UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out windfall tax on oil giants

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 18th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Conservative former minister Robert Halfon and Mel Stride, Tory chairman of the Treasury Committee, both indicated support for the policy

Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out introducing a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers in an attempt to cut household energy bills – as some senior Conservative MPs joined Labour in calling for the policy to be implemented.

MPs discussed “the short-term and long-term cost of living increases” on the fifth day of debate on the Queen's Speech.

Sir Keir Starmer's party forced a vote on an amendment which expressed regret that a windfall tax policy was not included in the Queen's Speech amid the cost of living crisis.

The amendment was defeated by 310 votes to 248, a majority of 62 votes.

 

But both Conservative former minister Robert Halfon and Tory chairman of the influential Treasury Select Committee indicated their support for the policy.

Mr Halfon referred to oil company bosses as “the new oligarchs” with their “multi-million pound salaries” and “multi-million pound bonuses”.

“I would urge him [Mr Sunak] to consider both a windfall tax on the oil companies – which we can then use to cut taxes for the lower paid or cut energy bills – and also to introduce a pump watch monitor to make sure there is fair competition and consumers get a fair deal at the pumps,” he told the Commons.

Conservative chairman of the treasury select committee Mel Stride added that he would also support a windfall tax as it is a “sensible measure” in the current economic climate.

“I do think the arguments that he (Ed Miliband) has put forward are generally sensible, and I'm very pleased in turn that my right honourable friend the Chancellor has indicated that the door is at least partially open, albeit caveated on the investment performance of the companies concerned,” Mr Stride said.

Meanwhile, shadow climate change and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said it was “shameful” that the government has not yet introduced a windfall tax and told Mr Sunak to “swallow your pride and get on with it”.

Ofgem: ‘Things are going to get tougher'

He called on Conservative MPs to join Labour in supporting the “fair and principled measure” which he said has support from business, trade unions and the “overwhelming majority of the public”.

“The truth is, they have run out of excuses, and amidst the chaos and confusion about what their position is, I think a massive U-turn is lumbering slowly over the hill,” Mr Miliband added.

The chancellor told MPs does not believe that windfall taxes are the solution to every problem, but added that if oil and gas giants do not invest their profits back into “growth, job and energy security” then the policy could be introduced.

“If it doesn't happen soon and at a significant scale then no option is off the table,” he told MPs.

The chancellor has previously said he is not “naturally attracted” to the idea of a windfall tax but that he would be “pragmatic about it” in light of the large profits oil and gas companies are currently generating due to elevated prices.

BP and Shell reported bumper profits earlier this year as energy prices skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak dismissed criticism of the economic help being provided to households by the Treasury.

“To suggest there is no help available is both misleading and irresponsible,” he said.



 

Mr Sunak also admitted that “the next few months are going to be difficult” for households because inflation is surging globally.

“There is no measure nay government can take, any law we can pass, that can make those global forces disappear overnight,” he told MPs.

“No honest chancellor can stand here and say prices won't rise further.”

The chancellor also told MPs he will act to cut costs for people but did not say when this will happen.

It comes as a new survey of 2,000 Britons found that rising bills have meant one in four people have resorted to skipping meals.

More than four in five are concerned about the rising cost of living in the coming months, according to the Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Sky News.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, responding to the result, said: “Conservative MPs have chosen to side with profiteering oil and gas companies over working people.

“Millions are being walloped by soaring bills and prices – having been left badly exposed to this crisis after more than a decade of standstill wages and cuts to social security, overseen by successive Tory governments.

“All the while the likes of Shell and BP are registering eye-watering profits.”

 

UK pig farmers given £6.6m by Tesco following plea

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 18th May 2022) London, Uk – –

UK pig farmers have welcomed a decision by Tesco, their biggest customer, to pay an extra £6.6m to pork producers.

It follows a National Pig Association (NPA) letter to Tesco urging it to “do the right thing” and pay more or risk losing its British pork supply base.

The NPA's chairman, Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer, said the organisation was “very, very pleased” with the supermarket giant's offer.

Tesco said its support between March and August would amount to £10m.

The NPA warned four out of five pig producers could go out of business within a year unless Tesco paid more.

Tesco, whose headquarters is in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, said it had already given the industry £3.4m since March.

