, but not groceries.

By Lynsey Barber

Wilko employees on alert as cost cutting measures leaves 4000 jobs at risk

( via – – Mon, 14 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Wilko is consulting with 3,900 employees about a shake-up of shop staffing roles, the latest retailer over the past week to axe jobs amid rising costs and a tough trading environment.

The value retailer said that it was stripping out a level of supervision roles across its stores in the UK but would create 1,000 new senior roles as part of the changes and a significant amount of customer service roles.

Anthony Houghton, Wilko retail director, said that the move was necessary to ensure “all retail operations are fit for the future”. Mr Houghton added that despite growing customer numbers and efforts to reduce costs, the challenging landscape meant that it was dragging profits lower.

Wilko’s consultation with staff will run until October and will affect “thousands” of store staff, according to Retail Week, which first reported the staffing change.

Wilko’s most recent accounts reveal that its pre-tax profits crashed by 80pc in the year to January 28, after a £12.9m hit from a jump in costs associated with the sterling slump following the EU Referendum. Wilko also criticised the introduction of the National Living Wage, which it said “was well above expected levels” and had hurt discount retailers.

Mr Houghton said that the changes to staffing were the “legacy of retail structures that created complexity to manage which aren’t simple, fair or transparent for our team members. The simpler, newly defined store structure will give teams greater variety within their roles and result in more team hours on the shop floor, delivering a better customer experience”.

Wilko follows Asda earlier this week in announcing that hundreds of jobs could be at risk as the supermarket plans to make changes to 18 underperforming stores.

Sainsbury’s is also taking the axe to more than 1,000 jobs at its head office as part of a giant £500m cost-cutting drive, as revealed by the Sunday Telegraph.

By Ashley Armstrong,