Britain’s biggest lenders to unveil proposals for ‘open banking’ rollout

( via–Mon, 1st March 2021) London, Uk – –

The banking lobby group UK Finance will outline the blueprint in a report this week, Sky News understands.

Britain's biggest lenders will this week unveil proposals for a not-for-profit company to oversee the industry's attempt to bolster competition through a system known as ‘open banking'.

Sky News has learnt that UK Finance, the sector's principal trade association, will publish a report on Tuesday setting out its plans to comply with a series of requirements imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) five years ago.

City sources said the report would be an important step towards entrenching open banking as a permanent feature of the industry landscape.

Known as the CMA9, banks including Barclays, HSBC and NatWest Group were the subject of a CMA order in 2016 following an investigation into the personal current account and SME banking markets.

The watchdog concluded that the UK's biggest banks were not competing hard enough for customers' business and that open banking “should deliver a new, secure option for customers”.

In the wake of that order, the nine lenders agreed to pay for the Open Banking Implementation Entity, which oversaw the initial phases of the system's adoption in the UK.

Open banking is designed to make it easier for customers to securely compare the deal they get from their bank with rival services by aggregating third-party data on a single platform.

One industry source said the new service company, which will have a slate of independent directors, would pave the way for the open banking model to be extended to other products, including consumer credit, insurance, mortgages, pensions and savings.

Doing so would involve an expansion of the industry's adoption of open finance and smart data frameworks, they added.

It is unclear what the new not-for-profit company's annual budget would be or how it would be split between the nine participating lenders.

The other members of the CMA9 include Lloyds Banking Group and Nationwide, Britain's biggest building society.

The proposals from UK Finance will be published just days after a report by the businessman Ron Kalifa proposed a “Digital Big Bang” for the British fintech sector, aided by tech visas, a new £1bn fund and reforms to the London stock market's listing rules.

A UK Finance spokeswoman declined to comment on Monday.

By Mark Kleinman

Northern Conservative MPs call for business rates cut to ‘save High Streets’

( via – – Mon, 1st Marcc 2021) London, Uk – –

Forty-five Conservative MPs from constituencies in the North of England have urged the chancellor to cut business rates in England to help “save the High Streets”.

Writing to the chancellor ahead of the Budget, the MPs said the tax should be cut from 50% of market rent to 35%.

Rishi Sunak has promised to offer businesses support while Covid restrictions remain in place.

Labour has criticised his approach to the pandemic as short-termist.

In a pre-Budget speech, Labour's shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the chancellor had no plan and had spent the crisis “looking for the escape hatch” rather than setting out a strategy to take the country forward.

She said coronavirus had exposed “the weaknesses of 10 years of Conservative mismanagement of our economy”.

On Wednesday, Mr Sunak will use the Budget to set out the government's tax and spending plans following a year of financial disturbance and high government borrowing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

He is facing pressure from some – including the former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke – to raise taxes in order to repair public finances.

However, others have argued that taxes could hinder the country's recovery from Covid-19.

And now a group of MPs from the chancellor's own party – known as the Northern Research Group – have urged him to cut the tax paid by shops.

The tax is calculated based on the value of a business's property. As part of emergency pandemic measures introduced last year, the government brought in a business rates holiday, but this is currently due to end in April.

‘Bricks and mortar'

In a letter to Mr Sunak, the MPs – many of whom represent traditional Labour seats won by the Conservatives at the last election – argue that the burden of business rates is falling on areas most in need of support.

They say cutting the tax, when it is reintroduced, would “ensure retailers have the confidence to invest in their bricks and mortar stores and save High Streets across the country”.

Although they acknowledge that the business rates holiday “undoubtedly saved hundreds of retail businesses”, they also call for “longer-term fundamental reform” to help High Street shops compete against online retailers.

On Sunday, the government announced a £5bn grant scheme to help High Street shops and hospitality reopen as the lockdown is eased.

Asked about introducing a sales tax to target online retailers such as Amazon, Mr Sunak said he was trying to reach an international agreement with other countries “on how to tax these large multinational digital companies properly”.

A report from the treasury committee says now “is not the time for tax rises”. The cross-party group of MPs says increasing taxes could undermine the UK's economic recovery from Covid-19, but they may be needed at a later date.

Analysis: By Adam Fleming

The main focus of the Budget will be support for people and businesses in, what the government hope will be, the last, difficult part of the Covid-19 crisis. That's why the Treasury has already announced another £5bn of grants for businesses that are still closed.

Despite the publication of the roadmap for lifting the lockdown in England, there's still uncertainty about the future.

And so the Chancellor will “level with” people about “the challenges” ahead for the public finances rather than setting out specific plans for raising more money and reducing borrowing.

They will come later in the year, and will almost certainly include a gradual increase in corporation tax. Although the Treasury isn't commenting on that now.

The economy performed better than expected at the end of last year, then worse at the start of this year because of the new lockdown.

But the Bank of England is predicting bumper economic growth, thanks to a combination of the vaccine and households raring to spend money they've saved. That could make the chancellor's job a bit easier.

In a speech to Bloomberg, Anneliese Dodds accused the chancellor of looking for “a quick fix” and presiding over “12 months of irresponsible decision making”.

She said businesses and families had been “left in the lurch” because Mr Sunak had “failed to make the link between health and the economy”.

