New Porsche mistakenly put on sale at bargain price in China

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 3rd Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

Potential car buyers in China have found that an online advert for a luxury sports car was just too good to be true.

A Porsche dealership in the the city of Yinchuan listed the brand new vehicle for 124,000 yuan ($18,300, £15,000).

That is just a fraction of what it should have been. The Panamera has a starting price of $148,000.

The promotion attracted hundreds of would-be buyers who rushed to secure what appeared to be a bargain.


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A spokesperson for the German car maker told the BBC that the promotion “contained a serious mistake in the listed retail price”, which was taken down immediately.

“As there was only one vehicle in stock, in accordance with the sales process, Porsche Centre Yinchuan has communicated with the first customer who made an online refunded reservation fee and has negotiated an agreeable outcome”, they added.

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The dealership also contacted “every bidder individually and explained the situation with apology”.

The incorrect information was posted on 30 January and customers who paid the 911 yuan reservation fee have been refunded, Porsche said.

The incident caused a stir on Chinese social media, with one commentator posting “This is why I don't buy Porsche lol”.

Others thought that it was just a promotional strategy that was “well conducted”.

It was also suggested that the company had been “irresponsible” and should have honoured the cut-price offer.

Another social media user claimed to be the first person to try to buy the car but had cancelled their order when they were told the real price. They said it would have been wrong to try to take advantage of a mistake.

Porsche started selling cars in mainland China more than 20 years ago.


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In recent years the company expanded its footprint in the world's second largest economy as it opened new dealerships.

The country is now Porsche's largest single market globally, with sales totalling $6.2bn in the first six months of last year.

By Monica Miller

Apple, Amazon and Google all offer gloomy outlooks in quarterly results

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 3rd Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

Fears of a recession have dampened explosive growth enjoyed by tech companies throughout the pandemic.

Three of Silicon Valley’s largest companies posted disappointing financial results on Thursday, compounding concerns about a slowdown in the tech sector.


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Recession fears have hit both corporate and consumer spending globally, leading to the likes of Apple, Alphabet and Amazon all signalling a tough recovery from the highs of 2021.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported subdued quarterly revenues as spending on digital advertising was reduced amid economic uncertainty.

Revenue from Google’s advertising business, which includes Search and YouTube, dropped from £52bn to £48bn. Shares in the company fell by more than 5% in after-hours trading.

Last month, Alphabet announced 12,000 workers would be made redundant globally.T

The “difficult news” about the job losses – about 6% of the total workforce – was revealed by Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai in an email to employees.

Similarly, Apple missed both sales and profits targets in the last quarter, hampered by production issues and lower demand for the company’s flagship iPhone.

The company’s sales dropped by 5% to £95bn, and were down across all product categories except iPads and services, which saw modest growth.

Apple also missed its first Wall Street profits forecast since 2016, delivering earnings per share of £1.54 against analyst estimates of £1.59 per share.

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Google job fears in UK and Ireland as parent firm slashes 12,000 staff globally

But there was one silver lining for the company: chief executive Tim Cook said production was now “back where we want it to be” following the relaxing of China's zero-COVID policies.
Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Amazon posted a positive quarter for the holiday period, but issued a warning about the pace of growth in its critical cloud computing division.

The company, which cut 18,000 jobs at the beginning of January, defied Wall Street expectations and reported sales of £121bn, a jump of 9% compared to the same period last year.

It also predicted that sales for the current quarter would be in line with analyst estimates.

But more concerningly, Amazon’s long-time profit engine has started to show signs of a sharp slowdown.

Amazon Web Services sales growth slowed to 20% in the last three months, the lowest rate of expansion since the company began publishing numbers on the division.


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After exploding in popularity during the pandemic and hiring some additional 800,000 workers, the current chief executive Andy Jassy has tried to sharply reduce spending, cutting non-essential business arms and slowing hiring, after Amazon’s share price fell by nearly 50% last year.

The drop wiped about £678bn from the company’s market valuation.

British Gas halts forced prepayment meter installation after report

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 2nd Feb, 2023) London, UK —

British Gas said it will temporarily stop using court orders that permit the forced installation of prepayment meters in people's homes after a report in The Times newspaper said the practice was being used against vulnerable people.

The court warrants obtained by British Gas can be used by a contractor to break into the homes of customers who have fallen behind on their bills to install prepayment meters, meaning they could have their heating cut off if they did not pay.


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Some of the customers being affected were vulnerable people, the Times said, citing instances of a father with three young children, a woman with mental health problems and a woman with a disabled daughter.

Britain's business minister Grant Shapps said he was “horrified” by the report and the government would hold meetings with the firm's parent company Centrica (CNA.L) to address what he called a “systemic failure”.

“The energy crisis must not be an excuse for unacceptable behaviour towards any customer – particularly those in vulnerable circumstances,” an Ofgem spokesperson said in a statement.

BILLS SOAR
Energy prices in Britain have rocketed this winter and despite a government support package some people are still unable to afford to heat their homes.

A typical household bill is now 2,500 pounds ($3,100) a year with government help, more than double what it was last winter.

Centrica said in a statement that it would suspend the installation of prepayment meters by court warrant until the end of winter following the Times report.

The group's chief executive Chris O'Shea told BBC radio that he was “very disappointed” and he felt very let down by a contractor whose behaviour he called “unacceptable”.

The company has commissioned an independent report into the Times' findings.

O'Shea said government and industry needed to address the problem of high energy bills and seek a long-term solution as it was not responsible for customers just to rack up debt.


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“We need to strike a balance between managing spiralling bad debt and being aware that there are those who refuse to pay and those who cannot pay,” he said. “This is not something that British Gas can solve on its own.”

About 1.2 million of British Gas' 7.5 million customers use prepayment meters, O'Shea said. About 20,000 customers have in the past year had meters installed under warrant, which he said was in line with the industry rate.

