Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn of Nasa costs to get back in race to the Moon

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 27th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn (£1.4bn) of Nasa costs in order to be reconsidered for a key contract to build a Moon landing vehicle.

In April, the space agency awarded the $2.9bn contract to Elon Musk, rejecting a bid from Bezos' company Blue Origin.

The award is for building the landing system that will carry astronauts down to the lunar surface as early as 2024.

Nasa could only award the contract to one company, not two as expected because of a funding shortfall.

The space agency had received only $850m of the $3.3bn it requested from Congress to build the Moon lander.

In a letter to Nasa's administrator Bill Nelson, released on Monday, Mr Bezos wrote: “Blue Origin will bridge the HLS [Human Landing System] budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2bn to get the programme back on track right now.

“This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments.”

At the time of the award, Nasa's human exploration chief Kathy Lueders admitted that the space agency's current budget precluded it from selecting two companies.

Nasa also cited the proven record of orbital missions by Elon Musk's SpaceX firm as a factor in the award. Cost is also thought to have played a role: SpaceX's bid was the lowest-priced by some distance.

The decision meant that SpaceX's cylindrical Starship vehicle would carry the astronauts in Nasa's first mission to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Alabama-based defence contractor Dynetics was also vying for the contract.

Bezos had partnered with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper in a bid to join this crucial phase of Nasa's Human Landing System programme.

Their design was named the Blue Moon lander, and bore a passing resemblance to a beefed-up version of the lunar module (LM) that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface in 1969.

In his letter, Bezos emphasised Blue Moon's proven heritage: “We created a 21st Century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterised Apollo architecture – an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety.”

Musk's Starship has pushed the envelope of spacecraft design, employing a radical approach to landing and incorporating innovative methane-fuelled engines.

Bezos also used his letter to emphasise Blue Origin's use of hydrogen fuel, which dovetails with Nasa's longer-term aims of refuelling spacecraft from water-ice mined on the Moon. The water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen propellant for rocket engines.

In Nasa's selection statement from April, SpaceX received an “acceptable” technical rating and an “outstanding” management rating. Blue Origin's bid was also rated “acceptable” on its technical merits but its management rating was deemed “very good” by the space agency.

After losing out to SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), alleging Nasa unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute” in the way that it awarded the contract to SpaceX.

That protest, along with one from Dynetics, is awaiting adjudication, although some in the space community regard the chances of a reversal as unlikely.

By By Paul Rincon
Science editor

Nissan announced plans to create 400 jobs in Sunderland car factory

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 27th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Decision is part of plan to develop £1bn electric vehicle manufacturing hub at site

Nissan has announced plans to create 400 jobs at its car plant in Sunderland, weeks after promising to invest £1bn in the site.

The Japanese firm, which overtook Jaguar Land Rover to become the UK’s largest carmaker during 2020, said it was looking for staff to build a new electric vehicle as well as models including the Juke, Qashqai and the electric Leaf.

In a move latched on to by government ministers as a renewed vote of confidence in Britain after Brexit, the company said hiring more staff would help it to prepare the Sunderland plant for electric vehicle production.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said: “Not only are Nissan staying put, they are doubling down.”

The development forms part of plans to create 6,000 new jobs in Sunderland at Nissan and among its suppliers, under a blueprint announced by the company earlier this month as it invests £1bn to develop an electric vehicle manufacturing hub.

The plans, collectively known as EV36Zero, include a “gigafactory” electric battery plant built by Nissan’s partner Envision, a battery recycling facility and the production of a new all-electric car model.

The investment has been underpinned by the promise of £100m in state funding.

The government has latched on to Nissan’s investment in the UK as a sign of the prospects for attracting investment in Britain after Brexit. The Japanese carmaker had repeatedly warned that the future of its Sunderland site would be at risk if Britain left the EU without a deal.

Instead, Nissan has announced a number of UK investments since the Brexit arrangements became clear, including a £400m spend on building the new Qashqai.

Reflecting the importance of the plant to the company and the British economy, the firm overtook JLR as the nation’s biggest vehicle manufacturer last year despite the biggest drop in car production since 1984 during the first wave of Covid-19.

