Hitachi pulls out of £16bn Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales

( via – – Thur, 17th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

The government has reasserted it commitment to developing nuclear power after Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa nuclear power plant this morning.

The company took the decision to suspend work on the £16bn facility behind Hinkley Point C, which was meant to produce six per cent of the UK’s electricity, after holding detailed discussions with the government.

Read more: Hitachi claims ‘no decision' has been made on future of UK nuclear plant

But despite the move, Hitachi has indicated that it will keep ownership of the site, while discussing options with the government.

“I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned,” said Duncan Hawthorne, the chief executive of Hitachi subsidiary of Horizon Nuclear Power.

“As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project, as well as work related to Oldbury, until a solution can be found. In the meantime we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

The move puts thousands of jobs at risk and will cause headaches for a government which aims to increase nuclear’s share of energy production from a quarter to a third by 2035.

It could also come at a cost to taxpayers if the government decides to step in and rescue the project.

However, the move also hits Hitachi. The company said it will take a write-down of ¥300bn (£2.14bn) at its British nuclear unit as it suspends the project.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “As the business secretary [Greg Clark] set out in June, any deal needs to represent value for money and be the right one for UK consumers and taxpayers.”

They continued: “This government is committed to the nuclear sector, giving the go ahead to the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C, investing £200 million through our recent sector, which includes millions for advanced nuclear technologies.”

“We are also reviewing alternative funding models for future nuclear projects and will update on these findings in summer 2019.”

Read more: Toshiba withdraws from UK nuclear power station

Hitachi was struggling to find other investors to join it in the project, and had called on the government to step in to provide support.

The Japanese company bought into the project when it paid £697m to two German power companies in 2012.

By August Graham

TSMC forecast sharp revenue drop as global slowdown eats away at smartphone and technology firms

( via – – Thu, 17th Jan, 2019) London, Uk – –

Semiconductor market bellwether Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)has forecast a sharp drop in sales growth as a global slowdown eats away at smartphone companies and technology firms.

Taiwan-based TSMC, which makes chips that are used in Apple's iPhones and iPads, said it expected revenues to fall to around $7.3bn (£5.7bn) in the current quarter, below the $8.1bn predicted by analysts, and a significant drop on its previous quarter.

Earlier this month, Apple warned that its revenues, which are largely driven by sales of the iPhone, were due to miss expectations.

With the global smartphone market slowing down as sales reach saturation point, chipmakers are expecting orders to slip.

TSMC endured its worst quarter in a decade in the three months ending in December as its market cap fell by $39bn.

The amount of revenue it is expecting would be significantly down on the $9.4bn the chipmaker made in the final three months of 2018.

TSMC is the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, supplying customers including Qualcomm, Nvidia and AMD. It also manufactures dedicated chip designs exclusively for Apple's iPhones, such as the A12 Bionic chip which appears in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR smartphones. 

TSMC chief financial officer Lora Ho said the fall was down to weakening macroeconomic environment, “mobile product seasonality” and an overstocked supply chain.

Earlier this month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook warned shareholders that its sales were set to fall to around $84bn, down from a previous estimate of $93bn.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Samsung, which manufacturers the Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone, also predicted its first quarterly earnings drop in two years last week as chip and phones sales stall.

By  Matthew Field 

Chancellor Philip Hammond hints at Article 50 extension

( via – – Wed, 16th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Philip Hammond has raised the possibility of an extension to Article 50, the process by which the UK is due to exit the EU.

In a call with business leaders on Tuesday evening, Mr Hammond sought to reassure the business community that a “no-deal” Brexit could be avoided.

According to the CBI, he outlined how the 29 March date might be postponed.

John Allan, president of the CBI, said the chancellor appeared more relaxed about the possibility of a delay.

The CBI, the UK's biggest business lobby group, has warned a “no-deal” Brexit is a threat to jobs and growth.

Mr Allan said it “wasn't absolutely crystal clear” that the government could avoid that scenario, but he understood, following the call, that there would be moves in Parliament next week which would allow the UK's exit date from the EU to be put back “if it became clear we were heading towards that”.

A delay to implementation of Article 50 would avoid the UK leaving the EU without a negotiated deal.

The CBI chief said he was encouraged by government moves to build a cross-party consensus for a new approach to Brexit.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC the government would not be delaying Brexit.

“We are clear we won't be delaying Article 50. We won't be revoking it,” she said.

