HSBC weighs multibillion pound sale of its operations in Canada

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 5th Oct 2022) London, Uk – –

HSBC Holdings is working with investment bankers at JP Morgan on a deal that would represent a further retrenchment from North America, Sky News learns.

HSBC Holdings is exploring a multibillion pound sale of its operations in Canada in what would mark a significant retreat from its presence in North America.

Sky News has learnt that HSBC's board has instructed investment bankers at JP Morgan to sound out prospective buyers of its business in the country.

Sources said a sale would represent a substantial deal – both financially and symbolically – for HSBC.

According to its website, HSBC is the seventh-largest bank in Canada, having made more than a dozen acquisitions there since the early 1980s.

One analyst suggested that the value of its Canadian subsidiary could be in the region of $7bn (£6bn).

It comes as the London-headquartered lender is confronted by a campaign orchestrated by the Chinese insurance group Ping An for it to embark on a wholesale break-up.

Ping An, which owns more than 8% of HSBC, is thought to have told HSBC – led by chairman Mark Tucker and chief executive Noel Quinn – to split its lucrative Hong Kong business from the rest of its global empire.

HSBC has already retrenched from parts of its business in the US, announcing last year that it would sell or wind down its mass-market retail operations there.

It also sold its business in Brazil in 2016 for more than $5bn.

The group remains, nevertheless, a sprawling international banking giant, with a presence in more than 60 countries.

It is one of Britain's biggest high street banks, having acquired the Midland Bank in 1992.

The group remains domiciled in the UK, and last reviewed its global base in 2015 under then chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, HSBC said in a statement: “HSBC regularly reviews its businesses in all its markets.

“We are currently reviewing our strategic options with respect to our wholly owned subsidiary in Canada.


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“Amongst the options being explored is a potential sale of HSBC Group's 100% equity stake in HSBC Bank Canada. HSBC Bank Canada is a very strong business and Canada's leading international bank.

“The review is at an early stage and no decisions have been made.”

HSBC's London-listed shares were trading on Tuesday morning at just over 470p, giving it a market value of more than £101bn.

By Mark Kleinman

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng U-turns on plans to scrap 45p tax rate

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 3rd Oct 2022) London, Uk – –

The government has U-turned on plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for higher earners.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC the proposals, announced just 10 days ago, had become “a massive distraction on what was a strong package”.


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“We just talked to people, we listened to people, I get it,” he added.

The decision, which marks a humiliating climbdown for Prime Minister Liz Truss, comes after several Tory MPs criticised the plan.

On Sunday, Ms Truss had said she was committed to the policy.

The plan to scrap the 45p rate, paid by people earning more than £150,000 a year, was announced as part of a package of tax cuts.

Mr Kwarteng told BBC Breakfast the proposal was “drowning out a strong package”, including support for energy bills, and cuts to the basic rate of income tax and corporation tax.

Asked whether he owed people an apology, he said: “We've listened to people. And yeah, there is humility and contrition in that. And I'm happy to own it.”

On how the decision was made, he said: “The prime minister decided not to proceed with the abolition of the rate.”

However, pressed on whether it was her U-turn, Mr Kwarteng added: “No, we talked together, I said this is what I was minded to do and we decided together, we were in agreement that we wouldn't proceed with the abolition of the rate.”

Asked if he had considered resigning, he said: “Not at all.”

On Sunday, the prime minister had told the BBC the move to cut the top rate of income tax was “a decision that the chancellor made”.

But she also said she was absolutely committed to it as part of a package to make the tax system “simpler” and boost growth.

Asked whether his previous comment that there was “more to come” on tax cuts still stood, Mr Kwarteng said there would be no tax cuts ahead of the next Budget in the spring.

Pressed on whether his economic plans would mean spending cuts for public services, the chancellor said there would be more details in the government's fiscal plan on 23 November.

However, he said the government was sticking to its 2021 comprehensive spending review, meaning it will not raise spending in line with inflation.

BBC political editor Chris Mason said the U-turn had left the chancellor and prime minister “humiliated, wounded and weakened”.

“But Liz Truss will hope it creates space to move forward, hauling herself out of the political quagmire of a budgetary statement that imploded on contact with political reality,” he said.

Labour called for the government to “reverse their whole economic, discredited trickle down strategy”.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the U-turn came “too late for the families who will pay higher mortgages and higher prices for years to come”.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey called on the chancellor to resign, saying he no longer had “any credibility” and the whole mini-budget needed an overhaul.

Plans to scrap the top rate of tax had seen remarkable opposition from the markets, other parties and a growing number of Tory MPs.

Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry had previously warned Tory MPs who voted against the prime minister's tax measures that they would be kicked out of the parliamentary party – known as losing the whip.

But increasingly, it seemed Ms Truss did not have the numbers to get it through Parliament.

On Sunday, senior Tory Michael Gove hinted he would not vote for the plan when it came to Parliament, saying “I don't believe it's right”.

The former cabinet minister said the PM's decision was “a display of the wrong values”.

Former cabinet minister Grant Shapps had warned the prime minister would lose a Commons vote on the proposal.

He welcomed the U-turn, telling the BBC: “It's better to act, it's better to reverse ferret on something that's causing a problem like this, and it sends a very important signal to the public and also to the markets that we are serious about sound money.”

The decision was also welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry.

Director-general Tony Danker said the pledge had become a “distraction” from other economic reforms, which he said would “make a real difference to growth”.

The U-turn, suggestions of which were first reported by the Sun, comes on the second day of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, with Mr Kwarteng due to speak later on Monday.

The pound jumped on the news, rising by more than a cent against the dollar to $1.1263, before falling back.

The currency touched a record low last week after Mr Kwarteng's mini-budget created turmoil on the markets.


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A 45% tax rate applies to income above £150,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scrapping the top rate made up around £2bn of the £45bn worth of tax cuts announced by the chancellor in his mini-budget.

Other measures announced included a cut to the basic rate of income tax to 19%, a reversal of the recent rise in National Insurance and scrapping the cap on bankers' bonuses.

