AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sun, 23 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

AT&T Inc said on Saturday it agreed to buy Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion (70 billion pounds), the boldest move yet by a telecommunications company to acquire content to stream over its high-speed network to attract a growing number of online viewers.

The biggest deal in the world this year will, if approved by regulators, give AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets. The tie-up will likely face intense scrutiny by U.S. antitrust enforcers worried that AT&T might try to limit distribution of Time Warner material.

AT&T will pay $107.50 per Time Warner share, half in cash and half in stock, worth $85.4 billion overall, according to a company statement. AT&T said it expected to close the deal by the end of 2017.

Dallas-based AT&T said the U.S. Department of Justice would review the deal and that it and Time Warner were determining which Federal Communications Commission licenses, if any, would be transferred to AT&T in the deal.

U.S. lawmakers were already worried about cable company Comcast Corp's $30 billion acquisition of NBCUniversal, creating an industry behemoth. Several argued for close regulatory scrutiny of the AT&T deal.

“Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, former attorney general of Connecticut. “I will be looking closely at what this merger means for consumers and their pocketbooks.”

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said at a rally on Saturday he would block any AT&T-Time Warner deal if he wins the Nov. 8 election. Trump has complained about media coverage of his campaign, especially by Time Warner's CNN.

“It's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” said Trump.

Representatives of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CONTENT PLUS DELIVERY

AT&T, whose main wireless phone and broadband service business is showing signs of slowing, has already made moves to turn itself into a media powerhouse. It bought satellite TV provider DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion.

It had about 142 million North American wireless subscribers as of June 30, and about 38 million video subscribers through DirecTV and its U-verse service.

New York-based Time Warner is a major force in movies, TV and video games. Its assets include the HBO, CNN, TBS and TNT networks as well as the Warner Bros film studio, producer of the “Batman” and “Harry Potter” film franchises. The company also owns a 10 percent stake in video streaming site Hulu. The HBO network alone has more than 130 million subscribers.

The deal is the latest in the consolidation of the telecom and media sectors, coming on the heels of AT&T's purchase of NBCUniversal. AT&T's wireless rival Verizon Communications Inc is in the process of buying internet company Yahoo Inc for about $4.8 billion.

Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes rejected an $80 billion offer from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc in 2014.

FINANCING

AT&T said the cash portion of the purchase price would be financed with new debt and cash on its balance sheet. AT&T said it has an 18-month commitment for an unsecured bridge term facility for $40 billion.

AT&T currently has only $7.2 billion in cash on hand. Further borrowing could put pressure on its credit rating as it already had $120 billion in net debt as of June 30, according to Moody's.

AT&T said the deal would add to earnings per share in the first year after closing. It said it expects $1 billion in annual run-rate cost savings within three years of closing, chiefly driven by lower corporate and procurement spending.

5G IS COMING

Owning more content gives cable and telecom companies bargaining leverage with other content companies as customers demand smaller, hand-picked cable offerings or switch to watching online. New mobile technology including next-generation 5G networks could make a content tie-up especially attractive for wireless providers.

“We think 5G mobile is coming, we think 5G mobile is an epic game-changer,” Rich Tullo, director of research at Albert Fried & Co, said in a research note, adding that mobile providers would be in position to disrupt traditional pay-TV services.

A previous Time Warner blockbuster deal, its 2000 merger with AOL, is now considered one of the most ill-advised corporate marriages on record.

Perella Weinberg Partners LP, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co were financial advisers to AT&T, with Bank of America and JPMorgan also offering bridge financing, while Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Arnold & Porter LLP provided legal advice.

Allen & Co LLC, Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisers to Time Warner, while Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP was its legal adviser.

By Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel | NEW YORK

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson, Liana Baker, Malathi Nayak and Diane Bartz; Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by David Gregorio)

 

Uk banks prepare to leave in early 2017 over Brexit fears – Observer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com via observer – – Sun, 23 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

British banks
www.flickr.com/photos,:
London's financial district by Michael Duxbury

Britain's biggest banks are preparing to move out of the country in early 2017 because of fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to leave before Christmas, the chief executive of the British Bankers' Association Anthony Browne said.

“The public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction,” the Observer Sunday newspaper quoted Browne as saying in an interview.

The paper released a short extract on Saturday evening but no further comments by Browne from the interview were immediately available.

Banks in Britain depend on a European “passport” to serve clients across the 28-country European Union from one base and lenders worry that this right will end after Britain leaves the EU.

Banks have already said they are making contingency plans to move some of their operations to continental Europe if Britain does not negotiate access to the EU single market after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger formal talks to leave the EU by the end of March 2017 after Britain voted to leave in a referendum last June.

She has said she will fight to retain access to the single market but several EU leaders have insisted that will depend on Britain accepting free movement of workers from the EU – a condition Britain has vowed to curtail.

(Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Andrew Roche and Grant McCool)

European Union and Canada hold emergency talks to rescue trade deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Emergency talks have taken place between the European Union and Canada in a last-ditch attempt to save a historic free-trade deal which has been over seven years in the making.

