Ford’s to shut Bridgend engine plant by September 2020

( via– Thur, 6th June 2019) London, Uk – –

The company is set to confirm details of its plans this afternoon as it battles weakening demand for internal combustion engines.

By James Sillars, business reporter

Ford is to close its engine plant at Bridgend in South Wales by September 2020, Sky News understands.

The company is due to make a formal announcement this afternoon once the decision – widely reported on Wednesday night – has been fully communicated to the factory's 1,700 staff.

The Unite union reacted by saying it would fight the closure “with all our might” – accusing the company of breaking promises to its 13,000-strong UK workforce.

The Bridgend plant, which opened almost 40 years ago, has faced a series of recent cutbacks as orders dried up amid the growing backlash against petrol and diesel engines in favour of electric vehicles.

Sky News revealed in February a voluntary redundancy programme would result in 400 job losses – with 600 further posts at Bridgend under threat as Ford moved to cut costs and drive profitability across its European operations.

It announced just weeks ago that 550 jobs at its Dunton technical centre were to go as part of 7,000 job losses worldwide.

GMB regional organiser Jeff Beck said: “We're hugely shocked by today's announcement, it's a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.

“Regardless of today's announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and to mitigate the effects of this devastating news.”

The industry is grappling not only the environmental challenge but also vying to win the race for self-driving technology at a time of tougher conditions for the world economy.

The US-China trade war has been blamed for depressing demand for new vehicles in key markets.

While Ford is not expected to specifically blame Brexit for its Bridgend decision, the company told Sky News earlier this year it would have to carefully consider its UK operations in the event of a no-deal scenario.

The UK car industry has been one of the most vocal opponents of a so-called messy divorce from the EU, saying it is imperative that the flow of goods is maintained and that products remain tariff-free.

Ford is the latest firm to cut back in the UK as the Brexit issue remains unresolved and the sector looks for savings to invest in the future.

Honda is to cease production at its Swindon plant by 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs while Jaguar land Rover is cutting 4,500 roles.

Nissan also announced it had cancelled plans to build its new X-Trail in Sunderland.

Rolls-Royce announce UK’s biggest pension deal with insurer L&G

( via — Thur, 6th June 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Rolls-Royce agreed Britain’s largest ever transfer of corporate pension risk, announcing on Thursday it would shift 4.6 billion pounds of assets to insurer Legal & General.

Companies are increasingly transferring pension obligations to insurance companies to remove the risk of such schemes from their balance sheets. Consultants predict 30 billion pounds worth of UK pension transfer deals this year.

Rolls-Royce, which makes engines for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 XWB will transfer the assets and liabilities of around 33,000 pensioners in its UK Pension Fund, it said in a statement, out of a total 76,000 members.

The deal will reduce the company’s post-retirement obligations by around 4.1 billion pounds, leaving the remaining liabilities smaller and carrying less risk.

“This agreement will result in increased security for Rolls-Royce pensioners and reduced risk for our business,” said Joel Griffin, Rolls-Royce head of pensions.

As part of the deal, Rolls-Royce said it would pay L&G around 30 million pounds in cash.

The transaction is another step in the simplification of Rolls-Royce initiated by chief executive Warren East nearly four years ago.

He has stripped out layers of management, simplified production processes and tackled finances to make the company fit for the future.

The company’s shares, which have risen 9% in the last 12 months, were trading up 1% at 891 pence at 0730 GMT.

L&G, which has flagged pension risk deals – or bulk annuities – as one of its areas of focus, said it had agreed 6.2 billion pounds of deals so far in 2019, up from 700 million pounds in the same period a year ago.

“We have a unique combination of pension, actuarial and structuring expertise coupled with the capacity to create and source long-term direct investments at scale,” L&G Chief Executive Nigel Wilson said in a separate statement.

Shore Capital analyst Paul De’Ath said in a note to clients that L&G was well positioned for winning the bulk annuity mandates when they become available. He rates L&G a ‘Buy’ with a target price of 260 pence a share.

Reporting by Simon Jessop and Paul Sandle

‘Bad bank’ repays £50bn taxpayer bailout loan

( via – – Wed, 5th June, 2019) London, Uk – –

The ‘bad bank' which runs loans granted by Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley before their financial crisis bailouts has repaid its £48.7bn taxpayer loan.

UK Asset Resolution had not expected to repay the crisis-era loan until the mid-2020s but has been able to do so more quickly by selling off packages of loans to private equity buyers.

UKAR has 35,000 customers, fewer than around 800,000 at the outset.

