Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn of Nasa costs to get back in race to the Moon

( via – – Tue, 27th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn (£1.4bn) of Nasa costs in order to be reconsidered for a key contract to build a Moon landing vehicle.

In April, the space agency awarded the $2.9bn contract to Elon Musk, rejecting a bid from Bezos' company Blue Origin.

The award is for building the landing system that will carry astronauts down to the lunar surface as early as 2024.

Nasa could only award the contract to one company, not two as expected because of a funding shortfall.

The space agency had received only $850m of the $3.3bn it requested from Congress to build the Moon lander.

In a letter to Nasa's administrator Bill Nelson, released on Monday, Mr Bezos wrote: “Blue Origin will bridge the HLS [Human Landing System] budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2bn to get the programme back on track right now.

“This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments.”

At the time of the award, Nasa's human exploration chief Kathy Lueders admitted that the space agency's current budget precluded it from selecting two companies.

Nasa also cited the proven record of orbital missions by Elon Musk's SpaceX firm as a factor in the award. Cost is also thought to have played a role: SpaceX's bid was the lowest-priced by some distance.

The decision meant that SpaceX's cylindrical Starship vehicle would carry the astronauts in Nasa's first mission to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Alabama-based defence contractor Dynetics was also vying for the contract.

Bezos had partnered with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper in a bid to join this crucial phase of Nasa's Human Landing System programme.

Their design was named the Blue Moon lander, and bore a passing resemblance to a beefed-up version of the lunar module (LM) that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface in 1969.

In his letter, Bezos emphasised Blue Moon's proven heritage: “We created a 21st Century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterised Apollo architecture – an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety.”

Musk's Starship has pushed the envelope of spacecraft design, employing a radical approach to landing and incorporating innovative methane-fuelled engines.

Bezos also used his letter to emphasise Blue Origin's use of hydrogen fuel, which dovetails with Nasa's longer-term aims of refuelling spacecraft from water-ice mined on the Moon. The water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen propellant for rocket engines.

In Nasa's selection statement from April, SpaceX received an “acceptable” technical rating and an “outstanding” management rating. Blue Origin's bid was also rated “acceptable” on its technical merits but its management rating was deemed “very good” by the space agency.

After losing out to SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), alleging Nasa unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute” in the way that it awarded the contract to SpaceX.

That protest, along with one from Dynetics, is awaiting adjudication, although some in the space community regard the chances of a reversal as unlikely.

By By Paul Rincon
Science editor

Nissan announced plans to create 400 jobs in Sunderland car factory

( via – – Tue, 27th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Decision is part of plan to develop £1bn electric vehicle manufacturing hub at site

Nissan has announced plans to create 400 jobs at its car plant in Sunderland, weeks after promising to invest £1bn in the site.

The Japanese firm, which overtook Jaguar Land Rover to become the UK’s largest carmaker during 2020, said it was looking for staff to build a new electric vehicle as well as models including the Juke, Qashqai and the electric Leaf.

In a move latched on to by government ministers as a renewed vote of confidence in Britain after Brexit, the company said hiring more staff would help it to prepare the Sunderland plant for electric vehicle production.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said: “Not only are Nissan staying put, they are doubling down.”

The development forms part of plans to create 6,000 new jobs in Sunderland at Nissan and among its suppliers, under a blueprint announced by the company earlier this month as it invests £1bn to develop an electric vehicle manufacturing hub.

The plans, collectively known as EV36Zero, include a “gigafactory” electric battery plant built by Nissan’s partner Envision, a battery recycling facility and the production of a new all-electric car model.

The investment has been underpinned by the promise of £100m in state funding.

The government has latched on to Nissan’s investment in the UK as a sign of the prospects for attracting investment in Britain after Brexit. The Japanese carmaker had repeatedly warned that the future of its Sunderland site would be at risk if Britain left the EU without a deal.

Instead, Nissan has announced a number of UK investments since the Brexit arrangements became clear, including a £400m spend on building the new Qashqai.

Reflecting the importance of the plant to the company and the British economy, the firm overtook JLR as the nation’s biggest vehicle manufacturer last year despite the biggest drop in car production since 1984 during the first wave of Covid-19.

Nissan’s investment in Sunderland is heavily geared towards electric vehicles, which have become the focus of hopes for the British auto sector. business email sign-up

Ford and the Korean electronics conglomerates LG and Samsung are among the companies that have also had early-stage discussions with the government or local authorities about building gigafactories.

The battery firm Britishvolt is aiming to be the first company to open one in the UK, at a converted coal power station in Blyth, Northumberland, after having its plans approved.

In May, the energy regulator Ofgem approved a £300m investment spree to help triple the number of ultra-rapid electric car charge points across the country, as part of efforts to accelerate the UK’s shift to clean energy.

Alan Johnson, the vice-president of Nissan motor manufacturing UK, said: “This is a real vote of confidence in Sunderland from our parent company in Japan and will really reaffirm Sunderland’s reputation as a world-class manufacturer.”

By Rob Davies

How Egypt Is Keeping This 200-Year-Old Tile Tradition Alive

Source: Still Standing

Saied Hussain has been hand making tiles out of cement for over 50 years. He says he’s one of the last still doing this work in Egypt — most other workshops couldn't withstand competition from marble and ceramic tiles. We went to Cairo to see how his business is still standing. Saied does not have a website. He sells his tiles locally in Cairo.

