Theresa May warned lack of Brexit clarity causing businesses to lose patience

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 3rd July 2018) London, Uk – –

A leading business lobby group appeals for government in-fighting over Brexit to stop and focus instead on the national interest.

Theresa May is being warned that businesses are running out of patience on the lack of Brexit clarity, more than two years after the vote to leave the EU.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged politicians to cast aside “squabbling” and work in the national economic interest to remove uncertainty over tax, tariffs, customs and regulation.

The lobby group intervened in the debate as the PM prepares to host a key cabinet Brexit meeting at Chequers on Friday at which key negotiating positions are expected to be agreed.

The BCC's frustration echoes that expressed by Airbus and BMW last week – companies which then faced criticism for speaking out from ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox.

Boris Johnson reportedly said “f*** business” in response.

:: Johnson defends Rees-Mogg as Brexit in-fighting intensifies

Sky News reported on Monday how the government had since moved to smooth relations with business through an invitation for top companies to hold talks with the Brexit Secretary David Davis.

BCC director-general, Adam Marshall, warned that a lack of decisions had resulted in a significant slowdown in business investment.

He said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient.

“We have supported the Government's drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy.

:: MPs request Bank and Treasury Brexit analysis

“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.

“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.

“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.

“It's time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first.”

The BCC argued that firms had clarity on only two of 23 key Brexit questions it had compiled.

The government said it was confident of getting a deal to ensure trade would remain “as free and frictionless as
possible”.

A spokesperson added: “Ministers continue to work closely with business to understand their concerns and by successfully negotiating the implementation period with the EU until December 2020, companies can carry on trading with confidence on the same terms as they do now”.

By James Sillars

 

 

Take a look Inside London’s New £15bn Elizabeth Line Upgrade

 

Business Insider UK got an inside look at the progress works of London's new Elizabeth Line. The entire upgrade costs £14.8 billion and has taken nine years to build. We visited Farringdon—one of 41 new stations for the new service—to see what to expect once the line officially opens in Dec 2018.

 

Heathrow expansion vote by MPs to take place today without Boris Johnson

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 25 June 2018) London, Uk – –

The foreign secretary, who is abroad, once threatened to lie down in front of the bulldozers if a third runway was approved.

MPs will decide later whether to expand Heathrow airport in a crunch vote which looks set to expose divisions in both Labour and Tory ranks.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was “the biggest transport decision in a generation” as he called for cross-party support to approve a third runway.

The spotlight will be on the whereabouts of Boris Johnson, who once threatened to lie down in front of the bulldozers if a third runway got the go-ahead at the west London airport.

The foreign secretary is set to miss the vote because he is abroad, but the government has so far declined to say where he will be on security grounds.

Senior Tory backbencher Sarah Wollaston called on Mr Johnson to take the “principled decision” and resign in order to vote against expanding Heathrow.

She said the prime minister's decision to allow Mr Johnson – who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London – to avoid a three-line whip in support of the Heathrow plan by going abroad “won't wash”.

“I think this would be an opportunity for a colleague like Boris Johnson to actually put his money where his mouth is,” Dr Wollaston said.

Greg Hands, who resigned as international trade minister in opposition to the third runway, appeared to mock Mr Johnson's absence on the eve of the vote.

Mr Hands tweeted on Sunday: “Great to arrive back in the UK at Luton Airport in time for the match today and to vote against #Heathrow expansion tomorrow. I wouldn't want to be abroad for either of those. #commitments.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted to Sky News on Monday he “didn't know where” Mr Johnson was.

He said: “The prime minister has been very clear that there are parliamentary colleagues who have longstanding views about this, perhaps for constituency reasons who need to take their own decisions about how they approach it.

“We all fought a general election on the manifesto of expanding Heathrow Airport.

“But equally, where there are people who have got particularly constituency issues, we've left them the freedom to carry on expressing the views they've always had.”

Theresa May confirmed last week that Mr Johnson would miss the vote on Heathrow, describing him as “the living embodiment of global Britain” abroad.

The Conservative row came as more than 40 Labour MPs said they would go against party policy and support the government's decision.

The group whose constituencies span the country put their names to a letter to colleagues in the party urging them to support a project they say could create 180,000 jobs across the UK.

Labour is officially opposed to the expansion but Jeremy Corbyn has allowed MPs a free vote on a measure that is supported by trade unions.

Mr Grayling – who will appear on Sky News this morning – said that “thousands of new jobs and the country's ability to compete on an international stage and win new global trade” were at stake.

He said: “I hope colleagues from across the House will now put aside party and political differences to take a decision in the long-term national interest.”

Officials say the expansion of Heathrow would create 114,000 extra jobs in the area around the airport by 2030, with an extra 16 million long-haul seats by 2040.

It would also represent the first new full-length runway in the south east since the Second World War, the Department for Transport said.

But opponents have attacked the scheme on environmental, noise and financial grounds grounds, with Friends of the Earth saying it was “morally reprehensible” and would see the enlarged Heathrow emitting as much carbon as the whole of Portugal.

 

Philip Hammond gives Bank of England £500bn in preparation for Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri 22 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Bank will have extra £500bn to provide to economy as Britain prepares for Brexit

The Bank of England will be allowed to provide more than £500bn in lending to the economy without seeking the Treasury’s permission, in a move that reinforces the strength of the UK financial system as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Announcing the plan at the annual Mansion House dinner for bankers in the City of London on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said the changes would help to improve the resilience of the central bank. It would also help with its “ability to meet its monetary and financial policy objectives in the future”, he said.

Hammond said the government would give the Bank £1.2bn, a sum that would underwrite the £500bn lending pot, but the move would not impact public borrowing because the money would remain in the public sector. The half a trillion pound fund could be accessed by commercial banks for funding, including during credit crunch-style financial crises.

The move also gives Threadneedle Street greater autonomy in lowering interest rates to zero and providing more money to commercial banks during times of stress, without requiring Treasury permission. Despite its independence from the Treasury, the Bank has needed to approach the government in order to expand its support to the economy – including when it announced an emergency funding scheme for banks in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Speaking alongside the chancellor at his penultimate Mansion House dinner before stepping down next year, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said the additional capital would significantly increase the amount of money the central bank could lend without seeking financial backing from the Treasury. Although at first it will amount to more than half a trillion pounds, it could rise to over three-quarters of a trillion pounds.

He said the changes could also help the government to strike new deals with emerging markets to facilitate the growth of the UK financial sector, which could increase from 10 times the size of the British economy at present to 15 times by 2030.

“We now have a balance sheet fit for a new world order with greater reliance on markets in a wider range of reserve currencies,” he said.

As part of the changes, the Bank of England will see the emergency funding programme launched straight after the Brexit vote, known as the term funding scheme – which provides banks with cheap finance during times of stress – become part of the Bank of England’s balance sheet rather than the Treasury’s.

By Richard Partington

 

 

Sotheby’s own in-house fraud-busting expert: The world’s top art forgery detective

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Sat, 16 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Forgeries have got so good – and so costly – that Sotheby’s has brought in its own in-house fraud-busting expert.

The unravelling of a string of shocking old master forgeries began in the winter of 2015, when French police appeared at a gallery in Aix-en-Provence and seized a painting from display. Venus, by the German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, to describe the work more fully: oil on oak, 38cm by 25cm, and dated to 1531. Purchased in 2013 by the Prince of Liechtenstein for about £6m, Venus was the inescapable star of the exhibition of works from his collection; she glowed on the cover of the catalogue. But an anonymous tip to the police suggested she was, in fact, a modern fake – so they scooped her up and took her away.