Nissan’s investment in Sunderland is heavily geared towards electric vehicles, which have become the focus of hopes for the British auto sector.https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/business-todayGuardian business email sign-up

Ford and the Korean electronics conglomerates LG and Samsung are among the companies that have also had early-stage discussions with the government or local authorities about building gigafactories.

The battery firm Britishvolt is aiming to be the first company to open one in the UK, at a converted coal power station in Blyth, Northumberland, after having its plans approved.

In May, the energy regulator Ofgem approved a £300m investment spree to help triple the number of ultra-rapid electric car charge points across the country, as part of efforts to accelerate the UK’s shift to clean energy.

Alan Johnson, the vice-president of Nissan motor manufacturing UK, said: “This is a real vote of confidence in Sunderland from our parent company in Japan and will really reaffirm Sunderland’s reputation as a world-class manufacturer.”

By Rob Davies

Heathrow Airport urged government to reopen the UK border to fully vaccinated EU and US travellers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 26th July 2021) London, Uk – –

The company behind the UK's largest airport says that unless the government takes immediate action to help reopen the skies across core US and European markets, the aviation industry will need further financial support.

Heathrow Airport has urged the government to reopen the UK economy to fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and US by the end of the month after revealing coronavirus crisis losses of almost £3bn to date.

The company said expensive COVID testing requirements were hampering an effective reopening of the skies, while it also reported that the UK was falling behind its EU rivals in international trade by being slow to remove restrictions.

Heathrow said fewer than four million people travelled through the hub airport during the first six months of 2021 – a level that would have been surpassed by 18 days' worth of traffic in pre-pandemic times.

It posted a loss before tax of £868m compared to a figure just above £1bn for the same period last year, as demand for international travel slumped in the face of the first lockdowns Europe-wide.

The figure took its cumulative losses to £2.9bn, Heathrow said, adding: “Recent changes to the government's traffic light system are encouraging but expensive testing requirements and travel restrictions are holding back the UK's economic recovery and could see Heathrow welcome fewer passengers in 2021 than in 2020.”

It said that cargo volumes remained 18% down on pre-pandemic levels while rivals, such as Frankfurt and Schiphol, were up by 9%.

“Britain is losing out on tourism income and trade with key economic partners like the EU and US because ministers continue to restrict travel for passengers fully vaccinated outside the UK,” the statement continued.

It said that unless the government acted, the sector must be continue to be supported through an extension of the furlough scheme beyond September and business rates relief – the latter worth almost £120m to Heathrow.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “The UK is emerging from the worst effects of the health pandemic, but is falling behind its EU rivals in international trade by being slow to remove restrictions.

“Replacing PCR tests with lateral flow tests and opening up to EU and US vaccinated travellers at the end of July will start to get Britain's economic recovery off the ground.”

He was speaking following a weekend in which COVID checks were blamed for long queues at Heathrow's arrivals halls on what was its busiest day of the year so far.

Significant waiting times were also reported at check-in desks and at UK airports more widely where staff shortages as a result of the so-called ‘pingdemic', that has forced personnel to self-isolate if identified as a close contact by the NHS COVID app, were blamed for waits of over two hours.

By James Sillars

Beijing strips online tutoring firms ability to make profit from teaching core subjects

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 26th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Shares in Chinese online tutoring firms have slumped after Beijing stripped them of the ability to make a profit from teaching core subjects.

The new guidelines also restrict foreign investment in the industry.

The major shift in policy comes as authorities try to ease the financial pressures of raising children, after China posted a record low birth rate.

It is one of the biggest ever overhauls of the country's $120bn (£87bn) private tutoring sector.

Under the guidelines, issued jointly by the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council, all institutions offering tuition on the school curriculum will be registered as non-profit organisations.

The new rules also state: “Curriculum subject-tutoring institutions are not allowed to go public for financing; listed companies should not invest in the institutions, and foreign capital is barred from such institutions.”

The statement said the move was intended “to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education.”

News of the rule changes have slammed the share prices of China's private education firms.

In Hong Kong trade, companies including New Oriental Education & Technology, Koolear Technology Holding Scholar Education and China Beststudy Education plummeted by as much as 47% on Monday.

