Shell makes ‘obscene’ $40bn profit largest in UK corporate history


(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 2nd Feb 2023) London, Uk – –

Sunak government under pressure after gas prices fuel ‘outrageous’ doubling of profits at Anglo-Dutch group

The government is under pressure to rethink its windfall tax on energy companies after Shell reported one of the largest profits in UK corporate history, with the surge in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing the oil company’s annual takings to $40bn (£32bn).


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Opposition parties and trade unions described Shell’s bonanza, the biggest in its 115 year history, as “outrageous” and accused Rishi Sunak of letting fossil fuel companies “off the hook”.

On Thursday, the UK headquartered company confirmed it had paid just $134m in British windfall taxes during 2022. It paid $520m under the EU “solidarity contribution” – Europe’s equivalent of the windfall tax.

The company was criticised in October when it said it had paid no UK windfall tax up to that point, but on Wednesday said it was likely to contribute $500m in 2023.

Boosted by record oil and gas prices, Shell posted profits of almost $10bn in the final quarter of last year, taking its annual adjusted profits to $40bn in 2022, far outstripping the $19bn notched up in 2021.

The performance puts Shell on a par with the £38bn British American Tobacco made in 2017, but still behind the £60bn Vodaphone achieved in 2014, when the telecoms group sold its US business.

The shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, said: “As the British people face an energy price hike of 40% in April, the government is letting the fossil fuel companies making bumper profits off the hook with their refusal to implement a proper windfall tax.”

Miliband added: “Labour would stop the energy price cap going up in April, because it is only right that the companies making unexpected windfall profits from the proceeds of war pay their fair share.”

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, said: “No company should be making these kind of outrageous profits out of [Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

“Rishi Sunak was warned as chancellor and now as prime minister that we need a proper windfall tax on companies like Shell and he has failed to take action.”

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the TUC, said the profits were “obscene” and “an insult to working families”.

Global Witness alleges just 1.5% of Shell’s capital expenditure has been used to develop genuine renewables.
Shell’s actual spending on renewables is fraction of what it claims, group alleges

The step up in Shell and its competitors’ profits during 2022 prompted the government to introduce a windfall tax on North Sea operators, which was later toughened by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.

Nowak said windfall taxes should be increased. “As households up and down Britain struggle to pay their bills and make ends meet, Shell are enjoying a cash bonanza. The time for excuses is over. The government must impose a larger windfall tax on energy companies. Billions are being left on the table,” he said.

“Instead of holding down the pay of paramedics, teachers, firefighters and millions of other hard-pressed public servants, ministers should be making big 0il and gas pay their fair share.”

Shell has benefited from a surge in oil prices caused by embargoes on Russian oil imposed since the invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s decision to cut off gas supplies to continental Europe.

Analysts had expected Shell’s new chief executive, Wael Sawan, to report adjusted earnings of $7.97bn for the fourth quarter and $38.17bn for the year, in his City debut. It represented an increase on the $9.45bn registered in the third quarter, aided by a bounceback in earnings from its liquefied natural gas trading arm.

Sunak’s official spokesperson said No 10 was aware the public would view Shell’s profits as “extraordinary” high, which was why the government had introduced its windfall tax comparable to those seen in other countries, he added.

“We think it [the profits levy] strikes a balance between funding cost of living support while encouraging investment in order to bolster the UK’s energy security,” they said. “We have made it clear that we want to encourage reinvestment of the sector’s profits to support the economy, jobs and energy security, and that’s why the more investment a firm makes into the UK the less tax they will pay.”

Sawan announced a boost in payouts to shareholders, with a 15% increase in the final quarter dividend to $6.3bn.

He also announced $4bn of share buybacks over the next three months. In total, Shell distributed $26bn to shareholders in 2022.

Asked how it felt to make huge profits while people struggle with their bills, Sawan said: “These are incredibly difficult times, we’re seeing inflation rampant around the world … When I go back home to Lebanon some of the challenges I see people going through, sometimes without electricity for a full day, are the the challenges that we see in many, many parts of the world. The answer to that is to make sure we provide energy to the world.”

Shell has also been accused of overstating how much it is spending on renewable energy, and faced calls this week to be investigated and potentially fined by the US financial regulator.

Shell invested $25bn overall during 2022, up from $20bn in 2021. The firm spent $12bn on oil and gas projects, compared with $3.5bn on its renewable energy division.

The Greenpeace UK senior climate justice campaigner Elena Polisano said: “World leaders have just set up a new fund to pay for the loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. Now they should force historical mega-polluters like Shell to pay into it.”


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Jonathan Noronha-Gant, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, said: “People have every right to be outraged at the enormous profits that Shell has made in the midst of an energy affordability crisis that has pushed millions of families into poverty.”

The company, which has a stock market valuation of $165bn, last week embarked on a review of its division supplying energy and broadband to homes in Europe, putting 2,000 UK jobs at risk.

 

Alex Lawson

Tesco buys intellectual property of Paperchase but not shops, with 800 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 31st Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Stationery retailer collapses into administration after rising costs and disappointing sales

Tesco has bought the brand and intellectual property of Paperchase, after the struggling stationery retailer collapsed into administration.

However, the deal does not include Tesco taking on the brand’s 106 stores across the UK and Ireland, leaving the future uncertain for Paperchase’s 820 employees.


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The deal follows a difficult few months for Paperchase after rising costs and disappointing sales.

“Paperchase is a well-loved brand by so many, and we’re proud to bring it to Tesco stores across the UK,” said Jan Marchant, the managing director of home and clothing at Tesco.

Administrators from the insolvency firm Begbies Traynor have been appointed to handle Paperchase’s operations in the short term. They said the company’s stores would remain open and continue to trade as normal.

Paperchase will continue to honour gift cards but the joint administrators are urging customers to redeem them as soon as possible, and within the next two weeks.

The chain’s collapse into administration on Tuesday comes just months after a previous buyout.

A group led by Steve Curtis, the chair of the fashion chain Jigsaw, bought Paperchase in August.

Earlier in January, the greetings cards and gifts retailer said it required additional funding and had asked Begbies Traynor and PwC to advise it on strategic options, including the sale of the business.

However Begbies Traynor said no viable offers were received for the company on a going concern basis.

