How Google And Gmail become the most used email service in the world with 1.5 billion users

Source: CNBC

When Gmail was released to the public on April 1, 2004, many people thought it was a prank. Gmail offered one gigabyte of storage and robust email search. These features, among others, have helped to make Gmail the most used email service in the world with 1.5 billion users. Gmail has come a long way since its inception.

It stands as the most dominant online email service with more than 1.5 billion global active users. It has gone from a small experiment to an important piece of Google's G Suite lineup. But the road to the top hasn't been without a few bumps, including a rocky start. By the time Google started working on the service in 1999, Yahoo Mail already had 12 million active users and Microsoft's Hotmail had about 30 million.

Paul Buchheit, who was employee No. 23 at Google, fought for the online email service, but executives didn't understand how a search company could benefit from online email. Some executives pushed back at the time, according to multiple reports. Buchheit created the service as a “20%” project, which is an informal program Google has sometimes offered employees to work on projects of their choosing.

General election 2019: Conservatives win see pound and shares surge

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

The pound and shares have surged after the Conservatives won a clear majority in the UK general election.

Sterling gained 1.9% to $1.34 – its highest level since May last year – on hopes that the big majority would remove uncertainty over Brexit.

The pound also jumped to a three-and-a-half-year high against the euro.

On the stock market, the FTSE 100 share index rose 1.5%, while the FTSE 250 – which includes more UK-focused shares – leapt 4%, hitting record highs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the election result meant that the Conservative government “has been given a powerful new mandate, to get Brexit done”.

Mr Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the European Union by 31 January.

Politically sensitive shares saw sharp rises in morning trading on UK markets.

Shares in water companies such as Severn Trent, which faced the possibility of nationalisation under a Labour government, shot up 6%, while UK housebuilders also saw big gains, with a huge 10% rise for Persimmon.

Shares in banks exposed to the UK economy rose sharply. Barclays, RBS and Lloyds were up 7%, 11% and 6% respectively.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at, said housebuilders had been undervalued and rose “on hopes that construction will benefit from the Conservative victory”.

“We should also consider the potential risk that a Labour government could have posed to their profits being removed,” Mr Wilson said.

While many FTSE 100 shares saw big gains, this was offset slightly by the rise in the value of the pound, which affected companies with big international operations. A rise in sterling cuts the value of companies' overseas earnings when they are brought back to the UK and converted back into pounds.

In contrast, the FTSE 250 index – which generally contains firms with more exposure to the domestic economy – jumped more than 5% at one point, before slipping back slightly.

Analysis: By Simon Jack

The financial bookies had already installed Boris Johnson as the favourite but did not expect him to romp home by such a distance.

The pound moved sharply higher as soon as the exit poll was published and went on to post one of its biggest one-day gains against the dollar in years as Johnson's thumping victory removed one layer of political uncertainty.

Shares in politically-sensitive sectors such as house building and banking rocketed, as did water, rail and energy companies, as the threat of nationalisation under a Corbyn government evaporated.

Markets have given the prospect of a government with a functioning majority a round of applause but the euphoria may be short-lived.

Traders are already talking about the formidable challenge of completing a trade deal with the EU by this time next year, along with the prospect of a new Scottish independence referendum.

The election may be settled, but there are big political questions that are not.

Guy Foster, head of research at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin, said that “the potential for a smooth Brexit removes some of the downside risk for the UK economy”.

“This should be positive for both business and consumer confidence, at least in the short term, with a gradual acceleration in GDP growth and confidence.

“However, a lot can change over the coming months as the finer detail of the UK's future trade relationship with the EU is negotiated.

“This is still, after all, just the beginning of the exit process. Even with the passing of the withdrawal agreement, the UK could still leave the EU without a deal at the end of 2020 if trade negotiations don't proceed successfully.”

Andy Scott, associate director at financial risk adviser JCRA, said: “What will be interesting to see – assuming that Brexit will now follow a set course, at least [until] 31 January – is if economic data is given a significant boost from the perceived certainty, and [whether it] starts to influence sterling again.

