Royal Mail profit missed analysts’ estimates amid labour dispute

( via — Thur,  19th  May, 2022) London, UK —

Britain's Royal Mail (RMG.L) said on Thursday the pay dispute with its largest labour union is a “key uncertainty” for the group this fiscal year after 2021-22 profit missed analysts' estimates, sending shares 12% lower.


The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents more than a hundred thousand Royal Mail postal workers, had criticised and rejected the company's latest wage offer, and the two parties are now in a dispute resolution procedure.

Royal Mail said it could meet 2022-23 market expectations of UK adjusted operating profit of 303 million pounds ($375.11 million) if it reached a deal with the union in line with its current offer, and if it avoids a strike.

Analysts at JPMorgan said they believed it was unlikely that wage talks would go smoothly, and expected there still could be a material downside risk to estimates.

The relationship between Royal Mail and the CWU has been a tumultuous one in the past, with the prior dispute lasting two years before the December 2020 settlement.

“We are at a crossroads with the transformation of Royal Mail,” Non-Executive Chairman Keith Williams said.

“We need to adapt our business to a post-pandemic world and whilst we are making progress in some areas, more needs to be done in others.”

The 500-year-old company had benefited from a boom in parcel deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a slowing UK economy, subsiding demand on lower consumer spending amid the cost-of-living crisis, and rapid inflation also pose a challenge to its outlook.

Adjusted operating profit for the year ended March 27 was 758 million pounds, slightly below average market expectations of 771 million pounds, as cost savings fell short of targets and parcel volumes tapered off lockdown highs.


Shares in the FTSE 100 company, which gained around 50% last year, were down 12% by 0911 GMT, touching a near one-and-half year low.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong

Federal Reserve announce sharpest rise in interest rates in over 20 years

( via – – Thur, 5th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Benchmark interest rate raised 0.5 percentage points, with more rises expected

The Federal Reserve moved to tamp down soaring inflation in the US on Wednesday, announcing the sharpest rise in interest rates in over 20 years.


The Fed’s benchmark interest rate was raised by 0.5 percentage points to a target rate range of between 0.75% and 1%. The hike is the largest since 2000 and follows a 0.25 percentage point increase in March, the first increase since December 2018.

More rate rises are expected. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the Fed to raise rates seven times in 2022, reaching 2.9% in early 2023. Starting in June, officials also plan to shrink their $9tn asset portfolio, a policy move that will further push up borrowing costs.

In a statement the Fed said that although “overall economic activity edged down in the first quarter, household spending and business fixed investment remained strong”. But it warned that inflation “remains elevated”, the invasion of Ukraine had implications for the US economy that remain “highly uncertain” and Covid-related lockdowns in China “are likely to exacerbate supply chain disruptions”.

Rates were cut to near zero in March 2020 when the pandemic hit the US but they were already low and years of low rates left the US and other countries ill-prepared for a sudden rise in inflation. Until recently the Fed had dismissed rising prices as “transitory” and expected them to fall as economies recovered from the pandemic.

All that has now changed. The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, took the unusual step of addressing the American people at the start of a press conference following the rate hike announcement. “Inflation is much too high, and we understand the hardship it is causing. We are moving expeditiously to bring it back down,” he said.

“Some of us are old enough to have lived through high inflation and many aren’t. But it’s very unpleasant … If you are a normal economic person, then you probably don’t have that much extra to spend, and it’s immediately hitting your spending on groceries, on gasoline, on energy, things like that. We understand the pain involved.”

Thanks in large part to the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus on the global economy, inflation is now running at a 40-year high in the US. In March, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 8.5% higher than it was a year ago, driven up by rising prices for gasoline, shelter, and food. The increasing costs of essential goods and services are now outstripping average wage gains.

Ahead of the announcement Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase chief executive officer, warned that the Fed may have waited too long to raise rates. “We’re a little late,” he told Bloomberg. “The sooner they move the better.”

The impact of the Fed’s policy is already being felt in the wider economy. Since the start of the year, mortgage rates have climbed at their fastest pace in decades, rising nearly two percentage points. Some hot property markets have started to cool as a result. The impact of tighter monetary policy has also triggered selloffs in the stock markets.

Powell said the economy remained strong and that he was confident the Fed could act without triggering a recession but he warned it would act aggressively to tackle inflation.


“We need to do everything we can to restore stable prices,” he said. “We will do it as quickly and effectively as we can. We think we have a good chance to do it without significant increase in unemployment or sharp slowdown. But ultimately, we think about the medium and longer term, and everyone will be better off if we can get this job done – the sooner, the better.”

By Dominic Rushe

Boris Johnson joins lobbying for UK chip designer Arm to list in London

( via – – Tue, 3rd May 2022) London, Uk – –

Government fears damage of losing out to New York in battle to attract tech floatations

Boris Johnson has joined the lobbying effort to convince the British-based chip designer Arm to float in London, as the government fears the damage of losing out to New York in the battle to attract high-profile tech companies looking to list.


After the collapse of the $66bn sale of the Cambridge-based business to US-based Nvidia earlier this year, Masayoshi Son, the chief executive of Arm’s Japanese parent company Softbank, immediately snubbed the UK for a flotation.

“We think that the Nasdaq stock exchange in the US, which is at the centre of global hi-tech, would be most suitable,” he said in February.

Johnson has joined the lobbying efforts already under way by London Stock Exchange executives and a number of government departments and senior officials, writing a letter to Softbank executives, according to the Financial Times.

The effort includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Treasury, the business department as well as Downing Street. The digital minister Chris Philp and Gerry Grimstone, the former Barclays chair who now heads the UK’s Office for Investment, are leading the lobbying efforts.

While the chances of changing SoftBank’s mind are considered slim, Arm has previously had a dual listing on both sides of the Atlantic, before it was acquired by the Japanese company for £24.6bn in 2016.

