Thousands head overseas on holiday taking advantage of easing lockdown rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 17th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Thousands of British holidaymakers have begun taking advantage of the easing of lockdown rules on overseas travel.

Travellers from England, Scotland and Wales are jetting off to some countries in what the crisis-hit tourism industry hopes is the start of a recovery.

Travellers can now visit 12 countries on the government's green list, including Portugal and Israel, without isolating on their return.

The bosses of British Airways and Ryanair said confidence was returning.

The vast majority of tourist destinations remain on the amber and red lists, meaning travellers must quarantine when they get back.

Bookings also remain well down on pre-pandemic levels.

‘Small step'

However, BA chief executive Sean Doyle told the BBC that the airline's six flights due to depart from Heathrow on Monday to “green” destinations such as Lisbon, Faro and Madeira were “very busy”.

He said the latest relaxation of restrictions was “a small step in the right direction”.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said there were definite signs of an early rebound in travel to European destinations.

Bookings are up from 500,000 a week in early April to 1.5 million a week now. “The rate of bookings suggests there is a huge amount of confidence,” he told BBC Breakfast. “We are very optimistic for the next couple of months.”

‘We're super excited to be able to travel again'

Nellie and Jill are off to Portugal on Monday – but it seemed touch and go right up to the moment they got to the airport.

They are “super excited and really happy to be able to travel again”. But the past few weeks have been stressful, especially as it was only confirmed on Friday that they could definitely travel.

Nellie said it was then a real scramble to get PCR coronavirus tests over the weekend, which Jill added was quite complicated.

“Adding all the documentation wasn't easy but we persevered and we're glad we did,” Jill said. Some holiday sun and a glass of wine on their balcony would make it all worth it, she added.

‘Important day'

Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said welcoming holidaymakers for the first time in months was a “big relief”.

He expected the number of travellers to increase significantly by the end of May – but this will still be less than 15% of the traffic seen in pre-pandemic times.

“It's an important day for us… we're looking forward to seeing more countries added to the green list in the weeks ahead,” he added.

But there is still caution. Online travel agent Thomas Cook said the number of people booking to travel abroad was “still small”.

It said 75% of its bookings were for Portugal, although Thomas Cook customers planning to jet off this week numbered only in their hundreds.

On Friday, Portugal announced that travellers from the UK would be allowed to enter its borders provided they could show a negative PCR test result from the previous 72 hours.

That led to an increase in demand for flights to the country. Tui, which has 19 flights scheduled from the UK to Portugal next week, said eight of those would now be on a Boeing Dreamliner, which can carry up to 345 people – almost twice as many people as the Boeing 737s that it had planned to use.

Splashing out

Many of those who do intend to get away plan to do so in style. Thomas Cook reported that 85% of customers had booked four or five-star hotels. Before the crisis, only around half of people chose to splash out on that kind of luxury.

Hays Travel has noticed a similar trend. At present around half of its customers are booking for next year but it highlighted a “cautious optimism” among travellers following an almost four-fold increase in bookings for Portugal this summer.

Chief operating officer Jonathon Woodall said the average spend on a two-week holiday for a family of four had increased by £370 to £4,000 as people look to “fulfil their bucket list”.

“People are upgrading to better destinations and accommodation, spending more to treat themselves,” he said.

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From near empty departure halls to queues of passengers

Analysis: By Caroline Davies

After months of keeping apart, travelling on a busy plane feels both familiar and strange. Face masks are mandatory except to allow for eating and drinking, but seats are not socially distanced. I was handed a complimentary antibacterial wipe on boarding.

The paperwork is far more complicated than normal. Alongside my passport and ticket, I'm carrying proof of my negative PCR test, a passenger locator form for Portugal and proof of my booked tests for my journey home. I'll have to complete another locator form to come back to the U.K.

Still at 35,000 feet, we don't know how long the queues will be at the Portuguese border when we land or on the return journey.

Passengers on board have said they feel a little like guinea pigs. The travel industry knows it's important to make this process smooth and safe if it's to have a good summer.

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While travel from England, Scotland and Wales is permitted to the 12 countries on the green list, most of the destinations are either remote islands or do not currently allow UK tourists to enter.

And the government is advising people not to make non-essential trips to locations on its amber list, which covers popular destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece. However, the guidance is expected to be ignored by some holidaymakers.

EasyJet and Tui have both said that they will operate holidays to countries classified as amber, provided Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) does not advise against “all but essential” travel.

The majority of countries around the world are in the amber category, meaning that arrivals from these places to the UK are required to quarantine at home for 10 days as well as taking a Covid test before departure and two more on arrival.

Travellers arriving back in England from an amber country have the option after five days of quarantine to pay for a private Covid test under the Test to Release scheme. If the result is negative, the quarantine can end.

BA boss Sean Doyle said “cautious optimism” should be exercised when decisions are made about whether to expand the green list when it is reviewed on 7 June.

He said vaccination and infection rates in a number of the major aviation markets were “trending positively”, noting that the US – an important market for both tourism and business “now has 60% of its adult population vaccinated [and] infections are falling”.

From Monday, people travelling abroad will be able to use the NHS app – which is different to the NHS Covid-19 app – to prove they have had the vaccine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously said people who have had both doses will be able to use the app at border controls, although the government says people should still check countries' entry requirements as tests or quarantine might still be needed.

Game of Thrones maker HBO and Warner Bros film studio spun off in $43bn deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 17th May 2021) London, Uk – –

AT&T is hiving off its film and TV businesses into a separate new company with lifestyle programme maker Discovery.

