Mattel reclaims rights for Disney Princess toys from Hasbro

( via — Thur, 27th Jan 2022) London, UK —

Mattel Inc (MAT.O) on Wednesday won the rights to produce dolls based on Disney royalty like Elsa and Jasmine, snatching back a highly lucrative license from archrival Hasbro Inc (HAS.O).

The reunion sent Mattel's shares surging 11% and is part of Chief Executive Ynon Kreiz's plan to turn the company around by getting more entrenched in big entertainment properties.

Mattel did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, which came seven years after it lost the rights and will also allow it to make dolls based on the “Frozen” movie franchise.

“This is a defining moment in our transformation,” Kriez said in an interview.

“This has been a key priority as part of our turnaround and we worked very hard to win it … the way we see it Disney Princess and Frozen are back home where they belong.”

The toymaker has in recent years seen a resurgence in sales of the traditionally blonde Barbie doll thanks to new models with different skin tones, professions and attires that have struck a chord with a more diverse customer base.

Hasbro declined to comment but said it had renewed its licensing deal with Disney-owned Lucasfilm for “Star Wars” and would restart making products based on “Indiana Jones”.

Mattel will start selling the toys that would also feature dolls based on popular movies such as “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Brave”, and “The Little Mermaid” from 2023.

The toymaker has struck similar deals with Disney for Pixar Animation Studio's “Toy Story” and “Cars” franchises, as well as “Lightyear.”

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam 

Cathay Pacific annual loss narrows to as little as $720m far less than analysts forecast

( via – – Mon, 24th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Cathay Pacific has said its annual loss for last year narrowed to as little as HK$5.6bn (£530m; $720m) even as Hong Kong remained under tight coronavirus travel restrictions.

It is much smaller than 2020's loss and far less than analysts forecast.

The improvement was driven by strong cargo demand and cost cutting measures.

However, the company said it expects to burn up to HK$1.5bn of cash a month starting February, after aircrew quarantine rules were tightened again.

“While passenger travel continued to be acutely affected, cargo demand was strong throughout the year,” Cathay Pacific's chief executive Augustus Tang said in a statement.

The airline forecast it would post an annual loss of HK$5.6bn to HK$6.1bn for 2021. That was much better than market expectations of a loss of more than HK$10bn as well as the HK$21.65bn loss seen in 2020.

Looking ahead to this year, Cathay forecast it would lose between HK$1bn to HK$1.5bn a month due to stricter aircrew quarantine regulations which will force it to further reduce cargo and passenger capacity.

The airline said for this month it is operating about 2% of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity and around 20% of its pre-pandemic cargo capacity.

“Regrettably, the capacity reduction will have an impact on Cathay Pacific's business and we have been evaluating the potential impact of these measures on our operations and cost base,” Mr Tang said.

Hong Kong, which has been pursuing a zero-Covid strategy in line with mainland Chinese policies, has suspended transit flights from most of the world.

Last month, the Asian financial hub's government announced even stricter quarantine rules after two Cathay aircrew members who broke self-isolation measures were blamed for a Covid-19 outbreak.

Last week, Hong Kong police said that the two former flight attendants have been arrested and charged for allegedly breaking the city's coronavirus restrictions.

The airline they worked for has not been named but the news came after Cathay fired two aircrew who were suspected of breaching Covid rules.

Cathay pilots have previously told the BBC how the rules have affected their mental health and put a strain on their personal lives, with one saying that he was “in a perpetual state of quarantine.”

Solana Could Become the Visa of Digital-Asset World: Bank of America

( via — Thur, 20th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

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Solana and other blockchains may snag market share from Ethereum over time, the bank said in a research note.

The Solana blockchain could become the “Visa of the digital asset ecosystem” as it focuses on scalability, low transaction fees and ease of use, Bank of America told clients in a research note after hosting Solana Foundation member Lily Liu.

Solana has experienced strong adoption since launching in 2020. It has settled over 50 billion transactions (Visa, the global payments giant, processed 164.7 billion transactions in the year ended Sept. 30), has more than $11 billion in total value locked and has been used to mint more than 5.7 million non-fungible tokens (NFTs), analyst Alkesh Shah wrote in the note published Tuesday. Solana is optimized for consumer use cases such as micropayments and gaming, the bank said.

“Solana prioritizes scalability, but a relatively less decentralized and secure blockchain has trade-offs, illustrated by several network performance issues since inception,” Shah said. “Ethereum prioritizes decentralization and security, but at the expense of scalability, which has led to periods of network congestion and transaction fees that are occasionally larger than the value of the transaction being sent.”

Bank of America said Solana and other blockchains could grab market share from Ethereum over time, and will begin to distinguish themselves through user adoption and developer interest.

By Michael Bellusci

Shiba Inu Surges 16% After Rumors of Robinhood Listing

( via — Thur, 13th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –
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Memecoins were among the highest gainers in the past 24 hours as the overall crypto markets surged.

Shiba inu (SHIB) jumped 16% on Thursday, leading the gains among major cryptocurrencies, amid rumors of a listing on Robinhood.

Shiba inu prices reached as high as $0.00003 during early Asian hours on Thursday before a selloff. Shiba inu is the thirteenth-largest cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $17 billion.

Price-charts suggest the move followed a bounce from resistance-turned-support levels of $0.000027. However, the tokens remains in a broader downtrend, as prices have dropped 62% since reaching all-time highs of $0.00008 in October 2021.

The price bump came shortly after rumors of a listing on Robinhood did the rounds on Twitter.

“Shiba Inu Robinhood listing said to come as early as Feb,” a tweet by business news handle ZeroHedge read. Robinhood did not return requests for comment.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev previously denied plans for listing shiba inu on the influential stock trading application in October 2021. “It goes back to safety first, right. So we’re not generally going to be the first to add any new asset. We want to make sure that it goes through a stringent set of criteria,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

Additionally, shiba inu was listed on Bitso, one of Mexico’s largest crypto exchanges by trading volumes. However, the announcement did little to affect prices, trading data shows.

The bump in shiba inu saw other memecoins, such as dogecoin (DOGE), gaining as much as 14% in the past 24 hours. Baby doge and floki inu, two meme tokens issued on the Binance Smart Chain, surged 10% in the same period.

The surge in shiba inu came on the back of a broader recovery in crypto markets after nearly a week of declines. Bitcoin rose to the $43,000 level on Wednesday as Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the state would take measures to curb inflation in the coming months, as reported.