As Business Insider reported, CETA, a proposed free trade deal between Canada and the 28-nation bloc, was on the verge of collapsing on Friday afternoon after the Belgian region of Wallonia used its federal powers to block it.

European Parliament head Martin Schulz and Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland have held emergency talks with Wallonian parliament leader Paul Magnette, in an attempt to salvage the deal.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels immediately after the talks, Schulz said the meeting had been “constructive” — but problems on the “EU side” had yet to have been resolved.

If the deal did break down it would be a hammer-blow to the EU's international reputation. Plus, it would cast serious doubt on the Union's ability to forge international trade deals with any country, including post-Brexit Britain.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU's trade commissioner, made this point earlier this week. If the EU “can't make it [CETA] with Canada,” the Swedish politician said, “I'm not sure we can make it with the UK.”

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, added that failure to complete the EU-Canada deal would make striking post-Brexit trade deals with Britain near-impossible.

“If you are not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interests … we will have no chance to build public support for free trade, and I am afraid that means that CETA could be our last free-trade agreement,” he said.

Clearly, it's not just the EU's trading relationship with Canada that's on the line, but the 28-nation bloc's future trading aspirations, including hopes of striking a free-trade deal with Britain once Brexit is formally completed.

That's why Theresa May's government and Brexit negotiators in Whitehall will be keeping a very close eye on developments in Brussels as Canada and EU officials attempt to thrash out a last-minute agreement.

Wallonia, a French-speaking region of around 3.6 million people, has a deeply-rooted socialist tradition. Its legislature blocked CETA over concerns that the deal granted too much power to multinational corporations.

By Adam Payne

Major websites across the internet knocked out by massive cyber attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders and cut access to some of the world's best known websites on Friday, a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The attacks struck Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and other customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

The attackers used hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that had previously been infected with a malicious code that allowed them to cause outages that began in the Eastern United States and then spread to other parts of the country and Europe.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were investigating.

The disruptions come at a time of unprecedented fears about the cyber threat in the United States, where hackers have breached political organizations and election agencies.

Friday's outages were intermittent and varied by geography. Users complained they could not reach dozens of internet destinations including Mashable, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp and some businesses hosted by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Dyn said attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, making it one of the largest attacks ever seen. Security experts said it was an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, in which attackers flood the targets with so much junk traffic that they freeze up.

VULNERABILITIES EXPLOITED

Dyn said that at least some of the malicious traffic was coming from connected devices, including webcams and digital video recorders, that had been infected with control software named Mirai. Security researchers have previously raised concerns that such connected devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, lack proper security.

The Mirai code was dumped on the internet about a month ago, and criminal groups are now charging to employ it in cyber attacks, said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, which was helping Dyn analyse the attack.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at communications provider Level 3, said that other networks of compromised machines were also used in Friday's attack, suggesting that the perpetrator had rented access to several so-called botnets.

The attackers took advantage of traffic-routing services such as those offered by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Inc's (CSCO.O) OpenDNS to make it difficult for Dyn to root out bad traffic without also interfering with legitimate inquiries, Drew said.

“Dyn can't simply block the (Internet Protocol) addresses they are seeing, because that would be blocking Google or OpenDNS,” said Matthew Prince, CEO of security and content delivery firm CloudFlare. “These are nasty attacks, some of the hardest to protect against.”

GOVERNMENT WARNED OF ATTACKS

Drew and Nixon both said that the makers of connected devices needed to do far more to make sure that the gadgets can be updated after security flaws are discovered.

Big businesses should also have multiple vendors for core services like routing internet traffic, and security experts said those Dyn customers with backup domain name service providers would have stayed reachable.
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a warning about attacks from the Internet of Things, following the release of the code for Mirai.

Attacking a large domain name service provider like Dyn can create massive disruptions because such firms are responsible for forwarding large volumes of internet traffic.

Dyn said it had resolved one morning attack, which disrupted operations for about two hours, but disclosed a second a few hours later that was causing further disruptions. By Friday evening it was fighting a third.

Amazon's web services division, one of the world's biggest cloud computing companies, reported that the issue temporarily affected users in Western Europe. Twitter (TWTR.N) and some news sites could not be accessed by some users in London late on Friday evening.

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) said that the outage prevented some customers in “certain regions” from making payments. It apologised for the inconvenience and said that its networks had not been hacked.

A month ago, security guru Bruce Schneier wrote that someone, probably a country, had been testing increasing levels of denial-of-service attacks against unnamed core internet infrastructure providers in what seemed like a test of capability.

Nixon said there was no reason to think a national government was behind Friday's assaults, but attacks carried out on a for-hire basis are famously difficult to attribute.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Dustin Volz in Washington. Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankurt, Malathi Nayak in New York, Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Adrian Croft and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Bill Trott, Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Weber)

Setback for Chancellor Philip Hammond, as UK public finances worsen

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 21st Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

UK public finances
London Skyline/Megan Trace/flickr.com

Britain's public finances showed a much bigger than expected deficit in September, a setback for Chancellor Philip Hammond as he prepares to deliver the country's first budget plans since the Brexit vote.

