UK’s Business Secretary tells EU on Brexit deal: it wasn’t going to last forever

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) – British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Thursday the European Union had been inflexible over renegotiating the Northern Ireland part of the Brexit divorce accord and cautioned Brussels that it was not a deal that would last for ever.

“A deal is a deal but it wasn't something that was going to last forever,” Kwarteng told Sky. “It was something that was flexible and we want to make it work more smoothly.”

“Article 16 … it is something that we could do, to suspend it, we've chosen not to do that, that's not our opening position and we want to be able to negotiate and have a conversation with the EU about how best to go forward.”

Britain demanded on Wednesday that the EU agree to rewrite the Northern Ireland protocol which covers post-Brexit trade involving the province just a year after it was agreed.

The EU immediately rejected that call, saying Britain needed to respect its international obligations and pointed out it had been negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

The protocol was a key part of the Brexit settlement, backed by Johnson, that finally sealed Britain's divorce from the EU four years after voters backed leaving in a referendum.

Businesses in Northern Ireland say it is damaging trade, and some pro-British groups have protested at what they say is a weakening of ties with Britain, raising concerns about a return to the violence which plagued the province for three decades.

The protocol addresses the biggest conundrum of the divorce: how to ensure the delicate peace brought to the province by a U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord – by maintaining an open border – without opening a back door through neighbouring Ireland to the EU's single market of 450 million people.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

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

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 16th July 2021) London, Uk – –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK negotiate to join trans-Pacific trade deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 22nd June 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, June 21 (Reuters) – Britain will begin negotiations on Tuesday to join a trans-Pacific trade deal that it sees as crucial to its post-Brexit pivot away from Europe and towards geographically more distant but faster-growing economies.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) removes 95% of tariffs between its members: Japan, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Chile and Malaysia.

Britain hopes to carve out a niche for itself in world trade as an exporter of premium consumer goods and professional services. Accession to the pact would supplement trade deals London is seeking, or has already agreed, with larger members.

“This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie. We left the EU with the promise of deepening links with old allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe,” trade minister Liz Truss said. “It is a glittering post-Brexit prize that I want us to seize.”

The CPTPP is forecast to lead to only a minimal gain in British exports or economic growth. But it locks in market access, including for the legal, financial and professional services sectors, and is seen by ministers as an important way to gain influence in a region where China is increasingly the dominant economic force.

Joining the CPTPP in its current format could add around 1.8 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) to the economy over the long-term – or less than 0.1% of pre-pandemic gross domestic product, according to British government modelling published on Tuesday.

That gain could rise to 5.5 billion pounds – or 0.25% of GDP – if Thailand, South Korea and the United States were also to join the bloc.

Unlike the European Union, the CPTPP does not impose laws on its members, it does not aim to create a single market or a customs union, and it does not seek wider political integration.

REMOVING TARIFFS

The process of negotiating membership is largely about proving to existing members that Britain can meet the group's standards on tariff removal and trade liberalisation, and then setting out details of how and when it will do so.

“The CPTPP agreement has strong rules against unfair trade practices like favouring state-owned enterprises, protectionism, discriminating against foreign investors, and forcing companies to hand over private information,” the trade department said in a statement.

“The UK's joining will strengthen the international consensus against such unfair practices,” it added.

The government is expected to publish documents setting out its assessment of the benefits of membership on Tuesday, but highlighted cars and whisky as goods exports that would benefit.

The United States withdrew from an earlier planned trans-Pacific trade pact under then-president Donald Trump. His successor, Joe Biden, spoke prior to his election last November about the possibility of renegotiating the deal, but has not laid out any firm plans since taking office.

Reporting by William James

London Metal Exchange to reopen iconic trading floor, but hints to electronic trading as the future

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 8th June 2021) London, UK —

The London Metal Exchange has abandoned proposals to close its open outcry trading floor, the last such venue in Europe, it said on Tuesday, but added it believes electronic trading is the future.

The floor was closed in March 2020 for the first time since World War II to allow for social distancing needed to deal with COVID-19, silencing its red ring of seats and the theatre of arcane hand signals and frenzied shouting by traders.

In January, the world's oldest and biggest marketplace for industrial metals launched a consultation process on closing its open-outcry trading floor, arguing that the forced migration to digital trading was a success.

“The divergent views in response to the Discussion Paper were particularly apparent between traditional participants and some smaller physical clients on the one hand, and our larger merchant trader and financial participants on the other,” LME CEO Matt Chamberlain said..

The LME received 192 responses to its consultation, an unprecedented number.

The LME also proposed in its consultation paper a switch in the methodology for calculating clearing margins to a realised variation model (RVM) from the existing contingent variation model (CVM).

