Mike Lynch UK entrepreneur loses $5bn fraud case over sale of Autonomy to HP in 2011

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 28th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

UK entrepreneur Mike Lynch has lost a multi-billion pound fraud action brought over the sale of software company Autonomy to Hewlett Packard (HP) in 2011.

The High Court judge found that HP had “substantially” succeeded in its bitter civil case but indicated that the US firm would get considerably less than the $5bn it had sought in damages.

The ruling follows years of bitter wrangling over Autonomy's value, which HP cut by almost $9bn after buying the firm for $11bn.

Mr Lynch has always denied any wrongdoing and said the failure of the acquisition was due to HP's mismanagement.

He is also due to learn later on Friday whether Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved an extradition request to the US where he faces criminal charges, including wire fraud and securities fraud, relating to the deal.

His Autonomy colleague, former chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain, was convicted in the US in 2019 and jailed for five years. He has subsequently lost an appeal against that conviction.

Indian ride-hailing app Ola challenge Uber with new £100m electric car facility in Coventry

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 27th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

New boost to UK auto industry after tech giant and scooter maker invests in R&D plant to develop electric vehicles

Indian tech company Ola has announced plans to invest £100m in the UK to open a research and development facility for a planned electric car, in a significant boost to the UK automotive industry.

Ola launched its taxi app that rivals Uber in cities including London, Birmingham and Cardiff in 2018, but it is pushing into electric vehicles with a recently launched road-going scooter and a planned electric car.

The new facility will be based in Coventry, the traditional West Midlands centre of the UK automotive industry. It will create 200 jobs in design and engineering. Workers at the plant will also research battery technology.

Ola was founded in India in 2010 by Bhavish Aggarwal, and it now claims to be the world’s third-largest ride-hailing app. This week its electric vehicle arm, Ola Electric, raised $200m in funding at a reported $5bn (£3.7bn) valuation, and previous backers include Softbank, the major Japanese technology investor. It is also reportedly planning a stock market float to raise as much as $2bn.

The scooters are currently designed and manufactured in Bangalore, but Ola said the new UK facility, dubbed its “Futurefoundry”, will work closely with the headquarters. The company did not detail where it would build its electric cars, although wage costs are significantly lower in India than in the UK.

The investment will likely be seen as a vote of confidence in the UK automotive industry, which has seen a recent jump in investment following years of underperformance as big firms awaited clarity on the crucial trading arrangement with the EU.

Traditional carmakers such as Volkswagen are racing against newer companies led by America’s Tesla to invest in facilities to build new battery electric vehicles. However, EVs still only accounted for about 12% of UK sales in 2021.

The alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi announced on Thursday became the latest traditional carmaker to outline plans for major investments. The alliance said it would spend €23bn (£19.2bn) over the next five years to launch new electric models, including a new Nissan compact car in Europe – built at a Renault factory in northern France – to replace the Micra.

Ola would be a relatively late entrant to the electric car market, but its scooters have initially targeted its home market which is dominated by cheaper models.

Ola’s Aggarwal said: “Ola Futurefoundry will enable us to tap into the fantastic automotive design and engineering talent in the UK to create the next generation of electric vehicles. Futurefoundry will work in close collaboration with our headquarters in Bangalore, India to help us build the future of mobility as we make electric vehicles affordable across the world.”

The company last year recruited Wayne Burgess, a former Jaguar and Geely designer, to lead the UK vehicle design efforts. Burgess said Ola wanted to create a “world-class design and R&D team with global sensibilities”.

He added that the company will look at “two-wheeler, four-wheeler and other form factors.”

By Jasper Jolly

Royal Mail to cut 700 jobs amid growing competition from rivals

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 25th Jan 2022) London, UK —

Royal Mail plans to cut around 700 management jobs as it tries to cut costs amid growing competition from rivals.

The move, part of a restructuring plan, comes as the firm faces heavy criticism amid ongoing postal delays.

The company has been struggling to cope with Covid-related staff absences.

Those have led to severe delays in some areas and the regulator, Ofcom, has said it may impose fines where services have fallen short.

Some customers have complained of waiting up to a month for important deliveries, including prescriptions.

Ofcom, the regulator, said recently that is was “concerned about these delays and have made it clear to Royal Mail that it must take steps to improve its performance as the effects of the pandemic subside”.

Large parts of London, Manchester, Hertfordshire, Wales and Scotland, have been particularly affected by the delays.

In early January around 15,000, more than one in 10 of Royal Mail's staff, were off sick or isolating, but Simon Thompson, who took over as chief executive of the delivery firm a year ago, said the situation was now improving.

