BP to restart share buybacks as third quarter profits growth exceed expectations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 31 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

BP investors sent shares in the oil major to its highest price this year after the supermajor more than doubled its profits in the last three months, driven by a five-year high in earnings for its fuels, petrochemicals and refining businesses.

The company said the profit bonanza would trigger the start of a share buyback scheme to ease the irritation of a scrip dividend put in place to help protect its balance sheet during the oil market downturn.

Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said that the group had benefited from the ramp-up of three new projects in its oil production or “upstream” arm, in Australia, Trinidad and Oman.

It also enjoyed the highest earnings in five years in its oil refining, or “downstream”, business, helping to generate “healthy” earnings and cash flow, he said.

“There is still room for further improvement and we will keep striving to increase sustainable free cash flow and distributions to shareholders,” Mr Dudley added.

The return of cash payouts to BP’s patient investors caused shares to rocket higher, opening up 3pc at 522p, its highest price in seven years. The shares have since slipped to 517p, narrowly below the highest price for 2017 so far.

Brian Gilvary, BP’s chief financial officer, said the company had made strong progress in adapting to lower oil prices. BP’s finances, including the full dividend, are back into balance at an oil price just below $50 a barrel, he said.

“Given the momentum we see across our businesses and our confidence in the outlook for the group’s finances, we will be recommencing a share buyback programme this quarter. We intend to offset the ongoing dilution from the scrip dividend over time,” he added.

BP’s underlying replacement cost profit – its preferred measure of profit – more than doubled from the quarter before to $1.9bn (£1.4bn), well ahead of analyst forecasts of $1.58bn. In the second quarter of this year BP’s profits were just $684m, and in the same quarter last year they were $933m.

The better than expected results were supported by strong earnings growth in fuel and lubricant sales as well as a doubling in earnings from its petrochemicals business. Oil majors are increasingly focusing on refining crude to create the chemical building blocks used in manufacturing plastics, where demand is expected to boom in the coming years, as opposed to declining demand for petrol in cars.

On a pre-tax basis BP’s profits reached $1.56bn, again more than double that of the previous quarter’s $710m, and a swing from a pre-tax loss of $224m for the third quarter in 2016.

But Biraj Borkhataria, an analyst at RBC Capital, said the better than expected earnings had failed to translate to cash flow growth.

BP’s underlying cash flow was $5.2bn, excluding a $564m charge for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, compared to forecasts for cashflow over $6bn.

At the same time BP’s net debt at the end of September climbed to $39.8bn, compared to $32.4bn a year ago. This drove the overall ratio of net debt to earnings up to 28.4pc from 25.9pc a year ago.

Mr Borkhataria added that the share buyback could be viewed “as a sign of confidence” in BP's longer term cash generation.

By Jillian Ambrose

BoE expecting up to 75,000 financial job losses from Brexit

Skyline/Megan Trace/flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Tue, 31 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The Bank of England is expecting up to 75,000 job losses in the event that there is no deal between the UK and EU financial services sector.

The number is the bank's “reasonable scenario” and originates from an Oliver Wyman report published in 2016.

The estimate applies to the next three-to-five years. The bank estimates up to 40,000 jobs could be lost directly from financial services, and the rest would be lost in the legal and professional services sector.

The bank has been preparing for a possible “no deal” Brexit by asking firms to submit contingency plans for such a scenario.

Lobby groups such as TheCityUK have warned that the EU should not seek to diminish the UK as a financial centre in Brexit talks.

They have argued that the EU would not benefit if it weakens the Square Mile, as jobs would likely move to Singapore and New York rather than European cities such as Frankfurt.

By Helen Cahill

EasyJet confirms €40m deal with Air Berlin

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 30 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

EasyJet has confirmed a €40m (£35m) deal with Air Berlin to buy part of the insolvent German airline's operations, in a move that will secure 1,000 jobs.
EasyJet will buy some of the company's assets at Berlin Tegel Airport, including landing slots as well as leases for up to 25 A320 aircraft.
The UK airline said it plans to take on 1,000 German pilots and cabin crew.
Air Berlin has already agreed to sell its Austrian airline Niki to Lufthansa as well as its regional carrier LGW.
The indebted Air Berlin filed for insolvency in August after its main shareholder Etihad declared it would not be providing further financial support.
A loan from the German government has enabled the airline to continue operating despite the insolvency.
EasyJet said that it will operate a reduced timetable at Tegel airport during the winter season but is planning for a full schedule for summer 2018.
It said that it “looks forward to building on the strong, customer focussed platform it already has in Berlin to fly more passengers, employ more people and support more economic growth” in Germany.
EasyJet's share price rose by 1.32% to £12.89.

