Debenhams secures £40 million lifeline from lenders

( via — Tue, 12th Feb 2019) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Shares in Debenhams surged by a third in value on Tuesday after the embattled UK retail chain secured £40 million ($52 million) in extra funding from some of its lenders, giving it more time to secure its longer-term future.

Once Britain’s biggest department store chain, Debenhams has been struggling with net debts of almost 300 million pounds and plans to close 50 underperforming stores, putting about 4,000 jobs at risk, after it failed to keep pace with consumers moving online and to cheaper outlets.

It said the new loan, agreed for a period of 12 months, would act as a bridge to “facilitate a broader refinancing and recapitalisation”, adding it was still talking to its stakeholders and would conclude a “comprehensive refinancing”.

The retailer, which is striving to avoid the fate of collapsed rivals BHS and House of Fraser, also said it had signed an agreement with Hong Kong-listed supply chain solutions firm Li & Fung to develop a strategic sourcing partnership.

Shares in Debenhams, which lost more than 85 percent of their value in 2018, were up 33.9 percent at 4.23 pence by 0820 GMT. That lifted the company’s market value to 52 million pounds, although some analysts questioned whether the extra funding would be enough or whether Debenhams might yet take up an offer of financing help from Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, its biggest shareholder.

“This interim solution … shows the ongoing discussions with their lenders are constructive and ensures Debenhams can get through its working capital peak in April,” analysts at brokerage Investec said in a note.

“The strategic announcement with Li & Fung also enables them to consolidate its supplier base more quickly and helps those suppliers which have a credit insurance issue.”

UK media have reported previously that Debenhams had turned down an offer of a similar cash injection from Ashley’s Sports Direct, which already holds almost 30 percent of the company and has snapped up businesses after a number of UK high street collapses.

Other London-based analysts remained downbeat about Debenhams’ prospects.

“While this (refinancing) takes away the immediate pressure and provides a short respite, we believe Debenhams is likely to move forward with a CVA in order to reduce its lease commitments and store numbers, with longer-term financing also likely to be contingent on some form of equity raise,” John Stevenson, retail analyst at Peel Hunt, said in an email.

“The prospect of a CVA and equity raise may well secure the future of Debenhams, but also leaves little equity value for existing shareholders and we reiterate our Sell stance.”

Before Tuesday’s plan was announced, Debenham’s combined credit score – which measures how likely a company is to default in the next year on a scale of 100 (very unlikely) to 1 (highly likely) – was “1”, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

By Noor Zainab Hussain

Nissan takes $65m Ghosn charge as it downgrades annual profit forecasts

( via– Tue, 12 Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The carmaker downgrades its full-year forecasts as a tougher world economy takes its toll on third quarter profits

Nissan says it has recognised 9.2bn yen (£64.7m) in costs related to scandal-hit Carlos Ghosn while downgrading its annual profit forecasts.

The Japanese carmaker, which sacked Ghosn as its chairman in November after uncovering alleged financial misconduct, said the charge covered compensation and expenses over several years.

He remains in a Tokyo prison cell awaiting trial and denies all the accusations he faces in the country.

Nissan made the announcement while revealing financial results covering the third quarter of its financial year to 31 December which showed a 77% drop in profits to 70bn yen (£740m).

That was despite revenues rising by 6% in the period compared to the same quarter in 2017.

The company pointed to challenging conditions continuing globally but said falling sales in North America – where it had been discounting heavily – and in Europe were propped up by gains in Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines and Latin America.

Nissan, like rivals, is facing challenges on several fronts from the slowdown in the world economy to the demonisation of diesel – particularly in Europe.

Sky News revealed last month how Nissan had decided to maintain production of its X-Trail model in Japan – despite a previous pledge to create over 700 more jobs in Britain through an expansion of its Sunderland operation.

The company later admitted that Brexit uncertainty had also clouded the investment.

Nissan's financial results showed profits were 45% down on a rolling nine month basis.

It said that as a result of its performance it was revising lower its forecasts for full-year revenues and profits.

The company predicted earnings of 410bn yen (£2.9bn) – a fall on 90bn yen on its earlier expectations.

Christian Stadler, professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School, said: “The departure of Carlos Ghosn, who was such a talismanic figure for Nissan, is likely to have a bigger effect during the year ahead, as the company attempts to address the distribution of power in its relationship with Renault.

“At the moment Nissan is by far the bigger player in terms of sales. It could also be a factor in Nissan's decision to lower its forecasts for the year ahead.

“Mr Ghosn was very much sales driven. In his absence the company may focus more on profits, but that will be difficult.

