HSBC pre-tax profit more than double to $17.2bn

Chris Beckett/Flickr

( via – – Tue, 20 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Holdings’ pre-tax profit for 2017 has more than doubled to $17.2bn (£12.3bn), due largely to the absence of hefty restructuring costs, but the figure still lagged behind expectations as the bank took a writedown to take in US tax changes.

On the chief executive Stuart Gulliver’s last day in the job, Europe’s biggest lender by market capitalisation also announced plans to bolster its capital base by raising up to $7bn in the first half of 2018.

The pre-tax profit for 2017 compared with $7.1bn the year before but below the $19.7bn average estimate of 17 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Those estimates did not all take into account the tax writedown, triggered by cuts in the US corporate tax rate that meant banks had to book losses on deferred tax assets built up during loss-making years.

HSBC said its 2017 financial results included a charge of $1.3bn relating to the “remeasurement of US deferred tax balances” to reflect the reduction in the US federal tax rate to 21% from 2018.

Banks including Credit Suisse and UBS have already reported multibillion-dollar writedowns from the tax change, while Barclays has said it expects a £1bn hit on its annual post-tax profit.

HSBC’s profit for 2016 reflected a $3.2bn impairment of goodwill in the global private banking business in Europe and the impact of its sale of operations in Brazil.

HSBC plans to boost its capital base with a $7bn fundraising.




Energean Oil and gas explorer plans £360m London listing

( via – – Mon, 19 Feb, 2018) London, Uk – –

Oil and gas explorer Energean plans to raise $500m (£357m) with a listing on the London Stock Exchange, as it hopes to capitalise on increasing demand for energy supplies from the eastern Mediterranean.

The firm plans to use $395m of the money raised to develop its offshore Israel Karish and Tanin gas fields and a further $10m would go to the company’s founders. The remaining $95m would be spent on fees, capital expenditure and other costs.

Mathios Rigas, chief executive of Energean, said the company had “advanced plans for the development of the Karish and Tanin fields, offshore Israel, together with the significant development programme for the Prinos licences in Greece”.

He said that the listing would help the firm to grow its pipeline of “attractive exploration projects”.

Chairman Simon Heale, who has previously served as chair of copper miner Kaz Minerals, said that the eastern Mediterranean was attracting interest from oil and gas majors.

Energean, which was founded in 2007, operates five projects in Greece, as well as others in Motenegro and Israel.

The eastern Mediterranean region has become an increasingly active exploration and production region, with recent discoveries the Zohr gas field in Egypt and the Leviathan site in Israel attracting investment in the region.

Exxon Mobil, Total, Edison and Repsol have already acquired or expressed interest in acquiring hydrocarbon interests in Greek exploration areas. These would help Greece to reduce its reliance on Russia, which currently provides about 60pc of its oil supplies.

“As an independent, locally based exploration and production company, the directors believe the group is well positioned to compete and move swiftly on opportunities in the region,” the company said.


KFC forced to close a number of branches across the UK due to chicken shortage


( via – – Mon, 19 Feb, 2018) London, Uk – –

Fast-food chain KFC has closed a number of outlets across the UK after they ran out of chicken.

Things were not so finger-licking good for disappointed fried chicken fans after problems with a new distribution system forced the closures.

Last week, KFC switched its delivery contract to DHL, which blamed “operational issues” for the supply disruption.

KFC has about 900 UK restaurants, with more than 80% run by franchisees.

Closures have been reported in areas including London and the South East, the Midlands, East Anglia, the North East and Wales.

Until last Tuesday, KFC’s chicken was delivered by South African-owned distribution group Bidvest, which describes itself as “the leading supplier of logistical and supply chain solutions to the UK hospitality and restaurant sector”.

But after the change in the contract, many of the food giant’s outlets began running out of chicken products.

“We’ve brought a new delivery partner onboard, but they’ve had a couple of teething problems – getting fresh chicken out to 900 restaurants across the country is pretty complex!” it added, apologising to customers for the inconvenience.

“We won’t compromise on quality, so no deliveries has meant some of our restaurants are closed, and others are operating a limited menu or shortened hours.”

The statement listed KFC restaurants that were still open despite the problems.