The painting had been placed in the market by Giuliano Ruffini, a French collector, and its seizure hoisted the first flag of concern about a wave of impeccable fakes. Ruffini has sold at least 25 works, their sale values totalling about £179m, and doubts now shadow every one of these paintings. The authenticity of four, in particular, including the Cranach, has been contested; the art historian Bendor Grosvenor said they may turn out to be “the best old master fakes the world has ever seen.” Ruffini, who remains the subject of a French police investigation, has denied presenting these paintings as old masters at all. To the Art Newspaper, he protested: “I am a collector, not an expert.”

 

 

The quality of these paintings – their faithful duplicity – jolted the market. The sums of money at stake in art, never paltry to begin with, have grown monstrous. Thirty years ago, the highest auction price for a painting was $10.4m, paid by the J Paul Getty Museum for Andrea Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi in 1985. In contrast, while the $450m paid for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in 2017 counts as an outlier, abstract expressionists and impressionists frequently come, in auctions or private deals, with nine-figure price tags.

In lockstep, the incentive to be a proficient forger has soared; a single, expertly executed old master knockoff can finance a long, comfortable retirement. The technologies available to abet the aspiring forger have also improved. Naturally, then, the frauds are getting better, touching off a crisis of authentication for the institutions of the art world: the museums and galleries and auction houses and experts who are expected to know the real thing from its imitation.

What was most unnerving about the alleged fakes sold by Ruffini was how many people they fooled. The National Gallery in London displayed a small oil painting thought to be by the 16th-century artist Orazio Gentileschi – a battle-weary David, painted on an electric-blue slice of lapis lazuli; the work is now suspect. A portrait of a nobleman against a muddy background was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011, to a private collector, as a Frans Hals; the buyer paid £8.5m. Sotheby’s also sold an oil named Saint Jerome, attributed to the 16th-century artist Parmigianino, in a 2012 auction, for $842,500. With care, the catalogue only ventured that the work was from the “circle of” Parmigianino– an idiom to convey that it was painted by an artist influenced by, and perhaps a pupil of, Parmigianino. But the entry also cited several experts who believed it was by Parmigianino himself.

The works were full of striking, scrupulous detail. On Jerome’s arm, for example, dozens of faint horizontal cracks have appeared; every so often, a clean, vertical split intersects them. In French canvases from the 18th century, cracks in paint tend to develop like spider webs; in Flemish panels, like tree bark. In Italian paintings of the Renaissance, the patterns resemble rows of untidy brickwork. On the Saint Jerome, the cracks match perfectly. Prof David Ekserdjian, one of the few art historians who doubted that the painting was a Parmigianino, said he just didn’t feel the prickle of recognition that scholars claim as their gift: the intimacy with an artist that they liken to our ability to spot a friend in a crowd. “But I have to be frank, I didn’t look at it and say: ‘Oh, that’s a forgery.’”

When Sotheby’s sells an artwork, it offers a five-year guarantee of refund if the object proves to be a counterfeit – “a modern forgery intended to deceive”, as its terms specify. In 2016, after uncertainty crackled over the Hals and the Parmigianino, the auction-house sent them to Orion Analytical, a conservation science lab in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Orion was run, and staffed almost solely by, James Martin, who has loaned his forensic skills to the FBI for many art forgery investigations. Within days, Martin had an answer for Sotheby’s: both the Hals and the Parmigianino were fakes.

The “Hals” contained synthetic pigments that the artist, in the 17th century, could not have used. In Saint Jerome, similarly, Martin found phthalocyanine green, a pigment first synthesised four centuries after Parmigianino died. It showed up consistently across 21 paint samples from various parts of the painting – “a bit like taking the pulse of a corpse 21 times,” Martin told the New York Times last year. Sotheby’s refunded both buyers, and filed suits against the sellers, demanding they return their proceeds from the sales.

In December 2016, in a signal of how attribution scandals have spooked the market, Sotheby’s took the unprecedented step of buying Orion Analytical, becoming the first auctioneer to have an in-house conservation and analysis unit. The company had seen enough disputes over attribution to mar its bottom line, its CEO, Tad Smith, said: “If you looked at earnings reports from a year or two ago, you’d see little blips here and there. These were expenses coming from settlements – not a slew, the number was small and statistically insignificant, but they’re expensive.” The cost of insurance that covers such settlements was also rising. With Martin in the building, “the pictures and other objects moving through Sotheby’s now have a much higher chance of being checked”, Smith said. Last year, Martin analysed more than $100m worth of artworks before they went under the hammer or into private sales. Sotheby’s employs him, in part, as a conservator, so he ministers to the health of the paintings and sculptures that pass through. But over the past two decades, Martin has also become the art world’s foremost forensic art detective. He has worked so many forgery cases with such success that he also serves Sotheby’s as a line of fortification against the swells of duff art lapping into the market.

The first major painting sold by Sotheby’s was also a Hals – a real one: Man in Black, a half-length portrait of a hatted gent. Until 1913, Sotheby’s had dealt in books for a century or thereabouts; art made up only a wan side business. In that year, though, a Sotheby’s partner found a Hals consigned to the firm, and rather than forwarding it to Christie’s, as was often the practice, decided to auction it. After a spirited contest of bids, Man in Black sold for £9,000 – a 26% rate of return per annum since Christie’s had last auctioned the work, in 1885, for around £5. It was the first signal, for Sotheby’s, that there was profit to be mined from paintings. Last year, it sold $5.5bn worth of art, jewellery and real estate.

For Sotheby’s, the question of authenticity is not merely, or even primarily, academic. There is more at stake than a satisfying answer to the fundamental conundrum of whether authenticity matters at all – a debate that has been fought and refought in the history of western art. “If a fake is so expert that even after the most thorough and trustworthy examination its authenticity is still open to doubt,” the critic Aline Saarinen once wondered, “is it or is it not as satisfactory a work of art as if it were unequivocally genuine?” Typically, this debate comes to rest at the same place every time. Of course authenticity matters; to study a false Rembrandt as a true one would be to hobble our understanding of Rembrandt as an artist, and of the evolution of art. Now, however, the question’s philosophical whimsy has been replaced by financial urgency. At a time when the art market is synonymous with art itself, a lack of regard for attribution would derail a trade that traffics in the scarcity of authentic Rembrandts.

Leaving straight forgeries aside, any discussion about the “authenticity” of an artwork opens suddenly, like a trapdoor, into the murk of semantics. On the sliding scale of attribution that art historians use – painted by; hand of; studio of; circle of; style of; copy of – each step takes the artist further from the painting. These variations, often subtle, are compounded by the unease about overpainting; Salvator Mundi had been worked over so many times and so heavily, critics argued, that it was less by Da Vinci than by his restorers. Deliberate fakes, misattributions and poor restorations all encroach into the realm of the authentic. In two decades at the Met in New York, Thomas Hoving, the museum’s director until 1977, must have examined at least 50,000 objects, he wrote in his book False Impressions. “I almost believe that there are as many bogus works as genuine ones.”