Next to repay £29m in Covid rates relief as customers return to high street stores

( via – – Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Shares soar as retailer raises profit forecast for third time in four months

Next has reported strong revenue growth as shoppers returned to its clothing stores after the Covid-19 lockdown reopening and as a result has decided to repay £29m of business rates relief to the government.

Shares in the bellwether retail chain soared 10% in early trading on Wednesday, making Next the biggest FTSE 100 riser as investors responded positively to the news that it was raising its profit forecast for the third time in four months.

The clothing and homeware retailer’s full-price sales over the past 11 weeks, between early May and 17 July, were almost 19% higher than during the same period two years earlier, before the pandemic. The company had previously forecast a 3% increase.

The latest profit increase – after upgrades in April and May – means Next is now expecting to make £750m of pre-tax profit this year, £30m more than at its last forecast in May.

The new profit forecast is after a deduction of £29m in business rates relief, which Next is repaying to the government, covering the period this year when its shops were open but were not charged rates.

Next has emerged as a big winner from the pandemic and experienced increased demand for products such as clothing since its stores in all four nations of the UK were allowed to reopen during April.

The company has been surprised by its levels of sales, ever since the easing of coronavirus restrictions unleashed pent-up demand for adults’ summer clothing. Next said many shoppers did not buy many clothes last summer, which meant it got a boost from the warm weather at the end of May and the start of June this year.

The retailer believes the reduction in foreign holidays taken by Britons this year has bolstered domestic spending, while consumers also have extra cash in their pocket after saving money during the pandemic.

Next’s online sales jumped by 63% in the first quarter of the year, making it the UK’s biggest internet clothing retailer – ahead of rivals such as Asos and Boohoo. Its online sales have come down in recent weeks, with shoppers flocking back to its reopened stores instead.

The retailer does not expect its sales to continue at what it called “these exceptionally strong levels” but it has also upped its sales guidance for the second half of the year from 3% to a 6% increase.

Its soaring sales have also prompted Next to restart shareholder payouts after a pause in 2020. It will pay a special dividend to its shareholders in September and said it expects to distribute £240m to investors during the current financial year.

By Joanna Partridge

DVLA managers decisions meant ‘Catastrophic’ backlog of 1.4 million cases, union says

( via – – Wed, 21st July 2021) London, Uk – –

Decisions made by managers at the DVLA driving licence body have meant a “catastrophic” processing backlog of 1.4 million cases, a union says.

Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services union, said if staff were allowed to work from home the backlog could be reduced.

He told Transport Committee MPs other members of the civil service “were tearing their hair out” at the DVLA.

He said it is a “stain” on the reputation of the civil service.

Mr Serwotka said the DVLA are “refusing to engage in a proper discussion.”

“In 21 years (in this role), I have never encountered the level of incompetence and mismanagement that is on display at the DVLA in Swansea,” Mr Serwotka told the MPs on Wednesday.

“The tragedy of that is not just that public are suffering. Our members many of whom are quite lowly paid and very stressed at work are bearing the brunt of this.”

Mr Serwotka said there had been 643 Covid cases and one fatality at the DVLA during the course of the pandemic and that there are serious risks to staff's health and safety because of its actions.

Don't complain

Sarah Evans, the DVLA branch chair at PCS, said that staff are worried as they can see cases rising on site, but that they have been told not to complain.

“Our work site is very different because there is a high volume of staff in a small area,” Ms Evans told the committee.

The union want more staff to be able to work from home to be able to allow for better social distancing in the offices and to allow those isolating at home to still continue to be productive, pointing out the other departments had been able to deliver remote working.

“We believe that if the department of work and pensions can deal with three million universal credit claims, if HMRC can deliver furlough scheme, if we have workers in the home office ministry of justice, devolved nations, working from home handling in some cases much more secure data so could the DVLA,” said Mr Serwotka.

“We know there cant be a security issue in the DVLA that's not the same in the rest of the civil service.

“Weeks and weeks of productivity have been lost by stopping staff working from home,' said Ms Evans. ‘There's no doubt at all that we would not be in situation we are in … had we been given the capability.”

Industrial dispute

Mr Serwotka added that although they believed there was a lack of investment in technology that the union had been told that it was also because the DVLA were concerned about trust and supervision of staff.

The PCS and the DVLA are currently in an industrial dispute that has seen targeted strike action since April where staff in different departments have walked out for a few days at a time.

The PCS say that they had negotiated a deal after months of discussions that would protect the health of workers and provide respite and recognition of what they had done over the last few months. They say that the agreement was withdrawn on 1 June without an explanation.

Julie Lennard, DVLA chief executive, and The Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads, Buses and Places at the Department for Transport are due to give evidence later.

By Caroline Davies

Royal Mint credits demand for precious metals helped deliver return to annual profit

( via– Wed, 21st July 2021) London, Uk – –

The taxpayer-owned company reports high demand for precious metals during the pandemic, saying its digital savings offering proved particularly popular with millennials.

The Royal Mint has revealed how a leap in demand for investment in precious metals helped it deliver a return to annual profit, with the coronavirus crisis prompting a surge in prices.

The government-owned mint, based outside Cardiff, reported a pre-tax profit of £12.4m during the year to 31 March compared with losses of £0.2m over the previous 12 months.

Revenue rose 85% to just shy of £1.1bn.

The manufacturer of coins for the UK and more than 30 other nations globally also credited sales of historic coins and exclusive ‘Masterwork' pieces, including a 9.5kg gold coin to mark the Queen's 95th birthday.