By Sarah Young

Shell makes ‘obscene’ $40bn profit largest in UK corporate history


(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 2nd Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

Sunak government under pressure after gas prices fuel ‘outrageous’ doubling of profits at Anglo-Dutch group

The government is under pressure to rethink its windfall tax on energy companies after Shell reported one of the largest profits in UK corporate history, with the surge in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing the oil company’s annual takings to $40bn (£32bn).


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Opposition parties and trade unions described Shell’s bonanza, the biggest in its 115 year history, as “outrageous” and accused Rishi Sunak of letting fossil fuel companies “off the hook”.

On Thursday, the UK headquartered company confirmed it had paid just $134m in British windfall taxes during 2022. It paid $520m under the EU “solidarity contribution” – Europe’s equivalent of the windfall tax.

The company was criticised in October when it said it had paid no UK windfall tax up to that point, but on Wednesday said it was likely to contribute $500m in 2023.

Boosted by record oil and gas prices, Shell posted profits of almost $10bn in the final quarter of last year, taking its annual adjusted profits to $40bn in 2022, far outstripping the $19bn notched up in 2021.

The performance puts Shell on a par with the £38bn British American Tobacco made in 2017, but still behind the £60bn Vodaphone achieved in 2014, when the telecoms group sold its US business.

The shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “As the British people face an energy price hike of 40% in April, the government is letting the fossil fuel companies making bumper profits off the hook with their refusal to implement a proper windfall tax.”

Miliband added: “Labour would stop the energy price cap going up in April, because it is only right that the companies making unexpected windfall profits from the proceeds of war pay their fair share.”

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, said: “No company should be making these kind of outrageous profits out of [Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“Rishi Sunak was warned as chancellor and now as prime minister that we need a proper windfall tax on companies like Shell and he has failed to take action.”

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, said the profits were “obscene” and “an insult to working families”.

Global Witness alleges just 1.5% of Shell’s capital expenditure has been used to develop genuine renewables.
Shell’s actual spending on renewables is fraction of what it claims, group alleges

The step up in Shell and its competitors’ profits during 2022 prompted the government to introduce a windfall tax on North Sea operators, which was later toughened by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.

Nowak said windfall taxes should be increased. “As households up and down Britain struggle to pay their bills and make ends meet, Shell are enjoying a cash bonanza. The time for excuses is over. The government must impose a larger windfall tax on energy companies. Billions are being left on the table,” he said.

“Instead of holding down the pay of paramedics, teachers, firefighters and millions of other hard-pressed public servants, ministers should be making big 0il and gas pay their fair share.”

Shell has benefited from a surge in oil prices caused by embargoes on Russian oil imposed since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to continental Europe.

Analysts had expected Shell’s new chief executive, Wael Sawan, to report adjusted earnings of $7.97bn for the fourth quarter and $38.17bn for the year, in his City debut. It represented an increase on the $9.45bn registered in the third quarter, aided by a bounceback in earnings from its liquefied natural gas trading arm.

Sunak’s official spokesperson said No 10 was aware the public would view Shell’s profits as “extraordinary” high, which was why the government had introduced its windfall tax comparable to those seen in other countries, he added.

“We think it [the profits levy] strikes a balance between funding cost of living support while encouraging investment in order to bolster the UK’s energy security,” they said. “We have made it clear that we want to encourage reinvestment of the sector’s profits to support the economy, jobs and energy security, and that’s why the more investment a firm makes into the UK the less tax they will pay.”

Sawan announced a boost in payouts to shareholders, with a 15% increase in the final quarter dividend to $6.3bn.

He also announced $4bn of share buybacks over the next three months. In total, Shell distributed $26bn to shareholders in 2022.

Asked how it felt to make huge profits while people struggle with their bills, Sawan said: “These are incredibly difficult times, we’re seeing inflation rampant around the world … When I go back home to Lebanon some of the challenges I see people going through, sometimes without electricity for a full day, are the the challenges that we see in many, many parts of the world. The answer to that is to make sure we provide energy to the world.”

Shell has also been accused of overstating how much it is spending on renewable energy, and faced calls this week to be investigated and potentially fined by the US financial regulator.

Shell invested $25bn overall during 2022, up from $20bn in 2021. The firm spent $12bn on oil and gas projects, compared with $3.5bn on its renewable energy division.

The Greenpeace UK senior climate justice campaigner Elena Polisano said: “World leaders have just set up a new fund to pay for the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. Now they should force historical mega-polluters like Shell to pay into it.”


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Jonathan Noronha-Gant, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, said: “People have every right to be outraged at the enormous profits that Shell has made in the midst of an energy affordability crisis that has pushed millions of families into poverty.”

The company, which has a stock market valuation of $165bn, last week embarked on a review of its division supplying energy and broadband to homes in Europe, putting 2,000 UK jobs at risk.

 

Alex Lawson

Twinkl education provider close to £500m joint venture with Vitruvian

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 1st Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

Jon and Susie Seaton are close to agreeing the sale of a stake in Twinkl to private equity investor Vitruvian Partners in a deal that will land them a windfall of more than £150m, Sky News learns.

The husband-and-wife team who founded one of Britain's biggest privately owned educational resources providers are close to sealing a deal that will propel them into the ranks of the country's richest entrepreneurs.


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Sky News has learned that Jon and Susie Seaton, who established Twinkl in 2010 in a bedroom in their Sheffield home, are in advanced talks with the private equity firm Vitruvian Partners about the sale of a minority stake.

One source said the couple were negotiating the sale of a large minority shareholding in a transaction that would value Twinkl at approximately £500m.

If they sold a 30% stake, that would hand the Seatons a pre-tax windfall of close to £170m.

Twinkl provides digital teaching resources to millions of educators around the world, and according to its website had 4m users globally by the year of its tenth anniversary.

That number is said to have grown substantially since then.

According to accounts filed at Companies House for the year ended 30 April, 2022, it recorded turnover of just over £55m and operating profit of £28.2m.


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At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Twinkl made its entire library of content free to the teaching profession for three months.

Later in 2020, Mr Seaton was awarded an MBE for services to technology and education during the pandemic in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Twinkl could not be reached for comment, while Vitruvian did not respond to enquiries.