Like criminals of every stripe, modern forgers have kept easy pace with the techniques that attempt to trap them. The mismatch between the purported age of a painting and the true age of its ingredients is the workhorse of Martin’s technique. So forgers have grown more rigorous in their harvesting of materials, taking the trouble, for instance, to source wooden panels from furniture they know is dateable to the year of the fake they are creating. (The trick isn’t wholly new; Terenzio da Urbino, a 17th-century conman, scrabbled around for filthy old canvases and frames, cleaned them up, and turned them into “Raphaels”.) Forgers also test their own fakes to ensure they’ll pass. Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German artist who served three years in prison for forging paintings worth $45m, surveyed the chemical elements in his works by running them under X-ray fluorescence guns – the same handheld devices, resembling Star Trek phasers, that many art fairs now train upon their exhibits.

Georgina Adam, who wrote Dark Side of the Boom, a book about the art market’s excesses, told me that many forgers are sensibly choosing to falsify 20th-century painters, who used paints and canvases that can still be obtained, and whose abstractions are easier to imitate. “The technical skill needed to forge a Leonardo is colossal, but with someone like Modigliani, it isn’t,” she said. “Now, scholars will say it’s easy to distinguish, but the fact is that it’s just not that easy at all.” In January, in a celebrated Modigliani exhibition in Genoa, 20 out of 21 paintings were revealed to be counterfeits.

As the tide of money in the market has risen, making decisions about authenticity has turned into a fraught venture. Collectors, realising how much they stand to lose, are now happy to take scholars and connoisseurs – traditionally the final authorities on the authenticity of a work – to court for their mistakes. Realising that their reputations, as well as their bank balances, may wilt under the heat,these experts have begun to subtract themselves from the game entirely.

The estates of several 20th-century artists had once taken on the duty of resolving doubts over attribution, setting up authentication committees, consisting of experts or the artist’s former colleagues or friends – people expected to know the work best. In 2007, a collector named Joe Simon-Whelan sued the Andy Warhol estate’s authentication committee, claiming it had twice rejected a Warhol silkscreen he owned because it wanted to maintain scarcity in the Warhol market. Four years later, after spending $7m in legal fees, the estate dissolved the committee. The authentication boards of other modern artists – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder – have followed. Individual connoisseurs – as the art world calls its experts – won’t always challenge popular identifications, wrote the critic Jerry Saltz in a scorching essay on the vertiginous price of Salvator Mundi. They are reluctant to “rock the already splintering institutional boat. As in the wider world, where people sit by for fear of losing position, it’s no wonder that many old master experts are keeping quiet, not saying much of anything.”

The collapse of these committees feels like a victory of the market over the academy, like a blow to the very cause of trustworthy authentication. (In New York, a small band of lawyers is lobbying for legislation that will protect scholars from being sued merely for expressing their opinion.) In this void of opinion, Martin’s abilities – premised not on the mysterious instincts of connoisseurship, but on the verifiable results of the scientific process – have an even higher valence.

 

 

Martin, a tall man with lumber-beam shoulders, has a voice that never surpasses a murmur. He is a consummate nerd; find someone who looks at you the way Martin looks at his Fourier-transform infrared microscope. He trained as a conservator of paintings, but now he assays them: picks out their chemical constituents, inspects pigments and binders, peers under their washes of colour. From a painting’s materials, he can extract the vital detail of when it could, or could not, have been created.

The field of scientific art conservation is not a crowded one; Martin, who set up the first for-profit art lab in the US, has been consulted in nearly every major fraud case in the past 25 years, often working alongside the FBI or other investigators. When he is described as the premier forensic detective working in art today, the accolade comes not only from people such as John Cahill, a New York lawyer who has managed dozens of art transactions, and who called Martin “hands-down the best in the business,” but also from those on the other side of the fence, so to speak. Beltracchi, the German forger, told me that, after his arrest, he had seen an assortment of technical studies collected by the police and the prosecution. He remembered Martin’s well. “His reports contained the most accurate results. His reports were factually neutral and without unrealistic guesses.” By folding Martin into its staff, Sotheby’s has given itself a muscular chance to stamp out problems of attribution before they flare into spectacular, expensive affairs. But it’s hard not to feel, at the same time, that it has cornered a precious resource, at a moment when the art world needs him most.

Martin spent much of last year setting up a new lab in what used to be a photo studio on the fifth floor of the Sotheby’s headquarters in Manhattan. Soon, he will also have a London facility, in the building where the Beatles once recorded A Taste of Honey for the BBC. The New York lab, one large room, is as white and aseptic as a dentist’s clinic. Many of the cabinets are still empty, and the desk surfaces often bear nothing apart from one red pack of Martin’s Dentyne Fire gum. Outside the lab, above the lead-lined double doors, is a warning light; if it’s on, so to is the giant x-ray fluorescence machine, and no one is allowed in.

One Friday in mid-February, the room held only two items of art. A carved wooden chair sat on a counter; on a stand was a painting that, for reasons of confidentiality, may be described here only as “a late-19th century American work”. When a painting checks into the lab, it is first submitted to a visual examination in bright, white light; then the lamp is moved to one side, so that the light rakes over the surface at an angle, showing up restored or altered areas. The canvas in Martin’s lab was at the next stage; it had been photographed under ultraviolet and infrared, and then under x-rays to discover some of the painting’s chemical elements.

On a computer, one of Martin’s two colleagues cycled through the images. Under infrared, the painting’s browns and yellows and greens turned into shades of grey, but no spectral underdrawings peered back out. (Not that underdrawings would have suggested anything about authenticity one way or another; they’d merely have been a further nugget of information to consider.) Mapped for lead by the x-ray fluorescence unit, the painting looked faded and streaked with dark rust; the streaks betrayed where restorers had perhaps applied touchups with modern, lead-free paint. Mapped for calcium, the painting showed yellow-green splashes where conservators had made repairs with a calcium carbonate filler.

Not every object needs to move beyond these non-invasive phases. (At Orion, Martin was once able to unmask a fake Modigliani after seeing, under infrared, a faint grid, which had been drawn by a forger who wanted to guide his work.) If Martin has to disturb the painting, he will place it under a stereo microscope and, squinting through the two eyepieces, pick out a grain of paint with a scalpel. He demonstrated with a sample of phthalocyanine blue, a synthetic pigment he picked out of a box that held paint cakes of different colours. Working with the same steady, cautious manner in which he speaks, he teased out a particle smaller than the width of a human hair, flattened it gently, then nudged it on to a slim, small rectangle of metal, where it was held in place between two tiny diamonds.

“You don’t drink a lot of coffee before you do this,” he said, grimacing.

The metal plate then goes into the Fourier-transform infrared microscope, like a slide. The spectrometer pumps infrared light through the flecks of pigment; a computer analyses the light’s behavior and returns a tidy spectrum graph. Martin has looked at so many of these spectra that he recognises on sight the patterns thrown up by different pigments, but even if he didn’t, the computer could rifle through databases of the spectrum patterns of other known chemicals, find the nearest match, and tell Martin what, in this case, he already knew: that his sample was phthalocyanine blue.

By a system of triage – sorting, for instance, for artists with a high incidence of being faked in the past, or for works accompanied by scientific analysis reports that are suspiciously long – only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of objects passing through Sotheby’s is diverted to the lab. Martin thinks of them as patients showing symptoms. Sometimes, like a doctor doing general checkups, he will tour the galleries at Sotheby’s just before a sale, reading every work with a handheld infrared camera. In the past year, his lab has stopped several lots from going to market, preventing possible disputes after the sale. In one case, a painting valued at $7m was removed from sale after the lab found that it had been completely and irretrievably overpainted by a restorer. “An appraiser would’ve said it’s worthless,” Martin said. “So it wasn’t sold.”