Dominic Morrey, Tesco Fresh commercial director, said: “We know there is more to do, and we will be working with suppliers, farmers and the wider industry to drive more transparency and sustainability across our supply chains and support the future of the British pig industry.”

Mr Mutimer, who farms at Swannington near Aylsham, said: “This is a very welcome boost for beleaguered pig farmers, who are currently facing unprecedented costs of production and need a tangible increase in the price they are being paid in order to stay in business.

“We look forward to seeing the pig price rising very soon as a result of this action, and hopefully we can begin to stem the flow of producers exiting the industry.”

In its letter of last week, the NPA said other supermarkets had already confirmed additional support for farmers who were facing rising costs and staff shortages.

It said Waitrose had pledged a new £16m support package and Sainsbury's had offered £2.8m in additional short-term support.

The NPA said the east of England was the UK's largest region in terms of pork production.

 

Mobile operator Vodafone cautious on 2023 outcome

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 17th May 2022) London, UK —

Vodafone (VOD.L), the European and African mobile operator, forecast earnings growth for the current year below market expectations on Tuesday, saying it hoped to deliver a resilient performance against a difficult economic backdrop.

The British-listed mobile operator reported a 5% rise in its 2022 financial year core earnings, meeting the bottom of its guidance.

Vodafone, which was backed by a $4.4 billion investment from the UAE-based telecoms company e& in recent days, said it expected to deliver a resilient financial performance in the year ahead.

It reported adjusted core earnings of 15.21 billion euros, within its range but short of market expectations of 15.28 billion euros, on group revenue of 45.58 billion euros, up 4%.

Chief Executive Nick Read said he was focused on improving the group's performance in Germany, pursing opportunities for Vantage Towers, the infrastructure business it spun out last year, and “strengthening its markets positions in Europe”.

In February, Read said Vodafone was pursuing mergers with rivals in multiple European markets, notable Spain, Italy, Britain and Portugal.

The company issued broad guidance for the current financial year, with a range for adjusted core earnings of 15.0 – 15.5 billion euros, below the average the market currently expects of 15.57 billion euros.

Adjusted free cash flow was expected to be around 5.3 billion euros, it said, down on 5.4 billion euros reported on Tuesday.

Reporting by Paul Sandle

 

 

Abbott baby formula maker to restart production amid US shortage

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 17th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Michigan plant had been under investigation for safety concerns and it will take over a month to begin shipping product

The baby formula maker Abbott has reached an agreement with US health regulators to restart production at its largest domestic factory amid a nationwide formula shortage that has left shelves bare and parents scrambling.

Monday’s agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amounts to a legally binding agreement between regulators and the company on steps needed to reopen the plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been under investigation for safety concerns.

However, it will be well over a month before any new products ship from the site to help alleviate the situation. After production resumes, Abbott said it will take between six and eight weeks before the formula will begin arriving in stores.

Abbott is one of just four companies that produce roughly 90% of US formula, and its brands account for nearly half that market.

The company didn’t set a timeline to restart production or offer further details about the terms of the deal.

The FDA announced additional steps to ease the supply chain crunch, saying it was was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to begin shipping more formula into the US.

“The FDA expects that the measures and steps it’s taking with infant formula manufacturers and others will mean more and more supply is on the way or on store shelves moving forward,” FDA commissioner Robert Califf told reporters.

Califf said the US will prioritize companies that can provide the largest shipments and quickly show documentation that their formulas are safe and compatible with US nutrition standards. The policy is structured as a temporary measure lasting six months.

It comes as Joe Biden’s administration faces intense pressure to do more to ease the shortage that has left many parents hunting for formula online or at food banks.

Abbott’s plant came under scrutiny early this year after the FDA began investigating four bacterial infections among infants who consumed powdered formula from the plant. Two of the babies died.

The crunch intensified when, in February, the company halted production and recalled several brands of powdered formula, squeezing supplies that had already been tightened by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during Covid-19. The shortage has led retailers such as CVS and Walgreens to limit how many containers customers can buy in each visit.

Outrage over the issue has quickly snowballed and handed Republicans a fresh talking point to use against Biden ahead of November’s midterm elections.

After a six-week inspection, FDA investigators published a list of problems at the Abbott factory in March, including lax safety and sanitary standards and a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant.

The Chicago-based company has emphasized that its products have not been directly linked to the bacterial infections in children. Samples of the bacteria found at its plant did not match the strains collected from the babies by federal investigators. The company has repeatedly stated it is ready to resume manufacturing.