She called on the government to extend Covid-19 support measures including the furlough scheme, the business rates holiday, the reduced rate of VAT and the £500 payment for those self-isolating.

Ms Dodds also accused Mr Sunak of implementing “a triple hammer blow of council tax rises, social security cuts and pay freezes”.

And she attacked the government for wasting money citing “£22bn spent on the Test and Trace system, £150m spent on unsafe PPE and £2bn on contracts to businesses with clear links to the Conservative party, with no tender at all”.

The Most Expensive Neighborhood In London

Source: King Luxury

The Most Expensive Neighborhood In London. The city is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, so living in the most expensive area of London could cost you millions of dollars. Knightsbridge is the most expensive residential area in London with an average selling price of more than 15 million pounds. It is also known to tourists as a shopping destination and is home to both Harrods and Harvey Nichols. The neighborhood in the center of the capital is home to some of the world's wealthiest stars such as Robbie Williams, Jimmy Page as well as David and Victoria Beckham.

Sainsbury’s rewards frontline staff with 3% bonus

( via–Fri, 26th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The chain bolsters store pay and announces a third bonus for its frontline colleagues but says the annual award is a “one-off”.

Sainsbury's is to reward frontline staff with a 3% bonus for their efforts to serve customers during the coronavirus crisis.

The UK's second-largest supermarket chain said the payout – worth £530 to a full-time worker – was a “one-off” in recognition of outstanding service.

The sector witnessed a stampede for goods from March last year as the UK prepared to enter its first COVID-19 lockdown, leading to widespread shortages of products such as toilet roll and flour as supply chains caught up with demand.

Sainsbury's, which is only the second chain after Lidl to award a bonus, said staff at its supermarkets and Argos stores would also get a pay rise to £9.50 per hour from next month.

Staff at central London stores will see their hourly pay rise to £10.10.

The awards meant staff were taking home more than £100m more, Sainsbury's explained, because workers had already received two other smaller bonus payouts.

The sector has been among the big winners of the pandemic as supermarkets have benefited from essential retail status while the major chains have also ramped up their online operations to meet unprecedented grocery delivery orders.

That delivery shift has come at a price for some workers though as Sainsbury's warned last November that 3,500 jobs could be lost at its supermarket counters and Argos stores. COVID jobs crisis: Retail is worst hit sector

Major chains moved to deflect criticism around higher dividends to shareholders from bumper sales by pledging to repay more than £2bn in business rates relief.

Sainsbury's retail and digital director Clodagh Moriarty, said: “In the last 12 months our frontline colleagues have shown outstanding commitment to our customers.

“In recognition of everything they have achieved, we are giving them a pay rise, plus an additional one-off payment.”

By James Sillars

Pets at Home to raise profit forecast as demand for pet products continues soar

( via – – Fri, 26th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The pandemic boost to pet ownership has led retail chain Pets at Home to raise its profit forecast yet again as demand for pet products continues to soar.

The company, which has 350 outlets across the UK, says full-year profits will be £85m, up from a previous estimate of £77m.

It said trading over the past eight weeks, during the latest lockdown, had been better than expected.

The firm has now revised its forecast higher four times since September.

Pets at Home said it had seen “continued strong and broad-based growth across all channels and categories” over the past couple of months.

The company is classed as an essential retailer and has been allowed to stay open during lockdown.

In November, it said that animals had been a “lifesaver” for people struggling during the pandemic. Chief executive Peter Pritchard said pets had played “an incredibly important role” through a period of “social loneliness”.

‘Furry friends'

Pets at Home sells some small animals and fish, but does not sell cats or dogs.

It provides a range of services for them, however, including Vets at Home, and a Puppy & Kitten Club for new owners. Recent results showed membership of that had jumped by 25% over the previous year.

Nicholas Hyett, analyst at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Pets at Home has added 10% to January's full year profit guidance.

“The rapid improvement is evidence of just how strong recent trading has been, and the effect rolling lockdowns are having – both on pet ownership and our willingness to splash out on our furry friends.

“There is always a risk of course that newly acquired pets fall out of favour once lockdown comes to an end, but for now pet retail is in the jaws of a boom.”

Coinbase applies for SEC listing and reveals healthy revenue growth

( via — Thu, 25th Feb 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Coinbase Global Inc on Thursday disclosed its regulatory filing to go public, revealing surging revenue growth and healthy earnings and setting the stage for a landmark stock market listing for the U.S. cryptocurrency exchange.

The procedural step of making its filing with U.S. regulators public brings Coinbase a step closer to listing its shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange, which would represent a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates vying for mainstream endorsement.

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

Coinbase said in December that it had confidentially applied with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public.

Reuters was first to report last July that Coinbase started plans for a stock-market listing and was exploring going public through a direct listing instead of a traditional initial public offering.

Many cryptocurrencies have struggled to win the trust of mainstream investors and the general public due to their speculative nature and potential for money laundering.

The landmark decision from the SEC could be a major boon or blow to the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies, and determine which ones are allowed to trade on the platform.

In its latest filing, Coinbase cautioned that it was yet to receive the relevant approvals from regulators that would allow it to trade certain securities.

“Although we have applied to operate an ATS (alternative trading system) in the United States that would allow us to trade crypto assets that are deemed “securities” under U.S. federal securities laws, we have not yet received regulatory approval to, and do not currently, operate an ATS for trading of crypto assets deemed to be securities,” Coinbase said in its filing.