By  Shaurya MalwaJ

Rolls-Royce protected from global chip shortage by parent firm BMW

( via– Mon, 10th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös says its sales figures are the best in its 117-year history thanks to being protected from the global chip shortage by parent firm BMW.

The chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (RRMC) has told Sky News the company expects to continue to be immune from the global shortage of semiconductors holding back the wider car industry.

Torsten Müller-Ötvös was speaking after the BMW-owned but Goodwood-based luxury marque revealed a record set of annual sales figures for 2021 – the best in its 117-year history.

RRMC said it delivered 5,586 vehicles to clients around the world, up 49% on the same period in 2020.

In his interview on Ian King Live, the CEO agreed that BMW had prioritised Rolls in terms of chip supply.

When asked if that arrangement was to continue during 2022, he  replied: “That remains the case.”

The company's sales data offered nothing in terms of value or profits but Mr Müller-Ötvös said the performance reflected, to some extent, a demand for luxury as the pandemic to date had badly hit international travel and driven up wealth because spending fell so sharply in 2020.

On BMW's aid, he said: “We were able to allocate all the chips we needed for building the cars, to fulfil client demand worldwide and that helped a lot; to be part of what I call a very professional, big group, who helped us to acquire all our chips worldwide.”

RRMC said of its sales: “All Rolls-Royce models performed extremely strongly.

“Growth has been driven principally by Ghost, with demand surging further, following the launch of Black Badge Ghost in October 2021.

“This, together with the continuing pre-eminence of Cullinan and the marque's pinnacle product, Phantom, has ensured order books are full well into the third quarter of 2022.”

By James Sillars

China Mobile shares rise in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn in China’s biggest public offering in a decade

( via – – Wed, 5th Jan 2022) London, Uk – –

China Mobile shares have risen as they started trading in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn (£5.7bn) in China's biggest public offering in a decade.

China Mobile shares have risen as they started trading in Shanghai after raising $7.7bn (£5.7bn) in China's biggest public offering in a decade.

The shares opened 9.4% higher before easing back in morning trade.

China Mobile's smaller rivals, China Telecom and China Unicom, have already made the move to their home country.

The three firms were delisted from the New York Stock Exchange after a Trump-era decision to restrict investment in Chinese technology companies.

China Mobile's Hong Kong-listed shares also rose in early trade after the company said it would press ahead with a plan to buy back up to 2.05 billion shares, worth nearly $13bn.

Nina Xiang, the author of US-China Tech War, told the BBC that the Chinese government would have made sure that China Mobile's Shanghai debut went well.

She said: “It's important for Beijing to ensure this listing appears successful and smooth to prove that China has the wherewithal to accommodate its own companies on its own stock exchanges.

“But it won't be great for Chinese companies to lose the access to the US capital markets as it will be another step in the downward spiral of deteriorating bilateral relations,” she added.

The policy introduced by the Trump administration to clamp down on investments in Chinese technology firms has remained in place under President Joe Biden as tensions continue between Washington and Beijing.

Ms Xiang also highlighted that more US-listed Chinese firms may take similar steps to safeguard their share listings: “There are dozens of Chinese companies listed on US exchanges that might seek a listing in Hong Kong this year to secure their shares remain publicly traded, in case the two countries couldn't reach a solution for Chinese firms to remain listed in the US.”

The company has said it plans to use the cash raised from the offering to develop projects including premium 5G networks, infrastructure for cloud resources and artificial intelligence software.

China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network operator by total subscribers.

Last month, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has announced plans to take its shares off the New York Stock Exchange and move its listing to Hong Kong.

The firm had come under intense pressure since it raised $4.4bn in its US debut at the end of June.

Also, within days of the New York initial public offering Beijing announced a crackdown on technology companies listing overseas.

Didi shares have lost almost 65% of their value since their US market debut.

Toyota poised to outsell General Motors in the U.S. as sales leader for 2021

( via — Tue, 4th Jan 2022) London, UK —

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) is poised to outsell General Motors Co (GM.N) in the United States in 2021, which would mark the first time the Detroit automaker has not led U.S. auto sales since 1931.

In the first nine months of 2021, Toyota sold 1.86 million vehicles in the United States compared with GM's 1.78 million, or just over 80,000 more vehicles. For all of 2020, GM's U.S. sales totaled 2.55 million, compared with Toyota's 2.11 million and Ford Motor Co's (F.N) 2.04 million.

The year has been marred by a shortage of semiconductors used heavily in vehicles, forcing automakers to focus on their most profitable models.

The automakers are set to report full-year 2021 U.S. sales results on Tuesday. GM has been the largest seller of vehicles in the United States since 1931, when it surpassed Ford, according to data from industry publication Automotive News.

Toyota isn't boasting about the expected accomplishment. Senior Vice President Jack Hollis said in a statement that the automaker is “grateful” for its loyal customers, but “being No. 1 is never a focus or priority.”

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the Detroit automaker had a very strong sales year in the United States in full-size SUVs and pickup trucks as it has focused on profitability, and as the supply of semiconductors improves, so will sales.

“I wouldn't rush out, if I were (Toyota), and get a ‘We're No. 1' tattoo,” he said.

GM under Chief Executive Mary Barra also has emphasized profitability over volume, abandoning such money-losing markets as Europe and Russia.

Edmunds auto analyst Jessica Caldwell said Toyota will outsell GM in 2021 “unless the Detroit automaker pulls off a miracle.” But she added “it's unlikely that this is indicative of a long-term shift” and noted GM sells more brands than Toyota.

Cox Automotive forecast Toyota will outsell GM for all of 2021 in the United States: “Toyota has successfully managed tight inventory all year.”

For the entire industry, Cox Automotive forecast U.S. new vehicle sales will be down 32% in December over December 2020 — the slowest pace since May 2020, when the country remained mostly closed during the first wave of the COVID pandemic.

Industry analysts forecast around 15 million vehicles sold for all of 2021 in the United States. U.S. vehicle sales will remain well below the five-year average of 17.3 million from 2015-2019.

IHS Markit forecasts U.S. sales are expected to reach nearly 15.5 million in 2022, up an estimated 2.6% from the projected 2021 level of approximately 15.1 million vehicles.

Auto buyers have seen prices jump dramatically. Edmunds said average transaction prices for new vehicles hit another new record in November at $45,872 — compared with $39,984 in November 2020. Edmunds also forecast used vehicle prices will surpass the $30,000 mark for the first time in 2022.

