Poundland threatens Thameslink with legal action over disparaging chocolate tweet

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 31 May 2018) London, Uk – –

“You're off the rails” – Poundland threatens Thameslink with legal action in a row on social media triggered by a rail commuter.

A train company that compared its service to Poundland cooking chocolate in a tweet has been threatened with legal action by the discount retailer.

The spat on social media erupted after a disgruntled passenger named Kevin tweeted an image of a departures board showing cancelled trains, and wrote sarcastically: “Why, Ambassador @TLRailUK, with this fine service you are really spoiling us.”

Thameslink replied: “Very sorry Kevin. Appreciate at the moment the service is less Ferrero Rocher and more Poundland cooking chocolate.”

Poundland's retail director Austin Cooke issued a scathing response to Charles Horton, chief executive of Thameslink's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), describing the train operator as “off the rails”.

Mr Cooke wrote: “Aside from the breach of our trademark, we think you're taking the chocolate biscuit.”

He said GTR has “no right to use our name to describe poor service”, stating that the budget chain served eight million shoppers last week and has a “pretty good idea about what great customer service is”.

“But if we ever fall short, perhaps we'll describe ourselves as a bit Thameslink,” he continued.

“If you don't want to hear from our extremely twitchy legal team, we suggest you remove your tweet.”

It comes as the rail operator has been dogged by disrupted services after a major shake-up of its timetable which has seen the rescheduling of more than four million trains and the introduction of 400 new daily services.

Passengers have been left confused and frustrated by delays and cancellations every day since its launch on 20 May.

On Wednesday alone, 10% of trains were cancelled and 14% were delayed.

GTR has apologised for “any convenience caused” during the initial stages of the timetable change which it insists will lead to a “significant boost in capacity with a 13% increase in services”.

By Sunita Patel-Carstairs

 

High-interest lending crackdown announced by FCA

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 31 May 2018) London, Uk – –

“Rent-to-own” shops that sell appliances and furniture for small weekly payments will face a price cap similar to limits on payday loans.

However, the financial regulator will not rush to impose the same restrictions on bank overdrafts.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has spent nearly two years looking at the cost of high interest borrowing.

It has now outlined a package of plans for rent-to-own, doorstep lending and catalogue shopping.

High-cost credit is used by three million people in the UK.

Single-parents aged 18 to 34 are three times more likely to have a high-cost loan – such as a payday loan, doorstep loan or pawnbroking loan – than the national average.

“The proposals will benefit overdraft and high-cost credit users, rebalancing in the favour of the customer,” said FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey.

Campaigners had called for a cap on the interest and charges faced by those using high-cost credit, including overdrafts.

They said that cap on the cost of payday loans, introduced in 2015, should be a template for the rest of the high-cost credit market.

Rent-to-own firms ‘selling to vulnerable people'
Young and in the red: Personal debt in five charts
Millions miss bills as finances bite
How debt kills
About 400,000 people have outstanding debt with rent-to-own firms such as BrightHouse from which they buy household appliances, paying the money back over three years.

After interest, they can end up paying more than double the cost price.

The FCA said it had seen cases when people had ended up paying more than £1,500 for essentials like an electric cooker that could be bought on the high street for less than £300.

“The FCA believes the harm identified in this market is sufficient in principle to consider a cap on rent-to-own prices. It will now carry out the detailed assessment of the impact that a cap could have on the rent-on-own sector and how it might be structured,” the regulator said.

Such a cap would not be in place before April 2019.

John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said the measures would help the most vulnerable avoid being stung by “dodgy deals”.

That includes people like Kenneth Murray, who says he had to buy a laptop from a rent-to-own firm business as he could not get credit from a high street electrical store.

“I had multiple debts that I was trying to juggle, and no stable source of income. I ended up taking out loans to pay loans,” he said, although he has now managed to halt this cycle.

A typical deal for a fridge bought under a rent-to-own agreement means:

Price of the fridge: £200
Delivery and installation charge: £55
156 weekly payments at APR of 69.9%: £3.25
Total cost: £507
Source: BrightHouse

More than three million people have dipped into an unauthorised overdraft in the course of a year, exceeding their agreed limit.

In 2016, firms made an estimated £2.3bn in revenue from overdrafts, with 30% of this from unarranged overdrafts. The charges for those who go into the red without agreement can be high and complex.

The majority of unarranged overdraft charges were paid by only 1.5% of customers, who paid about £450 a year in fees and charges, the FCA said.

The regulator is proposing that banks offer more information to customers about when and how they go into the red.

It is also considering a ban on fixed fees, which can lead to relatively high charges for a small unarranged overdraft.

Overdrafts in numbers
3.1m have used an unauthorised overdraft in last 12 months
Those aged 35 to 44 are most likely to have some form of overdraft
A total of 10% of all 18 to 24-year-olds have exceeded their overdraft limit in the last 12 months
Source: FCA, Financial Lives, October 2017

Part of discussions will be a “potential backstop price cap for overdrafts”, but it is not an immediate proposal. The FCA said that it needed to overcome potential legal issues that had been encountered in the past.

