Royal Mail workers vote for strike action raising the threat of industrial action in the run-up to Christmas

( via – – Wed, 16th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

CWU members vote 97% in favour, raising prospect of first national postal strike in decade

Royal Mail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking in a dispute over job security and employment terms and conditions, raising the threat of industrial action in the run-up to Christmas.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) backed action by 97% in a huge turnout of almost 76%.

The CWU said Royal Mail was not sticking to an agreement reached last year covering a wide range of issues, including plans to reduce the working week, as well as job security.

Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with widespread unofficial strikes breaking out virtually every week.

Terry Pullinger, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said the union and its members were facing the “fight of our lives”.

The CWU said the result represented the largest vote in favour of national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.

The union said the prospect of the first national postal strike in a decade now “looms large”.

Pullinger said: “Just over one year ago the Royal Mail Group Board and the CWU agreed a blueprint agreement for the future, a progressive agreement that included a historic pension solution, a mutual interest driven relationship and a joint vision for a successful postal service with social aims.Advertisement

“Today the new RMG leadership are breaking that agreement.

“Our members take honour seriously and have voted to fight for that agreement against those who now seek to break up the great British postal service in the interest of fast-track profit and greed.

“Integrity and pride still matters and we will not stand aside and see what we have spent our working lives building destroyed.”

Dave Ward, the CWU’s general secretary, said: “This result sends a clear message to Royal Mail Group – our members will not stand by as you rip up their terms and conditions and destroy the service they give to the public and businesses of the UK.

“We would urge Royal Mail Group to now enter serious negotiations with this union. We also call on the public to get behind this dispute and your postal workers.

“We are very proud of our members today. They have stood by their union in record numbers and given hope to workers across the nation.”

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said Royal Mail was an example of a “privatisation failure” following news of the strike action.

“Thousands of posties have voted yes in record numbers for strike action in defence of their jobs,” he tweeted. “Royal Mail is a Tory-Lib Dem privatisation failure.

“Its selloff led to shareholders creaming profits off the top while running down the service.”

By PA Media

Primark warns customers not to purchase its products online

( via – – Wed, 16th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –
Primark has warned customers not to purchase its products from third parties online as they will be paying higher prices for them than in store.

Reports had suggested Primark – which does not have an online shop – was now selling its products on Amazon.

However, the High Street chain said that it did not have a commercial relationship with Amazon.

“We encourage our customers to visit us in our stores to find the best value,” Primark said on Twitter.

“We do not have a commercial partnership with Amazon and any Primark products which appear on the site are being re-sold by third parties, at higher prices.”

The BBC found popular Primark homeware and fashion products on both Amazon and eBay at a mark-up of between 50-75% in price.

Many customers took to Twitter to respond to Primark, asking the retailer to reconsider its stance and open an online store as they were unable to visit a Primark store for a variety of reasons.

Other Twitter users said that they were happy to visit Primark's stores because they did not want prices to rise.

A store-only experience

Primark, which is owned by Associated British Foods, is well known for its very low prices.

In the last few years, the retailer has also become known for its merchandising agreements with high-profile film, TV, children's toys and video game brands including Harry Potter, Disney, Game of Thrones, Lol Surprise, Fortnite, Friends, Barbie, Stranger Things, Mean Girls, Peanuts and Garfield.

The chain, which was founded in 1969, does not have an online store or offer click-and-collect services for its products.

In November 2018, Primark's head of ethical trade and environmental sustainability Paul Lister was asked by MPs to justify how the retailer could afford to keep prices so low, as part of a government inquiry into the environmental impact of fast fashion.

He said the fact Primark did not advertise meant the retailer could save up to £150m a year.

In March 2017, a £4 Chip teacup purse that was released in conjunction with the Beauty and the Beast live-action Disney film was so popular that people began bulk-buying the item and selling it on eBay for as much as £80.

The purse was sold out until Primark flooded its stores with the product, bringing its value back down again, and a similar situation occurred with a porcelain teacup version of the product later that year.

Employment sharpest decline blamed on Brexit jitters

( via– Tue, 15th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Economists and business groups say the latest employment figures betray growing Brexit nerves among UK employers.

The number of people in work suffered its sharpest decline for more than four years in the three months to August, according to official figures.

Economists and business groups pointed to Brexit uncertainty, coupled with the US-China trade war-led global slowdown, for the drop.

