Major changes to rules for international travel expected to be announced today

( via– Fri, 17th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

The green and amber lists will reportedly be merged into one category of low-risk nations and the number of places on the red list will be reduced.

Major changes to the rules for international travel are expected to be announced today.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he will later announce measures to “simplify international travel…to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe”.

He did not expand on what those changes could be but some reports have said the green and amber lists will be merged into one category of low-risk nations and the number of places on the red list will be reduced.

And according to The Times, Turkey could be taken off the red list in time for the October half-term.Advertisement

Data expert Tim White has told Sky News that as many as 12 countries could lose their red designation: Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

There are currently 62 countries on the red list.

But the rules around red list travel – spending 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers – are expected to remain the same.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News no decisions have yet been taken but he understands there “may be a meeting today to review those travel restrictions”.

There have also been suggestions that those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a lateral flow test before their departure and a PCR test after their arrival.

The move would save travellers around £100 a trip.

Heathrow boss urges change to travel rules

However, Mr Eustice remained cautious, saying: “The rationale for the PCR test is that you can do genome sequencing of variants and can therefore detect possible variants of concern.

“Arguably the biggest threat to the travel industry is we do get another variant that manages to get around the variant, then we're into another lockdown and we don't want that, that's why we've taken this cautiously, step by step.”

At the moment, travellers who are not double jabbed have to take a PCR test and do not need to isolate after arriving from a nation on the green list.

Reports suggest this could be changed and under the new system they would be required to quarantine at home and take two tests when coming back from a low-risk location.

Javid wants to scrap PCR tests for travellers

Mr Shapps's announcement will only apply to England.

But the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also implemented recent changes announced in Westminster.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid indicated earlier this week that PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers will be scrapped in favour of cheaper lateral flow tests, amid accusations some of the private testing companies listed on the government website have been advertising misleading low prices and providing poor service.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street news conference on Monday that the government is considering “simplifying” the traffic light system for overseas travel and what it can do to make the “burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country”.

Meanwhile, speculation that travel restrictions might soon be overhauled sent shares in airlines soaring.

Heathrow said this week it has gone from being Europe's busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, in part, thanks to travel restrictions.

But on Thursday, shares in easyJet and Wizz Air rose close to the top of the FTSE 250.

On the FTSE 100, British Airways owner IAG and airplane engine maker Rolls-Royce also benefited.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Our top priority is to protect public health – decisions on our traffic light system are kept under regular review and are informed by the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and wider public health factors.”

By Alix Culbertson and Alan McGuinness, political reporters

Next deal keeps Gap brand alive in the UK

( via – – Fri, 17th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

UK retailer Next and struggling US fashion giant Gap have formed a joint venture that will see Next manage Gap's UK website and place concessions in some stores.

The move will preserve some of Gap's physical presence on the high street following plans by Gap to close all 81 stores in the UK in July.

It is a similar deal to one signed with clothing brand Reiss earlier this year.

Next is also expanding the brands available on its online platform.

Its “Total” platform allows it to run other fashion brands' e-commerce operations, including customer service, payment systems and logistics and currently also hosts the Victoria's Secret and Childsplay Clothing brands.

Shares in Next rose 2.5% to £81.98 on the news by Friday afternoon.

Next will own 51% of the new venture, while Gap will own 49%. The deal will enable customers to use Next's click-and-collect service at its 500 stores.

Gap Global's chief executive Mark Breitbard said: “Gap is partnering with Next one of the UK's leading online clothing retailers, to amplify our omnichannel business and meet our customers in UK & Ireland where they are shopping now.”

According to Natalie Berg, a retail analyst and founder of NBK Retail, the deal is Gap's “best shot” at reviving its brand.

“The Gap brand might have lost its way but it's still a brand with a lot of heritage,” she told the BBC. “The uncomfortable truth is that they had way too many stores.

“What Next is doing featuring it, as a shop within a shop, does generate excitement and make consumers want to go into the store.”

She says it is ironic to see Next and Gap teaming up, when they are both middle-tie High Street brands who have competed for years over the same demographics of shoppers.

“The pandemic has created strange bed fellows – who would have thought next and gap would have come together a few years ago?”

By Mary-Ann Russon

Co-op begins selling groceries via Amazon amidst fierce criticism

( via – – Thur, 16th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Store revs up 300 more delivery robots and offers full range of groceries to Amazon Prime subscribers

The Co-op has faced criticism as it begins selling groceries via Amazon and revs up 300 more delivery robots with the aim of almost tripling online sales to £200m.

The convenience store mutual said shoppers would be able to order from its full range of 3,000 grocery items via Amazon, if they are signed up to the US online specialist’s Prime subscription service.

The tie-up will initially launch in Glasgow and surrounding areas but there are plans to expand to other towns and cities later this year and eventually to go nationwide. Orders over £40 will be delivered free by Amazon’s Flex service, all of whose couriers are self-employed, and assembled at Co-op stores by the shop staff.

The Co-op now sells £70m a year of groceries online both directly, via food courier group Deliveroo and robot delivery specialist Starship Technologies.

About 200 of Starship’s autonomous robots, which resemble wheeled cool boxes and have been compared to squat versions of the Star Wars character R2D2, deliver Co-op groceries in Milton Keynes and Northampton. That will rise to 500 by the end of this year as the robots roll into five new towns and cities in areas including Cambridgeshire and the north of England. The robots will also begin delivering orders made directly from the Co-op as well as Starship’s app.

Steve Murrells, the group chief executive of Co-op, said: “The pandemic has accelerated changes in consumer shopping trends and we’re driving forward with exciting plans to provide rapid kerb to kitchen grocery delivery services.

“We are delighted to be working with Amazon. Its reach and leading technology and innovative approach means greater convenience for people in their communities. This, combined with our extended partnership with Starship Technologies, marks a significant milestone in our online strategy.”

The Co-op first teamed up with Amazon in 2012, providing collection lockers for the online specialist’s products in its stores.

The step up in the partnership by the Co-op, which prides itself on its ethical image, faced criticism from the GMB union, which is campaigning to improve workers’ rights at Amazon.

Andy Prendergast, national officer of the GMB, said: “It’s really disappointing to see a company with a proud ethical heritage like Co-op teaming up with Amazon: a tax evading multinational with a horrifying health and safety record.

“Amazon has made billions throughout the pandemic and pays virtually no tax. Bosses won’t even recognise a union to improve the health and safety of their beleaguered workforce.”