The aim is to sell the last of those loans in 2020.

This would be done by finding buyers for what is left of NRAM – which holds the remaining loans from Northern Rock – and also B&B.

‘Protecting customers'

“I am delighted that, in under ten years, we have been able to repay in full the government loan of £48.7bn,” said Ian Hares, UK chief executive.

“Looking forward, we are focused on the disposal of the remaining government investments in NRAM and B&B whilst ensuring that customers are appropriately protected.”

UKAR which does not grant new loans and only manages existing ones, would then become a government-owned holding company. Among its responsibilities would be pensions for around 10,000 people.

The other part of Northern Rock was sold to Virgin Money in 2011.

The government has already sold off its crisis-era shareholding in Lloyds Banking Group but continues to hold a stake of more than 60% in Royal Bank of Scotland.

Mortgage prisoners

UKAR was created in October 2010 and since then it has cut its balance sheet by £104.4bn, including £43.5bn of customer loan repayments and £37.4bn of asset sales.

It now has 140 staff and just £5.5bn of mortgages left, 55% of which are buy-to-let mortgages.

The BBC's Panorama programme reported last year that Cerberus, one of the private equity buyers for the loans, had told the government it was planning to offer homeowners better mortgage deals – but had not done so.

This left homeowners trapped on high interest rates, it said. Cerberus denied the allegation.

The Financial Conduct Authority, though, is working on plans to help so-called mortgage prisoners – which include some Northern Rock and B&B customers – find lower loan rates.

UKAR's annual report shows Mr Hares was paid £650,000 last year and could receive £823,000 next year if all the performance conditions on bonuses are met, including the sell-off of the remaining loans.

Intu Properties opposed restructuring throws Arcadia’s future back into doubt

( via– Wed, 5th June 2019) London, Uk – –

Intu Properties will throw Arcadia's future back into doubt by opposing its restructuring, Sky News learns.

The future of Sir Philip Green's empire has been thrown back into doubt after one of its biggest landlords decided to oppose a restructuring that would guarantee his Arcadia Group's immediate future.

Sky News has learnt that Intu Properties, which owns Manchester's Trafford Centre and Lakeside in Essex, is to vote against Arcadia's company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) at a crunch meeting of creditors later on Wednesday.

A source close to Arcadia confirmed that Intu – which declined to comment – had informed it of its decision not to support the proposed overhaul of Sir Philip's company, which would involve steep rent cuts at more than 150 stores, and the closure of about 50 more.

Other major landlords, including British Land, are understood to be leaning towards backing the CVA plans, although many will not make their decisions until the meeting in Central London gets under way.

One landlord said they had been made aware of Intu's views on Wednesday morning, with at least one other substantial Arcadia store owner said to be planning to oppose the CVAs.

Although the structure of the votes is complex, one insider suggested that Intu, which counts Arcadia brands as tenants at 35 units, could have sufficient influence to derail one of the seven CVAs on its own.

If that were to happen, it would imperil Sir Philip's ability to salvage his retail empire, heightening the anxiety of 18,000 workers about their future employment.

Unless the CVAs are approved, Arcadia, which also owns Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, is likely to collapse into administration as soon as Wednesday evening.

“It's on a knife-edge,” said a source close to one of the company's landlords.

An Arcadia spokesman declined to comment on the CVA voting on Wednesday morning.

A property industry source said that some landlords had expressed reservations about supporting Arcadia's CVAs because it would be difficult to justify to other tenants that they should continue paying their existing rent bills.

The source added that an administration of Arcadia would not necessarily be bad news for some landlords because brands such as Topshop would be snapped up by new owners.

The latest development came little more than 12 hours after the pensions watchdog and Arcadia confirmed they had reached a deal that would see the Pension Protection Fund supporting the retailer's restructuring.

Sir Philip Green has agreed to hand another £25m to Arcadia's pension scheme in the form of security over property assets, taking the total pledged to its retirement fund over the next three years to £385m.

The conclusion of a deal, which follows months of negotiations, came just days after the regulator demanded £50m of additional contributions from Sir Philip.

The decision to accept a lower sum may therefore attract some scrutiny, particularly if Arcadia fails to trade its way through a brutal retail environment in the coming years.

The fact that landlords could yet scupper the CVAs underlines the thread by which Sir Philip's business – and his legacy as a retailer – still hangs.

Trade creditors have already indicated their intention to vote in favour, according to one source close to Arcadia.

If Arcadia does collapse, it would be the most stunning casualty in a sector brutalised by difficult trading conditions in recent years.

