Addison Lee aims for self-driving cars in London within three years

( via – – Mon, 22 Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Tech pioneer Oxbotica to start mapping public roads as it calls deal with hire firm ‘huge leap’

Self-driving car services could be on the streets of London within three years under a partnership between the private hire firm Addison Lee and the British driverless car pioneers Oxbotica.

The companies have signed a deal to develop and deploy autonomous vehicles in the city by 2021.

Oxbotica will start mapping more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around London from next month, using its technology to create a comprehensive map of every traffic feature.

While the link-up could eventually allow Addison Lee’s fleet of black Mercedes and Prius cabs to be driven autonomously, the 5,000 drivers in London will remain employed, the firm says. However, it could also offer a cheaper, autonomous ride-sharing version of its hire service. The first stage is likely to be in corporate shuttles, around airports or campuses.

Despite the ambitious time frame, London looks set to be at least a year behind other global cities. Tokyo launched an experimental driverless taxi in August, with a view to having a full service in place in time for the 2020 Olympics.

Toyota, meanwhile, is investing $500m (£388m) to develop an autonomous fleet for Uber, although Uber’s programme was set back when one of its self-driving cars was involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian in the US in March.

Andy Boland, chief executive of Addison Lee, said that although technology could make an autonomous version of their current service feasible in London, “our 5,000 drivers in the UK are going to carry on doing what they are doing. For the foreseeable future I would draw that distinction between premium services, and technology opening those other sorts of services at a relevant price point.”

However, he said a driverless vehicle should eventually prove cheaper to run for the firm: “There are cost savings in the medium term, from maximising asset utilisation.”

The traditional London taxi and private hire trade has been disrupted by Uber offering lower fares, but industry observers have questioned whether Uber could continue to keep prices down in the long term by continuing to use drivers.

Boland said that while plenty of tech firms had eyed the market in a sector that could be worth £28bn a year by 2035, practically implementing autonomous or car-sharing services would still require the kind of fleet, maintenance and customer base his firm already had.

Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxbotica, said: “This represents a huge leap towards bringing autonomous vehicles into mainstream use on the streets of London, and eventually in cities across the United Kingdom and beyond.”

New York is the next city it will target.

Transport for London said it was committed to engaging with firms using autonomous vehicle technology at the earliest opportunity. Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation, said it had the potential to change travel significantly: “All cities across the UK, including London, need to understand the opportunities, risks and challenges they face when considering how transport will operate in the future.”

Addison Lee and Oxbotica were part of the consortium carrying out government-funded studies in Greenwich, south-east London, to investigate whether the public transport network could be complemented with people ride-sharing in driverless pods.

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent



Starbucks opened their first Italian chain : How well did it go down with the established coffee culture?


CBS This Morning

Since its start in Seattle in the early 1970s, the Starbucks coffee chain has opened shops all over the country and the world, including European nations where coffee culture was already well established. One place they dared not tread was Italy, the coffee-centric land that helped founder Howard Schultz shape the chain's character in the first place.

Seth Doane reports.



View a more eclectic side of London where locals enjoy spending time


Source: Youtube/Love and London

Forget London Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square… those areas are super-touristy, crowded, and don't show the character of London. In this video takes you to three areas in London where Londoners enjoy spending time, which shows you the side of the city that is full of character and diverse.

Gatwick to bring standby runway into routine use by mid-2020s

( via– Thur, 18th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Gatwick has set out plans to bring its standby runway into routine use for departing flights by the mid-2020s.

Britain's second busiest airport said the move would meet all international safety requirements and could be delivered without increasing its noise footprint.

Under its current planning agreement, the standby runway can only be used when the main runway is closed for maintenance or emergencies, but the 40-year agreement comes to an end in 2019, Gatwick said.

It said it was exploring the “innovative” scheme as part of its master plan which “sets out how Gatwick can grow and do more for Britain”.

The master plan will be the subject of a 12-week consultation and the airport said it was keen to listen to the views of “local communities and stakeholders”. Local campaigners have already expressed opposition.

Gatwick said the development would help meet future aviation demand and ensure strong connections between Britain and global markets.



Singapore Airlines relaunched world’s longest commercial flight

Wikimedia/Julian Herzog

( via – – Fri, Oct 2018) London, Uk –

The has left Singapore for New York, beginning a journey scheduled to cover more than 15,000km in almost 19 hours.

Singapore Airlines is relaunching the service five years after it was cut because it had become too expensive.

Flight SQ22 departed at 15:37GMT with 150 passengers and 17 crew.

The inaugural flight from Changi Airport to Newark's international airport, which services New York, took off amid much fanfare.

However, Singapore Airlines told passengers before take off that their flight to Newark, while still the world's longest flight by distance, could only take some 17 hours.

