Apple awarded $539 million in Samsung patent retrial

( via — Fri, 25 May 2018) London, UK —

(Reuters) – After nearly five days of deliberations, a U.S. jury on Thursday said Samsung Electronics Co Ltd should pay $539 million (£403.26 million) to Apple Inc for copying patented smartphone features, according to court documents, bringing a years-long feud between the technology companies into its final stages.

The world’s top smartphone rivals have been in court over patents since 2011, when Apple filed a lawsuit alleging Samsung’s smartphones and tablets “slavishly” copied its products. Samsung was found liable in a 2012 trial, but a disagreement over the amount to be paid led to the current retrial over damages where arguments ended on May 18.

Samsung previously paid Apple $399 million to compensate Apple for infringement of some of the patents at issue in the case. The jury has been deliberating the case since last week.

Because of that credit, if the verdict is upheld on appeal it will result in Samsung making an additional payment to Apple of nearly $140 million.

In a statement, Apple said it was pleased that the members of the jury “agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products.”

“We believe deeply in the value of design,” Apple said in its statement. “This case has always been about more than money.”

Samsung did not immediately say whether it planned to appeal the verdict but said it was retaining “all options” to contest it.

“Today’s decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favour of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages,” Samsung said in a statement. “We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.”

The new jury verdict followed a trial in San Jose, California, before Judge Lucy Koh that focused on how much Samsung should pay for infringing Apple patents covering aspects of the iPhone’s design. The jury awarded Apple $533.3 million for Samsung’s violation of so-called design patents and $5.3 million for the violation of so-called utility patents.

Apple this year told jurors it was entitled to $1 billion in profits Samsung made from selling infringing phones, saying the iPhone’s design was crucial to their success.

Samsung sought to limit damages to about $28 million, saying it should only pay for profits attributable to the components of its phones that infringed Apple patents.

Jurors in the earlier trial awarded $1.05 billion to Apple, which was later reduced.

Samsung paid $548 million to Apple in December 2015, including $399 million for infringement of some of the patents at issue in this week’s trial.

Apple’s case against Samsung raised the question of whether the total profits from a product that infringes a design patent should be awarded if the patent applies only to a component of the product, said Sarah Burstein, a professor of patent law at the University of Oklahoma.

The verdict appears to be a compromise between Apple and Samsung’s positions and does not offer much clarity on that question, said Burstein, who predicted Samsung would appeal it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

“This decision just means we are going to have more uncertainty,” Burstein said. “Smart tech industry players are waiting to see what the Federal Circuit does. This is just one jury applying one test.”

By Stephen Nellis and Jan Wolfe



GDPR comes into force posing major challenges for developers and businesses

( via – – Fri, 25 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Some companies push new onerous terms of service on users as GDPR rules come into force on Friday

Dozens of websites shut down their activities completely, others forced users to agree to new terms of service, and inboxes have been flooded with emails begging customers to remain on mailing lists as the GDPR rules come into force on Friday.

The biggest update in data protection laws since the 1990s is posing major challenges for developers and businesses – while giving substantial new powers to consumers.

Margot James, the digital minister, told the Guardian: “Of the eight guiding principles that governed the use of personal information under the old act, we have made an important addition – accountability. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, UK citizens more than ever need reassurances their data is as safe as it can be and that organisations are accountable for it.”

Businesses resort to desperate emailing as GDPR deadline looms
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She said businesses would now have to prove they had been given permission to use a individual’s information, including contact details.

“Except in certain, limited instances, organisations now must demonstrate they have our explicit consent to process our sensitive personal data. Generally, we’ve also given greater control to the British public over how their data is used. No doubt like me you’ll have received a flurry of emails in recent weeks from the organisations currently holding your data, and perhaps some you weren’t even aware did, asking for you to re-submit this consent.”

The cascade of emails from businesses has become the most visible consumer-facing effect of the new regulation, sent by firms who want users to actively give their consent to remain on a mailing list. But, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office, such emails aren’t necessary to comply with the law.

“Some of the myths we’ve heard are, ‘GDPR means I won’t be able to send my newsletter out anymore’ or ‘GDPR says I’ll need to get fresh consent for everything I do’,” Steve Wood, the deputy information commissioner, wrote on the organisation’s website earlier this month. “I can say categorically that these are wrong … You do not need to automatically refresh all existing consents in preparation for the new law.”

Campaign groups and political parties who have come to rely on large email mailing lists to contact supporters could find they lose one of their main ways of communicating with the public. It has been suggested that businesses could be forced turn to more traditional methods – such as targeting customers with direct mail through the postal system – to reach customers.

As the GDPR deadline neared, some websites and services started to push users to agree to onerous new terms of service before they could continue on to their destination.

Websites run by Oath, the media firm formed through the merger of Yahoo! and AOL, received a blanket request on Thursday morning, asking users for consent “to use your … data to understand your interests and personalise and measure ads”. Users could click OK to move on, or follow a chain of further links to discover that the consent granted involved sharing data with more than a hundred ad networks.

Another Oath site, Tumblr, placed a similar clickthrough before users. The blogging platform did offer some links to understand “how our partners use this data”. However, even this background information was hosted on Tumblr blogs, meaning users had to accept the terms in order to read information about the terms they were accepting.