But it has committed to retain CVM in the medium term and will embark on a feasibility study that will look into recreating the cash flows of a CVM model for RVM contracts, the exchange said.

“(This) could support the traditional brokerage community in the provision of credit to their smaller physical clients.”

Under the CVM, positive balances on some client accounts are used to offset negative balances on others, essentially extending credit.

Physical market participants prefer CVM because cash flows do not have to be managed daily, only when contracts expire.

Under the RVM model, margins are held by clearing houses, which returns positive margin balances daily and call for margin in lieu of negative balances. It would require small and medium-sized firms to lock up more capital.

RVM is used for most exchange-traded and centrally cleared contracts. Financial participants, such as funds, prefer RVM because they receive daily positive balances, or cash, that can be deployed elsewhere.

Depending on the outcome of a consultation issued today, official or settlement prices — those traded between 1230 and 1350 London time — will be determined in floor trading, which will resume on September 6, to support physical customers using these prices in their contracts.

“Closing prices will be determined electronically, enhancing participation and transparency, supporting financial customers and larger physical users,” the LME said.

By Pratima Desai, Eric Onstad

Climate change: Is this a ‘day of reckoning’ for big oil – and what’s at stake?

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 26th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Activists are taking on oil majors in court and in the boardroom, after companies proved ‘completely immune' to previous attempts.

The oil industry today faces a “day of reckoning” on its climate change policies, green groups have said, as activists takes it on in the boardroom and in court.

These “three big tests” have the potential to “change the status quo” in the fossil fuel industry, Michael Coffin, senior analyst at financial think tank Carbon Tracker, told Sky News.

Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil are all facing relatively new lines of attack from campaigners and shareholders, who are trying to force the oil majors align their targets with the Paris Agreement.

In Paris in 2015, 195 countries agreed to try to limit global temperature rise to 2°C or even 1.5 above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists warn emissions must therefore fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

But oil majors have prioritised “net zero” rather than emissions reductions targets, campaigners say, which is why they are finding new ways to fight the companies.

Three separate campaigns come to a head today, in what has been described as “a day of reckoning” by climate think tank E3G and charity Global Justice Now.

But what exactly can we expect?

What are activist investors up to Chevron's AGM?

A climate proposal that effectively demands Chevron sets an ambitious target to slash its emissions could pass at its AGM today.

Activist investors Follow This, which filed the motion, has this year already attempted an investor rebellion at Shell, last week gaining 30% support, and at BP.

The group's founder, Mark van Baal, has been filing such motions since 2016 and believes shareholder pressure is “the only way we can change big oil”.

Oil majors have “proven to be completely immune” to science and public opinion, he told Sky News in an interview.

He said investors are now realising “all these investments are at risk, and therefore we are going to force the parties who can make or break the Paris climate agreement, big oil, to change rapidly.

“That's the big change which you see happening today.”

Chevron did not responded to a request for comment.

Why is Shell in court?

For the first time in history a fossil fuel company could today be told in court to align its policies with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands and other groups who brought the legal action are demanding Shell commits to reducing its CO2 emissions by 45% by the year 2030.

A verdict is expected at 1400BST at the District Court of the Hague.

Nine de Pater from Friends of the Earth, who is leading the campaign, told Sky News: “Because all these different social pressures that have been tried in the past did not work out, we only saw one option left and that was legal action.

Shell, which has committed to going net-zero by 2050, told Sky News in a statement that it “agreed that action is needed now on climate change”, but it did not believe this would be achieved by this court action.

Friends of the Earth believes this is the first time a court has considered telling an oil major to change its policy, as opposed to, for example, provide compensation.

Will ExxonMobil's board turn one third green?

Activist investor Engine No.1 has singled out four of the 12 ExxonMobil board members it hopes to replace with directors who have “experience in successful and profitable energy industry transformations”.

Shareholders will vote on the 12 positions on Wednesday morning Eastern Time.

In a statement on Monday Engine No.1 claimed ExxonMobil had for years “refused to take even gradual material steps towards being better positioned for the long-term in a decarbonizing world”, and its efforts to fight off changes to the board “[spoke] volumes about ExxonMobil's future intentions”.

ExxonMobil spokesperson Casey Norton told Sky News the company had “supported the Paris Agreement since its inception”.

“Wind and solar power are important, but alone they cannot meet the energy needs of the key sectors (power generation, industrial and commercial transportation) that generate the vast majority of emission,” he said.

Financial think tank Carbon Tracker called ExxonMobil “laggards” on climate, ranking it last in its 2020 analysis of company targets.

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy at Global Justice Now, said shareholder revolts alone would not go far enough to “deliver justice for the communities devastated by oil companies”.