IHS Markit forecast worldwide new light vehicle sales of nearly 82.4 million in 2022, up 3.7%, while 2021 sales are expected to be up just 2.9% globally from 2020.

Reporting by David Shepardson

El Salvador Adopted Bitcoin, Then Bought the Dip

( via — Thur, 30th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

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The country’s adoption of BTC as legal tender wasn’t enough to keep the cryptocurrency near $50K in September.

El Salvador buys in

In June, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, announced that bitcoin would become legal tender, making his country the first to make that move, which also meant no capital gains taxes for bitcoin holders there.

Bitcoin rose about 70% from a low of around $30,000 toward a high of nearly $50,000 in early September as traders reacted to the news from El Salvador – seen by many fans of the 12-year-old digital asset as a long-awaited validation of its potential to serve a global currency. El Salvador’s bitcoin’s law went into effect in September.

Bitcoin dips

When the law actually took effect, bitcoin’s price began to sell off – a classic “buy-the-rumor, sell-the-fact” scenario. (A similar thing had happened earlier in the year, when the big cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase held its direct stock listing on the Nasdaq exchange.)

Bukele tweeted that El Salvador was ready to buy on price dips even as BTC continued to fall. A growing number of users on social media platforms, including Twitter and Reddit, called for people to buy small amounts of bitcoin in support of El Salvador’s bitcoin policy, Bloomberg reported. Many investors were already betting the news could give the oldest cryptocurrency a price boost.

On Sept. 13, software company MicroStrategy purchased an additional 5,050 BTC for about $242 million in cash. Still, BTC continued lower.

BTC declined from $50,000 toward $40,000 and ended September on a down note.

Concerns were growing over a possible credit default by the Chinese property developer Evergrande Group, shaking speculative assets including equities and cryptocurrencies; lower risk appetite among investors also contributed to bitcoin’s September slump.

The takeaway for crypto traders from the July-August price action was that El Salvador’s decision to make BTC legal tender wouldn’t be enough to keep the cryptocurrency’s price elevated at $50,000. Bitcoin’s correlation with stocks increased along with the credit concerns in China.

Still, the nearly 7% BTC drop in September looked far less severe than the 50% price crash in April and May. After some ups and downs, bitcoin’s price had again stabilized at well above 2020 levels as some traders began to anticipate a $100,000 BTC price by year end.

By Damanick Dantes

Sir Dave Lewis ex-Tesco chief to lead £40bn separation of GSK consumer healthcare arm

( via– Mon, 20th Dec, 2021) London, Uk – –

Sir Dave Lewis will be named this week as non-executive chairman of the GSK arm which owns Panadol and Sensodyne ahead of its separate listing next year, Sky News can reveal.

Sir Dave Lewis, the former Tesco chief, will this week be appointed to lead the £40bn separation of GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) consumer healthcare arm.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Dave, who became one of Britain's most respected corporate figures during his six years running Britain's biggest retailer, has agreed to become non-executive chairman of the arm of GSK which owns brands such as Panadol painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste.

An announcement about his appointment could come as soon as Monday morning, according to one source.

The recruitment of Sir Dave will be viewed in the City as a major coup for GSK, whose management has been under pressure in recent months from Elliott Advisers, the activist investor.

GSK's consumer healthcare business, which will be given a new corporate name at a capital markets day in the spring of next year, is one of the largest in the world, with sales last year of £10bn.

It is a joint venture with Pfizer, and was formed in 2019, with GSK owning a 68% stake and the US-based pharmaceuticals group the remainder.

Sir Dave will be charged with assembling a board for the new company, which is expected to attain a premium London listing when it becomes a separately traded company in the summer of 2022.

Since leaving Tesco last year, Sir Dave has joined the board of PepsiCo, the US-based snacks and beverages manufacturer, and become chairman of WWF-UK, the animal conservation charity.

In October, he was asked by Boris Johnson to advise the government on tackling the supply chain crisis, which left a range of industries facing severe stock and raw materials shortages.

Sir Dave's transformation of Tesco pulled the UK's biggest grocer back from the brink, having joined the company in the midst of a financial reporting scandal and with its operating performance in sharp decline.

He was knighted earlier in this year's new year honours list for services to retail.

The businessman had previously spent 27 years at Unilever, the consumer goods behemoth which has been occasionally tipped by analysts as a potential bidder for the GSK arm that he is now about to chair.

Reports during the autumn suggested that major private equity firms were assessing the possibility of a joint bid for GSK's consumer healthcare operation, although most observers regard such a move as unlikely.

GSK has already announced that Brian McNamara, who runs the joint venture between it and Pfizer, will be chief executive of the newly listed company when it is demerged from GSK in the middle of next year.

It has also confirmed a number of other executive appointments to the separated business's leadership team.

Dame Emma Walmsley, GSK's chief executive, said in October that the company “continue[d] to make excellent progress towards unlocking the value of Consumer Healthcare through a successful demerger in mid-2022”.

Sir Dave and Dame Emma served together on the prime minister's business council, jointly chairing its consumer, retail, and life sciences subgroup during Theresa May's premiership.

GSK's break-up will leave the rest of the company focused on pharmaceutical products and vaccines, which it has argued it to allocate capital more efficiently.

Nevertheless, it has faced increasing pressure from Elliott and Bluebell Capital Partners, another shareholder, as they have demanded faster corporate action and questioned Dame Emma's leadership.

GSK declined to comment on Sunday, while Sir Dave could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by Mark Kleinman

NFTs market hits $22bn as craze turns digital images into assets

( via – – Thur, 16th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

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Critics of non-fungible tokens say they are symptomatic of unsustainable digital gold rush

The global market for non-fungible tokens hit $22bn (£16.5bn) this year as the craze for collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Matrix avatars turned digital images into major investment assets.

NFTs have drawn from veteran investors similar warnings to those issued about cryptocurrencies: that they are symptomatic of an unsustainable, digital gold rush. NFTs confer ownership of a unique digital item – whether a piece of virtual art by Damien Hirst or a jacket to be worn in the metaverse – upon someone, even if that item can be easily copied. Ownership is recorded on a digital, decentralised ledger known as a blockchain.

Data from DappRadar, a firm that tracks sales, showed that trading in NFTs reached $22bn in 2021 and that the floor market cap of the top 100 NFTs ever issued – a measure of their collective value – was $16.7bn.

