Standard Chartered heralds turnaround progress with $1 billion buyback plan

( via — Tue, 30th April 2019) London, UK —

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) – Standard Chartered PLC unveiled plans for an up to $1 billion (£773.16 million) share buyback, its first such in at least 20 years as quarterly profit rose 10 percent, signalling progress in its turnaround strategy.

The bank’s shares rose 4 percent on Tuesday against a 0.5 percent decline in the STOXX European banks index, as its long-suffering investors interpreted the buyback as a statement of confidence about its prospects of growing returns.

“They are good results, and about time too, it’s been a long wait,” said Hugh Young, managing director for Asia Pacific at Aberdeen Standard Investments, StanChart’s 15th biggest shareholder.

The share repurchase plan comes after StanChart Chief Executive Bill Winters unveiled in February ambitious plans to double return on tangible equity and dividends in three years by cutting $700 million in costs and boosting income.

Winters won plaudits from investors for his initial three-year plan that began in June 2015 with a focus on revamping the risk culture, slashing costs and purging bad loans that had accumulated in a post-2008 period of over-aggressive growth.

But the CEO then faced a tougher task, as StanChart battled to boost revenue at a time when slowing economic growth in core Asian markets, volatile commodities markets and the impact of the U.S. fines hammered profits.

The bank’s London shares have fallen 42 percent since the former JPMorgan banker took over as CEO.

StanChart said on Tuesday in its quarterly earnings filing that it had received regulatory approval to start buying back shares worth up to $1 billion.

“Hopefully the message is pretty clear — we are back on returning capital, something we have not done for 15 or 20 years which is good,” Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford told reporters.

Pretax profit for StanChart, which focuses on Asia, Africa and the Middle East, grew to $1.38 billion in the January-March period from $1.26 billion a year ago, the London-headquartered bank said.

StanChart announced this month a $1 billion settlement with the United States to bring to a close a long-running probe into whether the bank continued to violate sanctions after 2007, when it said it would no longer do business with Iran.

In addition to the $900 million provision the bank made in 2018, it took a “further and final charge” of $186 million in the first quarter, StanChart said.

The bank said its core capital ratio, a key measure of financial strength, fell by 30 basis points from end-December to 13.9 percent, with the cost related to resolution of the alleged sanctions violation shaving off 7 basis points.

The share buyback programme, which the bank said would start imminently, is likely to reduce its capital ratio in the second quarter by roughly 35 basis points, it said.


Stanchart saw its underlying return on tangible equity (ROTE) hit 9.6 percent for the quarter, close to the 10 percent full year target it has said it will reach by 2021, but cautioned its overall 2019 return would be lower due to a tax hit in the final quarter.

“Full-year ROTE has typically been about 60 to 70 percent of Q1 so that’s a proxy you should have in your mind,” Halford said.

The bank’s performance in the January-March period was boosted by strong results in its financial markets businesses, with foreign exchange and interest rates trading revenues both up 20 percent from the same period a year ago.

The performance was especially notable in a quarter where most U.S. and European investment banks’ trading arms have suffered badly, hit by lower market volatility which cut commissions from clients’ trading.

Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, shares down after latest earnings report

QLM Image

( via – – Tue, 30th April, 2019) London, Uk – –

Report comes as company faces internal worker turmoil, and a recent $1.7bn fine from the EU

Google shares slumped on Monday after the company failed to beat analyst predictions, following a year of internal turmoil, privacy concerns, and several international fines.

Stock for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, was down 7% in after-hours trading after the company reported first quarter revenue of $36.34bn, lower than the $37.33bn revenue forecast by analysts. The quarter one earnings represent a 17% increase from the same time last year, in which it reported $31.15bn in revenue.

In a call with investors on Monday, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, said the company would continue to invest more in algorithms on YouTube, following recent incidents that saw the platform offering misinformation, hate speech, and disturbing content targeting children. He also promised to continue to address user privacy concerns.

“User expectations around privacy are constantly evolving and we stretch ourselves to meet them,” he said. “We will have more changes over the course of the year.”

Alphabet’s performance failed to hold up to its main tech rivals such as Facebook, which showed record revenue growth to more than $15bn in the first three months of the year, and Amazon, which has recorded four straight quarters in a row of record profits. Microsoft also had impressive first quarter earnings, beating sales and profit expectations and becoming the third listed US firm to be valued at $1tn.