Mr Thompson said absences had been “a headwind” in delivering productivity targets.Between April and December last year the firm had spent more than £340m on overtime, additional temporary staffing and sick pay, he said.

Analysis: By Dharshini David

Royal Mail has seen deliveries particularly hard hit by staff sickness and absences with the advent of Omicron, with around one in eight staff affected over the Christmas period. But even before that, it had repeatedly failed to meet delivery targets.

With pressure from customers, the regulator and shareholders for more efficient operations, Royal Mail is undertaking an overhaul. And its managers that will bear the brunt.

The company says that losing 700 posts will enable it to streamline its structure and improve local performance and ultimately, save £40m per year. It will now have to consult unions on the proposals.

In the first year of the pandemic Royal Mail saw rising demand for its services as people switched to shopping online at home.

Over the past year, with High Street stores open again, that demand has fallen back, but Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams said the trend for higher numbers of parcels being delivered remained.

The volume of domestic parcels being delivered by Royal Mail between October and December was 33% above pre-pandemic levels in 2019, but 7% lower than in 2020. However the number of letters Royal Mail handled in the October to December period declined in both 2020 and 2021.

“The past few months have demonstrated that the challenge for Royal Mail is to improve both quality and efficiency,” Mr Williams said.

“Looking forwards, the delivery of our transformation and modernisation plans remain incredibly important in light of the fast‐paced change we are seeing and ongoing inflationary pressures.”

Royal Mail said the latest planned job cuts would incur a charge of £70m but would deliver annual savings of around £40m.

The company axed a fifth of its managers – around 2,000 posts – in June 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic.

How Real Swiss Chocolate Is Made

Source: FI

Making chocolate may look simple. After all, you only need a few ingredients: cacao beans, sugar, and milk. Yet mixing them correctly to achieve a smooth, velvety texture took centuries to achieve. And it's all thanks to Swiss chocolate makers.

They were the first ones to achieve a smooth, sweet, creamy chocolate. But, most importantly, they invented the conching machine, the most important machine in making chocolate. We visited Favarger in Geneva, Switzerland, for a tour of its chocolate factory.

Britishvolt secures millions in funding for mass production of electric car batteries in the UK

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

A firm planning mass production of electric car batteries in the UK has secured government funding for its proposed factory in Northumberland.

Britishvolt announced plans for the so-called gigafactory in Cambois two years ago, saying it would create 3,000 jobs.

The BBC understands the government has committed about £100m through its Automotive Transformation Fund.

Britishvolt also announced backing from investors Tritax and Abrdn, that should unlock about £1.7bn in private funding.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described the support as “reindustrialisation”. He told the BBC's Today programme that the “huge investment” would give people the “opportunity to have highly-paid, well-paid, high-skilled jobs”.

“We're bringing industry, we're bringing manufacturing to an area that has been under invested in frankly and we're bringing thousands of jobs,” he said.

“Well paid jobs, which represent a huge economic opportunity for people in this area. This is exactly what levelling up looks like. “

Analysis By: Theo Leggett

The government wants the UK to become a major force in the fast-growing market for electric cars.

But if it wants manufacturers to build them here, then having gigafactories in the UK as well is vital.

Not only are battery packs big and heavy, making local production desirable, they also make up a large proportion of the value of an electric car.

And under the Brexit deal, cars made in the UK and sold in Europe will soon have to contain a significant amount of UK or European parts.

Put simply: If batteries aren't made here, the chances are carmakers won't set up shop here either.

Experts say the Britishvolt plant will have to be the first of many. The future of the entire UK car industry depends on it.

The sale in the UK of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030, with manufacturers switching to making electric vehicles and requiring huge battery production.

The government has set aside more than £800m to attract battery investment to the UK. Mr Kwarteng said Britishvolt would help put the UK at the front “in this global race between countries to secure vital battery production”.

At full capacity, expected to be achieved by the end of the decade, the factory will produce enough battery cells for more than 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs per year.

The gigafactory is being built on the site of the former Blyth Power Station. In addition to the 3,000 people at the site, Britishvolt estimates at least another 5,000 jobs will be created in the supply chain.

Peter Rolton, Britishvolt's executive chairman, told the BBC's Today programme that he would like all of the new jobs at the plant to go to people living in the area, and said the company was setting up a training centre in nearby Ashington.

“Our policy is going to be to try and not to say no to anybody,” he added.

Mr Rolton said the first batteries ready for use would roll off the production line in 2024.

He said: “This announcement is a major step in putting the UK at the forefront of the global energy transition, unlocking huge private sector investment that will develop the technology and skills required for Britain to play its part in the next industrial revolution.