Paperchase was previously rescued from administration in January 2021 by Permira Debt Managers, one of its lenders.

In 2019, Paperchase’s then owner, Primary Capital, used an insolvency process known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to cull unprofitable stores and cut rents.

Tesco’s purchase of Paperchase on Tuesday came about through a pre-pack administration.

Britain’s biggest grocer said it came at a time when it was expanding its brand offering in its stores, and said it would share more details with customers shortly.

Paperchase was founded in 1968 by the art students Judith Cash and Eddie Pond, when they opened a store in Kensington in London. Since then it has changed hands numerous times, with WH Smith and the now defunct US books retailer Borders among previous owners. However, retail analysts said the emergence of Tesco as a buyer was unexpected.


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The collapse of Paperchase was “not altogether a surprise”, said Stephen Springham, the head of retail research at the estate agents Knight Frank, “given its previous CVA history and its pass-the-parcel history of private equity ownership”.

The announcement of Tesco’s purchase of Paperchase came on the day the supermarket chain announced a jobs shake-up affecting 2,100 roles, after a decision to close its remaining meat, fish and hot deli counters in its larger stores. Many of those affected will have the option of moving to lower-paid roles.

By Joanna Partridge

UK government unlawfully passing £19 bln discriminatory pension reforms bill onto workers, says unions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 31st Jan, 2023) London, UK —

Two British trade unions challenging changes to public sector pensions told a London court on Tuesday that the government was unlawfully passing the 19-billion-pound ($23 billion) cost of discriminatory pension reforms onto workers.

The Fire Brigades Union and the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents 160,000 doctors and medical students, say Britain’s finance ministry is effectively making members of newer pension schemes foot the bill for its own mistake.


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But the government says it was faced with a “basic choice” between asking public sector employees – and ultimately the taxpayer – or pension scheme members to bear the cost.

The union’s case follows a 2018 court ruling that the exclusion of younger staff from more beneficial “legacy” pension schemes, as part of wider government reforms, amounted to unlawful age discrimination.

The decision landed the government with a bill estimated at between 17 and 19 billion pounds in additional future pension payments to around three million public sector workers.

In 2021, the government included that bill in the valuation of public sector pension schemes – without which, the unions say, scheme members’ benefits would have increased or their contributions would have been reduced.

The unions’ lawyers told London’s High Court the decision was unlawful as it was taken without assessing other options.

They also argue that it is discriminatory against younger, female and ethnic minority members, who are more likely to be members of newer and less beneficial pension schemes.

Fenella Morris, representing the BMA, said in court documents that the government “could and should” have met the cost differently.


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However, the government argued that any potential discrimination was indirect and justified, and that it considered a “variety of options” to deal with the cost caused by the 2018 ruling.

Its lawyer Nigel Giffin said in court documents: “The basic choice was whether that cost should fall on public sector employers … or whether it should be met by withholding from scheme members the improvements to benefits or reductions in employee contributions which they might otherwise have enjoyed.”

Reporting by Sam Tobin

 

HS2 may not run through to central London – report

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 27th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The HS2 rail line is a “specific priority”, the chancellor has insisted, following a report the scheme may no longer reach central London.

The Sun reported that rising inflation and construction costs mean HS2 trains may terminate in the suburbs of west London instead.

The paper said bosses were considering pushing back its Euston terminus to 2038, or scrapping it completely.

The government has not denied the report.


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The move would mean trains would run from a new hub at Old Oak Common, about 8km (five miles) away, and commuters would have to use the Elizabeth Line or Tube to travel to central London.

HS2, or High Speed 2, was originally intended to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

The leg to Leeds has since been scrapped.

In a speech setting out his long-term vision for economic growth, Jeremy Hunt said HS2 was a “specific priority for me in the Autumn statement”.

He said the government was “absolutely committed to showing that we can deliver big important infrastructure projects”.

“That is why in the Autumn Statement we protected key projects like HS2, East West Rail and core Northern Powerhouse Rail”, he said.

The Sun also reported that a two to five-year delay to the entire project is also being considered.

Speaking at Bloomberg's European HQ, in London, Mr Hunt said he was “incredibly proud that under a Conservative government for the first time we have shovels in the ground”.

“But large infrastructure projects still take too long and if we are to deliver our ambitions we need to find a way to speed them up.”

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Work on the first phase of the project – between London and Birmingham – is well under way and that part of the line is due to open by 2033.

But the project has faced delays and mounting concerns over the exact route and its potential environmental impact.

Pressure group Stop HS2 said it believed the project would increase carbon emissions and damage areas of natural beauty. Protesters, including veteran eco-protester Swampy, have built tunnels in an attempt to disrupt HS2 construction.

The estimated cost of HS2 was between £72bn and £98bn at 2019 prices. A budget of £55.7bn for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 – but this was made before the Leeds leg was cancelled.

A report published last October found it was unlikely that the £40.3bn target for the first section of the line would be met.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has said HS2 was “experiencing high levels of inflation” and it was working with “suppliers actively to mitigate inflationary increases”.

Research from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Office for National Statistics published in September showed that construction materials across the UK experienced inflation of 18% from August 2021 to August 2022.

Mr Harper said inflation was not affecting the “overall affordability of HS2 in real terms” but it was “creating pressures against its existing annual funding settlements”.

Henri Murison, CEO of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said that if the HS2 rail link did not go to Euston, this would have “a number of significant disadvantages”.

“Because actually people in the north of England, people in Birmingham will want to get access to central London – that's what they currently have through the normal mainline network”, he told the BBC.

However, Lord Tony Berkeley questioned whether more services to London were needed and said money would be better spent on local and regional services.

The Labour peer, who in 2019 was deputy chairman of a government review into HS2, said: “My view is that we should aim for the regions – the north and the midlands – to have a commuter service as good as in the south east.”

The head of the National Infrastructure Commission told BBC News in November that cutting back on the HS2 rail route would be “silly”.


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“I think you've got massive investment, which has happened in Birmingham ahead of HS2 – it just shows what can happen. And Manchester of course equally is now seeing investment off the back of HS2. I think that would be a very strange decision,” he said.

A senior figure at the Department for Transport warned last week that “quite tough decisions” could lie ahead for the scheme.