“In recent months, the market has almost completely ignored the slowdown in the economy and the potential for monetary stimulus from the Bank of England, with election and Brexit expectations driving fluctuations in sterling's value.

“The performance of the economy is likely to be key to whether we see a further recovery in 2020.”

Sir Philip Green bagged £310m deal to remortgage flagship Topshop store

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

Sir Philip Green has bagged a £310m deal to remortgage the flagship Topshop store on Oxford Street, securing the future of a crucial asset in his struggling retail empire.

Topshop parent company Arcadia Group today said it had completed a four-year refinancing deal with US investment giant Apollo Management.

In September it emerged that the retail group, which also owns Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, was struggling to refinance the loan secured against its flagship site and would need to raise new funds.

The loan, provided in 2014 by a consortium of banks led by RBS, had been due to expire last June but was extended to December as part of a rescue deal agreed earlier this year.

The fresh deal will come as a huge relief for the fashion boss, who has set out plans to shut dozens of stores and reduce rents after avoiding collapse through a company voluntary arrangement in June.

But Arcadia is still facing a string of challenges on the high street as it battles rising rates and declining footfall amid rising competition from online rivals.

Last month the company appointed Andrew Coppel, former boss of the De Vere hotel and leisure group, as its new chairman as it looks to get trading back on track.

Arcadia reported an operating loss of £138m in the year ending 1 September 2018, its most recent financial filings, and a 4.5 per cent drop in turnover to £1.8bn.

However, the company has denied that it plans to sell off some of its brands in a bid to shore up the business, saying it was instead focuses on its restructuring plans.

By James Warrington

Ocado product range be ‘will be 50% bigger and better’ under M&S deal

( via – – Thur, 12th Dec 2019) London, Uk – –

Online grocer says customers can also expect higher-quality items and cheaper prices

Ocado has said its product range will be 50% bigger and offer lower prices and better quality products when it switches from Waitrose to Marks & Spencer next year.

The online grocer’s finance chief, Duncan Tatton-Brown, said it will stock 6,000 M&S products, compared with the 4,000 it sells as part of its supply deal with Waitrose, which ends in 2020. The alternatives on offer would be the “same price or lower, and of the same quality or better” than the Waitrose ones, he said.

“Marks & Spencer has a lot more products than Waitrose so customers should find matching products from the existing range at the same or a cheaper price – and a few things they didn’t know they needed,” said Tatton-Brown.

Earlier this year, M&S paid £750m for half of Ocado’s UK retail business as part of a plan to expand its grocery arm, which does not have an online presence. However, some analysts are concerned Ocado risks losing customers because shoppers who were loyal to Waitrose did not regard M&S products as an adequate replacement.Advertisement

Tatton-Brown said shopper polls showed that customers were warming to the new lineup with a decline in the number saying they mighttake their custom elsewhere.

A range review had highlighted some gaps, he said, but most were easy to fix. M&S, for instance, needed to start stocking bigger pack sizes, such as larger blocks of cheddar cheese and multipacks of plum tomatoes. It also needed to expand some of its store cupboard ranges by introducing new flavours of squash, for example.

Despite successive, costly management overhauls, M&S is once again in the middle of an expensive reinvention. But while its clothing business is mired in a long-running sales slump, its food arm has proved more resilient to changing shopping habits.

The partnership with Ocado is one of the biggest corporate steps the company has made in its 135-year history.

Its chief executive, Steve Rowe, wants to attract more families to the food halls, which have traditionally been considered upmarket convenience stores aimed at commuters and singletons rather than a place to do a weekly shop. That perception that needs to change if the Ocado deal is to succeed.

As the preparations for the autumn switchover ramp up, M&S has been trying out larger stores, which are able to stock its full range of 6,000 products. This has forced shoppers to see it with new eyes.

At present, the retailer only has a dozen sites such as these – most of its stores stock only about 2,000 items, compared with the 25,000 items carried in a typical supermarket (the Ocado site carries 55,000 products). M&S has also embarked on a programme of price cuts as it tries to shake off a reputation for being expensive.