“This is a truly historic day and marks the start of a truly exciting move towards a low carbon future.”

Last year, Nissan's partner, China's Envision AESC, announced it would build an electric battery plant to supply an expansion of electric vehicle production at the Japanese carmaker's plant in Sunderland.

Solana Could Become the Visa of Digital-Asset World: Bank of America

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 20th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

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

Solana and other blockchains may snag market share from Ethereum over time, the bank said in a research note.

The Solana blockchain could become the “Visa of the digital asset ecosystem” as it focuses on scalability, low transaction fees and ease of use, Bank of America told clients in a research note after hosting Solana Foundation member Lily Liu.

Solana has experienced strong adoption since launching in 2020. It has settled over 50 billion transactions (Visa, the global payments giant, processed 164.7 billion transactions in the year ended Sept. 30), has more than $11 billion in total value locked and has been used to mint more than 5.7 million non-fungible tokens (NFTs), analyst Alkesh Shah wrote in the note published Tuesday. Solana is optimized for consumer use cases such as micropayments and gaming, the bank said.

“Solana prioritizes scalability, but a relatively less decentralized and secure blockchain has trade-offs, illustrated by several network performance issues since inception,” Shah said. “Ethereum prioritizes decentralization and security, but at the expense of scalability, which has led to periods of network congestion and transaction fees that are occasionally larger than the value of the transaction being sent.”

Bank of America said Solana and other blockchains could grab market share from Ethereum over time, and will begin to distinguish themselves through user adoption and developer interest.

By Michael Bellusci

Aldi opens its first checkout-free supermarket

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Tue, 18th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Aldi has opened its first checkout-free supermarket where people can shop without having to scan a product.

The grocer is operating a “trial” store in Greenwich, London, which allows customers to complete their shop and pay without going to a till.

Instead, customers can download the Aldi Shop&Go app, and will then be automatically charged for their purchases once they leave the store.

Aldi's new store follows similar moves by Tesco, Sainsbury's and Amazon.

The supermarket's new site will also allow customers to buy alcohol, using facial-age estimation technology, to check whether they appear to be over the age of 25.

People who cannot or choose not to use this system can have their age verified by a member of staff.

A series of hi-tech cameras will track customers as they do their shopping, and then bill them when they leave.

Giles Hurley, chief executive of Aldi UK and Ireland, said he was “looking forward to seeing how customers react” to the trial, which he said used the “very latest in retail technology”.

Lewis Esparon, Greenwich store manager, added: “We have been working towards this day for several months now so it will be great to see how our customers react to the new technology.

“For us, steps like this are always about improving the customer experience and the whole team are looking forward to being on-hand and ready to help to ensure that experience is as smooth as ever.”

Before the service was launched, Aldi trialled the format with employees.

Aldi is Britain's fifth largest supermarket with more than 950 stores and about 38,000 staff.

Wayve UK self-driving startup raised $200 million to scale up autonomous driving technology

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 18th Jan 2022) London, UK —

British self-driving technology startup Wayve said on Tuesday it has raised $200 million from investors to scale up its autonomous driving technology globally and launch more pilot projects with commercial fleet partners.

The Series B funding round brings the startup's total fundraising to $258 million and includes new investments from venture capital firms D1 Capital Partners, Moore Strategic Ventures and Linse Capital, plus fresh capital from investors including Microsoft (MSFT.O).

Making taxis autonomous has proved more difficult and expensive to develop than expected, but investors have been pumping money into self-driving technology for trucks and other commercial vehicles where automation could be viable sooner. 

London-based Wayve's technology relies on machine learning that uses camera sensors fitted on the outside of the vehicle, instead of the conventional method of relying on detailed digital maps and coding to tell vehicles how to operate.

“Instead of telling a car how to drive we've built a system that learns to drive and can learn to do intelligent things,” Wayve CEO Alex Kendall told Reuters.

He said that, for instance, the company's test vehicles have learned how to correctly navigate “very robustly” through traffic lights in London – knowing how traffic lights function, which lane to be in and how to interact with other vehicles even if they are breaking the rules. Last year Wayve took vehicles to five other UK cities and drove through traffic lights without ever having operated in those cities before.

“Our system was able to take the concept of traffic lights from London and apply it everywhere,” Kendall said. “That's why we'll be the first company to deploy in a hundred cities (worldwide),” he said, without giving a timeframe.

UK online grocery technology company Ocado (OCDO.L) has invested in Wayve and has announced an autonomous delivery trial with the startup. 

Wayve is also running an autonomous delivery trial with British supermarket chain Asda in London.

