Rail fares to increase by 3.1 percent for million of rail commuters from January

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 30th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Millions of commuters will have to pay an average of 3.1% more for rail tickets from 2 January.

The rise, announced by industry body the Rail Delivery Group, follows a year of disruption on some lines.

There had been calls for a price freeze following the chaos caused by the introduction of new timetables in May.

The rise, which is lower than the 3.4% average rise for fares in 2018, means another £100 for a Manchester to Liverpool annual season ticket.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent watchdog Transport Focus, said the rail industry got £10bn a year from passengers, who wanted a reliable railway offering better value for money: “They shouldn't have to wait any longer for that.”

Fewer than half (45%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to Transport Focus.

Alex Hayman of consumer group Which? said the new price rises would only add to passengers' misery after a year of timetable chaos, with rail punctuality falling to its lowest level in 12 years.

“Value for money needs to be a key part of the upcoming government review and passengers must receive automatic compensation for delays and cancellations,” he said.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the increase showed “a government and rail industry out of touch with passenger concerns”.

What do the unions say?
Unions also took aim at the price increases, with RMT general secretary Mick Cash calling them “another kick in the teeth for passengers on Britain's rip-off privatised railways”.

It meant UK passengers will pay the highest fares in Europe. “That is nothing short of a disgrace,” he added.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “A fare freeze would have been appropriate, but once again hard-pressed commuters are being milked like cash cows into paying more money for less.”

What does the rail industry say?
Rail Delivery Group (RDG) chief executive Paul Plummer admitted that no one wanted to pay more to travel, “especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year”.

“Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy,” he said.

The RDG said train companies would introduce 7,000 new carriages, supporting 6,400 extra services a week by 2021, meaning more seats on more reliable, comfortable and frequent trains.

How can I save money on rail fares?
Buy next year's annual season ticket before 2 January to take advantage of 2018 prices. An annual ticket usually costs about the same as 10 monthly tickets
Transport Focus advises season ticket holders to complain if services are disrupted. Services delayed by an hour attract a 50% refund, but some do the same after delays of just 30 minutes
Book as early as possible for the cheapest fares. Advance tickets go on sale about three months out
Buy tickets directly from a rail operator's website, not a third party, to avoid booking fees
Get a 16-25 railcard if you're under 26 or a full-time student of any age, or the new 26-30 railcard. Both cost £30 for a year and offer a third off tickets for most journeys. Buying an annual London Travelcard offers the same savings on train tickets
Splitting your journey into multiple tickets can cut the overall cost – but your tickets must cover the whole journey and the train must actually stop at that station
Will the politicians change the rail fare system?
By Tom Burridge, BBC transport correspondent

Labour says fares should be frozen when performance isn't up to scratch. Passenger groups agree.

However, the industry and the government point to more fundamental issues.

With so many people now travelling by train, there are many more services operating on ancient infrastructure.

Government funding for expensive upgrade projects to deal with overcrowding is only possible, rail bosses say, if passengers – not taxpayers in general – cover the bulk of everyday running costs.

And they say if rail fares are frozen, rail companies' costs still rise in line with inflation.

Again, the operators argue that taxpayers should not be left to plug that gap.

What's happening with the new 26-30 railcard?

By Kevin Peachey, BBC personal finance reporter

The launch of the new “millennial” railcard, which will be available to four million passengers, is running slightly late.

The Rail Delivery Group had promised that the digital-only 26-to-30 railcard would be available before the end of the year, but that has been put back until midday on 2 January.

For a £30 fee, the new railcard will offer one-third off most leisure fares for 12 months. However, anyone travelling before 10am on a weekday will have to pay a minimum fare of £12. This is the same restriction as on the 16-25 railcard. Unlike the card for younger passengers, that minimum fare will also apply on weekdays throughout July and August.

The launch of the card, which cannot be used for season tickets, was originally announced by the chancellor in the autumn 2017 Budget.

Full details and a savings calculator are available on the railcard website.

 

VW and Tesco join forces to provide free electric car charging points in the UK

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 30th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

There is more private sector support for an electric car future as VW and Tesco join forces to provide free charging points.

VW and Tesco hope accessible charging points will boost demand for greener vehicle technology

It is hoped that a new network of free charging points will help drive demand for electric cars.

Volkswagen (VW) and Tesco have announced a joint venture to create, what they say, will be the country's largest network of free charging points at the retailer's biggest stores.

The carmaker, which embarked on a £5bn electric vehicle investment programme in the wake of the so-called dieselgate scandal of 2015, said almost 2,500 charging bays would be installed at up to 600 stores over the next three years.

The Pod Point chargers will work for most electric vehicle brands available in the UK
It said the “vast majority” of electric models in the marketplace would be compatible with the Pod Point network chargers – not just those within the VW Group.

Of the charging points being made available, it estimated 2,400 of them would be standard 7kW fast chargers – which would be free to use.

It believed around 100 more would be “rapid” 50 kW chargers, with costs set “at the market rate”.

Tesco and VW said its plans amounted to a 14% increase in the provision of charging points in the UK.

The partnership marks the latest private investment in the UK's charging capabilities since BP announced earlier this year that it was to pay £130m to buy the Chargemaster network and roll-out charging points at its branded petrol forecourts.

BP says its charging network will allow electric vehicles to secure 100 miles of battery life in 10 minutes. Pic: BP 0:51

It has been a year of profound change for the car industry as manufacturers focus research and development spending on electric technology against a background of hostility towards petrol and diesel.