DHL said: “Due to operational issues, a number of deliveries in recent days have been incomplete or delayed. We are working with our partners to rectify the situation as a priority and apologise for any inconvenience.”

Disgruntled KFC customers have been taking to Twitter to express their dismay at the shortages.


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Laura Ashley shares fall on profit warning


( via – – Thur, 15 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Weaker pound also blamed for steep fall in profits at fashion and home furnishings firm

Laura Ashley has warned profits will fall short of City forecasts after taking a hit from the weak pound and slumping demand for furniture and wallpaper in the UK.

The home furnishings and womenswear firm, known for its floral prints, reported a steep drop in pretax profits to £4.3m in its first half to 31 December from £7.8m a year earlier. It warned full-year profits would miss market expectations of £9m and ditched its interim dividend. Last year it made a profit of £8.4m.

The shares plunged 18% in early trading and were later flat at 6p, giving the firm a market value of £44m.

Seán Anglim, Laura Ashley’s finance director, talked of an “overall toughening of the market” with like-for-like sales declines of 4.4% in furniture and 3.9% in decorating products such as fabrics, curtains and wallpaper.

This was partially offset by 4% growth in home accessories including lights, bed linen and rugs and a 1.2% rise in fashion sales. Clothing makes up 17% of the business.

The company pointed to the decline in the pound as the most significant single factor behind the fall in profits. It has also been hit by the closure of 22 Homebase stores that had Laura Ashley concessions.

Other furniture retailers are also struggling, as the housing market has almost ground to a halt. The bedmaker Warren Evans has just gone into administration and will close if a buyer cannot be found. Another furniture maker, Multiyork, filed for administration in November

Laura Ashley has 161 stores in the UK and has ventured into hotels and tearooms. It owns a hotel in Elstree and has licensed its brand to the Belsfield hotel in the Lake District


GKN to sell core parts of business and return £2.5bn to shareholders via – – Wed, 14 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Engineering giant GKN says it will sell off non-core parts of its business and return £2.5bn in cash to its shareholders over the next three years.

The plans are part of its defence against a £7.4bn hostile takeover bid from Melrose Industries.

GKN’s new strategy and transformation plan includes the sale of various businesses over the next 12-18 months.

Last month, GKN rejected the bid from Melrose, saying it “fundamentally undervalued” the firm.

GKN chief executive Anne Stevens said: “The new strategy brings clarity, accountability and focus to GKN’s world class businesses and will allow the group to attain world class financial performance.”

“Too often we pursued growth at the expense of returns, this will no longer be the case. The new strategy brings discipline, both financial and operational.”

However Melrose has argued that it could “deliver significantly greater benefits” to GKN’s shareholders than the current management team.

GKN makes parts for the Boeing 737 jet and Black Hawk helicopter, as well as components for Volkswagen and Ford cars.

Last month, it said it would split the aerospace an automotive divisions into separate companies.

Outlining its transformation plan, it said “operational separation” had already begun and the “formal” separation would take place “when it maximises shareholder value”.

‘Significant cash’

Last year, lower profit margins and cash generation prompted GKN to conduct a wide-ranging review of its business. The company also warned on profits after uncovering problems at its aerospace division.

In January, it said a new two-year strategy called Project Boost would significantly increase cash flow by cutting costs and expenditure, along with tighter pricing control.

“This strategy is expected to generate significant cash for shareholders in the short term and meaningful sustainable cash flows over the mid to long term,” said Ms Stevens.

Both GKN and Melrose saw their shares rise following publication of the turnaround plan.


Amazon plans hundreds of job cuts in shift to faster growing areas


( via– Tue, 13 Feb 2018) London, Uk —

The cuts in its consumer business are expected to be completed in weeks as the firm shifts resources to other fast-growing areas.

Online retail giant Amazon is cutting hundreds of roles at its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere in its consumer business, news reports said.

The company said a “small” number of jobs would be cut but The Seattle Times said the layoffs would affect a few hundred people.

Details of the job losses were released by a source who wished to remain anonymous.

They said the cuts, which they described as rare, were decided as the company shifts resources into fast-growing areas like its work on voice assistant Alexa.