The arduous process of Martin’s work divorces art from its aesthetic. It reduces compositions of great prestige or high beauty to their very particles; it frees Martin up to think of art as pure matter. In this way, he comes closer to the artist than anyone has before, often becoming only the second person to think as intensely about the materiality of the object, about the chemical nature of its pigments or the physical properties of its canvas. The art he analyses derives its worth from unique, flashing inspiration. His own talent, if anything, has more in common with the forger. It lies in his capacity to be unflashy but diligent – to perform a step time after time without a slackening of attention, to never leave a molecule unturned, to never conclude more about a work than what it tells him about itself.

When Martin turned 13, his father gifted him a microscope, a chemistry kit, and art lessons – a splendid piece of foreshadowing. He used them all, but he was particularly attracted to art. The family lived in Baltimore, and whenever they visited Washington DC, Martin spent his time at the National Museum of Natural History, drawing the dioramas, while the others wandered the capital. His father worked in army intelligence. “As a child, I’m not sure I understood what he did. I do remember being in airports and trying to guess who was a spy,” Martin said. He devoured detective stories and loves them still, particularly Patricia Cornwell’s novels about Kay Scarpetta, the forensic pathologist. “We both examine patients that cannot speak their past,” he said.

In a universe a twist away from ours, Martin might have become a forger himself. Late in his teens, he joined an art school where students were taught how to grind their own pigments and stretch their own canvases. For practice, he set up an easel in the Baltimore Museum of Art and copied the works he liked; he grew so accomplished that once, as he was leaving with his copy of William Merritt Chase’s Broken Jug, the museum director spotted him and asked if he was returning the painting to storage.

“I was very good technically,” Martin said, “but like most art forgers, I didn’t have my own creative way of doing things.” He thought he’d become an illustrator of medical textbooks, but then heard about a conservation programme at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The portfolio he submitted included his copy of the Chase, as well as of other painters – all at such a high level of craft, said Richard Wolbers, who taught him at Winterthur, “that we were blown away”. He was such a good copyist, in fact, that he was almost rejected. “Later, I heard that the committee worried that if they trained me to be a conservator and taught me all the science, I’d be a natural forger.”

After Winterthur, Martin was hired by the Clark Art Institute, a museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to conserve paintings. A couple of years later, he set up the museum’s first conservation lab, filled with equipment that he bought or begged from chemistry departments in nearby universities. At the time, in 1990, the apparatus of analysis – the microscopes, the spectroscopes, the infrared cameras – was bulky, expensive and difficult to operate. Few museums had their own labs, Martin said. “The Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA [Museum of Modern Art], the museums in San Francisco – none of them had the facilities.”

 

 

In getting to know a painting, conservators in these museums relied first on the tactility of their craft – “listening to the sound of the swab on the canvas”, Martin said, or “feeling the pull of the swab in the varnish”. Most conservation departments owned microscopes, some perhaps even x-ray machines. But if they needed some serious technology – Fourier-transform infrared microscopes, say, or scanning electron microscopes – they could turn only to the lab in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or to those in universities. Even then, an expert was still needed to interpret the data. “Small museums really didn’t have any place to go. Some people took paintings to the vet to get them x-rayed.”

Martin’s lab began by assisting conservators who had no equipment of their own. “If someone was trying to get a varnish off a painting and didn’t want to damage it by using a solvent that was too strong, they’d send me a sample,” he said. “I’d tell them: ‘It’s polyurethane. You’re not going to get it off.’ Or: ‘It’s shellac. You need to use alcohol.’” A conservator wondering if the strange sky in a landscape was overpaint – paint applied by later restorers – could mail Martin a tiny cross-section tweezed out of the work, so that he could examine it under a microscope. “We’d see the layers in the cross-section: varnish, varnish, varnish, then blue sky, then more varnish, then more sky. So we’d establish that the topmost layer of blue was overpaint.”

In its materials, an artwork holds its biography, so inevitably, Martin became an arbiter of authenticity. Nearly all of the privately owned art labs in Europe and the US have been founded in the past decade – not coincidentally, around the time that the world’s multi-millionaires realised how hollow their lives had been without art. But in the 1990s, at Clark, and then again at Orion, which he founded in 2000, Martin was often the sole resource for collectors and merchants.

Some of his stories from these years have the baroque pulpiness of Elmore Leonard plots. Martin narrates these with care; he is alive to the sensational aspects of his work, but by default, he wears an air of studious detachment. There were the two questionable gentlemen from Tel Aviv, who slipped a pair of paintings out of architects’ tubes, shook them open as if they were rugs, and asked him to confirm that they were Modiglianis. (They weren’t.) There was the client who sent Martin to test a painting at an auction house, claiming he wished to bid on it, but then also had Martin stop by a warehouse to assess “a horrible copy” of the same painting. (Martin now thinks the client wanted to know how close the fake was to the genuine work.) There were the two ferocious dogs chained near the front door of a house in Los Angeles, guarding the stolen Chinese sculptures held within. There was the collector who offered to fly Martin to an undisclosed location, have him picked up by a security detail, and bring him in to examine an old Mexican stele, a stone carving supposedly worth $50m. The night before his flight, Martin was unable to sleep, so he Googled the collector and found that he had recently been released from federal prison after serving time on weapons charges.

Next morning, Martin called the collector and turned down the case.

“Oh,” the collector said. “Did you read about the murders?”

“No,” Martin said. “What murders?” The collector, it turned out, had once been implicated in the killings of two people over a matter of Mexican steles. Martin never got on that plane.

The FBI first came to Martin in 1994. A suspicious number of works ascribed to the 19th-century artist William Aiken Walker, who often painted black sharecroppers in the American south, were emerging in the market. “They’d sell at really small country auctions for $5,000 or $10,000 – so low that nobody would pay for analysis,” Martin said. From the paintings, Martin sampled a yellow pigment called PY3, which had been manufactured in Germany and was not available to American artists until the late 1940s, decades after Walker died. Walker also used lead white paint, Martin found; the forger used zinc white. A former vitamin salesman named Charles Heller was eventually indicted for a spree of counterfeiting, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served one year in prison.

With even a little study, a con artist would know not to use zinc white; some forgers go on to become diligent researchers, accessing technical journals and case studies to learn what experts search for. Martin recalled a painting once referred to him, around 3.5 sq metres in size and dated to 1932. In a first round of study, he discovered nothing amiss. But the work’s provenance – its documented history of ownership – was shaky, so he ran a second pass under a microscope. For most of a day, he scanned the painting in dime-sized increments, until his eyes dried up. Was anything embedded in the paint: dust, or hair, or an insect wing? Did the dirt look as if it had been smeared on deliberately? Finally, embedded in a speckle of blue, he found a slim fibre; with a scalpel, he snipped it off and subjected it to infrared spectroscopy. The fibre turned out to be polypropylene. Perhaps someone had worn a polar fleece while painting the forgery?

 

 

For a while, Martin cited this example in a two-day course he taught. Last year, though, he read a translation of Faussaire (or Forger), a French novel written in 2015 and containing a wealth of sound wisdom for forgers. “If you want to get hold of antique lead,” one character advises another, for instance, “then you can just pick up bits of it from the old buildings in Rome.” The same character warns of the dangers from “microparticles from your clothes … You must always work in an old smock. Never nylon or a modern apron.” Martin is convinced the detail came from his anecdote; it was one reason he decided to stop teaching his course altogether.

