Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk chooses Berlin for engineering and design centre

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 13th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, has said Berlin will be the site of its first European factory as the carmaker's expansion plans power ahead.

“Berlin rocks,” Mr Musk said, adding Tesla would build an engineering and design centre in the German capital.

Tesla previously said it aimed to start production in Europe in 2021.

The moves come as the firm, which has also invested heavily in a Chinese factory, faces intensifying competition in the electric vehicle industry.

Mr Musk made the announcement at an awards ceremony in Germany on Tuesday.

“Everyone knows that German engineering is outstanding and that's part of the reason we are locating our Gigafactory Europe in Germany,” he said.

Mr Musk also cited risks surrounding the UK's exit from the EU for his decision, according to AutoExpress.

“Brexit [uncertainty] made it too risky to put a Gigafactory in the UK,” he told the trade magazine.

Mr Musk said the facility would be located near the new Berlin airport and later gave more details on what the factory would produce on Twitter.

The focus on Germany comes amid rising appetite for electric cars in Europe.

Over the coming years, the biggest electric car production plants will be in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, industry analysis showed.

Some 16 large-scale lithium-ion battery cell plants are confirmed or due to begin operations in Europe by 2023.

China push

Tesla's European plan comes as the carmaker also moves ahead with a $2bn (£1.6bn) factory in Shanghai.

The firm is looking to ramp up production in China, the world's biggest car market, where sales have been hurt by tariffs triggered by the US-China trade war.

The Shanghai facility will produce Model 3 and Model Y cars. The automaker reportedly showed off its new China-made vehicles to local media this week.

Still, Tesla has struggled with years of losses, fuelling investor doubts and casting a shadow over its shares in recent years.

The firm has yet to turn an annual profit, although it recorded positive results in the final two quarters of 2018.

Last year, Tesla took aggressive steps to slash expense, cutting thousands of jobs and reining in other spending.

Experian consumer credit giant shares surge as revenue rises to $2.5bn

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Tue, 12th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Consumer credit giant Experian today posted revenue growth of seven per cent for the first half of 2019, with profit growing to $480m from $470m in 2018.

Revenue grew to $2.5bn in the period, up from $2.36bn in 2018.

The information services group narrowed their guidance for the year to seven to eight per cent, the upper range of previous estimates.

The company said that good momentum in North America, double-digit revenue growth in Latin America and an acceleration in global business to business platforms such as Ascend had helped was responsible for the growth.

Chief executive officer Brian Cassin said: “This reflects successful execution on big new addressable market opportunities, the global roll out of our innovative platforms and considerable momentum in Consumer Services as we invest in Experian Boost.”

The company also saw users of its website for checking credit scores for free rise 56 per cent, from 45m in 2018 to 70m in 2019.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Strong growth from Experian’s Consumer divisions is a big deal – not so long ago revenues were in freefall after rival free credit checking services made Experian’s subscription model all but redundant.

“In its place Experian’s focused on a credit matching service which pairs consumers with an appropriate loan or credit card. The launch of Experian Boost seems to have been a masterstroke.”

Experian Ascend, a platform that integrates client data, industry-specific data feeds and analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, has reached a value of $270m across the USA, UK, Brazil and Italy.

The blue-chip announced a number of acquisitions for the period, including South Africa’s Compuscan credit information company, as well as the remaining 45 per cent of subsidiary body Experian MicroAnalytics.

Experian competes with smaller players Equifax and TransUnion. Both have reported estimate-beating results for the last quarter.

The company announced a first interim dividend of 14.5 cents per share, up four per cent. In early trading shares in the company were up 2.1 per cent to 2,431p. 

By Edward Thicknesse

Vodafone sinks to a £1.6bn loss after a ruling by India’s top court

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue , 12th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The firm says the “situation is critical” and could pull out of the country, where it is the largest foreign direct investor.

UK-based mobile giant Vodafone sank to a loss of £1.6bn after a ruling by India's top court threatens to land it with huge fees and penalties.

The firm has described it as a critical situation and warned it could pull out of the country, where it is the largest foreign direct investor.

The court judgment against the telecoms industry relates to a decade-long battle over the calculation of licence and other regulatory fees.

Vodafone said its liability appeared to be at least £3.2bn but warned it “could be substantially higher”.

The mobile operator said it may seek a review of the supreme court's decision, which saw it post a loss in the six months to 30 September.

Announcing its results for the period, the company said: “In October the Supreme Court in India ruled against the industry in a dispute over the calculation of licence and other regulatory fees, and Vodafone Idea is now liable for very substantial demands made by the Department of Telecommunications in relation to these fees.

“We are actively engaging with the government to seek financial relief for Vodafone Idea.”