Investors are already nervous about the prospect of an acrimonious British departure from the European Union, and Friday's figures may limit Hammond's ability to cushion the blow of the referendum result via higher spending or tax cuts.

Britain ran a budget shortfall of 10.6 billion pounds last month, 14.5 percent higher than the deficit in the same month last year, the Office for National Statistics said.

The deficit, excluding state-owned banks, was above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists, which had produced a median projection of an 8.5 billion-pound shortfall.

Despite falling from more than 10 percent of economic output in 2010 to 4 percent in the last financial year, Britain's deficit remains among the highest for any developed nation.

Hammond, responding to Friday's figures, reiterated his message that he will bring down the budget deficit more slowly than his predecessor George Osborne had planned.

“We remain committed to fiscal discipline and will return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time, in a way that allows us the space to support the economy as needed,” he said in a statement.

But the slow improvement of the public finances in the year to date, combined with an expected slowdown in the economy next year that will hurt tax revenues, represents a constraint for Hammond as he prepares his Nov. 23 Autumn Statement.

He has said any extra spending on infrastructure projects was likely to be modest, disappointing some economists who said he could be bolder with government borrowing costs so low.

NO SPLURGE

The weak September figures took the deficit in the first half of the financial year to 45.5 billion pounds, down nearly 5 percent from the same period in the previous year but already close to the 55.5 billion pounds forecast for the 2016/17 tax year as a whole by Britain's budget watchdog in March.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said it was clear that its March forecast was “very unlikely to be met” but said the size of the miss was likely to be reduced by one-off factors that weighed on borrowing in the first half of the year and an expected jump in income tax receipts later in the year.

The OBR said it was still too early to assess the impact of the Brexit vote on Britain's public finances.

ALSO IN BUSINESS NEWS

Samuel Tombs, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, said Hammond would probably want to keep some room for a loosening of the purse strings once Britain actually leaves the EU which will probably be shortly before the next election.

“As a result, we think that the chancellor will scrap the 0.8 percent of GDP fiscal tightening planned for 2017, but will not set fiscal policy to boost growth and will ensure that the fiscal consolidation resumes thereafter,” Tombs said.

September's weak performance was partly caused by a fall in receipts from corporation tax and property transactions. Growth in value-added tax receipts was slower than earlier in the year.

It was the first fall in corporation tax revenues for the month of September since 2009, the ONS said, adding that it was unable to provide a reason for the fall.

The growth in VAT receipts was the slowest for the month of September since 2012.

By William Schomberg

London frets over future,Thirty years on from Big Bang

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 21st Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

LONDON (IFR) – Bang! It was the explosion in financial markets heard across the world 30 years ago which transformed the City of London from a cosy network of long-established firms into a cut-throat landscape dominated by foreign banks.

This week is the 30th anniversary of Big Bang, a package of reforms across the securities industry that shaped the City that exists today, putting London alongside New York as the world's two dominant financial centres.

This year's anniversary has extra significance. International firms that arrived on the back of Big Bang are considering whether to stick with London or move operations and jobs elsewhere following Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union.

“It [Big Bang] put London on the map in a way it wasn't before. All the international firms came to London or enlarged what they had,” recalled Nicholas Goodison, who was the architect of the reforms as chairman of the London Stock Exchange at the time.

OVERNIGHT JOLT

Although the full impact of Big Bang evolved over years and the reasons for the reforms went back more than a decade, the transformation is associated with an overnight jolt – on October 27 1986.

That was the brainchild of Goodison. He said a number of the necessary changes were inter-related so should all come at the same time, with good warning, to ensure orderly change.

“We could have done it piecemeal but they were all too closely linked to each other,” Goodison, now 82, told IFR in an interview last week.

There were several parts to Big Bang: it abolished minimum fixed commissions on trades; it removed “single capacity”, which since 1911 had separated the role of brokers, who acted as agents for clients, and jobbers, who made the market and provided liquidity by holding stock on their books; and it allowed foreign ownership of UK brokers, to fix capital shortfalls at many firms.

Big Bang also introduced electronic share trading, which did away with the need for face-to-face share deals and made trading far quicker and more efficient.

The changes were brought in to head off an investigation by the competition watchdog, which wanted to take the stock exchange to the Restrictive Practices Court, a move Goodison said would have resulted in chaos.

In 1983 he proposed to Cecil Parkinson, trade and industry secretary at the time, that he would eliminate fixed commissions within three years.

Parkinson agreed and, helped by Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, persuaded Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to back the reforms. That was not easy because Thatcher “didn't like being friends with the City”, Goodison recalled. He said she subsequently took little interest in Big Bang, despite being credited as its driving force.

“The myth that Big Bang was part of Mrs Thatcher's revolution is just wrong,” Goodison said.

Goodison said the reforms were inevitable after the US abolished fixed commissions in 1974 and Britain scrapped exchange controls in 1979.

“The writing was on the wall and we knew that,” he said.

“Anybody could forecast that the competitive pressures on fixed commission would increase because the biggest securities houses in the world were in America. It was obvious the thing was creaking.”

Goodison said Big Bang achieved its goal better than a court ruling would have done because it pushed through changes smoothly.