The earnings report comes after the Nasdaq and the S&P closed at record highs on Friday. As of Monday, Alphabet shares were up 22% year to date, well above the S&P’s gain of 16%.

Google has struggled with internal worker turmoil over the past year, with employees organizing a walkout in November 2018 over sexual misconduct allegations and hundreds of employees signing a letter objecting to the company’s treatment of temporary contractors in April. In March, it was hit with a €1.5bn ($1.7bn) by the European Union over misusing its monopoly on advertising. In January, Alphabet was fined €50m (£44m) for failing to provide users with transparent and understandable information on its data use policies.

The company reported it added 4,600 employees to its payroll in the first quarter, now employing 103,459 people.

In a call with investors on Monday, Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Alphabet, cited external investments as a place for growth in upcoming quarters. Businesses in this category, “other bets”, claimed revenue of $170m against expectations of $172m and reported an operating loss of $868m.

These non-Google businesses include Alphabet-owned Waymo, which recently announced a self-driving car factory in Detroit, Michigan and Wing, a Google-owned drone delivery service that recently received FAA approval. In April, Softbank invested $125m in Loon, a Google-owned company that aims to expand internet access through high-altitude balloons.

By Kari Paul

More Uk holidaymakers choosing non-EU holiday destinations, says Thomas Cook

( via– Mon, 29th April, 2019) London, Uk – –

The tour operator said 48% of summer package holiday bookings were for countries outside the EU, up from 38% a year ago.

More UK holidaymakers have chosen destinations outside the European Union for their holidays this summer, according to new figures from Thomas Cook.

The travel operator said 48% of its package holiday bookings for the season were for countries outside the EU, 10 percentage points higher than the same time last year – and the report helped lift travel stocks in Monday trading.

Thomas Cook said the weakness of the pound against the euro was the most likely cause for the trend.

It also said that the prolonged uncertainty around the UK's exit from the European Union had led many to delay their decision on when and where to book.

Shares in Thomas Cook and rose by more than 2% with rival TUI up 3%. Low-cost airline easyJet was also up by 3%, as was International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways and Iberia.

Spain remained the top destination for the travel operator's summer package holidays.

But Turkey saw the biggest growth in demand, leapfrogging Greece – now in third – to become this summer's second most popular package holiday destination.

The US was in fourth spot and Cyprus in fifth.

Will Waggott, chief of tour operating for Thomas Cook, said that “political turmoil… is revealing itself in a clear shift to non-EU countries.”

Thomas Cook warned earlier this year that anxiety among UK consumers was affecting summer holiday bookings.

It issued a series of profit warnings last year, and last month announced that it was to close 21 high street stores, resulting in 320 job losses.

Low-cost airline easyJet warned earlier this month that “unanswered questions surrounding Brexit” were weakening demand as it headed into its key summer trading period.

Chancellor Philip Hammond decides future of 1p and 2p coins

( via – – Mon, 29th April 2019) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Philip Hammond will this week rule on the future of 1p and 2p coins, a year after he called them “obsolete”.

In his Spring Statement in 2018, a Treasury consultation about the mix of coins in circulation appeared to pave the way for the end of both of them.

A swift reverse by the Prime Minister's official spokesman declared there were no plans to scrap the copper coins.

The Treasury has declined to comment on a report that there will be a reprieve.

But it confirmed that “the result of the review will be announced shortly”.

The Mail on Sunday quoted a government source as saying: “We will confirm the penny coin won't be scrapped.”

That Treasury consultation document said surveys suggested six-in-10 of UK 1p and 2p coins were only used once before being put in a jar or discarded, while one-in-12 were thrown into a bin.

The value of the 1p coin has also been reduced by inflation so, in effect, the 1p coin is now worth less than the halfpenny when it was abolished in 1984.

Penny definitions

  • Pretty penny: considerable sum of money
  • Penny dropped: something was finally understood
  • Penny-dreadful: a cheap, often lurid, book or magazine
  • Penny-pinching: miserly
  • Penny-wise: Careful and thrifty in small matters

Source: Collins English Dictionary

Among many of those who support the continuing use of copper coins, the belief is that retailers would simply round up prices to the nearest 5p if copper coins were scrapped.