(This story corrects to remove word “existing” from second paragraph to show Microsoft is a new investor)

Reporting by Nick Carey

Amazon drop plans to block UK Visa credit card payments amid talks

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 17th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Amazon has dropped plans to block UK Visa credit card payments this week, as the two sides continue to try to resolve a dispute over payment fees.

“The expected  change regarding  the use of  Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk will no longer take place on January 19,” Amazon said.

Visa said it was “working closely to reach an agreement”.

Amazon said last year that Visa payment costs were “an obstacle” to providing the best prices for customers.

But Visa accused Amazon of threatening to restrict consumer choice. “When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins,” Visa said.

Neither company has indicated when the talks might conclude. In an email to customers on Monday, Amazon said it was working closely with Visa on “a potential solution that will enable customers to continue using their Visa credit cards on Amazon.co.uk”.

An EU-enforced cap on fees charged by card issuers is no longer in place in the UK following Brexit.

Both Visa and its rival Mastercard have raised the so-called interchange fee on cross-border transactions between businesses in the UK and the European Union following Brexit.

However, Amazon and Visa said last year that their dispute had nothing to do with the UK leaving the EU.

Analysis: By Kevin Peachey

They have been slugging it out in public and in private, now these two corporate heavyweights are going in for an extra round.

Amazon are clearly ahead on points in this bout. Given this announcement has come so close to the deadline, many customers would have already switched their primary Amazon payment method away from Visa.

However, the cancelling of the deadline, and the fact a new end date has not been set, suggests a deal is near. Neither Amazon nor Visa are saying much to be able to judge quite how close they are to a compromise.

This dispute is about more than just fees. It is also about control. Don't forget that Amazon has taken a different course with Mastercard, which is behind Amazon's reward card.

Amazon has previously declined to say how much Visa charges the retailer to process transactions made on credit cards.

Visa also declined to comment, though it claimed that on average it takes less than 0.1% of the value of a purchase.

The Payment Systems Regulator has raised concerns about competition in this sector, which is dominated by Visa and Mastercard.

In a strategy published last week, it said one of its priorities was to promote competition between UK payment systems.

“We will focus more on improving competition between payment systems, not just competition within payment systems,” its managing director Chris Hemsley said.

“This is important because we know that the future of retail payments is becoming increasingly about digital payments, most of which are currently made using card payment systems.”

How The French Built The Largest Aquarium In Europe

Source: Spark

Sharks, caimans, tropical fish, sea lions… With its 35,000 seas creatures, Nausicaá attracts 600,000 visitors each year. But today, the aquarium is writing a new page in its history by becoming Europe’s biggest aquarium.

To meet this challenge, the engineers had to build a giant tank, as large as four Olympic swimming pools, and to develop a unique water filtration system, a world first. Each stage of the construction was a technical feat, including welcoming more than 22,000 additional animals, and hammerhead sharks.

From the structure’s architecture to the logistics of breeding thousands of species and bringing in hundreds more from all over the world, this film takes us on an immersive journey into this exceptional project.

Ovo Energy expected to axe 1,700 employees a quarter of its workforce

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 13th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Ovo Energy, the UK gas and electricity provider, has told staff it plans to cut a quarter of its workforce.

The firm is expected to axe 1,700 employees from a total 6,200 workers.

The cuts, first reported by Sky News, are understood to be linked to its acquisition of SSE three years ago and the integration of the firm into Ovo.

It is understood the cuts will be made through voluntary redundancy. Ovo has also told staff it will raise minimum pay across the firm to £12 an hour.

Unite, the union, said it had warned in 2020 about Ovo's takeover of SSE's retail business and the possible impact on jobs.

On Thursday, Unite's general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We will do everything in our power to defend our members' jobs.

“We will not sit by and watch our members being made to pay the price of the pandemic.”

The job cuts come just days after Ovo was forced to apologise for telling customers to cuddle their pets to keep warm.

Ovo Energy's chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick blamed a “bad day” for “ridiculous” advice to customers on how to stay warm amid soaring energy bills.

The cuts are understood to relate to the SSE deal.

However, the energy sector has been struggling with higher wholesale gas prices since last September and the UK's price cap for households means firms have been unable to pass on the rising costs to retail customers.

It has led to more than 20 smaller energy businesses going bust.

Regardless of the cap, households are set to see a significant rise in energy costs this year when the regulator Ofgem reviews the ceiling on gas and electricity bills.

Mr Fitzpatrick has been lobbying the government to help reduce a rise in bills which would come into force in April. He has said that the rise in wholesale gas prices and its impact on people will be “an enormous crisis for 2022”.