Vodafone chief executive Nick Read said: “The situation is critical. I think the government are left in no doubt on our position.

“We are India's largest foreign direct investment investor and I think there's a moment where you have to say we've been commercially successful and our brand is strong.

“What we need is a supportive regulatory environment and prices that are sustainable.

“It's been a very challenging situation for a long time and, if you look at the share price in India, it is effectively has zero value.”

Mr Read revealed he had travelled to India with Vodafone's chairman, Gerard Kleisterlee, last month to lay out the company's demands to ministers.

He has asked for a two-year moratorium before any payments are made, lower taxes in the country, the waiving of interest and fines associated with the judgment, and to spread out the fee costs over 10 years.

Mr Read added: “We've committed a lot of capital to India and we've made a decision we will not put further capital in (until the issue is resolved).”

Elsewhere in the business, Vodafone said its overall revenues over the six-month period had gone up after a return to growth “supported by improvements in South Africa, Spain and Italy, with solid retail performance in Germany and strong commercial acceleration in the UK”.

The company's reported revenues rose 0.4% to €21.9 (£18.8bn).

Vodafone also increased its profit guidance to €14.8-€15bn (£12.7bn-£12.9) from €13.8-€14.2bn (£11.9bn-£12.2bn), pointing to the acquisition of Liberty Global's assets in Germany and the sale of its New Zealand business.

British Steel set to announce rescue deal with China’s Jingye Group

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 11th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

British Steel is set to announce a rescue deal with China's Jingye Group, which could safeguard up to 4,000 jobs in the UK.

Jingye Group has agreed in principle to buy British Steel for £70m.

It is understood that the government will help in the form of loan guarantees and other financial support.

British Steel has been kept running by the government via the Official Receiver since May, when the company went into liquidation.

As well as employing 4,000 people at its Scunthorpe and Teesside sites, British Steel supports an additional 20,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Another 1,000 jobs are based in France and the Netherlands – those are included in the deal too.

It is expected that an agreement will be signed, but that the company will continue to be run by the Official Receiver for at least a month before being transferred.

Why is this news so important?

Gareth Stace, director general of industry lobby group UK Steel, told BBC Radio 4's Today that the business being bought was a “significant asset to our country” as it makes up a third of UK steel production, mostly from Scunthorpe.

He said that there was a need for “very significant investment” in the Scunthorpe works and that was why the expected announcement from Jingye was “really welcome”.

“Jingye are looking to make significant investment, are in for the longer term and therefore it isn't about keeping this site going for a year or two or a couple of years. To me, what I understand about the company, it's about looking to the future, so we're not going to be back in here in three years, five years, in 10 years' time.”

The firm had previously been in rescue talks with Ataer, which is a subsidiary of Turkey's state military retirement scheme Oyak.

What is in it for Jingye?

Analysis: By Dominic O'Connell

What does a steel maker from Hebei province, south-west of Beijing, see in a struggling plant in Scunthorpe? It is difficult to know, particularly when we know so little about the buyer of British Steel, Jingye Group.

There is little publicly available information – certainly no set of accounts – but the organisation's Facebook page extols its rapid rise to become a big player in steel in just 20 years.

In the process, it has “laid an extraordinary road of development with wisdom and perspiration”, the voiceover of one of promotional video says, with ranks of identically overalled workers smiling on the steps of its rather grand headquarters.

On the face of it, the Chinese buyer will be interested in the products that British Steel makes that it does not. British Steel is a specialist in railway tracks, “long products”, a catch-all term for girders used in construction, and the high-quality steel wire used in car tyres and dozens of other industrial applications.

Jingye does not appear to make the first two, so the purchase of British Steel should bring it some valuable technology and new product lines. That plus has to be set against the need for investment at Scunthorpe; if, as reported, Jingye wants to increase production, blast furnaces and coke ovens will have to be refurbished at a price tag estimated at £500m.

What British Steel workers will fervently hope is that the Jingye commitment is long-term and that this is not another false dawn.

Presentational grey line

According to Mr Stace, British Steel's output complements Jingye. He says both British Steel and Jingye make wire rods, but there is one crucial difference.

“Actually British Steel makes rail, high-quality rail and heavy sections, ie girders, which Jingye doesn't make. [So it] not only increases the amount of different products that Jingye could make but also, much more importantly, secures a foothold in the UK.”

Will British Steel now turn the corner?

Mr Stace said he believed the steel industry in the UK could now compete globally and he was publishing a manifesto with ideas for change.

“But the problem we have is we have a uncompetitive business landscape in the UK. government can change that,” he added.

“I'm talking about energy costs, business rates, procurement – the government buying more steel from the UK – free and fair trade, and even much more support for R&D [research and development], which we are going to lose when we fall out of the EU.”

