Hitachi pulls out of £16bn Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Thur, 17th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

The government has reasserted it commitment to developing nuclear power after Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa nuclear power plant this morning.

The company took the decision to suspend work on the £16bn facility behind Hinkley Point C, which was meant to produce six per cent of the UK’s electricity, after holding detailed discussions with the government.

Read more: Hitachi claims ‘no decision' has been made on future of UK nuclear plant

But despite the move, Hitachi has indicated that it will keep ownership of the site, while discussing options with the government.

“I am very sorry to say that despite the best efforts of everyone involved we’ve not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned,” said Duncan Hawthorne, the chief executive of Hitachi subsidiary of Horizon Nuclear Power.

“As a result we will be suspending the development of the Wylfa Newydd project, as well as work related to Oldbury, until a solution can be found. In the meantime we will take steps to reduce our presence but keep the option to resume development in future.”

The move puts thousands of jobs at risk and will cause headaches for a government which aims to increase nuclear’s share of energy production from a quarter to a third by 2035.

It could also come at a cost to taxpayers if the government decides to step in and rescue the project.

However, the move also hits Hitachi. The company said it will take a write-down of ¥300bn (£2.14bn) at its British nuclear unit as it suspends the project.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “As the business secretary [Greg Clark] set out in June, any deal needs to represent value for money and be the right one for UK consumers and taxpayers.”

They continued: “This government is committed to the nuclear sector, giving the go ahead to the first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinkley Point C, investing £200 million through our recent sector, which includes millions for advanced nuclear technologies.”

“We are also reviewing alternative funding models for future nuclear projects and will update on these findings in summer 2019.”

Read more: Toshiba withdraws from UK nuclear power station

Hitachi was struggling to find other investors to join it in the project, and had called on the government to step in to provide support.

The Japanese company bought into the project when it paid £697m to two German power companies in 2012.

By August Graham

Chancellor Philip Hammond hints at Article 50 extension

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 16th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Philip Hammond has raised the possibility of an extension to Article 50, the process by which the UK is due to exit the EU.

In a call with business leaders on Tuesday evening, Mr Hammond sought to reassure the business community that a “no-deal” Brexit could be avoided.

According to the CBI, he outlined how the 29 March date might be postponed.

John Allan, president of the CBI, said the chancellor appeared more relaxed about the possibility of a delay.

The CBI, the UK's biggest business lobby group, has warned a “no-deal” Brexit is a threat to jobs and growth.

Mr Allan said it “wasn't absolutely crystal clear” that the government could avoid that scenario, but he understood, following the call, that there would be moves in Parliament next week which would allow the UK's exit date from the EU to be put back “if it became clear we were heading towards that”.

A delay to implementation of Article 50 would avoid the UK leaving the EU without a negotiated deal.

The CBI chief said he was encouraged by government moves to build a cross-party consensus for a new approach to Brexit.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC the government would not be delaying Brexit.

“We are clear we won't be delaying Article 50. We won't be revoking it,” she said.

Despite fears that the pound would plummet if the government suffered a heavy defeat in Parliament, sterling rallied slightly. Shares traded in London broadly flat on Wednesday morning. Some observers have suggested that there is now a stronger consensus amongst MPs wishing to avoid a “no-deal” Brexit, making that a less likely outcome.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs said Tuesday evening's Parliamentary defeat for the prime minister made it more likely that the UK would pursue a “softer” Brexit, retaining closer ties to the EU, or even that Brexit might be overturned.

“We think the prospect of a disorderly ‘no-deal' Brexit has faded further,” Goldman Sachs' European economist Adrian Paul wrote in a note.

Goldman Sachs still believes the most likely outcome is that “a close variant” of the deal Mrs May has negotiated with Brussels will eventually be passed by the House of Commons.

However, Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the UK was still “staring down the barrel of no deal”.

“As things stand, UK law says we will leave on 29 March, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?” he said.

Uk businesses express impatience, anger and frustration over Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 16th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

The PM's commons defeat has angered business leaders who fear they are looking “down the barrel” of a no deal Brexit.

Business leaders have expressed their “frustration” over the political turmoil and lack of a Brexit deal after Prime Minister Theresa May's defeat in the Commons.

Sky's City editor Mark Kleinman reported executives from some of the biggest companies rounded on cabinet ministers after they refused to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Here's the response to Mrs May's defeat from some of UK's leading business groups.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.

“Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29th.”

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said:

“It is the collective failure of our political leaders that, with only a few weeks to go, we are staring down the barrel of no deal.

“As things stand, UK law says we will leave on 29th March, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?

“The clock is still ticking, and whatever the outcome of tomorrow's no confidence vote, the reality is that MPs will still need to find a way to put aside their differences and come to an agreement.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said:

“Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. A new plan is needed immediately. This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed to protect the UK's economy.”

Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK, said:

“The outcome of today's vote prolongs uncertainty and will continue to depress business confidence.

“The lack of clarity on the path to an orderly Brexit risks disruption and financial instability on both sides of the Channel. We urge the government and MPs to carefully consider the options without delay and put forward an economically sensible way ahead.

“A no deal outcome is not in the best interests of customers in the UK or the EU.”

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said:

“Parliament's decision to reject the Government's deal means businesses across the UK will continue to face uncertainty regarding our relationship with the European Union.

“The Government must now urgently set out its ‘Plan B' to ensure we can secure a deal locking in a legally binding transition before 29 March.