The company reported record international sales, particularly in Asia and the US, for the Music Legends segment of its popular culture series of celebratory and commemorative coins honouring the likes of Sir Elton John and the late David Bowie.

One Bowie coin was even blasted into space to huge publicity in December 2020 – emulating the artist's famous Major Tom character, who features in the lyrics to three of his songs.AThe Royal Mint said, crucially, that sales of gold and silver doubled over the 12-month period, aided by a 430% increase in millennials flocking to its online DigiGold platform to take advantage of a spike in commodity prices.

The global price of gold – a closely-watched barometer of investor sentiment – hit record levels during the COVID-19 crisis as economies entered hibernation to protect public health, with prices passing $2,000 an ounce last August.

It became one of the best-performing assets during 2020.

Silver costs hit levels not seen since 2013.

The mint said it attracted 25,000 new precious metal investment customers.

One downside of the pandemic has been a slump in demand for new coins globally given lockdowns and consumer reliance on online purchases.

It was announced in September 2020 that it would no longer produce new 2p and £2 coins for the UK as there were enough in circulation to last at least the next decade.

Graham Love, chairman of the 1,100 year old company, said: “Despite the significant headwinds of the past year the team have delivered an outstanding result – achieving record financial performance, safeguarding employees and making medical visors for the NHS.

“The pandemic accelerated the diversification of The Royal Mint, and the strategies already underway in the consumer division allowed it to flourish and offset declines in the currency business.”

By James Sillars

Apollo in talks to join Fortress-led £6.3bn takeover of Morrisons

( via – – Tue, 20th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Move by US private equity firm reduces chance of takeover battle for UK supermarket group

The US private equity firm Apollo Global Management is in talks to join a consortium led by Fortress Investment Group that has agreed a £6.3bn takeover of the British supermarket group Morrisons.

Apollo, which confirmed it was considering a bid for Morrisons earlier this month, said it would no longer be making an offer for the supermarket.

Instead, bosses said they were in early discussions with the rival US private equity firm Fortress to become part of its consortium to buy the grocer.

Apollo’s decision reduces the chance of a takeover battle for Morrisons, given that it had said it was evaluating its own bid.

The offer from Fortress, along with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Koch Real Estate Investments, exceeded a £5.52bn unsolicited proposal from Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, which Morrisons rejected in June. Fortress is owned by SoftBank.

Apollo said the discussions “may result in funds managed or advised by Apollo forming part of the investment group led by Fortress for the purposes of the Fortress offer. As a consequence of these discussions, Apollo confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Morrisons other than as part of the Fortress offer.”

It added: “Apollo notes Fortress’s intentions regarding the Morrisons business and all its stakeholders, as set out in the announcement of the Fortress offer … Should these discussions lead to any transaction, Apollo would be fully supportive of Fortress’s stated intentions regarding Morrisons.”

Politicians in the UK have raised concerns about the takeover and warned that any new owner could strip assets and reduce the rights of workers.

Morrisons owns most of its stores’ freeholds and has a large manufacturing supply chain.

But Fortress has stressed it intends to continue operating with the same management team, did not sell any of its freehold or long leasehold properties after it bought Majestic Wines in 2019, and “does not anticipate engaging in any material store sale and leaseback transactions” at Morrisons.

By Sarah Young

The Billion Dollar Pool Supply Industry Cashing in on Summer

Source: CNBC

Over the last several decades, a growing number of Americans have chosen to spend more time and money on swimming pools. Most pools can be found in California, Texas and Florida, but population growth in other Southern states is escalating the demand for pool construction and supplies. Pool Corporation, one of the largest pool supply distributers, has seen its stock price soar. Already in 2021, people are opening up their pools 20-30% earlier in the year than they did in 2020, which means they will need more chemicals and supplies to keep their pools swimmable. For now, demand is pretty strong.

GSK plans to create up to 5,000 jobs in new UK hub

( via – – Fri, 16th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is set to create up to 5,000 new jobs as part of a plan to build one of the largest life sciences sites in Europe.

The company is looking to extend its facility in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where it currently conducts research and development.

GSK says the plan could create thousands of highly skilled jobs in the next five to 10 years.

It aims to raise £400m by selling off a third of the current 92-acre site.

Stevenage is already one of GSK's two global hubs, and hosts the UK's largest work into cell and gene therapy.

The development of the new site is expected to begin in 2022. The new campus – which will sit next to GSK's existing site at Stevenage – could ultimately deliver 100,000 square metres of new floor space for commercial life sciences research and development.

“The past 18 months has shown the UK life sciences sector at its best and the UK has recently unveiled an ambitious 10-year vision for the UK life sciences sector,” said GSK senior vice president Tony Wood.

“Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade,” he added.

GSK has come under pressure recently from shareholders to reconfigure its businesses amid criticism over its performance.

The company is a leading vaccine maker, but has been late to develop one for Covid-19. Its Covid vaccine, which is being developed with France's Sanofi, is still undergoing trials.

GSK boss Emma Walmsley is selling the company's consumer healthcare division, which makes big-brand products including Sensodyne and Panadol.

That move is designed to let it focus on developing new drugs and vaccines.

Saudi state fund buys McLaren stake in £550m deal

( via– Fri, 16th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and Ares Management will invest £400m into the Surrey-based automotive giant, Sky News learns.

