Morrisons stocks up on ‘cupboard fillers’ in preparation for potential no-deal Brexit

( via – – Wed 13th March, 2019) London, Uk – –

The boss of Morrisons has said the supermarket was stocking up on “cupboard fillers” in preparation for a potential no-deal Brexit.

However, the supermarket chain would not give any details of which products were involved.

Chief executive David Potts did say there had been a recent rise in sales of painkillers and toilet rolls.

Morrisons is considering alternative routes to import goods if its usual supply lines were delayed, he added.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit there are fears that there could be disruption at ports and Morrisons has also been looking at alternative ports and ways of getting goods into the country.

Sales of painkillers and toilet rolls had risen by high single-digit percentages in recent weeks.

“We have seen a very small amount of customers buying in,” said Mr Potts

Publishing its annual results, Morrisons said there had been “continued uncertainty” about Brexit throughout the year and the chain had come up with contingency plans.

The uncertainties it identified included the impact on the supply chain, imported food inflation, the impact on consumer confidence, potential changes to access to EU labour and changes in legal requirements.

In response, the supermarket has applied for and got Authorised Economic Operator status, which gives firms quicker access to some simplified customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to fast-track shipments through some customer and safety and security procedures.

It said it had also sought alternative supply routes for key products, adapted its labour model and increased stock levels for “certain key lines”.

‘Better placed'

Thomas Brereton, retail analyst at Global Data, said: “With Brexit still looming over the retail sector in 2019, talks of supply shortages and impending lack of availability across UK grocery are rife.

“But Morrisons is better placed to withstand such pressures than its Big Four rivals, having successfully secured Authorised Economic Operator status during the year, on top on expanding its dependence on local suppliers.”

Morrisons also announced a third consecutive year of strong sales and profit growth.

It reported an annual underlying pre-tax profit of £406m, up 8.6%.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out stores open for less than a year, were up 4.8%, excluding fuel and VAT.

The retailer said the results showed the Morrisons turnaround plan was “well on track”.

Google should be broken up to restore a level playing field for media companies, News Corp says

( via – – Tue, 12th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Media giant tells Australian inquiry Google’s search engine and advertising platform should be separated

Google should be broken up to restore a level playing field for media companies swamped by its “overwhelming” market power, News Corp has told the competition regulator.

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian arm has argued in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that Google’s search engine and third-party advertising platform be separated to make it easier for digital publishers to compete for advertising.

Alphabet, Google’s parent, is in a high stakes battle with News Corp as the global media company struggles to claw back the billions of dollars in advertising revenue which has flowed to Google from its newspapers in the past decade.

The latest suggestion is an interventionist step which the ACCC stopped short of recommending in its preliminary report on the digital platforms inquiry in December.

“Google operates in a ‘walled garden’ whereby its related businesses, particularly in the ad tech pipeline, secure and entrench Google’s dominance in general internet search,” News Corp said in its submission, released on Tuesday.

“Google’s market power across the ad tech services supply chain is overwhelming.”

Ad tech services are all the products Google offers advertisers – from Google Ads to Google Marketing and Google Ad Manager – which combine seamlessly with its “trove of personal data” to make it attractive for advertisers.

News Corp says this “impenetrable offering” allows Google to dominate, and it should be forced to divest.

“Divestments will work to correct the market structure, by replacing common ownership with separate ownership, where each separate owner has incentives to compete to gain the business of customers,” the submission says.

“News Corp Australia recognises that divestment in a non-merger context is a highly interventionist measure and will have significant ramifications.

“Accordingly, News Corp Australia recommends that this remedy should take the form of an ACCC recommendation to government, following the conclusion of the inquiry, and should be limited to Google.”

Speaking on Sky News about the market concentration of the digital giants, Labor’s digital economy spokesman, Ed Husic, did not rule out a future Labor government in Australia taking action against Facebook, as the United States examines whether anti-trust laws should be used to break up the tech giants.Advertisement

“It is something that we will be watching with great interest,” Husic said.

He warned that a “day of reckoning” was coming for Facebook, if it did not correct its behaviour.

He said the company had failed to respond adequately to concerns it was used to influence the 2016 US election campaign, or how Cambridge Analytica used its data.

“Frankly now, as a result of their failing to act responsibly, you have US lawmakers seriously entertaining the notion of whether or not they use anti-trust laws to break them up and Facebook has got a day of reckoning that is coming as a result of being so big,” he said.

“They are not a plucky startup anymore, they are a big player that are influencing the way in which markets operate, and I think it is something that we look at seriously.”

Husic said the recent case of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has suggested Facebook, and other digital giants, be broken up as part of her election campaign, having her advertisements blocked by the social media platform was an example of the power it held.

“When I have said to Facebook previously, there is some Islamaphobia content on its site directed to me personally [which] was over the top, I asked them, ‘do your community guidelines allow this to occur’, they said, ‘yes, it would be within the guidelines’, and yet, if you have an ad that says something bad about Facebook, bam – it gets taken off in a moment’s notice,” he said.

The chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, is conducting an inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on competition in media and advertising in Australia. The final report is due on 30 June.

By Amanda Meade and Amy Remeikis

Mothercare agreed £13.5m sale of Early Learning Centre

( via– Tue, 12th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

The retailer hopes the brand's sale can speed up its ambition to be free of bank debt as part of its restructuring last year.

Mothercare has agreed the sale of its Early Learning Centre (ELC) brand to the owner of The Entertainer toy shop chain for up to £13.5m.