The listing would come after the price of bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, ended 2020 up more than 300% and earlier this month hit a record high of $58,354 with a market capitalization above $1 trillion.

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

Bitcoin has come off its recent highs this week as investors grew nervous at sky-high valuations.

For the year ended Dec. 31, Coinbase pulled in total revenue of $1.3 billion, compared with $533.7 million in the year-ago period. It also reported net income of $322.3 million, compared with a loss of $30.4 million during the same period last year, according to the filing.

Coinbase is eschewing a traditional initial public offering where a company raises money by selling new shares, opting instead to go public through a direct listing where no new stock is sold and existing shareholders can sell stock.

Founded in 2012, San Francisco-based Coinbase is among the most well-known cryptocurrency platforms globally and has more than 43 million users in more than 100 countries.

The New York Stock Exchange, BBVA and former Citigroup Inc chief executive Vikram Pandit are among those that have invested in Coinbase, which was valued at more than $8 billion in its latest private fundraising round in 2018.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin 

Primark sales plunge by £1.5bn but chain banking on spending spree once stores fully reopened

( via – – Thur, 25th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Owner ABF is banking on spending spree once stores are fully reopened from Covid lockdowns

Primark sales dropped by £1.5bn year-on-year during the last six months while the fast fashion retailer’s stores were closed by pandemic restrictions.

The retailer estimated it would sell £2.2bn of goods in the 24 weeks to 27 February, £1.5bn lower than the equivalent period in the year before, its owner, the conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF), reported on Thursday.

ABF’s interests in groceries, sugar and agriculture all increased their sales and profits in the last six months, but the pandemic has hit its money-spinning Primark chain hard, with further pain to come. ABF said it expected a further £480m in lost sales at Primark during the next six months.

However, the company said it expected the retailer, which does not sell its products online, to break even narrowly on an adjusted measure of profitability for the last six months, and added that it expected a spending spree once stores reopen.

Eighty-three percent of its shop floorspace should be up and running by 26 April, it said in a trading update, compared with less than a quarter on Thursday. Its 153 stores in England will open on 12 April, the first date allowed for non-essential shops, if all goes to plan.

“We expect the period after reopening to be highly cash generative,” ABF said.

Primark has resisted pressure to invest in an online shop, a strategy that had – until the coronavirus pandemic – appeared to pay off with big profits. Since then, however, its stores have been hit by months of closures and restrictions across all of its main UK and European marketsAs well as forcing closures, the pandemic has changed shoppers’ behaviour, contributing to a 15% decline in like-for-like sales when shops are open. City centre stores have been hit by a lack of commuters and tourists, while stores in out-of-town retail parks have sold clothes faster than before the pandemic.

Primark is also betting that fashions have not changed dramatically during the last year among locked-down customers. It expects to sell £150m of stock held over from last spring and summer, followed by another £260m of stock from the autumn and winter of 2020.

ABF added that it had not suffered any material disruption from the UK’s exit from the EU’s single market at the start of the year across any of its businesses.

By Jasper Jolly

Tech giant Apple buys a company every three to four weeks

( via – – Wed, 24th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Apple has acquired about 100 companies over the last six years, the company’s chief executive Tim Cook has revealed.

That works out at a company every three to four weeks, he told Apple’s annual meeting of shareholders on Tuesday.

Apple recently delivered its largest quarter by revenue of all time, bringing in $111.4bn (£78.7bn) in the first-quarter of its fiscal year 2021.

Mr Cook told the shareholders meeting that the acquisitions are mostly aimed at acquiring technology and talent.

Apple's largest acquisition in the last decade was its $3bn purchase of Beats Electronics, the headphone maker founded by rapper and producer Dr Dre.

Another high profile purchase was music recognition software company Shazam, for $400m in 2018.

Most often, Apple buys smaller technology firms and then incorporates their innovations into its own products.

One example is PrimeSense, an Israeli 3D sensing company whose technology contributed to Apple’s FaceID.

Apple has also invested in back-end technology that wouldn’t be so obvious to iPhone or Macbook users.

Self-driving, podcasts and more

Apple's list of acquisitions and investments is extremely varied.

In the past year, Apple has bought several artificial intelligence (AI) companies, a virtual reality events business, a payments startup and a podcast business, among others.

In 2019, Apple bought, a self-driving shuttle firm, in an effort to boost its own foray into self-driving technologies. captionWATCH: Who are the ‘big four' and just how much power do they have?

In 2016, the company also took a $1bn stake in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, although it wasn’t a controlling interest.

Deep pockets

Apple is an immensely profitable juggernaut worth more than $2trn, so it has plenty of money to make acquisitions.

But even if it has bought 100 companies in six years, Apple appears to be very selective about what it buys.

For example, Tesla founder Elon Musk recently revealed that he approached Mr Cook to buy the electric car business when it was struggling in 2013.

Mr Cook didn't take the meeting, Mr Musk said.

Measured by value, Apple’s acquisitions are actually far more restrained than those of many of its tech rivals.

Microsoft paid $26bn for LinkedIn, Amazon paid $13.7bn for Whole Foods and Facebook paid $19bn for WhatsApp.

Apple’s ten largest purchases put together would still be worth far less than any of those deals.