Despite fears that the pound would plummet if the government suffered a heavy defeat in Parliament, sterling rallied slightly. Shares traded in London broadly flat on Wednesday morning. Some observers have suggested that there is now a stronger consensus amongst MPs wishing to avoid a “no-deal” Brexit, making that a less likely outcome.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs said Tuesday evening's Parliamentary defeat for the prime minister made it more likely that the UK would pursue a “softer” Brexit, retaining closer ties to the EU, or even that Brexit might be overturned.

“We think the prospect of a disorderly ‘no-deal' Brexit has faded further,” Goldman Sachs' European economist Adrian Paul wrote in a note.

Goldman Sachs still believes the most likely outcome is that “a close variant” of the deal Mrs May has negotiated with Brussels will eventually be passed by the House of Commons.

However, Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the UK was still “staring down the barrel of no deal”.

“As things stand, UK law says we will leave on 29 March, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?” he said.

Uk businesses express impatience, anger and frustration over Brexit

( via– Wed, 16th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

The PM's commons defeat has angered business leaders who fear they are looking “down the barrel” of a no deal Brexit.

Business leaders have expressed their “frustration” over the political turmoil and lack of a Brexit deal after Prime Minister Theresa May's defeat in the Commons.

Sky's City editor Mark Kleinman reported executives from some of the biggest companies rounded on cabinet ministers after they refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Here's the response to Mrs May's defeat from some of UK's leading business groups.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.

“Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29th.”

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said:

“It is the collective failure of our political leaders that, with only a few weeks to go, we are staring down the barrel of no deal.

“As things stand, UK law says we will leave on 29th March, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?

“The clock is still ticking, and whatever the outcome of tomorrow's no confidence vote, the reality is that MPs will still need to find a way to put aside their differences and come to an agreement.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said:

“Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. A new plan is needed immediately. This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed to protect the UK's economy.”

Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK, said:

“The outcome of today's vote prolongs uncertainty and will continue to depress business confidence.

“The lack of clarity on the path to an orderly Brexit risks disruption and financial instability on both sides of the Channel. We urge the government and MPs to carefully consider the options without delay and put forward an economically sensible way ahead.

“A no deal outcome is not in the best interests of customers in the UK or the EU.”

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said:

“Parliament's decision to reject the Government's deal means businesses across the UK will continue to face uncertainty regarding our relationship with the European Union.

“The Government must now urgently set out its ‘Plan B' to ensure we can secure a deal locking in a legally binding transition before 29 March.

“Financial stability must not be jeopardised in a game of high-stakes political poker. Politicians across all parties should work together pragmatically to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would be a hugely damaging outcome for households and businesses on both sides of the Channel.”

Ford and Volkswagen to announce partnership at Detroit auto show

( via – – Tue, 15th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Car companies seek to reduce costs amid slowing sales, with announcement expected at Detroit auto show on Tuesday

Ford and Volkswagen are expected to announce an alliance on Tuesday as the two car companies look to cut the cost of the technological revolution now shaking the industry and deal with slowing sales.

The announcement is expected at the Detroit auto show and comes after Ford and VW signed a memorandum of understanding last June to explore several joint projects, including the development of a range of commercial vehicles.

“We are talking to Volkswagen,” the Ford chairman, Bill Ford, said on Monday at the show. “The talks are going really well. We’re going to have more to say later this week. Stay tuned.”

Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, has suggested that VW could also build Ford-branded cars in Europe.

An alliance would be the largest of its kind in the industry and comes as both companies have struggled. This month, Ford announced it was cutting thousands of jobs in Europe and closing plants. Its European sales fell 2.3% in the first 11 months of last year.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Hackett said Britain’s decision to leave the European Union had hurt the company’s “evolution” in Europe.

“As it relates to Europe, this is not just a new problem,” Hackett said. “We think there’s a design in the future that allows us to be there with Ford-branded products. But we have to get the industrial system in the right construct for that. I’m not going to pull any punches – Brexit hurt.”

But Hackett said Ford would not leave Europe as General Motors did in 2017, when it sold Opel and Vauxhall to PSA Group, owners of Peugeot and Citroën.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, has its own issues and sales have been hit by “dieselgate”– the revelation that VW executives had gamed emission tests by installing illegal software in 11m diesel cars.

Both companies have been hit by falling sales of diesel vehicles and by a slowdown in the Chinese market, the world’s largest, where car sales recently fell for the first time in 20 years. Analysts are also expecting the US market to contract over the next two years after several years of growth.

Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for Autotrader, said an alliance would come at a crucial moment for both companies. Both are investing billions in new technology including autonomous vehicles and electric cars.

“The cost of developing these technologies is high and nobody knows when there will be a payoff,” she said. “It’s all expense and no clear path to profit.”

Ford has earmarked $15bn for electrified and driverless vehicle technology in the coming years and is renovating Detroit’s landmark Michigan Central Station into a “mobility lab” for new car technology.

By Dominic Rushe 

UK internet betting shares drop as U.S. Department of justic reverses stance on online gambling

( via — Tue, 15th Jan 2019) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Shares of British betting companies, which have been pushing into the United States market because of tighter regulations at home, fell after the U.S. Department of Justice called for wider restrictions on all gambling on the internet.

UK bookies such as William Hill Plc , Paddy Power Betfair Plc and 888 Holdings Plc fell between 1.5 percent to 7 percent on Tuesday after the U.S. regulator reversed its 2011 opinion that made only sports betting online illegal under the Wire Act.

The opinion by the regulator's Office of Legal Counsel, dated Nov. 2, 2018 but disclosed only late on Monday, added that the new interpretation of the law's scope will likely be contested in courts.

UK gambling companies had been pulling off deals to move into the U.S. market after a U.S. Supreme court ruling in May took the United States a step closer to legal sports betting in numerous states, perhaps nationwide, rather than select states like Nevada – home to gambling capital Las Vegas.

GVC Holdings Plc in July agreed to set up an online betting platform in the U.S. with hotel and casino operator MGM Resorts. William Hill in September signed a 25-year sports betting deal with casino operator Eldorado Resorts Inc.

Peel Hunt analysts said in a note that the implications of the developments may not become clear until the U.S. government returns from a shutdown and perhaps until prosecutions start.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Pushkala Aripaka 

Hitachi looks set to halt construction at £20bn Wales reactor nuclear plant

( via – – Mon, 14th 2019) London, Uk – –

The UK government's nuclear policy is under renewed scrutiny as the firm behind a £20bn reactor in Wales looks set to halt construction.

Japanese media reports say Hitachi will suspend work on its Horizon division's Wylfa Newydd plant this week.

The company says no formal decision has yet been made.

But if the project is scrapped, it will cost 400 jobs and leave the Hinkley Point power station in Somerset as the only new UK reactor still being built.

In November, plans to build a nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria were halted after Toshiba announced it was winding up its NuGeneration subsidiary, which was behind the project.

The government continues to stress that it is still in talks with Hitachi about Wylfa.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “Negotiations with Hitachi on agreeing a deal that provides value for money for consumers and taxpayers on the Wylfa project are ongoing.

“They are commercially sensitive and we do not comment on speculation.”

The latest developments are likely to force the government to sweeten future nuclear plant deals for potential investors, in what one expert has called a “desperate leap in the dark”.

Energy Secretary Greg Clark has already suggested that regulated asset base (RAB) funding could be used for nuclear projects in future.

The method, which has already been used for other infrastructure schemes including the £4.2bn Thames Tideway “super-sewer”, allows investors to receive returns before the projects have been completed.

It also allows the Treasury to keep the costs off its books by recouping the investment from consumers' bills rather than through direct taxation.

‘Ridiculous dream'

A BEIS spokesperson said on Sunday that it remained the government's objective in the longer term that new nuclear projects, like other energy infrastructure, should be financed by the private sector.

The spokesperson added: “Alongside our discussions with developers, we will be reviewing the viability of a regulated asset base model as a sustainable funding model based on private finance for future projects beyond Wylfa, which could deliver the government's objectives in terms of value for money, fiscal responsibility and decarbonisation.”

Carwyn Jones, who holds the economic development portfolio on Anglesey council, said the project held “a once in a generation opportunity” for economic growth for the area. “In terms of the economic development, jobs and opportunities, it's something we are holding out for,” he said.

However, Robat Idris, from campaign group People Against Wylfa B, said: “We have warned for several years that the case doesn't stack up financially.

“It's time to go back to the drawing board. It's time for the local politicians to abandon this ridiculous dream that they've had.”

Technically complex

One economist, Prof Dieter Helm of Oxford University, has said RAB funding could work if it is properly regulated.

In an analysis of the model, he wrote: “The RAB approach is… probably inferior to the direct procurement route, but the latter is ruled out by the Treasury-imposed constraints.

