Asda takeover by billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa could lead to higher fuel prices, says CMA

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 20th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Watchdog warns over takeover by private equity consortium fronted by petrol station billionaires

The £6.8bn takeover of Asda by a private equity consortium fronted by the Blackburn-based petrol station billionaire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa could lead to higher fuel prices in some parts of the UK, the UK competition watchdog has warned.

The Issa brothers and TDR Capital co-own the petrol station operator EG Group, which has 395 UK petrol stations while Asda owns 323. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said many of the forecourts were located in the same parts of the country and it was concerned about these overlaps.

Joel Bamford, the CMA’s senior director of mergers, said: “Our job is to protect consumers by making sure there continues to be strong competition between petrol stations, which leads to lower prices at the pump. These are two key players in the market, and it’s important that we thoroughly analyse the deal to make sure that people don’t end up paying over the odds.

“Right now, we’re concerned the merger could lead to higher prices for motorists in certain parts of the UK. However, if the companies can provide a clearcut solution to address our concerns, we won’t carry out an in-depth phase 2 investigation.”

The buyers now have five working days to put forward a proposal to address the competition concerns identified. The CMA then has a further five working days to consider whether to accept the plan or refer the deal for further investigation.

The sale of Asda to the Issas and TDR Capital is the biggest British leveraged buyout in more than 10 years. The investors, who already co-own the petrol station operator EG Group, have put less than £800m of their own money into the deal, which is backed with nearly £4bn of debt and £1.7bn raised by selling off Asda’s warehouses and petrol stations.

The CMA found local competition concerns in relation to the supply of road fuel in 36 areas across the UK and the supply of a specific type of fuel, auto-LPG, in a further area. It is therefore concerned that the merger could lead to higher prices for motorists in these locations.

The deal was the second attempt by the US retail giant Walmart to sell the Leeds-based supermarket, which employs more than 140,000 people. In 2019 the CMA blocked the first try – an audacious attempt to merge Asda with its larger rival Sainsbury’s.

The Issa brothers, who leased their first petrol station in 1999, now have more than 6,000 in 10 countries. The move on Asda has not stopped the expansion of EG Group, which has just bought the fast food chain Leon Restaurants for £100m and is also trying to buy the struggling Caffè Nero chain.

The Issas and TDR have equal shareholdings in Asda, while Walmart has retained a minority holding following the deal, which was announced last autumn.

The sale has already heralded senior management changes at Asda as Roger Burnley, its chief executive of three years, has already announced that he will depart next year. Rob McWilliam, its chief financial officer, is also going.

The change of ownerships adds to the uncertainty faced by the staff who work in Asda’s 341 supermarkets and who have in recent years faced successive rounds of job cuts.

Last week Asda said it planned to stop baking bread in its stores, a change that will puts 1,200 jobs at risk. The latest shake-up comes less than two months after Asda said 5,000 jobs were at risk from the closure of two warehouses and back-office changes.

By Zoe Wood

Post-Brexit controls on vehicles taking goods to the EU eased by UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 20th Apr 2021) London, UK —

Britain on Tuesday eased controls designed to prevent a backlog of trucks in southern England caused by new post-Brexit paperwork, saying vehicles taking goods to the European Union would no longer need a special permit to enter the port region.

The government said the relaxation showed goods transport companies had adapted to the new requirements, and were arriving at the border fully prepared.

The permit system was introduced in Kent when Britain completed its exit from the EU at the end of 2020 to mitigate fears of trade being brought to a standstill due to ports being blocked by vehicles trying to travel without the correct documentation.

Before Christmas, thousands of trucks were held up at the port of Dover as some companies stockpiled ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU and after France shut its borders following an outbreak of a new coronavirus strain, prompting fears of severe disruption when the new Brexit rules came in.

The government said freight volumes between Britain and the EU were operating at normal levels and cited official data showing a 46% increase in exports in February.

The same data also showed British goods exports to the EU, excluding non-monetary gold and precious metals, were 41.4% below year-ago levels in January but partially recovered to be 12.5% below year-ago levels in February.

Imports, which dropped 19.2% on year-ago levels in January, were 11.5% below year-ago levels in February.

Reuters

PM Boris Johnson says Government well do everything to make sure Super League doesn’t go ahead

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 19th April 2021) London, Uk – –

The new league has already been criticised by politicians, former players, and other football bodies.

Boris Johnson has said the government will do everything it can to make sure the new European Super League “doesn't go ahead in the way that it's currently being proposed”, calling the plans “very damaging for football”.

The prime minister said he would work with football authorities opposed to the move, adding: “I don't think that it's good news for fans, I don't think it's good news for football in this country.”

He said: “These clubs are not just great global brands – of course they're great global brands – they're also clubs that have originated historically from their towns, from their cities, from their local communities, they should have a link with those fans, and with the fan base in their community.”

Mr Johnson said the six Premier League clubs involved “must answer to their fans” before deciding to launch the breakaway competition.

Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs have agreed to establish the super league, despite widespread criticism of the plans from fans, former footballers, managers, and the football authorities.

A statement from the new competition said: “AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs.

“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”

Florentino Pérez, president of Real Madrid and the first chairman of the European Super League, said: “We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world.

The project is being launched to rival UEFA's Champions League format which currently dominates European football – and the announcement came a day before UEFA was due to sign off on plans for an expanded and restructured tournament.

The super league has been criticised by politicians including Mr Johnson and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, as well as ex-players such as former Manchester United defender Gary Neville.

Sir Keir said the plans had ignored the fans, adding: “Football in empty stadiums hasn't been the same over the last year. I can't wait to get back to games. But this proposal risks shutting the door on fans for good, reducing them to mere spectators and consumers.