Arm had been a member of the FTSE 100 for 18 years and winning it back would be a huge boost for the capital’s longer-term ambitions to have more tech flotations, while losing it would be a big blow to that goal.

Analysts are estimating that Arm would float with a market value of $30bn to $40bn, which would make it the largest tech company on the London Stock Exchange, more than twice the size of the current leader, Ocado. At that scale, Arm would also rank between the 19th and 24th largest listed company in the UK.

A government spokesperson said: “We want to make the UK the most attractive place for innovative businesses to grow and raise capital.” SoftBank, Arm and the LSE declined to comment.

In December, Paul Marshall, the chairman of the investment manager Marshall Wallace, said the UK and European stock markets were becoming the “Jurassic Park” of global stock exchanges.



He wrote in the Financial Times: “The UK stock market is becoming a global backwater as US and Chinese markets forge ahead. It has largely failed to take part in the global rally that began in 2015. We are reaching the point where companies may decide we should simply all agree on a single global exchange, trading 24 hours and located in New York.”

Last year new rules were introduced to try to make London more attractive to tech companies, including allowing dual share class structures, which give founders more control after they float a business, and reducing the amount of shares required to be offered to the public to 10%.


Why Diesel Is Driving Up The Cost Of Everything

Source: CNBC

Diesel prices reached all-time highs in March of 2022. Gasoline prices may hit consumers directly, but diesel prices are driving up the costs of all kinds of goods. They are also hurting the trucking industry, which is dominated by small businesses.


Consumers notice spiking gasoline prices every time they drive to the pump. But energy industry analysts say the current spike in diesel prices is historic — and is pushing up the cost of all kinds of goods. Diesel prices are hovering around all-time highs, forced upward by the same circumstances that have fueled gasoline’s rise.

“The price of diesel is probably the bigger headline here,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. Nearly everything people buy is at some point freighted in a vehicle powered by a diesel engine. Ships and barges, trains, trucks and even some airplanes run on diesel fuel.



Will The U.S. Face A Food Shortage?

Source: CNBC

The war between Russia and Ukraine is putting a massive strain on the global food supply. Food prices in the U.S. soared to record heights along with other commodities like wheat, corn and fertilizers. So how exactly does the conflict in Ukraine pose a threat to the global food supply and can anything be done to stop it? Watch the video find out.

The war in Ukraine is putting a massive strain on the global food supply. Ukrainian grain exports last month were a quarter what they were in February. Also as a direct result of the Russian invasion, the cost of fertilizers, with prices soaring for raw materials like ammonia, nitrogen, and nitrates, are up 30% since the start of 2022.


“This is going to be another major test of the food supply system,” said Diane Charlton, assistant professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University. “We will have to watch very carefully what’s happening in other parts of the world and consider ways to reduce risks of food shortages and conflict.” Meanwhile, food prices in the U.S. are rising at historic rates, while prices for commodities like wheat and corn are at their highest levels in a decade.

What’s more, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that food-at-home prices will see an increase of up to 4% by the end of 2022.

Barclays $1.25 billion share buyback plan on hold after trading blunder


( via — Thur, 28th April 2022) London, UK —

Barclays (BARC.L) has put its $1.25 billion share buyback plan on hold until talks with U.S. regulators over a major trading blunder have been resolved, piling early pressure on the British bank's new Chief Executive C.S. Venkatakrishnan.

Barclays disclosed on March 28 that it had exceeded a U.S. limit on sales of structured products, triggering a loss and a potential restatement of its 2021 accounts.

Venkatakrishnan, who is known inside the bank as Venkat, told reporters that Barclays had found no evidence to date of deliberate misconduct relating to the error and that the bank was working with all its regulators.

Barclays said on Thursday it planned to start the 1 billion pound ($1.25 billion) buyback “as soon as practicable” following resolution with the U.S. authorities.


Dealing with the fallout from the blunder poses an early test for Venkatakrishnan, who took over following the shock exit of Jes Staley in November and who previously ran both the investment bank and the bank's risk operations.

Barclays posted more than 500 million pounds in litigation and conduct costs in the first quarter, including a 320 million pound provision at its investment bank for the trading mishap.

The bank said the estimated total provision for the error was 540 million pounds.

The breach marred an otherwise strong performance at Barclays, with trading at its investment bank lifted by market volatility.

The investment bank, which had faced criticism from activist shareholder Edward Bramson, gave cause for cheer, with income up 10% to 3.9 billion pounds.

The bank's fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) unit posted an income rise of 37%, while global markets – which houses its equities business – was up 26%.

At the group level, Barclays posted pretax profits of 2.2 billion pounds, down from 2.4 billion a year earlier but ahead of market expectations.

The bank's shares were up 1.4% by 0810 GMT, lagging the European index of banking shares which was up 2%. (.SX7P)

The bank's core capital ratio, a key indicator of financial strength, fell by 130 basis points to 13.8%, largely due to a 14.7 billion pound rise in risk-weighted assets to 328.8 billion.


While volatility had boosted its investment bank, Venkat said inflation was likely to hit its retail customers hard, although credit conditions remained benign.

“All of whom are facing far harder conditions this year as a result of inflation, supply chain issues and higher energy costs,” he said.

By Lawrence White and Iain Withers

Russian energy giant Gazprom halts gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria

( via – – Wed, 27th April2022) London, Uk – –

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has halted gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria over the countries' refusal to pay for supplies in roubles.

The firm said services will not be restored until payments are made in the Russian currency.

It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “unfriendly” countries to pay for gas in roubles.


Poland confirmed supplies had stopped, but Bulgaria said it was still unclear whether supplies had been halted.

Countries pay in advance for their gas, but as they have gone to pay for future supplies, Russia has stood firm on its demand made last month that new purchases need to be paid in roubles.

