How SpaceX Made NASA Cool Again

Source: CNBC

NASA reached peak cool on July 20th, 1969 when it sent the first men to the moon. However, the agency's impact on society goes far beyond space. Some of the biggest advancements in technology started as NASA experiments, from GPS systems and Dustbusters to freeze-dried foods and laptop computers. But Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famous astrophysicist, says NASA partnering with Elon Musk's SpaceX is one of the biggest advancements the agency has made since the moon landing.

Model railway maker Hornby sales surge by 33% in lockdown

( via – – Fri, 30th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Model railway maker Hornby has seen its sales surge by 33% in the six months to the end of September, as more people took up hobbies in lockdown.

The firm, which also makes Corgi cars and Scalextric racing kits, said it had benefitted from families spending more time at home.

Not along ago, Hornby was “a company in chaos”, losing up to £10m a year, according to boss Lyndon Davies.

He hailed the firm's return to profit in a “time of adversity”.

“We have observed hitherto successful and profitable companies worldwide crumbling under the pressure [of the pandemic], with losses, closures and tumbling share values.

“Yet we have not only weathered this shattering storm, our sales have increased by 33% in the first half of 2020, moving Hornby back into profitability.”

Parts of the Hornby business that performed strongly over the past six months included Airfix, its model aeroplane brand, and Humbrol, which makes specialist paints for modelling.

Mr Davies said the company had seen a big jump in online sales, as customers sought comfort from uncertainty in products “they know and love”.

He said boredom was another driver: “People want to do things, they don't want to sit there watching the TV for the day.”

He said the firm entered the year with “no idea” how the business would be impacted by the pandemic.

All of the firm's offices had to close at various points, and it lost several weeks of shipments due to supply chain issues.

Despite this, sales climbed to £21.1m in the period from £15.9m last year. That's given Hornby a net profit of £200,000, turning around a £2.5m loss in 2019.

Shares in the firm surged almost 30% on the back of the strong results.

Wider ranges

Lockdown isn't the only reason behind Hornby's changing fortunes. After a complete restructuring of the management team in 2017, the company widened its range, introducing train sets tied to well-known brands such as Harry Potter and Paddington Bear.

Back to the Future-themed cars have been “the biggest selling Scalextric cars for 10 years”, Mr Davies added.

The firm has also embraced new technologies. A century after its first clockwork locomotive was introduced in 1920, the company's model trains and racing cars can now be controlled by mobile phone apps using bluetooth.

“These brands have been misunderstood for the past 5-10 years, but in the last year we've brought them alive again,” Mr Davies said.

Brexit goes down to the line: Deal, no-deal or fudge?

( via — Fri, 30th Oct, 2020) London, UK —

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – After nearly five years of Brexit crisis, the European Union and Britain are making a last ditch attempt to clinch a thin trade deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual imports and exports from 2021.

The United Kingdom left the EU last January but the trade deal would kick in when it leaves informal membership – known as the transition period – in nine weeks time.

If a deal can be done before the transition period ends on Dec. 31, the two sides would sign more than 1,000 pages of international treaties covering everything from smoked salmon and cheese to car parts and medicine.

So far, there is no breakthrough, though talks in London and Brussels made progress on unifying texts each side has so far prepared separately. Sticking points remain on economic fair play, fisheries or settling disputes, sources on both sides said.

Here are three main scenarios for Brexit.


Even if the two sides do clinch a zero-tariff and zero-quota trade deal, it will be thin.

There will be little scope for closer integration in areas such as services and regulations. Neither would it guarantee continued close ties on many current areas of tight cooperation including on foreign policy, international security and defence.

While far short of the aspirations of both sides following the 2016 Brexit referendum, such a narrow deal is seen as the most economically beneficial option now available. It would keep the bloc’s internal market of 450 million consumers open to the world’s sixth largest economy, and vice versa.

With a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ripping through Europe, the bloc hopes to avoid more economic damage. Still, even with a deal, many British exporters expect disruptions at the main borders with the EU in early 2021.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ultimately decides that a narrow deal is not in his political interest and the United Kingdom leaves without a deal – possibly amid a row.

After Johnson’s bid to undercut the 2020 Brexit divorce treaty, there are fears that London is employing what one European diplomat said was Madman Theory – a reference to former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s attempt to convince Moscow that he was irrational during the Cold War.

If the negotiators fail to overcome the technical and political differences, Britain and the EU would fall back on World Trade Organization rules, which include trade barriers.

Johnson says he wants a deal but has repeatedly said that he is ready to leave without a deal – on so-called “Australian terms” – if the EU asks for too many concessions.

The EU does not have a free-trade agreement with Canberra and such an arrangement would give Britain trading terms on par with China but worse than many developing countries like Afghanistan or Mali have with the bloc.