A Co-op spokesperson said: “We aren’t compromising our ethics and principles and the extension of the partnership is about getting our ethically sourced products into the hands of more people.”

He said Co-op saw the partnership as a means to tackle issues including climate change and “youth skills and opportunities”.

Amazon said its UK pay rates started at between £10 and £11.10 an hour depending on location. “At Amazon we are proud to offer excellent pay, benefits and opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment,” it said.

By Sarah Butler

CMA refers Sony Music’s purchase of AWAL for in-depth probe

( via — Thur, 16th Sept 2021) London, UK —

Sept 16 (Reuters) – A UK regulator referred Sony Music Entertainment's purchase of London-based independent record label AWAL for an in-depth probe on Thursday, after the buyer refused to divest any undertakings to allay competition concerns.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said the wholesale distribution of recorded music in the UK was highly concentrated at present, and if the deal had not gone ahead, Sony and AWAL could have competed more strongly with each other.

The regulator on Sept. 7 gave Sony five days to address its concerns.

Sony Music, which then called CMA's decision “perplexing” and said it was based on an incorrect understanding of AWAL's position in the UK, did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment on Thursday.

CMA Senior Director Colin Raftery was concerned the deal could potentially worsen terms for many artists in the UK and lead to less innovation across the industry.

Earlier this year, Sony Music Entertainment, owned by Sony Group (6758.T), entered into an agreement with Kobalt Music Group to buy its recorded music operations, including AWAL & Kobalt neighbouring rights.

Reporting by Priyanshi Mandhan in Bengaluru

John Lewis looking to hire thousands of seasonal workers over Christmas

( via – – Wed, 15th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

The John Lewis Partnership is looking to fill thousands of seasonal jobs to meet increased demand around Christmas.

It plans to recruit more than 7,000 temporary workers in its UK John Lewis and Waitrose stores and distribution centres.

The employee-owned business said this was 2,000 more temporary roles than the previous year.

New joiners will be offered free food and drink to “help ensure we can attract the help we need”, it said.

The partnership is hiring people for its supermarkets, department stores and warehouses, including delivery drivers for its online grocery division.

It has 34 John Lewis department stores and 331 Waitrose supermarket stores alongside its online operation.

The partnership is also looking to fill 550 permanent, full-time, driver and warehouse jobs.

Nikki Humphrey, people director at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We know that as the first Christmas after lockdown, customers will want to make it really special and we're throwing everything we can into helping them celebrate – our festive team will have a crucial role to play.”

“We look forward to welcoming people into our team across the country,” she added.

The jobs will be advertised online from Thursday, with 4,700 temporary roles available in Waitrose stores and 2,300 in John Lewis.

Race to meet demand

The move comes after the number of job vacancies in the UK surged past one million for the first time.

According to new official figures released on Wednesday, the number of jobs in the three months to August rose above one million for the first time since records began in 2001.

The most popular sectors in terms of vacancies were social work, hospitality, science, retail and manufacturing.

But business lobby groups warned that demand for more staff had reached a critical point.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that firms faced an “acute hiring crisis”.

“With Brexit and Covid-19 driving a more deep-seated decline in labour supply, the end of furlough is unlikely to be a silver bullet to the ongoing shortages,” he said.

“These recruitment difficulties are likely to dampen the recovery by limiting firms' ability to fulfil orders and meet customer demand.”

Supermarket bosses have said that it is vital to fix the labour shortage problems before key trading over the Christmas period.

The John Lewis Partnership will also launch Christmas promotions in shops from October and will use a new 300,000 sq-ft distribution centre in Leicestershire to ensure it can meet demand ahead of the Black Friday sales.

Last year, the UK's Christmas celebrations were hindered by restrictions on the number of people allowed to meet up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With fewer restrictions expected this year, retailers are hoping for a bumper festive period.

Pimlico Plumbers closing in on a £100m deal to sell company

( via– Wed, 15th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Pimlico Plumbers tycoon Mullins nears £100m deal to sell company

Neighborly, a home services provider backed by the private equity giant KKR, is among the parties trying to buy Pimlico Plumbers, Sky News understands.

Charlie Mullins, the entrepreneur who became an unlikely business celebrity as the founder of a London-based plumbers, is closing in on a deal to sell the 42 year-old business.

Sky News has learnt that Neighborly, a US-based provider of home services owned by the giant private equity firm KKR, is among a number of parties which have expressed an interest in buying Pimlico Plumbers.

A private equity investor who had expressed an interest earlier in the sale process said on Wednesday that a sale of Pimlico Plumbers could be imminent, although they cautioned that it was unclear whether Neighborly or another suitor would be the eventual buyer.

Reports earlier this year suggested that Mr Mullins was likely to fetch a price in the region of £100m after hiring advisers from Cavendish Corporate Finance to identify new investors.

The tycoon, a vocal opponent of Brexit who has become an outspoken figure on a range of economic matters, founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 with a single second hand van.

He has grown it into one of the capital's most ubiquitous businesses, with its prominent branding displayed on a fleet of vehicles driven by its roughly-400 staff.

The company is now run by Scott, Mr Mullins' son.

Neighborly would be a logical buyer for Pimlico Plumbers as it seeks to extend its international reach.

It was bought by KKR from Harvest Partners, another investment firm, just two months ago.

Neighborly owns a range of franchise-based home services brands, including HouseMaster and Mr Appliance.

Pimlico Plumbers and KKR declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for Neighborly did not respond to a series of requests seeking comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Fidelity Prodded SEC to Approve Bitcoin ETF in Private Meeting

( via — Wed, 15th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

The firm pushed the agency, citing increased investor interest and a growing number of bitcoin holders.

Fidelity Investments privately prodded the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week to approve its bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), according to recent filings.

The multinational, financial services giant urged the regulator to approve its fund by citing increased investor interest in crypto. Fidelity also pointed to the rising number of investors holding bitcoin and similar funds worldwide. Bloomberg first reported the news Tuesday.

Fidelity Digital Assets President Tom Jessop, among other executives from the firm, met with SEC officials via a Sept. 8 video call.

Fidelity had not responded to a CoinDesk request for comment by the time of publication.

Bitcoin ETFs in the U.S. have had a notoriously hard time winning SEC approval of their applications. Presently, there are over 10 applications pending, including those by VanEck, WisdomTree, and more recently, Anthony Scarammuci’s SkyBridge.

