Ikea’s first city centre shopping mall opens in west London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 24th Feb 2022) London, Uk – –

Former Kings Mall in Hammersmith is fully let with a Lidl and events spaces

When Ikea bought the former Kings Mall two years ago, more than a quarter of stores in the run-down Hammersmith shopping centre stood empty.

On Thursday, the Swedish furniture giant’s £170m experiment on the west London shopping mall will be tested with the opening of Livat, its first city centre shopping mall globally and the first to be refurbished rather than built from scratch.


While Ikea’s parent group controls 47 other shopping centres worldwide, at 37,000sq metres Livat is just over a third of the size of its typical site and its first in the UK. Livat also houses Ikea’s only high street store in the UK – which is a quarter of the size of a typical store.

The former Kings Mall is now fully let, with new tenants including German discount supermarket Lidl, a Library of Things (a social enterprise) and Sook, the rent-by-the hour retail or events space, alongside an Ikea’s outlet.

“This is the first step on our journey to develop more city centre locations,” said Cindy Andersen, managing director of Ikea’s parent group’s property arm, Ingka Centres, which bought the 1980s site. “This was a perfect opportunity to refurbish and existing location which has been established for a long time and taking the next step to put some new energy into the place.”

The mall, which Ikea spent £170m on buying and redeveloping, will include a small market hall for local food pop-ups alongside Ikea’s own Swedish Deli and two further cafes offering meatballs, open sandwiches and coffees.

Brightly coloured seating on a stairway below a repaved atrium will lead to a locally run cafe above the mall, which sits beside a revamped outdoor space for council tenants in the residential block above, with a wildflower meadow, seating and planters.

The project is a bold bet on a post-Covid world. It paves the way for the redevelopment of the former Topshop flagship on London’s Oxford Street, which will reopen as Ikea next autumn as the Swedish group plans to spend £1bn on expanding in the capital over the next three years.

Andersen said Ikea was “actively searching” for more urban sites to redevelop in cities in the UK and across Europe and North America.

Later this year, Ikea will breathe new life into San Francisco’s 6X6 “ghost mall” which has lain empty since it was completed in 2016. The group is meanwhile redeveloping Toronto’s Aura Podium which formerly housed a branch of Bed, Bath & Beyond and some restaurants.

The Hammersmith store opens a year later than expected after works to knock through smaller stores and a former Debenhams and a basement area, which was once several stockrooms, took longer than expected during the pandemic.

Peter Jelkeby, the manager of Ikea’s UK retail business, said the retailer would look at a range of opportunities to fill in gaps and make the furnishings store more accessible in London as shopping habits change. More than 44% of the group’s UK sales were online last year compared to 19% in 2019.

“We need to be agile,” he said, pointing to the group’s experiments with lockers where shoppers can pick up products in Twickenham and Kingston, west London. If the idea proves popular 20 more sites are on the cards in London by the end of this year.

“Hammersmith is a new way to reach consumers. It is going to be accessible to quite different shopping behaviour … I am optimistic about physical [store] space but it needs to be in harmony with digital sales.”

He said Ikea expected the furniture market to continue to grow, even if there was a slow down from the “extreme demand” for certain kinds of products, such as desks and office chairs, which was seen during the pandemic lockdowns and the switch to working from home.

“It’s a volatile market but we are fairly optimistic,” Jelkeby said. He admitted that securing supply and transport of a whole range of products was “still challenging” and it was not clear how long the issues would last.

Ikea said it expects price inflation of 10% to 11% in the UK and Ireland this year, although some products have risen by as much as 50%.

Jelkeby said: “We have been absorbing a lot of cost increases and inflation is going to [continue] to be around us. We will continue to become more efficient and the consumer will decide if we are competitive.”


Ikea’s Hammersmith store is a step on from Ikea’s previous high street formats in the UK, all of which have now closed, such as the small store based around planning kitchens or bathrooms in central London’s Tottenham Court Road and Bromley, south-east London.

The store, which houses 18 room sets, compared to more than 30 in a typical Ikea store, featuring large items that can be ordered for home delivery as well as room design services and 1,800 different smaller items to takeaway, from mugs, artificial plants and kitchen kit to technology such as lamps featuring a Sonos smart speaker. The biggest item that can be taken home immediately is a coffee table.

By Sarah Butler

UK agrees digital trade pact with Singapore

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 9th Dec, 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Britain on Thursday said it had agreed a digital trade deal with Singapore, the first digitally-focussed trade pact signed by a European nation.

Britain said the agreement in principle would overhaul outdated trade rules and open up opportunities in Singapore, viewed as a global leader in digital.

“It is the first digital trade deal ever signed by a European nation and will slash red tape, cut costs and support well-paid jobs across the whole UK,” trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.

Last month the UK's Board of Trade said that a Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore would demonstrate the potential for digital trade rules to others in the World Trade Organization.

Britain said the trading relationship with Singapore was worth 16 billion pounds ($21 billion) in 2020.

“While we await further details on how these provisions will work for firms practically, we also look forward to seeing similar agreements announced in 2022 with our partners and friends across the world,” said City of London Corporation Policy Chair Catherine McGuinness.

($1 = 0.7582 pounds)

Reporting by Alistair Smout

Barclays boss Jes Staley steps down over Epstein inquiry by UK regulators

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 1st Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Jes Staley tells staff he did not want his looming battle with the FCA and PRA to become a distraction from the bank's operations. He had previously said his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, which he now regretted, ended in late 2015 when he moved to Barclays.

Barclays has revealed that its chief executive Jes Staley has stepped down following an investigation by regulators into his dealings with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The bank said on Monday that Mr Staley – its chief executive since 2015 – had gone after being given sight of the preliminary conclusions of a probe launched last year by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

It was to examine his “historical” links to paedophile Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial, while Mr Staley ran the private banking arm of US giant JP Morgan.