On Wednesday, however, his company Ovo offered slightly more controversial guidance on how to cut bills to SSE Energy customers – suggesting they do “a few star jumps” or hug a pet “to stay cosy”.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he was sorry and was “really embarrassed” by the “ridiculous” advice emailed to customers on “simple and cost-effective ways to keep warm this winter”.

“We're a large company and somebody had a bad day,” he said.

The guidance has since been removed from the website.

Checkout.com becomes UK’s most valuable fintech at $40bn

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 13th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

London-based firm founded by Swiss surfing enthusiast Guillaume Pousaz overtakes worth of rival Revolut

A London-based online payments company has become Britain’s most valuable private fintech business after its latest fundraising valued it at $40bn (£29bn), handing its surf-loving founder a paper fortune of about $20bn.

Checkout.com, which simplifies payment processes for businesses, achieved the valuation after a $1bn investment that puts the stake of its 40-year-old chief executive, Guillaume Pousaz, at about $20bn.

Pousaz, a Swiss national, dropped out of university in 2005 when his father became ill with cancer and he then moved to California to pursue his love of surfing. It was only after running out of cash that he took up a job with International Payment Consultants, a payments processing firm, in 2006.

“I didn’t choose payments – payments chose me,” Pousaz told the Sunday Times in 2020. “I only took that job so I could go surfing.” A year after joining IPC, Pousaz left to launch his first startup. He founded Checkout.com in 2012.

Fintech, a catch-all term for financial services firms operating in the digital sphere, has become a key driver of the UK’s success as a tech investment hub, featuring companies such as Revolut and Wise.

Venture capitalists, who invest in new companies by taking stakes in them, invested a record £29.4bn in the UK tech sector last year. The number of unicorns – startup firms worth more than $1bn (£750m) – reached a high of 29 in 2021 including Depop, the British secondhand fashion resale app sold to US online marketplace Etsy for $1.6bn this year, and the car-selling platform Motorway.

Checkout.com, which is now worth more than the British fintech peer Revolut, valued at $33bn, said it would use the funding to launch products and further its involvement in the Web3 space. Web3 is the term used for the next chapter in digital innovation (after Web 2.0 was coined for social media companies) and centres on technological breakthroughs such as blockchain; a digital, decentralised ledger that underpins the cryptocurrency market.

Investors in the latest Checkout.com funding round include US investment firms and the Qatar Investment Authority, the Arab state’s sovereign wealth fund. Checkout.com processes payments for clients including Netflix, cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase and Pizza Hut.

The fundraising comes a year after the London-based company’s previous round of investment, in which it raised $450m and achieved a valuation of $15bn.

Change in how consumers use financial services and a pandemic-driven rise in use of digital services has drawn investor interest in fintechs, prompting global investors to ramp up bets on the sector.

By Dan Milmo Global technology editor

Shiba Inu Surges 16% After Rumors of Robinhood Listing

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 13th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –
How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

Memecoins were among the highest gainers in the past 24 hours as the overall crypto markets surged.

Shiba inu (SHIB) jumped 16% on Thursday, leading the gains among major cryptocurrencies, amid rumors of a listing on Robinhood.

Shiba inu prices reached as high as $0.00003 during early Asian hours on Thursday before a selloff. Shiba inu is the thirteenth-largest cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $17 billion.

Price-charts suggest the move followed a bounce from resistance-turned-support levels of $0.000027. However, the tokens remains in a broader downtrend, as prices have dropped 62% since reaching all-time highs of $0.00008 in October 2021.

The price bump came shortly after rumors of a listing on Robinhood did the rounds on Twitter.

“Shiba Inu Robinhood listing said to come as early as Feb,” a tweet by business news handle ZeroHedge read. Robinhood did not return requests for comment.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev previously denied plans for listing shiba inu on the influential stock trading application in October 2021. “It goes back to safety first, right. So we’re not generally going to be the first to add any new asset. We want to make sure that it goes through a stringent set of criteria,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Additionally, shiba inu was listed on Bitso, one of Mexico’s largest crypto exchanges by trading volumes. However, the announcement did little to affect prices, trading data shows.

The bump in shiba inu saw other memecoins, such as dogecoin (DOGE), gaining as much as 14% in the past 24 hours. Baby doge and floki inu, two meme tokens issued on the Binance Smart Chain, surged 10% in the same period.

The surge in shiba inu came on the back of a broader recovery in crypto markets after nearly a week of declines. Bitcoin rose to the $43,000 level on Wednesday as Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the state would take measures to curb inflation in the coming months, as reported.