The US media network NPR took a simpler approach. Users could either agree to the new terms, or decline and be taken to a plain-text version of the site, looking for all the world like it had last been updated in 1996.

It wasn’t just websites. PC hardware maker Razer issued an update to one of its computer mice, warning that users may find their devices weren’t working if they didn’t update; Chinese smart-home manufacturer Yeelight disabled inter-connected lightbulbs because of the data protection regulation.

And a growing number of companies are taking the nuclear option to ensure compliance: blocking all European users from their servers.

Instapaper, a service owned by the US firm Pinterest which enables users to save articles to read at a later date, became the latest to disconnect European customers on Thursday. It said the cutoff was temporary while it made the required changes, and told users: “We apologise for any inconvenience, and we intend to restore access as soon as possible.” Pinterest did not respond to a request for comment.

Other companies have taken a more permanent approach., an inbox management firm, announced it was completely withdrawing services for EU companies due to an inability to offer its product – which is monetised by selling insights gleaned from reading users’ emails – in a way that was compatible with EU law. “We are truly sorry that we are unable to offer our service to you,” the company told EU users.

American media network A+E has blocked EU visitors from all its websites, including, and some multiplayer online games, including Ragnarok Online, have switched off their EU servers.

Other firms have not gone so far as to blame the new regulation but have closed EU operations with convenient timing. Crowdpac, a political fundraising organisation set up by David Cameron’s former advisor Steve Hilton, announced it was closing its UK wing “for business reasons” until further notice. The company, which was still raising funds in the UK as recently as Sunday, now says it “hopes one day to be back”.

Klout, a social media analytics service, and Super Monday Night Combat, an online game, will shut down on Friday. Lithium, the owner of Klout, said: “Klout no longer made sense as a standalone service. The upcoming deadline for GDPR implementation simply expedited our plans to sunset Klout.”

Brian Honan, a data protection expert, said he viewed the shutdowns as a reasonable consequence of the new law. “The GDPR’s primary goal is to enhance the protections around the gathering and processing of the personal data belonging to individuals residing within the European Union,” he said.

“Companies have had well over two years to prepare for the enforcement date and to be ready.”

Unfortunately, even going to the extremes of blocking every user based in the EU might not be enough to inure companies from the consequences of GDPR: the law applies to data processed on EU citizens wherever they are based in the world.

By Alex Hern and Jim Waterson




Homebase sold for £1 after failed rebrand attempt


( via – – Fri, 25 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The Australian owner of has thrown in the towel, agreeing to sell the struggling home improvement chain for £1 after a bungled attempt to rebrand it as part of its Bunnings business.

Wesfarmers will book a loss of between £200m and £230m on the sale to HMV owner Hilco Capital, which will change all 24 of the stores converted to Bunnings back to the Homebase brand.

Rob Scott, Wesfarmers managing director, admitted Homebase had been hampered by his company’s “poor execution” after the takeover, compounded by a consumer slump that has swept the retail industry in recent months.

He added: “While the review confirmed the business is capable of returning to profitability over time, further capital investment is necessary to support the turnaround.”

Wesfarmers said Damian McLoughlin, who was hired to run the business in June, will stay put after the sale.

There had been hopes that Homebase could be revitalised by its new owner, which bought the chain from Argos-owner Home Retail Group in 2016. But the revamped stores failed to win over shoppers as popular ranges were replaced by unfamiliar products favoured by Australian consumers.

Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy Retail Economics, said: “The business is bleeding cash and the owners have decided enough is enough. Unfortunately, the restructuring will almost inevitably lead to store closures and more job losses on the high street.”

Earlier this year Wesfarmers said it would close 40 Homebase stores with the potential loss of 2,000 jobs. The chain has around 240 sites.

By Jack Torrance



Uk retail sales rose by 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending



Tim Tabor/flickr

( via – – Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending after unseasonably cold weather earlier in the year.

Petrol sales surged 4.7% after falling 6.9% in March after widespread snow disruption, official statistics show.

Only department stores reported a decline, with sales volumes down 0.9%.

However, Rob Kent-Smith of the Office for National Statistics said the retail sector remained subdued, with sales in recent months largely unchanged.

“Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Retail sales fell by 1.8% in March and posted their biggest quarterly fall in seven years as the prices of everyday goods continued to rise.

‘Lacklustre' performance
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the April rise reflected a recovery from snow-induced weakness in March, rather than robust spending momentum.

“We continue to expect retail spending to increase only at a glacial rate this year. Consumers' confidence has weakened and savings intentions have picked up,” he said.

“The sharp rise in oil prices to nearly $80 will filter through to petrol pumps over the next three weeks, hitting petrol sales volumes and squeezing the amount of money households have left for discretionary consumption.”

Ben Brettell of Hargreaves Lansdown said the underlying trend for retail sales remained “pretty lacklustre” and the figures were little incentive for the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“Growth is anaemic at best, and retail sales look insipid. But with inflation falling back towards target and real wages finally growing, albeit only slowly, there's little cause for alarm either,” he said.



Comcast confirms formal offer preparation to win 21st Century Fox TV and film businesses

( via– Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Comcast has confirmed it is attempting to beat Disney to win control of 21st Century Fox's TV and film businesses.

The US cable giant said it was in the advanced stages of preparing a formal offer for the assets that Fox had agreed to sell to Disney.