By Aoife Walsh

 

 

Ethereum Scaling Tool Polygon’s MATIC Token Surges Amid Spike in Transactions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Fri, 27th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

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The token is up 48% this year. The blockchain has the second most daily active users, according to one research group.

Ethereum scaling tool Polygon’sMATIC token has surged 12% over the past 24 hours, continuing its strong momentum this year.

MATIC was recently trading at $1.11. It is up 48% since Dec. 31 amid a spike in daily transactions that have made the blockchain the second largest for daily active users (DAU), according to data from Token Terminal.


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The rally comes amid a January upturn in the crypto market that has seen Aptos’ APT token skyrocketing more than 400%, Fantom’s FTM jumping about 145% and bitcoin rising nearly 40%.

The Polygon platform ranks second behind Binance’s BNB chain recording 344,000 DAU’s, ahead of Solana and Ethereum.

Polygon’s announced partnerships and launches over the last month that have increased DAUs may also be behind the price increase, along with anticipation of Polygon’s mainnet launch of its zero knowledge-EVM. The mainnet launch is scheduled for early 2023. Its zk-EVM public testnet went live in October.

“We’re starting to see users and interest come back to these kinds of networks and seeing activity again,” Charles Storry, head of growth at crypto index platform Phuture, told CoinDesk.

“There’s also a lot of projects that have built on top of Polygon that haven’t released their tokens yet, which will be coming out soon and add to the already increasing activity levels,” Storry added.


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Polygon currently has around $1.1 billion total value locked (TVL) according to data from DeFi Llama, “We are seeing mass TVL increases for riskier projects and early stage applications,” Storry said. “In a bear market investors are more conservative and don't want to take on huge risk, but now prices have picked up a little, they are more open to newer and riskier ecosystems like Polygon.”
“We will see more of that come through as the market continues to pick up.”

By Lyllah Ledesma

Britishvolt ‘collapsed owing £120m’ after a desperate struggle to raise funds

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 26th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Several bids are understood to have been made for assets of failed electric vehicle battery startup

The site in Blyth, Northumberland, where Britishvolt had planned to build a factory to make batteries for electric vehicles.


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The battery startup Britishvolt owed as much as £120m to creditors when it collapsed last week in a major blow to hopes of sustaining the British car industry, it can be revealed.

Creditors are expected to recover a very small proportion of the debts, according to a source with knowledge of the matter, although there are understood to be several bids for the company and its assets. EY, a professional services firm, is handling the administration.

EY is hoping to find a buyer for the remainder of the business – which has 26 staff remaining on its payroll – and the ownership of the site in Northumberland. The deadline for initial offers for the Britishvolt assets was Tuesday evening.

The failure of Britishvolt, after a desperate struggle to raise funds, came after a dismal year for the UK car industry. British factories built only 775,014 cars during 2022, the lowest annual figure since 1956, according to data published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a lobby group.

Production fell 9.8% from 2021, and declined 41% from 2019, before the pandemic. Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) also lost its crown as the biggest UK carmaker by volume to Japan’s Nissan.

The UK car industry has been struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for three years, with output disrupted first by lockdowns, and then by supply chain problems including a severe global shortage of computer chips and interruption to supplies of parts from Ukraine after Russia invaded.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said “2020 was bad, ‘21 was worse, ‘22 was even worse.”

The collapse in output was mainly driven by the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory. Despite the company’s denials, industry analysts said Brexit was likely a major factor in that decision. Hawes said uncertainty over the future of the UK-EU trading relationship would make it harder to attract investment to the UK.

At the same time, the industry is gearing up to move to producing battery-electric vehicles. Britishvolt had been hailed by the former prime minister Boris Johnson as an “electric vehicle battery pioneer”, and was seen – in the absence of many more established rivals – as a flagship project for the government. Attracting battery production was seen as key to retaining automotive industry jobs and the government promised to give Britishvolt £100m in funding if it could meet milestones related to equipment purchases.

Britishvolt had received support from FTSE 100 companies Glencore, Ashtead and abrdn’s subsidiary Tritax. However, it ran out of cash before it could build its factory, amid revelations of profligate spending. Hawes said its collapse was a “disappointment”, if not a surprise.

“Maybe something from the ashes will arise,” he said.

Several companies have expressed a preliminary interest in the company or its assets. Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns JLR, has also considered purchasing the site. DeaLab, a little-known Indonesia-linked private equity firm, put in an offer for the company before it went into administration.

Recharge Industries, an Australian startup, has publicly expressed an interest in buying assets from the administration. The company, run by a 38-year-old former employee of PwC, a professional services firm, is also trying to build a battery factory in Geelong in southern Australia.

Recharge put in its bid after being aided by Ian Botham, the former England cricketer, according to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), which first reported the offer. Lord Botham, who was awarded a peerage by Johnson, is now a UK-Australia trade envoy.


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“The UK is home to the most innovative and exciting companies in the world. It’s fantastic to have an Australian business wanting to invest in UK-Australia trade and investment opportunities,” Botham said in a statement to AFR. Botham was approached for comment.

EY declined to comment and to provide a list of Britishvolt’s creditors until it publishes its administrator’s report in six or seven weeks’ time. EY has said it will not vote in creditor resolutions, after confirming that it is itself one of the smaller creditors after carrying out consultancy work for Britishvolt.

By Jasper Jolly and John Collingridge

 

Rupert Murdoch scrap Fox and News Corp merger

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 25th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Rupert Murdoch has called off a proposal to reunite his broadcasting and publishing media empire.

Mr Murdoch and his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch have announced the decision not to go ahead with the plan because it “is not optimal for shareholders of News Corp and FOX at this time”.


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The idea was suggested last autumn, almost a decade after the two companies split.

The Murdoch family trust owns about 40% of both companies.

A majority of non-Murdoch family members would have had to approve the deal for it to move forward.

In similar press statements issued by both companies, the Murdochs said special committees set up at Fox and News Corp to review the proposal have been dissolved.

Fox Corp owns the cable network Fox News and Fox Broadcasting Network in addition to the American streaming content platform Tubi. News Corp is the parent company of Dow Jones, which owns the Wall Street Journal, news organisations in the UK and Australia, and HarperCollins Publishers.

It is unclear why the 91-year-old media mogul decided not to move ahead with the merger. However, the suggestion reportedly received resistance from several top shareholders.

