McDonald’s to reopen some branches in Ukraine to help foster a sense of normalcy

The US fast-food giant closed its restaurants in Ukraine when Russia invaded the country almost six months ago. McDonald's also “de-arched” in Russia and sold its outlets to a franchise owner.

McDonald's will reopen some branches in Ukraine, in a show of support after the US fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.


Following Vladimir Putin's invasion in February, McDonald's closed its restaurants in Ukraine, but has continued to pay more than 10,000 staff employed in the country, while it closed and sold branches in Russia.

It said on Thursday that it will slowly start to reopen some of its branches in the capital Kyiv and western Ukraine.

Other major Western companies have also reopened their businesses in Ukraine recently, including Nike, KFC and Mango.

“We've spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen,” Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, said in a message to employees.

“In recent months, the belief that this would support a small, but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger.”

Ukraine's economy has been severely impacted by the war, with the International Monetary Fund expecting its economy to shrink by 35% in 2022, in part due to businesses halting operations because of the war.

McDonald's has 109 restaurants in Ukraine, but Mr Pomroy didn't say how many would reopen, when it would happen or the locations.

The company said it would start working with vendors to get supplies into branches, prepare stores, bring employees back and launch safety procedures due to ongoing fighting in the east.

McDonald's has sold its 850 restaurants in Russia to local franchise owner Alexander Govor, who held a licence for 25 branches in Siberia and who has begun reopening former McDonald's locations under the name Vkusno-i Tochka or Tasty-period.


McDonald's opened its first Russian location in Moscow three decades ago. Selling its Russian business was the first time the fast-food giant has “de-arched” or left a major market.

McDonald's closed hundreds of locations throughout Russia in March, costing the company $55m (£45m) a month.


Johnson & Johnson to stop selling its talc-based baby powder from next year

( via – – Fri, 12th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will stop making and selling its talc-based baby powder around the world from next year.

The announcement comes more than two years after the healthcare giant ended sales of the product in the US.

J&J faces tens of thousands of lawsuits from women who allege its talcum powder contained asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.


But the company reiterated its view that decades of independent research shows the product is safe to use.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” it said in a statement.

The firm added that cornstarch-based baby powder is already sold in countries around the world.

At the same time J&J reiterated its position that its baby powder is safe to use: “Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged.”

“We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson's baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” it said.

In 2020, J&J said it would stop selling its talc baby powder in the US and Canada because demand had fallen in the wake of what it called “misinformation” about the product's safety amid a number of legal cases.

At the time the firm said it would continue to sell its talc-based baby powder in the UK and the rest of the world.

The company faces lawsuits from consumers and their survivors who claim J&J's talc products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos.

Talc is mined from the earth and is found in seams close to that of asbestos, which is a material known to cause cancer.

A 2018 investigation by the Reuters news agency claimed that J&J knew for decades that asbestos was present in its talc products.

Reuters said that internal company records, trial testimony and other evidence showed that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos.

In response to evidence of asbestos contamination presented in court rooms, media reports and to US lawmakers, the firm has repeatedly denied the allegations.

In October, J&J created a subsidiary, LTL Management, assigning its talc claims to it. It later placed it into bankruptcy, which paused the pending lawsuits.

Before the bankruptcy filing, the company faced costs from $3.5bn (£2.87bn) in verdicts and settlements, including one in which 22 women were awarded a judgement of more than $2bn.


In April, a shareholder proposal calling for an end to global sales of the talc baby powder failed.

Johnson's Baby Powder has been been sold for almost 130 years and became a symbol of the company's family-friendly image.

Baby powder is used for preventing nappy rash and for cosmetic uses, including as a dry shampoo.

By Peter Hoskins

Samsung introduces their new foldable smartphones to maintain a lead in the expanding market


( via — Thur, 11th Aug 2022) London, UK —

Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) unveiled its latest high-end foldable smartphones on Wednesday, keeping prices at the same level as last year's in a bid to cement its leadership in an expanding niche market.

The smartphone maker priced its clamshell Galaxy Z Flip4 at $999.99, and the 5G-enabled top-line Galaxy Z Fold4 with a 7.6-inch main screen to start at $1,799.99 in the United States, the same as the launch prices of last year's models.


“We've successfully transformed this category from a radical project to a mainstream device lineup enjoyed by millions worldwide,” said TM Roh, president and head of mobile experience at Samsung Electronics.

The Galaxy Z Flip4 and Z Fold4, as well as its latest earbuds, Galaxy Buds2 Pro, will be generally available starting Aug. 26 in select places such as the United States, parts of Europe and South Korea.