On Friday in New York, TAL Education Group shares fell by more than 70%, while Gaotu Techedu lost 63% of its market value.

In a statement released on Sunday, TAL said it expects the guidelines “will have material adverse impact on its after-school tutoring services related to academic subjects in China's compulsory education system”, without giving details of the expected extent of the effect.

The announcement comes as Chinese authorities are cracking down on a wide range of online services from ride-hailing app Didi to Tencent's music streaming platforms.

Last week, China's internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), ordered some of the country's biggest online platforms to remove inappropriate child-related content and fined them.

In a statement, the CAC said its actions against Kuaishou, Tencent's messaging tool QQ, Alibaba's Taobao and Weibo “focused on solving seven types of prominent online problems that endanger the physical and mental health of minors”.

How Egypt Is Keeping This 200-Year-Old Tile Tradition Alive

Source: Still Standing

Saied Hussain has been hand making tiles out of cement for over 50 years. He says he’s one of the last still doing this work in Egypt — most other workshops couldn't withstand competition from marble and ceramic tiles. We went to Cairo to see how his business is still standing. Saied does not have a website. He sells his tiles locally in Cairo.

Twitter report a better than expected rise in quarterly ad revenue of more than $1bn

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 23rd July 2021) London, Uk – –

The better than expected figures also saw the social media company bounce back to profit in the April-June period with one analyst saying “the overall digital ad market is on fire right now”.

Shares in Twitter have risen after it reported a better than expected rise in quarterly ad revenue to more than $1bn.

Twitter said the increase had been helped by improvements in its ad targeting as well as higher demand from companies to reach consumers as economies open up.

The US tech company's results also showed its number of “monetisable” daily active users – those who are shown ads – climbed by seven million to 206 million though they fell by one million in the US.

It comes after Twitter introduced products in new areas such as audio-only chat rooms and newsletter publishing as it seeks to revive growth.

Results for the second quarter showed ad revenues were up by 87% compared to the same period a year ago to $1.05bn, beating Wall Street estimates of $910m.

Twitter has been working to improve the effectiveness of its ads, introducing 2,500 new topic categories to help users find content that interests them.

That provides more advertising target data to the company.

Chief financial officer Ned Segal said: “We get great signal about what people are most interested in, where they are or the places they care about.”

Twitter bounced back into the black in the quarter, with a profit of $65.6m compared to a loss of $1.38bn a year ago.

It also lifted its forecast for spending this year as it invests in its engineering and product teams, but that did not hold back investor cheer, with shares climbing 5% in after-hours trading.

The results late on Thursday came as Snap, owner of Snapchat, reported revenue growth of 116%.

Ygal Arounian, research analyst at Wedbush securities, said that together the figures showed “that the overall digital ad market is on fire right now, with the reopening further strengthening advertisers' budgets”.

Food workers exempt from quarantine rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 23rd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt from quarantine rules as the government tries to prevent food supply problems.

The move comes after the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate began to affect the availability of some products.

The government said workers, regardless of vaccination status, could do daily Covid testing instead of isolating.

Up to 10,000 workers are expected to qualify for the scheme.

The new daily contact testing measures are beginning at 15 supermarket depots, followed by 150 depots next week, but they will not apply to supermarket store staff.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that shop staff had been excluded from the scheme because their inclusion would have been a “really significant undertaking”.

“You're talking then thousands of different shops and many more people and we still want to maintain the test, trace and isolate system.”

However, he added that the government would keep the policy “under review, but we think this is a sensible first step”.

“We're never going to take risks with our food supply chain,” he added.

The government's move comes as supermarkets said the supply of some products was being affected by the “pingdemic” keeping staff away from work.

A record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app between 8 and 15 July.in England and Wales.

While some retailers said they may have to close stores, they played down fears of food shortages, saying the problems were not widespread.

It will mean workers who are alerted by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “disruption is limited at the moment”, but it was vital that the government rolled out the scheme as fast as possible and was prepared to take further action if necessary.

Separately, the government outlined plans to allow other key industries in England to deploy daily Covid testing instead of self-isolation for a limited number of essential workers. In this case, the scheme will only apply to workers who are fully vaccinated.

This scheme covers sectors including transport, emergency services, border control, energy, digital infrastructure, waste, the water industry, essential defence outputs and local government.