“The economic downturn will put pressure on car manufacturers to be more competitive with their prices, which makes it harder to maximise profits while sales are falling.

“That could be bad news for British car manufacturing if vehicles are subject to new tariffs after Brexit, as Japan's new deal with the EU could make it cheaper to build cars elsewhere,” he concluded.

By James Sillars

UK economy expanded at its slowest rate in six years in 2018

( via – – Mon, 11th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The UK economy expanded at its slowest rate in six years in 2018.

Growth in the year was 1.4%, down from 1.8% last year and the lowest since 2012, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It blamed slower factory output and car production for the slowdown, among other factors.

It follows forecasts of even slower growth in 2019 as the UK grapples with Brexit uncertainty and a weaker global economy.

According to the ONS, quarterly growth also slowed, falling to 0.2% in the three months to December – down from 0.6% in the three months to September.

Head of GDP at the ONS, Rob Kent-Smith said: “GDP slowed in the last three months of the year with the manufacturing of cars and steel products seeing steep falls and construction also declining.

“However, services continued to grow with the health sector, management consultants and IT all doing well.”

Sports Direct Mike Ashley withdraws Patisserie Valerie bid

( via – – Mon, 11th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Sports Direct pulls out of battle for beleaguered cake chain claiming to be at ‘disadvantage’

Sports Direct has pulled out of the bidding for Patisserie Valerie, just two days after emerging as a surprise suitor for the stricken cake chain.

Mike Ashley’s sportswear group walked away from talks on Sunday, ending the prospect that Patisserie Valerie could join House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and in the Sports Direct stable.

The approach, made last Friday, was an unexpected twist in the battle to rescue Patisserie Valerie, which fell into administration in January after a £40m black hole was uncovered in its finances.

It is understood that Ashley made a late bid reportedly worth more than £15m for Patisserie Valerie, but was told the offer was too low.

According to the Financial Times, Sports Direct was unhappy about being shut out of the bidding process, saying it “not been allowed access to a data room, any financial information or meetings with management” to allow it to improve its bid.

Sports Direct argued it was “at a serious disadvantage as a bidder” if it was left to rely on financial information in the public arena, which it claimed was “at best unreliable”.

It is understood Sports Direct was given access to the data room after tabling its first offer but the retailer nevertheless withdrew.

Sports Direct had bid for Patisserie Holdings – the parent company of Patisserie Valerie as well as the Druckers Vienna Patisserie, Philpotts, Baker & Spice and Flour Power City brands. The deadline for first-round bids was 1 February, a week before Ashley entered the fray.

Administrators at KPMG, which is running the company, has closed 71 of Patisserie Valerie’s nearly 200 stores and concessions, as it seeks a buyer for the company. Dozens of bids were received, either for the whole company or some of its stores. Around 900 jobs have been lost, with another 2,800 at risk if a buyer can’t be found.

Several parties are understood to be carrying out due diligence before submitting final-round bids to KPMG, but it is not clear when the bidding process will be concluded.

Coffee chain Costa, which is now owned by Coca-Cola, and a number of other parties are thought to have tabled offers for a parcel of stores but it is not clear if any parties want Patisserie Valerie as a going concern.

Patisserie Valerie blamed its financial plight on “very significant manipulation” of its balance sheet and “extensive” misstatement of its accounts. It suspended finance chief Chris Marsh, who subsequently resigned after being arrested and bailed by police.

The company was valued at £450m before the black hole was discovered. Its collapse into administration has wiped out shareholders, including chairman Luke Johnson.

By Sarah Butler

Victoria’s Secret Rise And Fall As Rival Competition Surge In Popularity On Social Media


When Victoria's Secret entered the market in the 1980s, it revolutionized the retail of women's undergarments. Previously, women viewed their bras on a binary — strictly functional for day-to-day or fancy for special occasions. Victoria's Secret combined the structure and function of day-to-day bras with the fun prints and feel of fancier bras. But 30 years later, the brand is falling behind the times as consumer priorities shift and younger brands like Aerie and Rihanna's Savage x Fenty adapt.

The lingerie brand, owned by L Brands, has reported negative same-store sales for the past three years now, as women steer clear of its bedazzled bras and underwear for comfortable pieces in cooler colors. That's as a new cohort of start-ups like Adore Me, Third Love, Lively, Cuup and Knix are resonating with younger consumers as they surge in popularity on social media channels like Instagram.

Wall Street analysts and investors alike are unsure if L Brands will be successful in reinventing Victoria's Secret's increasingly obsolete bras business. Even a recent slew of heavy promotions doesn't appear to be moving products off of shelves, according to UBS analyst Jay Sole, who's been tracking promotional activity in stores and online.