Every day at 6.30pm Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show is following Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

By Victoria Seabrook

BoE to review banking regulations after the winding down of Wyelands Bank

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 25th May 2021) London, Uk – –

Bank of England governor says there could be lessons to be learned regarding rules around acquisitions

The Bank of England will examine tightening banking regulations after the winding down of debt-laden Wyelands Bank, a lender majority-owned by troubled Liberty Steel boss Sanjeev Gupta.

Appearing before MPs on the Treasury select committee on Monday, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said there could be lessons to be learned after Gupta took control of Wyelands. The bank subsequently made a series of loans to a network of companies controlled by his associates.

“We will go back and look at the lessons,” said Bailey. “There have been some changes to the rules around acquisitions in recent years, but it is something we will go back to.”

Bailey said that while the central bank had forced Wyelands to curtail its activities over the last year, paying back borrowers and then depositors, an investigation could bring to light practices that will need further examination.

Former Conservative prime minster David Cameron lobbied as a consultant on behalf of finance company Greensill Capital to access government loans at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020. Greensill was a major lender to Gupta’s business.

Wyelands and Greensill Capital have ceased trading and Wyelands is the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Bailey added that the National Crime Agency was also involved in the probe into Wyleands.

Bank of England deputy governor Jon Cunliffe was asked why the application from Greensill was considered if the central bank had joined all the dots between Wyelands, Gupta and Greensill at the time of the loan application.

Cunliffe said he was aware of the relationships, but he treated the application to be part of the government scheme on its own merits and told the Treasury it fell outside the scheme.

The former City minister Paul Myners told the committee at a previous hearing that the government could end up footing the bill for unpaid state-backed loans and social support for thousands of steelworkers whose jobs are currently at risk at one of Greensill’s largest borrowers, Liberty Steel, owned by Gupta.

By Phillip Inman

Bitcoin vs Gold: The Great Debate with Michael Saylor and Frank Giustra

Source: Stansberry Research

It's the showdown that everyone has been waiting for. Gold financier Frank Giustra versus MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor in the ultimate gold vs bitcoin battle. Our Daniela Cambone moderates.

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune
https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com/ohy1

Deliveroo’s orders double in first quarter after dismal IPO

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 15th April 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) -Food delivery company Deliveroo said its orders more than doubled in the quarter to end-March in its first trading update since its highly-anticipated listing in London last month flopped.

Growth accelerated for the fourth consecutive quarter, the company said, with group orders up 114% year-on-year to 71 million and gross transaction value (GTV) up 130% year-on-year to 1.65 billion pounds ($2.27 billion).

Chief Executive Will Shu said demand was strong in both UK and Ireland and its international markets, driven by record new customer growth and sustained demand from existing customers.

“This is our fourth consecutive quarter of accelerating growth, but we are mindful of the uncertain impact of the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

“So while we are confident that our value proposition will continue to attract consumers, restaurants, grocers and riders throughout 2021, we are taking a prudent approach to our full year guidance.”

The company said it was maintaining its guidance for full-year GTV growth of between 30% to 40% and gross profit margins of 7.5-8.0%.

Deliveroo said it was difficult to know how much of the growth was driven by the lack of opportunity to eat out in cafes and restaurants in COVID-19 lockdowns, adding that it expected the rate of growth to slow as restrictions eased.

Deliveroo’s float in London was heralded at the debut of the decade, but it soured when the stock fell 30% on the first day, wiping more than 2 billion pounds off the company’s initial 7.6 billion pound valuation.

Some of Britain’s biggest investment companies shunned the listing, citing concerns about gig-economy working conditions and the share structure.

The shares have continued to decline and closed at 268 pence on Wednesday, 31% below the 390 pence they were priced at in the float.

($1 = 0.7260 pounds)

Reporting by Paul Sandle

Coinbase makes a landmark market debut with $99.6bn valuation

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 15th April 2021) London, Uk – –

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune
https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com/ohy1

The cryptocurrency exchange coinbase started trading on Wednesday at a valuation of nearly $100bn (£72bn), in a major boost to supporters of digital currencies such as bitcoin.

Coinbase shares opened at $381 (£276) on the Nasdaq, racing past the $250 reference price, and valuing the exchange at $99.6bn (£72bn).

The valuation means that Coinbase is worth more than traditional financial institutions such as HSBC, Barclays, and Standard Chartered.

It is the first time a major cryptocurrency business has been publicly listed, and is a landmark moment for a technology once considered trivial.

Coinbase earns money from transaction fees and has seen its profits soar as cryptocurrency trading has boomed since the start of the pandemic.Advertisement

Record levels of cash have poured in to digital currencies such as bitcoin and ethereum, plumping up Coinbase’s margins. Both have seen their prices climb meteorically in the past year, rising over 800% and 1,300% respectively.

