Cathedral City maker Dairy Crest poised for takeover by Canada’s Saputo in a near-£1bn deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 22nd Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Dairy Crest, whose brands include Cathedral City cheddar and Country Life butter, has agreed to be bought by a Canadian company in a near-£1bn deal.

Saputo, one of the biggest dairy processors in the world, will pay 620p a share, valuing Dairy Crest at £975m.

The deal is Saputo's first in Europe and it said Dairy Crest was an “attractive platform” for UK growth.

Dairy Crest said “virtually” all its 1,100 UK jobs are safe, including 150 at its head office in Surrey.

Saputo has expanded rapidly in recent years through acquisitions. It said its interest in Dairy Crest had been motivated by a desire to increase its international presence and “enter the UK market by acquiring and investing in a well-established and successful industry player”.

The Canadian company said that, under its ownership, Dairy Crest would continue to manufacture its products from its existing UK facilities, and that it also intended the management of its UK operations to remain in Surrey.

Dairy Crest's brands

  • Cathedral City cheese
  • Davidstow cheese
  • Country Life butter
  • Clover
  • Utterly Butterly
  • Frylight
  • Vitalite

Saputo chairman and chief executive Lino Saputo Jr said: “We believe that under Saputo ownership, Dairy Crest will be able to accelerate its long-term growth and business development potential and provide benefits to Dairy Crest's employees and stakeholders.”

Dairy Crest's board has unanimously recommended that shareholders accept Saputo's offer.

The chairman of Dairy Crest, Stephen Alexander, said: “The acquisition should enable Dairy Crest to benefit from Saputo's global expertise and strong financial position to fulfil and accelerate its growth ambitions.

“The businesses have strong shared values and the board is confident that Saputo's plans to invest in and grow the Dairy Crest business mean the proposed transaction is positive for all its stakeholders.”

‘Brexit-proof’ property areas where house prices are forecast to rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 22nd Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The recent slump in house price growth has been blamed by many experts largely on the political and economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote – but there are some areas of the country that have bucked this trend. 

According to Nationwide’s latest house price index, house price growth “ground to a halt” in January, with prices just 0.1pc higher than the same time last year. Estate agent Jeremy Leaf said the figures confirmed a market “struggling to weather the Brexit storm, but not collapsing”.

While some areas in London and south-east England have seen considerable falls in growth since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the opposite is true for many other regions across the country. 

Buying agent Garrington Property Finders analysed Land Registry data to identify the regions in England and Wales that have weathered the Brexit storm, and are likely to see future house price rises. Its research is based on two determining factors of future appreciation – property affordability (house price to earnings ratio) and the pace of job creation.

It found that property increased in price in East Staffordshire in the West Midlands by 10pc in 2018, four times higher than the UK average of 2.5pc. It also has a good ratio of affordability in the area and a high employment growth rate, making it the top “Brexit-proof” property hotspot in the country.

The area's robust economy means jobs are being created at a prodigious rate, with local employment growing by 9.4pc in 2018, almost eight times faster than the national rate of 1.2pc, while its affordability ratio is 7.7. 

The second-placed market in the ranking was Rochdale in Greater Manchester, which clocked price growth of 8.7pc and employment growth of 7pc in 2018, yet has a good affordability ratio of 5.6, second only to Liverpool’s 5.1 ratio.

All 10 areas in the league table have an affordability ratio – the average property price divided by the average resident’s salary – lower than the England and Wales average of 7.77 (London’s is 12.36, according to the ONS), and a rate of job creation in excess of the national average.

Derby, Derbyshire, Salford, Greater Manchester, and Bassetlaw, in Nottinghamshire, round out the top five, with property price growth in 2018 of 7.7pc, 6.9pc and 6.8pc respectively. 

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington, said that while at a national level the property market is cooling to the point of inertia – with average prices rising at the slowest pace for five years – a number of hot micro-markets have emerged that completely buck the trend.

Mr Hopper said this includes the Midlands which currently has a “combination of Brexit-defying economic momentum, good affordability and, above all, strong future growth potential.”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has previously predicted that national house price growth will come to a “standstill” this year, but a supply shortage “will negate outright falls”. 

Halifax’s Russell Galley is more bullish, however. “On the basis that it is still most likely that the UK exits the EU with a form of withdrawal agreement and transition period”, he said that he expects annual house price growth nationally to be between 2pc and 4pc by the end of the year.

By  Sophie Christie 

Centrica: British Gas owner’s shares down 12% after price cap warning

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 21st Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The FTSE 100 group spooked investors by admitting that cash flows for the year ahead were expected to miss targets.

Shares in British Gas owner Centrica have fallen sharply after it warned 2019 financial performance would be hit by factors including the energy price cap.

The FTSE 100-listed group was down 12% after it also revealed that it had shed 742,000 UK customer accounts last year in a “highly competitive” market.

