Toys R Us files for bankruptcy in the United States and Canada

( via – – Tue, 19 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Toy giant Toys R Us has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and Canada as the retailer struggles under its heavy debt load and a shift towards online shopping.

The retailer said it was beginning a court-supervised process that allows it to restructure its finances while remaining open for business.

It said operations in Europe, Asia and Australia are not included in the Chapter 11 filing, which is often referred to as a “reorganisation” bankruptcy.

Toys R Us has a debt pile of more than £3.5bn, which is largely a result of a leveraged buyout in 2005, when it was taken private by  Bain Capital, KKR, and Vornado Realty Trust.

The company has around 1,600 stores worldwide, employing more than 60,000 staff.

“We are confident that we are taking the right steps to ensure that the iconic Toys R Us and Babies R Us brands live on for many generations,” said chief executive Dave Brandon.

“Our customers around the world can continue to count on an outstanding shopping experience and excellent service whenever, wherever and however they choose to shop with us.

“As the holiday season approaches, our global team members are ready to serve the millions of kids and families who will be shopping with us.”

By Sam Dean

The number of people on zero hours contracts in the UK falls

Tim Tabor/flickr

( via – – Tue, 19 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

The number of people on zero hours contracts in the UK has fallen slightly, according to the latest official figures.

Between April and June 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 883,000 people were on contracts that do not guarantee work.

This is 2.2% lower than the figure from the same period in 2016.

However, the proportion of British workers on zero-hours contracts remained broadly flat at 2.8%.

In July, a government review of employment practices said too many employers and businesses were relying on zero-hours, short-hours or agency contracts, when they could be more forward-thinking in their scheduling.

It did not call for a ban, but did suggest reforms such as reclassifying workers for platform-based firms such as Uber as “dependent contractors” and improving in-work training.

The prime minister said the government would take the report's recommendations seriously.

PwC revealed Black and Asian employees payed less

( via – – Mon, 18 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Global professional services firm PwC has revealed that it pays its Black, Asian and minority-ethnic staff almost 13 per cent less than other employees.

In a report on Monday, the company said that it had published the figures in an effort to “shine the spotlight on ethnicity in the workplace and encourage organisations to take action”.

“We need to start looking beyond the narrow lense of gender, otherwise true workplace diversity won’t be achieved,” said Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC.

From April next year, companies across the UK employing more than 250 people will have to publish their gender pay gap figures on their websites.

They must provide the mean and median gender pay gap in hourly pay as well as the mean and median bonus gap, the proportion of males and females receiving a bonus and the proportion of males and females in each pay quartile.

PwC said that it had calculated its BAME pay and bonus gaps using the same methodology as the Government requires for the gender pay gap, based on the data the firm has available from employees.

Its BAME pay gap is currently 12.8 per cent and the BAME bonus gap is 35.4 per cent. The pay gap, it said, is entirely driven by the fact that there are more non-BAME staff in senior higher-paid roles and more BAME staff in junior administrative roles.

“Our priority is to do all we can to retain our junior BAME talent and improve rates of progression to senior management levels,” Mr Ellis said.

“We’re aiming to achieve this through stronger accountability across our business to deliver our gender and ethnicity targets, monitoring our pipelines on a more regular basis and making sure that all of our people can benefit from the most stretching of client engagements,” he said.

“We are also talking to our BAME employees to understand their sense of working at PwC to see if there are any barriers we can address.”

In July, a study conducted by the Chartered Management Institute– a professional management body—in collaboration with the British Academy of Management, showed that fewer than one in 10 management jobs in the UK are currently held BAME employees.

It also showed that only 21 per cent of FTSE 100 leaders publish their current diversity levels and only 54 per cent are seen to be actively championing greater diversity in their companies

By Josie Cox

London suffer the highest level of business fraud in Britain

Michael Duxbury/

( via – – Mon, 18 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

British businesses lost at least £40m last year from frauds perpetrated by their own employees, with London accounting for the largest chunk by far, new data published today has revealed.