“The clubs involved in this proposal should rethink immediately. And if they don't, they should face the consequences of their actions. Because football without fans is nothing.”

Neville told Sky Sports: “I'm not against the modernisation of football competitions, we have the Premier League, the Champions League, but I think to bring forward proposals in the midst of COVID and the economic crisis for all clubs is an absolute scandal.

“United and the rest of the ‘Big Six' that have signed up to it against the rest of the Premier League should be ashamed of themselves.”

He added: “They should deduct six points off all six teams that have signed up to it. Deduct points off them all. To do it during a season? It's a joke.”Not even VAR united rival fans, former players and pundits in their outrage and opposition like this

UEFA, the FA, and the Premier League are among others to have expressed opposition, saying in a joint statement that they “remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project”, adding: “We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this.

“This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

The English FA said: “We would not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football, and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary to protect the broader interests of the game.”

The European Super League competition will see 20 participating clubs – 15 founding clubs and a further five teams able to qualify annually based on their achievements during the previous season. Ministers are urgently seeking advice on how to stop top football clubs joining Super League

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters Association, told Sky News he is yet to speak to a fan who is in favour of the move.

“We are totally opposed to it… the supporters' organisations at these so-called big clubs have all come out against it. As far as I can see, everybody who cares about it and respects the tradition of English football is against this.”

Asked why he thought this was happening if opposed by the fans, he replied: “Money. Simple as that isn't it. You have only got to look at the eye-watering amounts of money that they think they are going to earn out of this.

“These are foreign owners who are basically asset managers who can see a way of making massive amounts of money out of this. They are not people who are custodians of the sporting heritage of this country. If they were, they wouldn't be proposing this.”

He said he “absolutely” supported calls for the six English clubs to be removed from the Premier League, adding he and colleagues would be asking the FA Council to support a resolution to that effect this week.

“We are geared up for this fight, and it is absolutely essential that the Premier League, the Football Association and the supporters of all of those clubs stick together.”

He added he wasn't expecting many players, if any, to speak out publicly against the creation of the breakaway league, but if they voiced their opposition behind the scenes it may act as a deterrent within the clubs themselves “if they think that some of the top players might not sign for them in the future because they want to pursue their international careers”. How Sky first reported European Super League plans

The super league will begin in August with clubs participating in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, some during the week, with the top three in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Teams finishing fourth and fifth will compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final spots before a knockout format is used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

In exchange for their commitment, founding clubs will receive an amount of €3.5bn (£3bn) to “support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic”, the league's statement said.

Club players will be able to continue competing in their national leagues and, as soon as possible after the men's competition begins, a women's league will also be launched.

By Sharon Marris and Sunita Patel-Carstairs

Bank of England to announce possibility of a central bank digital currency

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 19th April 2021) London, Uk – –

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

The Bank of England and the Treasury have announced they are setting up a taskforce to explore the possibility of a central bank digital currency.

The aim is to look at the risks and opportunities involved in creating a new kind of digital money.

Issued by the Bank for use by households and businesses, it would exist alongside cash and bank deposits, rather than replacing them.

No decision has been taken on whether to have such a currency in the UK.

However, the government and the Bank want to “engage widely with stakeholders” on the benefits and practicalities of doing so.

The taskforce will be jointly led by the Bank's deputy governor for financial stability, Sir Jon Cunliffe, and the Treasury's director general of financial services, Katharine Braddick.

The Bank has previously said it is interested in a central bank digital currency (CBDC) because “this is a period of significant change in money and payments”.

The use of cash in financial transactions has been steadily declining in recent years, while debit card payments have been on the rise. Use of credit cards and direct debits have also been increasing.

The Bank also sees having its own digital currency as a way of “avoiding the risks of new forms of private money creation”, including crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin.

“If a CBDC were to be introduced, it would be denominated in pounds sterling, just like banknotes, so £10 of CBDC would always be worth the same as a £10 note,” the Bank said.

“CBDC is sometimes thought of as equivalent to a digital banknote, although in some respects it may have as much in common with a bank deposit.

“Any CBDC would be introduced alongside – rather than replacing – cash and bank deposits.”

Most of the world's central banks are looking into the possibility of creating such a currency, but the only one already in existence is China's digital yuan, which is currently undergoing public testing.

Among the objectives of the UK taskforce is monitoring international developments, “to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation”.

The Bank also announced the creation of a CDBC engagement forum and a technology forum, as well as a CBDC unit within the Bank itself, overseen by Sir Jon.

No timetable was announced for the taskforce's operations.

How Maserati The Luxury Italian And Sports Car Brand Is Staging A Comeback

Source: CNBC

Maserati is an Italian luxury and sports car brand that doesn’t have the recognition that big names like BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, or even Ferrari have. For decades it was owned by Fiat Group, which later became Fiat Chrysler. Maserati gave it a presence in premium and luxury segments. But they've struggled in recent years, with falling sales and concerns among analysts that Fiat Chrysler did not make needed investments to update Maserati’s product lineup. Now that Fiat-Chrysler has merged with France’s Groupe PSA to form Stellantis, there is speculation over which brands in the stable will survive and succeed.

A New Billionaire Every 17 Hours: The Most Notable Newcomers On Forbes’ Billionaires List

Source: Forbes

It’s been a year like no other, and we aren’t talking about the pandemic. There were rapid-fire public offerings, surging cryptocurrencies and skyrocketing stock prices. The number of billionaires on Forbes’ 35th annual list of the world’s wealthiest exploded to an unprecedented 2,755–660 more than a year ago. Of those, a record high 493 were new to the list–roughly one every 17 hours, including 210 from China and Hong Kong. Another 250 who’d fallen off in the past came roaring back. A staggering 86% are richer than a year ago.

Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest for the fourth year running, worth $177 billion, while Elon Musk rocketed into the number two spot with $151 billion, as Tesla and Amazon shares surged. Altogether these billionaires are worth $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion in 2020. The U.S. still has the most, with 724, followed by China (including Hong Kong and Macao) with 698. We used stock prices and exchange rates from March 5 to calculate net worths. See below for the full list of the world’s billionaires and our methodology.

TUI boss Friedrich Joussen says summer holiday season can be saved

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

Successful vaccine programmes will prevent another washout for summer holidaymakers, the boss of Europe's largest tour company has told the BBC.

“We are optimistic about the summer,” said Friedrich Joussen, who runs TUI.

The firm – which owns a fleet of aircraft, cruise ships and a chain of travel agencies – said bookings in March alone had hit 2.8 million.

As a result, it expected to operate up to 75% of its normal schedule for the summer season.

“We are still confident that we will have a decent summer,” said Mr Joussen, pointing to coronavirus vaccination programmes in the UK, US and Europe.

The company, which sells holidays to 180 different countries, suffered heavy losses during the pandemic.

Across the industry, income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year, leaving more than 62 million people without work, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

The industry body is pressing for international travel to resume in June to stem further job losses.

But Mr Joussen said he expected some countries to ask travellers to prove they had been vaccinated before they were allowed to cross the border. Although he thinks demonstrating a negative test result would be just as effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

However, for that strategy to be successful, he said the cost of those tests should be reduced.

“The cheaper it gets, the better it works and the less harmful it is for the general economy,” he said.

European countries have ramped up their vaccination programmes in recent weeks, as the continent experiences a third wave of infections in the face of new variants. Nevertheless, Mr Joussen is optimistic about the summer.

“All medical advice we are getting as a company says that existing vaccines are working with existing variants,” Mr Joussen said.

“Now they might be less efficient sometimes, but still it's much better than not being vaccinated.”

Borrowed billions

In the past year, TUI has been forced to borrow billions from the German government just to stay afloat. But analysts have warned that in the wake of the crisis, the part-nationalised firm may struggle to compete against leaner rivals, as the industry reels from more than 12 months of international travel bans.

Mr Joussen said the German state stepped in at a time of great uncertainty, when the firm was struggling to survive and could not raise money from private investors.

“Berlin is a very rational investor,” he said, adding: “Germany would want to exit the loan as soon as possible.”

By Chiyo Robertson
Business reporter

Ocado partners with Oxbotica in a £10m deal to make autonomous grocery delivery vehicles

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 16th Apr 2021) London, Uk – –

Online grocer strikes commercial partnership with Oxford-based self-driving vehicles company

Ocado has invested £10m in a self-driving vehicles company to drive its ambition to make autonomous grocery deliveries and develop “kerb-to-kitchen robots” to drop off shopping in homes.

The online grocer, which has previously tested a prototype self-driving truck delivering food and snacks to customers in south-east London, has moved to strike a commercial partnership with Oxford-based Oxbotica, which developed the truck.

Ocado, which will take a seat on Oxbotica’s board, said the technology could be used for “last-mile deliveries and kerb-to-kitchen robots”. The trials in Greenwich, London, in 2017 used a small “CargoPod” that holds eight boxes and required customers to leave their houses to pick up their shopping.

Ocado said the driverless vehicles could also operate inside its fulfilment centre buildings and the yards around them.Advertisement

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Oxbotica to develop a wide range of autonomous solutions,” said Alex Harvey, the chief of advanced technology at Ocado. “These solutions truly have the potential to transform both our and our partners’ customer fulfilment centres and service delivery operations while also giving all end customers the widest range of options and flexibility.”

Ocado said there were potentially huge savings to be made by introducing autonomous technology to its operation. The moving of orders within its fulfilment centres costs 1.5% of UK sales and the cost of “final-mile delivery” is about 10% of sales. Labour represents about half of these costs.

Owing to regulatory and complexity reasons, Ocado said the development of vehicles that operate in low-speed urban areas or in restricted-access areas, such as its fulfilment buildings and yards, “may become a reality sooner than fully autonomous deliveries to consumers’ homes”.

As part of the collaboration, Ocado said it would outfit some of its delivery vans and warehouse vehicles with data capture capabilities, such as video cameras and radar, to train and test Oxbotica’s technology.

Ocado, which employs almost 19,000 staff, said the vehicle autonomy programme would not change “current hiring or employment levels within logistics or operations groups”.

The grocer took part in a wider funding round by Oxbotica led by BP Ventures and including the Chinese tech firm Tencent.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Oxbotica and Ocado to strengthen our partnership, sharing our vision for the future of autonomy,” said Paul Newman, a co-founder of Oxbotica.

By Mark Sweney

Deliveroo’s orders double in first quarter after dismal IPO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

($1 = 0.7260 pounds)

Reporting by Paul Sandle

Coinbase makes a landmark market debut with $99.6bn valuation

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

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune
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The cryptocurrency exchange coinbase started trading on Wednesday at a valuation of nearly $100bn (£72bn), in a major boost to supporters of digital currencies such as bitcoin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ed Clowes

Heathrow says airport Covid checks are becoming ‘untenable’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 14th April 2021) London, Uk – –

Heathrow has said that long queues caused by extensive Covid checks at the airport are becoming “untenable”.

Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow, told MPs on the transport committee that some travellers faced waits of up to six hours.

On more than one occasion police had had to intervene because queuing was “not something passengers want to do”, he added.

Foreign travel is only permitted for certain reasons at the moment.

Mr Garton said that all passengers, regardless of nationality, had to be thoroughly vetted before they left or entered the UK to ensure they complied with coronavirus legislation.

However, he said that the queues would become a “much bigger” problem if rules on foreign travel are relaxed on 17 May, as the government is planning.