“Financial stability must not be jeopardised in a game of high-stakes political poker. Politicians across all parties should work together pragmatically to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would be a hugely damaging outcome for households and businesses on both sides of the Channel.”

Jaguar Land Rover UK’s biggest carmaker to axe thousands of jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 10th Jan 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) (TAMO.NS) is set to announce “substantial” job cuts in the thousands, a source told Reuters, as the company faces double-digit drops in demand in China and a slump in sales for diesel cars in Europe.

The company builds a higher proportion of its cars in Britain than any other major or medium-sized carmaker and has also spent millions of pounds preparing for Brexit, in case there are tariffs or customs checks.

JLR swung to a loss of 354-million pounds between April and September and had already in 2018 cut around 1,000 roles in Britain, shut its Solihull plant for two weeks and announced a three-day week at its Castle Bromwich site.

The Tata Motors-owned company has unveiled plans to cut costs and improve cash flows by 2.5 billion pounds including “reducing employment costs and employment levels.”

Those cuts will be “substantial” and run into the thousands, the source told Reuters.

“The announcement on job losses will be substantial, affecting managerial, research, sales, design,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Production-line staff will not be affected “at this stage,” said the source.

The company, which employs nearly 40,000 people in Britain and has been boosting its workforce at new plants in China and Slovakia in recent years, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Thursday.

JLR, which became Britain’s biggest carmaker in 2016, had been on course to build around 1 million vehicles by the turn of the decade, but output in 2018 looks set to have fallen as sales in the first eleven months dropped 4.4 percent.

Sales in China between July and September fell by 44 percent, the biggest slump of any market for the central England-based firm, turning the country from its biggest sales market to its smallest.

Its chief financial officer said in October that the firm’s Changshu plant in China “has basically been closed for most of October in order to allow the inventory of both our vehicles and dealer inventory to start to reduce.”

Diesel accounts for 90 percent of the firm’s British sales and 45 percent of global demand, the company said last year, as demand in the segment tumbles following new levies in the wake of the 2015 Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.

Like fellow automakers, the company could see its three British car factories grind to a halt in fewer than 80 days if lawmakers next week reject a deal by Prime Minister Theresa May, leading to tariffs and customs checks after a no-deal outcome.

Reporting by Costas Pitas

No-deal Brexit poses “catastrophie” for food supply, say UK Farming leaders and landowners

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 10th Aug 2019) London, Uk – –

MPs told of triple threat of disruption to stocks, higher prices and farmers going bust

Farming leaders and landowners from across the UK have written to MPs to plead with them to make sure that the idea of a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table, warning of the “catastrophic” impact it would have on the country’s food supply.

They warned of a triple threat with the possibility of disrupted food supplies, higher food prices and farmers being put out of business because the EU market could be closed to British food exporters for six months.

“Brexit will mean that, for the first time in a generation, UK politicians will have direct responsibility for ensuring our nation is properly fed. The implications, not only for domestic food supply but for the careful management of our cherished countryside, would represent an historic political failure,” said the four main farmers’ unions, including the National Farmers Union, in a letter to MPs.

Separately, tenant farmers and landowners have written to MPs warning of a no-deal disaster.Advertisement

“This is a recipe for disaster for all farmers and ultimately will cause long-term damage to the rural communities and countryside of our nation,” said the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers Association in a joint letter.

They also want assurances over the prospect of lower-quality food such as chlorinated chicken, currently banned by the EU, entering the market in a no-deal scenario. They said the thought that the standards of British farming could be “undermined by cheaper, lower-quality, imports” was a major concern.

The NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said the impacts of no deal would mean a potential trade embargo on UK meat and plant products.

They raised similar concerns in September but feel that few grasp the implications of Britain becoming a “third country” in relation to the EU.

They have been told that 6,000 meat processing plants that export to the EU will have to undergo individual audits by British authorities which must then be certified in Brussels. These will then be checked by EU officials and put to a standing veterinary committee for approval, a process that the NFU has calculated will take six months “at a conservative reading”.

In its letter the NFU says this would lead to an “effective trade embargo on the export of UK animals and animal-based products”. Farmers exporting products would face “draconian tariffs” designed to make any non-EU products uncompetitive” against EU food. The effective EU tariff would be 65% on beef, 46% on lamb and 27% on chicken, MPs have been told.

Small-scale sheep farmers, many of whom earn less than £20,000 a year, are thought to be particularly vulnerable, with 21% of all lamb meat being exported and 94% of that to the EU. Almost 90% of all beef exports also went to the EU, according to 2017 figures.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has suggested that mountain sheep farmers would be “wiped out” by a no deal over Brexit.

By Lisa O'Carroll 

Uk new car sales see biggest downturn since 2008

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 7th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Plummeting diesel sales, new emissions rules, and a Brexit-linked hit to consumer confidence were all blamed for the downturn.

New car sales fell by nearly 7% last year in the biggest annual drop since 2008, according to industry figures.

A slump in demand for diesel, stricter emissions rules, and falling consumer confidence ahead of Brexit were blamed for the decline.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed 2.37 million new cars were sold in 2018, down more than 174,000 on the previous year.

The 6.8% fall was the second year in a row of decline and the largest drop since demand fell by 11.3% during the financial crisis a decade ago.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes described the challenges facing the industry as a “perfect storm”. The trade body is forecasting a further 2% decline in 2019.