Fashion chain Jigsaw embarks on a pre-Christmas hunt for new owners

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com – – Mon, 30 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The high street fashion chain Jigsaw has embarked on a pre-Christmas hunt for new owners amid signs of a “cash pinch” at the company and an increasingly apparent retail sector downturn.

Sky News has learnt that Jigsaw's controlling shareholder, John Robinson‎, has apppointed KPMG to engage prospective buyers of the business.

Sources said on Friday that Mr Robinson and KPMG were exploring a range of options for Jigsaw's future, including the sale of a majority or minority stake to another retailer or financial investor.

The company is also in discussions with debt providers about a refinancing, they added.

The timing of the process will provoke speculation that Jigsaw, which trades from about 80 standalone stores, is facing financial difficulties, although insiders insisted that it was trading strongly.

One high street source said the company was facing a “cash pinch” before Christmas, meaning that a sale would need to be agreed before then.

Efforts to find new owners at Jigsaw offer a likely foretaste of ‎the high street's challenges over the next few months, as rising inflation hits consumer spending power.

Figures published this week by the CBI, the employers' group, showed retail sales falling at their steepest rate since the last recession, underlining the headwinds confronting many chains ahead of the crucial Christmas trading period.

Import costs have been pushed higher by the weakness of sterling since the EU referendum, while business rate increases prompted trade bodies including the British Retail Consortium to implore Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, to scrap next year's prospective rise.

‎Mr Robinson launched the Jigsaw brand in 1970, with its first store opening in Brighton.

Sources said he was “flexible” about the nature of a transaction, with Peter Ruis, Jigsaw's chief executive, sounding bullish about the company's potential during a media interview this week.

Jigsaw recorded sales in the year to September of about £100m, up 8% on the previous 12 months.

It is understood, however, to have been affected by significant investment in stores and IT, as well as an unhedged foreign exchange exposure.

A number of other womenswear businesses have also been on the market in recent months, although both Aurora Fashions, which owns Coast,‎ Oasis and Warehouse, and Hobbs have struggled to attract buyers.

A Jigsaw spokesperson said: “Jigsaw has made no secret of the fact it is open to strategic investment to drive ongoing expansion.

“A number of approaches have been made and these are being discussed.

“However, at this stage no sale process is underway.”

By Mark Kleinman

This architect firm unveiled plans to build Europe’s first underwater restaurant


Underwater Restaurant In Norway Looks Like It’s Right Out Of Science Fiction
A Norwegian architecture firm has unveiled plans to build Europe’s first underwater restaurant, complete with a massive panoramic window.


J.K Rowling the highest-paid celebrity in Europe this year

Wikimedia Commons

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Sun, 29 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

J.K Rowling named the highest paid celebrity in Europe in 2017 – who else made the cut?

With earnings of $95m (£72m) over the past 12 months, Harry Potter author J.K Rowling is the highest-paid celebrity in Europe this year.

Almost half of the enormous sum earned, which doesn't take into account taxes or management fees, comes from her co-writing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part stage play that sold 1.3m copies in 2016, and has been showing in theatres in London and New York.

Not only is Rowling the highest-paid celebrity in Europe, but she is also the world's highest-paid author and third highest-paid celebrity in the world, according to Forbes.

Its list of the 20 highest-paid European celebrities in 2017 reveals that collectively they earned $1.06bn over the past 12 months, before taxes or agent and management fees.

Twelve of these famous faces are from Britain, including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey (with earnings of $60m) and Simon Cowell ($43.5m). Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland each claim one entry in the top 20 list.

Professional athletes account for half of the wealthiest European celebrities with three footballers, three racing drivers, two tennis players, one golfer and one mixed martial artist making the grade.

Cristiano Ronaldo ranks in second place with earnings of $93m this year, thanks to his contract extension with Real Madrid, his CR7 brand and various endorsement deals, with the likes of Tag Heuer and Nike.

Irish UFC star Conor McGregor, who came second to last in the list, with earnings of $34m, will rise near the top of next year’s list due to his multi-million dollar fight with Floyd Mayweather in August, Forbes said.

Aside from Rowling, only one other woman made the 20 highest-paid European entertainers; singer Adele, who has earned $69m over the past 12 months.