Gareth Shaw, of consumer association Which?, criticised the delay: “Last summer, the FCA expressed serious concerns about how unarranged overdrafts work, and now almost a year later it is still refusing to take action.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said it was disappointing the regulator had failed to protect users of doorstep loans and unarranged overdrafts as well as buy-to-own customers.

“There are some strong potential remedies on the table for people struggling with overdrafts – the onus is now on the FCA to act quickly,” she said.

But Eric Leenders, managing director of UK Finance, said big banks were making overdrafts more transparent.

Greg Stevens, chief executive of the Consumer Credit Trade Association, which represents 300 lenders, welcomed the FCA's “cautious approach” and said it was “taking its time to get the balance right”.

By  Kevin Peachey

 

 

Nuisance calls: Company owners could be personally liable for £500,000 fines

Jorge Quinteros/Flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed ,30 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Directors could face financial penalty on top of fine directly imposed on company

Business directors could be personally fined up to £500,000 if they fail to prevent nuisance calls, under a government consultation on the issue.

While there has been a big recent increase in the fines issued to companies – last year one was fined £400,000 for making almost 100m automated calls in 18 months – there is concern this has not been a sufficient deterrent.

The data protection watchdog said that in several cases directors had escaped fines by declaring their companies bankrupt and starting again under a different name.

The company fined £400,000 in 2017 was placed in voluntary liquidation, leaving the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to recover the fine through liquidators and insolvency practitioners.

ICO figures show that of the £17.8m in fines issued for nuisance calls since 2010, it has recovered just 54% of this, as companies went into liquidation.

A plan mooted by the government 18 months ago to increase the deterrent by making directors personally responsible for fines of up to £500,000 is being consulted on, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

The new fines could be levied on top of a fine directly imposed on a company, bringing a theoretical maximum penalty of £1m for the worst offenders in an area regularly shown to cause annoyance and distress to householders, especially older people.

The consultation closes in August. If the measure goes ahead, it would involve a proposed amendment to the privacy and electronic communications regulations guidelines.

Margot James, the junior DCMS minister, said: “Nuisance calls are a blight on society and we are determined to stamp them out. For too long a minority of company directors have escaped justice by liquidating their firms and opening up again under a different name.

“We want to make sure the information commissioner has the powers she needs to hold rogue bosses to account and put an end to these unwanted calls.”

Steve Wood, the deputy information commissioner, said the organisation had sought a change to the law. “These changes will increase the tools we have to protect the public,” he said.

Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, has estimated that Britons were subjected to 3.9bn nuisance phone calls and texts last year. However, the number of complaints about the issue has fallen in recent years amid other changes to regulations, such as forcing companies to display their number when calling customers.

In 2015, a law change made it easier for the ICO to fine miscreant companies, removing a clause obliging the office to prove a company caused “substantial damage or substantial distress” through their conduct before action could be taken.

In the first year since the change was made, the total amount of fines issued by the ICO increased to £2m, from £360,000 seen in the previous year.

The fines range from a £5,000 penalty issued to the Labour MP David Lammy, who made recorded calls as part of an election campaign, to a £350,000 fine for a company that made 40m illegal calls trying to sell payment protection insurance.

By Peter Walker

 

Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson resigns

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Wed, 30 May, 2018) London, Uk – –

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) announced this morning that its chief financial officer and executive director Ewen Stevenson has resigned.

The resignation comes just hours before today's annual general meeting.

RBS said he had resigned to take a job outside the bank but would not confirm what it was at this stage.

The bank said Stevenson will remain in place to oversee a handover of his responsibilities and said his departure date would be confirmed in due course.

It said that a search for his successor would start immediately.

The bank’s chairman Howard Davies said: “The board and I are sorry to learn that Ewen has decided to move elsewhere. He will go with our thanks for a job well done and our good wishes.”

Chief executive Ross McEwan said: “For the past four years Ewen has worked tirelessly with me and my executive team to make RBS a much simpler, safer and more customer focussed business and to resolve a number of major legacy challenges. When Ewen leaves RBS he will go with my enormous thanks and best wishes, he has been a fantastic CFO.”

Stevenson joined the bank in 2014 from Credit Suisse where he was co-head of EMEA investment banking and its global financial institutions group, investment banking division.

Earlier this month RBS agreed to pay $4.9bn (£3.7bn) to the US Department of Justice settle a mortgage mis-selling case. This followed the lender posting its first annual profit in almost a decade in 2017.

It has been reported that the government is poised to sell a multi-billion pound stake in the bank in the coming weeks.

Settling the case with the US DOJ had been seen as a key barrier to the government starting to sell its stake.

