RBS axes 680 jobs as a quarter of branches set to close

morebyless/flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 1 Dec 2017) London, Uk – –

RBS is closing 259 branches – one in four of its outlets – and cutting 680 jobs as more customers bank online.

The closures involve 62 Royal Bank of Scotland and 197 NatWest branches.

RBS, which is 72%-owned by the taxpayer, said it would try to ensure compulsory redundancies were “kept to an absolute minimum”.

The bank said use of its branches by customers had fallen 40% since 2014, but the Unite union, which represents bank staff, called the cuts “savage”.

Following the closures, the RBS group will be left with 744 branches.

‘Difficult news’

An RBS spokesperson said: “More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile.

“Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period. Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.

“We realise this is difficult news for our colleagues and we are doing everything we can to support those affected.

Unite said serious questions needed to be asked about whether the closures marked the end of branch network banking.

Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer, said: “This announcement will forever change the face of banking in this country resulting in over a thousand staff losing their jobs and hundreds of High Streets without any banking facilities.

“The closure of another 259 branches is savage. Why is the government signing off this alarming branch closure programme

Analysis: Kevin Peachey, personal finance reporter

RBS, like many of its competitors, says that branch use has dropped dramatically as people bank on the go.

Industry analysts CACI forecasts that typical consumers will only visit a bank branch four times a year by 2022.

Yet visiting a branch remains a way of life for many people – older people and small businesses particularly. A report into branch closures by Professor Russel Griggs likened losing a local branch to a “bereavement” for some people.

So what is being done for them?

The major banks have signed up to a protocol that ensures specially trained staff are in place to help customers find alternatives when a local branch is closing, such as using the Post Office.

They must work more proactively to support elderly and vulnerable customers, and tell communities as quickly as possible after the decision has been made.

Presentational grey line

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, said: “The news of further branch closures from RBS will be hugely concerning to many people in Scotland as it now not only affects, potentially, staff at RBS but also leaves large areas of Scotland, particularly rural areas, with limited branch coverage.

“While recognising that footfall in branches is falling, due to online banking, RBS, and other banks, must take into account the needs of all customers – not just those who can access and use digital services.”

Bad bank

The news comes as RBS continues its rehabilitation from its state-backed bailout in 2008, prompted by the financial crisis.

On Thursday, it said it had closed its so-called “bad bank”, which was set up to handle toxic assets stemming from the crisis.

Earlier this week, RBS passed the Bank of England stress tests, having failed in 2016.

In last week’s Budget, the government revived plans to sell down its stake in the bank, aiming to sell £15bn of its shares by 2023.

High Court ruling allows compensation claim by Morrison staff over date breach

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 1 Dec 2017) London, Uk – –

The High Court has allowed a compensation claim by thousands of Morrisons staff whose personal details were posted on the internet.

The case has potential implications for every individual and business in the country.

It follows a security breach in 2014 when Andrew Skelton, a senior internal auditor at the retailer’s Bradford headquarters, leaked the payroll data of nearly 100,000 employees – including their names, addresses, bank account details and salaries – putting it online and sending it to newspapers

A group of 5,518 former and current Morrisons employees said this exposed them to the risk of identity theft and potential financial loss and that Morrisons was responsible for breaches of privacy, confidence and data protection laws.

They are seeking compensation for the upset and distress caused.

Morrisons said it could not be held directly or vicariously liable for Skelton’s criminal misuse of the data and any other conclusion would be grossly unjust.

Following Mr Justice Langstaff’s decision on liability on Friday, Nick McAleenan, of JMW Solicitors, said: “The High Court has ruled that Morrisons was legally responsible for the data leak.

“We welcome the judgment and believe that it is a landmark decision, being the first data leak class action in the UK.”

The judge ruled that vicarious liability, but not primary liability, had been established.

He said: “I hold that the Data Protection Act (DPA) does not impose primary liability upon Morrisons; that Morrisons have not been proved to be at fault by breaking any of the data protection principles, save in one respect which was not causative of any loss; and that neither primary liability for misuse of private information nor breach of confidentiality can be established.

“I reject, however, the arguments that the DPA upon a proper interpretation is such that no vicarious liability can be established, and that its terms are such as to exclude vicarious liability even in respect of actions for misuse of private information or breach of confidentiality.”

He added: “The point which most troubled me in reaching these conclusions was the submission that the wrongful acts of Skelton were deliberately aimed at the party whom the claimants seek to hold responsible, such that to reach the conclusion I have may seem to render the court an accessory in furthering his criminal aims.

“I grant leave to Morrisons to appeal my conclusion as to vicarious liability, should they wish to do so, so that a higher court may consider it, but would not, without further persuasion, grant permission to cross-appeal my conclusions as to primary liability.”

Mr McAleenan said: “Every day, we entrust information about ourselves to businesses and organisations. We expect them to take responsibility when our information is not kept safe and secure.

“In the Morrisons case, almost 100,000 bank account details, National Insurance numbers and other data was entrusted to a fellow employee to look after. Instead, however, he uploaded the information to the internet.

“This private information belonged to my clients. They are Morrisons checkout staff, shelf stackers, factory workers – ordinary people doing their jobs.

“The consequences of this data leak were serious. It created significant worry, stress and inconvenience for my clients.”

In July 2015 Skelton was found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of fraud, securing unauthorised access to computer material and disclosing personal data and jailed for eight years.

The trial heard that his motive appeared to have been a grudge over a previous incident where he was accused of dealing in legal highs at work.

