Coca-Cola to buy Whitbread owned Costa coffee chain for £3.9bn

QLM Image

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 31st Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Coca-Cola is to buy the Costa coffee chain from owner Whitbread in a deal worth £3.9bn.

Whitbread had intended to spin off the chain as a separate firm, but said a straight sale was more profitable.

Chief executive Alison Brittain said Whitbread would now focus on its Premier Inn business in the UK and Germany.

Whitbread bought Costa, which is now the UK's biggest coffee chain, for just £19m in 1995.

At the time, it had just 39 outlets. It now has more than 2,400 UK coffee shops, as well as some 1,400 outlets in 31 overseas markets. Costa Express has 8,237 vending machines worldwide.

Whitbread shares rose more than 17% in early Friday trading.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Ms Brittain explained that Coca-Cola wanted to buy Costa because “they want the coffee product, they have no coffee in their range”.

She said the money from the sale would be used to expand the Premier Inn chain, return some cash to shareholders, pay down debt and boost the pension fund.

Describing the sale as a “win-win” for everyone, she said the price paid by Coca-Cola was far higher than if Costa had been demerged into a stand-alone company on the stock market.

She said she thought the beverage giant would use Costa to create “ready to drink, cold brew coffees”.

“You could see Costa absolutely everywhere, in vending machines, hotels, restaurants, pubs, cafes – in all the places you see Coke today,” she added.

Whitbread announced earlier this year that it was planning to spin off Costa.

Whitbread had been under pressure to consider a break-up of the business after hedge fund Elliott Advisors became the company's largest shareholder.

Elliott reportedly put forward a demerger plan after building up a 6% stake in the firm.

As well as being the largest UK coffee chain, Costa is also the world's second largest. It is looking to triple its presence in China, where it is second to Starbucks.

From beer to beds: Whitbread's long history
1742 – Samuel Whitbread forms partnership with Godfrey and Thomas Shewell

1750 – Whitbread creates UK's first mass-production brewery in London

1868 – Begins producing beer in bottles

1968 – Starts brewing Heineken under licence

1974 – Opens first Beefeater steakhouse

1990s – Buys David Lloyd Leisure, Marriott Hotels, TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut, Premier Lodge

1995 – Buys Costa Coffee from Sergio and Bruno Costa for £19m when it had 39 outlets

2000 – Sells brewing business to focus on Premier Inn and Costa

Whitbread also owns restaurants Beefeater and Brewers Fayre. Over the years, it has owned well-known brands such as TGI Fridays, Pizza Hut and Marriott Hotels.

The deal is subject to the agreement of Whitbread's shareholders and various other approvals, including from anti-trust regulators.

It is expected to complete in the first half of next year.

Analysis: Dominic O'Connell, Today business presenter
For years, demerger was a dirty word at Whitbread. When asked, as they often were, about the logic of having a hotel chain and a coffee chain in the same company, executives would extol the benefits of having two leisure brands under one roof.

Shareholders were always less convinced, but were happy to go along with the idea while Whitbread grew its revenue, profits and share price at a steady clip over the last decade.

All that changed with the arrival of Alison Brittain as chief executive – and the appearance on the shareholder register of Elliott Management, an aggressive, deep-pocketed US hedge fund with a track record of shaking up big companies. It pushed hard for a demerger, and Ms Brittain, who judged that Costa and Premier had reached sufficient scale to stand on their own feet, opened the door.

The plan was that Costa would be spun off at some time in the next two years, but Coca-Cola pre-empted that with a knockout offer.

While this is a landmark deal for Whitbread, it is also a significant move for Coca-Cola, taking it into hot beverages for the first time and, it hopes, providing the growth for which its investors have been crying out.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, described the deal as “a bitter-sweet moment for Whitbread investors”.

“On the one hand, £3.9bn is an undeniably rich valuation and likely far better than Costa could achieve as an independently listed company, valuing its earnings higher than those of the mighty Starbucks,” he said.

“On the other, Costa has long been the jewel in Whitbread's crown and some will be sad to see it go at any price, especially given the growth potential in China and elsewhere.”

 

 

London’s Crossrail rail link December opening delayed by nearly a year

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 31st Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The opening of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, London’s new Crossrail train line, has been delayed by about nine months because the 15 billion pound scheme requires more time for testing to be completed, it said.

When fully open, the Elizabeth line, as it is officially known, will connect destinations such as Heathrow Airport in west London to areas such as the Canary Wharf financial district in the east.

It is desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding and speed up journeys between key transport hubs in Britain’s capital city. The central section was meant to open in December this year but it has now been delayed until the autumn, Crossrail said.

“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software,” Crossrail said in a statement.

“Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”

More than 200 million passengers are expected to use the Elizabeth line every year once it is operational.

Transport for London said it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

“The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance,” said Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line Managing Director.

By Costas Pitas

 

 

Sir James Dyson to invest £2bn in electric car test facilities in the UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 30th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Sir James Dyson is gearing up his £2bn attempt to build an electric car with a huge investment in new test facilities in the UK.

The billionaire entrepreneur is applying for planning permission to build a series of test tracks at the World War II airbase in Wiltshire his company acquired last year.

Dyson has already created a technology centre at Hullavington airfield with the restoration and repurposing of two giant aircraft hangars.

Now Sir James wants to build 10 miles of tracks on the 520-acre site which will be used to examine cars’ performance when tackling corners, high speeds and inclines, as well as their ability to handle off-road driving.

The application also include plans to create 45,000sq m of buildings capable of accommodating 2,000 people, work which will take Dyson’s spending on the site to more than £200m so far.

Last September Sir James confirmed long-rumoured plans his company – which has earned him a £9.5bn fortune – had been working on an electric car for three years. The admission came because Dyson needed to start discussions with governments about testing.

He has refused to give details of what the vehicle might look like, saying only that the design will be “radical”, feature basic self-driving technology and be aimed at upmarket buyers.

