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(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 7 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
The banking arm of Britain's biggest retailer Tesco was scrambling on Monday to deal with an online attack over the weekend on 40,000 customers' accounts, 20,000 of which had money removed.
The hack is the first on a British bank known to have resulted in customers losing money, adding to growing concerns about the British financial sector's vulnerabilities to cyber attacks, which have jumped in frequency over the past two years.
Tesco Bank, which manages 136,000 current accounts, stopped all online transactions while it worked to resume normal service, although customers could still use their bank cards in shops and to withdraw money from cash machines.
“Any financial loss that results from this fraudulent activity will be borne by the bank,” Tesco Bank Chief Executive Benny Higgins told BBC radio. “Customers are not at financial risk.”
“We think it would be relatively small amounts that have come out but we're still working on that,” he said, adding that he expected the cost of refunding customers would be “a big number but not a huge number”.
Shares in supermarket chain Tesco, which wholly owns Tesco Bank, were down 1.2 percent at 200.20 pence by 1030 GMT.
The bank is a minnow in Britain's retail banking market, with about 2 percent of current accounts, and represents only a small part of Tesco's overall business.
It contributed 503 million pounds ($623.4 million) to the group’s revenue of 24.4 billion pounds in the first half of its 2016-17 financial year.
But while the financial hit to the group may be limited, Tesco Bank risks serious reputational damage from an attack that affected 29 percent of its customer current accounts.
Other British banks have been targeted by cyber attacks in recent years, but the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which regulates the sector said it was not aware of any previous incident in which customers had lost money.
Reported attacks on financial institutions in Britain have risen from just five in 2014 to over 75 so far this year, according to FCA data, but bank executives and providers of security systems say there are many more unreported attacks.
HSBC issued a series of apologies to customers earlier this year after its UK personal banking websites were shut down by a “denial of service” attack, but no customer funds were at threat during that breach.
Cliff Moyce, global head of financial services at DataArt, a network of technology consulting and software services firms, said reduced staffing levels over the weekend were likely to have been one of the reasons for the impact of the hack.
“The clever part was doing it over the weekend when banks are typically understaffed, and will respond more slowly,” he said in a comment emailed to media.
“Automated fraud detection systems appear to have worked well, but a lack of people at desks will not have helped.”
Other well-known British brands hit by significant cyber attacks over the past year include telecoms firms TalkTalk [TALK.L] and Vodafone [VOD.L], business software provider Sage [SGE.L] and electronic goods retailer Dixons
By Estelle Shirbon | LONDON
(Additional reporting by Michael Holden, James Davey and Huw Jones; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
British Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a delegation of small and medium-size businesses to India in November as part of efforts to bolster trade with countries outside the European Union as Britain prepares to leave the bloc.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Sun, 6 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
In 2013, the architecture firm HOK was approached by a representative of the Greenland Group, China’s third-largest developer. “They said they were investing in London and that they’d made an offer on a parcel,” said HOK Senior Vice President Larry Malcic, who sat, on a recent afternoon, holding a cup of tea in his firm’s London office. “They’d done their homework.”
The land in question was a run-down warehouse adjacent to Canary Wharf, an area in the far eastern end of the city that grew popular in recent decades for its proximity to London’s financial center. Nothing in the area, however, would match what the Greenland Group hoped to build: an £800 million ($996.9 million), 67-story tower, which, when completed, would be the tallest residential tower in Western Europe. “From the beginning, they saw it as a fundamentally residential tower,” Malcic said. “And they wanted to get value out of the site, so we’ve gone as tall as you can go.” (That’s a literal statement: Any higher and the tower would violate London City Airport’s flight path.)
The building, which is named the Spire, is designed as a three-petal, undulating tower. Its position on a bend of the Thames provides unparalleled views of London in all directions, and its amenities, including a 35th-story lounge with an infinity pool, an entire floor devoted to recreation rooms, and even an outdoor covered track, would place it at the (literal) top of London’s booming luxury real estate.
And then, just as the building broke ground, the U.K. voted to leave the European Union and London’s real estate market, which had already been showing signs of weakness, began to crumble.
The Greenland Group vowed to forge ahead with the building. “The UK’s vote to exit the European Union (“Brexit”) cannot be said to have had no effect on the property market in London, and we are aware that there could be some turbulence in the future,” wrote Wenhao Qian, managing director of Greenland Investment Ltd., in an e-mail. “Developments of note, as well as iconic buildings, are continuing to do well. We feel that the advantages of London—its global cachet, cosmopolitanism and being a centre of world trade—bode well for a positive future for both the property market and the wider economy.”