The struggling retailer, which was forced to strike a rescue deal with creditors as part of restructuring and refinancing last year, said the proposed disposal would bolster its ambition to be free of bank debt by the end of this year.

Mothercare said it did the deal with TEAL Brands because it did not have “the necessary capital, resources or scale” to continue to invest and develop own‑brand ELC toys.

The company told investors £6m would be received on completion of the deal, with up to £5.5m in respect of inventory – stock – due within a few months of completion and a further £2m in so-called earn out fees over the next two years.

It added that it would continue to hold approximately £6m of stock for sale in the short term and retain an “arm's length” concession deal with The Entertainer for the supply of toys to its stores, where ELC trade from, and online.

Mothercare said its transformation plans, aimed at cutting costs, were on track with the business due to trade from only 80 stores in its core UK market by the end of this month.

It had 137 last May when it secured a Company Voluntary Arrangement to avert collapse and trading has remained tough since.

ELC operates within all Mothercare shops in the UK, in 400 stores internationally via franchise partners and online.

Chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said: “This disposal of Early Learning Centre provides a further step towards eliminating our bank debt, and our new concession arrangements with The Entertainer will bring our customers an even stronger toys offer, both in stores and online.

“We look forward to working with the team at The Entertainer in the years to come.”

The Entertainer said the acquisition would build on its growth since the collapse of Toys R Us.

Founder and executive chairman, Gary Grant, said: “We are delighted to add ELC to The Entertainer family.

“It comes with a rich history as a much-loved British brand, supporting parents and grandparents with their children's early years' learning, development and play.

“We will look to bring new life to the product offering whilst maintaining the high level of quality ELC is renowned for.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

NatWest trials new fingerprint debit cards from April

( via – – Mon, 11th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Contactless card that stores owner’s fingerprint could mean an end to typing in pin

Bank customers will be able to spend more than £30 using contactless cards and could never again have to remember their four-digit pin if a fingerprint technology trial starting in April proves a success.

The pilot project from NatWest, the first of its kind in the UK, will use debit cards that contain an electronic copy of the customer’s fingerprint on one corner. If the customer places their finger on that part of the card while waving it at a retailer’s payment terminal, it will authorise a contactless payment above £30, and the customer will not have to type in their number.

The first phase of the trial will be limited to 200 customers. If it gets the go-ahead, it will be the next step in the contactless spending revolution that has swept Britain since 2013. Last year more than 6bn payments were made using contactless “wave and pay” technology, but the £30 limit is restricting further growth, particularly for people filling up their cars at petrol stations or doing a large weekly supermarket shop.Advertisement

NatWest said retailers would not have to make any changes to existing payment terminals to accept the new cards, and it was working with Visa and Mastercard to ensure it would be accepted in all locations.

If a card is stolen, the thief will not be able to use it as a payment is only authorised if the user’s fingerprint matches the data on the card at the point of sale.

David Crawford, whose job title is head of effortless payments at NatWest, said: “This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and we are excited to trial the service.”

The major stumbling block for the widespread adoption of the card is likely to be how the bank initially obtains the customer’s fingerprint. NatWest said customers in the trial would have to visit their local branch so that the bank could copy their fingerprint, but it is working on ways to capture the data remotely.

The technology has been developed by a Dutch company, Gemalto, which is also behind a similar trial launched in December by Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s biggest bank.

Gemalto said: “Fingerprint authentication sweeps away limits on the value of contactless payments, removing the need to enter a pin or sign the receipt. As a result, it simplifies the consumer experience at the point of sale and makes it faster and safer.”

It said that as a security measure the customer’s fingerprint was stored on the card itself, not the bank’s servers.

Users of Google Pay or Apply Pay on smartphones are likely to be suspicious of how widely the so-called biometric payment systems will be accepted by retailers. In theory, mobile users can already authenticate contactless payments above £30 on their smartphones using fingerprint technology, but in practice many have found the process frustrating.

Customers of the digital-only Monzo Bank, popular with millennials, share lists of retailers that allow them to use their smartphones to exceed the £30 contactless limit. They say Sainsbury’s and Morrisons permit the payments but Tesco and Asda do not.

A survey by Gemalto of UK consumers found that young adults would enthusiastically adopt a fingerprint technology card that allowed them to exceed the standard £30 contactless limit. But four out of 10 were worried about whether the technology would work all the time, and a third were concerned that their fingerprint could be compromised.

Gemalto said: “The fingerprint information is only stored on the card. It is never sent to the bank or collected by a third party. Inside the chip of the card, the fingerprint data is encrypted; nobody can access them.”Topics

Tesla to increase car price and scale back store closure programme

( via – – Mon, 11th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Tesla is increasing prices of its electric cars after scaling back a store closure programme.

The carmaker said the 3% price rise would not apply to the new mid-market Model 3.

Earlier this month Tesla said it would close an unspecified number of stores to fund a cut in the price of the Model 3 in the US to $35,000 (£26,400).

It will now close “about half as many” stores – making half the cost savings.

The carmaker, founded by Elon Musk, said that keeping more stores open would require a rise in vehicle prices by about 3% on average worldwide.

It has 378 stores and service locations but had not been specific about which ones would close.

“Over the past two weeks we have been closely evaluating every single Tesla retail location, and we have decided to keep significantly more stores open than previously announced as we continue to evaluate them over the course of several months,” the company said.