U2, The Rolling Stones and One Direction all ranked among the 10 richest European celebrities in 2016, but no longer earn enough to make the grade.


This barista quit the military to become a coffee artist


This barista quit the military to become a coffee artist – and he's now an Instagram sensation

Lee Kang Bin is a “coffee artist” who on coffee foam.

The South Korean barista recreated famous paintings – like Van Gogh's “Starry Night” and Edvard Munch's “The Scream” – as well as Disney and other characters.

Before opening his own coffee shop in Seoul, he served in the military and even opened a cafe in his military camp.

For his cups, he uses cold coffee, cream, chocolate sauce, espresso, and food colouring. One costs around £6.50.

Passports the new status symbol for the ultra rich

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Sat, 28 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Ultra high-net worth individuals are turning their attention away from sports cars, yachts and designer clobber, and are instead focusing on acquiring the latest status symbol among the super wealthy: passports.

Today it is entirely possible to buy and sell citizenship, and for the ultra rich, the more passports they can get their hands on, the better.

Citizenship by investment programmes (CIPs) is a concept that began in 1984, when the two-island Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis came up with the idea to encourage wealthy individuals to pump money into its economy in exchange for a passport, which gives holders visa-free access to 132 countries worldwide.

For millionaires in countries that have politically problematic or restrictive passports, such as China and some regions in the Middle East, the ability to buy a passport that offers visa-free access to a huge number of countries around the world is priceless.

While CIPs were once a niche market offered by a handful of cash-strapped Caribbean countries, a growing number of nations are launching their own programmes to appeal to the rising number of ultra-rich individuals around the world and the increasing trend of people wanting to live a nomadic lifestyle.

Two dozen countries now offer CIPs to those willing to invest in the countries' businesses, real estate or government bonds, including Cyprus, Portugal, Moldova and Malta, while Montenegro is currently in the process of launching its own programme.

Cyprus's CIP is one of the most popular, and expensive, on offer – giving investors visa-free travel to more than 150 countries in exchange for a €2m (£1.8m) investment in either real estate – which helps create employment in the country, further boosting the economy – or government bonds.

In Saint Lucia, a millionaire can get visa-free access to more than 120 countries in exchange for either a $100,000 (£76,000) donation to the Saint Lucia National Economic Fund, a $300,000 investment in an approved real estate development, or a $3.5m investment in an approved enterprise project.

Even Canada, the US and the UK offer their own citizenship by investment programmes, but the path to citizenship in these countries is typically more difficult and expensive.

In the UK, for example, investors must spend £2m on government gilds in exchange for a “tier-one visa”, which gives individuals residency for three years, with the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain and full citizenship after five years – but it isn't guaranteed.

Other passports are quicker to procure and cheaper to buy, but less desirable. Nuri Katz, president of Apex Capital Partners, an international advisory firm that specialises in CIPs, said the ultra wealthy could get a passport for anything between $100,000 to $2.5m, depending on the country and the value of its passport.

He estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 passports each year globally are acquired through CIPs. “For extremely wealthy people, having a second or third passport is important so that they can travel easily for both business and pleasure,” Mr Katz said. “And for some it's also a status symbol, with some individuals collecting six or more passports.

“There are additional benefits to having multiple passports, such as having the ability to manage tax burdens,” he said.

The Chinese are the biggest buyers for CIPs, as their passport only allows visa-free access to 50 countries. “If a Chinese multi-millionaire wanted to fly to Paris for business, he wouldn't be able to without first having to go to the French embassy to request a visa, which can take days or weeks,” Mr Katz said.

“Therefore, the ability to travel seamlessly between countries is invaluable to the super rich.”

Royal Bank of Scotland reports healthy third-quarter profits of £392m



(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Fri, 27 Oct, 2017) London, Uk – –

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) reported third-quarter profits of £392m and said it expects to take the financial hit for a US misselling investigation this year before returning to full-year profit in 2018.

The figures

Attributable profit of £392m for the state-backed bank represented a stark improvement from the same period in the previous year, when the lender recorded a loss of £469m. However, it was significantly weaker than second-quarter profits of £680m.

Year-to-date the bank has made £1.3bn in profit. However, return on tangible equity – a measure of profitability for investors – was 4.5 per cent in the quarter, a figure the bank wants to boost to 12 per cent or more.

RBS has cut £708m in costs during the year to the end of September, and said it remains on track to hit £750m by the end of the year.

Adjusted operating profit, which strips out costs the bank hopes will be one-offs, was £1.25bn, down 6.6 per cent on the third quarter of 2016. The fall reflected increased losses in the Capital Resolution business, which is responsible for selling off non-core assets.

Why it's interesting

Yet the bank is still distracted from efforts to focus on core performance by legacy issues a decade on from the start of the financial crisis.

Legacy issues hitting the bottom line range from an impending settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for misselling retail mortgage-backed securities, to competition concerns after it failed to sell its Williams & Glyn brand. All the while the bank remains 71 per cent owned by the UK government.

RBS gave no update on progress in the DoJ settlement, although its outlook for 2018 profit was premised on provisions “being substantially taken in 2017”. Similar settlements from other banks have numbered in the billions of dollars, a toll which would wipe out RBS's 2017 profits.

Overall conduct costs were £125m for the quarter, down from £425m in 2016.

Most of the profits from the recent sale of its stake in Euroclear for €275m (£244m) will be booked in fourth-quarter results, the bank said.

What RBS said

Chief executive Ross McEwan said: “Our strategy to deliver a simpler, safer, customer-focused bank, is working.”

We have grown income, reduced costs, made better use of our capital and continued to make progress on our legacy conduct issues.

“Our core bank continues to generate strong profits and we remain on track to hit our financial targets.”

By Jasper Jolly

UK competition watchdog to investigate hotel booking websites over alledgedly misleading customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Fri, 27 Oct, 2017) London, Uk – –

The watchdog thinks claims about how many people are looking at a room and how long offers will last may create a false impression

The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into hotel booking websites amid concerns they could be misleading customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was concerned about the clarity, accuracy and presentation of information on sites.

The investigation was welcomed by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), which represents thousands of businesses including hotels and restaurants.

The CMA will examine areas such as search result rankings, “pressure selling”, hidden charges, and discount claims.

If it finds sites are false or misleading and breaking consumer law, the CMA could take enforcement action.

The CMA has written to companies across the whole sector asking for information about their practices and is also calling on customers and hotels to share their experiences.

The watchdog will examine practices such as how hotels are ranked after a customer has made a search – and whether this is influenced by a commission paid by the hotel.

It will also look at “pressure selling”, and whether claims about how many people are looking at the same room, how many rooms are left, and how long a price is available, may create a false impression or rush customers into making a decision.

Claims about discounts are to be reviewed to see if they offer a fair comparison, as will the issue of hidden charges such as taxes or booking fees which customers may be faced with in addition to the prices they are first shown.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Around 70% of people who shopped around for hotels last year used these sites and they should all be confident they have chosen the best accommodation for their needs and are getting a good deal.

“In today's increasingly busy world, sites like this offer real potential to help holiday-makers save time and money searching for their ideal get-away.

“To do this, sites need to give their customers information that is clear, accurate and presented in a way that enables people to choose the best deal for them.

“But we are concerned that this is not happening and that the information on sites may in fact be making it difficult for people to make the right choice.”

BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said it was delighted that an investigation had been launched.

He said: “Many of our members have been concerned about the vast power of online booking agencies often charging high rates of commission, use of misleading information, pressure selling, and a lack of transparency.

“In the process guests are paying more than they should for rooms.”

The CMA expects to report back on the investigation by next spring.

Any enforcement action could include asking websites to change their practices, obtaining a court order for them to do so and eventually a significant fine.

No specific sites have been named by the CMA.

Leading operators in the sector include booking.com, Expedia, Trivago and hotels.com.

Trivago – majority owned by Expedia – said in a statement that it would “work with the CMA to explain the benefits it delivers to consumers looking for their ideal hotel”.

Expedia said: “We welcome further discussion with the CMA to review how platforms provide transparency to the market increasing competition between hotels and to increase consumer benefit.”

Sky News has also sought to contact hotels.com, which is also an Expedia brand.

Booking.com said it would not be commenting.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

BT to cut charges for one million landline customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 26 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Bills for line-only customers will fall from £18.99 to £11.99 per month after regulator attacked deal as ‘poor value for money’

BT is to slash the amount it charges a million landline-only customers by more than a third, saving them £84 a year, after Ofcom criticised telecom providers for overcharging those – mostly the elderly – who do not have broadband or TV packages.

The company will slash the monthly cost of line rental for its landline-only customers by £7 a month to £11.99 from April next year, following a scathing review by the regulator, which highlighted the “poor value” for moneysubscribers get compared with those who buy bundles including TV and broadband.

