Smart meters rollout in every home put back to 2024

( via– Tue, 17th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Energy firms are given more time after the rollout is plagued by problems, including delays in connectivity.

The deadline for installing smart meters into every home in the UK by 2020 has been put back to 2024.

The government had insisted the 2020 deadline for the rollout was achievable – even though energy firms warned that the technology would not be ready in time.

Officials said the likes of British Gas, Eon and Scottish Power will now have until 2024 to install the meters.

The rollout has been plagued by problems including delays in connectivity and issues arising with the batch already in use.

The Government also now predicts that only half of households will have a smart meter by 2020.

It also says the cost of the initiative will rise from £11bn in 2016 to £13.5bn, although total savings will also rise from £16.73bn to £19.56bn.

Citizens Advice, the consumer group which has been calling for the 2020 deadline to be extended, welcomed the decision and said it was in the best interests of customers.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This new deadline gives suppliers time to fix ongoing technical problems and make sure customer service isn't sidelined as the rollout continues.

“We've seen some energy companies use aggressive techniques to try to persuade people to have smart meters fitted as soon as possible to meet the existing timeline.

“It's also apparent that the cost of the rollout is escalating, and the public are picking up the tab through their energy bills. People will still benefit in the long run, but today's cost-benefit analysis shows focusing on speed hasn't worked.”

The number of homes with smart meters has risen steadily over the past few years but the speed of growth has slowed more recently as problems emerged.

Older generations of meters not working when a household has switched suppliers, with the data no longer being sent in real time to suppliers has proved to be one of the biggest issues.

Infrastructure is being installed to ensure the older meters work and that technology is in place so newer versions can connect to the shared networks.

However, a recent study by auto-switching service Look After My Bills found some meters were still “going dumb” and homes in the north of England were more likely to get inferior meters.

Lily Green, head of research at Look After My Bills, said: “At last the Government has faced up to the truth and admitted that the smart meter rollout is years behind.

“It's been an open secret in the energy industry that the smart meter deadline will be pushed back.

“Suppliers are miles off from installing smart meters in all homes, with around 35 million homes still without a smart meter.”

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of the sector's trade association, Energy UK, said: “Suppliers have been working tirelessly to meet the 2020 deadline and offer all households a smart meter so that as many customers as possible can benefit by saving energy and money – as millions of smart meter owners have already reported.

“The energy sector is committed to working with the Government and other partners to complete the rollout so we will now consider the proposals in detail to ensure they are deliverable and do not place unreasonable costs on consumers.

Aldi plans to open a new supermarket each week, on average for the next two years

( via – – Tue, 17th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Aldi plans to open a new store in the UK every week on average for the next two years, its boss has told the BBC.

Giles Hurley said the discount retailer would invest £1bn to achieve its aim.

“The reality is that almost 50% of the population of the UK doesn't currently shop with us and they tell us the main reason for that is that they don't have a store near us,” he said.

Aldi's pledge came as it reported a sales rise for last year, but saw profits fall sharply.

Last year, the company attracted more than 800,000 new customers, adding an extra £1.1bn in sales, up 11% on the previous twelve months. But most of this sales growth is from opening new stores.

Profits for the same period fell 18%, partly due to price cuts aimed at keeping its competitive edge.

Whilst the big established grocers are opening few, if any new stores, Aldi is still expanding, stealing their customers and growing market share. And that is set to continue.

“Over the next two years we're going to invest a further billion pounds in the UK and that shows our intent,” says Mr Hurley, Aldi's chief executive for the UK and Ireland.

Aldi now has over 840 stores and is increasing its focus on London. It wants to double the number of stores inside the M25, from 45 to 100, by the end of 2025.

“Within Greater London, our market share is around half of what it is in the rest of the country so there's clearly a big opportunity for us to expand the business. In the long term, we can comfortably see us opening 200-250 stores within London,” says Mr Hurley.

But will they be able to find enough locations to fit their low-cost business model?

“It's not straightforward as you don't have the parking spaces,” says Adam Leyland, editor of the Grocer magazine.

“It's also harder to get good sites in London. So you have to have a very flexible model and Aldi is so formulaic as a discounter that this is harder to manage.

“But they are determined to do it and they are a very capable grocer. We've seen over the years how they've responded to the dynamics of the UK market.”

Queuing round the block

When Aldi opens a new store the shoppers come.

Here in Ruabon, on the outskirts of Wrexham, customers were queuing round the block, lured by the promise of an early freebie.

It felt like Black Friday had come early.

The rush was on for the so called “Aisle of Wonder” – “starbuys” included a £24.99 cordless lawnmower and a cut price vacuum cleaner.