By  Shaurya MalwaJ

Lidl reiterate pledge to offer lowest grocery prices in the market

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 11th Jan 2022) London, UK —

The British arm of German discount supermarket group Lidl on Tuesday reported a rise in sales over the Christmas period and reiterated its pledge to offer the lowest prices in the market, a day after rival Aldi made the same promise.

British consumers are about to be squeezed on spending, with energy prices, food inflation, mortgage costs and taxes all heading higher in 2022, leaving retailers looking at a much tougher environment. 

“As inflation continues to rise, I want to reassure each and every one of our customers that we remain resolute in our promise of being the destination for the lowest grocery prices in the market,” said Lidl GB chief executive Christian Hartnagel.

On Monday, his counterpart at Aldi UK & Ireland, Giles Hurley, said his firm “will always offer the lowest prices for groceries, no matter what.”

The German discounters' price pledges have caused concern amongst some analysts.

“Are we entering a stage now where deep discounting in certain areas of the market represents a form of market failure due to the damage into the supply chain, especially farming?” asked Shore Capital analyst Clive Black.

Britain's food retail sector has been transformed in the past decade by the rise of Lidl and Aldi, which have driven down returns at the big four of Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), Morrisons and Asda.

Lidl GB is owned by Germany's Schwarz group and is Britain's seventh largest supermarket group, with a market share of 6.3%.

Its sales rose 2.6% year-on-year in the four weeks to Dec. 26 and were up 21% against 2019, before the pandemic impacted trading.

On Monday, Aldi UK & Ireland reported a 0.4% rise in December sales. 

Lidl GB said Christmas pudding sales jumped 23% year-on-year and sparking wine sales 24%. It also highlighted strong demand for Lidl Christmas jumpers and scented candles.

Unlike its bigger rivals, but in common with Aldi, Lidl is still opening new stores but does not have a significant online business.

Last November, Lidl GB set a new target of reaching 1,100 stores by 2025. It currently trades from over 890. 

Rolls-Royce protected from global chip shortage by parent firm BMW

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 10th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös says its sales figures are the best in its 117-year history thanks to being protected from the global chip shortage by parent firm BMW.

The chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (RRMC) has told Sky News the company expects to continue to be immune from the global shortage of semiconductors holding back the wider car industry.

Torsten Müller-Ötvös was speaking after the BMW-owned but Goodwood-based luxury marque revealed a record set of annual sales figures for 2021 – the best in its 117-year history.

RRMC said it delivered 5,586 vehicles to clients around the world, up 49% on the same period in 2020.

In his interview on Ian King Live, the CEO agreed that BMW had prioritised Rolls in terms of chip supply.

When asked if that arrangement was to continue during 2022, he  replied: “That remains the case.”

The company's sales data offered nothing in terms of value or profits but Mr Müller-Ötvös said the performance reflected, to some extent, a demand for luxury as the pandemic to date had badly hit international travel and driven up wealth because spending fell so sharply in 2020.

On BMW's aid, he said: “We were able to allocate all the chips we needed for building the cars, to fulfil client demand worldwide and that helped a lot; to be part of what I call a very professional, big group, who helped us to acquire all our chips worldwide.”

RRMC said of its sales: “All Rolls-Royce models performed extremely strongly.

“Growth has been driven principally by Ghost, with demand surging further, following the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October 2021.

“This, together with the continuing pre-eminence of Cullinan and the marque's pinnacle product, Phantom, has ensured order books are full well into the third quarter of 2022.”

By James Sillars

Why Investors Are Excited About the DeFi-zation of GameFi

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Fri, 7th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

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

Splitting the ownership and utility of gaming assets opens huge investment opportunities for GameFi, potentially making game finance bigger than decentralized finance (DeFi). The GameFi sector is young but booming, and this is very exciting for investors. The financial components of GameFi include on-chain leasing solutions, fractionalization, staking, game non-fungible tokens (NFT) dedicated marketplaces, layer 2 solutions for blockchain games and others.

GameFi and DeFi have many similarities but there are also some crucial differences. The DeFi sector has more structure but without any recent major improvements, whereas GameFi is a brand-new sector with lots of rules and standards yet to be set. Moreover, GameFi has less chance of manipulation by crypto whales. It also has a much higher potential to attract non-crypto users into the crypto market, especially in emerging markets, helping with both education and conversion.

The thesis of GameFi sector investment is that it makes sense to invest in whatever makes playing blockchain games more fun, more capital efficient and more trustless. For example: 1) on-chain leasing protocols that separate ownership and the right to use it; 2) game NFT-dedicated on-chain swaps; 3) distributed cloud gaming platforms; and 4) layer2 solutions for blockchain games.