Thanks to this, Coinbase booked an estimated $730m (£530m) to $800m (£580m) in net profits in the first three months of 2021, while it reported $1.8bn (£1.3bn) in revenue during the same period.

“The Coinbase IPO is potentially a watershed event for the crypto industry and will be something the Street will be laser focused on to gauge investor appetite,” said Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives in a note to investors.

The company is a “foundational piece of the crypto ecosystem,” he said.

Coinbase was founded in 2012 by Brian Armstrong, a software engineer at Airbnb, and Fred Ehrsam, a trader at Goldman Sachs.

The pair set out to simplify the process of buying and selling bitcoin, at a time when the currency was largely used by hobbyists fascinated by its technology, and criminals attracted to its anonymity.

By Ed Clowes

Post Office chief Read delivers plan to share profits with postmasters

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 12th April 2021) London, Uk – –

Nick Read believes a profit-share arrangement could be in place at UK’s biggest retail network by 2025, Sky News learns.

The government should explore plans to turn the Post Office into a profit-sharing business, allowing postmasters to participate in the future financial success of Britain’s largest retail network, its chief executive has said.

Sky News has learnt that Nick Read, who has run the Post Office since the autumn of 2019, told colleagues last week that he wants ministers to sanction what would effectively amount to its partial mutualisation once its finances are in appropriate shape.

The ambition, which was outlined by Mr Read in a speech to his senior leadership team on Friday, would potentially enable thousands of postmasters across the UK to receive a financial stake in the Post Office by the middle of the decade.

“As we look towards the next Comprehensive Spending Review, I intend to work with government on the various means by which we could deliver on a longer-term aspiration to facilitate profit-sharing between Post Office Limited and postmasters when circumstances permit,” Mr Read said in the speech, a copy of which has been seen by Sky News.

“As we become commercially sustainable and no longer reliant on government subsidy, looking for new ways to ensure postmasters share fairly in that success is the right thing to do.

“And I do think it is important, particularly in the context of building something afresh, to share in an aspiration, a common goal.

“For [the] Post Office to be in a position, say by 2025, to make this a credible option for postmasters, their customers and the government would, it seems to me, represent a genuine achievement.”

Mr Read's aspiration remains at a conceptual stage, and there is no guarantee that ministers will agree to implement it.

Nevertheless, the fact that Mr Read – who has gained respect in Whitehall for his early efforts to modernise the scandal-hit organisation – was prepared to articulate it to senior managers suggests that it is unlikely to be dismissed out of hand.

In his wide-ranging speech, the Post Office chief also delivered the organisation's most fulsome corporate mea culpa to date for the IT scandal that caused dozens of postmasters to be wrongly convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting.

The crisis had turned the Post Office into Britain's “most untrustworthy brand”, the Court of Appeal was told last month as an appeal by more than 40 postmasters against their convictions got under way.

“Our organisation's historic handling of this matter fell short,” Mr Read said. “I am in no doubt as to the human cost of this.”

He added that the affair had caused “very deep pain” but warned that the Post Office would be unable to shoulder the financial burden of a major compensation bill alone, calling for government support to fund it.

“If the Court finds that a large-scale miscarriage of justice took place, we can expect it to carry a large-scale cost.

“The Post Office simply does not have the financial resources to provide meaningful compensation,” he told colleagues.

“I am urging government to work with us to find a way of ensuring that the funding needed for such compensation, along with the means to get it to those to whom it may become owed, is arranged as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Acting swiftly would also enable the Post Office to place even more focus on ensuring that there can be no recurrence of these deeply damaging events.”

In December 2019, the Post Office agreed to pay nearly £58m to settle a legal claim brought by 550 sub-postmasters.

At the time, the network, which has around 11,500 branches across Britain, apologised, with Mr Read's predecessor, Paula Vennells, targeted by particularly fierce criticism over her handling of the crisis.

Mr Read added that the Horizon IT system at the centre of the scandal would be replaced “in favour of a modern, cloud-based system which postmasters will find more intuitive and easier to operate”.

A former chief executive of Nisa, the convenience store group, he has moved to address postmasters' concerns about the Post Office's corporate governance by agreeing to nominate two of them to the government-owned company's board.

In his remarks last week, he lambasted his predecessors for adopting “a ‘parent and child' relationship with its postmasters, rather than a partnership of equals”.

“There has been a pronounced imbalance of power in the relationship between us, creating a situation in which the company has felt that it has all the answers, and has expected postmasters to follow its lead unquestioningly.”