The threat, in which Mr Putin said “existing contracts will be stopped”, has been seen as an attempt boost the rouble, which has been hit by Western sanctions.

Nathan Piper, head of oil and gas research at Investec, told the BBC the halting of supplies to Poland and Bulgaria was the “start of Russia exerting economic pressure on Europe,” and a move which could “escalate” with other EU nations.

Poland's deputy foreign minister said the country could cope without Gazprom's gas and had “taken some decisions many years ago to prepare for such a situation”.

Marcin Przdacz told the BBC there were “options to get the gas from other partners,” including the US and gulf nations.

“I'm pretty sure that we will manage to handle this,” he told the BBC.

Polish state gas company PGNiG, which bought 53% of its gas imports from Gazprom in the first quarter of this year, described the suspension as a breach of contract, adding that the company would take steps to reinstate the gas supply.

Meanwhile in Sofia, energy minister Alexander Nikolov said Bulgaria had paid for Russian gas deliveries for April and claimed supplier Gazprom will be in breach of its current contract if it halts the flow.

“Because all trade and legal obligations are being observed, it is clear that at the moment [Russian] natural gas is being used more as a political and economic weapon in the current war,” Mr Nikolov said.

Bulgaria, which relies on Gazprom for more than 90% of its gas supply, said it had taken steps to find alternative sources but no restrictions on gas consumption were currently required.

The executive director of Bulgarian gas network operator Bulgartransgaz said supplies to Bulgaria were still currently flowing.

Bulgaria also transports Russian gas via an extension of the Turk Stream pipeline to neighbouring Serbia and from there to Hungary. Hungary and Austria also said gas supplies were normal.

The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, said the country has had no signals or information on any interruption to its gas supplies, but must be prepared for any scenario.

The central European country is almost entirely dependent on Russia for its gas.

Russia's top lawmaker said on Wednesday that gas giant Gazprom had made the right decision in suspending gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland and said Moscow should do the same with other “unfriendly” countries.

“The same should be done with regard to other countries that are unfriendly to us,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, wrote on his Telegram channel.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Russia was using gas “as an instrument of blackmail”.

“This is unjustified and unacceptable. And it shows once again the unreliability of Russia as a gas supplier,” she said.

Ms von der Leyen said the EU was “prepared for this scenario” and had been “working to ensure alternative deliveries and the best possible storage levels across the EU”.

Investec's Mr Piper told the BBC the halting of supplies to Poland and Bulgaria was the “start of Russia exerting economic pressure on Europe.”

He said despite demand for gas declining as Europe enters summer, “risks around Russian gas supply are keeping prices high, putting pressure on consumers and industry”.

The latest move by Russia sent European gas prices up further on Wednesday, surging by 24%.

Mr Putin's decree for gas payments means foreign buyers of Russian gas have to open an account at Russia's Gazprombank and transfer euros or US dollars into it.

Gazprombank would then convert this into roubles which will then be used to make the payment for gas.

UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab earlier told Sky News the decision to cut off gas supplies will have “a very damaging effect on Russia,” adding that such moves could lead to the country becoming “an economic pariah”.

Following Russia's announcement, Poland's climate ministry said the country's energy supplies were secure.

Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said there was no need to draw gas from reserves and gas to customers would not be cut.

Poland was already planning to stop importing Russian gas by the end of the year, when its long-term supply contract with Gazprom expires.

PGNiG said its underground gas storage was almost 80% full and, with summer approaching, demand was lower.

Poland also has alternative supply sources, including a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Swinoujscie.

On 1 May, a new gas pipeline connection with Lithuania is also due to open that will give Poland access to gas from Lithuania's LNG terminal.

And a new pipeline delivering gas from Norway, known as the “Baltic Pipe”, comes online in October. It should reach full capacity by the end of the year and could replace all Russian deliveries.


Supplies from Russia account for about 40% of the EU's natural gas imports.

However, many countries have pledged to move away from Russian energy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The US has declared a complete ban on Russian oil, gas and coal imports.

Meanwhile, the UK is to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year, with gas to follow as soon as possible, and the EU is reducing gas imports by two-thirds.

Why Global Supply Chains May Never Be the Same

Source: WSJ

Every day, millions of sailors, truck drivers, longshoremen, warehouse workers and delivery drivers keep mountains of goods moving into stores and homes to meet consumers’ increasing expectations of convenience.


But this complex movement of goods underpinning the global economy is far more vulnerable than many imagined.

Some Indian Payment Processors Cut Off Local Crypto Exchanges

( via — Thur, 14th April 2022) London, Uk – –

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Pressured by a new tax law and a crypto exchange launch gone wrong, India's crypto trading and sentiment is hurting.

CoinSwitch Kuber, one of India’s biggest crypto exchanges, on Tuesday halted all rupee deposits on its platform in what appears to be a broader trend among India’s virtual currency trading platforms.

The involuntary step occurred when the bank of the exchange, Kotak Mahindra Bank, stopped providing its services for trades, at least four different sources from India's crypto industry and institutions told CoinDesk.

It is not yet determined what is behind the move. Kotak was contacted but has not provided a comment.



The development is another blow for India's crypto community in a short span of time. After stiff new taxes came into effect on April 1, and the forbearing of a “harsher” tax effective July 1. The threat of the imposition of an additional indirect tax adds to the concerns. An already increasing brain drain of talent and entrepreneurs threatens to be further exacerbated by the latest development. Particularly when data suggests the blows on the crypto scene have resulted in trading plummeting. And there is no sight of regulatory certainty in the form of a crypto-specific bill. Thus, the latest issues appear to threaten the industry's very survival according to analysts.

The issues appear to stem from Indian crypto exchanges’ relationships with local payment providers. Payment gateways such as Mobikwik stopped supporting exchanges around April 1. Multiple industry sources said this was because MobiKwik needed time to comply with a new tax law that took effect April 1.

