HSBC Profits up 5% in the first half of 2017

Chris Beckett/Flickr

( via – Mon, 31 July 2017 2017) London, Uk – –

HSBC's profits rose 5% in the first half of the year after a turbulent 2016.

The results were better than expected with Europe's largest bank reporting that its pre-tax profit for the first six months to June came in at $10.2bn (£7.8bn), compared with $9.7bn (£7.4bn) for the same period last year.

The bank's operating profits dropped 12% to $16.4bn (£12.5bn), partly down to a sell-off of its Brazil operations.

HSBC also announced a share buyback of up to $2bn, which it said it expected complete by the end of 2017, raising the amount of total stock it has pledged to buy since the second half of 2016 to $5.5bn.

The figures come after the bank warned in February of the challenges posed by Brexit and Donald Trump's presidency in the US as it reported a 62% fall in earnings for 2016.

The London-based global lender has been on a recovery drive during the last two years to streamline the business and reduce costs.

In the midst of a revamp it has laid off tens of thousands of staff and shifted more of its focus towards Asia.

HSBC chairman Douglas Flint struck a positive tone in his response to the half year results, describing them as “extremely pleasing”.

He also attributed the bank's performance to several factors: “Markets-based revenues benefited from market share advances, commercial banking customer activity was robust, wealth management and insurance revenues were notably stronger in Hong Kong, and credit experience globally remained remarkably sound.”

Mr Flint said there were still “uncertainties arising from increasing geopolitical tensions and ambiguous predictions around the shape of transition to, and final form of, the UK's future relationship with its major trading partners in the EU” post-Brexit, but described HSBC's performance as “resilient”.

HSBC confirmed earlier this year that it may have to move 1,000 roles from London to Paris due to Brexit over the next couple of years.

By By Sunita Patel-Carstairs

Watchdog to crack down on bank overdraft fees and car loans


( via – – Mon, 31 July, 2017) London, Uk – –

The Financial Conduct Authority is to crack down on the high cost of overdrafts and review the booming car loan market in the latest attempt by regulators to tackle mounting consumer debt.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said charges imposed on customers falling into unauthorised overdrafts would be overhauled. Research by consumer group Which? has found the cost of borrowing £100 through an unauthorised overdraft for 28 days from some high street banks is as high as £90. This is up to four times higher than the maximum charges allowed on a payday loan.

The FCA found that one in six people with debt on credit cards, personal lending and used to buy cars were in financial distress and that they are more likely to be younger, have children, be unemployed and have lower education than a comparable group of consumers not in financial distress.

In a paper discussing creditworthiness of customers published on Monday, it said: “In the absence of adequate affordability rules, consumers can suffer potentially avoidable financial distress”.

The FCA has already imposed a cap on the rates that payday lenders can charge. After reviewing the impact of this restriction, it has decided to keep it in place. The cap has “delivered substantial benefits to consumers,” the FCA said, finding that 760,000 borrowers are saving a total of £150m per year.

“High-cost credit products remain a key focus for us because of the risks they pose to potentially vulnerable customers. We are pleased to see clear evidence of improvement in the payday lending market after a period when firms’ treatment of customers and their business models were often unacceptable,” said Bailey.

But, he said, there was more to be done. “In particular, the nature and extent of the problems that we have found with unarranged overdrafts mean that maintaining the status quo is not an option. We are now working to resolve these issues while preserving the parts of the market that consumers find useful,” Bailey said.

The FCA’s action comes after the Bank of England told banks it would conduct health checks on their exposure to car loans, credit cards and personal loans after finding that lending in the consumer credit sector was growing at 10.3% a year, far outpacing the 2.3% rise in household income.

The FCA will now review alternatives for unauthorised overdraft charges – a key plank of the way banks structure their current accounts – which was rejected by the Competition and Markets Authority in its review of the sector last year. Lloyds Banking Group, the biggest current account provider in the UK, earlier this month overhauled its charging structure, abandoning all existing charges for overdrafts and replacing them with a single fee of 1p every day for every £7 of overdraft used.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, said the FCA “must act swiftly to crack down on these exorbitant fees and to restrict unarranged overdraft charges to the same level as for arranged overdrafts, as further delay will only cost consumers”.