By Mark Kleinman

 

PayPal plans to lay off 2,000 workers as big tech firm cuts costs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 1st Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

PayPal is shedding around 2,000 jobs, or 7% of its workers, as it becomes the latest big tech firm to cut costs.

The online payments company says it was forced to make the decision as it faces “the challenging macro-economic environment.”


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PayPal's announcement follows tens of thousands of layoffs by technology giants in the last month alone.

This year, Google's parent company Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft have announced major job cuts.

“We must continue to change as our world, our customers, and our competitive landscape evolve,” PayPal's chief executive Dan Schulman said in a statement.

Also on Tuesday, Snap – the parent company of social media platform Snapchat – warned that revenue for the three months to the end of March could fall by as much as 10%.

“We anticipate that the operating environment will remain challenging, as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist throughout Q1,” the company told investors.

After the announcement Snap's shares fell by almost 15% in extended trade in New York.

What is behind the big tech companies' job cuts?
At the start of this year, Amazon announced it planned to cut more than 18,000 jobs because of “the uncertain economy” and rapid hiring during the pandemic.

Also this month, Alphabet said it would shed 12,000 jobs, while Microsoft said up to 10,000 employees would lose their jobs.

Last week, Swedish music-streaming giant Spotify said it would cut 6% of its about 10,000 employees, citing a need to improve efficiency.

In another sign of the technology industry slowdown US computer chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) on Tuesday reported a 98% fall in net income for the last three months of 2022.

The company also said it expects revenue to drop by as much 10% in the current quarter.

However, the figures were better than many investors had expected and AMD's shares rose after the announcement.

In Asia on Wednesday, the world's second-biggest memory chip maker SK Hynix posted its largest quarterly loss on record.

The South Korean company reported a worse-than-expected 1.7tn won ($1.4bn; £1.1bn) loss for the last three months of 2022, as sales fell by 38%.


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The firm pointed to falling computer chip prices and joined rival technology giants as it warned that it expects an industry-wide downturn to worsen in the coming months, before recovering later in the year.

It came after rival Samsung Electronics on Tuesday reported its lowest quarterly profit in eight years.

 

Tesco buys intellectual property of Paperchase but not shops, with 800 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 31st Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Stationery retailer collapses into administration after rising costs and disappointing sales

Tesco has bought the brand and intellectual property of Paperchase, after the struggling stationery retailer collapsed into administration.

However, the deal does not include Tesco taking on the brand’s 106 stores across the UK and Ireland, leaving the future uncertain for Paperchase’s 820 employees.


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The deal follows a difficult few months for Paperchase after rising costs and disappointing sales.

“Paperchase is a well-loved brand by so many, and we’re proud to bring it to Tesco stores across the UK,” said Jan Marchant, the managing director of home and clothing at Tesco.

Administrators from the insolvency firm Begbies Traynor have been appointed to handle Paperchase’s operations in the short term. They said the company’s stores would remain open and continue to trade as normal.

Paperchase will continue to honour gift cards but the joint administrators are urging customers to redeem them as soon as possible, and within the next two weeks.

The chain’s collapse into administration on Tuesday comes just months after a previous buyout.

A group led by Steve Curtis, the chair of the fashion chain Jigsaw, bought Paperchase in August.

Earlier in January, the greetings cards and gifts retailer said it required additional funding and had asked Begbies Traynor and PwC to advise it on strategic options, including the sale of the business.

However Begbies Traynor said no viable offers were received for the company on a going concern basis.

Paperchase was previously rescued from administration in January 2021 by Permira Debt Managers, one of its lenders.

In 2019, Paperchase’s then owner, Primary Capital, used an insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to cull unprofitable stores and cut rents.

Tesco’s purchase of Paperchase on Tuesday came about through a pre-pack administration.

Britain’s biggest grocer said it came at a time when it was expanding its brand offering in its stores, and said it would share more details with customers shortly.

Paperchase was founded in 1968 by the art students Judith Cash and Eddie Pond, when they opened a store in Kensington in London. Since then it has changed hands numerous times, with WH Smith and the now defunct US books retailer Borders among previous owners. However, retail analysts said the emergence of Tesco as a buyer was unexpected.


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The collapse of Paperchase was “not altogether a surprise”, said Stephen Springham, the head of retail research at the estate agents Knight Frank, “given its previous CVA history and its pass-the-parcel history of private equity ownership”.

The announcement of Tesco’s purchase of Paperchase came on the day the supermarket chain announced a jobs shake-up affecting 2,100 roles, after a decision to close its remaining meat, fish and hot deli counters in its larger stores. Many of those affected will have the option of moving to lower-paid roles.

By Joanna Partridge

UK government unlawfully passing £19 bln discriminatory pension reforms bill onto workers, says unions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 31st Jan, 2023) London, UK —

Two British trade unions challenging changes to public sector pensions told a London court on Tuesday that the government was unlawfully passing the 19-billion-pound ($23 billion) cost of discriminatory pension reforms onto workers.

The Fire Brigades Union and the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents 160,000 doctors and medical students, say Britain’s finance ministry is effectively making members of newer pension schemes foot the bill for its own mistake.


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But the government says it was faced with a “basic choice” between asking public sector employees – and ultimately the taxpayer – or pension scheme members to bear the cost.

The union’s case follows a 2018 court ruling that the exclusion of younger staff from more beneficial “legacy” pension schemes, as part of wider government reforms, amounted to unlawful age discrimination.

The decision landed the government with a bill estimated at between 17 and 19 billion pounds in additional future pension payments to around three million public sector workers.

In 2021, the government included that bill in the valuation of public sector pension schemes – without which, the unions say, scheme members’ benefits would have increased or their contributions would have been reduced.

The unions’ lawyers told London’s High Court the decision was unlawful as it was taken without assessing other options.

They also argue that it is discriminatory against younger, female and ethnic minority members, who are more likely to be members of newer and less beneficial pension schemes.

Fenella Morris, representing the BMA, said in court documents that the government “could and should” have met the cost differently.