WazirX, India’s biggest exchange, confirmed that MobiKwik pulled out on April 1.

“We had Mobikwik as a partner. They were partners for a long time, two to three years time. Now, they temporarily stopped all the services,” said BuyUCoin Chief Marketing Officer Atulya Bhatt. BuyUCoin is a prominent exchange in India.

MobiKwik had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

On April 7, the world’s largest listed crypto exchange, Coinbase (COIN), announced it was starting trading in India through its app with a bit of pomp and circumstance – the launch included Bollywood songs and more.

One of the most frequently used words in the announcement script was the acronym UPI, short for Unified Payments Interface. UPI is a payment mechanism for 1.4 billion Indians.

Here’s what transpired at the launch.

First, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said “India has shown a great willingness with UPI.”

Then Surojit Chatterjee, Coinbase's chief product officer, explained how to buy crypto on the platform with great emphasis on UPI.

“UPI has made it very simple for anyone with a mobile phone to access digital payments,” he said. He mentioned UPI five other times, including saying “We'll set up UPI so you can buy crypto instantly from your bank account with just a few taps.”

Less than 10 hours after Coinbase’s India launch, by 9:04 p.m. India time, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the entity that governs UPI, tweeted to clarify that it was “not aware of any crypto exchange using UPI.”

“When a government entity makes the effort to issue a statement at that time of the night, somebody has really been annoyed,” said an employee at another crypto exchange.

NPCI is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country's central bank. The RBI has unequivocally taken an anti-crypto stand. RBI Deputy Governor T. Rabi Shankar said on Feb. 14 that “banning cryptocurrency is perhaps the most advisable choice open to India.”

After the NPCI tweet, a Coinbase spokesperson said the company is “experimenting with a number of payment methods.”

“One of these methods is UPI, a simple-to-use and rapid payment system. We are aware of the recent statement published by NPCI regarding the use of UPI by cryptocurrency exchanges. We are committed to working with NPCI and other relevant authorities to ensure we are aligned with local expectations and industry norms,” the spokesperson added.


Three days after the launch, Coinbase payment services became “temporarily unavailable” on its app. Coinbase did not issue a fresh explanation or statement and it was unclear whether the UPI services were disabled by Coinbase or by UPI itself.

At the moment, Coinbase has no payment option available and therefore all fiat deposit, withdrawal or conversion services have been halted.

“It might have worked better for Coinbase if they avoided using UPI with crypto in the same sentence. Coinbase got a taste of what Indian exchanges have been facing and struggling with since 2018,” said Aditya Singh, a co-founder of Crypto India.

According to Siddharth Sogani, founder and CEO of cryptocurrency research organization Crebaco, Coinbase did nothing wrong.

“UPI is a very well structured payment system, the fastest and the world's most used. NPCI should not ask banks to stop providing services to crypto exchanges. Banks themselves don't have any problem with crypto exchanges. The crypto community had won the case in the Supreme Court against RBI. So banking is not a problem, and the same applies to UPI. Since it's a banking interface,” Sogani said.

On Tuesday, deposit services became unavailable on Indian exchange CoinSwitch Kuber in which Coinbase has invested millions.

An industry source not authorized to speak on the matter implied that India’s central bank – which has tried to bar banks from providing crypto exchanges services before – may be quietly influencing payment providers to cut off crypto exchanges.

“No exchange in India is withdrawing payment options voluntarily. Most of them don’t have payment options right now. So, it’s primarily an issue from either NPCI’s end or banks’ end,” said one industry source.

At least three other industry sources made the same allegation, requesting anonymity to speak frankly about a regulator with influence over their firms. Some said they feared this unproven revelation without proof could lead to a further clampdown against the industry but also said acquiring proof is nearly impossible in a situation like this.

“There has been no fresh Reserve Bank of India directive asking banks to stay away from cryptos. But senior supervisory managers (of RBI) are telling some banks to exercise caution on cryptos till there is regulatory and legal clarity,” said a senior official of another bank to Economic Times.

Another source closely connected to India’s financial institutions and the government said “I’ve seen too many big companies going downhill because of going overboard.”

“Bringing UPI into the picture was a big mistake and so my personal take is that they [Coinbase] went out of their brief and they have been rapped on the knuckles, and that's had a ripple effect,” the source said.

In April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) effectively banned banks through a notification from supporting or engaging in crypto transactions until the Supreme Court overturned the restriction two years later. Thus, it is unlikely that the RBI or RBI governed NPCI would release any official document, notification, circular, or order that could push banks or payment gateways from providing their services to crypto exchanges.

CoinSwitch Kuber and Coinbase both declined to comment.

By Amitoj Singh

Prices rising at their fastest rate for 30 years drive by increase in petrol and diesel

( via – – Wed, 13th April 2022) London, Uk – –

Prices are rising at their fastest rate for 30 years, driven by a sharp increase in petrol and diesel costs.

The UK inflation rate rose to 7% in the year to March, the highest rate since 1992 and up from 6.2% in February.

Prices are rising faster than wages and there is pressure on the government to do more to help those struggling.


The cost of living is expected to rise even further after the energy price cap was increased, driving up gas and electricity bills for millions.

Inflation is the rate at which prices rise. If a bottle of milk costs £1 and that rises by 5p, then milk inflation is 5%.

Fuel had amongst the biggest impact on the inflation rate, with average petrol prices rising by 12.6p per litre between February and March, the largest monthly rise since records began in 1990, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This compares with a rise of 3.5p per litre between the same months of 2021.

Diesel prices also rose by 18.8p per litre this year, compared with a rise of 3.5p per litre a year ago.

The rise in the inflation rate was higher than the 6.7% expected by analysts and was also driven up by furniture, restaurant and food prices.

The figures for March do not yet reflect the average 54% increase in energy bills that took place from 1 April when the energy price cap was raised.