Qantas launched a 17-hour non-stop service from Perth to London earlier this year, while Qatar runs a 17.5-hour service between Auckland and Doha.

Have passengers been snapping up the tickets?

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said there was demand for customers for non-stop services which help cut travelling times compared with flights which have a stopover.

Ahead of the take-off, the airline told the BBC that business class seats for the flight were fully booked, and there were “a very limited number” of premium economy seats left.

The airline is not planning to offer any economy bookings on the route.

A business class ticket will entitle passengers to two meals, and the choice of when they are served, plus refreshments in between. They will also have a bed to sleep in.

Premium economy fares will get three meals at fixed times, with refreshments in between.

Do people want to fly for 19 hours?

The brand new Airbus plane that SIA is using has been configured to seat 161 passengers in all – 67 business passengers and 94 premium economy passengers.

“The thinking behind that is that they are selling a premium product – it's for the top end of town,” says aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, who was booked on to Thursday's flight.

“This is a route between two massive financial hubs, and so they will fill this plane up with business people, or well-heeled travellers who want the convenience of a non stop flight.

“It's also been proven that when carriers introduce a new non-stop route, the traffic on that route increases threefold.”

Mr Thomas, the editor-in-chief of airline rating site, has been on several such inaugural flights, including Qantas' new long-haul from Perth to London, inaugurated earlier this year.

He said: “The Qantas flight to London was a huge event. We were basically on our feet for the entire flight, it was incredibly exciting. There's almost a party atmosphere on board.”

Qantas meanwhile is in advanced discussions with Airbus and Boeing over an aircraft capable of making a 20-hour flight between London and Sydney.

The Australian national flag carrier also plans to fly non-stop from Australia to North America – slightly shorter than the London-Sydney non-stop flight.

But Max Kingsley-Jones, group editor of Flight Global, warned that plans for new non-stop routes had a habit of changing in line with the economics of the world.

“In the boom times you get a lot of what we call direct-connect flights between smaller cities… [then] each time there's a downturn you see all those tail off, and then we go back to people flying over hubs,” he told the BBC's Today programme.

“Even though it costs more for an airline to fly over a hub, they'll always charge you less because of the disadvantage of going via somewhere else.”

Which route will the flight take?
Of two possible routes that SIA could take to Newark, SIA has told passengers it will take the North Pacific route.

Mr Thomas says it will cover a distance of some 15,341km, but reminds non-aviation experts that while the distance between destinations remains constant, the distance flown and flight times can vary because of tailwinds, headwinds and any need for weather-related diversions.

“When you've got some good strong jet streams going in an easterly direction, which is the way we'll go, then we will fly over Japan, then over the North Pacific, possibly touching into Alaska, then down through Canada into Newark.”


Is this the future of long-haul travel?
The A350-900 ULR (ultra-long-range) that set off on Thursday from Singapore to Newark belongs to Airbus' family of long-range, twin-engine aircraft.

The planes have been designed to replace Boeing's older 777 series and use between 20% and 30% less fuel than the 777s did – which is a good thing amid rising oil prices.

Singapore Airlines launched the same non-stop route between Changi and Newark in 2004, but by 2013 the carrier was forced to cancel it. The A340-500 it was using at the time used a lot of fuel and eventually the route became too expensive to run.

Several carriers already use the newer A350-900s on their long-haul routes. They have higher ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jetlag – all good things for busy business travellers.

But the ultra-long-range version that SIA has bought from Airbus has the longest capability of any aircraft flying today, thanks in part to a slightly modified fuel system.

It can fly for 20 hours non-stop, which most aviation experts will tell you is the future of very long-haul travel for business and pleasure.

Mr Thomas says it's been proven over and over again that people want to fly non-stop, “so these sorts of aeroplanes are set to gain terrific momentum”.

“Qantas' flight from Perth to London is seeing a load factor in economy of 92% – and in premium it's 94%. So from an airline perspective, these routes are money-making.

“We really are entering a new era of travel.”

By Sarah Porter



A Tour of The World’s Most Luxurious VIP Airport Terminal

Sam Chui

A tour of the world's most luxurious VIP Airport Terminal in Dubai South. Check out the amazing facility of JetEx and one of a kind duty free shopping such as BMW and Rolls Royce sports cars! This video gives you an insight how the rich and VIP travels.


Nissan Japanese carmaker warns of ‘serious implications’ of ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Flickr/Mad African

( via– Thur, 4th Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

The Japanese carmaker says it is still waiting for clarity on whether there will be a “sudden change” in trading arrangements.

Nissan has warned there will be “serious implications” for Britain's manufacturing industry if the UK fails to secure a trade deal with the European Union.

The warning from the carmaker, which operates the country's largest car factory, in Sunderland, is the latest alarm signal from the auto sector in the run-up to Brexit.