The policy applies only to workers named on a list kept updated by officials – it is not a blanket exemption for all employees in a sector.

Analysis: By Faisal Islam

This intervention should alleviate genuine concerns in the food industry about supplies. Hundreds of designated sites – supermarket depots and food manufacturers – will be able to administer the tests that will enable workers to skip the need for self-isolation.

This will be the case whatever the vaccination status of the worker. It is not sector-wide and will not, for example, apply to actual supermarket stores.

But it should be enough to stop some of the sporadic shortages become a systemic issue. Shoppers should feel reassured.

More generally, the help in other sectors is limited.

The government clarified that the scheme announced earlier this week to allow named double-vaccinated workers approved by letter to avoid isolation would apply to 16 sectors, from energy to waste to medicine and essential transport.

The bar is high. The government is trying to keep the Test and Trace system intact as a second line of defence against the pandemic. It is as tricky a balancing act as it has always been.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that while the announcement would be a relief to some businesses, “it will leave many more still facing critical staff shortages and lost revenue as the number of people being asked to isolate remains high”.

CBI director general Tony Danker agreed, warning: “The current approach to self-isolation is closing down the economy, rather than opening it up.”

Businesses have already exhausted contingency plans to get in extra staff and are “at risk of grinding to a halt in the next few weeks”, he added.

Phil Langslow, trading director at Cheshire-based County Milk Products, which provides dairy products to the likes of Nestle and Kellogg's, said the government move was “a step in the right direction“.

“People having to isolate meant that a number of our suppliers, the service providers that are doing the transport for us, have just said they cannot cope. Roughly half of the deliveries that we would expect to be done are not being done routinely and we're having to scramble to actually get product to its destination on time.

“If you think of the food chain as just that – as a chain, and like any chain, you're only as good as the weakest link – if you cannot get your goods to the market, then you've got a problem,” he told the BBC's Today programme.

Scotland has also launched a system of exemptions from self-isolation, covering workers in sectors such as health and social care.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said daily testing of food industry staff would “minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk”.

Post Office IT scandal: Postmasters to get up to £100,000

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of offences in a Post Office IT scandal will get interim compensation of up to £100,000, the government has said.

As of this week, a total of 57 former sub-postmasters have had their convictions quashed – with more due in court over the coming months.

More people have been affected by the scandal than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK.

The government has agreed to fund the initial payments.

Those affected may receive extra compensation at a later date if they take their cases through the civil courts.

Postal affairs minister Paul Scully said: “The suffering and distress these postmasters and their families have gone through cannot be overstated. While nothing will make up for the years of pain they faced after this appalling injustice, I hope this initial step provides a measure of comfort.

“The Post Office has started to turn a corner in terms of dealing with its past mistakes – and this government will support them in doing so wherever possible.”

Hundreds of people who ran Post Office branches were convicted of various offences, including theft and false accounting, when the Horizon software system was used. However, the IT was found to have bugs and defects that left a black hole in accounts.

UK’s Business Secretary tells EU on Brexit deal: it wasn’t going to last forever

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) – British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Thursday the European Union had been inflexible over renegotiating the Northern Ireland part of the Brexit divorce accord and cautioned Brussels that it was not a deal that would last for ever.

“A deal is a deal but it wasn't something that was going to last forever,” Kwarteng told Sky. “It was something that was flexible and we want to make it work more smoothly.”

“Article 16 … it is something that we could do, to suspend it, we've chosen not to do that, that's not our opening position and we want to be able to negotiate and have a conversation with the EU about how best to go forward.”

Britain demanded on Wednesday that the EU agree to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol which covers post-Brexit trade involving the province just a year after it was agreed.

The EU immediately rejected that call, saying Britain needed to respect its international obligations and pointed out it had been negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

The protocol was a key part of the Brexit settlement, backed by Johnson, that finally sealed Britain's divorce from the EU four years after voters backed leaving in a referendum.

Businesses in Northern Ireland say it is damaging trade, and some pro-British groups have protested at what they say is a weakening of ties with Britain, raising concerns about a return to the violence which plagued the province for three decades.