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is in advanced talks to acquire a stake in McLaren Group as part of a fresh shake-up at the British supercar manufacturer and Formula One (F1) team-owner.

Sky News has learnt that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is to participate in a £550m equity-raise which could be unveiled by McLaren within days.

Banking sources said the deal would include £400m of new capital from PIF and Ares Management, a major global investment firm, with £150m being injected into the company by McLaren's existing shareholders – who include Mumtalakat, the sovereign investment fund of Bahrain.

The equity-raise was still being finalised on Friday and could still be delayed, the sources cautioned.

If completed, however, it would represent a major vote of confidence in McLaren's strategy under the leadership of Paul Walsh, the former Diageo chief who joined last year as executive chairman. The Woking-based company endured a torrid start to the pandemic as it sought a government loan to shore up its balance sheet.

It was also forced into a restructuring of its workforce which saw hundreds of jobs axed.

Sales of its luxury road-cars have, however, rebounded strongly in recent months, while its racing fortunes have also continued to recover.

The Saudis' acquisition of a minority stake in McLaren Group could pave the way for a series of commercial tie-ups involving the company and the oil-rich Gulf state, one analyst suggested on Thursday evening.

The PIF has also been part of a consortium attempting to buy Newcastle United Football Club from the retail tycoon Mike Ashley – a role which has attracted intense scrutiny from the Premier League and triggered a formal arbitration process that is expected to be resolved this month.

The Saudi fund has been a big investor in technology companies, in part through the giant Vision Fund led by Japan's SoftBank, and also through individual companies such as the electric vehicle start-up Lucid Motors, which it listed in New York earlier this year.

Its experience with Lucid could be of benefit to McLaren as it develops more hybrid and electric cars such as its Artura model.

Ares Management is regarded as a blue-chip provider of capital to companies around the world, and has an existing relationship with McLaren, according to insiders.

The equity-raise will allay any lingering questions about the strength of McLaren's balance sheet and will take the total funding raised by the group since Mr Walsh's arrival to well over £1bn.

That figure comprises a £300m equity injection in March 2020, a £170m sale-and-leaseback of its spectacular Surrey headquarters and a £185m windfall from the sale of a separate stake in McLaren Racing.

McLaren also secured a £150m loan from the National Bank of Bahrain, reflecting its close ties to the Gulf state, last year.

The sale of a stake in McLaren Racing, which comprises its F1 team and INDYCAR Championship outfit, came during a revival in its on-track fortunes after years in the doldrums.

Lando Norris, one of its F1 drivers, sits in fourth place in the drivers' championship, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo lying in eighth.

The team, which is overseen by McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown, occupies third spot in the constructors' championship behind Red Bull and Mercedes.

As well as its racing arm, the group consists of McLaren Automotive, which makes luxury road cars and which was highly profitable prior to the COVID-19 crisis; and McLaren Applied Technologies, which generates revenue from sales to corporate customers.

Founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, the car marque is one of the most famous names in British motorsport.

During half a century of competing in F1, it has won the constructors' championship eight times, while its drivers have included the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

In total, the team has won 180 Grands Prix, three Indianopolis 500s and the Le Mans 24 Hours on its debut.

This weekend, it will compete in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

McLaren's on-track operations account for roughly 20% of the group's annual revenues.

It has sponsorship deals with companies including Darktrace, the cybersecurity software provider, Dell Technologies, the computing giant, and – as of this week – Stanley Black & Decker, the tool manufacturer.

McLaren is a major British exporter, directly employing about 3000 people and supporting thousands of jobs across the UK supply chain.

The company saw its separate divisions reunited following the departure in 2017 of Ron Dennis, the veteran McLaren boss who had steered its F1 team through the most successful period in its history.

He became one of Britain's best-known businessmen, expanding McLaren's technology ventures into a wide range of other industries through lucrative commercial partnerships.

Mr Dennis offloaded his stake in a £275m deal following a bitter dispute with fellow shareholders.

He had presented to McLaren's board a £1.65bn takeover bid from a consortium of Chinese investors, but did not attract support for it from boardroom colleagues.

HSBC and Goldman Sachs are advising on the latest equity-raise.

McLaren did not respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

By Mark Kleinman

Revolut, UK based digital banking app rockets to $33 bln valuation after Softbank-backed fundraising

( via — Thur, 15th July 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – British-based digital banking app Revolut has raised around $800 million in a new funding round led by Softbank's (9984.T) Vision Fund and Tiger Global Management, valuing the company at around $33 billion.

The fundraising makes Revolut Britain's most valuable fintech firm and on paper it is now worth slightly more than the market capitalisation of mainstream lender NatWest (NWG.L).

London-based Revolut was worth just $5.5 billion when it raised $500 million in early 2020, and had been eyeing a valuation of around $20 billion as recently as June, according to media reports at the time.

Such stellar valuations are increasingly common in the financial technology sector, with payments company Wise (WISEa.L) valued at $11 billion last week in London's biggest ever tech listing.

Founded in 2015 by former Credit Suisse trader Nik Storonsky and developer Vladyslav Yatsenko, Revolut has won more than 16 million customers with products including foreign exchange, stock trading and cryptocurrencies, undercutting mainstream banks' prices.

It has yet to translate that rapid growth into profitability, however, with its annual losses doubling last financial year on investment in risk controls.

Revolut has in recent years accelerated its global expansion, pushing into markets including the United States, Australia and Japan.