Businesses are increasingly anxious for clarity as they try to plan for how Britain's departure from the EU will affect supply chains and tariffs in the months ahead.

Nissan said in a statement: “Today we are among those companies with major investments in the UK who are still waiting for clarity on what the future trading relationship between the UK and EU will look like.

“As a sudden change from those rules to the WTO (World Trade Organisation) will have serious implications for British industry, we urge UK and EU negotiators to work collaboratively towards and orderly balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade.”

Leaving with no deal would see the UK move from seamless trade with the EU to arrangements set by the WTO for states outside the bloc with no preferential deals.

Carmakers have also expressed worries that port and road delays could slow the import of car parts, hitting output and adding to costs, if there is no agreement.

Nissan, which built nearly a third of Britain's 1.67 million cars last year, joins the UK's biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover, in warning on Brexit risks.

Meanwhile, BMW has said it will bring forward the annual shutdown period of its Mini plant in Oxford to April to minimise the risk of any supply disruption in the event of a “no-deal” scenario.

Japanese carmaker Nissan announced in 2016 that it would build its next generation Qashqai SUV in Sunderland in a major boost to the prime minister just weeks after Britain voted to leave the EU.


BMW makes contingency plans for hard Brexit as negotiations drag on

( via– Tue, 2nd Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK is the German car industry's fourth largest market and BMW insists it remains of “strategic importance”.

German car giant BMW has told Sky News it is making contingency plans for “all scenarios” when Britain leaves the European Union – including “a hard complicated Brexit”.

The company sells around 50,000 cars a year in the UK, which is BMW's fourth-biggest market after China, the United States and Germany.

But BMW has been critical of preparations for Brexit, and those criticisms are now intensifying.

Speaking to me at the Paris Motor Show, where BMW is unveiling it crucial new 3-series model, the firm's chief financial officer Nicolas Peter seemed exasperated when we spoke about Brexit.

He said: “Are we disappointed with the progress [of Brexit negotiations] so far? Yes we are, so we have to prepare for all different scenarios, including a hard, complicated Brexit where supply chains will be impacted for a couple of weeks.

“We have many, many parts that have to move every day from the UK to Europe, and the other way. When Brexit happens, we will need to examine the impact, and analyse the rules and regulations for a company like ours.”

Mini, which is owned by BMW, recently confirmed that the date of its annual factory shutdown would be moved to the start of April, to coincide with the weeks after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Mr Peter said the UK remained a country with “strategic importance” to BMW, but said the prospect of Brexit was already causing “tension in the UK car market”.

He also claimed that an ad-hoc agreement, allowing Britain to adopt the regulations of the World Trade Organisation, but to offer a bespoke , zero-tariff deal to European car makers, was all but impossible.

“We do not believe this is realistic,” said Mr Peter. “The legal consideration is much more complicated.”

By Adam Parsons



Ryanair warns investors of lower than expected profits as strikes hit income

Wikimedia/Adrian Pingstone

( via – – Mon, 1st Oct 2018) London, Uk – –

Ryanair has warned investors its full-year profits will be lower than expected, partly due to the recent wave of industrial action.

The airline said its profits would be 12% lower than the €1.25-1.35bn (£1.11-1.2bn) previously forecast, and it now expects profits of between €1.1-1.2bn.

Ryanair said this was due to higher oil prices, higher costs associated with EU flight compensation rules, and weaker fares due to the recent strikes.

It warned it may lower forecasts again.

Shares in the airline opened down 8%.

Last week, cabin crew and pilots in Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Portugal took industrial action which led to a number of flight cancellations.

Bigger fuel bill
Ryanair said fares for the third quarter of the year were lower as forward bookings, particularly for the October school mid-terms and Christmas, were being affected by fear of further strikes.

The carrier said it had not hedged its fuel bill against prices rises, and this meant it would be paying 10% more for its fuel thanks to the recent rise in the global price.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said: “While we successfully managed five strikes by 25% of our Irish pilots this summer, two recent co-ordinated strikes by cabin crew and pilots across five EU countries has affected passenger numbers (through flight cancellations).

“Customer confidence, forward bookings and [third quarter] fares have been affected, most notably over the October school mid-terms and Christmas, in those five countries where unnecessary strikes have been repeated.”

The airline is making cuts to some routes and closing some of its bases.

Its four-aircraft Eindhoven base in the Netherlands will close, although most routes to and from Eindhoven will continue on overseas-based aircraft. It is taking the same action at its two-aircraft Bremen base in Germany and is making cuts at its Niederrhein base.

Ryanair says all affected customers have been contacted by email or text message, and will be re-accommodated on other flights or refunded as they wish.

After many years of ignoring workers' attempts to get it to recognise unions, Ryanair finally agreed at the end of 2017.