The EU does not believe a no-deal split at the end of the year would exhaust the tortuous Brexit saga and a French diplomat predicted the ensuing chaos in commerce would soon force a return to talks.

The EU also insists it would not enact any new trade deal if Britain goes ahead with plans to undercut their earlier divorce settlement, in particular for the sensitive Irish border.


Amid political grandstanding on both sides, pressure from businesses forces a partial compromise on certain areas at the last minute.

The partial deal – covering some key areas where the sides can find agreement – could be temporarily applied without ratification from EU lawmakers should they run out of time.

Such a super slim deal, even thinner than predicted under the first scenario, effectively pushes negotiations on the outstanding issues into 2021 and onwards.

That would give Johnson the sensitive political win of delivering a deal without going back on his promise not to prolong Britain’s way out of the EU beyond 2020.

To what extent the sides would then be able to build on such a half-baked treaty would also largely depend on how far London would push its new right to move away from EU standards.

In particular, the UK would risk erecting a regulatory wall with the EU market if it were to relax its own standards on animal and food safety to win a new U.S. trade agreement, which is crucial to the “global Britain” Brexit agenda.

Additional reporting by Michel Rose and Philip Blenkinsop, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Guy Faulconbridge

Lloyds Banking Group cashes in on UK’s mortgage boom

( via – – Thur, 29th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Lending rose £3.5bn in Q3 after bank processes highest number of applications since 2008

Lloyds Banking Group reported stronger-than-expected profits after the UK’s largest mortgage lender cashed in on a surge in demand for home loans.

The bank, which owns Halifax and accounts for roughly 19% of the UK mortgage market, said mortgage lending increased by £3.5bn over the three months to September, as it processed the highest number of applications since 2008.

The housing market has boomed since a temporary stamp-duty holiday and a so-called race for space, as many people have been reconsidering their lifestyles during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief executive António Horta-Osório said Covid restrictions, which have forced people to spend more time at home, prompted demand for larger homes outside city centres. Meanwhile, lockdowns have resulted in consumers spending less on going out, but saving more of their earnings for home purchases.

“People have been saving through the pandemic, given that they spent less on travel and hospitality… So there is also structural shift in customer behaviour,” he said.

The bank is expected to profit from further demand in the final three months of the year. “We already know that this strong mortgage growth in Q3 is going to accelerate into Q4 and we are absolutely on it,” the chief executive added.

The boost in mortgage and business lending helped lift pre-tax profits, which were £1bn for the quarter. Analysts had been expecting profits of £588m.

It is also a significant improvement on the £50m profit reported during the same period last year, when the bank was forced to put aside large sums linked to payment protection insurance claims, which nearly wiped out its earnings.

Despite the bank’s strong performance Lloyds’ chief financial officer, William Chalmers, cautioned that an economic downturn in the UK had merely been delayed from the end of 2020 and into 2021. “The downturn is expected to come, but it is expected to come slightly later,” he said.

The Bank of England has warned lenders to prepare for negative interest rates, prompting Lloyds’ rival HSBC to warn it may start charging for current accounts in countries such as the UK to help make up for the drop in income.

Lloyds suffered a 16% drop in net interest income – which measures the difference between interest earned on loans versus paid on deposits – to £2.6bn after UK interest rates were cut to a record low of 0.1% in March.

Horta-Osório said Lloyds’ position on current account fees was unchanged, adding that the central bank would likely announce further quantitative easing before introducing negative rates.

Lloyds put aside a further £301m to cover a potential surge in bad debts linked to the Covid crisis, but this was less than half the amount analysts had expected.

The provision brings the bank’s total impairment charge to £4.1bn for the first nine months of the year. It now expects the full year total to be at the lower end of the £4.5bn-£5.5bn it predicted in the summer.

However, Lloyds said there was “significant uncertainty” around the economic outlook due to both the ongoing pandemic and Brexit. “The extent of the impairment charge at the full year will depend on the potential severity and duration of the economic shock in the UK.”

Lloyds shares rose 2.5% in morning trading to 28.36p. The banks’ stock price has dropped around 50% since February.

By Kalyeena Makortoff 

FTSE 100 hits six-month low as financial markets react to surging global coronavirus infections

( via– Thur 29th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Concerns are growing about the impact the coronavirus pandemic could have on the global economy during the winter months ahead.

By Sharon Marris & James Sillars, business reporters

The FTSE 100 has fallen to its lowest level in six months as financial markets react to surging coronavirus infections around the world.

There was a sea of red for stocks across Europe and the US in Wednesday trading over fears COVID-19 will deliver a deeper-than-expected hit to the global economy in the months ahead.

The FTSE 100 was more than 3% down in afternoon trading at one stage with all of its constituent companies, bar Rolls-Royce, losing ground. The index closed 2.6% lower at 5,582.