Families were dragging six-seater wooden patio sets towards the tills. Another woman's trolley was filled with three Mr Potato Heads, four rabbit-shaped wicker planters and a wooden wishing well for her garden.

The first customer, Ken Peters, had been waiting since 5:30am to get in: “I'm hoping for a bargain, or a free food voucher,” he says.

Aldi is already experimenting with a new, smaller, convenience store format. There are currently eight Aldi “Local” stores in Greater London, including a former Waitrose store in Camden. Aldi thinks that figure could grow to as high as 50 in the longer term.

So how long can this rapid expansion last?

“The fundamental question for Aldi, Lidl and all the other discounters, like B&M, across the retail sectors is that at some point they will reach their peak physical space,” says Patrick O'Brien, UK retail director at market research firm GlobalData.

“The rate of growth they're enjoying isn't going to last forever.

“So they're going to be in the same boat as their bigger rivals, going head to head for their share of the spend in their existing store estates, and as the discounters have expanded they are more often found in each other's catchment areas, competing with each other rather than the easier job of taking spend from higher priced rivals,” he believes.

But that's not something Aldi has to worry about right now when it's got years of growth ahead to manage, argues Mr Leyland.

“Aldi are clearly performing very well. The crucial thing is that when they open a store people come. Aldi will only have a problem if it opens new stores and people aren't attracted to them and I can't see any evidence of that.”

But the Big Four supermarket chains aren't making it easy. They've been improving their offer and trying to close the price gap with the discounters.

‘Long-term view'

Aldi's promise to keep prices lower took its toll on last year's profits. But Mr Hurley, is adamant that it's a promise he's prepared to keep:

“Our profits did suffer as a result of the investments we made, but Aldi is not like other supermarkets. We take a very long-term view of our business and the focus is very much on our sales, our customers and our store numbers and not on short term profitability.

“The plans we put down last year were carefully considered. We've always said that we will offer the lowest prices in the market,” he says.

The biggest challenge right now for all the UK's grocers is Brexit.

So does Aldi believe there will be gaps on the shelves in the event of a disorderly no deal?

“I can't guarantee the availability of every single product,” says Mr Hurley.

“But actually that's no different from anyone else. What we will do is shield our customers from as many ripple effects as possible. I can't commit that prices won't go up. I'm not alone in the industry on that but what I can guarantee is that customers will always pay the lowest grocery prices with Aldi.”

Mr Hurely said the chain was working “very closely” with its supply base.

“Because of our select range of products that's probably a little easier than some of our competitors.

“We also believe we're in a solid position because 75% of what we sell comes from British suppliers and manufacturers”, he says.

‘Double-edged sword'

Aldi is increasing stocks in items like olive oil, tinned tomatoes and pasta, items which aren't produced in the UK.

Brexit, says the Grocer's Mr Leyland, is Aldi's biggest worry right now.

“It's the biggest challenge for the whole food industry at the moment. Everyone is working crazily to come up with solutions.

“Aldi may have fewer products to worry about but it's a double-edged sword because if one product isn't getting through it's harder to flex it. And although they're very competitive, they've struggled to manage inflation like everyone else.”

Whatever happens, Aldi is clear that Brexit won't change its expansion plans.

This business, along with Lidl, has had a profound effect on the UK grocery market.

Aldi alone took £7bn of sales in the last year that would otherwise have gone to its rivals, according to the research, data and insight consultancy, Kantar.

As long as it is continuing to open new stores, it's likely to be a hugely disruptive force.

By Emma Simpson, Business correspondent

Oil prices surged by nearly 20% after attacks on Saudi facilities

( via – – Mon, 16th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Oil prices surged by nearly 20% after two attacks on Saudi Arabian facilities on Saturday knocked out more than 5% of the world's supply.

Brent crude, the international benchmark used by oil traders, jumped to $71.95 a barrel at one point.

US oil prices also spiked, but both trimmed gains as President Donald Trump authorised the release of US reserves.

The strike, which the US blames on Iran, has sparked fears of increased risk to energy supplies in the region.

The price of Brent crude is currently up about 10% at $66.64 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate is 9.5% higher at $60.06 after rising as much as 15% earlier.

The drone attacks on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia's oil industry hit the world's biggest petroleum-processing facility as well as a nearby oil field, both of which are operated by energy giant Aramco.

Together they account for about 50% of Saudi Arabia's oil output, or 5% of daily global oil production. It could take weeks before the facilities are fully back on line.

Aneeka Gupta, commodities strategist at the fund manager Wisdom Tree, says that higher oil prices would not have an immediate impact on consumers as they “could take a bit of time of feed through”.

However, she says that if the outage lasts for more than six weeks, oil prices could hit “north of” $75 a barrel.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that Tehran was behind the attacks. Iran accused the US of “deceit.”