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Google faces class action on behalf of 5.4m UK iPhone users

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 30 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

If the claim is successful, people who had an iPhone between 2011 and 2012 could receive up to £200 in compensation each.

Google is facing legal action launched on behalf of 5.4 million people in England and Wales over allegations it unlawfully collected their personal data.

If successful, those affected could receive compensation.

The campaign Google You Owe Us says that between June 2011 and February 2012, Google bypassed the default privacy settings on users’ iPhones to collect user data unlawfully.

The company is alleged to have placed cookies on the Safari browser to track users.

Unusually, the campaign is a representative action, brought on behalf of all those affected – similar to a class action lawsuit in the US.

Richard Lloyd, the representative claimant in the case, told Sky News: “My job is to represent everyone that was affected by this breach of trust by Google to make sure that these vast companies have to be held accountable in the British courts.

“They’re not above the law. And we want to see more than five million British consumers given the compensation they’re due.”

The campaign estimates that, if the claim is successful, those affected could receive up to £200 in compensation each.

That would leave Google with a bill of more than £1bn.

A Google spokesperson told Sky News: “This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.”

Google has previously paid millions to settle cases about the so-called Safari Workaround.

In 2012, it paid $22.5m to settle changes brought by the US Federal Trade Commission.

The following year, it paid $17m to 37 US states and the District of Columbia to settle claims.

In March 2015, the Court of Appeal in the UK ruled that consumers did have the right to sue Google in the UK over the alleged misuse of privacy settings.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal said: “These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial.

“They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature… about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months.

“The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”

By Tom Cheshire

Aviva expects to generate extra £3bn to give more back to shareholders

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 30 Nov, 2017) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Aviva (AV.L) said on Thursday it expects to generate an extra 3 billion pounds in cash over the next two years and will give more of it back to shareholders, sending shares in the British insurer higher.

It expects to deploy 2 billion pounds in 2018 by spending 900 million pounds on repaying expensive debt, making “bolt-on” acquisitions and returning cash to shareholders, it said in a statement ahead of an investor day in Warsaw.

“After a few years of restructuring, our businesses are now high quality and we expect good, sustainable growth from each of them,” Chief Executive Mark Wilson said.

Insurers and reinsurers, among them Swiss Re (SRENH.S), have been returning cash to shareholders as strong competition cuts opportunities for expansion.

The cash promise helped send the shares up 2.5 percent to 521.5 pence by 0851 GMT, making it the third-top gainer on the blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE.

Morgan Stanley analyst Jon Hocking reiterated his ‘overweight’ weighting on the stock in a note to clients: “Taken as a package, we think this is a bullish set of goals from Aviva and, if achieved, the current multiple on the shares looks too low.” He flagged a 649p price target.

Aviva has said it is only looking for small acquisitions following its 5.6 billion pound purchase of Friends Life in 2015.

Aviva said it was raising its expectations for earnings growth to more than 5 percent annually from 2019 onwards, from a previous target of mid-single digit growth.

It also said it would increase its dividend pay-out ratio to 55-60 percent of earnings per share by 2020, from 50 percent.

The new targets are “achievable”, JP Morgan analysts said in a note, reiterating their “overweight” rating.

By Carolyn Cohn

UK bows to EU demands with possible £50bn Brexit divorce bill

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed,  29 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

Senior European official says that Britain ‘wants to come along with the money’ but the EU needs to see the fine print

The UK has bowed to EU demands on the Brexit divorce bill in a move that could result in the UK paying £50bn to Brussels, in an attempt to get France and Germany to agree to move negotiations to trade.

Non-stop behind-the-scenes negotiations have led to a broad agreement by the UK to a gross financial settlement of £89bn on leaving the bloc, although the British expect the final net bill to be half as much.

A senior EU official told the Guardian that the UK appeared ready to honour its share of the EU’s unpaid bills, loans, pension and other liabilities accrued over 44 years of membership. “We have heard the UK wants to come along with the money,” the official said. “We have understood it covers the liabilities and what we consider the real commitments. But we have to see the fine print.”

The bill could total £53bn to £58bn (€60bn to €65bn), although EU officials are not discussing numbers and the British government will fight hard to bring the total down. While EU sources have spoken in recent months of £53bn to £58bn, both sides are trying to avoid talking numbers to help the British government deal with the potentially toxic political fallout.

Theresa May got the agreement of key cabinet ministers last week to increase the amount that the UK was willing to pay. However, sources made clear that the discussion at the meeting of the Brexit cabinet subcommittee did not include agreeing to a particular figure, but instead to signing up to a method by which the bill could be calculated.

For EU diplomats the moment of truth will come at a lunch meeting between May and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Monday 4 December, when all three Brexit divorce issues will be on the table: the Brexit bill, the Irish border and protecting EU citizens’ rights. If the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, thinks the outcome is clear, he could issue his recommendation on sufficient progress the same day.

EU leaders will make the final decision at a European council meeting on 14 and 15 December, but Barnier’s recommendation to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks will be crucial. His decision will trigger an intense round of discussions in 27 EU capitals, involving different government departments and, in some cases, parliaments.

“I think we can reach sufficient progress, but again we haven’t seen anything on paper yet, so I am always extremely cautious,” said the EU official.

The FT has reported the gross liabilities to be more than €100bn, which fall to €55bn to €75bn once the UK’s share of EU assets is taken into account.