The most valuable NFT sale this year was The First 5000 Days, a digital collage by Beeple, the name used by the American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, that was auctioned for $69.3m in March, making it one of the most valuable pieces of art ever sold by a living artist. Another Beeple NFT, Human One, sold for $29m.

Other multimillion-dollar NFTs included the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of 10,000 NFTs represented as cartoon primates that are used as profile photos on the social media accounts of their owners and which raised $26.2m. Celebrity BAYC owners include the talkshow host Jimmy Fallon and the rapper Post Malone.

DappRadar said a key factor in the surge in NFT trading was mainstream businesses entering the fray.

Coca-Cola raised more than $575,000 from selling items such as a customised jacket to be worn in the metaverse world of Decentraland while the Matrix star Keanu Reeves failed to keep a straight face when told by an interviewer that his Matrix film series now had NFTs attached to it.

“Hollywood, sports celebrities and big brands like Coca-Cola, Gucci, Nike, and Adidas, made their dent in the space, providing NFTs with a new level of exclusivity. The power of attraction of these famous names profoundly impacted NFTs and the blockchain industry overall,” said DappRadar.

Football fans have been targeted with NFT marketing – including with NFTs backed by the former England players John Terry and Wayne Rooney – and have been warned by experts that they are risky assets, unregulated in the UK. It will take years before NFTs behave like a conventional market, said George Monaghan, analyst at research firm GlobalData.

“2021 NFT activity was frenzied. That’ll subside in coming years and NFTs will settle into something more akin to today’s modern art market, where consensus on value is more solid. That said, it’ll be years before any crypto market, let alone NFTs, comes to resemble anything conventional markets would call stable. I wouldn’t throw your rainy day fund into any meme NFTs quite yet,” he said.

By Dan Milmo

Energy, fuel and clothing costs jump as Inflation hits a 10-year high

( via – – Wed, 15th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

Higher transport and energy costs drove the rise, which was above forecasts of a 4.7% increase, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Its chief economist Grant Fitzner said more expensive fuel, energy, clothing and second hand cars were big factors.

The cost of raw materials also rose significantly, he added.

What is inflation?

Inflation is the rate at which prices are rising – if the cost of a £1 jar of jam rises by 5p, then jam inflation is 5%.

It applies to services too, like having your nails done or getting your car cleaned.

You may not notice low levels of inflation from month to month, but in the long term, these price rises can have a big impact on how much you can buy with your money – sometimes referred to as the cost of living.

Why are prices rising?

Since the UK economy reopened after lockdown, companies have struggled to keep up with a surge in consumer demand.

Global supply chain problems, staff shortages and rapid demand for oil and gas have all driven up prices. The end of Covid support schemes and Brexit have also played a part.

In November, petrol prices jumped to the highest ever recorded – 145.8p a litre – while the cost of used cars jumped due to shortages of new vehicles.

A global shortage of computer chips for in new cars has led to a shortage of vehicles, leading to increased demand in the second hand car market.

Even before Wednesday's figures, the food and drink industry had warned that the soaring cost of raw materials and ingredients was having a “terrifying” impact on consumer prices.

Are consumers feeling the pinch?

Consumers are feeling the impact of price rises. Chrissy Jones, from Frome, says prices for everything from insurance to food and petrol have gone up. “We can't plan for the future,” she says.

Energy bills in particular are higher. The former People's Energy customer was spending about £1,000 for both electricity and gas each year.

But when the firm went bust, she was switched onto the cheapest available tariff with British Gas, which is about double that.

“Do I fix at that price, or do I hope that the situation gets better? It's a bit of a gamble,” she says.

Ms Jones is on a pension and says a lack of security around knowing what she might be spending on bills in the New Year means that she and her family are putting off plans.

A holiday in the next year was unlikely and her hopes to adopt a rescue dog were being put on hold.

“It wouldn't be fair on the dog and it wouldn't be fair on our purse,” she says. “It's just incredibly worrying – you wonder where it's going to end. How much more [are prices] going to go up?”

Will inflation rise further?

That's a concern. A quadrupling of natural gas prices in the last year has still to show its full impact on domestic energy prices. Many raw material costs are still rising, which will feed into higher prices if companies cannot absorb them.

Rising inflation is not just an issue for the UK, and the government's hands are tied when it comes to dealing with what is a global problem. The latest figures for the US show prices rose 6.8% in the year to November, the highest level for almost 40 years.

Wage inflation is also a factor. The latest inflation figure is substantially above the most recent figures on average pay rises of 4.3%, meaning living standards are effectively falling.

On Wednesday, Britain's most powerful trade union, Unite, said it would act to ensure this effective pay cut was reversed.

“Current estimates suggest that costs for the typical UK family will jump by £1,700 in 2022,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. “Workers did not create this cost-of-living crisis so why should they pay for it?”

On Wednesday, the ONS said the retail price inflation (RPI) measure – which includes housing costs, such as council tax, and is still linked to final salary pension payments, train tickets, mobile phone tariffs, and interest on student loans – rose to 7.1%. That's up from 6%, and its highest since March 1991.

RPI rather than CPI is also used by unions for pay bargaining, and Ms Graham said members should fight for rises that matched this measure.

“Employers favour the CPI in cost calculations because it saves them money, but the truth is that this is a hidden tax on workers' wages,” she said.

What are the politicians saying?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he understood the impact being felt by consumers.

He said: “We know how challenging rising inflation can be for families and households which is why we're spending £4.2bn to support living standards and provide targeted measures for the most vulnerable over the winter months.

But Labour claimed the government is not doing nearly enough to tackle the problem, especially as further inflationary pressures from rising energy costs are coming down the line.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said: “These figures are a stark illustration of the cost-of-living crisis facing families this Christmas.

“Instead of taking action, the government are looking the other way, blaming ‘global problems' while they trap us in a high-tax, low-growth cycle.”

Will interest rates rise soon?

The unexpectedly sharp jump in inflation, now more than twice the Bank of England's 2% target rate, will certainly intensify debate over a rise.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund predicted inflation would reach around 5.5% early next year – its highest in 30 years – and warned the Bank not to succumb to “inaction bias”.

The Bank has resisted a rate rise amid uncertainty about the impact of the Omicron variant on economic growth and people's finances.

Economist Samuel Tombs, at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said inflation is now “uncomfortably high” for the Bank, but believes rate-setters will still hold fire when they meet this week.”