But staff in a range of countries have continued to have issues with the company's employment practices, in particular its use of contracts based on Irish employment law and its insistence on paying staff through Irish bank accounts, which cause those based elsewhere extra inconvenience and costs.

In a complex industrial relations background, involving different disputes in different countries with cabin crew and pilots with their own grievances, Ryanair broadly says it is offering staff what they have asked for.

But staff in certain parts of the company's cross-border operations plainly do not agree, because the possibility of further strike action remains.

Ryanair said in its statement it “cannot rule out further disruptions in [the third quarter], which may require full-year guidance to be lowered further and may necessitate further trimming of loss-making winter capacity”.

‘Long-term damage'
David Madden, an analysts at CMC Markets, said it was plain Ryanair's aggressive stance was having a negative impact on its business: “In August 2017 the airline's share price hit an all-time high as the company made a concerted effort to improve customer service prior to that, and it clearly paid off.”

He pointed out that since then, the shares had lost 38%

“Clients like cheap airfares, but they value flight certainty more, and the company is running the risk of doing long-term damage to the brand. The airline is still aiming to make over €1bn profit, so it's not like they can't afford to pay their staff well.”

AA blames snow and potholes for slump in half-year profits

Wikimedia/ Editor5807

( via– Wed , 26th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The roadside recovery firm says the worst winter for breakdowns in more than a decade contributed to a slump in half-year profits.

The AA has blamed a 65% fall in pre-tax profits on a surge in demand for roadside help during the winter, with call-outs hitting a 15-year high.

It said the number of breakdowns had sharply increased as a result of freezing conditions during the so-called “Beast from the East”.

The AA said vehicle failures ramped up costs in the first half of its financial year, as over 1,900 stranded members sought help.

It said a “pothole epidemic” had contributed to call-outs – with the poor state of roads in many areas a top complaint among UK businesses.

Profits came in at £28m from the six months to July – down from £80m in the same period last year.

The AA said total Roadside revenues held up despite an anticipated drop in business and personal memberships due to stronger promotional activity among rivals. Revenue at its insurance division was flat.

Shares – down more than 30% in the year to date – fell a further 8% in early trading on Wednesday.

Chief executive Simon Breakwell said: “The first half of FY19 (full year 2019) has seen exceptional weather conditions, from extreme cold and snow in February and March to the hottest summer in recent memory, with the severe winter also creating a pothole ‘epidemic' on the UK's roads.

“All this led to a 15-year-high in the number of breakdowns we serviced.

“Against this backdrop, I am extremely proud of our achievements and to be reporting results in line with our guidance as we continue to build resilience throughout the business.

“We are making good operational progress across our Roadside and Insurance businesses and firmly believe that we have the people and strategy in place to unlock the full potential of the AA and crystallise long term value for our shareholders.

“We remain on-track to meet our Trading EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) guidance for FY19 and to return to growth thereafter.”

By James Sillars, business reporter


Thomas Cook blames summer heatwave for drop in annual profit forecast

Pexels Image

( via – – Mon, 24th Sept, 2018) London, Uk – –

Thomas Cook shares have plunged 23% after it blamed the summer heatwave for a drop in its annual profit forecast.

“Many customers” had put off booking holidays abroad, instead staying at home in June and July to enjoy the sunshine, the holiday firm said.

The company said this had led to “higher than usual levels of discounting” in August and September.

It now expects full-year earnings of £280m, below its earlier forecast of around £323m, which it made in July.

In a separate statement, Thomas Cook also said it would replace its chief financial officer.

Thomas Cook's shares plunged 23% after the warning to 60p. The share price has halved in value since the start of the year.


Thomas Cook usually makes all of its annual profits during the summer.

But it also warned that the impact of the heatwave “is continuing to be felt into winter trading”.

“A downgrade of this size in 2018 is going to have some impact on 2019,” chief executive Peter Fankhauser told investors.

Thomas Cook said a return in popularity of holidays to Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Greece meant that total group bookings for the summer period were 12% higher than the same period last year.

However, average selling prices were 5% lower than last year.

Mr Fankhauser admitted its trading performance was “disappointing”, but said the firm had made “good strategic progress which positions us well to driver further performance improvement”.

The firm warned in July that annual earnings would be at the lower end of market expectations due to more people staying at home rather than booking last-minute holidays.

Shore Capital analyst Greg Johnson said assuming a normal trading environment going forward he expected “some of this year's shortfall to be recovered, although the winter is likely to be tougher”.

He downgraded his rating on the shares from “buy” to “hold” “until we get greater clarity over trading for Summer 2019”.

Patricia Yates, the director of Visit Britain, told the BBC earlier this year that there was a growing trend towards more late bookings, with nearly 80% of all trips being booked within three months of the travel date.

