TUC demands an increase in the minimum wage to £15 per hour in order to “end low pay Britain.”

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 24th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, says that every worker should be able to afford a “decent standard of living”.

The minimum wage should be raised to £15 an hour, the Trades Union Congress says, as it declares it is “time to put an end to low-pay Britain”.

Currently, workers aged 23 and over are entitled to a minimum wage of £9.50 with lower rates for younger employees, but the TUC says all workers should have the same entitlement, regardless of age.


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Since the minimum wage was introduced, its level as a proportion of the median wage has increased – starting at 47% in 1999 and expected to reach 66% by 2024, although the TUC said that a more ambitious target of 75% is the “logical next step”.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Every worker should be able to afford a decent standard of living.

“But millions of low-paid workers live wage packet to wage packet, struggling to get by – and they are now being pushed to the brink by eye-watering bills and soaring prices.

“For too long workers have been told that businesses can't afford to pay them more. But again and again the evidence has shown that firms are still making profits and increasing jobs – we can afford higher wages.

“And higher wages are good for the economy – more money in the pockets of working people means more spend on our high streets.

“It's time to put an end to low-pay Britain. Let's get wages rising in every corner of the country and get on the pathway to a £15 per hour minimum wage.”

She said ministers should introduce fair pay agreements to increase pay and productivity in low-paid sectors; promote decent work above shareholder interests; and invest in good jobs in every part of the country.

“That's how you boost pay packets and put Britain on a direct path to a £15 minimum wage.”

Proposals also include corporate governance reforms and a “life-long learning and skills strategy” designed to address labour shortages.

The call comes after inflation reached 10.1% in July and as the energy price cap is forecast to surge past £5,300 a year in April.


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Those two issues are the main drivers of a cost of living crisis that has prompted workers in some sectors to resort to industrial action as their wages fail to keep up.

The TUC said that the UK has experienced a “pay loss of historic proportions” due to an “abject failure” by successive Conservative governments to encourage pay rises.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics said workers suffered a record real-term pay slump of 4.1% after inflation in the three months to June.

When inflation was not factored in, regular pay, excluding bonuses, rose by 4.7% in the three months to June.

 

McDonald’s to reopen some branches in Ukraine to help foster a sense of normalcy

The US fast-food giant closed its restaurants in Ukraine when Russia invaded the country almost six months ago. McDonald's also “de-arched” in Russia and sold its outlets to a franchise owner.

McDonald's will reopen some branches in Ukraine, in a show of support after the US fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.


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Following Vladimir Putin's invasion in February, McDonald's closed its restaurants in Ukraine, but has continued to pay more than 10,000 staff employed in the country, while it closed and sold branches in Russia.

It said on Thursday that it will slowly start to reopen some of its branches in the capital Kyiv and western Ukraine.

Other major Western companies have also reopened their businesses in Ukraine recently, including Nike, KFC and Mango.

“We've spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen,” Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, said in a message to employees.

“In recent months, the belief that this would support a small, but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger.”

Ukraine's economy has been severely impacted by the war, with the International Monetary Fund expecting its economy to shrink by 35% in 2022, in part due to businesses halting operations because of the war.

McDonald's has 109 restaurants in Ukraine, but Mr Pomroy didn't say how many would reopen, when it would happen or the locations.

The company said it would start working with vendors to get supplies into branches, prepare stores, bring employees back and launch safety procedures due to ongoing fighting in the east.

McDonald's has sold its 850 restaurants in Russia to local franchise owner Alexander Govor, who held a licence for 25 branches in Siberia and who has begun reopening former McDonald's locations under the name Vkusno-i Tochka or Tasty-period.


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McDonald's opened its first Russian location in Moscow three decades ago. Selling its Russian business was the first time the fast-food giant has “de-arched” or left a major market.

McDonald's closed hundreds of locations throughout Russia in March, costing the company $55m (£45m) a month.

By

MicroStrategy Shares Surge as Michael Saylor Puts Full Focus on Bitcoin

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 4th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

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Company operations will now be led by Phong Le, while Saylor will become executive chairman with sole focus on Bitcoin strategy.

MicroStrategy (MSTR) stock is up nearly 15% on Wednesday, helped by a modest rally in bitcoin (BTC) and news late Tuesday that Michael Saylor is stepping down as CEO to become executive chairman. The software company's president, Phong Le, will become CEO.

The management changes will allow for the company's enterprise business to have the full focus of the CEO, with Saylor devoting his energies to strategies for corporate bitcoin (BTC) adoption.

“In my next job, I intend to focus more on bitcoin,” Saylor tweeted early Wednesday in a tongue-and-cheek response to those who think the moves might mean he has become less bullish on the crypto.