The signs of agreement over money have left the Irish border as the most uncertain issue hanging over the talks. EU diplomats are uncertain whether the Irish government could hold up the process by calling on Barnier to refuse sufficient progress. “There are lots of different signals coming about the possibility of an Irish veto,” said one diplomat. “As things stand now, I’d say we have 50/50 chance of that happening.”

A UK government source said that with negotiations still going on there would be no comment yet on specific figures. Those being cited currently seemed “speculative”, the source added.

Sources close to the member states counselled against overoptimism about talks moving on at the meeting of the EU’s leaders on 14 and 15 December.

The problem of how the British intend to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland remains unsolved, and the republic is insistent on “a road map” to how Downing Street intends to avoid a new border.

The British government has ruled out Northern Ireland in effect staying in the single market and the customs union, as Barnier had encouraged in the talks.

One senior diplomat said: “The divorce bill should be fine now. That was the big issue. And then it wasn’t. The border is the big worry. And I don’t know how they can square that circle. That is the big one now and it is up to the Irish to decide.”

EU diplomats were informed at lunchtime on Tuesday that enough progress on the divorce bill had been made for a meeting to be required on Friday, although the agreement may have been reached by the end of last week.

The final sum is 13% of the £660bn total liabilities the UK has committed to as a member state, including the seven-year budget ending in 2020, pension costs and outstanding loans, such as those to Ukraine, and to cover the costs of keeping Chernobyl safe.

The sum is reduced when payments that would have been made to EU projects in the UK, including structural funds, are taken into account, along with the UK’s capital share in the European Investment Bank.

The divorce bill will not be paid in a lump sum but over time, under the agreement struck in behind-the-scenes talks between Olly Robbins, Downing Street’s Brexit adviser, and the EU’s article 50 task force.

As the UK will continue to pay until all recipients of pensions have died, the final sum is unknown. It has long been expected that the final sum would land at between £40bn and £48bn.

Senior diplomats in Brussels said they were confident that the financial settlement would not now hold up the talks. “I think Germany, who has been strong on this, will be happy enough and the French will follow their lead,” said one source.

It is expected that the commission will propose a joint statement for the member states to scrutinise over the weekend ahead of a series of meetings next week.

British sources suggested that one leading leave campaigner, Michael Gove, is comfortable if that figure creeps up beyond £40bn as he is keen to show his loyalty to May. But Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who was seen as a key advocate of the claim that Brexit would recoup £350m a week for the NHS, has been more resistant to the suggestion of paying large amounts. He had suggested EU officials should “go whistle” over calls for €60bn to €100bn. However, he has more recently backed the prime minister’s position.

By  Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin and Anushka Asthana

 

UK wholesaler Palmer and Harvey goes administration with loss of 2,500 jobs

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 29 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

Major UK wholesaler Palmer and Harvey (P&H) has gone into administration following failed rescue talks.

Administrators at PwC have said 2,500 jobs will be lost with immediate effect.

The firm had been in takeover talks with private equity firm Carlyle, but these fell through.

P&H, which is the UK’s largest tobacco supplier, had been struggling with debts and owed substantial sums to key suppliers.

It is the UK’s fifth biggest privately-owned firm, and delivers more than 12,000 products, including food and alcohol.

It supplies about 90,000 outlets around the UK including major chains, convenience stores, corner shops and petrol station forecourts.

PwC said the group had been “hit by challenging trading conditions in recent months and efforts to restructure the business have been unsuccessful.

“This has resulted in cash flow pressures and it has not been possible to secure additional funding to support the business.”

‘Contingency plans’

P&H Group employs about 3,400 employees and PwC said it had “unfortunately been necessary to make about 2,500 immediate redundancies at head office and the branch network”.

The remaining employees would “assist the joint administrators in managing the activities of the business to an orderly closure”.

One P&H customer, Costcutter Supermarkets, said it was was searching for other suppliers.

“We have activated our contingency plans to provide alternative sources of supply through appropriate regional and national options,” a Costcutter spokesman said.

Supplier to P&H Japan Tobacco International (JTI) extended a loan to the troubled wholesaler while it was in talks with Carlyle.

JTI said it had been informed on Tuesday that the company had “unfortunately entered administration”.

“Throughout the whole process JTI has worked continuously to facilitate a constructive solution to the P&H Group’s challenges including extending significant financial and operational support to allow P&H to continue its operations.

“Regrettably our considerable efforts were not successful. We have a contingency plan in place and we do not expect any significant interruption in the supply of our products”, it added in a statement.

Fierce competition

Mark Todd, national officer of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), said the announcement was a “massive shock to our members and is an extremely distressing situation for all concerned, especially in the run up to Christmas.

“We will of course be doing everything possible to protect our members’ interests going forward.”

The collapse of P&H comes amid a string of mergers in the retail industry.

A shift in shopping habits, fierce competition from the likes of Aldi and Lidl, and the arrival of Amazon has prompted retailers to look to bolster their businesses by buying food wholesalers.

Earlier this month Tesco’s £3.7bn takeover of food wholesaler Booker got the go-ahead from the competition authorities.

Rival Nisa has been taken over by the Co-op.

 

Shares in Ocado surged with French retailer Groupe Casino deal

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via independent.co.uk – – Tue, 28 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

Shares in Ocado surged by more than 20 per cent in early trading on Tuesday after the online supermarket announced that it had struck a deal to cooperate with French retailer Groupe Casino.

Ocado said that it had sealed a deal with Casino for the latter to use its e-commerce platform to help bolster its online business.