By James Booth

 

 

Hot weather help “Big Four” supermarkets clocked up sales defying downturn

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 30 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Supermarkets defied a downturn sweeping the retail industry as hot weather, the royal wedding and the FA Cup final encouraged shoppers to splurge on food and drink.

The grocery market grew 2.7pc to £27bn in the 12 weeks to May 20, according to Kantar Worldpanel, as all of the “Big Four” supermarkets clocked up rising sales.

Morrisons did particularly well, outstripping the market with growth of 2.9pc, as it pulled in more than 300,000 extra shoppers in the period.

Asda also managed to hang on to its market share with growth of 2.8pc but Tesco and Sainsbury’s lost ground to fast-growing German discounters Aldi and Lidl despite managing to grow sales by 2.2pc and 1pc respectively.

The figures were buoyed by a hike in prices, as inflation reached 2.1pc in the period.

The May heatwave inspired shoppers to fire up their barbecues, driving a 39pc surge in burger sales and 12pc growth in sausages and the grocers also sold 64pc more sun cream than in the previous year.

Kantar Worldpanel’s Chris Hayward said: “The Friday before the day of the wedding and the FA Cup Final experienced a particularly noticeable spike in sales, with grocers clocking in £415m over the 24 hours.”

The strong performance stands out from the wider retail sector, which has suffered a wave of insolvencies in recent months as shops have struggled with higher costs and lower footfall because more consumers are choosing to shop online.

Separate data from Nielsen said the market grew by 5pc over the last four weeks, with sales of ice cream up 41pc and alcohol up 12pc.

Nielsen’s Mike Watkins said: “We can expect many of the trends we have seen in the last few weeks to continue throughout the summer. The World Cup in June should be another chance to attract more visits and to boost shopper spend.”

By Jack Torrance

 

 

Pret a Manger staff to get £1,000 each as chain is sold for £1.5bn

Krispy Kreme owner JAB to acquire sandwich shops from private equity owners

Every Pret a Manger employee is to receive a £1,000 windfall as the British sandwich chain shop is taken over by the German-controlled company behind Krispy Kreme donuts and Kenco coffee, in a deal worth more than £1.5bn.

Bridgepoint, the UK-based private equity firm, has agreed to sell Pret to the investment group JAB Holdings, which has been rapidly acquiring companies linked to the coffee market in recent years.

On Tuesday, Clive Schlee, the Pret a Manger chief executive, said 12,000 of the coffee shops’s employees, from head office staff to baristas, would receive a £1,000 payout on completion of the deal.

Pret is based in London, where it was started by the entrepreneur Julian Metcalfe and his friend Sinclair Beecham with one shop in 1986. Metcalfe went on to create the Itsu restaurant chain and Metcalfe’s skinny popcorn.

Having expanded rapidly in recent years, opening 50 shops in the past year alone, Pret has more than 500 stores, generating revenues of £879m. It also has stores in the US, China and Dubai.

The company is trying to attract more British workers as it prepares for potential staff shortages after Brexit and seeks to expand further in the US and internationally.

The sale of Pret will mark a lucrative payday for Bridgepoint, which paid £364m, including debt, to buy the chain about a decade ago. The private equity firm had been considering floating the company on the New York Stock Exchange, as it eyed further expansion into the $41bn (£32bn) a year US coffee shop market.

Instead, the deal will bring Pret under the ownership of Luxembourg-based JAB, which is an investment vehicle for Germany’s reclusive Reimann family.

Alongside Krispy Kreme and Kenco, JAB owns the Douwe Egberts and Tassimo coffee brands. It announced a deal to take control of Dr Pepper Snapple, the fifth-largest fizzy drink maker in the world, for $18.7bn earlier this year, in order to combine it with its US-based Keurig Green Mountain business.

Olivier Goudet, the JAB chief executive, said: “We’re very excited to partner with Pret and its talented team to continue their extraordinary growth story.”

By Richard Partington

 

 

British stocks fell on Tuesday, joining a Europe-wide sell-off

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 29 May 2018) London, UK —

MILAN (Reuters) – British stocks fell on Tuesday, joining a Europe-wide sell-off triggered by worries over a political crisis in Italy, while a profit warning at Dixons Carphone wiped one fifth off the retailer’s market value.

The UK's top share FTSE 100 index .FTSE fell 1.1 percent to its lowest level in nearly three weeks, shrugging off a fall in the pound as it resumed trading after a long holiday weekend. The FTSE 250 midcap index .FTMC fell 1.3 percent.

“Even a weaker GBP (typically a boon for FTSE global stocks) and EUR battered by Italian/Spanish geopolitical risks were not sufficient to prop up equities,” said Accendo Markets analyst Artjom Hatsaturjants in a note.

Dixons Carphone (DC.L), which is struggling in a difficult market for selling phones and electrical goods in Britain, warned profits were likely to plunge by a fifth this year and said it would have to close shops to fix itself.

The shares in the company, formed in 2014 by the merger of Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse, fell 20 percent and it their lowest level since December 2017.

