Crowdfunding faces crackdown by Watchdog

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 13 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Crowdfunding platforms need tougher rules and restrictions in order to protect investors, the Financial Conduct Authority has said.

The financial watchdog has raised concerns about loan-based businesses, which allow borrowers and lenders to join up without involving banks, and investment platforms, through which members of the public invest in a business or campaign directly.

The FCA said it was difficult for investors to compare crowdfunding investments with other assets given it was often unclear exactly what was being offered.

As a result, investors struggle to assess the risk and returns of giving their money to crowdfunding platforms, and there were some conflicts of interest that were not being managed properly.

Additionally, crowdfunding schemes did not always meet the FCA’s requirements to be “clear, fair and not misleading”, it said.

Firms’ plans for winding down in the event of their failure were also insufficient to allow for repayment of loans, it warned.

According to research by AltFi Data released last month, there have been just five successful ‘exits’, where investors’ capital was returned plus a premium, out of 955 funding rounds across 751 companies and six platforms analysed.

The FCA said it would consult on strengthening rules for wind-down plans, and tighten restrictions on cross-platform investment.

For loan-based platforms, the FCA said it would look to impose standards currently applied to mortgage lending in order to more tightly monitor the conditions in which loans are made.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said: “Our focus is ensuring that investor protections are appropriate for the risks in the crowdfunding sector while continuing to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers. Based on our findings to date, we believe it is necessary to strengthen investor protection in a number of areas.”

Mr Bailey said the FCA planned to consult next year on new rules to address the problems it had found.

It is the second market intervention by the FCA in a week, after it announced major plans to crack down on spread betters amid fears ordinary investors are losing money. Shares in spread-betting firms – which sell so-called contracts for difference that allow people to trade on price movements in financial markets – slumped after the announcement.

By Rhiannon Bury

Post Office workers prepare for strike action before Christmas

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Mon, 12 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Post Office
Barry W./flickr.com

Post Office workers are to stage five days of strikes in the week leading up to Christmas.

The industrial action next week comes amid a dispute with management over job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and branches being shut.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the walkout will include Christmas Eve.

A spokesman defended the decision to strike, saying the union feared the Post Office “as we know it” will cease to exist unless “we stand up now”.

The Post Office claimed if the strike action goes ahead then at least 97% of its 11,600 branches will not be involved and it will be “business as
usual in almost all of our network”.

It said over the last four years it had dramatically cut its losses and modernised almost 7,000 post offices, adding more than 200,000 extra opening hours each week.

Kevin Gilliland, the Post Office's network and sales director, said: “Just today, we agreed with the CWU that we would resume talks, which have been ongoing throughout the summer, on Wednesday.

“We are extremely disappointed that they prefer to resort to calls for strike action and we will be reviewing our position in light of this development.

“Our focus must be on supporting our customers, who rely on us at Christmas more than ever.”

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Our members are being forced into fighting to save their jobs and this great institution from terminal decline.

“We didn't want to be in this position…We are defending the very future of the Post Office in this country.

“We want a Post Office that works for everyone, for communities, for small and medium-sized businesses, and for the people who serve them – our hard-working members.

“But the people running the Post Office have no serious plan other than further closures and managed decline and we won't accept that.”

He added: “We will be making a firm proposal for meaningful talks to establish a vision for the future and, if the company respond to that positively, then this dispute can be avoided.”

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “All of the blame for this unfortunate turn of events is 100% down to the intransigence of the company.”

He claimed the Post Office had “launched an unprecedented attack on the jobs, job security, and pensions of thousands of hard-working and loyal Post Office workers”.

Virgin Media preparing to launch a new budget broadband brand

Virgin Broadband
Rastin Mehr/flickr.com

Virgin Media is preparing to launch a new budget broadband brand as it expands the coverage of its cable network next year, a move that would open a new front for TalkTalk in its battle to retain market share.

The plans are understood to be at an early stage and under secret development at Virgin Media under the codename Project Prosecco.

If launched, Project Prosecco would represent an unprecedented move downmarket. Sources said Virgin Media was likely to offer significantly lower internet speeds to protect its premium customer base.

BT does something similar with its Plusnet brand, positioned to compete directly with TalkTalk for more budget-conscious households.

Sources said the operator is working towards a potential launch in 2017, although no final decisions have been taken. The initiative is part of a wider effort by Virgin Media to capitalise on the ongoing £3bn investment by its parent company, pan-European operator Liberty Global, in expanding Britain’s cable network.

Coverage is scheduled to increase from around half to two thirds of homes by 2020.

Asked whether Virgin Media would launch a budget broadband, Tom Mockridge, it’s chief executive, said: “There are a lot of people down in the more economic sector. But we think there is room for everyone in this market.”

The move will nevertheless be seen as a threat to TalkTalk. Its share of retail broadband has slid by 10 percentage points since 2010 to just 13pc, and the arrival of a cable budget competitor to target its core market would add to the gloom at TalkTalk, which has lost three fifths of its value in 18 months. A Virgin Media spokesman declined to comment on its plans.