The FCA took steps to cap payday lending charges in 2015 so that interest and fees on all high-cost short-term credit loans are now capped at 0.8% per day of the amount borrowed. If borrowers do not repay their loans on time, default charges must not exceed £15.

It said on Monday that its regulation of the sector meant that payday lenders are much less likely to lend to customers who cannot afford to repay, and debt charities are seeing far fewer clients with debt problems linked to high-cost short-term credit.

The FCA will now review financing for cars where lending is growing at 15% a year. “The majority of new car finance is now in the form of personal contract purchase, a form of hire purchase. The key feature of a PCP is that the value of the car at the end of the contract is assessed at the start of the agreement and deferred, resulting in lower monthly repayments,” the FCA said.

The regulator is looking at whether firms take the right steps to ensure that they lend responsibly and if the firms are managing the risk that car prices could fall and whether they are taking account for that in their loan terms.

In April the FCA announced measures to help people in persistent credit card debt, including waiving or cancelling interest and charges if customers cannot afford to curb their liabilities through a repayment plan.

By Jill Treanor

New Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square


Originally built in 1922 as the former headquarters of the Port of London Authority, Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square is a luxurious landmark of sophistication reborn in the City's historic heart. The Grade-II* listed building has been carefully restored to create a 100-room hotel along with 41 private residences and a private members club. Within steps of the Tower of London (home to the Crown Jewels), Tower Bridge and the River Thames, this is one of the capitals most remarkable central locations.


The New Phantom will be the first of a new generation of Rolls-Royces to benefit from the creation of the Architecture of Luxury. This new architecture serves as the foundation on which this eighth generation of Phantom reaffirms its position as ‘The Best Car in the World’ by taking the best fundamentals and making them better.

Inspirational Last Words Spoken by Steve Jobs


-Wise and Inspirational Words Of Steve Jobs Before He Died.
-Please listen all the way through and take what wisdom you can from these words.
-Take them in deeply and let them inspire you to live your life to the fullest!

-This video was put together to share with more people these inspirational and wise words of Steve Jobs just before he died so they may benefit from them in any way they can.

BT profits dive over Italian scandal by 40% after £225m payout


Jocelyn Janshen/Flickr

( via – – Fri,28 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Telecoms giant forced to pay Deutsche Telekom and Orange to settle claim relating to the sale of EE

BT’s profits fell more than 40% in the first quarter of its new financial year after it was forced to pay out £225m to two shareholders following the accounting scandal at its Italian operation.

Deutsche Telekom and Orange became shareholders in BT after the company struck a £12.5bn cash and shares deal to buy mobile company EE in 2015.

As part of that deal the two companies were issued a warranty as a protection against a slump in BT’s performance.

BT’s stock market value dropped by almost £8bn in January after the company revealed the full extent of a £530m accounting scandal at its Italian operation. BT’s share price remains more than 20% lower than it was a year ago.

BT said the £225m payout represented a “full and final settlement in respect of these issues”.

The company’s share price fell by more than 4% in early trading on Friday as investors digested the latest bad news to hit the company.

Gavin Patterson, the BT chief executive, said DT and Orange “only very recently” raised the issue of a payment ahead of a deadline to make a claim at the end of the day on Friday.

He said the settlement was better than facing a longer legal process that would have been triggered if an official claim was lodged.

He added that there were still a “small number” of class action suits related to the accounting scandal lodged by investors in the US.

“We think we have a strong case to defend but I can’t comment on those,” he said.

The ongoing fallout of the Italian accounting scandal has resulted in Patterson’s pay for last year being slashed by £4m, and prompted a restructure with the axing of 4,000 jobs, about half in the UK.

The charge hurt BT’s financial performance badly, with pre-tax profits slumping 42% from £717m to £418m in the three months to the end of June.

Stripping out the impact of the one-off £225m payment, BT’s adjusted profits still fell by 2% to £1.78bn in its first quarter.

The company attributed this to increased pension costs, programme rights and investing in bringing all of its call centre operations back to the UK.

In March, BT paid £1.18bn for Champions League football rights, 32% more than the previous deal, to fend off Sky. The rising cost of sports rights has also affected Sky, which on Thursday said a one-off £629m step-up in Premier League rights costs drove a 14% drop in profits at its UK and Ireland operation.