Currently, he said about 10-15,000 people arrive at the airport each day, and “certainly more than half are having delays in excess of 2-3 hours each day”.

He said the current system is a “tremendous burden on officers at the border” and that the Home Office had not provided enough officers.

“We would like to see more resources at the border,” he told the MPs.

He said maintaining social distancing was hard as the airport was never built to “have so many people held up” in queues.

The BBC has contacted the Home Office for comment.

People in England can start thinking about booking foreign holidays again this summer, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said last week.

But he said the cost of the Covid tests required needed to be driven down, amid criticism from the travel industry.

Mr Shapps has gave more detail on the traffic light system which will see countries graded on their risk.

Passengers will have to take the tests before leaving and on returning – even from low-risk “green” countries.

By Simon Browning

Business secretary: £170m taxpayer bailout to steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta would have been “completely irresponsible”

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 14th April 2021) London, Uk – –

GFG asked the government for an emergency bailout of as much as £170m, as thousands of steel jobs were hanging in the balance.

Giving a £170m taxpayer bailout to steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta would have been “completely irresponsible”, the business secretary has told MPs.

Kwasi Kwarteng was answering questions from members of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee about Liberty Steel, which is owned by GFG Alliance, the conglomerate headed by Mr Gupta.

Sky News revealed in March that GFG had written to the government to request an emergency bailout of as much as £170m, as thousands of jobs were hanging in the balance.

Mr Kwarteng told the committee that there were fears the money could be moved out of the UK to the group's assets overseas.

He said: “If you look into the Gupta Family Group, they're not the most transparent organisation and it also has assets all over the world and they employ something like 35,000 people all over the world.

“So if the Gupta family asked the British government to give £170m of taxpayers' money, it is incumbent on ministers to be sure, to have some degree of surety, that the money will stay in the UK and won't simply be dispersed across the Gupta Family Group's other steel manufacturing assets across the world.”

He added: “As far as I could understand, we did not have these guarantees, it was a very opaque structure, and there was a reluctance to give the group the money.”

Mr Kwarteng said ministers had “no idea where this money would end up”, adding: “I think we came to the right decision in that particular instance”.

In March it was reported that Mr Kwarteng had met Liberty executives several times to discuss the crisis at the group, amid concerns that it could collapse into administration without taxpayer help.

Its reliance on financing from Greensill, the supply chain finance provider which collapsed earlier that month, had left it in a parlous state.

In April, Mr Gupta told Sky News that he would not close any of the group's plants.

In comments directed at Liberty Steel's 3,000 UK workers, Mr Gupta said: “I will not give up on you. You are my family.

“Under my watch, none of my steel plants will close, I promise.”

He had added: “We are handling the situation as it has arisen, but we need to keep in mind that our business actually is enjoying one of the best times it's ever had.”

When Mr Kwarteng was asked by the committee on Tuesday if there was a danger of job losses or of losing the plants if action was not taken, he said: “I'm very keen to see that these assets, which are good assets, continue to operate, and the company continues to operate.

“But we can't strip Liberty Steel from the wider group under which it sits and, as Mr Gupta says, they're billions and billions of pounds in debt.

“The idea that the British government or any British minister would give this group, which is completely opaque…we don't know the full extent of their liabilities… the idea we would sign a cheque would be completely irresponsible and if I had done so, you would rightly be grilling me about this now.”

Mr Kwarteng was asked what the government's contingency plans were for Liberty Steel.

He replied: “We have to work through (Mr Gupta's) plans. He keeps reassuring his workforce that he has refinancing plans in place and the local management also have their own plans.

“Ahead of any government intervention or otherwise, I'm very keen that the plans of local management and Mr Gupta are indeed worked through. Let's see if Mr Gupta can refinance his businesses in the way he said he would.”

Liberty controls 11 sites, including ones at Rotherham and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire, Newport in South Wales and Hartlepool.

By Sharon Marris

JD Sports forecast profit growth this year and plans to ramps up warehouse space post-Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 13th Apr 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) -Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer JD Sports on Tuesday forecast profit growth this year and announced plans to ramp up warehouse capacity to fulfil online orders and minimise disruptions from Brexit.

The company, known for its sneakers and athleisure products, also said it would resume dividend payments after beating analysts expectations for profit for the year ended Jan. 30, 2021.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, the UK’s formal exit from the European Union have presented a series of unprecedented challenges which have severely tested all aspects of our business,” said Executive Chairman Peter Cowgill.

JD Sports’ online business performed well during the pandemic and the company has embarked on at least three big acquisitions in the United States and Europe in the past few months. More deals are expected to follow after the company raised 464 million pounds ($638.46 million) in equity in February.

Britain’s departure from the European Union, however, had caused some disruptions due to customs checks on the transfer of goods from the UK to EU countries, the sportswear retailer said. It will open a warehouse in Dublin that will be operational in the second half of this year in order to fulfil online orders in Ireland.

JD Sports signed a letter of intent with Clipper Logistics for e-fulfilment and warehousing in the UK as it expects online sales to remain elevated and social distancing norms to remain in the foreseeable future.

The company, which opened a facility in Belgium last autumn, said it continued to review opportunities for a larger permanent European facility to meet demand from mainland Europe.

JD expects adjusted pretax profit for the year through January 2022 of between 475 million pounds to 500 million pounds. It reported annual profit of 421.3 million pounds and proposed a dividend of 1.44 pence per share.

JPMorgan said in a note that the confidence shown by JD at such an early stage of the year “should be seen as a strong signal of robust trading and execution”.