While big names such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, Maplin and Toys ‘R' Us have all entered some form of insolvency or disappeared, the demise of a tycoon widely lauded as “the king of the high street” would be the most notable by far.

Arcadia's collapse into administration would herald a break-up of the group, with significant interest likely to be registered in buying Topshop but a lesser appetite for a takeover of brands like Evans and Wallis.

Deloitte is understood to have been placed on standby to act as Arcadia's administrator, according to creditors who have been briefed on the process.

Under Arcadia's proposals, nearly 50 stores will close with the loss of well over 500 jobs.

If approved, the CVAs would result in rents at nearly 200 shops being cut by between 30% and 70%.

In return, landlords would be handed a 20% stake in the company.

Sir Philip – whose wife, Lady Tina, is technically Arcadia's owner – has also pledged another £50m to the company.

That money would be used to support working capital, while another £50m of the tycoon's fortune has already been used to pay down part of the group's bank debt.

The tycoon recently paid $1 (76p) to buy back his private equity partner's 25% stake in Topshop and Topman in April, has been remote from the negotiations about Arcadia's future.

A deal between TPR and Sir Philip averts the risk of the regulator being blamed if Arcadia goes bust, which would result in an outcome for nearly 10,000 pension scheme members that is ultimately inferior to the deal proposed by Sir Philip.

In 2017, he agreed to pay up to £363m to compensate BHS pensioners following a furious row over the department store chain's collapse little more than a year after he sold it for £1 to the former bankrupt, Dominic Chappell.

The efforts to secure Arcadia's future come after a miserable period for the tycoon, who has been embroiled in a storm over his behaviour towards Arcadia employees and his use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent former workers discussing their severance packages.

On Friday, he was charged in Arizona in relation to his behaviour towards a Pilates instructor, although he has denied any unlawful wrongdoing.

By Mark Kleinman

Uk final decision on Huawei in 5G network yet to be made – security minister

( via — Tue, 4th June 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has not made a final decision on whether to use technology from China’s Huawei in its 5G network, security minister Ben Wallace said on Tuesday.

“The government hasn’t yet reached a conclusion on how to deal with infrastructure that is potentially weak or indeed could be exploited by foreign states to spy on us, that is ongoing,” he told BBC Radio.

“We listen to our allies in the Five Eyes, we listen to our European partners. If we want to allow people access to our markets we have to say that there are rules.”

Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

Neil Woodford suspends flagship fund as share price fall

( via – – Tue, 4th June 2019) London, Uk – –

Savers denied access to equity income fund after investment manager halted withdrawals

Famed City stock-picker Neil Woodford suffered another blow on Tuesday, as a decision to block investors from pulling cash from his flagship fund sparked a share price fall in his listed vehicle.

Woodford’s patient capital trust fund, which is listed on London’s FTSE 250 index, tumbled as much as 20% in early trading before recovering slightly to trade 10% lower at 68p per share.

Investors were spooked by news on Monday that Britain’s best-known fund manager had suspended trading in his equity income fund, barring thousands of investors from pulling their cash for at least 28 days. Investors are still reportedly on the hook for fees of up to 1.7% despite the suspension.

Woodford was forced to temporarily shutter the equity income fund after investors started to jump, pulling at least £187m out in May alone. Those redemptions contributed to a total £600m decline in the value of the flagship fund last month; it shrank in size to £3.7bn after hitting a peak of £10.2bn in May 2017.

A request by investor Kent county council to pull £250m from the fund on Friday is believed to have tipped the scales.

Experts say Woodford has been stung by his optimism about smaller domestic stocks, which have underperformed in the wake of the Brexit vote, prompting investors to pull their cash. Almost £40m was slashed from the value of his 20% stake in Kier Group on Monday, after a profits warning sent shares in the construction and services group tumbling.

The investor exodus is an embarrassment for Woodford as he marks the five-year anniversary of the launch of his eponymous fund. He built his reputation during a 26-year stint at Invesco Perpetual where he controlled assets worth £33bn.

Shares in stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, one of Woodford’s biggest supporters, fell by 6% to £20.98 on Tuesday.

The stockbroker took the step of removing both the suspended Woodford equity income fund and the income focus fund from its Wealth 50 list of favourite funds. That is despite the income focus fund continuing to trade alongside Woodford’s patient capital trust.

Emma Wall, the head of investment analysis at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Woodford’s patient capital trust had clearly been impacted by the “negative sentiment around the suspension” of the Woodford flagship fund, but noted that the underlying value of patient capital had not changed.