While it is pressing ahead with the price cut to the mid-market Model 3, prices will go up for more expensive variants of Model 3, as well as Model S and X cars, which can already cost up to £87,000. Customers can order at existing prices until 18 March.

It is still planning to conduct its sales online and said that buyers in stores will be shown how to order a Tesla on their phone, a process which Tesla says will take just a few minutes.

It had previously said that shifting sales online would allow it to cut prices by 6% on average – and cut the price of the Model 3.

The company says it has a “generous return policy” to avoid the need for test drives, as would-be buyers can return a car after 1,000 miles or seven days.

Tesla said that some stores in “high visibility locations” which have been closed will be reopened – albeit with smaller numbers of staff.

Stores will hold fewer cars for those customers who want to drive away with new vehicle immediately.

The company has been making efforts to cut costs after the “most challenging” year in its history. In January it announced 7% of its 45,000-strong workforce would be cut, indicating around 3,000 job cuts.

At the time Mr Musk had said the firm's cars were still “too expensive for most people”.

He has faced controversy over his tweets and last month the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, asked the courts to hold him in contempt for violating a settlement month aimed at limiting his social media comments.

He has until today to formally respond but had already tweeted the the regulator's oversight system is “broken”.

The matter stems back to his tweets about the company's financial performance and tweets in August when he claimed he had secured funding to take the firm private.

APPLE PARK – The Spaceship $5 Billion Dollars Office Construction

Source: Wonder World

In Early 2018, Apple partially finished construction on their new massive office building, called Apple Campus 2, Also known as Apple Park & the Spaceship.

The land cost an estimated $160 million dollars In 2011, the original planned budget for Apple Campus, was about $3 billion dollars, however in 2013 the total cost was estimated to be closer to $5 billion dollars.

The company’s new 175-acre campus, is one mile in circumference, with a diameter of 461 meters , and can house 12,000 employees.

The main building was ready for employees to begin partial occupancy in January 2018, as the building was still not finished, the process of moving more than 12,000 people, was estimated to take over six months.

How Subway Outshine Their Competitors With The Most Locations of Any Restaurant Worldwide

Despite the seeming ubiquitousness of McDonald's golden arches and the Starbucks mermaid, the sandwich chain Subway actually has the most locations of any restaurant worldwide, about 43,000 in 2017.

This number, however, belies the economic reality: while McDonald's and Starbucks continue to grow their profits, Subway's have been slipping since 2014. Industry analysts point to a few reasons for this, including a lack of innovation and fraught relationships with franchise owners.

10 Amazing Entrepreneurs Who Failed Big Before Becoming Successful

Source: chestnut

Entrepreneur Failure Stories: 10 Entrepreneurs Who Failed Big Before Becoming Successful. Failure is a part of business. Very few entrepreneurs ever make it big without first experiencing some massive failures. Whether it be running a business into the ground, getting fired from a job or even going to jail, plenty of very successful entrepreneurs have seen huge failures before ever accomplishing their dreams.

So if you ever feel worn down or intimidated by the thought of failing, just take a look at these entrepreneurs who failed before making it big.

Evan Williams Before co-founding Twitter, Williams (pictured above) developed a podcasting platform called Odeo. But the platform didn’t take off, in part because Apple announced the podcast section of the iTunes store shortly after the company launched. It folded shortly afterward.

Reid Hoffman Before co-founding LinkedIn and investing in big names like PayPal and Airbnb, Hoffman created SocialNet, an online dating and social networking site that ultimately failed.

Jeff Bezos Amazon is one of the biggest success stories of the online era. But before Amazon became a household name, the company’s CEO had several failed ideas. One of the most notable was an online auction site, which evolved into zShops, a brand that ultimately failed.

Akio Morita Back in the early days of Sony, Morita’s products weren’t quite as popular or well known as they are today. In fact, the first product was a rice cooker that ended up burning rice.

Momofuku Ando Before even coming up with the idea for instant noodles, which took him many tries to develop successfully, Ando had a small merchandising firm in Japan. But in 1948, he was convicted of tax evasion and spent two years in jail. He then lost that company due to a chain reaction bankruptcy.

Tim Ferris The author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” (pictured above) was turned down by about 25 publishers before finding one who actually agreed to publish his work — which later became a best selling title Peter Thiel Before starting PayPal and investing in big names like Facebook, Thiel lost big. His early hedge fund, Clarium Capital, lost 90 percent of its $7 billion assets on the stock market, currencies and oil prices.

Christina Wallace The current vice president of branding and marketing at Startup Institute is the former co-founder of Quincy Apparel. When the company shut down in 2013, Wallace stayed in bed for three weeks before forcing herself to get up and re-join the world

Sir James Dyson Dyson wasn’t always a well-known name associated with vacuum cleaners. In fact, it took Sir James Dyson 15 years and all of his savings to develop a bagless prototype that worked. He developed 5,126 prototypes that failed first Fred Smith Though we all know now that FedEx is a viable business model, Smith’s college professor disagreed. The future venture capitalist received a poor grade on an assignment where he pitched the idea for the company Ending quote: Success is not final, failure os not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts

Closing entrepreneur gender gap could generate £250bn extra for the UK, review finds

( via– Fri, 8th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

Banks and other lenders are being encouraged to reveal how much of their investment is going to women-run businesse.

Just one in three entrepreneurs in the UK is female and closing the gender gap could generate an extra £250bn for the economy, a government review has found.