($1 = 0.7267 pounds)

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Yadarisa Shabong

Bitcoin frenzy as economic turmoil drives Turkey’s lira to decline

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 13th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

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

Investors turn to cryptocurrency after Erdoğan’s sacking of central bank governor caused further fall in lira

The neighbourhood teahouse is a focus of daily life across Turkey, an Ottoman tradition that has endured through the centuries. At the Red Lightning teahouse in Çorum, the enterprising owners have one foot in the past and one in the future: it’s the first one in the country where customers can pay in bitcoin.

“Everyone we know in Çorum is starting to invest in cryptocurrency. We think that in five years or so regular currency will be in decline, it will be replaced by digital ones. So we wanted to be in a good position now,” said co-owners Hüseyin Nalcı, 38, and Kerem Kutay Yıldırım, 28.

“The older customers think it’s a bit absurd. They made fun of us. But now the dürüm [wrap] shop next door is asking us to teach them.”

The Turkish lira slumped dramatically last month after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s shock decision to fire the central bank governor, Naci Ağbal. The reserve is now on its fourth governor in less than two years, and the lira has lost half its value since a 2018 currency crisis.

Inflation reached a six-month high in March of 16.19%, well above a 5% target, and unemployment remains high, at 12.2%.

The latest economic turmoil has led to a surge in cryptocurrency trading in the country, with investors hoping to gain from bitcoin’s rally and shelter against inflation.

Data from the US researcher Chainalysis analysed by Reuters showed that trading volumes between the start of February and 24 March hit 218bn lira (£19bn) with a spike on the weekend Ağbal was sacked, up from just over 7bn lira in the same period a year earlier. Cryptocurrency worth 23bn lira was traded in the first few days after the shock announcement, the data showed, versus 1bn lira in the same timespan in 2020.

Turkish Google searches for cryptocurrency also hit a record high in the week before Ağbal was removed. The governor, who took over the post in November, was reportedly at loggerheads with Erdoğan’s over interest rate hikes: contrary to mainstream economic thinking, the president has repeatedly said that he believes high interest rates cause inflation.

Bitcoin’s climb to a new record of just under $62,000 (or more than £44,000) has seen interest in the digital currency soar worldwide: investors and companies have embraced the emerging asset despite warnings about its volatility.

“Turkish people like stable assets due to our history of high inflation,” Özgür Güneri, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange BtcTurk, told Reuters. “That is why generation after generation of Turks invested in gold, real estate and dollars.”

Turkish interest in cryptocurrencies has been growing steadily for several years, in large part because they are finite resources with a reputation for being immune to inflation.

So far, Ankara has not made any moves to regulate or tax the digital currency space, which adds to the appeal for Turkey’s youthful, tech-savvy population.

Erdoğan recently reiterated calls for Turks to invest gold and foreign currencies kept under the mattress in order to shore up domestic financial markets. The country’s recent economic troubles have had significant implications for his ruling Justice and Development party: its support has fallen away with the abrupt end of years of strong economic growth.

At Sirius Coin, a cryptocurrency cashpoint near the gold dealers of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Mehmet, 35, said business was booming. The shop’s owners are getting ready to launch their own trading exchange by the end of the year.

“Everyone wants to get rich quick. Turks are no exception to that,” he said.

By Bethan McKernan 

Covid lockdown eases as pubs gardens, shops and hairdressers reopen in England

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 12th April 2021) London, Uk – –

For the first time in months pub gardens, shops and hairdressers are reopening in England, as rules are also eased in the rest of the UK.

Some pubs and salons opened at midnight, with one landlord saying there was a “sense of celebration”, and shoppers queued outside Primark stores.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged everyone to “behave responsibly”.

Northern Ireland's “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are also being relaxed in Scotland and Wales.

The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday.

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight pubgoers.

“I'm hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said.

But the British Beer and Pub Association has estimated that only 40% of licensed premises have the space to reopen for outdoor service.

Marika Smith, general manager of Hough End Leisure Centre, Withington, Manchester, says she “has not slept the last two nights” in anticipation of reopening.

“All of the swimming is fully booked, you can't get on any, and the same for the busy parts of this evening, 6-7 o'clock is fully booked,” she said.

Another business that reopened at midnight in England was Secret Spa, which offers at-home salon and spa treatments in London, Manchester and Brighton.

Co-owner Emily Ewart-Perks said it had “been such a long time coming”, saying: “Everyone has really missed the social contact of the day-to-day job and making clients happy.”

She said they have experienced a “surge of bookings”, including “a lot of 6am haircuts”.

PureGym at Coventry Skydome reported more than 50 members using its gym in the opening 30 minutes on Monday morning.

The rule changes in England from Monday include:

  • All shops can reopen
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
  • Restaurants and pubs are allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres can all open
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Non-essential journeys between England and Wales are allowed
  • Up to 15 people can attend weddings and 30 can attend funerals
  • Children can attend any indoor children's activity
  • Care home visitors will increase to two per resident
  • Driving lessons can resume, with tests restarting on 22 April

In Northern Ireland, the remaining school year groups 8-11 will return to the classroom. The stay-at-home message is being relaxed and up to 10 people from two households can meet in a private garden.

  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen
  • ‘Everyone's raring to get back to the gym'

In Scotland, pupils at schools in six council areas go back to school today. Not everyone is returning on Monday because differing term times mean some schools are still closed for the Easter holidays.

After a drop in Covid cases prompted the Welsh Government to bring forward some dates for reopening, all students will return to face-to-face teaching on Monday.

Non-essential shops can also reopen, close-contact services can resume, driving lessons can restart and travel in and out of Wales from the rest of the UK is allowed.

Analysis: By Simon Jack

Shoppers, gym fans, domestic holiday makers, outdoor drinkers and diners, plus those in need of a haircut will share the government's hope that today is an irreversible step towards old and cherished freedoms.

So will the business owners who will be welcoming them back.

But this significant easing of lockdown is also an important test.