Former FDA officials say fixing the type of problems uncovered at Abbott’s plant takes time, and infant formula facilities receive more scrutiny than other food facilities. Companies need to exhaustively clean the facility and equipment, retrain staff, repeatedly test and document there is no contamination.

Pediatricians say baby formulas produced in Canada and Europe are roughly equivalent to those in the US. But traditionally, 98% of the infant formula supply in the US is made domestically. Companies seeking to enter the US face several major hurdles, including rigorous research and manufacturing standards imposed by the FDA.

Steven Davis, a San Diego father, has faced heart-wrenching challenges finding formula for his medical fragile daughter, who was on an Abbott formula but has had to switch with the recall and subsequent shortages in other brands.

Zoie Davis was born 19 months ago with no kidneys, a rare life-threatening condition that requires dialysis and a feeding tube until she weighs enough for a kidney transplant. She’s 4lb shy of that milestone, said Davis, a mortgage lender.

“Her life is dependent on her weight gain,” he said.

Davis said he used an organic brand from overseas until costs and customs hurdles made that too difficult. Friends and strangers from out of state have sent him other brands, but each time she switches it requires more blood tests and monitoring, Davis said.

Despite her challenges, Zoie is walking, talking and “doing pretty good” on other developmental milestones, Davis said.

“She’s a shining light in my life,” he said.

The shortage is weighing particularly on lower-income parents such as Clara Hinton, 30, of Hartford, Connecticut, who has a 10-month-old daughter, Patience, who has an allergy that requires a special formula.

Hinton, who has no car, has been taking the bus to the suburbs, going from town to town, and finally found some of the proper formula at a box store in West Hartford. But she said the store refused to take her food stamps card, and she recently ran out of formula from an already opened can she got from a friend.

“She has no formula,” she said. “I just put her on regular milk. What do I do? Her pediatrician made it clear I’m not supposed to be doing that, but what do I do?”

Ryanair warns prices to rise due to high demand for European beach holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 16th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Plane ticket prices will rise this summer due to high demand for European beach holidays, Ryanair has said.

Airline boss Michael O'Leary said he expects prices for flights to rise by a “high single-digit per cent”.

He said the airline's lower fares were currently driving an increase in passenger numbers, helping the company's recovery from the pandemic.

He said he hoped the airline would return to “reasonable profitability” in its current financial year.

The firm reported annual losses of €355m (£302m) on Monday, saying its recovery from Covid restrictions being lifted had been impacted by the Omicron variant and the war in Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine has driven up global oil prices with concerns supplies from Russia, a major exporter of fossil fuels and jet fuel, could be disrupted.

The group's loss for the year to 31 March was smaller than expected and narrowed from the €1.02bn (£867m) losses seen the previous year.

‘So much demand'

Mr O'Leary said he expected prices to be lower up to June compared to pre-pandemic levels, but added “based on about 50% of all bookings, we expect prices will be up high single-digit per cent” over the Summer.

“It seems to us that there will be higher prices into that peak summer period because there's so much demand for the beaches of Europe and those price rises going to continue,” told the BBC's Today programme.

“I think prices will be low next winter. But it's too early to say, there's clearly going to be an economic downturn, there's some fear of recession and in a recession the lowest-cost provider, which in the UK and in Europe is Ryanair, will do better, but will do better because we can sustain lower prices.”

In its results the airline stated customers were still booking their trips later than usual and said the “booking curve” looked more like pre-Covid times.

Ryanair said traffic recovered strongly as it carried 97.1 million guests, up from just 27.5 million the year before thanks to the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

It said it hopes to boost this further to 165 million passengers this year – ahead of the 149 million record level seen pre-Covid.

Elsewhere, Holiday giant Tui has said it expects summer bookings to “almost reach” 2019 levels this year, but warned there will be “no last minute” deals.

“There will be practically no last minute offers at low prices this summer,” said Fritz Joussen, Tui's chief executive.

Mr O'Leary said he hoped to see “pinch points” at UK airports such as Manchester or Heathrow eliminated by the end of June in time for the peak summer period.

He said: “There's no doubt I think getting through airports this summer is going to be challenging and we're encouraging all of our customers to show up earlier and allow more time to get through airport security”.

However he claimed this was less the case at other airports Ryanair uses, such as Glasgow, Stansted, and Bristol.