It said any bid would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current $52.4bn all-share offer from Disney.

That agreement also covers the intended purchase of the 39.1% stake in Sky, the owner of Sky News, that Fox currently owns.

The £17.5bn Fox bid to buy the shares in Sky it does not have has become mired in regulatory hurdles, with Fox awaiting a decision within weeks on whether its remedies to satisfy media plurality concerns will prove acceptable to the government.

Those offers included the potential for Sky News to be owned by Disney – bypassing concerns that Rupert Murdoch's family would have too much control over UK media.

Comcast, last month, launched a £22bn rival offer for Sky – prompting the possibility of a bidding war.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who will rule on whether the Fox takeover of Sky could potentially proceed, said earlier this week that he was “not minded” to refer the Comcast offer to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for deeper scrutiny on public interest grounds.

Comcast said of its intention to bid for the Fox assets: “While no final decision has been made, at this point the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is well advanced.”



Deutsche Bank in investment bank revamp to cut thousands of staff

( via — Thur, 24 May 2018) London, UK —

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) will cut global staff numbers by more than 7,000 in the first major move by its new CEO to reduce costs and restore profitability after years of false starts.

Germany’s biggest bank said on Thursday it would reduce global headcount to well below 90,000 from the current 97,000, with staff numbers in equities sales and trading falling by 25 percent. The bulk of those jobs are in New York and London.

After an abrupt management reshuffle last month, Deutsche Bank said it aimed to scale back its global investment bank and refocus on Europe and its home market after three consecutive years of losses. It had flagged cuts to U.S. bond trading, equities, and the business that serves hedge funds.

“We remain committed to our Corporate & Investment Bank and our international presence – we are unwavering in that,” Chief Executive Christian Sewing said in a statement on Thursday.

“We are Europe’s alternative in the international financing and capital markets business. However, we must concentrate on what we truly do well,” he said.

The reductions will reduce the investment bank’s leverage exposure by 100 billion euros (87.5 billion pounds), or 10 percent, with most of the cuts to take place this year, the bank said.

It didn’t provide a specific number of job cuts, but a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday the bank was aiming to axe 10,000 positions.

The bank said 2018 would incur restructuring costs of 800 million euros, a figure the bank had flagged last month.

The details on the bank’s strategy come ahead of its annual general meeting on Thursday.

hareholders, fed up with a languishing share price and dwindling revenues, said they would call on the bank’s management to speed up the recovery process.

The shareholder meeting comes after months of turmoil for the loss-making lender.

Deutsche Bank Chairman Paul Achleitner last month abruptly replaced CEO John Cryan with Sewing amid investor complaints the bank was falling behind in executing a turnaround plan.

The bank’s shares, down more than 31 percent this year, opened 0.4 percent higher.

Deutsche Bank is also under pressure from credit ratings agencies. Standard & Poor’s is expected to say by the end of the month whether it will cut Deutsche Bank’s rating after putting it on “credit watch” in April.

By Tom Sims



Barclays and Standard Chartered no plans for merger

( via – – Wed, 23 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The marriage of Barclays and Standard Chartered is in many ways a tantalising prospect.

Take the new transatlantic Barclays, with a big US and European investment banking business, and a very profitable UK retail and credit card business, and bolt it on to Standard Chartered's Asian, African and Middle East trade expertise.

Not only that, but Standard Chartered's big Asian deposit base would be a source of cheap capital for Barclays investment bank. Voila – an all-singing, all-dancing bank with a truly global footprint.

It's such a tempting idea that it gets kicked around every few years and folks are now doing it again for some understandable reasons. Barclays has made good progress clearing up some big outstanding items.

The fine from the US authorities over risky mortgage selling: sorted. The criminal charges over the way it raised money in Qatar in the aftermath of the crisis: dropped. The outstanding investigation into chief executive Jes Staley's handling of a whistleblowing incident last year: resolved, with a fine and yellow card from the City watchdog. The ring fencing of its UK retail bank: complete.

‘Interesting blue sky'
With all that out the way, so the thinking goes, the board is now twiddling its thumbs and outgoing chairman John McFarlane might fancy one last big deal as his swansong.

Mr McFarlane – who used to work for Standard Chartered – has looked at this before when he joined five years ago, but both banks had more immediate fish to fry. With those fish now fried it makes sense he might look at the idea again. Certainly, deputy chairman Gerry Grimstone is a fan: he told me last year that a deal was “just blue sky thinking – but quite an interesting bit of blue sky”.

At that time no discussions between the two banks had taken place and I am told that is still the case. The other reason tongues are wagging is the arrival on the share register of activist investor Edward Bramson. Activist investors arrive and agitate for usually pretty radical change to deliver more value for shareholders. Perhaps, say some, this deal would tick that box.

Both bosses – Mr Staley of Barclays and Bill Winters at Standard Chartered – have dismissed the idea when I have put it to them in the past.

Mr Staley is focused on building a bank centred in London and New York, and has just sold dozens of businesses, and exited Africa, where the bank spent a chequered century. He has no desire to do business in the places that Standard Chartered plies its trade. Standard Chartered itself has learnt the hard way about the pitfalls of doing business in places like Iran – incurring hefty fines from US regulators.