As part of the deal, Casino will build a fulfilment centre using Ocado’s mechanical handling equipment. The plant will serve the greater Paris area, the Normandie and Hauts de France Regions.

The construction and launch is expected to take at least two years.

Ocado will take care of maintenance and provision of technology within the centre. In return, Casino will pay Ocado upfront fees after signing the deal, and during the development phase. It will then pay ongoing fees linked to the use of the fulfilment centre.

“This agreement is a major leap in terms of quality,” said Jean-Charles Naouri, chief executive of Groupe Casino.

He said that the agreement would strengthen the quality of service available to its customers.

Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado, said that he was “delighted” with the deal.

“We continue to make investments to commercialise our proprietary platform and expect this deal to be one of many successful collaborations with leading retailers to use it the world over.”

Ocado also said that it expects the deal to “create significant long term value to the business”.

Analysts have for some time said that international collaboration is crucial to Ocado’s ongoing success and on Tuesday ETX Capital senior market analyst Neil Wilson said that investors “should be relatively hopeful that this is just the start of a number of new deals around Europe”.

He also cautioned however, that shareholders should watch “just how much the technology investment eats up earnings and whether these deals increase the cash burn.”

By Josie Cox

Bitcoin hits $10,000 valuation for the first time

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 28 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

A single Bitcoin has hit $10,000 (£7,495) for the first time despite fears of a bubble.

The cryptocurrency hit $5,000 (£3,750) for the first time in October and in the brief period since then has doubled in value again.

It traded at $10,009 on the CEX exchange on Tuesday morning before dropping back down.

Over this calendar year, the digital cash has increased 1,000% in value and is continuing to attract investors.

Despite concerns that a bubble in the cryptocurrency’s value has been driven by increasing investment from those who fear they are missing out, investors continue to buy in to the digital means of exchange.

Bitcoin has surged through a number of symbolic milestones in recent weeks, showing an exponential curve on value-tracking charts.

However, as the World Coin Index image chart below shows, the volume of Bitcoin transactions has not grown at a similar pace to Bitcoin’s value – suggesting that many of those buying it are speculating on its value rather than using the currency to buy goods.

Despite volatility prompting severe drops at times, it has gained serious interest from financial institutions, with CME Group announcing its plans to launch a futures market in Bitcoin by the end of the year.

Onlookers have suggested that CME’s entry into Bitcoin could lure in more cautious investors.

CME Group’s contracts will be settled in cash, meaning that investors would not receive Bitcoin at a lower (or higher) rate, but the difference in price in dollars.

Sebastian Purcell, an assistant professor at SUNY Cortland in New York, wrote that he believed CME’s futures market would boost Bitcoin’s price – but ultimately “spells the end of Bitcoin mania”.

In a market outlook piece written for Seeking Alpha, Mr Purcell said: “These capital flows from institutions will temper volatility. This will make Bitcoin undesirable for traders, since volatility is critical for a good trading vehicle.

“These points mean that the gold-rush is over, but perhaps they also mean that Bitcoin could finally serve as a digital currency.”

 

Two pharmaceutical firms to invest more than £1bn in the UK, creating 1,850 jobs.

Penn State

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk  – – Mon, 27 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

Two pharmaceutical firms have said they will invest more than £1bn in the UK, creating about 1,850 jobs.

MSD, known as Merck in North America, will support a new research centre in London creating around 950 new posts.

Germany’s Qiagen will develop a genomics and diagnostics campus in Manchester, creating up to 800 jobs.

The government said these biotech deals illustrated confidence it its industrial strategy, the details of which it is publishing later.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said the investments represented “a huge vote of confidence” in the government’s plans.

“People don’t make the investments of this scale that are for the long term if they don’t have the confidence that we are building in this country a very attractive base,” he said.

  • Will the government’s economic medicine work?
  • Why isn’t the UK more productive?

He said the government’s white paper on industrial strategy would set out how the UK’s strengths in life sciences, financial services, advanced manufacturing and the creative industries would be maintained and enhanced.

The strategy comes just days after official forecasting body the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) announced an aggressive downgrade of its UK growth forecast.

The OBR concluded that a slowdown in the growth of productivity – or the value that each worker produces – since the financial crisis will persist for several more years.

The white paper will outline how “sector deals”, such as within the pharmaceutical industry, will link government funding and policy to investment from private firms.

MSD’s managing director in the UK and Ireland, Louise Houson, linked the company’s investment to the government’s approach to the economy: “This investment presents a major opportunity for us to work in collaboration with the UK government to build on the forward thinking and ambitious industrial strategy white paper being published.”

The chief executive of Qiagen, Peer Schatz, said the involvement of the University of Manchester, the NHS Trust and the UK government were “essential” to the partnership they are investing in.

Mr Clark said the UK’s decision to leave the EU meant the strategy was “even more important” and he said political commitments to limit immigration would not hamper the development of research related industries. He said the government would “make it easier for more scientists to come and work in the UK”.

Political parties and business groups have said that the solution to creating stronger growth and higher wages is more investment.

The industrial strategy is expected to outline similar partnerships to the MSD one with other private sector firms in the construction, artificial intelligence and automotive sectors.

The government said the deals would be “strategic and long-term partnerships”.

Here’s the idiot’s guide to how it’s supposed to work.

Pick an industry that the UK is already good at and needs investment.

Chuck in a bit of government money, cluster the right institutions around it, commit to provide the skills base and give them somewhere to try their new stuff.