Losses from employee fraud were highest in the Greater London area covered by the Metropolitan Police, at £7m in 2016/17, according to government figures obtained by accountants RSM.

City of London businesses suffered the second-largest losses, at £4.7m, meaning London as a whole accounted for 29 per cent of the total losses from employee fraud reported to ActionFraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre.

Meanwhile the average size of the frauds reported in the City of London was the second-highest in the UK, at £338,380, with only Gloucestershire experiencing a higher rate of losses.

Essex businesses were hit by the third-highest losses, at £4.4m.

The number of cases of fraud has risen steadily over the last decade, according to Cifas, a fraud prevention body.

Staff simply stealing cash from their company is the most common reported internal fraud, accounting for more than a fifth of fraud cases. The second most common employee fraud is the manipulation of third-party accounts held by friends or families, Cifas reported earlier this year.

The true extent of losses is thought to be significantly higher: the Office for National Statistics reports that crime surveys of England and Wales show a “substantially higher” incidence of fraud than official reporting.

Akhlaq Ahmed, forensic partner at RSM, said: “The levels of reported employee fraud and the resulting losses are already high, but this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, a great deal of employee fraud goes unnoticed and unreported, and businesses are simply not doing enough to prevent losses.”

He added: “In our experience, fraud is often carried out by employees who may have been in post for some time and who know where the weak points are. They can often be motivated by greed, lifestyle aspirations, debts or addictions.”

By Jasper Jolly

The steepest funicular railway in Europe has a 106% incline


Gelmerbahn in the canton of Bern, Switzerland, is the steepest funicular in Europe.

It has an inclination of up to 106% and a 1,028m (3,373ft) long track.

It takes you to the Gelmer Valley 1860m (6,102ft) above sea level, where you can enjoy some spectacular views.

The funicular was originally built to transport heavy construction materials.

Equifax’s victim attempt to set up credit monitoring and freeze on her account


143 million people were affected by the Equifax hack and CNNMoney's Personal Finance Reporter Katie Lobosco was one of the victims. Watch Katie attempt to set up Equifax's credit monitoring service and place a freeze on her credit.

JD Wetherspoon shares jumped 9% after reported rise in full year sales and profits.

( via – – Fri, 15 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Shares in JD Wetherspoon have jumped 9% after the pub group reported a rise in full-year sales and profits.

In the year to 30 July, profits before exceptional items rose 27.6% to £102.8m with total sales up 4.1% to £1.66bn.

Like-for-like sales – which strip out the impact of pub openings and closures – rose 4%, and are up 6.1% since the start of August.

However, Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said the recent pace of sales growth would not continue.

“Comparisons will become more stretching – and sales, which were very strong in the summer holidays, are likely to return to more modest levels,” he said.

Wetherspoon was the biggest riser on the FTSE 250 index, although the index was down 78.91 points at 19,445.03.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 32.19 points to 7,263.20. Cruise firm Carnival was the biggest faller on the index, down 3.4%, after Credit Suisse cut its rating in the company to “neutral”.

On the currency markets, the pound hit a year-high against the dollar as traders continued to react to Thursday's comments from the Bank of England which suggested interest rates could rise later this year.

In early trade the pound was up a further 0.25% against the dollar at $1.3432, and was 0.2% higher against the euro at 1.1264 euros.


Ryanair loses legal battle with European Court on Cabin Crew Contracts


Low cost carrier, Ryanair has insisted that a ruling by the European Court of Justice will not change the current status of employment contracts for thousands of its staff.

The Luxembourg based ECJ said on Thursday that the airline was wrong to force cabin crew based outside Ireland to take their disputes with the company to Irish courts.

Despite losing the case, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary remained defiant following the decision.

John Lewis profits slides to 53% over the past six months

Roberto Herrett/flickr

( via – – Thu, 14 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Profits at John Lewis Partnership have more than halved in the past six months as the group behind the department store chain and Waitrose has been hit by costs associated with overhauling the business and weakened customer demand from inflationary pressures and political uncertainty.