Since late last year, prices have been rising fast as pandemic restrictions have been eased and firms face higher energy and shipping costs which they have passed on to consumers.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is now adding to the pain, as the price of oil and other commodities climb higher.

Russia is one of the world's largest oil exporters and demand for oil from other producers has increased since the invasion, leading to higher prices.

Although the UK imports just 6% of its crude oil from Russia, it is still affected when global prices rise.

Ukraine and Russia are also the world's main suppliers of sunflower oil and the war has hit prices.

In the UK, the price of oils and fats for food increased by 7.2% in March, according to the ONS.

Andrew Selley, chief executive of BidFood, a wholesaler which supplies 45,000 caterers and food service businesses across the UK, said increasing electricity, fuel and packaging costs were impacting the price of all its products.


But he told the BBC products affected by the war in Ukraine, such as wheat-based foods, sunflower oil, chicken and white fish, were particularly hard hit.

“I've been in the business for over 30 years. I've never seen a situation where everything seems to be going up [in price],” he said, adding that some of these costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

‘I'm paying £120 more a month for petrol'

Sara Gerritsma, a student from Leicestershire with a partner and six year-old child, said she may have to give up her paramedic degree due to the rising cost of fuel.

The 32-year-old only started the three-year course in October but she has a 2.5 hour roundtrip each day to get to university in Northampton, and her petrol costs have shot up by about £120 a month.

“It would be really frustrating giving up my course. It was a big decision changing my career at 32,” Sara told the BBC.

“But recently we have sat down and gone through everything and thought, can I afford to be a full-time student?”

Sara said the family was also using less energy and has reworked its food budget to save money.

The sharp rise in prices is also putting pressure on businesses.

Paul White, who owns the pizzeria 6/CUT in Eccles, Greater Manchester, said the increase in the minimum wage, the end of VAT relief, and rising fuel and food prices have all hit his company. The restaurant is also spending £500 more a week on its energy bills.

“We need to find an extra £1,400 a week to cover the costs of everything that's come on in the last few weeks,” he told the BBC .

He says he will have to put up prices, and is looking to charge each customer about 50p to £1 extra to cover his rising overheads.

But he is also worried people might start eating out less as their budgets are squeezed.

“Next six months there'll be a lot of [restaurants] shutting down, they won't be making enough money to cover the costs of everything,” he said.

Analysis: Kevin Peachey

This is no longer a cost of living squeeze, but a financial throttling for many people. Price rises are accelerating and their wages, benefits and pensions are failing to keep pace.

So, at home, families will be discussing how best to cope with this situation, which is expected to last a while.

In the words of the ONS, there were “no large offsetting downward contributions” to the inflation rate. In other words, nothing is getting significantly cheaper.

So avoidance of price rises is impossible. Even if you do not have a car and are avoiding surging fuel costs, lots of other necessities are getting more expensive.

Experts say the only option is trying to budget as best we can, across every part of our lives. Most importantly, they also stress the importance of seeking early, and free, help before falling into unmanageable debt.

Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, which focuses on those on lower incomes, warned the cost of living crisis would “continue to worsen before it starts to ease at some point next year”.

He said with wages not keeping pace with rising prices, people were facing “the biggest squeeze since the mid-70s.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I know this is a worrying time for many families, which is why we are taking action to ease the burdens by providing support worth around £22bn in this financial year, including for the most vulnerable through our Household Support fund.”

But Labour called on the chancellor to “show the leadership the country needs”.


“Labour has a plan to cut energy bills through a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producer profits. Meanwhile, the chancellor has increased taxes for working people to their highest levels in 70 years,” shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said.

Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey called for “unfair tax hikes” to be immediately reversed and said people needed “urgent help” with energy bills.

By Becky Morton

Elon Musk buys $2.9bn stake in Twitter

( via – – Tue, 5th April 2022) London, Uk – –

Platform’s shares jump after news that Tesla and SpaceX boss holds 9.2% stake

The billionaire Elon Musk has taken an almost $3bn (£2.3bn) stake in Twitter to become the social media platform’s largest shareholder.

The world’s richest man, who has a penchant for eccentric behaviour frequently involving tweets, has built a 9.2% stake in Twitter, according to filings made to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday.


The boss of Tesla and SpaceX, who with more than 80 million followers ranks in the global top 10 of the most popular users on the microblogging site, paid $2.89bn for the stake at Twitter’s closing share price on Friday.

The company’s shares soared by more than a quarter in pre-market trading on the back of the news, adding about $8bn to its $31.5bn value, before easing back to 21% up in early trading. After the stock price jump Musk’s shares are now worth more than $3.5bn.

Musk has been highly critical of Twitter and only last week said he was “giving serious thought” to building his own social media platform after questioning whether it was adequately supporting free speech. He now holds a stake more than four times the 2.25% holding of the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Analysts believe the shareholding taken by Musk could eventually result in the 50-year-old taking an active interest in the microblogging site that could lead to a buyout.

“We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Musk, whose personal fortune is estimated at $289bn – almost $100bn more than the world’s next richest person, the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos – has often found himself in trouble for tweeting contentious remarks.

The Tesla boss’s many questionable Twitter moments include calling Vernon Unsworth, a diver who helped rescue a team of young football players stuck in a flooded cave in Thailand, “pedo guy” after he criticised Musk’s plan to save them with a submarine.

Musk eventually deleted the tweets and apologised to Unsworth, who sued for $190m in damages for the tweets. The jury found the Tesla boss did not defame Unsworth, and after the verdict Musk told reporters in the hallway of the courtroom: “My faith in humanity is restored.”

Last year, Tesla posted a job advertisement for a customer support specialist with responsibilities including handling complaints made against the South African-born American entrepreneur on social media.

In February, Musk tweeted a meme comparing the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to Adolf Hitler, which he deleted after it attracted widespread criticism. In December, he tweeted a meme showing the face of Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s new chief executive, over that of the former Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.