The firm originally filed its Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust in March with a follow-up response in June. Last week marked the second round of talks between the SEC and Fidelity, and like all others, the application is pending.

Purpose Investments became the first in North America to be approved for a bitcoin ETF when Canadian regulators gave their go-ahead in February.

By Sebastian Sinclair

Ocado report July fire at warehouse cost £35 million in lost revenue

( via — Tue, 14th Sept 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, Sept 14 (Reuters) – British online supermarket Ocado Retail said on Tuesday a July fire at its largest automated warehouse in Erith, southeast London, cost it around 35 million pounds ($48.5 million) in lost revenue.

Ocado Retail is a joint venture between Ocado Group (OCDO.L) and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L).

Shares in Ocado Group were down 2.7% at 0925 GMT and shares in M&S were down 0.3% after the JV followed other retailers in highlighting the rising costs of labour, particularly for large goods vehicles (LGV) and delivery drivers. 

Though the Erith fire on July 16, caused by a collision of robots, damaged less than 1% of the warehouse's grid system, it was the second major blaze Ocado has suffered in the past three years.

A fire destroyed its robotic warehouse in Andover, southern England, in 2019, requiring a total rebuild.

Ocado Retail Chairman Tim Steiner told reporters changes had been made to robots at the Erith site following the fire.

“Everyone is reassured that the lessons of Andover were well learnt, that Erith was well contained and that we can eliminate what caused the Erith fire to never happen again,” he told reporters.

Ocado Retail's revenue fell 10.6% to 517.5 million pounds ($716 million) in its third quarter to Aug. 29. Revenue had grown 19.8% in its first half. 

The JV said that over the first six weeks of the quarter it had performed in line with expectations, with revenue down 1.8%, reflecting strong comparative numbers with last year when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions drove demand.

However, in the seven weeks after the fire revenue declined by 19%.

Taking account of the benefit of increased capacity at its other warehouses, Ocado Retail estimated it lost around 300,000 customer orders due to the disruption.

Operating losses during the second half due to the business interruption were forecast at around 10 million pounds as Erith ramps back up to full capacity.

The impact of stock and fixed asset write-offs and other incremental costs associated with the fire were estimated at around 10 million pounds.

Ocado Retail said higher labour costs may result in an up to 5 million pound hit to full-year numbers, reflecting higher hourly pay rates and signing-on bonuses.

The JV forecast “strong” revenue growth in its 2021-22 year, benefiting from a full year of capacity contribution from new warehouses at Bristol, the re-built Andover and Purfleet and the forthcoming opening of Bicester.

“We are looking forward to another bumper Christmas and an exciting year of growth in 2022,” Ocado Retail CEO Melanie Smith said.

An additional warehouse, or customer fulfillment centre (CFC) as Ocado calls them, will open over 2022-23 in Luton, extending capacity to 700,000 orders per week.

($1 = 0.7220 pounds)

Reporting by James Davey

Evergrande China property giant admits debt crisis as protesters besiege HQ

( via – – Tue, 14th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Disgruntled investors voice anger at headquarters as company appoints advisers and says firesale of assets won’t cover debts

Property giant China Evergrande Group has said that it cannot sell properties and other assets fast enough to service its massive $300bn debts, and that its cashflow was under “tremendous pressure”.

Only hours after angry investors besieged its Shenzhen headquarters and the company denied it was set for bankruptcy, Evergrande issued a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange saying that a significant drop in sales would continue this month, which was likely to further deteriorate its liquidity and cash flow.

The company blamed “ongoing negative media reports” for dampening investor confidence, resulting in a further decline in sales in September – usually a strong month for sales in China.

Evergrande also said two of its subsidiaries had failed to discharge guarantee obligations for 934m yuan ($145m) worth of wealth management products issued by third parties. That could “lead to cross-default”, it said.

And in a sign that restructuring plans are speeding up, the board also said it had appointed advisers to “assess the group’s capital structure, evaluate the liquidity of the group and explore all feasible solutions to ease the current liquidity issue”.

Shares in the group closed down nearly 12% in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The statement also said it had failed to find a buyer in the distressed sale of its electric vehicle and property service subsidiaries, prompting shares in those businesses to fall by 25% and 12% respectively.

Evergrande is one of the world’s most indebted companies, and has seen its shares tumble 75% this year, sparking fears among analysts of “a risk of contagion” spreading through China’s overheated property sector and also its banking system.

Years of borrowing by Evergrande to fund rapid growth has combined with a crackdown on the industry by Beijing to fuel the crisis.

The dramatic announcement on Tuesday follows a turbulent day on Monday which saw increasingly desperate protests by small investors and homebuyers demanding their money back.

Chaotic scenes erupted at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen as around 100 disgruntled investors crowded into the lobby to demand repayment of loans and financial products.

More than 60 security personnel formed a wall in front of the main entrances to the towering skyscraper in the southern city where protesters gathered to shout at company representatives.

Du Liang, identified by staff as general manager and legal representative of Evergrande‘s wealth management division, read out a repayments proposal for those who held wealth management products, according to financial media outlet Caixin, but protesters at the company’s headquarters appeared to reject it.

“They said repayment would take two years, but there’s no real guarantee and I’m worried the company will be bankrupt by the end of the year,” said a protester surnamed Wang, who said he works for Evergrande and had invested 100,000 yuan ($15,500) with the company, while his relatives invested about 1m yuan.

Hundreds of people in recent months have also protested on an online forum set up by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist party, seeking government help.

Many analysts believe Evergrande will be forced to restructure its debt and possibly faces being dismantled under a government-orchestrated operation to ensure a soft landing that does not capsize the country’s bloated property market.

But late on Monday, Evergrande responded to the speculation that it was facing a restructuring as “totally untrue”.

“The recent comments that have appeared online about Evergrande‘s restructuring are completely false,” the company said in a statement.

It went on to say the company “is indeed facing unprecedented difficulties at the moment, but it will firmly carry out its main corporate responsibilities, fully dedicate itself towards the resumption of work and industry”.

The group will “protect housing transactions (and) intends to do everything possible to restore normal business operations, and fully guarantee customers’ legal rights and interests”, the statement added.

However, the group faces serious financial problems and the statement on Tuesday appeared to lay bare the magnitude of the crisis which has seen its bonds fall to less than 75% face value in some cases. Some trading was suspended again on Tuesday amid wild swings in prices.