Standard Chartered is focused on building a bank based on facilitating trade in the developed and developing countries of Asia and Africa. It has little institutional interest or expertise in investment banking – despite the fact that Bill Winters was a long time colleague of Mr Staley's at JP Morgan's US investment bank.

As for Mr Bramson, the activist shareholder, he has so far not been that active, and if and when that changes, it seems unlikely that this deal is the thing he would agitate for.

City sources say his plan is most likely to include getting Barclays to sell of bits of its investment bank. Investment banking is risky, and regulators require investment banks to set aside a lot more shock absorbing capital as the price of playing that game, compared to supposedly less risky retail banking. Reducing the size of the investment bank would free up lots of capital which could then be returned to shareholders like Bramson.

Never say never – but my guess is that this fairytale marriage of two of Britain's biggest banks is, at the moment, just that.

By Simon Jack


Tesco non-food website Tesco Direct to close with 500 jobs at risk

( via – – Wed, 23 2018) London, Uk – –

Tesco has announced that it is closing its non-food website Tesco Direct, putting around 500 jobs at risk.

The e-commerce website, which sells clothing, homewares and electricals, was launched in 2006 as the supermarket giant’s attempt to take on Amazon and Argos.

At the time, the website – the brainchild of former Tesco Direct head Steve Robinson – cost the supermarket between £25m and £30m to launch.

However, Britain's biggest retailer said that “despite its best efforts, there is no route to profitability for this small, loss-making part of the business”, adding that it had faced a “number of significant challenges, including high costs for fulfilment and online marketing, which have prevented it from delivering a sustainable offer as a standalone non-food business”.

The Tesco Direct website will cease trading on July 9, and the fulfilment centre at Fenny Lock, which handles Tesco Direct orders, will close, leaving around 500 employees at risk of redundancy across the business.

Tesco will instead focus on its main grocery website, which it said is being expanded to include toys and homewares.

The closure of Tesco Direct is the first big decision made by Tesco's new chief executive, Charles Wilson, since he assumed the role in April. He said: “We want to offer our customers the ability to buy groceries and non-food products in one place and that’s why we are focusing our investment into one online platform.

“This decision has been a very difficult one to make, but it is an essential step towards establishing a more sustainable non-food offer and growing our business for the future.”

Anika Newjoto, editor of, a website that covers supermarket loyalty schemes, said that Tesco Direct “had been known to be losing money for many years” so the news “was not a surprise”.

She added: “It shows that even with advantages such as Clubcard points and ‘click and collect' delivery to Tesco stores, it is incredibly difficult to compete with Amazon these days.”

Mr Wilson, who was previously the chief executive of Booker, replaced Tesco's former UK and Ireland chief Matt Davies following the £3.7bn takeover of the wholesaler in March. Mr Wilson, who led Booker between 2005 and 2018, has been described as a “wonderful intellect” and one of UK retail’s sharpest operators. He is credited with turning Booker’s fortunes around and generating steady year-on-year growth.

In his new role, Mr Wilson will have to contend with Asda and Sainsbury's £15bn potential merger, which would see the duo controlling around 31.4pc of Britain’s grocery market between them, comfortably ahead of current industry leader Tesco’s 27.6pc.

The Tesco Direct closure announcement comes on the same day as Marks & Spencer confirmed it would be closing another 14 stores affecting 872 jobs as part of a radical restructuring programme that will result in 100 shops closing their doors.

By Sophie Christie



Marks & Spencer announce closure of 100 stores by 2022


( via– Tue, 22 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The chain puts thousands of jobs on the line as it accelerates its turnaround plan through the closure of under-performing stores.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) says it is to close a total of 100 stores by 2022 under its five-year transformation plan, placing thousands of jobs at risk.

The retailer, which has already shut 21 outlets included in the figure, said it had identified a further 14 clothing and home stores to be shut in its current financial year.

M&S said all 626 people affected by those proposed closures would be offered roles elsewhere before redundancy was considered.

The retailer listed the 14 locations – saying its Bayswater store and Fleetwood and Newton Abbot outlets would shut their doors for the final time by the end of July.

Its Clacton and London Holloway Road branches were to close by early 2019, M&S said, to coincide with new food stores opening nearby.

The other sites affected are Darlington, East Kilbride, Falkirk, Kettering, Newmarket, New Mersey Speke, Northampton, Stockton and Walsall.

M&S, which is due to update the City on its trading performance on Wednesday, is undergoing a major shake-up on the direction of chief executive Steve Rowe and chairman Archie Norman.

The programme has seen it invest in its online offering at the expense of its costly clothing and home store estate as shopping habits shift towards digital channels and customers seek value.

The chain currently has 300 clothing & home stores in the UK and just shy of 600 Simply Food outlets – the majority franchise-owned.

It has also been re-organising its distribution network to better serve its revamped store and online priorities while there are new faces trying to turn around its struggling fashion business – particularly womenswear.

Retail and property director, Sacha Berendji, said: “We are making good progress with our plans to reshape our store estate to be more relevant to our customers and support our online growth plans.

“Closing stores isn't easy but it is vital for the future of M&S.

“Where we have closed stores, we are seeing an encouraging number of customers moving to nearby stores and enjoying shopping with us in a better environment, which is why we're continuing to transform our estate with pace.”