As a crime, art forgery can seem trifling – less a sinister outrage than a half-complete Robin Hood jape that merely robs the rich. After Beltracchi’s arrest in 2010, the Frankfurter Allgemeine called art forgery “the most moral way to embezzle €16m”; Der Spiegel noted that, unlike crooked bankers, Beltracchi hadn’t swindled the common man. But the crime can have real victims, and Martin has met so many of them that he has developed a gentle bedside manner to break bad news. He has seen people who used the money set aside for their children’s education to buy a painting, only to find it to be fake. “So we aren’t just talking rich people. In some situations, it’s a person’s whole life.”

The inflation of the art market, and its attendant litigiousness, imposes fierce pressures upon anyone called to judge the authenticity of an artwork. Martin’s harshest experience of this came during the bitter legal battle over the fate of the Knoedler gallery. The Knoedler, once New York’s oldest gallery, closed in 2011, days after Martin issued a report concluding that a Jackson Pollock it had sold for $17m was fake.

The bogus Pollock was only the inauguration of a scandal. Over 15 years, Knoedler had sourced and sold 40 paintings ascribed to a range of leading modern artists: Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell, among others, earning roughly $80m in the process. When the ambiguity of the works’ provenance raised needles of suspicion, 10 buyers sued Knoedler and its director, Ann Freedman; all but one of these lawsuits have been settled out of court. In 2013, investigators learned that the forgeries had been painted by a Chinese immigrant, who was by then 73 years old, in his garage in Queens, and placed with Knoedler by an art dealer who pleaded guilty. Knoedler’s executives claimed they had no knowledge of the fraud, and argued that scholars had verified the works before sale.

In at least four of the lawsuits, which carried on for years, the plaintiffs hired Martin to test the paintings they had purchased. He found them all to be forgeries. A purported Rothko from 1956, which sold for $8.3m, used a ground layer of white paint between the canvas and the oils; through that decade, though, Rothko had used a transparent ground layer. In an apparent Pollock, the artist seemed to have misspelled his own signature as “Pollok”. Further, in 16 Knoedler paintings he analysed, Martin found the same ground layer of white paint and other anachronistic pigments repeating themselves across the works of several artists, as if Motherwell, De Kooning and Rothko had all travelled forward in time, met in a bar, and swapped tubes of paint.

Eventually, Martin was proved right; when the FBI raided the Queens garage, it even found the tubs of white that had coated the canvas in the fake Rothko. But, until then, the trials were a torrid experience. Knoedler recruited experts to attack Martin in court. “They went after him with a vengeance, saying he’d soiled the evidence, accidentally or on purpose,” said the lawyer John Cahill, who represented some of Martin’s clients. Knoedler’s attorneys served six subpoenas on Martin, to extract more than 8,000 documents and emails related to the case. Instead of being an expert witness, he was forced to defend himself – the care and soundness of his methods, his very character – in court.

When Martin talks about the Knoedler trials, even the memory of the ordeal draws a look of horror on his face. “He’s a real boy scout, and his integrity means a lot to him, so he suffered,” Cahill said. It was an attempted impeachment of Martin’s whole career. “His entire power relies on being objective, on not being part of the party,” said Narayan Khandekar, who runs Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. “He comes under a lot of pressure, because people have a lot of money at stake on the outcome of his analyses. But he’s been very, very brave to stand up and stay stolidly on track with what he does.”

Martin had always loved science for its ability to guide him in pursuit of truth, and he felt a deep distress when his objective facts were countered with dirty tricks and personal vilification. In 2016, after his clients settled with Knoedler, Martin found it difficult to return to work. He wanted to never have to provide expert testimony again, and to go away to paint for a while; he’d already primed a set of boards.

“It was surreal, what happened to me,” he said. “No scientist should have to go to through this.” When, later that year, negotiations began for Sotheby’s to buy Orion, Martin was ready to be cocooned within a larger institution. He’d rather probe works before they hit the market, he decided, than go through the acrimonious aftermath of a sale even once more. Above his desk in Sotheby’s, Martin keeps pinned a pair of sketches of himself from his time in the Knoedler courtroom, as if to remind himself of what he has gratefully left behind.

In conversation, Martin uses many homespun metaphors, but his favourite is that of the three-legged stool. Deciding the authorship of artworks, he says, relies on connoisseurship, technical analysis and provenance. He values the opinions of connoisseurs, considers them complementary to his own skills; his tests can definitively reveal if a painting is not by Da Vinci or Modigliani, but they are unable to affirm authorship, except in rare cases.

Science has a habit, though, of showing up the sagacity of scholars. In a 1932 trial in Berlin – the first in which a forensic exam was used to scrutinise art – two connoisseurs squabbled about the authenticity of a set of 33 canvases, all purportedly by Vincent van Gogh, all sold by an art dealer named Otto Wacker. It took a chemist, Martin de Wild, to trace resins in the paint that Van Gogh had never used, and to prove the paintings fake. Since then, the science has improved, even as human judgment has remained the same, vulnerable to the potential thrill of discovering new work, and to market pressures. During the Knoedler trial, Cahill remembered, one expert admitted that he couldn’t tell one Rothko canvas from another, or indeed whether a Rothko had been hung upside-down or right side up.

 

In any case, however fond he is of the three-legged stool, Martin may have to think soon of a different item of furniture. The humanities are in decline everywhere; in England, the last art history A-level was cut in 2016. The populace of connoisseurs is thinning out. “In British art now, for a major artist like George Stubbs, there’s no recognised figure that we can all go to and say: ‘Is this by George Stubbs or not?’ Because various specialists have died recently, and there’s no one to replace them,” Bendor Grosvenor, the art historian, said. Meanwhile, researchers at Rutgers University have developed an AI system that, in tests, detected forged paintings with 100% accuracy by scanning and comparing individual brushstrokes. One leg is growing longer, another growing shorter, the stool becoming decidedly imbalanced. And so, if the art market wants to beat back the threats posed by sophisticated forgeries – if it wants to preserve its financial vigour, rooted as it is so absolutely in the notion of authenticity – it will have to turn more and more to the resources of science.

As a thought experiment, it is possible to envision the immaculate forgery – the one that defeats scientist and connoisseur alike. Our villain is a talented copyist, well practised in the style and the themes of his chosen artist. He is also a resourceful procurer of materials, able to rustle up every kind of age-appropriate canvas and frame, pigment and binder. He fits his forgery neatly into a chain of provenance – giving it the title of a now-lost work, or providing false documents to claim that it had been part of a well known private collection.

In theory, if each of these steps is perfectly performed, there should be no way to expose the painting as fake. It will be a work of art in every way save one. But the world of today, the world in which the forgery is being created, is likely to fix itself in some form within the painting – as radioactive dust, perhaps, or as cat hair, or a stray polypropylene fibre. When that happens, only the scientist can hope to nab it.

 

 

By Samanth Subramanian

Uk retail sales rose by 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending

 

 

Tim Tabor/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 24 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 1.6% in April as consumers resumed spending after unseasonably cold weather earlier in the year.

Petrol sales surged 4.7% after falling 6.9% in March after widespread snow disruption, official statistics show.

Only department stores reported a decline, with sales volumes down 0.9%.

However, Rob Kent-Smith of the Office for National Statistics said the retail sector remained subdued, with sales in recent months largely unchanged.

“Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather,” he said.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Retail sales fell by 1.8% in March and posted their biggest quarterly fall in seven years as the prices of everyday goods continued to rise.