But writing on the Bank of England's blog, Bank Underground, staff members Marilena Angeli and Jack Meaning last year argued that – even if this happened – it would have little or no effect on the cost of living, as measured by inflation.

They also argued that the growth of non-cash payments – particularly contactless cards – meant that shoppers could still be charged the exact amount when paying by card.

Thirdly, the duo quoted figures showing that only 12% of prices ended with 99p, with a falling number of items now priced at, say, £1.99.

Many countries – including Canada, the home of Bank of England governor Mark Carney – have ditched their low denomination coins. Australia, Brazil, and Sweden are among many others to do so.

A tour of the second largest private wine collection in Europe valued at $21 Million

Source: Alux

A tour of the second largest private wine collection in Europe. Located at the Palais Coburg, the collection comprises of 6 cellars and over 50,000 bottles. The entire collection is currently valued at around 18 million euros, that's around 21 million dollars US. The tour was hosted by sommelier Wolfgang Kneidinger, one of the 4 at Palais Coburg.

Palm Island Dubai the largest man-made island in the world

Source: Provident

Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest man-made island and is comprised of a two kilometre long trunk, a crown made up of 17 fronds and a surrounding crescent. The first of three such islands that comprise ‘The Palm Trilogy', Nakheel's signature development, it will be followed by The Palm Jebel Ali and The Palm Deira.

Following a number of years of feasibility studies, the Palm Jumeirah was launched in 2001, with reclamation starting in the same year. From the end of 2006, the island's first residences – comprising 4,000 luxury villas and apartments were handed over during a phased period. Since then, the tourism, leisure and retail elements of the island have been developed, creating a spectacular, world-renowned residential and tourism destination.

Patrice Washington Founder and CEO of Seek Wisdom Find Wealth on turning her life around after losing everything in the 2008 financial crash

Source: Women Of Impact

Patrice Washington is the Founder and CEO of Seek Wisdom Find Wealth, a personal finance training and development firm focused on moving you from debt management to money mastery. In this episode she talks about her experiences with debt, how to save money and what she did after losing everything in the 2008 financial crash.

Take A Look Inside The World’s 5 Fastest & Most Expensive Private Jets

Source: Sam Chui

This video gives a tour inside the latest Gulfstream G500 and Gulfstream G650ER, Airbus ACJ 319, Boeing 757 BBJ, Sukhoi Superjet RRJ95, Bombardier Global 7500 and Vista Jet Bombardier Global Express 6000.

TATA Steel ‘huge explosion’ reported at Port Talbot

( via– Fri, 26th April 2019) London, Uk – –

Witnesses described feeling their homes shaking and hearing three loud bangs in the early hours of Friday morning.

People have been urged to avoid TATA Steelworks after a “huge explosion” in Port Talbot caused a fire to break out.

Residents reported hearing three loud bangs at the steelworks in South Wales shortly after 3.30am on Friday morning.

TATA said there were no serious injuries and all fires are “under control”, although two people are believed to have suffered minor injuries.

The National Air Police Service confirmed a helicopter had been scrambled to the scene.

It said: “Attended large series of explosions at @TataSteelEurope #PortTalbot.

“Tata has now confirmed there are no serious injuries and all employees have been accounted for. All fires now under control. Excellent multi agency response from @swpolice @SWFireandRescue @SWPPortTalbot.”

Resident Damian Healey told Sky News he felt a “strange compression” in the air and it sounded “as though a jet were about to pass”.

One man described how the blast blew his bedroom door open, while others said their entire homes shook.

Another resident said there was a “very strong smell of sulphur” and multiple helicopters hovering over the steelworks shortly after the incident.

A video shared online purported to be of the “explosion” showed several bright flashes.

Lance Davies, who lives in the area, could see the fire from his home.

He told Sky News: “It sounded like thunder at first, and that's what woke me up.”

“My house shook as well, I felt a big vibration and it also woke my little boy up and my partner.

“Even people from about 20 miles away, they also heard the explosion as well.”

He said the fire could have cause a bigger tragedy: “If it had happened two hours later it would have been a completely different story, because that's when the shifts change over.”

South Wales Police confirmed the incident is “ongoing” and emergency services are at the scene.

It added: “Early indications are that the seat of the explosion was a train which carries molten metal into the works.

“The explosion caused some small fires which are all under control and damage to some buildings on the site.”

The force have asked the public to avoid the area.

According to the fire and rescue service, there are no concerns regarding hazardous effects from the smoke.