The disparity in women-run firms represents more than a million “missing businesses”, according to the Treasury-commissioned report.

It also found businesses run by women are on average half the size of male-led firms and far less likely to scale up to a £1m turnover.

In response to the review, carried out by NatWest deputy chief executive Alison Rose, banks and other lenders are being encouraged to publish what proportion of investment goes to female entrepreneurs.

The creation of a code, Investing in Women, was one of the proposals set out in the report published on International Women's Day.

Major banks such as HSBC and Lloyds have already pledged to sign up, the Treasury said.

The review found a shortage of role models and a perceived lack of skills and experience were among the obstacles preventing women from becoming entrepreneurs.

Some of the recommendations put forward to tackle these issues included expanding existing mentorship and networking opportunities and speeding up the development of entrepreneurship-related courses to schools and colleges.

The government is aiming to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030, to match major economies including France, Canada and the US on gender equality.

Ms Rose said: “The UK has one of the most vibrant entrepreneurial communities in the world, but only one in three of our entrepreneurs is female – we need to be more ambitious and find ways to unlock the huge untapped potential.”

She added: “Some of the findings [of the review] are stark but by shining a spotlight on the issues and outlining the barriers and opportunities, the aim is to support the full potential of every woman who has the entrepreneurial spirit and ambition to start or scale their business.”

Theresa May said the report showed that while there have been improvements in the area of women in business, further progress was needed.

The prime minister said the review team had “set out an ambitious path to break this glass ceiling so that we can realise the full potential of female entrepreneurs and boost economic growth”.

She added: “I am committed to real change in this area, starting with our action today to encourage more companies to look at the gender split of who they choose to invest in.

New train timetables with 1,000 services to be added to ease over crowding

( via – – Fri, 8th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

New summer train timetables will come into force on 19 May, with 1,000 services added to relieve overcrowding.

Rail bosses will be hoping that the introduction will be more successful than last year's fiasco, when a similar exercise caused severe disruption on the country's train network.

The Rail Delivery Group said the industry had “learned the lessons” from 2018's timetable changes.

It said it had “high confidence” that services would be ready.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Many parts of the country are set to benefit this summer from a better service, but where introducing improvements puts reliability at risk, we are rightly taking a more cautious approach.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said the changes were part of a long-term plan to make trains more frequent and enable new journeys, while prioritising punctuality and reliability.

It added that by the early 2020s, there would be 6,400 more rail services than there had been in 2017.

Among the changes, South Western Railway says it will be offering more peak services in and out of London, while Northern will be adding direct services between Chester and Leeds, as well as faster services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Following last summer's chaos on the railways, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) blamed a lack of “responsibility and accountability” and said passengers were “badly treated”.

This year, train companies say they will work together with Network Rail “to closely monitor the introduction of the new timetable and respond rapidly to any disruption”.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent rail passenger watchdog Transport Focus said: “Passengers will welcome new services, more choice, speeded up journeys and increased frequencies.

“However, passengers need the timetable to be a work of fact, not fiction, so they will want reassurance the new services can be introduced and operated without a repeat of last year's timetable crisis.

“Transport Focus will keep a close eye on performance. Reliability remains the key factor driving passenger satisfaction.”

John Lewis partners to get lowest level pay-out since 1954 as profits slump

( via– Thur, 7th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

Partners at the employee-owned company will receive their lowest level pay-out since 1954 as it warned on consumer uncertainty.

Staff bonuses at John Lewis and Waitrose have been slashed to the lowest level in 65 years after a “challenging” year in which underlying profits fell 45%.

John Lewis Partnership, which owns both brands, said the pay-out to its more than 83,000 employees was being cut in order to keep paying off debt and maintain investment levels amid continued economic uncertainty.

It said this was having a “major impact on consumer confidence” and also warned that an “unmanaged” Brexit would result in a big fall in shopper sentiment.

The annual bonus of 3% of salary is the lowest since 1954 and down from 5% last year – the sixth consecutive year it has been cut. It was 17% in 2013.

But it may still come as a relief to many workers after a warning earlier this year that the pay-out may have to be cut altogether as the company faced tough trading conditions.

Chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said conditions for the business – owned by its employees under a its partnership structure – were expected to “remain challenging” during 2019.

Operating profits for the year to 26 January were down by 56% at the John Lewis department store chain thanks to lower sales and a period of “near constant discounting” from October onwards in response to weak demand and “distress” from rival retailers.

Profits at Waitrose were up by 18% after like-for-like sales grew and margins were boosted by new ranges including vegetarian and vegan products.

Meanwhile the supemarket chain has sold five stores to rival retailers.

It also posted strong growth in online sales, ploughing investment in its offering as it prepares to sever its current tie-up with delivery company Ocado.

For the partnership as a whole, profit stripping out bonuses, tax, and one-off items was down by 45% to £160m.

On a bottom-line basis, profits were up by 9% compared to a period last year when it was hit by major restructuring and accounting charges.

JLP said that it had been preparing for Brexit for over a year and that it was well positioned for a “managed transition”.

But it added: “The main risk in an unmanaged transition is a strong fall in consumer confidence and the impact that has on trade.

“Given the current level of uncertainty, we expect 2019 trading conditions to remain challenging.”

The company is still counting the cost of the plunge in the pound after the EU referendum as its currency “hedging” in place since before the vote – insurance policies designed to smooth out the impact of market volatility – has now ended.