That could mean faster trials for drugs in the NHS or using public roads to test driverless cars.

Hey presto – private investment ensues.

Some will see this as another example of government’s dodgy track record in “picking winners” – the government insists it is backing excellence.

Of course, all of these new initiatives are being born under the star sign of Brexit which makes them children of uncertainty.

Extra funding

 

The government has already pledged to invest an additional £80bn in research and development (R&D) over the next decade.

The additional funding is aimed at putting the UK’s investment in R&D on a par with other advanced nations.

Currently the UK spends 1.7% of its gross domestic product on R&D, much lower than the 2.4% average of developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

As part of its industrial strategy, the government is also expected to outline the main global trends which it believes the UK needs to tackle to revive its flat-lining productivity.

These are expected to include artificial intelligence, clean energy such as low carbon technologies, medical care for an ageing population and future mobility such as driverless cars and drone-delivered goods.

“More decisions about our economic future will be in our own hands and it is vital that we take them,” Mr Clark said.

Patisserie Valerie cafe chain profits soared 17pc as Manchester factory expansion looked into

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 27 Nov, 2017) London, Uk – –

Patisserie Valerie, the cafe chain headed by veteran entrepreneur Luke Johnson, is considering opening a new factory in Manchester after posting another year of rapid growth.

Revenues climbed 9.7pc to £114.2m in the year to September, while pre-tax profits soared 17pc to £20.2m.

Mr Johnson, Patisserie Valerie’s executive chairman, said the chain’s “indulgent, affordable treats remain attractive to customers” and that its “flexible” business model helped offset rising costs – which included the higher minimum wage.

Patisserie Valerie’s cafes are supplied by its main bakery in Birmingham and seven others around the country. The chain said it was considering opening a new factory near Manchester big enough to service 70 stores, to provide extra capacity and improve efficiency.

Revenues were boosted by a deal with Sainsbury’s signed earlier this year, which has led to Patisserie Valerie selling cakes through counters at 18 of the supermarket chain’s stores.

Patisserie Valerie is boosting its dividend by 20pc to 2.4p per share. It opened 20 new cafes in the year, bringing the total to 199, and its Cake Club promotional scheme attracted around 40,000 extra members.

Mr Johnson said: “We have delivered another year of excellent financial results, achieving our targets in a challenging environment.”

Shares in Patisserie Holdings were up 6.5pc to £3.34 in morning trading.

 By Jack Torrance

 

The bespoke craftsmanship and unique design of Connor Wood bicycles

 

Source/Youtube

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Sat, 25 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

The forerunner of the bicycle – the laufmaschine or running machine – bears only a passing resemblance to the pedal-bikes we know today.

Invented in 1817, it had no chain and was powered by the rider pushing his feet along the ground in a walking or running motion.

Even more unusually, its frame was made from wood.

Jump forward to 2017, and a crop of bike makers is turning back the clock – at least in terms of using wood as a core material.

These firms make their bicycles in part, and occasionally wholly, from woods such as ash, oak and walnut.

They are driven by a love of craft and design, the desire to use natural materials, and a passion for cycling itself.

And they have attracted a small but growing base of enthusiastic customers, willing to pay high prices for their lovingly crafted creations.

“People like having something unique, something different,” says Chris Connor, the founder of Connor Wood Bicycles.

“They also appreciate the craftsmanship. Not a lot of things are built by hand these days.”

The company was born in 2012, after the 48-year-old American decided to combine his long held passions for woodwork and cycling.

All his bikes all have wooden frames; the other parts, such as the gears and wheels, are made from steel, carbon or rubber.

Prices range from $3,500 (£2,600) to $11,000.

Sales have gradually been increasing, but it hasn’t been easy, says Mr Connor. That’s because of a perception among some cyclists that wooden bikes may break or be unsafe.

In fact, Mr Connor says wood is very durable, which is why it’s used to make tool handles, skis, boats, even light aircraft.

It also absorbs vibrations well, making cycling on bumpy roads smoother, less tiring and quieter.

“And of course, these bikes look great,” says Mr Connor, who makes his frames made from “strong but flexible” white ash or “eye candy” black walnut.

A recently published book called “The Wooden Bicycle: Around the World” features 111 companies that make bikes from wood or bamboo.

Only one, Splinterbike in the UK, sells 100% wooden models with its bikes featuring wooden gears, chains and wheels.

However, most limit their use of wood to the frame, and occasionally parts such as the handlebars and forks. Other parts will be made from materials typically associated with bikes, such as aluminium.

It is the unique design of wooden bikes, and their bespoke craftsmanship, that underpins their appeal, says Gregor Cuzak.

The Slovenian co-founded Woodster Bikes after meeting woodworker Iztok Mohoric, who had recently designed a bike with a wooden frame.

“I wasn’t interested at first, but after I saw it and took a ride, I was immediately convinced,” Mr Cuzak says. “People were watching me as if I was driving a wild sports car.”

Like other firms in the space, Woodster is targeting customers who appreciate the finer things in life. Its bike frames are made of woods such as beech and bog oak, and prices range from 2,500 euros (£2,190) up to 17,000 euros.

In addition, every customer gets a book with a story about how their individual bike was made.

“We even plant a new tree at the same location where we cut one for your bike,” Mr Cuzak adds.

Piet Brandjes, 63, who co-founded Dutch firm Bough Bikes, agrees that wooden bikes “attract attention”.

For that reason, firms in the Netherlands such as Novotel and Rabobank have bought Bough Bikes for their guests and employees to use.

