Claim against Asda given go-ahead to proceed with equal pay case

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 14 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Britain's no.3 supermarket chain Asda could be forced to pay out millions of pounds to workers after a group of employees were given the go-ahead to proceed with a claim against the chain, which is owned by Walmart (WMT.N).

An employment judge ruled on Friday that over 7,000 mostly female Asda store workers can compare themselves to higher-paid mostly male colleagues who work in distribution centres, allowing their equal pay claim to proceed through legal channels.

Asda said it maintained its position that the jobs were not comparable, and that it was considering appealing against the ruling.
“We continue to strongly dispute the claims being made against us,” it said in a statement. “We believe that the demands of the jobs are very different and are considering our options for appeal.”

The equal pay case comes as a blow to Asda as it seeks to reverse a dramatic slump in sales, having lagged its peers for two years and lost market share.

Law firm Leigh Day, representing the claimants, said in a statement that Asda could owe workers over 100 million pounds in wages going back to 2002 should the case be found in the claimants' favour.

It added that the ruling was encouraging for other claims it is bringing on behalf of a group of 400 workers from another British supermarket, Sainsbury's (SBRY.L).

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison)

Tesco and Unilever price standoff leaves online shoppers with out Marmite

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Thur, 13 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The true cost of Brexit hit home for U.K. shoppers as Unilever’s iconic Marmite spread and a host of other products remained absent from Tesco Plc’s online store Thursday because of a standoff over price increases triggered by the Brexit vote.

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain said Wednesday that it’s “currently experiencing availability issues on a number of Unilever products,” and aims to have the issue resolved soon. Unilever, which reported a decline in third-quarter sales volumes Thursday, told analysts that it was “confident” the issue would be resolved quickly, noting that the U.K. accounts for just 5 percent of its business.
The dispute lays bare the close ties between Tesco and its third-largest supplier, which produces household brands like Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and was Tesco Chief Executive Officer Dave Lewis’s longtime employer. Unilever, along with other consumer-product makers like Nestle SA, is facing heightened sourcing costs from a plunge in the pound since the June vote to leave the European Union, yet passing those expenses along to retailers will be difficult with U.K. grocers already locked in fierce competition.
“Tough price negotiations are a constant factor of the relationship between food manufacturers and retailers, and are going to be very tough in the U.K. following the Brexit vote,” Andrew Wood, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in a note. “But they rarely break out in public or lead to de-stocking of manufacturer products.”
Top Customers
Tesco is Unilever’s third-biggest customer after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co., accounting for 2.3 percent of its revenue, according to Bloomberg data.
The Guardian newspaper has reported that Unilever wants to raise prices by about 10 percent because of the fall in sterling. Among Unilever’s brands to exit the Tesco web store were Persil detergent, Flora margarine and more than 100 products in the Dove range of body care. A check of Tesco.com Thursday morning showed the products were still unavailable.
For a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis of the price dispute, click here
“Retailers’ margins are already squeezed,” Justin King, former CEO of J Sainsbury Plc, said at an event hosted by Bloomberg in London on Wednesday. “So there is no room to absorb input price pressures and costs will need to be passed on.”
The Brexit vote has already affected pricing of products ranging from floor coverings to toilet paper. Unilever was among companies that lobbied voters to remain in the European Union, while supermarkets including Tesco took a more neutral stance ahead of the vote in a bid not to alienate either faction of consumers. Sainsbury and Wm. Morrison Supermarkets Plc declined to comment on their relationships with Unilever. Wal-Mart’s Asda unit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The question is whether Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose and others are taking it on the chin or if they will play hardball too,” Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotiabank in London, said in a note. “What about other suppliers — Unilever is probably not a one-off trying to pass on higher input costs.”
Chocolate, Cheese
Food companies such as KitKat maker Nestle and Swiss dairy concern Emmi AG have both said they will look to raise prices in the U.K. to respond to the plunge in sterling. Nestle is due to report third-quarter sales Oct. 20.
“The margin in the U.K. will be lower next year than this year or last year, that’s for sure,” Emmi Chief Executive Officer Urs Riedener said on Oct. 6. “We’re obliged to push price increases in most of the segments.”