Yael Selfin, economist at consultancy KPMG, also thought the Bank would “adopt a wait-and-see approach at this week's meeting”.

In conclusion…

Analysis by : Fiasal Islam

Prices are rising at the fastest rate for a decade, 13 years if you use the ONS' favourite measure that includes owner-occupier housing costs.

Inflation has risen above 5% more quickly than expected by the Bank of England and others, on a path to more than 5.5% by the spring, and it is likely to stay above the Bank's 2% target for the next two years.

All of this reflects the lived experience of us all in petrol forecourts, supermarkets and department stores. The impact on living standards is material with real incomes now likely to be falling again.

It does not make an interest rate rise on Thursday a done deal, given the economic uncertainty surrounding the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The key economic uncertainty for the Bank and the Treasury is now what happens in companies and unions with how wages are set.

When combined with ongoing labour shortages, there is a lot of pressure for companies to give considerable wage rises in the new year.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he welcomes such a move, fear of a spiral of rising wages and prices is precisely what would lead to the Bank of England having to raise rates more quickly than currently expected over the next year.

Given there is little expected respite from energy prices and rising taxes, an interest rate rise on the cards in the next few months, and ongoing Omicron restrictions, the outlook for early 2022 remains challenging for consumers and businesses.

By Russell Hotten

TikTok making a big push into online shopping

( via – – Wed, 8th Dec 2021) London, Uk – –

The social media platform TikTok is making a big push into shopping.

The video sharing app is famous for its short lip sync videos, dance routines and humour.

And its popularity has soared during the pandemic.

TikTok is now producing its first live shopping and entertainment event on Wednesday where people can buy products directly on the platform, tapping into the rise of “social shopping”.

“We think it's a really significant moment. E-commerce is a big opportunity for TikTok and it's something we're investing in significantly,” said Rich Waterworth, TikTok General Manager, UK and EU.

Whether it's sportswear or make up, consumers are increasingly browsing, discovering and buying items on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. TikTok, which launched in the UK in 2018, is now aiming to catch up.

The pandemic has accelerated this shift. As stores closed during lockdowns, retailers raced to get more of their products online. Social media apps also really upped their game to help businesses and brands sell directly to shoppers.

According to an Insider Intelligence report, from 2019 to 2020 the number of US social e-commerce shoppers grew 25% to 80m, a number which is forecast to grow to more than 100m by 2023.

Now TikTok has chosen the UK to make its first major move into this online retail space, hoping a blend of entertainment and creative content can win it a slice of festive spending.

It's already held some livestream shopping with brands over the Black Friday weekend but now it's producing and hosting its own two-day event anchored by Rylan Clark-Neal, with influencers, music and a quiz.

Mr Waterworth believes his business can create a new type of shopping experience with a TikTok twist.

“People who have a shared interest or a shared love for a creator or a product area, these communities come together and make the experience of finding and enjoying those products more interesting,” Mr Waterworth explains.

“So when you bring these two things together, the power of the TikTok community and the brands … it's really exciting,” he adds.

Livestream shopping is still in its infancy, but a host of retailers and brands are experimenting with the format, which allows viewers to watch online content and shop at the same time, usually with a direct purchasing feature.

Social media platforms are getting in on the act, too. Like other apps, TikTok gets a cut from sales that are made through the site.

It already has more than a billion monthly global users and says its internal data shows that one in four of them either research a product or make a purchase after watching a TikTok video.

Social shopping, says Mr Waterworth, is going to be a “big prize” for the business.

TikTok certainly has the power to get huge numbers of people talking about an idea or a product.

#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, where users post what they've bought thanks to recommendations about products on the site, has been used 7bn times.

Retail expert, Kate Hardcastle, specialises in consumer insight and says shopping on social media is now a force to be reckoned with which will cause significant disruption for the retail industry as well as chip away at traditional high street sales.

“It's so incredibly quick, easy and seamless. It takes away the barriers,” she says.

“You don't really think of it as shopping it's part of a conversation with someone, which is something you're getting less experience of on the shop floor these days”.

“I absolutely think if you're a retailer and not going into these huge growth areas that are relevant to your target market then more fool you.”

By Emma Simpson

Black Friday early data indicates, tipped to hit record sales

( via – – Fri, 26th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Sales have made a strong start to Black Friday, early data indicates, with analysts suggesting the event could see record levels of business.

Barclaycard said that as of 13:00 GMT, there were 23.3% more transactions compared with the same time in 2020.

Analysts PwC predict £8.7bn will be spent – up from £7.8bn in 2019 and about twice as much as last year's event which took place during lockdown.

This is despite warnings to expect less generous discounts and some shortages.

Black Friday, which began in the US, sees retailers slash prices to entice shoppers ahead of the Christmas period.

It is officially on Friday 26 November but retailers' campaigns span the whole month and started earlier than ever this year, with some in October.

Barclaycard, which processes £1 in every £3 spent on credit and debit cards in the UK, also said transactions had increased by 4.2% than in 2019.

Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said Black Friday was off to a “strong start” despite country's economic challenges.

“Retailers will also be pleased to see their sales volumes have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and have surpassed those seen in 2019. So far the data looks extremely promising and we should be set for one of the most successful Black Friday shopping sprees on record.”

Metapack, a firm that connects major retailers with parcel delivery services, said data indicated that the biggest shipping days would take place on Monday and Tuesday, the same as last year.

PwC predicts about 60% of adults in the UK will make purchases, spending an average of £280 each.

But people are not only venturing out for shopping trips. On Friday, protestors gathered at Amazon buildings in the UK, US and Europe, with unions, equality and environmental groups saying Black Friday “epitomises an obsession with over-consumption”.

Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion has targeted Amazon depots in the UK, blocking entrances and access roads.

Linda Ellett, head of consumer markets at analysts KPMG, said deals were likely to be worse this year as retailers struggled with global supply issues linked to the pandemic, and shortages of HGV drivers and warehouse staff.

Analysis: By Emma Simpson

Black Friday is the first big test for supply chains in the all important “golden quarter” for retailers.

Shoppers have been buying early, worried they won't get the presents they want if they leave it until the last minute this year.

Black Friday started as a one-day event but is now almost a month long blizzard of promotions.

But expect fewer deals overall this time around amid all the problems over stock availability and labour shortages. Many retailers can ill afford to slash prices when their costs are soaring.