The question, in turn, is whether Greenland's commitment represents canny long-term planning or something closer to stoicism in the face of adversity.
Hurdles and Payoffs
First, said Faisal Durrani, head of research at the broker, Cluttons, it’s important to consider the overall London housing market, Brexit or no: “We’re probably building less than half the supply of housing that the city needs on an annual basis,” he said. “We’re constructing about 40,000 to 50,000 new units a year, when we really need about 120,000.” In a vacuum, then, the Spire is adding a much needed supply of apartments (861 in total) in the face of cacophonous demand.
But that demand comes with a caveat. “Most domestic [U.K.] demand tends to seek out what we call ‘period property,’ or anything that isn’t new construction,” Durrani said. “So despite a building being brand-new and modern and packed with all sorts of amenities, it’s not a kind of place domestic buyers will aspire to live in.”
Happily for Greenland though, roughly half of all central London buyers are currently international, and many of those buyers “are coming from new-build cities,” Durrani said. “So new buildings appeal to them— they’re used to it.” More good news for the Greenland Group: A recent Cluttons survey of 127 UAE-based high-net-worth individuals listed Canary Wharf as the top neighborhood for residential investment, which Durrani said could be the result of a massive influx of investment into the neighborhood from sovereign wealth funds. Investors “have seen their government has identified a safe space, and they’re going along with it,” he explained.
Still, the recent volatility in the U.K. housing market has caused some international investors to sell (at least, attempt to sell) their London properties. “What's happened, with values softening over most of the city, is that we've seen some international buyers trying to offload their stock,” Durrani said. “There's very little domestic interest in purchasing it because it's perceived to be overpriced.” And, Durrani added, “it often is overpriced.” If economic volatility—not to mention Britain's exit from the E.U.—continues, that could eventually further dampen international interest.
The final factor that could affect the Spire's success? Time. As the U.K.’s domestic buying base grows (and ages), there’s a good chance that they’ll come around to this new, glassy construction. “The cookie-cutter mentality hasn’t arrived yet for domestic buyers, but over time I think that’s likely to change,” Durrani said. “Purely because there aren’t enough homes to go around. It’s as simple as that.”
Planning For the Future
In the short term, the Spire can hope to attract international buyers confident in London's future as a financial center, or at least in its position as a city more stable than those in their home country. In a mid- to long-range outlook, demographic indicators imply that its buyers could come from within the U.K.
Malcic, the architect at HOK, said the building was designed with just this sort of change in mind. “We’re looking to appeal to a whole range of people,” he said. “I think it will be equally appealing to people in the home counties whose children have grown up, who don’t want to spend time cutting the grass anymore.”
Malcic said that HOK accounted for this uncertain future with malleable tech configurations (“What people need is not built-in tech anymore,” he said, “what they need is the flexibility to put in whatever technology is coming”), extra-high ceilings (“which gives a graciousness, but also a degree of flexibility,”) and such amenities as refrigerated storage lockers to stash grocery deliveries. “In the old days, you measured success by how much square feet you had,” he said. “Now it’s how much convenience you have.”
Construction is set to begin in early 2017, with a completion date of 2020. And while the Brexit uncertainty and U.S. elections roiling world markets make it impossible to make even a reasonably cautious prediction about the future, Durrani, the analyst, said that smart investors shouldn't try. “It’s harder than ever to time a building launch with property market cycles,” he said. “Most investors in this market are in it for the long term, and the long-term picture is a lot rosier than the next three to six months.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Sat, 5 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
More than 4.2 million people now regularly work from home – but some are working far harder than others.
Most home-workers start later, finish earlier and admit to becoming easily distracted by their guilty pleasure afternoon TV show or playing with the cat.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the favourite days for people to ditch the office commute for the kitchen table.
But, while half say they are confident of getting more done at home, the other half admit that slouching around in tracksuit bottoms and a sweatshirt hits productivity.
Research from TalkTalk shows the average the working-from-home day begins at 9.28am but people clock off shortly after 4pm – a meagre 6hr 14min of work, the equivalent of 80% of the typical work day.
Workers admit that the remaining time is spent doing chores, browsing the internet, sneakily catching up on favourite box set or TV show, or entertaining our four-legged friends.