By Thessa Lageman

Black Friday 2017 how the UK now embrace this excessive shopping event

 

Tim Tabor/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 25 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

It’s a shopping event that didn’t even exist here a few years ago but now seems to have turned into a relentless machine.

Look around you today, and witness an outbreak of furtive shopping.

People at work, on the train or maybe sitting opposite you in the living room, all looking at a screen, spending time on spending money.

Today is Black Friday, a retail event that didn’t even exist in this country a few years ago but now seems to have turned into a relentless machine.

In shops and online, we are expected to spend around £3bn over the next few days. Black Friday, after all, doesn’t actually stop until Sunday or Monday.

Yes, it’s a bit gaudy and no, not every retailer joins in.

Marks and Spencer, for instance, have made a point of avoiding this carnival of cost-cutting, but every year, more people do seem to get involved.

Today, you’ll see special deals at stores ranging from Poundland to John Lewis, which rather suggests that Black Friday is here to stay.

But why? Why would retailers decide to embrace all this, offering huge discounts in the run-up to Christmas, traditionally the time when we all dig into our savings for an annual shopping splurge?

Why, to use a rather vivid metaphor, would shops cannibalise their own sales?

To discover the answer, you have to cast your mind back to the financial crisis and then gently scroll forward.

In the years that followed, Britain’s economy was helped by consumer spending.

British shoppers, to put it bluntly, kept on opening their wallets, and Britain’s retailers kept finding things to sell to them.

The competitive nature of that was fierce – just look at food price deflation or the collapse of BHS as evidence of that – but our best retailers are all still there.

Into that pot came tumbling the explosive expansion of online shopping.

The internet delivered three strands: traditional retailers who found a new way of selling goods, pure online companies such as ASOS or Ocado, and then Amazon – a company worth £418bn at last count, but which is younger than Ariana Grande, and sells just about everything, to just about everyone.

British retailers found themselves battling to understand how to combat Amazon, and also how to keep us all spending money.

And then, Black Friday tumbled into their laps, offering an opportunity.

Black Friday was already an American institution, heralding a shopping splurge after Thanksgiving, and it was brought here by Walmart, an American company.

But the Brits have embraced it – retail giants such as Dixons Carphone commission special Black Friday products a year in advance while the list of special deals is long and detailed.

Yes, some of them are things they’re trying to get rid of anyway, and yes, some of them were probably available at a discount price a few months back anyway.

But few now doubt that there are bargains to be had out there.

This is an important Christmas period. Retail sales have been weak over the past few six months and plenty of retailers I speak to paint a picture that is tougher even than official statistics suggest.

Some say their focus is pretty much entirely on survival, rather than growth and they worry that the likes of Amazon are selling products for below-cost, creating prices that are impossible to beat on a regular basis.

Black Friday gives them a chance to grab back our attention.

And curiously, it seems that this doesn’t ruin Christmas sales – only one in five Black Friday sales are Christmas presents.

Mostly, it’s people treating themselves to a bargain purchase, and mostly they’re doing it online.

Only 20% of Black Friday shopping is done in an actual shop.

That’s why you’re going to see so many people studying screens over the next couple of days, adding to the billions that we spend over a weekend.

That leaves other, pressing questions – if more shopping is now being done online, and if young people assume all transactions are done online by default, what are the consequences for physical shops, for delivery companies, automation and retail employment?

These could end up being crucial questions for the UK economy – something to ponder as you wait at the online checkout.

By Adam Parsons

Uk’s booming craft beer industry helped delivery firm APC boost profits overnight

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 25 Nov, 2017) London, Uk – –

Britain’s booming craft beer industry helped delivery firm APC Overnight post a 30pc growth in pre-tax profits to £3m last year.

Revenues at APC, which has 112 sites around the UK, crept up 0.8pc to £103m in the year to March 31 as the company moved away from so-called “heavy traffic” like white goods and carpets towards smaller parcels and packets, shipments of which have increased as online shopping has boomed.

Chief executive Jonathan Smith told The Daily Telegraph the company had seen particularly strong growth in the food and drink market.

Mr Smith said: “We’ve seen a real growth in niche beers from micro breweries. There’s more breweries in the UK than any time in the last 50 years, and lots of them have got online businesses now, which we serve.”

The number of UK breweries has soared 64pc to almost 2,000 since 2012, according to figures released by accountants UHY Hacker Young, as punters have ditched mass-produced lagers in favour of more unusual tipples.

Founded in 1994, APC is owned by 33 of its network members, local delivery companies for which it provides transportation and sorting services.

Larger logistics firms are gearing up to cope with the annual online shopping rush on Black Friday later this week, but Mr Smith said APC, which caters mostly to SMEs, does not anticipate such a large surge.

“There is a peak definitely, but lots of SMEs say do you know what, we’ve got a great service, a great product, we don’t take part in that,” Mr Smith said.

Delivery companies face an increasing struggle to cater to customers in large cities, and particularly in London, he added, as industrial space previously occupied by warehouses is converted into homes.

Mr Smith said: “We’re fairly well placed [to deal with it] but we can’t pretend conditions aren’t getting worse year-on-year.”

The industry has come under fire for its reliance on self-employed casual workers in recent years, but Mr Smith says APC and its members predominantly use employed drivers “where they can”.

By Jack Torrance

Uk economy on course for longest fall in living standards in over 60 years

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 23 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

Resolution Foundation says cut in growth announced in budget means household disposable incomes will fall until 2020

The UK is on course for the longest fall in living standards since records began in the 1950s, as analysis shows Philip Hammond’s budget will drive up inequality.