“The days of rampant [rights cost] inflation I think are behind us,” said Patterson. “I think we are getting to a point where rights fees will increasingly be challenged in terms of inflation. We are prepared to walk away if the price is too high.”

Upcoming sports rights auctions include the Football League, which is expected to be a high-stakes bidding war with Sky, and ATP World Tour Tennis.

BT added just 8,000 new TV customers, following an equally anaemic 11,000 in the first quarter of the year – close to a record low.

Patterson said overall BT delivered an “encouraging performance” in its first quarter, with total revenues up 1% to £5.8bn. BT pointed to a healthy 9% increase in broadband and TV revenue, fuelled by price rises, and a 4% rise at EE to £1.3bn.

The company also announced a further restructure that will see its BT Consumer division, home to its TV service and broadband operation, merged with mobile business EE.

As a result the BT Consumer chief executive John Petter, a 13-year BT veteran, is to leave the company. Marc Allera, the chief executive of EE, will take control of the enlarged division.

Patterson indicated that the merger was likely to lead to job cuts beyond what the company announced in May.

By Mark Sweney

Sir Richard Branson sells 31pc stake of Virgin Atlantic airline for £220m

( via – – Fri, 28 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is to receive a major windfall by selling down part of its stake in Virgin Atlantic in a major joint venture deal set to include Air France-KLM and existing investor Delta Air Lines.

Air France-KLM is to buy a 31pc stake in Virgin Atlantic for £220m.

Virgin will hold on to a 20pc stake in the trans-Atlantic airline, and hold onto the chairmanship, as a result of the deal which will see a closer union between the four airlines.

Delta, which bought a 49pc stake in Virgin Atlantic from Singapore Airlines in 2013, will at the same time buy a 10pc stake in Air-France KLM for €375m, gaining a seat on the board of its European counterpart.

Alitalia’s involvement is through its existing partnerships with Air France-KLM and Delta, but the deal will not see the Italian carrier gain any equity interest in the joint venture or have a seat atop the entity.

Shai Weiss, chief commercial officer for Virgin Atlantic, said the deal was not linked to the UK’s impending exit from the EU.

“I can say really definitively this has nothing to do with Brexit,” he said, adding the rationale was entirely commercial. Mr Weiss said the airline did not fly intra-Europe and so the joint venture was not a way to secure such flying rights post-Brexit.

He said the success of its existing joint venture with Delta, which had helped provide so-called feed traffic – passengers who take a short haul flight to a hub airport before travelling on a long haul flight – could now be replicated with passengers from Europe.

If the UK endures a hard Brexit, rules which says airlines have to be majority domestic owned could be enforced. This deal means Virgin Atlantic is only 20pc British owned but Mr Weiss said it would overcome such problems if they transpired. If the Brexit deal is more amicable, the airline's majority European ownership will mean it complies with similar rules on the Continent.

Sir Richard sent a letter to the airline's staff outlining the details of the deal, in which he said he would remain the largest individual investor.

The billionaire entrepreneur said the airline industry had consolidated since he launched Atlantic in 1984, going on to say “it’s now our turn to put ourselves at the heart of an important alliance”.

“With these three partners in place and with me – and one day, the wider Branson family – still very much involved, we have the foundations to make sure this is so,” Sir Richard added.

The deal, set to last for at least 15 years once it gains regulatory approval, will, subject to regulatory approval, see the carriers combine their transatlantic routes.

The joint venture will offer more than 300 daily non-stop transatlantic flights from 12 hubs including from Amsterdam, Atlanta, Heathrow, New York’s JFK and Los Angeles.

Sir Richard said “one of the best moves” his company made was tying up with Delta Air Lines five years ago, partly to compete with the British Airways and American Airlines alliance.

By Bradley Gerrard

Lloyds Banking Group to set aside another £1bn for PPI compensation claims

Elliott Brown/

( via – – Thur, 27 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Lloyds Banking Group has set aside another £1bn to cover charges relating to payment protection insurance (PPI) claims, bringing its half-year profits slightly below analyst expectations.

The charge, which is more than planned following a £700m top-up in the second quarter, meant that Lloyd's pre-tax profits rose just 4pc to £2.5bn in the six months to June, below City expectations of £2.9bn.

Lloyds' total bill for the PPI scandal now stands at just over £18bn, the largest in the banking sector. The extra amount will be used to cover “reactive claims” of around 9,000 per week ahead of the August 2019 deadline for complaints.