The motorway remains open.

Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock said the incident “raises real concerns about safety at the works” and called on Tata to “conduct a full review, to improve safety”.

“It could have been a lot worse. Grateful as always to the emergency services for their rapid and effective response,” he tweeted.

By Emily Mee

Debenhams names 22 stores to close with the loss of 1200 jobs

( via – – Fri, 26 April, 2019) London, Uk – –

Debenhams has named 22 of the 50 stores it plans to close as part of a plan by new owners to revive the department store chain.

The retailer says the store closures will start next year and 1,200 staff will be affected by the first phase.

Stores in Canterbury, Guildford, Wolverhampton and Kirkcaldy are among those earmarked for closure.

Earlier this month lenders to Debenhams took control in a deal which wiped out the investments of shareholders.

Once the 50 store closures are complete Debenhams will have around 116 stores in the UK.

Debenhams also reported results for the 26 weeks to March. Sales at its UK stores fell 7.4%, which it blamed on fewer shoppers heading to the High Street.

Debenhams stores expected to close in 2020

  • Altrincham
  • Ashford
  • Birmingham Fort
  • Canterbury
  • Chatham
  • Eastbourne
  • Folkestone
  • Great Yarmouth
  • Guildford
  • Kirkcaldy
  • Orpington
  • Slough
  • Southport
  • Southsea
  • Staines
  • Stockton
  • Walton
  • Wandsworth
  • Welwyn Garden City
  • Wimbledon
  • Witney
  • Wolverhampton

Failed expansion

Debenhams is the UK's biggest department store chain and its origins can be traced back to 1778 and a drapers store in central London.

However, industry experts said it expanded its stores at the wrong time – when customers were switching to online sales.

The expansion left the company with debts and expensive leases.

The store closures are part of a broader rescue effort, under which lenders provided £200m of fresh funding.

Under that refinancing agreement, shareholders saw their stake in the firm wiped out, including Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct.

Mr Ashley wanted to buy Debenhams and become chief executive, but his approaches were turned down.

‘Fit for the future'

Terry Duddy, Debenhams executive chairman, said: “Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper, we need to restructure the group's store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today's much changed retail environment.

“Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future.”

Debenhams is just one of many High Street chains to run into trouble in recent years.

The collapse of BHS in 2016 resulted in more than 160 stores closing, and House of Fraser has been shutting stores after being bought out of administration last year.

Marks and Spencer is in the process of closing 100 stores by 2020.

Some areas have been particularly hard hit by the problems in the retail industry. Wolverhampton has lost a House of Fraser, a BHS and now a Debenhams.

Sainsbury’s and Asda mega merger blocked by CMA

( via– Thur, 25th April 2019) London, Uk – –

Regulators cast aside assurances from the pair over the tie-up and say it would lead to a series of increased prices for shoppers.

Sainsbury's and Asda have called off their planned £13bn merger after it was formally blocked by the competition regulator on the grounds it would lead to higher prices.

The pair admitted defeat after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) completed its final report on the tie-up – first announced a year ago – saying it had not shifted from its view that shoppers and motorists using their petrol stations would be worse off.

A merger would have created the largest player in the UK grocery sector, claiming more market share than the current leader Tesco.

Sainsbury's and Asda had argued that their combined buying power would have left customers better off.

They had also offered to sell 150 of their stores to help address the CMA's concerns about weaker competition.

The regulator was also concerned suppliers would be squeezed.

Stuart McIntosh, who chaired the CMA inquiry, said no remedies were sufficient to satisfy its broad range of worries.

He said: “It's our responsibility to protect the millions of people who shop at Sainsbury's and Asda every week.

“Following our in-depth investigation, we have found this deal would lead to increased prices, reduced quality and choice of products, or a poorer shopping experience for all of their UK shoppers.

“We have concluded that there is no effective way of addressing our concerns, other than to block the merger.”

The ruling prompted a bitter response from the chains, with Sainsbury's share price falling more than 6% in early deals to leave it almost 20% down in the year to date.

Its chief executive, Mike Coupe, said: “The specific reason for wanting to merge was to lower prices for customers.

“The CMA's conclusion that we would increase prices post-merger ignores the dynamic and highly competitive nature of the UK grocery market.

“The CMA is today effectively taking £1bn out of customers' pockets.”