The decline, which is the largest since May 2015, was led by falling numbers of people aged under 25 not in work.

It was among several more downbeat pieces of news for the UK jobs market that has been largely resilient since the vote to leave the EU in 2016 with employment levels hitting record levels this year.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed employment falling by 56,000 to 32.69 million over the three months.

The jobless total rose – from a 45-year low last month – by 22,000 to 1.31 million. That helped push the unemployment rate up slightly to 3.9%.

There was also weaker wage growth, the ONS said, with total pay excluding bonuses slowing to a rate of 3.8% from 3.9%.

ONS deputy head of labour market statistics, Matt Hughes, said of the figures: “The employment rate is still rising year-on-year, but this growth has cooled noticeably in recent months.

“Among the under-25s, the employment rate has actually started to fall on the year.

“Pay growth continues to outstrip inflation, as it has done for over eighteen months now.”

Separate official data has suggested that the economy, while enduring a slowdown, will avoid recession this year as growth picked up in the third quarter following a contraction between April and June.

Strong employment and household spending power – a consequence of wages rising faster than prices – usually bodes well for the economy.

But surveys have shown growing nerves about the Brexit outcome among both consumers and businesses.

Earlier this month, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that employers were delaying or cancelling hiring plans amid continued Brexit uncertainty.

Its director of policy, Tom Hadley, said of the ONS data: “Our prosperity depends on businesses creating jobs and opportunities for people to progress through work.

“Employment is still high, underlining the fundamental resilience of our jobs market. However, today's figures flag some warning signs as Brexit uncertainty bites.”

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “The disappointing numbers are not a blip but the consequence of a steady deteriorating trend seen over the course of 2019 so far.

“What's more, the business surveys indicate that the job market continued to weaken in September, hinting that the rate of job losses likely accelerated.”

Neil Woodford ousted as flagship Equity Income Fund to be shut

( via — Tue, 15th Oct 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Neil Woodford has been ousted from his flagship LF Woodford Equity Income Fund which will be shut down to pay back investors whose money has been trapped since June.

Trading in the now 3 billion pound fund managed by Woodford, one of Britain’s most high-profile money managers, was suspended four months ago after poor performance led to an increase in demand from clients to take their money back.

At the heart of Woodford’s troubles was the scale of his holdings in unlisted or illiquid assets, which have become a focal point for regulators and lawmakers in subsequent weeks – especially as Woodford continued to charge investors management fees.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday that the closure should act as a reminder of the structural problems in open-ended investment funds like Woodford’s, which allow investors to take their money out any day they like.

The BoE and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will spell out how investors can pull cash from open-ended funds in December, following a review.

Despite Woodford trying to sell its illiquid holdings ahead of a planned December fund reopening, administrator Link Fund Solutions (LFS) told investors the process had not gone as planned.

As such, Link said the fund risked an extended suspension in December, potentially leading to unequal treatment of investors.

“Whilst progress has been made in relation to repositioning the Fund’s assets, this has unfortunately not been sufficient to allow reasonable certainty as to when the repositioning would be fully achieved and the Fund could be re-opened,” Link said.

Neil Woodford, in a separate statement, firmly rejected the move to shut the fund and oust him as manager.

“This was Link’s decision and one I cannot accept, nor believe is in the long-term interests of LF Woodford Equity Income fund investors.”

A source close to Woodford told Reuters that Link’s decision was a “complete surprise” and the manager had only learnt of Link’s intention to close the fund late on Monday.

The FCA said it “welcomed the removal of uncertainty” provided by Link’s decision to shut the fund.

It “means investors should receive some of their money back sooner than had the fund remained suspended for a longer period,” the regulator said.

Woodford will cease to be the fund’s investment manager with immediate effect and its assets will be split into two portfolios, LFS said in a statement.

BlackRock Advisors (BLK.N) will sell the fund’s listed assets while PJT Partners will continue with its previously agreed role in selling the fund’s illiquid assets, Link said.

BlackRock will switch the portfolio into money market funds for investors posted online.

A spokeswoman for BlackRock said it would “seek to maximise value for investors, balancing the need for a timely return of capital with the challenges of the illiquidity profile of the portfolio”. PJT declined to comment.