The Resolution Foundation said the stark downgrade to economic growth revealed by the chancellor on Wednesday means household disposable incomes were now set to fall until 2020. It also found the poorest third are set for an average loss of £715 a year over the coming five years, while the richest third stand to gain £185 on average.

Hammond slashed stamp duty for first-time homebuyers as part of a package of measures to boost the economy, facing evidence that the UK will be one of the weakest-growing major countries over the next five years. Britain’s growth rate was cut from 2% to 1.5% in 2017 and by between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points over the next four years.

But the Resolution Foundation analysis shows the chancellor could have used his £3bn stamp duty cut to build 40,000 social rented properties or about 140,000homes through the government’s own Housing Infrastructure Fund..

The government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has already warned that the key measure unveiled by the chancellor may backfire by pushing up house prices, benefiting those who already own homes the most.

The policy announced the immediate abolition of stamp duty for all properties up to £300,000 bought by first-time buyers with immediate effect, as part of a range of measures designed to address the UK’s housing crisis. The move will save four out of five first-time buyers up to £5,000.

Those spending up to £500,000 – including most buyers in London – will also benefit, as the first £300,000 of the purchase price will not be subject to the tax. Previously the tax was paid on all purchases over £125,000.

But the OBR said the changes would probably push up property prices by a%bout 0.3, with most of the increase coming in 2018.

Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, said the stamp duty changes were a “very poor way to boost home ownership”.

“Faced with a grim economic backdrop the chancellor will see this budget as a political success. But that would be cold comfort for Britain’s families given the bleak outlook it paints for their living standards,” he added.

By Richard Partington

 

 

Tech giants to face renewed crack down over tax avoidance

(qlmbusinessnews.com via independent.co.uk – – Thur, 23 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

‘Multinational digital businesses pay billions of pounds in royalties to low-tax jurisdictions where they are not taxed,’ the chancellor said

Tech giants like Google and Amazon who legally shift profits into tax havens will face a renewed crackdown, the Chancellor announced on Wednesday.

“Multinational digital businesses pay billions of pounds in royalties to low-tax jurisdictions where they are not taxed,” Mr Hammond said in his Budget speech.

He said that from 2019, companies will have to pay income tax on any royalties relating to UK sales that they funnel through tax havens. The tax will apply regardless of where the payer is located.

But Mr Hammond admitted the so-called ‘Google Tax’ would not solve the problem of tax avoidance and would bring in just £200m per year. That compares to Amazon’s UK sales of £7.3bn last year, on which it paid £7.4m in tax.

The notes released to accompany the Budget show that the Treasury thinks revenue raised from the tax will fall rapidly from £285m in its first year to less than half that amount four years later – possibly an admission that companies will quickly find ways to avoid paying.

Mr Hammond recognised that he is unable to tackle the “tax challenge posed by digital economy” on his own and said that international co-operation was needed, though he assured the nation that the UK is “leading the charge” on that front.

“We will continue to work in the international arena to find a sustainable and fair long-term solution that properly taxes digital businesses that operate in our cyberspace,” Mr Hammond said.

He also said he would make online marketplaces liable for VAT paid on goods. MPs have accused companies like Amazon and eBay of failing to combat VAT fraud taking place on their platforms, meaning that sellers from overseas can offer an effective tax cut of up to 20 per cent by not charging VAT. The Treasury estimates that this kind of VAT fraud costs taxpayers £1.2bn per year.

Digital platforms will likewise be asked to play a “wider role in ensuring their users are compliant with the tax rules”, according to this year’s Budget, with the Government set to publish a call for evidence in spring 2018 to explore what more can be done by digital platforms.

By Ben Chapman

Budget aims to tackle Uk’s deep-seated economic challenges “head on”, Philip Hammond is to say

 

Chancellor Philip Hammond/flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 22 Nov 2017) London, Uk – –

The UK must “seize the opportunities” from Brexit while tackling deep-seated economic challenges “head on”, Philip Hammond is to say in his second Budget.

The chancellor will promise investment to make Britain “fit for the future” as an “outward looking, free-trading nation” once it leaves the EU in 2019.

But he will also commit to supporting hard-pressed families with the cost of living and address housing shortages.

Labour say he should call time on austerity and boost public services.

In his Commons speech, which will begin at about 12:30 GMT, Mr Hammond will set out proposed tax and spending changes.

He will also update MPs on the current state of the economy, future growth projections and the health of the public finances.

He has been under pressure in recent months from sections of his party who argue that he is too pessimistic about the UK’s prospects when it leaves the EU.

In response, he will set out his vision for the UK after Brexit as a “prosperous and inclusive economy” which harnesses the power of technological change and innovation to be a “force for good in the world”.

What will be in the Budget?

Unlike past years, few announcements have been briefed out in advance of the big day.

But the chancellor is expected to announce more money for teacher training in England and extra cash to boost the numbers of students taking maths after the age of 16.

He has signalled he wants to speed up permitted housing developments and give more help to small builders.

In a nod to younger voters, discounted rail cards will be extended.

An extra £2.3bn for research and development and £1.7bn for transport links are designed to address the UK’s lagging productivity.

Extra money is also expected to be found for new charge points for electric cars and for the next generation of 5G mobile networks.

Expect the theme of innovation to ring through the speech, with Mr Hammond hailing the UK as being “at the forefront of a technological revolution”.