Pre-tax profits tumbled by 53.3pc to £26.6m during the six months to 29 July after it had to absorb £56.4m of costs from making a number of redundancies related to restructuring staff roles at Waitrose and John Lewis as it adapts to changing shopping behaviours.

At John Lewis, total sales grew by 2.3pc, helped by the launch of its new exclusive brand AND/OR, while like-for-like sales edged 0.1pc higher. Operating profits before the exceptional items jumped by 38.7pc to £50.2m.

Meanwhile, at Waitrose, total sales grew by 2.3pc to £3.2bn while like-for-like sales inched 0.7pc higher. Waitrose’s operating profits before exceptional items fell by 17.4pc to £100.8m after the upmarket grocer absorbed the higher costs associated with the weaker pound, rather than passing it on to customers in the ongoing intensely competitive supermarket price war.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman, said: “As we anticipated in our full year results in March, the first half of the year has seen inflationary pressures driven by exchange rates and political uncertainty. These have dampened consumer demand, especially in categories connected to the housing market.”

By  Ashley Armstrong

BoE governor Mark Carney unveils the new plastic £10 note at Winchester Cathedral


The new plastic £10 note has been unveiled by Bank of England governor Mark Carney at Winchester Cathedral.

The note, which follows the polymer £5, will be issued on 14 September and has a portrait of Jane Austen on the 200th anniversary of the author's death.

It is also the first Bank of England note to include a tactile feature to help visually impaired people.

Meanwhile, a limited supply of a new £2 coin honouring Jane Austen has been put into circulation by the Royal Mint.

The coin will initially only be available in tills at key locations in the Winchester and Basingstoke areas that have connections with Austen, including Winchester Cathedral and the Jane Austen House Museum.
It will be circulated more widely across the UK later this year.

UK’s high street banks are an accident waiting to happen according think tank Adam Smith Institute

( via – – Wed, 13 Sept, 2017) London, Uk – –

Bank of England’s stress tests are not gruelling enough, says report to mark 10 years since run on Northern Rock

The UK’s high street banks are an accident waiting to happen and could struggle in another financial crisis, according to a report published on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the run on Northern Rock.

The report criticises the annual health checks – stress tests – that have been conducted by the Bank of England since the crisis and concludes that the methodology used by Threadneedle Street is flawed and the tests not gruelling enough.

Queues started to form outside Northern Rock branches across the UK on 14 September 2007 after the BBC reported that the Newcastle-based lender had received emergency funding from the Bank of England. It was the first run on a high street bank in the UK since Overend & Gurney in the 1860s and after attempts to find a buyer failed, the bank was nationalised in February 2008.

Kevin Dowd, a professor of finance and economics at Durham University and a long-standing critic of the stress tests, said the Bank does not use the correct measures to assess the health of the banking system. Dowd is also a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, a rightwing thinktank.

His analysis – which the Bank of England has previously rejected – focuses on the health check of the major lenders published last November . Those tests were based on a number of hypothetical scenarios including house prices falling and the global economy contracting by 1.9%. Royal Bank of Scotland failed the test and Barclays and Standard Chartered would both have struggled to cope.

Dowd argued that the scenarios were “hardly doomsday” and disputes the way banks’ capital strength is measured.

“The stress tests are about as useful as a cancer test that cannot detect cancer. They seek to demonstrate a financial resilience on the part of UK banks that simply isn’t there,” said Dowd in the report. “Our banking system is an accident waiting to happen.”

The Bank uses the value of assets as calculated by the banks rather than their value on the markets which, he argued, would give a more accurate assessment of their financial health.

The leverage of banks has fallen by about a third since 2006 on the first measure but, according to Dowd, has increased by a half on the second.

“It is disturbing that 10 years on from Northern Rock, the best measures of leverage – those based on market values – indicate that UK banks are even more leveraged than they were then,” said Dowd.