‘Lacklustre' performance
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the April rise reflected a recovery from snow-induced weakness in March, rather than robust spending momentum.

“We continue to expect retail spending to increase only at a glacial rate this year. Consumers' confidence has weakened and savings intentions have picked up,” he said.

“The sharp rise in oil prices to nearly $80 will filter through to petrol pumps over the next three weeks, hitting petrol sales volumes and squeezing the amount of money households have left for discretionary consumption.”

Ben Brettell of Hargreaves Lansdown said the underlying trend for retail sales remained “pretty lacklustre” and the figures were little incentive for the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“Growth is anaemic at best, and retail sales look insipid. But with inflation falling back towards target and real wages finally growing, albeit only slowly, there's little cause for alarm either,” he said.

 

 

Heathrow expansion plan unveiled by hotel magnate Surinder Arora

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 3 May 2018) London, Uk – –

Hotel magnate Surinder Arora has revealed detailed designs of new terminal buildings he hopes to build and operate as part of his ongoing battle to steer Heathrow’s expansion.

Mr Arora, the largest landowner at the airport, launched his rival plan for an expanded Heathrow last year with the help of former British Airways boss Sir Rod Eddington but has now unveiled full details.

These include a new building to receive passengers, which will have access to the existing Terminal 5 as well as a new Terminal 6 to help deal with the 130m passengers a year that MPs want the enlarged transport hub to handle.

It will also boast a bridge that will house shops and restaurants and will link the terminals to new gate buildings.

The proposal has been designed by leading airport architect Corgan and Mr Arora reckoned his entire scheme would cost £14.4bn compared to the £31bn he claimed the Airports Commission had estimated Heathrow’s would cost.

Mr Arora said his previous estimate of £12.4bn for his scheme related to only one phase, which would have had capacity for 115m passengers, but the latest iteration can cope with 130m passengers.

Heathrow said last week it would be inviting outside companies and entrepreneurs to pitch to build parts of its scheme to help it reduce its expansion costs. But it stopped short of agreeing that if a third party built a terminal, that company would also be able to operate it.

This is likely to remain a point of friction between Mr Arora and Heathrow. The hotelier would only build his scheme if he was able to operate the terminal because this would entitle him to a portion of the £22.50 Heathrow currently receives per passenger through a mixture various things including landing charges, car parks and retail rents.

“We are behind the expansion of Heathrow but we cannot do it the old way,” Mr Arora told The Telegraph.

“We don’t want to delay the scheme and in fact have been looking at ways to move it on quicker but what we won’t do is let Heathrow railroad the government, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airlines into letting them do it their own way.”

The subject of competition at Heathrow was touched upon several times by the Transport Select Committee before it published its report on the expansion proposals last month.

Mr Arora said there was currently a “difference of opinion” between the CAA, which does not think it has the powers to enforce competition at Heathrow, and the Department for Transport, which thinks existing legislation could be used to ensure a third party could run a terminal.

In a consultation document released by the CAA earlier this week, the regulator said it “welcomed the initiative” Heathrow had shown in collaborating with third parties.

The CAA has submitted a report to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, which will “advise him on how well Heathrow is engaging with and responding to” outside parties on the scheme.

In a statement, Heathrow said: ““We welcome the fact that the Arora Group support a northwest runway at Heathrow, but we’re bemused that they have chosen now to release new plans which look a bit like the emperor’s new clothes – the more you look, the less there is to see.

“Not only do their proposals now cost more, but they show a complete lack of understanding of airport operations and disregard for those living closest to the airport. If these were serious plans, they should have been submitted for public scrutiny to the independent Airports Commission years ago, along with 50 other competitive proposals.”

By Bradley Gerrard

 

 

Huntsman: The Art of Commissioning a Bespoke Suit

 

“Commissioning a bespoke suit is an act of faith,” says Huntsman chairman Pierre Lagrange. Get to the heart of the creative process with a look at the many stages that go into making garments that will last for decades – an extraordinary process that, according to Lagrange, is not dissimilar to the act of commissioning a work of art.

 

Unilever Britain’s third biggest company chooses Rotterdam for headquarters over London

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 15 Mar 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s third biggest company Unilever (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) will scrap its London corporate headquarters and make Rotterdam its sole legal home in a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government almost one year to the day before Brexit.

The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream launched a review of its dual-headed structure in 2017 after fighting off a $143 billion (102.3 billion pounds) takeover from Kraft Heinz (KHC.O), triggering a battle between Britain and the Netherlands.

Unilever said the choice to end 88 years of operating with two parent companies was not linked to Brexit or protectionism, but would simplify its structure, improve its corporate governance and help enable takeover deals.

Forged by the 1930 merger of the Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie and the British soap maker Lever Brothers, Unilever said its 7,300 staff in the United Kingdom would be unaffected and it will continue to be listed in London, Amsterdam and New York.

“This is not about Brexit,” Chief Executive Paul Polman said. “Unilever is in 190 countries in the world. Most of these countries are not in the European Union.”

Unilever was forced to rethink its structure after it had to fight off one of the biggest takeovers ever proposed in 2017. Unilever swiftly rejected the offer and Kraft walked away in a matter of days but the incident was enough to force the company to pledge to improve its operations.

Chief Executive Polman had used the incident to argue that British companies should have stronger tools to fight off takeovers.

Some analysts point out that Dutch takeover law is more protective and speculate that a Dutch-headquartered Unilever could more easily fend off unwelcome suitors in the future.

NOT ABOUT BREXIT

As part of the restructuring, Unilever will create three divisions with Beauty & Personal Care and the Home Care units being headquartered in London. The Foods & Refreshment division will be based in Rotterdam.

“This secures nearly 1 billion pounds per year of continued spend in the UK, including a significant commitment to R&D,” it said.

Finance Director Graeme Pitkethly told Reuters that its continued inclusion in the FTSE 100 Index was still to be determined because it had not yet engaged with the index providers.

Unilever’s shares could be hit if it was no longer in the FTSE Index because tracker funds would be forced to sell.

Unilever had held talks with the governments of both countries in the run-up to its decision and the move will be seen as a blow to Prime Minister May who is locked in talks with Brussels over the country’s departure from the EU on March 29, 2019.

In recent months, speculation had grown that Unilever would choose the Netherlands after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, himself a Unilever veteran, proposed a tax change seen as benefiting Anglo-Dutch multinationals.

The British government said however it welcomed Unilever’s long-term commitment to Britain and the protection of jobs.

“Its decision to transfer a small number of jobs to a corporate HQ in the Netherlands is part of a long-term restructuring of the company and is not connected to the UK’s departure from the EU,” a government spokesman said.

Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul Sandle

 

 

Philip Hammond’s Spring statement 2018: what to look out for

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 13 Mar 2018) London, Uk – –

What the chancellor is likely to say about economic growth, debt, borrowing and more

Philip Hammond has promised MPs a short, snappy affair when he delivers the government’s first spring statement to the Commons at about 12.30pm on Tuesday.

Shorn of tax and spending measures, the chancellor’s 15- to 20-minute speech will play second fiddle to the budget, which has been moved to the autumn.

Attention will focus on the latest forecasts for the economy and the public finances provided by the government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which last reported in November.

This is what to look out for in the chancellor’s statement:

Economic growth

Hammond is likely to say that the outlook for growth is marginally better than it was three months ago. In November, the OBR said it was expecting the economy to expand by 1.5% in 2017 and by 1.4% in 2018. The latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that growth was actually 1.7% in 2017 and the consensus among City, business and academic economists is that something similar is likely in 2018.