A growing number of national governments, including the UK's, have announced intentions to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to help combat pollution.

But UK sales figures show there is still much to be done to persuade drivers to make the switch – despite sales of new alternatively-fuelled vehicles this year easily crossing the 100,000 mark for the first time.

The rise of 22% in the year to date has largely been at the expense of diesel – with sales down over 30%.

However diesel cars still account for five times more sales than electric or hybrid models.

More than 100,000 people have signed the petition – have you?

Petrol-powered new car sales are 9% up and continue to dominate the market.

VW told Sky News it would not put a figure on the cost of the UK charging network but said it formed part of the company's effort to “push hardest” in the drive for electric cars.

UK board member, Mike Orford, said: “What this has done is to accelerate the push for electric in Europe and worldwide.

“We're putting our money where our mouth is – it's a big revolution…involving the biggest fuel retailer and the biggest vehicle manufacturer. It's a good partnership.”

When asked how helpful a free 7kW charger would be to the driver of an electric car popping in to a Tesco store for a few minutes he replied: “Every little helps”.

The partnership was announced as ministers remain under pressure to provide more central investment and support for an electric car future.

Martin Flach, Alternative Fuels director of Ford truck company Iveco 1:05

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “The government is committed to making the UK the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle.

“For that we need high quality infrastructure in place to support ultra-low emission vehicles around the country.

“The government set out plans in its Road to Zero strategy to deliver a significant increase in this infrastructure and we welcome Tesco's pledge to roll out over 2,400 new charge bays across their stores.”

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis responded: “For more than a year we have been calling for charging infrastructure in places where drivers are likely to spend extended periods of time, such as supermarkets and public car parks, so we applaud all the parties involved in agreeing this deal.

“It is excellent news for current drivers of electric vehicles, and may even be enough to tempt some of those thinking of switching to one.

“Crucially, it will go some way towards reducing so-called ‘range anxiety', where drivers are concerned they will run out of charge before completing a journey.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

 

Unilever boss announce retirement after planned headquater move quashed

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 29th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

The FTSE 100 boss will be out by the end of December after the company was forced to abandon a major corporate reorganisation.

The chief executive of consumer goods giant Unilever has announced his retirement weeks after it cancelled plans to move its main headquarters away from London.

The Anglo-Dutch company behind such well-known brands such as Marmite, Magnum, Persil, and PG Tips abandoned the switch to Rotterdam last month in the face of resistance from shareholders.

Paul Polman will retire as chief executive at the end of December but stay on at the company until next summer to “support the transition process”, Unilever said.

He will be replaced by Alan Jope, who currently leads the conglomerate's beauty and personal care division.

Unilever chairman Marijn Dekkers said: “Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector, and one of the most admired businesses in the world.”

The company said that Mr Polman had delivered consistent sales and profit growth ahead of rivals.

It said Mr Jope had been appointed to succeed him after a “rigorous and wide-ranging selection process”.

He will be continued to be paid in line with the company's remuneration policy – which last year saw him receive a total package of €11.7m – until he leaves on 2 July.

That total figure was bolstered by incentive awards which Mr Polman will no longer receive now that he is leaving.

The end of his tenure has been marked by Unilever's humiliating climbdown over its planned changes to the company's dual corporate structure split across the UK and the Netherlands.

Unliever has consistently said the plan to switch focus to Rotterdam was nothing to do with Brexit though the decision not to do so was widely seen as a boost for the UK.

The company said it had received “widespread support for the principle behind simplification” but cancelled its proposals after acknowledging that it had failed to receive the backing of “a significant group of shareholders”.

Among those who had shown their disapproval of the plan were Royal London, Columbia Threadneedle, Legal & General Investment Management, Aviva Investors, Lindsell Train, M&G Investments and Brewin Dolphin.

The move would be likely to have meant that Unilever no longer qualified for membership of the FTSE 100, an outcome which would probably have depressed its share price.

Mr Polman's time in charge of Unilever also saw it fall out with Tesco after it tried to pass on the higher costs of goods such as Marmite following the plunge in the pound after the Brexit vote.

That saw the supermarket giant temporarily pull dozens of the company's products from its website though the falling-out was later resolved.

Unilever, which is behind well-known household brands such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Lipton teas, employs around 169,000 people around the world.

It employs around 7,300 people in the UK and 3,100 in the Netherlands.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas, business reporter

 

 

UK car manufacturing dropped in October by 9.8 percent – SMMT

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 29th Nov 2018) London, UK –

LONDON (Reuters) – Car manufacturing in Britain dropped 9.8 percent last month compared with a year ago, hit by uncertainty around Brexit and market turbulence at home and abroad, an industry body said on Thursday.

The number of cars built in Britain fell to 140,374 in October, down 15,255 on a year ago, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said.

“The fifth consecutive month of decline for UK car manufacturing is undoubtedly concerning and, while a number of factors have been at play, there is no doubt that business and consumer uncertainty is having a significant impact,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said.

Production for the home market dropped for the fifth consecutive month in annual terms, the SMMT said, although this represents only a small chunk of the market as most cars built in Britain are exported.

Overall, the number of cars built during the first 10 months of 2018 stands at 1,312,304 units — down 6.9 percent compared with the same period in 2017.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

 

 

Wagamama acquired by Restaurant Group in approve £559m takeover

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Wed, 28th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

The vote sent the Restaurant Group's share price down by almost 10 per cent.

The Frankie and Benny's owner had been set for a shareholder showdown after a number of investors voiced their intentions to vote down the proposed acquisition.