“We look forward to a fuller update from the company at the full year results on the company’s plans on 21st June,” said Liberum analysts in a note.

“The key question remains as to what, ultimately, the Carphone Warehouse will look like and how profitable this can be. Deeper clarity on management’s strategy could be the next catalyst,” they added.

Top fallers on the FTSE were banks Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and Barclays (BARC.L), both down more than 3 percent, as financials in Europe were under pressure on worries the next Italian election could turn into a referendum on the euro.

Among the few gainers were precious metal miner Fresnillo (FRES.L), up 3.4 percent, tracking a rise in gold prices, while engineering firm Smiths (SMIN.L) surged to a record high after news it was in early talks over a potential combination of its medical division with U.S.-based ICU Medical.

M&A talk also lifted serviced office provider IWG (IWG.L). U.S. real estate investment company Prime Opportunities said IWG had rejected its offer approach for the British serviced office provider, sending its shares up 2 percent.

By Danilo Masoni

 

 

 

Terra Firma founder Hands exploring £2.5bn takeover bid of Quintain

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 28 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The Terra Firma founder is exploring a bid for the Wembley property-owner through Annington, Sky News understands.

Guy Hands, the private equity tycoon, is exploring a £2.5bn bid for Quintain, the London-based property group, in an effort to establish an £8bn UK-wide real estate empire.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Hands' buyout firm, Terra Firma Capital Partners, is examining an offer for Quintain‎ through Annington, the giant residential property group it has controlled since 2012.

Initial bids are due for Quintain, which is owned by Lone Star Funds, another private equity firm, early next month, and City sources expect a deluge of interest in it.

The company has planning permission ‎for thousands of rental homes in the area around Wembley Stadium, with the development scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Buying Quintain would give Mr Hands a natural merger partner for Annington, which was created in 1996 to acquire more than 57,000 residential properties from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), most of which were then leased back to it on 200-year leases.

Today, the company owns roughly 40,000 homes, the majority of which are still leased to the MoD.

The original deal with Annington has been criticised by the National Audit Office for costing taxpayers £4.2bn‎ more than expected, with rental charges to the MoD expected to rise sharply from 2021.

Mr Hands was the arcitect of that investment in 1996 during his earlier career at Nomura, the Japanese bank.

Annington is owned by a separate Terra Firma-run vehicle which has a number of external investors‎ including an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund.

Last year, Terra Firma secured a £4bn refinancing of Annington, raising £550m of new equity and £3.4bn of debt, in a move that paved the way for a push into the private rented sector.

Some analysts believe the company is now worth over £5.5bn and that an exit via a stock market listing could be easier for Mr Hands if Annington and Quintain were to merge.

It is unclear whether Terra Firma is separately exploring options for the future of Annington although people close to it believe that that is inevitable in the coming months even if Quintain does not form part of its future.

If Mr Hands were to succeed with a bid for Quintain, he would need to raise fresh funds from investors, even as he also attempts to buy a £1.2bn commercial property portfolio from Network Rail.

The tycoon has not raised a general buyout fund for a decade, having seen his stellar reputation tarnished by the financial implosion and eventual seizure of EMI Group, the music empire, from his grasp in 2011.

Last year, Terra Firma kicked off talks with pension funds and other investors about assembling a new $3bn fund, but doubts have begun to emerge in the City about whether such an ambition is achievable.

Mr Hands brought in Justin King, the former J Sainsbury chief executive, and Andrew Geczy from Lloyds Banking Group to attract new investors and oversee an improvement in the operational performance of the companies it owns.

However, Four Seasons Health Care, the care homes operator, has effectively been removed from Terra Firma's ownership by the company's bondholders.

That investment has cost Terra Firma hundreds of millions of pounds, while this week it put Wyevale, the garden centre group, up for sale following a difficult period.

Mr Hands does expect to generate a healthy return from the disposals of RTR, an Italian solar energy business.

Sources said this weekend that Mr Hands' interest in Quintain was “at an early stage” and that he could yet decide not to lodge a formal offer for the company.

Lone Star has hired Credit Suisse and Eastdil to handle the sale.

Spokesmen for Terra Firma and Annington declined to comment this weekend.

By Mark Kleinman

 

Bad news for WH Smith voted worst retailer on the UK High Street

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 28 May 2018) London, Uk – –

WH Smith has been voted the worst retailer on the UK High Street in a survey of more than 10,000 consumers.

Customers complained the shops were out-of-date, products were expensive and staff were rude in the survey by consumer group Which?

Cosmetics chain Lush, discounter Savers and toy chain Smyths Toys came top in the survey, which asked shoppers for their thoughts on about 100 retailers.

WH Smith said just 184 shoppers had commented on its stores in the survey.

“We serve 12 million customers each week, and despite a challenging retail environment we continue to open new shops, and to maintain our presence on the UK High Street,” a spokesperson said.