The fresh cash will mainly be used to help product development, and marketing in countries that Revolut is expanding into, particularly the U.S. and India, Chief Financial Officer Mikko Salovaara told reporters.

The fundraising would not affect the timetable for any potential listing of Revolut, he said.

“We think eventually we will be a public company but have no immediate plans to list,” he said.

The investment round was endorsed by Britain's finance minister Rishi Sunak, who wants to grow the country's fintech industry to help keep the financial sector competitive following the UK's departure from the European Union.

“We want to see even more great British Fintech success stories like Revolut,” he said.

Reporting by Lawrence White

Waterstones shoppers encouraged to wear face coverings after July 19

( via – – Wed, 14th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Waterstones says it will encourage its customers to continue wearing face coverings in its stores after they cease to be compulsory after July 19.

It is one of the first major chains to state a firm policy on mask wearing.

Businesses are weighing up what approach to take once Covid measures become a matter for them to decide.

Some shop workers and staff are worried that abandoning masks will put their health at risk, but others have reacted with anger at Waterstones' move.

Waterstones said in a tweet: “Following the lift of restrictions on 19 July across England, we will observe new government guidance. Given our enclosed browsing environment, we encourage our customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing, respecting the safety of staff and fellow book lovers.”

The tweet has attracted a mass – and mixed – response. Many are in favour of its position.

Critical care nurse, Kimberley Anne, said: “@Waterstones ! As an ITU nurse, I am so exhausted with all these waves of Covid and I personally feel more at ease bookshopping with a mask. I am freaking out already using the tube.”

But Talk Radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, said: “I make a point of buying books at my local @Waterstones rather than ordering on Amazon because I want bookstores to thrive, but if I go into your store and a member of staff asks me to wear a mask, you will lose my business forever.”


From Monday 19 July the government has said wearing face coverings in England will be recommended but not mandatory.

Transport companies have been the most forthright in setting out their policies. London Transport said on Tuesday it would require passengers on the Tube, bus and its overground railways to wear masks.

Airlines including BA and Ryanair have already confirmed face masks will still be compulsory after 19 July.

But most retailers have taken a more cautious approach, and many, including leading supermarkets, have not yet said anything concrete.

Timpsons shoe repair and key cutting chain, which has more than 2,000 shops, is leaving mask wearing as a matter of personal choice for customers.

Its boss said: “I don't think the way it's going we've got any right, we shouldn't expect them to do so, that's entirely up to the customer.”

But he said his staff would be asked to wear masks.

Jewellery retailer Beaverbrooks is going further. It told the BBC it would keep all of its current safety measures in place, including welcome barriers, hand sanitisation stations and serving screens.

It said staff would still be wearing visors or masks. But it added that although it could not force customers to wear masks, it would prefer them to continue to wear masks in its stores.

‘Violence and abuse'

Aside from Sainsburys, which said last week that mask wearing will be a matter of personal choice for customers, leading supermarkets have not so far publicly stated their approach. Morrisons says it is waiting for further guidance from the government.

Some shoppers are uncomfortable with anything other than a clear safety policy. Commenting on Waterstones' move, Denys Whitley tweeted: “‘Encourage' is not strong enough. Mask-wearing must be mandatory. Non-masked are not respecting the safety of staff or fellow book-lovers… With this policy, I'll be sticking to the pathetic selection on Amazon.”

Shop workers union Usdaw had previously urged the government not to lift Covid safety measures in shops.

According to a recent survey, it found violence, verbal abuse or threats of violence towards shopworkers had increased from between 25-50%, with face coverings the trigger for 15% of the incidents.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “Shopworkers already face violence and abuse when enforcing these measures and we are concerned that, when restrictions no longer have the force of the law behind them, this could result in further abuse, threats and violence towards retail workers.”

UK inflation exceed economists’ forecasts as prices of food, fuel, and clothing continue to rise

( via– Wed, 14th July 2021) London, Uk – –

The inflation rate exceeded economists' forecasts as the prices of food, fuel, and clothing continued to surge as lockdown eased.

The rate of inflation in the UK rose again in June, outstripping economists’ predictions and passing the Bank of England’s stated target of 2%.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the consumer prices index (CPI) measure rose by 2.5% in the 12 months leading up to June 2021, the highest rate for nearly three years, largely driven by increases in transport costs.

And while the central bank’s inflation target is currently 2%, its outgoing chief economist has warned that it could rise as high as 4% this year.

One of the drivers of the increase is that prices this year are being measured against the depressed prices of last year, when the country was in lockdown, making the difference seem larger.

The prices for food, second-hand cars, clothing, eating and drinking out, and motor fuel all rose in 2021 as lockdown restrictions slowly eased, but mostly fell in 2020, resulting in the largest upward contributions to the change in the inflation rate between May and June 2021.

These increases were partially offset by a large downward contribution from games, toys and hobbies, the ONS said, where prices fell this year but rose a year ago as the country was placed under strict lockdown.

Leading up to Wednesday's figures, most economists forecast a 2.2% increase in inflation. The sharper increase than many predicted will renew debate around whether to raise interest rates – a common tool used to prevent inflation from spiralling out of control.

The UK figures come just a day after the US said that its inflation had shot up to 5.4%, the highest in 13 years, due to heavy fiscal stimulation.