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However, the government argued that any potential discrimination was indirect and justified, and that it considered a “variety of options” to deal with the cost caused by the 2018 ruling.

Its lawyer Nigel Giffin said in court documents: “The basic choice was whether that cost should fall on public sector employers … or whether it should be met by withholding from scheme members the improvements to benefits or reductions in employee contributions which they might otherwise have enjoyed.”

Reporting by Sam Tobin

 

‘Google it’ no more? How AI could change the way we search the web

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 30th Jan, 2023) London, Uk – –

The rapid rise of ChatGPT has accelerated an AI arms race that could change the way we search the web. As Google looks to its past for inspiration and Microsoft makes a multibillion dollar bet, could there still be room for someone new to make an impression?

It's hard to imagine the internet without Google.

The tech giant has become so synonymous with searching the web that it has become a verb – we don't look it up, we “Google it”.


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Google ended 2022 as it ends every year, as the most visited website in the world. Its estimated share of the search engine market stands at 92% (Microsoft's Bing is its closest rival, on 3%).

On the surface, it might not like a landscape that's ripe for change but don't be so sure.

The launch of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot, last year threatened to upend how people prepare for job interviews, journalists write stories, and children do homework.

Trained on a huge amount of text from across the internet, with the ability to provide human-like responses to almost any prompt, it sparked speculation it could pose a threat to Google.

Search engines ready to bet big on AI

The New York Times reports Google founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, have been brought back to help add ChatGPT-like features to the search engine they launched more than 25 years ago.

Google boss Sundar Pichai reportedly wants to speed up the firm's plans for conversational AI in its products and services, which go far beyond a chatbot that pretends to be a tennis ball (seriously, we tried it and it was really odd).

It comes as Microsoft makes a multibillion dollar investment in ChatGPT creator OpenAI, raising the possibility that it could find its way into products like Office (welcome back, Clippy and friends?) and – yes – Bing.

The potential AI arms race is one predicted by former Google advertising tsar Sridhar Ramaswamy, who wants to use what he learned during 15 years at the company, to get ahead of this potentially game-changing trend.

“We are at an interesting juncture,” he tells Sky News from his home in California, from where he co-founded startup search engine Neeva.

“Where large language models and AI offer unprecedented ability to peer into information, to sift through things and deliver answers in a way that simply was not possible before. This is a really exciting time for search – and I think it's going to be disrupted in multiple ways by multiple companies.”

How AI could change how you search the web

Among those would-be disruptors are the likes of You.com, a search engine launched out of California (where else) back in 2021, which added a bot called YouChat in December; and Neeva's own new AI.

Neeva, which launched in the UK in October, aims to provide informative and reliable search results without being driven by user data and advertising.

Its AI functionality is being added for UK users in February. The AI trawls the web for information, produces a single, written answer to the query, and – like YouChat – cites each of its sources for users to find out more.

And it works in real time, meaning it stays up to date with current affairs and provides references accordingly for its admittedly small pool of more than one million monthly users.

“It gives search the power to be a lot more fluid to what it's been so far,” says Ramaswarmy, who believes the advertising model he led at Google – which accounts for the majority of its revenue – needs to be challenged.

“The entire search experience becomes focused on just getting you to click on an ad,” he says.

“But there is a bigger reason – the obsession with ads on the internet has also steered the Google algorithm in a way that focuses on engagement, so more and more you see ‘made for Google' sites that game how to get on top.”

YouChat launched in December 2022, as an addition to search engine You
But is it all upside?

Neeva's commitment to being ad-free comes at a premium – £5.49 a month, or £44.99 a year.

The majority of its users are on its free tier, which limits them to 50 searches per month.

Allowing limitless searches via powerful AI isn't a particularly cost-effective business model, with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman admitting the computing costs to run ChatGPT are “eye-watering”.

Dr Andrew Rogoyski, from the Institute for People-Centred AI at the University of Surrey, says the infrastructure required to run such a service at the scale of a Google would be enormous.

“There is some way to go in streamlining conversational AI in a way that we can afford,” he tells Sky News.

“AI is getting bigger and consuming more energy, and that's the wrong direction – it's pushing it into the hands of big organisations.”

But there are more fundamental challenges that any search engine seeking to leverage AI will need to consider.

‘Incorrect or nonsensical'

Like ChatGPT, NeevaAI is a large language model, meaning it is trained on huge amounts of information.

But OpenAI acknowledges its answers can be “overly verbose” and “incorrect or nonsensical”.

“It doesn't know right from wrong, it doesn't know authoritative from gossip,” says Ramaswarmy.

Of course, it's one thing for a nascent ChatGPT to make mistakes, another entirely if a firm like Google rolls out a commercial product with similar failings. As Microsoft found out after its 2016 chatbot was taught to say offensive things.

“Conversational AI is very believable, certainly in short bursts, and that will improve over time, but because it's so believable and plausible, people will not necessarily challenge it,” Rogoyski says.

TOP RISKS IN USING AI FOR SEARCH ENGINES (ACCORDING TO CHATGPT)
Bias: AI-powered search engines can perpetuate and even amplify existing biases, particularly if the data used to train the model is biased
Privacy: AI-powered search engines can collect and store large amounts of personal data, which can be used for targeted advertising or other purposes
Censorship: AI-powered search engines may be used to censor or suppress certain types of information
Misinformation: AI-powered search engines may return misinformation or fake news, particularly if the AI model is trained on unreliable sources
Job loss: AI-powered search engines may lead to job loss for certain types of jobs, such as librarians or research assistants
Security: AI-powered search engines may be vulnerable to hacking or other types of cyber attacks, which could compromise user data or disrupt search results
Dependence: People may become too dependent on AI-powered search engines, which could lead to a lack of critical thinking and research skills
Monopoly: AI-powered search engines may lead to the creation of powerful monopolies, which could lead to a lack of competition and innovation
Are we really ready for change?

Seeing the potential for a shake-up on the internet is one thing, but seeing it through is another entirely.