The Bank of England did not comment on the new report but the subject was the topic of a hearing of the Treasury select committee in January. Bank officials had said the amount of capital in the system in the crisis had been increased and defended the stress tests as being as tough as during the financial crisis. Some of Dowd’s calculations included double counting, officials said.

Dowd said he had met the Bank officials after that select committee meeting but did not disclose the details of their discussions.

By Jill Treanor

Ian King speaks to former aid worker Andrew MacLeod on rebuilding British Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma


Andrew MacLeod is Non-Executive Chairman of Griffin Law and a former humanitarian aid worker, who was Chief of Operations of the UN Emergency Coordination Centre in Pakistan. He speaks to Ian King about what will be needed to help the British Virgin Islands rebuild after Hurricane Irma.

Inflation jump of 2.9% puts squeeze on UK households

( via – – Tue, 12 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Inflation in Britain rose at the joint-fastest pace in four years in August, remaining above the Bank of England's 2% target for the sixth consecutive month, after breaking through the threshold for the first time in three years in March.

According to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday (12 September), inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 2.9% year-on-year last month, compared with the 2.6% growth recorded in July, and above and analysts' expectations for a 2.8% reading.

This is only the second time inflation has hit the 2.9% mark in four years, the first being in May 2017.

On a monthly basis, inflation climbed 0.6%, after slipping 0.1% in the previous month. Analysts had expected a 0.5% increase.

The ONS said that rising prices for clothing and fuel were the main contributors to the increase. Air fares also rose between July and August but the rise was smaller than between the same two months a year ago, which partly offset the increase in other categories.

Meanwhile, core inflation, which excludes volatile items such as energy prices, rose 2.7% year-on-year, higher than the 2.4% growth recorded in the previous month and beating expectations for a 2.5% reading. The figure was also the highest on record since 2011.

The latest report is in line with the forecast issued by the BoE last month, when the Bank said it expected CPI inflation to peak at 3% in October this year. Inflation is then forecast to fall to 2.6% in 2018, before settling at 2.2% in both 2019 and 2020 respectively.

However, economists suggested the latest figure has put fresh pressure on the BoE to change their stance towards the monetary policy.

“The number is simply a nightmare for the BoE,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK. “The members of the policy makers are already split in their decision and now the market would expect more hawkish tone on Thursday. However, it is important to keep in mind that this kind of inflation which is not supported by higher wages is simply a bad inflation.”

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, added: “It looks likely that inflation will fall back in the coming months, as the effect of Brexit-induced sterling weakness falls out of the year-on-year calculation.

“Indeed it's possible that 2.9% will be the highest we see in the current cycle. Mark Carney will certainly be hoping so, as it will save him the trouble of writing to the chancellor to explain himself.

Beyond the currency effect there appear to be few underlying inflationary pressures.

The inflation data comes only a day before the release of the latest snapshot of Britain's labour market, which is expected to show average weekly earnings excluding bonuses only grew 2.2% year-on-year in July.

Economists have previously warned the squeeze on households was being exacerbated by subdued wage growth.

By Dan Cancian

JD Sports to forecast jump in sales

( via – – Tue, 12 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

JD is limbering up to report a jump in sales this week, as it bids to ­allay fears that demand for trendy trainers and yoga outfits is waning.

The sportswear retailer’s shares have been on a rollercoaster ride driven by concern its growth may come to an abrupt halt, as suffered by US rival Foot Locker last month.

Fears over JD Sports have also been stoked by Nike’s deal to directly sell products on Amazon, and signs that old rival Sports Direct is beginning to turn itself around following a calamitous couple of years.

For the past two years JD Sports’s growth has been propelled by the trend for so-called “athleisure” clothing – a term given to the most fashionable and expensive sportswear – which has prompted shoppers to switch their jeans for lycra.

However, analysts Quo Vadis Capital have warned that “athleisure is over” following Foot Locker’s first drop in like-for-like sales since 2008. “We predict several years of pain for the companies that compete in this arena,” they added. Foot Locker executives blamed a lack of innovation by sportswear brands in the last quarter for sluggish sales.