Counterpoint Research forecast global shipments of foldable smartphones to grow to 16 million units this year, just 1.2% of the 1.36 billion smartphone shipments forecast, but a jump from 9 million foldables shipped last year.

Although the overall smartphone market is seen shrinking this year as consumers spend less, foldable smartphones are likely to fare better, as their quirky form factor, large screens and portability attract interest, analysts said.

Samsung held a 62% market share in foldable smartphones in the first half of 2022, followed by Huawei at 16% and Oppo at 3%. Counterpoint forecast Samsung's share in the second half will be around 80% after the new releases.

Samsung said it is aiming for foldable phone sales to surpass that of its past flagship smartphone, Galaxy Note, in the second half.


“Foldables have helped Samsung differentiate itself… Apple will be Samsung's key competitor in the future and we expect a foldable to be released from Apple in either 2024 or 2025,” said Counterpoint senior analyst Jene Park.

Samsung said the latest models make it easier for phone owners to use popular apps such as Instagram and Microsoft's (MSFT.O) Outlook.

Reporting by Joyce Lee. 


Disney+ increases ad-free prices as it overtakes Netflix in streaming subscriptions


( via – – Thur, 11th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Disney sees total of 221m customers at the end of the June quarter compared to Netflix’s 220.7m

Walt Disney edged past Netflix with a total of 221 million streaming subscribers at the end of the most recent quarter and announced it will launch a Disney+ option with advertising this December.


In the just-ended quarter, Disney+ added 14.4 million Disney+ customers, beating the consensus of 10 million expected by analysts polled by FactSet, as it released Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi and Marvel’s Ms Marvel.

Combined with Hulu and ESPN+, Disney said it had 221.1 million streaming subscribers at the end of the June quarter. Netflix said it had 220.7 million streaming subscribers.

Last month Netflix announced it had lost another 1 million subscribers, the company’s first ever back-to-back quarterly loss of customers. Netflix too is planning an ad-supported streaming option.

The company announced that Disney+ with ads will cost $7.99 a month, the same price the company now charges for the ad-free version. The cost of Disney+ without ads will increase by $3 a month to $10.99 as of 8 December. Prices for Hulu, also owned by Disney, will rise by $1 to $2 a month depending on the plan.

In 2017 Disney staked its future on building a streaming service to rival Netflix as audiences moved to online viewing from traditional cable and broadcast television.

The world’s largest entertainment company reported profits of $1.41bn, as visitors packed its theme parks. Operating income more than doubled at the parks, experiences and products division to $3.6bn.

“We had an excellent quarter, with our world-class creative and business teams powering outstanding performance at our domestic theme parks, big increases in live-sports viewership, and significant subscriber growth at our streaming services,” said Bob Chapek, chief executive officer.


Shares of Disney, which had fallen 28% this year, rose 4% in after-hours trading to $116.85.

Disney‘s streaming effort is still losing money, reporting a loss of $1.1bn for the quarter. That put a drag on the media and entertainment unit, whose profit declined by 32% to nearly $1.4bn.

Reuters contributed to this article

Bitcoin R&D Center Vinteum Launches in Brazil

( via — Thur, 11th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

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Vinteum, a nonprofit Bitcoin research and development center dedicated to supporting Bitcoin developers in Brazil and the wider Latin America region, launched today. Co-founders Lucas Ferreira of Lightning Labs and André Neves of ZEBEDEE will serve as the foundation’s executive director and director of partnerships, respectively.



Vinteum’s mission is to train and fund open-source developers across Brazil and Latin America to work on Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, an area that has become critical in recent years as bitcoin matures beyond hobbyist use cases.

Vinteum’s first cohort of sponsors includes institutional investor John Pfeffer of Pfeffer Capital; Xapo Bank founder and early Bitcoin champion Wences Casares; Sebastian Serrano, CEO and co-founder of Bitcoin blockchain company Ripio; crypto-exchange Okcoin; and the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). The total amount in funds that Vinteum now holds is undisclosed.

In addition to announcing its launch, Vinteum named its first grantee, Bruno Garcia. Garcia is a Bitcoin Core developer and a Brink grant recipient. Garcia will act as Vinteum’s director of education, dedicating himself to educating promising developers while also continuing his technical contributions to Bitcoin, which include reviewing and testing pull requests, extending and improving test coverage, and working on improvements for the peer-to-peer wallet and REST API modules.

Brazil experienced an economic crisis when hyperinflation took hold in the early 1990s. As such, bitcoin supporters in Brazil have taken root – given the cryptocurrency’s sound money principles.