On top of the PPI hit the 252-year-bank also confirmed on Thursday that it will repay just under £300m (£283m) back to 590,000 mortgage customers mistakenly charged between 2009 and January 2016.

Shares in the bank slipped on Thursday morning as the market digested the news.

However, despite shelling out for PPI and mortgage arrears, the rise in first-half profits will be seen as another boost to chief executive António Horta-Osório, given this is the lender's first set of results since the bank returned to full private ownership.

The Government's sale of its final stake in the lender in May meant that Lloyds became the first bank to repay its bailout, one of the largest during the financial crisis.

Analyst reactions were mixed on Thursday morning, with Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at Interactive Investor, saying that “investors will be slightly disappointed” by the half-year results as the extra costs weigh on sentiment.

However Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said it was a “sign of Lloyds’ strength that it can shrug off £1.6bn of misconduct charges to post a strong rise in profits”.

“Overall this is a strong set of numbers from Lloyds, blighted, but not overshadowed, by misconduct costs,” he said. “The government has exited the bank and is now no longer selling stock in the market, which removes a significant downward pressure on the share price.”

Mr Horta-Osório said he had “no intention of going anywhere” when asked about his potential departure on Thursday morning.

“Following the successful transformation of the group to become a simple, low risk, UK-focused retail and commercial bank, we have delivered another strong set of results,” he said.

By Lucy Burton


Foxton estate agents profits plunge by 64% as housing market slows

( via – – Thur, 27 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Two of the country's estate agent chains have posted slumping profits in the face of a slowing housing market.

London-focused estate agent Foxtons saw profits plunge 64% in the first six months of this year.

Another estate agent, Countrywide, also saw profits tumble, by 98% in its case. The firm said it would not pay a dividend.

Foxtons' head said demand had slowed in the face of “unprecedented economic and political uncertainty”.

Countrywide said house sales exchanges were down 20%, 24% in London.

Countrywide said the first six months of this year were also tough in comparison with last year, which saw high levels of housing transactions brought forward to beat an increase in stamp duty changes and ahead of the EU referendum.

Its profits were £447,000, down from £24.3m.

Both agents are making deep cost cuts.

Foxtons pre-tax profits fell to £3.8m, down from £10.5m for the same period last year. Revenues fell 15% to £58.5m.

Foxtons said in its statement that there had been further cooling of the market in the second quarter of 2017, with the unexpected general election a factor in slowing activity.

It added that London was more greatly affected than the rest of the country.

Foxtons has been warning since 2014 that rapid price growth and strong demand in London had started to cool.

However, it said that in the longer term, it expected London to remain an attractive property market for sales and lettings.


Uk to ban sales of all diesel and petrol cars from 2040


( via – – Wed, 26 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Plans follow French commitment to take polluting vehicles off the road owing to effect of poor air quality on people’s health

Britain is to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 amid fears that rising levels of nitrogen oxide pose a major risk to public health.

The commitment, which follows a similar pledge in France, is part of the government’s much-anticipated clean air plan, which has been at the heart of a protracted high court legal battle.

The government warned that the move, which will also take in hybrid vehicles, was needed because of the unnecessary and avoidable impact that poor air quality was having on people’s health. Ministers believe it poses the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, costing up to £2.7bn in lost productivity in one recent year.

Ministers have been urged to introduce charges for vehicles to enter a series of “clean air zones” (CAZ). However, the government only wants taxes to be considered as a last resort, fearing a backlash against any move that punishes motorists.

“Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,” a government spokesman said.

“That is why we are providing councils with new funding to accelerate development of local plans, as part of an ambitious £3bn programme to clean up dirty air around our roads.”

The final plan, which was due by the end of July, comes after a draft report that environmental lawyers described as “much weaker than hoped for”.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, will be hoping for a better reception when he publishes the final document on Wednesday following months of legal wrangling.

A briefing on parts of the plan, seen by the Guardian, repeats the heavy focus on the steps that can be taken to help councils improve air quality in specific areas where emissions have breached EU thresholds.

Measures to be urgently brought in by local authorities that have repeatedly breached EU rules include retrofitting buses and other public transport, changing road layouts and altering features such as roundabouts and speed humps.