“The fact that this morning’s numbers have generally come in above forecast will be seen by many as indicating inflation is back as a concern, particularly in conjunction with the surprise surge in US inflation yesterday,” said James Sproule, chief economist of Handelsbanken in the UK.

“A more general concern about inflation is set to be the backdrop for the second half of the year,” he said. Analysis: Signs that inflation rise is temporary – but could it prove sticky?

Many view these effects as temporary, predicting that inflation will fall again later this year to its target rate of 2% as prices stabilise.

The Bank of England's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee has taken this view, arguing that the current spike in inflation is transitory and will naturally decline after peaking at 3%.

By Ed Clowes, Business reporter

Uber picks former Tesco exec Eve Henrikson’s to run European delivery arm

( via– Mon, 12th July, 2021) London, Uk – –

Eve Henrikson's appointment as the boss of Uber's delivery operations – including its Uber Eats app – across Europe will be announced on Monday, Sky News learns.

Uber will this week name a former Tesco executive as the head of its European delivery arm amid a frenzy of competition in the rapid grocery sector.

Sky News understands that Eve Henrikson, who spent years working for Britain's biggest online grocer, is joining the owner of the world's best-known ride-hailing app as regional general manager for Uber Delivery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The last permanent occupant of the role was Stephane Ficaja, who left Uber earlier this year.

Ms Henrikson's appointment will come amid a deluge of investment in tech companies specialising in fast urban logistics.

Deliveroo, which went public in London through a calamitous flotation earlier in 2021, has since seen its shares recover amid continued growth in consumer demand.

Meanwhile, the likes of Getir and Gorillas, which promise to deliver groceries within minutes, are raising vast sums of capital to accelerate their efforts to capture market share.

Ms Henrikson said her role would include an attempt to launch “new on-demand services and adjacencies, providing best-in-class customer experiences and delivering profitable growth”.

Uber is expanding its delivery services into areas such as groceries, retail and pharmacy products, having been one of the early entrants to the restaurant delivery space through its Uber Eats operation.

It has also launched Uber Direct, a delivery-as-a-service offering for corporate customers such as McDonald's.

Uber said it had more than doubled gross bookings for the delivery business in the first quarter of the year.

The Uber Eats app is now available in nearly 900 cities in 14 countries across the EMEA region, and the second-largest player in the UK market, according to the company.

By Mark Kleinman

How Tech Companies Made Billions And Paid 0 Taxes

Source: Alux

This one is pretty much a crash course on how a lot of big companies, in general, get full marks for tax evasion.

This Alux video we will be answering the following questions:

How many corporations paid no taxes in 2020? What companies did not pay taxes in 2020? How are Fortune 500 companies not taxed? What companies paid zero taxes? What company pays the most tax? Why did Amazon not pay taxes? How does Nike no tax? How much did billionaires pay in taxes? How do big companies pay no taxes? Did Google pay taxes? Is Amazon Paying Taxes 2020? Did Amazon pay any taxes last year? How much did FedEx pay in taxes 2019? Do oil companies pay taxes? How many Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes last year? Who actually pays corporate taxes? Do corporations pay less taxes than individuals? Which UK company pays most taxes? Does Walmart pay any taxes? Does Elon Musk pay taxes in the US? Do footballers pay tax UK? Do Amazon pay taxes in the UK? Who paid the most tax in 2019? Who is highest tax payer in India? Who is the highest tax payer in USA?

UK employers struggle with worst labour shortage since 1997

( via – – Thur, 8th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Rush to reopen and departure of overseas workers have caused problems in areas including transport, hospitality and construction

Britain’s employers are struggling with the worst staff shortages since the late 1990s, amid the rush to reopen from lockdown and a sharp drop in overseas workers due to Covid and Brexit.

Sounding the alarm over the risks to economic recovery from acute labour shortages, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the accountancy firm KPMG said the number of available workers plunged in June at the fastest rate since 1997.

Recruitment firms are reporting hiring challenges across several sectors of the economy, led by shortfalls in areas such as transport and logistics, hospitality, manufacturing and construction.

As well as the trouble recruiting chefs, kitchen porters, cleaners and warehouse staff recorded in previous months, the snapshot indicated that issues for employers were spreading to typically higher-paying sectors such as finance, IT, accounting and engineering.

“We need action from businesses and government to reskill and upskill furloughed and prospective workers now more than ever, as the increasing skills gap in the workforce has the potential to slow the UK’s economic recovery,” said Claire Warnes, head of education, skills and productivity at KPMG UK.

The rush to reopen after pandemic restrictions is leading to bottlenecks. Employers are finding added complications as fewer EU workers travel to Britain because of Covid-19 border controls and the government’s post-Brexit immigration rules.

According to the REC and KPMG survey of more than 400 recruitment firms, a sharp rise in hiring demand led to the unprecedented fall in the availability of candidates in June. Recruiters noted that increased hiring, Brexit, pandemic-related uncertainty and the furlough scheme all weighed on the number of jobseekers available.

Official figures show about 1.5 million workers are still furloughed with pandemic restrictions still limiting a full return to work, after the government pushed back the date for the end of most pandemic restrictions to 19 July and the Delta variant fuelled rising infections.

Rishi Sunak last week started to wind down the multibillion-pound jobs scheme, which is due to close at the end of September. At its peak almost 9 million jobs were furloughed during the first wave of the pandemic, with about 5 million in the wave in January this year.