Asda said it was “disappointed” by the decision, while Judith McKenna, chief executive of its US parent firm Walmart, added: “Our focus now is continuing to position Asda as a strong UK retailer delivering for customers.

“Walmart will ensure Asda has the resources it needs to achieve that.”

Asda is not listed separately in the UK so the market reaction focused on Sainsbury's.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at, said there was now speculation Mr Coupe would leave the firm after the failure of his argument that customers would have benefited.

He wrote: “No one, least of all the CMA, fell for it. Will Coupe stay? I doubt it, this could well be the time for Coupe to exit.”

Analysts at the Jefferies investor service said: “Today's confirmation that the CMA has blocked the Sainsbury/Asda merger puts the focus back on Sainsbury's stand-alone value.

“This results in a cut in our price target from 230p to 200p, as we have limited visibility over how Sainsbury's intends to confront accelerating market share losses to Tesco.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

Barclays profits fell 10 percent in the first quarter, signaling further cuts if conditions persist

( via — Thur, 25th April 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Profit at Barclays fell 10 percent in the first quarter as its under-pressure investment bank struggled with tough markets, prompting it to signal further cost cuts if these conditions persist.

The poor investment banking performance comes at an awkward time for chief executive Jes Staley, who is locked in a public battle with activist investor Edward Bramson who wants to see the unit pared back to boost overall returns at Barclays.

Barclays said on Thursday returns in the investment banking business fell to 9.5 percent from 13.2 percent a year ago, while its overall profit was 1.54 billion pounds ($1.99 billion).

Although this was in line with the 1.57 billion forecast compiled from the average estimates of 13 analysts polled by the bank, shares in Barclays were down 1.43 percent at 0730 GMT.

“Despite a better than expected result in fixed income trading, today’s numbers will do little to take the pressure from activist Edward Bramson off the board,” said Nicholas Hyett, analyst at one of Britain’s biggest online investment platforms, Hargreaves Lansdown.

Barclays said that if the tough market conditions persist, it may have to cut annual costs in 2019 below the 13.6 billion to 13.9 billion pound range it earlier said it expected.

The bank said measures it took three years ago to ensure bonus pools in a given year are better aligned with that year’s performance, mean it has more discretion to cut bonuses when performance dips.

“What you see in the first quarter is Barclays using this discretion around variable compensation to manage our costs anddeliver expected profitability,” Staley said.

Staley last month ousted his lieutenant Tim Throsby, a fellow former JP Morgan banker who he had recruited in September 2016 to run the investment bank and who then embarked on a hiring spree in a bid to restore morale and performance.

Barclays said income from its equities business fell 21 percent and banking advisory fees were down 17 percent, although earnings from fixed income, currencies and commodity trading (FICC) rose 4 percent.

The drop in equities income follows similar announcements from U.S. rivals such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan which saw first quarter declines in trading revenues as client activity slumped.

Barclays’ core capital ratio fell to 13 percent from 13.2 percent at the end of the previous quarter, and its total income of 5.25 billion pounds fell short of analysts’ expectations.

Reporting by Lawrence White

UK government approve Huawei to help build 5G network despite warnings of a security risk

( via – – Wed, 24th April 2019) London, Uk – –

The government has approved the supply of equipment by Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to the UK's new 5G data network despite warnings of a security risk.

There has not been formal confirmation but the Daily Telegraph says Huawei will help build some “non-core” parts.

The US wants its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence grouping – the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – to exclude the company.

Huawei has denied that its work poses any risks of espionage or sabotage.

But Australia has already said it is siding with Washington – which has spoken of “serious concerns over Huawei's obligations to the Chinese government and the danger that poses to the integrity of telecommunications networks in the US and elsewhere”.

Cyber threats are among the issues on the agenda for discussion by the once-secret Five Eyes alliance, at a security conference in Glasgow.

A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has said it is reviewing the supply of equipment for the 5G network and will report in due course.

Digital minister Margot James responded to the reports about Huawei by tweeting: “In spite of Cabinet leaks to the contrary, final decision yet to be made on managing threats to telecoms infrastructure.”

Huawei, which already supplies equipment used in the UK's existing mobile networks, has always denied claims it is controlled by the Chinese government.

It said it was awaiting a formal government announcement on the UK's 5G plans, but was “pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work”, adding it would continue to work cooperatively with the government and the industry.