The M&S transformation plan is ultimately aimed at growing profitability and therefore value for investors after a period of decline that has seen its market capitalisation slip below that of online fashion rival Asos.

Shares – down 4% this year amid the troubled economy for retailers – were the biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 after the announcement, falling moire than 2%.

Its annual results are tipped by analysts to show a fall in the company's trading profits.

By James Sillars


EMI Music Publishing acquired by Sony in reported deal for US$1.9bn

( via – – Tue, 22 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Deal will create single giant catalogue of more than four million songs

Sony has announced a US$1.9bn (£1.4bn) deal to acquire EMI Music Publishing, one of the world’s largest music publishing companies with rights to songs by the likes of Queen and Pharrell Williams.

The deal adds a catalogue of more than two million songs – including some of the greatest hits from the first half of the 20th century – to Sony’s already huge holdings.

The agreement is Sony’s first major deal under new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who noted that the music business has enjoyed a “resurgence” in recent years due to streaming services provided by companies such as Spotify and Apple.

With this purchase, Sony “is becoming one of the biggest music publishing companies, both in name and reality”, Yoshida said.

“We are thrilled to bring EMI Music Publishing into the Sony family and maintain our number one position in the music publishing industry,” Yoshida said in an earlier statement.

“I believe this acquisition will be a particularly significant milestone for our long-term growth,” added Yoshira, who took the helm of Sony last month.

Sony said it had signed a deal with Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Mubadala to buy its 60% holding, giving the Japanese firm an indirect stake of approximately 90%.

The agreement values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75bn, the Sony statement said, adding that “the closing of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals”.

Yoshida also unveiled Sony’s latest strategic plan, which aims to pursue the direction his predecessor Kazuo Hirai had sought to revitalise one of Japan’s well-known firms.

“We are a technology firm, but the technology means not only electronics but also entertainment and content-creation” in today’s world, Yoshida said.

Sony will continue to strengthen its content services – as shown by Tuesday’s deal – and also invest heavily in cutting-edge technologies including image sensors, he said.

The company in April reported record annual profits of $4.5bn, a roaring recovery supported by better sales across the board and helped by box office blockbusters like its Jumanji reboot.

Kazuo Hirai recently stepped down as the firm’s chief executive after spending the past six years pulling it out of deep financial troubles. Hirai led an aggressive restructuring drive at Sony, cutting thousands of jobs while selling business units and assets.

EMI is the second-largest music publishing company by revenue and either owns or holds the rights to 2.1m pieces of music. Sony already owns 2.3m copyrights.

By Agence France-Presse



Ryanair report annual profits increase of 10% despite costly pilot schedule failure


( via– Mon, 21 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The no frills carrier says it is more cautious about its current financial year as a surge in costs could push profits lower.

Ryanair has reported a 10% rise in annual profits despite the impact of its costly pilot rota failure last autumn that hit the travel plans of 700,000 customers.

The no frills carrier said profits after tax came in at €1.45bn (£1.27bn) in the 12 months to 31 March aided, it said, by a 9% rise in passenger numbers to 130.3 million and its planes being 95% full on average.

However, its results statement showed the airline had become more cautious on the current financial year, with Ryanair cutting its profit guidance to between €1.25bn and €1.35bn as it prepared to book a surge in costs.

It warned they included a potential €400m rise in fuel bills as oil prices continue to climb despite the cost being 90% hedged.

Ryanair also pointed to rising staffing costs.

It has been forced to offer revised terms since its decision to cancel thousands of flights over the last winter schedule – blamed on a blunder over pilot rotas – that brought to the surface simmering tensions over pay.

Ryanair revealed the disruption alone had cost it €25m in compensation and another €25m in flight vouchers for those affected.

Ryanair has since started work on union recognition for the first time in its history – agreeing deals with pilots' unions in the UK and Italy – and has agreed new five-year pay deals with pilots and cabin crew.

It said of the current financial year: “We expect staff costs to rise by almost €200m, half of which is higher pay for our front line people and half is additional headcount for growth.”

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said of the pressures ahead: “Our outlook for FY19 (full-year 2019) is on the pessimistic side of cautious.

“We expect to grow traffic by 7% to 139 million, at flat load factors of 95%.

“Unit costs this year will rise 9% due to higher staff and oil prices which will, when adjusted for volume growth, add more than €400m to our fuel bill.

“Ex-fuel unit cost will rise by up to 6% as we annualise pilot and cabin crew pay increases, and invest in our business and our systems to facilitate a six year growth plan to 600 aircraft and 200m guests per annum.”

He added: “Forward bookings are strong but pricing remains soft. Since only half of Easter fell in April, we expect a 5% fare decline in Q1 (quarter one) but a 4% rise in Q2 fares.

“While still too early to accurately forecast close-in summer bookings or H2 fares, we are cautiously guiding broadly flat average fares for FY19.”

Mr O'Leary said he expected revenue from passenger surcharges to continue growing but not by enough to offset higher costs.

Ahead of the market open Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at, said of thge results: ” Despite the impact of rostering-related cancellations and the grounding of aircraft, revenues rose 7% to more than €7bn on 9% higher traffic.

“Fares fell by 3% but costs were 1% and net margins remained steady at 20%.

“Great results but a very cautious outlook could weigh on the stock this morning.

“Ryanair has a habit of setting the bar rather low and then far exceeding it, so we must take this ‘pessimistic side of cautious' outlook with a grain of salt.”