But despite 39.4 per cent of proxy voters opposing the deal, a senior Restaurant Group executive told City A.M. it was “not the knife edge” that had been expected.

Not a single question was asked by investors at a general meeting to vote on the acquisition this morning.

One shareholder backing the deal said: “People had made up their mind, the die was already cast.

“I'm a big fan of our restaurants and Wagamama will be a good addition to the business.”

Ahead of the vote Columbia Threadneedle Investments – a top five investor that controls a 7.7 per cent stake in The Restaurant Group – said that it would be opposing the Wagamama buyout over concerns around the size and the price of the deal.

The Restaurant Group said that the price was justified by the company’s growth rate and by the cost savings generated by combining the Asian food chain with its own operations.

A number of major shareholders also publicly supported the deal, with Schroders, Royal London Asset Management and J O Hambro all backing the proposals.

Influential proxy advisors Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis recommended that shareholders pass the proposals, while Pirc urged investors to oppose the deal.

By Callum Keown

 

High street fashion throwaway culture criticise by MPs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 28th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Major high street names including Primark, Boohoo and Missguided have come under fire for fuelling a throwaway fast fashion culture that has been linked to the exploitation of low-paid workers in UK factories.

Britons buy more new clothes than any other country in Europe and MPs are looking at the environmental and human cost of £2 and £200 T-shirts amid growing concerns the multibillion-pound fashion industry is wasting valuable resources and contributing to climate change.

The low prices in Primark stores, where T-shirts can cost as little as £2, were challenged by MPs on the Commons environmental audit select committee, who suggested shoppers viewed its clothing as disposable.

“Isn’t the real problem with the fast fashion industry that if you are selling stuff at £5 people aren’t going to treat it with any respect and at the end of its life it’s going to go in the bin?” asked the Labour MP Mary Creagh, the committee chair.

Paul Lister, Primark’s head of ethical trade and environmental sustainability, denied that was the case: “We are proud of the quality and durability of our garments. They are not bought to throw away.”

Lister said the retailer kept its prices low by shunning traditional advertising, which saved it about £150m compared with rivals and “that goes straight into price”. He said he knew of no one under 16 working in any of its supply factories.

“Factory to store, we keep our costs to the absolute minimum and in store we keep margins very tight,” he said. “Our business model takes us to a £2 T-shirt.”

While Primark was forced to defend its low prices, Burberry was scrutinised over its now-defunct policy of burning piles of unsold expensive clothes.

Leanne Wood, the brand’s chief people and corporate affairs officer, told MPs it was an industry-wide practice: “We’re the only luxury business that’s reported it in their accounts … but it is something that happens in the industry.”

Online retailers Asos, Boohoo and Missguided were questioned about the health checks carried out on the large number of Leicester factories they worked with.

An investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches alleged last year UK factories supplying retailers such as River Island, New Look, Boohoo and Missguided were paying workers between £3 and £3.50 an hour. A Financial Times investigation (£) also found examples of exploitation in Leicester factories.

Creagh questioned how it was physically possible for Manchester-based Boohoo to sell UK-made dresses for £5 when the hourly minimum wage was £7.83.

The company’s joint chief executive Carol Kane said the company did not make any profit on the £5 dresses, which were “loss leaders” designed to attract shoppers to its website. The typically short dresses, made out of polyester and elastane, featured no zips or buttons, so were easy for machinists to run up, she said.

“We do not make a profit on a £5 dress,” said Kane, adding that the cost price of the garments was even less at £2.50 to £3. “It’s a loss leader. It’s a marketing tool designed to drive visitors to the website.”

Asos and Missguided told the hearing they had pulled production from a number of factories in Leicester that fell short of their standards.

The select committee is examining the impact of clothing production, ranging from environmental cost to worker conditions, especially when garments are produced cheaply and quickly in response to fast fashion trends.

With 300,000 tonnes of clothing sent to landfill every year in the UK, Primark said it would launch a clothing collection service in all its stores next year in a similar vein to Marks & Spencer’s “shwopping” scheme.

But Mike Barry, M&S’s head of sustainable business, said collecting unwanted clothes was not the biggest problem for the industry – it has collected 30m garments over the past decade – but what to to with them, given the lack of a domestic industry to process the material. “It is quite possible to prevent clothing going to landfill but much harder to do something with the fibres you recover.”

The environmental cost of UK fashion
Britons spend £52.7bn a year on fashion, according to the government-backed Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap). The lion’s share (£47.4bn) goes on clothing while £4.5bn is spent on accessories.

The amount of clothes bought each year continues to rise – 1.13m tonnes in 2016, up from 950,000 tonnes in 2012, according to a 2017 Wrap report.

The total carbon footprint of the clothing worn in the UK was 26.2m tonnes of CO2e in 2016, up 9% on 2012. The carbon footprint per tonne fell 8% but was outweighed by the increase in consumption.

About 1m tonnes of clothing is cleared out of wardrobes every year. Of that, 700,000 tonnes is collected for reuse and recycling with the remainder sent to landfill or incinerated, at an estimated cost of £82m.

In the UK, two-thirds of clothing is made from synthetic plastic materials, which are among the leading contributors to microplastic pollution. Up to 2,900 tonnes of microplastics from the washing of synthetic clothing such as fleeces could be passing through wastewater treatment into UK rivers and estuaries, according to a recent Friends of the Earth report.

By Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler

 

 

Thomas Cook report third profit warning as Uk customers opt for staycations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 27th Nov, 2018) London, Uk – –

Thomas Cook has shocked investors with its third profit warning in quick succession after it was forced to slash prices in a bid to win customers who chose to enjoy the UK heatwave this summer rather than travel abroad.

Shares in the company plunged by around a third on Tuesday after the travel company suspended its dividend on the back of weakness in its tour operator which failed to offset a better performance from its airline.

Profits for this year will be £30m lower than previously guided, Thomas Cook said in an unscheduled announcement. The update follows profit warnings in July and September.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser blamed “a number of legacy and non-recurring charges” for its latest downgrade. The company has been hurt this year by flight disruption and restructuring costs, as well as dwindling demand for its tour holidays amid the heatwave.

“2018 was a disappointing year for Thomas Cook,” said Mr Fankhauser, as the company insisted it was operating in within banking covenants.

The company reported that underlying earnings were £250m for the year to Sept 30, and revenue was up 6pc on a like-for-like basis, reaching £9.58bn.

However, earnings in the tour operator division dropped by £88m due to a higher-than-anticipated decline in margins as Thomas Cook slashed prices to keep up with competitors.

The company said the warm weather in Europe meant many customers had delayed holiday-booking decisions, with the UK particularly slow.

Jefferies analyst Rebecca Lane wrote: “A weak performance in tour operator outweighs surprising strength in the airline.”

Ms Lane suggested that the final three months of the calendar year is when travel operators' balance sheets are “most stretched”.

She added: “Thomas Cook has announced that it is compliant with its bank covenants and that it has headroom for future covenant tests. We hope for more colour on ‘future tests' at the presentation.”

Mr Fankhauser said: “Looking ahead, we must learn the lessons from 2018 and go into the new year focused on where we can make a difference to customers in our core holiday offering.

“We will put particular attention on addressing the performance in our UK tour operator where the challenges of transformation in a competitive environment remain significant.”

Thomas Cook said it would focus on driving awareness and take-up of its own brands in the UK during 2019, as well as increasing its flexibility and reducing costs.

Bookings for the upcoming winter season are currently down 3pc in the tour operator division, but airline bookings are 11pc ahead of last year

With the UK sweltering under the joint hottest summer on record, customers shunned last-minute getaways, which meant Thomas Cook was forced to discount hotels rooms in a fiercely competitive market.

By Oliver Gill

 

 

Uber fined for 2016 data hack by British and Dutch regulators

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 27th Nov 2018) London, UK —

(Reuters) – British and Dutch regulators on Tuesday fined ride-hailing service Uber [UBER.UL] for failing to protect customers’ personal information during a 2016 cyber attack involving millions of users.

Names, mobile phone numbers and email addresses were compromised in the breach, which involved 57 million users worldwide. That included 2.7 million user accounts in Britain, representing the vast majority of people using the ride-hailing service in the country.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Britain fined the company 385,000 pounds ($490,760) while the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) imposed 600,000 euro ($678,780) fine.

“This was not only a serious failure of data security on Uber’s part, but a complete disregard for the customers and drivers whose personal information was stolen,” ICO Director of Investigations Steve Eckersley said in a statement.

“At the time, no steps were taken to inform anyone affected by the breach, or to offer help and support. That left them vulnerable.”

The ICO also said that the records of almost 82,000 drivers based in the UK – which included details of journeys made and how much they were paid – were also taken during the incident in October and November 2016.

The breach occurred before the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) earlier this year, which would empower the ICO to issue fines up to 17 million pounds or 4 percent of a company’s global turnover.

Uber, which has also faced licensing problems in London and a long-running legal battle over workers’ rights for its British drivers, said it had changed data practices since 2016 and this year hired a chief privacy officer and data protection officer.

“We’re pleased to close this chapter on the data incident from 2016,” Uber said in a statement.

“As we shared with European authorities during their investigations, we’ve made a number of technical improvements to the security of our systems both in the immediate wake of the incident as well as in the years since.”

The breach affected 174,000 people in the Netherlands and the Dutch DPA said it was fining Uber for failing to report the incident within 72 hours of its discovery.

Reporting by Alistair Smout and Muvija M

 

Mitsubishi Motors chairman Ghosn Fired

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 26 Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Carlos Ghosn has been sacked as chairman of Mitsubishi Motors after his arrest in Japan over misconduct claims.

It follows a similar move by Nissan last week amid claims he falsely understated his salary and used company money for personal gain.

Mr Ghosn, who headed an alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, has denied the allegations, according to media reports in Japan.

He remains in detention and has not spoken publicly about the affair.

Mitsubishi said that “Ghosn has lost the confidence of Nissan” and it is “difficult for him to fulfill his duties” at Mitsubishi. Nissan holds a 34% stake in Mitsubishi, but has effective control of the company.

Brazil-born Mr Ghosn, aged 64, was the architect of the Renault-Nissan alliance, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016.

He was credited with helping to stabilise the company after it was rocked by a scandal in 2016 involving over-stating fuel efficiency of some Mitsubishi cars.

But Mitsubishi's chief executive Osamu Masuko told reporters after a board meeting to decide Mr Ghosn's fate: “We (have) had two years of the alliance and there were positive parts… and parts that needed to be revised a little from Mitsubishi Motors' point of view,”

Denial
On Sunday, Japan's public broadcaster NHK, which first disclosed last week's arrest and detention of Mr Ghosn, said the businessman had told investigators he denied claims.

Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive arrested along with Mr Ghosn, was quoted by NHK as defending his boss's compensation, saying it was discussed with other officials and paid out appropriately.