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Meanwhile, Le said investors shouldn’t expect any surprises in strategy. On the company’s earnings call late Tuesday, Le said he has been aligned with Saylor on the enterprise and bitcoin strategy throughout their time together. The changes, he said, will free up time for him to run the company. “I would sort of see this as a business-as-usual transition,” Le told analysts.

“We think this transition was underway for quite some time with Mr. Le's appointment as president two years ago,” Joe Vafi, an equity research analyst with Canaccord Genuity, told clients in a note Wednesday. “Overall, we don't expect any material change in the strategic direction of the company.”

Vafi rates MicroStrategy a buy, although he did trim his price target to $372 from $453 (current stock price is $317). MicroStrategy stock, said Vafi, is the “most streamlined play” for equity investors to gain bitcoin exposure in the public markets.

Of last quarter's $917.8 million impairment charge on bitcoin holdings during the second quarter, it's “essentially meaningless,” said BTIG analyst Mark Palmer, noting it has no impact on the company’s inherent value. “That value can be easily ascertained as it stems from just two sources,” said Palmer, “the market value of MSTR’s bitcoin holdings and the value of its enterprise analytics software unit.” Palmer reiterated his buy rating and $950 price target.

Still, the impairment could have had some impact on Saylor's role change, according to some crypto industry participants. “There was no doubt that there was going to be external pressure from stakeholders to see some sort of response from the company,” said Tanim Rasul, chief operating officer of crypto trading platform NDAX.


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Rasul said Saylor was a key proponent in advocating for corporate bitcoin adoption, although impairment losses may have spooked other publicly traded companies, especially considering the uncertainties across the global economy and markets.

“Michael Saylor’s response was to push himself into an executive chairman role so that a new CEO could focus more on core operations for MicroStrategy,” Rasul said, contrasting Elon Musk and his company, Tesla (TSLA), which opted to sell a good chunk of its bitcoin holdings.

By Michael Bellusci

London’s biggest property companies merge to create $6 bln West End powerhouse

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 16th June 2022) London, UK —

Two of London's biggest property companies agreed to merge on Thursday to create a 5 billion pound ($6 billion) estate with sites in tourist hotspots including Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and Soho that are battling to recover from the pandemic.

Shaftesbury (SHB.L) and Capital & Counties Properties (CAPCC.L) combined property portfolio will comprises about 2.9 million square feet of lettable space in high-profile destinations in London's West End.


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“The merged business will have an exceptional portfolio, located in popular and busy parts of London's vibrant West End, and an experienced and innovative team drawn from both businesses,” Shaftesbury CEO Brian Bickell said.

London landlords heavily exposed to non-essential retailers and hospitality firms are on a slow recovery path after coronavirus lockdowns.

Under the terms of the all-share deal, Shaftesbury shareholders will get 3.356 new Capital & Counties Properties (Capco) shares for each share held, valuing Shaftesbury at about 1.96 billion pounds ($2.37 billion) including the 25.2% stake Capco already owns.

Reuters calculated the valuation based on Capco's closing price on Wednesday.

For Capco shareholders, the deal is expected to be earnings accretive immediately, while for Shaftesbury shareholders, the merger is expected to be modestly earnings dilutive in the first two years after completion.

Shaftesbury shares fell more than 8% to 534 pence in morning trade, while Capco stock was down 0.1%.

Existing shareholders in Shaftesbury will own 53% of the combined group – Shaftesbury Capital Plc. Capco shareholders will own the rest.


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The newly created group will be led by Shaftesbury's Jonathan Nicholls as non-executive chairman and Capco's Ian Hawksworth as chief executive.

Shaftesbury CEO Bickell and Capco's Chairman Henry Staunton will retire once the deal is completed.

The combined group will retain Capco's listings on the London Stock Exchange as well as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil

Trustpilot kicks off hunt for new chairman

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 15th June 2022) London, Uk – –

Trustpilot Group, which has seen a sharp decline in its shares since floating last year, has hired headhunters to find Tim Weller's successor, Sky News understands.

Trustpilot Group, the online reviews platform, has kicked off a search for a new chairman little more than a year after listing on the London stock market.


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Sky News has learnt that the company has appointed headhunters from The Up Group to identify a successor to Tim Weller, the respected entrepreneur.

Mr Weller, who also chairs a string of privately owned companies, has been at the helm of Danish-based Trustpilot for a decade.

His planned departure comes amid a rout in listed technology stocks.

Since floating at 260p-a-share in March 2021, Trustpilot's stock has fallen to just 81.25p, giving the company a market capitalisation of about £340m.

Nevertheless, a number of shareholders are said to have expressed opposition to Mr Weller's departure, arguing that it reinforces flaws in corporate governance guidelines which state that non-executive directors cease to be independent when they have served for nine years.

Some institutions say the clock should be reset once a company becomes publicly traded.

The search for Mr Weller's successor is being led by Angela Seymour-Jackson, the senior independent director, who has also served on boards including Future, the magazines publisher.