UK retailers see fall in sales as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate

( via — Tue, 23rd Feb 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British retail sales fell in the year to February as stores cut jobs at a rapid rate, with only supermarkets reporting any growth during the latest COVID-19 lockdown, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s gauge of retail sales stood at -45, up only slightly from January’s eight-month low of -50. The measure points to falling sales and is below the consensus forecast of -38 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Retailers’ expectations for March – when non-essential shops will remain closed to the public as part of lockdown measures – fell to -62, the lowest since the series began in 1983.

In another sign of a changing consumer habits during lockdown, the survey’s gauge of internet retail sales hit a new record high.

“With lockdown measures still in place, trading conditions remain extremely difficult for retailers,” said Ben Jones, principal economist at the CBI.

“Record growth in internet shopping suggests that retailers’ investments in on-line platforms and click-and-collect services may be paying off, but the re-opening of the sector can’t come soon enough to protect jobs and breathe life back into the sector.”

Job losses among retailers accelerated according to a quarterly question in the survey. For the distribution sector as a whole, which includes wholesalers and car dealers, employment fell at a record rate, the CBI survey showed.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

Over 50% of UK firms plan to hire new staff in the first quarter of 2021

( via – – Mon, 22nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

More than half of UK employers intend to recruit staff in the next three months, according to new research.

The human resources body, the CIPD, said it was the first positive signs for employment prospects it had seen in a year.

About 56% of 2,000 firms surveyed planned to hire in the first three months of 2021.

The sectors with the strongest hiring intentions include healthcare, finance and insurance, education and ICT.

“Our findings suggest that unemployment may be close to peak and may even undershoot official forecasts, especially given the reported fall in the supply of overseas workers,” said Gerwyn Davies from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which carried out the survey with recruitment firm Adecco.

The survey also found that the number of firms planning to make redundancies in the first quarter of 2021 dropped from 30% to 20%, compared with the previous three-month period.

The most recent unemployment rate – for September to November – was 5%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That is an increase of 0.6% over the previous three months, and means that 1.72 million people were unemployed.

There were 819,000 fewer workers on UK company payrolls in November than at the start of the pandemic, ONS figures show.

According to figures released by the Insolvency Service in response to a BBC Freedom of Information request, some 292 British employers made plans to cut jobs in January, the lowest figure since the pandemic began.

Hospitality was the worst hit sector, accounting for a third of the job losses, followed by retail.

Only 36% of hospitality employers were intending to recruit new staff, the CIPD and Adecco found.

The government's furlough scheme, which is meant to end on 30 April, has slowed down the number of redundancies.

Nearly 10 million people were furloughed between the start of the scheme and 13 December (the latest date for which figures are available).

The scheme has enabled many businesses to keep their staff by furloughing them instead of making them redundant.

However, the body for HR professionals cautioned that it could not rule out further private sector redundancies if the government does not extend the furlough scheme to the end of June, or if the British economy were to suffer any further “shocks”.

“It would be hugely counterproductive if the government's financial support faltered, while some of the biggest sectors of the UK economy are still in survival mode,” said Mr Davies.

PureGym franchise burning through £500,000 a day

( via – – Mon, 22nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Lockdown has been costing budget gym franchise PureGym hundreds of thousands of pounds a day, the company's boss has said.

“We are burning about £500,000 a day and that's the average over eight months of closure,” Humphrey Cobbold told the BBC's Today programme.

It has meant about £120m of costs with no revenue for his 275 gyms, he says.

He is among business leaders who will carefully study Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to re-open the economy.

Mr Johnson will share his finalised roadmap with ministers later, before unveiling it to MPs and then leading a news conference at 19:00 GMT.

It is speculated that businesses branded as non-essential may not open until as late as May.

“It's been brutally tough,” said Mr Cobbold of the period under lockdown.

While the government furlough scheme has been paying a portion of staff salaries, he said his business has still been paying some staff costs such as pension contributions and has amassed sizeable rent arrears.

Mr Cobbold says he has been able to raise funds from investors, which has helped the business survive, and he insists that his business is ready to re-open safely.

“The sooner the better within safe operating procedures for us,” he said. “We can make a massive contribution to the health of the nation”

However, he says his and other firms have learned the hard way that government plans can come late and can be changed.

“I've learned over the last year not to make too many assumptions,” he said.

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of pub chain Marston's, says he would also like to see a route out of the restrictions, since for pubs like his, they mean operating at a loss.

“For many businesses, operating with restrictions is very difficult,” he told the Today programme. “We did open last year – it's not as if we haven't done this before.”

The severity of lockdown for pubs means “sadly its inevitable” that some pubs will not be able to reopen, he said.

“As a sector we have had no income for nine months and we are still incurring costs,” he said.

There are economic reasons to open pubs as well as social ones, he said. The industry employs millions of people, and Marston's generates about £500m a year for the government including direct and indirect taxes, he added.

How Airlines Make Meals For Thousands Of Passengers

Source: CNBC

For many people economy class used to mean soggy pasta, rubbery eggs and dried-out chicken. For a time U.S airlines even stopped serving free meals altogether in economy class. But in 2019 U.S. airlines posted their tenth straight year of profitability and premium and economy cabins are seeing more food options than ever before.

Cazoo online car platform plotting moves to go public with a valuation of over £5bn

( via– Fri, 19th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The firm's founder, Alex Chesterman, is starting to explore a merger with a US-listed SPAC, Sky News learns.