Later Mr Trump said in a tweet the US knew who the culprit was and was “locked and loaded” but waiting to hear from the Saudis about how they wanted to proceed.

In another tweet he said there was “plenty of oil!”.

Will petrol prices rise?

Drivers will not immediately see an increase at the pump, according to international energy policy expert Prof Nick Butler.

“The direct impact of the attacks could be short-lived,” he said.

“The market has adjusted without blinking over the last two years to the loss for political reasons of over two millions barrels a day of production from Venezuela and Iran.”

In the UK, 40% of the price of a litre of petrol is made up of oil, fuel production and profit. The rest is tax.

“There are currently savings in the wholesale price that have only just started to be passed on to drivers by retailers,” says industry expert Simon Williams from automotive services company RAC Limited.

“Many retailers cut their prices by 3p on Friday and we believe that average prices were six pence too high before that, so the impact of these fires may not be too great.”

However, if the drone attacks stoke broader tensions in the region, price rises could prove to be more sustained.

Prof Butler said that “if retaliation becomes a reality, any spike could be sustained feeding the risk of an economic recession”.

What will be the impact on oil supplies?

The Saudis have provided little detail about about the attacks, apart from saying there were no casualties, but have given a few more indications about oil production.

Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said some of the fall in production would be made up by tapping huge storage facilities.

The kingdom is the world's biggest oil exporter, shipping more than seven million barrels daily. Saudi stocks stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data.

“Saudi authorities have claimed to control the fires, but this falls far short of extinguishing them,” said Abhishek Kumar, head of analytics at Interfax Energy in London. “The damage to facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais appears to be extensive, and it may be weeks before oil supplies are normalised.”

Saudi Arabia is expected to use its reserves so that exports can continue as normal this week.

What are the US accusations?

Mr Pompeo said Tehran was behind the damaging attacks but gave no specific evidence to back up his accusations.

He has rejected claims by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels that they carried out the attacks.

Iran accused the US of “deceit” and its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that “blaming Iran won't end the disaster” in Yemen.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis. Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries against the rebels.

The US meanwhile has blamed Iran for other attacks on oil supplies in the region this year, amid continuing tension following Mr Trump's decision to reinstate sanctions after abandoning the landmark international deal which limited Tehran's nuclear activities.

Shopping mall investment by local authorities increase to £1bn

( via – – Mon, 16th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

One in five shopping centres bought since 2016 acquired by local authorities as towns hit by store closures

Councils are set to spend £1bn on buying shopping malls as they try to redevelop town centres depressed by a wave of store closures.

Local authorities have spent a record £775m buying shopping centres over the past three years, and are expected to outlay a further £230m next year according to research from shopping centre trade body Revo and property advisory firm Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH).

Steve Norris, head of planning, development and regeneration at LSH, said investment had surged since 2016 and the current levels could be just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“A lot of shopping centres are being bought for regeneration,” he said. “They might be failing assets in town centres where shop vacancies are high. Councils are going in to revitalise those sites, bringing in residential above or repurposing vacant units with something other than retail.”Advertisement

One in five shopping centres that have changed hands since 2016 have been acquired by local authorities that have ramped up investment as private sector spending has dived by £1.85bn.

Financial investors have fled as more than 16 shops a day close their doors, squeezed out by the rise of online shopping and increased costs from business rates, wages and the fall in the value of the pound.

But low-cost funding available from the public works loan board has allowed councils to bid higher sums for property and enjoy better returns on investment than private funds.

There are concerns that councils are “dumb money” – paying over the odds for failing businesses. Shropshire council, for example, has been criticised for spending £51m on three shopping centres in Shrewsbury in 2018, all of which have since fallen in value.

But cash-strapped councils are not only motivated by generating income to replace money cut by central government, they also gain benefit from supporting communities and attracting new businesses and residents by redeveloping moribund retail schemes.

Shropshire council has argued, for example, that the short-term fall in value of its investment in the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside shopping centres is not a major concern. It gains annual income of £2.7m from the centres and is hoping to improve the attractiveness of the town by redeveloping at least one of the shopping centres with cinema screens, restaurants and a gym.

Norris said council buyouts could be a “catalyst for change” but only where they were “underpinned by robust and fully costed business plans and investment strategies”.

Successful schemes include Altrincham, where Trafford council invested in the town’s listed market hall, which was then revitalised as a fashionable dining space in partnership with a private investor, and Ashford, where the council has transformed the local Park Mall.

Woking borough council has helped to revive its town centre by acquiring the tatty Wolsey Place in 2010 and integrating it more closely with another nearby shopping centre and the high street.

Norris said redevelopment could take several years to complete and it was too early to judge the success of many schemes.