News Corp is looking to sell its digital real estate assets. According to people close to the discussion, News Corp is in talks to sell Move Inc, which runs Realtor.com in the US, to its rival CoStar Group.


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A company spokesperson would not confirm the discussion. However, he told the BBC that they “continuously evaluates M&A opportunities across a broad range of companies to maximise shareholder value”.

News Corp also owns almost two-thirds of Australia's digital real estate company REA.

By Monica Miller

 

Pub and hotel chain blames train strikes for £4m sales hit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 23rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Fuller, Smith & Turner says its underlying sales growth remains strong when the impact of public transport disruption is stripped out.

A leading pubs and hotels operator has warned investors it is expecting annual earnings to come in below market expectations, claiming that train strikes have taken the gloss off its performance.

Fuller, Smith & Turner (FS&T) estimated it had lost £4m in sales due to the strike action since last autumn – denting its momentum despite the continued challenge from the cost of living crisis.


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“Sales for the four-week Christmas and New Year period increased by 38% against a trading period last year that was impacted by COVID restrictions and work from home guidance”, the company said.

“Due to the impact of the train strikes, our sales compared to the same four weeks in 2019 have declined by 5%.

“Since the start of October, we estimate that industrial action has reduced our sales by some £4m and the consequent impact on profitability means that we now expect to report earnings below market expectations for the full year.”

The update from Fuller's chimes with separate evidence that train strikes have damaged high street sales for both retail and hospitality businesses.

Traffic numbers have consistently shown a slump in visits to town and city centre destinations on days when strikes have taken place.

Read more on Sky News:
Fuller's sells its brewing arm to Asahi of Japan
Lloyds and Halifax to shut 40 branches

Commuters have also been put off by the prospect of disruption on non-strike days immediately following a walkout.

FS&T suggested there was a clear divide.

“The underlying positive sales momentum of the business has continued with like-for-like sales for the 43 weeks to 21 January 2023 up 20% on last year, despite the challenging consumer backdrop.

“In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, our like-for-like sales for the 43 weeks are at 97% against the same period in FY (full year) 2020.”

Chief executive Simon Emeny added: “We are encouraged by our underlying sales performance.


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“While it is frustrating that the train strikes have set back our reported sales and earnings, it is reassuring that we are achieving our anticipated sales trajectory in periods unaffected by strikes.

“While ongoing strike action will dampen sales, demand from customers remains good and we are optimistic that 2023 will deliver further sales growth.”

Shares opened more than 6% down.

By James Sillars

AstraZeneca boss says Technology can help the NHS

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 23rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The chairman of Covid vaccine giant AstraZeneca has said that investment in technology can help the NHS cut costs.

Leif Johansson said more spending on areas such as artificial intelligence and screening could prevent illness and stop people going to hospital.

The NHS is under severe pressure, with A&E waits at record levels and strike action exacerbating ambulance delays.


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Mr Johansson said about 97% of healthcare costs come from “when people present at the hospital”.

He said only the remaining 3% is made up of spending on vaccination, early detection or screening.

Mr Johansson told the BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “If we can get into an investment mode in health for screening or prevention or early diagnostics on health and see that as an investment to reduce the cost of sickness then I think we have a much better model over time that would serve us well.”

Commenting on the UK, he said: “All countries have different systems and the NHS is one which we have learned to live with and I think the Brits, in general, are quite appreciative about it.”

He said he was not talking about “breaking any healthcare systems down”. Rather, he said, “we should embrace technology and science”.

Mr Johansson said that artificial intelligence, or AI, could be used to diagnose lung cancer through X-rays by “just running them through software”. Or technology could be used to screen diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

“All of that can be done within the institution of the NHS and would still have a very beneficial impact,” he said.

The NHS is facing more industrial action on Monday when ambulance workers in some parts of England and Wales, who are members of the Unite union, go out on strike in a dispute over pay.

There are further strikes planned by ambulance workers and nurses later this month and in February.

Following the UK's exit from the European Union, Mr Johansson had expressed concern about whether AstraZeneca would continue investing in the country.

But he now says that the UK has the opportunity to innovate in technology for the healthcare sector outside of European regulations.

“The UK already has a very, very good life science sector academically but also industrially with a couple of very large players, ourselves included.

“Anything that we can do in the UK would be beneficial for the country on a broader aspect than only using it in the UK.”


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Mr Johansson will step down as non-executive chairman of AstraZeneca in April.

He will be replaced by Michel Demaré, currently a non-executive director at the pharmaceutical company who holds similar roles at Vodafone among others.

By Dearbail Jordan & Faisal Islam

 

Shell to spend $450m on carbon offsetting on growing fears of “phantom credits”


(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 19th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

British multinational to spend huge sums on schemes that do not bring genuine carbon reductions, analysis shows

More than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest provider are ‘worthless’
Greenwashing or a net zero necessity? Scientists on carbon offsetting
Carbon offsets flawed but we are in a climate emergency

The fossil fuel firm Shell has set aside more than $450m (£367m) to invest in carbon offsetting projects, and plans to buy the equivalent of half the current market for nature offsets every year, the Guardian can reveal.


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But a joint investigation by the Guardian, Die Zeit and Source Material into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn voluntary offsets market, has found, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, that more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.

Shell, one of the five largest oil companies in the world, has said it plans to ramp up spending on measures to counterbalance its polluting activities in an effort to decarbonise.

Its strategy is to have a “philosophy of avoid, reduce and only then mitigate”, in theory putting nature-based carbon credits at the back of the queue in its efforts to decarbonise.

But it appears that the company has, in fact, put offsetting at the heart of its climate strategy. The scale of Shell’s plans is striking, with a target of using nature-based solutions (NBS) – its term for carbon offsetting projects – to “mitigate emissions of around 120m metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) per year by 2030”. That figure is roughly half the size of the current entire annual market for nature offsets, which is about 227.7m MtC02e.

Shell has set targets to reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions by at least 27m tonnes, from 68m in 2021 to 41m in 2030, through a number of strategies including the use of renewable power and improvements in efficiency. The company expects NBS to account for between 2m and 7m tonnes of this reduction, underlining its importance to Shell’s decarbonisation plans.