Cazoo, the online car retailer founded by one of Britain's best-known technology entrepreneurs, is plotting a blockbuster move to go public with a valuation of well over £5bn.

Sky News has learnt that Cazoo, which was launched by Alex Chesterman just a year ago, is working with bankers at Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Numis on options for accelerating its growth prospects.

City sources said on Friday that this could involve a London listing, but that a merger with a New York-listed special purpose acquisition company was at least as likely an outcome.

Any move to go public would not take place until much later in the year, but would underscore the explosive growth of Mr Chesterman's latest venture.

Cazoo has already raised £450m from an array of blue-chip investors – a staggering sum for a British start-up founded just two years ago.

The London Stock Exchange is expected to push hard for Cazoo to list in its home market, but sources said that the company's founders had already been approaching potential investors about the idea of a SPAC deal in the US.

SPACs have raised tens of billions of dollars this year alone, persuading a spectrum of tech-enabled companies in clean energy, healthcare, urban mobility and space travel to take themselves onto the public markets.

Cazoo has built a workforce of around 2,000 people, partly through a number of acquisitions.

If it succeeded in securing a valuation as high as £6bn, it would potentially add another £1.8bn to Mr Chesterman's already-sizeable wealth by virtue of his 30% stake in the company.

In a statement issued to Sky News, a Cazoo spokesman said on Friday: “Cazoo is pioneering the shift to online car buying in the UK and, since our launch just over a year ago, we have already sold almost 20,000 cars to consumers across the UK who have embraced the selection, transparency and convenience of buying high quality used cars entirely online.

“As one of the UK's fastest growing businesses, with revenues of over £160m in our first year alone, it is not surprising that there is speculation around whether or when we might IPO but we do not comment on speculation and should we have an announcement to make on this or any other matter we shall do so at the appropriate time.”

Mr Chesterman, who founded successful start-ups Lovefilm and Zoopla, has raised money from backers such as Fidelity and D1 Capital Partners, which has also invested in the payments group TransferWise.

Cazoo, which sponsors Premier League teams Aston Villa and Everton, claims to be transforming the little-changed method of buying a used car by having it delivered to a customer's door within as little as 72 hours.

It claims to have become “the country's leading online car retailer” since its launch, even as the market for new cars has plummeted to sales levels not seen since the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

Cazoo competes with rivals such as Cinch, which is owned by BCA Marketplace.

Investors in the sector say that on a relative basis, the business had become more attractive because of the prospective shift of consumers to digital channels once the pandemic abates.

Mr Chesterman came up with the idea for Cazoo soon after leaving the property portal Zoopla, which he sold in a deal worth more than £2bn to the tech-focused buyout firm Silver Lake in 2018.

“Used cars are one of the last remaining consumer markets yet to benefit from any digital transformation,” the entrepreneur said soon after its launch.

“Cazoo makes used car buying simple and convenient like buying any other product online today.

“We take away the need to travel, to haggle, to spend countless hours at a dealership and to risk any buyer's remorse.”

By Mark Kleinman

Uber drivers deemed as workers not self-employed by UK’s Supreme Court

( via – – Fri, 19th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than self-employed, the UK's Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision could mean thousands of Uber drivers are set to be entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay.

The ruling could leave the ride-hailing app facing a hefty compensation bill, and have wider consequences for the gig economy.

Uber said the ruling centred on a small number of drivers and it had since made changes to its business.

In a long-running legal battle, Uber had appealed to the Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.

Uber is being challenged by its drivers in multiple countries over whether they should be classed as workers or self-employed.

In the US, California voters passed a measure called Proposition 22 that will see freelance workers continue to be classified as independent contractors in November, overturning a landmark labour law passed in 2019.

‘Massive achievement'

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who originally won an employment tribunal against the ride hailing app giant in October 2016, told the BBC they were “thrilled and relieved” by the ruling.

“I think it's a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant,” said Mr Aslam, president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU).

“We didn't give up and we were consistent – no matter what we went through emotionally or physically or financially, we stood our ground.”

Uber appealed against the employment tribunal decision but the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling in November 2017.

The company then took the case to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the ruling in December 2018.

The ruling on Friday was Uber's last appeal, as the Supreme Court is Britain's highest court, and it has the final say on legal matters.

Delivering his judgement, Lord Leggatt said that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber's appeal that it was an intermediary party and stated that drivers should be considered to be working not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.

The court considered several elements in its judgement:

  • Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
  • Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
  • Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
  • Uber monitors a driver's service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve

Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.

Jamie Heywood, Uber's Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: “We respect the Court's decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016.

“Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.

“We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

‘Drivers are struggling'

The Supreme Court's ruling that Uber has to consider its drivers “workers” from the time they log on to the app, until they log off is seen as a key point.

Uber drivers typically spend time waiting for people to book rides on the app. Previously, the firm had said that if drivers were found to be workers, then it would only count the time during journeys when a passenger is in the car.

“This is a win-win-win for drivers, passengers and cities. It means Uber now has the correct economic incentives not to oversupply the market with too many vehicles and too many drivers,” said James Farrar, ADCU's general secretary.

“The upshot of that oversupply has been poverty, pollution and congestion.”

However, questions still remain about how the new classification will work, and how it affects gig economy workers who work not only for Uber, but also for other competing apps.

Mr Aslam, who claims Uber's practices forced him to leave the trade as he couldn't make ends meet, is considering becoming a driver for the app again. But he is upset that it took so long.