His speech came during a period of profound shifts in consumer behaviour which have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Read argued that preserving the future of the 460 year-old network would depend upon bold decisions being taken to ensure continued innovation.

Among the ways this would be achieved, he said, would be to complete its journey to being a fully franchised business, with a range of retail formats such as one combining parcels and bill payment services.

He added that the overall number of Post Offices would rise to 12,000 by 2025.

The Post Office is a separate company from Royal Mail Group, which was privatised in 2013 and floated on the London Stock Exchange.

Mr Read said that a deal reached between the two in December paved the way for his company to work with other major logistics and courier companies.

“The spectacular growth in online shopping we have witnessed since the start of the pandemic represents a very sizeable and achievable opportunity for our own growth at both corporate and branch level,” he added.

The Post Office's financial performance had, nevertheless, been adversely affected by the pandemic, Mr Read said, with earnings for last year likely to be “less than half” of the £86m achieved in 2019-20.

Since taking the reins, Mr Read has sold the Post Office's broadband business to Shell, raising close to £100m, and initiated a review of its insurance arm.

A Post Office spokesman confirmed that the contents of Mr Read's speech were genuine but declined to comment further.

By Mark Kleinman

Suez Canal Ever Given ship refloated, traffic finally moving again

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 29th March 2021) London, Uk – –

The stranded container ship blocking the Suez Canal has been freed, allowing traffic in the channel to finally resume.

Egyptian authorities said other vessels were moving again after the gigantic Ever Given ship was refloated, which was seen by witnesses for the Reuters news agency.

The Ever Given has started heading towards the Bitter Lakes area, according to Egyptian television.

Efforts to get the ship moving again appeared to have been frustrated after high winds swung it back across the channel after its partial refloating earlier on Monday.

There had been intensive efforts to push and pull it with 10 tug boats and vacuum up sand with several dredgers at high tide.

Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, confirmed the ship had responded successfully to “pull-and-push manoeuvres”.

Speaking earlier, he said workers had almost completely straightened the vessel's course and that the stern had moved 102 metres (334 feet) from the canal bank.

The oil price fell as news of developments in the canal emerged, with the price of Brent crude down by 2% to just over $63 (£46) a barrel.

It had been feared the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship might be stuck for weeks.

Dredgers overnight shifted more than 27,000 cubic metres of sand – to a depth of 18m (59ft) – with work taking place around the clock.

The skyscraper-sized Ever Given became stuck in Egypt's Suez Canal last Tuesday and the resulting disruption to the vital waterway has held up £6.5bn in global trade each day.

Hundreds of other vessels had remained trapped in the canal waiting to pass, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle.

More than two dozen vessels opted for the alternative route between Asia and Europe around the Cape of Good Hope, adding around a fortnight to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The 400m (1,312ft) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds.

As of Saturday, 321 boats were waiting to get through the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.

London stocks hit a near one-month low as lockdown fears weigh

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 28th Jan 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – British shares hit a near one-month low on Thursday as energy stocks tracked commodity prices lower following virus and lockdowns-led demand worries, while the vaccine row between the European Union and AstraZeneca Plc continued to weigh.

AstraZeneca was one of the top drags to the FTSE 100 index as Britain demanded it must receive all of the COVID-19 vaccines it had ordered and paid for after the European Union asked the drugmaker on Wednesday if it could divert supplies of the Oxford-developed shots from Britain.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index fell 1.5%, with automakers and energy stocks being one of the top losers. The mid-cap index shed 1.6%.

“It’s a very speculative bubble of a market that has definitely led to people suggesting for a pullback,” said Keith Temperton, an equity sales trader at Forte Securities.

“So, in my view, it’s a long overdue pullback and nothing to be alarmed about particularly, but rather just an expected market reaction for London.”

Higher virus cases and lockdowns led the UK to see its biggest rise in vacant shops in over two decades, while car output fell to its lowest level since 1984 after the pandemic shut factories and hurt demand.

The export-heavy FTSE 100 recorded consistent monthly gains since Novemeber, but has recently lost steam and trades flat for January, as a surge in infections and tougher restrictions hit sentiment for risk assets.

British airline easyJet fell 1.1% after warning that it would fly no more than 10% of 2019’s capacity in the Jan-March quarter, while London-listed shares of Hungarian airline Wizz Air gained 0.6% even after reporting a third-quarter loss.

Miner Anglo American slipped 0.1% after it trimmed its production outlook for diamonds in 2021, owing to operational challenges, but it kept output targets for most other metals unchanged.

Reporting by Shashank Nayar 

Amateur investors buy stock as ‘failing’ firm soars in value

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 27th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

It's a battle between Wall Street pros and upstart investors using social media platforms like Reddit. And at the moment, the upstarts have the upper hand.