In 2020, Shell invested about $90m in nature-based projects and bought an Australian company that works on developing and monitoring carbon sequestration projects. The following year, Shell announced ambitions to invest about $100m a year in nature-based projects, although it said these plans were being slowed by the Covid-19 outbreak. That year, it allocated more than $480m to various projects – more than $456m of it for NBS projects – to be deployed across the length of the contracts.

The company has also referred to offsetting as part of its carbon-reduction strategy in its appeal against the landmark judgment by a Dutch court last year that Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030.

And it has been intimately involved in the creation of the carbon market, with staff sitting in key advisory posts. At least three Shell staff sit on advisory groups for Verra, a US non-profit that operates the world’s leading carbon standard.

Verra’s former director of programmes is a carbon offsetting manager at Shell, while the oil major’s former head of nature-based solutions has just co-founded a new carbon credits rating agency that helps companies find supposedly high-quality credits with a Verra advisory group member.

Global carbon offsetting markets have grown rapidly, with many companies turning to them as part of their net zero plans and emphasising the benefits they can offer. Mark Carney, the ex-governor of the Bank of England, headed a plan to make offsets work, describing them as a way of helping companies get to net zero and “an incredibly important market”, although cautioning that they could not be “a silver bullet that removes responsibility from anyone for reducing absolute emissions”.

But there have also been significant concerns raised about whether all offsets really work. The Guardian investigation analysed the findings of three scientific studies that used satellite images to check the results of a number of forest offsetting projects, known as Redd+ schemes, and found that, based on the results of two of the studies, about 94% of the credits the projects produced should not have been approved.

Verra strongly disputes the findings and argues that the methodology used by the scientists means that the results are incorrect. They also point out that their work since 2009 has allowed billions of dollars to be channelled to the vital work of preserving forests.

A Shell spokesperson told the Guardian: “As part of our efforts to become a net-zero energy business by 2050, we are investing billions of dollars in lower-carbon energy, including investments in low-carbon fuels, renewable power and hydrogen.

“Where we use carbon credits, it is in line with our philosophy of avoid, reduce and only then mitigate emissions. They can help protect or restore natural ecosystems, and offer a near-term solution for addressing emissions that cannot be immediately abated. The carbon credits Shell uses and invests in are independently verified by third parties. We are working in collaboration with government, business and civil society to help strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of the carbon market.”

The findings of the investigation will raise serious questions for Shell, and for many corporations that are counting on rainforest-based carbon offsets as part of their plan for reducing their emissions. As businesses race to declare their plans for reaching net zero, carbon offsets have been a critical part of their plans, and the market has grown exponentially.

Lavazza, for example, says its coffee pods are carbon neutral using one project in Peru that stopped no deforestation, according to the analysis. Leon used the same scheme to claim its burgers were carbon neutral; the housebuilder Berkeley Group used it to say it was the UK’s first carbon-positive builder; and easyJet used it for carbon-neutral flying until changing its policy.

Gucci, BHP, Salesforce.com and Pearl Jam all used offsets from another Peruvian scheme that only avoided around a 10th of the emissions it was claimed, according to the analysis. Disney used credits from a Cambodian scheme that was about nine times less effective than claimed.

Boeing bought credits from a Colombian project estimated tostop no deforestation for its net-zero manufacturing claim, according to the studies, and smaller companies have also bought the offsets, including a UK tipi rental company and a financial services firm.

When asked to comment Gucci, Pearl Jam, BHP, Berkeley Groupand Salesforce did not comment, while Lavazza said it bought credits that were certified by Verra, “a world’s leading certification organisation”, as part of the coffee products company’s “serious, concrete and diligent commitment to reduce” its carbon footprint. It plans to look more closely into the project.


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The fast food chain Leon no longer buys carbon offsets from one of the projects in the studies, as part of its mission to maximise its positive impact. EasyJet has moved away from carbon offsetting to focus its net zero work on projects such as “funding for the development of new zero-carbon emission aircraft technology”. And Boeing said that although it does buy offsets its reduction strategy is focussed on conserving energy resources and increasing the use of renewals, so that the number of offsets it buys fell by nearly 19% between 2020 and 2021.

Thomas Crowther, professor of ecology at ETH Zürich and co-chair of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration who reviewed the findings of the investigation, told the Guardian: “Limiting deforestation is absolutely essential for achieving our climate and biodiversity targets. But transparency remains a key challenge, and it is critical that we use the best available scientific approaches to ensure the accountability of environmental commitments at scale”

“Companies and citizens need to be able to support projects they can trust. We need to urgently create a system where this is a reality.”

By Alex Lawson and Patrick Greenfield

 

 

Morgan Stanley veteran to become CEO of digital wallet provider HyperJar

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 18th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Rob Rooney, who spent more than 30 years at the Wall Street giant, has agreed to take over as CEO of the British fintech start-up, Sky News understands.

A veteran of one of Wall Street's most powerful banks is to take over as the boss of an ambitious British digital wallet provider.


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Sky News understands that Rob Rooney, whose most recent role at Morgan Stanley was heading its technology operations, has agreed to become chief executive of HyperJar.

Sources said his appointment, three months after he joined HyperJar's board as a non-executive director, had been announced to staff and investors on Wednesday morning.

Mr Rooney's appointment is a coup for the start-up, which was founded in 2016 and claims to have 500,000 customers.

The former Morgan Stanley executive invested in the business in a previous funding round.

HyperJar says it helps people to plan their financial journey from depositing money to spending it.

Customers organise their money in what the company calls “digital jam jars”, and are able to earn rewards which give them access to partner brands such as Boden and Costa Coffee.


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As part of a management reshuffle triggered by Mr Rooney's appointment, the company's founders – Paul Rolles and Mat Megens – will hold the respective titles of architect, business and architect, consumer.

Scott Davies, a HyperJar board member since 2019, has become the company's chairman.

HyperJar declined to comment.

 

Will Flippy The Robot Be The New Face Of Fast Food?