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Many investors believe the share price declines at listed tech companies have left them vulnerable to takeover approaches, although broader economic uncertainty and concerns that earlier valuations were inflated mean few such bids have materialised.

A Trustpilot spokesman declined to comment.

Crypto market volatile day saw bitcoin withdrawals temporarily suspended

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 14th June 2022) London, Uk – –

Value of assets dips below $1tn after Celsius Network halts withdrawals over ‘extreme’ conditions

The cryptocurrency market has endured another day of volatility as the Binance exchange temporarily suspended bitcoin withdrawals and the total value of the digital asset market dipped below $1tn (£820bn), after a cryptocurrency lender stopped customers from taking back their funds.

The cryptocurrency lending platform Celsius Network halted withdrawals because of “extreme market conditions”, prompting a selloff.


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Bitcoin dropped to a 17-month low of $23,629 after the Celsius announcement, while ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin, dropped more than 15% to $1,237, its lowest since January 2021. Meanwhile, Binance announced it had “temporarily paused” bitcoin withdrawals owing to a “stuck on-chain transaction”, before announcing a resumption several hours later.

The total value of the cryptocurrency market fell below $1tn after the sell-off, according to the data site CoinMarketCap, which had valued the market at almost $3tn in November.

Celsius said in a blogpost it was “pausing” all withdrawals and transfers between accounts for its 1.7 million customers. The company offers customers high interest rates – as much as 18% – on their cryptocurrency deposits and pays the interest in crypto assets, which includes its own token, called CEL.

“Due to extreme market conditions, today we are announcing that Celsius is pausing all withdrawals, swap, and transfers between accounts,” the platform said. “We are taking this action today to put Celsius in a better position to honour, over time, its withdrawal obligations.”

Binance said in a statement that bitcoin withdrawals had been suspended shortly after midday in the UK “due to an earlier batch of transactions getting stuck from low transaction fees submitted”. As a consequence there had been a backlog of bitcoin network withdrawals, Binance said. It then announced at 4.30pm BST that withdrawals had resumed.

On 7 June, Celsius had published a blog seeking to reassure customers amid volatile conditions in the cryptocurrency markets, triggered initially by a collapse in the crypto project Terra. Headlined “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”, the blog said the company had not had “any issues meeting withdrawal requests”. Celsius has offices in London, New York and Lithuania.


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Celsius’s website tells customers they can “borrow like a billionaire”. It has $11.8bn in assets, down from more than $24bn in December last year. In November, it said it had raised $750m from investors including Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.

Like a bank, Celsius also has a retail loan operation, with customers able to borrow money, denominated in US dollars, from the service. Because of the impossibility of sending debt collectors after a crypto wallet, however, Celsius loans are “overcollateralised”: customers need to deposit bitcoin or ethereum worth at least twice the value of the money they are borrowing. That can be useful if, for instance, a bitcoin millionaire needs some hard cash to buy a house but does not want to liquidate their bitcoin holdings because they are gambling the coin will go up again.

However, unlike a bank, Celsius’s loans charge a lower interest rate than it pays on deposits. The company makes up the difference through an opaque investment strategy that has in the past included investing $300m in bitcoin mining, offering more traditional loans to unnamed “institutional investors” at higher rates of interest, and taking large stakes in other cryptocurrency projects.

Occasionally, that strategy has resulted in large losses: a hack of the decentralised investment platform Badger DAO that wiped out that project was revealed to have cost Celsius $50m in bitcoin.

The company also had a close relationship with the defunct stablecoin project Terra, at one point investing $500m of funds in the Anchor Protocol, Terra’s own saving and lending service. Celsius also offers customers higher returns if they accept their interest payments in the project’s own crypto token, CEL, which was trading at $7 last year and has fallen to less than $0.20.

Cryptocurrencies have also been swept up in a market panic over rising inflation and higher interest rates, which has dulled the appetite for higher-risk assets.


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“As inflation proves to be an even trickier opponent to beat than expected, bitcoin and ether are continuing to get a severe bruising in the ring,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown.

“They are prime victims of the flight away from risky assets as investors fret about spiralling consumer prices around the world.”

By Dan Milmo and Alex Her

 

Whirlpool executive apologise for dangerous tumble dryers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 22nd July 2019) London, Uk – –

A senior Whirlpool executive has apologised to customers affected by the saga of dangerous tumble dryers sold for 11 years in the UK.

Whirlpool is now launching a full recall of any remaining fire-prone dryers, nearly four years after first alerting people to the safety issue.

Speaking to the BBC, its vice-president Jeff Noel defended a decision not to recall dryers when the fault emerged.

Many cases had been dealt with “faster and sooner” by a safety fix, he said.