By Nick Eardley

 

Vodafone and Three UK accelerate ‘merger’ talks

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, Oct 3rd c 2022) London, Uk – –

A combined Vodafone and Three UK would become the largest mobile telecoms supplier in Britain, with a deal potentially being struck by the end of the year, Sky News learns.

Vodafone and the owner of Three UK have accelerated talks about a deal to combine their British operations, paving the way for the creation of the industry’s mobile phone industry’s biggest player by customer numbers.

Sky News has learnt that Vodafone and CK Hutchison are hopeful of striking an agreement by the end of the year to establish a joint venture or other form of business combination.


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People close to the talks said the discussions had intensified in recent weeks following a period in which they were thought to have stalled.

CK Hutchison, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate, has been exploring a sale of Three UK for some time, having concluded that the operation – which has 9m customers – was sub-scale in a sector which carries huge capital investment requirements for developing network infrastructure.

It is said to have decided that a deal with Vodafone represents its best opportunity to help it play a role in market consolidation, with the latter's chief executive, Nick Read, under pressure form shareholders to revive its flagging share price.

Insiders said on Monday that discussions between the two companies were now at a “relatively advanced” stage, although several significant hurdles remained outstanding and there was no certainty that a deal would ultimately be reached.

The most imposing of these is likely to be the regulatory scrutiny that a deal would face both from Ofcom, the telecoms industry regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority.

Industry sources said it was “almost certain” that the CMA would want to launch a full-blown, or Phase-II, merger inquiry, with the majority of such investigations leading to deals either being blocked or requiring remedies such as asset sales.
One Vodafone investor queried whether such remedies, depending upon their scale, could undermine the logic of a tie-up.
Concerns are also likely to be raised by rivals about the volume of spectrum owned by the combined group, with one analyst saying it would control 46% of all UK mobile spectrum.

Ofcom, meanwhile, has hinted at a softer approach to consolidation among the UK's leading mobile networks.

A deal would create a market-leading business, with roughly 27 million customer connections.

That would be larger than Virgin Media O2, which boasted 24 million retail connections in July, and EE, which is owned by BT Group and has approximately 20 million customers.

Industry chiefs have ben calling for regulators to allow the consolidation of the UK industry from four major networks – EE, O2, Three UK and Vodafone – to just three, a move that would stoke concerns among consumer groups of price hikes during a huge squeeze on Britons' cost-of-living.

Market sources say CK Hutchison has indicated during deal-related talks that it was seeking a valuation for Three UK of roughly £6bn, although that pre-dated the sale of some mobile towers assets, so it was unclear if that figure remained current.

One industry analyst speculated on Monday that the value of the combined Vodafone-Three UK business could be in the region of £12bn-£15bn.

In recent months, doubts have intensified about Mr Read's long-term position after a number of prominent investors acquired stakes in Vodafone.

The most recent of these was Xazier Niel, the French billionaire, who disclosed that he had built a 2.5% stake in the company.

Mr Niel said in an accompanying statement that he believed there were “opportunities to accelerate…the streamlining of Vodafone's footprint”.


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Cevian Capital, a major European activist investor, emerged as a Vodafone shareholder last year, while state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications Group, acquired almost 10% of the FTSE-100 company in May.

On Monday morning, shares in Vodafone were trading at just over 100p, giving the company a market capitalisation of about £30bn.

Its stock has fallen by 10% during the past year.

Vodafone and Three UK both declined to comment.

 

£1bn Serco pension scheme seek financial support from outsourcer amid markets turmoil

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 30th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

Serco's pension trustees asked the company to provide a standby credit facility as it faced growing demands for collateral amid a surge in gilt yields, Sky News learns.

Sky News has learnt that the outsourcing giant's pension trustees contacted the company in recent days about establishing a new credit facility in the event of a continued deluge of collateral calls.

The request is thought to be highly unusual and highlights the turmoil caused even in well-funded and well-run corporate pension schemes by the sudden surge in gilt yields that followed last Friday's fiscal statement by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

The Bank of England intervened in financial markets on Wednesday by promising to buy tens of billions of pounds in government bonds during the next fortnight in an attempt to stabilise the market.

That followed a slump in sterling's value against the dollar to its lowest-ever level and deep anxiety about investors' appetite to buy UK government bonds.

Ministers have sought to blame the turmoil on global market forces, but Mr Kwarteng's £45bn of unfunded tax cuts, announced in last week's mini-budget, have been held responsible by many analysts for sparking the most dangerous financial markets rout since the 2008 banking crisis.

A person close to Serco pointed out that its retirement schemes boasted a surplus, before tax, of £105.3m at its latest half-year results.

The source added that the standby loan request from its pension trustees was simply to provide liquidity to help it meet demands for additional collateral.

Corporate pension fund trustees were faced with no choice but to sell billions of pounds of equities and bonds this week to meet margin calls – forcing them to put up extra collateral – as gilt yields surged and upset delicately balanced hedging strategies.

The turmoil has drawn closer attention to so-called Liability-Driven Investing, in which many pension schemes use financial instruments such as derivatives to help them match their long-term assets and liabilities.

The precise number of Serco's pension scheme members was unclear on Friday.

Members' retirement funds are not at risk as a consequence of the move to seek financial support from the schemes' sponsor.

According to its most recent results, Serco makes annual deficit recovery payments of £6.6m, a figure that is fixed until 2030.


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Serco is one of Britain's biggest outsourcing groups, handling contracts for a multitude of government departments.

This month, the company announced that Rupert Soames, its long-serving chief executive and grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, would retire.

He is regarded as one of Britain's most capable chief executives, having transformed Serco's fortunes since taking over in 2014.

Serco and its pension trustees both declined to comment.

By

Amazon Involvement in Digital Euro Project Attacked by EU Lawmakers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 29th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

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Cross-party lawmakers cited worries over data privacy and taxation as they demanded a U-turn on the controversial European Central Bank decision to let Amazon build a prototype app for a digital euro.

A cross-party coalition of members of the European Parliament on Tuesday turned their fire on the European Central Bank for picking U.S. retail giant Amazon to help develop the digital euro.


