UK Watchdog Fine PWC £1.5m Over Auditing Misconduct

(qlmbusinessnews.com via Irishtimes.com – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – 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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – 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,

Asda Targets Staffing Levels to Cut Costs After Poor Annual Results

 

grassrootsgroundswell/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 11 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

UK’s third-largest supermarket targets staffing levels to cut costs after worst annual results since Walmart takeover

Thousands of Asda workers are facing redundancy or a dramatic cut in their working hours as Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain looks to cut costs.

Asda has begun a consultation with 3,257 employees in 18 underperforming stores, singled out as overstaffed relative to their current sales performance.

Asda posts worst annual figures since Walmart takeover
Read more
The Guardian has learned Asda is also looking at staffing levels in a further 59 of its supermarkets, though at present this is an informal process. The retailer is not looking to cut jobs in these stores but wants staff to agree to work in different departments when required.

The GMB union said it had been contacted by worried Asda workers “fearing for their jobs” after new business plans were shared with store managers that included a substantial reduction in staff hours worked.

The 18 stores facing staff cuts include branches in Halifax in West Yorkshire, Broadstairs in Kent and the Basildon Eastgate store in Essex. Staff will face a series of one-to-one meetings over the next three weeks. The eventual job-loss figure is expected to be in the hundreds.

Last week Asda posted its worst annual figures since being taken over by Walmart in 1999, as fierce competition in the UK supermarket sector took its toll. The supermarket chain admitted its performance was “behind expectations” after pre-tax profit for 2016 fell 19% to £791.7m. Accounts filed at Companies House also showed sales fell to £21.6bn from £22.3bn, as shoppers flocked to cheaper rivals.

The supermarket industry is going through massive change as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are forced to cut costs to respond to the threat posed by the fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl, as well as grocery sales moving online.

In a sign of how the balance of power is shifting, Aldi overtook Waitrose in 2015 and then, in February, sailed past the Co-op to become the UK’s fifth-biggest grocer. Lidl is expected to overtake Waitrose this year. The two currently sitneck and neck with 5.1% of the market, according to the consumer consultancy Kantar Worldpanel.

Tesco is axing 2,300 staff this year as part of a cost-cutting programme that is hitting head office workers as well as staff based at its Cardiff call centre – due to close early next year. At the weekend it was revealed that Sainsbury’s plans to cut 1,000 head office jobs.

In recent years Asda has trailed behind Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons and is the worst-performing member of the “big four”. Its deteriorating performance led to the replacement of chief executive Andy Clarke last summer with the Walmart executive Sean Clarke parachuted in to lead a turnaround. He has focused on dropping prices, boosting the quality of food ranges and improving customer service.

Bryan Roberts, an analyst at TCC Global, said all the major supermarkets were trying to become more efficient as they juggled higher payroll costs following this year’s hike in the national minimum wage, and inflation linked to Brexit’s blow to sterling. “You need to be careful that you are cutting away fat without cutting into the muscle,” he said. Good customer service was a point of difference for Asda in its battle with the discounters, he added.

Last year Asda cut 750 jobs at its Leeds head office and in store. The process saw the closure of staff canteens in all stores and an end to shop-floor services such as photo-processing and pizza-making.

“We are currently in discussions with a number of our stores about changes that are needed to the number of hours required to run that store for our customers,” said an Asda spokesman. “It is common practice for a supermarket to need to make changes to hours based on the changing shopping habits of customers. We understand that any conversations about change are unsettling, but it is always our upmost priority to find alternative roles or working patterns for impacted colleagues.”

Roberts said Asda was “on the up” with the most recent set of industry figures showing it had pulled in an extra 398,000 shoppers in the 12 weeks to 16 July. The Kantar data showed Asda’s sales for the period grew by 1% compared with the same period a year ago.

Asda said like-for-like sales fell 2.8% in the first three months of 2017, which was marginally better than the 2.9% drop recorded in the last three months of 2016. Its second-quarter performance will be revealed on Thursday when Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, updates investors.

By Zoe Wood

UK Shops Plan Mass Recall as More than 700,000 Items Implicated In Dutch Egg Scandal

Ian Britton/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via ibtimes.co.uk – – Thur, 10 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Around 700,000 eggs in the UK have been implicated in the European egg contamination scandal, the Food Standards Agency has revealed.