“It took us six years to establish what we should have got in 2015. Someone somewhere, in the government or the regulator, massively let down these workers, many of whom are in a precarious position,” he said.

Mr Farrar points out that with fares down 80% due to the pandemic, many drivers have been struggling financially and feel trapped in Uber's system.

“We're seeing many of our members earning £30 gross a day right now,” he said, explaining that the self-employment grants issued by the government only cover 80% of a driver's profits, which isn't even enough to pay for their costs.

“If we had these rights today, those drivers could at least earn a minimum wage to live on.”

Impact on Uber

When Uber listed its shares in the US in 2019, its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) included a section on risks to its business.

The company said in this section that if it had to classify drivers as workers, it would “incur significant additional expenses” in compensating the drivers for things such as the minimum wage and overtime.

“Further, any such reclassification would require us to fundamentally change our business model, and consequently have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition,” it added.

Uber also wrote in the filing that if Mr Farrar and Mr Aslam were to win their case, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) would then classify the firm as a transport provider, and Uber would need to pay VAT on fares.

The company has long argued that it is a booking agent, which hires self-employed contractors that provide transport.

By Mary-Ann Russon

UK supermarket group Asda ends 22 year ownership under Walmart

( via –Thur, 18th Feb 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British supermarket group Asda ended its 22 years under Walmart ownership with accelerating underlying sales in the Christmas quarter, driven by strong demand for premium ranges.

Asda, now owned by the Issa brothers and private equity group TDR Capital, on Thursday reported a 5.1% rise in same-store sales over the three months to Dec. 31 – an improvement on third-quarter growth of 2.7%.

All of Britain’s major supermarket groups performed strongly in the Christmas period, with coronavirus restrictions closing the hospitality sector and forcing many people to work from home.

“Asda’s growth during the period was driven by a notable shift in shopping behaviour, with customers trading up and spending more on premium categories at Christmas to treat themselves after a difficult year,” it said.

Asda highlighted December sales of premium lines up 30% year on year and a 76% jump in online sales during the quarter.

The billionaire brothers and TDR completed the purchase of a majority holding in Asda from Walmart on Tuesday in a deal giving it an enterprise value of 6.8 billion pounds ($9.5 billion).

The deal still requires regulatory approval, with the parties subject to an enforcement order from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to ensure Asda continues to operate independently from its buyers while it conducts its investigation.

The CMA has set an April 20 deadline for a ruling. The brothers and TDR have said they “remain confident” of a positive outcome.

The brothers and TDR are contributing only 780 million pounds, with the rest of the deal financed through 3.5 billion pounds of debt, the sale of Asda’s 322 petrol forecourt sites to their own EG Group for 750 million pounds and the sale of its distribution centres.

While the brothers and TDR have called the capital structure “robust”, some within Asda are uncomfortable with the level of debt, which is higher than rivals, and the planned sale of the petrol stations, said one source with knowledge of the situation.

The brothers have pledged to invest more than 1 billion pounds in Asda over the next three years.

Walmart will retain an equity investment in Asda, with an ongoing commercial relationship and a seat on the board.

Reporting by James Davey

Moonpig recorded strongest week of sales in its history leading up to Valentine’s Day

( via – – Thur, 18th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Card and gift retailer says it had its strongest ever week in run-up to 14 February

People have flocked to Moonpig over the last year to buy cards and gifts. 

Moonpig recorded the strongest week of sales in its history in the run-up to Valentine’s Day as it benefited from online spending during the latest lockdown.

The company, which floated on the stock market this month, said it was on track to double its annual revenues as Covid restrictions drive greater demand. Revenues last year were £173m.

Consumers have flocked to the site to buy cards, and many are also choosing gifts, which has raised the average amount spent on each Moonpig order.

Moonpig’s shares jumped 17% on its stock market debut on 2 February, valuing the company at £1.4bn by the end of its first day as a listed company. The company placed 140m shares at an initial price of 350p, to give new investors a 41% stake in the company and raise £20m to fund its expansion.

The trend towards online card and gift purchases has come at the expense of established high street names including Paperchase, which has shut 27 stores and cut 270 jobs as part of a rescue deal with the private equity fund Permira.

However, in its trading update on Thursday Moonpig warned investors that it expected the frequency of customer orders, and the number with attached gifts, to “moderate” when lockdown restrictions begin to ease and shoppers are allowed back on to the high street.

The company added that its soaring revenues would be tempered by higher costs from extra staffing and Covid-19 measures.

House prices climbed 8.5% in 2020 amid tax holiday

( via – – Wed, 17th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

UK house prices climbed 8.5% in 2020, the highest annual growth rate since October 2014, according to official figures.

The average UK house price reached a record high of £252,000 in December 2020, the Office for National Statistics said.

The North West had the highest growth of 11.2%, while London rose just 3.5%.

The stamp duty holiday due to end this March contributed to the rise, the ONS said.

Spending more time at home in the pandemic meant some people also decided they needed more space.

That was reflected in the average price of detached properties climbing by twice as much as flats and maisonettes during 2020, up 10% and 5% respectively.

Meanwhile Wales experienced the fastest price growth, with property values rising 10.7% to £184,000.

In England, prices climbed 8.5% to £269,000, in Scotland, 8.4% to £163,000 and in Northern Ireland 5.3% to £148,000.