After highlighting its problems raising cash from the firesale of properties and other assets, it said: “In view of the difficulties, challenges and uncertainties in improving its liquidity, there is no guarantee that the group will be able to meet its financial obligations under the relevant financing documents and other contracts.

“If the group is unable to meet its guarantee obligation or to repay any debt when due or agree with the relevant creditors on extensions of such debts or alternative agreements, it may lead to cross-default under the group’s existing financing arrangements and relevant creditors demanding acceleration of repayment. This would have a material adverse effect on the group’s business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.”

According to Caixin, Evergrande on Monday proposed that investors choose to accept 10% of the principal and interest of the matured product now and the rest via 10% instalments quarterly, payment by property assets, or by using the outstanding product value to offset home purchase payments.

On Friday, Evergrande vowed to repay all of its matured wealth management products as soon as possible.

Many buyers of Evergrande-built homes have expressed concern about down-payments made for projects now suspended by the property firm, airing concerns on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent.

A report last week by Capital Economics said Evergrande had 1.4m properties it has committed to completing, as of the end of June.

Analysts at the Hong Kong-based market intelligence firm Reorg described in a recent report how the disputes over contractor payments intertwined with Evergrande’s large exposure of unfinished properties that buyers – as is common in China – have already paid for upfront.

“In extreme cases, if China Evergrande fails to complete pre-sold property projects on time, due to inability to pay contractors, China Evergrande will be liable to the purchasers for their losses,” Reorg said.

“In line with industry practice, the group pre-sells properties prior to their completion – as a result, banks providing financing to end purchasers require China Evergrande to guarantee their customers’ mortgage loans. If a purchaser defaults on a mortgage loan, the group may have to repurchase the underlying property by paying off the mortgage.”

UK cancels deal for tens of millions of coronavirus vaccines

( via– Mon, 13th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

The UK has ended a vaccine supply deal for tens of millions of COVID-19 jabs with French company Valneva, the firm has said.

The pharmaceutical startup's jab candidate VLA2001 uses an inactivated virus similar to flu vaccines.

Some consider it to have the potential to win over people who are cautious about current vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna using new mRNA technology.

The vaccine is being made at Valneva's plant in Scotland and is currently in the third phase of trials. It is not yet approved by regulators.

The UK initially ordered 60 million doses and retained the option for 90 million more. It later added 40 million to its order.

The total value of all 190 million doses is €1.4bn (£1.2bn), Valneva has said.

The UK government “has alleged that the company is in breach of its obligations under the supply agreement, but the company strenuously denies this,” Valneva said in a statement.

It did not give further details about the breach of obligations.

“Valneva has worked tirelessly, and to its best efforts, on the collaboration … including investing significant resources and effort,” it added.

The UK government is yet to comment, but Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the move was a “blow” for Valneva's site – visited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in February.

Shares in the company dropped by 40% following the announcement. But despite the fall, the company's shares are still up by around 50% since the start of 2021.

It said it would still continue its development plan for VLA2001.

“Valneva believes that initial approval for VLA2001 could be granted in late 2021”, the company added.

It comes as Boris Johnson is said to be “dead set” on avoiding another lockdown as he prepares to reveal his plan to manage coronavirus over the autumn and winter using vaccinations.

The prime minister is expected to hold a news conference on Tuesday, when he will outline how vaccinations will provide Britain's main defence over the winter months.

BrewDog appoints ‘blue-chip reputation’ chairman ahead of stock exchange float

( via – – Mon, 13th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Beer and spirits company BrewDog – hit by criticism from former employees earlier this year – has appointed a chairman with a blue-chip reputation.

Allan Leighton was chief executive of Asda and Pandora. He is chairman of the Co-op, and was chairman at Royal Mail.

He joins the Aberdeenshire brewing firm to stabilise it ahead of a stock exchange float, and as mentor to its chief executive, James Watt.

BrewDog has just closed a world record equity crowdfunding round.

It raised £30.2m from 78,000 “equity punks”.

The ex staffers' letter in June complained of a “culture of fear” and a “toxic” atmosphere at BrewDog.

It claimed a significant number of former staff suffered mental health problems as a result of working there.

Mr Watt apologised at the time, and started a series of reforms to address the criticism.

Investor interest slowed after the publicity around the ex-staffers' letter, according to the chief executive, but came back more strongly in the closing weeks.

The tranche of funding is to lower BrewDog's climate changing emissions, with an anaerobic digester at the Ellon brewery and a battery-operated vehicle fleet.

A consultancy that advises and researches on corporate culture, Wiser, has been hired and is to produce a report by the end of this year, which is to be made public.

Pay has been increased by 3%, following delays to planned pay rises. About 100 more staff have been hired, partly to reduce pressure on those already in the company.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Leighton said: “BrewDog has built an incredible market position and brand in a short space of time.

“It continues to grow quickly all over the world, has a fantastic team of people, and an outstanding sustainability story to tell. I look forward to playing my role in ensuring the company has the right governance in place to capitalise on the opportunities ahead.”

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Watt – who co-founded Brewdog 14 years ago – said: “It's going to be fantastic for me personally to have such an experienced business leader acting as a mentor to myself. Before this, I was working on a North Atlantic fishing boat. This is my first CEO role.”

He explained that an interim chairwoman, Blythe Jack, had not been able to continue in that role, as she represents the private equity company that is BrewDog's biggest investor, and that would break stock exchange rules. She takes the role of deputy chairperson of the board.

‘Damaged our reputation'

Asked about the reputational damage done to the company in June, Mr Watt said: “We definitely took a hit. The coverage of the letter from former staff in the media was widespread. Pretty much everyone saw it, and it didn't make pleasant or positive reading.

“It damaged our reputation to a certain extent. All we can do is respond to it the best way we possibly can – which is by working with our team, doing an independent review, making changes in our company, and being open and transparent.”

He added: “We've got a great open dialogue with our consumers, customers and our community, to be upfront about what we're doing. We can build from that. We can build an even better company. For us, it's about finding an opportunity in a challenging time”.

The timing of the float, or Initial Public Offering, has not been announced. BrewDog has hired Rothschild to advise on it, having previously postponed plans for a 2020 float because of the pandemic.

By Douglas Fraser

Emma Raducanu wins US Open in maiden Grand Slam with championship prize of $2.5 million

Emma Raducanu ended Britain's 44-year wait for a women's Grand Slam singles champion as she beat Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open in the most thrilling style.