Why Whale Poop Can Garner More Than $7,000 A Pound

Source: Business Insider

A small percentage of sperm whales produce ambergris, a clump of squid beaks and fatty secretions that scientists believe exits through the whales’ bowels Ambergris is coveted by the fragrance industry for a chemical it contains called ambrien, which suspends smells in the air, and for its own unique scent Quality pieces of ambergris, which ambergris hunters snatch up as they wash ashore, can garner more than $7,000 a pound.

Meet The Professor Who Became An Accidental Icon

Source: New York Magazine

Lyn Slater is not your average professor — she’s also an accidental icon. When the 65-year-old launched her fashion blog, her goal was to create a space where women of all ages could have an intelligent conversation about fashion. Now, her Instagram account has over 600,000 followers

Energy giant SSE issue profit warning after loss of 160,000 customers

( via – – Fri, 8th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

“Big six” energy giant SSE has seen a sharp drop in customer numbers and has cut its full-year earnings forecast.

It said it had lost 160,000 customers in the final three months of last year, leaving it with 5.88 million accounts.

SSE also cut its profit forecast for this year after a European court ruled out a UK industry-wide subsidy which had supported emergency fuel supplies.

Last November, SSE suffered a blow when it called off its plan to merge its household supply arm with Npower's.

The firm -blamed “challenging market conditions” and the price cap on bills.

That deal would have created the UK's second-biggest energy supplier, shrinking the “big six” to the “big five”.

SSE said it was assessing options for its domestic supply business.

‘Good progress'

SSE said that the European court judgement would cut income by about £60m this year.

The company said it expects this to be “a matter of timing only” as the government is expected to make the payments in the future.

But while it waited for that, the company said that earnings per share – the amount of profit divided by the number of shares in issue – would be 6p lower than previously expected, and in a range of 64-69p, compared with its November forecast of 70-75p.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said the company was making “good progress” on deciding what to do with its retail business, SSE Energy Services.

The options it has identified so far include: simply splitting it off and listing it on the stock market; a sale; or an alternative transaction.

The shares were down slightly on the news.

Donald Brown, from stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin, said the future of SSE Energy Services “remains unclear”.

“However, it's difficult to see who might be interested in buying the business, which has been in decline for some time,” he added.

Amazon moves to invest in US start-up Aurora self-driving cars

( via – – Fri, 8th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Amazon has made its most significant move into driverless cars to date by investing in a company led by the former head of Google's autonomous vehicle unit.

Silicon Valley start-up Aurora said on Thursday it had raised $530m (£408m) from a group of backers including the online retail giant and fund management giant T Rowe Price.

Amazon did not reveal how much it had invested but said it could use driverless car systems in package delivery or in its warehouses.

“Autonomous technology has the potential to help make the jobs of our employees and partners safer and more productive, whether it’s in a fulfillment center or on the road, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” a spokesman said.

T Rowe Price is the second largest shareholder in Tesla behind chief executive Elon Musk and shares in the electric car company fell by more than 4pc after the news was announced. Tesla has been developing its own self-driving technology, with an Autopilot feature which can change lanes and keep its distance in traffic already installed in cars on the road. 

Aurora, which has permission to test its cars in Pittsburgh and in California, has emerged as one of the most prominent self-driving startups in Silicon Valley, in part due to the background and experience of its management team. The deal values the company at $2.5bn.

Chief executive Chris Urmson helped to develop self-driving technology at Google's self-driving car project, now known as Waymo. 

The company's chief product officer Sterling Anderson previously worked at Tesla, leading its autopilot team, and chief technology officer Drew Bagnell was originally on Uber's advanced technologies team, which works on self-driving cars.  

In April 2017 Tesla and Aurora settled a lawsuit after Mr Musk's company accused Mr Anderson of poaching Tesla employees. 

Investors in this funding round also include venture capital firm Sequoia, whose partner Carl Eschenbach will join Aurora's board of directors. 

Mr Eschenbach described the three as the “‘dream team' of self-driving cars”, and said the company's independence – it has partnerships with firms including Hyundai and Volkswagen, but  has no exclusive deals with any corporation – was also a draw. 

“They’ve positioned themselves to work with a variety of partners, from ride-sharing companies to manufacturers to suppliers—which enables them to move more quickly than any one competitor can alone,” he added. 

“This funding and partnership will accelerate our mission of delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly,” Aurora said. 

“Amazon’s unique expertise, capabilities, and perspectives will be valuable for us as we drive towards our mission.”