He said: “What government needs to do is give us that business landscape. We can thrive on the global market and generate highly paid, highly skilled jobs for the UK economy.”

What happens now?

It is expected that the employees will be briefed on the latest developments this morning as they come to work. A formal announcement is due later on Monday morning or early afternoon.

In the long term, it is believed that while Jingye Group has promised to increase production, it has also warned costs may need to be cut.

The Chinese group is reportedly aiming to increase production at Scunthorpe from 2.5 million tonnes per year to more than three million.

Jingye's chairman, Li Ganpo, recently visited British Steel's sites and met Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin and Andrew Percy, representative for the Brigg and Goole constituency.

Mr Percy told the Grimsby Telegraph he had been given assurances over the company's future.

What are trade unions saying?

Community, a UK trade union which absorbed the old Iron & Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC) body, said: “If this is confirmed, then we welcome this positive step towards securing British Steel under new ownership,

“The fact that there has been ongoing interest from both Ataer and now Jingye rightly demonstrates that potential buyers believe that British Steel can have a sustainable future.”

Meanwhile, Ross Murdoch, national officer for the GMB union, said: “On the face of it, we cautiously welcome this sale, which finally provides some light at the end of the tunnel for 4,000 British Steel workers.

“GMB also met with Chairman Li and his senior team in Scunthorpe on 30 October. We were impressed with the passion and enthusiasm from the Jingye team.

“However, due diligence on this sale was completed very quickly and the devil will be in the detail.”

The UK industry has been struggling for a number of years amid claims that China has been flooding the market with cheap steel. In 2016 the EU imposed tariffs of up to 73.7% on Chinese steel after an influx of cheap imports from Asia forced European manufacturers to cut jobs and lower prices.

Who is Jingye Group?

Jingye has 23,500 employees and as well as its main steel and iron making businesses, but also engages in tourism, hotels and real estate.

It has total registered assets of 39bn yuan (£4.4bn). According to its website, Jingye Group ranked 217th among the top 500 enterprises in China in 2019.

The firm sells its products nationwide and exports them to more than 80 countries and regions.

Jingye's products have been used in major projects such as Beijing Daxing International Airport and the underground system in Shijiazhuang.

TSB to consider closing up to 100 branches placing 400 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 11th Nov, 2019) London, Uk – –

TSB is considering closing up to 100 branches, according to a trade union source, in a move that could put 400 jobs at risk.

The challenger bank has been working to repair its reputation following its IT meltdown last year but is looking for around £100m in cost savings, with its 544-strong branch network under scrutiny.

Mark Brown, the general secretary for the Affinity trade union said the lender is likely to unveil up to 100 branch closures when it unveils its new strategy on 25 November. Affinity, while not officially recognised by TSB, represents around 3,900 of its 7,795 staff.

Most of the branches in question are likely to employ just a handful of workers, and Brown estimated that around 400 may be affected by the moves. TSB in the past has tried to redeploy staff when possible. Branch closures are a common occurrence in high street banking and more than a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut for good in less than five years, with more than 3,000 closures since 2015.Advertisement

TSB’s parent company, Spanish lender Sabadell, appointed Debbie Crosbie as TSB chief executive last year following an IT failure which locked millions of customers out of their accounts and led to the departure of Crosbie’s predeccesor, Paul Pester.

Brown said: “The results of TSB’s strategic review are going to be more branch closures and more job losses right across the bank. Hundreds of staff who saved TSB following its IT meltdown last year are going to be sacrificed on the altars of costs, efficiency and technology.

“It’s clear Ms Crosbie was brought in by Sabadell to cut costs, increase income and sort out the IT system before TSB is sold to the highest bidder in a few years time.”

Many of the closures are expected to come from the 94 branches which are now operating under reduced hours, or are only open once or twice a week following controversial changes introduced over the summer. The remaining closures may come from the network of Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society branches which were originally slated for the axe by Lloyds – the former owner of TSB – as early as 2009.

TSB’s new chief operation officer Suresh Viswanathan told staff last month that the lender spends around £180m each year on operating costs such as IT systems and staff. In a transcript seen by the Guardian, the executive suggested that the number should be nearly £100m lower.

Ged Nichols, general secretary for TSB’s official union Accord, would not comment on the figures around job cuts or branch closures, but said: “If TSB is going to overcome its challenge that has implications for partners in the business and we would want and expect the bank to be true to its values and culture and do things in the right way in consultation with the unions.”

A TSB spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on speculation.”

Next Gen Farming Growing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Without Soil and 90% Less Water

Source: Grateful

Aeroponics grows fruits and vegetables faster, cheaper and better. Vertical farming with Tower Gardens is on the ‘rise' and rightfully so. You can grow a variety of plants without ANY soil and 90% LESS water. It also requires 10x less space so you can do a lot more in a smaller area. That means easily growing fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers both indoors and out. And because everything is grown and picked fresh, the flavor is unbelievable!