The biggest challenge was setting up the electronic trading platform. “It broke down in the first hour. It was difficult. But the reason it broke down was that it had a huge volume of people trying to access it on the first morning and everybody pressed buttons at once.”

It was sheer curiosity that caused it to break down, he said.

FOREIGN PREDATORS

Big Bang sparked profound changes across the City.

Brokers, jobbers and merchant banks started merging. Some were bought by UK clearing banks, but many more were snapped up by big US, European and Asian banks.

Well-known firms such as James Capel, Schroders and Warburg kept some branding in bigger firms, but other old names such as Pinchin Denny and Scrimgeour Kemp Gee were easily swallowed.

That has led to criticism of the “Wimbledonisation” of the City – that London hosts the activity but most of the top players are foreign. Barclays and HSBC are two of the top 10 investment banks today, but the dominance of the City by overseas firms, especially from the US, is a legacy of Big Bang.

“Under the previous system it was pretty much a closed shop, and suddenly they [foreign firms] were allowed to come in,” said Paul Mumford, a fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management.

“A lot of banks seized the opportunity and London became a global centre for markets. It could never have happened if we hadn't had this change,” Mumford told IFR.

Just as London firms were swallowed or reinvented, many careers changed, including Mumford's. He had been a broker and analyst, but a year after Big Bang he moved into fund management.

“It was a relatively painless process but it took a little while for it to have its repercussions on certain areas,” Mumford said.

There were other less direct but still significant effects of Big Bang, including making it easier for firms to raise capital, contributing to the growth of hedge funds, and helping the rise of Canary Wharf as a new financial district in East London as firms could trade further away from the City using electronic communications.

Culture also changed. Hours became longer, lunches shorter and pay rose. The business became more aggressive and less clubby, according to people who worked in the City on both sides of the changes.

Critics reckon many of the banking industry's misconduct problems of the past decade can be traced to Big Bang, as it gave rise to a bonus culture that undermined the City's long-standing code of conduct and integrity.

Goodison, for his part, was not paid for his work for the stock exchange. He was its last unpaid chairman, from 1976 to 1988, and held the role alongside his position as senior partner at Quilter Goodison, a broker that went the way of many peers – it was bought by an overseas predator, France's Paribas.

Goodison said London was right to welcome international firms and needs to continue to do so to stay in front, aided by the advantages of its time zone, language and legal system.

“If London wants to win it has to be open. You can't run a closed shop and win. The essence of London's financial markets is openness to the world,” he said.

By Steve Slater

Lender Microfinance Ireland tackle low awareness to its loans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via TheJournal.ie – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Microfinance ireland (mfi) has rebranded its loan packages for small businesses to make its overall offering clearer to customers.
The government-backed lender, which specialises in loans to firms with fewer than 10 employees, has segmented its loan packages into four categories:

Set-up loans for startups, €5,000-€25,000
Cashflow support for existing businesses, €5,000-€25,000
Business development loans for existing businesses, €5,000-€25,000
Small loans for businesses with low funding requirements, €2,000-€25,000

Until now, the organisation has marketed a blanket offer of loans from €2,000 to €25,000 without explaining what exact options were available.
Chief executive Garrett Stokes said that the MFI largely relied on local enterprise offices to explain and tease out the different loan packages available.

He told Fora that he expects the rebranding exercise will “make our overall offering more user-friendly”.

“What we’ve tried to do with the packaging is be very precise so it becomes much clearer to (customers) as to what we’re offering, the terms of the offer and so that when they come online to us through their local enterprise office, they know exactly what they’re looking for.”
Awareness

In the most recent ‘bank watch survey’ by ISME, which represents small- and medium-sized businesses in Ireland, awareness of the government’s microfinance scheme was down with just over half of respondents saying they knew what it was.

Stokes said the clearer loan packages will boost awareness of the programme, which he described as a “huge advantage” to early-stage businesses.

“The majority of our customers are people who cannot, for whatever reason, get lending from traditional lenders,” he said. “(MFI) enables somebody who has a good idea and wants to set up a businesses but can’t get the money themselves or funding from a bank to have another location to get help.”

He said that MFI’s criteria is “quite different from a bank” because all of its loans are unsecured.

By Conor McMahon

HSBC : Virtual reality worlds the future of holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The future of transport and tourism may well involve not going anywhere.
Researchers at HSBC have seen the future and it features a lot of virtual reality.

People will be able to use the technology to visit virtual worlds as real as our own, HSBC analysts Davey Jose and Anton Tonev said in a note to clients.

And, while they'll be free to visit, they might be full of ads.
VR could “create a many new avenues for recreation and leisure, and if it follows the ad models of many of the technology giants today, these VR recreation activities could be free,” HSBC said.

“If this is the case, instead of recreation costs going up, costs could decline, even if the number of hours spent in virtual worlds for leisure increases.”

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Sony are pushing virtual reality headsets as the next big thing. In a demo last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off “Social VR,” using a combination of the Oculus Rift headset and a 360-degree camera to mash together virtual reality and the real world.