At the centre of the tussle is a US video games bricks and mortar retailer called Gamestop, arguably something of a relic in a world moving online.

Shares in the business have skyrocketed, with the price up 92% at the close of play on Tuesday, bringing the gain over the last few trading days to 276%.

It is, says analyst Neil Wilson from markets.com, getting weird: “We are seeing some serious funny business in some corners of the market.”

“Will it end badly?” asks Thomas Hayes, managing director at Great Hill Capital hedge fund. “Sure. We just don't know when.”

What's driving up the Gamestop price? Certainly not any good news coming out of the company. Gamestop – described as a “failing mall-based retailer” by one professional investor – made a loss of $795m in 2019, and probably several hundred more in 2020.

Instead, an army of savvy social media day traders with access to free trading platforms, and who probably have a lot of time on their hands during lockdown, are swapping tips and ramping up prices via Reddit's chat thread wallstreetbets.

Gamestop is not the only stock to get their attention – Blackberry and Nokia Oyjis are others – but is currently the battleground between the Goliaths like hedge funds and big investors, and the Davids who make up Reddit's private punters.

Key to what's going on is “shorting”, where, say, a hedge fund borrows shares in a company from other investors in the belief that the price of stock is going to fall.

The hedge fund sells the shares on the markets at, for example, $10 each, waits until they fall to $5, and buys them back. The borrowed shares are returned to the original owner, and the hedge fund pockets a profit.

That's the somewhat simplistic theory, anyway.

$2bn losses

Gamestop is the most shorted stock on Wall Street, with some 30% of the shares thought to be in the hands of hedge fund borrowers. But Reddit's retail investors have been spurred into buying Gamestop shares and placing options – pushing up the price and putting a “short squeeze” on the pros.

In this supercharged trading environment, the big Wall Street investors rush back into the market to limit their losses – with the demand pushing up the price still further. One hedge fund, Melvin Capital Management, reportedly had to be bailed out with more than $2bn to cover losses on some shares, including Gamestop.

For many Reddit investors, it not just about making money. They smell blood.

Analyst Neil Wilson says that, from reading the Reddit chat threads, the day traders' battle with Wall Street is clearly personal.

“Among the many aspects of this story that are strange, what is so unusual is the peculiar vigilante morality of the traders pumping the stock. They seem hell-bent on taking on Wall Street, they seem to hate hedge funds and threads are peppered with insults about ‘boomer' money.

“It's a generational fight, redistributive and all about robbing the rich to give to the millennial ‘poor'.”

But many big investors are refusing to budge and continue to hold their Gamestop stock at rock bottom prices. They believe the tide will turn on Reddit's herd instinct and Gamestop shares will come back to earth.

“These are not normal times and while the [Reddit] thing is fascinating to watch, I can't help but think that this is unlikely to end well for someone,” Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said.

Tears and headaches

For stock market veterans it's an example of the madness of speculative trading that can only end in tears. And for regulators, it's a headache, as they are the ones who should be cracking down on market manipulation.

Jacob Frenkel, a former lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the main US financial regulator, said: “Such volatile trading fuelled by opinions where there appears to be little corporate activity to justify the price movement is exactly what SEC investigations are made of.”

However, other experts believe Reddit's legion of investors represent a generational shift in attitudes to money and use of new technology.

“I don't think this is a fad,” said John Patrick, a fund expert at VanEck. “A retail trader will not lean on Wall Street to manage their money and I definitely now see an antagonistic relationship between the old guard [Wall Street] and individual traders who are on the rise,” he said.

By Russell Hotten

UK grocery sales in November hit record 10.9 billion pounds – Kantar

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 8th Dec 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – November was the most lucrative month ever for the UK grocery market, with 10.9 billion pounds spent, as out of home eating and drinking was restricted by England’s second national lockdown, industry data showed on Tuesday.

Market researcher Kantar said grocery sales rose by 11.3% in the 12 weeks to Nov. 29 year-on-year and were up 13.9% year-on-year in the last four of those weeks.

England’s second lockdown to stem rising COVID-19 infections started on Nov. 5 and ran until Dec. 1.

All non-essential shops had to close, along with pubs, cafes and restaurants, except to offer takeaway food. People were also encouraged to work from home if possible. All those factors boosted supermarket sales.

“November as a whole saw shopper frequency hit its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting more confidence among people going into stores,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

Kantar forecast spending would be close to 12 billion pounds in December, around 1.5 billion pounds more than December last year.

Of Britain’s big four supermarket groups, No. 4 player Morrisons again outperformed rivals over the 12 week period with sales growth of 13.7%.