The hot weather in the UK therefore acts as a “timely reminder” to people who are “making a late-call on where to go on holiday”, she said.

In August, Thomas Cook's bigger rival Tui Group reiterated its full-year profit forecast, but said the heatwave meant it was unlikely to exceed its profit prediction.

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook's chief financial officer Bill Scott will leave the company at the end of November, and be replaced on an interim basis by Sten Daugaard, a board member of the company's German business.

A search for a permanent successor would start immediately, the company added.

Aston Martin Luxury British carmaker targets £5 billion valuation for October IPO


( via — Thur, 20th Sept 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin said on Thursday it was seeking a valuation of up to 5.07 billion pounds as it set a price range of 17.50 pounds to 22.50 pounds per share for its stock market flotation.

The company, famed for making the sports car driven by fictional secret agent James Bond, said last month it was pursuing an initial public offering (IPO), the first British carmaker to do so for decades.

The firm is expecting 25 percent of its stock to be floated, nearly 57 million shares.

Aston, which builds all its cars in Britain and is due to open a second facility in the country next year, has warned about the impact of any customs checks as a result of Brexit which could slow down production and adds costs.

London and Brussels hope to conclude a Brexit agreement by the end of the year.

The carmaker, which has long said it could IPO, has undergone a turnaround plan since Chief Executive Andy Palmer took over as CEO in 2014 as it boosts its volumes and expands into new segments.

Palmer said investors would be able to take advantage of future growth if they take part in the flotation.

“Our Second Century Plan gives prospective investors deep insight into how we have executed our turnaround and how we are positioned for growth,” he said.

By Costas Pitas



Volkswagen to halt the production of Beetles in 2019

( via– Fri, 14th Sept, 2018) London, Uk – –

The distinctive car became a global phenomenon, even starring in its own Disney film, after shaking off its links to Nazi Germany.

Volkswagen will halt the production of Beetles in 2019, marking the end of the road for one of the world's most beloved cars.

The German company will introduce two special editions of the vehicle before it stops making the model altogether in July.

Volkswagen is sidelining the Beetle, renowned for its distinctive curved shape and round lights, to focus on producing electric cars and larger family vehicles.

The company has not ruled out bringing the Beetle back in future but says it has no plans at this time.

Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of the Volkswagen Group of America, said in a statement: “As we move to being a full-line, family-focused automaker in the US and ramp up our electrification strategy… there are no immediate plans to replace it.

“But, I would also say, never say never.

“The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle's many devoted fans.”

Volkswagen plans to offer the two final edition models in both coupe and convertible styles before production is stopped.

The cars will include nods to earlier versions and be priced at $23,045 (£17,577) and up.

Beetles became a global phenomenon after managing to shake off their Nazi roots.

The car, originally known simply as Volkswagen, was first developed by Ferdinand Porsche.

The move was supported by Adolf Hitler, who in 1937 formed the state-run Volkswagenwerk, or “The People's Car Company”.

After the Second World War, the Allied countries who defeated Nazi Germany made Volkswagen a priority in an effort to revive the country's auto industry.

The saloon cars made their US debut in the 1950s, but sales were weak, in part owing to their links to the Third Reich.

The advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernback rechristened the car the Beetle in 1959, and began touting its small size as an advantage to consumers, according to the History Channel.

They attained further popularity with the 1968 Disney movie The Love Bug, which told the story of a racing car called Herbie with a mind of its own.

Andy Warhol created prints featuring the Beetle, and the model was also the most prominent car in the background of The Beatles' final album Abbey Road.

US sales ceased in 1979, but the vehicle continued to be produced in Mexico and Brazil, according to Car and Driver.

Volkswagen revived the “New Beetle” in the United States in 1997.

But sales of the car slipped 3.2% to 15,667 in 2017 in the United States, a fraction of the sales for the Jetta and Passat sedans.

At the Detroit Auto Show in January, the German automaker unveiled a revamped version of the Jetta and also touted the Atlas, a new mid-sized SUV.

Volkswagen continues to deal with fallout from the “dieselgate” scandal that broke in September 2015.

The company, having already paid out costly government settlements, is fighting billions of dollars in additional claims lodged by shareholders who saw their stock plummet in value.

It came after authorities cracked down on Volkswagen over the installation of so-called “defeat devices” into 11 million cars worldwide to fool regulatory emissions tests.



British Airways close to striking UK’s largest-ever pension buy-in deal of £4bn with L&G

Wikimedia/Juergen Lehle

( via– Thur, 13th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The trustees of BA's oldest retirement scheme are close to striking the UK's largest-ever pension buy-in deal, Sky News learns.