The winding up of the LF Woodford Equity Income Fund – which will be stripped of Woodford’s name – will begin on Jan. 17, 2020, Link said, when investors should receive an initial payment.

Top holdings in the fund according to the last published data in April include housebuilders Taylor Wimpey (TW.L), Barratt Developments (BDEV.L) and subprime lender Provident Financial Group (PFG.L).


Darius McDermott, managing director of financial adviser Chelsea Financial Services, said the situation was “a mess” and the fund’s closure would make it “a forced seller of all stocks”.

Britain’s Treasury Committee of lawmakers “will want to examine what lessons can be learned from this saga”, interim chair Catherine McKinnell said.

Oxford-based Woodford made his name at Invesco Perpetual after avoiding the collapse of the tech bubble at the turn of the century as well as banks ahead of the financial crisis.

After more than two decades at Invesco, he set up his own firm in 2014, quickly amassing billions in mostly retail investor assets, much of it from investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV.L), which continued to back the troubled fund right up to its suspension.

At its peak the fund managed more than 10 billion pounds.

Shares in Neil Woodford’s separate listed fund Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) (WPCT.L) slid to a record low and by 1225 GMT were trading down 7%.

Hundreds of thousands of retail investors had money in the closed fund.

Nooman Haque, a banker whose family invested 10,000 pounds, said Woodford’s decision to continue charging fees during the suspension “did not endear him to investors”.

Link said in the Q&A that fees would still be paid to BlackRock and other service providers, although it would forego its own fee for acting as authorised corporate director.

Mark Robinson, a property investment manager who invested around 5,000 pounds on behalf of his children, said the funds industry needed to learn from the “debacle”.

Chancellor Sajid Javid Sets Date for Budget

( via – – Mon, 14th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

The Budget has been announced for 6 November, with Chancellor Sajid Javid saying it will be “the first budget after leaving the EU”.

“This is the right and responsible thing to do – we must get on with governing,” he said.

It will be Mr Javid's first Budget since he became chancellor in July.

The Budget date is normally announced in September. Mr Javid said the Budget would detail the government's plans to “shape the economy for the future”.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the full Budget would be delayed and the 6 November announcement would be “a simple economic statement”.

Understand if there is No deal, then Budget will be delayed for several weeks – and Nov 6 will just be an economic statement.

The government's independent financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which produces economic forecasts for the Budget would normally get ten weeks notice to prepare.

The OBR said it was able to prepare some information in advance, but that its forecasts would be based on the UK securing a Brexit deal.

It said since the EU referendum, its forecasts had been based on “broad brush assumptions for a relatively smooth [Brexit] outcome”. The OBR said that approach would continue “in the absence of any specific information”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he expected the Budget to be “an electioneering stunt rather than a Budget to rebuild our stalling economy and reset the direction of our country”.

The Budget is the government's yearly announcement on its plans for tax and spending for the coming financial year, which starts in April 2020.

There are expectations that the chancellor could relax the government's borrowing rules to give him more spending power.

The rules state that borrowing should remain below 2% of national income, at about £46bn.

Mr Javid has already suggested he is prepared to borrow more to take advantage of current record-low borrowing costs, and has previously said he plans to review the borrowing rules.

In August's spending review, Mr Javid declared the government had “turned the page on austerity, announcing its largest increase in spending for 15 years.

Analysis: Faisal Islam

Naming the date of a Budget is a sign from the chancellor to communicate that at least some Treasury business continues as normal.

But there is nothing routine about a government yet to win a vote in the Commons, trying to pass a Budget.

In theory there will be measures to boost infrastructure, spending and some taxes.

But if there is a no-deal Brexit, the Treasury will instead turn its focus on giving immediate support to the economy, businesses and households.

So, in that case, there would be a delay to the Budget.

In a no-deal scenario, there might be some extra scope for a cut to VAT which could be part of a general fiscal stimulus package for the economy.

Whatever happens, a new set of Budget numbers and economic forecasts is being prepared by the government's independent financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility. The Bank of England too will be preparing its new forecasts for the 7 November Inflation Report, and any implications for interest rates.

The Treasury will also reveal its new self-imposed constraints on borrowing – “fiscal rules”- designed to help create more space for spending and tax cuts.

And if there is a Budget a week after a Brexit deal has passed the Commons, there could be a chance that the government could get support for its fiscal measures too.

Or rather it could be part of the pathway to a general election next month.