Some workers have even managed to squeeze in an afternoon nap, workout at the gym and a spray tan while supposedly working from home.
Clare Evans, productivity expert and author of Time Management for Dummies, says: “Although it may seem that some home workers cut corners, the beauty of flexible working is that it allows us to fit work around the things in your life that matter.
“Everyone works in different ways and if you’re more productive doing your spreadsheets between the bed sheets, that’s fine.
“By creating structure and staying focused, you can get more done in six hours working from home than eight hours with colleagues – a theory being explored by Sweden with the new six-hour working day format.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Sat, 5 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
George Magnus, UBS senior independent economic adviser, discusses the implications of a U.K. court ruling that prevents Prime Minister Theresa May from unilaterally beginning Britain's exit process from the EU. He speaks with Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal and Scarlet Fu on “What'd You Miss?”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 4 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
Struggling British retailer Marks & Spencer is expected to announce plans next week to shut some stores at home and abroad, with analysts forecasting a slump in first-half profit and another fall in clothing sales.
Steve Rowe, a 26-year company veteran, took over as chief executive in April and has the tough task of reviving the 132-year-old British institution that has fallen out of fashion over the last decade.
So far, his priority has been trying to turn around Marks & Spencer's (M&S) underperforming clothing and homewares business.
But on Tuesday he is expected to outline a rationalisation of its international operations and say how the company will make better use of its UK estate of more than 900 stores.
Profit at M&S's overseas business, which contributes about 7 percent to the group total, slumped 40 percent in the 2015-16 fiscal year, mainly due to losses at its own – rather than franchised – stores.
The division comprises 468 stores across 58 international markets, including 194 owned by M&S.
Seeking to cut costs, some of these stores in Western European markets, including France, as well as in China are expected to be ditched by Rowe, according to analysts, as he seeks to return the division to profitable growth by reversing the expansion of his predecessor.
Most don't anticipate radical changes to M&S's UK stores as currently all of them still make some profit. But given the growth of e-commerce, they do expect Rowe to signal a small number of store closures and a desire for a smaller estate over time, as well as plans to correct some badly performing shops through re-locations and new layouts.
Rowe has pledged to revive M&S's clothing by improving ranges and availability, cutting prices and reducing promotions.
However his plan, outlined in May, came with a warning of a short-term dent to sales and profit, and in July the group reported its worst quarterly clothing sales for a decade.
Shares in M&S have fallen 23 percent this year, hammered by the May profit warning and fears a drop in sterling after Britain's vote to leave the European Union will increase sourcing costs.
For the second quarter to Oct. 1, M&S is expected to report a 3.9 percent fall in sales of clothing and homeware at shops open over a year, according to a company compiled consensus of eight analysts' forecasts. That would be an improvement on the first quarter slump of 8.9 percent.
The food business, which contributes over half of group revenue and about a third of profit, is performing better than clothing and outperforming the wider food market. Analysts are on average forecasting flat second-quarter like-for-like sales. They fell 0.9 percent in the previous quarter.
Analysts on average expect a first-half underlying pretax profit of 216 million pounds, down from 284 million pounds a year earlier.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via news.sky.com – – Thu, 3 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Theresa May cannot trigger Brexit without putting it to an MPs' vote in the House of Commons, the High Court has ruled.
In a landmark ruling, Lord Chief Justice Thomas said Mrs May did not have the right to set in motion Article 50, the official start of the two-year EU divorce proceedings, without consulting parliament.
The decision is a significant setback for the Prime Minister's Brexit strategy – she announced at the Conservative Party Conference last month she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
The Government instantly announced it would appeal the decision and the two sides will now prepare for another showdown at the Supreme Court in early December.
Speaking outside the court, businesswoman Gina Miller, who brought the case with hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, welcomed the decision and said it would “bring sobriety” to Brexit proceedings.
In a statement from Mr Dos Santos, who voted to leave the EU, he said: “In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference the Prime Minister attacked me for bringing these proceedings as a claimant. She (Munich: SOQ.MU – news) said that I was trying to subvert democracy. That was an unwarranted and irresponsible attack.
“As is my constitutional right I sought the protection of the court to stop unlawful government action. The court has now given me that protection.”
The ruling saw the pound up more than 1% against the dollar, at $1.24, in the immediate wake of the High Court announcement.