Mr Hawes said: “A second year of substantial decline is a major concern, as falling consumer confidence, confusing fiscal and policy messages and shortages due to regulatory changes have combined to create a highly turbulent market.

“The industry is facing ever tougher environmental targets against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty that is weakening demand so these figures should act as a wake-up call for policy makers.”

The key factor in the decline for last year was a 29.6% drop in diesel sales – with the SMMT blaming a “lingering sense of uncertainty” over how diesel cars will be taxed and treated after the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal in 2015.

Petrol car sales were up by 8.7% while alternatively-fuelled vehicles such as plug-in hybrids or electric cars were up 20.9%.

Another factor affecting car sales was the implementation of a new EU emissions testing procedure which came into force in September and was blamed for a supply shortage in the autumn.

Mr Hawes said it would be unfair to attribute too much significance to concerns over Brexit when explaining the fall in new car sales.

But he said that falling consumer confidence had reduced consumers' appetite for a “big ticket purchase”.

The SMMT, like other business bodies, is calling for MPs to back Theresa May's Brexit agreement and avoid a no-deal scenario.

It says that crashing out of the EU without an agreement risked destroying the car manufacturing industry, which employs more than 850,000 people in the UK.

UK House price growth slows to weakest in almost six years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 4th Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

UK house prices grew at an annual pace of 0.5% in December, the Nationwide building society has said, the slowest annual rate since February 2013.

The lender says uncertainty over the economic outlook appears to be undermining confidence in the market.

London and surrounding areas saw a small fall in house prices in 2018.

Northern Ireland saw the biggest house price rises, up 5.8%. Prices in Wales climbed 4%, in Scotland they were up 0.9% and in England they rose 0.7%.

December's growth rate, based on its own mortgage data, was a marked slowdown from the annual pace of 1.9% recorded by the Nationwide in November.

The Nationwide's chief economist, Robert Gardner, told the BBC the severity of the slowdown was unexpected: “It is a little bit surprising that house price growth has slowed as much as it has in the last month or so.

“It seems to be the uncertain economic outlook that is really weighing on buyer sentiment. I think once that lifts then things should start to pick up to normal levels of about 2%.”

He said a lot of it “depends on how we get through this Brexit uncertainty”.

Chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, Samuel Tombs, said the slowdown was striking, but the overall outlook for the market was relatively benign: “The hefty month-to-month fall in house prices in December [of 0.7%] – the biggest Nationwide has reported since August 2011 – brings an end to a weak year for the housing market.

“While the supply of homes for sale also has dwindled, the balance of demand and supply has shifted in buyers' favour. That said, we continue to doubt that a sustained period of falling house prices is likely.”

He said that assuming MPs back some form of Brexit deal, with a subsequent recovery in consumers' confidence, prices were likely to pick up to grow by 2% this year.

Nicholas Finn, executive director of Garrington Property Finders, said: “At one extreme we are seeing a surge in the numbers of opportunistic, frequently cash, buyers emerging to snap up homes at large discounts.”

“Meanwhile thousands of would-be sellers are instead hunkering down and waiting until things improve before putting their home on the market.”

Separate figures from the Bank of England showed that mortgage approvals for house purchases fell in November, and are now at half the level of 15 years ago.

Regional differences

The Nationwide said that house prices in London and the surrounding areas, such as Berkshire, had fallen by 0.8% and 1.4% in the past year.

However, outside these areas, each nation and English region – based on Nationwide's local mortgage data – recorded annual house price growth.

In addition to steady price growth in Northern Ireland and Wales, the East Midlands also saw prices increase by 4%.

“With prices in both inner and outer London falling, the capital bears a share of responsibility for dragging down the national pace of growth,” Mr Finn said.

Britain’s manufacturers facing biggest skilled workers shortage in 30 years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 3rd Jan, 2019) London, Uk – –

Brexit blamed as 81% of manufacturers and 70% of service sector firms report difficulties finding skilled staff

Britain’s manufacturers are facing the biggest shortage of skilled workers since 1989 amid record levels of UK employment and falling numbers of EU27 nationals coming to the country to work since the Brexit vote.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said more than four-fifths of manufacturers struggled to hire the right staff in the final months of 2018.

In a survey of more than 6,000 employers across the country, the lobby group found 81% of manufacturers and 70% of service sector firms reported difficulties with finding staff with the right qualifications and experience.

Adam Marshall, the director general of the BCC, said the government urgently needed to recognise the magnitude of the recruitment difficulties firms faced as ministers prepared to introduce restrictions on EU nationals working in the UK after Brexit.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is looking to cut immigration from the EU by 80% after Britain leaves, including through the extension of a £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold already applied to non-EU workers.

Marshall said: “Business concerns about the government’s recent blueprint for future immigration rules must be taken seriously – and companies must be able to access skills at all levels without heavy costs or bureaucracy.”

The recruitment difficulties come as the UK employment rate stands at the highest level since 1971, while unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, making it harder for companies to hire new workers without offering higher wages.

Net migration from the rest of EU to the UK has also slumped to a six-year low. The weaker pound has made it less attractive for foreign nationals to come to Britain to work, while Brexit has also raised the prospect of tougher immigration rules in future.

The BCC said the economy also appeared to be “stuck in a weak holding pattern” at the start of the year owing to Brexit uncertainty, with companies reporting stagnant levels of growth and faltering business confidence.

While manufacturers are coming under pressure from labour shortages, the service sector, which includes banks, hotels and restaurants, and accounts for about four-fifths of the economy, reported weaker domestic sales.