Source: CNBC

This robot named Flippy runs the fry station at a White Castle outside of Chicago. With a mechanical arm and using computer vision technology Flippy can cook everything from french fries and onion rings to cheese sticks. White Castle said it plans to add 100 Flippy’s to its kitchens’ nationwide. Up to 82% of restaurant positions could, to some extent, be replaced by robots. Automation could save U.S. fast food restaurants over $12 billion in annual wages. And restaurants are also struggling to find workers. American restaurants are down more than 560,000 jobs or about 4.6% of its workforce from their pre-pandemic levels. So what impact will robots have on the fast food industry and the livelihood of its workers? CNBC got a behind the scenes look at restaurant robot maker Miso Robotics to find out.

 

Goldman Sachs to cut 3,200 jobs as part of their biggest restructuring efforts

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 11th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Employees of the US-based multinational financial services company await their fate as the investment bank embarks on its biggest cost-cutting programme since the global financial crash.


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Up to 3,200 jobs are to go at Goldman Sachs as part of the biggest restructuring efforts at the company since the global financial crash.

The US-based multinational financial services company and investment bank is embarking on a series of cost-saving measures after the deal making and market boom of the COVID-19 pandemic dried up and net profit dropped 44% in the first nine months of this financial year.

It is understood job cuts will be made to the company's global workforce with UK staff to be impacted as a result.

More than 6,000 staff are employed by Goldman Sachs in the UK.

Reports say the majority of employees are to hear of their fates from Wednesday and that more than a third of cuts are likely to be from core trading and banking units.

The job losses are to be equivalent to about 6% of the 49,100 total work force recorded at the end of September.

Earnings for the final quarter of the year are to be published next Tuesday with analysts forecasting earnings per share to have fallen around 8% during the three-month period compared to a year earlier.

The company recruited extensively during the pandemic years and in 2020 paused its routine firing of the least productive employees.

The uncertain global financial outlook is also behind the move to cut the workforce as is the slowdown in business operations and a costly foray into consumer banking.

Staff had been braced for job losses following the end of year message from the Goldman Sachs chief executive.


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“There are a variety of factors impacting the business landscape, including tightening monetary conditions that are slowing down economic activity,” David Solomon said in an audio message to staff in late December.

Goldman Sachs has not commented on the reports.

 

 

CES 2023: 5G will bring high-end gaming ‘to the masses’, says Razer boss

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 6th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Gaming is not usually a huge focus at CES, but this year the world's biggest consumer electronics event has seen several announcements – including from industry heavyweights Sony and Razer.

5G mobile internet will “bring PC gaming to the masses”, according to one of the industry's most influential chief executives.

Min-Liang Tang, co-founder and chief executive of hardware giant Razer, told Sky News he believes the superfast connectivity standard will “expand the market significantly” – and not just for the likes of Microsoft and Sony.


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Both are heavily invested in cloud gaming on their Xbox and PlayStation platforms, respectively, but Mr Tang says games usually reserved for high-end gaming computers would soon be ubiquitous on smartphones.

“It's one of the biggest innovations out there for gaming,” he told Ian King Live.

“It puts high-powered gaming into the hands of low powered devices through cloud gaming. That's what 5G really promises to bring to all gamers everywhere.”

The comments come on the day of Razer's presentation at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the biggest tech show in the world.

This year, the company unveiled its new Razer Edge, the first Android handheld gaming tablet on the market. The device is capable of playing games locally on the device, or streaming them remotely via 5G.

But Mr Tang predicted that console gaming would also “do incredibly well” out of 5G, even though its rollout has left Britons underwhelmed so far.

With the advent of faster internet, game streaming will likely become increasingly appealing even to those who use premium consoles like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.

Unlike streaming films and TV via services like Netflix, streaming games demands much faster speeds, as any latency between pressing a button and the action on-screen can ruin the experience.

Gaming ‘through the roof' despite economic pressures

Billionaire Mr Tang told Sky News that, despite inflationary pressures and economic turbulence leading to “a bit of pullback” in customer spending, the video game industry was still growing at pace.

“Gaming is already one of the biggest industries from the entertainment perspective,” he said, adding that 5G was “going to make it much bigger”.


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“It's become the primary form of entertainment for kids and young adults out there.

“User activity is still through the roof, and we do see growth going forward for the industry.”

Razer unveiled numerous other products at CES, including the Leviathon V2 Pro soundbar, which uses artificial intelligence and a camera to track someone's position and deliver optimal sound.

Other gaming announcements at the show include an accessibility controller from Sony, designed to help disabled players enjoy games on the PlayStation 5.

Shiba Inu-Themed BONK Tokens Are Yielding Nearly 1,000% for Solana Liquidity Providers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 5th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

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The meme coin is up over 150% in the past 24 hours and have recorded some of the highest trading volumes on Solana-based decentralized exchanges.

A flat market and contagion risks aren’t deterring crypto traders from finding the next major narrative to generate returns, and a meme coin is at the center of that in the Solana (SOL) ecosystem.


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Bonk, a Shiba Inu-themed token that was issued on Dec. 25, has returned 2,220% to traders in the past week, with a 150% rise in the past 24 hours alone. The token was airdropped to Solana NFT (non-fungible token) communities and creators, which led to quick hype and trading volumes for the token, as CoinDesk reported Tuesday.

Early investors aren’t the only ones gaining, however. Liquidity pools on Solana-based decentralized exchanges (DEXs) such as Orca have attracted over $20 million in volume for trading pairs involving BONK – cumulatively netting thousands of dollars in fees for liquidity providers.

Liquidity providers are investors who stake their cryptocurrency tokens on DEXs to earn transaction fees, usually in the form of token rewards.

Data from Orca shows the BONK/SOL pair has conducted over $14 million in trading volume, while the BONK/USD coin pair saw over $6.2 million. Both pools are paying out nearly 1% hourly to liquidity providers, or over 24% each day.

The metrics made bonk the most traded token on Orca, a popular Solana DEX, with trading volumes higher than even solana, usually the most popular trading pair with USDC.

As such, the yields are likely to be short-lived if the demand and hype for BONK slows down in the coming weeks and traders take profits.


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Despite being fashioned as a meme coin, Bonk tokens are seeing steady adoption in the Solana ecosystem. Several Solana projects have already integrated Bonk tokens for use as payments for listed NFTs, and some introduced “burn” mechanisms for NFT-based events. Over 1 billion BONK was burned in the past 24 hours, according to tweets.

Meanwhile, the interest around bonk has likely contributed to the demand for SOL tokens. The native token of the Solana network is up 16% in the past 24 hours, erasing losses from a steep decline last week.