The 18-year-old ended her scarcely believable run in New York with a 6-4 6-3 win over her 19-year-old Canadian opponent in a high-quality final.

Raducanu threw herself to the floor in disbelief as she fired down an ace to conclude what has been the most remarkable journey.

Raducanu served for the match at 5-3 but cut her leg as she went break point down, leading to a medical time-out and a clearly irritated Fernandez expressing her frustration to the match official.

However, Raducanu shrugged off the delay, saving a further break point before closing out her third championship point.

The two shared a warm hug before Raducanu headed up the stairs at Arthur Ashe Stadium to celebrate with her support box.

Raducanu was cheered on by an emotional Virginia Wade, who was the last British woman to win a major trophy at Wimbledon in 1977.

“It means so much to have Virginia Wade here and also Tim Henman,” Raducanu said in her on-court speech.

“They are British icons and for me to follow in their footsteps gave me the belief I could do it.”

With the victory, Raducanu becomes:

  • The first British female winner at Flushing Meadows since Virginia Wade in 1968
  • The first qualifier in the Open era to win a Slam
  • The youngest women's Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004
  • The youngest Briton to win a Grand Slam title
  • The first woman to win the US Open without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014

She will take home £1.8m in prize money, rise to 23 in the world rankings and will become the British number one on Monday.

Raducanu will also know that she has starred in one of the biggest moments in British sporting history – and captured the imagination of the fans at home and in New York.

The rise & rise of Raducanu

Astonishing. Ridiculous. Meteoric. Unbelievable. Take your pick – but no word can ever really sum up what Raducanu has achieved.

Two weeks ago, Raducanu had a flight booked back to the UK, just in case she did not come through qualifying in New York. Seventeen days later, she has lifted the trophy in front of a rapturous crowd.

Raducanu did not just come through qualifying: she dominated the tournament. The most games she lost in one set in her entire run in New York – five – came in the second round of qualifying.

It is not just that Raducanu has kept on winning, but she has done it with such dominance. She did not drop a set en route to the final, despite meeting Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and in-form Maria Sakkari on the way.

In the big moments, she has held her nerve, trusting in her power and serve, even when she saw two championship points go by in the final.

This is someone who, two months ago, was collecting her A-Level results. She only made her WTA main-draw debut in June. All this has happened so quickly, and yet not once has Raducanu not looked like she belongs.

With all the attention on Raducanu after Wimbledon – as well as questions from some about her mental toughness – she could have easily been overwhelmed.

Instead, she trusted in herself, hired a new coach in Andrew Richardson and went to America to play in the various events.

No-one could have seen this coming; not the ease with which Raducanu would brush her opponents aside, or the calmness with which she would approach every match.

But Raducanu always believed. And she will leave New York as the US Open champion.

‘An almost perfect performance' – analysis

Former British number one Laura Robson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “There are so many sliding doors moments. Before Wimbledon, Emma didn't have a main draw wild card. Would she be in this position if they hadn't upgraded it? Would this happen if she hadn't had to retire from the fourth round with breathing problems?

“She played an almost perfect performance in her first Grand Slam final. You have to think there will be so many more.”

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash: “I cannot believe it. It is unheard of for a qualifier to win the US Open. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wildcard but he had already been to Wimbledon finals, not playing a second Grand Slam.

“She hits so cleanly. I cannot come up with a reason for this to happen. It does not make sense at all. Her performance is mindboggling.”

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller: “I have never seen anything like this and I suspect if I work in this business for another 20 years I won't see anything like it.

Nerves? What nerves?

A full Arthur Ashe Stadium – which holds almost 24,000 people – is one of the most intimidating sights in tennis, but neither player looked fazed as they walked out on to the biggest stage of their career.

Fernandez had more of the crowd support, given that she has ousted the second, third and fifth seed in New York, but there was still good support for Raducanu.

The first three games lasted for 23 minutes, both players showing a devastating array of cross-court punches and fiery returns of serve, and they traded breaks as they found their footing.

As she has done throughout the tournament, Raducanu dug herself out from 0-30 down several times, stepping forward, playing more aggressively and finding her first serves.

That gave her the confidence to attack Fernandez's second serve and put herself on top. She closed out the first set with a forehand down the line, turning and pumping her fist towards her box before letting out a yell of “come on!” to the crowd as they rose to applaud.

Fernandez has shown tenacity throughout the tournament and she did so here, saving three break points in her first service game to stop Raducanu taking a 2-0 lead in the second.

She then found the break, adjusting to hit Raducanu's serves better, and it looked as though the momentum had swung the way of the young Canadian.

However, there is a reason Raducanu has not dropped a set in New York. At the changeover she sat quietly, eyes closed, before again increasing her tempo and creating the break opportunity.

She broke with the shot of the match – a stunning forehand pass, made from almost off the court, that left Fernandez stranded at the net.

Two championship points came and went on the Fernandez serve, saved once again by brave hitting, but Raducanu did not falter despite taking a nasty cut to the leg as she slid behind the baseline.

It was an odd interlude in what was an entertaining final that proved that the future of women's tennis is bright.

By Amy Lofthouse

How 2020 Brought The Gym Home

Source: Bloomberg

Peloton was already connecting millions to its unique brand of exercise when Covid struck, forcing gyms and studios to shutter. Since then, the company’s rise has been meteoric. As the world reopens, the fitness industry faces a landscape remade by the wildly popular stationary bike, alongside personalities new and old looking to take a slice of the market.

If the only thing you know about sports is who wins and who loses, you're missing the highest stakes action of all. A new era of sports, characterized by eye-popping investments, unprecedented activism and global influence have permanently moved sports from back-page entertainment to the center of the global conversation.

Tennis Teen Queen Emma Raducanu Set to be Best-paid British Sportswoman

( via – – Fri, 10th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

British teenage tennis star Emma Raducanu is on track to become the UK's highest-paid sportswoman this year, experts say, after her stunning run to the US Open final.

The 18-year-old will earn $1.2m (£864,810) for reaching the final, which is four times the $303,000 she has earned during her entire career so far.

But marketing experts say she is set to make millions more, with lucrative endorsements and deals on the horizon.

Tennis players dominate the richest sportswomen rankings. The nine highest paid female athletes in the world are all tennis players, according to Forbes business magazine, suggesting there is substantial scope for Raducanu, who already has a shoe and clothing sponsorship contract with Nike.