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Fabio Panetta turned up to a morning meeting of the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee with a pre-prepared speech on the currency’s design features – perhaps expecting the usual placid exchange of views over plans for the central bank digital currency.

Instead he was met with demands from furious lawmakers to backtrack on his decision to pick the U.S. company – the subject of numerous controversies – to develop a prototype for e-commerce applications of the putative new CBDC.

“We know that the reputation of Amazon in terms of social and tax policy is questionable, I have to say,” said center-left lawmaker Eero Heinäluoma, citing a record-breaking fine of 746 million euros ($720 million) the company received from data protection regulators last year for allegedly breaching privacy rules, which the company has since appealed. “What does Amazon have that could not be found in the European Union?”

Other lawmakers questioned whether the choice would undermine the stated goals Panetta has for the digital euro – to keep EU payments competitive and free from foreign meddling.

“How do you explain this choice really?” asked Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, a lawmaker from French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renew Europe coalition. “In July 2022, you were saying about the digital euro that it would protect the strategic autonomy of European payments and monetary sovereignty… You were also saying that a digital euro would help to avoid market dominance. Three months later, we've been announced that Amazon has been selected over 54 companies.”

Lawmakers from the Green Party went further, calling for the ECB to reverse the decision to avoid undermining the entire project.

“I would like to know whether you would consider revising the decision,” said the Greens’ Ernest Urtasun. He drew parallels with the now-abandoned Libra initiative, in which the involvement of the “big American company” Facebook (now Meta) in a cryptocurrency project drew “strong opposition.”

If there was no change of heart, Urtasun asked if Panetta wasn't worried that “this project – which is essential and that the parliament supported – will not start with a very strong lack of credibility.”

Panetta defended his decision, arguing that Amazon had been chosen based on pre-issued criteria which he was powerless to now change, and that the prototypes Amazon develops would not be re-used later on.

“We wanted to have one merchant, and only one merchant applied” to the call for tender, Panetta said. “We want to learn [from] the best technology not from the worst one… there are not many companies in Europe that could show their experience in dealing with hundreds of millions of users.”

“There is no impact of this prototyping exercise on the future development on the actual participation to the terms of the digital euro,” Panetta said. “You are concerned what could be the consequences of this exercise? Zero.”

Panetta also stressed that, for its participation, the company received neither financial rewards, nor privileged data about the project or its users – but if anything, those assurances seemed to increase lawmakers’ disquiet.


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“Honestly, I am now more worried than before,” said the socialist party’s Jonás Fernández, since the lack of a financial reward implied the company was profiting in some other way.

Amazon declined to comment on the hearing itself but reiterated a previous statement that it was “excited to work with the European Central Bank on their digital euro prototyping exercise.”

By Jack Schickler

MPs warns: Energy bailout will benefit corporate giants who don’t need it

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 22nd Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

The Ethereum Merge Is Done, Opening a New Era for the Second-Biggest Blockchain

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 22nd Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

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By Sam Kessler

The historic upgrade casts aside the miners who had previously driven the blockchain, with promises of massive environmental benefits.

The massive overhaul of Ethereum known as the Merge has finally happened, moving the digital machinery at the core of the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value to a vastly more energy-efficient system after years of development and delay.

It was no small feat swapping out one way of running a blockchain, known as proof-of-work, for another, called proof-of-stake. “The metaphor that I use is this idea of switching out an engine from a running car,” said Justin Drake, a researcher at the non-profit Ethereum Foundation who spoke to CoinDesk before the Merge happened.


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The payoff is potentially gigantic. Ethereum should now consume 99.9% or so less energy. It's like Finland has suddenly shut off its power grid, according to one estimate.

Ethereum’s developers say the upgrade will make the network – which houses a $60 billion ecosystem of cryptocurrency exchanges, lending companies, non-fungible token (NFT) marketplaces and other apps – more secure and scalable, too.

When the Merge officially kicked in at 6:43 a.m. UTC, more than 41,000 people were tuned in on YouTube to an “Ethereum Mainnet Merge Viewing Party.” They watched with bated breath as key metrics trickled in suggesting that Ethereum's core systems had remained intact. After about 15 long minutes the Merge officially finalized, meaning it could be declared a success. The price of ETH – whose current market value near $200 billion makes it the second-largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin (BTC) – was largely flat after the Merge.

The update, which ends the network’s reliance on the energy-intensive process of cryptocurrency mining, has been closely watched by crypto investors, enthusiasts and skeptics for the impact it is expected to have on the wider blockchain industry.

Mark Cuban, investor and billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, told CoinDesk he would be “watching [the Merge] with interest like everyone else,” pointing out that it might make ETH, the network's native token, deflationary.

The idea was there from the start that Ethereum would eventually make the switch to proof-of-stake. But the transition was a complicated technical effort – an endeavor so risky that many doubted it would happen at all.

“There’s a part of me which hasn’t completely realized that this is actually happening,” Drake said. “I’m somewhat in denial, you know, because I’ve trained myself to just expect it to happen in the future.”

The update’s complexity was compounded by the fact that it may have been one of the largest open-source software endeavors in history, requiring coordination across dozens of teams and scores of individual researchers, developers and volunteers.

Tim Beiko, an Ethereum Foundation developer who played a key role in coordinating the update, said to CoinDesk, “I think the Merge can genuinely get those people who were interested in Ethereum, but skeptical of the environmental impacts, to come and experiment with it.”

Goodbye, miners

In 2008, Bitcoin introduced the world to the idea of a decentralized ledger – a single, immutable record of transactions that computers around the world could view, alter and trust without the need for intermediaries.

Ethereum, introduced in 2015, expanded upon the core concepts of Bitcoin with smart contracts – or computer programs that effectively use the blockchain as a global supercomputer, recording data onto its network. That innovation was the essential ingredient behind decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs – the main catalysts of the most recent crypto boom.

The Merge retires Ethereum’s proof-of-work system, where crypto miners competed to write transactions to its ledger – and earn rewards for doing so – by solving cryptographic puzzles.