The update came as Ocado Retail, the subsidiary co-owned by M&S that operates robotic warehouses in the UK, reported that sales rose 10.8% to £429.1m in the three months to 1 December. The number of orders per week increased from 317,000 to 350,000 but the average order size remained static at £105.

After nearly a decade as an unloved listed company, Ocado has become a stock market darling after its chief executive, Tim Steiner, finally sold this grocery-picking expertise to several foreign retail chains.

One blockbuster deal will result in the construction of 20 warehouses for US supermarket firm Kroger. Most recently, Ocado struck a deal with Japan’s largest supermarket operator Aeon.

By Zoe Wood

Sainsbury’s received a number of expressed interest in £1.9bn mortgage book

( via–Thur, 12th Dec 2019) London, Uk – –

Some big high street lenders have shunned the auction of Sainsbury's Bank's mortgage book, Sky News understands.

The supermarket chain J Sainsbury is fielding takeover interest in its £1.9bn mortgage book after following larger rival Tesco in exiting the British home-loans market.

Sky News has learnt that Sainsbury's received a number of offers ahead of a deadline earlier this week.

Lloyds Banking Group is said to have been among the bidders, although other large lenders which have expressed an interest in similar sale processes, including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Santander UK, did not table proposals.

The auction is being handled by bankers at BNP Paribas.

It marks a further stage in an overhaul of Sainsbury's Bank under Jim Brown, the former RBS executive who was installed as the head of the grocer's financial services arm earlier this year.

Sainsbury's said last month that a recent £35m capital injection into its bank would be the final such investment as it seeks to put the business on a more sustainable footing.

At £1.9bn, the supermarket chain's mortgage book is about half the size of Tesco Bank's, which was sold in the summer to Lloyds.

The capital-intensive nature of mortgage lending, combined with a price war in the sector which has hurt margins during an era of ultra-low interest rates, has made it a less attractive proposition for many smaller banks.

Sainsbury's Bank has about 2.1 million customers across a range of financial services.

Argos Financial Services, which is also owned by the UK's second-biggest grocer, has a similar number of customers.

In its half-year results statement, Sainsbury's said it had seen “broadly flat” income in the banking division, with total financial services underlying operating profit for the year expected to be around £45m.

Supermarkets' foray into financial services has produced modest results over the last 20 years.

Despite their enormous “branch networks” in the form of their stores, Sainsbury's and Tesco have made comparatively little effort to take on the major high street lenders.

The grocers' decision to exit the mortgage market comes during a period of growing competition from a cluster of digital banks such as Atom Bank and Monzo.

Sainsbury's move to take full ownership of the Nectar customer loyalty programme has given it further scope to improve the bank's targeting of consumers.

In addition to mortgages, Sainsbury's Bank offers car and home insurance, foreign currency and credit card products.

Sainsbury's, Lloyds, RBS and Santander UK all declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Post Office to pay almost £58m to settle IT ‘fraud’ case

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

The Post Office is to pay almost £58m to settle a long-running dispute with sub-postmasters and postmistresses.

It brings an end to a mammoth series of court cases over the Horizon IT system used to manage local post office finances since 1999.

A group of postmasters said faults in the system led to them wrongly being accused of fraud and false accounting.

The Post Office said it accepted it had “got things wrong in our dealings with a number of postmasters” in the past.

Sub-postmasters run Post Office franchises across the UK, which typically provide some but not all of the services of a main post office.

The group of 550 claimants joined a civil action to win compensation last year, but their complaint goes back much further.

They alleged that the Horizon IT system – which was installed between 1999 and 2000 – contained a large number of defects.

Some said their lives had been ruined when they were pursued for funds which managers claimed were missing. Some even went to jail after being convicted of fraud.

Analysis: Simon Gompertz

This is a major climb down by the Post Office which has made multiple appeals to try to see off the court case.

But legal costs were stretching into the tens of millions, so the price of losing at the end of this mammoth legal process could have been a great deal higher.

It's not clear yet how much individual postmasters and mistresses will receive.

Lawyers' fees have to be taken off, along with a charge from the litigation backer, Therium.

