The International Monetary Fund Raised Global Growth Forecast

 

The International Monetary Fund has raised its global growth forecast for this year but also warned protectionist policies could undermine a broad-based, but modest, recovery.

It credits improving manufacturing and trade in bigger economies for the 3.5 percent growth it now expects, up from January's 3.4 percent forecast.

IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said: “This improvement comes primarily from good economic news for Europe and Asia as well as our continuing expectation for higher grow.

Primark defies fears of fading UK consumer demand

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 19,2017) London UK —

Associated British Foods' (ABF.L) Primark discount fashion retailing arm traded well through Britain's Easter holiday period, the group's boss said on Wednesday, countering fears that British consumer demand was fading.

Industry data published earlier this month showed UK shoppers clamped down on their spending in the first quarter of 2017 as rising inflation and slowing wage growth dented disposable income.

“In clothes the effect of consumers tightening their belts is probably swamped by a later Easter, good weather and great ranges in store,” Chief Executive George Weston told Reuters.

“Maybe we’re bucking the trend in some respects but if you offer what the consumer is looking for then you can trade through difficult times,” he said after the group reported a 36 percent rise in first-half profit, sending its shares 4.6 percent higher.

Primark's UK like-for-like sales rose 2 percent in the six months to March 4.

“We traded very well through Easter,” said Weston, referring to trading since the end of its financial half-year period.

He also said he did not expect a UK General Election, called on Tuesday, to affect demand.

However, he had detected some recent pull-back by consumers in the group's grocery business.

“In grocery, we have seen more people trading down to own label as one effect and basket sizes being pretty flat year-on-year,” he said.

SUGAR REBOUND

Weston was speaking after AB Foods raised its profit forecast for the full year ending in September on the back of the better than expected first-half results that were driven by a rebound in its sugar business, resilience at Primark and progress at its ingredients and grocery operations.

In the six months to March 4, the company made an adjusted operating profit of 652 million pounds ($836 million) – ahead of the average of analysts' forecasts of 623 million pounds, according to Reuters data. Revenue rose 19 percent to 7.3 billion pounds while the interim dividend was increased 10 percent to 11.35 pence.

Operating profit from sugar jumped to 123 million pounds from just 3 million pounds last time, reflecting higher global sugar prices and the group's move to take costs out of the business and re-shape its portfolio – selling out of its sugar cane business in southern China and taking full ownership of Illovo in Africa.

Shares in the group, majority owned by Weston's family, had fallen 19 percent over the last year due to concerns over the impact of a weaker pound on Primark's profit margin. Primark accounts for over half of AB Foods' profit.

“Our outlook for the group's full-year results has improved and we now expect to report good growth in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share,” Chairman Charles Sinclair said in the results statement.

He did, however, caution that profit growth in the second half would, at current exchange rates, be tempered primarily by a smaller currency translation benefit and the full effect of the devaluation of sterling against the dollar on Primark's margin.

Though AB Foods lost out in the bidding for British cereal brand Weetabix to U.S. firm Post Holdings (POST.N) this week, the firm remains interested in doing other deals in grocery, where it already owns a number of food brands including Twinings Ovaltine, Kingsmill and Jordans.

“M&A does form a part of our strategy,” said Weston, noting the group's net cash balance of 190 million pounds at the end of the first-half period.

By James Davey

 

 

Debenhams Poised to Unveil Radical Overhaul of Retail Shops

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 18 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

The new boss of Debenhams will unveil plans this week to overhaul the retail chain’s 165 shops and cull some in-house brands in a bid to lure shoppers back to its stores.

Sergio Bucher, a former Inditex director who joined from Amazon’s fashion arm in October, is expected to announce a significant investment to boost the number of restaurants and beauty services, such as brow grooming and blow-dry bars, in Debenhams stores.

Debenhams move comes amid mounting evidence that consumers are allocating more free time and disposable income to eating out and holidays, at the expense of shopping at traditional retailers. The continuing rise of online shopping compounds the challenge for high street stores.

Debenhams chairman Ian Cheshire said at the World Retail Congress in Dubai earlier this month that retailers were having to adapt to millennial mobile-savvy shoppers: “The next generation is behaving differently, spending differently and interacting differently”, he said. “To them it is experience, not stuff that matters.”

Debenhams is expected to record a 3pc lift in half-year sales to £1.6bn but a 6pc slip in half-year profits to £88.2m as the department store chain struggles to wean itself off discounting. Over Easter, Debenhams has been offering 30pc off furniture and a much as 70pc on women’s occasionwear to boost sales.

The department store is expected to also review its Designers by Debenhams brands, which includes RJR by John Rocha, J by Jasper Conran and Star by Julien McDonald, amid City commentary that they no longer carry the same weight with shoppers.

Industry experts have claimed that while one-off department stores like Selfridges and Liberty remain destinations for tourists, regional department stores are haemorrhaging shoppers as the internet has meant that the everything-under-one-roof concept has fallen out of fashion.

In the US, department store chain Sears has recently warned that there was “substantial doubt” it could continue while Macy’s is shutting 100 of its shops.