By Olivia Rudgard, 

Energy bills to increase for 15m households as Ofgem lifts price cap

( via – – Thur, 7th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Ofgem’s decision on default tariffs and prepayment meters down to rising wholesale costs

Around 15m households will see their energy bills increase by more than £100 a year from April after the regulator Ofgem said it was lifting two price caps because of rising wholesale costs.

Big energy suppliers are expected to increase their prices by £117 for 11m customers on default tariffs to a new ceiling of £1,254 a year for a home with typical use, leaving many consumers paying more for their electricity and gas than before the flagship policy took effect on 1 January.

Consumer groups said the rise was “eye-watering” and would be a shock for people who thought the cap would stop their bills from rising.

The significant increase, which wipes out the average saving of £76 from the cap, will be embarrassing for ministers, who promised that people would save money under the flagship policy.

The rise is one of the worst increases in years and on a par with the largest by the big six energy suppliers over the past two years, many of which the government claimed were unjustified.

Comparison sites, which are opposed to the cap, branded the increase “brutal”, “jaw-dropping” and the “worst possible start for the energy cap”.

Ofgem also announced a rise of £106 a year to £1,242 for a further 4m households on prepayment meters, who are typically more vulnerable customers.

Together, the increases in the two caps will add a collective £1.71bn to consumer bills, according to the auto-switching site Look After My Bills.

Ofgem insisted consumers were paying a fair price for their energy despite the increases. The regulator said it had to raise the caps because wholesale costs facing energy firms had increased by 17% and other costs had climbed, too.

“We can assure these customers that they remain protected from being overcharged for their energy and that these increases are only due to actual rises in energy costs, rather than excess charges from supplier profiteering,” the regulator’s chief executive, Dermot Nolan, said.

The regulator said its analysis suggested without the cap people would be “paying significantly more even after the increase” of the cap in April.

The government said the higher caps reflected sharp increases in electricity and gas costs.

Claire Perry, the energy minister, said: “We were clear when we introduced the cap that prices can go up but also down.”

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, a consumer group that backs the cap, said: “As unwelcome as this news is, it’s likely that prices would be higher still without the cap and there are steps people can take to ease the strain on their bills.”

Industry body Energy UK said suppliers of all sizes were facing “drastically rising costs”.

One of the big six companies, npower, last week blamed 900 job cuts on the cap and competition.

The caps dictate the maximum suppliers can charge per unit of energy and for a standing charge, so higher energy users will pay more.

By Adam Vaughan

Thomas Cook willing to sell airline to raise cash

( via — Thur, 7th Feb 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Travel group Thomas Cook said it was willing to sell its profitable airline business to raise cash and fund its fight back from a torrid 2018 and signs of a tough year ahead.

The oldest travel company in the world stumbled badly last year when a heatwave in northern Europe deterred holiday makers from booking lucrative last minute deals, leading to two major profit warnings and talk of a need to raise funds.

The British group, which had a market valuation of 540 million pounds ($695 million) and net debt of 1.6 billion pounds, said rather than launch a rights issue it would consider all options for the most successful part of the business.

“Thomas Cook doesn’t need to own an airline outright to be a successful holiday company, so long as we retain a strong relationship to provide our customers with the… service they need for their journey,” Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said.

A sale would enable the company to invest more in its own hotels, improve its digital sales offering and drive further cost savings.

Its airline, which fared much better last year than the tour operator business, consists of Germany’s Condor, and UK, Scandinavian and Spanish divisions. Operating 103 aircraft, it had 3.5 billion pounds of revenue and a 37 percent rise in operating profit to 129 million pounds in 2018.

The airline was insulated as the tour operator pledges to fill many of the airline’s seats and makes up the difference if prices have to be slashed to fill them.

It flies from airports such as Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester in Britain, and Frankfurt and Munich in Germany.


Fankhauser said the review was at an early stage and would include all options. Its shares surged 12 percent.

Analysts at Credit Suisse said that easyJet could be interested in Thomas Cook’s airport slots in Britain and Germany, as well as its Airbus sub-fleet.

Credit Suisse said that Thomas Cook’s airline business could be worth between anything between 1.8 and 3.2 billion pounds, and that Lufthansa, IAG and Ryanair could all also be interested.

Thomas Cook said it had made progress in managing its cost base and cut capacity to prop up prices, but that summer bookings reflected consumer uncertainty, especially in Britain.

Last year’s winter trading was also affected by the long hot summer, with fewer customers willing to book holidays, meaning that average selling prices were down 10 percent. For this summer, tour operator bookings are down 12 percent although pricing was slightly higher.

The turmoil at Thomas Cook reflects wider problems in the industry. Rival TUI on Wednesday slashed its earnings guidance for its fiscal full year as it too suffered from last summer’s hot weather, while holiday airline Germania collapsed earlier this week.