As the firm planned for 2018 it realised certain mature areas of its business no longer required as much staff for the results it was aiming to achieve, they added.

The layoffs are expected to be completed in the next few weeks, The Seattle Times reported.

Amazon did not say how many staff would be laid off and which specific offices and positions would be affected.

The company said it would consider those affected for other roles, adding it was still hiring aggressively in other areas.

“Our 2017 projections for Alexa were very optimistic, and we far exceeded them,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, in a statement earlier this month.

“We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often – expect us to double down.”

The firm has been exploring ways that minimise human labour. Its Amazon Go store concept – which recently opened in Seattle – involves no checkouts with all goods bought via an app

The company hired 130,000 people worldwide last year, with its full-time and part-time headcount rising 66% from 2016 to 566,000 in 2017.

That figure includes employees at grocery chain store Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired in a deal worth $13.7bn (£10.7bn) deal last summer.

Last month, Ocado showed off the “C-3PO” robots being introduced across its own warehouses as it seeks to reduce its reliance on human workers.


LeasePlan world’s largest car hire firm gears up for £5bn flotation

( via – – Tue, 13 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

The world’s largest car hire firm is revving up plans for a blockbuster stock market float after another set of record profits.

Profits jumped 13pc to €677m (£600m) at LeasePlan, which has a fleet of 1.7m cars, and is 50 years old.

The firm said it was benefiting from a “clear megatrend” in which increasing numbers of people are turning their back on car ownership, in favour of so-called “usership”, or the sharing economy, as annual sales nudged €9.4bn. It has signed a deal with Uber to provide drivers with access to its fleet.

Chief executive Tex Gunning said growing customer demand for the entire range of services where LeasePlan does not just supply the car but also provides financing, insurance, and repair and maintenance, had boosted results.

Profits would have been higher but the company took a €65m hit from a series of one-off charges, including the cost of preparing for a possible listing later. Mr. Gunning said no decision had been taken but it could decide to go public later this year. Deutsche Bank and UBS have reportedly been hired to evaluate the move, which could see it valued at around €6bn.

The European used car market is growing strongly, the company said.

“Customers are realising you can buy a car that is three or four years old and still get another 100,000 miles out of it,” Mr Gunning said.

The backlash against diesel cars has had little effect on sales, largely because most of its diesel cars are newer, so-called 6 models, which comply with new regulations. The firm has pledged to make its fleet zero-emissions by 2030.




Barclays Bank faces SFO charge over Qatar loans


Barclays Bank/ Wikimedia

( via – – Mon, 12 Feb, 2018) London, Uk – –

Charges relating to emergency fundraising in 2008 follow case against parent company last year

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has charged Barclays Bank over a $3bn (£2.2bn) loan given to Qatar as part of a side deal linked to its emergency fundraising in 2008.

It extends a charge brought against the parent firm for “unlawful financial assistance” last July.

At the time, the SFO had not yet decided whether to charge the Barclays Bank unit over the loan as well, but it has now been charged with the same offence.

Both Barclays and its bank unit have said they will defend themselves against the charges. “Barclays does not expect there to be an impact on its ability to serve its customers and clients as a consequence of the charge having been brought,” the company said in a statement.

The emergency fundraising at the centre of the SFO case allowed Barclays to avoid the fate of its bailed-out rivals Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland. Barclays pulled off an £11.8bn fundraising package from Qatari backers and other investors in 2008 to sidestep the need for a government rescue, which left Lloyds and RBS part-nationalised.

Money was pumped in by state-backed Qatari investors, as well as Abu Dhabi royals and investors from Singapore. But the way the bank secured the Qatari investments has since been mired in controversy.

That included a $3bn loan made to Qatar acting through its Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008.

After a five-year investigation into the events surrounding the cash call, the SFO last summer brought charges of conspiracy to commit fraud against Barclays itself, as well as a string of former executives.

It marked the first criminal charges to be brought in the UK against a bank and its former executives for activities during the financial crisis.

The SFO said on Monday that a date for the first court appearance in relation to the charge against Barclays Bank would be “set in due course”.