Ofcom said it stepped in because bills for landline-only customers – nearly two-thirds of whom are over 65 – have “soared” in recent years despite BT and other landline providers benefiting from significant cuts in the cost of providing the service.

“For many people, their landline is their lifeline,” said Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition group director. “But households who only have a landline – and no broadband – have seen their phone bills soar. Many are elderly, and have been with BT for decades. We’ve been clear that they must get a better deal.”

Ofcom has focused on BT because it accounts for two-thirds of the UK’s 1.5m landline-only customers, but it expects rivals who similarly overcharge their customers to follow suit.

“This position [of dominance] has allowed BT to increase prices without much risk of losing customers, and other providers have followed BT’s pricing lead,” said Ofcom. “We expect BT’s £7 price cut to mean other providers can follow suit.”

Ofcom said that over three-quarters of BT’s landline-only customers have never switched provider, which has left them a prime target for price rises.

The regulator said that all major landline providers have increased their line rental charges by between 23% and 47% in recent years, while their own costs for providing the service have fallen about 27%.

Ofcom said it is also looking at measures to help people shop around for better deals with more confidence.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on the market, to ensure BT’s actions address the problems we have identified,” said Ofcom. “If we have any concerns about consumers or competition, we will consider the need for further intervention.”

The price cut, which will automatically be appiled to the accounts of 800,000 BT customers, will apply for three years from April. A further 200,000 customers on BT’s “Home Phone Saver” package will also be eligible but will have to apply.

“We welcome a balanced voluntary agreement with Ofcom,” said BT. “We have listened to the concerns of our line-only customers.”

By Mark Sweney

Las Vegas Sands US gaming giant unveiled plans for a London-themed resort in Macau



(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 26 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

US gaming giant Las Vegas Sands has unveiled plans for a London-themed resort in Macau.

The resort is part of plans to spend $1.1bn (£830m) on renovating the firm's five properties in China's gambling enclave.

Sands said that the revamped resort would feature some “recognisable landmarks”.

The move comes as Macau's gambling revenues begin to bounce back after a Beijing-led crackdown on corruption.

The Londoner will replace Sands Cotai Central, which currently features more than 6,000 hotel rooms, 4,000 sq ft of retail space and a 1,700-seat cinema.

Robert Goldstein, Sands' president and chief operating officer, said the resort's facade would resemble “something with all the iconic architectural look and feel of Big Ben”.

“If you think about London, it's iconic in so many ways, the buses to the Beefeaters, and there's just so many opportunities there,” he added.

“Our team is having great fun playing with that.”

Sands has invested more than $13bn into the region since 2002, when it became the first US company to open a casino there.

Its latest announcement comes as Chinese authorities place increasing pressure on the region to diversify away from gambling, leading to a race by major firms to build resorts before casino licenses start to expire in 2020.

Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal, but its reputation as a money laundering centre recently made it the focus of prosecutions against several high-profile government and casino officials.

But more gambling money is making its way into the semi-autonomous region of southern China. Macau's Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau reported gambling revenues of 67bn patacas ($8.3bn) between July and September this year, up 22% from 2016.

In its latest quarterly results, the firm said that during the same period, total net revenues for Sands China – its Chinese subsidiary – increased 12.2% to $1.93bn.

“Our strategy to again boost our investment in Macau is testimony to our unwavering belief in the secular growth trend in China,” said Sheldon Adelson, the founder, chairman and chief executive of Sands.


UK’s growth figures increase likelihood of rate rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 25 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The UK's economy had higher than expected growth in the three months to September – increasing the chances of a rise in interest rates in November.

Gross domestic product (GDP) for the quarter rose by 0.4%, compared with 0.3% in each of 2017's first two quarters, according to latest Office for National Statistics figures.

Economists said the figures were a green light for a rate rise next week.

If it happens, it will be the first rise since 5 July 2007.

The financial markets are now indicating an 84% probability that rates will rise from their current record low of 0.25% when the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meets on 2 November.

Governor Mark Carney indicated to the BBC last month that rates could rise in the “relatively near term”.

UK economist Ruth Gregory, of research company Capital Economics, said the figures “have probably sealed the deal on an interest rate hike next week”.

While many economists echo that view, some think the Bank of England will keep rates where they are.

“If all we can muster… is an acceleration in economic growth that's so small you could blink and miss it, the Bank of England could still think better of a rate rise next week,” said Ross Andrews from Minerva Lending.