Most crypto mining today happens in “farms,” though they may be more aptly described as factories. Picture massive warehouses lined with rows of computers stacked on top of one another like shelves of books at a university library – each computer hot to the touch as it strains to pump out cryptocurrency.

This system, which was pioneered by Bitcoin, is what caused Ethereum to guzzle so much energy and is responsible for fueling the blockchain sector’s reputation as an environmental menace.

“My daughter and I spoke about NFTs a few months ago,” recalled Ben Edgington, a product leader at the Ethereum research and development firm ConsenSys. “At the dinner table I rather foolishly mentioned some NFT projects, and she was yelling at me, ‘How can you boil the oceans with this nonsense? This is terrible. I can't believe that you do this for a living.’”

Edgington, who began his career researching climate science before eventually landing in crypto, understood where his daughter was coming from. “Rightly or wrongly, she'd absorbed a very toxic environmental narrative,” he said. “I mean, it's kind of hard to defend ‘stickers for grownups’ that emit, by some estimates, a megaton of [carbon dioxide] a week.”

Hello, stakers

Ethereum’s new system, proof-of-stake, does away with mining entirely.

Miners are replaced by validators – people who “stake” at least 32 ETH by sending them to an address on the Ethereum network where they cannot be bought or sold.

These staked ETH tokens act like lottery tickets: The more ETH a validator stakes, the more likely one of its tickets will be drawn, granting it the ability to write a “block” of transactions to Ethereum's digital ledger.

Ethereum introduced a proof-of-stake network in 2020 called the Beacon Chain, but until the Merge it was just a staging area for validators to get set up for the switch. Ethereum’s transition to proof-of-stake involved merging the Beacon Chain with Ethereum’s main network.

According to Beiko, the energy consumption of proof-of-stake is “not even a rounding error in terms of environmental impact.”

“Proof-of-stake is like running an app on your MacBook,” he said. “It's like running Slack. It's like running Google Chrome or running Netflix. Obviously, your MacBook plugs into the wall and uses electricity to run. But no one thinks about the environmental impact of running Slack, right?”

Edgington pointed to the environmental impact of the Merge upgrade as the benefit he is personally the most excited about. “I feel very proud, you know, that I'll be able to look back and say I've had a role to play in removing a megaton of carbon from the atmosphere every week. That's something that meaningfully affects my family and others,” he said.

New incentives

Rather than a single piece of open-source software, the Ethereum network is better understood as a nation-state – a kind of living organism that comes together when a bunch of computers talk to one another in the same language, all following an identical set of rules.

Ethereum’s new system introduces a new set of incentives for the people operating these computers to follow the rules as written, thereby securing the ledger from any unwanted tampering.

“Proof-of-work is a mechanism by which you take physical resources and you convert them into security for the network. If you want your network to be more secure, you need more of those physical resources,” Beiko explained. “On proof-of-stake, what we do is we use financial resources to convert to security.”

Although Ethereum had thousands of individual miners operating and securing its proof-of-work network, computers from just three mining pools dominated a majority of the network’s hashrate, a measure of the collective computing power of all miners.

If a few of Ethereum’s big mining firms colluded to amass a majority of the network’s hashrate, they would have been able to execute a so-called 51% attack, making it difficult or impossible for anyone else to update the ledger.

In proof-of-stake, the amount of ETH one stakes – not the amount of energy one expends – dictates control over the network. Proof-of-stake boosters say this makes attacks more expensive and self-defeating: attackers can have their staked ETH slashed, or reduced, as punishment for trying to harm the network.

Not everyone buys into the proof-of-stake hype. There are no signs that Bitcoin, for instance, will ever abandon proof-of-work – which proponents insist remains the more battle-tested and secure system.

And although control of the Ethereum network will no longer be concentrated in the hands of a few publicly traded mining syndicates, critics insist that old power players will just be replaced by new ones. Lido, a kind of community-run validator collective, controls over 30% of the stake on Ethereum’s proof-of-stake chain. Coinbase, Kraken and Binance – three of the largest crypto exchanges – own another 30% of the network’s stake.

Skepticism around proof-of-stake fueled Chandler Guo, a prominent crypto miner, to announce in the lead-up to the Merge that he would launch a fork of Ethereum’s old proof-of-work chain – a clone of Ethereum’s blockchain that hums along using the old miner-based mechanism.

Ethereum’s core developers have generally derided proof-of-work forks as sideshows and scams, but Guo’s “ETHPOW” effort and others like it have gained modest traction in certain corners of the crypto community.

Trading the Merge

In crypto markets, the Merge had become an object of speculation since at least mid-July, with traders initially viewing the event as a catalyst for a steep rally in the price of ETH. The market for ETH options started pricing in post-Merge gains, a welcome respite following the crash in digital-asset markets earlier in the year.

The prospect of a fork of the Ethereum blockchain by irate crypto miners spurred a wave of new activity, this time as traders tried to lock in value from the theoretical airdrop of a new “ETHPOW” token.

In general, it is impossible to predict with certainty how the markets will react to a successful Merge. The upgrade has been on Ethereum’s roadmap since its inception, so there’s the possibility that it has already, by-and-large, been priced in by the market.

“I think if you asked me maybe about three weeks ago, I would say that not only is it priced in, it’s overly priced in,” said Kevin Zhou of Galois Capital. “Now the market is roughly 70/30 in favor of this being a positive event for ETH.”

What’s next?

“This is the first step in Ethereum's big journey towards being a very mature system, but there are still steps left to go,” said Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum's co-creator, as he reflected on the Merge during Thursday's viewing party. He went on to mention Ethereum's relatively high fees and slow speeds, which were not addressed by the update, but remain as much a barrier to growing the network's user base as environmental concerns ever was.

Buterin, Ethereum's most visible figurehead, previously outlined a set of next steps for the network that includes “sharding” – a method that should help address the network’s sluggish transaction times and high fees by spreading transactions across “shards,” like adding lanes to a highway.


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That upgrade was initially slated to accompany the transition to proof-of-stake, but it was deprioritized given the success that third-party solutions – called rollups – have had in solving some of the same issues.