“Recent price increases may reflect a range of factors including pent-up demand, some possible changes in housing preferences since the pandemic and a response to the changes made to property transaction taxes across the nations,” the ONS said.

Regional variations

The UK housing market is made up of lots of local markets, with different factors affecting property prices such as the performance of schools and the availability of jobs. The ONS figures are based on sale completions.

Although average London prices were up by 3.5%, over last year, prices fell in the capital by £5,000 between November and December, despite a UK-wide price increase of 1.2% over the month.

But the city still has the highest average house price in the UK, at £496,000.

The North East continued to have the lowest average house price at £141,000, and has become the final English region to surpass its pre-economic downturn peak of July 2007.

Cheap debt

“2020 was the year that fundamentals came home to roost,” said Nicky Stevenson, managing director at estate agent Fine & Country.

“There was no escaping a lack of space for households who suddenly found they were living on top of each other with little respite. That has powered annual growth that reached a six-year high.”

There were four major drivers of overall house price rises in 2020, said Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of asset manager SPI Capital.

“The temporary stamp duty reduction and cheap debt as a result of very low interest rates, which give buyers a ‘discount'; the release of pent-up supply and demand and desire to improve surroundings amongst existing homeowners; and the ‘flight to safety', since in times of uncertainty, people want to keep their money in a stable asset with low volatility.

“But looking to the future when the temporary stamp duty reduction ends, we're likely to see a slowdown in house price rises,” she said.

“However, there is still some life in the market as lockdown helps to concentrate many potential buyers and sellers' minds as far as moving is concerned,” said north London estate agent Jeremy Leaf.

“Intense speculation remains as to whether the 31 March stamp duty deadline will be extended and we can't help but have sympathy for many who have started the process several months ago who have been unavoidably delayed by a backlog in searches, surveys, conveyancing, or all three, to say nothing of problems in the new-build industry.”

By Simon Read

Ford motor plan all-electric passenger range in Europe by 2030

( via– Wed, 17th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The plans come as manufacturers worldwide seek to develop zero-emission vehicles in the face of strict emission targets and bans.

Ford has announced its entire passenger range in Europe will be all-electric by the end of the decade.

The motor giant also said its commercial models would be 100% zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid by 2024.

The move comes after Ford reported a return to profit in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2020. How does the UK's new green drive compare to the rest of the world?

The firm said it was investing at least $22bn (£15.8bn) globally in electrification to 2025, nearly twice the company's previous investment plans.

Ford of Europe president Stuart Rowley said: “We successfully restructured Ford of Europe and returned to profitability in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Now we are charging into an all-electric future in Europe with expressive new vehicles and a world-class connected customer experience.”

The company's plans include a $1bn cash boost to modernise its vehicle assembly facility in Cologne, Germany.

The investment will transform the existing operation for the manufacture of electric vehicles, Ford's first such facility in Europe.

Ford confirmed that its first European-built, volume all-electric passenger would be produced at the site from 2023.

Speaking to Sky News' Ian King Live programme, Mr Rowley said Ford's Dunton Technical Centre in Essex, which is responsible for the design and engineering of its commercial vehicles, would be “contributing strongly” and playing as leading role in the electrification of the range.

“So we don't produce vehicles, but it is a very important part of our overall operation,” he said.

Mr Rowley added: “The European region is really leading the way in the electrification of our industry and obviously as we invest heavily, not only Ford but the entire industry, as part of that we will be bringing down costs as we establish scale.”

But he indicated that further job losses could be in the pipeline with the shift to electrification.

He said: “It's obviously a huge transition for Ford and the entire industry as we move from conventional powertrains, engine transmissions to battery, so we have worked very closely with our social partners… to manage that transition in an appropriate way.”

He added: “We will continue to resize our operations. We would expect to see some continued descaling in our European operations as we make this transition.”Where the jobs have been lost during the COVID pandemic

Mr Rowley would not be drawn on a figure but pointed out that over the last two years Ford's workforce in Europe had been reduced by around 20% or 10,000 people.

Earlier this week, Jaguar Land Rover committed to keep all three of its British plants open in the drive for all its models to be fully electric by 2030.

The firm, owned by India's Tata Motors, said the Jaguar brand would lead the way with a complete electric vehicle range by 2025.

The plans come as car groups worldwide pursue zero-emission strategies to meet strict CO2 emission targets.

A number of countries have also announced bans on new fossil-fuel vehicle sales.

Boris Johnson, who welcomed the company's commitment in a tweet on Monday evening,confirmed last year that sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans would be phased out by 2030, as part of his 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”.

In November, luxury car brand Bentley Motors, owned by Germany's Volkswagen, said its model range would be fully electric by 2030.

Last month, General Motors Co said it aimed to have a zero-emission line-up by 2035.

TikTok’s U.S. ad business surge significantly as client spending increase

( via — Tue, 16th Feb 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Accused by the Trump administration of being a front for the Chinese government, TikTok’s ad business looked bleak last July.

Big brands backed off on spending even as TikTok executives offered refunds to advertisers in the event the hot social media platform were to be banned from operating in the United States.

But after it became clear Joe Biden had won November’s U.S presidential election, that all changed.

“The interest in TikTok has exploded,” said Erica Patrick, vice president and director of social media at Mediahub Worldwide, which has worked with brands including Netflix and Twitch. She said she expects client spending to increase significantly over the next six months.