Any dispute between Tesco and Unilever would be particularly touchy for Lewis, the Unilever veteran. Tesco has sought to improve relations with its vendors in the wake of an accounting scandal and criticism from a grocery industry regulator. The tussle also risks damaging Unilever’s reputation as a good corporate citizen, an image that Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman has sought to enhance in recent years.
“This sort of standoff benefits no one,” said Bryan Roberts, an analyst at researcher TCC Global. “Unilever will lose market share by not being in Tesco, and shoppers will feel a huge degree of frustration. A speedy resolution would be in everyone’s best interests.”

Matthew Boyle /Paul Jarvis

Confidence returns to British housing market as prices are set to soar

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Thur, 13 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Britain's house prices are set to soar as there are more people rushing into the housing market, but not enough people are selling their homes.

According to new data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), there has been a “significant turnaround in new buyer enquiries compared to June”when the EU referendum took place, but there is a slump in people actually putting houses on the market.

This only means one thing — there are too many people looking to buy a home and not enough to go around. Considering this is a key problem for Britain's housing market anyway, because there is a dearth in supply and homes are not being built fast enough, this will elevate prices for some time to come.

“The market does now appear to be settling down following the significant headwinds encountered through the spring and summer. Buyers do appear to be returning, albeit relatively slowly, but the big issue that continues to be highlighted by respondents is the lack of fresh stock on the market,” said Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS.

“Although this is not a new story, it is a significant one having ramifications for both prices and the level of turnover. Central London remains something of an outlier with contributors telling us this is the one part of the market where there may be further give on prices in the near term. Elsewhere the price trend still seems on the up.”

RICS points out that the number of new instructions being received by estate agents has hit historic lows.

“This drop in new properties coming to the market continues a pattern that extends back to the middle of 2014 with a brief exception around the turn of the year when some vendors saw opportunity linked to the April hike in stamp duty for investors,” said RICS.

And the impact on prices is over the next three months is that, nationally, they will rise. According to RICS' UK Residential Market Survey, 14% more respondents expect to see an increase. RICS says “this is the strongest reading since March and compares with +9% in August.”

By Lianna Brinded

 

UK economy set for £66 billion annual loss without Single Market access

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Wed, 12 Oct, 2016) London, Uk – –

Britain's government predicts that a “Hard Brexit” — Britain leaving the European Union without access to the Single Market — will cost the UK £66 billion ($81.2 billion) a year in lost tax revenues.

According to “leaked government papers” seen by The Times newspaper, the UK Treasury is warning cabinet ministers that the country's GDP could fall as much as 9.5% because it would have to rely on the World Trade Organisation rules for trading and therefore it would miss out on more favourable trading tariffs that come with being a member of the 28-nation bloc.

The Treasury expects both trade and foreign investment in Britain to be around a fifth lower than it otherwise would have been if the UK relies on WTO rules for trade. This would also have a knock-on negative effect for productivity, hence the huge drop in tax receipts.

The leaked document is apparently a “draft cabinet committee paper, ” which is intended to inform those in charge of negotiating Britain's exit from the EU.

The Times says the drop in tax revenue is the equivalent of 65% of the annual budget for Britain's National Health Service, showing just how huge a loss it would be to the UK.

Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23. Since then, prime minister Theresa May has repeatedly said that “Brexit means Brexit” and pledged to pull the UK out of the 28-nation bloc with the best deal possible. However it is looking like Britain is going to have a “Hard Brexit” no matter what, judging by May and her cabinet's stance on immigration.

Simon Wells and his team of economists at HSBC said in their client note earlier this month that “immigration control appears a higher priority than full Single Market access,” following the PM's speech at the Conservative party conference.

Britain has pretty much been given a choice by EU officials between controlling immigration and access to the Single Market. While no official negotiations can actually start until May triggers Article 50, which officially gives the UK two years to negotiate its exit with EU officials, the UK government's repetition on focusing on immigration instead of access to the Single Market all points to a “Hard Brexit.”

Britain cannot have best of both worlds. Taking greater control of immigration by opting out the Freedom of Movement Act, which allows any EU citizen to enter the country, means that the country will have to relinquish its single market membership — like Turkey.

If the UK wants single market access, it will have to adhere to EU immigration rules — like Norway.

By Lianna Brinded

London 8,400 finance jobs openings chased by 15,000 in September

Qlm referencing: (qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Wed, 12 Oct, 2016) London, Uk – –

The number of new available jobs in the the UK's financial centre fell 5% in September year-on-year to 8,400, according to a survey by Morgan McKinley, while the number of people seeking jobs increased by 15%.
Month-on-month the number of fresh open positions increased by 1% in September, stabilising from a post-Brexit collapse in Luly.
Those who did find new jobs in September got an average of a 18% pay rise.
In July, the survey reported that the number of new City jobs plunged 27% while the number of people seeking them dropped 13%.
“Clearly there’s an ongoing appetite to recruit,” said Hakan Enver, operations director at Morgan McKinley Financial Services, adding: “Given the volatility that we have been facing, two months of positive growth is welcome news.”