Barclays had said in February 2020 that Mr Staley had offered an account of their business relationship and its board had decided he would be “unanimously recommended” for re-election at the bank's AGM in May 2020 as he had been “sufficiently transparent”.

But it said on Monday that it was made aware on Friday evening of the FCA and PRA's findings of the investigation into his characterisation to Barclays of his relationship with Epstein, and the subsequent description of that relationship in Barclays' response to the regulator.

“In view of those conclusions, and Mr Staley's intention to contest them, the board and Mr Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as group chief executive and as a director of Barclays,” the bank said.

“It should be noted that the investigation makes no findings that Mr Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr Epstein's alleged crimes, which was the central question underpinning Barclays' support for Mr. Staley following the arrest of Mr. Epstein in the summer of 2019.”

Mr Staley will get a £2.5m payoff and continue to receive other benefits for a year, the bank said. He will also be eligible to receive repatriation costs to the US and could receive more cash, but no decision has been made.

He had previously said his relationship with Epstein, which he now regretted, ended in late 2015 when he moved to Barclays.

Mr Staley told Barclays staff in an email that he had quit as he did not want his personal response to the findings to be a distraction. Who's who in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal

The bank announced that CS Venkatakrishnan – its head of global markets – had already assumed the job of chief executive.

He told investors he planned to stick with Barclays' strategy as it was the “right one”, but would soon announce changes to the organisation of its corporate and investment banks.

Just last month, Barclays had signalled further UK branch closures alongside financial results showing record profits – led by the investment banking arm championed by Mr Staley.

Barclays admitted that it was “disappointed” by the outcome, as he had “run the Barclays group successfully since December 2015 with real commitment and skill”, its statement said.

The FCA and PRA said they could not comment at this stage as their investigations were continuing.

Barclays shares fell almost 3% on the news.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the development: “For the chief executive, Jes Staley, to step down following an investigation by city regulators into his dealings with Epstein, it's clear the conclusions of the probe are critical.

“While the probe did not centre on Mr Staley's role at Barclays but what he disclosed about his previous position at JP Morgan, what was under question was how he characterised his former relationship with the disgraced financier.

“Although detail is limited, it appears regulators believe there was a distinct lack of transparency over this relationship.

“It's understood Mr Staley will contest the conclusions, and clearly the board want to distance Barclays from what could be a long, drawn out process.”

By James Sillars

Rishi Sunak Budget 2021: Unveils tax cuts and benefits boost as he warned of “challenging” months ahead

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 27th Oct 2021) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out a series of tax cuts and a boost to benefits to help Britons with the cost of living, as he warned of “challenging” months ahead due to the continuing COVID pandemic and rising inflation.

In his budget statement to the House of Commons, Mr Sunak promised plans to build “a stronger economy for the British people” after the coronavirus crisis.

He also acknowledged that households could face a squeeze as the UK economy continues to recover from the impact of COVID.

The chancellor revealed the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the CPI rate of inflation to average 4% over the next year.

Benefits boost as Sunak lowers Universal Credit taper rateAdvertisement

Promising to provide “help for working families with the cost of living”, Mr Sunak announced he would lower the taper rate of Universal Credit from 63% to 55%.

This means, for every extra £1 someone earns, their Universal Credit will be reduced by 55p rather than 63p.

Mr Sunak claimed the move, which will be implemented no later than 1 December, would see nearly two million families keep, on average, an extra £1,000 a year.

But critics said it only went part way to reducing the impact of the chancellor's previous decision to cut a pandemic-induced £20 per week uplift to welfare payments.

Alcohol, fuel, flights and business tax cuts

In a series of tax changes, Mr Sunak announced a new post-Brexit system of alcohol duties, including a lower rate of tax on draught beer and cider to boost pubs.

The new “more rational” system of levies will also see sparkling wines, such as prosecco, pay the same duty as still wines of equivalent strength.

With petrol prices having hit a record high across the UK, the chancellor cancelled a planned rise in fuel duty.

And Mr Sunak also sought to support high streets with a new year-long 50% business rates discount for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

In a move that brought condemnation from environmental groups – and in the week before the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow – the chancellor revealed a new lower rate of Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

‘Largest increase this century' in Whitehall spending

As he revealed the results of his spending review to accompany the budget, Mr Sunak promised “the largest increase this century” in total spending across government departments.

The £150bn increase over this parliament, until 2024, would include “a real terms rise in overall spending for every single department” and also saw Mr Sunak confirm extra money for the NHS, courts, prisons and the probation services, local transport, childcare and parenting programmes, science funding and housing.

But, as he outlined the current state of the economy, the chancellor said he was keeping a cash reserve to “protect ourselves against economic risks”.

“That is the responsible decision at a time of increasing global economic uncertainty, when our public finances are twice as sensitive to changes in interest rates as they were before the pandemic and six times as sensitive as they were before the financial crisis,” the chancellor said.

“Just a one percentage point increase in inflation and interest rates would cost us around £23bn.”

New spending rules as Sunak warns of interest rates rise

Mr Sunak set out new government spending rules that he said would keep the public finances “on the path of discipline and responsibility” with his new rules.

These include underlying public sector net debt – excluding the impact of the Bank of England – falling as as a percentage of GDP.

And Mr Sunak also said that, in normal times, the government should only borrow to invest in “future growth and prosperity”.

“Everyday spending must be paid for through taxation,” the chancellor said, as he set out action to pay back the multi-billion pound spending during the COVID crisis.

Mr Sunak said his budget “does not draw a line under COVID” as he warned of “challenging months ahead” and encouraged “everyone eligible to get their booster jabs right away”.

But the chancellor added his budget “does begin the work of preparing for a new economy” after the coronavirus crisis.