Japanese prosecutors claim the two men conspired to understate Mr Ghosn's remuneration by about half the 10 billion yen ($88m; £68m) he earned at Nissan over five years from 2010.

Company money is also alleged to have been used to buy property. He has not been formally charged.

The board of Nissan decided unanimously on Thursday to oust Mr Ghosn as chairman, a spectacular fall from grace for the dynamic businessman credited with turning around the firm's once-flagging fortunes by tying its fate to Renault.

The executives made their decision “based on the copious amount and compelling nature of the evidence of misconduct presented,” said a company spokesman.

Nissan formed a “secret” team earlier this year to look into alleged financial misconduct by Mr Ghosn, who had been hailed a hero in Japan for reviving Nissan.

‘No conspiracy'
But there are suspicions about the timing of Mr Ghosn's downfall, which came amid concerns about the future of the Renault-Nissan partnership

He is thought to have been planning deeper business ties between the carmakers, something that some Nissan executives feared could see their company reduced to a junior partner.

On Monday, Nissan's chief executive has told staff of his “shock” at the allegations against Mr Ghosn.

At a 45-minute meeting attended by hundreds of staff at the firm's Yokohama headquarters and broadcast internally to other sites, Hiroto Saikawa stressed that day-to-day operations should not be affected by the scandal.

According to a report by the AFP news agency, Mr Saikawa told staff that power was too concentrated with Mr Ghosn.

He told them the changes meant there would be better communication between alliance board members and executives, AFP reported.

France's economy minister Bruno Le Maire has urged Nissan to share “quickly” whatever evidence it has gathered and stressed Mr Ghosn will stay at the helm of Renault “until there are tangible charges”.

However, Mr Le Maire also told French media on Sunday that “I do not believe in a conspiracy theory” amid the talk of a so-called “palace coup” to take more control of Nissan.

The three companies are bound together by cross-shareholdings that could be complicated to unpick. Renault has appointed an executive to take charge of Renault on a “temporary basis”.

Executives of the three companies are thought to be planning a meeting this week, their first gathering since Mr Ghosn's arrest.

The meeting was due to be held in the Netherlands with a video conference available for executives who cannot attend, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported.

 

 

Rail passengers new complaint service offers grievance to taken to be an ombudsman

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 26th Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Consumer groups hope the new system will act as a ‘wake-up call' to train companies to start improving their services.

Rail passengers who are unhappy with how their complaints have been handled can now take their grievance to an ombudsman.

Consumer groups hope the new system, which launches today, will improve how train companies handle complaints.

The ombudsman's decision will be binding and operators will have to take action if failings are identified.

Figures from the Office of Rail and Road show just 28% of people who made a complaint to a train company in 2017/18 were satisfied with the outcome.

The most common areas of complaints include punctuality and reliability, difficulties buying a ticket, and not being able to find a seat.

:: ‘Raw deal': Trains must be run for passengers – not the rail firms

Under the new system, passengers can go to the ombudsman if they are unhappy with the final response to their complaint, or if it has not been resolved within 40 working days.

The service is being funded by the train companies.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said the launch was a “significant step forward for passengers' rights” and said companies should “take this opportunity to improve their complaints process”.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group said the system “also means it's no longer possible for complaints to become deadlocked between a rail company and a customer”.

Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets at consumer group Which?, said: “The launch of the independent rail ombudsman is a positive step for passengers, who have felt for too long like their complaints are not being taken seriously.

“It should be a wake-up call for train companies to step up and start delivering good customer service when things go wrong.

“Then passengers will have no need to escalate their complaints.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “We expect the ability of the rail ombudsman to impose binding decisions to resolve complaints – and the fact it can charge train companies fees for doing this – will drive improvements to the way most train operators handle passenger complaints.”

 

The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Leaves For its First Adventure From Miami

 

Source: Insider

Symphony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's newest fleet addition and is the largest cruise ship in the world. It arrived in Miami this November to leave for its first adventure.

 

How Baird & Co. UK’s Only Gold Refinery Processes 10 Tons A Year

Source: Business Insider

Baird & Co. is the only gold refinery in the UK. The company goes through over 10 tons of gold a year. The smallest gold bar that Baird & Co. makes is a 1-gram bar that’s worth about $41. The most expensive one is a 5-kilograms bar worth about $212,350.

 

How Paul Rothwell Empire Property Concepts Founder Converts Disused Commercial Property Into Residential Accommodation

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Sat 24th Nov, 2018) London, Uk – –

Empire Property Concepts founder Paul Rothwell tells the Telegraph Business Club about his company’s focus on converting disused commercial property into residential accommodation
The UK has a well-publicised housing shortage, compounded by derelict brownfield sites and vacant city centres across the country. One solution to these two issues is to address them together – something Empire Property Concepts (EPC) has been doing to great effect across the north of England.

Empire’s business model focuses on permitted development rights, which allow property developers to renovate unused commercial buildings under certain criteria, without the cost and delay of full planning permission. It then rents or sells the resulting apartments, providing investors with a steady return without directly investing in property themselves.

The business began when Paul Rothwell used a £15,000 parental loan to buy a house and convert it into flats for himself and fellow students. By remortgaging the house and buying another, he began a property portfolio that has grown to more than 1,500 residential units.

EPC’s sister company, Empire Property Holdings, issues Loan Notes across several Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to finance EPC’s developments, focusing on converting disused commercial property into residential accommodation.

With interest rates low or negative, these Loan Notes offer sophisticated investors an innovative way to engage in the UK property market.