Reprogramming traffic lights will also be included in local plans, with councils being given £255m to accelerate their efforts. Local emissions hotspots will be required to layout their plans by March 2018 and finalise them by the end of the year. A targeted scrappage scheme is also expected to be included.

Some want the countrywide initiative to follow in the footsteps of London, which is introducing a £10 toxic “T-charge” that will be levied on up to 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting vehicles every weekday.

Sources insisted that while the idea of charges were on the table, there was no plan to force councils to introduce them, and that other measures would be exhausted first.

They hope the centrepiece of Wednesday’s strategywill be the plan to ban diesel and petrol sales completely by 2040, in line with Emmanuel Macron’s efforts across the Channel.

The French president took the steps to help his country meet its targets under the Paris climate accord, in an announcement that came a day after Volvo said it would only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards.

That decision was hailed as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine’s dominance of motor transport after more than a century.

Prof David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston University, said: “The timescale involved here is sufficiently long-term to be taken seriously. If enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars.”

Britain’s air quality package also includes £1bn in ultra-low emissions vehicles including investing nearly £100m in the UK’s charging infrastructure and funding the ”plug-in car” and “plug-in grant” schemes.

There will also be £290m for the national productivity investment fund, which will go towards the retrofitting, and money towards low-emission taxis.

The report will also include an air quality grant for councils, a green bus fund for low carbon vehicles, £1.2bn for cycling and walking and £100m to help air quality on the roads.

The strategy comes amid warnings that the UK’s high level of air pollution could be be responsible for 40,000 premature deaths a year.

A judge had said the government’s original plans on tackling the issue, which included five clean air zones, were so poor as to be unlawful. The government was asked to present a new draft policy to tackle air pollution from diesel traffic before the election.

It was then called to court to explain why it had made a last-minute application to delay publication of its draft policy until after the election.

James Eadie QC, representing the government, said the policy was ready to be published but it would be controversial and should therefore be withheld until after the election.

“If you publish a draft plan, it drops all the issues of controversy into the election … like dropping a controversial bomb,” he said, adding that it could risk breaching rules about civil service neutrality and lead to the policy being labelled a Tory plan.

However, judges said the government did have to publish a draft plan with the final version needed by the end of July.

May’s draft contained few concrete proposals and did not specify the cities and towns where polluting vehicles might face charges, the level of any charges or the scope or value of any scrappage scheme.

Instead, the plan put the onus for action on local authorities: “Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist.”

Analysis in the documents showed increasing the number of CAZs from the current six planned to 27 would make by far the greatest impact in cutting pollution and provide cost benefits of over £1bn. The CAZ policy would cut more than 1,000 times more NO2 than a scrappage scheme, even if that scheme required old diesels to be replaced by electric cars.

But it required local authorities to exhaust all other options before introducing CAZ charging for diesel vehicles, such as removing speed bumps and retrofitting buses.

The coalition government had already set out a vision for almost every car and van to be ultra-low emission by 2050 – a move which the government acknowledged would require “almost all new cars and vans sold to be near-zero emission at the tailpipe by 2040”. So it is unclear to what extent the new pledge will further boost Britain’s ability to achieve air quality requirements.

ClientEarth, the campaign group that has successfully pursued the government through the courts over the UK’s air pollution crisis, gave a cautious welcome to the announcement but said ministers must take immediate action to tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis.

“The government has trumpeted some promising measures with its air quality plans, but we need to see the detail,” said CEO James Thornton. “A clear policy to move people towards cleaner vehicles by banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans after 2040 is welcome, as is more funding for local authorities.

“However, the law says ministers must bring down illegal levels of air pollution as soon as possible, so any measures announced in this plan must be focused on doing that.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has been calling for tougher measures to tackle air pollution, which kills 9,000 people a year in the capital.

A City Hall source was sceptical about the government’s announcement. “We need to look at the full details but what Londoners suffering from the terrible health impacts of air pollution desperately need is a fully-funded diesel scrappage fund – and they need it right now.”

Areeba Hamid, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “The high court was clear that the government must bring down toxic air pollution in the UK in the shortest possible time. This plan is still miles away from that.

“The government cannot shy away any longer from the issue of diesel cars clogging up and polluting our cities, and must now provide real solutions, not just gimmicks. That means proper clean air zones and funding to support local authorities to tackle illegal and unsafe pollution.”