Rollups foreshadow the likely future for Ethereum development, where community solutions – rather than updates to Ethereum’s core code – play the primary role in expanding the chain’s capabilities.

For Buterin, the Merge is just the beginning. “To me, the Merge just symbolizes the difference between early stage Ethereum, and the Ethereum we've always wanted … to become,” he said on Thursday's live stream. “So let's go build out all of the other parts of this ecosystem and turn Ethereum into what we want it to be.”

By Sam Kessler

 

Business energy prices to be cut by half under huge government support package

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 21st Spet 2022) London, Uk – –

Energy bills for UK businesses will be cut by around half their expected level this winter under a huge government support package.

The scheme will fix gas and electricity prices for companies for six months from 1 October, in a bid to stop firms facing soaring costs from going bust.

Hospitals, schools and charities will also get help, the government said.

It comes after ministers announced a £150bn plan to help households with their soaring bills for two years.

Industry groups welcomed the package but warned further support may be needed after the winter.


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It is understood the scheme will be reviewed after three months with an option to extend support for “vulnerable businesses” – but it is not known what sectors come under the category.

Under scheme:

  • Wholesale prices are expected to be fixed for all non-domestic energy customers at £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas.
  • Companies do not need to contact suppliers as the discount will automatically be applied to bills, with savings seen from October but received from November.
  • The scheme will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 April, and variable and flexible tariffs and contracts.

Prime Minister Liz Truss said the government understood the “huge pressure businesses, charities and public sector organisations are facing with their energy bills”.

“As we are doing for consumers, our new scheme will keep their energy bills down from October, providing certainty and peace of mind,” she said.

“At the same time, we are boosting Britain's homegrown energy supply so we fix the root cause of the issues we are facing and ensure greater energy security for us all.”

The support will apply to all non-domestic energy customers in England, Scotland and Wales. A parallel scheme, based on the same criteria and offering comparable support, will be established in Northern Ireland.

Officials have not said how much the package will cost the taxpayer, as it will depend on what happens to wholesale market prices between October and April, when the support expires.

Energy-intensive industries such as steel manufacturers have raised concerns about their energy costs, which have surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike households, businesses are not covered by an energy price cap, which is the maximum amount a supplier can charge per unit of energy. It means non-domestic bills have soared even higher.

It is understood that developing a support package for business has been more complex than for households as there are a bigger variety of contracts across different sectors.

Analysis: Simon Jack

The big problem with this support is its shelf life. Few businesses plan with only a six-month time horizon and there will be some whose plans to cut production, close premises and let staff go will not change as a result of this intervention.

But many others – particularly those in retail and hospitality – may see this giving them a fighting chance over the commercially crucial Christmas trading period.

The government has thrown an emergency blanket over the economy this winter, but longer term, more fundamental reform to the energy supply market, its pricing and mechanics will be needed.

Developing more cheap renewables, securing foreign supplies of liquid gas, drilling for more domestic fossil fuels, breaking the link between gas prices and electricity and pushing ahead with hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and small and large scale nuclear have been part of the government's plan for nearly two years.

What's new is the pressure applied by Vladimir Putin to do it as fast as possible.

‘Welcome but more to be done'

Stephen Phipson of Make UK, which represents UK manufacturers, said businesses would “warmly welcome” the government support.

“Government has delivered a scheme which is simple to understand, giving reassurance to the business sector and making immediately available the much-needed help companies have been calling for across the board at a time energy costs were spiralling out of control.”

However, Mr Phipson warned that energy prices were likely to remain high for more than the six-month duration of the scheme and firms may need “support for a longer period if we are to protect jobs and remain competitive”.

Director General of UK Steel, Gareth Stace, said the price cap would give steel makers “the chance to get through the winter”. But he called on the government to “rapidly reform the energy market to ensure longer-term competitive prices beyond the current price”.

Smaller businesses have also been struggling with rising bills, with brewery bosses warning pubs and restaurants across the UK will be forced to close due to energy costs soaring by as much as 300%.


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A landlord of one pub in Essex told the BBC his energy bill had risen from about £13,000 a year to £35,000.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the industry was “relieved” by the support ahead of the busy Christmas trading period.

“The inclusiveness of the support announced today – covering businesses small and large – will be extremely beneficial to the sector… A sector that provides a huge number of jobs, many of which are now more secure.”

By Michael Race

 

J Sainsbury in talks to offload prime retail sites to London-listed real estate investor for about £500m

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 21st Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

J Sainsbury, the supermarket chain, is in advanced talks to offload a portfolio of prime retail sites to a London-listed real estate investor for about £500m.

Sky News has learnt that LXi REIT, which has a market value of about £2.5bn, is close to agreeing a deal to acquire the freeholds to nearly 20 Sainsbury's stores, which the grocer then intends to lease back.


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A property industry source said on Tuesday evening that LXi was likely to seek to raise hundreds of millions of pounds in equity to fund the acquisition, with part of the consideration also including an unspecified amount of debt.

If confirmed, the deal would come months after it emerged that Sainsbury's was exploring a sale of the portfolio.

A number of other parties are said to have expressed an interest in acquiring it.

Supermarket groups are under pressure from investors to improve the efficiency of their balance sheets, with both Asda and Wm Morrison having been acquired by new owners in the past two years.

LXi REIT has been active this year, agreeing a takeover of peer Secure Income REIT several months ago.


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Among the prominent assets it owns are properties which form part of Merlin Entertainment, the group behind the Alton Towers, Legoland and Thorpe Park theme parks.

It invests in commercial real estate assets which benefit from long leases, typically lasting decades, and is a member of the FTSE-250 index.

LXI and Sainsbury's both declined to comment.

 

Ethereum cryptocurrency completes plan to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 99%

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 15th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

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Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency, has completed a plan to to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 99%.

The software upgrade, known as “the merge”, will change how transactions are managed on the ethereum blockchain, a public and decentralised ledger that underpins the cryptocurrency and generates ether tokens, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency after bitcoin.


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Vitalik Buterin, ethereum’s inventor, announced the completion of the plan on Twitter on Thursday morning, tweeting “Happy merge all”.