Dyson has not partnered with existing car manufacturers, preferring to go it alone and develop the advanced electric motors and batteries it created for its vacuum cleaners and driers for use in cars. The company also has extensive experience in aerodynamics and robotics, as well as manufacturing.

There has been speculation that Dyson – which bought US battery research business Sakti3 in 2015 – has made a breakthrough in battery technology that will give it an edge over other automotive manufacturers.

Sir James has set a tough timeline for the car, aiming to have it ready by 2021.

About 400 people are working on the car at the moment and Dyson is currently recruiting a further 300 into automotive roles. Sir James has predicted that as work on the project accelerates, Dyson’s current UK workforce of 4,800 could almost double.

During the war Allied pilots used Hullavington as a base from where they could develop an understanding of how to fly their aircraft to the limit, making them more effective in combat.

Sir James said he hoped to repeat such efforts at the site. “Hullavington is filled with the spirit of engineering, innovation and risk-taking,” he said. “These are the ideals that drove those who worked on the airfield before us, and they will help propel us forward as we develop our electric vehicle.”

Jim Rowan, chief executive, said Hullavington will “quickly become a world-class vehicle testing campus, creating high-skilled jobs for Britain as our automotive project strengthens our credentials as a global R&D organisation”.

If Sir James can develop a workable vehicles – something automotive experts say could cost tens of billions – Britain is unlikely to see production of it here.

His company – which has more than 12,000 staff worldwide – carries out manufacturing in low-cost Far East, with the engineering and development work focused on the UK.

Sir James’s inspiration to build an environmentally friendly car came more than 20 years ago as he used filters from his early vacuums to try to improve diesel exhausts. He said his pleas to reduce emissions using his innovative technology were turned down.

By Alan Tovey

 

 

SSE and Npower merger provisionally cleared by regulator

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 30th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

An investigation finds competition will not be harmed by the planned tie-up, leaving the “big six” on track to become five.

The proposed household energy supply merger between “big six” players SSE and npower has been provisionally cleared by regulators.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had been carrying out an in-depth review into the proposed tie-up amid fears it would weaken competition in the market.

The watchdog had earlier raised concerns about the potential effect a merger would have on controversial standard variable tariffs (SVTs) – set to face a government-inspired cap ahead of the winter over widespread claims by politicians and consumer groups they are a rip-off.

:: Energy price cap plans reach parliament

However, the CMA's inquiry group found the pair “do not compete closely on SVT prices”.

It also took comfort from improved levels of switching – at their highest level for a decade – and evidence many households are switching to providers away from the current big six players which also include Scottish Power, British Gas, E.ON and EDF.

It pointed to the existence of more than 70 energy providers in the UK market.

Inquiry chair Anne Lambert said: “It is vital householders have a range of energy suppliers to choose from so they can find the best deal for them.

“With more than 70 energy companies out there, we have found that there is plenty of choice when people shop around.

“But many people don't shop around for their energy. So, we carefully scrutinised this deal, in particular how it would impact people who pay the more expensive standard variable prices.

“Our analysis shows that the merger will not impact how SSE and npower set their SVT prices because they are not close rivals for these customers.

“Looking ahead, Ofgem's price cap is also expected to protect SVT customers.”

The CMA is now set to consult on its provisional decision and deliver a final report by 22 October.

The deal was first announced last November.

Subject to regulatory clearance, it would see SSE and Innogy – npower's German owner – demerge their UK supply operations to create a new London-listed company with – currently – the big six becoming five.

The two companies said on Thursday the provisional decision meant the merger was on track to complete by early next year at the latest.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE chief executive, said: “Following a thorough and in-depth investigation, we are pleased the CMA has provisionally concluded the proposed merger of SSE Energy Services and npower does not raise competition concerns.

“The scale and pace of change in the GB energy market continues to be significant and requires us to evolve to stay relevant, competitive and sustainable.

“The planned transaction presents a great opportunity to create a more agile, innovative and efficient company that really delivers for customers and the energy market as a whole.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

 

 

Aston Martin Announce London Stock Exchange flotation

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 29th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Stock market float expected to value luxury carmaker at £5bn

Aston Martin is to float on the London Stock Exchange in a deal that could value James Bond’s favourite sports car brand at about £5bn.

The luxury carmaker announced plans to sell about £1bn worth of shares in the initial public offering (IPO), which chief executive Andy Palmer described as “a key milestone” in the company’s history.

Aston Martin, which was founded in a small London workshop in 1913 and has expanded to become one of the world’s biggest sports car brands, has been debating whether to float its shares in London or New York.

Aston Martin Valkyrie preview: ‘A car to bring on a fit of the vapours’
Read more
Aston Martin aims to publish a prospectus including full details of the share sale on 20 September. Eligible employees and customers of the carmaker will be able to apply to buy shares at the offer price.

The flotation will be a big test of the appetite of investors to back British companies, as very few large IPOs are expected before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union in March 2019.

Palmer has said that Brexit is not a huge concern for the company as it sells relatively few cars into continental Europe and is also used to dealing with tariffs in most of its export markets. However, the company imports about two-thirds of its parts from Europe.

The carmaker is hoping to double production to 14,000 vehicles a year as demand from super-rich car enthusiasts increases. The company, which is based in Gaydon in Warwickshire, sold 5,098 cars last year – its highest number in nine years. The fastest growing markets were the US, the UK and China.

Palmer said there had been an explosion of growth in China, with sales up 89% year-on-year. Aston Martin plans to open 10 new showrooms in China.

The company, which suffered a £163m loss in 2016, made a pretax profit of £87m last year on record revenues of £876m.

Aston Martins sold for an average of £160,000 in the first three months of this year – an 11% increase on the same period a year earlier. The company said the increase was due to more buyers choosing to personalise their vehicles with costly design options and special features.

The character of James Bond has driven an Aston Martin intermittently on film since 1964, when he drove a DB5 in Goldfinger. For the following year’s Thunderball, the car was adapted with a water cannon and a boot-stowed jetpack. The DB5 returned in Goldeneye in 1995 and in several Bond films since, including Skyfall and Spectre.