While the Biden administration pauses a government lawsuit filed by Trump officials, corporate sponsors have raced back to the popular short video sharing app, booking advertising campaigns and experimenting with new ways to reach consumers, three ad agency executives told Reuters.

The clamor around national security and TikTok during the previous administration appears to have been “more of a stunt,” and has not been a serious concern for advertisers, Patrick said.

Trump’s defeat in the election was the turning point for many advertisers who were previously “on the fence” about TikTok, according to one media buyer.

As business picks up, the platform has also approached major brands individually in an effort to address lingering concerns such as the placement of their ads, the buyer said.

Although TikTok’s U.S. advertising business is estimated to be small still compared with larger social platforms, TikTok said it tracked a 500% increase in advertisers running campaigns in the United States over the course of 2020. It says it continuously has conversations with advertisers on brand safety.

Since late last year, TikTok has signed up McDonald’s, Kate Spade, Chobani and Bose, as well as nonprofits including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a TikTok spokeswoman said.

Bose has found that ads on TikTok are watched for longer than on other platforms, said Christina Kelleher, manager of global social media for Bose.

St. Jude has raised about $50,000 since September through a donation button on TikTok, according to ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.

“TikTok is one of our fastest growing platforms,” said Rick Shadyac, chief executive of ALSAC, adding that the organization’s first ad campaign in December with actress Ashley Tisdale had “tremendous engagement.”


As the app seeks to earn more money and capitalize on its large Gen Z audience, TikTok’s revenue ambitions have grown and now include selling top-dollar ad packages centered around holidays or major events.

To celebrate Black History Month, TikTok will hold a virtual event with 500 Black creators on Thursday and has invited brands to sponsor the event for $750,000, according to a TikTok slide deck obtained by Reuters.

The company has also asked brands for $1.5 million to sponsor a live finale event on Feb. 26 featuring artist performances and special guest appearances, the slide deck showed.

Ecommerce is a growing priority, TikTok said in a statement, as the company aims to take on Facebook’s Instagram, which lets users buy products directly through the app.

TikTok said it is exploring letting users share affiliate product links on the app, which could allow influencers and TikTok to earn a commission from sales.

Influencer marketing, already a major form of advertising on TikTok, is booming as more brands rush to pay top stars famous for their dance routines or comedy skits to promote products to their millions of fans.

The Influencer Marketing Factory, which has worked with brands including Dunkin and Amazon to arrange content deals with social media stars, has seen a five-fold increase in requests from brands wanting to work with TikTok influencers since November, said Alessandro Bogliari, chief executive of the agency.

Even staid companies such as financial services firms are asking how they can get in on the app, after the GameStop trading mania showed younger consumers have more varied interests than some advertisers had expected, said Joe Gagliese, chief executive of influencer marketing agency Viral Nation.

“TikTok has diametrically changed, you’re seeing finance and sports on there,” Gagliese said. “That’s what’s fueling other brands to come in and play.”

Reporting by Sheila Dang;

eBay’s $9.2bn Gumtree deal raises concerns, says watchdog

( via – – Tue, 16th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Purchase by Shpock owner Adevinta could lead to less choice for consumers, says watchdog

Gumtree was founded in 2000 by two former City traders, who sold the website to eBay in 2005. 

A $9.2bn (£6.5bn) deal to create the world’s largest classified ads business could reduce consumer choice and increase the fees people are charged for advertising goods online, Britain’s competition watchdog has warned.

Shpock operator Adevinta’s proposed purchase of Gumtree from eBay would combine websites that allow people to buy and sell used or new items such as clothes, electronics and furniture. The eBay marketplace is the largest such platform in the UK.

However the Competition and Markets Authority said it was concerned the merger could lead to a loss of competition between Shpock, Gumtree and eBay’s marketplace, with only Facebook Marketplace remaining as a big competitor.

“This could reduce consumer choice, increase fees or lower innovation in the supply of platforms that allow people to buy and sell goods online,” it said.

The CMA said with the sale of the eBay Classifieds Group business, which runs Gumtree and, to Norway’s Adevinta, eBay would acquire a 33.3% voting stake in Adevinta and positions on its board, and would be able to influence the business strategy for Gumtree and Shpock.

The deal, agreed in July, would make Adevinta, which was spun off from Norwegian publishing group Schibsted in 2019, the world’s largest classified ads business with annual revenues of $1.8bn. By offering eBay a big stake, Adevinta beat rival bidders including Naspers and Prosus, even though they offered eBay more cash as part of their bids. eBay had come under pressure from activist investors Elliott Management and Starboard Value to divest its classifieds business and cut costs in the face of rising competition from Amazon and Walmart. up to the daily Business Today email

Adevinta and eBay have until 23 February to offer legally binding solutions to resolve the CMA’s competition concerns. The CMA then has five working days to consider whether to accept the offer instead of referring the deal to an in-depth investigation.

Adevinta said: “While Adevinta and eBay do not agree with the CMA’s reasoning, they will work constructively with the CMA and are confident in finding a suitable resolution.” It added that in 2019, eBay Classifieds Group’s UK business accounted for less than 10% of the division’s revenues while Adevinta’s UK business accounted for just 1% of its revenues.

Gumtree was founded in 2000 by two former City traders, who sold the London jobs and flats website to eBay five years later. Many ads posted on Gumtree are free.

By Julia Kollewe