The technology has endless applications and the workplace of the future may well only exist in virtual reality, eliminating the need to commute to the office, the HSBC analysts said.

Meanwhile, physical transport will become totally autonomous. With less traffic and more AI-driven vehicles, the era of car collisions and deaths on the road will end sometime around 2040, according to the HSBC report.
Key to this change is the development of “haptics” – technology that engages all the senses in the virtual world, rather than just sight and sound, to make it feel more real.

“With technology rapidly advancing and R&D efforts going into the development of better ‘haptics’, where one will be able to ‘feel’ in the virtual world, we believe that it’s likely that the next generation of ‘VR natives’ may find it preferable to utilise VR to travel virtually rather than physically,” HSBC said.

The investment bank added that this might not be such a big leap as we might think. “The shift from the physical to a digital format, in general, is not a novel concept, it has happened before,” HSBC said, pointing to the communication switch from physical letters to virtual e-mails.
“For example, physical mail in US and China declined from the early 2000s to 2014/15 by about 40%. However, in this time, average emails sent increased fifteen-fold, from 12bn to over 200bn per day,” HSBC said.

Travelling to virtual rather than real places is quicker, cheaper and safer than conventional physical transport, HSBC said.
The rise of the technology could cut commute times and make it more attractive to live out in the countryside rather than the city.
This would solve the problem of rising commuting times and growing work days, freeing up precious time to spend in virtual reality holiday worlds.

While it remains to be seen whether the experience of virtual reality will top the excitement of travelling to new places, it certainly would be more convenient.

By Ben Moshinsky

Dozens of branches of Travis Perkins to close with the loss of 600 jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com,via Skynews.com – – Wed, 19 Oct, 2016) – –

Travis Perkins is cutting 600 jobs and closing more than 30 branches as it warns of “uncertain” trading in the year ahead.
The builders' merchant, which owns the Wickes brand, said those at risk of being affected had already been informed.

The job losses come across its trade brands such as Travis Perkins, Benchmarx, and plumbing and heating businesses BSS and PTS.
Travis Perkins is cutting 600 jobs and closing more than 30 branches as it warns of “uncertain” trading in the year ahead.

The builders' merchant, which owns the Wickes brand, said those at risk of being affected had already been informed.

The job losses come across its trade brands such as Travis Perkins, Benchmarx, and plumbing and heating businesses BSS and PTS.

The company said it hoped to relocate some of the staff.
Wickes – and its other consumer-facing business Toolstation – are not affected.

Ten smaller distribution centres will also close under the plans.
The company's chief executive, John Carter, said: “It is still too early to predict customer demand in 2017 with certainty and we will continue to monitor our lead indicators closely.

“Given this uncertainty we will be closing over 30 branches and making further efficiency-driven changes in the supply chain, resulting in an exceptional charge of £40-50m this year.”

While it did not mention the UK's vote to leave the EU specifically and the resulting collapse in the value of the pound, the FTSE 100 firm made it clear it was seeking to cut costs to account for any drop-off in business.
The company said that while it was currently outperforming the market, its full-year profits would likely fall slightly shy of estimates.
The warning prompted a 7% fall in its share price.

It reported total sales growth of more than 3% for its third financial quarter – with growth across the board except in its PTS heating and BSS plumbing businesses, describing trading as “not satisfactory”.
Travis Perkins has taken on 4,000 staff this year amid an expansion of its best-performing outlets – with over 50 Wickes stores given an overhaul.

Uk hit by £10 billion annual cybercrime

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Wed, 19 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The UK economy lost up to £10.9 billion as a result of online fraud and cybersecurity last year, according to new research — that's around £210 for every person over the age of 16 in the country.

The figures, from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and crime awareness group Get Safe Online (GSO), would likely be even higher if more cybercrime was reported. 39% of those who had been victims of cybercrime in a GSO survey said that they hadn't reported the incident.
The report also highlights a worrying gap in people's understanding of what constitutes an online crime.

86% said that they had not been targeted by cyber criminals in the past 12 months. 68% of respondents, however, said they had been targeted in a variety of ways — deceptive emails, fraudulent websites, and email account hacking, all of which are common methods for online theft.
Another worrying trend is the rise of ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. 3% of victims in the survey had been victims of ransomware.

The research also highlighted a widespread belief that cybercrime is inevitable — 37% of those surveyed who have been a victim of cybercrime said that they felt there was “nothing that could be done” to prevent it.
Tony Neate, chief executive of GSO, said in an emailed statement: “The fact that over a third of people felt there was nothing that could have been done to stop them becoming a victim is alarming indeed – particularly when it’s so easy to protect yourself online.”

City of London Police’s commander Chris Greany said: “The huge financial loss to cybercrime hides the often harrowing human stories that destroy lives and blights every community in the UK.

“All of us need to ask ourselves are we doing everything we can to protect ourselves from online criminals. Unfortunately, people still click on links in unsolicited emails and fail to update their security software. Just as you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, so you shouldn’t leave yourself unprotected online,” he added.