The company last week announced plans to create 25 Goldfinger DB5s complete with some of Bond’s gadgets, including revolving number plates. The cars, which will all come in Bond’s silver birch colour, will cost £2.75m each and will not be road legal.

Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
Read more
The company recently began production of its new Vantage sports car model, which is hand-built in Gaydon. Marking the start of production of the Vantage earlier this year, Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “Aston Martin is an iconic brand that is an integral part of Britain’s proud automotive heritage.

“Through our modern industrial strategy we are building on this success, and the new Vantage is a British-built car exemplifying the skill and innovation that sets the UK auto sector apart from its competitors.”

Next to hit the production line will be the DBS Superleggera, a super-GT with a top speed of 211 mph (340km/h) and 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.4 seconds.

The company is building a new factory in Wales, where it is expected to base production of its Lagonda Vision emissions-free electric sports car.

By Rupert Neate

 

 

House prices in London’s overvalued market expected to fall – Reuters poll

Flickr/Megan Trace

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 29th Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – House prices in London’s overvalued market will fall this year and next, a Reuters poll of analysts and experts predicted, and will tumble if Britain fails to reach a deal ahead of its departure from the European Union.

The quarterly poll of around 30 housing market specialists, taken in the past week, said house prices in the capital – where foreign investors have previously fuelled skyrocketing prices – will fall 1.6 percent this year and 0.1 percent next.

“Central London is tanking because the traditional international buyers are staying away – and the quantum of buyers is falling. A disorderly Brexit will exacerbate this trend,” said Tony Williams at property consultancy Building Value.

Uncertainty over how Brexit negations pan out has already spooked foreign investors. When asked what effect a disorderly departure would have on London prices, responses ranged from “short-term fall” to “damaging” to “disaster”.

“In the short term the additional uncertainty will disproportionately affect London, causing the value of some properties, particularly high value properties, to fall further,” said Ray Boulger at mortgage broker John Charcol.

Britain is due to leave the EU in March and sterling fell to a near one-year low against the euro on Tuesday amid no-deal angst. A weaker currency should make UK houses more attractive to foreign buyers but Brexit uncertainty is keeping them away.

When asked about the likelihood of a significant correction in London’s housing market before the end of 2019 the specialists gave a relatively high median of 29 percent. The highest was 75 percent.

But that might not be a bad thing – certainly for first-time buyers.

When asked to rate the level of London house prices on a scale of one to ten, where one is extremely cheap and ten extremely expensive, the median response was nine. Nationally they were rated seven.

“The weight of evidence suggests that housing is overvalued once more,” said Hansen Lu at Capital Economics.

In August the average asking price for a home nationally was 301,973 pounds and in London a whopping 609,205 pounds, according to property website Rightmove, putting home ownership out of the reach of many – despite historically low borrowing costs.

The Bank of England pushed interest rates above their financial crisis lows this month but signalled it was in no hurry to raise them further. It will add another 25 basis points in the second quarter of next year, taking Bank Rate to 1.0 percent, another Reuters poll predicted.

So with mortgage rates staying low house prices are expected to increase nationally by 2.0 percent this year and next – slower than inflation – and then 2.3 percent in 2020.

“We see little upward or downward pressure on house prices at current near-zero interest rates. However, risks lie substantially to the downside,” said Andrew Brigden at Fathom Consulting.

“Were interest rates to return to pre-crisis levels or higher, which may prove necessary if there were a sharp fall in sterling after a General Election, for example, then house prices could fall by around 40 percent.”

By Jonathan Cable

 

 

 

Toyota and Uber to invest in $500m joint venture driverless car deal

Flickr/Niklas Morberg

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 28 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Japanese carmaker Toyota is to invest $500m (£387m) in Uber and expand a partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The firm said this would involve the “mass-production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber's ride sharing network.

It is being viewed as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals in the competitive driverless car market.

The deal also values Uber at some $72bn, despite its mounting losses.

That is up 15% since its last investment in May but matches a previous valuation in February.

According to a press release issued by the firms, self-driving technology from each company will be integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles.

Uber halts self-driving tests after death
Uber settles with Waymo on self-driving
The fleet will be based on Toyota's Sienna Minivan model with pilot trials beginning in 2021.

Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing.”

Both Toyota and Uber are seen as lagging behind in developing self-driving cars, as firms such as Waymo, owned by Alphabet, steam ahead.

Uber has also scaled back its self-driving trials after a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, in March, when a self-driving Uber SUV killed a pedestrian.

Since then, the ride-hailing giant has removed its autonomous cars from the road and closed its Arizona operations.

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco
Uber's troubled self-driving car efforts are in need of external help, and this deal with Toyota might provide that expertise. It's of course a terrific opportunity for Toyota, too.

It was reported earlier this month that Uber was sinking around $1m-$2m into its autonomy work every single day. The results of that effort have not been something to be proud of – one fatal crash, one very expensive lawsuit, and not a lot of self-driving compared to the leader in this sector, Waymo.

Sharing the burden, and R&D cost, will delight Uber's investors as it aims for its initial public offering next year.

Meanwhile, shares in Toyota spiked at reports of the deal. Not surprising. Many analysts think personal car ownership will drop dramatically when the self-driving, ride-sharing future is fully upon us – with major companies instead purchasing enormous fleets of vehicles. Toyota, then, may have just secured its biggest ever customer.

The deal extends an existing relationship with Toyota, and furthers Uber's strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships.

The US firm has also teamed up with Daimler, which hopes to own and operate its own self-driving cars on Uber's network.

On Monday, Uber said it planned to focus more on its electric scooter and bike business in future, and less on cars – despite the fact it could hurt profits.

Revenue from its taxi business is rising but the cost of expansion into new areas such as bike sharing and food delivery has meant losses have grown rapidly.

 

 

Banks to explore ‘early warning system’ to fight misconduct of employees

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 28th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Banks are exploring setting up an “early warning system” to identify major misconduct by their staff before it causes too much damage.