Will customers want or be able to return in sufficient numbers for firms to break even and if they don't, what will it take to make the economy work again?

Only two in five hospitality venues have any outdoor space and the rules over future inside opening are still unclear.

The government and the opposition have distanced themselves from requiring Covid certificates for day-to-day life but the government has also hinted individual businesses may require them if they wish.

Hospitality chiefs have told the BBC they fear having to choose between two different ways to lose money – half empty venues without certificates or full ones with extra staff and hassle to check Covid status.

Demand may vary by sector.

Hairdressers are booked solid, retailers are hopeful of high footfall and are welcoming longer opening hours but some holiday parks are reporting subdued bookings as many of their public amenities remain closed.

It is a test for everyone – but a welcome one for most.

In a statement, the prime minister said the rule relaxations are “a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom”.

“I'm sure it will be a huge relief for those business owners who have been closed for so long, and for everyone else it's a chance to get back to doing some of the things we love and have missed,” he added.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air' to suppress Covid as we push on with our vaccination programme.”

The rule changes in England marks the third easing since the country's third national lockdown began on 6 January.

There is a gap of at least five weeks between each step on the government's “roadmap” out of lockdown, to allow the impact of changes on infection rates and hospital admissions to be assessed.

  • Pupils begin full time return to secondary schools
  • NI's ‘stay home' order lifted as restrictions ease
  • Shoppers told ‘stay safe' as Welsh stores reopen

The next significant date is 17 May, when up to six people from different households could be allowed to socialise indoors.

Will cases now rise?

By BBC health correspondent Anna Collinson

As restrictions are eased, infections are expected to rise.

The government argues that the UK is in a strong position – with almost 40 million combined first and second vaccine doses now administered.

It doesn't view the reopening of non-essential shops and beer gardens as particularly risky – as long as people stick to the rules.

However, there are some scientists who fear today's relaxation has come too soon and they are concerned about virus hotspots in the East Midlands and parts of Yorkshire.

There are strict criteria that must be met before moving to the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions, including the continued success of the vaccine rollout and protecting the NHS from being overwhelmed with cases.

The next stage will be the planned return of indoor mixing and foreign travel on 17 May at the earliest – and it's these steps that are expected to pose the greater risk.

More than 32 million people in the UK have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and of those 7.4m have had their second dose.

A record total of 475,230 second doses were administered on Saturday – along with 111,109 first doses.

Mr Johnson praised the “record-breaking day” on Twitter, writing: “Thanks to everyone involved in this extraordinary effort which has already saved thousands of lives.”

The number of people dying in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test continues to fall steadily, with seven further deaths reported on Sunday.

That is the lowest daily death toll by this measure since 14 September 2020. However, there can be a lag in reporting coronavirus statistics during weekends.

Post Office chief Read delivers plan to share profits with postmasters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mark Kleinman

The best films coming out in 2021

Source: Wired

It should be a big year for cinema, with a host of delayed blockbusters and big sequels hopefully coming to screens

Last year was, let’s be honest, a car crash for the cinema industry. A year that started brightly with 1917 and Parasite was derailed by the pandemic, leaving a host of long-awaited blockbusters scattered in its wake. The new James Bond film was pushed back, and then back again. Marquee titles went straight to streaming.

Even the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t immune, with Black Widow among the films to be bumped into 2021. What all the chaos does mean, however, is that there is a glut of unreleased movies which could make this year one of the most memorable in cinematic history (particularly if you like sequels and reboots). Release dates are very subject to change.

Nomadland

In the United States, the 2008 financial crash pulled a generation out of what had previously been a comfortable retirement. Suddenly forced to work again, these older Americans travel the country in search of seasonal work – a phenomenon which was described in a 2017 non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder. The film version, a drama based on the book, stars Frances MacDormand (FargoThree Billboards) as Fern, who loses her job after the crash and has to adjust to life on the road.
February 19

Raya and the Last Dragon

Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina star in this computer-animated Disney fantasy film inspired by the cultures of south-east Asia. It’s set in the world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons once lived together in harmony until mysterious monsters known as the Druun broke their alliance. Five hundred years later, Raya embarks on a quest to track down the last dragon, and save the world. This one ticks most of the Disney tropes – headstrong princess, cute animal sidekick – but it’s not expected to be a musical like its other hits.
March 12

The Many Saints of Newark

This feature length prequel to The Sopranos is one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and rightly so. The television series, which followed New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano and his inner and outer struggles, is one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time – with late actor James Gandolfini’s performances a particular highlight. Here, Gandolfini’s son Michael takes over the role of a younger Tony Soprano in a story thought to be set during the Newark riots of the 1960s, and co-written by Sopranos creator David Chase.
March 19

No Time To Die

Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as James Bond has been a long time coming. Originally due for release in November 2019, it was pushed back to February and then April 2020, following the departure of original director Danny Boyle due to creative differences. New director Cary Joji Fukunaga took over in 2018, bringing on Phoebe Waller-Bridge to help punch up the script, only to fall foul of the pandemic. The story itself wraps up the Craig-driven reboot of the series, and picks up five years after the events of Spectre, with Bond in peaceful retirement until he is approached by CIA friend Felix Leiter, to help search for a missing scientist.
April 2

A Quiet Place: Part II

The first A Quiet Place – which saw Emily Blunt and John Krasinki as parents trying to survive an attack from creatures that hunt with sound – was a surprise hit. The sequel sees them venturing into the outside world, armed with a new piece of vital knowledge about their foes’ weakness. The cast members of the first film are joined by Cillian Murphy for this sequel, which was originally due for release in March 2020.
April 23