Rick Barrow, Empire Property Holdings’ co-owner and director, says that the approach means a high-yielding property option for investors and a rejuvenating force for the UK’s unloved urban centres.

“We find, then plan, acquire, develop, value and exit – depending on whether we sell or rent,” he says. “But what we do differently is find buildings that don’t require full planning.

“There is a perfect storm in the housing market – with huge demand for homes and a plentiful supply of old commercial properties, often right on the high street. More people are working remotely, which is changing the way commercial buildings are used and leading to unloved, vacant property that we can acquire at a fraction of the cost of building from the ground up.

“By building quality homes we are helping local economies, removing eyesores and bringing people into town centres.”

Barrow cites the example of Newspaper House in Blackburn, the first apartment block in the city and close to the regeneration area of the Cathedral Quarter. “The council spent a fortune on the regeneration, it looks really smart, and they can see the benefit of bringing some decent footfall to the local area,” he explains.

Mr Barrow notes that local councils have raised concerns about EPC’s approach to redevelopment – “assuming we would build them cheap and sell them high” – but he says that it isn’t in the business’s interest to develop poor-quality stock that will command low rents and demand upkeep. He adds that once its properties near completion, most critics are won over: “When we first built in Bolton the council had a lot of opposition,” he says,” but we have since bought another building in the city and the council has come around full circle with its support.”

EPC’s developments can be renovated and let within six weeks, says Mr Barrow. The company’s focus is on second-tier towns and cities, and beneath the price point of luxury flats built speculatively by some developers in prime locations. “Big developers only operate in first tier towns like Manchester or Leeds, whereas we tend to operate in secondary towns and cities like Wakefield, or Doncaster. This means we aren’t competing,” he says.

“We are actually seeing a pattern where people were moving out of town centres are now moving back, particularly in smaller towns that are in larger commuter belts. Bolton is feeling the ripple effect from Manchester, for instance.”

Empire’s investors are all individuals and generally high- net-worth individuals. Due to Government opposition to the private stockpiling of property, with changes to landlord legislation and stamp duty, the ability for investors to go into property without the same penalties is appealing, says Mr Barrow.

“We have never tried to do too much or grow too quickly, so we will be here for a long time yet,” he says. “We are exploring new build and modular builds, because eventually the stock we work with will diminish, but currently it is plentiful and we can’t keep up with demand.”

Source: Tracc

Statistics
Company website: empirepropertyconcepts.co.uk

Business sector: Consumer & Retail

Location: Doncaster, UK

Annual turnover: £4.5 million

Number of Employees: 16

Year Founded: 2009

 

 

Virgin Atlantic in talks about possible takeover bid of Flybe

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 23rd Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

The airline part-owned by Sir Richard Branson is plotting a takeover of the struggling regional carrier, Sky News learns.

Virgin Atlantic, the carrier part-owned by Sir Richard Branson, is in talks about a surprise takeover bid for Flybe, the regional airline that last week bowed to growing financial pressure and put itself up for sale.

Sky News has learnt that Virgin Atlantic has opened discussions with Flybe's advisers about making an offer for the London-listed company, four years after announcing the closure of Little Red, an earlier attempt to crack the domestic UK market.

Sources said the transatlantic airline was pursuing an interest in Flybe because of the opportunities a tie-up would provide to feed passenger traffic into Virgin Atlantic's long-haul network, as well as its access to valuable take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport which are ring-fenced for domestic flights.

The two carriers already operate a code-share pact aimed at improving access to Virgin Atlantic's long-haul routes for regional customers using the regional airline's flights into Heathrow and Manchester.

Rothschild, the investment bank, is advising Virgin Atlantic on its interest in Flybe.

Although an offer from Virgin Atlantic for Flybe would not be large in monetary terms – the latter had a market capitalisation of just over £20m at Thursday's closing share price – it would be a significant combination in a British aviation sector which is viewed as requiring further consolidation.

Rising oil prices and the weakening of sterling have put airlines under intense pressure, with a deepening industry price war accentuating the financial squeeze.

Monarch Airlines crashed into insolvency in 2017, while more recently, Primera Air, a budget carrier which began offering long-haul flights from British airports this year, filed for administration.

If Virgin Atlantic succeeded with an offer, the Flybe brand would also be unlikely to survive, according to industry analysts.

Sir Richard launched Little Red in 2013 after gaining slots that arch-rival British Airways was forced to relinquish after its takeover of bmi.

However, the tycoon threw in the towel less than two years later, blaming the “meagre package of slots” with which it had operated.

A takeover of Flybe by Virgin Atlantic could be complicated by competition from a rival bidder such as Stobart Group as well as the protracted state of negotiations about Virgin Atlantic's ownership.

The company agreed a three-way deal last year with Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines under which the Franco-Dutch group would acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic from Sir Richard's holding company for £220m.

Virgin Group intends to retain a 20% stake and the right to appoint the airline's chairman, while US-based Delta would retain its existing 49% shareholding.

The transaction remains subject to regulatory approvals, which could be affected by a no-deal departure by the UK from the European Union.

Virgin Atlantic's need to secure a berth as part of an alliance with better-resourced rivals was underlined again this year when it reported a £28.4m loss before tax and exceptional items for 2017.

The company announced a change of leadership in June, with Craig Kreeger due to step down next month as its chief executive after nearly six years at the helm.

He will be replaced by Shai Weiss, its chief commercial officer.

Industry insiders confirmed that Virgin Atlantic and Stobart were the leading potential bidders for Flybe, with easyJet understood not to be interested in making an offer for the company.