British Airways (BA) is on the verge of striking a landmark deal‎ to insure more than £4bn of its historic pension liabilities, underlining blue-chip companies' accelerating efforts to reassure investors about their vast financial obligations to former workers.

Sky News has learnt that the trustees of the BA-sponsored Airways Pension Scheme (APS) are close to a pension buy-in deal with Legal & General, one of the largest players in the Pension Risk Transfer industry.

Talks are understood to have been ongoing for months, and sources close to BA said they could be concluded within days.

If successfully completed, the £4.4bn deal would be the largest such transaction ‎ever seen in the UK, according to industry sources.

It would mark a significant step for BA in its efforts to exert a grip on its vast retirement obligations, built up over decades thanks to historically generous pension promises to employees.

The APS, which closed in the 1980s, has approximately 24,000 members, of whom only 200 still work for BA, according to a spokesman for the airline.

It has over £8bn in assets, meaning that the buy-in transaction would account for roughly 60% of the scheme.

A deal would also represent another giant stride by L&G into the sector as it competes with rivals such as Pension Insurance Corporation, Rothesay Life, Aviva and Scottish Widows.

In its most recent financial results, L&G said it had more than £7bn-worth of PRT deals in exclusivity, with the APS scheme understood to account for the majority of that figure.

Pension buy-ins are typically ‎structured by trustees securing a bulk annuity contract from an insurance company.

The insurer then agrees to pay to the trustees specific benefits to all or a proportion of a scheme's members and eligible dependants for the rest of their lives.

BA has been battling for years to shed its reputation as a giant pension scheme with an airline attached, and under Willie Walsh, the ‎chief executive of parent company International Airlines Group, it has seen its financial fortunes revived.

The company is, however, fighting on numerous other fronts, most notably in trying to salvage its reputation after the payment details of hundreds of thousands of customers were stolen last week.

Alex Cruz, the chief executive of BA, has apologised and promised to compensate affected passengers, but has ducked questions about whether he will quit over the hack.

BA has already embarked on other efforts to trim its pensions bill, announcing earlier this year that it would introduce a new company-wide retirement plan that it promised would deliver “a significant upgrade” to more than half its workforce.

It has closed its New Airways Pension Scheme to future accrual and its British Airways Retirement Plan to future contributions.

The company has some of the largest pension obligations in corporate Britain, with almost £24bn of assets in the two previous schemes at the end of last year.

Most final salary, or defined benefit, pension schemes have been closed by blue-chip companies during the last 20 years as they have wrestled with yawning deficits.

The APS had already been the subject of a reinsurance agreement struck last year to protect BA against the ‎prospect of members surviving longer than the funds set aside to pay their pensions.

‎In July, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling in favour of the APS trustees that they could amend the scheme's rules to allow them to grant discretionary increases to retired members.

BA makes deficit repair contributions to the APS of about £55m a year.

Spokesmen for the APS trustees, BA and L&G all declined to comment on Wednesday night.

By Mark Kleinman, City editor


British Airways boss apologises for hacked firm’s security systems

Wikimedia/Juergen Lehle

( via – -Fri, 7 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The chief executive of British Airways has apologised for what he has called a very sophisticated breach of the firm's security systems.

Alex Cruz told the BBC that hackers carried out a “sophisticated, malicious criminal attack” on its website.

The airline said personal and financial details of customers making bookings had been compromised.

About 380,000 transactions were affected, but the stolen data did not include travel or passport details.

BA said the breach took place between 22:58 BST on 21 August and 21:45 BST on 5 September.

Mr Cruz told the BBC's Today programme: “We're extremely sorry. I know that it is causing concern to some of our customers, particularly those customers that made transactions over and app.

“We discovered that something had happened but we didn't know what it was [on Wednesday evening]. So overnight, teams were trying to figure out the extent of the attack.

“The first thing was to find out if it was something serious and who it affected or not. The moment that actual customer data had been compromised, that's when we began immediate communication to our customers.”

BA said all customers affected by the breach had been contacted on Thursday night. The breach only affects those people who bought tickets during the timeframe provided by BA, and not on other occasions.

Mr Cruz added: “At the moment, our number one purpose is contacting those customers that made those transactions to make sure they contact their credit card bank providers so they can follow their instructions on how to manage that breach of data.”

The airline has taken out adverts apologising for the breach in Friday's newspapers.

BA data breach: What do you need to do?
By Simon Read, business reporter


What data was stolen?

BA says hackers stole names, email addresses and credit card information – that would be the credit card number, expiration date and the three digit CVV code on the back of the credit card.

BA insists it did not store the CVC numbers. Security researchers are now speculating the card details were intercepted, as opposed to being harvested from a BA database.

What could the hackers do with the data?

Once fraudsters have your personal information, they may be able to access your bank account, or open new accounts in your name, or use your details to make fraudulent purchases. They could also sell on your details to other crooks.