“Only a few local authorities have actually stepped into the market. But a number I speak to are in the process of developing strategies and looking at purchasing assets now,” he said.

By Sarah Butler 

Retirees Going Back to Work in Second Careers – As Airbnb Hosts


One in six people are estimated to be over the age of 65 by 2050. As the world’s aging population battles boredom and loneliness, some retirees are finding second careers to keep occupied. CNBC’s Uptin Saiidi met one couple in South Korea going back to work as Airbnb hosts.

Why Global Beer Brands Like Carlsberg Are Flocking to China

Source: WSJ

As global beer sales have stalled, major brewers such as AB InBev and Carlsberg are flocking to China. WSJ's Steven Russolillo in Hong Kong tests their strategies, sipping the beers specially crafted to win over Chinese drinkers.

The A.I. Technology That Could Make Your Home Smarter and Safer

Source: Bloomberg

British start up Audio Analytic is like the Shazaam for real world sounds. Its AI technology is put to use in smart home devices that can detect sounds like a window breaking or a smoke alarm going off.

The technology will take active measures to protect your home by alerting your phone or turning on your lights to scare away burglars. Bloomberg's Hello World Host Ashlee Vance visits the Cambridge start up to meet with its founder and CEO and a cute baby that was gracious enough to help demo the app.

Wetherspoon pub chain report a 7.4% rise in sales to £1.8bn for the year to July

( via – – Fri, 13th 2019) London, Uk – –

Boss Tim Martin dismisses worst-case scenario document for no-deal Brexit as ‘bollocks’

The boss of JD Wetherspoon has claimed consumers are in a good mood despite political turmoil as he lauded rising sales at the pub chain and dismissed the government’s Yellowhammer papers as “bollocks”.

Tim Martin, an ardent Brexiter who has long supported a no-deal exit from the EU, said consumers were proving resilient in the current political environment as wage growth, low interest rates and rising employment levels have kept spirits high.

“About two or three years ago … the main anxiety was that consumers were overspending and credit card debt was going up and so on. I haven’t read those headlines so much recently,” he said.

“Household income is at or near record levels, there’s record employment and interest rates are low. So I think people are in a good mood. There’s a fair bit of political turmoil but I wouldn’t say it’s having a massive effect on people going out.”

It came as the pub chain reported a 7.4% rise in sales to £1.8bn for the year to July, compared with £1.7bn a year earlier. However, the same wage growth that underpinned consumer sentiment dragged on pre-tax profit, with a higher wage bill at Wetherspoon contributing to a 4.5% fall in profits to £102.5m. Pub improvements, involving kitchen upgrades, maintenance and the creation of new beer gardens, also increased costs.

Martin said the new financial year got off to a strong start, with like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 8 September up 5.9%. He insisted the pub chain would do well over the next year despite warnings over the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Earlier this week, the government was forced to release documents outlining its worst-case scenario “planning assumptions” for a no-deal Brexit. The Operation Yellowhammer papers revealed that no deal could result in rising food and fuel prices, public disorder and disruptions to supplies of medicine.

“Yellowhammer is bollocks,” Martin told the Guardian.

“I’m hoping … that we leave on 31 October without a deal. I think that will be better for the country because we can eliminate tariffs on non-EU imports, which push up prices in the shops, so we can reduce shop prices, we can avoid the payment of £39bn [to the EU], or most of it, and can regain control of fishing. But most importantly we can increase the level of democracy – and I think democracy and prosperity are very closely linked.”

By Kalyeena Makortoff

Ovo set to become UK’s second largest energy supplier

( via – – Fri, 13th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Ovo is set to become the UK's second largest energy supplier after it agreed to buy SSE's retail business for £500m.

Ovo – which was created 10 years ago – is already the UK's largest independent energy supplier, with 1.5 million customers and about 2,000 employees.

But it will now take on SSE's 3.5 million customers and 8,000 staff, making it second only to British Gas.

SSE said it would “do all it can to ensure a smooth transition for customers and employees”.

The deal is expected to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.

SSE – one of the Big Six energy suppliers – said there would be no immediate impact on customers after completion.

It added that the SSE brand would be operated by Ovo under licence for a period, “allowing time for a phased and carefully managed migration and continued high standards of customer service”.

Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, said Ovo's deal to buy SSE's business “will enhance the ever-growing competition for customers”.

“The likes of Ovo, Shell, Bulb and Octopus mean there's a base of emerging suppliers who are continuing to challenge the Big Six in the domestic energy market.”

SSE had announced in May that it planned to offload its energy services division after more than 500,000 households switched to a new supplier in the year to April. The company said it would sell or float its energy services arm by the second half of 2020.

In November last year, a proposed merger of SSE's household supply arm with rival Npower was called off, with SSE blaming “very challenging market conditions”.