Budget airline Ryanair this week reported its first quarterly loss since 2014, while Norwegian Air scaled back its capacity growth plans for this year.Slideshow (2 Images)

As well as the hangover from last year, Fankhauser said that uncertainty over Brexit was impacting British consumer confidence, saying that a page on Thomas Cook’s website addressing questions around Brexit had 800 hits a day.

Thomas Cook’s underlying loss from operations in the three months to the end of December expanded to 60 million pounds and it said it had met its bank covenant tests. It reiterated its full-year outlook.

($1 = 0.7754 pounds)

By Alistair Smout

Ocado, Andover warehouse fire force cancellation of orders

( via – – Wed, 6th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

The online supermarket Ocado has been forced to cancel orders and warned of a “hit to sales” after a huge fire ripped through its robotic warehouse in Hamphire. 

Around 200 firefighters were deployed to tackle the blaze which began at the Andover facility at 2.44am on Tuesday.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) said four of its firefighters had been treated for slight smoke inhalation as they battled to bring the inferno under control.

Locals were urged to keep their windows and doors shut due to the smoke from the blaze, while the public was also asked to avoid the area.

Ocado said it had been forced to cancel some customer orders because of the fire and that it was “working hard to resume normal service as soon as possible”.

While deliveries in the north appeared to be unaffected, customers in parts of the south seemed likely to be hit by the cancellations. 

The group's shares dropped 6% as it said it would see a fall in sales growth until it can shift operations to other warehouses following the fire, which took more than 24 hours to get under control.

The fire has since been brought under control, and in a statement, the HFRS said: “The Ocado warehouse blaze in Andover was declared a major incident by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“About 200 firefighters were involved in tackling the fire which broke out at 2.44am on February 5.

“Four firefighters have been treated for minor smoke inhalation (and) part of the roof collapsed.

“The fire in the robot-run distribution centre is now under control and it is no longer a major incident.”

The online grocer said in a stock market update: “Unfortunately the fire which started yesterday morning in a corner of the ambient grid was not contained as we believed, and last night expanded.

“Whilst we are informed by the fire brigade that it is now under control, during the night part of the roof collapsed and there has been substantial damage to the majority of the building and its contents.

“Once we have had time to assess the damage and prepare a plan to return the customer fulfilment centre to operation, we will update further as appropriate.

“As Andover was providing approximately 10% of our current capacity, as a result of this incident there will be a constraint on our ability to meet our growing customer demand and there will be a reduction in sales growth until we can increase capacity elsewhere.”

Pictures from the scene taken in the early hours show the sky glowing orange due to the flames and smoke billowing from the building. 

One resident tweeted during the blaze: “Just streets away – the noise, heat, smell and light pouring from the Ocado warehouse is frighteningly real.

“120+ firefighters are risking their lives tackling the blaze. Makes you truly appreciate the brave men and women of the Fire Service. Thank you. Stay safe”.

By  Gareth Davies 

Interserve agrees rescue plan with creditors to prevent collapse

( via – – Wed, 6th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Interserve – one of the UK's largest providers of public services – has reached a deal with creditors to prevent its collapse.

The rescue plan involves cutting its debts from over £600m to £275m by issuing new shares.

Chief executive Debbie White said it was “a significant step forward in our plans to strengthen the balance sheet”.

Interserve sells services, including probation, cleaning and healthcare, and is involved in construction projects.

“The board believes that this agreement will secure a strong future for Interserve,” Ms White added.

The firm – a major government contractor – plans to issue £480m worth of new shares, which will be swapped with creditors for debt, leaving existing shareholders with virtually nothing.

Under the rescue deal, Interserve will also keep its most profitable division, its RMD Kwikform construction business, loading £350m of debt onto its balance sheet.

The firm had considered spinning the unit off to its lenders to raise money.

Interserve has a market value of £17m, down from £500m in 2017, and a turnover of £3.2bn. About 70% of Interserve's turnover comes from government contracts.

Stephen Rawlinson, an analyst at Applied Value, said that Interserve's woes are not as bad those of fellow outsourcer Carillion, which collapsed in January 2018 and put thousands of jobs at risk and cost taxpayers £148m.

“For existing shareholders, they're between a rock and a hard place, they have been for the last six to 12 months, so there's no difference, but now there is hope,” he told the BBC.

“I don't think another Carillion is likely, as the government has realised that to put these companies into liquidation is a very foolish thing to do.”

However, he warned that the deal had not yet been approved by shareholders, and that it would probably take up to seven years before Interserve returned to profitability.