An independent review into bad bank behaviour is working up plans for an industry-wide data system that could identify and flag up systemic misconduct earlier, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

Former Institute of Directors boss Simon Walker is leading the independent review on behalf of bank trade body UK Finance, with final recommendations expected by October.

The review was set up in response to a string of major bank scandals, including revelations regarding past mistreatment of small firms by RBS and HBOS. Lenders are also footing the bill for past mis-selling of payment protection insurance, which is forecast to ultimately cost them more than £40bn.

Mr Walker’s review is understood to be assessing how past industry-wide misconduct could have been picked up earlier, as well as the role confidential out-of-court settlements played in suppressing information.

The review is collating complaints data from lenders covering the last three years, in conjunction with researchers at Kingston University.

A real-time data system that pools complaints is one option under consideration. The review is also expected to judge the merits of setting up a new dispute resolution body to settle complaints between lenders and small businesses.

A spokesman for UK Finance said lenders were committed to improving standards, adding: “We look forward to the publication of the independent review and understanding what more can be done to support the UK’s SMEs.”

Mr Walker declined to comment.

By Iain Withers

 

 

UK investors spurred on by US market’s record-breaking bull run

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon, 27 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Surging investment in shares is boosting stamp duty tax payments to levels not seen since the peak of the boom years in 2007 and the dotcom bubble in 2000.

British investors are being spurred on by the US market’s record-breaking bull run, which is driving investment in equities across much of the world.

It adds to evidence investor sentiment has fully recovered from the ­financial crisis. But it could be another warning sign that exuberant markets are at risk of entering a bubble.

So far this financial year the Treasury has raised £1.3bn from stamp duty on share purchases, up by 17pc on the same period last year. If this continues the Exchequer will bag a windfall haul of more than £4bn, a level not hit for more than a decade.

FTSE 350 share trading volumes are up by more than 20pc this year on their previous peaks in 2007 or 1999, according to data from Bloomberg.

However, past eras of such vigorous stock buying were followed by a crunch. There are already signs of wobbling markets in the US tech sector, where booming prices have left investors exposed to any bad news.

“Markets have been rising for such a long time, expectations are relatively high,” said Tom Stevenson at Fidelity Personal Investing. “When you get disappointing results in that environment then you get some pretty savage market reactions.”

US markets are likely to fall next year as boom turns to a crunch of around 20pc, according to John Higgins at Capital Economics. Such a bust would hit UK markets too, he believes.

“There is a good chance the UK stock market will suffer as a result of that,” he said. “When the US stock market falls sharply we invariably see other stock markets around the world doing likewise, irrespective of conditions in the local economy.

“Many of these stock markets, particularly the FTSE, are chock-full of ­international companies so are ­exposed to what is going on in the global economy as much as they are at home.” 
Britain is particularly exposed to any downturn in the world economy ­because it is home to so many giant companies. This could mean investors, who have not seen shares rise as much as those in the US, could be hit by a downturn that is just as severe.

“The UK is globally exposed, people use the UK’s markets as a proxy for buying into the upturn in global activity,” said Andrew Milligan at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Risks to the market include the trade war, higher interest rates, China’s debts and the eurozone, Mr Milligan said, though these are midterm problems that are only likely to strike in 2020. 
“In the past 10 years people have been very fearful, there has been a lot of money parked on the sidelines for a very long time,” said Robert Burgeman at Brewin Dolphin.

“I get people who are worried about the level of stock markets and think that there is a crash around the corner, but that is music to my ears because it means we have not reached that final capitulation stage [of a bubble] when people say: ‘Stuff it, I am all in’. We haven’t got to that stage yet where the taxi driver is telling you about the latest stock he has been buying.”

By Tim Wallace

 

 

Uber to shift focus from cars to bikes and scooters

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 27 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi says short car journeys in inner cities during rush-hour traffic are “inefficient”.

Uber is planning to shift its focus from cars to electric bicycles and scooters for shorter journeys, the taxi app's chief executive has revealed.

Dara Khosrowshahi said individual modes of transport were better suited to inner-city travel, despite taking revenues away from Uber's drivers.

He admitted the move would result in more short-term financial losses for the company, which lost $4.5bn (£3.5bn) last year and is planning to go public in 2019.

Mr Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times: “During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.

“Short term financially, maybe it's not a win for us, but strategically long term we think that is exactly where we want to head.”

Mr Khosrowshahi said Uber makes less money from a bike ride than the same journey in a car, but that he expected this to be offset by customers using the app for more journeys more frequently.

He told the FT: “I've found in my career that engagement over the long term wins wars and sometimes it's worth it to lose battles in order to win wars.”

Uber first added bicycles to its app in February, and acquired the bike-sharing company Jump for about $200m (£155m) in April.

Jump bikes are currently available in eight US cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington DC, and are preparing to launch in Berlin.

An Uber spokesman told Sky News that other European cities would follow shortly but he was unable to say when this would include the UK.

Mr Khosrowshahi, who became Uber's chief executive last year, has also struck deals with electric scooter company Lime and Masabi, a London-based app that provides mobile ticketing for public transport.

Earlier this month, London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed he was seeking powers to limit the number of Uber drivers in the capital.

Mr Khan said a “huge increase” in mini cabs in the city was causing increased congestion and pollution, and was leaving many drivers struggling to earn a living.

The number of private hire drivers in London has almost doubled from 60,000 in 2011 to 110,000, Mr Khan said.

In June, Westminster Magistrates' Court overturned a ban on Uber imposed by Transport for London late last year and granted the firm a 15-month licence to operate in London.

 

 

Inside Manhattan’s Most Exclusive Vintage Shop

 

Bloomberg

New York Vintage is a clothing shop in Manhattan that sells high-end designer labels and houses an archive of rare fashion items. In this episode of Invitation Only, Bloomberg's Kim Bhasin gets taken to a hidden room where only celebrities, stylists and fashion designers are allowed to enter.