Centrica said profits at its UK home energy supply division were down by 19% to £466m for 2018, though the overall group's headline measure of adjusted operating profit was up 12% to £1.39bn.

The group had said in November that the cap on default energy tariffs, introduced at the start of January, would have a one-off impact of £70m in the first quarter of 2019.

In its latest statement it said that the impact of the cap, together with a declining performance for its energy exploration and production division and nuclear arm, would see cash flow about £300m below target for the year as a whole.

The company also said it was selling its North American franchisee home services business Clockwork Inc for $300m after a slower than expected recovery for its operations in the region last year.

Chief executive Iain Conn said: “Centrica's financial performance in 2018 was mixed against a challenging backdrop.

“We are taking actions to strengthen the company in 2019 and improve underlying performance in 2020, including driving cost efficiency hard and delivering further divestments.”

The results come after regulator Ofgem introduced a cap on default energy prices following years of political pressure, which came into force on 1 January and promised to save customers a typical £76 a year.

It had an immediate impact on British Gas, the UK's biggest energy supplier, as the cap was set at a level £68 lower than its standard variable tariff (SVT).

However the regulator said just weeks later that the cap would rise on 1 April by an average £117, blamed on higher wholesale gas and electricity costs.

All of the UK's so-called “big six energy” suppliers including British Gas have now followed suit, lifting their own SVTs to the newly increased cap level.

Centrica reiterated in its latest results that it does not believe the price cap is a “sustainable solution for the market” and was “likely to have unintended consequences for customers and competition”.

Analysts pointed to fears that the group's dividend could be cut being behind its sharp share price fall.

George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The bad news for Centrica is that the weaker outlook comes from a multitude of factors – the government's price cap, continued outages in the nuclear business and weak offshore production activity.

“This all means the dividend is starting to creak. We wouldn't be surprised if a cut was around the corner.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Barclays, chief executive Jes Staley pledges to return more money to shareholders

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 21st Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Bank reports flat profits and sets aside £150m to cover uncertainty over Brexit

The Barclays chief executive, Jes Staley, has promised to return more money to shareholders in an effort to fend off the attentions of the activist investor Edward Bramson, as the bank reported flat profits for 2018.

Pre-tax profits of £3.5bn were held back by litigation and conduct charges of £2.2bn for the year, while the bank also took a £150m charge to cover economic uncertainty over Brexit.

Staley has come under pressure in the past year after Bramson amassed a 5.5% stake in the bank through his Sherborne investment vehicle and called for a major change of strategic direction. Bramson wants to cut back Barclays’ investment bank to free up capital for more profitable activities.

Bramson is also agitating for a seat on the Barclays board. Top executives at Barclays will meet Bramson in March to discuss his views on the bank’s strategy for the first time. However, the Barclays board on Thursday wrote a unanimous letter to shareholders saying that Bramson’s request should be denied to maintain a “cohesive” board.

The Barclays boss said the 6.5p dividend for 2018 represented “excellent progress but not sufficient”.

Staley said: “We will use the strong capital generation of the bank to return a greater proportion of earnings to shareholders by way of dividends and to supplement those dividends with additional returns, including share buybacks. I am optimistic for our prospects to do more in 2019 and beyond.”

Barclays declined to give further details on the timing and size of any share buybacks, although Staley suggested the bank would be “prudent” while Brexit uncertainty persists.

The bank’s fixed income, currencies and commodities trading arm, a key part of the investment bank which Bramson wishes to shrink, earned £570m in the fourth quarter of the year. While that represented a 6% year-on-year fall, Barclays outperformed other European rivals, who saw double-digit declines in income amid market volatility.

Investors appeared to welcome the buyback plans. Shares in Barclays rose by 3.3% in morning trading on Thursday, the top riser on the FTSE 100, to reach 166p.

Gary Greenwood, a banking analyst at Shore Capital Markets, said: “It would appear that Barclays’ corporate and investment banking operations fared much better than its US rivals in the final quarter.”

The pressure of an “activist investor breathing down its neck and pressing for an alternative approach” would be likely to spur Barclays to deliver on its targets of increased profitability, Greenwood added.

Barclays group profit before tax excluding costs for fines was £5.7bn, an increase of 20% compared with 2017. Those litigation and conduct costs were inflated by a £400m provision for compensation for payment protection insurance (PPI) and a £1.4bn US fine in March for mortgage securities mis-selling. However, the bank hopes those costs will not recur.

Barclays’ £150m Brexit provision – in line with similar amounts set aside by HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland – was made to be “cautious and prudent”, Staley said on Bloomberg TV. Barclays has already gained a banking licence for an Irish subsidiary in preparation for Brexit, and has held more than 100 clinics with clients to help them get ready, amid continuing uncertainty.

Staley noted that the bank has so far seen few signs of a deterioration in credit quality, although customers were hoarding more cash in their accounts.

“People are clearly being increasingly cautious as we come to the final weeks – and hopefully not much longer – of uncertainty over Brexit,” he said.