This is the second rescue deal for Interserve, with the company refinancing its debt in March last year.

Its troubles have been blamed on cancellations and delays in its construction contracts as well as struggling waste-to-energy projects in Derby and Glasgow.

The firm's shares have plunged over the past year, currently trading at around 13p each. Just over a year ago, the shares were worth 100p each.

Following Carillion's collapse, the government launched a pilot of “living wills” for contractors, so that critical services can be taken over in the event of a crisis. Interserve is one of five suppliers taking part.

In a separate statement, shareholder Coltrane Master Fund, which holds over a 5% stake in Interserve, has asked the firm to remove eight directors.

It requested two other individuals be appointed as directors, but reiterated its support for Ms White as chief executive of the outsourcing provider.

What does Interserve do?

From its origins in dredging and construction, the company has diversified into wide range of services, such as health care and catering, for clients in government and industry.

At King George Hospital in east London, for instance, Interserve has a £35m contract for cleaning, security, meals, waste management and maintenance.

Its infrastructure projects include improving the M5 Junction 6 near Worcester, refurbishing the Rotherham Interchange bus station in Yorkshire, and upgrading sewers and water pipes for Northumbrian Water.

But Interserve is also the largest provider of probation services in England and Wales, supervising about 40,000 “medium-low risk offenders” for the Ministry of Justice.

UK economy stalls as Brexit nears, services sector report job cuts – PMI

( via — Tue, 5th Feb 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy risks stalling or contracting as Brexit nears and the global economy slows, with firms in the dominant services sector reporting job cuts for the first time in six years and falling orders, a survey showed on Tuesday.

A closely watched gauge of the world’s fifth-biggest economy, the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Services Purchasing Managers’ Index, fell to 50.1 in January from 51.2 in December — its lowest level since July 2016 and barely above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

A Reuters poll of economists had expected a reading of 51.0.

Britain’s economy defied forecasts from some economists that it would go into recession after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union. But growth slowed sharply in late 2018 as worries mounted about an abrupt, no-deal Brexit.

Overall, the survey suggested Britain’s economy is flat-lining after losing momentum late last year.

Tuesday’s figures are likely to worry Bank of England officials ahead of their latest interest rate decision announcement and new forecasts for the economy on Thursday.

“The latest PMI survey results indicate that the UK economy is at risk of stalling or worse as escalating Brexit uncertainty coincides with a wider slowdown in the global economy,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at survey compiler IHS Markit.

The report adds to other signs that Brexit, scheduled in less than two months’ time, is taking its toll on businesses and consumers.

Prime Minister Theresa May, under pressure from her own Conservative Party, wants to reopen her withdrawal agreement with the European Union to replace a contested Irish border arrangement, something Brussels has rejected.

Investors are urging the government to ensure an orderly exit from the club Britain joined in 1973.

On Monday, a Deloitte survey of chief financial officers showed appetite to take on financial risk had fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade due to fears of “the hardest of Brexits” and rising U.S. protectionism.

That caution was evident in Tuesday’s survey, covering the bulk of Britain’s private sector economy.

New orders fell for only the second time since the financial crisis, while employers cut jobs for the first time since late 2012 — around the last time Britain flirted with recession.

“The survey results indicate that companies are becoming increasingly risk-averse and eager to reduce overheads in the face of weakened customer demand and rising political uncertainty,” Williamson said.

New export orders contracted at the fastest pace since records for this part of the PMI began in September 2014.

The composite PMI for December, combining the manufacturing, construction and service sectors, fell to 50.3 from 51.5 in November, the lowest level since July 2016.

(The story corrects Reuters poll figure in 3rd paragraph to 51.0 from 51.1.)

Reporting by Andy Bruce

HMV rescued from administration by Canada’s Sunrise Records

( via– Tue, 5th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Enterpreneur Doug Putman has pipped retail tycoon Mike Ashley to the purchase of the collapsed music retailer.

HMV has been bought out of administration by Canada's Sunrise Records in a deal which will save 100 stores but result in 27 closing.

The rescue will see 1,487 employees transferred to the new ownership but 455 made redundant, with 122 workers kept on in warehouse functions to assist in winding down operations.

HMV collapsed into administration in December for the second time in six years, after weak Christmas trading and a collapse in demand for CDs and DVDs amid the rise in streaming.

It became a takeover target for Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley – who Sky News revealed had demanded a six-month rent holiday from landlords if he were to buy the chain, to add to a slew of acquisitions over the last year including House of Fraser and Evans Cycles.

Instead, HMV has now come under the control of 34-year-old Sunrise owner and chief executive Doug Putman, who has bought the business for an undisclosed sum.