She added: “There are other factors at play which make UK companies not that attractive at present – political uncertainty.”

Woodford could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by Kate Holton

Boeing warns airlines on potentially defective 737 wing part

( via– Mon, 3rd June 2019) London, Uk – –

The company says it is taking action after a batch of slat tracks used on wings were found to be potentially defective.

Boeing has urged a number of airlines to replace a potentially faulty part on the wings of up to 133 of its 737 aircraft – months after the next generation versions of the planes were grounded after two fatal crashes.

The crisis-hit US company announced the action after an issue with “slat tracks” was disclosed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing said it had identified 21 planes most likely to have the parts in question.

It was advising airlines, which it did not identify, to also check an additional 112 planes.

The company said the slat tracks – found on the leading edge of an aircraft's wings – were manufactured by a third party and confirmed the tracks should be replaced before planes return to the air.

The FAA ruled the affected parts “may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process”.

It said that while a complete failure of a leading edge slat track would not result in the loss of an aircraft, a failed part could cause damage in flight.

Boeing said the same parts were also believed to have been used on 179 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft – the updated versions of the 737.

They were banned from flying by the world's aviation authorities after a crash in Ethiopia in March, which killed all 157 people on board.

That followed the deaths of 189 people on an Indonesian Lion Air flight when it crashed last October.

Both crashes involved the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and both have been blamed on problems with the flight-control software.

Air industry group IATA said last week it could be mid-August before fixes have been completed and the planes are judged airworthy again.

Boeing said it had seen no reported incidents involving the slat tracks and the remedial work was precautionary.

Kevin McAllister, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “We are committed to supporting our customers in every way possible as they identify and replace these potentially non-conforming tracks.”

Uk Manufacturing shrinks as stockpiling eased ahead of Brexit

( via – – Mon, 3rd June 2019) London, Uk – –

The UK manufacturing sector contracted in May for the first time since July 2016 as stockpiling eased ahead of Brexit, an influential survey shows.

The research, by IHS Markit/CIPS, said firms found difficulty convincing clients to commit to new contracts.

The manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was 49.4, down from 53.1 in April when it was lifted by stockpiling ahead of the UK's expected EU exit.

Any reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The last time there was a reading below 50 was the month after the EU referendum.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on 30 March and the survey had shown stockpiling ahead of this departure date.

In April, the UK and EU subsequently agreed a delay to Brexit until 31 October.

May's survey found that stockpiling meant that it was difficult for manufacturers to win new orders.

The volume of new business fell for the first time in seven months and at one of the fastest rates recorded by the survey in the past six-and-a-half years.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey, said new order inflows declined from both domestic and overseas markets.

“Demand was also impacted by ongoing global trade tensions, as well as by companies starting to unwind inventories built up in advance of the original Brexit date. Some EU-based clients were also reported to have shifted supply chains away from the UK,” he said.

Manufacturing jobs fell for the second consecutive month and Mr Dobson said the manufacturing downturn “may have further to run and will have negative ramifications for the growth in the months ahead.”

Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) which also conducts the survey, said: “A slowdown in the global economy, and trade wars hotting up could tip the scales even further next month and increase the likelihood that the UK manufacturing sector will remain in contraction territory”.

Kiss Your Car Goodbye | Say Hello to “Mobility As A Service”

Source: Bloomberg

Drivers are already ditching their cars because of apps like Uber. Imagine what happens when driverless cars hit the roads. Bloomberg QuickTake explains the idea known as “mobility as a service”.

8 High Demand Jobs Every Company Will Be Hiring Staff For In 2020

Source: Explorist

The labor market is changing faster than you might realize. Demographic changes and technological advancements may lead to the net loss of 5 million jobs by 2020, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum. In total, the report estimates that a total of 7.1 million jobs could be lost, the majority of which will be white-collar office and administrative jobs. The report, called “The Future of Jobs,” surveyed executives from more than 350 employers across nine industries in 15 of the world’s largest economies to come up with its predictions about how the labor markets will evolve. While the job landscape is expected to undergo radical changes over the next few years, the report predicts that there will also be certain occupations that are more in demand. Here in this video you will come to know some of the job categories that are expected to see growth. Please note that the information provided in this video is based on world economic forum.

Legal & General sells general insurance business to Allianz for £242m

( via–Fri, 31st May 2019) London, Uk – –

The deal, expected to complete later this year, will see two million customers with household insurance policies transfer over.

Legal & General (L&G) is to sell its general insurance business to Germany's Allianz for £242m, it has been announced.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to complete later this year, the UK company said.