The protocol addresses the biggest conundrum of the divorce: how to ensure the delicate peace brought to the province by a U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord – by maintaining an open border – without opening a back door through neighbouring Ireland to the EU's single market of 450 million people.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

Next to repay £29m in Covid rates relief as customers return to high street stores

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Shares soar as retailer raises profit forecast for third time in four months

Next has reported strong revenue growth as shoppers returned to its clothing stores after the Covid-19 lockdown reopening and as a result has decided to repay £29m of business rates relief to the government.

Shares in the bellwether retail chain soared 10% in early trading on Wednesday, making Next the biggest FTSE 100 riser as investors responded positively to the news that it was raising its profit forecast for the third time in four months.

The clothing and homeware retailer’s full-price sales over the past 11 weeks, between early May and 17 July, were almost 19% higher than during the same period two years earlier, before the pandemic. The company had previously forecast a 3% increase.

The latest profit increase – after upgrades in April and May – means Next is now expecting to make £750m of pre-tax profit this year, £30m more than at its last forecast in May.

The new profit forecast is after a deduction of £29m in business rates relief, which Next is repaying to the government, covering the period this year when its shops were open but were not charged rates.

Next has emerged as a big winner from the pandemic and experienced increased demand for products such as clothing since its stores in all four nations of the UK were allowed to reopen during April.

The company has been surprised by its levels of sales, ever since the easing of coronavirus restrictions unleashed pent-up demand for adults’ summer clothing. Next said many shoppers did not buy many clothes last summer, which meant it got a boost from the warm weather at the end of May and the start of June this year.

The retailer believes the reduction in foreign holidays taken by Britons this year has bolstered domestic spending, while consumers also have extra cash in their pocket after saving money during the pandemic.

Next’s online sales jumped by 63% in the first quarter of the year, making it the UK’s biggest internet clothing retailer – ahead of rivals such as Asos and Boohoo. Its online sales have come down in recent weeks, with shoppers flocking back to its reopened stores instead.

The retailer does not expect its sales to continue at what it called “these exceptionally strong levels” but it has also upped its sales guidance for the second half of the year from 3% to a 6% increase.

Its soaring sales have also prompted Next to restart shareholder payouts after a pause in 2020. It will pay a special dividend to its shareholders in September and said it expects to distribute £240m to investors during the current financial year.

By Joanna Partridge

DVLA managers decisions meant ‘Catastrophic’ backlog of 1.4 million cases, union says

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 21st July 2021) London, Uk – –

Decisions made by managers at the DVLA driving licence body have meant a “catastrophic” processing backlog of 1.4 million cases, a union says.

Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services union, said if staff were allowed to work from home the backlog could be reduced.

He told Transport Committee MPs other members of the civil service “were tearing their hair out” at the DVLA.

He said it is a “stain” on the reputation of the civil service.

Mr Serwotka said the DVLA are “refusing to engage in a proper discussion.”

“In 21 years (in this role), I have never encountered the level of incompetence and mismanagement that is on display at the DVLA in Swansea,” Mr Serwotka told the MPs on Wednesday.

“The tragedy of that is not just that public are suffering. Our members many of whom are quite lowly paid and very stressed at work are bearing the brunt of this.”

Mr Serwotka said there had been 643 Covid cases and one fatality at the DVLA during the course of the pandemic and that there are serious risks to staff's health and safety because of its actions.

Don't complain

Sarah Evans, the DVLA branch chair at PCS, said that staff are worried as they can see cases rising on site, but that they have been told not to complain.

“Our work site is very different because there is a high volume of staff in a small area,” Ms Evans told the committee.

The union want more staff to be able to work from home to be able to allow for better social distancing in the offices and to allow those isolating at home to still continue to be productive, pointing out the other departments had been able to deliver remote working.

“We believe that if the department of work and pensions can deal with three million universal credit claims, if HMRC can deliver furlough scheme, if we have workers in the home office ministry of justice, devolved nations, working from home handling in some cases much more secure data so could the DVLA,” said Mr Serwotka.

“We know there cant be a security issue in the DVLA that's not the same in the rest of the civil service.

“Weeks and weeks of productivity have been lost by stopping staff working from home,' said Ms Evans. ‘There's no doubt at all that we would not be in situation we are in … had we been given the capability.”