US private equity group Thoma Bravo to buy Abingdon-based company in grees £3.1bn takeover

( via – – Mon, 14th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

US private equity group Thoma Bravo to buy Abingdon-based company, which has 3,400 staff

The UK cybersecurity firm Sophos, which assisted the NHS and a number of businesses during a massive WannaCry ransomware attack two years ago, is to be bought by a US private equity group for $3.9bn (£3.1bn).

The FTSE 250 company, which is based in Abingdon near Oxford and employs 3,400 people, said it would unanimously recommend the offer from Thoma Bravo. It is the first acquisition outside the US for the Chicago-based buyout firm. Sophos shares jumped 37% to 585p, in line with the bid terms of $7.40p a share (583p).

Sophos floated at 225p in June 2015, valuing the firm at just over £1bn, in one of the biggest technology IPOs in the UK that year. It was its third attempt at going public.Advertisement

The company was founded in 1985 by Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer, who stepped down as joint chief executives in 2005, although they still act as special advisers to the board. They have committed to selling their stakes, a combined 16.3%, to Thoma Bravo and will make £218m and £250m respectively.

The chief executive, Kris Hagerman, will make £16.4m from selling his 0.57% stake, while Nick Bray, the outgoing chief financial officer, will pocket £1.7m from his 0.06% holding.

Sophos is the latest UK company to be taken over by an overseas firm taking advantage of the fall in the value of sterling since the Brexit vote in June 2016. The London-based money transfer company WorldFirst was sold to Ant Financial, controlled by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, reportedly for £520m.

“Another day, another takeover of a UK company by a foreign business,” said Russ Mould, investment director at stockbroker AJ Bell. “Sterling weakness has made pound-denominated assets look cheap and so we’ve seen many overseas firms pounce on UK assets in the past few years.”

Sophos makes software to protect organisations against cyberattacks and there has been strong demand for its products in recent years. However, in January it warned that growth was slowing.

As well as the NHS, its 400,000 clients around the world include the animation studio Pixar, the carmaker Ford, the retailer Under Armour, the aerospace and defence firm Northrop Grumman and Japanese conglomerate Toshiba.

Sophos also caters for many small and medium-sized firms, arguing that its security software is made simple so firms without sophisticated IT departments can be well protected.

Thoma Bravo has acquired more than 200 software and technology companies during its 40-year history. It said the existing Sophos management and employees would be key to the business’s success going forward. Bray announced his departure earlier in the year and a search for a successor is under way.

“Today marks an exciting milestone in the ongoing journey of Sophos,” said Hagerman. “Sophos is actively driving the transition in next-generation cybersecurity solutions, leveraging advanced capabilities in cloud, machine learning, APIs [application programming interface], automation, managed threat response and more.”

By Julia Kollewe

Tyler Perry on the “poetic justice” of building new studio on former Confederate Army base

Source: CBS

“CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King went behind the scenes at Tyler Perry’s historic 330-acre movie studio complex in Atlanta. The site features a dozen soundstages named after black icons in Hollywood. Perry is the creative force behind 22 movies, 20 plays and eight TV shows. The 50-year-old writer, director and actor told King what inspires him to think big.

How Billionaire Daniel Dines Has Spawned a New Shift in Tech Known as RPA

Source: Forbes

Daniel Dines is Romania's newest billionaire. UiPath, the company Dines cofounded, creates bots—blocks of code that automatically carry out repetitive tasks. You might associate bots with Russian election ruses or customer service stand-ins, but UiPath recently garnered a $7 billion valuation by selling a more humdrum kind that can pull numbers from invoiced PDFs into accounting software, or process insurance claims. This shift has spawned an entirely new tech category, known as “robotic process automation,” or RPA. Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui bank group, a UiPath customer since April 2017, projects that reducing employee busywork and improving accuracy will have saved it nearly $500 million by next year. Giants like Toyota and Walmart have flocked to UiPath for similar magic. Setting up virtual robots is faster and cheaper: UiPath bot does the task endlessly, without complaint, for up to $15,000 a year. Some companies use thousands at a time.

Alibaba’s ambitious keyless and cashless hotel plans for the future

Source: CNBC

Imagine skipping hotel check-in and walking straight to your room with a scan of your face. This could soon become a reality at many hotels in China and around the world. CNBC’s Uptin Saiidi experiences what the hotel of the future may look like and Alibaba’s ambitious plans for the sector.