Ciaran Martin, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre – which oversees Huawei's current work in the UK – told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that a framework would be put in place to ensure the 5G network was “sufficiently safe”.

Asked about the potential of a conflict in the position among members of the Five Eyes alliance, he added: “In the past decade there have been different approaches across the Five Eyes and across the allied wider Western alliance towards Huawei and towards other issues as well.”

5G is the next (fifth) generation of mobile internet connectivity, promising much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Huawei's involvement in the 5G network would include helping to build parts of antennas or other infrastructure.

Such a decision would mean Huawei would not supply equipment for use in what is known as the “core” parts of a mobile network – where tasks such as checking device IDs and deciding how to route voice calls and data take place.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera says it is believed the decision to involve Huawei was taken by ministers at a meeting of the government's national security council on Tuesday.

The home, defence and foreign secretaries were reported to have raised concerns during the discussions, which are chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May.


BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera

The decision on Huawei is one of the most significant long-term national security decisions this government will make and was always going to be contentious.

5G will underpin our daily lives in ways that are hard to predict. So does allowing a Chinese company to build those networks put people at risk of being spied on or even switched off?

That is the concern from Washington and other critics who wanted the company excluded.

But deciding to ban Huawei entirely from the network would have risked slowing down the development of 5G and also upsetting China.

The UK believes it has experience in managing the risks posed by Huawei and can continue to do so going forward.

But one retired senior intelligence official recently told me his view on what to do about Huawei had changed.

In the past, he said, he had believed the policy of managing the risk had been sufficient. But now he was less sure.

The reason was not to do with any change in his view of what the company could do. Rather it was about the risks to relationships with close allies, namely those of the Five Eyes and US.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat tweeted that allowing Huawei to build some of the UK's 5G infrastructure would “cause allies to doubt our ability to keep data secure and erode the trust essential to #FiveEyes cooperation”.

Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Tugendhat maintained it was difficult to distinguish between the core and non-core in a 5G network.

He said the proposals still raised concerns, adding that 5G involved an “internet system that can genuinely connect everything, and therefore the distinction between non-core and core is much harder to make”.

Universal credit to impact almost 2m people with loss of £1,000 a year – study

( via – – Wed, 24th April, 2019) London, Uk – –

Those on disability benefits and low incomes will be among worst affected, IFS concludes

Almost 2 million people will lose more than £1,000 a year following the switch to universal credit, with those claiming disability benefits the worst affected, according to research by a leading thinktank.

Self-employed workers on below average incomes and low-income families with little savings will also be among the biggest losers, the Institute for Fiscal Studiesstudy concluded, as the government aims to complete one of the biggest overhauls of the benefits system since the introduction of tax credits in 2003.

The benefit clawbacks under the new system, which will affect around half of claimants, are expected to lead to a huge outcry from anti-poverty charities who have accused ministers of sanctioning more than a decade of austerity for some of the UK’s most hard-pressed households.

Earlier this month, welfare claimants began the fourth year of a benefits freeze imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne in 2016, which has already delivered cumulative savings of £4.4bn.

In March, the annual Households Below Average Income (HBAI) report covering 2017-18 found that 3.7 million children were living in absolute poverty, up from 3.5 million in 2016-17.

Universal credit is a merger of several benefits previously paid to claimants separately, including housing benefit, child tax credit and jobs seekers allowance.

The IFS said 11 million adults would lose or gain under new rules governing UC payouts, with 1.6 million gaining by more than £1,000 a year and 1.9 million losing at least that much.

About 4.2 million will be at least £100 per year better off than under the current system and 4.6 million will be at least £100 per year worse off after transitional protection expires, the IFS said.

The research tracked previous claimants and concluded that the circumstances of many low-income families will improve and they are likely to reduce their losses from UC over eight years. For some, losses will fall from more than £1,000 to nearer £100, the report said.

But those who are disabled or live with a disabled person are especially likely to be persistently, rather than temporarily, poor.

Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the briefing note, said: “The biggest losses experienced as a result of the switch are mostly down to a small number of specific choices the government has made about universal credit’s design, such as its treatment of the low-income self-employed and people with financial assets.

“Many of those very large losses do turn out to be temporary for those concerned. However, even when measuring people’s incomes over relatively long periods, universal credit still hits the persistently poor the hardest on average.”