By Shaurya Malwa

 

Wilko secures £40m funding from prolific high street lender Hilco

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 4th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The homewares and gardening products retailer, which employs about 16,000 people, has secured a funding lifeline from the owner of Homebase, Sky News can reveal.

Wilko, the general merchandise retailer, has secured a £40m funding lifeline from one of the high street's most prolific investors.


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Sky News has learnt that the company, which last year warned that it could run out of cash, has obtained a loan from Hilco UK, the owner of Homebase and Cath Kidston.

Details of the loan deal were filed at Companies House late last month, and come amid expectations of a challenging trading environment for retailers in 2023.

Wilko employs roughly 15,000 people and trades across the UK from about 400 stores.

Founded as a hardware store in 1930, it specialises in homewares and garden-related products.

It is one of Britain's biggest family-owned businesses.

Last month, it named Mark Jackson, the boss of Bensons for Beds, as its chief executive.

Declining consumer confidence amid raging inflation has led many retailers to pare back profit expectations for this year, prompting struggling chains to accelerate efforts to strengthen their balance sheets.

Superdry, the fashion retailer, recently secured a loan from Bantry Bay, a specialist lender, while Matalan is close to agreeing a deal to be taken over by a group of its lenders, Sky News revealed last week.


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“Against a backdrop of major supply chain disruptions and significant footfall declines, particularly on the high street, Wilko recognises that it has not been performing to its full potential and is making strategic changes, including accelerating its omni-channel offer to turnaround the business,” the company said in statement confirming Sky News' report of the Hilco deal.

Hilco declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

 

Embattled Cineworld to focus on group sale, denies talks with Odeon owner

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 3rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Investors are, again, warned that their holdings in Cineworld will be severely diluted as the company gives an update on its plans for the cash-strapped business.

Crisis-hit Cineworld has denied claims by the owner of rival Odeon that they have held talks over the sale of cinemas, saying it intends to sell the group as a whole and is yet to begin the process.


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AMC Entertainment said last month that it had backed out of negotiations with Cineworld on the purchase of some sites in Europe and the US.

But Cineworld, which filed for US bankruptcy protection in September to try to restructure its debt and strengthen its balance sheet, said on Tuesday that no such talks had even taken place.

The group said it was going ahead with a marketing process to sell its assets and expected to begin contacting potential buyers later this month.

It forms part of its plans to restructure the group and emerge from bankruptcy in the first three months of this year, in a bid to maximise value for “moviegoers and all other stakeholders”.

The chain, and wider industry, has been plagued with a slow recovery in audience numbers since pandemic lockdowns shuttered cinemas.

Cineworld, however, was also the architect of an own goal.

Aggressive expansion ahead of the public health emergency – including a $3.6bn deal to buy Regal in 2017 – meant it became the world's second-largest chain.

However, the buying spree combined with the COVID revenue hit to batter its finances.

The group said on Tuesday there was “no guarantee of any recovery” for shareholders if it does agree to a sale.

“As previously announced, it is expected that any restructuring or sale transaction agreed with stakeholders will result in a very significant dilution of existing equity interests in Cineworld”, it said in the statement.


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Shares, down 80% over the past six months, plunged a further 20% shortly after the open but later recovered the ground lost earlier in the day.

Russ Mould, AJ Bell's investment director, said of the latest update: “Shareholders have been told on numerous occasions that their investment could be significantly diluted… so the situation is more about getting back pennies in the pound rather than waiting for a big payday.”

By James Sillars

 

Matalan investors close to finalising takeover of UK’s discount retailer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 2nd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

A group of funds including Invesco and Man GLG is close to securing a deal to take control of one of Britain's biggest homewares retailers, Sky News understands.

A group of financial investors which have lent hundreds of millions of pounds to Matalan are close to finalising a deal to take control of one of Britain's biggest homewares retailers.


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Sky News understands that the senior lenders, which include prominent City names such as Invesco and Man GLG, could strike a deal within the next fortnight.

Under a proposal submitted by the syndicate, the funds would inject close to £100m of new funding into Matalan in order to secure its short-term future.

Sources close to the process said the lenders were in talks with Nigel Oddy, the chain's interim chief executive, about the possibility of making the role permanent if they succeed in gaining control of it.

The group of first-lien lenders have been vying to buy Matalan with rival bidders including its founder, John Hargreaves, who is being backed by the feared American investor Elliott Advisers.

Three days before Christmas, Matalan issued an update on the sale process which confirmed it had received bids from several parties.

“The company is currently assessing all the bids and constructive discussions are continuing with interested parties and their advisers,” it said.

“In addition, the ad hoc group of existing First Lien Noteholders represented by Invesco, Man GLG, Napier Park and Tresidor, which now holds over 70% of the First Lien Secured Notes, has reconfirmed its commitment to a recapitalisation if necessary.

It added that it was aiming to complete a transaction before the end of January.

“All transactions under consideration provide for a material reduction of Matalan's debt including the First Lien Secured debt, an extended debt maturity profile and any new funding that may be required,” it said on December 22.

“The stable and sustainable balance sheet will put the company in a position of financial strength, allowing it to execute on its business plan and deliver its growth strategy.”

Matalan, which was founded by Mr Hargreaves in 1985, faces an imminent deadline to refinance £350m in debt.

It recently also took a £60m loan from Bantry Bay – in which Elliott owns a stake – as it sought to strengthen its balance sheet ahead of what threatens to be a prolonged slump in consumer sentiment.

Based in Liverpool, Matalan employs more than 11,000 people and trades from 230 UK stores.

It also operates an e-commerce platform and has more than 50 overseas franchise stores.

The company claims to have 11m customers.

It remains unclear what valuation any sale process may achieve given the state of Britain's retail sector.

Like many of its peers, Matalan found its finances severely strained by the pandemic, prompting the Monaco-based Mr Hargreaves to provide substantial financial support.

In recent months, global inflationary pressures have impaired margins, while supply chain challenges have had an impact on stock availability.

Matalan warned during the summer that its “ability to successfully refinance our debts involves geopolitical, economic and market factors outside the direct control of the business”.

In the autumn, Mr Hargreaves stepped down after a brief return as Matalan's chairman in order to participate in the bidding process.