He said Ryanair didn't face the same recruitment challenges as some competitors because it had kept people on.

Ryanair asked staff to take pay cuts during the pandemic to avoid job losses.

Energy price cap adjustments could be reviewed every three months under Ofgem reform plan

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 16th May 2022) London, Uk –

The energy price cap, the mechanism that determines gas and electricity bills for 22 million households, could soon be reviewed every three months under plans announced by the industry regulator.

Ofgem revealed that it was putting the idea out to consultation after criticism that the present twice-yearly adjustment arrangement – in April and October – had contributed to the failure of suppliers last year at the height of the wholesale gas price shock.

The cap, which was credited with shielding families from the worst of the COVID-linked rises in raw energy costs, prevented companies passing on the unprecedented increases to their customers.

It delayed the impact from the most damaging element of the cost of living crisis as households were forced to swallow unprecedented rises in one go, with the average bill rising by 54%, or £693 annually, from April to £1,971.

Thelatest forecasts suggest bills could rise to almost £2,600 in October when the next price cap adjustment is due – reflecting the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine for the first time.

Ofgem said its proposals would enable greater agility: allowing bills to rise or decline more quickly but its chief executive admitted during an interview with Sky News that the next movement would be upwards.

“A more frequent price cap would reflect the most up to date and accurate energy prices and mean when prices fall from the current record highs, customers would see the benefit much sooner,” the regulator said in its statement.

“This change would also help energy suppliers more accurately predict how much energy they need to purchase for their customers, reducing the risk of further supplier failures which ultimately push up costs for consumers.”

It has previously admitted that this proposal would have meant prices going up before the recent April rise but the consultation means that no cap adjustment is imminent.

‘More help is coming', says minister

Ofgem said it planned to bring in the changes from October, so households would see no impact from an update until 1 January under the plans.

They also include an effort to ensure that consumers are able to reap the benefits of falling gas prices more quickly, Ofgem added.

The regulator said: “This is all part of a range of plans to make the market fairer and more resilient, such as stress tests for suppliers and a more robust scrutiny of supplier business plans.

“Ofgem also recently wrote to suppliers to alert them to a series of market compliance reviews to ensure, amongst other things, that they are handling direct debits fairly, and that overall, they are held to higher standards for performance on customer service and protecting vulnerable customers.”

It argued that the cap change should reduce the risk of costs related to supplier failures landing at the feet of bill-payers.

Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley told Sky News it would also mean that bills could go up quicker, but they would also fall more rapidly in reaction to wholesale price shifts.

“Remember that the total cost you pay over the year would be absolutely the same, because that reflects only the cost of the energy that we buy.

“Yes, the price would go up more quickly as prices go up, but equally importantly as those prices come down, then the price cap comes back down again.

“I remember back in the 2010s when people saw their prices go up and were waiting and wondering why prices didn't come down equally quickly.

“The good thing about the price cap is that we will make sure it only reflects costs, and therefore it only reflects what you need to pay for your energy.”

He added: “With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are seeing a sustained increase, a further increase, in gas prices. So, the difficult news I have is that it is likely in October that prices will go up again.”

The energy price cap is the largest single driver of UK inflation, which is tipped by economists to take a leap forwards this week when the figures for April are released.

The price cap surge means the consumer prices index measure could exceed 9% – a 40-year high according to forecasts – from the current 7%.

The Bank of England warned this month that the impact of the growing cost of living crisis risked the UK entering recession by the year's end, with inflation topping 10%.

The promise of a slump in living standards has prompted calls from business, oppositions parties and unions for an emergency budget.

Boris Johnson promised action within “days” last week but there has been little sign that Rishi Sunak is preparing for further, targeted, support imminently.

The chancellor has refused to rule out the idea of windfall taxes on energy companies contributing to any further taxpayer aid.

By James Sillars

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Tesco trials renting out office space to workers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 13th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Remote working and your weekly shop in one? Both could be possible after Tesco announced a flexible working trial with office service provider IWG.

From mid-May, people will be able to use office space created in the chain's New Malden store in London.

A flexible office area will use space in-store, with desks, co-working areas and a meeting room provided.

The move highlights the continued move away from traditional office set-ups since the pandemic.

IWG said that the trial with Tesco was reflective of “really strong demand” from office workers to have suburban alternatives close to home, as opposed to commuting into city centres.