In the past, chancellors have used their statements to boast about the UK outperforming other economies, but that won’t happen on this occasion given that Britain grew more slowly all the other G7 countries in 2017 bar Italy.

Productivity

The statement is expected to provide positive news about productivity – the weak spot in the economy since the financial crisis a decade ago. In its November 2017 report, the OBR gave up waiting for the improvement in productivity – economic output per hour worked – that it had been predicting since it was created in 2010. So it slashed its productivity forecast by 0.7 percentage points a year for each of the next five years. However, as the OBR was downgrading its forecasts, the picture for productivity improved, with growth of 0.8% recorded by the ONS in the fourth quarter of 2017, following 0.9% growth in the third quarter. At this stage, however, the OBR will want more good news before it thinks about revising its five-year forecasts upwards.

Government borrowing

Hammond is expected to say the government will not need to borrow to cover its day-to-day spending this year – the first time this has happened since the financial crisis. That is because the borrowing needed to cover the gap between the amount the government spends and the revenue it raises through tax is on course to be about £40bn in the the 2017-18 financial year, rather than the £50bn predicted by the OBR three months ago. Government spending comes in two forms: current spending, which includes items such as teacher salaries and the NHS drugs bill; and capital spending, which includes investment in roads and railways. A deficit of £40bn would mean that the borrowing this year would solely be for investment and allow Hammond to say that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

However, Hammond is expected to use the high level of national debt to say that Britain is still in the tunnel. The national debt is the sum of all the annual budget deficits and surpluses the government has been running down the years and it has risen sharply as a result of the big annual deficits that have been run in the past decade.

This year, the debt will hit £1.8tn but a better measure is the ratio of the debt to the annual output of the economy (gross domestic product). The national debt was below 40% of GDP when the financial crisis began in 2007 and is expected to peak in this financial year at just over 85% of GDP. Hammond will say a reduction in the national debt would put the UK in a stronger position to weather another recession.

Consultations

Although the chancellor has said specific tax changes must wait for the autumn budget, he is likely to announce a series of consultations in areas where future action is possible. These could include the VAT threshold for small businesses, the tax paid by multinationals, curbs on the use of plastic in packaging via a so-called “litter levy” and the impact of artificial intelligence on the economy.

 

 

BoE Governor Mark Carney: Cryptocurrencies are failing as money

James Stringer/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 2 Mar 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Cryptocurrencies are failing as a form of money and have shown classic signs of being a financial bubble, requiring regulators to protect consumers and stop their use for illegal activities, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Friday.

Carney did not call for a ban on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin but said they needed to be regulated in a similar way to other parts of the financial system, and stressed they could not effectively replace traditional currencies.

“Cryptocurrencies act as money, at best, only for some people and to a limited extent, and even then only in parallel with the traditional currencies of the users. The short answer is they are failing,” Carney said in a speech.

Carney, who heads the Financial Stability Board, a global financial rule-making body, expressed doubts about cryptocurrencies earlier this year and his speech for a Scottish student economics conference expanded on these.

“At present, crypto-assets raise a host of issues around consumer and investor protection, market integrity, money laundering, terrorism financing, tax evasion, and the circumvention of capital controls and international sanctions,” he said.

For now, they posed little financial stability risk to Britain as whole, due mostly to major banks’ limited involvement with them. But for individual investors, they were a major risk.

“Many cryptocurrencies have exhibited the classic hallmarks of bubbles including new paradigm justifications, broadening retail enthusiasm and extrapolative price expectations reliant in part on finding the greater fool,” he said.

Bitcoin prices have fallen sharply since December 2017.

However, the distributed-ledger technology underlying cryptocurrencies did have potential for improving cash settlement in the banking system and other asset transactions, he added.

By David Milliken

 

 

 

London’s first capsule hostel opens in Borough

When was the last time you stayed in a youth hostel? It probably didn’t look like this one – London’s first ‘capsule hostel’. It’s a dormitory with just enough room for a bed and everything you need inside a self-contained pod. They've been popular in Japan for years – reporter Thomas Magill goes to Borough to see if they'll take off here.

 

London Park Lane & Oxford Street completely ultra luxurious home

 

Completely unique and ultra luxurious home interior designed by 1.61 London showcasing Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors.

The home includes the very latest stunning finishes on offer from around the world to create the ultimate London home. The finishes installed are from Lalique, Roberto Cavalli, Grohe, Hacker, Sonos, Kef, Atelier and many other top luxury brands. The home is controlled through out by speaking to Amazons Alexa.

 

FTSE fell to its lowest in two months over inflation and rising bond worries

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Mon, 5 Feb 2018) London, UK —

MILAN (Reuters) – The UK’s top share index fell to its lowest level in around two months on Monday as worries over inflation and rising bond yields took their toll on global equity markets.

The FTSE .FTSE fell 1.1 percent by 0929 GMT, while the mid-cap index .FTMC declined 1.3 percent. The FTSE is down more than 4 percent year to date, partly weighed down by a continued recovery in the pound from its post-Brexit lows.

On Monday the FTSE was on track for its fifth consecutive day of losses, its longest losing streak since November, in a broad-based sell-off where only a handful of stocks were trading in positive territory.

“Equity nervousness seems to be about repricing for higher yields and tighter Fed policy and the fear that the bond market has broken out of its three-decade bull market,” said Neil Wilson, analyst at ETX Capital in London.

Asian shares fell the most in over a year on Monday as fears of resurgent inflation battered bonds toppled Wall Street from record highs and sparked speculation that central banks globally might be forced to tighten policy more aggressively.

Shares in miners Anglo American (AAL.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L) rose 1 and 0.3 percent respectively as the sector found support in a rebound in metal prices.

Randgold (RRS.L) rose in early trading after the African gold miner reported 2017 profit up 14 percent thanks to increased production and said it would double its annual dividend.

Its shares however succumbed to the broader weakness, turning 1 percent lower.

An outperformer was Kingfisher (KGF.L), which rose 1.9 percent to the top of the FTSE.

Traders said the stock was supported by hopes for an easing of competition after rival Wesfarmers (WES.AX) wrote off British hardware chain Homebase for more than its purchase price, saying it had made a series of mistakes

Tesco fell 0.6 percent, outperforming the broader market.

Britain’s biggest retailer forecast profit for the full 2017-18 year slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations and confirmed it would pay a final dividend.

Ryanair (RYA.L) fell more than 3 percent.

The airline posted a 12 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit but warned of possible further disruption by pilots and said it was not optimistic about average fares in European short-haul in the summer.

Financials and consumer staple stocks were the biggest weight to the FTSE, taking a combined of 26 points off the blue chip index.

By  Danilo Masoni

 

The Union Hand-Roasted Coffee co-founder Jeremy Torz talks combining ethics with profits

 

Here's just some of the fun we had on our stand at this year's London Coffee Festival.

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Sat, 3 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

“An immunologist and optician walk into a coffee shop” sounds like the beginning of a naff joke, but for Steven Macatonia and Jeremy Torz,
it perfectly describes the origin of their journey to co-founding
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee.

“It all started in the late Eighties, when Steven went on what should have been a six-month sabbatical to the US,” remembers Torz, an optician who decided to join his partner on the American west coast in Palo Alto.

During their stay there, the duo noticed the emergence of a craft coffee scene, with a handful of new shops serving up a fresh take on a traditional cup of joe.