UK economy to grow ‘quicker' than expected

The OBR now expects the UK's economic recovery from the COVID pandemic to be “quicker” than previously thought, Mr Sunak told MPs, with growth revised up from 4% to 6.5% for this year.

In 2022, the OBR expects the UK economy to grow by 6% and 2.1%, 1.3% and 1.6% over the following three years.

And they have also revised down their estimates of long-term “scarring” to the UK economy of the COVID crisis.

The chancellor also told the Commons that the OBR expects a lesser peak of unemployment, of 5.2%, which means “over two million fewer people out of work than previously feared”.

Wednesday's statement was the third budget delivered by Mr Sunak as chancellor and the second of this year, following his statement in March.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was unable to respond to Mr Sunak's budget in the House of Commons after earlier testing positive for COVID.

By Greg Heffer

London underground to get full mobile network by end of 2024, says Sadiq Khan

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 22nd June 2021) London, Uk – –

Sadiq Khan says work will begin soon on connecting busiest underground stations for end of next year.

Passengers on the London underground will have mobile coverage throughout the network by the end of 2024, the mayor of London has said.

Transport for London (TfL) said work on preparing some of the capital’s busiest stations, including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Bank, would begin soon, and they would be among the first fully connected stations by the end of next year.

TfL has awarded a 20-year concession to BAI Communications (BAI), a global provider of 4G and 5G connected infrastructure, to counter so-called not-spots in the network.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was re-elected last month, said: “I promised Londoners that if they re-elected me for a second term as mayor I would deliver 4G throughout the tube network.”

Permanent phone reception was made available on underground sections of London’s tube network for the first time in March last year when the eastern half of the Jubilee line was covered.

Mobile coverage on underground sections of the tube had previously been available only in a short trial on the Waterloo and City line during summer 2017.

Khan said: “It’s already up and running on the eastern half of the Jubilee line and I’m delighted to announce today that I am fulfilling that commitment and full internet access will be available across the tube, with key central London stations such as Oxford Circus and Euston set to benefit before the end of next year.”

Camden Town and Euston are the other stations that will be among the first tranche to be connected.

Shashi Verma, the chief technology officer at TfL, said: “London underground was born in the 19th century, and this concession to deliver mobile coverage to the whole tube network ensures it continues to adapt for customers in the 21st century.

“Providing mobile connectivity to customers within the tunnels and on platforms across London will help them stay connected more easily, and will both provide a long-term revenue stream for TfL and support economic growth across the city.”

How This Entrepreneur Grew One Lorry to a Fleet of Over 35 Vehicles & Machines in 7 Years

Source: Ashvill

This is the 2020 Ashville vehicle, plant and machinery fleet tour; all the weapons used by Ashville Waste Management, Aggregates, Concrete and Construction on a daily basis. Take a look at the journey of how Daniel Louisy went from one DAF Grab Lorry (Truck) to a growing fleet of over 35 vehicles and machines in just 7 years!

Pinewood studio blockbuster visitor attraction set to create 3,500 jobs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 17th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

The company said the strategy comes at a time when the need for investment in economic recovery has never been higher.

Film studio Pinewood has announced a £450m expansion, including a blockbuster visitor attraction, which it says could create around 3,500 new jobs.

The announcement, details of which were first reported by Sky News, “comes at a time when the need for investment in economic recovery has never been higher”, the company said.

Pinewood, which has played host to many instalments of the James Bond and Star Wars franchises, will open Screen Hub UK on a 77-acre site next to the existing studio.

It will include a 350,000 sq ft “film-inspired international visitor attraction” called Pinewood Studio Experience.

Pinewood group chairman Paul Golding said: “We have been looking at a visitor experience for some time and feel that now is the right moment to bring it forward.

“The project will strengthen UK film and bring much needed jobs and spending.”

Pinewood said it would start consultation on its planning application for the scheme next week.

Its new visitor attraction is likely to feature many of the most famous films made at the site during its 84-year history.

Among those at least partly shot at Pinewood during the last year have been Rocketman, Mary Poppins Returns, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker and the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die, which is due to be Daniel Craig's final outing as 007.

The latest instalment of the Jurassic World series is currently filming at the Buckinghamshire studio.

Pinewood's plans will deliver a huge shot in the arm to a film industry which, like many others, has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Filming across the television and movie sectors has been postponed or cancelled during the last six months, resulting in substantial delays to film releases and in turn dealing a heavy blow to the finances of cinema chains around the world.

Other big investments in UK film production capacity include a state-of-the-art film and TV studio being developed by Sky, the immediate owner of Sky News, at Elstree.

London City airport to cut a third of staff in restructuring plan

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 14th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Airport says loss of up to 239 jobs will help it to bounce back when post-Covid growth returns

London City airport is to make more than a third of its staff redundant in the latest job cuts in the battered aviation sector.

The airport, situated in east London and serving a largely business clientele, has started consulting over up to 239 job losses in what it called a restructuring plan to safeguard its future.

London City shut down for three months at the height of the pandemic and, after reopening in late June, is now operating only 17 routes. Most staff were furloughed and the airport has until now avoided the kind of widespread job cuts seen elsewhere.

The chief executive, Robert Sinclair,said:“The aviation sector is in the throes of the biggest downturn it has ever experienced as a result of the pandemic. We have held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus.”

He said the airport’s focus in the coming weeks would be to help its staff through this period, but added: “We believe that the difficult decisions we are taking now will enable the airport to bounce back in a better shape when growth returns.”

Last month the airport suspended most of its £500m redevelopment programme, including an extended terminal, bar works already under way.

The UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow, has already laid off a third of its managers and told frontline staff to accept pay cuts or further job losses, as its chief executive warned that the surrounding borough of Hounslow risked ending up like a mining town in the 1980s unless flying resumed.