This was perhaps best demonstrated this summer, when Andreessen Horowitz – one of the biggest and most storied Silicon Valley venture capital firms – invested $4.6 million in a little-known Philippine GameFi company called YGG. Yield Guild Games was established as a way to finance the use of gaming assets. Essentially it allows users to lease NFTs and then redeem them for fiat money. The heart of the innovation is that it splits the usage and the ownership of gaming assets. In a short time, YGG has grown to be a hugely important part of the GameFi ecosystem.

It also shows how the current GameFi upcycle is different from the DeFi upcycle (2020 through early 2021). During that period, investors were largely focused on investing in lending protocols, decentralized exchanges, synthetic assets and on-chain derivatives – basically the plumbing underpinning the ecosystem of DeFi. The thesis centered on investing in the best technology that would attract the most developers, which in turn would then grow the wider ecosystem.

There are some important platform investment opportunities in the current GameFi tide. GameFi is bringing crypto to the mass market. Many people will have earned their first crypto ever through blockchain games. This means that the potential market size is orders of magnitudes bigger than the previous round. Back then, it was all about crypto natives, with high barriers to entry. This time it’s about non-crypto natives with low barriers to entry.

The potential is much bigger, as the play-to-earn model means that many gamers will receive crypto assets for the first time. The focus will be more on investing into the financial infrastructure of blockchain games rather than the game itself. The key will be to invest in the Fi part of GameFi because a single game’s lifetime could be short, but the Fi is essentially tech infrastructure that will last much longer.

Doing well and doing good

There is a further angle to the GameFi investment opportunity. Many of the early adopters of play-to-earn opportunities are gamers in developing regions of the world, whose normal incomes have been badly hit by the effects of two years of lockdowns. GameFi and play-to-earn are seen as a way to make an income in the virtual world, free from the problems that beset the real world.

YGG is a great example of this. In a blog post this summer, Arianna Simpson, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who invests in crypto, wrote about this opportunity in regard to the investment in YGG. “Right now, there is a largely untapped economic opportunity in emerging markets to provide jobs by building a virtual economy in the digital world,” she wrote. “The way we define a ‘job’ is quickly evolving because of crypto and gaming, and we think we’re just starting to glimpse what’s possible in this realm.”

It’s still early, and that means there are still opportunities to help shape the standards of GameFi, unlike DeFi. As the GameFi ecosystems expand, and more people take part, more value is created. It is a virtuous circle that also has the potential to help alleviate poverty.

By Coindesk Staff

Sir Richard Branson to launch first SPAC on European stock exchange

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 7th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Sir Richard Branson is drawing up plans to list a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange in the coming months, Sky News learns.

Sir Richard Branson is to launch his first European blank cheque company as the Virgin Group tycoon continues to tap public market investors to find takeover targets.

Sky News has learnt that Virgin Group is drawing up detailed plans to list a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in Amsterdam in the coming months.

Sir Richard's business is working with bankers on a listing, which could be announced as soon as the first quarter of 2022, according to insiders.

The news may be interpreted as a snub to the London market given that Virgin Group is based in the UK and that British regulators have reformed listing rules to make it easier to pursue SPAC deals in London.

One source said the Amsterdam-listed vehicle would probably seek to raise an initial sum of around €200m, although the final details have yet to be determined.

SPACs, which are listed pools of blind capital raised from investors to pursue a merger with a private company, have been an engine of global dealmaking activity for the last two years, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of corporate tie-ups.

There have, however, been signs of investor apathy, with many fundraisings struggling and a number of high-profile companies seeing their shares plunge after their SPAC mergers have been completed.

Sir Richard has become a prolific user of SPACs, taking both his space tourism venture Virgin Galactic and commercial satellite operation Virgin Orbit public through mergers with blank cheque companies.

Virgin Orbit began trading late last year, and its chief executive, Dan Hart, will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange later on Friday.

Sir Richard will be absent from the ceremony after disclosing this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Virgin Galactic's soaring valuation has enabled Sir Richard to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to prop up his other travel and leisure businesses.

He has pumped a substantial sum into Virgin Atlantic Airways to help it survive the first two years of the pandemic, with Virgin-branded cruise and health and fitness businesses also requiring additional financial support.

Virgin has also launched two US SPACs of its own, and used them to merge with 23andMe, a consumer research and genetics company, and Grove Collaborative, a manufacturer of sustainable consumer products.

Bankers expect Virgin to launch further blank cheque companies in the US.