But just looking at the £58m suggests payouts could be in the tens of thousands and even higher for the worst affected.

They were half way through a series of four trials when the Post Office sought mediation.

It could take several weeks for individual compensation payments to be worked out.

‘Important lessons'

The Post Office apologised to the claimants, saying it was grateful to them “for holding us to account in circumstances where, in the past, we have fallen short.”

Mr Read said: “I am very pleased we have been able to find a resolution to this longstanding dispute.

“Our business needs to take on board some important lessons about the way we work with postmasters, and I am determined that it will do so. We are committed to a reset in our relationship with postmasters, placing them alongside our customers at the centre of our business.”

Alan Bates, one of the lead claimants, said: “[We] would like to thank Nick Read, the new chief executive of Post Office, for his leadership, engagement and determination in helping to reach a settlement of this long-running dispute.

“It would seem that from the positive discussions [we have had] there is a genuine desire to move on from these legacy issues and learn lessons from the past.”

Amazon’s Deliveroo deal in doubt after compitition watchdog raises concern

( via — Wed, 11th Dec 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s competition regulator said on Wednesday Amazon’s purchase of a stake in online food delivery group Deliveroo raised “serious competition concerns” for consumers that may require an in-depth investigation.

Amazon led a $575 million fundraising in Deliveroo in May, making what the two parties called “a minority investment” and going up against Uber Eats, Just Eat and in the global race to dominate the market for takeaway meal deliveries.

After completing a “Phase 1” probe, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would proceed to an in-depth investigation if Amazon and Deliveroo failed to offer legally-binding proposals that addressed its concerns.

The CMA’s initial probe found that the investment, in its current form, could harm competition in two ways.

Firstly, the regulator is concerned that the deal could damage competition in online restaurant food delivery by discouraging Amazon re-entering a market it exited last year.

Secondly, the CMA said the deal could damage competition in the emerging market for online convenience grocery delivery, where Amazon and Deliveroo have already established market-leading positions.

The CMA has given the two companies five working days to present their proposals. The regulator would then have five working days to consider whether to accept their offer instead of referring the case to an in-depth probe.

Reporting by James Davey

Wetherspoon to create up to 10,000 jobs over the next four years with £200m spree

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

In addition to opening new premises, existing businesses across the UK and Ireland will be extended, under the firm's plans.

JD Wetherspoon is to go on a £200m spending spree on pubs and hotels over the next four years – creating around 10,000 new jobs, the company has announced.

As well as opening new premises, existing businesses across the UK and Ireland will be extended.

Most of the investment will be channelled into developments in small and medium-sized towns.

New pubs are planned in Bourne in Lincolnshire, Waterford in Ireland, Hamilton in Scotland, Ely in Cambridgeshire, Diss in Norfolk, Felixstowe in Suffolk, Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, and Prestatyn in North Wales.

The group will also be investing in major cities including London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds and Galway.

JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “We are looking forward to opening many more new pubs as well as investing in existing pubs over the next four years.

“We are especially pleased that a large proportion of the investment will be in smaller towns and cities which have seen a decline in investment in recent years.

“The fact that we will be creating approximately 10,000 jobs is great news too.”

Wetherspoons runs 875 pubs and 58 hotels across the UK and Ireland and employs 44,000 staff.

Drax owner sets ambitious 10-year target to be world’s first carbon-negative business

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

Energy firm once labelled western Europe’s top polluter sets ambitious 10-year target

An energy company once labelled western Europe’s biggest polluter is planning to become the world’s first carbon-negative business within 10 years.

The bold ambition will build on its work to transform the Drax plant in North Yorkshire from one of the dirtiest power stations to a renewable energy giant and a pioneer of carbon capture.

For decades the UK’s largest single power plant pumped millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning coal to make electricity. In recent years Drax has converted its huge coal generation units to run on renewable biomass, or wood pellets.

The transformation has required subsidies of about £2m a day. The next phase of its climate action plan will require further government support to develop technology that can capture millions of tonnes of carbon emissions from the plant before permanently storing the gas in underground caverns.