Production in the manufacturing sector hit its fastest pace of growth in six months in December as firms stockpiled in preparation for potential border holdups in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The IHS Markit/Cips manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose from 53.6 in November to 54.2 last month, beating all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists. Above 50 indicates economic growth.

The latest snapshot raises the prospect that Brexit uncertainty may perversely benefit the economy in the short-term by prompting companies to raise their activity levels in preparation for potential disruption from the UK leaving the EU on 29 March without a deal.

The Bank of England has previously said that the majority of businesses in Britain have done little to prepare for a no-deal scenario, while the government has started to tell more companies to make preparations as it steps up its plans.

Economists, however, said the growth in activity was likely to be temporary. Disruption after 29 March could curtail activity, while any removal of Brexit risks could lead businesses to run down their stockpiled goods rather than placing new orders.


By Richard Partington

Rail fare rise by 3.1% prompt UK wide demonstrations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 2nd Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Demonstrations held at more than 20 stations as fares rise by above-inflation average of 3.1%

Campaigners have staged demonstrations at railway stations across the country as the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, blamed trade unions for ticket price hikes.

Protests were held at about two dozen railway stations as fares rose by an above-inflation average of 3.1% on Wednesday morning.

The cost of many rail season tickets has risen by more than £100, while punctuality is at a 13-year low.

At Manchester Piccadilly station, union officials and Labour councillors handed out flyers titled “Cut fares not staff” as commuters began returning to work after the Christmas holiday.

One passenger, Lorraine Southon, 57, said all three of her daily trains were usually late and that she had been forced to change her route to work due to the introduction of new timetables, which caused months of disruption last year.

“In my experience it’s a very poor service,” she said outside Manchester Piccadilly station. “I don’t mind [fares] going up if they would improve the service, but they don’t improve the service – the service continues to be poor.”

Southon, a BT worker, added: “I can’t comprehend how the management continue to get these huge bonuses when the service is just so poor. Why are the bonuses not performance-based? Chris Grayling should be responsible.”

Another commuter, Phillip Shields, 32, added: “I’m definitely not happy with the rise. There’s no justification really for it at the moment.

“They keep promising every year that they’re going to improve services but it never seems to materialise. It’s the same statements they repeat over and over again, every year.”

The 3.1% average fare increase outpaces the 2.6% rise in the average wage in 2018 and will add hundreds of pounds to the cost of season tickets for some rail passengers.Advertisement

Costs will come down for 16- and 17-year-olds, who are to be given half-price travel on all trains from September – benefiting up to 1.2 million people – according to an announcement by the government in November, at the same time as the wider fare increase was revealed.

But the vast majority of passengers are to pay more despite poor service, prompting renewed calls from Labour and the Trades Union Congress for UK railways to be nationalised.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning, Grayling defended the fare rise by saying trade unions were to blame.

He said: “The reality is the fare increases are higher than they should be because the unions demand – with threats of national strikes, but they don’t get them – higher pay rises than anybody else.

“Typical pay rises are more than 3% and that’s what drives the increases. These are the same unions that fund that Labour party.”

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, joined protesters outside King’s Cross station in London as he described the rail fare increases as a “disgrace” that was driving people away from public transport.

Responding to Grayling’s insistence that the rise was needed to fund the upkeep of the network, Corbyn said Britain must “invest in our railways as a public investment”. He added: “If we don’t invest then people will have to suffer in their journeys, and we end up with more people using their cars and that’s far more dangerous for our environment than rail travel.”

Pressed whether it was fair to ask taxpayers to subsidise commuters, he replied: “All public transport is subsidised in one form or another, and there is a public good from it. No other country in the world has a transport system that sits completely alone.”

Outside Manchester Piccadilly, Michelle Rodgers, the RMT national president, said the fare increase followed an “abysmal” year for rail passengers.

She added: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic response this morning. They’re all really angry and disgusted about the fare increase, especially in this region where we have seen the worst [service] in many, many years. I’ve been around 20 years and I’ve never seen it as bad as in the last 12 months.”

Handing out flyers branded “Tory rail rip off”, Adele Douglas, a Labour party councillor for the Piccadilly ward on Manchester city council, said the unreliable trains were “destroying people’s working lives”.

She added: “I’m not going to encourage anyone to civil disobedience that’s going to get them into serious trouble but I think there does come a line where the public will have to say: we don’t accept this – it’s too much money, too little in return and it’s not fair..”Topics

By Josh Halliday and Rob Davies

UK shares fall in poor start to 2019 after disappointing data from China

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 2nd Jan, 2019) London, UK —

(Reuters) – UK shares were lower on Wednesday as investors returned from New Year celebrations to more disappointing data from China that deepened concerns about the health of the global economy and sparked a global sell-off.

London's blue-chip bourse .FTSE dropped 0.9 percent and the mid-cap index .FTMCdipped 0.3 percent by 1018 GMT.

Most sectors were still in the red, setting a bleak tone for 2019’s first trading day after both indexes recorded their worst yearly drop since the 2008 financial crisis last year.

Positive domestic PMI data due to Brexit-induced stockpiling provided some respite, but investors were focussed on Chinese data that showed manufacturing activity in the world’s second-largest economy contracted for the first time in 19 months.

It followed a poor official survey on factory output on Monday. Data also revealed that euro zone manufacturing activity barely expanded in December.