That left it 26% down in the year to date. The domestically focused FTSE 250 lost almost 2% in the session.

The situation was worse across the Channel as the CAC in Paris and Germany's DAX also fell sharply – the latter almost 5% lower at one stage – in reaction to looming lockdown restrictions in their respective countries.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and wider S&P 500 lost more than 3% with technology companies – darlings of the market in recent months and seemingly immune to virus jitters – feeling some of the pain.

US investors also fretted over the political stalemate in Washington on additional financial aid for consumers and businesses.

The slump marked a resumption of recent stock market falls. Track the UK economy's recovery from lockdown

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said of the carnage: “After Tuesday's relative calm we have seen a return to the unrelenting selling of Monday's session, only this time it is arguably even more dramatic.

“Global indices are deep in the red, as Germany prepares to head back into a national lockdown, with Switzerland following suit.

“In these circumstances, a UK lockdown seems not far behind, given the current direction of travel across the continent.”

Parts of the UK have already brought in tighter restrictions in an effort to halt the virus, as the number of new cases hovers around 20,000 a day.

There are fears that these restrictions – especially if they spread to cover more of the country – will reverse the tentative economic recovery seen during the summer.

The UK's Vaccine Taskforce boss has warned that the first generation of vaccines “is likely to be imperfect” and “might not prevent infection”.

A study also found that the number of people with antibodies fell 26% since lockdown was eased over summer.

The global market reaction reflects jitters over the weeks and months ahead – particularly in Europe.

This comes as France confirms a new national lockdown starting from Friday – announced in a televised address by President Emmanuel Macron.

Germany said it was to impose an emergency month-long lockdown that includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres from 2 November.

John Woolfitt, director of trading at Atlantic Capital Markets, said: “Global markets look incredibly nervous – the mix of rising COVID-19 cases and deaths and the potential full lockdown in France, add this to the uncertainty ahead of the US elections and you have a very poor backdrop.

“I don't expect this to be long-term, but nervousness will continue until elections are done and some form of steadying in the COVID-19 numbers.”

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce one-year spending plan on November 25

( via — Wed, 28th Oct, 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he would announce a one-year plan for government spending on Nov. 25, which would focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and delivering on his plans to protect jobs.

“In the current environment its essential that we provide certainty,” Sunak said in a statement.

“So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling COVID and delivering our Plan for Jobs.”

Earlier this month Sunak was forced to abandon plans to set out a three-year spending plan, saying the uncertainties about the coronavirus and its impact on the economy were too great to plan that far ahead.

Instead, the Nov. 25 statement will cover three priorities: ensuring government departments have enough money to tackle the pandemic and support jobs, funding for public services involved in fight the pandemic, and infrastructure investment.

Key programmes such as planned investment in hospital building and high speed rail, are seen as exceptions to the one-year rule and will be given multi-year capital allocations.

Sunak has already ramped up public spending massively to counter the COVID-19 impact on the economy. Britain is set to run a budget deficit of nearly 17% of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility will publish its latest outlook for the economy and the public finances also on Nov. 25.

Reporting by William James

Drug companies GSK and Sanofi to supply 200 million doses of Covid vaccine

( via – – Wed, 28th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Drug companies GSK and Sanofi will supply 200 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate to a global inoculation scheme.

The two companies' vaccine is going through the first stages of testing.

There is no internationally-approved treatment for Covid-19, which has killed more than 1.16 million people.

Meanwhile, GSK said it expects 2020 earnings to be at the lower end of a forecast due to Covid disruption to vaccinations for other diseases.

180 nations

GSK and Sanofi will supply their vaccine candidate to the Covax scheme, which is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Covax, which aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses around the world by the end of 2021, has already signed agreements this year with AstraZeneca and Novavax.

It aims to discourage national governments from hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and to focus on vaccinating high-risk people first in every country.

More than 180 nations including China have joined the plan, but some, including the US, have opted to stick with their own supply deals.

Sanofi and GSK signed a $2.1bn deal with Washington during the summer to supply it with more than 100 million doses of the same vaccine, which they hope to present for regulatory approval next year.

The companies also have similar agreements with the European Union, the UK and Canada.

They hope to have the first results of the trial by December and if it is successful they will move on to further trials by the end of the year.

Vaccine race

There are around 20 pharmaceutical companies holding clinical trials in the race to find a vaccine.

The partnership between the UK's GSK and France's Sanofi uses the same protein as one of Sanofi's seasonal influenza vaccines.

It will be coupled with a substance that acts as a booster to the vaccine made by GSK.

Sanofi is also working on another vaccine project with US company Translate Bio that will use messenger RNA molecules to instruct cells in the body to make coronavirus proteins that then produce an immune response.

Earlier this week, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said the vaccine it is developing with Oxford University produces an immune response in both young and old adults.