Will Gardiner, the chief executive of Drax, said bioenergy with carbon capture (BECCs) was critical to beating the climate crisis and creating a sustainable economy.

“Drax’s ambition is to be carbon negative by 2030. Having pioneered the use of sustainable biomass, Drax now produces 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity. With the right negative emissions policy we can do much more, removing millions of tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere each year,” he said.

“The UK government is working on a policy and investment framework to encourage negative emissions technologies, which will enable the UK to be home to the world’s first carbon negative company,” Gardiner added.

Drax’s carbon accounting is based on emissions-saving calculations at the beginning and end of a BECCs process. It claims the project’s lifecycle would remove more carbon emissions than it produces, meaning it would effectively create a carbon-negative energy source.

The first carbon saving is recorded when the trees that are farmed to make biomass pellets absorb carbon emissions from the air as they grow. The second takes place at the power plant site as carbon-capture technology traps the emissions created by burning the wood.

The government’s official climate adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has said carbon capture – used in conjunction with bioenergy, and in heavy industry – is vital if the UK hopes to meet its 2050 climate targets.

Drax is part of an alliance of companies that hope to make the Humber region – one of the UK’s most polluting industrial zones – carbon neutral by capturing carbon from factories and and low-carbon hydrogen producers. If their plan works, the UK would safeguard thousands of manufacturing jobs and make enough hydrogen to wean the UK off high-carbon gas.

But the use of BECCs is not without its critics. The concerns are twofold: many international academics and environmentalists have warned that there remain significant uncertainties over the carbon accounting of BECCs projects. Others have said that unless the sluggish progress of carbon capture can quicken, the full benefits of bioenergy will not be realised.

This year a report from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London said that BECCs may even increase carbon emissions in the atmosphere in the short term by transferring environmental risk from the atmosphere to the land.

The report said there were still uncertainties over the “actual carbon removal potential of BECCs” because studies to date had been based on a series of complex assumptions that had yet to be tested at scale.

A report commissioned by the Packard Foundation said burning biomass for electricity could create a “double climate” problem. In the short term, burning biomass without carbon capture could raise emissions faster than the regrowth of trees is able to absorb the carbon. Over the longer term, extensive biomass production could lead to deforestation and degradation of the land, which would both contribute to rising climate emissions.

Drax robustly defends the sustainability record of its biomass supply chain. Its wood pellets, shipped from the US, are made mostly from sawmill residue and forest overgrowth, which is carefully cleared to improve the quality of forests. Drax has pledged never to source biomass from farming practices that lead to deforestation.

The company captures one tonne of carbon a day from its BECCs pilot project and it is lobbying the government for the subsidies it will need to help grow this project to a scale that could make a difference to the UK’s climate ambitions.

By Drax’s estimates the project would capture enough carbon emissions to offset the pollution from its other fossil fuel power plants too. The company snapped up a string of old gas plants from Scottish Power last year and recently won government support to convert some coal-fired units to run on gas, despite opposition from green groups who believe that no new fossil fuel plants should be given the green light.

Investing in gas-fired power may not be an obvious strategy for a company undertaking the most ambitious climate targets of any company in the world, but the road to a carbon-negative Drax was never likely to be straightforward.

By Jillian Ambrose

Tesco considers sales of its profitable Asian operations

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

The UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, is considering a retreat from markets in Asia with the sale of its profitable operations in Thailand and Malaysia.

Analysts say the 2,000 stores, which operate under the Tesco Lotus brand, could be worth more than £7bn.

The company's only other overseas stores, other than Ireland, are in its loss-making European unit.

Tesco said it was reviewing its Thai and much smaller Malaysian arms after interest from potential bidders.

In a statement, the retailer said it had had received “inbound interest”, but did not name the potential buyer or buyers. Tesco Lotus employs about 60,000 people.

The statement also said the review was at an early stage, and “no decisions concerning the future of Tesco Thailand or Malaysia have been taken”.

‘Trophy asset'

The businesses had combined revenues of £4.9bn in the year ending in February, making a profit of £286m – about a fifth of Tesco's total global profits.

Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, said the Asian operation was a “trophy asset”, and was likely to achieve a knock-out price.

A valuation of £6.5bn to £7.2bn seemed “fair”, according to Bruno Monteyne, analyst at Bernstein.

Laura Lambie, senior investment director at Investec Wealth and Investment, told the BBC's Today programme that Thailand was an important market for Tesco.

While Tesco had already withdrawn from “more mature markets” such as the US, Japan and Turkey, it had recently announced plans to open another 750 stores in Thailand, she said.

Margins in Thailand were also higher, at 6%, compared with 3% for the UK, she added. “There will have to be a fairly high asking price for Tesco to be prepared to let it go.”

The announcement signals another potential pullback by Tesco from its once-ambitious global expansion.

If a sale does go ahead it would mean the company would be left with stores in the UK and Ireland, and an unprofitable division in central Europe. That unit covers the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Shrinking empire

Tesco has been shifting its focus as part of a turnaround programme launched five years ago.

The plan was in response to an accounting scandal, and in the face of competition from rival supermarket chains and online competitors.

The retail giant has shed several businesses across the world in recent years.

Tesco has withdrawn from the US, Japan, and China.

In 2015, it sold its South Korean unit for $6.1bn, and a year later offloaded its Kipa business in Turkey, the country's largest supermarket chain.

It has also been shedding assets in the UK to focus on its core grocery business. In 2016, it sold the Giraffe restaurant chain just three years after buying it for £49m.

In October this year, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis surprised investors by saying he would stand down “in the summer of 2020”.

He took over the top job at the company in 2014, shortly before it was revealed that the retailer had overstated its profits.

Just Eat bidder Prosus today Increased its takeover offer as it puts pressure on rival

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

Just Eat bidder Prosus today said it has increased its takeover offer, as the tech group looks to fend off a rival bid from

Prosus, which is owned by South African conglomerate Naspers, has hiked its offer from 710p per share to 740p per share.

The new bid values Just Eat at roughly £5.1bn – well above the offer tabled by Takeaway.

“Following the announcement of our offer, we have had the opportunity to listen to the views of Just Eat shareholders, share our perspective on the global food delivery sector and reflect on the unquestionable challenges Just Eat faces, as clearly seen in its third-quarter results,” said Prosus chief executive Bob van Dijk.

“We have also had extensive discussions with our own shareholders with regards to our long term strategy for food delivery and Just Eat’s role within that.”

Prosus urged shareholders to accept its offer which it said “delivers certainty in the face of undeniable industry change”.

It added that it has cut the required acceptance rate from 75 per cent to a simple majority – meaning 50 per cent plus one Just Eat share.

Just Eat’s board has recommended Takeaway’s all-share offer, and warned investors not to accept Prosus’s gatecrasher bid.

But the two companies have since been embroiled in a war of words over the deal. Prosus has argued that Takeaway has underestimated the challenges in the UK market, while the Dutch delivery firm has played up its experience as an operator.

Last week activist investor Cat Rock threw its weight behind Takeaway’s bid, saying it would only support Prosus if its offer were raised to 925p per share.

In a statement issued today, the investor branded Prosus’s increased bid “wholly inadequate”, adding that the company was unable to “muster a credible bid”.

“Prosus is struggling to pay a fair price for Just Eat because it lacks a credible plan for winning in the UK,” said Cat Rock founder and managing partner Alex Captain.

“Throwing money at the market under existing management is not a credible plan.”

The new bid means the deadline for first acceptance on the two offers has been pushed back to 27 December.

How to Reinvent Yourself At Any Age

Source: Impact it Theory

Rushion McDonald is a modern day renaissance man whose career accomplishments range from comedy titles to award-winning baking to numerous hit shows under the global Steve Harvey brand.

His ability to constantly reinvent himself comes from his willingness to start from scratch regardless of difficulty or doubters along the way. Producer of Family Feud and host of Money Making Conversations, Rushion McDonald tells how he’s been able to live a limitless life on this episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu.