Unless the decision is overturned by the Supreme Court, or on further appeal to the European Court of Justice, then it will be for MPs to decide
when to start the UK's exit from the European Union.
While many may be reluctant to overturn the public's decision, there will be a number in constituencies where people voted Remain who will come under pressure from their voters.
Speaking in the House of Commons moments after the ruling, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “The Government is disappointed by the court's judgment.
“The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by Acts of Parliament. The Government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.
“This judgment raises important and complex matters of law and it's right that we consider it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”
Opposition leaders Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn, who have been calling for Mrs May to lay out her Brexit strategy more clearly, welcomed the ruling.
The Labour leader said: “This ruling underlines the need for the Government to bring its negotiating terms to Parliament without delay.
“Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the European Union. But there must be transparency and accountability to parliament on the terms of Brexit.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “I now fear that every attempt will be made to block or delay the triggering of Article 50. If this is so, they have no idea of the level of public anger they will provoke.”
The case has centred around the wording of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which says member states may leave the EU “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.
However, there is no clearly established “constitutional requirements” leaving both sides free to make their own definitions.
Making his judgment, the Lord Chief Justice said: “The Government does not have power under the Crown's prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 for the UK for the UK to withdraw from the European Union.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Thur, 3 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
British motor insurer Admiral has had to abandon plans to use data taken from Facebook (FB.O) to price insurance premiums for first-time drivers following discussions with the social media firm, an Admiral spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
British newspapers said earlier on Wednesday the insurer would analyze Facebook accounts of new drivers for personality traits which show a cautious nature, such as writing lists and arranging a set time and place to meet friends.
Insurers say examining social media could improve the pricing of policies, but critics say this could erode customers' privacy.
Admiral's firstcarquote app was designed to allow new drivers to share social media data in order to get a discounted quote.
“Following discussions with Facebook, the product is launching with reduced functionality, allowing first time drivers to log-in using Facebook and share some information to secure a faster, simpler and discounted quote,” the spokeswoman said by email.
“Admiral does not have access to customers’ Facebook data and does not hold social media data to set prices for its customers.”
Facebook bans the use of its data on apps to make decisions about “eligibility”, such as how much interest to charge on a loan.
“Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us,” a Facebook spokesman said by email.
“We have made sure anyone using this app is protected by our guidelines and that no Facebook user data is used to assess their eligibility. Facebook accounts will only be used for log-in and verification purposes.”
Steep insurance premiums for young drivers in the UK have encouraged the use of technology to cut prices, such as telematics – black boxes installed in cars to monitor safe driving.
Some UK insurers also monitor public social media data to help them identify fraudulent claims, industry sources say.
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 02 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May was warned by her Irish counterpart that the upcoming Brexit talks may prove “quite vicious” as a panel of judges prepared to rule on whether she alone can begin those negotiations.
“There are those around the European table who take a very poor view” of the fact that the U.K. decided to leave, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a forum in Dublin on Wednesday. The argument will be fought “very toughly,” he said, adding that May could start the process earlier than the end of March.
May reiterated in Parliament in London on Wednesday that she’s seeking the best possible deal for the British economy when it splits with the European Union as she prepares to start the two-year withdrawal process early in 2017.
Whether she can trigger the talks unilaterally without the backing of Parliament is the subject of a legal challenge, which three London judges said they will rule on at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The losing side is likely to begin an appeal to be heard at the Supreme Court in December.
Investors have looked to the lawsuit to delay the process of leaving amid concerns that, by prioritizing immigration controls over safeguards for trade and banking, May favors a “hard Brexit” that will cost her country membership of the tariff-free EU single market.
European governments have united in saying the U.K. can’t stay in the market and crack down on immigration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said again Wednesday that the negotiations must respect the EU’s values, such as free movement of labor.
“Our relations to the U.K. must remain positive and friendly and frictional losses for the economy must be minimized,” Merkel said. “But on the other hand, the 27 member states must stand together and not set standards that would lead to cherry-picking according to whatever they need.”
Her government’s council of economic advisers called Wednesday for “constructive negotiations” to keep Britain in the EU.
“There is still a chance to prevent an exit through constructive negotiations or at least to negotiate a succession agreement which minimizes the damage for both sides,” the council said.
Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said in an interview that his country also wants to keep ties between the EU and Britain as close as possible.