Last year UK department store footfall slumped by 2pc, putting Debenhams’ expensive multi-storey shops under strain.

Analysts expect Mr Bucher to afford the revamp of Debenhams’ beauty halls by making some head office cost-savings, but sources say it is unlikely that the group will announce a raft of shop closures.

All but one of Debenhams 165 shops remains profitable and the company has long-leases that are an average of 20 years long, which Mr Bucher has privately admitted would be too expensive for the retailer to exit.

Instead, Debenhams is hoping to turn its shops into destinations by adding more services and restaurants. The company has already added a number of Patisserie Valerie, Costa and Joe and The Juice cafes to its stores, which has increased the amount of time shoppers spend in stores.

In addition Debenhams also plans to refine its beauty offer after hiring Nicky Kinnaird, founder of upmarket beauty chain Space NK, to its board. Debenhams already controls a third of the UK beauty market and generated £1m in online sales alone when it exclusively launched millennial favourite Kat von D’s make-up products in the UK.

Debenhams sources believe that Mr Bucher will prioritise online exclusive beauty launches, which help to win over younger make-up lovers.

The Swiss-Spanish boss will also lean on his experience at Amazon to boost Debenhams’ online business while ensuring that its stores don't become just click and collect counters for online orders. Around 25pc of click and collect visits lead to further purchases.

“Sergio Bucher has not taken the chief executive job to just tinker with the current strategy, in our view” said Investec analyst Kate Calvert. “With over a decade of profit erosion, something more radical is needed given the structural challenges Debenhams faces in the mid-market.”

Virtually all of Britain’s department store chains have undergone a series of boardroom reshuffles recently. John Lewis named Paula Nickolds as its first female managing director last year, taking over from company lifer Andy Street. Ms Nickolds earlier this month said the industry was undergoing “profound change”.

Meanwhile, House of Fraser is still without a chief executive after Nigel Oddy quit the Chinese-owned chain last November. House of Fraser is expected to record positive annual underlying profits next week despite a slump in its womenswear division.

By Ashley Armstrong

Tesla Becomes Top Automaker Surpassing GM and Ford

 

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Bank, and Bloomberg Intelligence’s Gina Martin Adams discuss Tesla’s market capitalization passing GM. They speak with Bloomberg's Alix Steel, Jonathan Ferro and David Westin on “Bloomberg Daybreak”

Michael Bloomberg’s Top 10 Rules For Success

 

He's an American business magnate, politician, and philanthropist.

He served as the 108th Mayor of New York City, holding office for three consecutive terms.

With a net worth of $41 billion, he is the 7th richest person in the United States and the 13th wealthiest in the world.

He's Michael Bloomberg and here are his Top 10 Rules for Success.

Houston Market Square Tower Glass bottomed Sky Pool

 

Dubbed the Sky Pool, the infinity pool is on the 42nd floor and extends 10 feet over the side of Market Square Tower. Sweat-inducing footage shows one brave resident gingerly walking around on the 8-inch thick plexiglass. He appears to be stepping into thin air as tiny cars zip past in the busy street 500 feet below in Houston.

BHS Workers Share £1m Employment Tribunal Award

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 14 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

A group of former BHS workers have altogether won up to £1m in compensation over the summary way they were made redundant when the retailer collapsed.

A London employment tribunal awarded 110 employees at the firm’s head office up to 90 days’ wages after their lawyers successfully argued that the company did not conduct a proper consultation process with them ahead of their dismissal.

The employees were represented by the law firm JWK, which successfully argued that BHS failed to fulfil its legal duty to consult with staff for at least 45 days before making them redundant when the retailer collapsed last April.

The tribunal ruled there had been “a complete failure to consult” and that the claimants should receive the maximum protective award.

“We are very pleased that the claim has been successful and that the claimants will, at last, receive some compensation for the way they were treated,” said JWK’s director, Carl Moran. “It’s a very complex area of law and we were pleased to assist in achieving this just outcome.”

JWK brought the claim against BHS and the government on behalf of former staff. The business department, therefore, will have to hand the staff the equivalent of 40 days’ pay, and the defunct company’s estate will be liable for the remaining 50 days’ money. Payments will vary in size depending on salaries but the government’s contribution is capped at £3,800 per person.

When BHS collapsed into administration a year ago, with the loss of 11,000 job losses, it was the biggest high-street failure since that of Woolworths, which went into administration in 2008. The retailer had been owned by Sir Philip Green for 15 years until he sold it to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt, for just £1 in March 2015.

The retailer lasted just a year under the control of Chappell’s consortium and its unravelling finances would become the subject of a high-profile parliamentary inquiry which concluded that the company had been systematically plundered by its owners. During his ownership, the Green family and other shareholders collected at least £580m from BHS in dividends, rental payments and interest on loans. Green recently resolved the long-running row over the hole in the BHS pension fund deficit by agreeing to hand over £363m in cash to rescue it.

It is not the first time there has been a clash between insolvency and employment regulation. In 2014 Comet workers won a multimillion-pound payout after a tribunal ruled that the company and its administrator, Deloitte, failed to consult staff properly when nearly 7,000 people were made redundant in 2012. The Leeds employment tribunal awarded staff up to 90 days’ pay, ruling that staff were misinformed and some made redundant within hours of being consulted.