“The RAB model is a second-best, but much better than the Hinkley-style contract.”

However, energy expert Prof Paul Dorfman, of the Energy Institute at University College London, is more sceptical.

He told the BBC that nuclear power plants could not be built without “vast” public subsidies and that RAB funding was merely “a fiscally dextrous form of subsidy”.

He added: “It's never been tried for projects as technically complex as nuclear power that take about a decade to build.

“It really looks as if the government are flailing. It's a last desperate leap in the dark.”

Both Prof Helm and Prof Dorfman take the view that the UK has various possible ways of satisfying its future energy needs.

Prof Helm says that nuclear faces “deep challenges”, adding: “It is for society to decide whether it wants new nuclear or not. The market cannot decide.”

For Prof Dorfman, renewable energy is now “cost-competitive with fossil fuels” and offers “a cheaper and better way forward”.

By Robert Plummer

Debenhams rescue attempt could cost more than 10,000 jobs

( via – – Mon, 14th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

A daring rescue attempt being drawn up to save Debenhams from going bust could cost more than 10,000 job losses, dealing the biggest blow to the high street since the collapse of BHS.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the chain has earmarked as many as 90 of its high street stores for closure, more than half the current total, as part of a radical turnaround plan.

Debenhams has 165 shops in the UK and Ireland, and 26,000 employees. It has said publicly that around 50 stores could be jettisoned but the board has quietly identified another 30 to 40 that could be offloaded as it seeks to focus on the most profitable ones.

Nearly 90pc of the chain’s pre-tax earnings are generated from a core of 80 to 90 shops, it is understood. Debenhams declined to comment. BHS imploded in 2016 with the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Debenhams plans to push ahead with a three-stage restructuring program despite a dramatic boardroom coup at the hands of Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley, who has amassed a 30pc stake in the retailer.

Ashley and fellow rebel shareholder Landmark Capital ousted chairman Ian Cheshire and chief executive Sergio Bucher last week. Cheshire has been replaced by veteran retailer Terry Duddy, while Bucher will continue to run the company without a board seat.

The City fears that Ashley’s extraordinary move could deal a hammer blow to Debenhams’ survival prospects. In The Sunday Telegraph, an insider accused the entrepreneur of “management by hand grenade”. Crispin Odey, who has a 5pc short against Debenhams, said it was “coming to an end”.

The company’s share price hit a record low of 3.8p, while its bonds have crashed to just 49p in the pound.

Bucher is expected to table a formal, three-stage turnaround proposal with lenders in the coming weeks. The complex plans will begin with a loan refinancing and partial debt-for-equity swap; followed by the attempted closure of up to half its stores; and a fundraising from existing shareholders.

However, there are significant hurdles to overcome. Around half of Debenhams’ bank loans have been hoovered up by American hedge funds, while any store closures will need to be approved by landlords.

Ashley, meanwhile, could attempt to block the refinancing, which would almost certainly be fatal. Retail footfall fell 2.6pc in December.

The fate of HMV will be decided this week when a deadline for rescue bids expires, Sky News reported.

By  Ben Marlow 

Emirates Boeing 777 Amazing new First Class Dubai to Brussels

Source: The Luxury Travel expert

Boeing 777-300ER featuring the carrier’s newest and game-changing First Class product  from Dubai (DXB) to Brussels (BRU). With floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, virtual windows, beds with zero-gravity position, and a sleek design inspired by Mercedes-Benz, Emirates’ new B777 First Class suites take luxury and privacy to the next level. As of now Emirates’ new First Class is only available on newly delivered B777-300ER aircraft which operate flights between Dubai and Brussels, Geneva, Vienna, Munich and London Stansed. It’s unclear if Emirates plans to retrofit its existing B777 and A380 fleet with the new First Class suites due to exorbitant costs (upwards of $30 million USD per aircraft). Also, it’s currently impossible to book the new Emirates B777 First Class suite with award miles and it’s not clear when that option will become available.

Inside Rolls Royce An iconic Symbol of Excellence

Source: Documentary House 2.0

It is an icon, a symbol of excellence, a symbol of empire. It brings to mind the faded glory of the aristocracy and yet, today’s aspirants to wealth and position still seek to own a “Rolls.” To many, there is nothing like a Rolls. They say Rolls-Royce is more than just a car. To them it simply means, the best. If someone says that something is “the Rolls Royce of anything,” we know immediately that it is expensive but probably the ultimate. As we trace the storied development of the company founded by Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls, we'll see how Rolls-Royce Motorcars grew to represent the best in the world.