Gatwick said last month it would cut 600 jobs, amid calls across the aviation sector for government help. Airlines are now not expecting passenger demand to return to normal levels until at least 2023 or 2024.

By Gwyn Topham 

Coronavirus: UK abandoning existing contact-tracing app to move to Google-Apple model

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 18th June 2020) London, Uk – –

The move marks a huge U-turn from the government which has asserted for months that it would not be changing the app's model.

The UK is abandoning its existing contact-tracing app and switching to the technology provided by Google and Apple, Sky News has confirmed.

The news will be announced at a briefing later today.

The move marks a major U-turn, after the government insisted its own centralised model was more effective than the model being proposed by the technology companies.Contact tracing apps explained: The problems and potential

In particular the government believed that by holding the data on contacts in a centralised manner they would have been able to develop valuable epidemiological data about how the virus is spreading.

The centralised model would also have helped prevent against people causing mischief with the system by giving the authorities an edge in detecting false positives.

Google and Apple collaborated to allow mobile devices to use Bluetooth in the background and register when they come within close proximity of another mobile phone.

But the collaboration required health authorities' apps to utilise a decentralised model of data storage – keeping the list of contacts on each device, rather than uploading it to a central authority – which they said would protect users' privacy.

As the iOS and Android mobile operating systems are run on 99% of the world's smartphones, the companies' technical designs have a fundamental say in how contact-tracing apps work.

For months the government had asserted that its app, designed outside of the requirements set by Apple and Google, would be more effective than what could be achieved within those requirements.

Despite being initially promised for mid-May, a health minister has now said the app would not be ready before Winter.

Lord Bethell confirmed the government still planned to introduce a contact-tracing app, describing it as “a really important option for the future”.

The app has been the subject of a trial on the Isle of Wight, where the Department of Health says it has been downloaded by 54,000 people.

Lord Bethell said the trial had been a success, but admitted that one of its principal lessons had been that greater emphasis needed to be placed on manual contact tracing.

“It was a reminder that you can't take a totally technical answer to the problem,” he said.

Problems with manual contact tracing have been apparent in NHS statistics which today revealed that at least a quarter of people who test positive for COVID-19 in the UK are being missed.

Boris Johnson called by Top business leaders to set out green recovery plan

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 1st, June 2020) London, Uk – –

Heathrow, HSBC and National Grid among 200 CEOs calling for a ‘clean, just recovery’

Britain’s most powerful business leaders have called on Boris Johnson to set out economic recovery plans that align with the UK’s climate goals to help rebuild a resilient UK economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Almost 200 chief executives – from companies including HSBC, National Grid, and Heathrow airport – signed a letter to the prime minister calling on the government to “deliver a clean, just recovery”.

The letter calls for a recovery that “creates quality employment” and helps to build “a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient UK economy for the future”. It was also signed by the heads of Aviva, Lloyds Banking Group and BP’s UK business.

The letter emerged days after MPs called on the government to deliver £30bn in green aid to help to accelerate “faster, further, fairer” action to help tackle the climate crisis and the economic consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.

“The current crisis, in moving us all away from business as usual, has already created shifts in how we operate, and we believe we must use the recovery to accelerate the transition to net zero,” it said.

“Efforts to rescue and repair the economy in response to the current crisis can and should be aligned with the UK’s legislated target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.”

The letter is the latest in a growing chorus of voices calling for the government to focus on sustainable investments.

It set out three key measures.

First, the government should include a combination of targeted public investment and clear policy signals to support growing private sector investment in low-carbon technologies. These might include tax incentives or a penalty price on carbon emissions.

Second, the government should prioritise sectors within the economy that can stimulate jobs, spur the economy and help lower the UK’s emissions. These include construction, renovation and energy efficiency, and low-carbon electricity and electric vehicle infrastructure.

Finally, the letter calls for the government to set out stimulus packages that include measures to ensure that the businesses which receive government support align their business strategies with the government’s own climate goals.

The UK became one of the first major economies to set a target to become carbon neutral by 2050 through legislation that demands that emissions fall to net zero within the next 30 years.

The latest call comes after the the International Renewable Energy Agency found that accelerating investment in renewable energy could spur global GDP gains of almost $100tn (£80tn) between now and 2050.

However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that the economic fallout of the coronavirus could pose a threat to climate action unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown.

By Jillian Ambrose

BT in talks to sell multi-billion pound stake in Openreach

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 14th May 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – BT Group Plc (BT.L) is in talks to sell a multi-billion pound stake in its wholly owned network subsidiary Openreach to infrastructure investors to help fund an ambitious expansion in fibre broadband, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The FT said potential investors, including Australian investment firm Macquarie Group Ltd (MQG.AX) and a sovereign wealth fund, had held talks in the last three weeks with the former telecoms monopoly.

Macquarie, however, was not interested in a deal, a source close to the investment firm told Reuters.

BT declined to comment on the FT report.

Upgrading Britain’s broadband network is the centerpiece of Chief Executive Philip Jansen’s strategy for BT, but rolling out the fibre connections to 20 million premises by the mid to late 2020s will cost 12 billion pounds.

Shares in BT fell to 11-year lows, giving it a market capitalisation of 10 billion pounds, after the company cancelled its divided a week ago to help weather the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Jansen said the pandemic, which has seen a surge in the use of mobile phones and data, had made the network upgrade “a matter of extreme urgency”.

Cancelling the dividend until 2021/22 and only then reinstating it halve the previous level will save BT 3.3 billion pounds, analysts noted.

The company has multiple call on the cash, including its 5G mobile network, pension deficit and expensive sports rights that underpin its consumer broadband offer.

It will also face more competition across mobile, fixed-line and TV after cable TV company Virgin Media and mobile operator O2 agreed to merge a week ago.

Jansen, however, said last week he was focused on upgrading Britain’s broadband infrastructure, and he confident the regulator Ofcom and the government would create the right conditions for investment.