Likewise, across Latin America, countries including Argentina and Venezuela are in the throes of hyperinflation. On top of that, bitcoin is viewed favorably in Argentina, according to survey data from Block. Vinteum will look to take advantage of this to enact meaningful change through a grassroots educational effort.

By George Kaloudis

Felixstowe UK’s biggest container port strike to go ahead after talks break down

( via– Wed, 10th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

The eight-day strike will hit supply chains, the logistics and haulage sectors, as well as international maritime trade, the Unite union says.

An eight-day strike at the UK's biggest container port will go ahead after talks between bosses and unions broke down.


More than 1,900 members of Unite will strike from Sunday 21 August until Monday 29 August, unhappy with the 7% pay rise offered by Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company following a 1.4% increase last year.

A spokesman for the port authority said: “We are disappointed and regret that, despite our best efforts, we have still been unable to reach an agreement with the hourly branch of Unite.

“During talks yesterday the port further improved its position, offering a £500 lump sum in addition to 7%.

“The staff branch of Unite and the Police Federation of Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company have agreed to put a similar offer to their members.

“In contrast, the hourly branch of Unite has again rejected the port's improved position and refused to put it to its members.

“We urge them to consult their members on the latest offer as soon as possible. There will be no winners from a strike which will only result in their members losing money they would otherwise have earned.

“Our focus has been to find a solution that works for our employees and protects the future success of the port. The union has rejected the company's offer to meet again.”

Unite national officer Robert Morton said: “Felixstowe docks is massively profitable. In 2020 alone, it raked in £61m in pre-tax profits and paid dividends of £99m.

“It can afford to put forward a reasonable pay offer to our members but once again has chosen not to.


“That decision was driven by greed not need. Unite's door remains open for further talks but strike action will go ahead unless the company tables an offer that our members can accept.”

Almost half of the UK's container traffic comes through Felixstowe and Unite said the action would hit supply chains, the logistics and haulage sectors, as well as international maritime trade.

It is the latest round of industrial action by workers pushing for pay to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Domino’s Pizza fast food giant close last store in Italy

( via – – Wed, 10th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Domino's Pizza's last stores in Italy have been closed after the firm that operated its outlets in the country filed for bankruptcy, reports say.

Franchise holder ePizza SpA was hit by the pandemic, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the story.

Domino's had struggled to win over customers in the birthplace of pizza since launching there in 2015.


News of the fast food giant's exit from the country was celebrated by some social media users.

EPizza SpA first filed for bankruptcy in early April after it was impacted by coronavirus restrictions.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent and prolonged restrictions from a financial point of view have seriously damaged ePizza,” the company said.

The company also said it faced increasing competition as traditional restaurants started using delivery apps.

As part of the bankruptcy process the firm was granted protection from its creditors for 90 days. However, that protection came to an end last month.

The Italian firm had already been scaling back the business from its peak in 2020, while deliveries stopped from the end of July.

As of 2020, the company directly managed 23 outlets in Italy and another six stores were run through sub-franchising, according to the bankruptcy documents.

In comparison, the UK and Ireland has more than 1,200 stores, making it the biggest Domino's market in Europe.

The world's largest pizza chain has more than 18,300 stores in over 90 international markets globally, most of which are run as franchisees.

When it entered Italy seven years ago Domino's aimed to stand out from the country's traditional pizza makers with a comprehensive home delivery service and a distinctive menu including US-style toppings like pineapple.

However, it faced increasingly stiff competition during the pandemic as local restaurants signed up to food delivery platforms like Deliveroo and Just Eat.

News that Domino's was leaving the home of pizza was cheered by some social media users.


“I've always wondered how Domino's could survive in New Jersey, let alone Italy,” journalist Dave Jamieson tweeted.

Another Twitter user, Alicia Smith, remarked that opening Domino's in Italy is like trying to sell snow in the North Pole.

Domino's Pizza and ePizza SpA did not immediately respond to BBC requests for comment.

By Peter Hoskins

Google search engine goes down after software update

( via – – Tue, 9th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Users reported the search engine was down and problems with Gmail, Google maps and Google images

Google has apologised for a software update issue that caused a major international outage on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the company said the team had “worked quickly” to address the fault and services were back running as normal.


“We’re aware of a software update issue that occurred late this afternoon Pacific Time and briefly affected availability of Google search and Maps,” they said.

“We apologise for the inconvenience. We worked to quickly address the issue and our services are now back online.”

The outage was quickly reported by technology platforms.

The realtime online platform Downdetector reported users had registered problems with Google explorer, the world’s dominant search engine from 2.12am BST (9.12pm EST, 11.12AM AEST.