Shares fell on opening but soon recovered – up 1% in morning trade

By By James Sillars



Mobile app banking ‘to overtake online by 2019’ according to forecasts

( via – – Mon, 21 May 2018) London, Uk – –

More consumers will use apps on their smartphone than a computer to do their banking by as early as next year, according to forecasts.

Last year, 22 million people managed their current account on their phone, industry analyst CACI said.

It has predicted that 35 million people – or 72% of the UK adult population – will bank via a phone app by 2023.

By then, customers would typically visit a branch only twice a year, it said.

CACI added that rural areas and smaller coastal towns would see the biggest increase in mobile users between now and 2023, owing in part to frustration over broadband access pushing customers towards mobile networks.

Who do you trust after cash?
Mobile banking is saving us ‘billions' in charges
“With so much more functionality, mobile is rapidly becoming the digital channel of choice, and replacing traditional online banking for many customers,” said report author Jamie Morawiec.

“Whilst the number of internet log-ons is decreasing, so are the numbers of users. In fact, CACI predicts that 2019 will be the year in which mobile banking overtakes internet banking in terms of users.”

It would also mean banks might again review the location and number of branches.

Major UK banks have been closing hundreds of branches in recent years, with more plans announced recently.

Earlier this month, Royal Bank of Scotland announced it was to close 162 branches across England and Wales. Some 109 branches will close in late July and August 2018, while a further 53 branches will close in November 2018.

These branch closures follow existing plans to close 52 bank branches in Scotland that serve rural communities, and 197 NatWest branches.

Lloyds also announced recently that it was planning to close 49 branches.

By Kevin Peachey



How ‘all you can eat’ restaurants’ turn a profit despite offering endless food


With a few tricks, these restaurants still manage to turn a profit — despite offering endless food. All you can eat buffets,  are often the ones that wins at the end and makes you feel defeated and bloated when leaving the restaurant.



Royal wedding 2018: Who’s footing the bill?


( via – – Sun, 20 May, 2018) London, Uk – –

From choosing the cake to the flowers and even the chair-covers, anyone who's ever planned a wedding knows it can be eye-wateringly expensive.

But when it comes to royal weddings – with all the VIPs, security and extra extravagance – the bill runs into millions.

So what do we know about the expected cost of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, and how much will the taxpayer be paying towards it?

Security cost

The wedding will be held in Windsor. And crowds in excess of 100,000 people are expected to descend on the town.

Invitations have been sent to 600 guests, with a further 200 invited to the couple's evening reception

On top of that, 1,200 members of the public will attend the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Managing these sorts of numbers requires substantial planning.

And security will almost certainly be the biggest single cost.

The Home Office wouldn't comment when Reality Check contacted it, saying revealing policing costs could compromise “national security”.

Likewise, when we rang Thames Valley Police, it said: “We aren't going to give you any data I'm afraid – even though we know you love numbers.”

However, we do know £6.35m was spent by the Metropolitan Police (ie the taxpayer) on security for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding.

That's based on a Freedom of Information request released to the Press Association.

But it's difficult to draw a direct comparison with Prince Harry and Ms Markle's wedding – the location and guest numbers are different.

Other costs

Kensington Palace hasn't released any details of what it plans to spend on the wedding.

That's not really a surprise given that the official cost of Prince William and Catherine's wedding has never been revealed.

That leaves us with unofficial estimates and as such they need to be treated with some caution., a wedding planning service, says the total cost of the wedding could be £32m – including the cost of security.

It put the cost of the cake at £50,000, the florist at £110,000, the catering at £286,000, and so on and so on.

Reality Check contacted the company's owner, Hamish Shephard, to ask about the methodology used to arrive at the estimate.

He said the £32m figure had been based on the assumption that the Royal Family had paid for everything at market rate.

But in the absence of any official data, this is still guesswork – however well informed.

For example, we don't know if suppliers would offer a substantial discount for the privilege of providing their services for a royal wedding.

Who pays?

The cost of security for the wedding will be met by the taxpayer.

Initially, Thames Valley Police will have to absorb the cost itself.

But the force will be eligible to apply for special grant funding from the Home Office after the event in order to claim back some of the costs.

Special grant funding is a separate pool of money forces can apply for if they have to police events outside their usual remit.

As for the rest of the total, the Royal Family has said it will be paying for the private elements of the wedding.

Every year the Royal Family gets a chunk of money from the annual Sovereign Grant, paid directly by the Treasury.

The grant is calculated on a percentage of the profits from the Crown Estate portfolio, which includes much of London's West End.

This year it's worth £82m.

Some members of the Royal Family benefit from additional income.

For example, Prince Charles gets money from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, a portfolio of land, property and financial investments.

But it's not clear which “pots” the palace will choose to fund the wedding from.

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, and claims the overall cost of the monarchy is far higher than £82m, has submitted a petition against taxpayers' money being spent on the wedding.

By Reality Check team





The UK business shining a light on retail stores


( via – – Sat, 19 May 2018) London, Uk – –

With LEDs widely regarded as the modern lighting solution of choice, one family-run company is looking to enlighten the masses
How is the Internet of Things changing the way we shop? We might expect inventory or the supply chain to be affected by changes in technology, but there is one aspect of the shopscape that is hiding in plain sight: lighting.