“Clearly in this environment the political and regulatory will to encourage investment is very, very high,” he said.

On Wednesday he demonstrated his confidence in BT’s prospects by spending 2 million pounds buying the company’s shares, according to a stock market filing on Thursday.

A person associated with the company’s chairman and a non-executive director also purchased stock, the filing said.

Reporting Paul Sandle and Pamela Barbaglia in London

BoE Jan Vlieghe says: “Britain’s economy experiencing possibly its deepest economic shock in several centuries”

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 23rd April 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy is experiencing possibly its deepest economic shock in several centuries and a quick bounce-back is unlikely, Bank of England (BoE) interest-rate setter Jan Vlieghe said on Thursday.

“Based on the early indicators, and based on the experience in other countries that were hit somewhat earlier than the UK, it seems that we are experiencing an economic contraction that is faster and deeper than anything we have seen in the past century, or possibly several centuries,” Vlieghe said.

“The economy’s potential is severely disrupted at the moment but, once the pandemic is over, and other things equal, in principle it should return approximately to the pre-virus trajectory,” he said in an online speech.

Asked after his speech about the likely speed of Britain’s economic recovery, Vlieghe said it was likely to take time.

The government and the BoE were taking measures to try to reduce long-term scarring in the economy, he said.

“But of course all the risks are that it will take longer and that it will look a little bit more like a U and than a V,” he said.

BoE Chief Economist Andy Haldane and Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent have said cautious consumers might slow the recovery. BoE Governor Andrew Bailey said there was a lot of uncertainty about the outlook.

The BoE cut interest rates twice in March to an all-time low of 0.1% and ramped up its bond buying by a record 200 billion pounds ($247 billion) as the coronavirus escalated.

The government has rushed out a series of emergency measures too, including a pledge to pay 80% of the wages of workers who are temporarily laid off.

But last week, Britain’s budget forecasters warned that the economy could shrink by 13% this year, its biggest slump since the early 1700s, as a result of the government’s lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. They also said a quick recovery was possible.

On Thursday, a widely watched measure of business hit a record low and confidence among manufacturers was the weakest since records began in the 1950s.

Vlieghe said the hit to the economy was likely to push down on inflation: “So the current priority for monetary policy, with a lot of help from fiscal policy, is to return the economy to that pre-virus trajectory as soon as possible.”

The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is due to make its next monetary policy announcement on May 7.

“The MPC stands ready to take further action to support the economy consistent with its remit,” Vlieghe said, adding the drive by central banks around the world to support their economies via bond-buying since the global financial crisis had not driven up inflation expectations.

He also addressed concerns the BoE was resorting to printing money with its bond-buying just to help the government ramp up public spending.

“Central banks use their balance sheets to achieve monetary policy objectives,” Vlieghe said. “This in no way detracts from the central bank’s independence and its ability to hit the inflation target.”

The BoE’s decision this month to expand the government’s overdraft facility at the central bank was “purely a back-up” to the government bond sales programme and would not affect the BoE’s job of focusing on inflation, Vlieghe said.

Reporting by Andy Bruce and William Schomberg

HS2 construction rail project given formal approval despite lockdown

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 15th April 2020) London, Uk – –

The government has given formal approval for construction work on the HS2 rail project to begin despite lockdown measures.

Construction firms involved in phase one of the high-speed rail project will need to follow social distancing rules.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “We cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved the decision to build the rail link in February after a review into its cost.

Matthew Kilcoyne, deputy director of the free-market Adam Smith Institute, called the government's announcement “tone-deaf” in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Vanity projects'

Mr Kilcoyne said: “We've got an economic crisis that's going to cost taxpayers billions. We can't afford vanity projects like HS2.

“We need to get back on to a sustainable financial footing.”

The government's official report previously warned that the project could cost more than £100bn and be up to five years behind schedule.

On Tuesday Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that the coronavirus pandemic “will have serious implications for the UK economy”.

He spoke after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimated that a three-month lockdown would hit GDP and push up the UK's borrowing bill to an estimated £273bn this financial year.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “This next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it.”

A notice to proceed has been given to four joint ventures, which will start work immediately, according to a statement by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The announcement was welcomed by the boss of the Construction Industry Council, Graham Watts. “The notice to proceed with HS2 is welcome at this time, particularly for the benefit of the economy,” he said.

“When the current crisis is over, planned recovery is vital and major infrastructural work such as HS2 and from Highways England, together with a recovery in housebuilding, is a key instrument for kickstarting the wider economy.”

Companies with HS2 contracts include Costain, Balfour Beatty and Skanska Construction UK.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “The issuing of notice to proceed today ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”

Safety of the workforce

Construction workers on-site will need to observe Public Health England's advice on social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The GMB union, which represents HS2 construction workers, said that the safety of the workforce “must be the overriding priority”.

Eamon O'Hearn, its national officer, said that construction should be “conditional on rigorous observation of social distancing, provision of personal protective equipment where required”, as well as individual risk assessments for vulnerable workers.

HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It is hoped the project will reduce passenger overcrowding and help rebalance the UK's economy through investment in transport links outside London.

HS2 minister Mr Stephenson added: “HS2 will be the spine of the country's transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity, while also rebalancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.”

Bank of England appoint Andrew Bailey as new governor

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 20th Dec 2019) London, Uk – –

Andrew Bailey has been appointed as the next governor of the Bank of England.

Mr Bailey, aged 60, is currently chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City watchdog.

He will become the 121st governor of the Bank of England on 16 March, taking over from Mark Carney, and will serve a full eight-year term.

The search for the new governor began in April and Mr Bailey, who spent more than 30 years at the Bank, was seen as an early favourite for the job.