Staley was paid a total of £3.4m in 2018, the same as in 2017, after the bank clawed back £500,000 of his 2016 bonus after he was censured and forced to pay a fine of £642,000 by the City regulator for trying to find out the identity of a whistleblower. The board also faced calls to fire Staley for the breach.

However, Staley still received a bonus of £1.1m for 2018.

Sainsbury’s-Asda proposed tie-up in jeopardy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 20th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The UK's competition watchdog has said the proposed tie-up between Sainsbury's and Asda could push up prices and cut choice for customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it could block the deal or force the sale of a large number of stores or even one of the brand names.

However, it also said it was “likely to be difficult” for the chains to “address the concerns”.

Sainsbury's boss told the BBC the findings were “outrageous”.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the deal could be blocked or a large number of stores or even one of the brand names sold.

Chief executive Mike Coupe described the CMA's analysis as “fundamentally flawed” and said the firm would be making “very strong representations” to it about its “inaccuracy and lack of objectivity”.

“They have fundamentally moved the goalposts, changed the shape of the ball and chosen a different playing field,” he told the BBC.

“This is totally outrageous.”

Sainsbury's shares were down more than 12% in early Wednesday trading.

Analysis: Sainsbury's plans crushed

Dominic O'Connell, Today business presenter

Supermarket bosses know that British competition regulators have always had a strong interest in the grocery market. There has been a string of inquiries over the last two decades, both into individual deals and the bigger question of how well the market serves consumer interests.

So Sainsbury's board members would have been nervous when they proposed a takeover of Asda last year – but they did at least have the encouragement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had approved a tie-up between Tesco and Booker just a few months earlier.

Unfortunately for them, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train.

The regulator has crushed Sainsbury's plans. There is no veto, but the strong language used, and the breadth of the problems found, suggest there is no way back.


These are the CMA's provisional findings and the firms will have a chance to respond, before it publishes its final decision on 30 April.

The CMA said the merger could lead to a “poorer shopping experience”.

The watchdog said it had identified two potential remedies to the loss of competition: either blocking the merger entirely or forcing the sale of “assets and operations”, including stores or even the Sainsbury's or Asda brands.

However, it added that it “currently considers that there is a significant risk that a divestiture will not be effective in this particular case”.

The two chains would need to sell “sufficient assets and operations to enable any purchaser to compete effectively as a national in-store grocery retailer”.

It added that it may not be possible to achieve an effective solution to the loss of competition “without also divesting one or other of the Asda or Sainsbury's brands, in addition to physical assets and operations”.

‘Lower prices'

The deal would create a business accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries, with a 31.4% market share and with 2,800 stores.

Stuart McIntosh, chair of the CMA's independent inquiry group, said: “We have provisionally found that, should the two merge, shoppers could face higher prices, reduced quality and choice, and a poorer overall shopping experience across the UK.

“We also have concerns that prices could rise at a large number of their petrol stations.”

However, in a joint statement, Sainsbury's and Asda said combining the two chains would create “significant cost savings, which would allow us to lower prices”.

“Despite the savings being independently reviewed by two separate industry specialists, the CMA has chosen to discount them as benefits.”

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said the CMA had “basically kicked the Sainsbury-Asda merger into touch”.

“While the regulator left the door open for the supermarkets to sell off assets to complete the deal, it's clearly not keen on that solution.

Sainsbury's and Asda would also have to find a suitable buyer for the assets on sale, one who is big enough to provide proper competition in the eyes of the regulator, he added.

Patrick O'Brien, UK retail research director for GlobalData, said the CMA's provisional findings had “devastated any prospect of the merger going ahead”.

“The CMA has raised concerns about the tie-up in just about every conceivable way – on national and local grounds, on store and online competition concerns and on major stores, convenience stores and petrol stations.”

UK employment hits 32.6 million record high

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 20th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The number of people in work in the UK has continued to climb, with a record 32.6 million employed between October and December, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show.

Unemployment was little-changed in the three-month period at 1.36 million.

The jobless rate, remaining at 4%, is at its lowest since early 1975.

Weekly average earnings went up by 3.4% to £494.50 in the year to December – after adjusting for inflation, that is the highest level since March 2011.

The number of people in work between October and December was up 167,000 from the previous quarter and 444,000 higher than at the same time in 2017.

The employment rate – defined as the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who are working – was estimated at 75.8%, higher than the 75.2% from a year earlier and the joint-highest figure since comparable estimates began in 1971.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “While the global economy is facing many challenges, particularly in sectors like manufacturing, these figures show the underlying resilience of our jobs market – once again delivering record employment levels.”

ONS deputy head of labour market Matt Hughes said: “The labour market remains robust, with the employment rate remaining at a record high and vacancies reaching a new record level.

“The unemployment rate has also fallen, and for women has dropped below 4% for the first time ever.”

However, Andrew Wishart, UK economist at Capital Economics, warned that next month's figures may not be so buoyant.