Inoculation prospects

On Wednesday, the woman in charge of procuring possible Covid-19 vaccines for the UK said that rollout of the earliest shots could start this year, though their effectiveness was likely to be limited.

The UK has agreed supply deals for six candidates. The UK government has ordered 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is one of the frontrunners along with Pfizer.

“If the first two vaccines, or either of them, show that they are both safe and effective, I think there is a possibility that vaccine rollout will start this side of Christmas,” Kate Bingham, the chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, told the BBC. “Otherwise I think it's more realistic to expect it to be early next year.”

It is not yet known which of these experimental vaccines will work.

And Ms Bingham wrote an opinion piece in the Lancet medical journal, published overnight, saying that in theory all of the candidate vaccines could fail.

10,000 Black Interns scheme a push to improve workplace diversity

( via – – Tue, 27th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

NHS, Linklaters and PwC among companies pledging to cumulatively hire 10,000 black interns as part of campaign

The NHS, the law firm Linklaters and the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the large companies that have promised to cumulatively hire 10,000 black interns amid a push to improve the diversity of the UK’s professional industries.

Businesses who sign up to the #10000BlackInterns programme will offer paid internships in sectors that have struggled to increase their ethnic diversity to match the broader UK population.

Companies or other organisations from education, healthcare and advertising have already signed up to the scheme, alongside accountants and the legal profession.

In the insurance industry Zurich has already signed up, while in the banking sector Credit Suisse has said it will take part alongside the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

The scheme has received backing from the Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s largest business lobby group, as well as the former prime minister David Cameron and Lady Amos, a Labour peer.

It follows the successful launch of a smaller scheme, 100 Black Interns, in August, targeted at the “chronic under-representation of Black talent” in the investment management industry. More than 200 investment companies have signed up to the earlier initiative.

Both campaigns were started by the same team of former investment industry professionals.

The campaign intends to hire a chief executive and trustees shortly as it gains more partners, with the aim of rolling out the internships over the course of 2020 and 2021. Those interns will then commit to mentor and sponsor future interns on the programme.

Cameron said: “This initiative will help build a more inclusive economy that works for everyone. We are encouraging leaders from British industry and professional services to champion the effort in their sector.”

Amos, a former diplomat, said: “It is so powerful to see leading players in different sectors pulling together to address the under-representation of Black talent in such a tangible and sustainable fashion. Of course there is so much more to do, but this programme is a great step in the right direction.”

By Jasper Jolly

Jack Ma’s financial technology Ant Group set for record $34bn market debut

( via – – Tue, 27th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Chinese financial technology giant Ant Group looks set to make the world's largest stock market debut.

Ant, backed by Jack Ma, billionaire founder of e-commerce platform Alibaba, is to sell shares worth about $34.4bn (£26.5bn) on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets.

Advisers to Ant set the share price on Monday amid reports of very strong demand from major investors.

The previous largest debut was Saudi Aramco's $29.4bn float last December.

Ant, an online payments business, is only selling about 11% of its shares. But the pricing values the whole business at about $313bn.

Mr Ma's Ant shares are reportedly worth about $17bn, taking his net worth to close to $80bn and confirming him as China's richest man.

Ant runs Alipay, the dominant online payment system in China, where cash, cheques and credit cards have long been eclipsed by e-payment devices and apps.

In fact, Alipay says the total volume of payments on its platforms in China for the year ending in June was a massive $17.6tn.

According to Alibaba's most recent annual report, Alipay has 1.3 billion users. Most are in China, with the rest coming from its nine e-wallet partners elsewhere in Asia.

Ant also offers wealth management, insurance and money transfer services.

The company is expected to make its dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong next week, underlining the latter exchange's growing importance as a financing hub.

The Trump administration has threatened to limit Chinese firms' access to US capital markets, a move that is part of the long-running trade row between Washington and Beijing. In response, China called on its flagship tech giants to list on domestic stock markets.

Chinese tech firms, including NetEase and JD.Com, have already raised billions by selling their shares via the Hong Kong stock market.

According to the Bloomberg news agency, Mr Ma told a conference in China on Saturday that the flotation would be of huge significance for Shanghai and Hong Kong.

“This was the first time such a big listing, the largest in human history, was priced outside New York City,” he told the Bund Summit.

“We wouldn't have dared to think about it five years, or even three years ago,” said Mr Ma.

Major investors to have signed up to the share offering ahead of flotation, scheduled for 5 November, include Singapore state investor Temasek Holding and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth funds GIC and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Analysts said the flotation offered investors a chance to secure a slice of Asia's fast-growing tech sector.

“Digital commerce and infrastructure platforms in Asia provide an unprecedented opportunity for Asian and global investors to be part of the next wave of value creation in Asia,” said Varun Mittal, an emerging markets expert at consultancy EY, in Singapore.