By Christopher Williams

The David Rubenstein Show: Features Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates

The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” explores successful leadership through the personal and professional choices of the most influential people in business. Renowned financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein travels the country talking to leaders to uncover their stories and their path to success. The first episode features Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Possible future for 3D printed cars

At the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, Local Motors 3D printed a plastic car called the Strati.

Local Motors printed the car's chassis and body all in one piece, and also printed the fenders separately. The first phase of the process took just 44 hours.

Then the non-printed components (engine, seats, steering wheel, etc.) were attached in the last stage of the assembly.

“A 3D printed car like ours will only have dozens of components,” Local Motors engineer James Earle told Business Insider. In the near future, he says, it could cost only about $7,000 to manufacture, perhaps the start of what will become a niche market for customized cars.

Coca-Cola announced CEO Muhtar Kent will step down from that role in 2017

On Friday, Coca-Cola announced that its CEO Muhtar Kent will step down from that role in 2017 and be succeeded by the beverage company's No. 2 executive, COO James Quincey. Quincey, who's worked with Coca-Cola for nearly two decades, has led the company's recent drive to cut down sugar in its drinks. In an announcement Friday, Quincey claimed that he'll continue to follow that same as CEO. Wall Street analysts said they had expected Quincey to be promoted to the top job, but originally predicted that it would be announced early next year. Quincey is expected to begin his tenure as CEO on May 1, 2017.

Fyffes Shares Soar in $798 Million Japanese Banana Bid

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Fri, 9 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. agreed to buy banana importer Fyffes Plc for 751 million euros ($798 million) in cash, expanding its reach in the global fruit market and sending the Irish company’s shares soaring.

Sumitomo offered 2.23 euros a share for Dublin-based Fyffes, 49 percent more than Thursday’s closing price, in a deal it said furthers its position as one of the most globally diverse companies. Fyffes stock surged to near the offer price.

Founded in 1888, Fyffes will become a small part of a group with operations on all corners of the globe spanning steel trading and shipbuilding to cable television and nickel mining. The purchase will give Sumitomo a business that distributes about 46 million cases of bananas in Europe annually, and also markets pineapples, melons and mushrooms.

For Fyffes shareholders, the takeover represents a “superb, albeit unexpected outcome,” said David Holohan, chief investment officer at Merrion Capital in Dublin. The bid brings “a positive conclusion to several years of impressive share price performance.”

The stock was up 49 percent at 2.23 euros as of 10:09 a.m. in Dublin. The shares have risen sixfold in the last five years as sales and profit have advanced.

The deal comes just over two years after Chiquita Brands International Inc. shareholders rejected a proposed takeover of Fyffes that would have created the world’s largest banana producer.

Small Fare

Fyffes is small fare for Sumitomo. The deal will add annual annual sales of about $1.3 billion for the Japanese company, which in its last financial year had revenue of about $66 billion. Fyffes’ 17,000 workers compares with more than 65,000 employed by Sumitomo.

Sumitomo has been active in the fruit industry since the 1960s, and imports about 30 percent of bananas into the Japanese market. The proposed takeover has secured irrevocable undertakings from investors owning about 27 percent of Fyffes’ shares.

Funding for the transaction will come from a new bank facility or Sumitomo’s existing cash resources, which stood at $8 billion as of its March year-end, the Japanese company said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. acted for Sumitomo, while Fyffes was advised by Lazard and Davy Corporate Finance.

By Paul Jarvis

McDonald’s to relocate it’s International Tax Base to Britain

After coming under increased scrutiny from European Union regulators over its tax arrangements in the small country, McDonald's said on Thursday it would move its international tax base to the United Kingdom from Luxembourg. McDonald's said it would create a new international holding company domiciled in the UK that would receive the majority of royalties from licensing deals outside the United States.

Pfizer slapped with record £84 million fine over NHS drug

(qlmbusinessnews.com via standard.co.uk – – Thur, 8 Dec, 2016) London, UK – –

pharmaceutical
Vinnie Lauria/Flickr

Pharma giant Pfizer was on Wednesday slapped with the biggest penalty imposed by Britain’s competition watchdog, an £84 million fine for charging the NHS “excessive and unfair prices” for a key anti-epilepsy drug.

Pfizer, the US drugmaker “deliberately… hike[d] up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients”, the Competition and Markets Authority said.

In 2012, Viagra-maker Pfizer stripped its epilepsy drug Epanutin of its branding, turning it into a generic medicine, phenytoin sodium, as these are not subject to price regulation. It then sold the licence to British drugs distributor Flynn Pharma, which was today fined £5.2 million for its role in the scandal.

The pair broke competition law with a crucial medicine for some 48,000 UK patients, the CMA found.