However, the FCA has faced criticism in recent months over its regulatory scrutiny of the flagship fund of one of the UK's best known money managers, Neil Woodford. The fund was suspended in June and eventually closed, with investors expected to lose large sums of money.

In addition, the FCA's report into Royal Bank of Scotland's treatment of small business by its controversial restructuring division was called a “whitewash” after it recommended taking no further action against the bank.

Five things the Bank of England does

  • It sets the official interest rate, which determines the cost of borrowing money
  • It supervises the financial system, seeking to ensure it is stable and no banks are running out of cash
  • It acts as the government's bank and a lender of last resort in times of financial difficulty
  • It issues the UK's banknotes (coins are issued by the Royal Mint)
  • It stores the UK's gold reserves, as well as those of other central banks

Announcing the decision to appoint Mr Bailey, Chancellor Sajid Javid said he was “the stand-out candidate in a competitive field”.

“He is the right person to lead the Bank as we forge a new future outside the EU and level-up opportunity across the country,” he added.

Accepting the role, Mr Bailey said it was “a tremendous honour” to be chosen.

“The Bank has a very important job and, as governor, I will continue the work that Mark Carney has done to ensure that it has the public interest at the heart of everything it does.”

CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith congratulated Mr Bailey, saying: “His strong experience, both in Threadneedle Street and at the Financial Conduct Authority, means he is particularly well placed to steer the British economy through the new course it will take after Brexit and through challenging global economic times.”

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell was critical of the appointment, saying: “As an establishment figure with what some consider is a less than inspiring record at the FCA, Andrew Bailey will need to demonstrate early that he appreciates the need to address the deep structural problems of our economy and, like Mark Carney, understands the climate change threat.”

Mr Carney had been due to step down on 31 January, but has now agreed to stay on until 15 March in order to provide for a smooth transition.

Mr Carney described Mr Bailey as “an extraordinary public servant”.

“Andrew brings unparalleled experience, built over three decades of dedicated service across all policy areas of the Bank,” he said.

The decision means hopes that the Bank could have been led by a female governor for the first time in its history have been dashed.

Minouche Shafik, a former member of the Bank of England's interest rate-setting committee, had been hotly tipped for the role.

Mr Bailey has spent almost the entirety of his career at the Bank of England, which he joined in 1985.

He has held a number of roles including chief cashier, which meant that his signature appeared on all bank notes issued by the Bank of England.

Mr Bailey was chief cashier during the financial crisis when, he recalled in an interview: “The [RBS] treasurer, John Cummins, came in and I thought he was going to have a heart attack… and he looked at me and said: ‘I need £25bn today, can you do it?'. I said: ‘Yes, I can do that'.”

Mr Bailey was also a deputy governor and head of the Bank's prudential regulation division, before joining the FCA as its chief executive in 2016.

Analysis: Simon Jack

Andrew Bailey was the early frontrunner for one of the most powerful positions in the UK.

However, his time as head of the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, was peppered with a number of high-profile controversies – including its handling of complaints into RBS's treatment of small businesses in the aftermath of the financial crisis – which many thought might have harmed his chances for the top job.

He is highly thought of by colleagues and civil servants.

Former Permanent Treasury Secretary Lord McPherson described him as the most able and competent Bank of England official he had ever worked with, adding that while Bailey would not make waves for the government he had the backbone to stand up to it.

Mr Bailey, who will be paid £495,000 a year, is taking over at a fraught time for the Bank of England.

It emerged this week that an audio feed of sensitive market information from the Bank had been leaked to fund managers.

The Bank admitted one of its suppliers had “misused” the feed which gave traders early access to information that could potentially generate large sums of money.

The matter has been referred to the FCA, which Mr Bailey currently leads.

The City watchdog said it was “looking at the issue”.

PA reported that the prime minister's official spokesman, when asked whether Brexit was a factor in Mr Bailey's appointment, said: “The way it works is the chancellor recommends candidates to the PM, the PM then advises the Queen.”

When pressed on the issue, the spokesman added: “I just went through the process and the prime minister thinks he will do an excellent job.”

General election 2019: Conservatives win see pound and shares surge

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 13th Dec 2019) London, Uk – –

The pound and shares have surged after the Conservatives won a clear majority in the UK general election.

Sterling gained 1.9% to $1.34 – its highest level since May last year – on hopes that the big majority would remove uncertainty over Brexit.

The pound also jumped to a three-and-a-half-year high against the euro.

On the stock market, the FTSE 100 share index rose 1.5%, while the FTSE 250 – which includes more UK-focused shares – leapt 4%, hitting record highs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the election result meant that the Conservative government “has been given a powerful new mandate, to get Brexit done”.

Mr Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the European Union by 31 January.

Politically sensitive shares saw sharp rises in morning trading on UK markets.

Shares in water companies such as Severn Trent, which faced the possibility of nationalisation under a Labour government, shot up 6%, while UK housebuilders also saw big gains, with a huge 10% rise for Persimmon.

Shares in banks exposed to the UK economy rose sharply. Barclays, RBS and Lloyds were up 7%, 11% and 6% respectively.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said housebuilders had been undervalued and rose “on hopes that construction will benefit from the Conservative victory”.

“We should also consider the potential risk that a Labour government could have posed to their profits being removed,” Mr Wilson said.

While many FTSE 100 shares saw big gains, this was offset slightly by the rise in the value of the pound, which affected companies with big international operations. A rise in sterling cuts the value of companies' overseas earnings when they are brought back to the UK and converted back into pounds.

In contrast, the FTSE 250 index – which generally contains firms with more exposure to the domestic economy – jumped more than 5% at one point, before slipping back slightly.

Analysis: By Simon Jack

The financial bookies had already installed Boris Johnson as the favourite but did not expect him to romp home by such a distance.

The pound moved sharply higher as soon as the exit poll was published and went on to post one of its biggest one-day gains against the dollar in years as Johnson's thumping victory removed one layer of political uncertainty.