“People don't want to spend hours commuting every day and instead want to live and work in their local communities,” said Mark Dixon, founder and chief executive of IWG.

Research from the company suggests that 72% of workers would prefer to work flexibly.

Zooms from the milk aisle?

The partnership comes as supermarkets are increasingly looking for new ways to make money from their physical stores, with many shoppers having switched to online deliveries during the Covid pandemic.

The pandemic and lockdowns also caused a huge shift in people's working patterns and while restrictions have eased, the latest figures suggest that the shift to flexible working is here to stay.

A survey from the Chartered Institute of Management found more than 80% of firms had now adopted hybrid-working since the end of the pandemic.

Louise Goodland, head of strategic partnerships for Tesco, said the supermarket was always looking to “serve customers and communities better” and it would be interested to see the response to the trial.

By Star McFarlane

Royal Mail reveal plans for 500 drones to service all corners of the UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 13th May 2022) London, Uk – –

The firm says it aims to eventually use 500 drones to service all corners of the UK, with its boss saying it will also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Royal Mail is aiming to use up to 200 drones over the next three years as it creates 50 new “postal drone routes”.

They will help provide faster and more reliable services to remote communities – with the Hebrides, the Isles of Scilly, the Shetlands, and the Orkney Islands first in line.

Deliveries to these areas use ferries, regular aircraft and land transport but can be hampered by bad weather.

The drones will also help cut carbon emissions, according to Royal Mail.

Four trials have been going on over the last 18 months to areas including the Isle of Mull in Scotland and the Isles of Scilly, off Cornwall.

Test flights for the new service have also covered a near 100-mile round trip between Lerwick on Shetland and Unst in the north of the islands.

They've carried up to 100kg on two daily flights and when they land the post is distributed to the local delivery person to drop off as usual.

Royal Mail said it was hoping to eventually increase to 500 drones covering all areas of the country.

Its boss, Simon Thompson, said: “On-time delivery regardless of our customers' location or the weather, whilst protecting our environment, is our goal.

“Even though we go everywhere, Royal Mail already has the lowest CO2 emissions per parcel delivered. This initiative will help reduce our emissions even further.”

In 2019, Amazon said it was months away from using drones to deliver parcels but the service has so far not materialised and still appears to be in development.

BT strikes deal with Warner Bros Discovery to create a joint venture pay-TV sport business

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 12th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Joint venture will bring together rights to sports including Premier League, Champions League and Olympics

BT has struck a deal with the US media company Warner Bros Discovery to create a joint venture pay-TV sport business, which will bring together rights to sports including the Premier League, the Champions League and the Olympics, worth as much as £633m to the telecoms operator.

In February, BT entered into exclusive talks with the US firm to merge BT Sport with the Discovery-owned Eurosport, which broadcasts a wide range of sports including tennis and cycling and holds the pan-European rights to the Olympics in the UK.

“We have finalised the sports joint venture with Warner Bros Discovery to improve our content offering to customers, aligning our business with a new global content powerhouse,” said Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT.

Under the terms of the 50:50 joint venture, which will be operated by Warner Bros Discovery, BT will receive a £93m payment in instalments over three years after completion of the deal.

BT will also receive up to £540m based on performance of the operation over a period of four years. This could pay out sooner if either the £540m performance cap is hit, or Warner Bros Discovery trigger a call option to take full control.

The two companies said that the BT Sport and Eurosport brands would both initially continue to operate in the UK market “before being brought together under a single brand in the future”.

“Our growing portfolio of premium entertainment content promises to deliver consumers a richer and deeper content proposition, not only providing greater value from their subscriptions but bringing sport to a wider entertainment audience,” said Andrew Georgiou, president and managing director of Warner Bros Discovery sports Europe.

Jansen said that the price increases in phone, TV and broadband bills pushed through on 1 April has so far not had an impact on customers cancelling services to save money.

“Churn is pretty much at record lows,” he said. “One big part of what drives churn is value for money and pricing. Adding additional benefits and bundling of services for customers. It is working. We are not complacent, but what we are offering our customers is hitting our mark.

“On average the price increases we are putting through are about £35 for a year … We know we give great value for money.”

BT, which has raised its cost savings target by £500m to £2.5bn by the end of 2025, has spent billions on sports rights to drive the growth of BT Sport since it was launched a decade ago to stem the loss of millions of broadband customers enticed by its rival Sky’s offers bundling internet connectivity with sport and entertainment programming.