The move means that ethereum will no longer be created by an energy intensive process known as “mining”, where banks of computers generate random numbers that validate transactions on the blockchain and generate new ether tokens as part of the process. The process, known as “proof of work” in the cryptocurrency world, will now move to a “proof of stake” system, where individuals and companies act as validators, pledging or “staking” their own ether as a form of guarantee, to win newly created tokens.

Ethereum mining used up as much electricity as Austria, according to the Digiconomist website, at 72 terawatt-hours a year. Alex de Vries, the economist behind the website, estimates that the merge will reduce the carbon emissions linked to ethereum by more than 99%.

De Vries added that the move could represent 0.2% of the world’s electricity consumption disappearing overnight. However, he said bitcoin remained the biggest single contributor to the crypto world’s carbon footprint.

“All eyes will be on bitcoin. It remains the largest polluter in the crypto space. Even today bitcoin is responsible for as much electricity consumption as Sweden. And we know that’s not going to change,” said De Vries.


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Ethereum rose 2% to $1,630 (£1,417) after the move, according to website coinmarketcap, valuing the currency at just under $200bn. Bitcoin is worth $387bn, having fallen sharply from its peak of more than $1tn last year.

Carol Alexander, professor of finance at University of Sussex Business School, said the merge was a significant event for the crypto industry

“The merge is the most important event in blockchain history,” she said. “In my opinion, today marks the beginning of the end of bitcoin’s dominance over crypto assets. Ethereum is achieving something that bitcoin never could because bitcoin is a purely speculative asset and its mining network would never agree to drop that source of income.”

By Dan Milmo

Foxconn and Vedanta announced joint venture to build $19bn India chip factory

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 14th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

Foxconn and Vedanta have announced $19.5bn (£16.9) to build one of the first chipmaking factories in India.

The Taiwanese firm and the Indian mining giant are tying up as the government pushes to boost chip manufacturing in the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government announced a $10bn package last year to attract investors.


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The facility, which will be built in Mr Modi's home state of Gujarat, has been promised incentives.

Vedanta's chairman Anil Agarwal said they were still on the lookout for a site – about 400 acres of land – close to Gujarat's capital, Ahmedabad.

But both Indian and foreign firms have struggled in the past to acquire large tracts of land for projects. And experts say that despite Mr Modi's signature ‘Make in India' policy – designed to attract global manufacturers – challenges remain when it comes to navigating the country's red tape.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendrabhai Patel, however, said the project “will be met with red carpet… instead of any red tapism”.

The project is expected to create 100,000 jobs in the state, which is headed for elections in December, where the BJP is facing stiff competition from oppositions parties.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding, the facility is expected to start manufacturing chips within two years.

“India's own Silicon Valley is a step closer now,” Mr Agarwal said in a tweet.

India has vowed to spend $30bn to overhaul its tech industry. The government said it will also expand incentives beyond the initial $10 billion for chipmakers in order to become less reliant on chip producers in places like Taiwan, the US and China.

“Gujarat has been recognized for its industrial development, green energy, and smart cities. The improving infrastructure and the government's active and strong support increases confidence in setting up a semiconductor factory,” according to Brian Ho, a vice president of Foxconn Semiconductor Group.


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Foxconn is the technical partner. Vedanta is financing the project as it looks to diversify its investments into the tech sector.

Vedanta is the third company to announce plans to build a chip plant in India. A partnership between ISMC and Singapore-based IGSS Ventures also said it had signed deals to build semiconductor plants in the country over the next five years.

Aldi surpasses Morrisons as UK’s fourth-largest supermarket

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 13th Sept, 2022) London, UK —

German-owned discounter Aldi has overtaken Morrisons to become Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket group, helped by its popularity during the cost of living crisis, according to industry data published on Tuesday.

Market researcher Kantar said Aldi's sales increased 18.7% over the 12 weeks to Sept. 4, taking its UK grocery market share to 9.3% from 8.1% a year ago. Morrisons' sales fell 4.1%, with its share falling to 9.1% from 9.8%.


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Aldi trails market leader Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) and Asda. Aldi and fellow discounter Lidl account for 16.4% of the market.

Morrisons had been No. 4 since it took over Safeway in 2004. It has been owned by U.S. private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) since October.

“Back at the start of the 2010s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons together accounted for over three quarters of the sector but that traditional big four is no more,” said Fraser McKevitt, Kantar's head of retail and consumer insight.

The researcher said grocery inflation hit 12.4% in the four weeks to Sept. 4, another record, adding 571 pounds ($670) to the average annual grocery bill.


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It said products like milk, butter and dog food are jumping up especially quickly at 31%, 25% and 29% respectively.

Kantar said total grocery sales by value rose 3.8% in the 12 week period, with sales of the very cheapest own label products up by a third compared with a year ago.

UK grocers' market share and sales growth (%)

By James Davey

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group bids for stricken Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 12th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group is one of the remaining bidders for the centuries-old brand whose founders have dressed royals, prime ministers and military chiefs, Sky News learns.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Ashley's Frasers Group is among a handful of bidders vying for control of the brand, which is being sold after its Hong Kong-based owner collapsed into liquidation.

Retail industry sources said this weekend that Frasers and a small number of other parties were expected to lodge revised bids for Gieves & Hawkes this week.

Formed in its current guise in 1974, the respective histories of the Gieves and Hawkes tailoring labels date back to 1785 and 1771 respectively.

Savile Row, which for centuries has been synonymous with high-quality men's formalwear, has endured a tough period, with the pandemic's impact on working habits impacting demand for bespoke suits.

Gieves & Hawkes has held royal warrants for the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as King Charles III and the Duke of Edinburgh.

It has dressed some of the most important figures in English history, including Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Based at 1 Savile Row, the brand has been part of Trinity Group – which is in turn owned by the collapsed Shandong Ruyi Technology Group – since 2012.

For the previous decade, it was owned by a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Wing Tai Properties.

Mr Ashley's presence in the auction of Gieves & Hawkes is unsurprising given his propensity to explore bids for many of the UK retail assets which get put up for sale.