US telecoms giant AT&T is to spin off its media assets including Game of Thrones maker HBO in a $43bn deal with lifestyle TV company Discovery.

The deal will create a standalone business which will also include AT&T's Warner Bros film studios – maker of the Batman and Harry Potter franchises – and CNN – to compete in the global streaming market against the likes of Netflix.

They will be combined in a single company with Discovery's stable of home, cooking, science and nature shows and sport channel Eurosport.

The deal will see AT&T receive $43bn via cash and debt while its shareholders will end up owning stock representing 71% of the new company, which will be led by Discovery boss David Zaslav.

It will compete with the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Disney and Comcast – which is the US owner of Sky News parent company Sky.

AT&T already operates streaming service HBO Max while Discovery earlier this year launched its discovery+ service.

AT&T chief executive John Stankey said: “This agreement unites two entertainment leaders with complementary content strengths and positions the new company to be one of the leading global direct-to-consumer streaming platforms.

“It will support the fantastic growth and international launch of HBO Max with Discovery's global footprint and create efficiencies which can be re-invested in producing more great content to give consumers what they want.”

AT&T said the business would have a content library of nearly 200,000 hours of “iconic programming” bringing together the likes of HBO, Warner Bros, Discovery, DC Comics, CNN, Cartoon Network, HGTV, Food Network, and Eurosport.

The deal, expected to complete next year pending approval by Discovery's shareholders, marks the unwinding of AT&T's ambitions to create a media and telecoms powerhouse with the acquisition of US media conglomerate TimeWarner in 2018 for more than $80bn.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

15 Reasons Why Real Estate is the Best Investment

Source: Alux

This Alux video well try to answer the following questions:

Is real estate the best investment? Why do rich people invest in real estate? How to invest in real estate? Which is the best investment? What is the best investment to get rich? Is Real estate a good investment? Why do people invest in real estate? How to become a real estate investor? How much money do you need to invest in real estate? What are some simple ways to invest in real estate? What is the average return of real estate? Where are the best real estate opportunities right now? How to make money by investing in real estate? Top 10 Ways to invest in real estate? Top 10 reasons to invest in real estate? How to become a millionaire by investing in real-estate? How to become rich by investing in real estate? What is the best investment you can make? Is the real estate market still a good investment? What are the biggest real estate investment opportunities right now? Is buying land a good investment? What are the tax benefits of investing in real estate? How to increase the value of a property? Why should I invest in property? Is buying property a good investment? How to earn passive income by investing in real estate? How to get a property loan, to refinance and invest in real estate?

Why Celebs Are Shelling Out Over $1,000 A Haircut

Source: Insider

Hair stylist Julien Farel's $1,000 haircut is a transformation that celebrities like Kate Moss and Celine Dion can't get enough of. His full Power Hour treatment is an extra $500 and gets you a manicure, pedicure, hair color, and, of course, Champagne. Insider's Emily Christian is on a mission to find out why celebs are shelling out over $1,000 for a haircut. She chats with Julien about how a haircut is set apart from the rest when it complements the architecture of the face.

Amazon US tech giant set to hire 10,000 UK workers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 14th May 2021) London, Uk – –

US tech giant Amazon is to go on a hiring spree in the UK as online shopping continues to boom in the pandemic.

Amazon is to hire 10,000 UK employees as it opens more warehouses in the north and south of England.

It is also creating a number of corporate roles in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London and Manchester.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the move was “a huge vote of confidence in the British economy”.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend towards online shopping, and tech giants such as Amazon have reaped the benefits.

Now the firm, which has previously denied allegations of poor working conditions, is further entrenching its position in the UK.

The addition of 10,000 new roles, including thousands in its warehouses, will take its UK workforce to more than 55,000 by the end of the year.

Amazon said pay for operations roles was £9.70 per hour, or £10.80 in London, with other benefits.

Its profits tripled in the first three months of the year to $8.1bn (£5.76bn), up from $2.5bn a year ago.

The online retail giant will open new “fulfilment” warehouses in Dartford, Gateshead, Hinckley and Swindon, and a “parcel receive” warehouse in Doncaster.

It will recruit in its offices for roles in fashion, digital marketing, engineering, video production, software development, cloud computing, AI and machine learning.

The company will also be recruiting for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing business and its operations network.

Mr Kwarteng said Amazon was making a “prime investment in our retail sector”, which will “open up a wide range of opportunities for even more workers”.

Amazon will also invest £10m over three years into a scheme to train 5,000 employees in subjects including accountancy, HGV driving and software development, in a bid to give them transferable skills.

Amazon will pay 95% of tuition and associated fees for adult education courses, up to £8,000 over four years.

Local chambers of commerce will work with Amazon to identify regional skills shortages.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Providing staff with training to plug the skills gaps that exist within the local business community is going to be a key driver to increasing productivity and boosting the economy as the UK recovers from the pandemic.”

Amazon's UK Country Manager John Boumphrey said: “We're proud of the front-line roles we offer across Amazon, and we also know that they will be a stepping stone for some in their career journey.”

Sir Charles Dunstone has sold his final shares in Dixons Carphone

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 14th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Sir Charles Dunstone has sold his final shares in Dixons Carphone, seven years after holding a £400m stake, Sky News learns.