The business succeeded in its job, although it only has a few million customers and turns just a small profit, and BT is now focused on its £15bn plans to roll out next-generation broadband and 5G mobile networks across the UK.

“As a global sports and entertainment broadcaster Warner Bros Discovery is the perfect partner to work with us to take BT Sport to the next stage of its growth,” said Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s Consumer operation.

BT, which has had to seek clearance from the Premier League and Champions League to push through the change in ownership, has also extended a reciprocal channel supply deal with Sky that is crucial to its sports broadcasting business until 2030.

By Mark Sweney

 

HSBC launches $1 bln lending fund to invest in female-owned businesses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 12th May 2022) London, UK —

HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) said on Thursday it was launching a $1 billion lending fund to invest in female-owned businesses over the next 12 months.

“The level of funding received over time by female-led businesses is significantly lower than male counterparts, while the recent impacts of the pandemic have seen these same businesses disproportionately affected,” Sam Cooper-Gray, global head of market strategy at HSBC Business Banking, said in a statement.



“Female-owned businesses are also less likely to have global networks, meaning international expansion can prove particularly challenging,” she said.

The fund appears to cover more markets than any other such initiative.

In January 2021, NatWest Group (NWG.L) allocated 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) to support female-led businesses in Britain recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to 1 billion pounds the bank made available in 2020.

HSBC said access to funding remained one of the biggest hurdles for female business leaders worldwide. Female-owned businesses had received just 3% of start-up funding in 2019, HSBC said.



HSBC's Female Entrepreneur Fund will be open to both new and existing customers across 11 markets, with nearly half of them in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Other markets include the United States, Britain and Uruguay.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga

 

Lloyd’s-Licensed Broker Launches Crypto Insurance Product

(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 12th May 2022) London, Uk – –

The Daylight insurance offering for crypto firms begins with technology liability and cyber insurance.

Superscript, a U.K. startup and Lloyd’s of London insurance market broker, has launched a dedicated product for crypto businesses.

“Daylight,” as the new insurance offering for digital-asset firms is called, begins with technology liability and cyber insurance, which serve as protection against everything from ransomware attacks to unintentional copyright infringement.

In recent years, cryptocurrency and insurance have been uneasy bedfellows, with a shortage of capacity in the market and many large crypto exchanges simply opting to self-insure, holding reserves of bitcoin (BTC) to cover their losses, typically in case of a hack of “hot” wallets, or those connected to the internet.

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Superscript, which was part of last year’s Lloyd’s Lab accelerator, said the first crypto businesses in line to buy tech and cyber cover are Argent, Chiliz and CEX.

“As well as protecting the actual physical digital assets, there’s a whole other world of risk that also needs to be covered,” said Superscript digital assets lead Ben Davis in an interview. “So, if a platform goes down … there are privacy breaches, ransomware attacks, breaches of contract, copyright and IP infringement. All that needs to be covered for crypto companies to move into the mainstream.”

As of 2021, there were just 350 brokers licensed to deal with Lloyd’s. Superscript says it’s the first Lloyd’s broker to provide a digital assets dedicated product; Lloyd’s-approved coverholder status was granted to Evertas earlier this year. (Lloyd’s policy is not to promote individual products and therefore it did not provide a quote for Daylight, a Superscript representative said via email.)

That said, Lloyd’s is slowly but surely coming round to crypto, according to Davis. “I would say the winds are changing a little bit for Lloyd’s in terms of digital asset risk,” he said.

By Ian Allison

Toyota the world’s largest car-maker warns operating earnings could fall by a fifth this year

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 11th  May 2022) London, Uk – –

The yen's recent depreciation has helped Japan's export-driven car industry. But the cost of raw materials and global supply chain problems made worse by China's COVID measures are hurting profits.

The world's largest car-maker has warned that its operating earnings could fall by a fifth this year due to “unprecedented increases in materials and logistics costs”.

Toyota said operating profit will fall from almost 3trn yen (£18.6bn) in the previous year to 2.4trn yen (£14.9bn) in the current fiscal year, well below analysts' expectations.

The Japanese car-maker also announced a 33% slide in fourth-quarter profit – news which sent its shares down more than 5% early on Wednesday.