Elon Musk's tumultuous takeover of Twitter hasn't upended people's habits to the extent experts predicted, with the rapid rise in users at would-be rival Mastodon having stalled.


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Ramaswarmy admits causing an internet “mass movement” is difficult, but views ChatGPT's breakthrough as evidence that “a platform shift” is on the cards.

“Think of how we saw Microsoft, Nokia and Blackberry disappear from the mobile world and let Google and Apple become the dominant players,” he says.

“It feels like this is one of these face-off moments.”

By Tom Acres, technology reporter

 

JD Sports 10 million customers hit by cyber-attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 30th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Sportswear chain JD Sports has said stored data relating to 10 million customers might be at risk after it was hit by a cyber-attack.

The company said information that “may have been accessed” by hackers included names, addresses, email accounts, phone numbers, order details and the final four digits of bank cards.

The data related to online orders between November 2018 and October 2020.

JD Sports said it was contacting affected customers.


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The group said the affected data was “limited”. It added it did not hold full payment card details and did not believe that account passwords were accessed by the hackers.

“We want to apologise to those customers who may have been affected by this incident,” said Neil Greenhalgh, chief financial officer of JD Sports. “Protecting the data of our customers is an absolute priority for JD.”

The attack related to online orders placed for the JD, Size?, Millets, Blacks, Scotts and MilletSport brands and it is understood it was detected by the company in recent days, but only the historical data was accessed.

The company said it was working with “leading cyber-security experts” and was engaging with the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in response to the incident.

Mr Greenhalgh said affected customers were being advised “to be vigilant about potential scam e-mails, calls and texts”.

Cyber-attacks have hit several UK companies in recent times. Royal Mail became the victim of a ransomware attack earlier this month which led to it halting post and parcel deliveries overseas.

In December, the Guardian newspaper was also targeted by a suspected ransomware attack.

Lauren Wills-Dixon, solicitor and an expert in data privacy at law firm Gordons, said retailers were among the most common targets for cyber-attacks because of the large amounts of customer data they hold, and said firms needed to do more to plan for them.

But she said the increased use of technology by the industry “to reduce overheads and streamline operations has raised the risk even further”.

“In this new world, it's not ‘if' but ‘when' a cyber-attack will happen,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the ICO confirmed it was aware of the attack and that it was assessing information provided by JD Sports.


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Scott Nicholson, co-chief executive of cyber security company Bridewell, said it was seeing a rise in malicious software, known as “malware” being used by criminals to steal information from companies.

“It is good to see JD Sports stating that they are working with experts to help from a containment and recovery perspective, but once the dust has settled their comments of ‘we take the protection of customer data extremely seriously' will be put to the test by the ICO,” he added.

By Michael Race

 

Going On A Trip? Check Out These Hotel Tips Before Booking Your Stay

You will probably need to stay at a hotel during your life. Whether you need the room for business or pleasure, you should have a working understanding of how to book the right room for your situation. The following information will give you the best tips for booking a room and enjoying your stay.

Get room service if you don't want to leave. It may cost more, but it's convenient when you don't feel like leaving.

If you belong to any organizations, check with them for travel deals. Hotel discounts are often one of the benefits offered. Some discounts can be over ten percent! This is especially useful if you plan to book a longer stay. If you stay for a week, these discounts will almost add up for a free night.

A number of factors all need consideration in your hotel reservation process. The cost is important but hardly the only factor to keep in mind. Amenities like a swimming pool, a gym, free local calls or breakfast, and other amenities may be things that you prefer. Try to get yourself a hotel with what you need in it when possible.

Travel Sites

You can use online travel sites to find great hotels. Some websites are designed to help you find the best deals. Not only will they show the best deals, but they'll also include extra information about the rooms, floor plans, and even reviews from other customers. These travel sites also list activities available in your area.

Be sure to look at your room before unpacking your suitcase. Make sure there is no mold or mildew anywhere in the room. Does the plumbing work right? Are there enough of the right linens? If you see any issues, be sure to tell the front desk. This way, they can fix the problems or switch rooms for you.

Know the hotel's check-in time. If you show up too early, you may find yourself sitting around the lobby, waiting for your room to be ready. If you might be arriving before the check-in time, ask the hotel whether it's okay to come.

To get a good price when you want a hotel room, get your trips planned quite a few weeks or so in advance. Quite a few locations will give discounts if you choose to book a room a month or more in advance. Doing this could save you up to 50 percent off your room, and this holds true with the more elite brands as well.

Book your appointment as far ahead of time as possible to guarantee you get the perfect couples massage for you and your significant other. Most of the time, the most reputable masseuses will be booked, so plan early in order to have the most enjoyable experience.

Use your AAA discount at hotels. Your membership may entitle you to hotel discounts. It's possible you could save 5 percent or higher on hotels across the United States. It's a way to save money that can add up fast.

If you go out to travel quite a bit, it's good to get signed up for a hotel's loyalty program. Loyalty programs provide frequent guests benefits for booking with them on a regular basis. These programs can assure you niceties such as the best prices, room upgrades, and special perks such as free meals or late checkouts.

There are membership programs that hotels offer for those that stay frequently at their chains. Just like frequent flyer mile programs, these hotel programs offer you points for your stay. You can exchange these points for discounts and freebies at the hotel and its restaurant. You may also be able to use them on local amenities.

Do you care about your environment? If so, a “green” hotel may be for you. Luckily, many hotels are around these days for you to choose from. Many newer hotels are environmentally friendly. Old hotels will change their practices to be more green. Check online or ask a travel agent for help.

Everyone stays in a hotel at some point or another. Whatever your reason for having to stay at a hotel, you should do your homework. The information from this article has shown you how to book a hotel and enjoy your stay.

QLM Business News

https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com

Why Wealthy Americans Love AmEx

Source: CNBC

Armed with impressive rewards and a loyal customer base, Amex has achieved impressive growth over the years. The company’s revenue has increased over 32% since 2017 and shares of the company have shown resilience and growth in a tumultuous market. Yet Amex is far from dominating the credit card industry compared to the likes of Visa and Mastercard. So what is the secret to Amex’s success and where is it headed next? Watch the video to find out.