Sir Charles Dunstone has sold the last of his stake in Britain's biggest electrical goods and mobile phone retailer, severing a 32-year tie with the business that turned him into one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Charles disposed of his final shares in Dixons Carphone several weeks ago, having offloaded most of his near-12% shareholding on various occasions since the merger that created the company seven years ago.

The businessman, who recently helped to take TalkTalk Telecoms Group private in a £1.1bn deal, co-founded Carphone Warehouse in 1989 before floating it on the London stock market in 2000.

He engineered a major coup in 2013 when he bought back a 50% share in a joint venture he had struck with BestBuy of the US for less than half the price it had paid five years earlier.

In 2014, Sir Charles agreed to merge with Dixons to create a technology retailing powerhouse, although the £3.8bn deal largely failed to live up to its billing with investors and analysts.

The entrepreneur's original 11.75% stake in the combined group has been slowly whittled down, and fell below 1% earlier this year, according to people close to the company.

This week, Dixons Carphone announced that it would change its corporate name, and rebrand all of its shops, under the Currys name.

Its chief executive, Alex Baldock, had already announced the closure of its Carphone Warehouse store estate a year ago.

The Carphone Warehouse brand still exists as a concession in Currys PC World shops and online but will disappear by October.

Dixons Carphone and Sir Charles declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

BT to create 7,000 UK jobs in rollout of next-generation, broadband network to 25m homes

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 13th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Roles will mainly be in engineering at Openreach subsidiary that builds and runs broadband network

BT is to create up to 7,000 jobs as it ups the pace of the multibillion-pound rollout of a national next-generation, broadband network to 25m UK premises by 2026.

The telecoms company, which reported a 23% drop in pre-tax profits to £1.8bn last year as businesses used less of its services during pandemic lockdowns, had previously targeted rolling out full-fibre broadband to 20m premises. It said it would consider a joint-venture partnership to fund the rollout to the extra 5m homes, which will cost about £3bn.

BT has already pledged £12bn to tackle the UK’s status as a global laggard in full-fibre broadband, and fulfil Boris Johnson’s election promise of getting next-generation broadband speeds to all homes in the UK.

“BT is already building more full-fibre broadband to homes and businesses than anyone else in the UK,” said Philip Jansen, the chief executive of BT. “It will get fibre to more people, including in rural communities. And it will help fuel UK economic recovery, with better connectivity and up to 7,000 new jobs.”

The jobs, which will mostly be engineering roles at its Openreach subsidiary that builds and runs the UK’s broadband network, comes as BT presses on with a restructuring of its business to reduce staff numbers ultimately by 13,000.

Jansen said the company is to cut 16% of its office space as a result of changes in working practices post-pandemic. Pre-pandemic the company had begun a downsizing to close 270 of 300 sites across the UK, to be completed by 2023. It will still keep the 30 remaining sites, but reduce the space required at each.

“We expect things to change quite dramatically to more hybrid, smart working,” he said. “We haven’t got a specific formula for the whole company because how it works depends on a whole host of things. But the key word is flexibility.”

BT is not able to institute a blanket flexible working policy, as many firms have, as its 100,000 staff work across such a variety of roles. About 35,000 work At Openreach, most as engineers who work in the field, while overall the company has about 50,000 staff who are regularly office-based or in its retail store network.

The company also disclosed that its triennial pension valuation has assessed the company’s pension deficit at just under £8bn, as at June last year, about £1.5bn less than its last valuation. BT has agreed a long-term payment plan with its pension trustees.

“This agreement keeps us on track for zero funding deficit by 2030,” said Simon Lowth, BT’s finance chief.

BT also confirmed that it is to reinstate its dividend, which was halted for two years at the start of the pandemic, at 7.7p for its 2021-22 financial year.

The company has also called a temporary truce with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which had been threatening to ballot for strike action over the impact of the restructuring plans.

“BT has agreed to suspend any actions that could result in potential team member redundancies while these important topics are worked through,” the company said.

Tesla Inc will no longer accept bitcoin for car purchases

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 13th May 2021) London, UK —

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune
https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com/ohy1

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will no longer accept bitcoin for car purchases, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday, citing long-brewing environmental concerns for a swift reversal in the company’s position on the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin fell more than 10% after Musk tweeted his decision to suspend its use, less than two months after Tesla began accepting the world’s biggest digital currency for payment. Other cryptocurrencies, including ethereum, also fell before regaining some ground in Asia trade.

The use of bitcoin to buy Tesla's electric vehicles had highlighted a dichotomy between Musk's reputation as an environmentalist and the use of his popularity and stature as one of the world's richest people to back cryptocurrencies.

Some Tesla investors, along with environmentalists, have been increasingly critical about the way bitcoin is “mined” using vast amounts of electricity generated with fossil fuels.

Musk said on Wednesday he backed that concern, especially the use of “coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”

“Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment,” he tweeted. Tesla shares fell 1.25% after hours.

Tesla revealed in February it had bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin, before accepting it as payment for cars in March, driving a roughly 20% surge in the cryptocurrency.

Tesla would retain its bitcoin holdings with the plan to use the cryptocurrency as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy sources, Musk said.

Bitcoin is created when high-powered computers compete against other machines to solve complex mathematical puzzles, an energy-intensive process that currently often relies on electricity generated with fossil fuels, particularly coal.

At current rates, such bitcoin “mining” devours about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, the latest available data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency shows.

Analysts said Musk's about-face was inevitable.

“The environmental impact from mining bitcoins was one of the biggest risks for the entire crypto market,” said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at currency trading firm OANDA.

Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer at digital asset manager CoinShares Group, said Tesla was unlikely to have sold many, if any, cars using bitcoin and the backflip generated positive publicity while simplifying payment processes.

“Elon was getting a lot of questions and criticisms and this statement allows him to appease critics while still keeping bitcoin on his balance sheet,” Demirors said.

Mark Humphery-Jenner, an associate professor of finance at the University of New South Wales, said he was more concerned about Tesla management's “very hasty and precipitous” decision-making.

Musk did not say in his Twitter comments whether any vehicles had been purchased with bitcoin and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CRYPTOCURRENCY SUPPORT

Some bitcoin proponents note that the existing financial system – with its millions of employees and computers in air-conditioned offices – uses large amounts of energy too.

Musk reiterated he remained a strong believer in cryptocurrencies.

“We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of bitcoin's energy/transaction,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Just a day earlier, Musk had polled Twitter users on whether Tesla should accept dogecoin, a currency he has helped turn from a joke into a valuable commodity.

He announced on Sunday that his commercial rocket company SpaceX will accept dogecoin as payment to launch a lunar mission next year – just hours after he sent the cryptocurrency spiraling downward when he called it a “a hustle” during a guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.

CHINA DOMINANCE

The dominance of Chinese bitcoin miners and lack of motivation to swap cheap fossil fuels for more expensive renewables could mean there are few quick fixes to the cryptocurrency's emissions problem.

Chinese miners account for about 70% of bitcoin production, data from the University of Cambridge's Centre for Alternative Finance shows. They tend to use renewable energy – mostly hydropower – during the rainy summer months, but fossil fuels – primarily coal – for the rest of the year.

Officials in Beijing are conducting a check on data centres involved in cryptocurrency mining to better understand their impact on energy consumption, sources told Reuters last month.

In theory, blockchain analysis firms say, it is possible to track the source of bitcoin, raising the possibility that a premium could be charged for green bitcoin.

By Hyunjoo Jin, Kanishka Singh

UK economy gathering speed as lockdown restrictions ease

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 12th May 2021) London, Uk – –

The UK economy shrank by 1.5% in the first three months of 2021, but gathered speed in March as lockdown restrictions began to ease, official figures show.

The reopening of schools and strong retail spending helped the economy grow 2.1% in March, its fastest monthly growth since last August.

But the economy is still 8.7% smaller than it was before the pandemic.

However, March marked a possible turning point, economists suggested.

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, predicted the UK economy was now on course for a bumper bounce-back this year.

“The first quarter should mark the low point for the economy in 2021,” he said. “The lockdown, and added costs of navigating new trading terms with the EU, limited many businesses' trading activities at the start of the year.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC the economy was “getting back on track”.

“Despite a difficult start to this year, economic growth in March is a promising sign of things to come,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Bank of England said it expected the UK economy to enjoy its fastest growth in more than 70 years this year as restrictions are lifted.

But Pantheon Macroeconomics economist Samuel Tombs pointed out that the UK's economic growth was still the slowest of the Group of Seven (G7) rich countries, for the fourth quarter in a row.

Mr Tombs said GDP looked on course to grow by 5% between April and June “which should mean that the UK finally hands over the wooden spoon to another G7 economy”.

Official trade figures published at the same time showed a shift away from EU countries since Brexit.

“Imports from Europe remained sluggish in the first three months of the year, being outstripped by non-EU imports for the first time on record,” said Mr Morgan.

The ONS said the total trade deficit, excluding precious metals, narrowed by £8.4bn to £1.4bn.

Confidence

The vaccine rollout, the extension of support measures at the Budget, and the roadmap to reopen the economy has helped build business confidence for the months ahead, analysts said.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the decline in economic output in the first quarter largely reflected the squeeze on activity from coronavirus restrictions, which was partly offset by growing business resilience to those restrictions and a monthly boost from the reopening of schools in March. 

“The first quarter decline should be followed by a robust rebound in the second quarter as the effects of the release of pent-up demand, as restrictions ease and the strong vaccine rollout, are fully felt,” he said.

But he warned that the longer-term economic damage caused by coronavirus may mean the recovery is slower than many, including the Bank of England, currently predict.

Analysis: Faisal Islam

Still uncertainty

In ordinary times a 1.5% quarterly hit would be considered a considerable economic fall. In context of a further national shutdown, it shows some resilience in the UK economy.

Businesses, particularly manufacturing and construction, were beginning to work out how to cope with pandemic restrictions. The good news is that by the end of the quarter the rebound was starting.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is not getting carried away with euphoria about the fastest growth in decades. The Treasury is well aware that this is mostly the arithmetic consequence of the bounce back from a sharp hit in 2020.

The ONS showed that the economic hole in the UK caused by the pandemic still does not compare favourably with other major economies, with the US, for example, having recovered all lost output.

Mr Sunak points to the much better than expected unemployment figures as the result of the furlough scheme. There is still uncertainty about how the global economy will respond to new waves of the pandemic. The chancellor is not changing the plan for tax rises on business.

£1.1bn worth of NatWest shares sold by UK government

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 11th May 2021) London, Uk – –

The government has edged closer to exiting majority ownership of NatWest after selling a £1.1bn stake in the bank, which the taxpayer bailed out during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

In a development authorised by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the Treasury said it had sold 580m shares at a price of 190p a share in a competitive overnight sale to City investors, cutting the government stake in the bank from 59.8% to 54.8%.