Continued concerns that the prospect of a global cyclical downturn will likely cap the upside of UK’s blue-chip shares, said CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang.

“A string of missing PMIs from China’s official and private sector suggest that Asia’s largest economy is still cooling off due to weaker external demand and trade uncertainties,” Yang added.

“It is still too early to say markets have bottomed out yet.”

UK-listed companies with more exposure to the Asian market were the most hit with HSBC (HSBA.L) edging 1.8 percent lower and Standard Chartered (STAN.L) down 3 percent.

Fellow financial heavyweights Prudential (PRU.L), Lloyds (LLOY.L) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) also fell over 3 percent.

Global miners were also weak with copper prices lower amid concerns over growth in top metals consumer China. Antofagasta (ANTO.L), BHP (BHPB.L), Anglo American (AAL.L), Rio Tinto (RIO.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L) were down between 3.2 percent and 4.3 percent.

Blue-chip medical products maker Smith & Nephew (SN.L) tumbled 2.5 percent, with traders citing a rating cut by brokerage JPMorgan.

Among the midcaps, Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG.L) added 5.1 percent to top the gainers after signing a gas supply agreement with independent power producer I.P.M. Beer Tuvia.

Elsewhere in corporate news, Ophir Energy (OPHR.L) shares outperformed the small-cap index .FTSC and soared over 33 percent after the oil and gas producer said it was in takeover talks.

Gambling software company Playtech (PTEC.L) gave up losses to turn positive. It said it would pay 28 million euros under a settlement with Israeli tax authorities following an audit of its annual accounts.

Real estate investment trust Hammerson (HMSO.L) was 3.9 percent lower as it said its share buyback programme will be paused ahead of the release of 2018 results.

Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru

Energy price cap comes into force with millions seeing a drop in bills

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 1st Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

A new energy price cap has now come into force – but householders can still get a better deal by shopping around, consumer groups say.

Regulator Ofgem has estimated that the new cap will save 11 million people an average of £76 a year.

Typically, the cap means that typical usage by a dual fuel customer paying by direct debit will cost no more than £1,137 a year.

Consumer organisations say that people could save more by switching suppliers.

“The introduction of this cap will put an end to suppliers exploiting loyal customers. However, while people on default tariffs should now be paying a fairer price for their energy, they will still be better off if they shop around,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“People can also make longer-term savings by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Simple steps, such as better insulation or heating controls, are a good place to start.”

How the cap works

Households in England, Scotland and Wales on default tariffs – such as standard variable tariffs – should be better off after the cap is introduced. Consumers in Northern Ireland have a separate energy regulator and already have a price cap. Those on a prepayment meter already have a price cap in place. Those who chose their tariff are ineligible.

Savings depend on how much energy is used in the household and how the bill is paid. The cap is per unit of energy, not on the total bill. So people who use more energy will still pay more than those who use less.

The cap is on the unit price of energy, and the standing charge. So the cost of electricity – for those on default tariffs – is capped at 17p per kWh. Gas is capped at 4p per kWh.

Dual fuel users will pay no more than £177 a year for a standing charge; electricity-only users will pay no more than £83, and gas users £94.

Ofgem will review the tariff in February, and then adjust it in April and October each year. It has said that the level of the cap is likely to rise in April 2019, to reflect the higher cost of wholesale energy. As a result, the average annual saving in 2019 is likely to be lower than £76.

The regulator will then judge the effect on the energy market in 2020, and the secretary of state will then decide whether to extend it by another year, or whether to end it at that time.

“The energy price cap can only be a temporary fix – what is now needed is real reform to promote competition, innovation and improved customer service in the broken energy market,” said Alex Neill, from Which?.

What do the suppliers think?

Some have already changed the way they organise their tariffs.

Centrica – which owns the largest UK supplier, British Gas – has said that it will mount a legal challenge to the way the cap has been calculated.

It is applying for a judicial review against Ofgem, saying the regulator had set the threshold too low.

“Through this action Centrica has no intention to delay implementation of the cap, and does not expect the cap to be deferred in any way,” the company has said in a statement.

“As we have previously said, we do not believe that a price cap will benefit customers but we want to ensure that there is a transparent and rigorous regulatory process to deliver a price cap that allows suppliers, as a minimum, to continue to operate to meet the requirements of all customers.”

Will the cap lead to less switching?

Those who have argued against the introduction of a price cap have said it will be counter-productive, as it will lead to fewer people switching – where the potential savings are greater.

Which? has argued that some of the cheapest deals on the market have already disappeared, as suppliers needed to make up some of the money lost as a result of the cap.

It analysed deals priced at £1,000 a year or less for a medium energy user at the beginning of the year compared to now, and found there had been a sharp drop in availability.


By Kevin Peachey


Executive-worker pay gap of top UK firms to be reveal under new rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 1st Jan 2019) London, Uk – –

Regulations to ensure greater transparency come after string of shareholder revolts in 2018

Britain’s biggest listed companies will be forced to justify the pay gap between chief executives and their workforce as part of rules that come into force on New Year’s Day.

The pay-ratio regulations are part of government efforts to improve transparency around executive remuneration. They follow a string of investor revolts in 2018 over high pay for senior executives at companies including Royal Mail, Persimmonand Unilever.

Businesses will have to divulge and justify the difference between executive salaries and average annual pay for employees. They will also need to explain how directors take staff and other stakeholder interests into account when they decide on salaries and bonuses.