As of 11.38AM, there had been 4,113 confirmed reports of Google outages.

Users said sister platforms Gmail, Google maps and Google images were also experiencing problems. Both rely on Google’s search engine to operate.

Network intelligence company ThousandEyes Inc reported Google outages were affecting at least 1,338 servers globally across more than 40 countries including the United States, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Israel, parts of South America, Europe and Asia including China and Japan.

The first outage reported on ThousandEyes lasted approximately 34 minutes before a second blip hit at around 12pm. It affected a smaller amount of servers and took around seven minutes to resolve.

Users attempting to use the search engine were met with a 502 or 500 error.

“The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request,” one error page read.


“Please try again in 30 seconds.”

Users took to Twitter to express their confusion, reverting to alternate search engines including Bing and DuckDuckGo to surf the web.

Google doesn’t release exact traffic numbers however it is the most visited website on the net, receiving more than 80 billion visits per month.

By Caitlin Cassidy

PwC fined $2 million for BT audit in Italy after fraud discovery

( via — Tue, 9th Aug 2022) London, UK —

Britain's accounting watchdog said on Monday it had fined auditor PwC 1.75 million pounds ($2.12 million) after it failed to properly challenge UK telecoms group BT (BT.L) once a half-a-billion pound fraud was discovered in BT's Italian operations.

BT's full-year financial statement for the year ended March 31, 2017, had to be adjusted by 513 million pounds due to the fraud, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said.


“The sanctions imposed in this case, where certain elements of the adjustments following a fraud were not subject to the required level of professional scepticism, underscore this message and will serve as a timely reminder to the profession,” Claudia Mortimore, deputy executive counsel at the FRC, said in a statement.

PwC said it was sorry that aspects of its audit of BT Group for the year ended March 31, 2017, were not of the required standard, adding the FRC had not found the accounts were misstated or that the sum of the BT Italy adjustments was wrong.

“We have made significant investment in strengthening audit quality in recent years, which has been recognised in improved quality inspection results,” PwC said.


The fine would have been 2.5 million pounds had PwC not admitted to the breaches and settled early.

Richard Hughes, the partner who led the BT audit, was fined 42,000 pounds, avoiding a 60,000 pound fine after admitting to the breach, the FRC said.

PwC and Hughes also failed to have a sufficient trail of documents that would allow any experienced auditor to understand the nature, timing and extent of the audit procedures performed, the FRC said.

Reporting by Huw Jones 

Business rates relief fund of £1.5bn payed out by only 50% of councils in England

( via– Mon, 8th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Businesses outside the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors were not allowed to appeal their payments for business rates and were promised fund from a £1.5bn support package instead – but many councils have not started making payments under the scheme.

Just over half of councils in England have started making payments to COVID-hit businesses from a £1.5bn support package – almost 18 months after it was launched.


Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors were given a business rates holiday due to the pandemic, but those outside these sectors were told they could not appeal their payments for business rates.

In March last year, instead, a £1.5bn business rates relief fund was announced to help them, with local councils given the responsibility of allocating the money.

A Freedom of Information request by property consultancy Gerald Eve was sent to 309 councils, with 207 responding.

It found that slightly over half – 119 councils – said they had started making payments to businesses under the scheme.

Those councils account for £632m of the £1.5bn package, but they have collectively paid out just £329m.

Gerald Eve said that if this trend was extrapolated across England's remaining councils, a maximum of £820m from the total £1.5bn available would have been paid out.

Jerry Schurder, business rates policy lead at Gerald Eve, said: “This fund was supposed to help businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, but which were denied other business rates support.

“The government claimed Carf (the COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund) was the fastest and fairest way of getting support to businesses that need it the most, but the past 17 months has shown this to be complete hyperbole.

“In fact, the opposite is true.

“Sadly, it's a case of too little, too late for the hundreds of thousands of firms that were retrospectively denied their rights to appeal their rates bills but have yet to receive a penny from the local authorities.”


A government spokesperson said: “The government has provided an unprecedented package of support for businesses, including a total of £26bn in grants to those affected by restrictions put in place to tackle COVID-19.

“Councils are responsible for allocating funding and targeting it to businesses, based on local circumstances.”


Tata Motors Indian automaker to buy Ford car plant in Gujarat for $91.5m

( via – – Mon, 8th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Indian automaker Tata Motors has agreed to buy a Ford manufacturing plant in the western state of Gujarat for 7.26bn rupees ($91.5m).

The deal comes as Tata moves to boost its car production to meet demand.