By Phillip Inman

Natwest to double growth funding programme for UK small and medium-sized businesses

( via – – Tue, 23rd April 2019) London, Uk – –

Natwest will double its growth funding programme for small and medium-sized British businesses, citing the need to help them navigate Brexit disruption.

The UK bank’s growth funding loan pot, which was started in May 2018, will be immediately doubled to £6bn in the latest sign that companies are demanding resources to cope with political impasse and that banks and investors can cash in by helping them.

The money will be available immediately and will help businesses looking to grow, fund green initiatives and navigate the current uncertain business climate, Natwest said.

Last week the government announced it had handed over £200m to help support smaller businesses in the 2019-20 financial year as the future of European Union funding remains uncertain.

The Treasury made the cash available to the British Business Bank, a public-private partnership which provides loans to small companies looking to increase in size through investment and venture capital firms.

The national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, said at the time: “With Brexit on the horizon, serious questions regarding future funding for a UK small business support network that’s heavily reliant on the EU remain unanswered.”

Natwest figures released today showed that £2.9bn of its already-expanded £3bn growth funding pot had been approved for investment.

The bank said it would increasingly focus on financing eco-friendly projects and intellectual property.

Alison Rose, chief executive of commercial and private banking at Natwest, said: “We are working every day to look at what businesses need to not just survive, but grow. In many cases this is bespoke funding.”

Referencing Brexit, she said: “We recognise that the challenges businesses face evolve all the time, which is why we try to innovate whenever we can.”

By Harry Robertson

London Metal Exchange launched an initiative to ban brands not responsibly sourced by 2022

( via — Tue, 23rd April, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The London Metal Exchange (LME) on Tuesday launched an initiative that could see it ban or delist brands that are not responsibly sourced by 2022 as part of efforts to root out metal tainted by child labour and corruption.

The 142-year-old LME, seeking to avoid overly punishing small mining brands to the benefit of larger miners such as Glencore, said it would not single out cobalt and tin for accelerated auditing.

The proposal is the largest step yet by the LME, the world’s biggest market for industrial metals, to clean up the global supply chain of all its commodities.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles and one flagged by human-rights groups as particularly high risk.

“Global consumers rightly demand action on responsible sourcing – and our industry must listen,” LME chief executive Matt Chamberlain said in a statement.

The LME said its proposed rules would require all brands to undertake a “Red Flag assessment” based on guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) by the end of 2020.

The exchange would audit higher-risk brands by 2022 with a view to banning them if they do not comply.

In a consultation paper in October, the LME said it wanted to ban cobalt brands that traded at a significant discount against prices gathered by trade publication Metal Bulletin after 30 days.

The discount was created by concerns that some providers of cobalt to the exchange may have used child labour at operations mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where several organisations have cited human-rights abuses.

The proposal marks a shift from the LME’s traditional role of requiring brands and companies to meet metallurgical standards to including issues of ethical responsibility.

Brands would be forced to publish fully all of their supply-chain information by 2024, the LME said.

By Zandi Shabalala, additional reporting by Eric Onstad

No access to bank accounts ‘costs £500 extra a year’ in bills

( via – – Mon, 22nd April 2019) London, Uk – –

People who do not have access to a bank account pay an extra £485 a year for everyday bills and services, research from an account provider suggests.

More than 1.2 million Britons do not have a bank account, so miss out on discounts reserved for those who pay bills by direct debit, said Pockit.

This ramps up the cost of energy bills, broadband and phone contracts, it said.

“For many of us, having a bank account is a basic fact of life,” said Pockit boss Virraj Jatania.

“Yet the unbanked face a banking poverty premium which can put a real strain on their finances.”

UK Finance, which represents the UK banking industry, said banks took their financial inclusion responsibilities “extremely seriously”.

“The banking industry is committed to ensuring banking is accessible to all. There are over seven million basic bank accounts in the UK, helping customers across the country access vital banking services,” it said.

Traditional banks can reject customers applying for accounts if they do not have enough forms of ID, or if their credit rating is poor.

But Pockit, which provides basic account services, said this meant many were being penalised.

It analysed prices from leading service providers and found:

  • Energy and broadband providers offer discounts to customers if they pay by direct debit – a saving which is not available to those without a bank account.
  • Mobile phone companies offer better deals to those paying via direct debit rather than pay-as-you go customers.
  • Those without accounts have limited options when looking for credit, and often turn to expensive cash-in-hand “doorstep loans”.