Retailers also want to smooth out demand to try to reduce the pressure on distribution centres where goods are picked, packed and despatched over the big Black Friday weekend.

A lot of businesses have been removing next day delivery options to help them cope.

Some businesses, especially smaller independents, will shun this event altogether.

It may have a lost a bit of its lustre, but Black Friday is still a massive shopping event. And it will probably be the most well organised retailers with scale and the biggest clout over suppliers who will cope the best.

There are concerns some retailers will not be able to meet demand on the day, leading to long waits for orders to be processed and delivered.

But analysts say most brands have spent months preparing for the sale and will have enough stock – although shoppers will not always get their first choice of product.

John Lewis told the BBC: “We've worked closely with our suppliers and we are confident we've got an extensive range of deals across a wide range of categories that represent great value for our customers.”

AO World, which has hired 500 extra drivers ahead of the day, said: “Like all electrical retailers, we are currently unable to get all the stock we need in categories like gaming to meet customer demand largely because of global microchip shortages.

“We are working closely with our partners so that our customers continue to get the exceptional service and range they rely on.”

Metapack thinks most retailers will avoid a “perfect storm” but a few could be unlucky.

“We've already seen retailers reach out and suggest customers buy early for Christmas which should ease the pressure,” said senior vice president Tom Forbes.

Some big brands such as M&S and Next have shunned Black Friday this year, with M&S again saying its focus was on “offering great value throughout the whole season”.

Many independent shops have also opted-out as they cannot afford to offer deep discounts in the vital Christmas shopping period.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, urged shoppers to support smaller local businesses who are “pinning their hopes to a bumper festive season” after last year's restrictions.

He said: “Rather than reaching for the same old brands – where deals might not be all they seem in any case – shop bespoke, receive one-to-one personal service and give some new restaurants, cafes and pubs a try.”

Shoppers have also been warned to check whether offers are all they seem.

An investigation by consumer rights group Which? found that 92% of Black Friday deals in 2020 were the same price or cheaper in the six months before the event.

‘I'm not playing that game'

The Potions Cauldron gift shop in York is one of the independent retailers not taking part in Black Friday.

Manager Phil Pinder thinks it's an American invention driven by retailers like Amazon who want to “squeeze everyone else out”.

“I read a story saying that some of the electrical retailers are going to run out of stock by Christmas from doing Black Friday deals.

“I'm not playing that game… it seems illogical.”

The shop, which sells magical themed drinks, sweets and gifts, has been doing well this year but it is struggling with product shortages due to supply chain issues.

Phil says it is missing about £50,000 of stock it hoped to sell before Christmas which is “a real headache”.

His message to shoppers this festive season is buy early: “If you want to get a specific present, go out and get it now. There are probably not going to be many of those last minute sales this Christmas because I don't think the retailers will have the stock.”

By Daniel Thomas and Michael Race

Stock markets across the world fall sharply after discovery of new Covid variant

( via – – Fri, 26th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Stock markets across the world have fallen sharply after the discovery of a new Covid variant raised fears over the economic recovery.

US stock markets opened lower after big falls in Europe, with London's FTSE 100 share index down nearly 3% and similar moves seen in Germany and France.

Shares in airlines and travel firms were among the hardest hit.

The UK and other nations have introduced a ban on flights from six southern African countries.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said scientists were “deeply concerned” about the new Covid strain and its potential to evade immunity.

The UK has temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini starting from midday on Friday until 04:00 on Sunday.

All six counties are being added to the UK's travel red list. It means that any British or Irish resident arriving from the countries after 04:00 on Sunday will have to quarantine in a hotel, with those returning before that being asked to isolate at home.

The FTSE 100 index is trading sharply lower, with British Airways-owner IAG leading the fallers as its share price tumbled by 14%. Rolls-Royce, which makes engines for planes. also saw its shares drop, down more than 10%.

EasyJet was one of the biggest fallers on the FTSE 250 index, with its shares down 10%, as was Whizz Air. Travel firms such as cruise operator Carnival and Tui also recorded sharp declines.

“Fear has gripped the financial markets with the travel industry flying into another violent storm,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“With Europe still battling with the surge of a fourth wave of the virus, there are now fears that the highly mutated Covid strain discovered in states in Southern Africa will prompt fresh shutdowns around the world in an attempt to stop its spread, leading to another drag on recovery.”

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down 2.2% while the technology-heavy Nasdaq dropped by 2.5%. The S&P 500 index was 1.5% lower.

Despite the fall in the FTSE 100 on Friday, the index is still trading nearly 12% higher than it was a year ago.

A number of other countries – such as Germany, Italy and Israel – have banned flights from the six southern African nations.

Both Germany and France's leading stock market indexes fell by more than 3% on Friday.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that other EU nations should also “activate the emergency brake” to stop travel from these countries.

Overnight stock markets in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia also fell as did indexes in India and South Korea.

Oil prices also declined on fears the new Covid strain could lead to restrictions and dampen demand. Brent crude extended earlier declines to fall by 5.86% to $77.43 a barrel by early afternoon.

“The drop in the oil price is the market's way of saying it is worried about a reduction in economic activity,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

In London, shares in oil giant BP dropped by 6.2%% while rival Shell also saw its share price fall by more than 4.6%.

But Mr Mould added: “The flipside of falling commodity prices is that a weaker oil price should provide some relief in terms of inflationary pressures.

“That may cause central banks to be more cautious towards raising rates in the near-term, however it does depend on whether the new Covid strain causes significant disruption or can be contained as best as possible in a rapid manner.”

Mr Javid said more needed to be learned about the new Covid variant. Only 59 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana so far.

However, he said the variant had a significant number of mutations, “perhaps double the number of mutations that we have seen in the Delta variant”.

He said that adding the six countries to the red list was about “being cautious and taking action and trying to protect, as best we can, our borders”.

BA said: “We'll be contacting affected customers with information about their flight.”

It added it was advising passengers to monitor the latest travel advice with the UK government and on the BA website.

Virgin Atlantic said its flights from Johannesburg to London Heathrow would be cancelled between midday on Friday to early on Sunday morning.

“We're currently reviewing our schedule of South Africa operations for the coming week,” it added.

The carrier said any customers booked to travel to or from South Africa with Virgin Atlantic should check on the company's website. If they have booked through third parties or agents, they should get in touch with them.