Industrial dispute

Mr Serwotka added that although they believed there was a lack of investment in technology that the union had been told that it was also because the DVLA were concerned about trust and supervision of staff.

The PCS and the DVLA are currently in an industrial dispute that has seen targeted strike action since April where staff in different departments have walked out for a few days at a time.

The PCS say that they had negotiated a deal after months of discussions that would protect the health of workers and provide respite and recognition of what they had done over the last few months. They say that the agreement was withdrawn on 1 June without an explanation.

Julie Lennard, DVLA chief executive, and The Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads, Buses and Places at the Department for Transport are due to give evidence later.

By Caroline Davies

Royal Mint credits demand for precious metals helped deliver return to annual profit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 21st July 2021) London, Uk – –

The taxpayer-owned company reports high demand for precious metals during the pandemic, saying its digital savings offering proved particularly popular with millennials.

The Royal Mint has revealed how a leap in demand for investment in precious metals helped it deliver a return to annual profit, with the coronavirus crisis prompting a surge in prices.

The government-owned mint, based outside Cardiff, reported a pre-tax profit of £12.4m during the year to 31 March compared with losses of £0.2m over the previous 12 months.

Revenue rose 85% to just shy of £1.1bn.

The manufacturer of coins for the UK and more than 30 other nations globally also credited sales of historic coins and exclusive ‘Masterwork' pieces, including a 9.5kg gold coin to mark the Queen's 95th birthday.

The company reported record international sales, particularly in Asia and the US, for the Music Legends segment of its popular culture series of celebratory and commemorative coins honouring the likes of Sir Elton John and the late David Bowie.

One Bowie coin was even blasted into space to huge publicity in December 2020 – emulating the artist's famous Major Tom character, who features in the lyrics to three of his songs.AThe Royal Mint said, crucially, that sales of gold and silver doubled over the 12-month period, aided by a 430% increase in millennials flocking to its online DigiGold platform to take advantage of a spike in commodity prices.

The global price of gold – a closely-watched barometer of investor sentiment – hit record levels during the COVID-19 crisis as economies entered hibernation to protect public health, with prices passing $2,000 an ounce last August.

It became one of the best-performing assets during 2020.

Silver costs hit levels not seen since 2013.

The mint said it attracted 25,000 new precious metal investment customers.

One downside of the pandemic has been a slump in demand for new coins globally given lockdowns and consumer reliance on online purchases.

It was announced in September 2020 that it would no longer produce new 2p and £2 coins for the UK as there were enough in circulation to last at least the next decade.

Graham Love, chairman of the 1,100 year old company, said: “Despite the significant headwinds of the past year the team have delivered an outstanding result – achieving record financial performance, safeguarding employees and making medical visors for the NHS.

“The pandemic accelerated the diversification of The Royal Mint, and the strategies already underway in the consumer division allowed it to flourish and offset declines in the currency business.”

By James Sillars

EasyJet summer comeback driven by European travel demand

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 20th July 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, July 20 (Reuters) – EasyJet (EZJ.L) plans to fly 60% of its pre-pandemic capacity in July-September as a travel recovery takes hold in mainland Europe, and Britain is expected to catch-up in the coming weeks.

The British airline said it was confident on demand for the summer and autumn, issuing its most buoyant update since the start of the pandemic almost a year and a half ago, and allowing it to lift capacity from just 17% of 2019 levels in March-June.

The travel pick-up has to date been led by the European Union, said easyJet, leading it to shift planes from Britain to markets including Scandinavia and Holland.

Two-thirds of bookings are currently coming from the rest of Europe, while normally its business is evenly split between Britain and the continent, but easyJet expects that to change now travel rules for fully-vaccinated Britons have been relaxed.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the UK demand will follow the same pattern that we're seeing outside the UK in mainland Europe,” chief executive Johan Lundgren told reporters on Tuesday.

Lundgren has been one of the most vocal critics of Britain's approach to travel over the last two months, slamming last-minute changes which have resulted in booking surges and mass cancellations.

Britain should add more countries to its “green list” of low-risk destinations, Lundgren said.

Asked about worries quarantine could be reintroduced for Britons returning from Spain, as it was for France recently, he said easyJet was flexible. 