Earlier in the week, the FSA said that the number was only 21,000 but after further tests and inspections the number has been revised up significantly.

A number of products are affected including processed foods such as sandwich fillings which use eggs as well as other chilled products.

In a statement, the FSA said: “Investigations into the Fipronil incident in Europe continue. We have now established that more eggs from affected farms than previously identified came to the UK.

“It is very unlikely that these eggs pose a risk to public health, but as Fipronil is unauthorised for use in food-producing animals we have acted with urgency to ensure that consumers are protected.”

In large quantities, Fipronil is “moderately hazardous” according to the World Health Organisation with an impact on kidneys, liver and thyroids.

However the risk is deemed to be low according to the FSA, however the pesticide is banned for use in animals that produce food.

A number of products are affected including processed foods such as sandwich fillings which uses eggs as well as other chilled products.

In a statement, the FSA said: “Investigations into the Fipronil incident in Europe continue. We have now established that more eggs from affected farms than previously identified came to the UK.

“It is very unlikely that these eggs pose a risk to public health, but as Fipronil is unauthorised for use in food-producing animals we have acted with urgency to ensure that consumers are protected.”

In large quantities, Fipronil is “moderately hazardous” according to the World Health Organisation with an impact on kidneys, liver and thyroids.

However the risk is deemed to be low according to the FSA, however the pesticide is banned for use in animals that produce food.

By Jordan Bhatt

UK Shoppers Faced With Rising Prices Switching to Cheaper Products

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 10 Aug, 2017) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British firms are keeping a lid on pay and automating more production while some shoppers, faced with rising prices, are switching to cheaper products, the Bank of England said on Wednesday.

The findings came in a report from around the country that showed Brexit is hurting households, mainly though the weaker pound.

Businesses serving British consumers are suffering compared with export-focused manufacturers, as the weaker exchange rate and higher inflation following last year’s vote to leave the European Union feeds through the economy.

Last week BoE Governor Mark Carney said Britain’s economy was suffering from uncertainty and higher prices caused by the referendum decision in June 2016, and the central bank cut its forecasts for future growth and wages.

Wednesday’s report by the BoE’s regional staff — which fed into last week’s forecasts — showed businesses planned to offer pay awards of between 2 and 3 percent, despite growing recruitment difficulties.

“Overall employment intentions remained modest,” the BoE said. “Growth in manufacturing (employment) intentions was stable and was dampened by a stronger focus on productivity improvements and automation over job creation,” it added.

The BoE forecast last week that economic growth would slow to 1.7 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2018, while wages are seen rising by 2 percent and then 3 percent.

After unexpectedly outperforming other big advanced economies last year, in 2017 Britain had its slowest first half of the year since 2012.

Firms reported prices for goods and services rose at the fastest pace in four years, in line with official measures of inflation, and consumer spending growth slowed.

“Some contacts ascribed this to increased caution among consumers, and to consumers trading down to cheaper products or brands,” the BoE said.

Sales at consumer services businesses grew at their slowest pace in over four years, while manufacturing exports saw their fastest expansion since 2011.

Business investment – which the BoE hopes will offset some of the damage to consumer spending – remained modest, with unspecified “uncertainty” weighing on longer-term plans.

The agents’ report on contacts with businesses in June and the first half of July, which includes the period when Prime Minister Theresa May unexpectedly failed to win a parliamentary majority, as well as the start of Brexit talks in Brussels.

Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg and Jeremy Gaunt

By David Milliken

Worldpay Accept Vantiv’s £9.3bn Takeover Offer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed,  9 Aug, 2016) London, Uk – –

Worldpay, Britain’s largest payments processor, has finally agreed the terms for a tie-up with US rival Vantiv that was revealed more than a month ago.

Vantiv’s takeover offer of £9.3bn has been accepted by Worldpay after the British company was granted a last-minute extension to talks earlier this week.

The companies said the deal created a combined group worth more than £22bn, with Worldpay shareholders owning 43pc.

The combined company, which will keep the Worldpay name, will have its global headquarters in Cincinnati and its international headquarters in London.

“The growth of eCommerce and the way consumers expect to transact is increasing complexity for businesses around the world,” said Worldpay chief executive Philip Jansen.