Will interest rates rise next week? Analysis by economics editor Kamal Ahmed

The slightly better growth figures will strengthen the arguments of the interest rate hawks on the Bank of England's monetary policy committee.

Next Thursday, the Bank's rate setting committee meets to decide whether to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.

With inflation at 3%, Mark Carney, the governor, has signalled that an increase is on the cards.

And with economic growth more robust than many economists expected, those who support that direction of travel on the MPC will be emboldened.

To be clear, any rate rise will be small. And future rate rises will be gradual.

But the Bank is sending a clear message – slowly, eventually, the period of historically low interest rates is coming to an end.

The pound rose more than a cent against the dollar and nearly a cent against the euro in the first couple of hours of trading after the announcement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “We have a successful and resilient economy which is supporting a record number of people in employment.

“My focus now, and going into the Budget, is on boosting productivity so that we can deliver higher-wage jobs and a better standard of living.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “The UK is not growing as fast as many of our trading partners in the EU or the USA.

“The Chancellor cannot keep hiding from the facts, as his approach of carrying on as usual is seriously putting working people's living standards at risk.”

The biggest contributor to growth in the third quarter was the service sector, which expanded by 0.4%.

In particular, computer programming, motor traders and retailers were the businesses that showed the strongest performance.

Manufacturing expanded by 1% during the quarter – a return to growth after a weak second quarter.

However, construction contracted by 0.7% in the quarter, accelerating from the 0.5% decline recorded in the previous three months.

Metro Bank opens 50th branch as pre-tax profits hit £4.7m

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 25 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Profits at Metro Bank surged 135pc in the three months to September after the high street challenger opened its 50th branch.

The seven year-old bank’s pre-tax profits hit £4.7m, up from £2m in the previous quarter and a £416,000 loss in the same period last year.

“Metro Bank continues to win fans, attract deposits, lend to consumers and businesses, and generate profits that are re-invested for the benefit of our customers,” said chairman and founder Vernon Hill.

“We are the revolution in British banking, offering real choice to consumers and businesses.”

Unlike its major high street rivals, Metro Bank has been expanding its network of branches, which it calls stores, and opened its 50th last month in Peterborough. It plans to open a further 17 by the end of next year.

Metro Bank now holds 1.1m customer accounts, and deposits rose 47pc on last year to £10.7bn.

Chief executive Craig Donaldson said the challenger was on track to meet its pledge to lend £1bn to businesses by the end of the year.

The bank also announced the retirement of its chief finance officer Mike Brierly, who will leave in March 2018. Pending regulatory approval, he will be replaced by Sainsbury’s Bank CFO David Arden.

 By Jack Torrance

Government considering plans for six-week interest holiday for debtors


(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Tue, 24 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –
Lenders could be forced to give people struggling with problem debt a six-week interest holiday to give them time to get their finances in order, the government announced today.

The government is considering evidence on whether to implement the policy, with a view to publishing draft legislation by the end of 2018 or 2019 at the latest. This morning it announced a call for evidence to the City in an announcement on the regulatory news service.

Under the plans, individuals in debt could receive “up to six weeks free from further interest, charges and enforcement action”, giving them “breathing space”.

The government also floated plans to “include legal protections that would shield individuals from further creditor action once a plan to repay their debts is in place.”

The call for evidence issued by the Treasury also includes the possibility of a statutory repayment plan for problem debtors, who are defined as people for whom debt and arrears absorb an excessive proportion of income.

The move was announced in the Conservative party’s manifesto for the June 2017 election, but had not been followed up until now, although cross-party pressure to fulfil the promise had begun to build.

Debt charity Step Change says as many as 8.8m Britons face financial difficulties which could lead to hardship. Mike O’Connor, the charity's chief executive, welcomed the move, saying it would be “crucial to helping people who are overwhelmed by debt to recover control of their finances and move on with their lives.”

He said: “The government is asking the right sort of questions, including noting the importance that their own debts could be within any scheme. But we know from the experiences of our clients that continuous protection between the initial breathing space period and any statutory repayment plan is vital. Any interruption would destabilise fragile family finances and risk putting people back to square one.”

Consumer debt has risen up the political agenda in recent months as rising inflation has added to a squeeze on real incomes, with strong evidence that households have run down their savings in order to fund consumption. At the same time, consumer debt is still growing at almost 10 per cent per year.

The Financial Conduct Authority last week warned that half of British adults display at last one characteristic signalling their potential vulnerability to financial harm.

The government said it will meet key industry representatives from charities, debt advice organisations, lenders and creditors, as well as hearing from members of the public.

City minister Stephen Barclay, said: “For many people in the UK problem debt seems impossible to escape. Its effects can be far-reaching, impacting all aspects of a person's life and leaving them feeling helpless.

“That is why we are working to give people who are overwhelmed by debt, more time to seek advice, find a workable solution, and help get their lives back on track.”

By Jasper Jolly

BrightHouse agrees to pay £14.8m in compensation to customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via independent.co.uk – – Tue, 24 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Rent-to-own firm BrightHouse has agreed to pay out £14.8m in redress to 249,000 customers after the financial watchdog found that it did not act as a “responsible lender”.

The compensation is linked to 384,000 customer lending agreements which “may not have been affordable” and payments “which should have been refunded”, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

BrightHouse, which provides household goods to customers on hire purchase agreements, has been working with the FCA since 2014 after the watchdog identified the firm's lending assessment and collections processes fell short of its expectations.

The FCA said that the group “did not always deliver good outcomes for customers, particularly those who were at a higher risk of falling into financial difficulty”.

BrightHouse has “identified customers that may have been treated unfairly where its processes fell short of FCA expectations” and has committed to “putting things right” for these customers.

Where it is determined that customers were not assessed properly at the outset of the loan and may have had difficulty making payments, and providing they handed back the goods, BrightHouse will be paid back the interest and fees charged under the agreement, plus compensatory interest of 8 per cent.

Customers who retained the goods will have their balances written off. This part of the redress totals around £10.1m for 114,000 agreements entered into between April 1 2014 and September 30 2016, covering 81,000 customers.

Those customers who made the first payment due under an agreement with the firm which was cancelled prior to the delivery of the goods will be refunded by BrightHouse plus receive compensatory interest of 8 per cent. This redress totals around £4.7m for 270,000 agreements entered into after 1 April 2010 covering 181,000 customers.

BrightHouse will write to all affected customers, some of whom are affected by both sets of circumstances, to explain the refund or balance adjustment that they will receive.

The FCA added that BrightHouse has worked to improve its lending application assessment to ensure that loans are affordable and customers are treated fairly during the collections process, including revising its late payment fee structure.

Jonathan Davidson, executive director of supervision at the FCA, said: “During the time in question, BrightHouse was not a responsible lender and failed to meet our expectations of firms in this sector.

“I am pleased that it has agreed to provide redress to those customers affected by these historic practices.

“This scheme continues our work with the rent-to-own sector to resolve the concerns we have previously identified.

“Responsible lending and the fair treatment of consumers, especially those in financial difficulties or who are vulnerable, are key priorities for us.”


City investors overjoyed after dividends reached a record £28.5bn in the first quarter

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 23 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

City investors are enjoying a bumper payday after dividends reached a record £28.5bn during the third quarter of this year.

Despite some currency gains fading in the third quarter, which boosted British blue-chips earlier this year, dividends still rose by 14.3pc in the third quarter, said Capita Asset Services.

The surge in payouts has meant that this year is comfortably on track to smash the previous annual record for dividends set in 2014.

Capita has upgraded its forecasts by £3bn and now expects dividends to reach £94bn in 2017, a 11pc rise on last year.

The level has been partly boosted by a £1.5bn hike in special dividends, which were two-fifths higher than the year. Catering company Compass helped lift that figure by awarding £960m to shareholders.

The sizeable special dividend came after Capita announced it would return 61p-a-share to investors in May after being unable to find large-scale deals on which to spend its excess cash. Recruitment business Hays also issued its first-ever special dividend in August on the back of strong international fees, despite a steep fall in the UK market.

Special dividends have become increasingly common as companies seek to reward investors but still want financial flexibility given the uncertain economic backdrop.

Awarding special dividends means that companies are not under pressure to continue increasing normal dividend payments should their financial performance worsen. Underlying dividends reached £17bn during the third quarter, with two-thirds of payouts coming from the mining sector, which has enjoyed a return to growth after a sustained commodity slump.

“We had high hopes for 2017, but the dividend seam is proving even richer than we expected, as the mining sector finds its footing again,” said Justin Cooper, chief executive of Capita’s shareholder solutions.