McKinsey One Of The Most Powerful Consulting Companies In The World

Source: CNBC

When the most powerful executives in the world have a problem they just can't crack, many of them turn to McKinsey – a prestigious and secretive consulting firm that has been influencing business and government decisions for decades. But now, as consumers require more transparency, the company has been thrust into the spotlight.

How The United States Love Of Cats And Dogs Became A $72 Billion Business

Source: CNBC

Cute puppies. Kittens. Instagram dogs. Pet supplements, a smart cat litter box and specialty veterinary practices. Americans are spending more and more on their pets. U.S. pet spending hit $72 billion in 2018, an increase of more than $3 billion from last year. And with pet ownership on the rise, the industry could grow into an even bigger business. Here’s how Americans’ love for pets turned into big business.

Sterling slips on Friday after three-day rally, set for best week since mid-October

( via — Fri, 6th Dec 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling slipped on Friday, consolidating after three days of gains that took the pound to 2-1/2-year high versus the euro and a seven-month high against the dollar on expectations that the Conservative Party will win next week’s British election.

The pound is still headed for its best week since mid-October, having risen 1.5% against the dollar and almost 1% to the euro as various opinion polls indicate a comfortable majority for the ruling party.

But on Friday it slipped 0.2% to $1.3138, just off a $1.3166 high touched Thursday, while against the euro it traded at 84.58 pence, having traded as high as 84.31 pence this week.

“It’s a small move and no fundamental change (in terms of what opinion polls show),” Nordea analyst Morten Lund said.

“From a risk-reward perspective most people are too optimistic but if you look at option markets you can see some people positioning for sterling weakness.”

David Katimbo-Mugwanya, a fund manager at EdenTree Investment Management, said confidence has been growing that a decisive election result and the subsequent passing of a Brexit withdrawal deal in the UK parliament would boost the economy.

“I would expect some sort of bounce (in the UK economy). You have already seen some of that in the currency,” he said.

Should the Conservative Party win a majority in next week’s election, some analysts believe any further rise in the pound will be limited, however.

MUFG said in a research note sent to clients that the need for the UK and the EU in 2020 to begin negotiating their future relationship would introduce a “sustained period of uncertainty”.

Evidence of a weakening economy in Britain would also weigh on the pound, the analysts said, pointing to a new jobs market survey that showed the slowest rate of rising vacancies since October 2009.

Leaders of the two main parties will go head-to-head in a TV debate later on Friday.

Reporting by Sujata Rao and Tommy Wilkes

UK’s competition watchdog to cap rail fares on certain routes between Preston-to-Scotland

( via – – Fri, 6th July 2019) London, Uk – –

The UK's competition watchdog has accepted a proposal to cap rail fares on certain routes between Preston in Lancashire and Scotland.

The agreement is part of a deal with FirstGroup and Trenitalia, who now run the West Coast Rail franchise.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had raised concerns that train ticket prices could rise.

It found that on 21 routes, passengers would have little or no option but to choose a service run by FirstGroup.

After the first phase of an investigation into the new contract, the CMA discovered that on 17 routes between Preston and Scotland, passengers could only choose from West Coast Rail, operated by the joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia, or from TransPennine Express, which is operated solely by FirstGroup.

It also pointed out that there were four routes between Oxenholme in the Lake District and Carlisle where travellers could only choose between the joint venture, TransPennine Express, and from one other company.

However, the CMA said it had now accepted proposals from FirstGroup and TrenItalia to address the concerns.

“For both West Coast Rail and TransPennine Express services, these include caps on unregulated fares and maintaining the same availability of cheaper advance tickets for all 21 routes that raise competition issues,” the CMA said.

It added that the two operators “must submit regular reports to the CMA to show they are complying”.

Franchise upset

FirstGroup and Trenitalia won the contract to run the West Coast Rail franchise following a controversial process that saw Stagecoach banned from bidding for the contract in a row over pensions.

Stagecoach ran the franchise with Virgin Trains, of which it owns 49%, for more than 20 years.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said at the time that he was “devastated” by the disqualification.

The new partnership will operate in two phases. The first will run from 8 December to March 2026, when First Trenitalia will operate the existing InterCity West Coast services.