Brexit, and the future status of London as the European Union's financial centre, has been the main focus for those entering the City's job market.
Prime minister Theresa May's government has raised the possibility of a so-called “Hard Brexit,” which prioritises control over immigration, as opposed to maintaining some economic links in return for concessions on Freedom of Movement.
Such a move would also lead to the automatic loss of the City of London's EU financial passport. The loss of passporting rights would be devastating to the City of London. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said earlier this year that 5,500 UK companies rely on passporting rights, with a combined turnover of £9 billion.
“Given the number of businesses affected in Britain and across the EU, and the massive contributions made by City workers to the British economy, it’s frankly shocking to see the government take such a dismissive attitude towards passporting,” said Enver.
“Stability is the foundation of business growth, so hopefully the government will right this course. If we are not careful, London will have a massive talent drain to countries such as France, Germany, USA, Japan and Ireland who have already turned on a charm offensive to woo our professional workforce,” he said.

By Ben Moshinsky

Shares decline for Twitter as possible bidders lose interest

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 10 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Twitter Inc's (TWTR.N) shares slumped more than 13 percent in early trading on Monday after a weekend Bloomberg report that top potential bidders, including Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N), had lost interest in making a bid for the company.

Salesforce, Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), which had worked with banks on a potential acquisition, are unlikely to proceed, Bloomberg reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Twitter had planned to hold a board meeting with outside advisers on Friday to discuss a sale but canceled, Bloomberg reported, citing one person familiar with the matter. (bloom.bg/2dAlT7J)

Twitter's shares plunged about 20 percent over the final two days of last week after technology website Recode reported that Google, Disney and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) were not interested in the company, which put itself up for potential sale last month.

Twitter's stock fell to $17.21 on Monday, the lowest in more than two months.

At that price, the company has a market value of $12.18 billion, compared with almost $53 billion at its peak in December 2013.

Salesforce shares rose 5.3 percent to $74.65. Analysts and investors had raised concerns that a takeover of Twitter could severely hit the cloud software maker's market value.

Salesforce Chief Executive Mark Benioff had publicly expressed his interest in Twitter, but stopped short of saying the company would make a bid.

Twitter, struggling with stagnant user growth and continuing losses, had told potential acquirers it wanted any deliberations on a sale to conclude by the time it reported third-quarter results on Oct. 27, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Many investors and analysts believe that Twitter, co-founded and run by Jack Dorsey, does not have a clear back-up plan if it is not acquired.

ALSO IN TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Dorsey, who returned to Twitter as interim CEO in July 2015 and became permanent chief executive last October, has made a big push into live video, signing deals with a number of media companies and sports organizations to stream major events such as the presidential debates and Thursday Night NFL games.

Up to Friday's close, the stock had lost nearly a quarter of its value since Dorsey took over as permanent CEO.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr)

Samsung halts production of Note 7 due to continuing woes

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 10 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

By Se Young Lee | SEOUL

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has suspended production of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, a source said on Monday, after reports of fires in replacement devices added to the tech giant's worst ever recall crisis.

Top U.S. and Australian carriers also suspended sales or exchanges of Note 7s, while major airlines reiterated bans on passengers using the phones, after smoke from a replacement device forced the evacuation of a passenger plane in the United States last week.

Fires in phones that were meant to replace devices that had been recalled because of their propensity to explode would be a disaster for the world's largest smartphone maker, suggesting it had failed to fix a problem that has already hurt its brand and threatens to derail a recovery in its mobile business.

“If the Note 7 is allowed to continue it could lead to the single greatest act of brand self-destruction in the history of modern technology,” said Eric Schiffer, brand strategy expert and chairman of Reputation Management Consultants.

 

 

 

“Samsung needs to take a giant write-down and cast the Note 7 to the engineering hall of shame next to the Ford Pinto.”

In a regulatory filing, Samsung said it was “adjusting” shipments of Note 7s to allow for inspections and stronger quality control due to some devices catching fire.

It did not comment on the production halt or the cause of the fires, while the source – who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media – did not explain whether specific problems had been identified or when production was halted.