It will see two million customers with household insurance policies transfer to Allianz.

L&G said it would use the cash raised to reinvest in its “attractive and growing core businesses”.

Company chief Nigel Wilson said: “Selling the general insurance (GI) business is the right decision for our customers and shareholders. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank our GI colleagues for their contribution to Legal & General.

“We continue to focus on delivering against our strategy, allocating shareholders' capital rigorously.

“We are market leaders in 10 UK markets and have a growing presence in the USA and an emerging presence in Asia.

“Deploying capital in these businesses will deliver better outcomes for all our stakeholders. Our GI customers will benefit from the strength and capability of Allianz in the household insurance sector.”

Jon Dye, chief executive of Allianz UK, said the deal was “a good outcome for all the parties involved” and was “a strong result”.

“The Allianz Group has worldwide insurance experience, is robustly capitalised and has a strong reputation for customer service and these strengths will be applied to grow the business,” he added.

Allianz is also buying out the remaining 51% stake it does not own in LV General Insurance Group.

After the transactions go through, the firm says it will be the second largest general insurer in the UK with 12 million UK general insurance customers.

Uber posts $1bn loss in first quarter after stock market listing

( via – – Fri, 31st May 2019) London, Uk – –

Uber has posted a $1bn (£790m) loss as the ride-hailing firm delivered its first figures since a disappointing flotation earlier this month.

The quarterly loss came despite a 20% rise in revenues to $3.1bn and increase in monthly active users to 93 million.

The results were in line with many analysts' forecasts and may provide reassurance about the company's future profitability.

Uber shares have sunk almost 11% since it listed on Wall Street on 10 May.

The company is the biggest of a group of Silicon Valley start-ups that have gone public this year against the backdrop of a global stock market sell-off sparked by renewed US-China trade tensions.

But Uber has also faced strong competition in the smartphone ride-hailing business, and incurred extra costs for signing up new drivers and establishing the Uber Eats delivery service.

‘Long journey'

Finance Chief Nelson Chai said he had recently seen some less aggressive pricing by competitors, which include arch rival Lyft.

He added that Uber was prepared to keep spending. “We will not hesitate to invest to defend our market position globally.”

The company has ambitions to move into electric scooters, e-bikes, and even aircraft, allowing people to hail rides via their smartphones.

During a conference call after publication of the results, Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi said the company's disappointing start as a public business was just a step on “the long journey of making Uber a platform for the movement of people and transport of commerce around the world at a massive scale”.

Short sellers

The share price was almost flat in after-hours trading immediately following release of the numbers, but then jumped 1.6% higher before falling back.

Some analysts have expressed unease about the company ever making a profit. The number of investors betting that Uber's share price will fall – called short-selling – has risen during the past two weeks.

One analyst, Atlantic Equities' James Cordwell, said a lack of any forward guidance in Thursday's statement “is a little disappointing”.

Uk economy likely to grow less than Bank of England forecast

( via — Thur, 30th May 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy is likely to grow less than the Bank of England forecast earlier this month as Brexit uncertainty hurts investment and productivity, Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden said on Thursday.

Ramsden, who voted against the BoE’s first post-crisis interest rate increase in November 2017, said rates would need to rise if Brexit went smoothly, but a disruptive Brexit would make the right path for monetary policy an open question.

Even if Brexit does go smoothly, it would be unlikely to dispel all business uncertainty, he said, so investment might pick up less than the BoE had forecast, hurting short-run growth and the economy’s longer-run productive capacity.

“Relative to the best collective judgment expressed in the MPC’s central forecast I am … a little more pessimistic on GDP growth than my colleagues on the MPC,” he told businesses during a visit to Inverness in northeastern Scotland.

The BoE forecast this month that the economy would grow by 1.5% this year and 1.6% in 2020 if Brexit goes smoothly.

Ramsden said his outlook for inflation and how fast to raise interest rates was similar to that of his colleagues, because weaker productivity growth was likely to push up on inflation, cancelling out the drag on inflation from slower growth.

Brexit uncertainty is leading businesses to use extra workers rather than invest in improving productivity, he said, something that was likely to weigh on productivity over the coming years.

“We are unlikely to achieve full certainty until the final outcome of (Brexit) negotiations is known, and there is a risk that more persistent uncertainty could push out the pick-up in investment and continue to drag on growth,” he said.

Figures earlier on Thursday showed the biggest annual fall in car production since the financial crisis, after carmakers temporarily halted work last month because they were unable to reverse closures planned before the scheduled March 29 Brexit.