Last Night In Soho

At the time of writing, details are pretty thin on the ground for this psychological horror flick helmed by stylish director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the DeadScott Pilgrim vs the WorldAnt-Man). It follows a young, fashion-mad girl who mysteriously finds herself in the 1960s, and face to face with her idol. It stars Anna Taylor-Joy, who played Beth Harmon in the critically acclaimed chess drama The Queen’s Gambit, as well as Matt Smith (Doctor WhoThe Crown) and the late Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones).
April 23

Black Widow

The latest instalment in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe fills in the origin story for Natasha Romanoff – Black Widow – who appeared as part of the ensemble cast in numerous MCU films but has never been given a standalone movie. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role, possibly for the last time, and is joined by Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Ray Winstone. Set after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, it follows Romanoff as she’s forced to confront her shady past as a spy and assassin.
May 7

Cruella

Look, if you lapped up the gritty superhero reboots and the live-action Disney remakes, you really have no right to complain about their inevitable endpoint: an origin story for Cruella de Vil, the iconic villain of 101 Dalmatians. Alas, it’s pitched as a comedy, which is a disappointment for anyone eager for a Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker style reimagining of the character, who will be played by Emma Stone, with Emma Thompson among those supporting. That said, it still promises to be pretty dark, if the start of the Wikipedia plot summary is anything to go by: “In 1970s London, young fashion designer Estella de Vil becomes obsessed with dogs’ skins”.
May 28

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Yes, they already rebooted the Ghostbusters franchise. No, that hasn’t stopped them from revisiting the series yet again to make a sequel to the two original movies. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson reprise their roles from the original films – the story follows a young family who discover they are linked to the original Ghostbusters when their small town experiences a series of unexplained earthquakes.
June 11

In The Heights

Before Hamilton, there was In The Heights – Lin-Manuel Miranda's breakout musical. The story follows several characters in Washington Heights, an area where many Spanish-speaking communities have made their home. It's been adapted by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu.
June 11

Luca

Set in and around the beautiful Italian coast, Luca looks to be another gorgeous visual feast from Pixar. It follows the story of Luca, a young boy working his way through childhood while harbouring a secret: he's part of a family of sea monsters that live off the coast.
June 18

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

One of three films set in Sony’s Spider-Man universe (along with Jared Leto’s Morbius, and possibly the third Tom Holland MCU Spider-Man movie) coming out in 2021, Let There Be Carnage is a sequel to 2018’s Venom, which starred Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock – a journalist who is taken hostage a by an alien symbiote that imbues him with superhuman abilities. Woody Harrelson plays Carnage, a psychotic serial killer who also has an alien symbiote.
June 25

Top Gun: Maverick

The formula for blockbuster success: take a beloved 1980s classic, wheel its stars out of retirement, pair with them some fresh young talent, and hope that you sell enough tickets to kick off a whole new franchise. It worked for Jurassic Park, and now Tom Cruise is back to try and recapture the magic of the original Top Gun. He reprises his role as Maverick, and Val Kilmer is back too as his former rival “Iceman” Kazansky – joined by Jon Hamm, Miles Teller (playing Goose’s son). Based on the trailer, the plot involves Cruise pulling a lot of g in a series of scenic valleys, after being called on to train a group of young pilots on a specialist mission.
July 1

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Part of Phase Four of the MCU, surely the point at which it starts to run out of steam, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead. Based on a comic book character created in the 1970s, its main character is a skilled martial artist who gets drawn into a shady terrorist organisation known as the Ten Rings. Starring Canadian actor Simu Liu in the title role, alongside Awkwafina and others, it’s been in the works since 2001.
July 9

Uncharted

Video game adaptations are never good, but still… This movie version of the long-running Uncharted franchise sees Spider-Man’s Tom Holland beefing up to play Nathan Drake, a Lara Croft-esque treasure hunter. Mark Wahlberg plays his mentor Victor Sullivan, and Antonio Banderas is also involved – presumably as some sort of eccentric villain.
July 16

Old

A high-concept sci-fi film from master of weirdness M Night Shyamalan, Old – based on the graphic novel Sandcastles by Pierre Oscar Levy – tells the story of a group of tourists who end up trapped in a beautiful, secluded cove only for things to take a strange turn. They soon realise that they’re ageing by years every thirty minutes.
July 23

The Suicide Squad

No one was really asking for a sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, an anti-hero movie set in the DC Comics Universe, and starring Margot Robbie and Will Smith, but here it is. Robbie, who reprised her role as Harley Quinn in 2020’s Birds of Prey, returns again here – and is joined by Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone and the former wrestler John Cena. This probably wouldn’t have made our list, if not for the fact that it’s directed by James Gunn – the Guardians of the Galaxy director who was snapped up by Warner Bros in the gap between being dropped and re-hired by Disney for comments made on social media.
August 6

Candyman

Those of a certain age know the premise of the original Candyman – say the killer’s name five times in the mirror and he appears and wastes you with his hook hand and bee swarm. What they may not remember is that the original was actually a smart film – scary yet thoughtful. This new remake is co-written by Get Out’s Jordan Peele: the Chicago projects the Candyman haunted in the first film have been torn down and replaced by luxurious loft condos, filled with millennials ripe for butchering.
August 27

Dune

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve takes on yet another sci-fi classic with this take on Dune, adapted from Frank Herbert's epic novel of the same name. Timothée Chalamet stars as the young nobleman Paul Atreides, who has to journey to the hostile planet Dune, home to the most valuable material in the galaxy, and seek revenge on his family’s enemies. This sprawling fantasy is a huge project, and if Villeneuve can pull it off it will cement his sci-fi credentials.
October 1

Eternals

Yet another Marvel film – Eternals is about a race of virtually immortal aliens who have been secretly living on Earth for thousands of years, protecting humans from the evil Deviants with their array of special powers. An all-star ensemble cast features Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Kit Harrington, and it’s directed by Chloé Zhao – who also directed Nomadland (see above) and two other acclaimed indie films. The film is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and does raise the question of why these all-powerful beings didn’t think to intervene sooner.
November 5