In one store, Peet's Coffee, they found a dark roast that was sweet, heavy and rich. “We had never tasted anything like it,” says the founder. “It was a different time then; there were no chains or espresso bars like there are now, and takeaway coffee wasn't a thing.”

The only place to order a cup back home was at a burger bar or greasy spoon, he says. But Stateside things were changing and the coffee-drinking duo were inspired.

“That six-month stay turned into four years,” jokes Torz, who
took a store job at Peet's to learn as much as he could about the business of coffee. Macatonia continued his science work, but the pair were always on the edge of doing their own thing.

In 1994, the couple returned to the UK to create their own coffee bean company, selling all their possessions, moving in with Macatonia's parents, and renting a small workshop that was kitted out with
a roasting machine.

They grew their wholesale idea into a successful venture, piggybacking off a flourishing food and drink scene to supply beans to respected restaurants. Not long after, they merged with the Seattle Coffee Company before being bought by Starbucks in 1998.

“We stayed on and learned a lot, but the corporate life wasn't for us,” says Torz, who left with Macatonia in 2000.

The co-founders wanted another crack at the coffee market.
“We always wanted to buy coffee directly from farms, so we went to Guatemala to see what growing looked like,” explains the entrepreneur. “We found third and fourth-generation coffee-producing families tearing up trees because they couldn’t afford to keep growing.”

They witnessed poverty, hunger and hardship – and it felt wrong. “There we all were [back home], blithely drinking amazing coffee without considering the source,” says Torz, who figured that there had to be a better way.

Their new roast and supply business, Union, would be just that: a bridge between the two ends of the supply chain. “We wanted to help the producer, while educating consumers and getting them to appreciate this commodity.”

Since day one of its launch in 2001, the Union team has made an intentional and explicit effort to work with growers.

“For a lot of families and farmers, coffee-growing is based on the
simple need to harvest as quickly as possible to make money,” says Torz. “But if you take more time and care, you produce a higher-quality bean that's worth more per kilo, so producers earn more.”

To embed that concept among growers, the team work from the grassroots up. “We get in there to understand communities at their level,” he explains. “We make a large time commitment to be overseas.”

And by understanding each community’s individual issues and idiosyncrasies, Union can help to change things. The support that
it offers ranges from the financial (multi-year commitments to buy at a guaranteed minimum price, for example) to promotional (PR and marketing campaigns that promote regions to other roasters around the world).

“In western Ethiopia, where I’m working now, we’re running workshops on community organisation and agricultural work, such as pruning coffee trees and managing soil,” says the co-founder.

“We’re not just there as a purchaser; we’re a stakeholder.”

It’s an approach that did (and still does)
set the company apart from its competitors, thinks Torz: “We’re not just coming to a country, finding the tastiest coffee, buying from the producer and not being there for them next year.”

But not everything went as well as it could early on; looking back,
Torz thinks that he didn’t get people in early enough:

“We tried to do too much ourselves – we spread ourselves too thinly.”

It’s common, he explains, for founders to believe that they’re
the only ones capable of understanding the complexities of their business and how it must be driven and represented. “But it’s vital that you bring in outside experts,” he says. “The real skill of the entrepreneur is to give a clear brief to those people; ask appropriate questions of them; and take a considered approach to their suggestions.

“You have to invest in quality people; if we had done that earlier,
we would have grown faster and without wasting money in the early years.”

The firm is in a healthy place today, with 75 staff and an annual turnover of £12.5m. It also recently acquired the Edinburgh-based Brew Lab, a specialty coffee bar that Torz says will enable Union to get closer to the end customer.

“The biggest challenge as a wholesaler is that you’re always the best supporting actor and never the lead role. It’s difficult to bond and build a long-term relationship with the consumer.”

The shop will also be a live testing ground, he adds: “Obviously it has to be profitable, but through it we can learn about how the barista team works, what the customers say and like, and experiment with new brews.”

Torz is confident that we haven’t reached peak coffee just yet:

“It’s such a social product – just look at the modern office; workplaces now create coffee bars instead of meeting rooms.”

And the future is particularly promising for indie companies:

“You used to have to spend a fortune on securing a prime high-street spot, but now you can be off-prime, because people will seek you
out if you give them a quality product and an inviting, friendly atmosphere.”

By 

 

The London restaurant transformed into a cherry blossom landscape

A restaurant in London has been transformed with a cherry blossom installation to honour the annual Japanese tradition.

The Shochu bar also introduced bespoke cocktails for the occasion.

Watch the video above to see the intricate design which hangs from the ceiling and is only in place for a limited time only.

Filming for this shoot took place at the cherry blossom installation at Shochu, the basement bar below ROKA Charlotte Street.

 

 

Heathrow in bid to cut costs plan to unveil a shorter cheaper third runway

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(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 17 Jan 2018) London, Uk – –

Proposal sees 300 metres cut from runway in effort to help reduce costs to £15bn, but opponents say move changes forecasted economic benefits

Heathrow is to unveil proposals for a shorter, cheaper third runway in a public consultation to help push its expansion plans through.

The airport will propose cutting 300 metres from the length of the northwestern runway, a scheme approved by the government following the Airports Commission process, in an attempt to cut costs.

Although the government has backed Heathrow’s expansion, it has also said it must not mean higher charges for airlines, which would probably be passed on to passengers. British Airways, which operates about half the flights at Heathrow, had complained bitterly about the expected cost of the new runway. Heathrow now believes it can deliver the runway for £14.3bn, cutting £2.5bn from the original price, and keeping charges “close to” today’s levels.

Plans for a brand new terminal could also be jettisoned in favour of expanding around its two main existing terminals, with construction phased to cut costs.

The shorter runway will still require the M25 to be moved 150 metres west, with the airport now proposing that Britain’s busiest motorway be accommodated in a shallower tunnel under a slightly ramped runway.

The options, including whether the shorter runway would be located to the western or eastern end of where the full-length 3.5km runway (2.1 miles) would lie, will be presented to the public in 40 events over a 10-week consultation.

Heathrow hopes that its consultation – independent of government consultations in the planning process – will allow it to present its best case and pre-empt some objections ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote expected this year on the national policy statement on aviation, which gives the go-ahead for another runway. The airport has pledged higher compensation to residents, a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights, and to stay within air quality limits.

Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director for expansion, said: “We need feedback to help deliver this opportunity responsibly and to create a long-term legacy both at a local and national level. Heathrow is consulting to ensure that we deliver benefits for our passengers, businesses across the country but also, importantly, for those neighbours closest to us.”

Opponents of expansion expressed incredulity that Heathrow was proposing a shorter runway than in its original plan, while a source close to other schemes considered by the government suggested any significant changes to the project could face legal challenges.

John Stewart, chair of the anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “The Airport Commission calculations of economic benefits were on the basis of the capacity of a full-length runway. A shorter runway could open a can of worms, and invite a judicial review from Heathrow Hub or even Gatwick.”

The consultation will also discuss the redesign of air space, which will affect flight paths over London and beyond. Although the reform is being driven independently of Heathrow, the likely impact would be to further concentrate air traffic over the same routes.

Stewart said Hacan would “engage positively – especially on the principle of flight path changes, spreading the burden more fairly”.

Should parliament back expansion, Heathrow will need to consult further on the details before submitting plans, with final approval not expected before 2021. A thrid runway is not expected to be operational before 2025 at the earliest.

By Gwyn Topham