A Tour of Entertainment Legend Tyler Perry’s 300-Acre Studio Compound in Atlanta

Source: AD

Today we take you to Atlanta, Georgia to tour the sprawling Tyler Perry Studios. Home to productions like Marvel’s “Black Panther” and AMC Networks’ “The Walking Dead,” the self-made entertainment legend’s production compound is larger than Warner Bros. and Walt Disney’s Burbank studios combined.

12 newly-dedicated sound stages are joined by an entire backlot neighborhood called “Maxineville,” featuring a perfect replica of Madea’s house. Tyler Perry Studios is the centerpiece of Georgia’s burgeoning film industry and a testament to the vision, success, and generosity of its founder.

How WeWork Went From Being The Darling of The Venture Capital World to Needing An $8 Billion Infusion

Source: Bloomberg

In less than one year, WeWork went from having a $47 billion valuation and being the darling of the venture capital world to needing an $8 billion infusion to avoid running out of money. This is the story of Adam Neumann, Softbank's risky investment, a failed IPO and how we got here.

Royal Mail seeking High Court injunction to stop Xmas postal strike

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 8th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Royal Mail is seeking a High Court injunction to stop a postal strike, claiming that the ballot of workers had “potential irregularities”.

The company said it would make a formal application on Friday that the strike ballot “was unlawful and, therefore, null and void”.

A strike threatens to disrupt postal voting in the run-up to the general election as well as Christmas post.

The Communications Workers Union says it “refutes” Royal Mail's claim.

The ballot of 100,000 Royal Mail staff was held over job security and terms. No dates for a strike have yet been set.

Members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) last month voted by 97% in favour of a nationwide strike, saying the company had failed to adhere to an employment deal agreed last year. Royal Mail rejects this, which is why there are no grounds for industrial action, it says.

In the company's statement on Friday, Royal Mail said it had evidence of CWU members coming under pressure to vote “yes” in the ballot.

This included, the company claimed, union members “being encouraged to open their ballot papers on site, mark them as ‘yes', with their colleagues present and filming or photographing them doing so, before posting their ballots together at their workplace postboxes”.

Royal Mail's procedures state employees cannot open their mail at delivery offices without the prior authorisation of their manager.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “It will be clear to all our members and everybody connected with Royal Mail and this dispute, that the chief executive and his board will go to any lengths to deny the democratic mandate of our members to stand together and fight for their future and the very future of UK postal services.”

He said the CWU had made it clear to Royal Mail that it was willing to talk, including through this weekend.

A High Court hearing into Royal Mail's application for the injunction is expected to be heard early next week.

Royal Mail has previously told the union that if it removed the threat of industrial action for the rest of 2019, the company would enter talks without preconditions. But the CWU called Royal Mail's offer a “stunt” which the union would not fall for.

Industrial relations at the company have worsened this year, with frequent unofficial strikes breaking out.

The CWU has said the result of the ballot, held between 24 September and 15 October, represents the largest “yes” vote for national industrial action since the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016.

The union claims that up to 50,000 jobs are at risk at Royal Mail and Parcelforce, under plans to separate Parcelforce from the postal business. Shane O'Riordain, Royal Mail's managing director of regulation and corporate affairs, described this as “unfounded speculation”

London’s Crossrail project delayed until 2021 as costs increase

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 8th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The opening of London's Crossrail project will be delayed until 2021 as Europe's biggest infrastructure scheme is set to go another £650m over budget.

The route, to be known as the Elizabeth Line, was originally due to open in December 2018.

Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said services would be delayed to allow time for more testing.

He also said the cost of the project could reach £18.25bn, an increase of £650m on the previously agreed total.

The budget was originally set at £15.9bn for the scheme, which will connect major landmarks such as Heathrow Airport and the Canary Wharf business district.

However, Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Government and Transport for London (TfL) had since agreed a figure of £17.6bn.

Bosses said in April that services would begin between October 2020 and March 2021.

Announcing the latest delay, Mr Wild insisted services would begin “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.

He added: “The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.

“We will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open early in 2020.”

The delay will allow more time to complete software development and allow safety systems to be tested.

Analysis

Tom Edwards, BBC London Transport Correspondent

Just weeks ago I spoke to businesses up and down the Crossrail line and there was very little confidence with anything they were being told by the company.

Well they were right. We are getting a drip drip of delay and uncertainty.

Crossrail's hopeful “opening window” of between Oct 2020 and March 2021 just got slammed shut. Now it'll open “as soon as possible in 2021”.

This has gone beyond embarrassing into the ridiculous.