By Anushka Asthana and Matthew Taylor

Government to ban leaseholds on new-build houses in England

( via – – Tue, 25 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Ground rents on flats could also be cut to zero under proposals tobe outlined by communities secretary Sajid Javid

Builders are to be banned by the government from selling houses as leasehold in England and ground rents on flats could be cut to zero following widespread outrage over exploitative contracts.

In a blow for major housebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, will on Tuesday set out plans to “ban new-build houses being sold as leasehold as well as restricting ground rents to as low as zero”.

Flats can be continued to be sold as leasehold, but ground rents will be restricted to a “peppercorn” level and therefore be of little financial value to speculative buyers. The ban is expected to come into force after an eight-week consultation period.

The ban, while welcomed by campaigners, leaves the position of existing leasehold homeowners unclear. The DCLG is expected to consult on what it can do to support existing leaseholders with onerous charges, which could include tackling unreasonable rises – such as rents doubling every 10 years – and giving more powers to householders to fight unfair charges.

“Under government plans, [ground rents] could be reduced so that they relate to real costs incurred, and are fair and transparent to the consumer,” said the DCLG.

Tens of thousands of homebuyers have been caught in spiralling ground rents, which have in some cases left homes virtually unsaleable. Javid cited one family home that is now unsaleable because the ground rent is expected to hit £10,000 a year by 2060.

A Guardian Money campaign has over the past nine months highlighted reports of buyers trapped in properties valued at zero just six years after being built, £2,500 fees demanded by freeholders for permission to build an extension, and quotes of £35,000 to buy freeholds on detached houses only just a few years old.

Javid said: “It’s clear that far too many new houses are being built and sold as leaseholds, exploiting home buyers with unfair agreements and spiralling ground rents.

“Enough is enough. These practices are unjust, unnecessary and need to stop. Our proposed changes will help make sure leasehold works in the best interests of homebuyers now and in the future.”

Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ground rent had been used by some housebuilders “as an unjustifiable way to print money”.

He said building firms should do more to compensate those affected by such problems: “If they are responsible, if they want to keep their business in the future, if they want to show that they really care about their customers, they should be seeing what they should do to right some of the wrongs of the past.”

However, Javid said there were not as yet any definite government plans to compel builders to take action to assist those already affected.

“It’s an eight-week period of consultation to look at what action can be taken,” he said.

“I don’t profess that I’ve got all the answers on this. I’ve identified a problem, we’ve come up with some potential solutions. We don’t pretend they’re easy, there are are complex matters here.”

New legislation will close legal loopholes to protect buyers, some of whom have faced repossession orders after failing to keep up with the ground rent. The government will also change the rules on help-to-buy equity loans so that the scheme “can only be used to support new build houses on acceptable terms”.

Sebastian O’Kelly, whose Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has been the sharpest critic of abusive practices, welcomed the ban. He said: “Leasehold houses are an absolute racket: a means by which developers have managed to turn ordinary people’s homes into long-term investment vehicles for shadowy investors, often based offshore. In short, plc housebuilders have been systematically cheating their own customers.”

The practice of selling houses as leasehold has been particularly prominent in the north-west of England.

DCLG statistics estimate there were 4m residential leasehold dwellings in England in the private sector in 2014-15 and of these 1.2m were leasehold houses.

Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, who has many constituents suffering from leasehold problems, said: “What has occurred in this sector should be regarded as a national scandal. Therefore, once we have taken action to drive out these rotten practices, the ultimate aim must be to hold to account the men and women who must have known that creating this second lucrative income stream for developers would ultimately be at the cost of their customers.”

Jo Darbyshire, whose Taylor Wimpey-built house has a clause where the ground rent doubles every 10 years and is part of the National Leasehold Campaign group on Facebook, said the ban was “fabulous news”.
“It’s great that others won’t be stuck in the nightmare we have been in,” she said. “But what are they really going to do for people in our position? There now needs to be a national review, like the review of endowment misselling, to review every case and put people back into the position they would have been without these onerous clauses.”

Earlier this year, Taylor Wimpey agreed a £130m deal to help distressed leasehold buyers. At the time, it said that the contracts where ground rents double every 10 years were legal but “not consistent with our high standards of customer service and we are sorry for the unintended financial consequence and concern that they are causing”.