“The labour market data didn't reflect the slip in hiring surveys in December, with employment rising,” he said.

“However, the surveys deteriorated more markedly in January, so a Brexit effect might start to weaken employment growth in the next batch of official data.”

Analysis:

By Dharshini David, BBC economics correspondent

The jobs market remains in a robust shape despite the loss of momentum in the economy towards the end of last year – although the Brexit fog effect may be yet to register.

Continuing recent trends, the majority of those entering work were previously inactive (students, looking after home, long-term sick etc).

The demand for labour continues to bolster wage growth. Real wages increased by more than 1% per year, better on the whole than in recent years although about half the rate of the pre-crisis era.

So little sign of Brexit uncertainty hitting hiring so far – but demand in the labour market tends to lag significantly behind changes in output.

More recent employment surveys show a marked deterioration in January, so a Brexit effect might start to weaken employment growth in the next batch of official data.

And productivity – output per hour – was down by 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018 versus a year previously, as output rose more slowly than employment. The lack of progress in this area could weigh on wage growth in the longer term.

Skill shortages

Looking at the average earnings figures, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “With surplus labour extremely scarce and job vacancies rising to a new record high, workers are having more success in obtaining above-inflation pay increases.

“Looking ahead, we doubt that wage growth will slip below 3% this year.”

Despite the wage increases and low unemployment figures, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, did not think that struggling High Streets would benefit.

He said: “The uplift to consumer spending from the recent improvement in real pay growth is likely to be limited by weak consumer confidence and high household debt levels.

“The increase in the number of vacancies to a new record high confirms that labour and skills shortages are set to remain a significant a drag on business activity for some time to come, impeding UK growth and productivity.”


HSBC profits fall below expectations in fourth quarter

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Tue, 19th Feb, 2019) London, Uk – –

HSBC posted a 16 per cent annual profit rise but fell below expectations as market volatility hurt the bank in the final quarter.

Shares in the bank fell 3.3 per cent in early trading – the FTSE 100's sharpest faller – as it remained cautious on its outlook for 2019 due to Brexit uncertainty and the ongoing US-China trade war.

The figures

Pre-tax profit rose 16 per cent to $19.9bn (£15.4bn) for the full year, but was lower than analysts’ expectations of $22bn.

HSBC said revenue climbed to $53.8bn, a five per cent increase compared to 2017, driven by a rise in deposit revenue across its global businesses but particularly in Asia.

Return on tangible equity for shareholders rose to 8.6 per cent from 6.8 per cent the previous year.

But the bank’s adjusted jaws – a ratio measuring revenue against costs – was in the negative at -1.2 per cent.

Achieving positive jaws is seen as important for investors and banks as it shows that revenue growth is outpacing costs rates.

Why it’s interesting

HSBC blamed its failure to achieve “positive jaws” on market weakness in the fourth quarter – revenue fell eight per cent over the final three months of 2018 compared with the previous year.

The bank said: “Positive jaws remains an important discipline in delivering our financial targets and we remain committed to it in 2019.”

The world’s major banks have all so far been impacted by the volatility seen across global markets at the end of last year.

What HSBC said

Chief executive John Flint said: “These are good results that demonstrate progress against the plan that I outlined in June 2018.

“Profits and revenue were both up despite a challenging fourth quarter, and our return on tangible equity is significantly higher than in 2017.

“This is an encouraging first step towards meeting our return on tangible equity target of more than 11% by 2020.”

What analysts said

Head of markets at interactive investor, Richard Hunter said: “A tough fourth quarter took its toll on some of the numbers, while a slowing Chinese economy, partially fuelled by the ongoing trade spat with the US, has yet fully to wash through.

“As such, 2019 could begin to see some real impact in an Asian region whose reported profits contribute almost 90% of the group total.”

Steve Clayton, manager of Hargreaves Lansdown's select UK income shares fund, which holds a position in HSBC, said the results were “disappointing.”

He said: “HSBC has always been a bank built around facilitating international trade between Asia and the rest of the World.

“Today’s tariff spats between the US and China are hardly helpful and could begin to hurt the group’s customers in Asia and beyond.

He added: “These results are disappointing, but a bank that has just reported underlying annual profits of almost $22bn and grown income, controlled costs and raised its return on equity can hardly be described as in crisis.”

By Callum Keown

Honda to close Swindon plant with the loss of about 3,500 jobs in 2022

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 19th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Denials by the North Swindon Tory MP will not save May from the burden of this decision

We told you so. That will be the reaction of Britain’s leading business groups to the news that Honda is to close its Swindon plant with the loss of about 3,500 jobs in 2022.

For at least a year, bodies such as the CBI, the EEF and the British Chambers of Commerce have been telling ministers that the uncertainty caused by Brexit would have serious consequences. The Honda announcement – with its knock-on consequences for its UK supply chain – will make the employers organisations even more insistent that a no-deal outcome should be ruled out.