And then there's the extra cost. I suspect that will again come from London businesses through the precept, which was meant to be earmarked for other transport projects like the second phase of Crossrail.

Yes, this will be an incredible project when it's finished. But at the moment businesses will despair.

The line will make use of some existing track, but involves 26 miles of new tunnels connecting Paddington and Liverpool Street stations to improve rail capacity crossing the capital.

Mr Khan said he was “deeply frustrated” by the new delay.

A spokesman for the Mayor said “Further work is taking place immediately to assess Crossrail's latest cost estimates.

“TfL and the Department for Transport, as joint sponsors, will continue to hold the Crossrail leadership to account to ensure it is doing everything it can to open Crossrail safely and as soon as possible.”

An estimated 200 million passengers will use the new underground line annually, increasing central London rail capacity by 10% – the largest increase since World War Two.

Crossrail says the new line will connect Paddington to Canary Wharf in 17 minutes.

In May, Crossrail was criticised by the National Audit Office for running late and over budget, suggesting that bosses had clung to an unrealistic opening date.

‘No shortcuts'

A TfL spokesman called the delay “disappointing”.

In a statement TfL said: “It is only over the last year that the new Crossrail leadership has established the full complexity of finishing the software development and signalling systems, while getting the necessary safety approvals to complete the railway.

“Full testing is due to get underway next year and there can be no shortcuts on this hugely complex project.”

Sainsbury’s reports a slump in pre-tax profits despite price cuts

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 7th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The company says it is making progress in boosting its fortunes in the wake of its failed bid to merge with Asda.

Sainsbury's has reported a slump in pre-tax profits, with sales falling despite price cuts and new value ranges.

The supermarket chain, which also owns Argos, said it had achieved “positive momentum in grocery market share” in highly competitive times.

But it reported a 0.2% decline in group sales to £16.8bn over the 28 weeks to 21 September – its first half – with like-for-like sales, a comparable measure, falling 1%.

Trading pre-tax profits fell 15% to £238m. Sainsbury's blamed the phasing out of cost savings and tough weather comparisons.

On a statutory basis, pre-tax profits which include one-off costs came in at £9m. The figure covering the same period last year was £107m.

The company said this was mainly explained by a previously-flagged £203m writedown in the value of its estate that was mainly non-cash and reflected store closures.

Sainsbury's said its grocery and clothing offerings had a better performance in the second quarter than in the first.

Its chief executive, Mike Coupe, is under pressure to grow revenue after being accused of taking his eye off the ball as he fought for a £12bn merger with Asda.

The deal was blocked on competition grounds in April.

Mr Coupe said of the first half performance: “We have created positive momentum across the business through strategic investments in our customer offer.

“We have lowered prices on every day food and groceries, launched a range of value brands and are more competitive on price than we have ever been.

“We are investing in hundreds of Sainsbury's and Argos stores, introducing new products and services and continually improving service and availability. As a result, customer satisfaction has increased significantly year on year.”

The company guided that the retail sector remains “highly competitive” – a consequence of the price war that has been raging for years as discounters Aldi and Lidl capture market share from the ‘big four' chains.

Sainsbury's raised its interim dividend by 6% and shares, down 22% in the year to date, opened 1% higher.

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the results: “The supermarket landscape has become more competitive and Sainsbury is fighting to keep sales moving in the right direction.

“We've had good news from M&S' food business this week, and its deal with Ocado will just add more pressure into the mix.

“It begs the question: what can Sainsbury's do to differentiate itself? The integration of Argos has been a step in a new direction, but despite the cross-selling potential, it hasn't been enough to boost overall sales.”

By James Sillars

Airbnb to verify every single property on its platform 11 years after launch

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 7th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Airbnb says it will verify every single property on its platform after a news website found a series of scams.

In October, Vice News uncovered a pattern of false or misleading property listings posted on the rentals site.

Airbnb said it would review every property by December 2020, and also promised to refund customers if they were misled by inaccurate listings.

It is the first time Airbnb, which launched in 2008, has pledged to verify every home promoted on its platform.

During its investigation, Vice News spoke to several people who had booked accommodation on Airbnb and been scammed.

When the guests arrived for their holiday, they typically received a last-minute phone call from the landlord saying the property was no longer available, due to an emergency or double-booking.

They would then be moved to another property, often in a different area and without the amenities promised in the original booking.

In many cases the guests felt they had no option but to stay at least one night, after arriving late at night in a city far from home.

But they say Airbnb then refused to give them a full refund despite the misleading bookings.

In a series of tweets, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said: “Airbnb is in the business of trust. We are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008.”