Invitation Only is a video series by Bloomberg that explores the most exclusive shops in the world and how they do business. Luxury reporter Kim Bhasin visits VIP rooms, personal shopping suites and secret boutiques to see how they operate and meet the people behind these unique shopping experiences.

 

Is the traditional 9 to 5 work day becoming a thing of the past?


(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Sun, 26 Aug, 2018) London, Uk – –

Traditional workplace hours of 9am to 5pm are now only the norm for a minority of workers, research suggests.

Just 6% of people in the UK now work such hours, a YouGov survey found.

Almost half of people worked flexibly with arrangements such as job sharing or compressed hours, allowing them to juggle other commitments, it found.

Anna Whitehouse, a campaigner whose own flexible working request was refused by her employer, said there were still misconceptions about such arrangements.

In her case, her employer refused her request for 15 minutes flexibility at the start and end of each day to enable her to drop off and pick up her children from nursery.

“They denied it because they said it would open the floodgates for other people to request the same thing.”

Mrs Whitehouse, an author and blogger known as Mrs Pukka, said the refusal prompted her to resign and blog about the experience.

“My background is as a journalist so I just started writing. I'm not a campaigner or an activist, but I had a moment of frustration and went with it.”

Since then she has started the Flex Appeal, aimed at convincing firms to trial flexible working and also to make people aware of their right to request flexible working.

“It's not about parents, it's about people. There's so much research out there showing working flexibly is better for mental health and for productivity,” she said.

Polling firm YouGov surveyed over 4,000 adults for the survey, which was commissioned by fast-food chain McDonald's.

How to request flexible working
Every employee in the UK has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment.

Requests should be in writing, stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application.

Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request.

Employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request.

Employees can only make one request in any 12-month period.

The study found most full-time workers would like to start work at 8am and finish by 4pm, hours chosen by 37% of those surveyed. The second most popular choice was 7am to 3pm, chosen by 21% of those surveyed.

It found flexibility was important to people of all ages and life stages, including parents and students, for example.

Those who did work flexibly said it improved their motivation and encouraged them to stay in a job for longer.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of HR industry body the CIPD, said organisations willing to offer flexible working would attract a higher number of applicants.

But he said more firms needed to step up: “Uptake of flexible working is still low and most jobs are not advertised as being open to different working arrangements,” he said.

By Katie Hope

 

How failure became big business in Silicon Valley

Wikimedia/Larsinio

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Sat, 25 Aug, 2018) London, Uk – –

In the world of tech startups, messing up is practically a religion. This company is here to pick up the pieces

Tue 21 Aug 2018 09.00 BST Last modified on Wed 22 Aug 2018 17.09 BST

In Silicon Valley, losing money by the billions is a sign of revolutionary and bold ideas.

I am on the phone with the one-time owner of Kozmo.com. Back in 2001, Kozmo.com was going to deliver your Starbucks coffee in less than an hour. Its former owner is … not what you’d expect.

Martin Pichinson is about 70, a former music manager who came to Silicon Valley in the mid-1980s. His business partner is Michael Maidy, another septuagenarian who, judging from a Google search, favors dark suits that look about a half-size too big for him. Maidy was recently the CEO of another failed tech company: Pebble Tech LLC, maker of smartwatches. Pichinson and Maidy look about as far from our image of the Silicon Valley CEO as you can imagine. But they are nevertheless an important, if rarely glimpsed, part of its ecosystem.

Their actual company is Sherwood Partners, and unlike Kozmo.com, Pebble, and about a thousand other companies they have wound down over the years, it a) still exists and b) its business is always booming. The company is Silicon Valley’s premier specialist in “assignment for the benefit of creditors” (ABC) – a process by which insolvent companies assign their assets, titles and property to a trustee.

ABC was how Pebble Tech came into existence: it was, for its brief life, simply a collection of Pebble’s remaining assets, to be distributed among various creditors, employees and shareholders. This was also how Maidy briefly became the figurehead of a zombie version of the once-hip startup.

When you’re dealing with Sherwood, things are going badly. “People don’t like to talk to us, because they think, ‘If I’m talking to Sherwood, it’s a sign I’m in trouble,’” Pichinson says. Maidy’s and Pichinson’s names are all over public filings. While many of the lawyers and VCs I spoke to for this story try to stay out of the headlines, Sherwood doesn’t have that option. TechCrunch once called Pichinson “the Terminator of startups”, and many journalists on the Silicon Valley beat seem to check in with him periodically to see how business is going – if he’s upbeat, it’s time for another culling of a herd.

They’re not undertakers, Pichinson insists, though he too can refer to ABCs as “a private funeral”. Silicon Valley’s failure industry runs on discretion and convenient amnesia. Sherwood Partners is a place of memory and a place of failure. “I am the guy who closed down a lot of the high-flying dotcoms,” Pichinson notes, not without a note of pride. Receiverships, bankruptcy, ABC – Sherwood is like a one-stop shop for whatever the opposite of the image Silicon Valley likes to project is. And it has been for almost 30 years.

‘They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first’
Silicon Valley thinks it has failure figured out. Even beyond the cliched embrace of “failing better”, a tolerance for things not going quite right is baked into the tech industry. People take jobs and lose them, and go on to a new job. People create products that no one likes, and go on to create another product. People back companies that get investigated by the SEC, and go on to back other companies. They can even lie on behalf of a company like Theranos without any taint whatsoever. In Silicon Valley, it seems, there is no such thing as negative experience.

The attorneys and consultants who have grown old with the industry’s failures, from Pets.com to Pebble, are anything but harsh in assessing their “clients”. “They are not bad,” one old hand insists. Instead, “the question really becomes: how many new ideas can society handle?” Even Sherwood Partners doesn’t see themselves as a repository of Silicon Valley’s screw-ups. To them it’s about luck, bad timing, the wrong blend of personalities. “They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first.”