However, Barclays said that the risk to JD Sports was “exaggerated” and that the British company’s international expansion and strong supplier relationships would continue to deliver growth.

Despite the concerns about the health of the wider athleisurewear market, analysts still expect JD Sports’s half-year sales to top £1bn, an increase of 30pc.

The City is generally expecting pre-tax profits to have risen by more than 21pc to £94m. “A marked decline in the share price over the last quarter is unwarranted, in our view, with a perceived increase in possible competitive pressures from the likes of Amazon, as well as the likes of Asos and Sports Direct,” said George Mensah, analyst at Shore Capital.

“We see the company as one of the strongest plays within the retail sector, and see recent share price weakness as an opportunity for investors to buy stock.”

By Ashley Armstrong

Primark strong sales performance helps owner AB Foods increase profits

( via — Mon, 11 Sept 2017) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Associated British Foods (ABF.L) raised its forecast for full- year results on Monday following a strong performance by bargain fashion retailer Primark.

A sharp fall in the value of sterling since last year’s Brexit vote, combined with below-inflation pay increases, has eaten into household budgets in Britain, forcing shoppers to tighten their belts and become more price-conscious.

As a result Primark has continued to perform well, with UK like-for-like sales up over 4 percent during the 2016-17 year and its share of the total UK clothing market up “significantly”, the company said in a trading statement.

“What really comes through in this market is value,” Finance Director John Bason told Reuters.

AB Foods said Primark’s 2016-17 overall sales would be 13 percent ahead of last year at constant currency, with like-for-like sales up 1 percent.

Primark’s full-year operating profit margin was forecast to be better than the first half’s 10 percent, ahead of previous guidance.

The fashion retailer added 1.5 million square feet of selling space in 2016-17 and plans 1.2 million in 2017-18.

Primark accounts for about half of AB Foods’ profit.

The group, which also has major sugar, grocery, agriculture and ingredients businesses, forecast “good” growth in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share (EPS) for its year to Sept. 16. It made EPS of 106.2 pence in 2015-16.


Prior to Monday’s update shares in AB Foods, majority owned by the family of Chief Executive George Weston, had increased 19 percent this year and hit a 52-week high earlier this month.

However, they were down 2.8 percent at 3,173 pence at 1048 GMT, reflecting some concern over competition and cost pressures in the UK bread market.

The group has a stock market value of 25.4 billion pounds – some 10 billion pounds more than Tesco (TSCO.L), Britain’s biggest retailer.

AB Foods also said it expected to end the year with net cash of 650 million pounds ($857 million) versus net debt of 315 million pounds in 2015-16.

Some of this cash will be absorbed by the purchase of Acetum, the Italian producer of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, whose brands include Mazzetti, Acetum and Fini, that was also announced on Monday.

Apple new iPhone X revealed via apparent leak

Roger Schultz/

( via – – Mon, 11 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak.

Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operating system.

The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users' expressions onto emojis.

One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm.

Apple is holding a launch event at its new headquarters on Tuesday.

The California-based company takes great efforts to keep its technologies secret until its showcase events, and chief executive Tim Cook spoke in 2012 of the need to “double down” on concealment measures.

Some details about the new devices had, however, already been revealed in August, when Apple published some test code for its HomePod speakers.

But while that was thought to have been a mistake, it has been claimed that the latest leak was an intentional act of sabotage.

“As best I've been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses],” wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple.

“Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee.”

Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources.

However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11's golden master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple's own computer servers.

GM is a term commonly used by software firms to indicate that they believe a version of a product is ready for release.

“More surprises were spoiled by this leak than any leak in Apple history,” Mr Gruber added.

Apple could not be reached for comment.

Sand artists built the world’s tallest sandcastle


An international team of sand artists have built the world's tallest sandcastle in Germany.

Travel company Schauinsland-Reisen initiated the project, hoping to bring the world record to Duisburg after the city's attempt failed last year.

After almost a month of construction, the finished sandcastle stood at 16.68 metres and was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the tallest sandcastle in the world.