Unemployment in the UK has fallen in recent months as firms scrambled to hire, dropping to 4.7%, or about 1.6 million people. The Bank of England forecasts that unemployment would rise to 5.5% after furlough ends. However, this is significantly below expectations last year that Covid-19 would drive up job losses at the fastest rate since the 1980s, leading to 12% unemployment.

In a sign of the growing pressure on companies, surveys from the British Chambers of Commerce published on Thursday showed 70% that had tried to hire staff in the three months to June had struggled to do so.

According to the poll of 5,700 companies, 52% said they tried to hire staff over the three months to June. The sectors with the biggest problems recruiting workers were construction, hotels and catering, and manufacturing.

Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said part of the issue for employers was that skills shortages that had existed in Britain before the pandemic were becoming apparent once more as the economy reopened. “The encouraging increase in job creation across the manufacturing and services sectors is being held back by recruitment difficulties at all skill levels, jeopardising growth and productivity,” she said.

An estimated 1.3 million non-UK workers have left the country during the pandemic. Business leaders said easing post-Brexit immigration rules could help address shortages, but also called for further investment in skills and training from the government to increase the numbers of domestic candidates.

Employment experts believe people are being put off from work in certain sectors that have developed reputations for low pay and poor conditions in recent years, and that concerns over continuing high rates of Covid-19 are also having an impact.

Sustained labour shortages could lead employers to push up wages, which could in turn feed through to rising inflation if companies raise their prices to accommodate higher wage bills. However, there is debate about whether bottleneck pressures as the economy reopens from lockdown will translate into a permanently tighter jobs market.

Neil Carberry, the chief executive of the REC, said: “The jobs market is improving at the fastest pace we have ever seen, but it is still an unpredictable time. We can’t yet tell how much the ending of furlough and greater candidate confidence will help to meet this rising demand for staff.”

By Richard Partington, Economics correspondent

MoD finalises nationalisation of Sheffield Forgemasters nuclear sub contractor maybe announced within days

( via– Wed, 7th July 2021) London, Uk – –

A deal for the MoD to take the steelmaker into public ownership could be announced within days, Sky News learns.

The government is putting the finishing touches to a deal that will see one of Britain's oldest steelmakers taken into public ownership.

Sky News has learnt that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is finalising the nationalisation of Sheffield Forgemasters, which plays a critical role in the supply chain of the UK's nuclear submarine fleet.

The MoD and Sheffield Forgemasters – which traces its roots back to the 1750s – have been in talks about the move for about six months.

Industry sources said the company's takeover by the MoD could be announced within days.

It would follow years of financial struggles at Sheffield Forgemasters, which had previously turned to industrial giants including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce Holdings for support.

The commercial terms of the deal were unclear on Wednesday.

UK Government Investments, which manages publicly owned assets, is likely to be involved in the process.

Its completion will reflect the pivotal role that Sheffield Forgemasters plays in supplying specialist components to Britain's Trident nuclear submarines.

It will also underline the increasingly interventionist approach from the government towards the ownership of assets with national security implications.

The recently introduced National Security and Investment Act includes more than a dozen sectors – including defence and military and dual use – where foreign ownership now requires mandatory notification.

In 2015, Sheffield Forgemasters was approached by an unidentified state-owned Chinese company about a rescue deal, which was ultimately blocked by ministers.

The south Yorkshire-based company's work for the MoD is shrouded in secrecy, but it is understood to make advanced steel components for Britain's fleet of Trident-armed nuclear subs.

It has struggled financially for years, with depressed international steel prices hampering margins amid weakened demand.

Sky News revealed in 2016 that three of Britain's industrial titans – BAE Systems, Babcock International and Rolls-Royce Holdings – had stepped in to underwrite £30m of bank lending provided to Sheffield Forgemasters by the American bank Wells Fargo.

That underwriting commitment is thought to have remained in place for several years.

Last October, Sheffield Forgemasters said it would cut nearly 100 jobs – more than 10% of its workforce – as a result of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on demand from commercial customers in industries such as oil and gas.

The company, which is now run by David Bond, a former BAE executive, said at the time that it was financially secure until 2022 as a result of its defence work.

The latest accounts for Sheffield Forgemasters International, filed last August, show the group made an operating profit of £1.7m in 2019, despite a major flood event and continuing subdued event.

It said it had won £66m of new contracts during the year, driven mainly by defence orders, which it said would “provide the core revenues of the group through to 2022”.

An asset-based lending facility with Wells Fargo had been extended until the end of next year, the accounts said.

The company's private shareholders, who are thought to include Graham Honeyman, its former chief executive, are not expected to see a meaningful payout as part of its effective nationalisation.

Last year, defence chiefs took control of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, another key part of the nuclear weapons programme, by terminating a deal with private sector contractors including Serco, the outsourcing group.

Sheffield Forgemasters' origins are traceable to the 1750s, although its roots are usually said to stem from 1805, when George Naylor set up the Millsands steelworks.

In more recent times, the company has had occasional brushes with political controversy when both Nick Clegg – then a Sheffield MP – and David Cameron were linked to decisions about government grants and loans to it.

An MoD spokesman said: “Sheffield Forgemasters is a strategic supplier to Defence; therefore we are in regular dialogue with them.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Mr Bond said: “Our long-term relationship with UK Defence prime contractors and the MoD is based on the critical work we do within the Submarine programme and it would be inappropriate to comment further on such commercial sensitivities.”