Stobart, which is the focus of a bitter courtroom battle between board members and its former chief executive, abandoned a previous bid ‎earlier this year.

Since confirming that it was exploring a sale, Flybe has taken further steps to shore up its finances, announcing an extension of its borrowing facilities and a £5m sale and leaseback of an aircraft hangar.

The Exeter-based carrier, which last week reported a halving of pre-tax profit for the first half of the year, has drafted in bankers at Evercore to handle the talks about a potential deal.

Although tiny in financial terms, Flybe remains one of the UK's best-known airline brands, carrying thousands of passengers between largely second-tier British airports as well as European destinations.

At the end of September, Flybe retained a fleet numbering 78 aircraft, and has promised investors that it would continue to reduce capacity to focus on its most popular routes.

Flybe and Virgin Atlantic both declined to comment on Thursday evening.

By Mark Kleinman, City editor

 

GCHQ warns Black Friday could be “prime picking” for cyber-crime

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 23rd Nov, 2018) London, Uk – –

Black Friday sales could be targeted as “prime pickings” for cyber-crime, the UK's cyber-security defence agency has warned shoppers.

The National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ intelligence service, is issuing advice to shoppers of the risk of “malicious” online threats.

It is the first such official cyber-warning in the run-up to the Christmas shopping season.

“It's vital that knowledge is shared,” says Ian Levy of the cyber-agency.

The cyber-wing of the GCHQ communications centre says it wants to start a “national cyber-chat” on Black Friday when billions are spent on online shopping.

Speaking in public
It might be known for working in secret, but the agency wants to engage with the public over the seriousness of the threat.

It has been involved in trying to tackle more than 550 significant cyber-incidents in the past 12 months, and has taken down almost 140,000 “phishing” websites used by fraudsters.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is giving tips for individual consumers to avoid cyber-crime – and for the first time it will be publishing answers to questions from the public on Twitter.

There are warnings for better cyber-security when billions are being spent on online shopping
“Staying safe online doesn't require deep technical knowledge, and we want the whole country to know that the NCSC speaks the same language as them,” said Mr Levy, the cyber-defence agency's technical director.

“With so many of the UK shopping online, we want to see these tips shared from classrooms and scout groups to family dinner tables and old people's homes.”

The agency's chief executive, Ciaran Martin, recently told a meeting of business leaders of a “serious and sustained” threat, including from “elite hackers” in other countries.

“It is not speculation and it is not scare-mongering,” said Mr Martin. “Large-scale criminal cyber-activity is, sadly, ubiquitous.”

This could include the “theft of millions” from retailers and attacks on financial networks on which shops depend, he said.

‘Post-Christmas headache'
A data breach had an average cost of £3m, he said – and there were estimates that the WannaCry cyber-attack last year had cost the United States £3.5bn.

Another cyber-attack last year, known as NotPetya, had cost one firm up to £250m, including the cost of replacement IT equipment.

The British Retail Consortium is backing the calls for better cyber-security during the Christmas shopping season.

“With more and more shoppers looking to get the best deals online, retailers continue to invest significantly in developing the right tools and expertise to protect against cyber-threats,” says James Martin, security adviser to the retailers' organisation.

But he warned of the danger of cyber-crime causing a “post-Christmas headache”.

The National Cyber Security Centre's advice to reduce the risk of cyber-crime is:

Install the latest software and app updates
Choose strong and separate passwords for accounts
Type in a shop's website address rather than clicking on links in emails
Avoid over-sharing unnecessary information with shops, even if they ask
Don't panic if you think you've been a victim of fraud
Keep an eye on bank accounts for unrecognised payments
Make sure all your home gadgets are secure

By Sean Coughlan

 

 

Apple considering launch of Roku-like TV dongle for streaming service

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thur, 22nd Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Apple is considering launching a small dongle that could plug into TV sets, giving more users access to its new streaming service.

The iPhone-maker already has a premium set-top streaming box – the Apple TV – but rivals Google and Amazon have both found success with their downmarket streaming sticks.

Models including the Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast or Roku have proved popular among people who want to stream from their smartphone or the internet. The sticks plug into the back of a TV and let users stream services such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, or, in Google's case, stream footage from a smartphone straight to the TV.

Apple is in the process of developing its own TV streaming service with original shows that it hopes will rival those produced by Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. The service is set to be limited, however, and only available on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad or its Apple TV box.

The current Apple TV 4K costs up to £199, while rival streaming sticks cost as little as £30. A new budget streaming box would help widen its appeal, according to technology news site The Information. Apple is said to be preparing to launch its streaming service as early as March 2019.

It is still not clear what Apple's streaming service will look like. Some series have been delayed by Apple, while a show featuring rapper Dr Dre was reportedly left on the cutting room floor after Apple chief executive Tim Cook decided the show was too violent.

Apple is also said to be unwilling to let its TV app exist outside of its own products, which would limit its ability to expand.

Apple has around 15pc of the streaming media player market, having first launched its Apple TV box in 2006. Its share has remained relatively steady as rivals have increased their positions.

By Matthew Field

 

Nationwide report 17 percent drop in first-half profit on technology investment

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 22nd Nov, 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Nationwide Building Society (POB_p.L), one of Britain’s three biggest mortgage providers, reported a 17 percent drop in first-half profit on Wednesday as it booked a charge for asset write-offs and technology investments.

The lender said it took a charge of 135 million pounds for the six-month period, as it invests in technology to improve its services amid rising competition for savings deposits from traditional incumbent players and new upstart digital banks.