The Matrix 4

Very little is known about the new instalment in The Matrix saga – something that its directors the Wachowskis had long been against. Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are returning as Neo and Trinity, though, which hints at a degree of continuity to the story of the original trilogy. Lana Wachowski returns to direct.
December 22

By WILL BEDINGFIELD and AMIT KATWALA

Serena Williams’ Stunning New Home With A Trophy Room & Art Gallery

Source: AD

Today AD is welcomed by tennis legend and 23-time Grand Slam singles title winner Serena Williams for a tour of her stunning new home north of Miami. After living with her sister Venus on and off for over 20 years, Serena and husband Alexis Ohanian have made a stylish new home for their family. From the eclectic artwork (including her own painting) to the world-beating trophy room, Serena’s home could only belong to someone as multifaceted and accomplished as her. “I was moving away from Venus for the first time in my life, so I wanted it to be really meaningful,” Serena says. While mixing family with business can be risky, the secret to their success as siblings and creative collaborators is simple: “You have to know your lane. I’m really good at playing tennis; I’m not as good at interiors. But I was able to learn through just watching Venus.”

Grant Shapps transport secretary: People can now think about booking foreign holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 9th Apr 2021) London, Uk – –

The change in advice came as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

People can “start to think” about booking foreign summer holidays, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News.

The cabinet minister issued the change in advice, as the government unveiled plans for a traffic light system to allow overseas leisure trips to resume.

It comes just days after Downing Street published an official document that urged people “not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer”.

However, the government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from 17 May – and where Britons will be able to travel without self-isolating on their return.

Mr Shapps also insisted he is trying to make foreign travel as affordable as possible amid criticism that a coronavirus testing requirement will drive up holiday costs

The traffic light “framework” includes making all UK arrivals take pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 tests.

Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.

This has led to a backlash from the travel industry which has warned foreign holidays this year would be “just something for the wealthy”.

The sector wants travellers returning from low-risk countries to be allowed to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

UK budget holiday airline Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays until late June due to uncertainty over government travel plans.

Asked on Sky News if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps said: “I'm not telling people that they shouldn't book summer holidays now, it's the first time that I've been able to say that for many months.”

He added: “For the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad or perhaps a summer holiday but we are doing it very, very cautiously as we don't want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”

Mr Shapps said he was looking to “make it as affordable as possible to travel” and “drive down the costs” of tests.

He said: “Costs are definitely a concern. It is one of the factors this year. We have to accept we are still going through a global pandemic.

“We do have to be cautious and I am afraid that does involve having to have some tests and the like.

“But, I am undertaking today to drive down the costs of those tests and looking at some innovative things we could do.

“For example, whether we can help provide the lateral flow tests people need to take before they depart the country they are in to return to the UK and also drive down the costs of the tests when they get home if it is in the green category.

“We are trying to make it as practical as possible.”

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said the framework “does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers”.

He added: “The insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing – even for low-risk countries – will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people.”Twice-weekly tests now available for free in England

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the plan was “a blow to all travellers” and risked “making flying only for the wealthy”.

He added: “As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News' Ian King Live programme: “The main concern is about the cost of all of this testing, particularly for people who are looking to go on a family holiday or for small businesses, who are on a very tight budget.

“The cost of all these PCR tests could be enormous.

“The government risks shooting itself in the foot here. I think the prime minister needs to deliver on his commitment to make testing cheap and easy.”

Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation ABTA, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.

It has also been revealed the Civil Aviation Authority will be given additional enforcement powers to act on airlines that breach consumer rights, after many passengers struggled to obtain refunds when flights were grounded.

UK home movers have a spring in their step, with stamp duty holiday extension, says Halifax

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 9th April 2021) London, Uk – –

The extension of the stamp duty holiday put a “spring in the step” of home movers in March, according to the UK's biggest mortgage lender.

The Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group, said there was “something of a resurgence” in the UK housing market in March.

Extensions to stamp duty holidays in England, Northern Ireland and Wales were key to the rise in activity.

As a result, the average house price was 6.5% higher than a year ago.

It meant the typical home was valued at £254,606 in March.

Although rising house prices will be welcomed by some, it will frustrate those wanting to buy a home for the first time – particularly if Covid uncertainty has affected their income and ability to borrow through a mortgage.

There was some support announced in the Budget as a government guarantee means first-time buyers should get a wider choice of mortgages that require a deposit of just 5% of the loan.

The economic fallout of the pandemic could affect longer-term pricing of property, according to Russell Galley, managing director at the Halifax.

“With the economy yet to feel the full effect of its biggest recession in more than 300 years, we remain cautious about the longer-term outlook,” he said.

“Given current levels of uncertainty and the potential for higher unemployment, we still expect house price growth to slow somewhat by the end of this year.”

Defying expectations

The Halifax said that UK house prices rose by 1.1% in March compared with February, according to figures based on the lender's own mortgage data.

That meant they had risen in cash terms by £15,430 over the last year – a 12 months dominated by Covid, with various lockdowns and other restrictions.

“Casting our minds back 12 months, few could have predicted quite how well the housing market would ride out the impact of the pandemic so far, let alone post growth of more than £1,000 per month on average,” Mr Galley said.

Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of asset manager SPI Capital, suggested that lockdowns and rising living standards had encouraged existing owners to buy bigger properties.

However, she said inequality among generations and incomes meant many would need to rent instead, which could increase demand in that sector.

The UK housing market is judged by average prices, but there are a host of local markets in which schools, housing development and regional employment that can affect property values.

By By Kevin
Peachey Personal finance correspondent