 

HS2 may not run through to central London – report

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 27th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The HS2 rail line is a “specific priority”, the chancellor has insisted, following a report the scheme may no longer reach central London.

The Sun reported that rising inflation and construction costs mean HS2 trains may terminate in the suburbs of west London instead.

The paper said bosses were considering pushing back its Euston terminus to 2038, or scrapping it completely.

The government has not denied the report.


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The move would mean trains would run from a new hub at Old Oak Common, about 8km (five miles) away, and commuters would have to use the Elizabeth Line or Tube to travel to central London.

HS2, or High Speed 2, was originally intended to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

The leg to Leeds has since been scrapped.

In a speech setting out his long-term vision for economic growth, Jeremy Hunt said HS2 was a “specific priority for me in the Autumn statement”.

He said the government was “absolutely committed to showing that we can deliver big important infrastructure projects”.

“That is why in the Autumn Statement we protected key projects like HS2, East West Rail and core Northern Powerhouse Rail”, he said.

The Sun also reported that a two to five-year delay to the entire project is also being considered.

Speaking at Bloomberg's European HQ, in London, Mr Hunt said he was “incredibly proud that under a Conservative government for the first time we have shovels in the ground”.

“But large infrastructure projects still take too long and if we are to deliver our ambitions we need to find a way to speed them up.”

HS2: What is the route, when will it be finished and what will it cost?
Watch: Cameras travel through completed tunnel for first time
Investment cuts could threaten levelling up, warns infrastructure tsar
Work on the first phase of the project – between London and Birmingham – is well under way and that part of the line is due to open by 2033.

But the project has faced delays and mounting concerns over the exact route and its potential environmental impact.

Pressure group Stop HS2 said it believed the project would increase carbon emissions and damage areas of natural beauty. Protesters, including veteran eco-protester Swampy, have built tunnels in an attempt to disrupt HS2 construction.

The estimated cost of HS2 was between £72bn and £98bn at 2019 prices. A budget of £55.7bn for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 – but this was made before the Leeds leg was cancelled.

A report published last October found it was unlikely that the £40.3bn target for the first section of the line would be met.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said HS2 was “experiencing high levels of inflation” and it was working with “suppliers actively to mitigate inflationary increases”.

Research from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Office for National Statistics published in September showed that construction materials across the UK experienced inflation of 18% from August 2021 to August 2022.

Mr Harper said inflation was not affecting the “overall affordability of HS2 in real terms” but it was “creating pressures against its existing annual funding settlements”.

Henri Murison, CEO of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said that if the HS2 rail link did not go to Euston, this would have “a number of significant disadvantages”.

“Because actually people in the north of England, people in Birmingham will want to get access to central London – that's what they currently have through the normal mainline network”, he told the BBC.

However, Lord Tony Berkeley questioned whether more services to London were needed and said money would be better spent on local and regional services.

The Labour peer, who in 2019 was deputy chairman of a government review into HS2, said: “My view is that we should aim for the regions – the north and the midlands – to have a commuter service as good as in the south east.”

The head of the National Infrastructure Commission told BBC News in November that cutting back on the HS2 rail route would be “silly”.


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“I think you've got massive investment, which has happened in Birmingham ahead of HS2 – it just shows what can happen. And Manchester of course equally is now seeing investment off the back of HS2. I think that would be a very strange decision,” he said.

A senior figure at the Department for Transport warned last week that “quite tough decisions” could lie ahead for the scheme.

By Aoife Walsh

 

 

Superdry issues optimistic trading outlook amid shipping woes

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 27th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The company's founder expresses optimism for the trading outlook but admits Superdry's bottom line is being squeezed heavily by its struggling wholesale arm.

Shares of Superdry fell by more than 17% at the market open after the fashion retailer warned it would do no better than break even this year.


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The company, which had previously forecast full year profits of up to £20m, said it had traded well over the Christmas period despite the cost of living crisis.

Superdry added that it could see strong demand for its brand across all geographies and platforms.

But it also warned that its wholesale arm had been hit by the impact of shipment timings as COVID continued to cast a shadow over stock deliveries.

The group reported a pre-tax loss of £17.7m for the 26 weeks to 29 October.

That compared with a profit of £4m for the same period last year.

The wholesale woes, the company said, would continue to offset the stronger retail trading it was seeing in the second half of the year.

Sales at stores caught up to pre-pandemic levels in the nine weeks to the end of December, with revenue rising 24.9%.

‘Brand has real momentum'

Julian Dunkerton, the company's founder and chief executive, said: “The Superdry brand has real momentum and I'm delighted by how our retail trading continues to strengthen.

“We've done this against a difficult macroeconomic backdrop by delivering well-designed, affordable, and responsibly sourced products which have resonated well with customers.

“Our coats performed really well in the run up to Christmas, and womenswear continues to be a highlight for us.

“Stores continued to recover strongly and online had its biggest ever week over Black Friday, helped by our new ecommerce platform which is delivering real benefits.”


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But he added: “Despite the underlying brand recovery, our profits in the first half fell short of expectations mainly due to the underperformance of Wholesale… Whilst we did trade well through November and December, the outlook for the remainder of the year is uncertain and as a result, we are moderating our profit outlook to broadly break even.

“We don't expect market conditions to become easier any time soon, but with a new financing package in place and the brand in great health, we approach the year ahead with optimism.”

By James Sillars

 

Ethereum Scaling Tool Polygon’s MATIC Token Surges Amid Spike in Transactions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Fri, 27th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

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The token is up 48% this year. The blockchain has the second most daily active users, according to one research group.

Ethereum scaling tool Polygon’sMATIC token has surged 12% over the past 24 hours, continuing its strong momentum this year.

MATIC was recently trading at $1.11. It is up 48% since Dec. 31 amid a spike in daily transactions that have made the blockchain the second largest for daily active users (DAU), according to data from Token Terminal.