The Pound had its biggest two-day rally against the dollar as hopes of Brexit deal rise

( via – – Fri, 11th Oct, 2019) London, Uk – –

Sharpest rise in sterling’s value since EU referendum follows Boris Johnson-Leo Varadkar meeting

The pound had its biggest two-day rally against the dollar since the Brexit vote as hopes rose that a deal could be struck before the deadline later this month.

Sterling climbed to the highest level in three months against the US currency, briefly hitting $1.27, amid mounting optimism in the City, after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said talks could progress to the next phase.

The pound has risen four cents against the dollar since Thursday, when Boris Johnson and the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, agreed there was a “pathway to a possible Brexit deal”. That is the sharpest two-day rise in the pound since the EU referendum more than three years ago.

While several pitfalls remain, the pound also hit a near five-month high against the euro of €1.1465.

Oliver Harvey, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, said: “We cannot recall a time during the Brexit process of the last year at which the Irish government raised expectations to this extent.”

The surge in the pound on Friday pushed it back above $1.26 for the first time since Boris Johnson became leader of the Conservative party.

Dean Turner, economist at the Swiss bank UBS, said a Brexit extension and general election was still probably the most likely outcome. He said the pound would trade between $1.25-$1.29 under such a scenario, but could soar to $1.35 if an eleventh-hour deal was struck, or tumble should talks break down.

“The news will have cheered sterling investors, but we recommend they remain nimble with much still uncertain as the sand in the Brexit hourglass continues to run down,” he said.

The pound still remains heavily down from its level before the Brexit vote, by around 15%, in a reflection of the lingering risks posed by leaving the EU and the broader weakness in the UK and global economy.

Shares in UK-focused companies also surged on Friday, on hopes that a disorderly Brexit could be avoided.

Bank shares led the rally, with Lloyds Banking Group jumping 12% and Royal Bank of Scotland up 11.4%. Housebuilders also posted sizeable gains, with Persimmon closing 10.8% higher. Holiday firm Tui, high street chain Next and DIY chain Kingfisher all closed around 9% higher.

“The optimism surrounding Brexit has given British banks a boost as UK government bond yields have ticked up, bank’s lending margins usually improve in an environment of higher bond yields, hence why RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBS are higher today,” explained David Madden of CMC markets.

“The fear of a disorderly Brexit has been hanging over the property sector,” he added.

The domestically focused FTSE index, which contains many medium-sized UK firms, surged by 4.2% on Friday, its biggest one-day jump since May 2010.

By Richard Partington and Graeme Wearden

Facebook’s UK arm under fire over ‘outrageous’ UK tax bill

( via – – Fri, 11th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Facebook's UK arm paid £28.5m in tax in 2018 as revenues hit a record £1.65bn on the back of strong advertising growth.

The social media firms's latest UK accounts show that profits last year jumped by 54% to £96.6m.

Facebook's total tax charge on those profits almost doubled to £30.4m, but was reduced due to adjustments.

Tax campaigner and MP Margaret Hodge said such a low bill was “outrageous”, but Facebook said it pays what it owes.

Gross revenues from advertising and other activities rose 30% in 2018, a year when the Cambridge Analytica affair was at its height and the company was facing heavy criticism.

The UK division spent £356m on research, development and engineering in the UK last year, the accounts filed at Companies House showed.

Steve Hatch, the company's vice president for Northern Europe, said: “The UK is now one of Facebook's most important hubs for global innovation. We continue to grow and invest heavily in the UK and by the end of the year we'll employ 3,000 people here.

“Businesses across the country use our platforms to grow and revenue from customers supported by our UK teams is now recorded here so that any taxable profit is subject to UK corporation tax.”

Facebook said it complies with tax laws in all jurisdictions and pays what is legally due.

But Ms Hodge, a former chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, and who now leads an all-party parliamentary group looking into the tax system, tweeted that it was “still outrageous” that big tech firms were not paying their fair share into society.

Last month, Amazon came under fire for paying £14.7m in UK corporation tax last year, despite reporting sales of £2.3bn. Google has faced similar criticism.

Earlier this week, the Organisation for Economic and Development (OECD), proposed tax changes aimed at making global firms pay more tax.