Flybe rescued by Virgin and Stobart in £2.2m deal

( via – – Fri 11th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Flybe is being bought for £2.2m by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group.

It will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand, marking a return by Virgin to domestic flights, following a failed attempt five years ago.

Based in Exeter, Flybe carries around eight million passengers a year from airports such as Southampton, Cardiff and Aberdeen, to the UK and Europe.

The sale comes after Flybe's profits warning in October .

Shareholders in Flybe will receive just 1p a share and the consortium, which also includes venture capital firm Cyrus, will inject £100m.

Christine Ourmières-Widener, Flybe's chief executive, said the industry has been suffering from higher fuel costs, currency fluctuations and “significant uncertainties” presented by Brexit.

“We have been affected by all of these factors which have put pressure on short-term financial performance,” she said.

To support the on-going operations of the airline, the consortium, known as Connect Airways, will initially lend £20m to Flybe.

A further £80m will be invested in Flybe, which describes itself as Europe's largest regional airline.

Connect Airways will also buy Stobart Group's regional airline and aircraft leasing business.

The group said it would “create a fully-fledged UK network carrier” – an opportunity for Virgin, which currently focuses on long-haul, to expand in the UK.

Virgin, founded by Sir Richard Branson, abandoned attempts to run domestic flights in 2014 through its Little Red airline.

Virgin Atlantic is now a joint venture with Delta Airlines.

Warwick Brady, chief executive of Stobart Group, said it would also be an opportunity to get more passengers to fly from Southend airport, which it owns, along with Carlisle airport.

John Strickland, director at JLS Consulting, said: “It's still a difficult part of the airline market to operate in. The regional segment is the hardest, because it is short flights where passengers are price sensitive and there's competition with rail and road.”

But getting a big cash injection should help the financial performance of Flybe and maintain routes, he said.

The 1p-a-share offer is well below the 295p at which they were floated in 2010 and the levels around 30p at which they were trading before October's profits warning.

Flybe's rescue comes after the collapse of Monarch Airlines and Primera Air.

Google shareholders file lawsuit over multi-million dollar payout to executives

( via – – Fri 11th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Google shareholders are suing the company board and senior management for covering up executives' sexual harassment and rewarding them with large payouts for leaving quietly. 

Two lawsuits, including one from shareholder James Martin and another from the Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan and Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund, were filed on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both argue that the Silicon Valley giant’s leaders breached their duty to shareholders by covering up employee complaints. 

Last year it emerged that Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system had been given $90m to leave in 2014, despite Google concluding that sexual harassment allegations from another employee were credible.

The truth behind his departure was only made public thanks to a report in the New York Times. The story detailed how Google had covered up sexual harassment accusations against at least three other male executives, who were either allowed to continue their role or offered a similar severance package. The revelations spurred a mass “Walkout” from Google staff around the world.

As a result, Google said it would remove a forced arbitration from its employee contracts, which workers were initially forced to sign to waive their rights to a day in court over work-related complaints. Many are continuing to protest what they described as a sexist and toxic work culture among the ranks. 

The organisers of the walkout said they were “grateful” for the lawsuits adding that “anyone who enables abuse, harassment and discrimination must be held accountable, and those with the most power have the most to account for”.

Both lawsuits are targeting leaders and executives at Google who were aware of Rubin’s misdemeanors and those who authorised his large payouts upon his resignation including former human resources director Laszlo Bock and top lawyer David Drummond, who was also accused of improper work relationships in the New York Times’ story.

Lawyers for Mr Martin said they had obtained minutes from internal meetings that proved that one of the executives had been given the money so he would not share any “dirt” on former colleagues. 

The charges include  breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, abuse of power and corporate waste. Google has been contacted for comment. 

By  Margi Murphy

Jaguar Land Rover UK’s biggest carmaker to axe thousands of jobs

( via — Thur, 10th Jan 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) (TAMO.NS) is set to announce “substantial” job cuts in the thousands, a source told Reuters, as the company faces double-digit drops in demand in China and a slump in sales for diesel cars in Europe.

The company builds a higher proportion of its cars in Britain than any other major or medium-sized carmaker and has also spent millions of pounds preparing for Brexit, in case there are tariffs or customs checks.

JLR swung to a loss of 354-million pounds between April and September and had already in 2018 cut around 1,000 roles in Britain, shut its Solihull plant for two weeks and announced a three-day week at its Castle Bromwich site.