Shares in politically-sensitive sectors such as house building and banking rocketed, as did water, rail and energy companies, as the threat of nationalisation under a Corbyn government evaporated.

Markets have given the prospect of a government with a functioning majority a round of applause but the euphoria may be short-lived.

Traders are already talking about the formidable challenge of completing a trade deal with the EU by this time next year, along with the prospect of a new Scottish independence referendum.

The election may be settled, but there are big political questions that are not.

Guy Foster, head of research at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin, said that “the potential for a smooth Brexit removes some of the downside risk for the UK economy”.

“This should be positive for both business and consumer confidence, at least in the short term, with a gradual acceleration in GDP growth and confidence.

“However, a lot can change over the coming months as the finer detail of the UK's future trade relationship with the EU is negotiated.

“This is still, after all, just the beginning of the exit process. Even with the passing of the withdrawal agreement, the UK could still leave the EU without a deal at the end of 2020 if trade negotiations don't proceed successfully.”

Andy Scott, associate director at financial risk adviser JCRA, said: “What will be interesting to see – assuming that Brexit will now follow a set course, at least [until] 31 January – is if economic data is given a significant boost from the perceived certainty, and [whether it] starts to influence sterling again.

“In recent months, the market has almost completely ignored the slowdown in the economy and the potential for monetary stimulus from the Bank of England, with election and Brexit expectations driving fluctuations in sterling's value.

“The performance of the economy is likely to be key to whether we see a further recovery in 2020.”

Sterling slips on Friday after three-day rally, set for best week since mid-October

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 6th Dec 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling slipped on Friday, consolidating after three days of gains that took the pound to 2-1/2-year high versus the euro and a seven-month high against the dollar on expectations that the Conservative Party will win next week’s British election.

The pound is still headed for its best week since mid-October, having risen 1.5% against the dollar and almost 1% to the euro as various opinion polls indicate a comfortable majority for the ruling party.

But on Friday it slipped 0.2% to $1.3138, just off a $1.3166 high touched Thursday, while against the euro it traded at 84.58 pence, having traded as high as 84.31 pence this week.

“It’s a small move and no fundamental change (in terms of what opinion polls show),” Nordea analyst Morten Lund said.

“From a risk-reward perspective most people are too optimistic but if you look at option markets you can see some people positioning for sterling weakness.”

David Katimbo-Mugwanya, a fund manager at EdenTree Investment Management, said confidence has been growing that a decisive election result and the subsequent passing of a Brexit withdrawal deal in the UK parliament would boost the economy.

“I would expect some sort of bounce (in the UK economy). You have already seen some of that in the currency,” he said.

Should the Conservative Party win a majority in next week’s election, some analysts believe any further rise in the pound will be limited, however.

MUFG said in a research note sent to clients that the need for the UK and the EU in 2020 to begin negotiating their future relationship would introduce a “sustained period of uncertainty”.

Evidence of a weakening economy in Britain would also weigh on the pound, the analysts said, pointing to a new jobs market survey that showed the slowest rate of rising vacancies since October 2009.

Leaders of the two main parties will go head-to-head in a TV debate later on Friday.

Reporting by Sujata Rao and Tommy Wilkes

London Stock Exchange shareholders vote on $27 billion takeover deal of analytics and data company Refinitiv

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 26th Nov 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) shareholders met on Tuesday to vote on the exchange’s $27 billion takeover of analytics and data company Refinitiv, a deal designed to broaden LSE’s trading business and make it a major distributor of market data.

LSE Chairman Don Robert told the meeting in London that the exchange’s board was unanimous in recommending the Refinitiv deal because it was a “compelling opportunity” in the best interests of shareholders and the company.

One shareholder asked whether the LSE was simply bulking up to avoid becoming a future takeover target.

“We feel very strongly this is in the long-term strategic interest of the London Stock Exchange. It will give us an opportunity to have a truly global business,” LSE Chief Executive David Schwimmer said.

The industry has been littered with attempts at cross-border alliances between exchanges for more than a decade as profits from the traditional business of running stock markets and clearing houses have fallen. But many of the deals have run into regulatory and political opposition.

This has pushed exchanges to look for related businesses. LSE and New York Stock Exchange owner ICE (ICE.N), for example, are moving into more profitable and less politically sensitive areas such as data and analytics, where revenue is rising.

LSE executives also dismissed some shareholder doubts that the exchange has the ability to make a success of the takeover, with Schwimmer saying there was a high degree of confidence that integration of LSE and Refinitiv can be well managed.

The outcome of the vote is due to be announced later on Tuesday.

The deal was announced in August, just 10 months after a consortium led by U.S. asset manager Blackstone (BX.N) completed a leverage buyout of Refinitiv from Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO).

Thomson Reuters (TRI.N), the parent company of Reuters News & Media Limited, holds a 45% stake in Refinitiv.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (0388.HK) threatened to derail the deal in September by making an unsolicited $39 billion takeover offer for LSE. The Asian exchange walked away after failing to convince LSE management and investors to back the move.

Reporting by Huw Jones

November is the new Black Friday For UK shoppers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri , 22nd Nov 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – With harsh lessons learnt from past Black Fridays, British retailers are stretching promotions over several weeks, aiming to smooth out consumer demand and reduce the pressure on supply and distribution networks.

Brought over from the United States by Amazon (AMZN.O) in 2010, the annual event started as a single day of discounting before growing into a long weekend that took in ‘Cyber Monday’.

It then grew to a week or so either side and is now getting longer and longer, though after chaos and scuffles in stores in 2014 it is now predominantly an online affair.

“We’ve re-named Black Friday, November,” John Roberts, the chief executive of AO World (AO.L), the online electrical appliances retailer, told Reuters.