There are “plenty of deals Emma could make with big brands”, Simon Chadwick from the Emlyon Business School told BBC 5 live's Wake Up To Money programme. “There's so much potential on where Emma could go commercially.”

Raducanu is currently managed by Max Eisenbud, vice-president of tennis at entertainment business IMG. He previously managed former world number one Maria Sharapova, who was the world's highest-paid female athlete for 11 years running.

“Emma's age, she's Generation Z, her dual heritage, her growing profile and the global platform she's on means big things are ahead for her, ” Mr Chadwick added.

He said that there was “definitely a space for Emma” when compared with other female tennis players at the moment.

‘Marketing dream'

Nigel Currie, a sponsorship and marketing consultant, said that with Serena Williams coming to the end of her career, it was “perfect timing” and a “fantastic opportunity” for Raducanu.

“She's a marketing dream, really, so the advertisers and sponsors will be queuing up.”

Along with the Nike deal, she also has a racquet sponsorship with Wilson. For an unranked player, Mr Currie said, two deals were typical, but the next round of deals she negotiates will be “absolutely huge, with Nike and Adidas fighting over her”.

Raducanu's fame in fashion is also rocketing, with a feature in October's Vogue issue.

Twenty-three year-old Naomi Osaka is the world's highest-paid female athlete at the moment, overtaking Serena Williams in May 2020.

Her total earnings stand at $37.4m (£27.2m) according to Forbes, and Osaka broke Maria Sharapova's 2015 record for the most money ever earned by a female athlete in a year. Osaka is 28th in the world's highest-earning athletes, including male players.

Following Osaka's back-to-back Grand Slam titles in 2018 and 2019, Nike paid about $10m (£7.2m) to take her from Adidas and she now has a total of 15 company sponsors.

The potential earnings from endorsements for Raducanu is immense if calculated from Osaka's benchmark of $34m (£24.6) from endorsements – 10 times more than her total prize money earnings.

‘Inspiring young image'

Sports industry lawyer Trevor Watkins from Pinsent Masons said that “ultimately, having a strong team around her will reflect the measure of success going forward”.

“The power of the personality to drive value is a huge factor for her, but the difficult thing will be ensuring she makes the right choices.”

Historic social media posts and negative publicity have reflected badly and ended sponsorship deals for other athletes in sports such as cricket, but Mr Watkins said Raducanu has an “inspiring young image” which businesses will want to capitalise on.

“Brands aren't going to pay a million dollars without commitments back, but she'll be able to pick and choose who she wants to associate with now.”

Roger Federer is the richest tennis player in the world, coming in as the seventh richest athlete for 2021. He has an estimated net worth of $450m (£324.3m).

Raducanu is currently ranked 150th in the world and will become the British number one on Monday.

By Beth Timmins

Microsoft venture arm M12 gives backing to UK legal tech start-up Definely

( via– Fri, 10th 2021) London, Uk – –

Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, and CRE Venture Capital are jointly leading a multimillion pound seed funding round for Definely that will be announced next week, Sky News understands.

A UK-based legal technology start-up which uses artificial intelligence to shorten labyrinthine contract-drafting processes has drawn backing from Microsoft’s venture arm.

Sky News understands that M12, the tech behemoth's vehicle for deploying capital into early-stage companies, is jointly leading a £2.2m seed investment in Definely.

The funding round, which also includes money from CRE Venture Capital, is intended to help accelerate Definely's expansion.

The company's clients include some of the world's largest law firms, including Allen & Overy and Dentons, which for decades have been forced to grapple with the laborious nature of legal documents.

Definely's software shortcuts much of that process by enabling lawyers to access and edit key information more easily.

The start-up was launched in 2017 by two former Magic Circle solicitors, Nnamdi Emelifeonwu and Feargus MacDaeid.

Mr MacDaeid, who is registered blind, and his co-founder initially targeted its services at the visually impaired, but rapidly realised that they could be attractive to the wider legal profession.

Mr Emelifeonwu said: “Legal technology is stepping out of nascency and becoming embedded in how the modern-day lawyer works.

“Definely not only speeds up the review and drafting process but importantly it allows a lawyer to be more accurate with their output because they never have to leave where they are and lose context when working on a document.”

M12's backing represents a coup for Definely, given the source of its funding, according to tech investors.

“What began as a tool for the differently abled now provides value to all lawyers, helping them to more rapidly and accurately draft and revise contracts,” Matthew Goldstein, a managing director at M12, said.

The funding round is expected to be formally announced next week.

By Mark Kleinman

William Hill deal raises questions over the future of the bookmaker’s 1,400 high-street shops

( via – – Thur, 9th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Online casino firm 888 buys bookmaker’s non-US assets from Caesars in £2.2bn purchase

The online casino company 888 has confirmed its £2.2bn purchase of the non-US assets of William Hill from the Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, in a deal that raises questions over the future of the bookmaker’s 1,400 high-street shops.

William Hill shareholders accepted a $3.7bn (£2.7bn) takeover bid from Caesars nearly a year ago but the American casino company had no interest in its British target’s 87-year-old brand, its high-street shops, or its non-US online operations.

The deal was instead focused on acquiring William Hill’s expertise, gleaned in the UK’s competitive £2.3bn-a-year online sports betting industry, to underpin an assault on the fast-growing US market after the supreme court overturned a long-held ban on sports betting in 2018.Advertisement

Caesars’ lack of interest in anything except that lucrative expansion drive prompted a bidding war for non-US assets, involving Apollo Capital Management and CVC Capital Partners, as well as 888.

On Thursday, 888 confirmed it had won the race to acquire the remainder of William Hill and expects to complete the deal in early 2022, subject to approval from shareholders.

Investors holding 47% of 888’s shares have already approved the deal either with expression of support of irrevocable undertakings, it said.

Itai Pazner, the chief executive of 888, said: “The acquisition of William Hill International is a transformational and hugely exciting moment in 888’s history.

“This transaction will create one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, exceptional brands, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth.”

The deal is likely to alert potential suitors for William Hill’s network of 1,400 bookmakers’ shops, given that 888 is an online business with no experience of bricks-and-mortar retail.

William Hill’s high-street rival Betfred is known to be keen to buy them in a deal that would nearly double the size of its UK network. But Pazner indicated that 888 might hold on to the shops.

“We are also excited about the opportunities that the retail business provides and see significant brand benefits to the enlarged group from its large estate,” he said.