The Tata Motors-owned company has unveiled plans to cut costs and improve cash flows by 2.5 billion pounds including “reducing employment costs and employment levels.”

Those cuts will be “substantial” and run into the thousands, the source told Reuters.

“The announcement on job losses will be substantial, affecting managerial, research, sales, design,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Production-line staff will not be affected “at this stage,” said the source.

The company, which employs nearly 40,000 people in Britain and has been boosting its workforce at new plants in China and Slovakia in recent years, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Thursday.

JLR, which became Britain’s biggest carmaker in 2016, had been on course to build around 1 million vehicles by the turn of the decade, but output in 2018 looks set to have fallen as sales in the first eleven months dropped 4.4 percent.

Sales in China between July and September fell by 44 percent, the biggest slump of any market for the central England-based firm, turning the country from its biggest sales market to its smallest.

Its chief financial officer said in October that the firm’s Changshu plant in China “has basically been closed for most of October in order to allow the inventory of both our vehicles and dealer inventory to start to reduce.”

Diesel accounts for 90 percent of the firm’s British sales and 45 percent of global demand, the company said last year, as demand in the segment tumbles following new levies in the wake of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.

Like fellow automakers, the company could see its three British car factories grind to a halt in fewer than 80 days if lawmakers next week reject a deal by Prime Minister Theresa May, leading to tariffs and customs checks after a no-deal outcome.

Reporting by Costas Pitas

No-deal Brexit poses “catastrophie” for food supply, say UK Farming leaders and landowners

( via – – Thur, 10th Aug 2019) London, Uk – –

MPs told of triple threat of disruption to stocks, higher prices and farmers going bust

Farming leaders and landowners from across the UK have written to MPs to plead with them to make sure that the idea of a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table, warning of the “catastrophic” impact it would have on the country’s food supply.

They warned of a triple threat with the possibility of disrupted food supplies, higher food prices and farmers being put out of business because the EU market could be closed to British food exporters for six months.

“Brexit will mean that, for the first time in a generation, UK politicians will have direct responsibility for ensuring our nation is properly fed. The implications, not only for domestic food supply but for the careful management of our cherished countryside, would represent an historic political failure,” said the four main farmers’ unions, including the National Farmers Union, in a letter to MPs.

Separately, tenant farmers and landowners have written to MPs warning of a no-deal disaster.Advertisement

“This is a recipe for disaster for all farmers and ultimately will cause long-term damage to the rural communities and countryside of our nation,” said the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers Association in a joint letter.

They also want assurances over the prospect of lower-quality food such as chlorinated chicken, currently banned by the EU, entering the market in a no-deal scenario. They said the thought that the standards of British farming could be “undermined by cheaper, lower-quality, imports” was a major concern.

The NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said the impacts of no deal would mean a potential trade embargo on UK meat and plant products.

They raised similar concerns in September but feel that few grasp the implications of Britain becoming a “third country” in relation to the EU.

They have been told that 6,000 meat processing plants that export to the EU will have to undergo individual audits by British authorities which must then be certified in Brussels. These will then be checked by EU officials and put to a standing veterinary committee for approval, a process that the NFU has calculated will take six months “at a conservative reading”.

In its letter the NFU says this would lead to an “effective trade embargo on the export of UK animals and animal-based products”. Farmers exporting products would face “draconian tariffs” designed to make any non-EU products uncompetitive” against EU food. The effective EU tariff would be 65% on beef, 46% on lamb and 27% on chicken, MPs have been told.

Small-scale sheep farmers, many of whom earn less than £20,000 a year, are thought to be particularly vulnerable, with 21% of all lamb meat being exported and 94% of that to the EU. Almost 90% of all beef exports also went to the EU, according to 2017 figures.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has suggested that mountain sheep farmers would be “wiped out” by a no deal over Brexit.

By Lisa O'Carroll 

Cold-calling pension ban takes effect with £500,000 fines for scammers

( via– Wed, 9th Dec, 2019) London, Uk – –

About 240m scam calls were made last year, with an average of £91,000 stolen per pension scammer victim, research found.

Cold calling about pensions is now banned, with firms making nuisance calls to face fines of up to half a million pounds.

Companies making unsolicited phones calls about pensions to people from Wednesday can now face enforcement action to try to protect people from having their money stolen.

As many as eight scam calls take place every second – or 240 million calls a year – previous research from the Money Advice Service (MAS) found.