Aldi rated UK’s best supermarket pushing front runner Waitrose to fourth place

( via – – Mon, 12 Feb, 2018) London, Uk – –

Aldi has been rated the UK’s best supermarket, nudging previously top-ranked Waitrose down to fourth place.

Customers criticised Aldi stores for being “untidy” and for a lack of staff availability, but rated them highly for offering value for money, according to consumer group Which?.

Marks and Spencer was second, winning marks for store appearance and product quality. Lidl ranked third.

The large supermarkets fared worst, with Sainsbury’s ranked last of nine.

The survey, conducted last October, asked customers to rate their supermarket shopping experiences in the past six months. The chains are scored on customer satisfaction and whether they would recommend the store to a friend.

Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s lost marks over value-for-money compared to the discount chains.

Which? said respondents praised the ease of finding items on shelves at Aldi.

But both Lidl and Aldi scored poorly for queuing time, staff availability and for the range of products on offer. But they were marked up for the quality of their fresh and own-label products.

While Aldi accounts for only 7% of the UK grocery market and Lidl 5%, the discount chains have seen strong sales growth over the last few years.

“With food costs rising it seems as though shoppers have felt the pinch and are voting with their feet and wallets,” said Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home products and services.

“Aldi and Lidl have won over their customers with value for money, knocking Waitrose off the top spot.”

Newspaper reports suggest Tesco is considering launching its own budget supermarket chain.

The Sunday Times reported that the country’s largest supermarket has “secret plans” to take on the discounters at their own game, by opening stores offering a limited range of own-brand products.

A spokesperson Tesco declined to comment.

The supermarkets were also rated for their online services. Iceland retained the top ranking for the third year running, but shared the spot with Ocado for the first time.

Asda remained at the bottom of the table for online deliveries where it has been for more than a decade.

Amazon Fresh, which only launched in 2016 and is only available in the south east of England, came in fifth position.


How getting fired, turned Melissa Ben-Ishay passion for baking cupcakes into a successful business



When Melissa Ben-Ishay got fired, she immediately called her brother. He encouraged her to go home, bake her famous cupcakes and reassured her they would figure out how to turn her hobby into a business. Within a week, Baked by Melissa was up and running. Fourteen stores and a cookbook later, Melissa’s bite-size treats are a huge success. She sat down with Jessica Abo to talk about her company’s growth, the friends who helped her get here and what she’s created to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day.




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Completely unique and ultra luxurious home interior designed by 1.61 London showcasing Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors.

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The company keeping alive the tradition of building wooden surfboards


Grain Surfboards are built through an additive process that has much in common with traditional wooden ship-building. Planks of wood are cut and glued onto an internal wood frame before being sanded down to their final shape.

Video by Brian Schildhorn, David Nicholson





UK shares fell on Friday morning amid market volatility

( via – – Fri, 9 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

UK shares fell on Friday morning, but the declines were not as big as those seen in Asia and the US.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 30.22 points, or 0.4%, to 7,140.47.

Asian markets saw hefty falls overnight, while in the US on Thursday the Dow Jones fell by more than 1,000 points for the second time this week.

The big sell-offs around the world this week have been pinned partly on concerns over the prospect of higher interest rates.

In Asia on Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 shares index closed down 2.3% while China’s Shanghai Composite slumped 4.1%.

In the US, the Dow Jones ended Thursday’s trading session 4.2% lower at 23,860, and the wider S&P 500 index closed down 3.8%.

Thursday’s declines mean the Dow and S&P 500 have now fallen by more than 10% from the record highs set in January, a threshold that analysts call a correction.

However, the falls seen in Europe on Friday were not as steep. Germany’s Dax share index and France’s Cac 40 index were both down 0.4%.

Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent told the BBC that markets might have underestimated the prospect of a pick-up in inflation.

“If you look at what happened last year, particularly in the United States but also other equity markets, there was extremely strong growth – big rises in prices – as people gradually realised how strong the global economy was,” he said.

“If markets are responding understandably to that growth, it’s possible they weren’t pricing in the risk that that same growth would produce some inflation and some rises in interest rates, and I think what you’re seeing now is the effect of that realisation.”