He pledged:

  • to review every home and host on Airbnb, aiming to verify every listing by December 2020
  • to refund guests the entire cost of their booking if the accommodation does not meet “accuracy standards”, and if the company cannot find another property “that is just as nice”
  • to launch a phone line so “anyone can call us any time, anywhere in the world and reach a real person”

Adam French, a consumer rights expert from Which?, told the BBC: “Holiday booking fraud is on the rise, with people losing millions every year to fraudsters tricking them out of their money with holiday lettings that do not actually exist.

“Steps from Airbnb to finally verify all of its listings are positive, but the industry must do more to ensure people are no longer being stripped of their money and having their holiday plans left in tatters.”

On 2 November, Airbnb said it would ban “party houses” after a mass shooting at a California home rented through the company left five people dead.

And in 2017, it changed its security policy, after a BBC investigation found criminals were hijacking accounts and burgling homes.

Marks and Spencer fall in clothing sales see drop in profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 6th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Marks and Spencer profits dropped in the first half of its financial year following a sharp fall in demand for its clothes and home goods.

The High Street retailer said that while its food business was “outperforming the market”, there had been issues in clothing and home.

Marks and Spencer is undergoing a transformation plan led by chief executive Steve Rowe.

He said after a “challenging” first half, it is now seeing improvements.

Overall, pre-tax profits tumbled by 17% to £176.5m on total sales down 2.1% to £4.86bn.

Like-for-like sales in clothing and home fell by 5.5% during the six months to 30 September, worse than an expected 4.3% drop.

Despite that, in early morning FTSE 250 trading the company's shares were up 6.3% at 193.94 pence.

M&S said there had been “availability challenges” as a result of “supply chain issues and a shape of buy that remained too broad”.

‘Too slow'

The company is facing competition from fashion giants such as Primark on the High Street and Asos on the internet.

It said its clothing business “has historically been too slow to market” and had “too many slow-moving lines”.

It also said it was going to ensure that they had enough product in all sizes, and would be quicker to restock popular and fast-selling items in stores.

In addition it said it would look to introduce slimmer cuts in clothing designs, which would be increasingly aimed at a “family market”.

M&S said it was seeing a positive response to its current winter season clothing, which it says is a “better value product”.

But retail expert Richard Hyman told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: “I think Marks and Spencer customers are not interested in price, as much as relevance. Making clothes cheaper is not the answer.

“When they talk about this season's offering, they are talking about a matter of weeks. The general outlook for Christmas trading is not looking very good across the trade.”

In contrast, like-for-like sales in food grew by 0.9%, ahead of a forecast 0.3% rise.

To stem the decline in food, M&S forged a joint venture with Ocado in February, agreeing to buy 50% of its retail business for £750m.

But Mr Hyman said: “I can't see the central logic of the Ocado deal. I don't think they have to be online in food at all. Online [food retailing] in the UK is 7% of the market, suggesting people are not clamouring to buy food online.”

And Neil Wilson, chief analyst at markets.com said that overall, change had been far too slow at the company.

But M&S boss Mr Rowe said the firm was now starting to see the benefits of its transformation plan. “For the first time we are beginning to see the potential from the far reaching changes we are making,” he said.

However, while it forecast some improvement in trading in the second half of the year, market conditions remain challenging.

In September, M&S was relegated from the FTSE 100 index of Britain's biggest listed companies.

It marked the first time the retailer had not been a FTSE 100 member since the index was launched in 1984.

All Mothercare stores to close putting 2,500 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 6th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Troubled baby goods retailer Mothercare has called in administrators, putting 2,500 UK jobs at risk.

There will be a phased closure of all of its 79 UK stores, administrators from PwC said.

The UK firm “has been loss-making for a number of years”, but international franchises are profitable, PwC said.

On Monday the baby goods firm said it was “not capable” of being sufficiently profitable and that it had failed to find a buyer.

Joint administrator Zelf Hussain said: “This is a sad moment for a well-known High Street name,” adding that Mothercare “has been hit hard by increasing cost pressures and changes in consumer spending.”

“It's with real regret that we have to implement a phased closure of all UK stores. Our focus will be to help employees and keep the stores trading for as long as possible,” Mr Hussain said.

Pensions move

Mothercare chairman Clive Whiley said there was “deep regret and sadness that we have been unable to avoid the administration of Mothercare” and that the board “fully understand the significant impact on those UK colleagues and business partners who are affected”.

He added: “However, the board concluded that the administration processes serve the wider interests of ensuring a sustainable future for the company, including the wider group's global colleagues, its pension fund, lenders and other stakeholders.”

Mothercare said it was in continuing talks over possible UK concession stores and about using the brand to sell goods online.

It said it would move its pensions scheme across to its international business.


‘The only baby shop on the island'

Former Mothercare store manager Michelle Smith lost her job in October 2018 when her Isle of Wight store was one of 51 to close.