By Thomas Colson

Tenants to face rent increase as 440,000 landlords are hit by changes in tax

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Tue, 18 Oct, 2016) London, Uk – –

Thousands of tenants could face substantial rent rises next spring or even be forced to move out as sweeping tax changes hitting their landlords come into effect.

About 440,000 landlords are facing substantially higher tax bills which could see them passing on the costs to their tenants or selling up, a pressure group has warned.

The changes will mean landlords will no longer be able to deduct mortgage interest payments or any other finance-related costs from their turnover before declaring their taxable income.

The National Landlord Association says more than 400,000 landlords who currently pay basic-rate tax will immediately be hit by the changes although, potentially, the majority of Britain’s estimated 2m landlords could find their tax liability rise.

It says about a third of landlords in London and the east of England will be affected next April, with just over a quarter in the West Midlands.
Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, said its research showed government claims the changes would only affect a small number of higher-rate taxpayers were “complete tosh”.

“The government must look to amend these tax changes and minimise the impact on landlords and their tenants – something that could easily be achieved by applying the rules to only new loans written after April 2017.
“Unless this happens, landlords will face an impossible decision of whether to increase rents and cause misery for their tenants, or to sell-up, and force their tenants to find a new home,” he added.

Warning shot: landlords face being squeezed by the taxman come next spring

The amount by which landlords will be affected will depend on their personal circumstances, including whether or not they generate income from any other sources.
Landlords’ tax liability will increase depending on their existing annual mortgage interest payments, which are broken down by portfolio size:
Single property – £3,600
2-3 properties – £8,600
4-5 properties- £16,300
5-10 properties – £18,200
11-19 properties – £24,900
20+ properties – £38,000
It has been estimated that some 7.2 million UK households will be in rented accommodation within a decade as house price inflation continues to see increasing numbers struggle to get on the property ladder.

By Mark Dorman

 

House calls are on the way back thanks to this health care startup

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Tue, 18 Oct, 2016) London, Uk – –

One health care company is harnessing technology to bring a doctor to your doorstep within two hours.

Heal connects patients with vetted and licensed pediatricians and family practice doctors. Doctors arrive in under two hours for emergency situations or you can schedule an appointment ahead of time. It costs $99 per visit without insurance or an in-network co-pay.
On Tuesday, the Santa Monica-based company announced it has raised $26.9 million in Series A funding led by Thomas Tull’s Tull Investment group, bringing the total funding to $40 million. Other investors joining the round include Breyer Capital and Qualcomm (QCOM) Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs.
“Heal is uniquely positioned to assume the role of the go-to health care option in America. They have the leadership team, technology innovation and vision required to contribute to the transformation of the health care industry,” Tull said in the press release.
The husband and wife co-founders came up with the idea in October 2014, when their then-7-month-old son was sick on a Friday afternoon.

“We couldn’t get a hold of his pediatrician so we went to the emergency room and waited there from 4 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. Turns out my son was OK. But when we were on the way home, my wife turned to me and said there has to be a better way,” one of the founders, Nick Desai, told Yahoo Finance.
Desai and his wife, Dr. Renee Dua — who is board-certified in nephrology, hypertension and internal medicine, and served as chief of medicine at Valley Presbyterian and Simi Valley Hospitals in California — embarked on a journey to reinvent primary and preventive care.
Since April 1 of this year, Heal has seen 8,500 patients. Recruiting mostly through referrals, the company employs 15 full-time doctors and 45 long-term contractors. Desai says he understands that Heal can’t fix medicine for patients unless they help doctors first.
“The reality of the health care system is that primary care physicians are unhappy,” he said. “Ironically, this dissatisfaction exists because doctors don’t have enough time to practice quality medicine.”
With Heal, a medical assistant drives doctors to a patient’s home. Through a tablet-based record system, physicians spend the car ride analyzing a patient’s history through the digitized system.

Currently available in California’s Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and San Diego, Heal accepts all the preferred provider organization (PPO) health insurance plans, including Aetna (AET), UnitedHealthCare (UNH), Cigna (CI) and Anthem Blue Cross (ANTM).
“We want to offer services that are patient-friendly and improve health care outcomes,” Desai said. “More and more people have insurance because of Obamacare, but it’s the first time they don’t know how to find and use services or if they don’t want to wait for a doctor they just go to the emergency room, which costs more money for both the patient and the system.”
Heal’s mission is akin to that of a bevy of other health care startups that have served specific regions. Doctors Making Housecalls operates in North Carolina. Ashton Kutcher-backed Pager operates in New York City. Dose Healthcare was started by an emergency medicine physician in Nashville. Despite regional competition, none have expanded nationally. Desai thinks Heal is equipped to do so.
With the funding, Desai says he wants to be in every corner of California and serve more patients. Heal will also begin accepting Medicare next month, and it will extend into 10 new markets in 2017.
“From February to November, we’ll be entering one new market a month,” he says.
Of course, the landscape for certain providers isn’t looking so bright, with Aetna, UnitedHealth and Humana exiting 11 of 15 state exchanges next year.
Acknowledging that local knowledge is critical (he and Dua grew up, were educated and have spent their entire adult lives in California), Desai said he and his team need to fully grasp the regulatory market and leverage existing networks to succeed. He’s optimistic that people are desperately looking for an alternative to the health care options typically available to them.
“Health care delivery is very fragmented,” he said. “We’re up against the system but there are a lot of players.”
Additionally, he wants to participate in the next wave of biometric product development.
“We want to reinvent the business process of medicine and we’re seeing that a patient’s home environment is critical to precision medicine,” he said.
By partnering with diagnostics companies, Heal aims to develop intelligent software to create more accurate treatment plans.
And Desai is practicing what he preaches. His now 2 ½-year-old son gets everything from his check-ups to his vaccinations from a Heal doctor. They haven’t taken him to a doctor’s office in the past year.