A spokeswoman for Virgin declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Next Christmas online sales boosts profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 6th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Retailer records 20% rise on pre-pandemic festive sales despite low stock levels and drop in trade at stores

Next rang up £70m more sales than expected over Christmas as a surge in online orders of party dresses and occasionwear made up for lower trade in stores.

The fashion and homewares chain is the first retailer to report its Christmas trading results, potentially giving an indication of how the high street fared in the biggest sales period of the year.

The group said it now expected to make £822m in annual profits, £22m more than previously hoped for and almost 10% ahead of pre-pandemic levels, in its fifth increase in guidance in less than a year.

In the eight weeks to Christmas Day, Next said its sales rose 20% on 2019 – before the Covid pandemic – despite suffering “materially lower” levels of stocks than it had hoped for while its delivery service had struggled because of labour shortages in its warehouses and distribution networks.Advertisement

“The fact that our sales remained so robust in these circumstances is, we believe, testament to the strength of underlying consumer demand in the period,” the company said.

The group’s strong performance was underpinned by an 85% surge in full-price online sales compared with 2019 at its Label business which sells brands such as Ted Baker, Nike and Mint Velvet. Online sales of Next goods in the UK and overseas were also up by more than 30% in the three months to 25 December while sales in its UK and Irish stores fell 5.4%.

However, Next warned of a “tougher environment” for the year ahead despite assuming no further disruption from the pandemic.

The company said it was unclear how much it had benefited from shoppers spending their savings built up during lockdowns and whether a return to spending on holidays and other social activities would hit sales of non-essential goods such as clothing.

The group also said trade could be affected by rising inflation. Next expects its prices to increase by almost 4% this spring and summer while the price of its autumn ranges would be 6% ahead of last year because of higher freight and manufacturing costs.

The company said that average wages were also set to rise by 5.4% across the group driven by the April increase in the legal minimum wage as well as shortages of warehouse and technology workers.

Richard Lim, the chief executive of Retail Economics, said: “These are mightily impressive results and demonstrate the growing strength of the brand and its agility to operate through the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic. The results shine an optimistic light on the resilience of consumer demand and the effortless transition shoppers now make between buying online and in-store.

“The outlook for 2022 looks more challenging. For many households, this year will be a ‘pinch point’ as the combination of tax hikes and a rise in the cost of living erode incomes.”

Despite the concern about cost rises, Next said it would pay out £205m to shareholders, or 160p per share, in a special dividend at the end of January.

By Sarah Butler

Greggs names Roisin Currie as new chief executive after sales rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 6th Jan 2022) London, UK —

Greggs (GRG.L) retail director Roisin Currie will take over as chief executive in May, the British food-to-go retailer said on Thursday as it reported a rise in fourth-quarter sales despite the spread of Omicron in the run-up to Christmas.

The company, known for its sausage rolls, savoury bakes and sandwiches, said it expected its 2021 profit to be slightly ahead of its previous expectations and that it would be able to pay a special dividend of 30 to 40 million pounds ($54 million).

Greggs said a strong October performance was followed by more challenging conditions as the Omicron coronavirus variant surged in December but like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter as a whole were still up 0.8% from 2019.

Chief Executive Roger Whiteside, who is retiring this year after nine years at the helm, said Greggs now had the playbook for COVID after dealing with the pandemic for two years.

“Our suburban stores started to do better again as people stayed at home, our city centre, office based and mass transport hub areas fell back,” he said. “But we still managed to stay positive.”

Greggs said conditions at the start of 2022 were likely to remain challenging with increased costs also in the mix.

“We've got reasonable visibility of what we're looking at from four to six months forward because we typically buy on a contract,” Whiteside said, adding that the inflationary outlook for the full year would be clearer by March.

Shares in Greggs, which were about 480 pence when Whiteside started as CEO, were trading 1.6% lower at 3,316 in early deals, which was still an increase of 44% over the past 12 months.

Some analysts welcomed the decision to appoint Currie as Whiteside's replacement.

“This looks a solid internal appointment, particularly given her key role in developing the delivery business,” analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note.

Greggs said total sales in 2021 were 1.23 billion pounds, up from 811 million pounds in 2020 and 1.17 billion pounds in 2019.

The company has cash of 198 million pounds, which it said would allow it to open about 150 new stores this year, develop digital channels and extend its trading day.

Whiteside said Omicron was putting pressure on workers at its 2,181 stores but was manageable from a financial perspective and Greggs had brought forward a pay rise for them.

“It is the impact on the people I'm mostly concerned with, rather than the impact on the business per se,” he said.

By Paul Sandle

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