She said she felt sorry for the people who will lose their jobs due to the administration.

When her store closed, it was “devastating” for the Isle of Wight, she said.

“My store was the only child and baby shop on the island,” she said.

While branded baby products can be cheaper online, a lot of people like to see, touch and feel products before buying them, she added.

However, online retailers don't have the same overheads, she said.

Michelle is now a store manager for Co-op.


The administration will be “disappointing for all the employees but it's not unexpected”, said Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard.

Since the firm negotiated a rescue deal with lenders last year, “they haven't changed anything fundamentally”, she said.

“The levels of investment needed to future-proof the business would have been so significant and they couldn't make that leap,” she added.

Ultimately, supermarkets and department stores ate into their market, plus cheaper online competitors, she said.

Facebook changes logo to Facebook – to avoid confusion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 5th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The company Facebook, which owns the social media network Facebook, wants users to realise there's a difference between the two.

Facebook, the company behind the social media platform also called Facebook, wants to avoid being confused with Facebook – but instead of changing its name, like Google did to Alphabet, it is changing its logo.

The new logo is still just the word Facebook, but it is capitalised where the social media platform's logo is in lowercase.

An animated image released by the company shows the logo in various colours, distancing it a little from the blue of the main Facebook platform – which the company is increasingly describing as an app.

Explaining the change, the company's chief marketing officer, Antonio Lucio, said “Facebook started as a single app”, although in truth Facebook started as a social networking website for Harvard students – not a single application.

But, as Mr Lucio continued: “Now, 15 years later, we offer a suite of products that help people connect to their friends and family, find communities and grow businesses.”

This range of products all under the Facebook umbrella has grown increasingly diverse. They include the major four platforms, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as others which have a much smaller market share or are yet to launch.

Oculus, Workplace, Portal and Calibra are mentioned by Mr Lucio as sharing infrastructure as well as development teams – and the company is keen to avow that these are Facebook products.

For a company such as Google, the value of its Search brand benefits its other services, including Maps and Gmail – and they are available as interconnected services at the point of delivery.

However, for Facebook, which has expanded primarily by acquiring these other social media platforms which were foreign to its own development teams, the focus has been on assimilating those platforms and their users into its own business structures.

For a long time there was very little clarity about how the company would do this and if it could do so legally.

Earlier this year the company's executives were called in for an “urgent briefing” by the Irish data protection commissioner after confirming plans to integrate the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms.

Those plans would see the company combine its data collection on the hundreds of millions of users of its separate platforms around the world – potentially bringing it into conflict with strict EU laws on how companies handle personal data.

Facebook's information campaign around its new branding would potentially increase its ability to argue that users had provided their informed consent to continue using these joined-up platforms.

“We started being clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook years ago, adding a company endorsement to products like Oculus, Workplace and Portal,” explained Mr Lucio.

“And in June we began including ‘from Facebook' within all our apps. Over the coming weeks, we will start using the new brand within our products and marketing materials, including a new company website.”

Whether such signalling will be enough to address concerns about the company's market share remains to be seen.

By Alexander Martin

Santander in 350 million pound deal for stake in UK’s trade and foreign exchange facilitator Ebury

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 5th Nov 2019) London, UK —

MADRID (Reuters) – Santander (SAN.MC) has taken a 350 million pound ($453 million) majority stake in UK-based Ebury as part of a digital strategy to boost growth through new ventures, the Spanish bank announced on Monday.

Ebury is a trade and foreign exchange facilitator for small and medium-sized companies which operates in 19 countries and 140 currencies, Santander said in a statement.

Santander said it is acquiring 50.1% of Ebury for 350 million pounds, of which 70 million will be new primary equity to support Ebury’s plans to enter new markets in Latin America and Asia.

The bank said it expects a return on invested capital (RoIC) higher than 25% in 2024.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are a major engine of growth around the world, creating new jobs and contributing up to 60% of total employment and up to 40% of national GDP in emerging economies,” said Santander executive chairman Ana Botin.

Like banks across Europe, Spanish lenders have turned to more profitable enterprise lending in a bid to lift earnings as low interest rates squeeze financial margins.

Santander is also focusing on emerging economies while cutting costs to counter squeezed margins from ultra-low interest rates in mature European markets.

Santander said Ebury’s existing investors, including co-founders and management, would reinvest in the transaction and the current management team will remain.

Ebury has generated average annual revenue growth of 40% in the last three years, Santander said in its statement.

By Jesús Aguado

The first compostable one-cup coffee pods to go on sale this week

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 4th Nov, 2019) London, Uk – –

Lavazza launch comes amid rising concern over where 20bn single-serve plastic pods end up

The first compostable one-cup coffee pods from a major manufacturer will go on sale this week in a battle to stop the 20bn pods used every year around the world from ending up in landfill.