“Earlier this year, India saw a rush of international investors keen to invest in infrastructure and platforms ecosystem, which is being replicated in the Chinese ecosystem now.”

Toymakers expecting strong global sales during Christmas despite coronavirus

( via – – Mon, 26th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Toymakers are expecting strong global sales during the critical end-of-year festive season, after a surge of pandemic-fuelled demand for items such as Barbies and board games.

Hasbro, maker of Monopoly and Jenga, told investors on Monday it was poised for a “good holiday season”.

The forecast followed rival Mattel's report last week of its biggest sales jump in a decade.

The firm's Barbie dolls hit their highest quarterly sales since 2003.

The gains have come as families buy toys and games in an attempt to fend off boredom amid the pandemic lockdowns.

“The toy industry as a whole grew meaningfully and continues to demonstrate its resilience in challenging economic times,” said Mattel chief executive Ynon Kreiz.

In the first nine months of the year, Hasbro sales grew 13% from 2019 – bucking the wider plunge in consumer spending around the world.

At Mattel, sales are down 2% from 2019 – but some brands, such as Barbie, are having their strongest run in years.

The firm said gross sales of the doll grew 15% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2020. In the most recent quarter, they rose 29% to more than $532m.

Mattel told investors last week it was predicting holiday season sales growth of roughly 5% from last year – greater than many wider forecasts of festive season spending.

However, analysts have warned that the pandemic may throw some surprises at toymakers in the upcoming months, as family budgets increasingly feel strains and concerns about coronavirus infection change holiday shopping dynamics.

“Not only am I concerned that paycheque spending may be limited, but I'm concerned that we will not see that last minute rush into the stores due to fears of Covid-19,” Juli Lennett, vice president at market research firm NPD Group, wrote recently.

But she said toymakers might still manage to see some gains.

“As we've seen in previous economically challenged times, parents will sometimes forego their own needs to make their children happy. In this crazy, stressful year, parents might just go overboard and splurge on their kids -if they have money,” she said.

UK Post Office to ditch almost a third of its free-to-use cash machines

( via– Mon, 26th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Bosses say the decision should be seen as a commitment to the rest of its network as demand for cash continues to fall.

By James Sillars, business reporter

The Post Office says it is to ditch almost a third of its free-to-use cash machines but invest £16m to protect and upgrade the rest of its network.

The 2,000 ATMs it currently has are owned and operated by Bank of Ireland, which is withdrawing from the business.

The Post Office said that under a transfer, due to be completed by spring 2022, it would join the LINK network of cash machines and close down 600 existing ATMs which, it said, were little-used or had alternatives nearby.

Its statement said: “A subsequent ATM replacement programme will be undertaken, so that all ATMs are replaced with new devices that have the latest cash dispensing technology and security measures.

“This programme should be completed by mid-2023.

Cash machine numbers have fallen at pace over the past few years as demand continues to decline rapidly in the face of the challenge posed by digital payments and contactless cards.

According to the consumer group Which?, 10,000 have been lost in the past two years.

Such is the concern about maintaining access to cash, the government is consulting on the potential expansion of ‘cashback' across all retail stores to ensure cash provision in small towns and villages, in particular.

The Post Office argued its announcement should be seen as a commitment to access to cash.

Martin Kearsley, its banking director, said: “This is one of the largest investment programmes in the free to use ATM market for over a decade.

“Millions of people rely on cash every day and we are ensuring anyone who wants cash can get it in whichever way is most convenient for them.”

The Post Office said that under its plans it had committed to retaining almost 60 lower transacting ATMs at locations where the next free to access ATM was a significant distance away.

It added that in addition to the 1,400 ATMs in its own network, its franchisee postmasters could apply to LINK if they wanted to have a machine installed.

By James Sillars

What Are The Differences Between NEW MONEY & OLD MONEY

Source: Alux

This Alux video we will be answering the following questions: What is like to be old money? What is like growing up with money? How did old money keep their wealth? What are the differences between new money and old money? How to tell if someone is old money? Which is richer: old money or new money? Why do old money rich people look down on new money rich people? What do the owners of old money know that new money does not? What does old money think of new money? What are the main differences in lifestyle between new money and old money families? What does it feel like to be an aristocrat, or from an old money family? What's it like to grow up in an old money family? What do people mean when they say new money or old money?

Meet Dwight Neptune, 22-years-old CEO and co-founder of Beagle Drones

Source: CNBC

Meet Dwight Neptune, 22-year-old CEO and co-founder of Beagle Drones. Neptune began studying electrical engineering in high school and picked up drones as a hobby. When he and his co-founders built their first drone, it actually caught on fire because it wasn't wired properly. The New Jersey-based company has come a long way since. Neptune dropped out of college after three semesters to work on Beagle full time. Beagle is currently in the process of raising $1 million at a $4 million valuation. Watch the video to hear more about what it’s like raising funding as a Black founder.