Sterling's weakness means higher import costs for retailers such as JLP but it has not felt able to pass these on to customers amid fierce competition for consumers – resulting in a squeeze on profits.

The company added that retailers were also facing up to an “inevitable market adjustment” as they battled to be big or relevant enough to shoppers to compete.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Clearly things on the UK high street aren't pretty, and if the bellwether John Lewis is creaking, you can be sure others are feeling the pain.

“In the short term, things don't look like getting much better, but further out, John Lewis may ultimately pick up market share from others who fall by the wayside.

“A larger slice of the pie could be the reward for staying the course, but what remains to be seen is just how big a pie is left after the current shift in retail washes through the system.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Huawei files lawsuit against US government over restricted products

( via – – Thur, 7th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Chinese company files lawsuit claiming restriction is unlawful, harms consumers and violates constitution

Huawei is suing the US over a government ban on its products, raising the stakes in a protracted diplomatic incident between China, the US and Canada, where a senior Huawei executive is facing extradition.

In a statement on Thursday, the Chinese telecoms equipment and smartphone manufacturer said it had filed a lawsuit in the US district court in Plano, Texas, home to the company’s US headquarters, calling for the ban on US government agencies buying Huawei equipment or services to be overturned.

“This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming US consumers. We look forward to the court’s verdict, and trust that it will benefit both Huawei and the American people,” said Guo Ping, Huawei’s chairman.

The ban, a provision of the National Defence Authorisation Act signed by Donald Trump in August, also prevents government agencies using third-party contractors who use Huawei products. Huawei alleges it amounts to a “bill of attainder”, a legislative act forbidden under the US constitution in which an individual or group is declared guilty of a crime without trial.

Huawei, founded in 1987 by former military engineer Ren Zhengfei, has long faced accusations of being connected to the Chinese government. For years, US officials have worried the company, the world’s largest supplier of telecoms equipment, could use its products to spy for Beijing.

Under the country’s national intelligence law, the company would be required to cooperate with Chinese authorities if asked. Ren has repeatedly said Huawei has never and would never provide information to the Chinese government.

“Huawei is not owned, controlled, or influenced by the Chinese government. Moreover, Huawei has an excellent security record and program. No contrary evidence has been offered,” said Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, on Thursday, describing the US ban as based on “numerous false, unproven and untested propositions”.Advertisement

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company’s founder, is facing extradition proceedings in Canada where she was arrested in December at the request of the US. Meng faces criminal charges in the US related to violations of US sanctions on Iran. Chinese authorities have detained two Canadians, a former diplomat and a businessman on national security grounds, arrests widely seen as retribution for Meng’s detention.

The lawsuit adds to what is likely to be months, if not years, of legal battles as well as continued diplomatic tensions. Meng is suing the Canadian government, border agency and the national police force for detaining and interrogating her before informing her she was under arrest.

After Canada approved the beginning of the extradition process last week, Chinese authorities released a statement further detailing allegations against the detained Canadians, of being co-conspirators in stealing Chinese intelligence.

Chinese officials have described the US charges against Huawei as an attempt to suppress Chinese firms. On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing supported the lawsuit. “We believe that it is perfectly legitimate and perfectly understandable for companies to defend their legitimate rights and interests through legal means,” he said at a regular news briefing.

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone maker as well as a global leader in 5G wireless networks. The US has been lobbying its allies to block Huawei technology from their developing 5G networks. Australia and New Zealand have moved to restrict use of Huawei equipment while the UK and Germany are considering restrictions.

The lawsuit marks the company’s most aggressive move yet after several months of a public relations push. In recent months Huawei has invited journalists to its campus in Shenzhen, conducted more interviews and launched a “Huawei Facts” website and Twitter account. This week it opened a cybersecurity transparency centre in Brussels to “facilitate communication” between Huawei and stakeholders.

“Prism, prism on the wall. Who’s the most trustworthy of them all?” Guo said in a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, referring to US surveillance on its own citizens. “We can’t use prisms, crystal balls or politics to manage cybersecurity. It’s a challenge we all share.”

By Lily Kuo

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn left Tokyo jail, on a $9 million bail

( via — Wed, 6th Mar 2019) London, UK —

TOKYO (Reuters) – Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn left prison on a $9 million bail on Wednesday, slipping past a throng of reporters in a blue cap and surgical mask, after vowing to mount a defence against financial misconduct charges that he has called “meritless”.

Surrounded by security guards and dressed in a workman’s uniform and glasses, Ghosn was virtually unrecognisable from his usual suited self as he left Tokyo Detention House, where he was confined to a small cell with no heating for more than 100 days.

The once-feted executive got into a small workvan parked just off the facility’s front entrance. Public broadcaster NHK later showed the vehicle exiting the facility grounds, where hundreds of journalists, photographers and TV crews have been camped, some even overnight.

Ghosn paid the 1 billion yen (£6.84 million) bail, among the highest ever in Japan, after the Tokyo District Court rejected a last-ditch appeal by prosecutors to keep him in jail.

Ghosn, also the former chairman of Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, has agreed to strict bail conditions and given assurances that he will remain in Tokyo, surrender his passport to his lawyer and submit to extensive surveillance.

He has agreed to set up cameras at the entrances and exits to his residence, and is prohibited from using the internet or sending and receiving text messages. Ghosn is also banned from communicating with parties involved in his case, and permitted computer access only at his lawyer’s office.

He faces charges of aggravated breach of trust and under-reporting his salary by about $82 million at Nissan for nearly a decade. If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum jail sentence of 15 years, prosecutors have said.