Nationwide, a bellwether for the British home loan market with its 13 percent mortgage share, said its net interest margin fell to 1.27 percent in April-September, from 1.34 percent in the same period a year ago, amid intense competition among lenders.

Banks in Britain have in recent months reported tightening margins, as new players entering the market and contracting demand for home loans have squeezed the rates lenders can charge.

Nationwide said its statutory profit was 516 million pounds in the first half of its financial year, down from 628 million in the same period a year ago but in line with expectations.

Unlike rival listed banks such as Lloyds and Barclays which have a goal of delivering ever higher profits to their shareholders, Nationwide operates as a society owned by its customers and has said it will be comfortable keeping annual profits at between 0.9 billion and 1.3 billion pounds per year.

The lender said fears about the impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union have held back investment.

Thyssenkrupp forecasts profit rise as it seeks to win back trust
“Consumer confidence and activity in the housing market are more subdued than what you’d expect,” Nationwide Chief Economist Robert Gardner said.

Nationwide said it will press ahead with plans to launch a business current account regardless of whether it wins funding for the scheme from a fund set up by Royal Bank of Scotland to fulfil the conditions of its 2008 crisis-era bailout.

That represented a change in Nationwide’s previous stance on the topic when it said it would only launch the business account if it succeeds in its application for the funding.

Reporting by Lawrence White

 

TalkTalk relocating hundreds of staff from London to New Manchester HQ

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 21st Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Firm plans to move ‘vast majority’ of it’s 500 staff to its Soapworks site in Salford

TalkTalk is to move its headquarters out of London, relocating hundreds of staff to Manchester as the exodus of major media and telecoms companies from the capital continues.

TalkTalk, which opened a large offices at the Soapworks site in Salford last year to bring together its operations in the north-west, said it intends to relocate the “vast majority” of its estimated 500 London staff to its new headquarters next year.

The move will be a fillip for the Manchester area, which is already home to significant parts of the BBC and ITV’s operations, as it came a close second missing out to Leeds as the location of Channel 4’s second “national” headquarters last month.

TalkTalk said that the move would “simplify” the business, meaning it will make for significant cost savings. The company, which employs between 2,000 and 2,5000 staff across the UK, follows BT in identifying downgrading London as a major cost saving strategy. In May, BT said it would move out of its central London base at St Paul’s, where it has been headquartered since 1874 when the group was known as the General Post Office, as part of a wide-ranging restructuring to cut £1.5bn in costs.

“As we further simplify the business, and focus on fewer priorities, we no longer need to be split across two main sites,” said Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk.

“Now is the right time to consolidate, making Salford the single main campus for the business. The vast majority of London roles will relocate to Salford in 2019. This will reduce operational complexity and allow us to become a more efficient, focused business, in turn supporting our long-term growth.”

The company said it would start hiring for new posts in Salford, partly through an expansion of its graduate and apprenticeship programme, which it will need to do as many London-based staff will not want to relocate.

TalkTalk also said its £1.5bn joint venture with Infracapital, part of M&G Prudential, to lay full fibre networks to 3m homes in mid-sized town and cities would not be progressing. Instead, it has launched a new subsidiary, FibreNation, to undertake the roll-out and said it is in talks with potential partners, including Infracapital, to find the “appropriate long-term capital structure” for the business.

By Mark Sweney

 

 

Catering giant Compass plans for stockpiling in no-deal Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 21st Nov 2018) London, Uk – –

Compass, which serves millions of school meals every year, said it had plans for stockpiling if there is a cliff-edge departure.

School meals provider Compass said it could change its menus and use alternative ingredients as it became the latest company to announce contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The FTSE 100 group, which is the world's biggest catering firm, said it was ready to start stockpiling ingredients if needed while it also had concerns over the impact on thousands of EU nationals in its British workforce.

Compass serves millions of meals a year to school children as part of its UK operations.

Its British division only represents a tenth of the overall business but chief executive Dominic Blakemore said the potential threat from Brexit was “serious”.

Compass revealed details of its no-deal preparations on the same day as contingency plans were also set out by electrical goods retailer AO World and Electrocomponents.

It came as Bank of England governor Mark Carney raised the spectre of a shock to the economy on a scale not seen since the 1970s if there is no deal.

Dominic Blakemore was an internal appointment at Compass. Pic: Compass
Image:
Compass boss Dominic Blakemore said the company was ready to start stockpiling ingredients if needed
Mr Blakemore described Theresa May's draft Brexit agreement as “better than no deal”, adding to the raft of business voices backing the embattled Prime Minister's plan – including Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and Airbus.

He said the company had contingency plans to start stockpiling and substituting with alternative ingredients if necessary.

He said this would happen “gradually over time” should the prospect of no deal become more likely as the 29 March 2019 date approaches.

“We are looking to increase some inventories where appropriate, but also be flexible around the menus.”

It came as Compass reported a 2.6% fall in pre-tax profits to £1.5bn for the year to 30 September, after taking a hit from the weaker pound.

Also on Tuesday, online electrical goods retailer AO World said it might have to increase stock levels in the event of any friction in the supply chain that Brexit may cause.

Meanwhile, industrial distribution company Electrocomponents said it planned to invest £30m in inventory as part of its plans to mitigate the potential impact of Britain's departure from the EU.

Other companies which have revealed stockpiling plans include engine maker Rolls-Royce and Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods.

Firms are worried that a sudden end of frictionless trade with the continent could cause delays at ports and threaten the timely delivery of parts and ingredients.