Cyprus, a former British colony, “is keen to participate in the negotiating process to ensure that the relationship between the EU and the U.K. is as strong as possible after Brexit,” Georgiades said in Nicosia.
May could be angling for a rupture with the EU for domestic electoral purposes, academics including Anand Menon, professor of European politics at King’s College London, wrote in a report published Wednesday.
“Theresa May and her political strategists have made a calculation that they can benefit electorally from a hard Brexit,” said Menon. “The government is formulating a combination of seemingly left-wing economic policies — industrial strategy, interventionism and investment — with a right-wing approach to things like migration and social affairs.”
Moody’s Investors Service said it would cut the U.K.’s credit rating if the government failed to secure continued access to the core of the single market.
JD Wetherspoon Plc Chairman Tim Martin, one of Britain’s few pro-Brexit executives, said EU politicians should nevertheless be wary of “bullying” Britain, arguing that could mean his pubs end up selling less French champagne, German beer and other drinks from European producers.
“The ultimate sanction will be in the hands of U.K. consumers, should they take offense at the hectoring and bullying approach,” Martin said.
By contrast, London Stock Exchange Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Xavier Rolet said finance executives are not being alarmist when they threaten to move jobs and operations elsewhere in Europe. He stood by an estimate that Brexit could cost 100,000 jobs in London’s derivatives business.
“That whole engine is at risk,” Rolet said. “These are real numbers, they are not calibrated to create either a conservative approach or an alarmist approach.”
Former Chancellor of Exchequer Alistair Darling also advised May not to favor different industries in the divorce, almost a week after she secured continued investment in the U.K. from Nissan Motor Co.
“You can’t possibly segregate bits of the British economy and say that one matters today, that one can wait for a couple of years” Darling said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Tom Keene.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 02 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
Growth in Britain's construction industry hit a seven-month high in October as housebuilding rose, but slowing order books and soaring prices for building materials darkened the outlook, a survey showed on Wednesday.
The Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index(PMI) rose unexpectedly to 52.6 from 52.3, confounding a Reuters poll forecast for a drop to 51.8. Sterling and government bonds showed little reaction to the figures.
While the survey chimed with signs the economy has maintained momentum since June's Brexit vote, weakening growth in new orders and rocketing costs suggested next year will prove more difficult.
“The downturn in the construction sector continued to ease in October, but it would be premature to conclude that the sector is back on a recovery path,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Survey compiler IHS Markit said respondents held back investment spending because of uncertainty surrounding Britain's exit from the European Union.
Britain's second-biggest housebuilder Persimmon cited this uncertainty on Wednesday as it said it would slow the pace of new land purchases, despite sales rising almost a fifth since the Brexit vote.
The PMI showed business expectations for the year ahead cooled markedly, while prices paid by construction firms for raw materials and goods rose at the second-fastest pace since 2011.
“We expect input prices to rise significantly in 2017 which will put financial pressure on an industry just about managing on squeezed margins and fixed-price contracts,” said Paul Trigg, construction specialist at trade credit provider Euler Hermes.
A Markit/CIPS survey of manufacturers on Monday also showed rocketing input prices, describing the inflationary impact of weaker sterling as increasingly evident.
The fall in sterling is expected to push the Bank of England to raise its inflation forecasts on Thursday to show a bigger overshoot of its price target than at any time since it gained independence in 1997.
The BoE is widely expected to hold off from a fresh interest rate cut on Thursday.
Housebuilding drove the bulk of construction activity, with the commercial and civil engineering sectors broadly stagnant, the PMI showed.
Mortgage lender Nationwide reported unchanged house prices in October after rising in monthly terms in each of the previous 15 months, a new sign of the market cooling after the Brexit vote.
Preliminary official data for the third quarter suggested construction output contracted 1.4 percent, despite stronger-than-expected economic growth of 0.5 percent for the period.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by Catherine Evans and Richard Balmforth)
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
Businesses and homes are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks as people install Internet-connected appliances and companies rely on outdated systems, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned.
Hammond used a speech in London Tuesday to set out the British government’s Cyber-Security Strategy, pledging to “strike back” against malicious activity. It came as the U.K.’s spy chief warned Russia is using the same online tools to target Britain. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said Russia is an increasing threat to the U.K. and is employing cyber attacks to threaten its industry, economy and military capability.
Russia “is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways — involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks,” Parker told the Guardian. “Russia is at work across Europe and in the U.K. today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”
Parker’s claims were dismissed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they had no bearing in reality.