“I am innocent and totally committed to vigorously defending myself in a fair trial against these meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

The finance minister of France welcomed Ghosn’s release, saying the executive would now be able to defend himself “with greater ease”. Ghosn holds a French citizenship.Slideshow (11 Images)


The release will allow Ghosn – the architect of Nissan’s automaking partnership with Renault and Mitsubishi – to meet his new legal team more frequently and build a defence ahead of trial, which could be several months away.

Last month Ghosn hired lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, nicknamed “the Razor” for his success at winning acquittals in several high-profile cases, to replace Motonari Otsuru who once ran the prosecutor’s office investigating him.

Hironaka’s appointment suggests a shift to a more aggressive defence strategy. He has already said that the charges against Ghosn should have been dealt as an internal company matter and that Japan was out of step with international norms by keeping his client in jail.

Ghosn granted bail after months in detention

The case has cast a harsh light on Japan’s criminal justice system, which allows suspects to be detained for long periods and prohibits defence lawyers from being present during interrogations that can last eight hours a day.

While the bail is a significant step, Ghosn still faces a criminal justice system with a conviction rate of 99.9 percent.

Credited with reviving Nissan in the early 2000s, Ghosn was one of the auto industry’s most powerful figures as head of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, whose combined sales rank it as one of the world’s biggest automakers.

At the time of his arrest, he had been seeking a full merger of the companies, an idea opposed by many Nissan executives.

However, his arrest has since muddied the outlook for the alliance, which is based on a web of cross-shareholding and operational integration.

($1 = 111.7800 yen)

Reporting by Tim Kelly and Naomi Tajitsu; Writing by Naomi Tajitsu and Chang-Ran Kim

Pay by cash in the UK is at risk of “falling apart” report warns

( via – – Wed, 6th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

The system allowing people to use cash in the UK is at risk of “falling apart” and needs a new guarantee to ensure notes and coins can still be used.

A hard-hitting review by finance experts has concluded that market forces will not save cash for as long as people need it.

The report calls on the government and regulators to step in to ensure cash remains viable.

Suggestions include ensuring rural shops offer cash-back.

The report also said that essential services, such as utility and council bills, should still allow customers to pay in cash.

An independent body, funded by the banks, should be set up that would step in if local communities were running short of access to cash in shops and ATMs, the report said.

The research – called the Access to Cash Review – is authored by former financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney and was paid for by cash machine network operator Link, but was independent from it. It took evidence from nearly 100 businesses and charities across the UK.

How quickly is cash use falling?

Cash use has been falling dramatically in recent years. In 2017, debit card use – driven by contactless payments – overtook the number of payments made in cash in the UK for the first time.

The report said that the current rate of decline would mean cash use would end in 2026.

However, it concluded that notes and coins would still be used in 15 years' time, but accounting for between 10% and 15% of transactions.

The demise of cash, if unchecked, would be driven primarily by retailers and other businesses refusing to accept cash owing to the cost of handling it.

‘My cashless pub is cheaper to run'

Mike Keen opened The Boot pub in Freston, near Ipswich, last year as a cashless business with no tills.

“There are a whole bunch of reasons. The [biggest] gain is management time,” he said, such as never having to cash up at the end of the day, drive to the bank and queue to pay it in, two or three times a week.

He said that saved the business 15 hours a week, and many thousands of pounds.

Insurance premiums had been lower as there was no cash on the premises, security was less of a problem, and the time taken to serve customers was much quicker, he said.

Presentational grey line

What is the problem with a cashless society?

Banknotes and coins are a necessity for eight million people, according to the review's interim findings published in December.

These include rural communities where alternative ways of paying are affected by poor broadband or mobile connectivity, and many people who have physical or mental health problems and therefore find it hard to use digital services.

The report also concludes that vulnerability in this area is generally the result of income, not old age.

“Poverty is the biggest indicator of cash dependency, not age,” the review concludes.

“There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart. ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg, underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines,” Ms Ceeney said. “If we sleepwalk into a cashless society, millions will be left behind.”

Presentational grey line

‘Survival' tougher without cash

Kev Jackson has been homeless and currently lives in temporary accommodation.

“Cash is easy because you know what you have got on you,” he said. “On a card – when you can't see your balance – it is easy to overspend. [Cash] is very good for budgeting.”

“A lot of people [on the streets] do not have bank accounts, so they only carry cash. If you can't spend cash in a shop, it is going to be difficult for them. They won't be able to survive.”

He said that he preferred using a card himself, but was concerned that technology left many people behind.

What should be done?

Evidence from Sweden, seen as much closer to a cashless society than the UK, suggested that infrastructure was needed before cash use declined beyond anyone's control.

The review suggested that an independent body was needed to oversee a guarantee that people need not travel too far to get access to cash.

Innovation should also be used to protect cash, such as:

  • Local shops offering cash-back to customers, rather than customers relying on ATMs
  • Small businesses given the opportunity to deposit cash in secure lockers or “smart” ATMs, rather than have to make a weekly trip to a bank branch
  • A “radical” change to the infrastructure behind cash, overseen by the Bank of England, to lower the cost and maintain free access for consumers

Britain's cash infrastructure costs around £5bn a year to run. It is paid for predominantly by the retail banks and run mostly by commercial operators.

The Bank of England's chief cashier, Sarah John, said it would call together key players in this sector to develop a system that would support lower levels of cash use and encourage innovation “to support cash as a viable means of payment for those who want to use it”.