Modern lighting systems have undergone a transformation. Incandescent bulbs are hot, wasteful, don’t last long and many countries have restricted their sale. Fluorescent lighting is cheaper but harsh, difficult to control and less attractive. Both types of lighting have given way to LEDs, which offer more flexible lighting solutions, but not all retailers have caught up yet.

Shoplight, founded in 2014 by Mark and Melanie Shortland, puts the power of LEDs into the hands of stores. “Shops have always been about creating an experience for the customer,” says Ms Shortland, “and with the threat from online shopping, customer experience is only becoming more important.”

Thinking about the customer experience is what kickstarted the business in the first place, she notes: “Mark felt after 20 years of working with large manufacturers in the lighting business that there was a gap in the market. As the offer was getting more high-tech, old fashioned customer service was missing and that’s where we stepped in with Shoplight.”

Mr Shortland decided to differentiate the business by demonstrating to clients that the business understood the fast-paced nature of store opening programmes and the dynamic requirements of the retail sector that often drive down costs and force more nuanced competition through product and service.

“Early on, we secured an order from Skechers,” he says. “Although it was a small order it led to us supplying Skechers with their lighting solutions across the UK, Europe and in Africa and certainly allowed us to gain confidence and momentum with other clients.”

Today, their client list includes Moss Bros, Selfridges, T2, Waterstones, Jigsaw and Lush. Mr Shortland says: “Some of these clients have moved from long-established relationships with our larger competitors, which really reinforces our belief that great service matters now more than ever and that we are definitely doing many things right.”

Looking ahead, he predicts that flexible lighting will become more responsive to customers, with IoT-enabled luminaires allowing shopping environments to adapt to new moods and settings at the flick of a switch – or increasingly a tablet. “This will help retailers put the customer at the centre of retail experiences, encouraging people to visit, stay and buy,” he says, “and Shoplight are playing a leading part in this evolution.”

Parlez Media



Lloyds sells Irish mortgage portfoli to Barclays for 4 billion pounds

Money Bright/Flickr

( via — Fri ,18 May 2018) London, UK — –

LONDON (Reuters) – Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) has sold its Irish residential mortgage portfolio to Barclays (BARC.L) for around 4 billion pounds ($5.4 billion) in cash, as part of a plan to focus on its core British market.

The deal was the last action Lloyds needed to take to complete its exit from the Irish market, following its closure of its retail banking operation there in 2010.

Lloyds is left only with around 4 billion pounds worth of additional Irish mortgages that it will allow to expire over time.

Lloyds will now be able to focus on tackling an increasing threat to its dominant position in the British markets from new entrants eager to cut prices to win business.

Of the assets sold on Friday, 300 million pounds worth are impaired — meaning borrowers are struggling to pay them. They generated a pretax loss of around 40 million pounds last year, Lloyds said in a statement.

A year to the day after its return to private ownership following the British government’s last sale of its stake in Lloyds, Britain’s biggest lender faces a battle to maintain its grip on the mortgage market.

Lloyds shares have fallen 7.6 percent in its first year free from government ownership after a bailout. That makes them the worst-performing stock among Britain’s four biggest banks with rivals RBS and HSBC climbing an average of 10 percent in the same period.

Investors fear that Lloyds as the biggest mortgage lender, with a market share of 20 percent, has most to fear from a low interest rate environment that makes finding profitable lending opportunities for banks difficult.

“We are concerned about the competition from the mortgage market from new entrants. We think Lloyds has the most to lose; it has the biggest share of the market,” said a U.S.-based hedge fund manager with about $1.2 billion in assets.

The fund manager is shorting Lloyds shares, meaning he will profit if the stock declines.

The threat to Lloyds’ position comes not just from so-called challenger mid-sized banks like Virgin Money (VM.L), CYBG (CYBGC.L) and Metro Bank (MTRO.L), but also from HSBC (HSBA.L) which has to grow its market share to meet profit goals in its newly separated UK banking unit.

The rules designed after the financial crisis to partition British banks’ core domestic deposit and savings franchises from their riskier and more internationally-focused investment banking units, have effectively created ‘new’ competitors in the market in the form of British-only lenders such as HSBC UK.

“I do think that Lloyds have some challenges. Competition is heating up. It’s not just an issue for Lloyds,” said Jerry Del Missier, founding partner and chief investment officer at Copper Street Capital, which has $162 million in assets.

“If you think about what’s happening to the UK banking market with ringfencing, you have a number of banks, including challenger banks chasing the same business,” he added.

By Lawrence White, Maiya Keidan

Additional reporting by Simon Jessop and Emma Rumney



FTSE 100 hits new record closing high


( via– Fri, 18 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The index defies predictions of a bleak year to secure a new record high, aided by renewed sterling weakness.

The FTSE 100 has registered a new record high – signalling some cheer for UK pension funds as the economy stagnates.

London's premier share index closed Thursday's session at 7787 points – a rise of 53 on the previous day as utility and retail stocks made some ground.

It beat the previous record close of 7778, which was recorded in January before a stock market wobble.

Values sank across the world amid fears of a US-inspired trade war, that pushed the FTSE below the 7000-point barrier at one stage in March.

Its fortunes have been largely governed by the pound since the Brexit vote – with weakness in the currency boosting the earnings of its dollar-earning constituents.