Stores will continue to trade under their current name, including four Fopp sites.

Mr Putman said: “We are delighted to acquire the most iconic music and entertainment business in the UK and add nearly 1,500 employees to our growing team.

“By catering to music and entertainment lovers, we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to engage customers with a diverse range of physical format content, and replicate our success in Canada.

“We know the physical media business is here to stay and we greatly appreciate all the support from the suppliers, landlords, employees and most importantly our customers.”

Will Wright, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said: “We are pleased to confirm this sale which, after a complex process, secures the continued trading of the majority of the business.

“Our immediate concern is now to support those employees that have unfortunately been made redundant.”

Sunrise, founded in 1977, was acquired by Mr Putman in 2014 and went on to take over stores vacated by HMV Canada when it went bust.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Ryanair post first quarterly loss since March 2014

( via – – Mon, 4th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Ryanair posted a net loss of €19.6m (£17.2m) for the last three months of the year, its first quarterly loss since March 2014.

The airline carried 32.7 million passengers compared with 30.4 million for the same period a year earlier as revenue rose 9% to €1.53bn.

But the airline said “excess winter capacity in Europe” cut its profit.

Ryanair said chairman David Bonderman will leave in the summer of 2020.

While the company blamed too many airlines chasing too few passengers, costs may be the real problem, industry experts said.

The company's fuel bill leapt 32% and its staff costs rose 31%. In total, Ryanair's operating costs rose 20% to €1.54bn.

“The heart of the big drop in their profitability is that their fuel costs are very high this year,” HSBC transport analyst Andrew Lobbenberg told the Today programme.

Role shift

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary – who suggested last year that he could step down in the next five years – has agreed a new five-year contract, the firm said.

But his role will change slightly, in that Mr O'Leary will become group CEO and will manage chief executives for each airline brand: Ryanair, Laudamotion, Ryanair Sun and Ryanair UK.

In September, at the firm's annual meeting, almost 30% of shareholders voted against the re-election of Mr Bonderman as chairman after a summer of flight cancellations. He has spent 23 years in the job.

Who is Michael O'Leary?

Michael O'Leary, the outspoken boss of low-cost airline Ryanair, has been no stranger to controversy.

Mr O'Leary, who has agreed to stay on for another five years, is well-known for not being shy about expressing his views, famously excoriating his staff, his customers, competitors, regulators, governments, and groups such as environmentalists and scientists.

He once said of passengers looking for a refund: “We don't want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund' don't you understand?” and has said he doesn't believe in man-made climate change.

The new company structure is similar to that of IAG, the company that owns British Airways.

Mr O'Leary will oversee costs, aircraft purchases and buying rival airlines. It could be good for industrial relations after a series of strikes over the summer, said transport analyst Mr Lobbenberg.

“It puts more distance between him and the unions,” he said.

Mr O'Leary, who has been chief executive for 24 years, told September's annual meeting he had concerns about committing to a new five-year contract telling shareholders: “I'm not sure Mrs O'Leary would be happy.”

He said the airline's loss was “disappointing”, but “we take comfort that this was entirely due to weaker than expected air fares”.

While higher oil prices and lower fares reduced the firm's profitability, they were creating even bigger problems for rivals, Ryanair pointed out.

Firms like Wow, Flybe and Germania are seeking buyers.

Nissan plans to build new X-Trail SUV at Sunderland scrapped due to Brexit uncertainty

( via – – Mon, 4th Feb 2019) London, Uk – –

Carmaker will not build new X-Trail in UK, saying uncertainty about future is affecting firms

Nissan has confirmed it is abandoning plans to build a new model of one of its flagship vehicles at its Sunderland plant, as it warned that uncertainty over Brexit was affecting businesses.

The Japanese car manufacturer announced in 2016 it would be making the new version of the X-Trail SUV at the factory in north-east England after receiving assurances about Brexit from the government, but on Sunday it said it would be produced in Japan.

Nissan said it had taken the decision “for business reasons” but warned that Brexitwas having an impact, saying: “The continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”

It acknowledged in a letter to workers: “Today’s announcement will be interpreted by a lot of people as a decision related to Brexit.” The X-Trail is produced in Japan currently and Nissan said keeping production there would reduce “upfront investment costs”. The slump in the European diesel car market also played a role in the decision, with the Sunderland plant originally earmarked for the diesel version of the X-Trail.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, made no attempt to hide his disappointment at Nissan’s decision and said it was not surprising that business were holding back on spending decisions given the ongoing political impasse over Brexit.