“We set ourselves up to be able to cope with shifting demands,” he said.

Shares in easyJet traded up 2% to 785 pence at 0845 GMT. The stock has lost about 20% of its value over the last month over worries about the impact of strict UK travel rules.

The airline's plan for more flights in July-September, when it tends to make almost all of its profit, is being mirrored at rivals such as Ryanair (RYA.I) and Wizz Air (WIZZ.L).

EasyJet, which has shed staff, cut the size of its fleet and taken on new debt to survive, said it was well-placed financially, with 2.9 billion pounds ($4 billion) of liquidity, and had cut costs to improve its cash burn rate.

But it said limited visibility and ongoing uncertainty meant it could not provide guidance for the rest of the year. For the three months to June 30, easyJet posted a pretax loss of 318 million pounds.

Apollo in talks to join Fortress-led £6.3bn takeover of Morrisons

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 20th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Move by US private equity firm reduces chance of takeover battle for UK supermarket group

The US private equity firm Apollo Global Management is in talks to join a consortium led by Fortress Investment Group that has agreed a £6.3bn takeover of the British supermarket group Morrisons.

Apollo, which confirmed it was considering a bid for Morrisons earlier this month, said it would no longer be making an offer for the supermarket.

Instead, bosses said they were in early discussions with the rival US private equity firm Fortress to become part of its consortium to buy the grocer.

Apollo’s decision reduces the chance of a takeover battle for Morrisons, given that it had said it was evaluating its own bid.

The offer from Fortress, along with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Koch Real Estate Investments, exceeded a £5.52bn unsolicited proposal from Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, which Morrisons rejected in June. Fortress is owned by SoftBank.

Apollo said the discussions “may result in funds managed or advised by Apollo forming part of the investment group led by Fortress for the purposes of the Fortress offer. As a consequence of these discussions, Apollo confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Morrisons other than as part of the Fortress offer.”

It added: “Apollo notes Fortress’s intentions regarding the Morrisons business and all its stakeholders, as set out in the announcement of the Fortress offer … Should these discussions lead to any transaction, Apollo would be fully supportive of Fortress’s stated intentions regarding Morrisons.”

Politicians in the UK have raised concerns about the takeover and warned that any new owner could strip assets and reduce the rights of workers.

Morrisons owns most of its stores’ freeholds and has a large manufacturing supply chain.

But Fortress has stressed it intends to continue operating with the same management team, did not sell any of its freehold or long leasehold properties after it bought Majestic Wines in 2019, and “does not anticipate engaging in any material store sale and leaseback transactions” at Morrisons.

By Sarah Young

‘Pingdemic’ hit Iceland and Greene King in latest reported major staff absences

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 19th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Business leaders are asking the government to drop self-isolation requirements immediately for those who have been “pinged” by the COVID-19 app but have been fully vaccinated after a number of industries reported major staff absences.

Iceland supermarkets and Greene King pubs have become the latest to be affected by the so-called “pingdemic” – which is disrupting businesses as workers receive alerts telling them to self-isolate.

Greene King said it has had to close 33 pubs in the past week while Iceland's boss Richard Walker told the BBC more than 1,000 staff were off due to COVID and it has shut a number of stores.

Pub chain Wetherspoons told Sky News it had “maybe a couple of hundred” staff off and had not had to close any sites though in a few cases some had opened “a couple of hours later than normal”.

Elsewhere the AA's chief executive Jakob Pfaudler emailed customers to apologise to those who “may have had a longer wait than usual” because call centres had been “impacted by the recent surge in the Delta variant”.

The latest updates add to the picture of disruption across the economy that has been reported in the past few days from the meat processing sector to car manufacturing and transport networks.

That has prompted calls from business leaders for an immediate change to the rules so that those who have been fully vaccinated from the virus do not have to isolate.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwateng acknowledged that it was the “single biggest issue” being raised with him by company bosses but told LBC “there isn't any movement on it”.

Mr Kwarteng said there had been no change to the 16 August date for when the self-isolation requirement for those who have been double jabbed will be eased.

However, rules for frontline health and social care workers are being eased.