An average of £91,000 was stolen per pension scammer victim last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found.

Pension scams often start with a cold call and can lead to people losing their life savings.

There is a high risk it is a scam if someone is randomly contacted about their pension, with potential warning signs including offers of “free pension reviews”.

Insistent sales tactics, complex investment structures where it is not clear where your money ends up, and promises of too-good-to-be-true returns are also red flags.

Not all cold callers are covered under the ban, with those authorised by the FCA, or a trustee or manager of an occupational or personal pension scheme exempt.

Where the recipient of the call consents to the call, or has an existing relationship with the caller, they are also exempt from the ban.

Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said: “Pension scams are despicable crimes, fleecing people of the retirement they've earned by doing the right thing, working hard and saving for the future.

“Banning pensions cold calling will protect people from these callous crooks and ensure fraudsters feel the full force of the law.”

Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of the Pensions Regulator, added: “The cold calling ban sends a very clear message – if anyone calls you about your pension, it's an attempt to steal your savings.

“The ban draws a line in the sand for scammers. Cross it and you should expect to be prosecuted.”

People looking for pensions help can use the free Government-backed Pension Wise guidance service –

Mothercare Uk sales fall in the third quarter amid “difficult consumer backdrop”

( via – – Wed, 9th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Mother and baby retailer Mothercare has blamed a “difficult consumer backdrop” for a fall in sales in the UK in its last quarter.

Sales fell 11.4% and online sales dropped more, by 16.3%, the firm said.

The business is in the throes of a UK store closure programme, with 36 currently in closing-down mode. By the end of March, there will be 79 stores, down from 137 in May 2018.

The firm kept its guidance for the financial year unchanged.

Chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said: “Whilst the UK continues to be challenging, in part as a result of our planned restructuring, we are still on course to deliver the necessary transformation.”

Last year, Mothercare underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which allowed it to shut loss-making shops and reduce rents. It also raised £28m through issuing new shares.

Mr Newton-Jones left in March last year, but then returned in May.

As well as the difficult consumer backdrop, the company said the fall in sales had also been affected by “aggressive discounting” in the previous year, which had inflated sales in that period.

The figures – which are like-for-like, stripping out changes to stores – are for the 13 weeks to 5 January.

The company – which in November had blamed “negative press coverage” for a fall in sales – said that online sales had dropped because of fewer visits to its website, while the store closures had hit sales ordered on iPads in its shops. There had also been fewer toys on sale and less discounting.

The international business was showing signs of recovery, Mr Newton-Jones said, with sales down 1.1%.

In total, sales were down 18% in the third quarter and down 14.8% in the year to date.

The shares, which a year ago were trading at 40p, rose 1% to 15p in early trading.

Mr Newton-Jones said that while market conditions in the UK would “remain challenging with further disruption until April from our store closure programme”, the company expected its full-year profits to be in line with expectations.

Analysts are expecting a pre-tax loss of about £13m for the full year.

Heathrow Airport wants to expand flights operations up to 5 per cent whether or not a third runway is built

( via – – Tue, 8th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Britain’s biggest airport could soon have an extra 68 flights a day squeezed in on the world’s busiest pair of runways.

Heathrow Airport hopes to expand operations by up to 5 per cent whether or not a third runway is built.

As the West London airport launched a consultation into the biggest changes to airspace patterns in 50 years, it also revealed plans for “a short-term change to the way aircraft arrive at Heathrow” that could increase resilience – and squeeze in almost 25,000 flights a year.

To do so would require the 480,000 annual cap on aircraft movements, imposed in 2002 as a condition for building Heathrow Terminal 5, to be lifted.

At present all but 5,000 of the permitted slots at Heathrow are used; the “spare” slots are at times such as late evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings when demand is light.

The key proposal is for a move to “independent parallel approaches” (IPA) when both runways are being used for landings.

While the standard operation at Heathrow involves one runway being used for arrivals and the other for departures, at busy times for arrivals – particularly early mornings – both can be used for touchdowns. But strict rules on sequencing mean that simultaneous landings cannot happen.

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: “Because Heathrow operates at 98 per cent of its capacity,  disruption or delays during the day can have a knock-on effect to the punctuality of flights.

“To mitigate this, we are always looking to improve how we manage aircraft arriving at Heathrow during particularly busy periods, and one of the ways to do this is through the introduction of new technology such as Independent Parallel Approaches [IPA].