Musk has also found himself in trouble with the US financial markets regulator, the SEC, for posting tweets that have had significant ramifications for the companies he runs.

In 2018, he posted that he had “secured” funding to take Tesla private, a move that resulted in the SEC requiring Musk to get pre-approval for certain public communications relating to the electric car company’s share price. Musk settled with the SEC, paying a $20m fine and stepping down as Tesla’s chairman, while saying it was “harassment” and an “unjustified action”.

While he was under investigation by the SEC he smoked marijuana on a live web show, which resulted in a 6% fall in Tesla’s share price, and the departure of two of its senior executives.

He angered the SEC again last year when he asked his Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his stake in Tesla – which resulted in a sharp fall in the company’s share price – leading to the US regulator issuing a subpoena to see if Musk was complying with its previous settlement.


Musk met his on-off partner Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, on Twitter. In 2020, he tweeted that the couple’s newborn son would rather cryptically be called X Æ A-12. Grimes later explained the name in a social media post. The couple had a second child, a girl named Exa Dark Sideræl Musk, via surrogate in December.

In another moment of eccentricity, last year Musk changed his official job title at Tesla to “technoking” while the company’s financial chief was rebranded as “master of coin”, a nod to Tesla’s multibillion investments in bitcoin.

By Mark Sweney and Rupert Neate

Lloyd’s of London sees major claims from Ukraine war

( via — Thur, 24th Mar 2022) London, UK —

Lloyd's of London (SOLYD.UL) faces major claims this year related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but this will not lead to solvency issues, the commercial insurance market said on Thursday.

Lloyd's is asking its member syndicates to give details of their exposure to the conflict, Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown told Reuters, adding it was too soon to estimate the size of the loss.


Lloyd's has around 100 members that underwrite complex risks such as planes, ships and oil rigs. 

The aviation insurance market is seen as particularly exposed to the impact of what Russia has described as a “special military operation” and of the West's subsequent sanctions.

Global leasing companies face an imminent sanctions deadline for the repossession of more than 400 jets worth almost $10 billion from Russian airlines. Analysts say legal wrangling between airlines, lessors and insurers could last a decade. 

Lloyd's said business underwritten in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus accounted for less than 1% of the market's total business.

“In terms of our direct exposures, they're quite low. So this is much more about second order impacts, of which aviation will clearly be one and will end up being significant,” Carnegie-Brown said.

Some insurance policies kick in as a result of a war, while others do not cover war, making exposures hard to calculate, he said. Policyholders have notified insurers of likely claims, but have yet to file them, he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Lloyd's hard in 2020, but the market recovered last year after it raised premium rates and excluded the virus from policies.

It posted a 2021 pre-tax profit of 2.3 billion pounds ($3.04 billion), following a 900 million-pound loss in 2020.


“The market’s underwriting discipline will enable sustainable profitability in the years to come, coupled with a balance sheet that can support our ambition to grow profitably,” Chief Executive John Neal said in a statement.

By Carolyn Cohn

Saudi Aramco sharply increase its investment to boost energy production

( via – – Mon, 21st Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

The state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco plans to sharply increase the amount it invests in energy production, after it reported a doubling of profits in 2021.

The firm aims to boost output significantly over the next five years.

Energy prices have soared in recent months as demand has outstripped supplies of oil and gas.

The war in Ukraine and a reluctance to rely on Russia for energy has added to the pressure to find additional sources of energy.

Saudi Aramco's move is likely to be welcomed by political leaders worried about the impact of high energy prices, although the boost to investment is aimed at increasing output over the course of the next five to eight years.

Last week prime minister Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia to try to persuade the country to release more oil into world markets in the short term.


Saudi Arabia is the largest producer in the oil cartel Opec (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and by raising production it could help to reduce energy prices which are currently at 14-year highs.

However, the country has been condemned for a range of human rights abuses: its involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Yemen, the murder in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, for jailing dissidents and for widespread use of capital punishment.

The Labour Party accused the government of going “cap in hand” from one dictator to another to tackle the energy crisis.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the prime minister was “absolutely right” to engage with Saudi Arabia over increasing energy supplies.

“It would be wrong if we weren't exploring all the avenues we could to bring cheaper energy and more secure energy to people in this country,” Rishi Sunak told the BBC.

The prime minister had “constructive dialogue” about human rights abuses during the visit, he said.

Shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said the UK should be focusing on boosting domestic production of energy through new nuclear and on and off-shore wind generation, to reduce reliance on states like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“Getting to net zero is the mission of our generation,” she said.

“We've got to do more to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which is why investment in homegrown electricity is so important.”

Energy markets have been volatile during the pandemic, as sudden changes in economic activity have influenced both supply and demand.

In 2020 Saudi Aramco's profits dropped sharply as the world economy slowed.

But a reopening in many countries led to a sharp rise in energy prices in 2021. That boosted revenues at all the large energy generating companies.

Saudi Aramco said it planned to increase its capital expenditure to $45-$50bn this year with further increases until the middle of the decade. Last year capital expenditure was $31.9bn.


It would raise its crude oil “maximum sustainable capacity” to 13 million barrels a day by 2027, the company said. It also aims to increase gas production by more than 50% by 2030. Saudi Arabia produced just over 10 million barrels of oil per day in February.

The oil company more-than doubled its net profit to $110bn in 2021, up from $49bn in 2020.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil increased by around 50% in 2021 and, with energy prices remaining high, analysts expect profit to increase further in 2022.

Saudi Aramco said it planned to develop a significant hydrogen export capability and become a global leader in carbon capture and storage technology.