Brexit was not the only factor involved. Honda production in Swindon never fully recovered from the deep global recession of 2008-09. Before the financial crisis, the plant produced 230,000 cars a year, but that is now down to 161,000. Of the three models once made in Swindon, two – the Jazz and the CR-V – have been moved elsewhere, leaving just the Civic.

Global factors have not helped either. There has been a sharp decline in demand for diesel vehicles. Japanese companies have a tendency to pull production back home when the world economy looks shaky. What’s more, Donald Trump’s threat of import tariffs on European-made cars may make the export of Swindon’s Civics to the US more expensive.

Honda’s original investment in Swindon in 1985 was motivated by a desire to have a plant inside the EU and so avoid paying the tariff – currently 10% – on imported vehicles. But that tariff will be phased out as a result of a new free trade deal between the EU and Japan which came into force at the start of this month.

Justin Tomlinson, who as Conservative MP for North Swindon represents many of the Honda workforce, said he had been told by the company and the business secretary, Greg Clark, that the decision was down to global market trends and not related to Brexit.

This, though, is overegging things. The hit to global demand was far more severe in 2008-09 than it is at present. Trump may simply be sabre-rattling. The 10% tariff on cars imported into the EU will not be fully phased out until 2027, five years after the Swindon plant is due to close. In 2022 it will still be more than 6%.

So while Honda’s decision is not simply about Brexit, uncertainty caused by Brexit played its part. Japanese policy makers – from the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, down – have been pressing for a soft Brexit ever since the referendum, initially privately but recently more openly.

Politically, therefore, the Honda decision will add to the already considerable pressure on Theresa May.

“The threat of Brexit is already having a damaging impact on investment decisions in the UK,” said Rachel Reeves, the Labour chair of the Commons business committee. “The PM now needs to rule out no deal immediately and keep us in the single market and customs union rather than risk further fatal damage to our car industry.”

By Larry Elliott

UK cyber-security chiefs, say Huawei risk can be managed

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 18th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Any risk posed by involving the Chinese technology giant Huawei in UK telecoms projects can be managed, cyber-security chiefs have determined.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre's decision undermines US efforts to persuade its allies to ban the firm from 5G communications networks.

The Chinese government is accused of using Huawei as a proxy so it can spy on rival nations.

But Huawei has said it gives nothing to Beijing, aside from taxes.

Australia and New Zealand have blocked or banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their future fifth-generation mobile broadband networks.

The US has restricted federal funding to buy Huawei equipment, while Canada is reviewing whether the company's products present a serious security threat.

Most of the UK's mobile companies – Vodafone, EE and Three – have been working with Huawei on developing their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

As first reported by the Financial Times, the conclusion by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – will feed into the review.

The decision has not yet been made public, but the security agency said in a statement it had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”.

BBC business correspondent Rob Young said the National Cyber Security Centre's conclusion “will carry weight”, but said the review could still rule against Huawei.

In an interview, Huawei's cyber security chief John Suffolk told the BBC: “We are probably the most open and transparent organisation in the world. We are probably the most poked and prodded organisation too.”

The former UK chief information officer added: “We don't say ‘believe us' we say ‘come and check for yourself', come and do your own testing and come and do your own verification.

“The more people looking, the more people touching, they can provide their own assurance without listening to what Huawei has to say.”

Analysis

Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

If anybody knows just how Huawei works and the threat it might pose to the UK's security, it is the National Cyber Security Centre.

This arm of GCHQ has been in charge of an annual examination of the Chinese telecoms giant's equipment, and expressed concerns in its most recent report – not about secret backdoors, but sloppy cyber-security practices.

The NCSC has also been giving advice to UK mobile operators as they order the equipment for the rollout of their 5G networks later this year.

They feel they have been given the same cautious nod the agency appears to have given the government's Supply Chain Review: keep Huawei out of the core of your 5G networks, but you are OK to use its equipment at phone masts as part of the mix of suppliers.

Australia and New Zealand have taken a very different view by taking a far harder line against Huawei.

That isn't because they know something about the Chinese firm which the NCSC has missed.

Their decisions were probably based on an assessment of the political as well as security risk of ignoring the urging from the US to shut Huawei out.

And whatever the NCSC's advice, similar factors will determine the UK government's final decision.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is leading the review into the future of the telecoms industry, said its analysis was “ongoing”.

“No decisions have been taken and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate,” they said in a statement.

Last year, BT confirmed that it was removing Huawei's equipment from the EE core network that it owns.

The network provides a communication system being developed for the UK's emergency services.

Fifth-generation mobile broadband is coming to the UK over the next year or so, promising download and browsing speeds 10 to 20 times faster than those 4G networks can offer.

The US argues Huawei could use malign software updates to spy on those using 5G.

It points to China's National Intelligence Law passed in 2017 that says organisations must “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work”.

Critics of Huawei also highlight that its founder Ren Zhengfei was a former engineer in the country's army and joined the Communist Party in 1978.