By Mark Kleinman

Fully vaccinated arrivals fast-track trial to start at Heathrow

( via – – Wed, 7th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Two of the world's biggest airlines will trial fast-track lanes at Heathrow airport for fully-vaccinated arrivals.

Under the scheme passengers on four routes will be able to upload their vaccination status before boarding.

The trial by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic comes as the aviation industry calls for quarantine-free travel to the UK from lower-risk amber list countries.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to announce such a scheme this week.

The trial, due to start this weekend, will allow passengers who are fully vaccinated and are travelling on selected flights to Heathrow from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to show proof of their vaccination status.

Those taking part in the trial will still have to follow all the rules according to the government's traffic light system; book all the required tests and quarantine if they come from an amber list country.

People taking part will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the UK border.

It is hoped the trial will “reassure” the government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status away from the border, which would reduce pressure on UK immigration halls.

The trial will accept internationally recognised vaccination credentials including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU digital Covid certificate.

The move comes just days after the UK government announced that most lockdown measures in England would be eased from 19 July.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Shapps would update MPs on international travel and removing “the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate when they return from an amber list country”.

However, as cases continue to rise in the UK, health experts have highlighted that no vaccines are 100% effective.

Most popular holiday destinations are currently on the amber list, meaning that people must isolate for up to 10 days on their return to the UK.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told the BBC's Today programme: “At the moment the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated travelling being allowed to do that, is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they've had the vaccination already.

“The trial that we're starting later this week will allow us to demonstrate we can do that safely with 100% checks on double vaccination before people get on the plane.”

Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, added he was “confident” the trial would be successful.

“We look forward to providing the data that proves it's simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the Government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again,” he said.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said the trial would demonstrate the industry's readiness to “rapidly operationalise the new policy, and work with government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the transatlantic corridor, without which £23 million is lost each day from the UK economy”.

In a joint statement, the companies said the UK had “led the world with its successful vaccine programme”, but added it was “failing to reap the economic and social rewards” of other countries which are accepting fully-vaccinated people without the need to quarantine.

Analysis: Caroline Davies

As other countries open up, airlines are frustrated that international travel from the UK is still limited and that vaccinated travellers aren't treated differently.

But there are some practical difficulties involved in introducing the policy; how easily can you check and verify vaccine status at the border of people who have been jabbed around the world and had their records stored in different places?

Some arrivals will only have paper certificates, others will use different health apps and verifying them could take time.

Airlines want to show the government that if this policy is introduced, they can do some of these checks before people travel, reducing long queues at the border which are likely to put off travellers. They also want the policy to apply to lots of nationalities, not just people who have been jabbed by the NHS.

But exactly how the government might choose to implement this policy is still unknown; it's always said that its international travel policy is guided by protecting public health.

Rule-change ‘carnage'

Meanwhile a self-isolation rule change for fully vaccinated people in England has been delayed until 16 August, provoking concern from some Tory MPs and firms.

From that date, people in England who have had two doses of a coronavirus jab will no longer have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive for Covid.

Industry group UK Hospitality said the move did not come soon enough – and highlighted the “carnage” caused by the current system, which forced pub and restaurant staff to self-isolate “unnecessarily”.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Telegraph: “Why would you even go to a pub (after step four of the lifting of lockdown)? This makes it worse.”

“I wouldn't go to a pub that wasn't still having six around a table and social distancing, otherwise you run the risk of everyone in the pub being pinged and locked down.”

On Tuesday, another 28,773 cases were reported across the UK, as well as 37 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

According to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, the numbers of new infections could rise to 100,000-a-day over the summer.

Ocado report a 20% increase in sales after shopping shifts online due to pandemic

( via – – Tue, 6th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Retailer says new groups of customers have become used to online grocery buying in pandemic

Ocado, the online grocer, has reported a 20% increase in retail sales and hailed a permanent shift in grocery shopping in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail revenues climbed by 19.8% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 May, and Ocado cut its half-year loss before tax to £23.6m from £40.6m. At the end of the period, it was serving 777,000 active customers, a 22% increase year on year.

The firm recorded positive growth in the three months to the end of May, even as Covid-19 restrictions began to ease. This meant, however, that fewer meals were being eaten at home and basket sizes began to return towards pre-pandemic levels. Over the half year as a whole, the average basket size was flat at £138.

Tim Steiner, the Ocado chief executive, said the company was tapping into demand “from new pools of customers now socialised to online grocery shopping”.

He added: “As we head towards a post Covid-19 future, it is increasingly clear that the landscape for grocery worldwide has changed, for good.”

Ocado started selling Marks & Spencer products in September, after ending a longstanding partnership with Waitrose.

As the pandemic led to a boom in online shopping, Ocado ramped up its robotic warehouse capacity. It opened three sites in the first half, including the first “mini” warehouse in Bristol, and the first warehouses in the US for Kroger in Ohio and Florida. up to the daily Business Today email

The Bristol warehouse is operating at just over half of its capacity of 30,000 orders a week. Ocado plans to open 56 warehouses in coming years, with 15 under construction outside the UK. It is about to open a new warehouse in Andover, to replace one destroyed by fire, as a “state of the art robotic customer fulfilment centre”.

Ocado is looking to build more than 12 “Zoom” micro sites in UK cities, which can handle 10,000 products and deliver in less than an hour, with the first opened in Acton.

The company has also struck a deal withAuchan Retail to supply its technology and develop the French group’s online business in Spain.

By Julia Kollewe