What has already been done?

Consumer group Which? has called for a single regulator to be established with a statutory duty to protect access to cash and build a sustainable cash infrastructure for the UK.

However, a number of regulators already operate in the financial sector.

Eric Leenders, from UK Finance, which represents banks, said: “The finance industry is using a range of solutions to ensure cash can still be accessed including over the counter withdrawals through 11,500 Post Offices and cash-back from retailers, to investment in ATMs and mobile bank branches to reach more rural communities.

“We will continue to work with the review team, government, and regulators to take forward this important work.”

By Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter

Debenhams issues fresh profit warning as trading remains tough

( via– Tue, 5th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

The retailer updates the market on progress in its turnaround and admits costs have proved to be greater than expected.

Debenhams has issued a fresh profit warning, saying its turnaround plan is likely to prove “disruptive” as trading remains tough.

The retailer, which is carrying out a restructuring that includes store closures in exchange for a further cash lifeline from its lenders, said that while sales had continued to fall since its last update to the market, the rate of decline had moderated.

In the first half of its financial year to 2 March, Debenhams' like-for-like sales in its core UK market were 6% lower.

They were 5.3% lower for the group as a whole as consumer sentiment remained damaged in the run-up to Brexit.

Debenhams' said: “Taken together with macroeconomic uncertainties and increased financing costs as a result of additional working capital needs, this means that the group's statement made on 10 January that we were ‘on track to deliver current year profits in line with market expectations' is no longer valid.”

Shares, which have taken a battering in the last year amid the financial crisis at the retailer, fell 8% in early deals to leave its market value languishing below £40m.

Debenhams' battle for survival is being fought on several fronts.

Shareholder opposition, led by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, resulted in chief executive Sergio Bucher being voted off the board in January.

Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire quit in the aftermath of the vote, with former Home Retail Group boss Terry Duddy taking his place on an interim basis.

Mr Ashley, who last year rescued Debenhams rival House of Fraser out of administration, has a holding of just under 30% in Debenhams.

He had offered a £40m financial lifeline of his own to the board but was rebuffed.

Debenhams later netted a £40m credit facility from its banks and the money is dependent on its turnaround remaining on course.

The company said: “The annualised £80m cost saving programme is on track, and we expect the first ranges resulting from our sourcing partnership with Li & Fung will be in stores in the current season.”

It continues to expect to close 50 stores in the coming months with the potential for thousands of job losses.

Mr Bucher said: “We are making good progress with our stakeholder discussions to put the business on a firm footing for the future.

“Our priority is to secure the best outcome for the business and all our stakeholders, whilst minimising the number of store closures and job losses.

“To do this, as we have said before, we will need the support of both landlords and local authorities to address our rents, rates and lease commitments.”

Paul Hickman, analyst at Edison Investment Research, said of the profit warning: “Debenhams has again lowered expectations following a continued negative trading record.

“Observers will be forgiven for disagreeing that gross transaction value of sales down 5.0% in Q2 (second quarter) compared with 5.6% in Q1 (first quarter) represents much of a moderation in headwinds.

“However, it isn't the desperate trading picture that management says is affecting profits, but the ‘process' – meaning the execution of the £80m cost saving programme, the transition to the sourcing partnership with Li & Fung, and balance sheet restructuring measures including store closures.

“CEO Sergio Bucher's call to landlords and local authorities “to address our rents, rates and lease commitments” reads suspiciously like an appeal to charity.”

By James Sillars, business reporter

UK economy came close to flatlining in February amid Brexit uncertainty

( via – – Tue, 5th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

Employment levels falling at fastest pace in almost nine years, survey finds

The UK economy came close to flatlining last month as Brexit uncertainty intensified and the global economy weakened, with employment levels falling at the fastest pace in almost nine years.

According to the latest snapshot of Britain’s services sector – which accounts for 80% of economic growth – businesses have begun to delay hiring staff against a backdrop of subdued demand and concerns about the economic outlook as the scheduled date of the UK’s departure from the EU draws nearer.

IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply said that political uncertainty had encouraged delays to corporate spending in the largest sector of the UK economy, which includes financial firms, hotels, shops and restaurants.

Business optimism about the year ahead plunged to the lowest ever recorded by the survey of about 650 UK services firms, barring the height of the global financial crisis and the period immediately after the Brexit vote in July 2016.

The IHS Markit/Cips services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) registered 51.3 in February, up from a two-and-a-half-year low of 50.1 a month earlier, beating a gloomier forecast made by City economists for a reading of 49.9.

Although the reading was above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction, analysts warned the expansion in service sector activity was only marginal, with the biggest driver of UK growth heading for its weakest quarter since 2012.

Duncan Brock, the group director at Cips, said: “Once again this month, the lifeblood of the sector continued to leak away with Brexit indecision striking another blow to new orders and employment in February.

“Any hoped-for progress next month looks like it will be equally stifled, as services activity heads for its weakest quarter since late 2012.”

Theresa May’s further potential defeat over her Brexit plan amid the mounting political chaos in Westminster sapped companies’ confidence, with consequences for jobs and firms’ hiring plans.

Official figures have previously suggested that Brexit has done little to dent hiring, with employment rising to record highs last year and unemployment still at the lowest levels since the mid-1970s.

Economists believe companies have put on hold their capital investment – such as in new plant machinery or efficiency-boosting technology – to hire workers instead amid the political uncertainty.