It brings the public stake in NatWest, formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland, closer to minority ownership after years of stop-start attempts to return the bank to the private sector dating back to the government of David Cameron.

The disposal marks the government’s fourth sale of its NatWest shareholding since 2015, and its second transaction in two months.

“This sale represents further progress in the government’s plan to return institutions brought into public ownership as a result of the 2007-2008 financial crisis to private ownership,” the Treasury said.

The government also raised £1.1bn in March when NatWest agreed to buy 591m shares back from the government to accelerate reprivatisation, in an off-market deal authorised by Sunak.

The push to sell down the government stake comes as the chancellor seeks ways to combat record levels of public borrowing, after the exchequer racked up a £303bn deficit in the financial year ending in March amid the economic fallout from Covid-19.

The government bailed out RBS at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, injecting £45bn to keep the bank afloat in order to prevent an even worse meltdown in the banking system.

The taxpayer stake has been slowly reduced from 79% in 2015, when the then chancellor, George Osborne, launched the first disposal of shares at a loss of more than £1bn to the public. It comes despite pressure from campaigners and the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to use public ownership of NatWest to create a network of state-owned regional banks.

Taxpayers are not expected to recover all of the money pumped into the bank, with the shares still worth less than half the price the government paid more than a decade ago. NatWest shares were down 2% on Tuesday at 193p.

Analysts expect NatWest to be fully returned to private ownership by 2025, almost two decades on from its effective nationalisation. Russ Mould, the investment director at the stockbroker AJ Bell, said: “In this case the bank will likely be pleased as it marks another step in the long rehabilitation of the group from the financial crisis.

Although still far below the 502p price the government paid in 2008, shares in NatWest have more than doubled from a low of 90.5p in September, fuelled by rising optimism over the UK economy as pandemic restrictions are relaxed.

NatWest changed its name from RBS last year. The banking group still retains the RBS brand for its operations in Scotland, alongside NatWest in England and Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland. It recently reported a rise in first-quarter pretax profits to £946m, compared with £519m a year earlier.

The sale was handled by four investment banks – Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – with advisers from NM Rothschild, in a process managed by UK Government Investments, the arm’s length body that controls the taxpayer stake on behalf of the Treasury.

By Richard Partington

UK’s Morrisons look to sport events to boost sales this summer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 11th May 2021) London, UK —

British supermarket group Morrisons (MRW.L) expects the relaxation of pandemic restrictions on socialising and major sporting events, including soccer's Euro 2020 and the Olympics, will drive another boost to sales this summer.

Chief Executive David Potts said Britons' rising optimism over much reduced COVID-19 cases, the success of the vaccination programme in the UK and an improving economy would encourage them to socialise and celebrate.

“That sense of optimism is percolating through the country and it will lead to people wanting to celebrate events,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“We'll be doing everything we can to be part of that,” he said, pointing to a potential boost to trade from families getting together in bigger groups, and high demand for barbecue food, pizzas and beer.

Morrisons reported a slowdown in quarterly sales growth as it compared with exceptionally busy trade a year earlier when Britain's first COVID-19 lockdown prompted panicked shoppers to send sales soaring.

The group, which trails market leader Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) and Asda in annual revenue, said like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 2.7% in the 14 weeks to May 9, its fiscal first quarter – ahead of analysts' average forecast of up 1.6% but down from growth of 9.0% in the previous quarter.

Retail sales rose 1.6%, wholesale sales were up 1.1% and online sales more than doubled, partly driven by a partnership with Amazon (AMZN.O).

Comparing the period with 2019, before the pandemic started to disrupt trading last year, group like-for-like sales rose 8.7%.

Shares in Morrisons were up 0.7% at 0811 GMT.

“The pandemic is not yet over, but it is in retreat across Britain and there is much to be positive about as something approaching normal life begins to take shape,” said Potts.

He noted that Morrisons' petrol forecourts were getting busier, and it was seeing encouraging recent signs of a strong rebound of food-to-go, take-away counters and salad bars. Its cafés will fully reopen on Monday when Britain is due to ease restrictions on indoor hospitality.

The group maintained its forecast for 2021/22 profit before tax and exceptionals including business rates paid to be higher than the 431 million pounds profit achieved in 2020/21, excluding the waived rates relief.

It also said it would reduce debt and forecast another year of “meaningful profit growth” in 2022/23.

Morrisons said it would refresh its long-term capital allocation plans when it reports interim results in September.

By James Davey

Provident Financial axes doorstep lending putting 2,100 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 10th May 2021) London, Uk – –

The lender said it was pulling out of the home credit sector as it swung to an annual loss after a “tremendously difficult year”.

Subprime credit firm Provident Financial is to axe its doorstep lending arm putting 2,100 jobs at risk, blaming “changing industry and regulatory” dynamics.

The lender has faced growing customer complaints and an investigation by the City regulator, and earlier this year offered to set up a £50m fund to try to resolve compensation claims.

It has also been criticised by MPs over its approach to financially vulnerable customers.

Provident has been trying to turn around the fortunes of its doorstep lending division, which dates back to 1880, since a botched restructuring in 2017 when it tried to convert its army of self-employed agents into full-time staff.

The group describes itself as the “leading provider of credit products to consumers who are underserved by mainstream lenders”.

It includes credit card lender Vanquis and car finance provider Moneybarn, as well as its consumer credit division (CCD) which covers the Provident “home credit” arm and the Satsuma payday lender brand.