At the start of this month, BoE Governor Mark Carney said investors were underestimating how much interest rates could rise, even as the British central bank kept borrowing costs on hold due to Brexit uncertainty.

At the time, markets only priced in one quarter-point rate rise over the next three years, and short-term interest rate expectations have fallen back since and markets now think a rate cut is more likely than an increase over the coming year.

Ramsden, a former chief economist at Britain’s finance ministry, said a no-deal Brexit with no transition period beforehand would have “large negative economic effects”.

But that would not automatically mean interest rates should be cut, he said, because of the inflationary impact of a weaker pound and a further reduction in productivity.

Reporting by David Milliken

EE 5G network lands in London and five other UK cities

( via – – Thur, 30th May 2019) London, Uk – –

EE’s 5G network went live in six cities today, bringing the new technology to the UK for the first time.

London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast are the first locations to benefit from the new mobile network, which will offer users data speeds that are considerably faster than 4G.

However, with EE the first network to launch 5G, prices are set to be considerably higher until rivals begin to compete with their own launches.

Vodafone will be the first of those operators to challenge EE when it launches its own 5G network on 3 July.

5G handsets – what's available?

Meanwhile, the selection of 5G handsets is expected to be limited for the moment, with Samsung, OnePlus, LG and HTC all producing 5G handsets.

Huawei’s Mate 20X (5G) smartphone has been blocked from both EE and Vodafone’s rollouts after Google banned the device from receiving upgrades.

The ban came amid claims from the US that Huawei is acting as a spy for China – something Huawei denies.

“The challenge we have at the moment is we don’t have enough clarity on whether our customers are going to be able to be supported over a timeframe of a two or three-year contract,” EE boss Marc Allera told City A.M. last week.

5G speeds and coverage

EE said its 5G network currently offers speeds 10 times faster than 4G, though it will not launch a fully fledged 5G network until 2022.

William Webb, a 5G expert and chief executive of Weightless SIG, warned that coverage will be thin for years after 5G launches, mirroring the ‘not-spots' of 4G and even 3G in some areas of the UK.

“Initially, coverage will be very patchy – some areas in city centres may have a good connection but little elsewhere. For many, there may be no 5G coverage where they live and work for many years,” he said.

He added that the data-hungry network will eat up allowances very quickly, leaving tariffs looking miserly in contrast to 4G contract deals on offer right now.

“The basic 5G package has 5GB of data. If the promise of 200Mb/s is delivered on – and 5G is aiming for much higher – then this entire monthly allowance will last a total of 200 seconds,” he said.

“The only real benefit here is that 5G networks will be virtually empty, allowing congestion-free communications. This is a big advantage when you consider in places such as Waterloo, Kings Cross or other mainline train stations.

“While lower congestion is a valuable benefit, there is no sign of the services or applications that will deliver the well-documented changes to the way that we live and work that some have promised.”

How can the UK improve 5G coverage?

Kate Bevan, editor of Which Computing magazine, said: “The rollout of 5G will offer great opportunities for consumers to get increased internet speeds, faster downloads and be better connected on the move, but the reality is that we are still lagging behind on 4G – with only two-thirds of the UK able to get access with a choice of all major operators.

“The government needs to clearly outline how it will achieve its 2022 target for 95 per cent of the country to have 4G coverage and the regulator must use its powers effectively to extend coverage.”

Kester Mann, principle analyst at CCS Insight, added: “EE’s launch highlighted that the shift from 4G to 5G is an evolutionary one, as it focused on offering a more reliable mobile experience. Its new 5G propositions contain little that is truly innovative, but address existing customer pain-points without over-inflating expectations.”

Currently an EE 5G contract will cost you £54 per month and £170 for a compatible device, though that will only get you 10GB of data per month.

By Joe Curtis

Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool call for termination of Northern rail

( via – – Wed, 29th May 2019) London, Uk – –

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram urge transport secretary to act after year of misery

The mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool city region have called on the transport secretary to terminate the Northern rail franchise after a year of sustained misery for passengers.

Speaking on behalf of the 4.3 million people they represent, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram made the demand 12 months on from last May’s timetable chaos.