The regulations will make it a statutory requirement for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with more than 250 staff to disclose the ratio of chief executives’ remuneration to the median pay of UK employees every year.

Pay for 2019 will be first under the microscope, which means the initial disclosures will be released in 2020.

Investors have been calling for more transparency around executive pay and how it aligns with salaries and bonuses across companies.

Persimmon, a housebuilder, ousted its chief executive, Jeff Fairburn, in November after a furore over his £75m bonus. That package was honoured despite a shareholder revolt in April in which nearly 64% voted against the company’s remuneration policy.

MPs also hit out at the company for failing to pay the living wage to its lowest-paid workers. Persimmon, however, said it has signed up to pay the £9 living wage starting in January 2019.

Royal Mail had one of the biggest shareholder revolts in UK corporate history in July. About 70% voted against its pay policy in light of an annual package for the chief executive, Rico Back, which was worth up to £2.7m. This was on top of a £6m “golden hello” for having left the company’s European subsidiary. Unilever, AA and Cineworld also experienced investor backlashes over director pay in 2018.

Luke Hildyard, the director of the High Pay Centre thinktank, said the rules were a step in the right direction. “Government policy is overwhelmingly focused on supporting business, on the basis that successful businesses benefit wider society,” he said.

“But too many companies lavish excessive pay awards on their top executives while holding down pay for low and middle-income earners, meaning that the full potential benefits of business success go unrealised.

“Putting information about pay ratios in the public domain won’t instantly eradicate injustice, but it will give investors, workers and other stakeholders a better insight into the fairness of company pay practices.”

The business secretary, Greg Clark, stressed that most companies in Britain act responsibly.

“We do, however, understand the frustration of workers and shareholders when executive pay is out of step with performance, and their concerns are not heard,” he said.

“The regulations coming into force today will build on our reputation by increasing transparency and boosting accountability at the highest level – giving workers a stronger dialogue and voice in the boardroom and ensuring businesses are accountable for their executive pay.”

By Kalyeena Makortoff

New EU fishing rules could have ‘grave’ impact on UK industry

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 31st Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

New EU rules on fishing quotas could have a “grave” impact on the UK's fishing industry, a House of Lords committee has said – just a day before the new policy is introduced.

Under previous rules, crews often discarded, into the sea, fish that took them over their quota for that species.

But under the new policy, fishers must bring the full haul back to shore. This change is to stop fish being wasted.

The legislation has been called “badly designed” by UK industry bodies.

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment sub-committee heard evidence that the legislation could mean fishermen hitting their annual quotas much earlier in the year and have to stop fishing.

The committee was told this would be particularly problematic in “mixed fisheries” where it would be hard for boats to avoid catching a fish species for which they have a very low quota.

Once they reached their quota for a particular species, fishers would be forced to choose between halting operations for the rest of the year or breaking the law by continuing to fish for other species and discarding anything over quota.

The committee also said it had worries about how the rules – which come into effect in full after a four-year phasing-in period – would be enforced.

It said patrol vessels would only be able to cover a small percentage of boats, creating a temptation for fishers to break the rules.

Committee member Lord Krebs said: “It is deeply concerning that so many people – fishers, environmental groups, even the enforcement agencies themselves – do not think these new rules can be implemented from January 1.”

He added: “Most people we spoke to thought nothing would change – fishers will continue to discard, knowing the chances of being caught are slim to none and that to comply with the law could bankrupt them.”

Barrie Deas, the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, said the rules were “badly designed” and would result in boats having to stop fishing for long stretches after reaching quotas on specific species.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was working with the industry to address the challenges posed by the new sustainable fishing policy.

The committee is due to publish its report on the implementation and enforcement of the EU “landing obligation” in February.

British workers switch to new jobs in record numbers in show of strength for economy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 28th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Britons are switching jobs in record numbers, analysis of official figures shows, as the tight labour market helps workers secure higher pay.

More than one in every 40 workers moved to a new job in the three months to September, amounting to 860,000 people giving up one position to take another role.

The highest number in the Office for National Statistics’ records going back to 2004, it signals how employers are struggling to find and keep staff.

The number of people in work overall has climbed over that period to a record high of more than 32m, but even as a proportion of those in employment the number of job-switchers is at its highest since before the financial crisis.

This is an important indicator of the strength of the economy as it shows workers are prepared to take a risk by moving to a new job.

Such big steps are typically rewarded with a bigger pay packet. Job movers receive an average pay rise of 7pc, which is similar to the amount gained in a promotion. Even those who do not move are starting to see faster pay growth as employers have to offer higher wages to keep them in post.

Unemployment is at just 4.1pc, one of the lowest rates in decades, which is forcing employers to increase pay ­offers. The average pay settlement across a company’s workforce is 2.5pc to 3.5pc, according to the Bank of ­England’s agents around the country, up from 2pc to 3pc in 2017.

It is starting to affect pay across the economy as a whole. Economist George Buckley at Nomura expects average earnings to rise by 3.5pc in 2019, up from 2.9pc in 2018.

At the same time he predicts inflation will fall from 2.5pc to 2pc as oil prices and so fuel and energy costs fall, so real wages will rise by 1.5pc.

“The wage numbers have already been quite strong,” he said, which gave workers a boost in the run-up to ­Christmas.

Falling inflation could knock workers’ ability to ask for more money in cash terms, however, moderating the improvement.