Chief executive Malcolm Le May said: “In light of the changing industry and regulatory dynamics in the home credit sector, as well as shifting customer preferences, it is with deepest regret that we have decided to withdraw from the home credit market and we intend to either place the business into managed run-off or consider a disposal.

“As a result, PFG [Provident Financial group] will no longer offer any ‘high-cost' products and we will not be issuing any high-cost or home collected credit products from any CCD entity in future.

“At the end of March 2021, CCD had approximately 2,100 employees and an internal consultation for these employees has started today.”

The announcement came as Provident Financial reported a loss of £113.5m for 2020, described by Mr Le May as a “tremendously difficult year”, compared to a profit of £119m a year earlier.

Underlying losses at the doomed consumer credit arm ballooned from £20.8m to £74.9m.

Customer numbers slumped by 40% to 311,000. A decline in new loans being issued was blamed on tighter lending regulations as well as coronavirus restrictions.

Provident's credit card and car finance businesses also had a tough time, with profits falling, but Mr Le May said they had seen “improving trends” at the start of this year as lockdown restrictions ease.

The group also expects to benefit from an increase in the number of adults with “low financial resilience” who will struggle to access loans from mainstream banks.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Wendy’s US second largest burger chain plans return to the UK after 20 years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 10th May 2021) London, Uk – –

America's second largest burger chain is returning to the UK after 20 years with a promise to steal market share from rivals McDonald's and Burger King.

Wendy's, famous for square burgers, plans up to 400 outlets nationwide creating at least 12,000 jobs, although that could take many years, it said.

Wendy's would still be far smaller than McDonald's, which has 1,300 UK outlets.

The firm, which has also agreed a delivery deal with Uber Eats, left the UK complaining of high operating costs.

Abigail Pringle, Wendy's chief development officer, said in media interviews over the weekend that with the UK burger and takeaway market growing the time was right for a return.

And the UK will be used a springboard for growth in the rest of Europe.

A statement said: “The UK launch will spearhead a European-wide expansion as Wendy's looks to build on strong growth on the other side of the Atlantic, where the brand last year dethroned Burger King to become the No 2 player in the US hamburger market.”

A typical restaurant employs between 30 to 50 staff, the company said. Wendy's has also promised no zero-hours contracts in a sector much-criticised for its low pay and working conditions.

Crowded market

The first Wendy's will open next month, in Reading, followed by Stratford and Oxford, and the company said there will be new items on the menu tailored to the British market, including more vegetarian options.

But Wendy's enters a crowded market that was facing tough times even before lockdown. Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron both hit financial trouble and were sold after restructurings.

Wendy's said that even if the UK market does not expand as fast as anticipated, it still believes it can take market share from rivals by its emphasis on quality and service. The chain's marketing likes to promote its use of locally sourced products and fresh meat that is not frozen.

The chain was founded in 1969 in Ohio and now has 6,800 outlets. It is listed on Wall Street with a valuation of $5bn (£3.6bn).

Wendy's left the UK in 2001, citing property costs and other overheads that made expansion unviable.

Why Cuban Link Chains Are So Expensive

Source: BI

Even in the high-end world of jewelry, Cuban link chains are a symbol of luxury. Once a quintessential part of hip-hop style in the '70s and '80s, these chains have become increasingly popular in the last decade. Today, you'll find prominent rappers like Future, Daddy Yankee, and Lil Uzi Vert wearing Cuban link chains. Although the majority of these chains are machine-made, many of the most expensive ones are handmade by just a few shops in Miami. One handmade 18-karat gold Cuban link chain can cost $27,000, and some of the most valuable ones will cost 10 times that. In 2012, Jay-Z wore one of the most expensive Cuban link chains made at the time, worth $200,000.

Why SpaceX’s satellite internet Starlink is expected to be a cash cow bringing in $30 billion a year

Source: CNBC

SpaceX’s broadband satellite internet, Starlink, is still in beta, but already has over 10,000 customers. The fledgling service is expected to be a cash cow for SpaceX, bringing in as much as $30 billion a year — more than 10 times the annual revenue of its existing rocket business. This revenue will be used to fuel Elon Musk’s ultimate goal of building a colony on Mars. Eventually, Starlink may even keep us connected on the Red Planet. Elon Musk’s SpaceX rolled out its Starlink early access program to the public six months ago, with the satellite internet service growing to more than 10,000 users in the first few months.

Bank of England forecasts biggest economic bounce-back since WWII

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com–Fri, 7th May 2021) London, Uk – –

The Bank signals it is not too concerned about a spike in inflation ahead and its COVID crisis support will be maintained.

The Bank of England has upgraded its growth forecast for the coronavirus-hit UK economy and signalled it will not raise interest rates in the near term – despite seeing a looming spike in inflation ahead.

The latest meeting of the central bank's interest rate-setting committee left policy unchanged, with rates remaining at their COVID-19 crisis low of 0.1% as analysts had widely expected.

Its £895bn programme of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, was also kept static.

But its quarterly Monetary Policy Report said that the vaccine-led recovery from the sharpest hit to the economy in over 300 years in 2020 was clearly under way at a greater speed than initially expected.

The Bank said it now saw growth of 7.25% during 2021, which would be the strongest since 1941.

That is up from the 5% growth previously forecast.

The Bank now sees GDP falling by just 1.5% in the lockdown-hit first quarter compared to the plunge of over 4% feared in February.