In recent years Frasers – previously known as Sports Direct International – has swallowed high street brands including Jack Wills, Evans Cycles and Agent Provocateur.

In June, it snapped up Missguided, the troubled online fashion retailer, in a £20m deal.

FTI Consulting, is handling Shandong Ruyi's liquidation and the sale of Gieves & Hawkes.

Daniel Chow, one of the liquidators, was quoted in July as saying: ‘Gieves has a solid foundation and a reputable name.


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“We are confident we will find the right partner who can bring its expertise and resources to help drive future growth, maximise its value and take it to the next level.”

The identities of the other bidders for Gieves & Hawkes was unclear on Sunday.

Frasers Group declined to comment.

 

Apple iPhone 14: Launches new smartphone with longer battery life and camera upgrades

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 9th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come with an upgraded 12 megapixel main camera, featuring a brighter flash, wide angle capability, and an action mode for video that adjusts to shaking, motion and vibrations.

Apple has launched the iPhone 14 as its “most advanced” smartphone yet – with longer battery life and a series of camera upgrades.


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Its four new models are between 6.1 and 6.7 inches in length, meaning they have larger screens than the iPhone 13.

They can also last all day on a single charge.

However, one expert noted that Apple had reserved the “biggest leaps” – such as a more powerful processor – for the Pro, its more expensive handset.

The iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come with an upgraded 12 megapixel main camera, featuring a brighter flash, wide angle capability, and an action mode for video that adjusts to shaking, motion and vibrations.

The more expensive Pro and Pro Max handsets have a 48 megapixel camera.

All four phones are equipped with a larger light sensor which can produce low-light photographs twice the previous generation's quality.

“Low-light photography has always been a challenge given the sensor size in mobile phones,” Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at the prime comparison site Uswitch.com said.

“So any sort of improvements there, given the amount of pictures we take on a daily basis, will definitely be seen as a worthy upgrade compared to the iPhone 13.”

However, while the standard iPhone 14 uses its predecessor's A15 bionic chip, the Pro will be equipped with the faster A16 chip.

“Apple has stuck to its guns and reserved its biggest leaps in innovation for its most premium handsets, despite the economic challenges facing many consumers,” Mr Bikha noted.

Similarly, the Pro versions boast an “Always-On Display”, meaning users can see basic notifications while the screen is locked.

Unveiling the feature at a virtual event, Apple executive Greg Joswiack said: “It's easy to see the time and other core information without raising your iPhone or tapping the display.

“This keeps the central information available for the moments where all you need is just a glance… this is the most advanced display we've ever shipped.”

Mr Joswiack added that it was made possible by the Pro's “incredibly power-efficient” display, which operates with a refresh rate as low as 1Hz.

Apple has ditched the iPhone mini seen in previous generations – the “cheapest and most pocket-friendly phone from the main series”, Mr Bikha said.

The new phones have also left behind the SIM card tray of previous models, enabling users to connect to networks and swap SIM cards digitally.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus will also have an “Emergency SOS” feature which will mean users can still get help by phone if they are out of range of a mobile signal.

Apple said the feature will show a user where to point their phone to connect to a satellite.

They will be guided through a questionnaire and follow-up messages which will be sent to centres staffed by Apple-trained specialists who can call for help on their behalf.

Users will also be able to manually share their location over satellite with “Find My” when there is no mobile or wi-fi connection.

Emergency SOS via satellite will be available to users in the US and Canada in November, and will be free for two years.

There were no details given on when or if the service would be available to users in the UK.

The iPhone 14 will be available for £849 on September 16, while the Plus will appear on shelves for £949 on 7 October.


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The Pro and Pro Max retail for £1,099 and £1,199 on 16 and 23 September.

The virtual event also saw the unveiling of the Apple Watch Ultra, which the company's chief operating officer Jeff Williams labelled “the most rugged and capable Apple Watch yet”.

It is aimed at those taking part in extreme sports – such as deep-sea diving – and is fortified by titanium casing and a sapphire crystal display protector.

 

Lloyd’s of London sets aside $1.3 billion for Ukraine claims

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 8th Sept 2022) London, UK —

Lloyd's of London (SOLYD.UL) has set aside 1.1 billion pounds ($1.26 billion) to pay claims related to the war in Ukraine, the commercial insurance market said on Thursday, as it recorded a first-half pre-tax loss of 1.8 billion pounds.

The reserves for the Ukraine claims were net of reinsurance, Lloyd's said in a statement. Insurers buy reinsurance to offload some of the risk of large losses.


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“We've taken a very early view of what we think the financial implications will be,” Lloyd's Chief Executive John Neal told Reuters by phone, adding the losses were likely to be about the same size as “a small to medium-sized natural catastrophe”.

Around a quarter of Lloyd's' Ukraine losses may come from the aviation market, Neal said.

Aviation lessors and insurers are wrangling over planes trapped in Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine – which Russia calls a “special military operation” – and subsequent Western sanctions.

Insurers globally may face claims of around $10 billion to $15 billion from the conflict, Neal added.

Around 100 syndicates trade at Lloyd's, which focuses on specialist risk from oil rigs to footballers' legs.


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Lloyd's has asked its members to stop insuring new thermal coal mines as it seeks to reach net zero climate goals.

But Neal said the current energy crisis meant there could be flexibility in how to reach those targets.

“Let's say difficult energy decisions were being taken in the next week – if they were being taken in a broader net zero context… then I think we could be open-minded and prepared to have a conversation which could include thermal coal.”

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn

Truss, UK’s new PM, plans $46 billion energy package for businesses -Bloomberg

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 6th Sept 2022) London, UK —

Incoming British prime Minster Liz Truss is planning a 40 billion pound ($46.22 billion) support package for businesses to help them cope with rising energy costs, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

The plan would involve discounting firms' energy bills by fixing the wholesale price of gas and electricity, with the government making up the difference, Bloomberg reported.


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Truss, who is due to take office later on Tuesday, has promised to act immediately to help households cope with soaring gas and electricity prices. She has not publicly set out details of her plans for consumers or businesses.

Citing documents, Bloomberg said Truss was considering either setting a guaranteed unit price for businesses, or a reduction that all energy suppliers must offer firms.