Alibaba shares slumped by more than 10% after China spending slowdown warning

( via – – Fri, 19th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Alibaba shares have slumped by more than 10% in Hong Kong trade after the Chinese online retail giant warned of a slowdown in consumer spending.

The company forecast that its annual revenue would grow at the slowest pace since its stock market debut in 2014.

The weak figures underscore the firm's struggles with increasing competition and Beijing's regulatory crackdown.

On Thursday, Alibaba's US-listed shares ended the New York trading session more than 11% lower.

In the three months to the end of September, Alibaba's revenue rose by 29% to 200.7bn yuan ($31.4bn, £23.3bn), its slowest rate of growth for a year and a half.

The company also said it expects its annual revenue to grow by between 20% to 23%, lower than analysts' forecasts.

Chinese consumption slows

Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang told investors that increasing competition and slowing consumption in China were the main causes for the weaker growth.

Chinese shoppers have become more cautious about spending, with new coronavirus outbreaks, power shortages and concerns about the property market weighing on sentiment.

The latest figures do not include sales from this month's Singles Day, or “11.11 Global Shopping Festival”, annual shopping festival.

This year's Alibaba's usually glitzy event was a more toned down affair than previously, after Beijing cracked down on businesses and China's economic growth slows.

Sales for the 11-day event rose at their slowest rate since it was launched in 2009, up 8.5% on last year.

However, customer spending still hit a fresh record high of 540.3bn yuan.

Alibaba has come under intense scrutiny from Beijing as tough new rules have been imposed on the country's big technology companies.

Earlier this year, it paid a record $2.8bn fine after a probe found that it had abused its market position for years. Alibaba also said it would change the way it conducted its business.

The company's shares have lost more than a third of their value so far this year.

UK rate of inflation hit its highest level for almost a decade at 4.2% as fuel and energy bills soar

( via– Wed, 17th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

The ONS reports a sharp rise in the cost of living which the Bank of England predicts will deteriorate this winter as a host of goods and services leap in price.

The rate of inflation has hit its highest level for almost a decade as prices rise across the UK economy, with fuel and energy costs leading the way.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the consumer prices index (CPI) measure jumped to 4.2% in October from 3.1% the previous month – a bigger leap than economists had predicted and piling pressure on the Bank of England to act. The figures showed that the 12% increase in the energy price cap on household bills on 1 October was among the factors contributing the most to the spike alongside education, transport, eating out and fashion costs.

ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner said of the rise: “This was driven by increased household energy bills due to the price cap hike, a rise in the cost of second-hand cars and fuel as well as higher prices in restaurants and hotels.

“Costs of goods produced by factories and the price of raw materials have also risen substantially, and are now at their highest rates for at least 10 years.”

The latter comment represents a warning that the pace of price increases shows no sign of letting up as those costs prepare to enter the UK's supply chain crisis which is also being complicated by a shortage of labour.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak responded: “Many countries are experiencing higher inflation as we recover from COVID, and we know people are facing pressures with the cost of living, which is why we are taking action worth more than £4.2bn to help them.

“We're helping people get into work, progress and keep more of what they earn, through our Plan for Jobs and by effectively cutting taxes for workers receiving Universal Credit.

“We are also providing more immediate support, including through the £500m Household Support Fund for the most vulnerable families, fuel and alcohol duty freezes, and the energy price cap.”

But the cap is tipped by economists to add even more fuel to the inflation fire in the spring, when the next review takes effect, if it fully reflects rises in wholesale gas costs since last summer.

A report by the RAC motoring group on Wednesday showed a third of motorists were already driving less as petrol and diesel costs hit new record levels daily.

The ONS report, which showed inflation at its highest level since November 2011, was the first measure since the Bank of England shocked financial markets earlier this month when it held off on raising interest rates to curb inflation expectations, despite forecasting the CPI measure would hit 5% in the coming months.

The Bank, which said it had wanted to see how the jobs market responded to the end of the furlough scheme, has a 2% inflation target.

It will take some comfort from the fact that separate ONS figures have shown household spending power holding up as policymakers fret that fears of inflation are driving unsustainable pay awards.

The underlying pace of growth in wages – taking into account workers going back on full pay after furlough and how job losses during the coronavirus lockdowns fell most heavily on lower-paid workers – stood between 3.4% and 4.9% for regular pay in the three months to September.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, said: “While not unexpected, confirmation that inflation is moving further away from its 2% target may seal the Bank of England's resolve to raise rates in December, following the strong labour data released this week.”

By James Sillars

Amazon to stop accepting Visa credit cards in UK

( via – – Wed, 17th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Amazon will stop accepting Visa credit cards in the UK from 19 January, the online retail giant has told customers.

It said the move was due to high credit card transaction fees but said Visa debit cards would still be accepted.

Visa said it was “very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future”.

Amazon said: “The cost of accepting card payments continues to be an obstacle for businesses striving to provide the best prices for customers.”

Visa fees

The online giant said those costs should be going down over time due to advances in technology, “but instead they continue to stay high or even rise”.

In an email to UK customers, Amazon said: “Starting 19 January, 2022, we will unfortunately no longer accept Visa credit cards issued in the UK, due to the high fees Visa charges for processing credit card transactions.

“You can still use debit cards (including Visa debit cards) and non-Visa credit cards like Mastercard, Amex, and Eurocard to make purchases.”

Amazon also asked customers to update payment methods, including for Prime membership and any subscriptions.

“We know this may be inconvenient, and we're here to help you through this transition,” it added.

A Visa spokesperson said: “UK shoppers can use their Visa debit and credit cards at Amazon UK today and throughout the holiday season.

“We are very disappointed that Amazon is threatening to restrict consumer choice in the future. When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins.

“We have a long-standing relationship with Amazon, and we continue to work toward a resolution, so our cardholders can use their preferred Visa credit cards at Amazon UK without Amazon-imposed restrictions come January 2022.”

Royal Dutch Shell announce plans to move its headquarters to the UK

( via – – Mon, 15th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

Royal Dutch Shell has announced a plan to move its headquarters to the UK as part of proposals to simplify the company's structure.

The oil giant will ask shareholders to vote on shifting its tax residence from the Netherlands to the UK.

It also wants to do away with its dual share structure in favour of just one class of shares to boost “the speed and flexibility” of shareholder payouts.

Shell's chief executive Ben van Beurden will relocate to the UK.

The company's chief financial officer Jessica Uhl will also move, alongside seven other senior employees.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng welcomed Shell's announcement, tweeting that it was “a clear vote of confidence in the British economy”.