The introduction of the energy price cap by the government had led SSE and Npower to renegotiate their planned tie-up, but they failed to agree a deal.

Announcing the sale of the business to Ovo, SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “We have long believed that a dedicated, focused and independent retailer will ultimately best serve customers, employees and other stakeholders – and this is an excellent opportunity to make that happen.

“I'm confident that this is the best outcome for the SSE Energy Services business.”

The founder and chief executive of Ovo, Stephen Fitzpatrick, described the deal as a “significant moment for the energy industry”.

“SSE and Ovo are a great fit. They share our values on sustainability and serving customers. They've built an excellent team that I'm really looking forward to working with.”

Aerospace and defence company Babcock win £1.3bn contract for fleet of Royal Navy frigates

( via– Wed, 12 Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the £1.3bn contract for at least five ships will help “bring shipbuilding home”.

Aerospace and defence company Babcock has been chosen as the preferred bidder for a new fleet of Royal Navy frigates.

The government has committed to buying at least five of the warships, as well as hoping to sell them to other governments, with the first ship expected to begin sea trials in 2023.

The £1.3bn Type 31 contract will see the ships built exclusively in the UK, with different elements being fabricated and assembled at various British shipyards.

It will guarantee at least 2,500 jobs across the country, including 150 new technical apprenticeships.

The fleet will be based on Babcock's Arrowhead 140 design at an average cost of £250m per ship.

Babcock chief executive Archie Bethel said it was a “modern warship that will meet the maritime threats of today and tomorrow with British ingenuity and engineering at its core”.

The ships will be fitted with the world-leading Sea Ceptor missile system, as well as being able to operate a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will mark the announcement by visiting a ship on the Thames later on Thursday, said: “The UK is an outward-looking island nation, and we need a shipbuilding industry and Royal Navy that reflect the importance of the seas to our security and prosperity.

“This is an industry with a deep and visceral connection to so many parts of the UK and to the union itself.

“My government will do all it can to develop this aspect of our heritage and the men and women who make up its workforce – from apprentices embarking on a long career, to those families who have worked in shipyards for generations.

“I look forward to the restoration of British influence and excellence across the world's oceans.

“I am convinced that by working together we will see a renaissance in this industry which is so much part of our island story – so let's bring shipbuilding home.”

The frigate-building programme is part of a wider plan to breathe new life into the UK shipbuilding industry.

To that end, Mr Johnson has named Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as the new shipbuilding tsar.

Mr Wallace said: “These mighty ships will form the next generation of the Royal Navy fleet.

“The Type 31 frigates will be a fast, agile and versatile warship, projecting power and influence across the globe.

“The ships will be vital to the Royal Navy's mission to keeping peace, providing life-saving humanitarian aid and safeguarding the economy across the world from the North Atlantic, to the Gulf, and in the Asia Pacific.”

By Alan McGuinness, political reporter

John Lewis has posted losses of £25.9m for the first half of the year amid brexit worries

( via– Wed, 12th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

The impact of a no-deal Brexit would be “significant and difficult to mitigate”, the company said.

John Lewis has posted losses of £25.9m for the first half of the year, blaming the shifting retail landscape and ongoing concerns over Brexit.

With trading conditions already less than favourable, John Lewis said in its half-year results that if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, the effect would be “significant”, and it would “not be possible to mitigate that impact”.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said that the UK's exit from the EU continued to “weigh on consumer sentiment at a crucial time for the sector as we enter the peak trading period”. He added that John Lewis had been preparing for Brexit by increasing its foreign currency hedging and stockpiling where possible.

Sir Charlie said that he expected retail conditions to remain tough throughout 2019 – although he said the second half of the year was typically stronger for the retailer.

Commenting on these difficult trading conditions, the chairman said that the face of UK retail was changing rapdily.

“The re-drawing of the UK retail landscape continues apace,” he said.

These headwinds drove the compnany's revenues down by 1.4%, from £4.8bn to £4.7bn, for the first half of the year to 27 July.

In March, John Lewis Partnership – which owns John Lewis and Waitrose – said that staff bonuses at the two companies had been slashed to the lowest level in 66 years after a “challenging” year in which underlying profits fell 45%.

At Waitrose, despite a weak grocery market, the company said it had a good trading performance, with only a “marginal decline in like-for-like sales”, and continued improvement in gross margins.

It also said it had seen strong online grocery sales growth of 10.7%, a figure “well ahead of the market”.

California passes landmark bill that paves the way for gig economy workers

( via – – Wed, 11th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

California lawmakers have passed a bill that paves the way for gig economy workers to get holiday and sick pay.

Assembly Bill 5, as its known, will affect companies such as Uber and Lyft, which depend on those working in the gig economy.