They hiked the price of a 100mg packet of pills by 2600% “overnight” from £2.83 to £67.50 in September 2012. NHS spending on the capsules shot up from £2 million to £50 million in 12 months as a result.

Pfizer’s pricing for the same drug in other European countries remained far lower.

As epilepsy patients on certain drugs should not usually be switched to others, due to serious health consequences, “the NHS had no alternative to paying the increased prices for the drug”, the CMA said.

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma, which calls the capsules a “vitally important product” on its website, “abused [their] dominant position by charging excessive and unfair prices”, the CMA said of its record fine.

Boss Pfizer Ian Read claimed NHS patients would benefit from “better products, faster” during his £69 billion attempt to buy AstraZeneca in 2014.

The next-biggest penalty was a £45 million fine on GlaxoSmithKline and other drugmakers in February.

The CMA has also ordered Pfizer and Flynn to drop their prices, giving them up to four months to do so.

In September 2012, a Flynn company director claimed “for us to continue to make the drug available in the UK, we had to [hike the price],” while Pfizer had claimed it was making Epanutin at a loss, but couldn’t stop doing so as patients relied on it.

However, CMA research showed any losses would have been recovered within two months of the price rises.

Pfizer said it will “be appealing all aspects” of its fine. Flynn said the ruling was based on a “wholly flawed understanding” of the drugs market.

By Lucy Tobin

Big changes are coming to UK rail network

Big changes are coming to England's much maligned railway network. The Transport Secretary is to strip Network Rail of complete control of the tracks, instead making it share responsibility with private companies. Chris Grayling says it'll lead to more reliable services and a better experience for passengers. Unions though, say it'll put safety at risk.

Famous Piccadilly Circus landmark advertising boards gets a tech overhaul

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 7 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Piccadilly Lights, the famous illuminated advertising boards that overlook Piccadilly Circus, are to be switched off for an extended period for the first time since the Blitz to allow a complete overhaul.

Clive Darra/Flickr
Clive Darra/Flickr

Land Securities, the commercial property giant that owns the site, has secured permission from Westminster Council to replace the patchwork of boards with a single, ultra-high definition curved screen.

The current six screens, which advertise brands including Coca-Cola and Samsung, will be switched off in January and dismantled in works that are expected to take until autumn to complete.

Although it is the first extended switch off since the 1940's, the famous displays went dark a fortnight ago for a number of hours after London's West End was plunged into darkness by a power cut.

The boards have been almost constantly illuminated since the Second World War, with only brief blackouts for power cuts and the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana. Recently the lights have also been switched off for the annual Earth Hour environmentalism event.

While Coca-Cola and Samsung will remain, Land Securities’ partner, Ocean Outdoor, hopes to tempt new brands to the landmark site, with new capabilities and more flexible tenancies. The site is believed to be the most expensive outdoor advertising location in Britain.

The patchwork appearance will also be maintained by the new screen, due to be Europe’s largest, but live video streaming and integration with Facebook and Twitter feeds will be added.

Tim Bleakley, chief executive of Ocean Outdoor, said the new technology at the site will “protect its heritage while keeping ahead of trends”.

The advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus date back to the the early 1900s. Perrier was the first brand to illuminate its sign, in 1908.

TDK, the Japanese electronics maker, ended its association with the site last year after quarter of a century. Coca-Cola has advertised there for 62 years.

Aedamar Howlett, Coca-Cola GB's marketing chief, said: “This new technology will allow us to be more agile and tailor our messages in real-time, as well as be more creative when it comes to the content and engaging consumers directly.”

By Christopher Williams

 

Lidl Supermarket chain to create 500 new jobs in Doncaster

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com — Mon, 5 Dec, 2016) London, UK —

Lidl
DennisM2/Flickr

The news is the latest sign that international companies have not been put off investing in the UK following the Brexit vote.

Supermarket chain Lidl has announced plans to build a new depot in Doncaster, creating 500 jobs in the process.

The warehouse, the brand's 13th distribution centre in the UK, will cost £70m to build.

It is the latest sign that international companies have not been put off investing in the UK following the Brexit vote, despite warnings from pro-EU campaigners that businesses would be wary of increasing their presence in Britain while its position in Europe is uncertain.

These include an announcement from Nissan that is is to build two new models in Sunderland and the confirmation of plans for a new Google site in north London.

Lidl, which is based in Germany, has made gains in the extremely competitive grocery market in recent years, winning market share from larger rivals including Tesco and Asda.

It has however seen growth slow slightly this year.

The new distribution centre will cover 53,400 square metres, with construction due to begin in 2017.

It will form part of a previously announced £1.5bn investment in stores and depots across the UK over the next few years.

The investment will also see 400 new jobs created at a new warehouse in Southampton, as well as a further 100 at the Eurocentral industrial park in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

It was announced last year that Lidl would be extending the independent recommended living wage to its lowest-paid staff, with employees receiving at least £8.45 an hour outside of London and £9.75 within the city – a higher rate than the Government mandated living wage.