By Patrick Collinson and Peter Walker

Tesco retailer to offer same day grocery delivery across the UK

( via – – Tue, 25 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Tesco has become the first retailer to offer same day grocery delivery across the UK, ahead of a planned challenge from Amazon.

Britain’s biggest grocer launched the service in London and the South-east three years ago, but is now extending it across 300 stores covering 99pc of UK households.

Amazon – which showed the extent of its food retail ambitions with the $13.7bn (£10.5bn) takeover of Whole Foods last month – has plans to roll-out a same day British version of AmazonFresh nationwide in the future. It already offers the service in parts of London.

Meanwhile Sainsbury’s offers same day delivery from 30 stores.

Tesco said its same day service would stretch from the Shetland Islands in Scotland to Cornwall, with the roll-out to be completed by the end of next month.

Customers will be able to order by 1pm to have their shopping delivered from 7pm onwards. The service is priced at between £3 and £9 but is being offered free for a limited period for members of its delivery saver service.

It will be available seven days a week in London and the south-east and Monday to Saturday in the rest of the UK.

Tesco said it had experienced an 18pc growth in demand for its existing same day delivery service so far this year.

It extended its same day ‘Click+Collect’ service to 300 stores across the UK earlier this year and last month launched ‘Tesco Now’ in central London, offering deliveries within an hour.

Adrian Letts, managing director of Tesco Online, said: “Customers tell us they like getting their shopping delivered quickly and conveniently, and with our same day delivery service they can now order by lunch to get their shopping delivered for their evening meal.”

By Iain Withers

Trade Secretary Liam Fox to start talks on post-Brexit trade deal with the US

Chatham House/Flickr

( via – – Mon, 24 July 2017) London, Uk – –

The UK is to hold its first talks with the US to try to sketch out the details of a potential post-Brexit trade deal.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will spend two days in Washington with US counterpart Robert Lighthizer.
EU rules mean the UK cannot sign a trade deal until it has left the bloc.

EU rules mean the UK cannot sign a trade deal until it has left the bloc.
Mr Fox said it was too early to say exactly what would be covered in a potential deal. Firms and trade unions have both warned of the risks of trying to secure an agreement too quickly.

The Department for International Trade said discussions were expected to focus on “providing certainty, continuity and increasing confidence for UK and US businesses as the UK leaves the EU”.

Mr Fox added: “The [UK-US trade and investment] working group is the means to ensure we get to know each other's issues and identify areas where we can work together to strengthen trade and investment ties.”
‘Small practical things'

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall said the US's experience at such negotiations would make it difficult for the UK to secure a good deal.

“We're just getting back into the game of doing this sort of thing after 40 years of doing it via the EU,” he told the BBC's Today programme.

“So I think early on in the process, it would be concerning if the UK were to go up against the US on a complex and difficult negotiation.”

Mr Marshall said while the BCC's business group's members would welcome the US and the UK talking about how to increase trade between them, the focus should be on improving “small practical things” such as custom procedures rather than a comprehensive trade deal.

Trade unions the TUC and Unite have also expressed disquiet over a rushed US trade deal.

“Ministers should be focused on getting the best possible deal with the EU, rather than leaping into bed with

Donald Trump,” TUC boss Frances O'Grady told the Guardian.
US President Donald Trump and UK PM Theresa May at the G20

But independent economist Michael Hughes told the BBC's World Business Report that talking to the US at this stage was important.

“To have some preliminary ideas and get some basic principles out is a sensible thing to do,” he said.
He said currently talks were expected to focus on financial services and farming.

“In both cases it is likely that the UK would have to water down some of the standards it currently has, either in terms of genetically modified food or in terms of regulation of financial services firms operating in the UK, in order to get a deal, so it's a delicate one,” he added.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump said he expected a “powerful” trade deal with the UK to be completed “very quickly”.

At the time, a UK government official said Mr Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed to prioritise work on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Trade between the two countries is already worth over $200bn (£150bn) a year
In 2015, US exports of goods and services to the UK were $123.5bn, up by 4% from 2014, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis

The US is the single biggest source of inward investment into the UK
Together the UK and US have around $1 trillion invested in each other's economies
The trading relationship between the UK and the US supports over a millions jobs in both countries

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