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The rally comes amid a January upturn in the crypto market that has seen Aptos’ APT token skyrocketing more than 400%, Fantom’s FTM jumping about 145% and bitcoin rising nearly 40%.

The Polygon platform ranks second behind Binance’s BNB chain recording 344,000 DAU’s, ahead of Solana and Ethereum.

Polygon’s announced partnerships and launches over the last month that have increased DAUs may also be behind the price increase, along with anticipation of Polygon’s mainnet launch of its zero knowledge-EVM. The mainnet launch is scheduled for early 2023. Its zk-EVM public testnet went live in October.

“We’re starting to see users and interest come back to these kinds of networks and seeing activity again,” Charles Storry, head of growth at crypto index platform Phuture, told CoinDesk.

“There’s also a lot of projects that have built on top of Polygon that haven’t released their tokens yet, which will be coming out soon and add to the already increasing activity levels,” Storry added.


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Polygon currently has around $1.1 billion total value locked (TVL) according to data from DeFi Llama, “We are seeing mass TVL increases for riskier projects and early stage applications,” Storry said. “In a bear market investors are more conservative and don't want to take on huge risk, but now prices have picked up a little, they are more open to newer and riskier ecosystems like Polygon.”
“We will see more of that come through as the market continues to pick up.”

By Lyllah Ledesma

Britishvolt ‘collapsed owing £120m’ after a desperate struggle to raise funds

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 26th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Several bids are understood to have been made for assets of failed electric vehicle battery startup

The site in Blyth, Northumberland, where Britishvolt had planned to build a factory to make batteries for electric vehicles.


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The battery startup Britishvolt owed as much as £120m to creditors when it collapsed last week in a major blow to hopes of sustaining the British car industry, it can be revealed.

Creditors are expected to recover a very small proportion of the debts, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, although there are understood to be several bids for the company and its assets. EY, a professional services firm, is handling the administration.

EY is hoping to find a buyer for the remainder of the business – which has 26 staff remaining on its payroll – and the ownership of the site in Northumberland. The deadline for initial offers for the Britishvolt assets was Tuesday evening.

The failure of Britishvolt, after a desperate struggle to raise funds, came after a dismal year for the UK car industry. British factories built only 775,014 cars during 2022, the lowest annual figure since 1956, according to data published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a lobby group.

Production fell 9.8% from 2021, and declined 41% from 2019, before the pandemic. Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) also lost its crown as the biggest UK carmaker by volume to Japan’s Nissan.

The UK car industry has been struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for three years, with output disrupted first by lockdowns, and then by supply chain problems including a severe global shortage of computer chips and interruption to supplies of parts from Ukraine after Russia invaded.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said “2020 was bad, ‘21 was worse, ‘22 was even worse.”

The collapse in output was mainly driven by the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory. Despite the company’s denials, industry analysts said Brexit was likely a major factor in that decision. Hawes said uncertainty over the future of the UK-EU trading relationship would make it harder to attract investment to the UK.

At the same time, the industry is gearing up to move to producing battery-electric vehicles. Britishvolt had been hailed by the former prime minister Boris Johnson as an “electric vehicle battery pioneer”, and was seen – in the absence of many more established rivals – as a flagship project for the government. Attracting battery production was seen as key to retaining automotive industry jobs and the government promised to give Britishvolt £100m in funding if it could meet milestones related to equipment purchases.

Britishvolt had received support from FTSE 100 companies Glencore, Ashtead and abrdn’s subsidiary Tritax. However, it ran out of cash before it could build its factory, amid revelations of profligate spending. Hawes said its collapse was a “disappointment”, if not a surprise.

“Maybe something from the ashes will arise,” he said.

Several companies have expressed a preliminary interest in the company or its assets. Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns JLR, has also considered purchasing the site. DeaLab, a little-known Indonesia-linked private equity firm, put in an offer for the company before it went into administration.

Recharge Industries, an Australian startup, has publicly expressed an interest in buying assets from the administration. The company, run by a 38-year-old former employee of PwC, a professional services firm, is also trying to build a battery factory in Geelong in southern Australia.

Recharge put in its bid after being aided by Ian Botham, the former England cricketer, according to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), which first reported the offer. Lord Botham, who was awarded a peerage by Johnson, is now a UK-Australia trade envoy.


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“The UK is home to the most innovative and exciting companies in the world. It’s fantastic to have an Australian business wanting to invest in UK-Australia trade and investment opportunities,” Botham said in a statement to AFR. Botham was approached for comment.

EY declined to comment and to provide a list of Britishvolt’s creditors until it publishes its administrator’s report in six or seven weeks’ time. EY has said it will not vote in creditor resolutions, after confirming that it is itself one of the smaller creditors after carrying out consultancy work for Britishvolt.

By Jasper Jolly and John Collingridge

 

Morrisons price cuts kick in as earnings rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 26th Jan, 2023) London, UK —

British supermarket group Morrisons forecast a return to earnings growth this year as a push to keep a lid on prices starts to win back cash-strapped shoppers.

In its last financial year to end-Oct, the group, owned since 2021 by U.S. private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, reported a 15% drop in annual core earnings on underlying sales which fell 4.2%.


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But Morrisons' Chief Executive David Potts said price drops were starting to improve the group's performance, and sales rose in the run up to Christmas, giving the group confidence earnings would rise in the current financial year.

“Since October we have executed a rolling programme of meaningful price cuts, price freezes and fuel promotions for our customers and our competitive position has considerably sharpened,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Morrisons has struggled recently. It lost its status as Britain's fourth-largest grocer by market share to German-owned discounter Aldi last September, according to researcher Kantar.

The group posted adjusted EBITDA of 828 million pounds ($1.03 billion) in the year to the end of October 2022 on underlying sales of 18.39 billion pounds.

Reporting by James Davey

 

Amazon UK employees stage first formal walkout

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 25th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Darren Westwood speaks to Sky News about corralling colleagues to strike over low pay and conditions that see staff stand on their feet all day and get warnings if they fail to sort through a set number of items per hour.

Darren Westwood knows how to stick up for himself.