The proposals would give governments more power specifically to tax big technology firms such as Apple, Facebook and Google.

Companies that do business in more than one country have long been a challenge for tax authorities, because they can structure their business in a way that minimises their tax bills.

The OECD's proposal includes new rules on where tax should be paid and on the proportion of their profits that should be taxed in each country.

Hays Travel saves thousands of jobs by snapping-up Thomas Cook shops

( via– Wed, 9th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

The sale of Thomas Cook's store network offers opportunities to ‘significant' numbers of former staff, the Official Receiver says.

Hays Travel has agreed a deal to operate all 555 Thomas Cook stores in the UK, saying its expansion could lead to 2,500 jobs being saved.

Hays, the country's largest independent travel agent, said it had already taken on almost 600 ex-Thomas Cook retail employees and job offers were pending for many more.

About 9,000 staff in the UK lost out when the company collapsed last month – prompting the country's biggest peacetime repatriation exercise to recover more than 150,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad.

That exercise was completed on Monday.

Hays said more than 100 of the new jobs would be based at its Sunderland headquarters, with the rest in shops across the UK.

The company said it was hoping to reopen many sites immediately under the Hays brand but the pace would depend on discussions with landlords, who have been guaranteed payments until December at least.

The Official Receiver's statement said the property deal, for an undisclosed sum, represented “an important step in the liquidation process, as we seek to realise the company's assets”.

The expansion at Hays will be seen as a lift for the UK's high streets but also a risky endeavour at the same time.

A crisis of consumer confidence has combined with surging costs from things such as rising rents and business rates to hurt store-focused companies on the high street.

Thomas Cook's demise also reignited fears for the wider travel market as airlines engage in a price war at a time of dented demand and higher fuel costs, with Brexit looming large on the horizon.

Hays also runs the Hays Travel Independence Group, a consortium of independent travel agents.

The company's brands include Just Go Travel, which trades under the Hays Travel name predominantly across the North West of England.

It currently operates from 190 shops and employs 1,900 staff in the UK.

The company began life in County Durham in 1980 when managing director John Hays used the rear of his mother's kidswear store to sell holidays.

His wife Irene, group chair of Hays Travel Limited, said: “Thomas Cook was a much-loved brand and a pillar of the UK and the global travel industry.

“We will build on the good things Thomas Cook had – not least its people – and that will put us in even better stead for the future.

“We all share a passion for the travel industry and we want to continue to build the company's reputation for first class service and being a great place to work and develop a career.”

The Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom also welcomed the deal by saying: “Thomas Cook's collapse has been a hugely distressing time for thousands who have lost their jobs and those had their holidays so badly affected.

“I welcome the news that Hays Travel will be purchasing Thomas Cook's real estate, and hope this will provide significant re-employment opportunities for former Thomas Cook employees, alongside the advice and support we will continue to provide to help people find a new job as quickly as possible.

By James Sillars

Links of London goes into administration putting 350 jobs at risk

( via – – Wed, 9th July 2019) London, Uk – –

Luxury jewellery retailer Links of London has gone into administration, putting 350 jobs at risk.

The retailer, which has its headquarters in Mayfair, has appointed Deloitte as administrators to try to secure a rescue sale.

Links has 28 standalone stores and seven concessions in the UK and Ireland. They will remain open but the company's website has been suspended.

Deloitte said the firm had struggled during “difficult trading conditions”.

The British brand was founded in 1990 and sells luxury jewellery, watches, cufflinks and gifts.

It is owned by Greek company Folli Follie, which is also facing difficulties over a fraud related to overstating sales.

Deloitte said that “in light of ongoing cash flow pressures”, the firm's directors were left with “no choice” but to place it into administration.

Matt Smith, joint administrator for Links of London, said the move would be “difficult news for employees and their families”.

“We appreciate the support of management and we will continue to support employees through this time,” he said.

EasyJet says it expects annual profits boost, helped by BA and Ryanair strike disruption

( via– Tue, 8th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

EasyJet says it expects annual profits to be at the upper half of its guided range, helped by strike “disruption” among rivals.

In a trading update covering the fourth quarter of its financial year, the no-frills carrier said it benefited from industrial unrest at both British Airways and Ryanair.

But it said a focus on costs had helped shield it from other headwinds such as higher fuel prices while adverse foreign exchange rates would result in a £14m hit in the year to September.

