IAG to Launch Low-cost Airline Named Level


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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 17 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

The owner of British Airways is entering the fray of the burgeoning low-cost long-haul market with a new airline to be named Level in a bid to take the wind out of rivals such as Norwegian and WestJet.

International Airlines Group said Level will launch in June with an initial two new Airbus A330 aircraft flying from Barcelona to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said Level would become IAG’s fifth main airline brand alonside Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

Mr Walsh added Barcelona was “just the start” and that other European destinations would be added.

Level will be initially staffed by Iberia’s flight and cabin crew, creating up to 250 jobs in Barcelona, the launch city for the brand.

Fares will start from €99 for a one-way ticket. Checked luggage, meals and seat selection will be among the perks for those willing to pay for one of the 21 premium economy seats each aircraft will have.

The remaining 293 seats will be economy, where passengers will be able to choose what they want to pay for.

Norwegian’s website has flights from Barcelona to San Francisco from €162 in the winter months, meaning Level could become a serious competitor.

By  Bradley Gerrard

Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7bn takeover bid for Sky to be investigated by Ofcom

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thu, 16 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

Ofcom to assess whether deal gives mogul too much control of UK media and whether his family are ‘fit and proper’ owners

Rupert Murdoch’s £11.7bn takeover bid for Sky is to be investigated by the media regulator to see if it gives the mogul too much control of news output in the UK and whether the Murdoch family are “fit and proper” owners following the phone-hacking scandal.

The culture secretary, Karen Bradley, has referred 21st Century Fox’s bid to buy the 61% of Sky it does not already own to Ofcom to investigate potential public interest issues on two grounds.

Bradley told MPs she has issued a European intervention notice on the grounds of “media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards” linked to the bid from Rupert Murdoch’s company. Bradley confirmed the decision in a statement to MPs in the Commons.

Ofcom will look at whether Fox’s takeover will raise issues of UK media plurality and concentration in Murdoch’s control.

The deal will give Murdoch full control of Sky News, as well as the Times, Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and radio group TalkSport, through separate company News Corp.

The second issue is whether Fox is committed to the required editorial standards, such as accuracy and impartial news coverage.

If Ofcom does not raise any concerns, Bradley must clear the bid.

However, if the regulator cites problems she must decide whether to accept an undertaking from Fox to address them.

Opponents of the bid have raised concerns that Murdoch, who also owns the rightwing Fox News, will use his influence to drive the news agenda and that there is a risk of the “Foxification” of Sky News.

Murdoch critics have called for the bid to be blocked while rival broadcasters are expected to lodge complaints and make representations in the UK and Europe – the European commission is also examining the deal – after expressing concerns that a Fox/Sky combination will dominate bidding for top-flight sport, TV shows and movies.

Fox News, which is also broadcast in the UK, has fallen foul of the regulator a number of times through editorial lapses. Last year, Ofcom criticised a Fox News programme for breaching the UK code when a guest said Birmingham was a city “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go”.

Separately Ofcom, which will now have up to 40 working days to report back to Bradley on the public interest concerns, will kick off its own concurrent review of whether Fox is “fit and proper” to take control of Sky’s broadcasting licence.

Ofcom, which has already said that Fox taking over Sky’s licence would warrant such a review, launched a “fit and proper” investigation following Murdoch’s previous attempt to takeover Sky back in 2010.

The investigation found that Sky remained a “fit and proper” owner of a broadcast licence, despite the phone-hacking affair that embroiled the now-defunct News Corporation, then the parent of Fox and Murdoch’s UK newspapers.

However, it published a scathing assessment of James Murdoch – then the chief executive of his father’s UK newspaper group and chairman of Sky – finding that his conduct repeatedly fell short of the standards expected.

The political fallout ultimately resulted in Rupert Murdoch withdrawing his bidand James standing down as chairman of Sky and quitting the UK newspaper business to run Fox, the film and TV operation, from the US.

Rupert Murdoch subsequently spun off the publishing and newspaper assets into a separate company, News Corp, and film and TV into 21st Century Fox, with independent boards, in part a corporate governance measure to facilitate another tilt at Sky.

James Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox, was reappointed as the chairman of Sky last year. In October, he had to rely on the support of Fox, Sky’s largest shareholder, to win approval for his return after more than 50% of independent shareholders voted against his reappointment.

At the time of the last bid the Murdochs agreed a deal to spin off Sky News to allay media plurality concerns. This time James Murdoch has stated that he does not believe any “meaningful concessions” will need to be made to get the deal through.

In a letter to Bradley during the 10-day period she has had to review whether to refer the bid to Ofcom, Fox argued that in the six years since the aborted bid the media landscape has changed beyond recognition.

The company says that media plurality is flourishing with the rise of digital rivals such as Google and Facebook and news distributors and new outlets such as Vice, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, while newspaper sales decline.

It also argues that splitting the publishing and TV and film operations into two companies solves corporate governance, competition and plurality issues.

However, opponents argue that the Murdoch family will still be the ultimate owner of both newspaper and TV assets in the UK and that will give them too much control over UK news media.

Fox has also pledged to keep Fox News at arm’s length and “continue to broadcast news under the Sky brand maintaining its excellent record of compliance with the Ofcom broadcasting code”.

By Mark Sweney

Food and Drink Businesses Keeping Close Watch On Price Rises

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 15 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

Price rises are being considered by nearly three-quarters of major food and drink businesses, according to an industry monitor.

Pubs and restaurants are facing the spectre of rising costs from the business rates review as well as the forthcoming rise in the national living wage. Meanwhile competition within the sector is becoming even more fierce.

Like-for-like sales in February rose 1.7pc, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker. This compares well to more moribund retail sales data that recently showed growth in January was at its lowest rate since November 2013.

“Encouraging though these figures are, pub and restaurant groups will be working even harder this year to maintain trading levels as their margins are squeezed by increasing overheads,” said Peter Martin, vice president of business consultancy CGA Peach.

“As our recent CGA Business Leaders' Survey of 450 senior executives across pub, bar and restaurant chains showed, almost three-quarters are looking to pass increased costs, at least in part, on to the consumer this year.

“That means they will have to redouble efforts to up the customer experience.”

Analysts at Barclays noted prices were rising across the pub sector, something that had been discussed at a recent meeting with pub group Marston's.

“Given sector cost headwinds, management commented that it is seeing competitors raise prices across the pub sector,” Barclays said.

“Marston’s do not see themselves as price leaders but they have said prices are being raised, and they are prepared to follow this with their own gentle price increases.”

Restaurant groups had the best of February’s trading according to the Coffer Peach data, with like-for-like sales up 2.4pc nationally on the same month in 2016, boosted by family business during the school half-term holidays.

Managed pubs, which are run by the company that owns them instead of being leased, recorded a more modest 1.2pc rise in like-for-like sales.

London outperformed the rest of the country with like-for-likes sales ahead 2.6pc against 1.4pc outside of the M25.

Total sales growth in February among the 34 companies in the Coffer Peach Tracker was 4.7pc, reflecting the impact of new openings over the year.

However, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes are running at just 1pc ahead for the 12 months to the end of February.

By Bradley Gerrard

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