Some estimates suggest costs for those firms would increase by 30% if they have to treat workers as employees.

But opponents of the bill say it will hurt those people who want to work flexible hours.

Assembly Bill 5 would put into law a decision by the state's supreme court last year. Then, judges ruled that workers should be considered employees under state law if they are integral to a company's business or it tells them what to do.

US democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris have all come out in support of the bill.

But Uber and Lyft have both proposed a referendum on the decision. In a statement after the bill was passed, Lyft said: “We are fully prepared to take this issue to the voters of California to preserve the freedom and access drivers and riders want and need.”

Analysis: By David Lee

The business models of gig economy companies are already under strain – Uber lost more than $5bn in the last quarter alone. Some estimates suggest that having to treat workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, could increase costs by as much as 30%.

Uber and rival ridesharing service Lyft joined forces to push back again the bill. They suggested a guaranteed minimum wage of $21 per hour instead of the sweeping changes the bill would bring.

But that pledge wasn't enough to sway California's Senate, and the state's governor Gavin Newsom is expected to soon sign the bill into law. That paves the way for California's 1 million gig workers to gain added rights next year.

Bovis increase bid for Galliford Try’s housebuilding arm to £1.1bn

( via – – Wed, 11th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Company improves offer to rival after its first approach was rejected in May

Bovis Homes has revived talks to buy Galliford Try’s housing businesses after improving its potential bid to almost £1.1bn and adding cash to the proposed deal.

The companies have agreed basic terms of a transaction that would more than double Bovis’s housebuilding and enlarge its affordable homes operation. Bovis, the smallest of Britain’s major housebuilders, would be building 10,000 homes a year, from a projected 4,000 this year, and would gain sites in new areas such as Yorkshire and Bristol. It plans to keep the Bovis and Galliford’s Linden Homes brands.

Bovis expects to pay Galliford £675m in shares based on its closing share price on Monday plus £300m in cash. It would also take on £100m of Galliford’s debt and its pension scheme, which has a small surplus. The two companies hope to seal a deal and get it approved by shareholders before Christmas.

The deal would leave Galliford as a construction and infrastructure business concentrating on bigger projects such as the Aberdeen bypass.

Galliford rejected an all-share approach from Bovis in May that valued the businesses at £1.05bn including debt. The revised proposal is £25m higher puts the value at £1.075and offers Galliford shareholders a large chunk of cash.

Bovis said it planned to raise the cash by selling shares worth 9.99% of its existing share capital as well as using existing funds and raising more debt. Bovis rejected a bid from Galliford in 2017 and hired its rival’s former boss Greg Fitzgerald as its chief executive after a damaging scandal over poorly built homes. The turnaround was declared complete when Bovis reported record profits in February.

Bovis would also gain an established affordable homes business with an order book of more than £1bn to expand its own division, which it launched this year and works in partnership with housing associations. It is a more stable business, while private housebuilding is reliant on the ups and downs of the economic cycle, and is more vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit.

The government announced a £3bn programme in March to fund the building of 30,000 affordable homes by providing Treasury backing to housing associations.

Analysts at Jefferies said: “We see the rationale for the deal as the opportunity to buy inexpensive assets well known by the current CEO, bringing Bovis larger market share, speeding up the development of Bovis’s partnership business as well as the potential for cost savings. However, we believe the market will question the timing of such a large deal at this stage in the cycle given all the political and economic uncertainties.”

Bovis shares dropped 4% to £10.16 by lunchtime, while Galliford Try shares initially jumped 20% to 737.5p and later traded 9% higher.

By Sean Farrell and Julia Kollewe

JD Sports reports a 10% leap in like-for-like sales in the UK during the first half of the financial year

( via– Tue, 10th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

JD updates on its Brexit preparations but says it has no plans to significantly cut back its store estate as rivals struggle.

JD Sports has reported a 10% leap in like-for-like sales in the UK during the first half of its financial year, in defiance of the struggles facing the wider high street.

The sports fashion chain credited investment in its store and online offering for the performance across the six months to 3 August.

The wider group, which includes a gym chain and overseas store brands, recorded a 47% surge in revenues to £2.72bn with underlying profits growing by 37% to £235.2m.

On a pre-tax profit basis, which takes one-off costs into account, earnings were 6% higher at almost £130m.

JD Sports executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “Against a backdrop of widely-reported retail challenges in the UK, it is extremely encouraging that JD has delivered like-for-like sales growth of more than 10% with an improved conversion reflecting consumers' increasingly positive reaction to our elevated multi-channel proposition where a unique and constantly evolving sports and fashion premium brand offer is presented in a vibrant retail theatre with innovative digital technology.”

The results were consistent as far as investors were concerned.