In one example, it found two of the UK's three largest broadband providers, BT and Virgin Media, offered a “super line rental discount” if you paid by direct debit.

But customers without a current account had to pay using methods such as cash transfers, costing them £38 more a year on average.

On electricity and gas, it analysed Ofgem data and found that those using pre-payment meters paid on average £141.57 more each year than those who paid by direct debit.

Lendlease’s Labbad to be successor as new chief exec of Crown Estate

( via– Mon, 22nd April 2019) London, Uk – –

Dan Labbad, Lendlease Europe's CEO since 2009, will be named this week as Dame Alison Nimmo's successor, Sky News learns.

By Mark Kleinman, City editor

The company which manages the monarchy's vast land holdings will this week name an Australian property industry veteran as its next chief executive.

Sky News has learnt that Dan Labbad, who runs Lendlease's European operations, has been identified as the successor to Dame Alison Nimmo, who is due to step down at the end of the year.

His appointment, which requires a Royal Warrant, is understood to have been signed off by 10 Downing Street and the Treasury in the last few days.

It is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Mr Labbad's hiring will come after a nine-month search to fill one of the most prestigious jobs in the British real estate sector.

The Crown Estate's £14bn portfolio, which includes swathes of London's Regent Street and a fast-growing offshore wind turbine business, is managed on behalf of the Royal Family on a commercial basis.

Last year, the company reported a profit of £329m, with a quarter of that figure paid to the royal household as a sovereign grant to fund maintenance of royal palaces and residences.

The Crown Estate, which manages Windsor Great Park, does not have responsibility for the Queen's private properties such as Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House.

With a history dating back to ‎1066 and the Norman Conquest, the Crown Estate is owned by the reigning Monarch for as long as they remain on the throne.

It is one of the UK's biggest property groups, and has recently sought to capitalise on some of the sector's most important growth trends by opening its first branded serviced offices.

Mr Labbad's appointment will see him taking over from Dame Alison at the start of 2020.

He has run Lendlease Europe, which has worked on construction projects at London's Tate Britain art gallery and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, since 2009.

Including roles in Australia, where he led the expansion of Sydney Airport ahead of the Olympic Games hosted by the City in 2000, he has worked for the company for about 20 years.

‎Mr Labbad has also chaired the UK Green Building Council, which promotes sustainability in the built environment.

His arrival at the Crown Estate will come at a time when it is demonstrating resilience in the performance of its West End retail estate – although it will have been hit, like other landlords, by last week's environmental protests by Extinction Rebellion activists.

Outside London, it part owns the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford and Rushden Lakes, a £140m leisure and retail complex in Northamptonshire.

Much of the Crown Estate's growth is, though, being driven by its offshore wind portfolio, which a report by the company this month described as having “entered the premier league”.

Announcing last year's results, Dame Alison said its robust profit growth was a consequence of the company looking “beyond short-term volatility to deliver long-term, sustainable outperformance”.

‎The Crown Estate is chaired by Robin Budenberg, a former City banker who went on to run UK Financial Investments, the agency set up to manage taxpayers' stakes in bailed-out lenders after the 2008 financial crisis.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Estate declined to comment on Sunday.

Cashless Transactions The New Normal

Source: DW

Cashless payments are on the rise. They are fast, easy and convenient. Worldwide, cashless transactions have become the norm. But Germany’s central bank and government are still clinging on to cash. Can they stop the move towards a cashless society? Our documentary shows who is behind the worldwide anti-cash lobby. Banks want to get rid of coins and bills for cost reasons, and politicians think less cash will cut the rug out from under criminals and terrorists. Central bankers want to abolish cash because it would make it easier for them to enforce negative interest rates. And digital payment companies like Paypal or Visa simply want to profit from money transactions and collect as much financial data about consumers as they can. Their aim is to gain complete control over our buying behavior. For example, the “Better than Cash Alliance” in New York is supported by financial corporations such as Visa or Mastercard. They say the more people that are integrated into the international financial system, the more growth and jobs it will promote. But as our financial behavior becomes more and more transparent, states are also using payment data to find out more about us. The ordinary citizen’s view of cash as a store of value, independent of third party interests, is being increasingly ignored. But for them, cash is and will remain a symbol of freedom.