KFC to create 5,400 jobs in the UK and Ireland despite some outlets in covid restricted areas

( via – – Fri, 23rd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

KFC says it plans to add 5,400 jobs in the UK and Ireland by the end of 2020, despite many of its outlets being in areas affected by Covid restrictions.

The fast food chain has 965 restaurants across the UK and Ireland.

The company says some of the new jobs will be funded by the UK government's Kickstart scheme, which is designed to help young people.

The 16-24 year old age group has been disproportionately hit by job losses in the pandemic.

The new jobs come at a time when the UK's hospitality sector is reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Local lockdowns and restrictions have forced many restaurants, bars and pubs to close, or work at reduced capacity, prompting Chancellor Rishi Sunak to introduce new measures to prevent mass job losses, when the furlough scheme ends in November.

The unemployment rate in the UK rose to 4.5% in the June-to-August period, the highest level in three years.

But amongst 16-24 year olds who are able to work the figure is 13.5%.

“This year is going to be even more challenging for young people looking for job opportunities,” said Paula Mackenzie, general manager at KFC for the UK and Ireland.

“But we know that all the skills the hospitality sector teaches – the importance of hard work , delivering great service and working as part of a team – will hugely help them in the long run.”

The government's Kickstart scheme, which KFC says will fund some of the new jobs, pays employers £1,500 for every 16-24 year-old they train. It is aimed at young people who are on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

The new posts will be in addition to the 4,300 new recruits the fried chicken chain says it has taken on since the first lockdown in March.

Virgin Holidays ordered to meet refund deadlines or face court action

( via – – Fri, 23rd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Virgin Holidays has been ordered to meet refund deadlines following Covid-related cancellations or face court action by the regulator.

The company has agreed to pay refunds by 30 October for any holidays cancelled before September.

Those cancelled last month or this month will be refunded by 20 November.

By law, package holidays cancelled by an operator should be refunded within 14 days, but some people have waited three months to get their money back.


Virgin Holidays has received 53,000 refund requests since the start of March, totalling £203m – a situation which it said had put the company under “extraordinary pressure”. The company said it had 1,300 claims left to process.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had received hundreds of complaints that people were not receiving refunds for holidays cancelled owing to the pandemic.

It said many customers had been forced to wait for an “unreasonably long time”, with some told the refunds would take three months.

If Virgin Holidays fails to hit its deadlines, the regulator said it was prepared to take the company to court. This included refunds for Virgin Holiday Cruises.

Your Virgin refund nightmares

Holidaymakers have spoken to the BBC in recent months over the stress of getting refunds from Virgin Holidays.

Newlyweds David and Natalie Rogers, from Dudley, saved for two years for their dream honeymoon safari trip in Kenya but coronavirus ruined their plans.

“We were quite angry about having to wait on hold [to Virgin Holidays] for over eight hours, and a message on the line saying that travellers should have already received a voucher for their missed holidays. It just felt like we'd been forgotten about,” they said.

Lynn and Martin Fox had remortgaged their home to pay for a holiday of a lifetime with their two children in Florida.

“If only they [Virgin Holidays] would have been honest with us and communicated with us, we would have been happy. If they put a date on the refund, we could have planned. But the phone cut off calls and emails were ignored,” Mrs Fox said.

Hannah Nash and her family paid nearly £7,000 for a holiday to Disney World in Florida but struggled to get a refund.

“The stress is making me ill. These are not small amounts for normal people,” she told the BBC in June.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA, said: “Our action means that Virgin Holidays customers should receive all their money back without further delay.

“We are continuing to investigate package holidays in relation to the coronavirus crisis. Should we find that any business is not complying with consumer protection law, we won't hesitate to take action.”

The regulator has issued similar warnings to other companies including Sykes Cottages and Vacation Rentals.

A spokesman for Virgin Holidays said: “We have gradually reduced refund timeframes and are now 98% through the refund queue.

“Our focus now is on rebuilding trust with our customers, recognising that it has regrettably taken much longer than normal to process their refunds. We thank them sincerely for their patience throughout.”

What are my rights?

If you have a package holiday cancelled by the provider, then a refund should be provided for the whole holiday within 14 days

If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund to the original form of payment within seven days, although many airlines are struggling to meet that deadline. You can accept, or refuse, vouchers or a rebooking but a voucher will probably be invalid if the airline later goes bust

If you decide against going on a future flight, which is not yet cancelled, then there is no right to a refund. Different airlines have different rules over what you can do, but many are waiving any charges for changing to a later flight or having a voucher instead. Your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you

Regulation of holidays and flights is divided between the CMA and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA has now announced that refund credit notes (RCNs) will have greater protection than normal until the end of the year.