By Melody Hahm

Parliament should vote on Article 50, Constitutional lawyers tell the UK High Court

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Mon, 17 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Theresa May is facing the first serious test of her authority as Prime Minister, with lawyers on Monday arguing in the High Court that she must defer to parliament on the matter of the UK leaving the European Union.

Three of the UK's most senior judges on Monday heard arguments about why members of parliament should vote on the triggering of Article 50.

Article 50 begins the official two-year process of Britain leaving the European Union and Theresa May has signalled she will trigger the article in March of next year. However, there is increasing pressure for the triggering to be put to a vote, a process that some commentators say could result in the Brexit process being watered down or even reversed.

Lawyers representing a number of claimants say it would be unlawful for May to initiate Britain's exit from the EU using “royal prerogative” — the power granted to a government to make decisions without a vote from parliament.

Speaking at the Royal Courts of Justice, Patrick Green QC, representing British expats, said it was “beyond any doubt” that existing law prevents the executive from removing treaties and domestic law without first consulting parliament. Green was referencing the European Communities Act (1972) and European Union Act (2011).

He argued that the former piece of legislation, which saw the UK concede some of its legislative power to the EU, was an example of Parliament conferring powers which “only parliament” could exercise and confer. Triggering Article 50 without first passing an Act of Parliament would require May's government to overturn a parliamentary decision without consulting parliament itself, he added.

“There can be no scope for government with a stroke of a pen claiming the power to take away treaties … remove domestic rights and reverse parliament's conferral power without parliamentary approval,” he said.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing the crowdfunded claimants group People's Challenge, told the court that triggering Article 50 without parliamentary approval would be contrary to the Scotland Act, which protects Scottish domestic law from alteration without a proper parliamentary process.

“The crown does not have the right to impose or remove rights as a matter of domestic law,” she said.

The court room was packed to watch the second day of the historic case unfold. If the judges rule in the claimants' favour, not only would it have a clear impact on how and when Britain leaves the 28-nation bloc, but would reshape the country's constitutional landscape.

The government's position was defended by Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC. Wright argued that MPs were told the government intended to use royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 after the result of a Brexit vote, and said the referendum legislation did not state that further legislation would be necessary to put the result into effect.

“As a matter of general principle, withdrawal from a treaty is a matter for the Crown … This is totally within the expectation of Parliament … Royal prerogative has not been eroded,” he said.

The attorney general accused the claimants of politicising the legal debate by wanting MPs to be “asked the same question” that was put to the public on June 23.

The case got underway on Thursday and will conclude on Tuesday, with a verdict expected in mid-November. The claimants are expected to launch an appeal to the Supreme Court if the judges rule against them.

The case is being heard against a backdrop of heated debate between Remainers who want Brexit to be subjected to tough parliamentary scrutiny, and Brexiteers who accuse Remainers of attempting to subvert the will of the British people.

Some who have attended the case have been verbally abused upon entering the court. Lord Chief Justice opened proceedings by saying this abuse was “wholly wrong” and warned those responsible would receive the “full vigour” of the law.

The case continues.

By Adam Payne

 

UK Rag Trade shows steepest sales dip in seven years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 17 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Britain's fashion market has suffered its steepest decline in sales since 2009 as consumers increasingly spend their money elsewhere, according to industry data published on Monday.

Retail industry executives including Next's (NXT.L) chief executive, Simon Wolfson, reckon there has been a cyclical move away from spending on clothing back into areas that suffered the most during the economic downturn, such as eating out and travel.

Researcher Kantar Worldpanel said data for the year to Sept. 25 showed that UK fashion has seen four months of consecutive sales decline, with nearly 700 million pounds lost from the value of the market from this time last year.

It said June's decline of 0.1 percent was the first monthly contraction in six years.

“Fashion retailers are still following the same patterns of over-buying and deep discounting and consumers are increasingly reluctant to pay full price,” said Glen Tooke, consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel.

“Most recently the decline has been driven by falling frequencies of buying, giving retailers fewer opportunities to encourage shoppers to part with their cash.”

Earlier this month a survey from BDO, the accountancy and business advisory firm, said Britain's fashion retailers suffered a slump in sales in September as unseasonably warm weather deterred sales of autumn and winter collections.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Caffeine the most you should have in one day

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Sat, 15 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

 

 

It turns out Coca-Cola and Red Bull have less caffeine than you may think. We looked at the maximum amount of caffeine you should have each day, according to the Mayo Clinic and found out which drinks have the most caffeine and how many of each you should have in a single day.