What do I need to do?

If you've been affected, you should change your online passwords. Then monitor your bank and credit card accounts keeping an eye out for any dodgy transactions. Also be very wary of any emails or calls asking for more information to help deal with the data breach: crooks often pose as police, banks or, in this instance they could pretend to be from BA.

Will my booking be affected?

BA says none of the bookings have been hit by the breach. It said it has contacted all those affected to alert them to the problem with their data, but booked flights should go ahead.

Will there be compensation for me?

If you suffer any financial loss or hardship, the airline has promised to compensate you.

BA customers have expressed their frustration with the airline on social media.

Mat Thomas said he placed a booking on 27 August, but had not been contacted about the breach.

“Atrocious that I had to find out about this via news and twitter,” he tweeted.

“Called bank and had to cancel both mine and my wife's card. Probably won't get it back before we fly (ironically).”

Gemma Theobald tweeted: “My bank… are experiencing extremely high call volumes due to this breach! Couldn't do anything other than cancel my card… not how I wanted to spend my Thursday evening.”

The company could potentially face fines from the Information Commissioner's Office, which is looking into the breach.

Rachel Aldighieri, managing director of the Direct Marketing Association, said: “British Airways has a duty to ensure their customer data is always secure. They need to show that they have done everything possible to ensure such a breach won't happen again.

“The risks go far beyond the fines regulators can issue – albeit that these could be hefty under the new [EU data protection] GDPR regime.”

The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Centre also confirmed they were assessing the incident.

Shares in BA owner IAG fell by 2.5% in early trade on Friday.

‘Flesh wound'
This is not the first customer relations problem to affect the airline in recent times.

In July, BA apologised after IT issues caused dozens of flights in and out of Heathrow Airport to be cancelled.

The month before, more than 2,000 BA passengers had their tickets cancelled because the prices were too cheap.

And in May 2017, serious problems with BA's IT systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted, after all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled.

“It does not indicate that the information systems are the most robust in the airline industry,” Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent, told the BBC.

However, he does not think that BA will be affected in the long term by the breach.

“The airline has immense strength. Notably it's holding a majority of slots at Heathrow, and an enviable safety record, so while this is embarrassing and will potentially cost tens of millions of pounds to resolve, it's more like another flesh wound for BA, rather than anything serious.”



German carmaker Mercedes-Benz challenge Tesla with fully-electric SUV

( via – – Wed, 5th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its first fully-electric car, in a bid to take on US rival Tesla.

The subsidiary of Daimler says the EQC, which has two electric motors, will have a range of more than 450km.

It will start rolling off production lines at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen in 2019.

The firm is investing more than €10bn (£9bn) in the expansion of its electric range, and more than €1bn in battery production.

The new SUV is the first model in a range of ten EQ cars that Mercedes plans to launch by 2022.

With bans on combustion engines looming in the UK and France, and the establishment of a low-emission zones in cities across Europe, major automakers have been scrambling to enter the electric vehicle market.

Until recently, the California-based Tesla, which is struggling to meet production targets and burning through cash, had little competition.

Now, German brands Porsche and Audi are scheduled to produce luxury electric cars, as is Britain's Jaguar.

Earlier this year, the German government ordered Daimler to recall 238,000 vehicles in Germany after they were found to be fitted with illegal software that masks diesel emissions.

Across Europe a total of 774,000 diesel vehicles contain “defeat devices” and Daimler said it would recall them all.

It said it would refit software but denied any wrongdoing.



London’s Crossrail rail link December opening delayed by nearly a year

( via — Fri, 31st Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The opening of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, London’s new Crossrail train line, has been delayed by about nine months because the 15 billion pound scheme requires more time for testing to be completed, it said.

When fully open, the Elizabeth line, as it is officially known, will connect destinations such as Heathrow Airport in west London to areas such as the Canary Wharf financial district in the east.

It is desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding and speed up journeys between key transport hubs in Britain’s capital city. The central section was meant to open in December this year but it has now been delayed until the autumn, Crossrail said.

“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software,” Crossrail said in a statement.

“Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”

More than 200 million passengers are expected to use the Elizabeth line every year once it is operational.

Transport for London said it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

“The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance,” said Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line Managing Director.

By Costas Pitas



Aston Martin Announce London Stock Exchange flotation

( via – – Wed, 29th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Stock market float expected to value luxury carmaker at £5bn

Aston Martin is to float on the London Stock Exchange in a deal that could value James Bond’s favourite sports car brand at about £5bn.

The luxury carmaker announced plans to sell about £1bn worth of shares in the initial public offering (IPO), which chief executive Andy Palmer described as “a key milestone” in the company’s history.