“Inflation is slowing down so there will be less ability for workers to claim for higher wages,” he said. “Even so we have real wages going up quite strongly.”

Employers are also trying to find ways to keep staff without offering more cash.

“Despite the tightening labour market, many contacts managed to contain pay-bill growth by targeting pay awards at key skills or staff,” the Bank of England’s agents found.

Recruiters are reporting a similar pattern. “One of the big shifts is that more employers are making it very, very clear that from day one they are happy to discuss flexible working arrangements,” said Tom Hadley at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

“Candidates are looking for pay, but it is not often top of the list. It is more often about the workplace culture and flexible working which is definitely coming to the fore. It creates a real ‘stickiness’ for people not leaving organisations.”

By  Tim Wallace 

Boxing Day sales fall flat despite huge discounts by retailers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thur, 27th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The Boxing Day sales fell flat as the number of people heading to the shops dropped for the third year in a row, despite retailers to offer huge discounts. 

Average footfall across the UK fell by 3.1 per cent, experts said, disappointing retailers who had hoped that the festive period would provide a boost at the end of a bad year. 

Despite some queues outside stores in the early hours of the morning, many of those looking for a bargain chose to do so online, where more than half of all products were reduced and the average reduction was at a record high of 43 per cent. 

Poor sales means that retailers are likely to continue slashing prices as low as possible with discounts continuing way into January. 

But the sales could see an increase in the number of profit warnings in the new year issued in the new year, experts warned, as many of the items sold online will be done so at a loss.  

As shops began to close their doors figures from retail intelligence specialists Springboard showed that footfall was down by an average of 3.1 per cent from Boxing Day last year. 

The High Street, which saw a drop of 1.1 per cent by 4pm, was not as badly hit as out of town retail parks and shopping centres, where footfall was down by 5.3 per cent and five per cent on average. 

This is because shoppers are treating it as a leisure activity, and therefore picking a spot where they can also enjoy a coffee or lunch, the analysts believe.

Though the figures represent the third consecutive year-on-year fall, it is more modest than the 5.5 per cent drop between 2016 and 2017. 

Over the last few years, footfall on Boxing Day has consistently been about 10 per cent lower than on Black Friday and Springboard say that the latest figures show that it is losing its importance as a shopping day. 

However, online sales were predicted to rise from last year with average discounts of 43 per cent, up six per cent since last year, according to research by LovetheSales.com, a discount aggregator. They also found the more than 53 per cent of all products were discounted. 

Clothing saw the biggest discounts, with an average of 46 per cent off and online retailer Asos, which issues a profit warning earlier this month, offering reductions of up to 89 per cent. 

Liam Solomon, retail analyst at LovetheSales.com said “Since late December discounts have remained uncharacteristically high – we're expecting this trend to continue deep into January with better discounts, as retailers try to shrug off a tough 2018. We expect the best bargains will be predominantly in fashion and in particular warm clothing.”

But Vicky Brock, director of data at ReBOUND returns, warned: “After the trading year that 2018 has been retailers desperately need to get people into the stores. 

“An online sale is more costly than in a physical store because you have a much higher return rate. If shops reduce something by 70 per cent then they might make a little bit of a margin selling it in a store but they are going to lose money or not make anything selling it online.”

She said that retailers are now likely to “discount quite hard” to get rid of left over stock and “draw a line under a horrible year”. 

Richard Perks, Director of Retail Research at Mintel, said that consumers could expect to see bumper discounts this year as “there is probably going to be quite a lot of stock to clear this Christmas” but heavy discounts could lead to a number of profit warnings in the new year. 

Chris Daly, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, added: “The quiet high streets across the country confirm that the days of setting the alarm to be first in line for the Boxing Day sales are long gone.

“Today's low footfall figures represent the final chapter in the tale of an exceptionally bleak year for traditional retail, when even high street giants considered ‘too big to fail' stumbled.

“Low consumer confidence has fuelled relentless discounting both online and on the high street, starving high street stalwarts of passing trade.”

It has been a torrid year for retailers with notable high street names such as Poundworld and Maplin falling into administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams announcing plans to shutter stores, while Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory issued profit warnings.

They retailers have been battling higher costs, low consumer confidence and people increasingly shopping online. The trading statements which will show just how hard they have been hit are expected in January. 

 By Hayley Dixon 

Local councils to bid on £675m fund to reinvigorate struggling high streets

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 26th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The fund comes at the end of a terrible year for high street retailers, with mass store closures, job losses and profit warnings.

Local councils are being invited to bid for a share in a government fund set up to help reinvigorate the country's struggling high streets.

The £675m fund was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in October's Budget but the bidding process opens today.

It comes after the report of a panel led by Sir John Timpson, which called for a community-driven approach to transforming the high streets into “community hubs”.

Communities minister Jake Berry said: “We all know high streets are changing, we can't hide from this reality.

“But we're determined to ensure they continue to sit at the heart of our communities for generations to come.

“To do this we have to support investment in infrastructure, boosting local economies and ensuring people are able to get the most out of their local high streets.”

One of the main challenges for high streets is online shopping: in 2000, it accounted for less than 1% of retail sales while in August 2018 almost a fifth of all retail sales took place online.

Projects for those using the fund could include supporting regeneration, reconfiguring space, increasing the number of homes for young and old people, more work space and reducing vehicle congestion.

It caps off a terrible year for retailers, with Poundworld and Maplin among those entering administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams deciding to close stores and Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory among those issuing profit warnings.