Shares – up 83% in the year to date – were more than 4% higher when trading began on Tuesday.

The company said it was raising its dividend by 3.7% and was on track to deliver on the mid-range of full-year expectations despite the potential for disruption, should the UK leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

JD said it was planning to open a warehouse in Belgium next year, earlier than initially planned, to assist its logistical operations.

It has proved another difficult year for the wider retail sector with fierce rival Sports Direct facing a series of challenges including a £605m tax claim – ironically from authorities in Belgium.

While JD acknowledged the struggles facing UK retailers, a combination of weak consumer confidence from political and economic uncertainty and higher costs, it said it had no current plans to reduce Its UK store portfolio, which includes Blacks and Go Outdoors.

It said: “We are very aware of the financial benefit that other retailers appear to get when they downsize their estates and, whilst we have no plans to fundamentally alter the size of the JD store network in the UK at this time, we continue to seek fairness and flexibility in the terms of our leases.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

WeWork urged to shelve planned IPO over valuation concerns

( via — Tue , 10th Sept 2019) London, UK —

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group (9984.T), a leading shareholder in the holding company of U.S. office-sharing startup WeWork, has urged it to shelve a planned IPO on concerns over the valuation, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

A SoftBank spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, which cited sources familiar with the matter.

Investor scepticism has already forced money-losing The We Company to consider slashing its IPO valuation to a little more than $20 billion, sources told Reuters last week. That followed weak initial trading at other startups including SoftBank-backed Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N).

While SoftBank and its $100 billion Vision Fund emphasize their long-term investing credentials, founder and CEO Masayoshi Son has set out an ambitious IPO pipeline for tech investments spanning ride-hailing, fintech and health startups.

Putting The We Company’s offering on hold would disrupt that schedule at a time when SoftBank is seeking funds from investors for a second Vision Fund.

SoftBank made a follow-up investment in We Company, one of its biggest tech bets, at a $47 billion valuation earlier this year – a number widely treated with scepticism by analysts.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Chris Lane said that if The We Company halts the IPO, SoftBank could come up with an alternative funding plan for the startup, which he estimates needs $9 billion in funding to become cash-flow positive.

SoftBank “have got an important voice, but more importantly they have money … (The We Company) will have to listen to them,” said Lane, who values the office space-sharing firm at $23 billion.

Tech conglomerate SoftBank has burned through much of the $100 billion raised by its first Vision Fund in just two years, recording big paper gains on internal revaluations of its tech investments.

Vision Fund defends its valuation techniques, which include cash-flow analysis, recent transactions and comparison with peers to underpin its numbers.

At the end of June the fund recorded the value of $71 billion invested in 83 investments as having grown by $20 billion. Since then the share price of portfolio companies Uber and Slack (WORK.N) have both fallen by around a third.

SoftBank says many investments receive a vote of confidence as third parties come in as co-investors or by making follow-on investments at the same or higher valuations.

In the case of The We Company’s $47 billion valuation, if a tech company shelves an IPO due to a lower valuation than expected, investors are generally expected to take that fall into account when appraising their stakes.

Reporting by Sam Nussey and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Bharath Manjesh in Bengalurus

British Airways pilots strike begins over pay conditions

( via – – Mon, 9th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

British Airways pilots have begun a two-day strike in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

Tens of thousands of passengers have been told not to go to airports, with the airline cancelling some 1,700 flights due to the disruption.

The pilots' union Balpa said BA management's cost-cuts and “dumbing down” of the brand had eroded confidence in the airline.

But BA chief Alex Cruz said investment in the operator had never been so big.

Both sides say they are willing to hold further talks, but no date has been set. The pilots are currently scheduled to stage another strike on 27 September.

Balpa's general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.”

But he told the BBC that while BA says publicly it is willing to talk, “in private they say they are not going to negotiate”. And although the headline dispute is about pay, he said there was also deep resentment about the airline's direction.

“BA has lost the trust and confidence of pilots because of cost-cutting and the dumbing down of the brand… management want to squeeze every last penny out of customers and staff,” Mr Strutton said.

Mr Cruz defended the airline against Mr Strutton's claim, saying it had never in its history embarked on such a big investment programme in services and training. He said the airline was “ready and willing” to return to talks with Balpa.

It is the first time BA pilots have walked out and the action could cost the airline up to £40m a day. Some 4,000 pilots are involved in the strike.


By Katie Prescott, Business reporter

It's unlikely that passengers will see that much disruption at airports – most of the real problems have happened over the past few weeks as people have rushed to make other travel arrangements, rebook their flights or apply for refunds.

In terms of the negotiations, both sides say that they are open to talks but neither has responded to the other, underlining just how acrimonious their relationship has become.