Saudi Arabia and Japan’s SoftBank Group, to create technology investment fund of $100 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 15 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Saudi Arabia and Japan's SoftBank Group (9984.T) will create a technology investment fund that could grow as large as $100 billion, making it one of the world's largest private equity investors and a potential kingpin in the industry.

The move is part of a series of dramatic business initiatives launched by Riyadh this year as Saudi Arabia, its economy hurt by low oil prices, deploys huge financial reserves in an effort to move into non-oil industries.

Earlier this year, it invested $3.5 billion in U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber, surprising many.

SoftBank, a $68 billion telecommunications and tech investment behemoth, has also been stepping up investment in new areas. It agreed to buy U.K. chip design firm Arm Holdings in July in Japan's largest ever outbound deal.

Saudi Arabia's top sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will be the lead investment partner and may invest up to $45 billion over the next five years while SoftBank expects to invest at least $25 billion.

Several other large, unnamed investors are in active talks on their participation and could bring the total size of the new fund up to $100 billion, SoftBank said.

“Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector,” SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

At an annual rate of $20 billion, the new London-based fund could at current levels account for roughly a fifth of global venture capital investment.

In the year to September, venture capital-backed companies globally raised $79 billion, according to data from KPMG and CB Insights, with tech start-ups attracting the lion's share of that cash.

“Son is very good at looking for companies with big growth prospects, and that will create fierce competition,” said Hiroyuki Kuroda, secretary general of the Venture Enterprise Center in Japan.

The project will be led for SoftBank by Rajeev Misra, the group's head of strategic finance and who joined the Japanese firm in 2014 from Fortress Investment Group, a private equity and hedge fund group. PIF will engage its own team.

INVESTMENT POWER

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leading an economic reform drive in the kingdom, has revealed a string of high-profile investment plans this year.

He aims to expand the PIF, founded in 1971 to finance development projects in the kingdom, from $160 billion to about $2 trillion, making it the world's largest sovereign fund.

In June, the PIF departed from Saudi Arabia's traditional strategy of low-risk investments and took a step into the tech world with the Uber investment.

That deal which illustrated how Riyadh now hopes to use its investments to develop the economy: Uber is a popular form of transport for Saudi women, who are banned from driving, and is creating badly needed non-oil jobs for Saudi citizens.

SoftBank, a diverse company with stakes from U.S. carrier Sprint (S.N) to e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA.N), is also changing, shifting towards cutting edge tech investments after Son scrapped retirement plans in July and announced plans to reinforce “SoftBank 2.0”. It is still wrestling with a $112 billion debt pile and the turnaround of Sprint.

“SoftBank has been looking to invest aggressively in the internet of things, and this fund is part of that wider move,” said Naoki Yokota, analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center Ltd.

(Reporting by Andrew Torchia and Tom Wilson; Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Jerusalem, Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, William Maclean in Dubai and Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Writing by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Nissan CEO Ghosn meets May, after Brexit ultimatum

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

Two weeks after warning that Nissan (7201.T) could halt new investment in Britain's biggest car plant due to uncertainty over Brexit, Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn met Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

Ghosn told reporters at the Paris motor show late last month that future spending on the north of England facility in Sunderland would depend on a guarantee of compensation if Britain's eventual deal with Europe led to tariffs on car exports.

Businesses have been concerned that Britain is headed towards a “hard Brexit”, which would leave it outside the European single market and facing tariffs of up to 10 percent on car exports.

Nissan, which built nearly one third of Britain's 1.6 million cars last year, faces a decision in early 2017 on where to build its next Qashqai sport utility vehicle, prompting Friday's visit.

“The purpose of this meeting… is to ensure both Nissan and the UK government have an aligned way forward that meets the needs of both the company and the country,” a Nissan spokesman said.

“We do not expect any specific agreement to be communicated following this initial introductory meeting of the CEO and the Prime Minister,” he added.

A spokesman for the prime minister said he would not comment on the private meeting.

Ghosn's concerns led other carmakers to warn about the consequences of a hard Brexit, favoured by some Conservatives who wish to impose limits on immigration, a key concern of many voters who backed Brexit.

The chief executive of Britain's biggest automaker Jaguar Land Rover (TAMO.NS) told Reuters that any Brexit deal would have to guarantee a “level playing field”, opening up the possibility that others too would seek financial guarantees.

In September, when asked for a response to Ghosn's comments, a spokeswoman said the government would not give a running commentary of different opinions about Brexit.

But in a speech to the Conservative Party this month, May said the government would do everything it could to encourage, develop and support strategic sectors of the economy such as car manufacturing, financial services and aerospace.

Britain's car industry was a strong supporter of continued membership of the European Union ahead of the June 23 vote, benefiting from unfettered access to the world's biggest trading bloc and its standardised regulations.

The British government has said it will listen to business concerns and protect the economy as its begins formal divorce talks from the European Union by the end of March.

(Additional reporting by Kylie Maclellan; editing by Stephen Addison)

 

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