EasyJet said customer demand had proved “robust” despite Brexit uncertainty and a slowdown in the global economy being blamed for contributing to turbulence in the wider industry.

Thomas Cook collapsed in the final week of its 2019 financial year and the airline told Sky News it was too early to say whether it was experiencing a boost in demand from the tour operator's demise.

:: Thomas Cook refund website struggles after ‘unprecedented demand'

However, it expected to see some benefit as its current financial year continued towards next summer. It said forward bookings for the first quarter were flat on the same period a year ago.

The company reported an 8.6% increase in passenger numbers for the year to September – hitting 96 million, driven by an increase in capacity. Its planes were not as full as in the previous 12 months – falling by 1.4 percentage points to 91.5%.

It said its “operational resilience initiative”, which aims to minimise disruption through a series of measures including improved employee engagement, was a driving force behind its profit guidance.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive said: “easyJet has continued to perform in line with expectations, despite challenging market conditions.

“As a result of our self-help initiatives and the increased demand due to disruption at British Airways and Ryanair, we anticipate achieving headline profit before tax for the full year 2019 of between £420m and £430m., in the upper half of our previous guidance range.

“Our implementation of initiatives in the fourth quarter to optimise yield has led to solid revenue performance with total revenue per seat at constant currency set to increase for the full year.

“We have continued to invest in operational resilience, with the programme successfully reducing the impact of disruption on our operations. As a result, we expect to report a fall in headline cost per seat for the year, excluding fuel at constant currency.”

The profit guidance means easyJet expects to see a fall, of at least 25%, on the earnings achieved in 2018.

EasyJet shares, down 6% in the year to date, fell by more than 3% at the market open.

UK budget deficit likely to double to 100 billion pounds in No-deal Brexit – IFS

( via — Tue, 8th Oct, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s budget deficit is likely to more than double to around 100 billion pounds if the country leaves the European Union without a deal, quickly requiring a return to austerity, a leading think-tank said on Tuesday.

Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is determined to do so despite parliament ordering him to seek a delay if he cannot negotiate an acceptable transition agreement before then.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted borrowing would rise to 92 billion pounds – equivalent to 4% of national income – by 2021/22 under a “relatively benign” no-deal Brexit scenario, in which there are no major delays at borders.

Even then, the economy would still enter recession in 2020, the IFS said in an annual assessment of the public finances.

If the government undertook enough fiscal stimulus to stop the economy contracting – roughly 23 billion pounds of extra spending in 2020 and 2021 – annual borrowing would peak at 102 billion pounds

“A no-deal Brexit would likely require a fiscal short-term stimulus followed by a swift return to austerity,” IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said.

In the 2018/19 financial year Britain’s budget deficit was 41 billion pounds or 1.9% of GDP, its lowest since 2001/02, following years of efforts to reduce the deficit from a peak of 10.2% during the depths of the financial crisis in 2009/10.

In the longer term, a no-deal Brexit would mean less money to spend on public services – or higher tax rates – than staying in the EU or leaving with a deal, the IFS said.

Even without Brexit, Britain was likely to have to raise tax rates to fund the cost of pensions and public healthcare for an ageing population, it said.

Finance minister Sajid Javid announced 13.4 billion pounds of extra spending on health, policing, schools and other areas last month – putting borrowing on course to overshoot a cap of 2% of GDP targeted by his predecessor, Philip Hammond.

“The outlook for borrowing has worsened dramatically since March,” Emmerson said.

Javid is due to set out fresh borrowing plans an annual budget before the end of 2019, possibly before an early election as Johnson seeks to regain a working majority in parliament.

The IFS said the government’s budget targets had lost credibility and it was now set to spend almost as much on day-to-day public services as planned by the opposition Labour Party before an election in 2017, promises which drew criticism from the ruling Conservative Party.

It also said the government should wait until the outlook for Brexit was clearer before setting long-term budget goals, and avoid income tax cuts of the type that Johnson suggested when he campaigned to become Conservative leader.

Reporting by David Milliken

HSBC plans to lay off up to 10,000 staff, as it embarks on a fresh cost-cutting drive, says report

( via – – Mon, 7th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Bank forced to shed jobs due to low interest rates, Brexit and global tariff wars

HSBC plans to lay off up to 10,000 staff, more than 4% of its global workforce, as it embarks on a fresh cost-cutting drive, according to reports.