Ostensibly this is about pay, but there's also underlying discontent among pilots with the company's strategy. Some say they don't like British Airways' cost-cutting drive and they want to see more of the benefits of their bumper profits.

But industry insiders say BA has made those profits because they have cut costs. And that airlines are expensive and unpredictable beasts to run, in thrall to a fluctuating oil price (jet fuel accounts for a quarter of their operating costs) and random acts such as drones in the air.

If they don't come to an agreement in the next few weeks, another strike is scheduled for 27 September. The result of the pilots' union ballot allows strike action until the start of next year, but Balpa says it hopes to resolve the situation well before then.

How did we get here?

Pilots previously rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which was proposed by the airline in July.

Balpa says that its members have taken lower pay rises and made sacrifices during more stringent times for the airline in recent years. The union insists that now that BA's financial performance has improved – its parent company IAG reported a 9% rise in profits last year – they should see a greater share of the profits.

BA says its pilots already receive “world-class” salaries. The airline believes the pay offer is “fair and generous”, and that if it is good enough for BA cabin crew, ground staff and engineers – whose unions, Unite and the GMB, have both accepted it – it should be good enough for pilots, too.

The airline says once the 11.5% pay deal has fully taken effect in three years' time, some BA captains could be taking home more than £200,000 a year, allowances included.

Two weeks ago, BA informed some customers they would have to re-book their flights next week due to the planned industrial action.

Unfortunately, due to “human error” the airline mistakenly sent emails to some customers whose flights were not actually affected, throwing BA's customer service operations into a tailspin over the bank holiday weekend.

On Friday, BA said the “vast majority” of affected customers had now either accepted a refund or rebooked, either on alternative dates or with other airlines.

What rights do passengers have if their flight is affected?

BA advice says you can request a full refund, rebook your flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of your fare to fly to a different destination.

If your flight has been cancelled due to a strike, the Civil Aviation Authority sayspassengers also have a legal right to a replacement flight at BA's expense to get you to your destination, even if this means travelling with a different airline.

Most affected passengers would already have been in contact with BA, but they may not have considered additional costs, such as airport parking. They are advised to keep receipts for these extra costs, and BA said it would look at refunding them on a case-by-case basis.

The cost of separate hotel or accommodation bookings that cannot be used may need to be claimed from travel insurance.

Lloyds Banking Group expect a further charge of up to £1.8bn to cover more PPI claims

( via – – Mon, 9th Sept 2019) London, Uk – –

Bank says in run-up to deadline it was receiving 800,000 inquiries a week

Lloyds Banking Group will incur a further charge of up to £1.8bn to cover claims relating to mis-sold payment protection insurance after being hit by a surge in claims last month.

Lloyds said the last-minute rush was bigger than expected, and has prompted it to make another PPI charge of between £1.2bn and £1.8bn. At the top end, this is double the £900m charge taken by Royal Bank of Scotland last week, which also saw a last-minute surge in claims. CYBG, which owns the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks and Virgin Money, also warned last week that it faced a potential bill of £450m for new claims.

The latest charge takes Lloyds’s total compensation bill to nearly £22bn – by far the largest of all the banks. In total, the five major high street banks have set aside more than £40bn to compensate people who purchased often worthless cover in what has become the UK’s largest mis-selling scandal.

Since Lloyds started taking claims in 2011, it has typically received 70,000 PPI information requests a week, but this soared to 600,000 to 800,000 a week in the final weeks before the 29 August deadline.

Lloyds said the number was “higher than expected, with a significant spike in the final days before the deadline expired”.

In light of this, the bank has decided to suspend the remainder of its 2019 share buyback programme, leaving £600m of the £1.75bn programme unused. Lloyds expects capital growth, and its return on equity, to be below its previous guidance, with the final outcome dependent on the actual PPI charge taken.

The latest provision comes on top of £550m in PPI charges taken in the second quarter, which pushed down Lloyds’s pretax profits by 7% to £2.9bn for the six months to the end of June.

By Julia Kollewe

Why Young Professionals Are Willing to Pay $1,000 For Royal Etiquette Classes

Source: Insider

INSIDER's Emily Christian heads to the Plaza Hotel to find out why young professionals are seeking out etiquette classes. She meets with expert Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette, who teaches Emily the graces of a duchess and explains why etiquette is more important today than ever. Does Emily have what it takes to act like a royal for the day?

Why Did Volkswagen Kill The Beetle? One of Its Best Known Iconic Brands

Source: CNBC

Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest automakers. It houses brands such as Audi, Porsche, and Bentley. But perhaps its best-known vehicle is the Volkswagen Beetle. Over its entire lifespan, Volkswagen sold over 22.5 million of all three versions of the Beetle. But in July of 2019, production one of the most iconic and important cars of all time came to an end.