A Samsung official told Reuters earlier on Monday it was investigating reports of “heat damage issues” and would take immediate action to fix any problems in line with measures approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

On Sept. 2, Samsung announced a global recall of 2.5 million Note 7s due to faulty batteries which caused some of the phones to catch fire.

It ordered new batteries from another supplier and started shipping replacements to customers just two weeks later. But similar problems arose with a replacement Note 7 on Oct. 5, which began smoking inside a Southwest Airline flight in the United States.

Samsung shares, which have rebounded after an initial sell-off on the recall, closed down 1.5 percent, compared with a 0.2 percent rise for the broader market.

“I think the cleanest thing to do is to give up on the Note 7,” said HDC Asset Management fund manager Park Jung-hoon, whose fund owns Samsung shares.

“What's scary is that this is causing people to repeatedly doubt Samsung's fundamental capabilities, so it's important for Samsung to get past this issue quickly.”

Samsung's recall crisis has coincided with pressure from one of the world's most aggressive hedge funds, Elliott Management, to split the company and pay out $27 billion in a special dividend.

AIRPLANE BAN

Major airlines, air regulators and airport authorities reiterated bans on passengers using the phones, saying Note 7s should not be powered up or charged on board.

A South Korean government agency said it was monitoring reports of the fires and warned that the recalled Note 7 devices should not be used or charged inside airplanes.

RELATED COVERAGE

Samsung Electronics' Galaxy Note 7 recall crisis
Mobile carriers also took action.

Verizon Communications Inc , the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier, said on Monday it would suspend the exchange of replacement Note 7s, and would allow customers to exchange the replacement for another smartphone.

AT&T Inc, the No.2 U.S. wireless carrier, said earlier that it would stop issuing replacement Note 7s and would let customers with a recalled Note 7 exchange that device for another Samsung smartphone or other smartphone of their choice.

No.3 wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc also said it was temporarily halting sales of new Note 7s as well as exchanges while Samsung investigated “multiple reports of issues” with its flagship device.

T-Mobile offered customers who brought in their Note 7s a $25 credit on their phone bill.

Australia's largest carrier, Telstra Corp, said Samsung had paused supply of new Note 7s, while fellow Australian carriers Optus and Vodafone said they had stopped issuing new Note 7s.

South Korea's two largest mobile carriers, SK Telecom and KT Corp, said they were monitoring the situation.

(Additional reporting by Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru and Nataly Pak in Seoul; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Stephen Coates and Ted Kerr)

 

British companies show steady hiring for September but pay growth slows for temporary workers

 

Employment
Seeking out a job by Sarah Hartley/ Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 7 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

British companies kept hiring staff last month after a brief lull around June's European Union membership referendum, but pay growth for temporary workers slowed, a monthly survey of recruitment agencies showed on Friday.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said businesses hired permanent staff last month at a similar rate to August after cutbacks in June and July, while a separate YouGov/Cebr survey of businesses showed a rebound in morale.

But pay rates for temporary staff rose at the slowest pace in more than three years, pointing to a risk that higher inflation could catch up with wage growth, the REC said.

“We hope the government will address this issue … with fiscal stimulus. This should help to settle the nerves so that employers feel confident enough to keep hiring,” REC policy director Tom Hadley said.

The REC also said Britain faced skill shortages and would continue to need workers from overseas in sectors such as engineering and healthcare.

“The business community must have a role in developing an immigration model that strikes the right balance,” Hadley said.

Prime Minister Theresa May pledged earlier this week to curb migration from the EU. One of her ministers proposed requiring firms to state how many immigrants they employed and take steps to train more British staff.

A monthly survey by polling company YouGov and economics consultancy Cebr showed business sentiment had returned to the level seen in May and June, after a sharp fall in July and a partial recovery in August.

YouGov's Stephen Harmston said sentiment could deteriorate once businesses had taken on board May's emphasis on curbing EU migration in her speech at this week's Conservative Party conference, rather than on maintaining full access to the bloc's single market.

“We will have to wait to see whether the rebound in confidence is itself hard and resilient to such talk or whether it is soft and causes another spasm of panic among organisations,” Harmston said.

“Whichever it is, these figures could well represent the end of the pre-Brexit honeymoon period,” he added.

The YouGov/Cebr poll of 500 ‘business decision makers' took place between Sept. 15 and Sept. 23.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Hugh Lawson)