Second-ranked Sainsbury’s saw growth of 10.8%, with market leader Tesco on 10.4%. Walmart owned Asda was again the laggard with growth of 7.7%.

Reporting by James Davey

UK construction industry unexpectedly picked up in September – PMI

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 6th Oct, 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s construction industry unexpectedly picked up speed in September, helped by a post-lockdown bounce in the housing market, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index accelerated to 56.8 from 54.6 in August, above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists which had pointed to a slight slowing.

“Following August’s slowdown, growth in UK construction activity rebounded strongly in September,” Eliot Kerr, an economist at IHS Markit, said.

“Forward-looking indicators point to a sustained rise in activity, with new work increasing at the quickest pace since before the lockdown and sentiment towards the 12-month outlook at its strongest for seven months.”

Construction firms continued to cut jobs, although at a significantly slower rate than in August.

Increases in activity in home-building – which reported the fourth sharp monthly increase in a row – and in commercial construction more than offset a fall in civil engineering work.

Britain’s housing market has boomed since coronavirus restrictions were lifted in May, driven by a tax cut, pent-up demand from earlier in the year and demand for more spacious homes after the lockdown.

Some industry officials have warned that the housing market recovery is likely to run out of steam with unemployment likely to rise as the government pares back its job support programmes.

The all-sector PMI – a combination of the construction, services and manufacturing surveys – fell back to 56.6 from August’s six-year high of 58.7, reflecting slower growth in Britain’s dominant services industry.

Reporting by William Schomberg

Ocado stock market value soared to £21.66bn overtaking Tesco as UK’s most valuable retailer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 30th Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Delivery-based supermarket’s value rises to £21bn despite selling 1.7% of UK’s groceries

Ocado has overtaken Tesco to become the UK’s most valuable retailer after its stock market value soared to £21.66bn.

Tesco is worth £21.06bn despite controlling nearly 27% of the UK grocery market. By comparison Ocado, which is already worth more than double the combined value of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, sells just 1.7% of the UK’s groceries.

Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy once famously described Ocado as a “charity” due to its track record of losses during the noughties.

Ocado has eclipsed Tesco just as the supermarket’s new chief executive, Ken Murphy, prepares to take charge on Thursday. He replaces Dave Lewis who has been running the UK’s biggest retailer since 2014.

Murphy faces a baptism of fire as Tesco grapples with recession, running supermarkets during a pandemic and a potential no-deal Brexit. He also needs to get the share price, which has gone sideways under Lewis, moving.https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/3887Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The Tesco board is painfully aware of the march of the Ocado share price. In the summer the company suffered one of the biggest-ever shareholder revolts over executive pay. Shareholders objected to a late change to part of an executive pay plan, which handed an additional £1.6m to Lewis and £900,000 to finance director Alan Stewart.

The change involved removing online grocer Ocado from a comparator group against which Tesco’s share performance was measured. With Ocado included the two men would not have qualified for the extra payout.

Investors have fallen in love with Ocado on the back of the success of its tech business Ocado Solutions, which sells its grocery-picking expertise to foreign supermarkets. The coronavirus pandemic has also triggered a boom in online shopping. At the height of the pandemic online food sales nearly doubled but, despite the recent slowdown, they now account for 12.5% of total grocery sales versus about 7% pre-crisis.

By Zoe Wood

Nokia wins contract with BT to supply 5G radio equipment

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 29th Sept 2020) London, UK —

STOCKHOLM/HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nokia NOKIA.HE has clinched a deal with Britain's biggest mobile operator BT BT.L to supply 5G radio equipment, the Finnish company said on Tuesday, in one of the first major wins under new CEO Pekka Lundmark.

The deal will make Nokia BT’s largest equipment provider and comes just months after Britain said it would ban China’s Huawei Technologies from next-generation 5G telecom networks.

The size of the contract was not disclosed.

Nokia has won 63% of the BT contract, or about 11,600 radio sites, a source familiar with the matter said.

Nokia currently powers BT’s network in Greater London, the Midlands and rural locations, but the new contract will add multiple towns and cities across the United Kingdom.

BT Group CEO Philip Jansen said the agreement would allow it to continue the rollout of fixed and mobile networks, with digital connectivity critical to the UK’s economic future.

Under the current ban, UK operators will not be able to purchase 5G components from Huawei from the end of this year and must remove all existing Huawei gear from the 5G network by 2027, offering opportunities for for Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson ERICb.ST.

Nokia had a 21% share of the global radio access network (RAN) market in 2019, versus 29% for Ericsson and Huawei’s 31%, according to data from Moody’s.

While Nokia has been winning contracts from operators across the world, it suffered a setback earlier this month when it lost out to Samsung Electronics 005930.KS on a part of a contract to supply new 5G equipment to Verizon VZ.N.