Huawei recently attracted attention when its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested and accused of breaking American sanctions on Iran.

The Rail Delivery Group expect some prices to rise and others to fall under ticketing reconstruction

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 18th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The Rail Delivery Group says some prices would rise and others would fall under the plan to set fares “more flexibly”.

Train operators are calling for a major shake-up of fares that would throw out current rules governing peak and off-peak pricing and also end the need for so-called split-ticketing.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) says it wants to simplify the system under the principle that customers “only pay for what they need and are always charged the best value fare”.

It said some fares would go up and some would go down under the plan though claimed that overall it would be “revenue neutral”.

The RDG said updating regulations on peak and off-peak travel “would mean ticket prices could be set more flexibly, spreading demand for a better customer experience”.

It said current rules resulted in under-used and more expensive services at natural peak times and overcrowded trains at the “shoulder peak” – immediately before and after the peak time.

The body, which represents Britain's train operating companies, said however that it recognised concerns about protecting “affordable access to the walk-up railway” and was proposing for some services to have a cap on the overall level of revenue that can be raised.

It said its plan for passengers to always be charged the best value fare would also remove the need for “split ticketing”

That is where savvy travellers have worked out that they can save money by paying for multiple tickets for different sections of the same journey.

For example, the £150 cost of a journey from Manchester to Edinburgh would currently be reduced to £92.20 by buying two tickets: one from Manchester to York, and a second from York to Edinburgh.

Another part of the RDG plan would see commuters benefit from the kind of weekly capping system currently available for journeys within London.

Pay-as-you-go pricing and a “tap-in, tap-out” system would allow those who currently buy weekly season tickets to save money when they travel fewer than five days or are able to travel off-peak.

That could benefit the increasing numbers of people who work part-time.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Reconfiguring a decades-old system originally designed in an analogue era isn't simple, but this plan offers a route to get there quickly.

“Ultimately, it is up to governments to pull the levers of change.

“So this report is a call on them to work with us to update the necessary regulations and subsequently the system of fares.”

The “easier fares for all” plan has been submitted to the government's Williams Review, which is evaluating all aspects of the rail network.

Lilian Greenwood MP, chair of the Commons transport select committee, said the proposals showed a “welcome recognition that things need to change”.

But she added: “The devil will be in the detail, and my committee… will be keeping a close eye on this work to ensure it develops in ways that are fair, transparent, recognise the needs of passengers, and take account of the vital contribution that the railway makes to our society and economy.

“In the meantime, passengers still require reassuring that enough trains will turn up – on time and fit to run – particularly after the timetabling chaos in May 2018.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas


Ritz – The inventor behind the famous luxurious modern hotel business

Source: wocomoTRAVEL

This is the first and only filmed biography about Cesar Ritz, inventor of modern hotel business. It is the story of a peasant boy in a remote mountain area and thus starts there, in the place he grew up in, Niederwald. The film follows Ritz’ way to Paris, Cannes, Rome and London. Finally, the film ends in the clinic where Ritz spent his last days, back in Switzerland. The film features interviews with family, friends and experts: the directors of the Ritz in Paris and Rome, a follower of the chef Escoffier, and Jacques Tardi, an artist specializing in the “Commune de Paris” and thus knowing the Paris of the Ritz period particularly well.

15 Things To Consider If You Get Rich All of a Sudden

Source: Alux.com

In this video we'll try to answer the following questions: What should you do if you gen rich all of a sudden? What do to if you inherit money? How to manage a large sum of money? What should you do if you get rich? What do to if you win the loto? How to manage wealth? How to get wealthy? How to maintain being rich? How to keep your wealth? How not to lose money? Why do people go broke after they went rich? How do people lose money? What if you inherit a fortune? I just inherited a million dollars, what do I do? How to you being investing money? What you should know about money?

RBS reports second successive year of profits as dividend soars

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 15th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Royal Bank of Scotland has reported its second successive year of profits and a higher than expected dividend, resulting in a near £1bn windfall for the taxpayer.

The lender, still 62% owned by the Government, said annual pre-tax profits more than doubled to £1.62bn, while pre-tax operating profit rose 50% to £3.4bn.

It marks the bank's second year in the black following a decade-long run of stinging losses, during a period marred by crisis-era legacy and conduct charges.

The Government will also pocket £977m as RBS paid only the second dividend since its £45bn bailout a decade ago.

The cash will be given to UK Government Investments, which manages the taxpayer's stake in the lender.

The bank on Friday paid out a 3.5p final dividend and a 7.5p special dividend, taking the total to 13p – 60pc higher than expected. It will return a total of £1.6bn to shareholders in the year.

Chief executive Ross McEwan said: “This is a good performance in the face of economic and political uncertainty, with bottom line profits more than double what we achieved the previous year.

“We are also announcing an intention to pay back more capital to shareholders and almost £1bn is set to be returned to UK taxpayers for 2018.