RCNs were handed out by some companies instead of refunds early in the coronavirus crisis, as the businesses found themselves stretched by the level of claims. Customers must be given a cash refund if they ask for one.

RCNs can be used to book another holiday, or a refund is given when the note expires.

They have been temporarily protected under the Atol scheme, which is government-guaranteed and administered by the CAA.

Protection has been extended to cover any issued between 1 October and 31 December. It will apply to all relevant vouchers issued by Atol holders operating within the UK.

This means that the refund will be honoured, and can be drawn from a central pot, even if the provider goes bust.

By Kevin Peachey

Viagogo’s $4bn takeover of StubHub provisionally blocked by competition watchdog

( via – – Thur, 22nd Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Regulator says deal between controversial ticket resale firms would harm consumers

The UK element of the takeover of ticket resale website StubHub by its rival Viagogo has been provisionally blocked by the competition watchdog, throwing the future of the controversial $4bn tie-up into doubt.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Viagogo, which pressed ahead with the deal despite a warning from the watchdog, must now address its concerns, potentially by selling all or part of StubHub.

Stuart McIntosh, the chair of the CMA inquiry group, said: “The evidence we’ve seen so far consistently points in the same direction – that Viagogo and StubHub have a market share of more than 90% combined and compete closely with each other.

“We are therefore concerned that their merger could lead to secondary ticketing customers facing higher fees and lower quality services. We’re now inviting comments on our provisional findings and possible remedies.”

The takeover has already been described as the “worst deal in history” after it was completed shortly before the pandemic shut down the vast majority of live events around the world.

The CMA is understood to have received submissions from music industry groups concerned about the power the combined company would wield.

Both firms have drawn fire from musicians such as Ed Sheeran, as well as from MPs, for repeatedly misleading consumers and exploiting alliances with powerful ticket touts to profit from fans’ devotion to their idols.

By Rob Davies

FTSE 100 slips to five-month low following a glum quarterly report from firms

(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 hit a five-month low on Thursday as glum quarterly reports from firms, including British Airways-owner IAG, weighed on sentiment ahead of a parliament address by finance minister Rishi Sunak on the economic outlook.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE fell 0.2%, with IAG ICAG.L slipping 1.3% after the airline group posted a quarterly loss and further downgraded its capacity outlook for the rest of the year.

The domestically-focussed mid-cap FTSE 250 index .FTMC lost 0.1%, dragged by a 16.5% slump in real estate firm Shaftesbury Plc SHB.L following a share offering.

“A lot of doom and gloom of earnings is quite priced into the markets and when we’re heading into a second wave (of the coronavirus), that’s going to create a lot more uncertainty, especially around businesses’ ability to open their doors,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

UK stock markets are set for a second straight weekly loss, with investors fearful that a new round of coronavirus restrictions could hammer a nascent economic recovery.

With the UK’s main furlough scheme ending this month, Sunak is due to address parliament around 1030 GMT where he is probably going to adjust course slightly on job support, police minister Kit Malthouse said.

Meanwhile, Britain will resume talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union on Thursday, marking a new push by the two sides to protect billions of dollars worth of trade from the beginning of next year.

In company news, Unilever Plc ULVR.L rose 1.2% after it reported a stronger-than-expected return to sales growth in the third quarter, led by emerging markets where it generates the bulk of its revenue.

Rentokil Initial Plc RTO.L gained 2.5% as the pest control firm posted a 9.8% rise in third-quarter revenue due to higher demand for its disinfection services.

Reporting by Devik Jain 

Sky to open retail stores ‘across the UK’ to boost beleaguered high street

( via– Wed, 21st Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

A rare event for the high street as Sky invests in bricks and mortar stores to showcase its products and provide a “social hub”.

Sky, the owner of Sky News, has announced plans to open its first retail stores in a boost for the beleaguered high street.

The company said it was to start off in Liverpool next week and slowly expand the operation in the coming years “across the UK”.

It was unable to put a figure on the number of stores it was targeting or say how many jobs might be created in the process, given the continuing disruption to retail from the COVID-19 crisis.

The media and entertainment firm said the shops would offer its pay TV, mobile and broadband products under one roof but also prove a “departure” from traditional stores.

Sky said they would place the customer experience at their heart, including interactive experiences, and be a new social hub for shoppers.

In addition to its own advisers, the company said a tie-up with technology repair chain iSmash would offer professional repair and support services for smart devices.

An expansion to bricks and mortar stores is rare for the high street landscape as participants have been prioritising investment in online services for many years – a move exacerbated by more recent disruption to trading from coronavirus restrictions.

A Sky News jobs tracker shows the retail sector among the hardest hit to date.

Stephen van Rooyen, Sky's chief executive for the UK and Europe, said: “Our new Sky shops are a great way for us to showcase the amazing benefits and customer service we have to offer new and existing customers.