As a kid, he was bullied in the playground and beaten up in his local town centre. Now he doesn't take stick from anyone, no matter how big or strong they appear, even if they happen to be one of the biggest companies in the world.


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Mr Westwood believes his employer, Amazon, is a bully.

Having slowly grown fed up with pay and working conditions at the company's warehouse in Coventry – where workers are on their feet all day sorting through goods to send to other warehouses – he has been corralling colleagues to support a strike.

After some initial reluctance, he gradually won them over and almost 300 workers are poised to walk out today – marking the first formal strike on British soil for the online giant.

“I don't get fazed by things. I spent my life growing up and I'm at that stage where I'm not intimidated or worried,” the 57-year-old said.

“During the pandemic, people were thanking us and we appreciated that but Amazon were still making money, while we feel like we've been left behind.”

“The money is there. I know people say that it's the politics of envy but we're not asking for his [Jeff Bezos'] yacht or his rocket. We just want to be able to pay our way. And that's all we're asking.”

Unions have traditionally had a hard time penetrating Amazon but the mood among the company's workforce shifted in August after it offered its workers what many considered to be a paltry pay rise. The online giant lifted the hourly wage by 50p to £10.50 an hour.

Upon hearing the news, workers staged an informal walkout. They were expecting more, especially as the company has enjoyed stellar profits in recent years and inflation is rising at its fastest pace in 40 years.

The GMB union seized the opportunity and helped arrange a strike, with workers voting in favour of formal action just before Christmas.

It's not just about money, however. Amazon has long been criticised for employing tough productivity targets that require workers to sort through a set number of items per hour.

Failure to do so can result in an “adapt”, a type of warning. Staff are given two 30-minute breaks a day, only one of which is paid.

“When you think you've got to queue up to clock out and then queue up to go through the metal detectors and security, and queue to get your food, that time does evaporate very, very quickly,” Mr Westwood said. “I've been one minute late back from a break before and have been given an adapt.”

The loss of up to 300 of its 1,400 workforce in Coventry is unlikely to cause Amazon any major operational problems but management will be keeping a close eye on developments. Across the globe, its workforce has started agitating. In the US, workers at a New York warehouse recently voted to start the company's first-ever labour union.

The GMB union is calling on Amazon to pay its UK workers £15 an hour to bring their wages in line with their American counterparts, who earn $18 an hour. However, Mr Westwood accepted that it would probably take a lot less than that to settle the dispute.

‘£2 an hour extra would be acceptable'

“I'd be happy if they just increased it by £2. I think £2 an hour extra or £2.50 an hour extra would be acceptable. I think everyone would stop then and people would be happy,” he said.

The company told Sky News that it pays a competitive local wage that has risen by 29% since 2018.

A spokesperson added: “We appreciate the great work our teams do throughout the year and we're proud to offer competitive pay which starts at a minimum of between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location.

“Employees are also offered comprehensive benefits that are worth thousands more – including private medical insurance, life assurance, subsidised meals and an employee discount, to name a few.”

However, workers accuse it of cutting other benefits in the process. Crucially, the 5% pay rise it has given its staff amounts to a real-terms pay cut because inflation, which peaked at over 11% last year, has risen at more than double the pace.

Mr Westwood pointed out that the company has put the cost of its services up to reflect higher rates of inflation, while neglecting to fairly share the spoils with its workforce.

A similar story is playing out across the economy, especially in the public sector, where industrial relations are fracturing under the strain of rampant inflation. Nurses, ambulance drivers, railway workers, teachers and postal workers have all voted to down their tools and march out.

‘Some nights I can't sleep'

Like some of Amazon's employees, many of them were repeatedly reminded of their value during the pandemic, when they went out to work when others stayed at home.

“These are good people,” Mr Westwood said. “I know that some people think that we're unskilled and this is a minimum wage for a ‘minimum job'. But you need us during the pandemic. You applauded us and painted rainbows in the street. We're the same people.”

“It's 10 hours a day, standing on your feet. I do 18,000 steps and it takes its toll on people. I've got an injury to my shoulder. Some days it's just so painful. Some nights I can't sleep, it just keeps me awake. And that's from the repetitive strain of doing the same job over and over and over and over.”


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While Mr Westwood is hopeful that both sides can thrash out a deal, he believes that the major gain will be to increase unionisation within the Amazon workforce to ensure workers continue to stick up for themselves.

He accepts that working for Amazon comes with benefits and many people enjoy their time there but believes the company has a long way to go.

“Colleagues are struggling to pay their bills,” he said. “But we work for one of the richest men in the world, at one of the richest companies in the world, in one of the richest countries in the world… it's not fair.”

Rupert Murdoch scrap Fox and News Corp merger

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 25th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Rupert Murdoch has called off a proposal to reunite his broadcasting and publishing media empire.

Mr Murdoch and his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch have announced the decision not to go ahead with the plan because it “is not optimal for shareholders of News Corp and FOX at this time”.


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The idea was suggested last autumn, almost a decade after the two companies split.

The Murdoch family trust owns about 40% of both companies.

A majority of non-Murdoch family members would have had to approve the deal for it to move forward.

In similar press statements issued by both companies, the Murdochs said special committees set up at Fox and News Corp to review the proposal have been dissolved.

Fox Corp owns the cable network Fox News and Fox Broadcasting Network in addition to the American streaming content platform Tubi. News Corp is the parent company of Dow Jones, which owns the Wall Street Journal, news organisations in the UK and Australia, and HarperCollins Publishers.

It is unclear why the 91-year-old media mogul decided not to move ahead with the merger. However, the suggestion reportedly received resistance from several top shareholders.

News Corp is looking to sell its digital real estate assets. According to people close to the discussion, News Corp is in talks to sell Move Inc, which runs Realtor.com in the US, to its rival CoStar Group.


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A company spokesperson would not confirm the discussion. However, he told the BBC that they “continuously evaluates M&A opportunities across a broad range of companies to maximise shareholder value”.

News Corp also owns almost two-thirds of Australia's digital real estate company REA.

By Monica Miller