That can be deeply charming: rather than make failure, messiness and growth something to hide, the ethos of the tech industry puts fallibility and vulnerability at the center of life. The guys at Sherwood have some of that relaxed California vibe, plus a dose of paternalism – they wind down companies started by people less than half their age. They try to make it a teachable moment and move on.

At the same time, Silicon Valley’s tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, tech discourse interprets it as a sign of young vigor. In a country in which 25-year-old white rapists are “still boys” and black 12-year-olds on the playground “look like adults”, the question of who gets to be a kid and who counts as a grownup is clearly charged with privilege.

In 2017, a chastened Travis Kalanick admitted: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Even in a place as chock-a-block with balding skateboarders and middle-aged trick-or-treaters as San Francisco, a 40-year-old CEO of a $15bn company casting himself as an overenthusiastic kid who just needs to get his shit together is a bit much.

Failing in Silicon Valley is often a prerogative of the young – or, in Kalanick’s case, the adolescent-acting. And people don’t talk about how much less sustainable it has become to be young in the Valley. One VC who back in the early aughts grew a tiny startup into an $80m company with more than 250 employees reminisced to me about the early days when “we just lived with our parents in Toronto”. “Our labor force was ourselves and we paid for the servers by credit card,” he continued. Then he reflected a moment. “That’s no longer possible, which I guess is what makes us necessary.”

But the thing about failing is that it seems to carry opposite meanings depending on who does it. If a traditional brick-and-mortar business hemorrhages money as unregulated digital competition moves in, then that’s just a sign that brick-and-mortar deserves to die. By contrast, if a disruptive new economy startup loses money by the billions, it’s a sign of how revolutionary and bold they are.

There is an entire cottage industry in Silicon Valley devoted to making this distinction. The fawning court press, the hype machine, the angel investors are always ready to explain why a venture that has all the hallmarks of a total failure is actually a genius idea. And those aren’t the only businesses built on the reality behind “fail better”. There’s also the handyman at an incubator who lets all the denizens pick over the carcass of any startup in the building that has gone belly-up: swivel chairs, ping-pong tables, swag and lots of Soylent. There are lawyers busy disentangling the Gordian knot tied by youthful idealism. And there are companies like Sherwood, which step in and take over your company when all hope of success has faded.

The clean-up crew stays deliberately out of sight. “It’s in bad times that they hear about us,” Pichinson says, and he sounds regretful about it. The careers being made in Silicon Valley have something magical about them, and perhaps for that reason all of the professionals working behind the scenes get the sense that their clients think consulting them will constitute a capitulation. An admission that what they’re running is a business, that their career is in the end just a career, that gravity has some kind of purchase on their meteoric trajectories.

Although most of Sherwood’s work is with investors, employees and vendors, they also hold a massive database of patents amassed from their assignees. “We probably monetize more patents than anyone else in the world,” Pichinson says. And he’s not wrong: Agency IP, Sherwood’s sister company, is nominally a consultancy, but in fact spends most of its time actively exploring the applicability of patents left behind by the companies Sherwood has buried. Like what William Morris agency does for screenplays, says Pichinson, who now operates from LA’s “Silicon Beach”. He makes it sound glamorous.

 

 

You can’t get rid of wealth
The guardian angels of better failure in Silicon Valley are the investors. When men like Pichinson are pretty Zen about failure, it makes sense – after all, it’s their business. When lawyers who charge by the hour seem OK with failure, then sure, why not, they get paid one way or the other. But what about the investors who sink money in ventures and either get some of it back or none of it back? It’s easy to assume that the shrug with which they treat every flop is a facade. It’s unnerving to realize that it’s absolutely not – and for good reason.

The reason is what one VC calls “the repeat business effect”. Sure, a 24-year-old can run his company into the ground – but he’s still a 24-year-old, with time and energy for another startup, and then another. And any one of those could pan out and make everybody fantastically rich. It is, as one founder told me, “the luxury of having a lot of runway left”. Why would you upset a person like that and potentially miss out on a future payday?

There is a lot of money sloshing around Silicon Valley in search of that payday. It laps up Sand Hill Road, all the way to the famous Rosewood Hotel with its Tesla-filled parking lot and tech divorcees on the prowl. There’s the old Chris Rock joke about the distinction between being rich and being wealthy: “You can’t get rid of wealth,” Rock says. Watching the well-preserved faces at the Rosewood bar, you believe it. The money that pours in – from pension funds, hedge funds, private investors – has to go somewhere. It is agnostic about individual failure or success; its mantra is the law of averages. By the time one venture crashes and burns, everyone is already on to their next one.

But failure comes encased in bubble wrap – at least among those who have a reasonable expectation of running into each other again. What about those who don’t? Many of the employees who have foregone sleep, pay, healthcare and a social life for the benefit of now-worthless shares will not be instrumental in making the next spin of the wheel the winning one.

There are many ways to close up shop in Silicon Valley: get acquired or acqui-hired, wind the company down, buy out your investors and start anew as a small business. Depending on how a company dies, however, most or all of the employees will not be part of these transactions. Google won’t acqui-hire the receptionist, or even the publicity person. They won’t take on those who were only contractors, or those who mysteriously got the boot right before a desperate final funding round.

And even among those with titles, salary, and equity, the acqui-hiring party gets to pick and choose: in an acqui-hire truly deserving of the name, the company’s product and assets matter little. It’s really a way of hiring a very small group of people – and it falls to that group to stand up for those members of the company that the hiring party is not interested in. “They know what they’re prepared to spend,” one person whose company got absorbed into Google told me. “How equitably that gets spread around is basically one big prisoner’s dilemma.”

Given the gender dynamics of Silicon Valley, that means that men usually fail better. Given that many of the founders meet in college, it means that having gone to university with the top team is a plus. Those excluded are people who are treated as contractors and received only equity, people who vested and then left, people who have been thrown out before they reach a vesting cliff after a mysterious performance review.