Sterling has bled value in recent weeks versus the dollar, partly because of continued concern about the state of the EU divorce talks.

But mostly it has been put down to a slowing economy pushing back the likelihood of a Bank of England interest rate hike.

:: Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold

The pound, trading at $1.35 to the greenback on Thursday, had been at post-referendum highs before it became clear UK growth had almost ground to a halt in the first quarter of the year.

A Reuters poll of market experts in February found a consensus view that the FTSE was unlikely to hit record levels again for two years – given jitters about Brexit and market volatility.

After the new record was set Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The death of the bull market has been greatly exaggerated, not for the first time in recent history.

“The Footsie did endure a shaky start to the year, but after two months of steady climbing, has now regained and surpassed its previous high.

“A stronger dollar, a rising oil price and the postponement of an interest rate rise can all claim some credit for the recent strong showing from the stock market.

“Investing is of course a long term game, and the twists and turns along the way are less important than the final destination.

“There will come a time when the stock market will tumble again, at which point investors should take it in their stride and look beyond the immediate situation,” he concluded.

By James Sillars, business reporter



Bookies fixed-odds betting terminals stakes cut to £2

( via – – Thur, 17 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be reduced to £2 under new rules unveiled by the government.

Currently, people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said reducing the stake to £2 “will reduce harm for the most vulnerable”.

But bookmakers have warned it could lead to thousands of outlets closing.

William Hill, which generates just over half its retail revenues from FOBTs, described the government's decision as “unprecedented” and warned that 900 of its shops could become loss-making, potentially leading to job losses.

It said its full-year operating profit could fall by between £70m and £100m.

High stakes for fixed-odds betting machines
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“I lost £5,000 in 48 hours”
GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes, said it expected profit to be cut by about £160m in the first full year that the £2 limit is in force.

Shares in William Hill and GVC Holding both fell following the news.

Ms Crouch said: “We recognise the potential impact of this change for betting shops which depend on (FOBT) revenues, but also that this is an industry that is innovative and able to adapt to changes.”

Tom Watson, the shadow culture secretary, told the BBC: “The great tragedy of this is [that] for five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land.

“The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign.”

The Church of England praised ministers for “admirable moral leadership” for reducing the maximum stake.

However, Betfred's managing director Mark Stebbings claimed the government had “played politics with people's jobs”. and the move was “clearly not evidence based but a political decision”.

“This decision will result in unintended consequences including direct and indirect job losses, empty shops on the High Street, and a massive funding hit for the horseracing industry.”

The government said the stake limit would come into effect some time next year, but would not set an exact timetable.

In taking the most drastic of the options available to them on FOBTs, the government has indicated that gambling is on a journey much like nicotine a generation ago.

Many addictive behaviours chart the same course. First, they are commonly accepted, then victims speak out and a campaign is launched. Finally, new laws catch up with a shift in public sentiment.

Industry figures argue that what is at stake is not only jobs and revenues for the Exchequer, but the principle that in a free society fully informed adults should be free to spend their money as they choose, so long as it doesn't harm others.

Campaigners have successfully argued that the harm to communities and individuals is severe enough to warrant a major change.

It's vital to remember that, while FOBTs understandably grab the headlines, this review also looks at the radical shift of the industry online.

There many addicts who find there is no respite, and children with smartphones are potentially exposed.

Tighter regulation of online gambling is the next battle campaigners intend to win.

Reducing harm
The government's consultation into gambling machines found consistently high rates of problem gamblers among players of FOBTs “and a high proportion of those seeking treatment for gambling addiction identify these machines as their main form of gambling”.

Anti-gambling campaigners have condemned the machines, saying they let players lose money too quickly, leading to addiction and social, mental and financial problems.

Ms Crouch said the £2 limit on FOBTs would “substantially” reduce harm and protect the most vulnerable players.

Matt Zarb-Cousin is now a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling but was previously addicted to FOBTs.

“It's no exaggeration to call FOBTs the crack cocaine of gambling,” he has told the BBC.

“If we had a gambling product classification, similar to that of drugs, FOBTs would be class A.”

William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock, said: “The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood.”

Peter Jackson, chief executive at Paddy Power Betfair welcomed the government intervention, saying his company had been concerned that FOBTs were damaging the reputation of the gambling industry.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which receives millions of pounds from bookmakers through a levy, said it would work closely with the government to respond the decision.



Ocado’s shares soar in landmark deal with American supermarket giant Kroger

Ocado Van/10 10/Flickr

( via – – Thu, 17 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Ocado’s shares soared by almost a third to an all-time high after the online supermarket announced it will build as many as 20 robotic warehouses in the US as part of a landmark deal with American supermarket giant Kroger that will significantly accelerate its plans to become a global supplier of white-label online shopping technology.

Kroger, which is second only to Walmart in terms of US market share, with revenues last year of $122bn (£90bn), will also take a 5pc stake in the FTSE 250 firm at a value of £183m.

The two companies said they were already looking for sites for their first three warehouses and planned to identify up to 20 within the first three years of their deal. Ocado will also allow Kroger to use its online shopping and logistics technology.

Tim Steiner, Ocado’s chief executive, said the deal would be “transformational” and “reshape the food retailing industry in the US in the years to come.”