Engineers have been adding a fix to machines, but Mr Noel accepted that “expanded” efforts now needed to be made, adding that “we apologise for putting our customers through hardship”.

What should owners do now?

More than five million affected machines were sold in the UK, under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands, between April 2004 and September 2015.

Anyone who thinks they bought one should call 0800 151 0905 or visit a dedicated website, being set up on Monday, to check if their dryer is affected. If it is on the recall list, they should stop using it and unplug it immediately.

They can then choose:

  • For the first time, a free replacement dryer with no extra charges for collection or disposal of the old machine
  • A free, one-hour modification of the old machine
  • A discounted upgrade to a higher specification model than the free replacement
  • A partial refund of up to £150, with owners of older machines getting less than those with newer ones

There are no plans for any extra measures for those machines which have already been modified, despite cases of some of them catching fire after they had been fixed.

‘Our home burnt down'

Graeme and Sue Garnham's Guildford council home was gutted by fire while they were waiting for an engineer to modify their defective dryer.

“I was stood there in my bare feet, at the bottom of the alleyway, watching it all go up. The windows were popping out,” Mr Garnham said. “I just couldn't talk.”

His wife said: “Thirty years of memories were gone. We don't have any photos of our wedding anymore.”

Mrs Garnham, a healthcare assistant, and her husband, a cleaner, have been re-housed, but had to rely on the generosity of family and friends to replace damaged belongings.

“We had kept on saying we have got to get insurance, but we did not have the money,” Mrs Garnham said.

They have heard nothing from Whirlpool, but Mr Noel told the BBC: “My heart goes out to them. This is not the way I would have wanted to be treated.”

What was the issue?

A fault in Whirlpool machines was blamed for at least 750 fires over an 11-year period, the government has said.

Whirlpool said it had logged 54 fires caused by fluff dropping from a collector by the drum onto the heating element in its tumble dryers in recent years.

Three of the fires were in machines that had been modified.

It argued that two official reviews, including one by the Office of Product Safety and Standards, had found the modification to be effective.

Although more than five million were sold, the company said the majority would have fallen out of use. It said it had resolved 1.7 million cases – a greater success rate than most recalls – and estimated that 500,000 affected dryers could still be in use. When pressed by MPs, it said some estimates had suggested as many as 800,000 remained in homes.

The recall, demanded by the government in an unprecedented move, came after nearly four years of the modification programme.

The official launch of the recall would be supported by a £1m advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness for remaining owners, the company said.

Was this an inherited problem?

The safety concerns emerged after Whirlpool bought Italian white goods giant Indesit, which had manufactured the products, in 2014. Mr Noel said the company had conducted all the appropriate checks before buying Indesit, and had “done the right thing” by voluntarily alerting authorities to the safety problem which became clear after the acquisition.

“We bought the company [Indesit]. We own the company. The customers are ours and our responsibility,” he said.

He said that the company had to accept the resulting scrutiny, and had learned lessons along the way.

Consumer groups said that Whirlpool's ability to deal with the problem had been found wanting.

“Whirlpool has failed to trace hundreds of thousands of fire-risk tumble dryers that could still be in people's homes almost four years after this fault was first discovered, so we have serious doubts about the company's ability to get these machines out of circulation now,” said Caroline Normand, from consumers' association Which?.

It said the recall had only resulted from the threat of government action, and that ministers should keep the company and its campaign under scrutiny.

By Kevin Peachey

Energy giant SSE issue profit warning after loss of 160,000 customers

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

“Big six” energy giant SSE has seen a sharp drop in customer numbers and has cut its full-year earnings forecast.

It said it had lost 160,000 customers in the final three months of last year, leaving it with 5.88 million accounts.

SSE also cut its profit forecast for this year after a European court ruled out a UK industry-wide subsidy which had supported emergency fuel supplies.

Last November, SSE suffered a blow when it called off its plan to merge its household supply arm with Npower's.

The firm -blamed “challenging market conditions” and the price cap on bills.

That deal would have created the UK's second-biggest energy supplier, shrinking the “big six” to the “big five”.

SSE said it was assessing options for its domestic supply business.

‘Good progress'

SSE said that the European court judgement would cut income by about £60m this year.

The company said it expects this to be “a matter of timing only” as the government is expected to make the payments in the future.

But while it waited for that, the company said that earnings per share – the amount of profit divided by the number of shares in issue – would be 6p lower than previously expected, and in a range of 64-69p, compared with its November forecast of 70-75p.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said the company was making “good progress” on deciding what to do with its retail business, SSE Energy Services.

The options it has identified so far include: simply splitting it off and listing it on the stock market; a sale; or an alternative transaction.

The shares were down slightly on the news.

Donald Brown, from stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin, said the future of SSE Energy Services “remains unclear”.

“However, it's difficult to see who might be interested in buying the business, which has been in decline for some time,” he added.