  • Driverless cars ‘on UK roads by 2021’
  • Tax on takeaway boxes to be considered
  • Chancellor to scrap VAT on Police Scotland
  • Labour demands ’emergency Budget’

Will it be a ‘bold’ or ‘boring’ Budget?

The image Mr Hammond has cultivated as a safe, unflashy pair of hands in uncertain times – hence his ironic “box office Phil” nickname – was dented in the March Budget when he had to backtrack on plans to hike National Insurance for the self-employed.

Asked on Sunday whether this would be a bold or boring Budget, he settled for describing it as “balanced”.

While some Tory MPs would prefer a safety-first approach with no controversy, others want him to turbo-charge efforts to prepare the UK for life after Brexit.

Most hope he will begin to address issues perceived to have hurt the Tories at the election, such as the financial pressures on public sector workers and young people.

In remarks released ahead of the speech, Mr Hammond strikes an upbeat tone, saying he will use the Budget to “look forwards, embrace change, meet our challenges head on and seize the opportunities for Britain”.

  • How will ‘box office Phil’ play the Budget?

Isn’t the Budget normally in Spring?

Yes, that’s the way it’s been for the last twenty years. The last one was in March and normally there wouldn’t be another one until Spring 2018.

But Mr Hammond thinks late autumn is a more suitable time for tax and spending changes to be announced and scrutinised before the start of the tax year in April. So from now on, Budgets will take place in November.

But aside from the timing, the choreography of Budget day will remain the same.

Mr Hammond will be photographed in Downing Street holding the famous red ministerial box – used to carry the statement – aloft before making the short journey to the Commons.

While tradition dictates he can take a swig of his chosen tipple during his speech, Mr Hammond is expected to eschew anything too strong and confine himself to water during what is normally an hour-long statement.

What’s happened since the last Budget?

Quite a lot. In the last nine months, the UK has triggered Brexit and begun negotiations on the terms of its departure from the EU.

Economic conditions have changed too, although there is fierce debate about how much of this is attributable to uncertainty and negativity over Brexit.

Inflation has risen to 3%, its highest level in five years, while growth has faltered a little.

However, borrowing levels are at a 10-year low, giving Mr Hammond more flexibility, while employment remains at record levels.

The political backdrop has also changed enormously.

The loss of their majority in June’s election sparked fresh Brexit infighting within the Conservatives.

The government has the backing of the DUP, but Mr Hammond – who is distrusted by many on the right of the party – does not have unlimited political capital in the bank.

  • UK public borrowing up as Budget looms
  • Why isn’t the UK more productive?

What sort of advice is he getting?

Free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute is among campaigners urging an end to stamp duty for first-time buyers.

And Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell wants immediate action to reduce inequality.

Uber data breach of 57m users and drivers covered up

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 22 Nov 2017) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc paid hackers $100,000 to keep secret a massive breach last year that exposed the personal information of about 57 million accounts of the ride-service provider, the company said on Tuesday.

Discovery of the U.S. company’s cover-up of the incident resulted in the firing of two employees responsible for its response to the hack, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO in August.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. (ubr.to/2AmxlQt)

The breach occurred in October 2016 but Khosrowshahi said he had only recently learned of it.

The hack is another controversy for Uber on top of sexual harassment allegations, a lawsuit alleging trade secrets theft and multiple federal criminal probes that culminated in Kalanick’s ouster in June.

The stolen information included names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of Uber users around the world, and the names and license numbers of 600,000 U.S. drivers, Khosrowshahi said.

Uber passengers need not worry as there was no evidence of fraud, while drivers whose license numbers had been stolen would be offered free identity theft protection and credit monitoring, Uber said.

Two hackers gained access to proprietary information stored on GitHub, a service that allows engineers to collaborate on software code. There, the two people stole Uber’s credentials for a separate cloud-services provider where they were able to download driver and rider data, the company said.

A GitHub spokeswoman said the hack was not the result of a failure of GitHub’s security.

“While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” Khosrowshahi said.

“We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”

Bloomberg News first reported the data breach on Tuesday.

Khosrowshahi said Uber had begun notifying regulators. The New York attorney general has opened an investigation, a spokeswoman said.

Regulators in Australia and the Philippines said on Wednesday they would look into the matter. Uber is seeking to mend fences in Asia after having run-ins with authorities, and is negotiating with a consortium led by Japan’s SoftBank Group (9984.T) for fresh investment. SoftBank declined to comment.

Uber said it had fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, and a deputy, Craig Clark, this week because of their role in the handling of the incident. Sullivan, formerly the top security official at Facebook Inc (FB.O) and a federal prosecutor, served as both security chief and deputy general counsel for Uber.

Sullivan declined to comment when reached by Reuters. Clark could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kalanick learned of the breach in November 2016, a month after it took place, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. At the time, the company was negotiating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data.

A board committee had investigated the breach and concluded that neither Kalanick nor Salle Yoo, Uber’s general counsel at the time, were involved in the cover-up, another person familiar with the issue said. The person did not say when the investigation took place.

Uber said on Tuesday it was obliged to report the theft of the drivers’ license information and had failed to do so.

Kalanick, through a spokesman, declined to comment. The former CEO remains on the Uber board of directors, and Khosrowshahi has said he consults with him regularly.

CRIME PAYS

Although payments to hackers are rarely publicly discussed, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and private security companies have told Reuters that an increasing number of companies are paying criminal hackers to recover stolen data.