With recent consumer spending subdued, Brexit still unresolved and a looming national election creating new uncertainties, retailers are in need of a tonic.

AO went live with Black Friday deals, such as a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer reduced from 449 pounds ($578) to 279 pounds, on Nov. 13 and some deals will run into December.

Dixons Carphone (DC.L), Britain’s biggest electricals and mobile phones retailer, launched a first wave of promotions on Nov. 13 on products such as laptops, TVs and vacuum cleaners, and deals will run for a few days after Black Friday itself on Nov. 29.

Amazon’s Black Friday Sale runs for eight days from Nov. 22, but it has been running early Black Friday deals this week.

Argos, owned by supermarket group Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L), and department store group John Lewis [JLPLC.UL] both launched their campaigns on Nov. 22.


British retailers’ early experiences of Black Friday, when stores were overcrowded, websites crashed and delivery operations were overloaded, showed the folly of concentrating a huge amount of business on one day and then having a relatively flat period afterwards.

“While this may ease the demand on logistics operations over the period, it will mean that shoppers demand ever steeper discounts during Black Friday as they expect something more from retailers during this time,” said Zoe Mills, retail analyst at GlobalData, the data and analytics company.

It forecasts that UK shoppers’ spending in the Black Friday period would rise 2.2% year on year to 4.3 billion pounds.

Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, is so-called because it was historically the day when retailers would move into profit after months in the red. It traditionally marks the start of the U.S. holiday shopping season.

This year’s sales drive, which is often make-or-break for U.S. retailers, falls a week later than last year, leaving U.S. retailers with a shorter holiday shopping period.A customer stands next to a container advertising Black Friday offers in a branch of Mamas and Papas in Manchester, Britain November 20 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble


PwC, the advisory firm, reckons 52% of British consumers are either interested in buying or plan to buy something during Black Friday, with average spend forecast at 224 pounds. But it says consumers are increasingly cynical about the event.

“Some consumers doubt the quality of the deals on offer, with many seeing them as not especially good value or not worthy of interest, and this is likely to have been exacerbated as Black Friday deals have spread to the whole of ‘Blackvember’,” said Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC.

Black Friday’s popularity has meant Britain’s Christmas trading season now has three distinct peaks – around Black Friday, the week up to Dec. 25 and the post-Christmas sales.

But nearly a decade after coming to Britain, the event’s worth to retailers still polarizes opinion.

Supporters say carefully planned, targeted promotions in close co-operation with global suppliers allow retailers to achieve a sales boost while still maintaining profit margins.

Naysayers argue the discounts suck forward Christmas sales at reduced profit margins, undermine consumers’ willingness to pay full price again before Christmas, and dampen business both in prior and subsequent weeks.

Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) has dabbled with Black Friday in the past but has opted out since 2015. CEO Steve Rowe says his focus is on improving M&S’ value all year round.

“That’s the way to deliver great value for customers, not one off promotions, so we won’t be taking part.”

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter

Inside the United Kingdom’s Tech Renaissance

Source: Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance heads to England to find out how the country is fighting to inject new life into its technology industry. The trip starts out in Bletchley Park. From there, it’s off to Cambridge, the heart of England’s technology scene. Vance hangs out with learned cows and artificial intelligence whizzes, bikes past Newton’s famed apple tree (at least a reasonable replica of it), and goes punting with the inventor of the Raspberry Pi computer. From Cambridge, it’s off to the Cotswolds and the headquarters of Dyson to see its latest creations. And then on to London to check out some startups and whine about Brexit while drinking the world’s most exotic cocktails at the Langham Hotel.

UK budget deficit likely to double to 100 billion pounds in No-deal Brexit – IFS

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 8th Oct, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s budget deficit is likely to more than double to around 100 billion pounds if the country leaves the European Union without a deal, quickly requiring a return to austerity, a leading think-tank said on Tuesday.

Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is determined to do so despite parliament ordering him to seek a delay if he cannot negotiate an acceptable transition agreement before then.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted borrowing would rise to 92 billion pounds – equivalent to 4% of national income – by 2021/22 under a “relatively benign” no-deal Brexit scenario, in which there are no major delays at borders.

Even then, the economy would still enter recession in 2020, the IFS said in an annual assessment of the public finances.

If the government undertook enough fiscal stimulus to stop the economy contracting – roughly 23 billion pounds of extra spending in 2020 and 2021 – annual borrowing would peak at 102 billion pounds

“A no-deal Brexit would likely require a fiscal short-term stimulus followed by a swift return to austerity,” IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said.

In the 2018/19 financial year Britain’s budget deficit was 41 billion pounds or 1.9% of GDP, its lowest since 2001/02, following years of efforts to reduce the deficit from a peak of 10.2% during the depths of the financial crisis in 2009/10.

In the longer term, a no-deal Brexit would mean less money to spend on public services – or higher tax rates – than staying in the EU or leaving with a deal, the IFS said.

Even without Brexit, Britain was likely to have to raise tax rates to fund the cost of pensions and public healthcare for an ageing population, it said.

Finance minister Sajid Javid announced 13.4 billion pounds of extra spending on health, policing, schools and other areas last month – putting borrowing on course to overshoot a cap of 2% of GDP targeted by his predecessor, Philip Hammond.

“The outlook for borrowing has worsened dramatically since March,” Emmerson said.

Javid is due to set out fresh borrowing plans an annual budget before the end of 2019, possibly before an early election as Johnson seeks to regain a working majority in parliament.

The IFS said the government’s budget targets had lost credibility and it was now set to spend almost as much on day-to-day public services as planned by the opposition Labour Party before an election in 2017, promises which drew criticism from the ruling Conservative Party.

It also said the government should wait until the outlook for Brexit was clearer before setting long-term budget goals, and avoid income tax cuts of the type that Johnson suggested when he campaigned to become Conservative leader.

Reporting by David Milliken