Why Volkswagen Is Beating Tesla In Europe

Source: CNBC

In the U.S., Tesla dominates the conversation around electric vehicles, but in Europe, it’s a different story. Germany-based Volkswagen Group has risen from the ashes of its 2015 emissions scandal to become the EV market leader in Europe, where it has an edge thanks to local manufacturing, brand familiarity, and cheaper price points. But whether Volkswagen can broaden its appeal to become the global EV leader remains to be seen.


Germany-based Volkswagen Group has risen from the ashes of its 2015 emissions scandal to become the EV market leader in Europe, where the company reported that it had 26% market share in the first half of 2021.

While Tesla’s Model 3 has been selling well in the region, Volkswagen’s local manufacturing, brand familiarity and cheaper price points have helped give it an edge over Tesla. But as Elon Musk aims to start production at the Berlin Gigafactory by year’s end, Volkswagen’s lead could be short-lived. In the rapidly growing EV market, analysts say the Volkswagen Group benefits from its wide array of brands, which includes luxury marques like Audi, Bentley and Porsche.

VW’s most popular EV in Europe is the more affordable ID.3, a hatchback that starts at around $40,000. And in September 2020, Volkswagen released the ID.4, an SUV aimed at the global market that has since become Volkswagen’s top-selling EV overall.


However, Volkswagen still lags behind Tesla globally. Tesla delivered more than 627,000 EVs in the first three quarters of 2021, while Volkswagen sold about 293,000 cars. But Volkswagen, along with other traditional automakers and EV startups, plans to release an abundance of new all-electric models in the next decade.

Goldman Sachs Wall Street banking giant chases stake in £700m UK financial advice platform Nucleus

( via– Fri, 11th Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

A Goldman private equity fund is vying with rivals including Centerbridge and HPS to buy a stake in the UK's fifth-largest platform for financial advisers, Sky News understands.

Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street banking giant, is battling to buy a stake in Nucleus, one of Britain's biggest platforms for financial advisers.

Sky News understands that one of Goldman's private equity funds is among four suitors for a stake in Nucleus that will value the business at about £700m.

City sources said on Friday that the other bidders were Centerbridge Partners, GTCR and HPS.


The deal will involve Epiris, Nucleus's existing private equity backer, reducing its stake in the company.

Nucleus is the UK's fifth-largest platform for financial advisers, behind the likes of Quilter and Aegon.

It is the latest example of the deal frenzy which has gripped the investment advice sector following a wave of regulatory reform.

On the direct-to-consumer side of the industry, Abrdn is close to completing a £1.5bn takeover of Interactive Investor, while FNZ, the wealth platform, recently raised $1.4bn at a valuation of more than $20bn.

Goldman itself sold its stake in Nutmeg, the digital wealth platform, as part of the latter's sale to JP Morgan last year.

Nucleus, which has close to £50bn under administration, expanded significantly through its combination with James Hay – a business already owned by Epiris – in 2021.


The Nucleus stake sale process is being run by Fenchurch Advisory Partners, whose founder, Malik Karim, is the Conservative Party treasurer.

All of the parties contacted for comment declined to do so.

By Mark Kleinman

UK farmers warned food prices will rise as a result of the war in Ukraine

( via – – Fri, 11th Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

UK food prices will rise as a result of the war in Ukraine, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has warned.

Some 30% of the world's wheat comes from Ukraine and Russia and exports will stop during the conflict, it says.

In addition, the price of gas – which is used to heat greenhouses and to make fertiliser – has soared.

The union has written to the government to call for urgent action to help UK farmers produce enough food to keep supermarkets stocked and affordable.

“The government must act now, with a clear signal that food security is a priority for the nation,” the NFU said.


Its letter warned that disruption to food production, supply chains and the availability and affordability of food in the shops could last for years.

Earlier this week, the boss of one of the world's biggest fertiliser companies, Yara International, warned that the war in Ukraine would deliver a shock to the global supply and cost of food.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has also warned that the increase in fuel prices will lead to people paying more for food in shops and restaurants.

NFU president Minette Batters told the BBC that the rising cost of producing fruit, vegetables and meat could cause farmers to make less at a time when the nation needs more.

“I think the whole world has got to recognise that this is not something we've faced before, we are going to see wheat price inflation levels that have never happened,” she said.

“The real danger is that farmers contract, they decide not to invest, they hold back from planting, and we produce less food,” she said.

Ms Batters said the shortage of crops would also affect meat production as farmers need it to feed their livestock.

The cost of producing a chicken was 50% higher than it was a year ago but farmers were absorbing much of these costs, she said.

UK feed wheat prices are already 39% up on March 2021 at £279.40 a tonne, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

Russia and Ukraine produce 80% of the world's sunflower oil exports and 20% of corn exports, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Another factor affecting food production in the UK is that Ukrainian workers have accounted for 60% of recruits under the UK's Seasonal Workers Scheme, the NFU said.

These workers carry out essential roles such as planting, picking, packing and grading fresh produce.

The NFU is asking the government to release an additional 10,000 visas under the Seasonal Workers Scheme, in addition to the 30,000 already granted.

Dan Wallis, who runs Rookery Farms in Newbury, Berkshire, said he decided this week to sow spring wheat on land that was not due to be planted on until next autumn.

“Given the current crisis in Ukraine the demand for food is ever increasing,” he told the BBC.

“There's going to be a shortage of wheat and barley, predominantly wheat, so today we are planting spring wheat into some fallow land which should have remained fallow until next autumn.

“I made the decision in the last week or 10 days – it's the right thing to do.”Media caption,Watch: Ros Atkins on why the war in Ukraine is pushing up food prices – and the likely impact on poorer countries

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, told MPs that in early January he had set up teams to make contingency plans for the UK's food security.


He told the House of Commons that he would attend a special meeting of the G7 group of the world's largest economies to discuss the issues further on Friday.

Commons Leader Mark Spencer said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was “across the threats that we face”.

“There is no prospect of food shortages at any point in the future, and Defra are working with Treasury to try and make sure that that continues to be the case,” he said.