Italian espresso giant Lavazza is aiming to replace its entire range of home use capsules with new eco-friendly ones – at the same retail price – by the end of the year.

It is thought that 95m cups of coffee cups are drunk in the UK every day, but increasingly popular single serve pods have become an environmental scourge – typically ending up in landfill where they can take up to 500 years to break down. The 20bn capsules currently consumed every year are enough to circle the Earth 14 times.

The complexity of packaging – often a mix of different materials such as plastic, foil and aluminium – combined with used coffee dregs – can make them difficult to recycle and process in standard municipal recycling plants.

Lavazza says its new biopolymer-based Eco Caps break down into compost in as little as six months when combined with food waste for council collection. Provided local authority rules allow it, used capsules could be thrown in the food waste bin.

However, where this is unavailable, Lavazza has teamed up with waste collection service TerraCycle to establish a network of public access drop-off points for consumers to dispose of capsules which need to be industrially composted.

David Rogers, managing director of Lavazza UK, said: “This major investment confirms our commitment to excellence and sustainable development.”

Its new research, also published on Monday, shows that more than a third of people in the UK admit to throwing their used coffee capsules into the bin because they don’t know how to properly dispose of them. Consumers also feel generally confused about what can and cannot be recycled, with 72% admitting to feeling overwhelmed when trying to understand the various recycling symbols.

The coffee company Nespresso – part of the Swiss multinational Nestlé – encourages consumers to send back their used aluminium capsules in the UK in special bags while it has also trialled council collection schemes.

Most compostable or biodegradable pods on the market have been launched by small, niche brands. A separate range of 100% compostable pods made from sugar cane and paper pulp, made by online retailer Halo, can be put into home compost or food bins. Halo co-founder Richard Hardwick said: “The coffee revolution has happened and one of the key challenges the industry now faces is the millions of tonnes of waste created as a result.

“Aluminium and plastic coffee capsules are difficult to recycle so most of them end up in the bin, and that’s why up to 75% are currently being sent to landfill every minute. Most people don’t understand the irreversible damage these coffee capsules are inflicting on the planet.”

By Rebecca Smithers

Mothercare UK 2,500 jobs threatened by administration plans

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

Baby goods retailer Mothercare has said it plans to call in administrators to the troubled firm's UK business, putting 2,500 jobs at risk.

Mothercare said its 79 UK stores were “not capable of returning to a level of structural profitability and returns that are sustainable for the group”.

“Furthermore, the company is unable to continue to satisfy the ongoing cash needs of Mothercare UK,” it added.

It said stores would continue to trade as normal for the time being.

Also affected is Mothercare Business Services Limited (MBS), which provides certain services to Mothercare UK.

‘Necessary step'

Mothercare has already gone through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which allowed it to shut 55 shops.

“These notices of intent to appoint administrators in respect of Mothercare UK and MBS are a necessary step in the restructuring and refinancing of the Group,” Mothercare said.

“Plans are well advanced and being finalised for execution imminently. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

Only 500 of the jobs at risk are full-time posts, including head office roles, with 2,000 part-time.

Mothercare has been looking for a buyer for the UK stores, but with no success so far.

The company also operates in more than 40 overseas territories, which are not subject to administration.

Mothercare said that in the financial year to March 2019, its international business generated profits of £28.3m, whereas the UK retail operations lost £36.3m.

Online woes

The move comes as High Street retailers continue to face tough times amid a squeeze on consumers' income, the growth of online shopping and the rising costs of staff, rents and business rates.

Retail analyst Steve Dresser told the BBC that like collapsed travel firm Thomas Cook, Mothercare had failed to adapt to the world of online retail.

“They got very used to fat margins and a way of trading that's store-based,” he said.

However, the firm had also lost its way on the High Street, with poor store environments that deterred customers.

Ultimately, he said, people did not think of Mothercare first when it came to buying baby goods: “I think you would be hard-pressed to know what the brand stands for.”

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said Mothercare had become “a byword for trouble on the High Street”, demonstrating “the failure of well-established brands to stay afloat”.

She added: “Other retailers, particularly those who have also previously filed for CVAs, will be concerned that these restructuring plans haven't succeeded and a more radical approach may be required in order to survive.”

Why Champagne is Often Double The Price of Other Sparkling Wines

Source: BI

Champagne is only true champagne if it's made in the Champagne region of northern France. All other sparkling wines made outside of this region, even those from neighboring parts of France, must be labeled differently. Champagne often costs double the price of other sparkling wines, such as prosecco or cava. A decent-quality bottle of it can cost you anywhere from $50 to $300, and vintage bottles often sell for thousands.