They believe Northern, which is owned by Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway company, has consistently failed to show it is able to take the action required to restore public confidence or deliver its legally-binding franchise requirements. These include:

  • Failure to deliver a significant and sustained improvement in performance, with nearly a fifth of all services arriving late, 28,000 services cancelled in the last year and a huge increase in services being “shortformed” – reducing the number of carriages on the train – from 2,825 in December 2018 to 4,172 in April 2019.
  • Failure to resolve the RMT industrial dispute, which has led to 46 days of strike action since March 2017.
  • Failure to operate Sunday services, with 165 unplanned cancellations and 90 planned cancellations last Sunday.
  • Failure to deliver new services, such as a range of promised additional hourly services in much-needed parts of the network.
  • Failure to introduce new trains, which means hated Pacer trains may not be gone by the end of the year as promised

Burnham and Rotheram are urging the Department for Transport to implement an “operator of last resort” and bring in a new board and team of directors to run the company as soon possible.Advertisement

Making the call in Salford on Wednesday, Burnham said: “We have been extremely patient with Northern but enough is enough. They promised us that things would be significantly better by May 2019 and that hasn’t happened. Train services across Greater Manchester and the north-west remain unreliable and overcrowded. Sunday services are still subject to widespread cancellation and promises of new rolling stock have not been kept.”

Rotheram said: “Given Northern’s consistent failure to provide an acceptable service we believe it is now time for Chris Grayling to terminate their franchise and move to that operator of last resort, as soon as possible.”

The mayoral call took Northern by surprise; it took two hours before the operator released a response, which suggested it had no intention of relinquishing the franchise. “We agree the north deserves the best possible rail service and are working hard to improve the performance and reliability for customers,” said David Brown, the managing director.

“The unacceptable disruption following the May 2018 timetable change was caused by delays in infrastructure projects out of our control. We have apologised to our customers for the pain this caused. We have seen two successful timetable changes since then, introducing many more new services.

“Since last year, we have made a large number of improvements for customers, including better punctuality, investment in new and refurbished trains, over 2,000 new services and hundreds more people employed to help customers.

“These improvements are still a work in progress, but we are making things better for our customers. We want and expect things to continue to improve.”

Rail unions welcomed the call. The TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, described the move by Burnham and Rotheram as a “vote of no confidence in an operator which has consistently offered an unacceptable third-rate service”.

He added: “Northern Rail is barely functioning and passengers deserve so much better. These services must be brought back into public ownership now. Failing Grayling would be wise to listen on this occasion and do the right thing, but I won’t hold my breath.”

On Tuesday the government announced an “exciting” competition, which invites northern towns and villages to bid for Pacer trains to be turned into “community spaces, cafes or new village halls”.

The proposal was greeted with incredulity by northern MPs, after nine years of austerity cuts from central government in which councils have lost almost 60p in the £1 from Whitehall for local services, with northern authorities worst hit.

“I am not sure my constituents will agree that this is an ‘exciting opportunity’, unless one of them is turned into a museum dedicated to highlighting years of under-investment in northern transport,” Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, told the Manchester Evening News. “My personal suggestion would be to invite my fed-up constituents to dismantle them piece by piece, a bit like when the Berlin Wall came down.”

Ministers should keep all options on the table, including further devolution to the north and the option of public operation, Burnham and Rotherham said.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, terminated Virgin Trains East Coast’s contract and took the service in-house last year.

The Northern franchise is supposed to run until 2025, with an option for an additional year dependent on performance.

By Helen Pidd

Huawei on US trade blacklist could harm billions of consumers

( via – – Wed, 29th May 2019) London, Uk – –

A US move to put Huawei on a trade blacklist “sets a dangerous precedent” that will harm billions of consumers, the firm's top legal officer said.

Speaking at a press conference, Song Liuping said the trade ban would also “directly harm” American companies and affect jobs.

Washington recently added Huawei to a list of companies that US firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence.

The trade ban is part of a wider battle between the US and Huawei.

Washington has moved to block the Chinese company, the world's largest maker of telecoms equipment, on national security concerns.

Huawei has repeatedly denied claims the use of its products presents security risks, and says it is independent from the Chinese government.

“Politicians in the US are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company,” Mr Song said.

What did Huawei say about the trade ban?

Mr Song said the decision to put Huawei, which is also the world's second largest smartphone maker, on the so-called “entity list” would have far-reaching implications.

“This decision threatens to harm our customers in over 170 countries, including more than three billion consumers who use Huawei products and services around the world.”

“By preventing American companies from doing business with Huawei, the government will directly harm more than 1,200 US companies. This will affect tens of thousands of American jobs.”

What about other US moves against Huawei?

Speaking to reporters in Shenzhen, Mr Song also outlined steps that Huawei had taken in relation to a lawsuit it filed against the US government in March.

The case relates to restrictions that prevent US federal agencies from using Huawei products.

The firm said it has filed a motion for a “summary judgement”, asking US courts to speed up the process to “halt illegal action against the company”.