The cuts will affect mostly high-paid roles and come as the UK-based bank grapples with falling interest rates, Brexit and global tariff wars, the Financial Times reported. HSBC declined to comment.

The bank employed 237,685 people around the world at the end of June.

HSBC boss John Flint resigns ‘by mutual agreement'

The job losses would come on top of 4,700 redundancies – mostly senior jobs – unveiled in early August, when HSBC announced the surprise departure of chief executive John Flint.

Flint left by “mutual” agreement after just 18 months in the job and Noel Quinn, who previously ran the global commercial bank, took over as interim chief executive.

HSBC cited a weaker global outlook at the time, including the cut to US interest rates, the escalation of the trade war between China and the US, unrest in its key Hong Kong market and greater uncertainty around Brexit. Those 4,700 cuts were aimed at reducing salary costs by as much as 4%.

Regarding the latest planned wave of cuts, the FT quoted an unnamed source as saying: “We’ve known for years that we need to do something about our cost base, the largest component of which is people – now we are finally grasping the nettle.

“There’s some very hard modelling going on. We are asking why we have so many people in Europe when we’ve got double-digit returns in parts of Asia.”

The job reductions could be formally announced when HSBC reports third-quarter results at the end of this month. It made pretax profits of $12.4bn (£10.1bn) in the first half, up 16% year on year.

The cost-cutting drive mirrors measures taken by other lenders that are battling global headwinds.

US banks including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have lowered their 2019 profit forecasts tied to interest rates, as central banks around the world loosen monetary policy in response to a weakening global growth outlook.

Lower interest rates mean less profit on loans made by the banks, especially if they have offered higher returns on deposits to attract customers.

Deutsche Bank has announced 18,000 job cuts, a fifth of its global workforce, and posted its biggest quarterly loss in four years in July. Germany’s second-largest lender Commerzbank plans to cut 4,300 full-time posts – a tenth of its workforce – and shut 200 branches as it restructures. France’s Société Générale is laying off 1,600 people.

By Julia Kollewe

Unilever plans to halve the amount of new plastic it uses to appeal to Gen Z

( via – – Mon, 7th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Unilever, which owns brands such as Surf and PG Tips, says it plans to halve the amount of new plastic it uses in a bid to appeal to younger shoppers.

The firm is responsible for producing 700,000 tonnes of new plastic a year.

But Unilever plans to slash that figure over the next five years by using more recycled plastic and finding other alternative materials.

Nevertheless, Unilever boss, Alan Jope, holds that plastic is a “terrific material”.

And he maintains that many of the alternatives are worse, saying: “A hysterical move to glass may be trendy but it would have a dreadful impact on the carbon footprint of packaging.”

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Jope said Unilever, the UK's biggest food producer and which also own dozens of health, beauty and cleaning brands, was trying to remain relevant to younger consumers who worry about plastic use.

He said millennials – normally thought of as those born between 1980 and 1995 – and Generation Z, which is more poorly defined but generally considered to be those born between the mid-1990s and 2010, cared about “purpose and sustainability”.

They also worry about “the conduct of the companies and the brands that they're buying”.

“This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market.”

He said there was “no paradox” between sustainable business and better financial performance.

“We profoundly believe that sustainability leads to a better financial top and bottom line.”

200,000 bottles a minute

The move follows similar announcements by several other companies.

Procter & Gamble – which makes Fairy and Lenor – said in April that it planned to halve the amount of plastic it used by 2030.

Meanwhile, Nestle announced that it would phase out all non-recyclable plastics from its wrappers by 2025 and Coca Cola has said that it will double the amount of recycled plastic it uses in the 200,000 bottles it makes every single minute by next year.

Now, Unilever has added its name to the list of firms promising to cut back on plastic with a pledge to recycle as much plastic as it makes by 2025.

But Mr Jope said responsibility for reducing plastic could not fall to industry alone.

He called on UK councils to harmonise recycling policies so that manufacturers can make instructions clearer to consumers.

“If there was a standardised approach to collecting, sorting and processing, I think it would allow industry to standardise labelling and make it easier for people to segment their waste,” he said.

Unilever, which is one of the largest companies in the UK, has insisted that changing its packaging would not push up prices.

Which Are The Best Countries to Get Rich?

Source: Alux

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