Parker said his interview, the first given by the service’s chief in its 107-year history, reflects the need for the public to understand the interventions required to keep them safe. That point was taken up Hammond, who pledged to boost law-enforcement capabilities and encourage universities to conduct research into security as part of a more “activist” approach.
“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security,” Hammond said in a statement before the speech. “Our new strategy, underpinned by 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”
Britain has identified cyber attacks as a “tier one” national-security risk, alongside terrorism and global instability. To fight the threat, a National Cyber Security Center is due to have a full staff of 700 in its new London headquarters next year. The government is also seeking to push through a bill before Parliament to preserve and extend the powers of security and law-enforcement agencies, allowing them to gain access to communications.
The bill is a proportionate response to the threat to the U.K. and effectively balances privacy and security, Parker told the Guardian.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, UK – –
China Evergrande Group (3333.HK), China's second-largest property developer, is in “early stage” talks to buy Cala Homes, a person familiar with the upmarket British housebuilder told Reuters.
Edinburgh, Scotland-based Cala Homes, which is owned by insurer Legal & General (LGEN.L) and real estate managers Patron Capital, was being advised on the offer by investment bank Lazard, its long-term advisor, the person said.
Sky News, which first reported on the approach, said Evergrande's offer could be worth close to 700 million pounds. (bit.ly/2f8dzLh)
Cala, which builds large, high-end homes across affluent areas of Britain such as around the M25 motorway which circles London, in the Midlands and Scotland, reported revenue of 587.1 million pounds for the year ended June 30, 15 percent higher than a year earlier. Net bank debt stood at 123.9 million pounds at end-June.
In its results statement in October, Cala said it had a contracted land bank with gross development value of 4.7 billion pounds as of end-June and that enquiry levels and reservation rates had risen in the 13 weeks after the EU vote on June 23.
“From time to time we may find ourselves the subject of speculation but from our perspective it is very much business as usual,” a Cala spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Legal & General, Patron Capital and Evergrande declined to comment.
The approach comes as recent mortgage data and statements from housebuilders have indicated that the UK housing market is recovering somewhat from a sharp downturn in activity that followed Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
The Brexit-induced pound slide GBP= has fuelled foreign demand to invest in the sector, especially from Chinese buyers keen to diversify away from a slowing home market.
China Vanke (2202.HK)(000002.SZ) confirmed in September that it had bought a London office property.
For Guangzhou-based Evergrande, one of the most indebted companies in the industry, the purchase of Cala would mean access to the UK housing market as developers benefit from a chronic supply shortage. Britain launched a 5 billion-pound homebuilding stimulus package last month.
Evergrande has been aggressively investing in other companies as it looks to lift some of the pressure of having amassed some $57 billion in debt, almost six times its market value, on land acquisitions and corporate mergers.
(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –
A unit set up to claim unpaid tax from the richest people in Britain raised 416 million pounds ($510 million) in the past financial year but must do more to improve its enforcement activities, the National Audit Office said.
By concentrating on the 6,500 taxpayers with assets of more than 20 million pounds, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs High Net Worth Unit exceeded its 2015-16 target of 250 million pounds, the NAO said in a report published in London on Tuesday. To raise more revenue, it must identify what techniques have worked best since it was set up in 2009, the spending watchdog said.
“The tax affairs of the wealthiest in society are complex, making it harder for HMRC to ensure that they are paying the right amount of tax,” NAO head Amyas Morse said in an e-mailed statement. “While the yields from HMRC’s work in this area have increased, it needs to evaluate what approaches are the most effective.”
Individuals with wealth of more than 20 million pounds contributed 4.3 billion pounds in tax in 2014-15 and formal investigations are being carried out into the liabilities of more than 2,000 of them, the NAO said. An initial estimate suggests 1.9 billion pounds in unpaid tax over a number of years may be due as a result of the probes, of which avoidance schemes account for 1.1 billion pounds.
The definition of “high net worth” has been extended to include people with assets of more than 10 million pounds for the financial year that started in April, extending the reach of the unit, which has a staff of 380, to include a further 1,000 taxpayers, the NAO said.
In a move uncommon elsewhere in the world, the U.K. assigns one of 40 “customer relationship managers” to each wealthy individual and they “are responsible for understanding the risks and behaviors of the people assigned to them,” usually through working with their representatives, the audit office said.
By Thomas Penny