Truss's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to request for comment.

By William James and Akanksha Khushi

Thames Water plans to raise additional funding weeks after tapping investors for £1.5bn

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 5th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

The UK’s biggest water company – which last month banned 10m customers from using hosepipes, has begun exploring plans to raise further capital as it battles increasingly intense political criticism, Sky News learns.

Britain’s biggest water utility is working on plans to raise additional funding just weeks after unveiling plans to tap shareholders for £1.5bn in new equity.

Sky News has learnt that Thames Water has begun debating whether it needs to seek new capital to deliver the transformation plan it has set out under Sarah Bentley, its relatively new chief executive.

Water industry sources said this weekend that firm plans had yet to be determined, but said that Thames Water could decide to raise hundreds of millions of pounds beyond the £1.5bn figure outlined in June.

The company, which last month introduced a hosepipe ban affecting 10m customers across southern England, has come under substantial fire for its dire performance in relation to leaks and multimillion pound executive pay packages.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Like all businesses, Thames Water actively manages its financial position.


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“This year, we have successfully raised additional equity from our supportive shareholders and have refinanced maturing debt in order to put us in the best possible position as we continue to execute against the eight year turnaround plan that we launched in May 2021.

“As we look forward to the next regulatory period, and consider the evolving expectations of the regulator and the effects of a changing climate, we keep a range of opportunities under consideration to ensure that we can optimise delivery for customers today and over the long term.”

The £1.5bn of new equity was divided into £500m in the current financial year, followed by a further £1bn before March 2025, when the current industry regulatory period ends.

In its June statement, the company added: “Thames Water shareholders acknowledge that further shareholder support may be required to improve financial resilience.”

The additional shareholder funding formed part of a £2bn expenditure increase designed to improve the company's performance on leaks and river health, taking its total spending during the current five-year regulatory period to £11.6bn.

Thames Water's shareholders include China Investment Corporation, the country's sovereign wealth fund; the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK's biggest private pension fund; and Infinity Investments, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, are said to have endorsed the plans.

Serving roughly a quarter of Britain's population, Thames Water has seen its reputation battered by revelations about its cavalier approach to pollution and indifferent treatment of customers.


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A year ago, it was fined £4m for allowing untreated sewage to escape from London sewers into a nearby river and park, while in August 2021, it was ordered to pay £11m for overcharging thousands of customers.

Ms Bentley, who joined as chief executive two years ago, has pledged to deliver better results for both customers and the environment at a time when Britain's privatised water companies are under pressure for paying substantial dividends.

In total, tens of billions of pounds have been handed to shareholders in water utilities across Britain since privatisation, stoking public and political anger given the industry's frequent mishaps.

By Mark Kleinman

 

Kremlin to receive £8.6bn from Gazprom after record profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 1st Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

Politicians wait to see whether Russia switches back on Nord Stream 1 gas supply to Europe.

Russian state-backed energy firm Gazprom is poised to hand a bumper £8.6bn payout to the Kremlin after notching up record profits.

The company reported a net profit of 2.5tn roubles (£35.8bn) for the first six months of this year. Oil and gas prices soared during that period, pushed higher by concerns over supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin owns 49.3% of Gazprom and will share in a 1.21tn rouble payout, after its board proposed a 51.03 rouble per ordinary share payout to investors. The decision will be put to shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting on 30 September.


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The dividend represents a setback in the west’s efforts to choke off the Russian economy through sanctions. The UK and Europe have also moved to phase out Russian oil and gas imports to prevent the west funding Vladimir Putin’s regime. However, Russia has instead ramped up oil exports to Asia and gas prices have soared in response to Gazprom cutting supplies into Europe.

Gazprom’s deputy chief executive, Famil Sadygov, said: “Despite sanctions pressure and an unfavourable external environment, the Gazprom Group reported record IFRS revenues and net profit in the first half of 2022, while reducing net debt and leverage to a minimum.”

The payout follows the decision in June to cancel Gazprom’s annual dividend for the first time since 1998. The decision sent its shares plunging by near 30% in a day.

The dividend decision comes as energy companies and politicians face a nervous wait to see whether Russia switches gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline into Europe back on.

Russia said it had stopped the Baltic Sea pipeline’s flow from 5am on Wednesday for three days to carry out repairs.

Gazprom has reduced gas its output in recent months to the lowest level since 2008. In July, the flow was stopped for 10 days for scheduled maintenance but at only 20% of capacity amid a row over the failure to return equipment due to sanctions imposed on Russia.

A fresh row was brewing on Wednesday when Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, said that Siemens Energy was unable to perform regular maintenance of equipment for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.

The Russian energy giant’s head also said that major maintenance of Nord Stream 1 equipment is not possible because of western sanctions, the Interfax news agency reported.

This week one of France’s largest gas suppliers, Engie, said that Gazprom would further reduce deliveries to the company due to a disagreement over the application of some contracts. Gazprom had already substantially cut deliveries to Engie, which has a 9% stake in Nord Stream 1, since the start of the war.

On Wednesday, the dispute escalated as the Russian company prepared to halt all deliveries to its French contractor from 1 September, citing missing payments.

Gazprom said the decision to suspend gas supplies to Engie was down to the French firm not paying in full for July deliveries of gas. It is understood Engie had deducted “compensation” for the fall in gas supplies in recent weeks from the payment.

European governments have accused Putin of weaponising gas supplies during the conflict in Ukraine. Moscow denies doing this and has cited technical reasons for supply cuts.

The European Commission is examining options to make an emergency intervention into wholesale gas markets amid fears over soaring bills and blackouts this winter.


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European nations are on average ahead of gas storage targets set by the EU ahead of the winter. Europe’s storage facilities contain around 84bn cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas, ahead of the 65bcm 1 September target and nearing November’s 88bcm goal.

France, Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic have already hit November’s target while Latvia is the only country behind its September goal, energy consultancy Aurora said.

Germany has the most storage space left to fill, at 2.6bcm, because it has higher targets and vast storage facilities.

By Alex Lawson Energy corresponded