“Our unique combination of scale, innovation, technology and global presence will mean that we can offer more payment solutions to businesses.”

The announcement comes as Worldpay released its half-year results showing an 18pc growth in first-half revenues and a 9pc jump in underlying pre-tax profits.

Total revenues climbed to £2.5bn in the six months to the end of June, from £2.1bn in the same period of 2016.

On a statutory level, pre-tax profits fell from £167m to £129m.

“We delivered a strong first-half performance, further extending our long-term track record of substantial growth,” said Mr Jansen.

“This performance has been achieved through our relentless focus on meeting the changing needs of our customers in an increasingly global and dynamic payments market.”

By Sam Dean

Drivers Opt for Conventional Cash Payment When Parking Instead of Pay by Phone

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 9 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Drivers are avoiding parking spots that require payment by phone as cash remains a more popular way to pay, according to the AA.

The motoring organisation’s survey of 16,000 members suggests seven out of 10 would look for parking elsewhere rather than use the “pay by phone” meters.
The AA says people are put off by administration fees and voice-controlled phone payment systems.
But councils said that paying by phone was a quick and convenient option.
‘Talking to a robot’

Nearly eight in 10 pensioners who responded to the AA survey said they would drive on rather than use them, the same proportion as drivers on low incomes.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “Not only can it be a struggle to find a space but now, when you do find one, you may be required to talk to an automated system to pay the charge – not ideal if you have an appointment or just want to get in and get out quickly.
“All providers should make it easier to pay for parking. Not everyone has a smartphone to pay via an app and not everyone is keen to talk to a robot to pay for an hour’s stay. For the elderly and low-income drivers, pay-by-phone feels almost discriminatory.”

It argued that, while many drivers prefer to pay in cash, there was disgruntlement that some parking machines did not accept the new 12-sided £1 coin and others did not give change.
Mixed messages?

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said: “Councils offer a variety of ways to pay for parking, and paying by phone can be a quick and convenient way to do so.
“As the AA’s own research shows, 76% of councils in England have already converted the parking machines they are responsible for to accept the new £1 coin. Others are well on the way towards doing so.
“Having a range of options to pay for parking, for residents and visitors, is the best way for councils to serve the needs of their local communities.”

The AA has also left itself open to accusations of mixed messages by criticising phone payment parking spaces on the same day as it unveils its own card payment system for small businesses.
In the marketing for its new Card Pay project, it says that “cash is a thing of the past for 62% of UK small businesses”.

By Kevin Peachey

Walmart Heirs buy British Cycling Brand Rapha for £200m

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 8 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

Founder Simon Mottram to remain chief executive after private equity firm RZC wins race for upmarket sportswear label

British upmarket cycling brand Rapha has been sold to two heirs of the Walmart dynasty for £200m.

Rapha, founded by branding consultant and lifelong cyclist Simon Mottram in 2004, announced on Monday that it had been sold to RZC Investments, a private equity firm run by Steuart and Tom Walton. They are grandchildren of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.

Cycling fashion outfit Rapha plots route into the fast lane
Read more
The sale values Mottram’s stake in the business at £25m, although the company said he would retain a “significant part” of his shareholding and would remain chief executive of the business. Many of Mottram’s friends and family are also shareholders.

“This is an exciting day for Rapha,” Mottram said. “The arrival of RZC Investments as a shareholder means we can pursue our mission to elevate cycling as a global sport and recruit more participants by engaging them and enabling them to ride with us at all levels.”

Mottram said the cash injection from RZC would be spent on its global expansion, with plans for 100 stores or “clubhouses” around the world. The company, named after a defunct French cycling team from the late 1950s, has stores as far afield as Seoul and Chicago.

Steuart Walton, co-founder of RZC, said: “Rapha represents the very best in the world of cycling. Our investment demonstrates our enthusiasm for its quality products, amazing community of cyclists and customers and its strong future. Rapha’s strategic vision has set the company on a path of tremendous growth and opportunity.”

The company, which employs 450 people, recorded sales of £63m last year, a 30% increase on the previous year, as it tapped demand for its high-end gear.

While Rapha may not be a household name, in the tribal cycling community it is seen as a “Marmite” brand, at the centre of fierce forum debates where detractors see it as the fiefdom of wealthy metrosexuals or the “Raphia”.