“IPA will not only be beneficial for our passengers by improving punctuality, and preventing flight cancellations and delays –  it will also help to reduce the number of late running flights into the night which are disruptive to local communities.”

But while initially the focus would be on increasing resilience, the move would also provide the opportunity to increase arrivals by 10 per cent – representing almost 25,000 additional movements.

The airport stressed: “We would like to introduce IPA even if we do not get approval to build a third runway.”

In the consultation document, Heathrow revealed that some of the flight paths used for IPA “could overfly areas that are not affected by Heathrow arrivals today”.

Forty-two months ago, the Davies Commission unanimously recommended a third runway at Heathrow. While no significant works have begun, the airport says the new runway is on track to open in 2026, with the project costing £14bn.

Radical changes to airspace will be necessary ahead of a new runway opening, and Heathrow is asking local residents for their preferences for a range of arrival and departure patterns.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, representing residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said: “A lot of West London will be badly hit by these proposals but there will be many other communities who will be relieved at the prospect of all-day flying coming to an end.

“It amounts to a near-revolution to Heathrow’s flight paths.”

The Airspace & Future Operations consultation runs until 4 March.

By Simon Calder

Aldi or Lidl visited by two-thirds of UK shoppers over Christmas

( via – – Tue, 8th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Major supermarkets lose market share in festive period amid Brexit spending squeeze

Two-thirds of UK households visited a discounter over Christmas, handing Aldiand Lidl their biggest ever slice of spending as political uncertainty prompted shoppers to keep a tight hold on their wallets.

All the major supermarkets lost market share in the 12 weeks to 30 December as Aldi’s sales jumped 10.4%, according to the latest data from Kantar Worldpanel, and Lidl’s by 9.4%. This took their combined market share to a record 12.8%, up from 11.4% the previous year. Homegrown discounter Iceland’s sales rose 1.8%, increasing its share of the market to 2.3%.

“The discounters have continued to make their mark over Christmas: two-thirds of all households shopped at either Aldi or Lidl over the 12-week period, culminating in a highest-ever combined Christmas market share of 12.8%,” said Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

Asda was the strongest performer of the big four food retailers, with sales growth of 0.7% according to Kantar, followed by Tesco and Morrisons. Sainsbury’s had the most difficult period with sales falling by 0.4%.

Overall, supermarket sales growth slowed to 1.6% over Christmas, the poorest performance in more than a year, as shoppers reined in spending amid political uncertainty. While shoppers spent £450m more than in 2017, growth in 2018 was tempered by lower inflation of 1.3%, less than half the level seen the previous year.

McKevitt said supermarkets had not been affected by the shift to the web that has hit high street retailers. Online sales rose just 3.9%, with all of that growth coming from existing shoppers. McKevitt said Amazon would be a force to watch this year as its grocery sales rose 16% over the three-month period.

The industry figures were released as Morrisons reported a slowdown in sales growth over Christmas as it said shoppers had become “more cautious and careful” amid the political uncertainty around Brexit.

Sales at its established supermarkets rose 0.6%, including a 0.4% contribution from online sales, in the nine weeks to 6 January. Wholesale sales were up 3% and Morrisons said it had held the price of 100 key Christmas goods, such as mince pies, at the same level as last year.

The figures were slightly behind some City expectations and were down on the strong Christmas enjoyed by the group in 2017, as well as on the 1.3% in stores and 4.3% via wholesale reported for the three months to 4 November.

David Potts, the Morrisons chief executive, said: “Going into November there was a sense that customers were a bit more cautious, a bit more careful with their spending and there was a feeling of uncertainty in the country that may have led to that [cautiousness].”

He said both affluent and price conscious shoppers had been concerned to keep a limit on the total amount they spent over Christmas.

“People became increasingly savvy and conscious of the macro political situation in the country and how it may influence 2019 and how it may affect them.”

He said he expected consumers would continue to be price-conscious through 2019 and said retailers would have to “trade hard and offer great value” in order to win over shoppers.

Morrisons recently announced it was slashing the price of more than 900 productsby an average 20% and Tesco has also revealed price cuts on hundreds of items in the annual attempt to win over shoppers who find their finances squeezed after the Christmas blowout.

Potts said: “This is Morrisons’ fourth consecutive Christmas of like-for-like sales growth during the turnaround. Our performance shows colleagues are listening hard and responding to customers, providing consistently great value and good quality when it matters most.”

Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose will report their festive trading figures later this week.

By Sarah Butler