By Jennifer Meierhans

Surging cost of metal will mean UK shoppers likely to face higher prices, says LME chief

( via – – Fri, 4th Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

The surging cost of metals such as aluminium and copper amid the Ukraine conflict means UK shoppers are likely to face higher prices, the head of the London Metal Exchange has said.

Matthew Chamberlain told the BBC's Today programme that prices for canned goods and copper wiring may rise.

One economist warned inflation, which tracks the cost of living, may hit 10%.

UK petrol prices hit another record as global energy prices remained high amid worries supplies will be affected.


The average price of a litre of petrol rose to £1.53 a litre on Thursday, motoring groups said, while diesel reached £1.57 a litre. That was an increase in 1p a litre from the day before.

This week, the price of Brent crude – the global oil benchmark – surged to more than $119 a barrel at one point, the highest since May 2012. On Friday, it was trading at around $111 a barrel.

Copper prices are at five-year highs, and other commodities have jumped in price since the Ukraine conflict began.

These higher prices are set to trickle down to UK shoppers, Mr Chamberlain told the BBC's Today programme.

“We've seen aluminium and nickel up 30% since the beginning of the year, and that will ultimately be passed on to consumers when you buy your drinks can made of aluminium, or when you make renovations to your house and you need copper for your wiring, all of those prices do go into the overall inflationary pressure.”

Panmure Gordon economist Simon French told the BBC that the UK's inflation rate could now hit 10% because of higher costs, and on Thursday an industry body warned that UK household energy bills could reach as high as £3,000 a year.

Share slide

Stock markets across Europe tumbled on Friday following sharp falls in Asia after a fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the largest in Europe.

London's FTSE 100 fell 2.8% while France's CAC-40 index dropped 2.9% and Germany's Dax also declined by 2.9%.

Reflecting the sharp rise in commodity prices, Anglo-Russian gold producer Polymetal saw its share price in London jump by more than 25%. Evraz, the Russian steel-maker which counts oligarch Roman Abramovich as a major shareholder, also saw its share price jump by 23%.

The fire at the Ukraine nuclear power plant happened after Russia troops shelled the site. Some investor concerns were eased after officials said the plant's safety was “secured”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later said that it had spoken to Ukraine's leadership and had been told important equipment at the plant was still working.

The shelling has drawn international condemnation, with the US President Joe Biden joining Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in urging Russia to cease the shelling and allow firefighters to access the site.

In recent days, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the global financial and energy markets, as investors try to understand the implications of sanctions and supply chain disruptions.

The price of gold, which is regarded as a safer asset in times of uncertainty, has increased by 7.3% in a month to $1,938 per ounce.

The Russian rouble has hit a record low against the US dollar as countries around the world impose tough sanctions on the country.


Meanwhile, more British executives are bowing to pressure to quit Russian companies.

James Rutherford on Thursday became the latest UK national to step down from a Russian company's board, resigning from the Roman Abramovich-backed steel firm Evraz.

It came after the business group the Institute of Directors called on Britons to resign from the boards of Russian companies, due to the invasion of Ukraine.

By Josh Martin


Elliott Advisors have struck a deal worth over £350m to buy Enra Group from Exponent Private Equity

( via– Fri, 4th Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

Elliott Advisors has struck a deal thought to be worth more than £350m to buy Enra Group from Exponent Private Equity, Sky News learns.

Elliott Advisors, the feared activist investment fund, has agreed a £350m swoop on Enra Group, a specialist UK provider of mortgage finance.

Sky News understands that Elliott, which was founded by Paul Singer, one of Wall Street's most prominent figures, is close to announcing the acquisition of the Watford-based company.


Enra was put up for sale last year by Exponent Private Equity, its backer since 2016.

The company, which is run by chief executive Danny Waters, provides a range of financing products to homeowners as well as professional property investors, developers and landlords.

Elliott's purchase of Enra marks its latest stride into direct investing in the UK

It already owns prominent businesses such as Waterstones, the chain of bookstores which this week confirmed a report by Sky News that it was buying Blackwell's, the smaller academic specialist.

Elliott is better-known for its campaigns to force through major changes at large public companies.

In Britain, it has targeted corporate giants such as GlaxoSmithKline, Taylor Wimpey and SSE in recent months, with limited success.


Previous efforts have been made to win seats on the board of companies such as Hammerson, the shopping centre giant.

Exponent declined to comment, while Elliott did not respond to a request for comment.

By Mark Kleinman

UK fintech Railsbank closing in on “unicorn” status with new round of funding

( via– Fri, 4th Feb 2022) London, Uk – –

Railsbank has hired the US-based investment bank FT Partners to raise a new funding round that will value it at more than $1bn, Sky News learns.

A British fintech which swooped on some of the assets of the collapsed German company Wirecard is closing in on “unicorn” status with a new round of funding.


Sky News has learnt that Railsbank, which provides digital banking services to financial services and other consumer-facing companies, is working with bankers on plans to raise roughly $100m in new funding.

FT Partners, the prolific fintech-focused investment bank, has been mandated to work on the round, according to investors.

Banking sources said the fundraising would establish Railsbank as Britain's latest tech “unicorn” even as a public markets sell-off of tech stocks hammers the valuations of some of the world's biggest companies.

Railsbank was co-founded by Nigel Verdon, its chief executive, who last year claimed his business was “transforming the finance industry in the same way that Apple did to the music industry when they created iTunes”.

The company raised $70m last summer from investors including Anthos Capital and Outrun Ventures.

Mr Verdon hinted at the time that that funding had left Railsbank with a valuation of close to $1bn.


The company was founded in 2016 by Mr Verdon and Clive Mitchell, with the pair previously establishing two other fintechs: Evolution and Currency Cloud.

Its latest fundraising is expected to close in the coming months.

Railsbank and FT Partners declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman