Ford Motor and Alibaba “Super Test Drive” Car Vending Machine Service


Ford Motor Co., Ltd., Changan Ford Motor Co., Ltd. and's Tmall Vehicle launched a brand new brand experience pilot program to provide consumers with a “Super Test Drive” service. The project will use a combination of online digital technology and offline entities to provide consumers with a more convenient, efficient, and in-depth test drive experience, and ultimately lead potential consumers to the Ford brand more accurately. Authorize dealerships and ultimately help facilitate offline transactions.

From now on until April 23, Ford will enter the “Super Test Drive” vending machine building located in Baiyun District of Guangzhou as the exclusive co-brand of Tmall. The whole building is equipped with intelligent lifting system and advanced identity authentication system. It can accommodate up to 42 carts at a time. Ford Motor Company, Changan Ford Motor Co., Ltd. and Jiangling Motors Co., Ltd. provide up to ten Ford brand models for consumers to test drive test experience, including domestic models, such as car products Taurus, new Mondeo, SUV products Maverick, Ruijie and Qilu Imported models such as full-size SUV explorers; Ford Mustang, a classic American muscle sports car sought after by consumers, joined this wonderful lineup.



Motorway petrol prices ‘exploitative’, says Chris Grayling, transport secretary

( via – – Fri, 30 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

The transport secretary has called for an investigation into “exploitative” motorway fuel prices.

Chris Grayling has told the competitions watchdog some operators charged up to 19p more per litre than forecourts in towns or cities.

He said the UK's three biggest operators – Moto, Welcome Break and RoadChef – should be investigated to ensure drivers got a “fairer deal”.

But Roadchef said it did not set the prices of fuel at its sites.

And Moto said the costs of building and operating the roadside services were behind high prices.

It comes as millions of Britons prepare to use the motorways over Easter.

Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading), Mr Grayling requests that “the CMA consider opening an investigation into the retail price at motorway service areas (MSAs)”.

“I am concerned that prices which are higher than other forecourts may exploit users in a situation where there is less choice and competition, and discourage motorists from stopping and re-fuelling when, for safety reasons, they should.”

He added: “I would welcome a view from the CMA on whether the three private companies that currently operate the majority of MSAs are exercising market power to the detriment of motorists.”

Moto, Welcome Break and RoadChef run most of the 112 motorway service areas across the UK.

According to industry figures published on Thursday, the average price for unleaded petrol at MSAs is 137.7p per litre, compared to a UK average of 120.11p per litre.

The average unleaded price at supermarkets is just 116.74p.

It means filling up the average car with unleaded fuel costs around £10 more on the motorway.

Getting worse

Mr Grayling pointed to RAC figures from 2011, which showed that average petrol prices were just 7.5p higher, showing the “situation had worsened”.

He said he understood that MSAs had higher overheads and infrastructure costs, but that their higher prices were “not fully explained”.

In 2013, a study of the UK petrol and diesel market found that fuel was significantly more expensive at motorway service stations.

The Office of Fair Trading was concerned that motorists were not able to see the prices until they had left the motorway and requested new signs on motorways to display prices.

The plans were scrapped after a trial-run of the signs produced no evidence of savings.

Simon Williams, fuel spokesman for the RAC, welcomed the minister's intervention as “great news for motorists”.

“We have long called for something to be done about the cost of motorway fuel because there's nothing to justify the sky-high price.

“Drivers filling up motorway services often put in the bare minimum, but this can easily backfire. Running out of fuel on a motorway puts lives at risk.”

The AA said motorists had too long been treated like “hostages” by MSAs. “We welcome any move to deter rip-off motorway pump prices,” the organisation said.

A spokesperson for Roadchef commented: “Roadchef does not operate the petrol station forecourts at any of our service areas and does not set the price of fuel.”




Barclays settles US fraud claims with $2bn penalty


( via– Fri, 30 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Chief executive Jes Staley described the fine – which was lower than had been previously expected – as a “fair and proportionate”.

Barclays has agreed a $2bn (£1.4bn) settlement with the US Department of Justice over claims that it mis-sold mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

The fine draws a line under a major misconduct issue that had been hanging over the bank after it decided in 2016 to contest the far higher sum that the DoJ was reportedly seeking.

Barclays chief executive Jes Staley said it was a “fair and proportionate settlement” and it is likely to be seen as a vindication of his decision to play hardball with US authorities.

The DoJ had been thought to be going for a sum closer to the $7.2bn penalty agreed by Deutsche Bank or $5.3bn by Credit Suisse, both at the start of last year, over similar claims.

The department's civil action against Barclays alleged that the bank caused billions of dollars in losses to investors through a fraudulent scheme to sell 36 bundles of toxic mortgage assets between 2005 and 2007.

It was alleged that it misled those investors about the quality of the home loans backing those deals. The DoJ said more than half of the mortgages defaulted.

In addition to the bank's fine, two US-based former Barclays employees have agreed to pay penalties totalling $2m. The penalties for Barclays and the individuals follow a three-year investigation.

Mr Staley said: “I am pleased that we have been able to reach a fair and proportionate settlement with the Department of Justice.

“It has been a priority for this management team from the start to resolve these historic issues in a timely and appropriate manner wherever possible.”

Mr Staley said by “putting significant legacy matters” behind it as well as completing its restructuring last year, Barclays was “well positioned to produce stronger earnings going forward”.

:: Sky Views: US must stop dragging its feet over RBS fine

The bank said it “resolves all actual and potential civil claims by the DoJ relating to Barclays' securitisation, underwriting and sale of mortgage-backed securities sold by Barclays between 2005 and 2007”.

Richard Donoghue, US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said: “This settlement reflects the ongoing commitment of the Department of Justice, and this Office, to hold banks and other entities and individuals accountable for their fraudulent conduct.

“The substantial penalty Barclays and its executives have agreed to pay is an important step in recognising the harm that was caused to the national economy and to investors in RMBS.”

The bank last month reported a £1.9bn loss for 2017 after US tax reforms and an accounting write-down from the sale of its Africa businesses resulted in big one-off charges.

Major US lenders have already agreed penalties over mortgage-backed security allegations in recent years while HSBC, UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland are still waiting their turn.

For RBS, which remains more than 70% taxpayer-owned, a long-awaited settlement will be a hugely significant milestone as the beleaguered bank aims to return to normality by re-starting dividend pay-outs, making it easier to start returning the lender to the private sector.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas, Business Reporter



Bargain Booze owner Conviviality heads into administration with 2,500 jobs at risk

( via – – Thur, 29 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Conviviality has become the latest retailer to collapse into administration, putting 2,500 jobs at risk and risking supply disruption to Britain's pubs, after failing to secure emergency funds from investors.

On Thursday the owner of Bargain Booze and Wine Rack said it would appoint administrators within 10 business days, although creditors could force administration sooner.

The chain operates around 700 shops and supplies an estimated 17,000 outlets. Its Matthew Clark subsidiary is one of the country's biggest suppliers to the on-trade, serving more than 20,000 pubs including the JD Wetherspoon chain.

Trade body the British Beer & Pub Association said it was working with its members to assess the impact of its collapse. “Alternative suppliers will be sought in order to minimise the impact on the trade as far as possible, but inevitably a situation like this will be causing concern for some pubs,” a spokesman said.

Problems have been mounting for the Bargain Booze owner over the past couple of weeks, as it revealed a string of profit warnings, axed its chief executive and said it was facing a £30m tax bill, which is due today.

Conviviality last week had issued a plea to investors for £125m in cash, in a last-ditch attempt to raise enough funds to pay off the tax bill and reduce its debts.

It had been holding meetings with those institutional investors, as well as customers and suppliers to reduce the provision of support, over the past week.

The company said today: “Unless circumstances change, and in accordance with statutory requirements, the board intend to appoint administrators within 10 business days. The secured creditors can, however, appoint administrators without the requirement for notice.

“The directors intend to allow the business to continue to trade and the company continues to work alongside advisers in order to preserve as much value as possible for all stakeholders as it explores a number of inbound enquiries regarding a potential sale of all or parts of the business.”

Yesterday Conviviality said there was “ultimately insufficient demand” for its shares to raise the £125m it had been seeking. This amount had been the “minimum required to adequately recapitalise the business”.

Chief executive Diana Hunter resigned earlier this month after the scale of the company's problems became clear.

Its shares on London's junior Aim market remain suspended and shareholders have been told they will receive “little-to-nil value” for their stock.

It is thought that a break-up and sale of separate businesses is the most likely possibility, with sources close to the company saying its brands were such strong enough to stand as separate entities.

Conviviality has been hampered by rising debt levels as it expanded rapidly since 2013.

In recent years, it has spent £1.7m on 26 shops in Yorkshire and the North East from rival Rhythm & Booze, splashed another £6m on Midlands-based off-licence chain GT News, and bought larger names such as wholesaler Matthew Clarke and wine specialist Bibendum in 2016.

The news of its imminent break-up will come as yet another blow to a retail industry already reeling from a series of high-profile collapses, including Maplin and Toys R Us, which together put the future of 5,500 workers at risk

Meanwhile other retailers, such as New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare, are racing to shore up their finances, seeking rent cuts from landlords and shuttering stores.

By Hannah Boland and Jon Yeomans



MPs and landlords row over deposit demands on tenants

Ken Teegardin/Flickr

( via – – Thur, 29 Mar  2018) London, Uk – –

MPs and landlords are at loggerheads over the acceptable level of deposits demanded of tenants in England.

Deposits should be capped at five weeks' worth of rent, according to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

The government's latest plan has been to cap the deposit at six weeks' worth of rent.

Landlords groups believe that six weeks' worth is realistic, otherwise “riskier” tenants could be blocked.

For example, the National Landlords Association (NLA) said a shorter cap would reduce landlords' willingness to allow pets “by removing their flexibility to take a higher deposit to cover for pet damage”.

Initially, the government had favoured a much more stringent cap on landlords, planning to allow them to charge four weeks' worth of rent as a deposit.

The disagreement has emerged during scrutiny of the government's draft Tenant Fees Bill. The law change is aimed at introducing a ban on fees imposed on tenants by landlords and letting agents in England. A ban is already in place in Scotland.

The draft proposes prohibiting payments with the exception of rent, security deposits of up to six weeks' rent, holding deposits of up to one week's rent, and default fees. The commitment was announced by the Conservatives in the 2016 Autumn Statement.

The committee argued that security deposits set at six weeks' worth of rent could cause financial difficulties for tenants. At five weeks' worth, the private rented sector would become more affordable while also protecting landlords from rogue tenants, it argued.

Clive Betts, who chairs the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “Moving home is already an expensive time and many people struggle to find large sums of money at the start of their tenancies to put down as a deposit.”

However Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NLA said: “There is no doubt that some agents have got away with excessive fees and double-charging landlords and tenants for far too long, but agents play a key role in managing properties and the ban will eventually boomerang back on tenants.”

‘Backdoor charging'

Housing charity Shelter suggested that the average cost of fees had risen to £272 per person.

It warned that the committee's proposals could still allow agents to charge through default fees. These fees allowed agents to charge tenants potentially unlimited sums for such things as letters sent for chasing late rent, it said.

“This ban was wildly popular with renters, which is why it's so important that it does exactly what it says on the tin by completely scrapping rip-off letting agent fees,” said Greg Beales, director of policy and campaigns at Shelter.

“It is good to see the ban moving forward, but these proposals would leave the back door open for agents to continue charging tenants in different ways and let down the renters it was supposed to help.”





Plastic bottle deposit return scheme to be introduced by government


( via– Wed, 28 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

The Government hopes the scheme will increase recycling rates and slash the amount of waste polluting the planet.

A deposit return scheme for single-use bottles is going to be introduced in England subject to consultation, the Government has confirmed.

Plastic, glass and metal containers would be included in the scheme with a goal of increasing recycling rates and slashing the amount of waste polluting the planet.

A consultation held later this year will examine the details of how such a scheme would work, but it is likely to be in place by the end of this Parliament.

UK consumers use an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill sites or left to pollute the country's streets, countryside and seas.

Plastic bottles make up a third of marine debris – and their impact on the environment has been under scrutiny since Sky launched its Ocean Rescue campaign, which has highlighted the blight of single-use plastics on the planet.

“We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats,” the Environment Secretary Michael Gove said.

“It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled,” he added.

Some parts of the UK have already been considering a deposit scheme. Wales said it would consider such a scheme back in September last year, shortly after Scotland committed to the idea of a deposit return scheme.

The Government says it hopes “to talk to the devolved administrations about the scope for working together on this important issue”.

Similar deposit return schemes already operate in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

A deposit return scheme sees consumers pay an upfront deposit when they buy a drink, ranging from 8p in Sweden to 22p in Germany, which is redeemed on the return of the empty drink container.

Other types of schemes being considered by the UK include cash rewards for returning drinks containers without enforcing an upfront deposit.

This could be done through a network of ‘reverse vending machines' where money is returned whenever a plastic or glass bottle is inserted.

Once a bottle is returned, businesses are then responsible for making sure they are effectively recycled – a move that has led to a 97% recycling rate in Germany.

Although the Environment Secretary's announcement was widely welcomed, some are concerned the move is a token effort.

Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Michael Gove has a golden opportunity to introduce an effective deposit return system to help reduce the amount of plastic ending up in our environment. But for (the scheme) to work well, it can't be a token effort. It must include all plastic bottles, glass bottles and drinks cans, and be rolled out in shops all across the UK.”

The announcement follows the Government's ban on plastic microbeads and the introduction of a 5p plastic bag charge.

The bag fee has led to nine billion fewer bags being distributed in the UK.

Earlier this month it was announced that the Chancellor is calling for evidence on how the tax system can be used to cut down on single-use plastics.

A powerful committee of MPs launched an inquiry into the impact of disposable packaging on the UK's environment last year.

Next month, Commonwealth members will gather in London to agree measures to further protect the world's oceans.

There are over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world's oceans and every year one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals die from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

By 2050, it is predicted that the total amount of plastic in the oceans will weigh more than the total amount of fish.

By Sanya Burgess



​Jaguar to supply cars to Google’s self-driving spin-off Waymo in deal worth up to £1.3bn

( via – – Wed, 28 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Deal, worth up to £1.3bn, shows Waymo’s ambition in developing driverless ride-hailing service

Jaguar Land Rover is to supply up to 20,000 of its new electric I-Pace cars to Waymo, a subsidiary of Google owner Alphabet,to be converted into self-driving vehicles for its ride-hailing service.

The tie-up, worth up to £1.3bn and announced at the New York motor show, is a further mark of Waymo’s ambition in the race with Uber and others to develop a driverless ride-hailing service – as well as a huge boost for Britain’s biggest car manufacturer as it takes it first steps into electric vehicles.

Jaguar will deliver vehicles for Waymo’s ride-hailing service from 2020. Waymo says the 20,000 I-Pace models will provide up to 1m rides a day.

Although the I-Pace will be produced in Graz, Austria, JLR stressed that it is a British designed and engineered vehicle, from its research and development facility in the West Midlands.

JLR, owned by Indian company Tata, did not put a price on the deal, but an I-Pace, launched less than a month ago, retails at about £63,000 in the UK.

The manufacturer said it would be “a long-term strategic partnership” to develop the world’s first premium self-driving electric vehicle. Testing of the Jaguar car, equipped with Waymo’s self-driving technology, will start in Arizona later this year.

The expansion of the service comes despite fresh fears raised over the safety of self-driving cars, after an autonomous Uber car killed a pedestrian in Arizona last week – the first such casualty.

Uber’s testing of vehicles in Arizona has been suspended after the incident. The victim, a 49-year-old woman wheeling a bicycle, appeared not to be detected by the vehicle’s sensors. The Volvo was operating autonomously with a back-up driver in the front seat when it struck the pedestrian.

Nvidia, which supplies chips for Uber’s self-driving cars, and Toyota have also suspended testing of autonomous vehicles on US public roads following the accident.

The suspensions leave Waymo as the only company with a fleet of fully self-driving cars – and with no one in the front seat – on public roads in the US, and on course to launch the first robotic taxi service, where members can hail cars via Waymo’s app, by the end of the year.

In the UK, JLR has been involved in a range of government-backed trials involving connected and autonomous vehicles, last week demonstrating how emergency braking warning systems could improve safety.

Waymo has been building up a fleet of self-driving vehicles in partnership with Fiat Chrysler since 2015. Last month it said it would buy thousands more of the Chrysler Pacifica minivans, on top of 600 it has already converted, to form the basis for a ride-hailing service that Waymo plans to launch in Arizona later this year.

JLR’s tie-up with Waymo is another in a series by car manufacturers with new technology firms, following Ford partnering with Lyft and Uber with Volvo.

The auto industry is making substantial investments in autonomous, connected and electric cars, having been heavily committed to diesel and highly fuel-consuming vehicles.

Ralf Speth, the JLR chief executive, said: “With the Jaguar I-Pace we have a world-beating car that’s captured the imagination of customers around the world. Our passion for further advancing smart mobility needs expert long-term partners.

“In joining forces with Waymo we are pioneering to push the boundaries of technology. Together we will deliver the self-driving Waymo Jaguar I-Pace with the grace, space and eco-pace that customers expect.”

John Krafcik, the chief executive of Waymo, said: “While we’ve been focused at Waymo on building the world’s most experienced driver, the team at Jaguar Land Rover has developed an all-new battery-electric platform that looks to set a new standard in safety, design and capability.”

By Gwyn Topham




Government intervenes in GKN takeover battle

( via – – Tue, 27 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Business Secretary Greg Clark has written to Melrose demanding “binding” commitments from the turnaround specialist over its £8.1bn bid for GKN.

Mr Clark sought “extensive and clear” measures over GKN's workforce, research and development, and pension schemes.

He also raised concerns over national security given GKN's role in supplying the UK armed forces.

In response, Melrose set out a number of pledges, including not selling GKN's Aerospace Division for five years.

It also said that for five years it would maintain GKN's UK listing, maintain its UK headquarters, and ensure research and development (R&D) spending remained at least 2.2% of sales.

Deadline approaching
GKN makes parts for planemakers Airbus and Boeing, as well as parts for Volkswagen and Ford cars.

It is one of the UK's largest industrial firms, employing more than 59,000 people globally – 6,000 of them in the UK.

Melrose specialises in buying up industrial companies it believes are undervalued and restructuring them before selling them on.

GKN shareholders have until midday on Thursday to accept the bid from Melrose, or back GKN's own business plan.

The plan includes combining GKN's auto unit with US group Dana, leaving GKN to concentrate on its aerospace business.

In his letter to Melrose chief executive Simon Peckham, Mr Clark set out a series of commitments “which would need to be binding” if the company's bid for GKN was successful.

He said GKN should remain operating as a UK business, with its share listing and headquarters staying in the UK.

GKN should also maintain its UK workforce and respect existing employment rights.

In addition, Mr Clark sought commitments over investment in R&D, investment in workforce training, and arrangements for current and future pensioners.

In the area of defence, the business secretary said he would expect “to see a commitment to continuity of ownership and strategic investment”.

Also, Melrose should not quickly sell-on the business without the government's consent.

Mr Clark said he was “mindful the business model which Melrose operates and its history of acquiring, improving and selling businesses”.

“Whilst this approach can have an important and beneficial role to play, tensions could arise between this approach and the need for long-term investment and stability.

He said the public “reasonably” expects that companies which receive public money through contracts or R&D, should take a long-term view.

In response, Mr Peckham said Melrose's proposal was preferable to the “fire-sale being undertaken by the current GKN board”.

He said Melrose had agreed a number of legally enforceable undertakings with the Takeover Panel to address the government's concerns – including maintaining GKN's UK base and its spending on R&D.

In addition, he said: “To demonstrate the strength of our commitment and ensure that its improvement and investment programme is not unduly interrupted, we are willing to make a legally binding commitment to you.. that, subject to below, Melrose will not sell the Aerospace Division before 1 April 2023.”

Mr Peckham added that this would not prohibit it from floating the Aerospace Division on the UK stock market.

He also said that if it was approached by a “suitable strategic purchaser” before 1 April 2023, Melrose would seek government approval for the deal.

Analysis, Simon Jack, business editor
With two days left in which shareholders must decide whether to accept the bid – how many who liked the look of the Melrose bid will think again now that the company has tied its hands more than it may have liked?

Not many, according to one big shareholder who spoke to the BBC. Certainly, the government thinks that Melrose has a good chance – and wanted to makes its concerns known while it still can.

Whatever happens between now and Thursday, the future of GKN will look very different.

Investors have until Thursday lunchtime to decide – 50.01% is the level of support needed.

By Simon Jack



Novartis sells stake in consumer health business for $13bn to GSK

( via — Tue, 27 Mar 2018) London, UK —

ZURICH (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline is buying Novartis out of their consumer healthcare joint venture for $13 billion, taking full control of products including Sensodyne toothpaste, Panadol headache tablets, muscle gel Voltaren, and Nicotinell patches.

GSK’s biggest move since Emma Walmsley became chief executive last year follows the British drugmaker’s decision last week to quit the race to buy Pfizer’s consumer healthcare business, endangering an auction the U.S. company hoped would bring in as much as $20 billion.

Consumer remedies sold over the counter have lower margins than prescription drugs, but they are typically very well known and durable brands with loyal customers.

“The proposed transaction addresses one of our key capital allocation priorities and will allow GSK shareholders to capture the full value of one of the world’s leading consumer healthcare businesses,” Walmsley said in a statement on Tuesday.

Although some pharmaceuticals groups have been keen to hold consumer care products, intense price competition online, mainly from Amazon, as well as cheaper store-brand products, have led others to doubt their stable returns longer-term.

The British group’s shares jumped 4.5 percent, outperforming a 1.8 percent gain in the STOXX Europe 600 Health Care.

GSK said that as well as ending the Novartis venture it would start a strategic review of Horlicks and other consumer nutrition products, sparking another potential industry shake-up. The review will include an assessment of its shareholding in its Indian subsidiary.

“It (the deal) also removes uncertainty and allows us to plan use of our capital for other priorities, especially pharmaceuticals R&D,” Walmsley said, adding that the purchase would boost adjusted earnings and cash flows.

Pfizer has been struggling to sell its consumer healthcare business after GSK and Reckitt Benckiser both dropped out of the bidding, while differences in price expectations have also hobbled German drugmaker Merck KGaA’s attempts to sell its consumer products unit.

And GSK’s call for bids for its consumer healthcare nutrition brands – with a regional focus on India – is likely to detract attention from Merck’s asset, which relies heavily on sales of vitamins and dietary supplements in emerging markets.

Barclays analysts said Glaxo was paying less than 17 times expected 2018 core earnings for the joint venture stake, while sources have told Reuters that both Merck and Pfizer had asked for up to 20 times for their respective assets.

Yet analysts at Baader Helvea welcomed the cash price fetched by Novartis as “excellent news” for the Swiss company, whose shares opened 1.9 percent higher.

Deutsche Bank analysts said the move decluttered Novartis’s portfolio, but cautioned that the Swiss group was being too vague about what it would do with the cash.

“While our consumer healthcare joint venture with GSK is progressing well, the time is right for Novartis to divest a non-core asset at an attractive price,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said.

Novartis said the money would be used by Novartis to expand its business organically as well as for bolt-on acquisitions.

In an interview before the deal was announced, Narasimhan ruled out large acquisitions by the Basel-based company.

“We really think we want to focus our M&A efforts on bolt on acquisitions that have either new technologies or products that fit into our core therapeutic areas,” he told CNBC in an interview recorded on Sunday.

Under the 2014 deal to pool their consumer assets, Novartis had the right so sell its 36.5 percent stake to Glaxo from this month. The transaction is set to complete in the second quarter, subject to necessary approvals.

($1 = 0.7029 pounds)

By John Revill and Ludwig Burger



JD Sports buys Finish Line in £400m deal to secure US market

( via – – Mon, 26 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Britain’s JD Sports plans to grab a slice of the American market with a “transformational” $558m (£400m) deal to buy The Finish Line, an exclusive sports shoe supplier to the Macy’s department store chain.

Finish Line has 556 standalone stores as well as operating a similar number of Macy’s concessions.

Bury-based JD is offering $13.50 for each share in the Nasdaq-listed company, at a 28pc premium to their closing price on Friday.

The retailer, which also owns outdoors equipment chains Blacks, Millets and Go Outdoors, said the takeover would make “a small incremental positive contribution” to its financial results for the year to February 2019.

The deal will need to be approved by both companies' shareholders and is not expected to complete before June.

Peter Cowgill, JD's executive chairman, said: “This is a landmark day for JD and will be transformational for the business.”

JD has shrugged off the gloom that has afflicted the high street of late, announcing a profit upgrade after sales in stores open more than one year grew 3pc over Christmas.

In January it won approval from regulators for its takeover of Sports Zone, which has more than 300 sportswear stores in Spain and Portugal.

Shares in JD Sports were up 3.3pc to 368p in early trade.

By Jack Torrance



Qantas saw first non-stop flight from Australia to London Heathrow in 17 hours


( via– Mon, 26 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

The first Qantas service between the two nations in 1947 lasted four days but the airline's latest flight took just over 17 hours.

The first non-stop flight between Australia and the UK has landed at London.

Qantas 9 (QF9) landed at Heathrow's Terminal 3 just after 5am – 17 hours after departing from Perth on Australia's west coast.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner completed the journey of around 9,000 miles to touch down two minutes earlier than scheduled.

Previously the flight had to stop in either Singapore or the Middle East but cutting out those stopovers slashed roughly three hours from the previous flight time.

The Qantas flight is the world's second-longest, after a Qatar Airways service between Doha and Auckland, which covers 9,028 miles.

Qantas said on Twitter that the flight was led by Captain Lisa Norman, Captain Jeff Foote, First Officer Dave Summergreene and Second Officer Troy Lane.

The flight will set off on its return leg to Perth at 1.15pm on Sunday.

The service, the first regular passenger flight linking Australia directly with Europe, was announced in December 2016.

At the time, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said: “When Qantas created the Kangaroo Route to London in 1947, it took four days and nine stops.”

After the Dreamliner flight took off, Mr Joyce described it as a “historic day for aviation”.

He added: “From today it will be the first link between Australia and Europe that has ever occurred non-stop in aviation.

“We are so excited.”

The flight will help boost the tourism market for both countries, with more than 730,000 Britons visiting Australia each year.

But tourists had often neglected the west coast of the country, because it was more difficult to travel to and far away from the more populated east coast.

Australian Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said: “There will be more opportunity than ever before for us to continue to showcase and highlight all the very best parts of Australia, including some of the most magnificent and iconic parts of Western Australia.”

Mena Rawlings, Britain's high commissioner to Australia, described the new service as a “game changer”, adding: “To have the opportunity to get on a plane at Heathrow and step out in Perth is just phenomenally exciting and I'm sure we are going to see lots and lots of people taking advantage of that.”

By Sharon Marris



The senior letting older entrepreneurs know It’s never too late to reinvent yourself


It's never too late to reinvent yourself. Take it from Paul Tasner — after working continuously for other people for 40 years, he founded his own start-up at age 66, pairing his idea for a business with his experience and passion. And he's not alone. As he shares in this short, funny and inspirational talk, seniors are increasingly indulging their entrepreneurial instincts — and seeing great success.




Next Annual profits fall 8% after toughest trading period ‘for 25 years’

( via – – Fri, 23 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Annual profits at Next have fallen 8% after what the retailer described as its most challenging year for 25 years.

The company said pre-tax profits dropped to £726.1m in the 12 months to January, marking the third year in a row that profit has declined.

Next said that sales of full-priced products at its stores tumbled in contrast to online demand.

It blamed “a weak clothing market” as well as “self-inflicted product ranging errors and omissions”.

Full priced sales at its shops fell by 7% but rose by 11.2% online. Total revenue for the year fell by 0.5% to £4.1bn.

Next's chief executive, Lord Wolfson, said that “in many ways 2017 was the most challenging year we have faced for 25 years”.

He said that while it had been uncomfortable, “it has also prompted us to take a fresh look at almost everything we do” including the structure of its shop portfolio and the “in-store experience”.

‘Quite lazy'

Experts on the retail sector say mid-priced retailers like Next are in a tough spot.

“The middle market is suffering and there isn't a way back home,” Kate Hardcastle, from consultancy Insight with Passion, told the BBC.

“I think retail generally in this market place has been quite lazy. As soon as consumers had an alternative option that are perhaps are a better price, better product or faster moving product, I think they've taken it.

“So you've seen the rise of Primark on the discount side, Asos and Zara on the more fashion-orientated side and a consumer very much influenced by Instagram and social media.

“It's just too much of a turnaround, too much of a challenge for these quite heavyweight retailers who have expected to trade they always have.,” Ms Hardcastle said.

The latest retail data from the Office for National Statistics showed a rise in sales at supermarkets in February, but falling trade at non-food stores as consumers choose to spend their money on essential items.

A number of retailers and casual dining outlets have failed or face having to radically restructure their businesses.

Both Toys R Us and Maplin have fallen into administration. Fashion chain New Look this week secured an agreement with its creditors to close 60 UK stores and cut 1,000 jobs.

In the restaurant sector, Jamie's Italian, burger chain Byron and Prezzo are closing outlets and laying off staff.

Next said that it planned to roll out more concessions across its store after trying out a number of new services at its shop in Manchester's Arndale Centre.

These include; a florist, a prosecco bar, a restaurant, a children's activity centre, a café, a card and stationery shop, a barber and “shortly a car showroom”.

It said that it was talks to add a spa operator and bridalwear concession to the store and said it expected these steps would add £800,000 worth of income to the shop.

Next also said it was in discussions to add other services to its stores including travel, branded footwear and cosmetics.

“In the year ahead we currently plan to open 98 concessions across our store portfolio and expect to generate annualised income of around £5m from these concessions.”

High Street v Online

Despite the fall in profit, the figure was in line with guidance Next provided in its Christmas trading update and its share price rose by 2.9% to £47.67.

Over the year, profit from Next's shops fell by 24% to £268.7m. Sales fell 7.9% to £2.1bn in what the retailer said was “a particularly difficult year” for its stores.

However, online profits rose by 7.4% to £461.2m, with revenue up 9.2% at £1.8bn.

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: “The shift in the sales performance from retail to online begs the question as to when Next will look to shift its operations away from stores and focus more on maximising its online divisional strength.”




Fever-Tree co-founder banks £82.5m in shares sale

( via – – Fri, 23 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

One of the founders of mixer maker Fever-Tree is toasting a £82.5m payday after cashing in on the firm's recent success by selling a stake in the group.

Deputy chairman Charles Rolls offloaded a 2.6pc stake – almost doubling the number of shares he originally intended to sell after “significant” demand from institutional investors, according to a Stock Exchange announcement.

He sold three million shares at a price of £27.50 each.

It comes after the tonic water group has seen its share price rise more than 1,000pc since its stock market flotation in late 2014.

Shares in the group have risen more than 90pc over the last 12 months alone.

Mr Rolls continues to own an 8.6% stake in the company.

Last year, he banked £73m from another shares sale.

Named after the tree in which quinine – a key ingredient for tonic – is found, the company wanted to offer a premium tonic water with no artificial sweeteners, preservatives or flavourings.

Mr Rolls, along with co-founder Tim Warrillow, produced the group's first bottle of tonic water in 2005 and now sells a range of 12 different flavours.

The group has rapidly expanded its international sales in recent years and now makes around the bulk of annual revenues from outside the UK, with key overseas markets being the US, Spain and Belgium.

By Press Association


Mark Zuckerberg Breaks Silence On Cambridge Analytica Breach

( via – – Thur, 22 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

Following days of silence, CEO announces Facebook will change how it shares data with third-party apps and admits ‘we made mistakes’

The Cambridge Analytica saga is a scandal of Facebook’s own making

Facebook is changing the way it shares data with third-party applications, Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday in his first public statement since the Observer reported that the personal data of about 50 million Americans had been harvested and improperly shared with a political consultancy.

The Facebook CEO broke his five-day silence on the scandal that has enveloped his company this week in a Facebook post acknowledging that the policies that allowed the misuse of data were “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it”.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote. He noted that the company has already changed some of the rules that enabled the breach, but added: “We also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it”.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, shared Zuckerberg’s post and added her own comment: “We know that this was a major violation of peoples’ trust, and I deeply regret that we didn’t do enough to deal with it.”