The report said: “GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to rise sharply in 2021 second quarter, although activity in that quarter is likely to remain on average around 5% below its level in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Bank forecast that consumer spending would be a main driver of the recovery – with people spending an estimated 10% of their accumulated lockdown savings.

But it warned of potential “downside risks” to its outlook from new coronavirus variants – and governor Andrew Bailey told a news conference people should not get “carried away” by the recovery.

He spoke of two years of lost output growth, and added: “On balance, the MPC (monetary policy committee) judges the risks to the central projection for GDP to be skewed to the downside in the first year of the forecast period, but broadly balanced further out.”

Mr Bailey also said it was too early to judge what impact Brexit had delivered.

The Bank's predictions for an acceleration in growth were backed up by a closely-watched survey of firms, released earlier on Thursday, which pointed to the largest leap in business activity since 2013 in April for the services sector.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) recorded a reading of 61 – up from 56.3 in March – with any reading above 50 indicating growth.

It noted “sharp increases” in both business and consumer spending as coronavirus restrictions continued to ease.

The latest series of PMI reports have also highlighted spikes in prices for companies through higher transport and raw material costs.

The services PMI reported the steepest rise in costs for businesses in over four years and widespread evidence those are being passed on down the supply chain.

Mr Bailey said there was little evidence yet of a feed through to output prices, but in its report the Bank said it expected the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation to shoot up beyond its 2% target by the end of the year from its current level of 0.7%.

It highlighted a surge in energy prices as a primary cause, but added that it was not unduly concerned about the outlook, with CPI tipped to fall back to target quickly, and suggested rates would remain at current levels in support of the recovery.

That message mirrors commentary from other central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, which has signalled it is prepared to tolerate surging inflation by maintaining support they have provided for their economies to help employment recover.

By James Sillars

Price for International travel set to rise this summer, warns travel boss

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 7th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Prices for international travel are set to rise this year due to pent-up demand and fewer aeroplanes in service, a travel boss has warned.

Booking.com's chief executive Glenn Fogel told the BBC that holiday “prices are already going up”.

Many airlines have significantly reduced the number of flights they operate due to travel restrictions.

However, Tui's UK boss Andrew Flintham said it would be “a long time” before holiday firms try to boost profits.

‘Pent-up demand'

Mr Fogel said that despite huge demand, uncertainty makes it hard for airlines to plan bringing more planes back into service.

“There's so much pent-up demand,” said Mr Fogel. “Everybody wants to go travelling, but we all want to do it safely.”

John Grant, an aviation analyst with global travel data provider OAG said this will have a knock-on impact on air fares as travel restrictions are eased.

“That will, in the short term, create a rush of pent-up demand and revenge spending,” he said.

“In turn, the airline algorithms will detect an uptick in demand and move prices up accordingly”.

The government will shortly announce which foreign destinations holidaymakers from England can visit from 17 May without needing to quarantine on their return.

Air fares to Portugal – which is expected to be on the green list – have already started to rise as airlines respond to higher demand.

According to PA, British Airways is charging £530 for a flight from Heathrow to the Algarve on 17 May, compared with £276 two days earlier.

A Ryanair flight from Stansted to Lisbon costs £262 on 19 May, PA found, more than double the price of £128 on 14 May.

But Tui's managing director for the UK and Ireland, Andrew Flintham, told BBC Breakfast said travel firms were unlikely to push up prices anytime soon.

“Our prices are very, very stable. They're pretty much like for like, flat, year over year. There isn't a big increase in there.

“We've got plenty of holidays to sell. I think everybody in the industry has.

“It'll be a long time before the idea of trying to increase prices to make more money. We want to get people away on holiday, having a great time, because we think they genuinely all deserve it.”

Confusing systems

A lack of clarity about how governments will go about recognising vaccine and testing statuses from other countries is troubling the travel industry, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Fogel believes a single system would be helpful: “So many different people in so many different governments are talking about different programmes, but right now, there is nothing out there that is unified, so it's very confusing.

“I listened to the prime minister of Italy saying how they want to let people into Italy soon and you just have to prove that you have a vaccine and it'd be great.

“And my thinking is, well, I have my vaccine myself, but how do I prove it? Do I just bring my little white card that I got in the US that said I got it, is that going to be good enough? We need some clarifications.”

Several systems are being explored, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA)'s travel pass, which is being trialled by a number of airlines.

Meanwhile, the European Union is working on having a digital pass ready in time for the summer holidays.

Split society?

The idea of a scheme that allows passengers who have had the vaccine to travel has proved divisive.

The UK equality watchdog recently warned it could create a “two-tier society, whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights”.

That's a view supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) but Mr Fogel disagrees.

“It's true that if you're not vaccinated, you may not be able to enter a country under this type of a system,” he said.

“But I'm okay with that. Because the alternative is what – nobody gets to go in? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.”

He added that there are countries that people cannot go into if they don't have proof of vaccination against yellow fever, for example.

“There's nothing wrong with using technology to prove you are a safe traveller that can help get the industry up faster,” said Mr Fogel.

Financial pain

The lack of clarity has hurt the finances of Booking.com's US owner Booking Holdings, which also owns Kayak and rentalcars.com.

Revenues for the three months to the end of March fell to $1.1bn (£790m) – 50% lower than the same period a year ago.

Figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reflect a similar picture across the industry, showing tourism's value to the global economy fell from nearly $9.2tn in 2019 to $4.7tn in 2020.

As a share of the global economy that equates to a fall from 10.4% to just 5.5%.