By Rob Davies

Morrisons warns prices set to rise as profits fall

( via — Thur, 9th Sept 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) – British supermarket group Morrisons, at the centre of a bid battle between two U.S. private equity firms, warned industry-wide price rises were coming as it reported a 37.1% fall in first-half profit, partly due to more COVID-19 costs.

The group, which trails market leader Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) and Asda in annual revenue, said inflation would be driven by recent sustained commodity price increases and freight costs, and the current shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. 

Morrisons (MRW.L) CEO David Potts said Britain's supply chain was creaking.

“That combination of a dearth of labour, a dearth of skills, the pingdemic and COVID cases does mean that everywhere in the supply chain there is strain,” he told Reuters.

That has meant some in-store shortages of water, carbonates, juice, crisps, pet food and wine.

“We have still got an aisle full of water, we've still got pop to choose from, it's just not as wide a range as it was,” he said.

The shortage of drivers has forced Morrisons to pick up stock from its suppliers that they would normally deliver to it.

Potts added his voice to widespread calls for HGV drivers to be added to the shortage occupation list so foreign labour can plug the gap.


In a results statement that looks likely to be Bradford, northern England-based Morrisons' last as a publicly listed company, it reported profit before tax and exceptional items of 105 million pounds ($144.5 million) for the six months to Aug. 1, down from 167 million pounds in the same period last year.

Morrisons, which trades from 497 stores and has a staff of over 110,000, said direct COVID-19 costs were 41 million pounds, while 80 million pounds of profit was lost in cafés, fuel and food-to-go areas because of the pandemic.

Total revenue including fuel rose 3.7% to 9.05 billion pounds, with like-for-like sales excluding fuel and VAT sales tax down 0.3% – falling 3.7% in the second quarter, having risen 2.7% in the first. 

Despite the supply chain disruption, Potts forecast “biblical” Christmas demand this year as Britons will be keen to meet up in bigger numbers having been stopped by COVID-19 restrictions last year.

Morrisons maintained its guidance for full-year profit before tax and exceptionals including business rates paid to be above the 431 million pounds made in 2020-21, excluding 230 million pounds of waived rates relief.

Last month Morrisons agreed a 7 billion pound offer from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), which has former Tesco boss Terry Leahy as a senior adviser.

However a rival consortium led by Softbank-owned (9984.T) Fortress Investment Group could still trump CD&R's bid and the battle looks to be heading for an auction process overseen by the Takeover Panel. 

CD&R's latest offer is worth 285 pence per Morrisons share – a 60% premium to Morrisons' share price before takeover interest emerged in mid-June.

Morrisons shares were trading at 293 pence at 0951 GMT, indicating investors are hoping for a higher bid.

($1 = 0.7267 pounds)

Reporting by James Davey

Amazon online shopping giant pays £492m in UK tax as sales surge to £20.6bn

( via – – Wed, 8th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Online shopping giant Amazon has said it is “proud” of its contribution to the UK economy, as it reveals its latest financial results.

The firm paid £492m in direct taxation as its sales rose 50% to £20.63bn, amid a Covid-driven surge in demand.

Amazon and other tech firms, which pay tax on profits not sales, have faced scrutiny over the level of their tax bills in the UK.

But Amazon said it had invested £32bn in UK infrastructure since 2010.

“We are proud of the significant economic contribution we are making to the UK economy,” Amazon said in a statement.

“Looking ahead, we know that the UK remains full of opportunity and we continue to be excited by the potential to continue to invest, create jobs, develop talent and have a positive impact in communities across the country,” the statement added.

Amazon's total sales in the UK, rose to £20.63bn during 2020 – up by more than 50% from £13.73bn in 2019.

The direct tax bill was up by more than two-thirds compared with the £293m it paid in the previous year.

The firm, which employs 55,000 people in the UK, said the taxes included business rates, stamp duty, corporation tax and other contributions.

Amazon said employers' national insurance taxes accounted for the majority of the bill as it took on 22,000 more staff over the course of the last year.

The company's indirect tax bill came to £1.06bn, up from £854m, driven by VAT on increased sales and employee taxes, as it took on more people and increased wages.

Amazon said that when both direct and indirect taxation were taken into account, it had contributed £1.55bn, up from £1.15bn.

‘Get a grip'

GMB, the union for Amazon workers, said the company's tax bill was “frankly insulting” and said firms that had profited from the pandemic should pay more.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said:”Amazon workers suffer unsafe, dehumanising work practices; breaking bones, falling unconscious and being taken away in ambulances.

“Ministers must get a grip of this runaway company and make sure pandemic profiteers pay more.

“Amazon's key UK business paid just £3.8m more corporation tax last year than in 2019, even as sales increased by £1.89bn.”

In April last year, the UK government launched a 2% tax on digital sales amid concerns that big tech firms were re-routing their profits through low tax jurisdictions. The Digital Services Tax is also included in the £492m figure.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in June last year that the coronavirus crisis had made tech giants even “more powerful and more profitable”.

Other global tech firms have faced similar scrutiny over their tax bills.

French tax authorities recently settled disputes with Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon over their operations in the country over the last decade.

Last year, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said he recognised the public's frustration over the amount of tax paid by tech firms and backed plans by think tank the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to find a global solution.

‘Legally compliant but opaque'

“As usual the accounts are legally compliant but opaque and lack the crucial information about intra-group transactions which enable the company to shift profits is not there,” said labour peer and emeritus professor of accounting at the University of Sheffield and University of Essex, Prem Sikka.

“Therefore it's impossible to know what their true economic profit is,” Prof Sikka said.

Given the profits declared by competitors, Prof Sikka said Amazon's tax bill “seems very low”, whereas, for retailers such as supermarket chains, tax bills as a proportion of sales were much higher.

“We need a complete change in accounting regulations which currently increase opacity rather than transparency,” Prof Sikka added.

Professor of taxation law at King's College London, Ann Mumford agreed and said that there was a lack of public discussion around the rules which led to this amount of tax.

“It seems that Amazon realised that they would need to pay a respectable amount – and, are hoping that an increase of £3.8 million sounds like a lot of money,” Prof Mumford added.

Analysis: By Sarah Corker

The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards online shopping and Amazon has been one of the biggest winners amid those changing consumer trends.

As Covid closed physical stores during successive lockdowns, sales at the internet giant rocketed.

Today's numbers will raise further questions about how tech giants operate, the level of tax they pay and their impact on the struggling High Street.