Aston Martin, which was founded in a small London workshop in 1913 and has expanded to become one of the world’s biggest sports car brands, has been debating whether to float its shares in London or New York.

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Aston Martin aims to publish a prospectus including full details of the share sale on 20 September. Eligible employees and customers of the carmaker will be able to apply to buy shares at the offer price.

The flotation will be a big test of the appetite of investors to back British companies, as very few large IPOs are expected before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union in March 2019.

Palmer has said that Brexit is not a huge concern for the company as it sells relatively few cars into continental Europe and is also used to dealing with tariffs in most of its export markets. However, the company imports about two-thirds of its parts from Europe.

The carmaker is hoping to double production to 14,000 vehicles a year as demand from super-rich car enthusiasts increases. The company, which is based in Gaydon in Warwickshire, sold 5,098 cars last year – its highest number in nine years. The fastest growing markets were the US, the UK and China.

Palmer said there had been an explosion of growth in China, with sales up 89% year-on-year. Aston Martin plans to open 10 new showrooms in China.

The company, which suffered a £163m loss in 2016, made a pretax profit of £87m last year on record revenues of £876m.

Aston Martins sold for an average of £160,000 in the first three months of this year – an 11% increase on the same period a year earlier. The company said the increase was due to more buyers choosing to personalise their vehicles with costly design options and special features.

The character of James Bond has driven an Aston Martin intermittently on film since 1964, when he drove a DB5 in Goldfinger. For the following year’s Thunderball, the car was adapted with a water cannon and a boot-stowed jetpack. The DB5 returned in Goldeneye in 1995 and in several Bond films since, including Skyfall and Spectre.

The company last week announced plans to create 25 Goldfinger DB5s complete with some of Bond’s gadgets, including revolving number plates. The cars, which will all come in Bond’s silver birch colour, will cost £2.75m each and will not be road legal.

Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
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The company recently began production of its new Vantage sports car model, which is hand-built in Gaydon. Marking the start of production of the Vantage earlier this year, Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “Aston Martin is an iconic brand that is an integral part of Britain’s proud automotive heritage.

“Through our modern industrial strategy we are building on this success, and the new Vantage is a British-built car exemplifying the skill and innovation that sets the UK auto sector apart from its competitors.”

Next to hit the production line will be the DBS Superleggera, a super-GT with a top speed of 211 mph (340km/h) and 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.4 seconds.

The company is building a new factory in Wales, where it is expected to base production of its Lagonda Vision emissions-free electric sports car.

By Rupert Neate



Toyota and Uber to invest in $500m joint venture driverless car deal

Flickr/Niklas Morberg

( via – – Tue, 28 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Japanese carmaker Toyota is to invest $500m (£387m) in Uber and expand a partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The firm said this would involve the “mass-production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber's ride sharing network.

It is being viewed as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals in the competitive driverless car market.

The deal also values Uber at some $72bn, despite its mounting losses.

That is up 15% since its last investment in May but matches a previous valuation in February.

According to a press release issued by the firms, self-driving technology from each company will be integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles.

Uber halts self-driving tests after death
Uber settles with Waymo on self-driving
The fleet will be based on Toyota's Sienna Minivan model with pilot trials beginning in 2021.

Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing.”

Both Toyota and Uber are seen as lagging behind in developing self-driving cars, as firms such as Waymo, owned by Alphabet, steam ahead.

Uber has also scaled back its self-driving trials after a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, in March, when a self-driving Uber SUV killed a pedestrian.

Since then, the ride-hailing giant has removed its autonomous cars from the road and closed its Arizona operations.

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco
Uber's troubled self-driving car efforts are in need of external help, and this deal with Toyota might provide that expertise. It's of course a terrific opportunity for Toyota, too.

It was reported earlier this month that Uber was sinking around $1m-$2m into its autonomy work every single day. The results of that effort have not been something to be proud of – one fatal crash, one very expensive lawsuit, and not a lot of self-driving compared to the leader in this sector, Waymo.

Sharing the burden, and R&D cost, will delight Uber's investors as it aims for its initial public offering next year.

Meanwhile, shares in Toyota spiked at reports of the deal. Not surprising. Many analysts think personal car ownership will drop dramatically when the self-driving, ride-sharing future is fully upon us – with major companies instead purchasing enormous fleets of vehicles. Toyota, then, may have just secured its biggest ever customer.

The deal extends an existing relationship with Toyota, and furthers Uber's strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships.

The US firm has also teamed up with Daimler, which hopes to own and operate its own self-driving cars on Uber's network.

On Monday, Uber said it planned to focus more on its electric scooter and bike business in future, and less on cars – despite the fact it could hurt profits.

Revenue from its taxi business is rising but the cost of expansion into new areas such as bike sharing and food delivery has meant losses have grown rapidly.