Zuckerberg also spoke to a handful of media outlets on Wednesday, including a televised interview with CNN in which he apologized for the “breach of trust”, saying: “I’m really sorry that this happened.” In similar conversations with the New York Times, Wired, and tech website Recode, Zuckerberg expressed qualified openness to testifying before Congress and said that he was not entirely opposed to Facebook being subject to more regulations.

The crisis stems from Facebook policies that allowed third-party app developers to extract personal data about users and their friends from 2007 to 2014. Facebook greatly reduced the amount of data that was available to third parties in 2014, but not before a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan had used an app to extract the information of more than 50 million people, and then transferred it to Cambridge Analyticafor commercial and political use.

On Saturday, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, appeared to defend the lax policies that allowed data harvesting from unwitting friends, writing in a statement: “Aleksandr Kogan requested and gained access to information from users who chose to sign up to his app, and everyone involved gave their consent.”

But after five days of outrage from the public, and calls for investigations and regulation from lawmakers in the US and UK, the company appears to be acknowledging that blaming users for not understanding its byzantine terms of service will not suffice.

he company will investigate apps that had access to “large amounts of information” prior to the 2014 changes, Zuckerberg said, and audit any apps that show “suspicious activity”. A Facebook spokesperson declined to share how Facebook was defining “large amounts of information” or how many apps would be scrutinized.Zuckerberg said in his interviews that the number of apps was in the “thousands”. The company will also inform those whose data was “misused”, including people who were directly affected by the Kogan data operation

An online petition calling for just such disclosure for people included in Kogan’s data set had garnered more than 15,000 signatures since the weekend.

Facebook also promised to further restrict the amount of data third-party developers can access when users login to their sites with their Facebook profile, turn off data sharing for apps that haven’t been used for three months, and move the tool that allows users to restrict the data they share from the Settings menu to the News Feed.

David Carroll, a US design professor who is challenging Cambridge Analytica through the UK courts to access his data profile harvested from Facebook, called the reforms “inadequate”. “Users should be notified, and not have to know to go and find out,” he told the Guardian by email.

Zuckerberg’s statement notably did not offer any explanation for why Facebook did not make any effort to inform affected users when Guardian reporters first told the company of the data misuse in December 2015. He did address the question in his press interviews, acknowledging to CNN that it was “a mistake” to rely on Kogan and Cambridge Analytica’s certifications that they had destroyed the data.

“With Mark Zuckerberg’s response, they are trying to convey that they are taking this seriously, but they are reacting to furore rather than facts,” said Jeff Hauser of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The facts are not new to them.”

Jonathan Albright, a research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said that while he welcomed Zuckerberg’s explanation of how Cambridge Analytica gained access to the data in question, he was disappointed that the CEO did not address why Facebook enabled so much third-party access to its users’ personal information for so many years.

“This problem is part of Facebook and cannot be split off as an unfortunate instance of misuse,” Albright said. “It was standard practice and encouraged. Facebook was literally racing towards building tools that opened their users’ data to marketing partners and new business verticals. So this is something that’s inherent to the culture and design of the company.”

By Julia Carrie Wong



De La Rue lose Out Over British Passports Contract to French

British-based company De La Rue says it is “disappointed” at losing out and will consider an appeal, as its shares fall 6%.

Britain's new post-Brexit blue passports will be made in France, according to the current British manufacturer.

De La Rue boss Martin Sutherland said his firm had been told by the Home Office that it had missed out on the passports contract, amid reports Paris-based security giant Gemalto had won the bid.

Mr Sutherland said he was “surprised” to learn that “this icon of British identity is going to be manufactured in France”, adding that he was “disappointed” and would consider an appeal.

Shares in De La Rue, which has produced UK passports for the last decade, fell 6% on the news.

The development has prompted a furious response from ardent Eurosceptics, amid reports Gemalto undercut other bids by around £50m.

Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said awarding the contract to an EU-based company would be “completely wrong and unnecessary”.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom told MPs she was “very sympathetic” to Brexiteers' complaints, advising them how to challenge the Home Office.

Meanwhile, former international development secretary Priti Patel raged it would be a “national humiliation”.

Mr Sutherland called on Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd to explain the decision.

Referring to staff at the firm's Gateshead factory, he said: “I'm going to have to go and face those workers, look at them in the whites of the eyes and try and explain to them why the British Government thinks it's a sensible decision to buy French passports not British passports.”

Mr Sutherland added: “I would actually like to invite Theresa May or Amber Rudd to come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon.”

A new contract was put out to tender for British passports after Brexit as the current one is due to run out.

The tender was put out across the EU under the bloc's single market rules.

It will coincide with the Government's hopes for a return to a blue-fronted travel document, after Britain has left the EU and ditches the current standard burgundy.

Gemalto's bid will save taxpayers around £100m-120m, according to the Home Office.

By Aubrey Allegretti