Its sells everything from £20 embrocation cream – which redirects blood back into your lower extremities by stimulating blood vessels – to bespoke holidays in the Alps. It even has its own riding club with 9,000 members paying £135 a year for perks including free coffee in its clubhouses.

“We are totally in love with the sport,” Mottram said in a recent Guardian interview. “We love the product and think the product should be as good as the sport. I care about how I look and perhaps that makes me a shallow person but why on a bike should you not?”

By Rupert Neate

Sainsburys Cost Saving Overhaul threatens 1,000 jobs

Elliott Brown/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 8 Aug, 2017) London, Uk – –

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

It is understood that a team of top consultants from McKinsey have been parachuted into the supermarket’s headquarters to draw up a staff reduction plan.

Sainsbury’s employs 3,000 staff outside of its stores, including at its Holborn base in London. It also has a separate human resources centre in Manchester, an IT team in Walsgrave, Coventry, and a banking division in ­Edinburgh. The exact number of job losses is expected to be announced next month.

It is the latest in a series of major shake-ups at the big supermarkets as they grapple with far-reaching changes in how Britain buys its food.

In March, Sainsbury’s announced it was slashing 400 jobs, with a further 4,000 employees facing major changes to their working hours, as part of a shake-up of night shift work at 140 stores.

The company said the cuts were necessary to avoid having to raise prices, which had fallen in its core grocery business following a slump in the pound.

Two years ago, 800 store staff lost their jobs as part of a three-year plan to slash costs by £500m. Then, last November Sainsbury’s announced a new £500m three-year, cost-saving target, just months after closing its £1.4bn takeover of Argos.

It is a pattern that is being repeated at the supermarket’s main rivals. The established chains have been unable to stem the loss of customers to convenience stores, discounters and online ­rivals.

They have responded by slashing prices and improving the quality of their products but, to offset the ­increased outlay, have scaled back their operations in an effort to become leaner and more efficient.

In June, Tesco unveiled 1,200 job losses at its head office, just one week after announcing 1,100 jobs would be culled at a call centre in Cardiff, as boss Dave Lewis steps up a sweeping cost-cutting drive.

Since taking charge of Tesco in 2014, Mr Lewis has more than lived up to his nickname “Drastic Dave”, which he was given at Unilever because of a willingness to dramatically rein in overheads. In his first year, Mr Lewis made nearly 10,000 employees redundant.

Five thousand head office staff and UK store managers were let go, as well as more than 4,000 roles overseas and at the chain’s banking arm. In 2015, a further 2,500 positions were axed with the closure of nearly 50 underperforming stores.

Then, in April this year, a reduction in shelf-stacking night shifts in some of its biggest ­supermarkets put a further 3,000 posts at risk. The swingeing cuts are part of a turnaround plan in which Mr Lewis has pledged to save £1.5bn of costs.

Clive Black, analyst at Shore Capital, said that Sainsbury’s plans were “part of a structural shift happening across the industry to reduce operating costs to reflect the changes across the industry”.

He added: “Most of these supermarkets have had stagnating operations for some time that lacked the entrepreneurial spirit to make the workforce more efficient.” Senior sources said that Sainsbury’s was focused on reductions within its HR, and learning and development teams.

The supermarket, which employs 51,000 full-time staff and 130,000 part-time workers, spent £2.5bn on wages last year and a further £267m on social security and pension costs.

“We do not comment on speculation and would always make any announcement around jobs to our colleagues first,” a Sainsbury’s spokesman said.

By Ben Marlow and Ashley Armstrong

Gender inequality manifesto memo by Google employee creates backlash

 

An internal memo to Google employees questioning Google diversity initiatives has taken the internet by storm. In the memo, the unnamed author challenges the companies practices of favoring women and minorities just for being women and minorities. He’s got a point. Google’s hiring and promotion practices look to be discriminatory but they can get away with it because they are discriminating in a way society is accepting of. The memo also points out that some people in the company are afraid to share their views because they fear being fired, seemingly with good reason.

Danielle Brown, Google’s new VP of diversity has responded to the memo and basically, tells Google employees it’s ok to share their opinions as long as they have the right opinions.