The second phase will run from March 2026 to March 2031, when it will operate the HS2 high-speed rail service.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of FirstGroup's rail division, told the BBC: “We will make gradual changes through the next couple of years as we keep on enhancing the service for customers.”

He said the existing franchise was well run and he was looking forward to taking it over, but added that compensation for late trains would be improved.

Instead of payments applying when a train was at least 30 minutes late, the new benchmark would be 13 minutes, he said.

Joules credits online growth for rising revenues

( via– Thur, 5th Dec 2019) London, Uk – –

The retailer says it is opening four new stores ahead of Christmas as it credits online growth for rising revenues.

Joules, the fashion retail brand, has reported a surge in revenue in the run-up to the festive season, crediting a “disciplined approach” to discounting.

In a trading update the company, which has 124 stores in the UK and Ireland and 33 concessions, said it had delivered a robust performance with total revenue growth of 1.3% over the 26 weeks to 24 November.

Its figures – adjusted to take account of the later Black Friday this year – showed a 3.1% leap in retail sales.

This was driven, the company said, by e-commerce growth rather than sales at physical stores.

Sales in its wholesale operation were 3.8% lower, though international sales surged by 17%.

“Following a challenging September, as experienced across the sector, we have seen positive trading momentum across Joules' own e-commerce and store channels over the last two months, with revenue up by over 9%.

“On the back of this positive performance the group is opening four new stores before Christmas, in desirable locations and on attractive terms,” the statement said.

Joules, which describes itself as a premium lifestyle brand, designs and sells clothing, footwear and accessories for women, men and children.

It issued the trading update ahead of what is expected to be another Christmas season dominated by discounting in the wider retail sector following a tough year for the high street in particular.

Store chains have come under pressure from weak consumer confidence at a time of surging costs from business rates, rent and wage rises though there have been some signs of a recovery ahead of Christmas.

Fast fashion firm Quiz saw its shares come under renewed fire on Wednesday when it announced steep falls in sales and that it had slumped into the red.

Dunelm, the homeware and furnishings retailer, enjoyed a 16% bounce on Thursday after it raised its profit forecasts.

Joules investors gave a more cautious welcome to its update – with the stock, flat in the year to date, rising by more than 1%.

Chief executive Nick Jones, who joined the company from Asda in September after the retirement of Colin Porter, said: “Joules has delivered further profitable growth during the period despite the continued challenging trading environment.”

He added: “We continue to invest in our proposition to meet changing customer expectations in a scalable and profitable way and, with positive momentum across both digital and physical channels, we are well placed as we enter the important Christmas trading period.”

By James Sillars

UK regulators to strengthen banks and payment firms recovery time from glitches

( via — Thur, 5th Dec 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Regulators made proposals on Thursday to strengthen the ability of banks and payment firms in Britain to recover from disruptions to services within set timeframes.

A parliamentary committee called for changes in October following a string of IT failures at banks, most recently one at TSB that left thousands of customers unable to make payments from their accounts.

The Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority have proposed that banks and financial market infrastructure (FMIs) firms like Visa that make payments possible set “impact tolerances” for important services.

This would quantify the maximum level of disruption they would tolerate in terms of time, volume of business or number of customers affected.

A metric based on time alone may be insufficient, the regulators said, taking a more nuanced approach from an earlier discussion paper.

Firms will have to spell out what back up plans they have to stay within these tolerances.

Firms will set their own tolerances but should expect “close supervisory scrutiny and engagement”, the regulators said.

“It is in the public interest that a resilient financial system is able to supply the most important services with minimal interruption even during severe operational events,” FCA Chief Executive Andrew Bailey said in a statement.

The regulators also issued papers on how operational resilience relates to services outsourced by financial firms, such as cloud computing, that can leave them vulnerable to disruptions.

Firms must be certain that important services can recover from a disruption within a set period even when they rely on outsourcing or third party providers for those services, the BoE said.

“Firms and FMIs should use impact tolerances as a planning tool and should assure themselves they are able to remain within them in severe but plausible scenarios,” the BoE said.

Reporting by Huw Jones