The deal between Tata's electric vehicle subsidiary and the US car maker's Indian unit covers land, machinery and all “eligible employees”.

Ford stopped production in India last year after struggling for more than two decades to generate profits there.

“With our manufacturing capacity nearing saturation, this acquisition is timely and a win-win for all stakeholders,” Tata Motors said in a statement.

The parent company of the UK's Jaguar Land Rover added that annual production at the Sanand plant will initially give it new capacity of 300,000 vehicles a year, which could be increased to 420,000.


In September last year, Ford said it would close its Indian car factories as part of a move that would cost it around $2bn.

At the time, the US car maker said that about 4,000 workers would be affected by the decision.

Ford's operations in India had seen losses of $2bn in the previous ten year.

The major scaling back in its Indian operations was in stark contrast with the company's previous ambition to make the country one of its biggest markets.

Foreign auto makers have found it difficult to succeed in India. Ford's exit is just the latest in a series of departures.

Companies like General Motors, Volkswagen-owned MAN Trucks and even iconic motorbike maker Harley Davidson have been among the firms that have stopped manufacturing in India in recent years.

Earlier this year, Japanese motor industry giant Nissan decided to pull its small car brand Datsun out of the country because of poor sales.

While GM and Harley Davidson have said these decisions were part of their global strategic shift from certain markets, analysts also point to lacklustre revenues and lack of economies of scale in India.

India is still seen as a car market with great potential but sales have plunged to a decade low due to a slowdown in economic growth, weak labour markets, higher fuel prices and pandemic-related disruptions.

The country's passenger vehicle market has stagnated for the last half a decade at around 3 million units a year.

In China, on the other hand, more than 20 million cars are bought annually.

Analysis by Nikhil Inamdar, India Business Correspondent

But some Indian car makers have seen demand rise. One of Tata's rivals Mahindra and Mahindra said on Friday that demand for its vehicles was outstripping production as people rushed to buy its popular sport-utility vehicles.

That helped boost its quarterly profits as sales of its passenger vehicles soared to by 74% from a year earlier.

“We have kicked off capacity expansion programmes but had not anticipated this kind of demand,” Mahindra and Mahindra's executive director, Rajesh Jejurikar said.


Tata Motors is the vehicle making division of Indian multinational conglomerate Tata Group.

In the UK, Tata Motors bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008 and merged the British luxury car brands into one company.

Tata Group owns a range of major businesses around the world including Tata Steel Europe, which includes former British Steel assets in the UK.

By Peter Hoskins

The Toxic Reality of Skin Bleaching

Source: Refinery29

Lexy Lebsack travels to the Philippines to uncover the toxic reality of skin bleaching. This cultural trend is practiced world wide even with deadly side effects. This series swivels between the unexpected and uplifting, dives deep into the dark underbelly of beauty, gives a voice to those trampled by this quickly growing industry, and questions what it’s all worth.

BoE governor defends decision to raise interest rates, ahead of looming recession

The governor of the Bank of England has defended its decision to raise interest rates, saying there is a “real risk” of soaring prices becoming “embedded”.

Interest rates rose to 1.75% – the biggest rise in 27 years – with inflation now set to hit more than 13%.

The UK is forecast to fall into recession this year, with the longest downturn since 2008 predicted.


Increasing interest rates is one way to try and control inflation as it raises borrowing costs.

This should encourage people to borrow and spend less. It can also encourage people to save more.

However, many households will be squeezed further following the interest rate rise, including some mortgage-holders.

The Bank's governor, Andrew Bailey, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “The real risk we're responding to is that inflation becomes embedded and it doesn't come down in the way that we would otherwise expect.”

“We've had a domestic shock, we've had a shrinkage in the labour force over the last two years or so,” he said.

“The first thing that businesses want to talk to me about is the problems they're having hiring people… They're also saying to us, actually they're not finding it difficult to raise prices at the moment. Now we think that can't go on.”

However, Attorney General Suella Braverman said interest rates “should have been raised a long time ago”.

In response Mr Bailey said “If you go back two years…given the situation we were facing at that point in the context of Covid, in the context of the labour market, the idea that at that point we would have tightened monetary policy, you know I don't remember there were many people saying that.”

UK inflation – the rate at which prices rise – is currently at 9.4% which the highest level for more than 40 years.

But the Bank has warned it could peak at more than 13% and stay at “very elevated levels” throughout much of next year, before eventually returning to the Bank's 2% target the following year.

The main reason for high inflation and low growth is soaring energy bills, driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Households have also been hit by higher petrol, diesel and food costs.

The economy is forecast to shrink in the final three months of this year and keep shrinking until the end of 2023.

The expected recession would be the longest downturn since 2008, when the UK banking system faced collapse, bringing lending to a halt.

The slump is not set to be as deep as 14 years ago but may last just as long.

Paul Johnson, director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the economic situation would mean there would have to be “many more billions to support households” and more money for public services.

He told the BBC that the Tory leadership candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, should be focused on tackling inflation rather than tax cuts.

Mr Johnson rejected the idea that tax cuts could be funded in part by “fiscal headroom”.

“What [the leadership candidates are] talking about is that the Office for Budget Responsibility [in March] said we'd be borrowing about £30bn less than we absolutely could to meet the fiscal target of a balanced current budget in a few years' time,” he said.

But he added that this was “highly uncertain” and now “massively out of date”, given the economy was heading for recession.

Labour's Johnathan Ashworth said the cost of living support measures announced by the government so far was “clearly not enough”.

“There will be families and pensioners across the country waking up this morning, reading the news, who are absolutely terrified because a juggernaut is heading [their] way which will smash through family finances,” the shadow work and pensions secretary told the BBC.

He said a Labour government would reduce VAT on energy bills, abolish the tax relief currently offered to oil and gas companies who invest, and provide support to help people retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient.


Meanwhile, higher interest rates will hit some mortgage holders.

Now rates have gone up to 1.75%, homeowners on a typical tracker mortgage will have to pay about £52 more a month. Those on standard variable rate mortgages will see a £59 increase.

It means tracker mortgage holders could be paying about £167 more a month compared with pre-December 2021, with variable mortgage holders paying up to £132 more. Interest rates have risen six times in a row since the end of last year.

Higher interest rates also mean higher charges on things like credit cards, bank loans and car loans.

By Becky Morton

Azets’ Accountancy firm eye £1.5bn sales valuation ahead of auction next year

( via– Fri, 5th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

The owner of one of Britain's fastest-growing accountancy firms is drawing up plans for a sale that could value it at close to £1.5bn.

Sky News has learnt that Hg, the private equity firm, has hired investment bankers at JP Morgan to oversee an auction of Azets.

City sources said on Thursday that a sale was likely to put a price tag on Azets – which was previously called Cogital – of between £1bn and £1.5bn.


Azets claims to be the largest provider of business-critical services such as accounting work, payroll and tax to small and medium-sized businesses in northern Europe.

In total, it boasts more than 100,000 SME customers.

The company trades under a number of brands, including Blick Rothenberg, which formed part of a 2016 merger that saw Hg become a shareholder in the business.

Since then, it has made a string of acquisitions to bolster its presence in several countries.

Cogital was jointly founded by John Connolly, the former Deloitte UK chief executive and one of the most prominent figures in Britain's professional services sector.

Mr Connolly, a former chairman of the security services provider G4S, subsequently left the business.

In 2019, Hg held talks about the sale of a sizeable stake in Cogital to several other private equity firms, including Permira and BC Partners, but a transaction was never completed.

The group's rebranding under the Azets name took place the following year.

It recently announced a strategic partnership with Xero, an accounting software provider.


A sale process for Azets is unlikely to commence until next year, according to insiders.

When it does, it will take place against a backdrop of accelerating structural change in the accountancy world, with EY proposing a global separation of its audit and consulting businesses.

A spokesman for Hg declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Phoenix life insurer purchase Sun Life of Canada’s UK unit in £248 deal

( via — Thur, 4th Aug 2022) London, UK —

Phoenix (PHNX.L) has bought closed life insurer Sun Life of Canada's UK unit for 248 million pounds ($301 million) in cash, it said on Thursday and its chief executive said the insurer had more than one billion pounds to spend on similar deals.

Phoenix specialises in buying and operating books of life insurance businesses which are closed to new customers.


Closed life insurance specialists like Britain's Phoenix say they can use economies of scale to run such books more cheaply.

“We have over a billion pounds of remaining firepower as of the year-end,” CEO Andy Briggs told Reuters by phone.

“We would still be interested in larger-scale M&A, but alongside that we think there's the potential for a series of these smaller cash-funded deals.”

Sun Life manages around 10 billion pounds of closed life policies in a market totalling around 480 billion, Phoenix said.

The deal enables Phoenix to offer a 2.5% dividend increase, payable from its 2022 final dividend.

The purchase is expected to deliver around 470 million pounds of long-term cash generation, and Phoenix said it was targeting 125 million pounds of cost savings from the deal.

Phoenix shares were up 1.9% at 665 pence at 0712 GMT, one of the top performers in the FTSE 100 (.FTSE). KBW analysts called the deal “strategically sensible”, reiterating their “outperform” rating on the stock.


As part of the deal, Sun Life will form a long-term partnership to become a strategic asset management partner to Phoenix, the Canada-based insurer said in a separate statement.

BoA Securities advised Phoenix and Fenchurch Advisory Partners advised Sun Life UK.

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn


Dyson fined £1.2m after 1.5-tonne machine falls on factory worker

( via – – Thur, 4th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Wiltshire employee’s head and chest were injured in 2019, in incident that HSE said ‘could have been fatal’

The technology company Dyson has been fined more than £1m after one of its employees was injured when a giant milling machine fell on top of him.


Dyson was ordered to pay £1.2m at Swindon magistrates court for failing to properly train its staff in handling the kit. The firm pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws.

The man was injured when the 1.5-tonne piece of equipment fell on top of him while he was at work in August 2019 at the company’s factory in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

He was moving a computer-assisted milling machine with the help of a colleague when the incident happened.

They lifted it up with a five-tonne jack, and were replacing some wheels with wooden blocks when it fell.

The Health and Safety Executive said that it struck the man, injuring his head and chest.

Its investigators found that Dyson had not provided “suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training” to its staff. It had also not put systems in place to ensure that the machine was moved safely.

The man escaped being crushed only because the machine landed on two toolboxes and the handle of another machine.

“This incident could have been fatal,” said James Hole, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector. “Those in control of work have a duty to assess the risks, devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workforce.

“Had a suitable safe system of work been in place, this incident and the related injuries could have been prevented.”

Dyson said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of Dyson’s people is our number one priority. Prior to this case, Dyson has had no convictions or enforcement history related to health and safety at work.

“We are thankful that the employee was not more seriously hurt and has been able to return to work at Dyson.


“As an engineering company, we use complex and often heavy equipment and take care to do so safely. We deeply regret that this happened and we accept the court’s decision today.

“We were pleased that in its judgment the court noted our ‘excellent safety record’, our ‘prompt response to this incident and full cooperation at the highest level within the company’ and said that Dyson is an ‘exemplary corporate citizen’.”

By PA Media

MicroStrategy Shares Surge as Michael Saylor Puts Full Focus on Bitcoin

( via — Thur, 4th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

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Company operations will now be led by Phong Le, while Saylor will become executive chairman with sole focus on Bitcoin strategy.

MicroStrategy (MSTR) stock is up nearly 15% on Wednesday, helped by a modest rally in bitcoin (BTC) and news late Tuesday that Michael Saylor is stepping down as CEO to become executive chairman. The software company's president, Phong Le, will become CEO.

The management changes will allow for the company's enterprise business to have the full focus of the CEO, with Saylor devoting his energies to strategies for corporate bitcoin (BTC) adoption.

“In my next job, I intend to focus more on bitcoin,” Saylor tweeted early Wednesday in a tongue-and-cheek response to those who think the moves might mean he has become less bullish on the crypto.


Meanwhile, Le said investors shouldn’t expect any surprises in strategy. On the company’s earnings call late Tuesday, Le said he has been aligned with Saylor on the enterprise and bitcoin strategy throughout their time together. The changes, he said, will free up time for him to run the company. “I would sort of see this as a business-as-usual transition,” Le told analysts.

“We think this transition was underway for quite some time with Mr. Le's appointment as president two years ago,” Joe Vafi, an equity research analyst with Canaccord Genuity, told clients in a note Wednesday. “Overall, we don't expect any material change in the strategic direction of the company.”

Vafi rates MicroStrategy a buy, although he did trim his price target to $372 from $453 (current stock price is $317). MicroStrategy stock, said Vafi, is the “most streamlined play” for equity investors to gain bitcoin exposure in the public markets.

Of last quarter's $917.8 million impairment charge on bitcoin holdings during the second quarter, it's “essentially meaningless,” said BTIG analyst Mark Palmer, noting it has no impact on the company’s inherent value. “That value can be easily ascertained as it stems from just two sources,” said Palmer, “the market value of MSTR’s bitcoin holdings and the value of its enterprise analytics software unit.” Palmer reiterated his buy rating and $950 price target.

Still, the impairment could have had some impact on Saylor's role change, according to some crypto industry participants. “There was no doubt that there was going to be external pressure from stakeholders to see some sort of response from the company,” said Tanim Rasul, chief operating officer of crypto trading platform NDAX.


Rasul said Saylor was a key proponent in advocating for corporate bitcoin adoption, although impairment losses may have spooked other publicly traded companies, especially considering the uncertainties across the global economy and markets.

“Michael Saylor’s response was to push himself into an executive chairman role so that a new CEO could focus more on core operations for MicroStrategy,” Rasul said, contrasting Elon Musk and his company, Tesla (TSLA), which opted to sell a good chunk of its bitcoin holdings.

By Michael Bellusci

As cryptocurrency falls, Robinhood fires over a quarter of its employees

( via – – Wed, 3rd Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Trading platform Robinhood is cutting nearly a quarter of its staff due to high inflation and the falling cryptocurrency market.

The company said the economic climate had reduced trading activity, which had boomed at the height of the pandemic.

The move comes after the firm reported quarterly revenues of $318m (£260m), 44% down on $565m a year earlier.

In April, the firm slashed 9% of its workforce, which its boss Vlad Tenev said “did not go far enough”.


“Last year, we staffed many of our operations functions under the assumption that the heightened retail engagement we had been seeing with the stock and crypto markets in the Covid era would persist into 2022,” said Mr Tenev.

“In this new environment, we are operating with more staffing than appropriate. As CEO, I approved and took responsibility for our ambitious staffing trajectory – this is on me.”

The latest cuts will affect 780 members of staff, and come in addition to the cuts announced earlier this year.

Mr Tenev said all staff would receive “an email and a Slack message with your status – with resources and support if you are leaving”.

He added workers, called “Robinhoodies” in the California-based company, would be able to stay in position until 1 October, be offered a severance package and given help in searching for another job.

“We know that this news is tough for all Robinhoodies, and we are also offering wellness support to those who would like it,” he said.

Robinhood's commission-free trading proved hugely popular with amateur traders during the Covid lockdowns, which saw the number of account holders double.

But its customer base has been spooked by the cost of living rising and higher interest rates, which have hit global markets and sent cryptocurrencies slumping.

Its monthly active users also appeared to fall by roughly a third, at 14 million for June 2022 compared with 21.3 million in the second quarter of 2021, Reuters reported.

The online brokerage's mission is to “democratise finance for all”, but it hit the headlines in January 2021 for restricting the buying of shares in the US games firm GameStop, which caused outrage among Americans buying the company's stock with the aim of pushing up the price.

Mr Tenev apologised to customers at a US congressional hearing in which lawmakers said the move had raised questions about fairness in financial markets.


The platform has also faced criticism for exposing amateurs to risky products such as meme stocks – shares which become popular via social media – and cryptocurrencies.

The company said in its drive for “greater cost discipline” it would restructure the organisation by having general managers taking up “broad responsibility” for its individual businesses.

Mr Tenev said the change would “flatten hierarchies” and “remove redundant roles and positions”.

By Michael Race

Taylor Wimpey, homebuilder, provides employees with a £1,000 cost-of-living bonus.

( via– Wed, 3rd Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Rival housebuilder Barratt, Lloyds, Rolls-Royce, and HSBC are also among the big companies to have given workers bonuses to help them handle rising living costs.

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey will give most of its employees £1,000 on top of their salaries to help them cope with rising fuel costs this winter.

The payments will be given to workers on salaries of up to £70,000, meaning that about 90% of the workforce is eligible.


Money will be paid in monthly instalments from September to February.

It comes as UK households grapple with 9.4% inflation, rising food and energy costs, high fuel costs, and an increase in national insurance and council tax.

Taylor Wimpey said: “We have been closely monitoring the impact of rising inflation and the predicted increase in fuel bills this winter on the cost of living for our employees.”

The group said it has been reviewing wages to “ensure competitive levels of pay, alongside our excellent benefits package”.

It comes after rival Barratt announced a £1,000 cost-of-living bonus for 6,000 staff below senior management level, following a 5% pay rise from July to 1 April.

Lloyds, Rolls-Royce, and HSBC are also among the big companies to have given workers bonuses to help them cope with the rising cost of living.

Nationwide: House prices continue to rise – up for the 12th month in a row
Inflation at 40-year high of 9.4% as cost of living crisis mounts

Also on Wednesday, Taylor Wimpey announced a 16.3% rise in pre-tax profits to £334.5m for the six months to the end of June.


Like many businesses, the firm's costs have increased due to the higher cost of materials, but it said this was fully offset by house price growth.

It expects property prices to increase 4% to 5% year-on-year.

Nationwide Building Society data on Tuesday showed that annual UK house price growth was up slightly in July to 11%, compared with 10.7% in June, although it is expected to slow in the months ahead.