“The US government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat. There is no gun, no smoke. Only speculation,” Mr Song said.

A hearing on the motion has been set for 19 September.

Analysis: Robin Brant

Sitting up on a stage, in a large theatre-like room at its headquarters, there was much talk from the Huawei executives of America's rural and “poorer” customers who deserve “equitable access” to good broadband.

Billions of customers are facing the threat of having their welfare “damaged” apparently, so the firm wants to speed things up.

The other reason of course is that the assault from the Trump administration is biting. Asked if Huawei would still be around in a year's time, one executive said its business plans go well beyond next year.

The company insists it is – proudly – privately owned. Nonetheless, I asked if the two senior executives present were members of China's prevailing Communist Party. One said he wasn't. The other wouldn't say.

What about the US-China trade war?

Washington's clampdown on Huawei is part of a wider conflict simmering between the US and China.

The US has pushed to persuade allies to ban the Chinese company over the potential risks of using its products in next-generation 5G mobile networks.

Some countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have blocked Huawei from supplying equipment for 5G mobile networks.

Additionally, the company faces almost two dozen criminal charges filed by US authorities. Washington is also seeking the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wangzou from Canada, where she was arrested in December at the behest of American officials.

It comes as trade tensions between the US and China also appear to be rising.

The world's two largest economies have been locked in a bruising trade battle for the past year that has seen tariffs imposed on billions of dollars worth of one another's goods.

Earlier this month, Washington more than doubled tariffs on $200bn (£158bn) of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate with its own tariff hikes on US products.

US President Donald Trump has, however, sought to link the two, saying recently that Huawei could be part of a trade deal between the US and China.

UK banks approved mortgage rise in April to highest since early 2017

( via — Tue, 28th May 2019) London, UK —

LONDON, (Reuters) – British banks last month approved the greatest number of mortgages since February 2017, adding to signs that the housing market may be over the worst of its pre-Brexit slowdown, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Banks approved 42,989 mortgages in April, up from 40,564 in March and 11.5% higher than a year ago, marking the biggest annual increase since March 2016, according to seasonally-adjusted figures from industry body UK Finance.

Net mortgage lending rose by 1.795 billion pounds last month, a smaller increase than March’s 2.440 billion pound rise which was the largest in 15 months.

Britain’s housing market slowed sharply in the run-up to the original March Brexit deadline but consumer spending has remained solid, driving economic growth just as businesses have cut investment spending due to Brexit uncertainty.

UK Finance said consumer lending increased 3.8% year-on-year in April, slowing a little from March’s growth rate of 4.1% which was the highest in nine months.

Lending figures from the Bank of England, which cover a broader section of Britain’s finance industry, are due on Friday.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

New voluntary industry code to allow Bank transfer fraud victims to get refunds

( via– Tue, 28th May 2019) London, Uk – –

Bank account holders who are tricked into transferring money to fraudsters could be entitled to reimbursement under a new voluntary industry code coming into force from today.

Authorised push payment scams cost victims £354m last year, but until now they were not entitled to reimbursement.

The code is designed to see victims getting money back in cases where neither they nor the bank has done anything wrong – though customers will have to have met “standards expected of them”.

That means they could be denied reimbursement if they have been negligent – for example by ignoring warnings or if they are an organisation that has failed to follow its own procedures.

So-called Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams cost £354.3m last year according to trade body UK Finance, with £228.4m lost to consumers and £126m to non-personal or business account holders.

In total there were 84,624 cases, with 78,215 related to personal accounts.

Consumer group Which? estimates that £674 is typically lost to the crime every minute.

Typical scams that have been reported include homebuyers being tricked into sending the deposit on their homes to fraudsters instead of their solicitors' accounts.

Unlike victims of other types of fraud such as credit or debit card scams, those involved in these cases have not until now been entitled to any reimbursement.

But a number of banks have now signed up to a code of practice to reimburse victims and agreed to fund the scheme on an interim basis until January when longer-term funding arrangements are put in place.

Lenders who wrote the new rules including Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, Metro Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland were among the initial signatories to the agreement ahead of its 28 May launch date with others expected to follow.

Separate measures being taken to combat APP scams also include a name-checking service called “confirmation of payee”.

This works by making sure that the name of the person being sent money matches the name entered by the person paying.

Customers paying the money will be alerted if there is not a match, before any such transfer takes place.

The Payment Systems Regulator has proposed that the UK's six biggest banking groups, which are involved in about 90% of bank transfers, fully put the confirmation of payee measures in place by 31 March 2020.