The Dutch government, however, said it was “unpleasantly surprised” by Shell's proposal.

Stef Blok, economic affairs and climate minister, said: “We are in a dialogue with the management of Shell over the consequences of this plan for jobs, crucial investment decisions and sustainability,”

The company said: “Shell is proud of its Anglo-Dutch heritage and will continue to be a significant employer with a major presence in the Netherlands.

“Its projects and technology division, global upstream and integrated gas businesses and renewable energies hub remain located in The Hague.”

The decision to simplify Shell's structure comes after Third Point, a US activist investor, recently bought a stake in the company and suggested the business should be split into two firms, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Third Point told Shell in a letter it should split itself into “multiple standalone companies”, one of which would house its legacy oil and gas business while another would contain renewable energy.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr van Beurden dismissed Third Point's proposal. He said that while Shell could transition to net zero by 2050, the move to greener energy could only be funded by oil and gas.

Earlier this year, a court in the Netherlands ruled that by 2030 Shell must cut its CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels. The decision only applies in the Netherlands and Shell said it would appeal against the ruling.

‘Royal Dutch' dropped

Shell has been incorporated in the UK and had a Dutch tax residence – as well as the dual share structure – since 2005.

The changes also mean the company will drop “Royal Dutch” from its title and be renamed Shell. This element dates back to 1890 when the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company was formed. That company merged with the UK's Shell Transport and Trading Company in 1907.

“Carrying the Royal designation has been a source of immense pride and honour for Shell for more than 130 years,” Shell said.

“However, the company anticipates it will no longer meet the conditions for using the designation following the proposed change.”

Shell said the simplified share structure means it would be able to “accelerate” shareholder distributions through, for example, share buybacks.

The company announced a $2bn (£1.5bn) share buyback in July and will distribute an additional $7bn from the sale of its Permian Basin oilfield in the US.

“Aside from the fact that the shares they hold will no longer come with a ‘Royal' designation, this new alignment won't change much for investors,” said Laura Hoy, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“The long-term growth story for Shell still rests heavily on the oil price. For now, buoyant oil prices are keeping the group's cash coffers topped up. However, with the inevitable shift to more sustainable energy picking up steam we suspect the need to invest in greener operations will keep a lid on what the group can pass on to shareholders.”

Shares in Shell rose by 2.1% to £16.77 on Monday morning. The company said its shares would continue to be listed in Amsterdam, London and New York

Shareholders will vote on the proposals at a meeting on 10 December.

How BlackRock Became The Biggest Asset Manager in The World

Source: CNBC

BlackRock is one of the world’s most influential companies in finance. At the end of the third quarter, it had $9.464 trillion in assets under management, making it the biggest asset manager in the world.

That scale gives CEO Larry Fink a voice in the international effort to fight global warming. Fink kicked off the decade with a letter to shareholders that called for better stewardship of environment, social and corporate governance issues.

These concerns stem from BlackRock’s conversations with clients across the globe. At a conference at the Bank of Italy earlier this year, Fink said that enforcing emissions reporting standards for public companies “will have the unintended consequences of fueling a backlash against our big companies, and it will promote a narrative of big versus small, and it will create greater and greater political polarization.”

Legal scholars like University of Virginia’s Paul Mahoney say the push for better ESG standards may transcend the typical boundaries of fiduciary responsibility.

“BlackRock in particular has been quite clear in their messaging that they believe that using ESG factors across its portfolio will help them deliver better returns,” the law professor told CNBC.

Fink and his team built their empire by focusing on long-term risk management and technology. This made BlackRock one of the world’s most powerful firms in a relatively short period of time. Now, they’re using that influence to push public corporations into taking action on ESG issues.

Burger King’s British operations hire Bank of America and Investec to spearhead IPO

( via– Fri, 12th Nov 2021) London, Uk – –

The owner of Burger King's British operations has picked two banks to serve up a whopper of a London float next year.

Sky News has learnt that Bridgepoint has hired Bank of America and Investec to spearhead the fast-food giant's initial public offering during the first half of 2022.

The precise timing and size of the deal have yet to be finalised, but City sources suggested that a flotation was now a likelier outcome than a sale to another private equity firm.

A sale remains possible depending on public market conditions at the time.

Floating will represent a bet for Burger King's management team and stock market investors on a sustained recovery for the UK's pandemic-hit restaurant industry.Advertisement

Its chief executive, Alasdair Murdoch, warned early in the COVID-19 crisis of substantial job losses and restaurant closures, with many prominent chains such as Carluccio's and Prezzo collapsing into administration.

Burger King UK itself weighed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) mechanism for one of its subsidiaries as it sought to close a small number of its 530 sites.

Burger King UK's performance has been boosted by an expanded portfolio of drive-thru restaurants, while it also has partnerships with Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats, which helped to maintain sales momentum during the UK's various lockdowns.

The chain is said to have scores of further drive-thru outlets in the pipeline.

Mr Murdoch was an early and vocal critic of government policy towards the hospitality sector after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

In March 2020, he declared that the chain would not be paying its quarterly rent bill, and called on commercial landlords to work with food and beverage operators to resolve the deepening impasse between them.

In total, UK Hospitality, the trade association, estimated this year that the industry had lost approximately £80bn in sales since the start of the pandemic.

Burger King UK owns roughly 150 of its UK outlets, and has been buying more of them back from franchisees in recent months in an effort to boost profitability.

In May, it acquired Zing Leisure, an Essex-based franchisee which operated 17 Burger King restaurants.

Mr Murdoch recently unveiled plans to eliminate some of its meat menu items and shift to a 50% plant-based menu by 2031 amid growing demand for vegetarian and vegan options.

The company has also committed to phasing out all single-use plastics in its restaurants by 2025.

Burger King UK is chaired by Martin Robinson, a leisure industry veteran who ran Center Parcs' European operations and has since chaired private equity-backed companies including Casual Dining Group, Parkdean Resorts, Travelodge and Wagamama.

Bridgepoint, which saw its shares soar after floating in London earlier this year, has owned Burger King UK since late 2017.

It is thought to believe that the chain continues to have significant growth potential given that its UK estate is only about one-third of the size of rival McDonald's.

Bridgepoint owns about 80% of the UK estate, and is also a shareholder in Burger King's French business.

The Burger King brand is owned globally by Restaurant Brands International, which is listed in New York.

Burger King UK declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

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