Which? said its ranking was based on customers' experiences of buying items other than groceries, their level of satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each shop.

It is the eighth year in a row that WH Smith has been ranked in the bottom two of the survey.

The shopping experience at the chain has been humorously documented online by a Twitter account called WHS Carpet.

Shoppers send in photos of wonky shelves, tired flooring and out-of-date stock to the account, which has more than 12,000 followers.

One shopper recently noted that the chain's Blackpool store was selling both Easter and Christmas chocolate at the same time.

Despite the criticism, WH Smith is successfully managing to drive sales at its travel stores higher. Revenues at its outlets at railway stations and airports overtook those of its High Street stores for the first time last year.

Last month, WH Smith said sales in its travel arm rose 7% in the six months to the end of February. In contrast, sales at its High Street stores dropped 5%.

Which? said its survey found that customers valued being able to touch, feel and try on items before purchasing them as well as being able to ask staff questions.

The survey also found that things such as having to queue and crowding put shoppers off.

“If retailers can strike the right balance between good value, quality products and first-class customer service, shoppers will keep coming back to their stores,” Ben Clissitt, Which? magazine editor, said.

Top-rated shops, according to Which?
1= Lush, Savers, Smyths Toys

4= Screwfix, Toolstation

6= Bodycare, Richer Sounds

8= The Perfume Shop, Waterstones

10= The Body Shop, Dunelm, Ikea, John Lewis

Bottom-rated shops, according to Which?
1 WH Smith

2 Clintons

3= Evans, Sports Direct

5 Homebase/Bunnings

6= Toys R Us/Babies R Us (since closed down), JD Sports

8= Dorothy Perkins/Burton, Halfords (including Cycle Republic), Miss Selfridge, Ryman

Which? said its survey found that customers valued being able to touch, feel and try on items before purchasing them as well as being able to ask staff questions.

The survey also found that things such as having to queue and crowding put shoppers off.

“If retailers can strike the right balance between good value, quality products and first-class customer service, shoppers will keep coming back to their stores,” Ben Clissitt, Which? magazine editor, said.

 

The long-haul business class traveller’s holy grail

 

The long-haul business class traveller’s holy grail? Arriving at your destination looking and feeling better than when you set off. David Annand, Men’s Editor CN Traveller, Kathleen Baird-Murray, Vogue Contributing Heath & Beauty Editor and Joost Heymeijer, Emirates’ food expert, take us through style, food and wellness advice on how to travel at 32,000 feet.

 

Comparing Mainstream, Premium Also Luxury Cruise Ships and How They Work

 

cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, when the voyage itself, the ship's amenities, and sometimes the different destinations along the way (i.e., ports of call), are part of the experience. Transportation is not the only purpose of cruising, particularly on cruises that return passengers to their originating port (known as “closed-loop cruises”). On “cruises to nowhere” or “nowhere voyages”, the ship makes 2–3 night round trips without any ports of call

 

 

Apple awarded $539 million in Samsung patent retrial

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 25 May 2018) London, UK —

(Reuters) – After nearly five days of deliberations, a U.S. jury on Thursday said Samsung Electronics Co Ltd should pay $539 million (£403.26 million) to Apple Inc for copying patented smartphone features, according to court documents, bringing a years-long feud between the technology companies into its final stages.

The world’s top smartphone rivals have been in court over patents since 2011, when Apple filed a lawsuit alleging Samsung’s smartphones and tablets “slavishly” copied its products. Samsung was found liable in a 2012 trial, but a disagreement over the amount to be paid led to the current retrial over damages where arguments ended on May 18.

Samsung previously paid Apple $399 million to compensate Apple for infringement of some of the patents at issue in the case. The jury has been deliberating the case since last week.

Because of that credit, if the verdict is upheld on appeal it will result in Samsung making an additional payment to Apple of nearly $140 million.

In a statement, Apple said it was pleased that the members of the jury “agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products.”

“We believe deeply in the value of design,” Apple said in its statement. “This case has always been about more than money.”

Samsung did not immediately say whether it planned to appeal the verdict but said it was retaining “all options” to contest it.

“Today’s decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favour of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages,” Samsung said in a statement. “We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.”

The new jury verdict followed a trial in San Jose, California, before Judge Lucy Koh that focused on how much Samsung should pay for infringing Apple patents covering aspects of the iPhone’s design. The jury awarded Apple $533.3 million for Samsung’s violation of so-called design patents and $5.3 million for the violation of so-called utility patents.

Apple this year told jurors it was entitled to $1 billion in profits Samsung made from selling infringing phones, saying the iPhone’s design was crucial to their success.

Samsung sought to limit damages to about $28 million, saying it should only pay for profits attributable to the components of its phones that infringed Apple patents.

Jurors in the earlier trial awarded $1.05 billion to Apple, which was later reduced.

Samsung paid $548 million to Apple in December 2015, including $399 million for infringement of some of the patents at issue in this week’s trial.