“We're proud to see our shops opening at a challenging time for the UK high street, and alongside our partners at iSmash, we'll bring service, innovation and convenience all in one place, under one roof, at a time when keeping people connected has never been more important.”

Waitrose and Co-op announced price cuts in the run-up to Christmas

( via – – Wed, 21st Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Waitrose and Co-op have both announced they are cutting food prices in the run-up to Christmas in recognition of tough economic times.

The coronavirus crisis continues to hit many parts of the UK economy hard, with unemployment rising.

Companies are expected to cut more jobs after the government's furlough scheme ends on 31 October.

Supermarket prices rose after lockdown, but are now only 0.5% higher than the beginning of the year, analysts said.

The coronavirus lockdown in March tipped the economy into recession and triggered panic-buying in many large food stores, which were forced to limit the number of items people could buy.

At the time, supermarkets scrapped many special offers, while prices rose 2.5% nationwide in the first month of lockdown, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

However, as panic-buying eased, those prices drifted back down again.

In the run-up to Christmas and beyond, many people in the UK are facing tough economic times, said Waitrose, which is cutting prices on 200 of its most popular own-label products.

James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose, said: “This year has been incredibly challenging for consumers and we know times are tough for many, so we're reducing prices to provide our customers with great value on the items they buy most.

“Despite offering lower prices, we're maintaining the quality, high welfare and ethical sourcing that we're renowned for, so shoppers can spend less without compromising on what they value.”

Similarly, Co-op is investing £50m to lower prices on 300 branded and own-brand products and is launching a value range.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food chief executive, said: “Value is uppermost in the minds of shoppers and offering good, honest prices and fairly sourced products is important to help shoppers balance their budgets.”

A spokesperson for Co-op added: “The economic uncertainty means shoppers are looking for value for essential everyday products.

“Price has become a key driver for value-conscious consumers, particularly with rising uncertainty given the economic impact of the pandemic and as employees move from furlough to the new job support scheme in the run-up to Christmas.”

The price cuts follow similar moves by the main UK supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.

Airlines could have covid ‘test-and-release’ system in place by December

( via – – Tue, 20th Oct 2020) London, Uk – –

Grant Shapps hopeful over timeframe but critics say plan ‘not going to cut the mustard’

A ‘test-and-release system’ to cut the quarantine period for international arrivals to the UK should be in place by 1 December, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps said he was “extremely hopeful” that the system, which would require a single coronavirus test to be taken about a week after arrival and paid for privately, would be ready in six weeks’ time, depending on sufficient tests being available through the private sector.

Speaking to the aviation industry Airlines 2050 summit, Shapps said the government travel taskforce he chairs had been “working extensively with health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities” of such a regime, as well as discussing possible pre-departure test and isolation schemes with partner countries.

He said the taskforce was in contact with more than a dozen firms about different rapid tests. The taskforce is due to report to the prime minister at the start of November on a reformed entry regime.

Asked if the test-and-release system could be running by 1 December, Shapps said: “As long as the [testing] capacity is there through the private sector to do it, I’m extremely hopeful.”

However, the new boss of British Airways signalled that even a seven-day quarantine period would not do much to restart travel.

Sean Doyle, who replaced Álex Cruz as BA chief executive last week, said: “It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.”

He said BA wanted to see pre-departure testing, particularly to restore major transatlantic routes. BA is now flying two planes a day between London and New York, instead of the normal 12, carrying just 200 passengers, Doyle said.

Doyle quoted recent research by the global airline body Iata that showed there had been only 44 confirmed cases of aircraft passengers contracting Covid-19 onboard, including in the period before wearing face masks was mandatory. He said: “I find that pretty reassuring. That’s one in 27 million, and mostly before people wore face masks.”

Speaking to the summit, Doyle said: “We do not believe quarantine is the solution. The best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying.

“If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries. We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.”

The trade body Airlines UK also questioned the value of the proposed regime. Its chief executive, Tim Alderslade, said: “Eight days, plus one or two days to get the results, isn’t going to have the impact we want. If you look at the average number of days people stay in the UK, from the US it’s about four days. Eight days isn’t going to cut the mustard.”

Shapps said the taskforce was still pursuing an alternative pre-departure testing scheme, but he could give no guarantees of a timescale as it would require international cooperation through the International Civil Aviation Organization.

“We’re talking to the US homeland security and others. We’d like to get trials set up. That could involve a series of tests that could involve quarantine before and after flights – or ultimately no quarantine at all if the technology is there for a rapid tests. But that requires international cooperation.”

Shapps said that the Department for Transport was still working on a long-awaited aviation recovery plan for the sector, which he promised would arrive later in the autumn, setting out more measures to boost air travel.

By Gwyn Topham