Nearly 150,000 jobs have been axed from the sector this year and, with shoppers spooked by Brexit uncertainty, there are fears next year may not be much better.

Worried retailers even launched Boxing Day sales early this year, with Debenhams offering up to 50% off some items before its traditional Boxing Day sale and John Lewis starting its clearance online for some products at 5pm on Christmas Eve.

Boxing Day deals at Marks & Spencer were online at midnight on Christmas Day and supermarkets were also in early, with Sainsbury's, for example, reducing electrical items from 23 December.

Figures show footfall was up in the last few days before Christmas, with 27.4% more trips made to non-food stores in the UK on Christmas Eve this year compared to last, according to Ipsos Retail Performance.Dying high street ‘not my fault'Mike Ashley of Sports Direct tells MPs he is not to blame

Sportswear and outdoor leisure stores saw the largest gain on last year, up 44.1%, followed by department and general variety stores, up 30.4%.

Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “The surge in shoppers to stores seen over the final few days before Christmas will give some solace to those in the sector, when they sit down to enjoy their roast turkeys today, after such a torrid year.”

But, of course, an increase in the number of shoppers does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount spent – for those figures, we will have to wait for the various stores' financial results at various times next year.

‘Super Saturday’ fails to boost retailers as xmas shoppers hold out for last minute bargains

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 24th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The so-called “Super Saturday” before Christmas saw an incremental boost in shoppers, according to latest data from retail experts Springboard.

High Street footfall rose by 1% on last year, and was up 6.9% on the previous Saturday, figures show.

However, overall footfall still declined by 0.7% on last year.

“It was a bit of a last-minute burst, but it's not good,” Springboard's insight director Diane Wehrle told the BBC.

The reason for the incremental rise is that Christmas shoppers have been holding out until the last minute for bargains, but aggressive discounting has not drawn the crowds of consumers it might once have done.

“The discounting is a real issue. People are buying less and what they're buying is at a lower price, so this is bad for retailers as they're left with more stock and they're selling it at a lower profit,” said Ms Wehrle.

Springboard noted that footfall has fallen on the last Saturday before Christmas every year consecutively for the last decade.

This phenomenon has also been observed with Boxing Day sales.

Ms Wehrle thinks one reason for the drop in footfall is that people avoid shops when they do not have the money to spend, and this year consumers are definitely spending less on Christmas.

“In the past year, wages didn't increase with price rises,” she said.

“Now that has changed a bit, wage inflation is above price inflation, but the problem is consumers have had to spend a year funding that through savings, wages, loans or credit cards, so now they're conscious they don't want to spend too much as they have to pay back some of those loans.”

Why competition and the current U.S. economic climate is forcing Disney Parks to expand and raise prices

Source: Business Insider

Competition and the current U.S. economic situation are forcing Disney Parks to expand and raise prices. In 2018 Disney World raised its prices twice and switched to a dynamic pricing model. The new model prices out its early adopters in the middle class from peak park months.

Businesses that trade with the EU told to prepare for no-deal Brexit



(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 21st Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

Businesses that trade with the EU need to take steps now to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, a government minister has warned.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride told the BBC's Today programme “there is a call to action now”.

Later on Friday, HMRC is due to publish an update to its advice on how firms should prepare for a no-deal scenario.

However, Mr Stride called the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal an “unlikely event”.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Stride said: “The time is now, there is a call to action now.

“Those who are importing or exporting into and out of the EU 27, in the unlikely event that there is a no-deal at the end of March, will need to take certain steps. They need to do that now.”

In October, HMRC released a partnership pack designed to help businesses prepare for changes at the UK border if there is no-deal exit.Deal or no deal? EU bewildered by Brexit confusion

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Mr Stride said businesses needed to “get a customs agent on board” or “look at software they can use to make sure (of) their import and export declarations”.

He added that firms should register for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number (EORI number) – a system of unique identification numbers used by customs authorities throughout the European Union.

Businesses should also be prepared to pay custom duties in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he warned.

The latest HMRC update marks a shift in tone, with businesses being urged to take action now.

The new version of the partnership pack also includes details about government funding for new IT systems and staff training, which is available to customs brokers, customs intermediaries and traders.

On Wednesday, British business groups criticised politicians for focusing on in-fighting rather than preparing for Brexit, warning that there was not enough time to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

The groups said companies had been “watching in horror” at the continuing rows within Westminster.

Petrol prices fall as Uk Inflation eases

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 19th Dec 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK inflation rate fell slightly to 2.3% in November, from 2.4% the previous month, driven mainly by a big fall in petrol prices.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figure for the month was the lowest since March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Video games prices also fell, but those declines were partly offset by a rise in tobacco prices.

The inflation figure was in line with analysts' expectations.

ONS head of inflation Mike Hardie said: “Inflation was little changed as falling petrol prices, thanks to a substantial drop in the cost of crude oil, were offset by rises in tobacco prices following the duty changes announced in the Budget.”

Apart from petrol, the biggest downward contribution to the inflation rate came from a variety of recreational and cultural goods and services, principally games, toys and hobbies, and cultural services.

In addition to tobacco products, upward pressure was seen in categories including accommodation services and passenger sea transport.

Separate ONS figures showed the average price of a house in the UK rising at its slowest rate since July 2013, up 2.7% on the year.

Mr Hardie said: “House price growth continued to slow with the smallest annual rise seen in over five years, led by price falls across London.”