The latest snapshot from the PMI, however, suggests that jobs growth has kicked into reverse. Private sector employment across the three biggest sectors of the economy – services, manufacturing and construction – fell at the fastest rate since September 2012. Firms said that a lack of new work to replace completed projects had contributed to more cautious recruitment strategies.

Thomas Pugh, a UK economist at the consultancy Capital Economics, said: “As long as Brexit uncertainty continues growth is unlikely to accelerate, but if a Brexit deal is agreed soon, growth will surely rise later this year.”

By Richard Partington

UK’s FCA warns Car buyers of dealers overcharging £1,000 for loans

( via – – Mon, 4th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Some car buyers are being overcharged by more than £1,000 when they take out a loan to buy a car, the UK's financial watchdog has warned.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the industry practice of allowing dealers to set their own interest rates was costing consumers £300m a year.

Dealers overcharge to boost their commission, the FCA concluded.

But the Finance and Leasing Association said the watchdog's survey was “based largely on out-of-date information”.

Conflicts of interest

The regulator launched its investigation into the car finance market in April 2017 after there was a rapid surge in consumer credit led by car dealership finance.

At the time, it said it was concerned about a lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest.

In its final findings on motor finance, the FCA concluded that the widespread use of commission models, which allow brokers discretion to set the customer's interest rate and thus earn higher commission, can lead to conflicts of interest that are not controlled adequately by lenders.

It said the practice can lead to customers paying significantly more for their motor finance.

Jonathan Davidson of the FCA said: “We found that some motor dealers are overcharging unsuspecting customers over a thousand pounds in interest charges in order to obtain bigger commission payouts for themselves.

“We also have concerns that firms may be failing to meet their existing obligations in relation to pre-contract disclosure and explanations, and affordability assessments.

“This is simply not good enough and we expect firms to review their operations to address our concerns.”

Problem finance?

Four-fifths of new car finance deals are now what are known as Personal Contract Purchase, or PCP.

Instead of buying a car outright, a PCP allows consumers to rent a car over a three or four-year period.

At the end of the period consumers can buy the car for its residual value (known as a “balloon” payment), hand the car back, or roll over the residual value into a new PCP on a new vehicle.

But problems have arisen because lenders have allowed brokers to set interest rates on the PCP agreements.

The FCA estimated that on a typical motor finance agreement of £10,000, higher broker commission can result in the customer paying around £1,100 more in interest charges over a four-year term of an agreement.

‘Considerable progress'

The FCA said it was assessing the options for intervening in the market.

Options include strengthening existing rules or other steps such as banning certain types of commission model or limiting broker discretion.

In the meantime, the regulator said it would deal with individual firms where problems were identified, but it expects all lenders and brokers to review the way they do business to make sure they comply with the law and treat customers fairly.

The Finance and Leasing Association (FLA), a UK trade body for asset finance, consumer finance and motor finance, said that the FCA's survey work was “based largely on out-of-date information, and therefore does not reflect the very considerable progress the market has already made in moving away from such structures”.

The FCA analysed contracts between lenders and dealers from 2013 to 2016 and examined lenders' data from January 2017 to July 2018.

The FLA added: “We look forward to working with the FCA as it modernises its regulations in line with market best practice.”

UK construction industry shrinks for the first time in 11 months – PMI

( via — Mon, 4th March 2019) London, UK —

LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) – Britain’s construction industry reported the first fall in activity in almost a year last month, as Brexit uncertainty and a slow housing market delayed new building projects.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in February from January’s reading of 50.6, the first time the index has been below the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction since unusually icy weather in March 2018.

The last time the reading was below 50 for reasons unrelated to the weather was in September 2017, and February’s number was at the bottom end of economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.

“The UK construction sector moved into decline during February as Brexit anxiety intensified and clients opted to delay decision-making on building projects,” IHS Markit economist Tim Moore said.

Britain remains at risk of leaving the European Union on March 29 with no transitional arrangements, though last week Prime Minister Theresa May said lawmakers would be able to vote to delay Brexit for a short period if they continued to reject the deal she agreed with Brussels last year.

Builders said they were experiencing some of the longest delays in getting construction materials since 2015, due to transport shortages caused by manufacturers stocking up on materials in case a no-deal Brexit disrupts imports.

Construction projects such as new homes and office space were also being put on hold as Brexit uncertainty slowed commercial decision-making and the housing market weakened, with knock-on effects for hiring.

Although Bank of England data last week showed a pick-up in the number of mortgages approved at the start of 2019, house prices have been flat over the past couple of months, according to figures from mortgage lender Nationwide Building Society.

Last year construction output rose by the smallest amount since 2012, up just 0.7 percent according to official data.

Construction makes up only 6 percent of Britain’s economy, but its volatility often means it has an outsize effect on the quarterly growth rate of the whole economy.

Reporting by David Milliken

How Hugh Hefner Built The Playboy Empire making it one of the world’s Top Brands

Source: Business Casual

Playboy is an American men's lifestyle and entertainment magazine. History: it was founded in Chicago in 1953, by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. Notable for its centerfolds of nude and semi-nude models (Playmates), Playboy played an important role in the sexual revolution and remains one of the world's best-known brands.

Today it has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with a presence in nearly every medium. In addition to the flagship magazine in the United States, special nation-specific versions of Playboy are published worldwide. After a year-long removal of most nude photos in Playboy magazine, the March-April 2017 issue brought back nudity.