A spokesperson for Greene King, which runs 2,500 pubs, hotels and restaurants in the UK, said people having to self-isolate because of app alerts was “becoming an increasing problem”.

“In the last week alone we had to temporarily close 33 pubs, which is making it even more challenging to rebuild trade as we reopen and is very disruptive for our team members,” they said.

“Along with the rest of the hospitality industry we are calling on the government to roll out a ‘test to release' scheme to impacted industries allowing people to continue working if they receive a negative lateral flow test result.”

It comes after rival Young's last week said 350 of its staff were self isolating due to COVID rules.

Meanwhile, trade body UK Hospitality said about a fifth of workers in the sector were self-isolating.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe said at the weekend that the number of staff isolating meant the chain might have to reduce opening hours.

He warned it was a “major issue across every industry at the moment”, adding: “Our COVID cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of COVID cases, so we're seeing that growing exponentially.”

Tim Morris, the chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, said a number of big port operators had reported 10% of their staff being work.

On Saturday, disruption to transport networks from the London Underground to buses in East Yorkshire was reported.

Last week, the British Meat Processors' Association said it was also facing shortages and that if the situation deteriorated further some production lines might have to be shut down altogether.

At Britain's biggest car plant in Sunderland, hundreds of workers were off self-isolating while at the other end of the country, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars said the situation had pushed it to a “critical point” which might mean it having to halve production.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Post Office Horizon scandal: More sub-postmasters cleared

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 19th July 2021) London, Uk – –

The Court of Appeal has cleared 12 more former subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences during the Post Office Horizon scandal.

It brings the total of judgements overturned to 57, but hundreds more are hoping for similar decisions.

Between 1999 and 2015, they were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to vanish from accounts at their branches.

The problems were caused by the Horizon computer system in Post Office branches which turned out to be flawed.

Some subpostmasters were imprisoned after being convicted of stealing money.

In April, 39 people had verdicts against them overturned, following on from the overturning of six other convictions in December.

More people have been affected by this than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK.

The Billion Dollar Pool Supply Industry Cashing in on Summer

Source: CNBC

Over the last several decades, a growing number of Americans have chosen to spend more time and money on swimming pools. Most pools can be found in California, Texas and Florida, but population growth in other Southern states is escalating the demand for pool construction and supplies. Pool Corporation, one of the largest pool supply distributers, has seen its stock price soar. Already in 2021, people are opening up their pools 20-30% earlier in the year than they did in 2020, which means they will need more chemicals and supplies to keep their pools swimmable. For now, demand is pretty strong.

Baby Biker: 4-Year-Old Has Insane Motorcycle Skills

Source: Truly

A four-year-old daredevil is tearing up the competition in Ukraine with his motorcycle skills. While most kids are just day-dreaming about riding a motorbike, Ukrainian Tima Kuleshov started riding a bicycle before he was two-years-old and graduated to a mini motorbike at just two and a half.

GSK plans to create up to 5,000 jobs in new UK hub

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 16th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is set to create up to 5,000 new jobs as part of a plan to build one of the largest life sciences sites in Europe.

The company is looking to extend its facility in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where it currently conducts research and development.

GSK says the plan could create thousands of highly skilled jobs in the next five to 10 years.

It aims to raise £400m by selling off a third of the current 92-acre site.

Stevenage is already one of GSK's two global hubs, and hosts the UK's largest work into cell and gene therapy.

The development of the new site is expected to begin in 2022. The new campus – which will sit next to GSK's existing site at Stevenage – could ultimately deliver 100,000 square metres of new floor space for commercial life sciences research and development.

“The past 18 months has shown the UK life sciences sector at its best and the UK has recently unveiled an ambitious 10-year vision for the UK life sciences sector,” said GSK senior vice president Tony Wood.

“Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade,” he added.

GSK has come under pressure recently from shareholders to reconfigure its businesses amid criticism over its performance.

The company is a leading vaccine maker, but has been late to develop one for Covid-19. Its Covid vaccine, which is being developed with France's Sanofi, is still undergoing trials.

GSK boss Emma Walmsley is selling the company's consumer healthcare division, which makes big-brand products including Sensodyne and Panadol.

That move is designed to let it focus on developing new drugs and vaccines.