“People are keen to invest but all motor companies and others across the economy point to the fact they don’t know what our trading relationship will be with our most important trading partner, and that is a source of uncertainty they want resolved and I want it resolved too, because it is hampering investment that would otherwise be made,” Clark said.

The minister hopes that Nissan’s announcement will help concentrate minds in cabinet and Westminster, and believes MPs in his own party and elsewhere will need to switch to supporting Theresa May’s Brexit deal to avoid similar decisions being taken by other multinational companies shortly.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The Conservatives’ botched negotiations and threat of a no-deal Brexit is causing uncertainty and damaging Britain’s economy.” The party added it would press the government to spell out in detail what Brexit reassurances May had given the carmaker in 2016, when she met its former chief executive Carlos Ghosn before the original decision to manufacture the X-Trail in Sunderland. At the time the government said the assurances covered research and development, training and supporting the local supply chain.

Clark will give a statement about Nissan in the House of Commons on Monday, although a government insider added: “There’s no conspiracy about the reassurances; if they were any good, they’d have worked”.

Sunderland voted 61% to leave, although several of the MPs in the north-east want the UK to stay in the European Union. Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for nearby Sedgefield, said that Nissan had originally invested in the UK because “we were in the single market, the customs union and the EU”. He added: “If companies like this are starting to thing twice in investing in Sunderland and in the UK, it could have a significant downside for the economy on this area,” which he described as “the equivalent of when the collieries closed in the 1980s”.

Calling the decision “very disappointing news” for Sunderland and the north-east”,the Unite union said it blamed Brexit uncertainty for the decision, along with the government’s “mishandling” of the transition away from diesel. It expected the company “to work with us to ensure full preparations for Brexit in which jobs and investment are prioritised”.

Nissan said plans over other future models destined for the Sunderland plant – the next-generation Juke and Qashqai – were unaffected by the announcement.

The company’s decision will fuel concern about the economic impact of Brexit, particularly on deprived parts of the country – less than eight weeks before the UK is due to leave the European Union – with some global companies appearing reluctant to make further investment.

The announcement came days after figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) revealed that British car production had dropped to a five-year low in 2018, as manufacturers warned that fears of a no-deal Brexit had prompted a fall in new investment.

Nissan employs about 6,700 staff at the Sunderland site, producing 2,000 cars a day. It is Britain’s biggest car plant, making it one of the region’s key employers. The opening of the Nissan plant in the mid-1980s marked the revival of a UK car industry that makes some of the world’s most renowned brands, including Mini, Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, Honda and Bentley.

Since the plans were linked to greater investment, the move is not expected to have a significant impact on jobs, although Unite’s assistant general secretary, Steve Turner, referred to hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeships being lost because of the move.

Labour’s Bridget Phillipson, the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said the announcement “is the clearest signal yet of the damage being caused to the UK car industry by the uncertainty around Brexit. I fear this announcement is only the beginning and it is working people who will suffer the consequences.”

The MP for Sunderland Central, Labour’s Julie Elliott, said tens of thousands of people depended on Nissan for their livelihoods – both directly and through the supply chain. She said: “The production of the X-Trail would have created hundreds of much-needed extra jobs in the future. Sadly, any loss of future production at the plant makes it less stable.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said: “The government’s chaotic handling of Brexit has been the root cause of business uncertainty. There are serious questions that the government must now answer on Monday, not least what was in the secret Brexit deal it issued to Nissan and why this was no longer good enough.”

Nissan said the company had decided to “optimise its investments in Europe” by consolidating X-Trail production at its Kyushu plant in Japan, which is the model’s global production hub.

Hideyuki Sakamoto, Nissan’s executive vice-president for manufacturing and supply chain management, said: “A model like X-Trail is manufactured in multiple locations globally and can therefore be re-evaluated based on changes to the business environment. As always, Nissan has to make optimal use of its global investments for the benefits of its customers.”

Gianluca de Ficchy, Nissan Europe’s chairman, said that with the X-Trail already manufactured in Japan, “we can reduce our upfront investment costs”.Advertisement

He added: “We appreciate this will be disappointing for our UK team and partners. Our workforce in Sunderland has our full confidence and will continue to benefit from the investment planned for Juke and Qashqai.”

Other Nissan models built at the site include electric car the Leaf.

By Rupert Jones
 and Dan Sabbagh

Could SpaceX’s BFR Earth to Earth Travel Replace Traditional Airliners

Source: Primal Space

With SpaceX announcing the BFR's first official mission to the moon, the possibility of Earth to Earth travel seems a little bit closer. In this video, we look at what needs to be done before Earth to Earth rocket travel can replace the traditional airliners that we use today. We also compare the dawn of passenger rocket travel to the early days of airplanes.