“With strong capital and liquidity levels, we are well positioned to support the UK economy. Our total lending to business and commercial customers reached over £100bn at the end of 2018.”

RBS begun paying dividends since August, when it reached a $4.9bn (£3.7bn) settlement with US authorities over claims that it mis-sold mortgages in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Friday's figures take into account conduct and litigation costs of £1.28bn.

The RBS annual report, published alongside the results, showed that Mr McEwan's total pay package rose by £100,000 to £3.6m last year. Bonuses to staff will total £335m.

Accounts show that RBS stripped out £278m in costs last year, and aims to slash another £300m this year.

The stellar figures will prompt the Government to consider when to recommence the next round of share sales.

Last week the lender gained shareholder approval that allows it to buy back up to £1.5bn worth of shares from the Treasury.

The move, which aims to speed up its privatisation and deploy excess capital, permits RBS to purchase up to 4.99% of the Government's stake in any one year.

RBS has been majority taxpayer owned since 2008, when it received a £45bn bailout at the height of the financial crisis.

The Treasury plans to sell its stake by 2024 but is expected to lose billions in the process.

The bank's shares have rallied since December and rose 1pc to 244p on Friday, but that remains less than half the bailout price of 502p a share.

By Associated Press

Hotel chain attribute shortage of workers due to Brexit uncertainty for fall in profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 15th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels has blamed a shortage of workers due to Brexit uncertainty for contributing to falling profits.

The hotel chain reported a 28% fall in pre-tax profits to £106m for the 12 months to 31 December 2018, compared with the same period in 2017.

It said Brexit concerns had affected its UK hotels, particularly in London.

The hotel chain also blamed the US-China trade war, minimum wage and competition from Airbnb for its woes.

For the fourth quarter of 2018, pre-tax profits dropped 76% to £7m.

In particular, revenue per available room in London dropped 7.4%, partly due to the closure of its Mayfair hotel for refurbishment.

“Concerns about Brexit have affected the Group's UK hotels especially in London, where the hotels started to face difficulties in recruiting EU workers which currently comprise more than half of the London workforce,” it said in a statement.

The hotel chain also said that it had been affected by the increase in the minimum wage, which came into force last year.

“The shortage of talent-from rank and file to senior management-is intensifying with many new hotels being built around the world, not to mention the growth of Airbnb and serviced apartments,” said chairman Kwek Leng Beng.

He stressed that all hospitality businesses would “need to evolve and embrace” changes in the industry in order to remain relevant and profitable.

Airbus to halt A380 production blaming weak sales

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 14th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

UK jobs are threatened as Airbus says there was too little love in the airline sector for the A380's future to be viable.

Airbus has blamed weak sales for its decision to scrap production of the A380 superjumbo – the world's largest airliner.

The European aerospace giant confirmed on Thursday it would deliver the final aircraft, with its two decks of cabins and room for 544 passengers, in 2021.

Following months of speculation over the plane's future, Airbus said it had taken the decision after Emirates scaled back an order for A380s – choosing instead to focus on smaller planes.

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said: “As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.

“This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021. The consequences of this decision are largely embedded in our 2018 full-year results.”

They showed losses of £788m from the A380 programme, with the hugely delayed A400M military transporter plane also putting a dent in profits.

Nevertheless, Airbus said it made £2.7bn in overall net profits – a jump of 29% on the previous year.

Shares jumped by 6% in early deals following the announcements.

Mr Enders said the A380 decision marked “the end of the large four-engine aircraft” in global aviation.

The company said it planned talks with unions over the potential for harm to up to 3,500 jobs connected to the superjumbo, which is assembled in France.

The Unite union said it was seeking assurances over any impact on the UK workforce, which Mr Enders told reporters was yet to be evaluated.

Airbus makes wings for the A380 in the UK – employing 6,000 staff at Broughton and 3,000 at Filton.

The firm said an increase in production of its A320 model would offer “a significant number of internal mobility opportunities” – but Brexit could also form part of the decision-making process.

The chief executive warned last month in a company video it could move operations abroad in the event of hard Brexit “madness”.

The company later admitted to Sky News that Downing Street had asked it to make clear the impact of a no-deal scenario.

The A380 was first launched 14 years ago as a challenger to fierce rival Boeing's 747 jumbo jet but its popularity has struggled to take off.

Emirates said it was “disappointed” to give up its order – citing new plane and engine technology – leaving just 14 superjumbos in the production pipeline for the Middle East carrier as it opted to pick up a total of 70 of the smaller A350 and A330neo models instead.

The airline said it planned to keep flying the A380 well into the 2030s and Airbus confirmed the planes would continue to be supported.

Just one other airline has A380s on order, with Japan's ANA due to have three delivered.

Air industry expert, Professor Andreas Wittmer from the University of St. Gallen, commented: “From our research we know that A380 was well perceived by passengers.

“Furthermore, its fuel consumption per pax (person) was low.

“But based on its whole weight and the four engines it was not efficient enough.