And for them, the law of repeat business reveals its ugly side. “None of this litigation happens in this industry, because nobody wants to be blackballed,” one anonymous lawyer says. Or, as an angel investor puts it, it’s important that even a failed venture “facilitates the founder’s story”. Something similar seems to be true for employees: “I learned a lot” is a story that whoever is hiring, seeding, funding, or advising you on your next undertaking is going to want to hear. “The bastards screwed me out of a bunch of money” isn’t.

That’s the funny part of the tech industry’s narrative about itself. For tech, failure is always assumed to be temporary; for everyone else, it’s terminal. Taxicab companies are going out of business because they’re losing money? Creative destruction, my friend – sink or swim. Uber hemorrhages cash? Well, that’s just a sign of how visionary the company is. This double standard justifies the exploitation of workers outside of the tech industry – and, in certain cases, the exploitation of workers within it.

By Adrian Daub

 

 

Goldman Sachs to launch online retail bank Marcus in the UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 24 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

The Wall Street giant will launch its Marcus savings accounts to retail customers as it seeks to broaden its appeal

Goldman Sachs will launch its online retail bank in the UK in the coming weeks, the Wall Street giant has announced.

Marcus, named after Goldman Sachs' founder, will be open to the investment bank's UK employees from Thursday before its official launch.

“Marcus by Goldman Sachs, which first launched in 2016 in the US, will now extend its product offering to include an easy-access online savings account for UK retail customers,” the memo signed by a number of executives, including Goldman Sachs International chief executive Richard Snodde, said.

“Ahead of the nationwide launch of our Marcus savings platform, we are pleased to offer exclusive access to Goldman Sachs employees, providing an opportunity to hear your feedback before officially going to market.”

“The launch of Marcus by Goldman Sachs in the UK represents an important milestone in the growth of Goldman Sachs' consumer business, as well as continued diversification of the firm's funding.”

Marcus currently has around 150 employees in the UK and is led by Des McDaid, who joined from TSB, where he was director of savings and loans.

Goldman Sachs, like many of its rivals, is seeking out new sources of revenue as tighter regulation squeezes the bank's profitability.

It launched marcus.com in the United States in 2016 and has taken in more than $20bn in deposits.

It marks a big departure for the 149-year old investment bank, which is more used to dealing with an uber-wealthy clientele.

With the launch of Marcus it faces stiff competition from the online services of traditional banks and fintech startups like Monzo and Starling.

The news comes a day after Goldman Sachs agreed to sell and leaseback its new London headquarters in a deal worth £1.16bn.

 

 

Ryanair to enforce new cabin bag rules

Wikimedia/Adrian Pingstone

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 24 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Ryanair is tightening the rules on what passengers pay to take luggage onto the plane, in order to “speed up boarding”.

From November, passengers will still be allowed to take one “small personal bag” into the cabin, as long as it will fit under the seat in front.

But they will have to pay £6 if they also want to take a 10kg bag, such as a pull-along suitcase, on board.

And they'll still have to pay up to £10 if they want to check that bag into the hold instead.

The move is not aimed at making money, the airline said, but was intended to “improve punctuality and reduce boarding gate delays”.

Under the new policy only 95 passengers per flight – around half of the total – will be permitted to pay for the right to take the extra bag on board.

Other travellers will have to pay £8 to £10 for their 10kg bag to go into the hold. Larger checked-in luggage will still cost £25 per bag.

It is the second time in a year that Ryanair has altered its cabin luggage policy.

Rival airlines such as Easyjet, Wizz and Norwegian allow one piece of free hand luggage in the cabin on short-haul flights.

Ryanair said it was increasing the size of the small carry on bag that remains free to take on board to 20 litres.

Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair's chief marketing officer, said the new policy “will speed up boarding and cut flight delays” by encouraging people to either travel very light with just one small bag, or to check-in a medium-sized bag.

Currently Ryanair allows customers a small personal bag, and passengers who have paid for priority boarding can take a 10kg bag into the cabin as well.

Those without priority boarding currently take pull-along bags and other medium-sized luggage with them until they board at the gate – at which point bags are transferred to the hold free of charge, which means passengers can take two bags without paying extra fees.

But Ryanair said this policy was causing delays.

From November, if passengers turn up at the boarding gate with more than the 20 litre carry-on bag but haven't paid for the priority boarding status, the bag will be placed in the hold at a charge of £25, Ryanair said.

 

 

Uk to set out advice to businesses and the public on how to prepare for ‘no deal’ Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 23 Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will on Thursday publish a series of notes advising people and businesses how to protect themselves from the potential disruption of a ‘no deal’ break with the European Union.

With less than eight months to go until March 29 when it leaves the bloc, Britain has yet to reach a divorce agreement with the EU. Negotiations resumed on Tuesday but diplomats in Brussels expect an informal deadline of October to be missed.

Around 80 technical notices are expected over the coming weeks covering everything from financial services to food labelling.

“Whilst we are setting out these technical notices today to deal with the unlikely eventuality of a no deal I am still confident that a good deal is within our sights,” Brexit Minister Dominic Raab told BBC radio.

“We are at every meeting making good progress on the outstanding separation issues.”

UNILATERAL ACTION
Several ministers have warned that the risk of leaving without an agreement has increased. Earlier this month trade minister Liam Fox put the chances at 60-40.

Raab will say that in some cases Britain will take unilateral action to maintain continuity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The notes are expected to be published on the government’s website at around 11.30 a.m. (1030 GMT).

The government will announce that British citizens who have lived and worked overseas risk losing access to their pensions, the Sun newspaper reported.

Many economists say failure to agree exit terms would seriously damage the world’s fifth-largest economy as trade with the EU, Britain’s largest market, would become subject to tariffs.

Supporters of Brexit say there may be some short-term pain for the economy, but that long-term it will prosper when cut free from the EU.

The opposition Labour party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said his party may back a second referendum if parliament votes down the prime minister’s plan.

Starmer said the talks with the EU are “going badly” and the publication of the documents on how to prepare for a no deal is a sign the government is “moving into panic mode”.

A survey this month by the Institute of Directors, a business lobby group, found that fewer than a third of company bosses had carried out contingency planning on Brexit.