But Mr Fogel, who is chief executive of both the Dutch-based Booking.com and its parent firm Booking Holdings, told investors that there is still reason to be optimistic things will improve.

“While the pace of vaccine distribution remains frustratingly slow in most places around the world, Israel, the UK and the US are benefiting from successful vaccine distribution programs,” he said.

“In each of these countries, we have seen encouraging booking trends, which supports our view that vaccine distribution is key to unlocking pent-up travel demand.”

By Jonathan Josephs


Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, aims first suborbital sightseeing trip for July

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 6th May 2021) London, Uk – –

New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo aims to fly six passengers 62 miles above Earth into space

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, aims to launch its first suborbital sightseeing trip on its New Shepard spacecraft on 20 July, a moment that could usher in an era of private commercial space travel.

Blue Origin also said it will offer one seat on the first flight to the winning bidder of a five-week online auction, the proceeds of which will be donated to the space firm’s foundation.

The New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 62 miles (100km) above Earth into suborbital space, high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before the pressurised capsule returns to Earth under parachutes.

The capsule features six observation windows, which, according to Blue Origin, are nearly three times as tall as those on a Boeing 747 jetliner and the largest ever used in space.

“The view will be spectacular,” said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s director of astronaut sales.

After its first flight, Cornell said Blue Origin would have “a couple more” crewed flights before the end of the year. She declined to disclose details of the ticket price, which has been a closely guarded secret for years.

Reuters reported in 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the ride, based on an appraisal of rival plans from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and other considerations, although the company’s stragegy may have changed.

Wednesday’s announcement follows years of testing and development work that has included delays.

Cornell said Blue Origin would love to increase the frequency of its tourist space flights and add launch locations, possibly outside the US, depending on demand. For July’s flight, the reusable New Shepard booster will launch and land in west Texas.

Celebrities and the uber-rich appear to be the core market for space tourist jaunts, at least initially. Cornell told reporters the most likely candidates would be “very clear on our radar”.

Only 569 people have ever been into space, she said, adding “we’re about to change that dramatically”. But she declined to say when – or if – Bezos, a lifelong space enthusiast and currently the world’s richest person, will take a trip on New Shepard.

Virgin Galactic also aims to fly private customers in early 2022, after a first flight with Branson on board later this year. Its zero-gravity experience is anchored by its SpaceShipTwo plane, and the company has plans to offer point-to-point travel between far-flung cities at near-space altitudes.

Virgin says it will charge more than $250,000 for new reservations but has not announced final pricing. Sales will reopen after Branson’s flight.

Meanwhile, a college science professor and an aerospace data analyst are among a four-member crew for a launch into orbit planned later this year by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, part of a charity drive billed as the first all-civilian spaceflight in history.

Blue Origin has fallen far behind SpaceX on orbital transportation, and lost out to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance on billions of dollars’ worth of US national security launch contracts which begin in 2022.

But Blue Origin’s space tourism announcement provides the Amazon founder with momentum while it protests SpaceX’s $2.9bn contract under Nasa’s high-profile program to return Americans to the moon in coming years.

Regulatory filings revealed that Bezos sold Amazon shares worth about $2bn this week as a part of an arranged trading plan. Bezos, who will step down as CEO in a few months, has been unloading shares of the company he founded and has also said he would sell shares worth $1bn to fund Blue Origin projects.

KPMG UK staff to work in offices up to four days a fortnight from June

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 6th May 2021) London, UK —

Accounting firm KPMG told its on Wednesday that they will work in the office for up to four days in a fortnight starting next month under a hybrid working model drawn up after the recent decline in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“As part of the firm's new hybrid way of working, from June onwards, the expectation will be that KPMG's people spend up to four days in the office spread over a fortnight, with the rest spent at home or at client sites,” KPMG spokeswoman Zoe Sheppard said in an emailed statement.

KPMG UK head Bill Michael resigned in February after reports that he told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. He was replaced by Jon Holt. 

Sheppard said the hybrid plan was drawn up incorporating feedback from staff.

On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) asked U.S.-based employees to return to working in the office by mid-June and in the United Kingdom to return by mid-July.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) said last week it was targeting U.S. workers' return to office on a rotational basis from July.

Some 36% of employees in Britain did at least some work from home last year as the coronavirus outbreak closed many workplaces, a jump from around 26% in 2019, the country's statistics office said in April.

By Kanishka Singh

Debenhams set to close final stores after 200 years of trade on UK high streets

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 5th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Debenhams has announced it will shut its remaining stores by 15 May, closing the door on more than 200 years of trade on UK high streets.

The department store chain said it would shutter 49 shops by next weekend.

The Debenhams brand will continue online after being bought by retailer Boohoo for £55m in January.

The company traces its roots back to 1778 when William Clark opened a shop in London's West End, selling fabrics, bonnets and parasols.

In 1813, William Debenham invested in the firm and it was renamed Clark & Debenham.

Debenhams has already announced that 52 shops will close on 8 May. The remaining sites will shut on either 12 May or 15 May. Some 12,000 workers will lose their jobs.

Like other retailers, Debenhams struggled during the Covid pandemic as non-essential stores were forced to close during lockdown.

However, the company – once the UK's largest department store chain – had been experiencing problems prior to the crisis with record losses, high levels of debt and property costs.

Debenhams said: “Over the next 10 days, Debenhams will close its doors on the High Street for the final time in its 242 year history.

“We hope to see you all one last time in stores before we say a final goodbye to the UK High Street.”