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The chain recently appointed Paul Copley, a former restructuring partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and experienced retail board member, as the latest in a string of chairmen.

The Hargreaves family is being advised by Lazard, while Teneo is handling the sale and Perella Weinberg Partners is advising the first-lien – or senior – lenders.

None of the parties contacted by Sky News would comment.

By Mark Kleinman

 

Tech trends 2023: Flying taxis and satellite phones

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 2nd Jan  2023) London, Uk – –

At 1:03am on Monday 5 December, the most powerful laser on the planet flashed into life at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, in an experiment that sent shockwaves through the world of physics and beyond.

The laser targeted a fuel capsule, the size of a peppercorn, creating temperatures and pressures which sparked a fusion reaction – the reaction which powers the sun.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) had done such experiments before, but this time the energy that came out of the reaction, was more than the laser power used to trigger it.


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It was a landmark moment for fusion researchers and, while fusion reactors are still a long way from making electricity that we can use, it shows that the physics works.

“We have taken the first tentative steps towards a clean energy source that could revolutionise the world,” said LLNL Director Kim Budil.

The promise of a working fusion reactor is dazzling. It would need relatively small amounts of fuel, would not produce any greenhouse gases and would leave very little of the radioactive waste that makes current nuclear reactors so unpopular.

Fusion Profusion

The success at NIF will spur on the dozens of private companies which one day hope to build a commercial fusion reactor.

One private project in the UK is hoping for a big year in 2023. First Light Fusion, based just outside Oxford, has a novel way of creating fusion conditions.

It fires a small aluminium disc, at speeds of up to 20km per second, at a specially designed target containing the fuel needed for fusion.

On impact that target collapses creating huge pressure waves that can spark a fusion reaction.

Earlier this year, in a huge moment for the company, First Light confirmed that it had achieved fusion using this method.

In 2023 the team will start work on Machine 4, a much bigger reactor, which it hopes will also break the magic barrier in fusion – getting more energy out than was put in.

First Light is in a race with dozens of other firms trying to make fusion happen, but its founder is confident his firm is on the right track.

“I believe 2023 will be the year we make a significant strategic shift, from what has been essentially a very complex, important experiment, to making very real advances towards commercial fusion energy,” says Nick Hawker, founder of First Light Fusion.

Meanwhile, back in the US, another significant announcement in the fusion world should come in early 2023.

The US government will announce which private company will receive $50m (£40m) of funding to build a pilot fusion plant. The goal will be to have a working reactor by the early 2030s.

The future of flying?

Imagine an aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter, but without the noise, expense and emissions.

That's the vision of firms developing so-called eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle) aircraft.

Designed for relatively short journeys and a handful of passengers, dozens of firms around the world are betting there is a market for them.

They argue that the eVTOL aircraft can reduce the cost of flying, as their electric motors are cheaper to run and maintain than helicopter engines.

Added to that, they ague their aircraft are quiet and emissions-free.

Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace is one firm hoping to be a player in this new industry.

Its VX4 took off for the first time earlier this year. For the first flight it was tethered to the ground and only spent ten minutes hovering.

But real progress will come in 2023 with a series of test flights. The aircraft will transition from vertical take-off to forward flight and fly at higher altitudes and faster speeds.

The aim is to get the VX4 certified to carry passengers in 2025.

Vertical Aerospace is racing numerous other eVTOL developers who are also testing aircraft.

Volocopter, based in Germany, plans public flight tests of its VoloCity model next year. It hopes to get the aircraft certified in 2024 and then launch services in Singapore, Paris and Rome.

Also next year, Lilium plans to build the first production version of its eVTOL. Based in Germany, Lilium has tested five prototype aircraft since 2017.

Rather than using rotors like Vertical Aerospace and Volocopter, Lilium uses 30 electric jets that can be tilted in unison to swing between vertical lift and forward flight.

The big hurdle for all these projects is to get certification from aviation regulators – an exacting and expensive process that can take years.

No more notspots?

Even in wealthy countries, there are some areas where people find it impossible to get a signal of a decent strength for their mobile phones.

Add to them the billions of people in the poorest and most remote parts of the planet who have no signal at all, and you have a huge, untapped market.

Texas-based AST SpaceMobile has plans to address that gap in the mobile phone market.

Backed by some of the biggest names in the mobile phone industry, including AT&T and Vodafone, it has been developing technology that would enable a mobile phone to connect directly to a satellite to place calls or use data at 5G speeds.

It currently has a test satellite in low-earth orbit, but in 2023 it plans to launch five more satellites. They will be capable of intermittent coverage with a continuous global service available when 100 satellites are in position – possibly in 2024.

AST will not sell services directly to customers, instead it is working with phone service providers, to offer its satellite coverage as an extra option.

It will be a challenge to Starlink, the satellite broadband service developed by Elon Musk. That service requires a small satellite dish to hook up to the broadband.


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AST hopes that the convenience of being able to connect using just a phone, at a reasonable price, will be a big draw.

“Coverage gaps are very real, and problematic. So this is a very attractive solution and a very big market. And that's why we've got so much support from mobile network operators,” says Scott Wisniewski, from AST SpaceMobile.

 

By Ben Morris

Warren Buffett: How You Should Invest In 2023

Source: MIS

Warren Buffett: How You Should Invest In 2023 – A Life Changing Year For Most People
If we look back to the last 10 to 15 years, the financial markets had an unprecedent growth. Specifically, 10 years after the global financial crisis bottom, the stock market scored one of its best decades in nearly 140 years. Since then, the earnings of the S&P 500 have roughly doubled and the price has more than tripled. Undoubtedly, the major catalyst for this unprecedented growth was cheap money. Because during that period the highest interest rate was 2.5% back in 2019. So, it has been easier and cheaper to access money. And as a result, this made it easier for businesses to expand, investors to make more money, and valuations to grow. By the end of 2019, it was perceived that whatever one buys, it doubles in no time. So, the bubble busted, but this time, it was a pandemic. And finally, the historic decade-long run came to an end, the investors’ enthusiasm started waning, and they started pulling out their money from the stock market. The pandemic led the world into chaos, businesses were shut down, and the financial markets collapsed. The recession was dark and the world of investment was brought to its knees.