Amazon moved to fend off criticism by pointing out that its direct tax bill increased by more than two-thirds from the £293m it paid in 2019.

Critics say that's still nowhere near enough given the surge in sales.

The firm's been on a hiring spree to meet soaring demand, offering a £1,000 joining bonus to encourage staff to work in its fulfilment centres in the north east of England.

Halfords reports cycling sales disruption as accelerated global supply woes takes toll

( via– Wed, 8th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Factory production constraints, raw material inflation and freight disruption combine to take a toll on sales at the UK's largest cycling retailer but cars come to its rescue.

Halfords has become the latest big name company to report a hit to sales from supply chain disruption, warning its struggles may take time to overcome.

The bikes-to-car parts and servicing retailer said like-for-like cycling sales were down by almost 23% in the 20 weeks to 20 August compared to the same period last year.

It said that while the figure reflected tough comparisons as bikes were in high demand for exercise at the start of the COVID crisis, the global distribution woes accelerated towards the end of the trading period.

The problems facing the UK's largest cycling retailer include factory production constraints, raw material inflation and freight disruption.

Other firms to report similar difficulties include major supermarkets, McDonald's, Greggs, Nando's and Wetherspoons.

The issues are linked to pandemic disruption and are compounded by a worker shortage holding back the corporate fightback from the public health emergency.

This is acute in the area of distribution particularly, with the UK facing a shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers alone.

Halfords also pointed to some disruption from COVID-related staff absences.

Despite the cycling setback, the company said it had continued to benefit from the surge in staycations.

It stuck to its full-year target for pre tax profit to come in above £75m thanks to higher sales in its retail motoring arm.

Motoring product revenue was up 52% on a comparable basis, the company said, helping group sales almost 11% higher.

Chief executive Graham Stapleton said: “The first 20 weeks of FY22 delivered a strong trading performance against a hugely challenging backdrop.

“Our motoring business now represents 65% of our revenues and continues to go from strength to strength, driven by the increased scale of our Autocentres business, the ongoing demand for our Halfords Mobile Expert Vans, and by recent staycation trends.

“Although our cycling business is currently impacted by the considerable disruption in the global supply chain, as the UK's largest cycling retailer we are well positioned to adapt and to serve our customers, and we remain confident in the long-term outlook for the cycling market.”

Shares fell 1.7% following the trading update.

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the cycling performance: “Not being able to offer the right stock, or enough of it, is inevitably putting a lid on progress in the division.

“These are unlikely to be resolved soon. The other thing to keep in mind is that staycations are likely going to become less popular as and when the world gets back to normal. What this will mean for sales in the next summer season is yet to be seen.”

By James Sillars

Jewson fears price rises amid shortage of building materials

( via – – Tue, 7th Sept 2021) London, Uk – –

Supply chain crisis means cement, plasterboard and insulation are being rationed by manufacturers

One of Britain’s biggest builders’ merchants has warned of shortages of materials as the UK construction industry struggles under mounting pressure from the deepest supply chain crisis in decades.

Jewson has told customers that prices for a range of goods – including timber, wheelbarrows, insulation and adhesives – will rise by as much as a fifth this month amid growing evidence from across the construction sector of severe and sustained disruption linked to Covid and Brexit.

It said supplies of cement, plasterboard and insulation were being rationed by manufacturers, forcing it to limit the availability of some products, while other products would go up in price or take longer to deliver to customers.

In a further sign of the fallout in the UK from the coronavirus and exiting the EU, the latest snapshot from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (Cips) revealed a decline in growth across housebuilding, commercial work and civil engineering for the construction industry last month, as the restricted supply of materials and transport issues weighed on activity.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index fell to 55.2 in August, down from 58.7 in July on an index where anything above 50 separates growth from contraction. City economists had forecast a reading of 56.9.

Brian Berry, the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “Builders throughout the UK, particularly smaller firms, are struggling to recover from the pandemic as a result of the continued materials crisis.”

Reflecting intense disruption across the industry, Jewson said that some building materials producers were using an “allocation process” to limit the supply of in-demand products. This would in turn affect its wholesale customers.

It said Hanson was allocating cement to ensure “fair supply in the market”, which had led Jewson to limit certain products to five an order. British Gypsum had introduced an allocation process for plasterboard, while the insulation firm Recticel had undertaken similar steps.

Jewson said soaring demand for certain products and supply shortages had forced it to put up some of its prices this month, such as a 10-15% increase for wheelbarrows, a 5-20% rise for sealants, adhesives and chemicals, a 12% increase for glass wool insulation and a 20% jump for MDF mouldings.

It also told customers to expect longer delivery times for kitchen appliances with in-built microchips, such as combi and microwave ovens, amid shortages of chips worldwide.

“We are aware of the importance of getting you everything you need when you need it. However, sometimes our suppliers inform us of issues in the supply chain, which means that some products may not be as readily available as we would hope,” it told its customers.

It comes as construction industry leaders voice concerns of severe disruption across the sector. Travis Perkins last month warned of shortages of timber and plasterboard, while firms including Ikea, B&Q, Homebase and Argos have also warned of supply chain problems.

Business leaders have said chronic shortages of workers and key materials are beginning to weigh on Britain’s economic recovery from the winter lockdown, with disruption to global supply chains caused by the pandemic exacerbated by Brexit migration rules and border controls.

Economists have said that higher costs facing industry are likely to be passed on to British consumers in the form of higher prices for a range of goods and services.

The Bank of England forecasts inflation will rise to 4% this year, the highest level for a decade, before then fading closer to its target rate of 2% as temporary problems linked to the pandemic ease. However, some economists warn the rate of inflation could remain elevated as temporary disruption persists.

Construction firms said their costs rose at the second-fastest rate in the 24-year history of the PMI survey, surpassed only by a record rise in June 2021. Among those materials reported as up in price, the most common were concrete, fuel, steel and timber.

Businesses noted a continued resumption of projects that had been delayed because of Brexit and Covid but said client confidence was being hit by shortages of raw material supplies and increased cost burdens.

Duncan Brock, the group director at Cips, said: “A combination of ongoing Covid restrictions, Brexit delays and shipping hold-ups were responsible as builders were unable to complete some of the pipelines of work knocking on their door.

“Material and staff costs went through the roof as job hiring accelerated to fill the gaps in capacity left behind by employee moves, overseas worker availability and brought on by skills shortages.”

By Richard Partington,
Economics correspondent