“New engines and a lighter version of the A380 would have been needed. But the A380 was not break even taking into account the whole planning and production set up costs.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

Barclays apologise to customers for online banking outage

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Thur, 14th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Banking giant Barclays has apologised to customers after an online outage left many unable to access their accounts today.

Customers said they were prevented from accessing the Barclays mobile banking app and other online services for much of the morning.

The bank received a flurry of complaints and apologised for what it said was an “unplanned outage” as its tech team rushed to fix the problem.

Despite proclaiming services were up and running at 9am, many complained they were still unable to get into their accounts.

Barclays said on Twitter the problem affected “a number of customers” and it was investigating the causes.

Earlier this week Barclays customers were prevented from accessing their account online, by phone, or through the app as part of planned work to upgrade systems on Sunday.

The banking giant suffered a major outage in September last year, as online, telephone and branch services went down for several hours.

High street retail banks have been plagued with IT problems over the past 18 months as many attempt to upgrade systems.

Last month thousands of Lloyds Bank customers were unable to make payments as the bank was hit by an outage, which also affected Halifax and Bank of Scotland.

TSB confirmed earlier this month that a move away from its IT systems last year cost the challenger bank £330m.

The chaos prevented up to 1.9m people accessing their accounts and around 80,000 customers ended up leaving the bank last year.

By Callum Keown

UK inflation in January fell to 1.8%, the lowest in two years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 13th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

UK inflation fell to 1.8% in January, the lowest in two years, the Office for National Statistics said.

This is down from 2.1% the previous month.

A fall in electricity, gas and other fuels drove the decline, the ONS said.

Head of Inflation Mike Hardie said: “The fall in inflation is due mainly to cheaper gas, electricity and petrol, partly offset by rising ferry ticket prices and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year”.

It means that rises in pay are now now outpacing inflation.

The rate of inflation is now below the Bank of England's 2% target and has fallen from the five-year peak of 3.1% in November 2017 in the wake of the Brexit referendum vote.

Energy prices fell because of Ofgem's energy price cap which came into effect from 1 January 2019, the ONS said.

UK government backs investigation of Facebook and Google dominance

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 13th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

UK government backs investigation into dominance of Facebook and Google

Facebook and Google could be forced to open up their businesses and share details of how their advertising model works, after the government backed an investigation into concerns that their dominance of the online advertising business is hurting news publishers.

News outlets have long complained that Facebook and Google, which together account for the vast majority of digital advertising in the UK, have sucked out billions of pounds of revenue that previously supported the cost of journalism.

The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that he had asked the Competition and Markets Authority to launch a study of the “largely opaque and extremely complex” world of online advertising.

The study could lead to a full-blown investigation, which would allow the competition regulator to use its legal powers to obtain information from the secretive technology companies.

The recommendation to launch the inquiry was included in Dame Frances Cairncross’s report on the future of the press, which was released on Monday.Advertisement

News outlets have struggled to compete with the scale and targeted advertising offered by the technology companies, which have an enormous amount of data about their users.

Wright, who has previously insisted he does read newspapers, also said he had asked the Charity Commission to investigate Cairncross’s recommendation for a form of charitable status for news outlets that focus on local and investigative journalism.

The cabinet minister told the Commons that civil servants in his department would also conduct a separate investigation into the regulation of the wider online advertising market, which posed “social and economic challenges” in its current state.

This Whitehall investigation could result in a regulator being given new powers to oversee the online advertising marketplace, in line with the government’s wider policy of ensuring the rules and regulations that apply to offline institutions also apply to their internet equivalents.

Wright also said he would ask the media regulator, Ofcom, to examine whether the BBC was harming for-profit local newspapers by invading their turf and publishing material for free.

However, he appeared to be less enthusiastic about Cairncross’s recommendation that the government should establish an institute for public interest news to promote investigative and local journalism, which would distribute money from the state and other donors to support local reporting.

Labour broadly welcomed Wright’s announcements, although the shadow culture secretary, Tom Watson, urged the government to avoid targeting the BBC as part of its overhaul, suggesting that in some communities the public broadcaster was the only outlet that still employs journalists to do basic reporting of local politics.

Watson also told the Commons he was tired with the reluctance of the major technology companies to submit themselves to parliamentary scrutiny.

“Even in these dark days of Brexit and increasing division in politics, there is one man who is uniting this house: Mark Zuckerberg,” the Labour MP said. “He insulted us all when he refused to attend the [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] select committee. He may think the UK market and our institutions are not a priority for him. But I hope he knows there is now a new resolve that transcends our party differences to deal with the abuses by his company and others.”

Several Conservative MPs criticised Facebook and Google, with the former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith calling for the “monopoly cartels” to be broken up because they were “damaging to people as individuals, and damaging to the functioning democratic society”.

However, the National Union of Journalists general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, pointed out that many local newspaper cuts were a result of publishers slashing costs to maintain their profit margins.

By Jim Waterson