Nokia is under new management with Lundmark taking the top job last month and telecoms veteran Sari Baldauf becoming the chairwoman in May.

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Anne Kauranen

How Palantir Built Data-Mining Empire

Source: CNBC

After 17 years, data analytics company Palantir is making its public market debut. Best known for its sometimes controversial work with U.S. government agencies like the CIA, the DoD and ICE, Palantir has increasingly been working with commercial customers as well, which investors hope will put it on a path to profitability.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak gives businesses extra flexibility on repaying COVID-19 loans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 24th Sept 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday he would introduce a new scheme to give businesses flexibility to repay loans taken out during the coronavirus crisis, giving them up to 10 years to repay the loans rather than six.

Under the government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme, 1.3 million small businesses have taken out a total of 38.0 billion pounds ($48.4 billion) in loans worth up to 50,000 pounds each, from banks which have received a 100% state guarantee.

“To give those businesses more time and greater flexibility to repay their loans, we are introducing Pay-as-you-Grow. This means loans can now be extended from six to 10 years, more than halving the average monthly repayment,” Sunak told parliament.

“Businesses who are struggling can now choose to make interest only payments, and anyone in real trouble can apply to suspened repayments altogether for up to six months.”

Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce

Lockdown fears cause shares to fall sharply in travel, hotel and pubs

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 21st Sept 2020) London, Uk – –

Leading shares across Europe have fallen sharply in morning trading amid fears that a renewed rise in coronavirus cases will blight economic prospects.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 share index was down more than 3%, with airlines, travel firms, hotel groups and pubs leading the rout.

Worst hit was British Airways owner IAG, which slumped more than 12%.

Similar falls were seen on markets in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Banking shares were affected by an extra set of concerns as allegations of money-laundering surfaced in leaked secret files.

HSBC, the bank at the centre of the scandal, saw its share price fall more than 5% in London, but the revelations dragged down the entire sector, with Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all dropping about the same amount.

The downward trend affected all but a handful of stocks on the UK's 100-share index. Only online delivery service Just Eat, supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons and miner Fresnillo made it into positive territory.

The FTSE 250 index, seen as a better reflection of the health of the UK economy, was down 4% by lunchtime.

One of its biggest fallers was pub and restaurant owner Mitchells & Butlers, which dropped more than 15% as concerns grow that the hospitality industry would have most to lose from a fresh lockdown.

The pound also lost ground against the dollar, falling 0.47% to $1.2863 by lunchtime. It fell marginally against the euro to €1.0910.

Why does all this matter to me?

Many people are more affected by stock market falls than they might think.

There are millions of people with a pension – either private or through work – who will see their savings (in what is known as a defined contribution pension) invested by pension schemes. The value of their savings pot is influenced by the performance of these investments.

Pension savers mostly let experts choose where to invest this money to help it grow and a proportion will be in shares.

Widespread falls in share prices are likely to be bad news for these investments, although pension investors stress these are long-term investments and are designed to ride out bouts of weakness.

Analysis: By Theo Leggett

There has certainly been an element of European unity on the markets today, with the FTSE 100 index in London, the Cac 40 in Paris, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Ibex in Madrid all suffering similar falls.

The reason behind the gloom seems pretty clear. With the number of Covid-19 cases multiplying rapidly here and in many European countries, there's a real prospect of new restrictions on daily life. In some regions – such as Madrid, for example – they're already in place.

The fear is that although these measures are unlikely to be as severe as the lockdowns in spring, they will nonetheless weigh on economic activity and could stifle the post-lockdown recovery.

Shares are down across the board, but inevitably, the companies which rely on people being able to get out and about and mingle are among the worst affected.

Airlines, tourism firms and hospitality businesses have already had a dreadful year – and investors know they can ill afford further setbacks.

‘Bitter pill'

Coronavirus cases have been surging in many European countries, as governments strive to avoid another round of national lockdowns.

In the UK, top scientists are warning that the country is at a “critical point” in the pandemic and “heading in the wrong direction”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be considering a two-week mini-lockdown in England – being referred to as a “circuit-breaker” – in an effort to stem widespread growth of the virus.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ”The FTSE 100 is worst hit among its European peers with a storm of pessimistic news swirling, affecting sectors across the board.”

She added that concerns for the travel industry had had a “domino effect”, with aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce hit, as investors saw no end to the falling demand for new planes.

At the same time, the prospect of evening coronavirus curfews, after a summer of recovering sales, was “a bitter pill to swallow” for the hospitality industry,

If you add the prospect of a no-deal Brexit into the murky mix, there is little surprise so many investors seem to have caught a severe case of the jitters today.”