“‘No deal’ preparations should have happened far earlier, and the onus is on government to move quickly and give businesses as much detailed technical information as possible to avoid significant disruption in any scenario,” Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said before the publication of the advice notices.

Customs and tax procedures, immigration rules and how to process transactions are among the things companies need more information from government on, Marshall said.

By Kylie MacLellan

 

 

Saudi Aramco hopes of a trillion-dollar stock market listing in London shelved

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thur, 23 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans for a stock market listing of its state-owned oil colossus, Aramco, in a setback for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push for reform.

The group of bankers assembled for what would have been the biggest ever float has been disbanded without fanfare. The budget for financial advisers, which included JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and HSBC, who were called in to assist with the deal has not be renewed since June, Reuters reported.

The decision raises questions for City authorities who relaxed Britain’s listing rules in an attempt to attract Aramco to the London market in competition with New York and Hong Kong.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) created a new category for sovereign-controlled companies under its “premium” umbrella, despite opposition from major business groups and investors. The Institute of Directors said it was “deeply disappointed” by the move which it claimed marked a “reduction in standards” for corporate governance.

The UK Government also offered $2bn loan to try and secure the deal. 
 Saudi Arabia announced plans to float around 5pc of Aramco in 2016 worth as much as $100bn, as the centrepiece of the young Crown Prince’s attempts to liberalise the Kingdom and build economic ties with Western nations.

At the time, it was predicted to a listing would value Aramco at as more than $2 trillion, although the figure has since been disputed by analysts as too high.

The Crown Prince embarked on a tour of potential listing venues as governments and financial authorities rolled out the red carpet.

President Trump tweeted last November that he “would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange”. As recently as March the Saudi energy minister said that London remained in contention and Aramco’s annual report released this month said preparations for the “landmark event” were continuing.
 However a Saudi source familiar with the plans said: “The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way – first delay then calling off.”

 

 

A senior financial advisor, said: “The message we have been given is that the IPO has been called off for the foreseeable future”.

The Crown Prince has pursued a range of investment plans as part of a so-called Vision 2030, a bid to turn the country into a global investment powerhouse and reduce its dependence on demand for oil. The expected proceeds of an Aramco float were viewed as key pillar of plan.

Aramco is now focused on the purchase of “strategic stake” in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF.

It has held talks with the entrepreneur Elon Musk over a potential $82bn buyout of the electric carmaker Tesla, but doubts have mounted in recent days. PIF is said to be considering a smaller investment of just $1bn in Lucid Motors, a Tesla rival set up by former Tesla engineers.

The Crown Prince’s attempt to build international links suffered another blow this month when a diplomatic row with Canada spilled over into the financial markets. Canadian assets were sold off by Saudi-backed funds following criticism of the treatment of human rights activists in the Kingdom.

Some analysts believe the sell-off has damaged the Kingdom’s standing as a potential investment hub.

 

 

Uk average earning is £13 a week less than decade ago

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 22 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Average earnings in the UK are still £13 lower than they were a decade ago, a study has found.

Job insecurity is now “widespread”, with 800,000 workers on zero-hours contracts, according to the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank.

However, 2.1 million more people have found jobs since the financial crisis in 2008, with 1.2 million of those in the poorest third of households.

The foundation said this was “a much-needed bright spark amidst the gloom”.

Its senior economic analyst, Stephen Clarke, said lower-income families had accounted for the majority of the jobs growth.

“While employment is at a record high, Britain is still some way off full employment and too much work remains low-paid and insecure,” he said.

“Steps to provide advance notice of shifts and a right to a regular contract for those working regular hours on a zero-hour contract would also help those in work who have precious little job security.”

‘Blind eye'
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the government was “turning a blind eye” to a crisis in living standards: “It's taking wages longer to recover from this crash than it did after the Great Depression.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the figures showed “the disastrous impact of nearly a decade of austerity on earnings, with workers in the UK losing out under Tory rule”.

A government spokesman said efforts were under way to give workers in zero-hours jobs a right to request more stable contracts.

He said: “We have more people in work than ever before, and the National Living Wage has helped to deliver the fastest earnings boost for the lowest paid in 20 years.

“Through our Good Work plan, we are going further to give millions of workers major new rights and protections, including increased financial security for workers on flexible contracts.”

 

 

Superdrug health and beauty retailer targeted by hackers

Wikimedia/Ardfern

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 22 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Health and beauty retailer advises online customers to change their passwords

Superdrug has advised its online customers to change their passwords after the high street chain was targeted by hackers claiming to have stolen the personal details of thousands of people.

The health and beauty retailer told customers it had been contacted by a group on Monday evening claiming to have obtained the details of 20,000 customers, including names, addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers.

Superdrug said in the email to customers the company had only seen evidence so far that 386 of the accounts had been compromised.

A spokeswoman said: “The hacker shared a number of details with us to try to prove he had customer information – we were then able to verify they were Superdrug customers from their email and log-in.”

The company said the information stolen did not include payment card information.

“We believe the hacker obtained customers’ email addresses and passwords from other websites and then used those credentials to access accounts on our website,” it said.

Advising customers to change their passwords, Superdrug added: “We take our responsibility to protect your personal information very seriously and that is why we have let our customers know as soon as we could.

“We have contacted the police and Action Fraud [the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime arm] and will be offering them all the information they need for their investigation.”

Superdrug said it was aware that some customers had found they were unable to change their passwords when trying to do so and apologised for the inconvenience.

“We appreciate this is very frustrating and we are doing everything we can on this,’ the company said.

One customer said she had tried and failed to change her password on four different devices.

Superdrug is the latest high street retailer to report a data breach. Last month Dixons Carphone said personal data belonging to 10 million customers may have been accessed illegally last year, nearly 10 times as many as the firm initially thought.

The electronics retailer had estimated the attack – one of the biggest-ever data breaches – involved 1.2m personal records when it first reported the breach in June.

By Angela Monaghan