Sue Noffke, UK equities fund manager at Schroders, told the BBC that given how well stock markets have been doing for the past few years, the sell-off this week was not that unusual.

“In the context of the rises we’ve seen, certainly this kind of pull-back of 5-10% is quite normal for markets – it just hasn’t been normal for the last couple of years where we’ve seen very low levels of volatility and very small levels of weekly or monthly moves.

“The [economic] fundamentals haven’t changed, they haven’t deteriorated. What’s happened is a bit of steam has come out from what was quite a heated situation at the beginning of the year.”

Why are markets falling?

The global sell-off began last week after a solid US jobs report fuelled expectations that the Federal Reserve would need to raise interest rates faster than expected, because of the strength of the economy.

That concern has prompted the pullback from stocks.

On Thursday, the Bank of England seemed to offer support for the view that rates in general are on an upward path.

The Bank left interest rates at 0.5% at its meeting, but said a strengthening economy meant interest rates were likely to rise sooner than the markets were expecting.

Also worrying investors was a government budget proposal announced by US lawmakers, which raises spending caps and could fan inflation.

Bond yields in the US have also risen in recent weeks, typically a signal of higher rates.

Higher interest rates push up borrowing costs for companies and individuals, which can hurt corporate profits and curb economic activity.

At the same time, higher interest rates can make investment alternatives to stocks, such as bonds, more attractive.



Metro Bank to create 900 jobs this year

( via – – Fri, 9 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Metro Bank has said it will create 900 new jobs this year, including 100 apprentices, as it grows its staff to 4,000.

The challenger bank said that, in addition to hiring apprentices, it can now offer dedicated in-house apprenticeship training at its facility, dubbed Metro Bank University, after being certified last year.

The scheme has about 100 places available and will roll out sector-specific programmes over 12 to 36 months in IT, HR and cashiering. These will be accredited by either City and Guilds or the Chartered Banker Institute.

Metro Bank University has expanded to three campuses across London, offering trainees more than 75 classroom-based courses and 130 e-learning sessions.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive of Metro Bank, said: “Investing in and developing our colleagues is central to the success of our model.”

He added: “Whether it’s coming up with forward-thinking functionality on our app to save customers’ time, or transforming someone’s day when they visit us in store; our colleagues have made the banking revolution what it is today.”

Last year Metro Bank promoted 25pc of its staff that had been there for a year or more. The challenger bank recruited 596 staff on permanant, fixed-term and apprentice contracts in 2017.

plans to open a further 12 this year year, a spokeswoman said.


Elon Musk tech billionaire announces Tesla biggest quarterly loss ever

( via – – Thur, 8 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Loss of $675.4m announced day after Musk’s car sent into space in test of SpaceX rocket

The tech billionaire Elon Musk sent one of his Tesla electric cars into space yesterday, a day before the company that built it announced its biggest ever quarterly loss.

Musk’s Tesla electric car and energy storage company lost $675.4m in the three months ending 31 December, the company announced on Thursday, compared with a loss of $121m for the same period last year.

The company has been spending heavily as it rolls out the next generation of electric cars, the Model 3 sedan, a semi truck and other products.

The company has struggled to keep up with is production targets for the Model 3 but said it would probably build about 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter and that it plans to reach its goal of 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter.

On Wednesday Musk’s private aerospace company, SpaceX, blasted a cherry red Tesla Roadster sports car into space in a successful test of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

The car and its dummy driver are now heading towards the asteroid belt.

Tesla delivered 101,312 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs last year, up 33% over 2016 and ahead of its targets, according to preliminary figures released last month. But it fell woefully short on the Model 3, which went into production in July.

Tesla made just 2,425 Model 3s in the fourth quarter, and has pushed back production targets multiple times. At one point, Tesla had 500,000 people on a waiting list for the Model 3, but it’s not clear if all of them are continuing to wait.

On a call with analysts Musk said production was getting back on track. “If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt we can probably solve Model 3 production,” he said.

Musk is set to collect a $55.8bn (£40bn) bonus – probably be the largest ever – if he can build Tesla into a $650bn company over the next decade. In the meantime the 46-year-old has agreed to work unpaid for the next 10 years.

By Domonic Rush