Mayor Sadiq Khan’s £10 T-Charge comes into force in London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 23 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Drivers of older, more polluting vehicles will have to pay almost twice as much to drive in central London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan's £10 T-Charge, which mainly applies to diesel and petrol vehicles registered before 2006, has come into force.

It covers the same area as the existing congestion charge zone, bumping up the cost to £21.50 for those affected.

Opponents said the scheme would “disproportionately penalise London's poorest drivers”.

The measure is the latest attempt by Mr Khan to improve air quality in the capital and according to the mayor's office, will impact 34,000 motorists a month.

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Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Khan said: “We've got a health crisis in London caused by the poor quality air.

“Roughly speaking each year more than 9,000 Londoners die prematurely because of the poor quality air – children in our city whose lungs are underdeveloped, with adults who suffer from conditions such as asthma, dementia and strokes directly caused by poor quality air.”

However, Simon Birkett, from the campaign group Clean Air London, does not believe the move goes far enough.

“The Mayor has pledged in his manifesto to restore London's air quality to legal and safe limits and that means he has to do a whole lot more.

“We want him to take steps which are bigger, stronger an smarter.”

Mr Khan has described the introduction of the T-Charges as “part of a package of measures” being undertaken.

‘Filthy air'

Many people have taken to social media to express their views on the new levy.

Daniel McGuiness said on Twitter: “T-Charge, it's a start but there's still a long way to go in tackling the public health emergency that is our filthy air. #CleanAir”

What is changing?

From Monday 23 October, there will be a £10 daily fee for those who drive more polluting vehicles in the congestion charging zone, on top of the existing £11.50 congestion charge.

Vehicles that do not comply with the Euro IV exhaust standard must pay the charge.

The standard defines emissions limits for cars, vans, buses, coaches and lorries. Most vehicles registered before 2006 are likely to exceed these limits.

The zone will operate between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday.

Find out if your car is affected with TfL's T-Charge checker.

Line Break

The T-Charge is the first of a series of new rates being introduced in London.

It is due to be replaced by a stricter Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2020, although Mr Khan is consulting on bringing this forward to 2019.

This will mean diesel cars registered before September 2015 and petrol cars registered before 2006 will face a £12.50 charge.

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The mayor hopes to expand the area covered for cars and vans up to the North and South Circular roads in 2021.

City authorities in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Derby and Nottingham have also been advised to impose charges for some polluting diesel vehicles by 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

To tackle air pollution, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council proposed a ban on petrol and diesel cars from travelling in the city from 2020.

Paris, Grenoble and Lyon introduced an emission sticker scheme in January which splits vehicles into six different groups depending on their Euro Emissions standard.

Vehicles deemed too polluting – which includes petrol and diesel-powered cars registered before 1997 – are not granted a sticker, banning them from driving in the city during certain times.

‘Toxic' cars hit with new charge

Sue Terpilowski, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The introduction of the T-Charge comes at a time when small and micro-businesses in London are already facing astonishingly high property, employment and logistics costs.

“There is a fear that this will be the final straw that closes businesses and takes jobs.”

Shaun Bailey, conservative environment spokesman at the London Assembly, said: “As an asthmatic I'm well aware of how critical an issue this is for London but we need policies that actually deliver progress.

“By boasting about a policy that so disproportionately penalises London's poorest drivers and puts jobs at risk, the mayor is simply blowing more smoke into the capital's already-polluted atmosphere.”

Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: “Clearly the last thing individuals want is a new charge for moving around, but the grim reality is that nearly 10,000 early deaths are caused in London each year by the capital's toxic air, so the Mayor is right to try to dissuade drivers bringing the oldest, dirtiest vehicles into central London.

“It's only one small step towards clean air though – we urgently need a programme of meaningful financial assistance to help drivers of the dirtiest vehicles switch to something cleaner, and bold policies to cut traffic over all.”

The mayor is also seeking new powers to ban wood burning in the most polluted areas of the capital.

When asked if wood-burning stoves would be banned entirely, Mr Khan told the Today programme the problem was with the material that was being burnt and a lack of maintenance rather than the stoves themselves.


The stunning Colombia rainbow river


This is Colombia's stunning rainbow river, Cano Crystals. The stunning footage captured by TravelDrone4K, shows the colourful river which is filled with macarenia clavigera plant. This plant changes colour depending on the light and water conditions. The plants within the river have been seen in green, orange, red, yellow, and even blue.  Cano Cristales was previously in guerrilla territory during the early 2000s, making it an area too dangerous for tourist.  Nowadays it is much safer to visit the stunning landscape.