Apple’s case against Samsung raised the question of whether the total profits from a product that infringes a design patent should be awarded if the patent applies only to a component of the product, said Sarah Burstein, a professor of patent law at the University of Oklahoma.

The verdict appears to be a compromise between Apple and Samsung’s positions and does not offer much clarity on that question, said Burstein, who predicted Samsung would appeal it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

“This decision just means we are going to have more uncertainty,” Burstein said. “Smart tech industry players are waiting to see what the Federal Circuit does. This is just one jury applying one test.”

By Stephen Nellis and Jan Wolfe

 

 

GDPR comes into force posing major challenges for developers and businesses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 25 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Some companies push new onerous terms of service on users as GDPR rules come into force on Friday

Dozens of websites shut down their activities completely, others forced users to agree to new terms of service, and inboxes have been flooded with emails begging customers to remain on mailing lists as the GDPR rules come into force on Friday.

The biggest update in data protection laws since the 1990s is posing major challenges for developers and businesses – while giving substantial new powers to consumers.

Margot James, the digital minister, told the Guardian: “Of the eight guiding principles that governed the use of personal information under the old act, we have made an important addition – accountability. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, UK citizens more than ever need reassurances their data is as safe as it can be and that organisations are accountable for it.”

Businesses resort to desperate emailing as GDPR deadline looms
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She said businesses would now have to prove they had been given permission to use a individual’s information, including contact details.

“Except in certain, limited instances, organisations now must demonstrate they have our explicit consent to process our sensitive personal data. Generally, we’ve also given greater control to the British public over how their data is used. No doubt like me you’ll have received a flurry of emails in recent weeks from the organisations currently holding your data, and perhaps some you weren’t even aware did, asking for you to re-submit this consent.”

The cascade of emails from businesses has become the most visible consumer-facing effect of the new regulation, sent by firms who want users to actively give their consent to remain on a mailing list. But, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office, such emails aren’t necessary to comply with the law.

“Some of the myths we’ve heard are, ‘GDPR means I won’t be able to send my newsletter out anymore’ or ‘GDPR says I’ll need to get fresh consent for everything I do’,” Steve Wood, the deputy information commissioner, wrote on the organisation’s website earlier this month. “I can say categorically that these are wrong … You do not need to automatically refresh all existing consents in preparation for the new law.”

Campaign groups and political parties who have come to rely on large email mailing lists to contact supporters could find they lose one of their main ways of communicating with the public. It has been suggested that businesses could be forced turn to more traditional methods – such as targeting customers with direct mail through the postal system – to reach customers.

As the GDPR deadline neared, some websites and services started to push users to agree to onerous new terms of service before they could continue on to their destination.

Websites run by Oath, the media firm formed through the merger of Yahoo! and AOL, received a blanket request on Thursday morning, asking users for consent “to use your … data to understand your interests and personalise and measure ads”. Users could click OK to move on, or follow a chain of further links to discover that the consent granted involved sharing data with more than a hundred ad networks.

Another Oath site, Tumblr, placed a similar clickthrough before users. The blogging platform did offer some links to understand “how our partners use this data”. However, even this background information was hosted on Tumblr blogs, meaning users had to accept the terms in order to read information about the terms they were accepting.

The US media network NPR took a simpler approach. Users could either agree to the new terms, or decline and be taken to a plain-text version of the site, looking for all the world like it had last been updated in 1996.

It wasn’t just websites. PC hardware maker Razer issued an update to one of its computer mice, warning that users may find their devices weren’t working if they didn’t update; Chinese smart-home manufacturer Yeelight disabled inter-connected lightbulbs because of the data protection regulation.

And a growing number of companies are taking the nuclear option to ensure compliance: blocking all European users from their servers.

Instapaper, a service owned by the US firm Pinterest which enables users to save articles to read at a later date, became the latest to disconnect European customers on Thursday. It said the cutoff was temporary while it made the required changes, and told users: “We apologise for any inconvenience, and we intend to restore access as soon as possible.” Pinterest did not respond to a request for comment.

Other companies have taken a more permanent approach. Unroll.me, an inbox management firm, announced it was completely withdrawing services for EU companies due to an inability to offer its product – which is monetised by selling insights gleaned from reading users’ emails – in a way that was compatible with EU law. “We are truly sorry that we are unable to offer our service to you,” the company told EU users.

American media network A+E has blocked EU visitors from all its websites, including History.com, and some multiplayer online games, including Ragnarok Online, have switched off their EU servers.

Other firms have not gone so far as to blame the new regulation but have closed EU operations with convenient timing. Crowdpac, a political fundraising organisation set up by David Cameron’s former advisor Steve Hilton, announced it was closing its UK wing “for business reasons” until further notice. The company, which was still raising funds in the UK as recently as Sunday, now says it “hopes one day to be back”.

Klout, a social media analytics service, and Super Monday Night Combat, an online game, will shut down on Friday. Lithium, the owner of Klout, said: “Klout no longer made sense as a standalone service. The upcoming deadline for GDPR implementation simply expedited our plans to sunset Klout.”

Brian Honan, a data protection expert, said he viewed the shutdowns as a reasonable consequence of the new law. “The GDPR’s primary goal is to enhance the protections around the gathering and processing of the personal data belonging to individuals residing within the European Union,” he said.

“Companies have had well over two years to prepare for the enforcement date and to be ready.”

Unfortunately, even going to the extremes of blocking every user based in the EU might not be enough to inure companies from the consequences of GDPR: the law applies to data processed on EU citizens wherever they are based in the world.

By Alex Hern and Jim Waterson

 

 

 

Homebase sold for £1 after failed rebrand attempt

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 25 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The Australian owner of has thrown in the towel, agreeing to sell the struggling home improvement chain for £1 after a bungled attempt to rebrand it as part of its Bunnings business.

Wesfarmers will book a loss of between £200m and £230m on the sale to HMV owner Hilco Capital, which will change all 24 of the stores converted to Bunnings back to the Homebase brand.

Rob Scott, Wesfarmers managing director, admitted Homebase had been hampered by his company’s “poor execution” after the takeover, compounded by a consumer slump that has swept the retail industry in recent months.

He added: “While the review confirmed the business is capable of returning to profitability over time, further capital investment is necessary to support the turnaround.”

Wesfarmers said Damian McLoughlin, who was hired to run the business in June, will stay put after the sale.

There had been hopes that Homebase could be revitalised by its new owner, which bought the chain from Argos-owner Home Retail Group in 2016. But the revamped stores failed to win over shoppers as popular ranges were replaced by unfamiliar products favoured by Australian consumers.

Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy Retail Economics, said: “The business is bleeding cash and the owners have decided enough is enough. Unfortunately, the restructuring will almost inevitably lead to store closures and more job losses on the high street.”

Earlier this year Wesfarmers said it would close 40 Homebase stores with the potential loss of 2,000 jobs. The chain has around 240 sites.

By Jack Torrance

 

 

Uk retail sales rose by 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending

 

 

Tim Tabor/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending after unseasonably cold weather earlier in the year.

Petrol sales surged 4.7% after falling 6.9% in March after widespread snow disruption, official statistics show.

Only department stores reported a decline, with sales volumes down 0.9%.

However, Rob Kent-Smith of the Office for National Statistics said the retail sector remained subdued, with sales in recent months largely unchanged.

“Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Retail sales fell by 1.8% in March and posted their biggest quarterly fall in seven years as the prices of everyday goods continued to rise.

‘Lacklustre' performance
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the April rise reflected a recovery from snow-induced weakness in March, rather than robust spending momentum.

“We continue to expect retail spending to increase only at a glacial rate this year. Consumers' confidence has weakened and savings intentions have picked up,” he said.

“The sharp rise in oil prices to nearly $80 will filter through to petrol pumps over the next three weeks, hitting petrol sales volumes and squeezing the amount of money households have left for discretionary consumption.”

Ben Brettell of Hargreaves Lansdown said the underlying trend for retail sales remained “pretty lacklustre” and the figures were little incentive for the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“Growth is anaemic at best, and retail sales look insipid. But with inflation falling back towards target and real wages finally growing, albeit only slowly, there's little cause for alarm either,” he said.

 

 

Comcast confirms formal offer preparation to win 21st Century Fox TV and film businesses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Comcast has confirmed it is attempting to beat Disney to win control of 21st Century Fox's TV and film businesses.

The US cable giant said it was in the advanced stages of preparing a formal offer for the assets that Fox had agreed to sell to Disney.

It said any bid would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current $52.4bn all-share offer from Disney.

That agreement also covers the intended purchase of the 39.1% stake in Sky, the owner of Sky News, that Fox currently owns.

The £17.5bn Fox bid to buy the shares in Sky it does not have has become mired in regulatory hurdles, with Fox awaiting a decision within weeks on whether its remedies to satisfy media plurality concerns will prove acceptable to the government.

Those offers included the potential for Sky News to be owned by Disney – bypassing concerns that Rupert Murdoch's family would have too much control over UK media.

Comcast, last month, launched a £22bn rival offer for Sky – prompting the possibility of a bidding war.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who will rule on whether the Fox takeover of Sky could potentially proceed, said earlier this week that he was “not minded” to refer the Comcast offer to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for deeper scrutiny on public interest grounds.

Comcast said of its intention to bid for the Fox assets: “While no final decision has been made, at this point the work to finance the all-cash offer and make the key regulatory filings is well advanced.”

 

 

Deutsche Bank in investment bank revamp to cut thousands of staff

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 24 May 2018) London, UK —

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) will cut global staff numbers by more than 7,000 in the first major move by its new CEO to reduce costs and restore profitability after years of false starts.

Germany’s biggest bank said on Thursday it would reduce global headcount to well below 90,000 from the current 97,000, with staff numbers in equities sales and trading falling by 25 percent. The bulk of those jobs are in New York and London.

After an abrupt management reshuffle last month, Deutsche Bank said it aimed to scale back its global investment bank and refocus on Europe and its home market after three consecutive years of losses. It had flagged cuts to U.S. bond trading, equities, and the business that serves hedge funds.

“We remain committed to our Corporate & Investment Bank and our international presence – we are unwavering in that,” Chief Executive Christian Sewing said in a statement on Thursday.

“We are Europe’s alternative in the international financing and capital markets business. However, we must concentrate on what we truly do well,” he said.

The reductions will reduce the investment bank’s leverage exposure by 100 billion euros (87.5 billion pounds), or 10 percent, with most of the cuts to take place this year, the bank said.

It didn’t provide a specific number of job cuts, but a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday the bank was aiming to axe 10,000 positions.

The bank said 2018 would incur restructuring costs of 800 million euros, a figure the bank had flagged last month.

The details on the bank’s strategy come ahead of its annual general meeting on Thursday.

hareholders, fed up with a languishing share price and dwindling revenues, said they would call on the bank’s management to speed up the recovery process.

The shareholder meeting comes after months of turmoil for the loss-making lender.

Deutsche Bank Chairman Paul Achleitner last month abruptly replaced CEO John Cryan with Sewing amid investor complaints the bank was falling behind in executing a turnaround plan.

The bank’s shares, down more than 31 percent this year, opened 0.4 percent higher.

Deutsche Bank is also under pressure from credit ratings agencies. Standard & Poor’s is expected to say by the end of the month whether it will cut Deutsche Bank’s rating after putting it on “credit watch” in April.

By Tom Sims

 

 

Barclays and Standard Chartered no plans for merger

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 23 May 2018) London, Uk – –

The marriage of Barclays and Standard Chartered is in many ways a tantalising prospect.

Take the new transatlantic Barclays, with a big US and European investment banking business, and a very profitable UK retail and credit card business, and bolt it on to Standard Chartered's Asian, African and Middle East trade expertise.

Not only that, but Standard Chartered's big Asian deposit base would be a source of cheap capital for Barclays investment bank. Voila – an all-singing, all-dancing bank with a truly global footprint.

It's such a tempting idea that it gets kicked around every few years and folks are now doing it again for some understandable reasons. Barclays has made good progress clearing up some big outstanding items.

The fine from the US authorities over risky mortgage selling: sorted. The criminal charges over the way it raised money in Qatar in the aftermath of the crisis: dropped. The outstanding investigation into chief executive Jes Staley's handling of a whistleblowing incident last year: resolved, with a fine and yellow card from the City watchdog. The ring fencing of its UK retail bank: complete.

‘Interesting blue sky'
With all that out the way, so the thinking goes, the board is now twiddling its thumbs and outgoing chairman John McFarlane might fancy one last big deal as his swansong.

Mr McFarlane – who used to work for Standard Chartered – has looked at this before when he joined five years ago, but both banks had more immediate fish to fry. With those fish now fried it makes sense he might look at the idea again. Certainly, deputy chairman Gerry Grimstone is a fan: he told me last year that a deal was “just blue sky thinking – but quite an interesting bit of blue sky”.

At that time no discussions between the two banks had taken place and I am told that is still the case. The other reason tongues are wagging is the arrival on the share register of activist investor Edward Bramson. Activist investors arrive and agitate for usually pretty radical change to deliver more value for shareholders. Perhaps, say some, this deal would tick that box.

Both bosses – Mr Staley of Barclays and Bill Winters at Standard Chartered – have dismissed the idea when I have put it to them in the past.

Practicalities
Mr Staley is focused on building a bank centred in London and New York, and has just sold dozens of businesses, and exited Africa, where the bank spent a chequered century. He has no desire to do business in the places that Standard Chartered plies its trade. Standard Chartered itself has learnt the hard way about the pitfalls of doing business in places like Iran – incurring hefty fines from US regulators.

Standard Chartered is focused on building a bank based on facilitating trade in the developed and developing countries of Asia and Africa. It has little institutional interest or expertise in investment banking – despite the fact that Bill Winters was a long time colleague of Mr Staley's at JP Morgan's US investment bank.

As for Mr Bramson, the activist shareholder, he has so far not been that active, and if and when that changes, it seems unlikely that this deal is the thing he would agitate for.

City sources say his plan is most likely to include getting Barclays to sell of bits of its investment bank. Investment banking is risky, and regulators require investment banks to set aside a lot more shock absorbing capital as the price of playing that game, compared to supposedly less risky retail banking. Reducing the size of the investment bank would free up lots of capital which could then be returned to shareholders like Bramson.

Never say never – but my guess is that this fairytale marriage of two of Britain's biggest banks is, at the moment, just that.

By Simon Jack