In 2016 lawyers also won an employment tribunal claim on behalf of 340 City Link employees over the failure to properly consult when the parcel delivery firm imploded on Christmas Eve.

By Zoe Wood

Starbucks Uk Profits Hit By Brexit and Slowing Economy

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 14 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Starbucks has blamed Brexit and a slowing economy for a dive in UK profits, while pointing to weakening consumer confidence as sales sagged.

The US firm saw pre-tax profits collapse 60pc to £13.4 million in the year to October 2016, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Turnover also fell, from £405.6 million to £379.9 million.

“Starbucks in the UK has experienced significant economic and geopolitical headwinds this year which affected sales, including slowing economic growth, impact of Brexit and ongoing security concerns contributing to weakening consumer confidence,” the company said.

The coffee giant said the consumer environment was “more cautious” than the previous year, with footfall down “noticeably” across the store estate.

Like-for-like sales growth fell from 3.8pc to 1pc in the period.

Starbucks added that it was taking measures to mitigate the impact of falling sales, including closing unprofitable stores and reducing costs.

“We expect the business to hold up well as we maintain focus on cost management alongside the strategic realignment of our portfolio,” the chain added.

Starbucks, which came under intense fire in 2012 for the low amount of tax it pays in the UK, said it shelled out £6.7 million in total taxes last year versus £8.4 million in 2015.

Martin Brok, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa, struck a positive tone, hailing the company for recording a third straight year of profit.

He added: “Whilst there are undoubted challenges presented by a more cautious consumer environment, lower high street footfall, and adverse currency impacts, we are investing significantly to drive innovation in our food and coffee offering, and are greatly encouraged by our customers' response.

“We also continue to focus on strategically remodelling our store portfolio to reflect changing customer demands. The UK remains one of the most important EMEA markets for us and we will continue to grow where our customers want to find us.”

Starbucks has 894 stores in the UK, with over a third company owned and the remainder owned by license and franchise partners.

By  Press Association

London Docklands Factory to Build Thousands of Prefab Homes

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 13 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Plans are being drawn up for a factory in east London that would supply thousands of modern prefab homes.

The scheme in the Docklands will be the first of its kind in the capital and eventually provide 3,000 new homes. Although modular homes have been built and shipped into other London sites, this is the first development with its own factory.

The Government is keen to promote prefab housing as a way of solving the housing crisis. Modular homes can be built in sections and then assembled quickly on site. Currently, around 15,000 new homes are produced this way each year.

The developer First Base has brought on the global engineering consultancy firm Aecom to help with the plans. The factory, in Silvertown, would deliver homes up to nine months quicker than was possible using normal house building techniques, First Base said.

The Silvertown development, which is being built by a partnership between Chelsfield Properties, First Base and Macquarie Capital, spans 62 acres in total.

The factory is expected to become operational later this year, producing two-bedroom homes in two parts, which can be put together on site.

Building modular homes costs 20pc less than traditional methods, the company said.

A number of other housebuilders have set up similar factories, although none has yet put a prefab home on one of their development sites.

In December, the housing association Your Housing Group signed a deal with China National Building Material Company, a Chinese state-owned construction company, to build 25,000 modular homes in the next five years.

Last year the housing minister, Gavin Barwell, said the Government saw a “huge opportunity” in manufacturers building houses off-site to hit ambitious building targets.

A surge in prefabs after the Second World War helped families left homeless after the Blitz.

UK Pay Growth Barely Keeping Up With Inflation

 

Figures released on Wednesday show that British workers' pay growth is barely keeping up with inflation.

Earnings rose by an annual 2.3 percent in the three month period to February.

On Tuesday we had learned that consumer price inflation stood at 2.3 percent in the 12 months to March. For Dec-Feb 2017 wages, after inflation, up 0.2% on a yr inc bonuses and 0.1% exc bonuses, weakest growth since 2014.

Will Backlash Towards United Airlines Debacle Impact Ticket Sales?

 

Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman discusses the reaction to a passenger being dragged from a United Airlines flight and subsequent actions from the company. He speaks with Jonathan Ferro on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.”

Toshiba Globally Known Name for Electronics in Crisis

 

Toshiba – one of the best-known names in electronics – is in crisis, saying its very survival is in doubt.

The Japanese conglomerate's latest results reveal much bigger than previously estimated losses for the nine months through to the end of last year.

Toshiba risks its share being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata, has refused to approved those results because of concerns over billions in losses at its US nuclear power plant subsidiary Westinghouse Electric.

Barclays Boss Reprimanded Over Hunt for Whistleblower

 

British financial regulators have said they are investigating Barclays Chief Executive Jes Staley and the bank itself over a whistleblowing incident.

The UK-based bank revealed that Staley had twice tried to identify an employee who had raised concerns about an executive hired by Barclays who had previously worked with Staley at JPMorgan Chase.

The bank said it had formally reprimanded its top boss for what it called a serious offence.