It said it expected the cost of materials to more than double to 1.45trn yen (£9bn) in the fiscal year that started last month.

The company fared well during the early months of the global chip shortage that has hampered many of its rivals, but it has now become the latest to slash production, particularly due to problems in China.

Toyota, which had already cut six production lines at a total of four plants, revealed on Tuesday that a total of 12 factories would now be affected as supply chains are delayed by the effects of China's COVID pandemic curbs.

Shanghai is in its sixth week of heavy restrictions on movement that has not only affected factory output but also shipments to and from its bustling port, China's largest by cargo volumes.

Toyota said that 14 more production lines would be affected by the suspension, for up to six days this month.

It would mean, the company said, that around 40,000 vehicles faced delays and wider disruption would result in the group's global production target falling by 50,000 to 700,000 vehicles for the month.

Tui warns there will be “no last minute” low price deals as holiday bookings surge

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 11th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Holiday giant Tui has said it expects summer bookings to “almost reach” 2019 levels this year, but warned there will be “no last minute” low price deals.

The company said bookings had surged in the past six weeks as people planned for summer breaks after the easing of Covid travel restrictions.

But it warned the impact of Covid and the Ukraine war on customer behaviour remained “difficult to predict”.

Tui's boss warned of price rises and limited offers due to high fuel costs.

“There will be practically no last minute offers at low prices this summer,” said Fritz Joussen.

Tui's losses halved to €614.5m (£525m) in the six months to March, as it hailed a strong recovery in customer demand.

As a result, the company told its shareholders it could return to profit by the end of the year.

“The high demand for travel and the very good business performance confirm our forecasts,” said Mr Joussen.

“2022 will be a good financial year. Capacity almost reaches pre-corona level of 2019.”

He added: “After two years of crisis, we expect Tui to become profitable again in the current financial year… This is the basis for new growth.”

In the past three months, 1.9 million customers flew with Tui which was an increase of 1.7 million compared to the same period in 2021 when global travel was on its knees due to the pandemic.

The firm said bookings for summer holidays were currently at 85% of 2019 levels, with reservations from UK customers up 11% on two years ago.

Analyaia:  By Kathy Austin

With Covid travel restrictions receding, demand for overseas summer holidays is coming back with a bang.

And for Tui, UK holidaymakers are leading the way back to the beach.

The tour operator says people are spending more on summer trips, for example going for longer and taking more package tours.

The optimism isn't completely un-clouded. Tui – like other travel businesses – will be keeping an eye on how the Ukraine war, inflation and any future travel restrictions affect consumers' behaviour.

Many airports and some airlines had a tricky Easter holiday period. Some simply didn't have enough staff to cope with the sudden surge in demand.

But this is another sign that lots of people still want to go away, and they are getting booking.

In fact, people trying to book summer trips or hotels at the last minute might find their options limited as lots of other people have got there first.

The phasing out of UK testing rules in February has resulted in growing demand for flights and holidays. However, some countries still expect travellers to follow isolation and testing requirements.

On Tuesday, Heathrow Airport said it had seen strong demand in April and forecast that passenger numbers will grow this summer.

However, the UK's biggest airport said demand would only hit 65% of pre-pandemic levels overall for the year as rising prices force customers to cut back.

The Bank of England expects inflation – the rate at which prices rise – to breach 10% later this year, putting the UK at risk of recession.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine, higher fuel costs, continuing travel restrictions for key markets like the United States and the potential for a further variant of concern creates uncertainty going forward,” the airport said.

IKEA to spend 3 billion euros on stores as it adapts to e-commerce

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 10th May 2022) London, UK —

IKEA retailer Ingka Group is spending 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) through 2023 on new and existing stores, much of it to modify its trademark out-of-town outlets so they can double up as e-commerce distribution centres.

Tolga Oncu, retail manager at the group which owns most IKEA stores worldwide, told Reuters the money would be spent across all regions, though about a third is earmarked for London, a test-bed for new store formats and logistics set-ups.

In the past few years, Ingka has adapted to the rise in online shopping by developing smaller stores, revamping its website and rolling out a new app as well as digital services such remote planning tools.

“We feel we have a catch-up to do on the back-end of our operation (and) we have realised that by including stores in our last mile and fulfilment design network we can create a win-win situation,” Oncu said.

Shipping online purchases from the warehouse sections of nearby out-of-town stores will mean faster and cheaper deliveries, with lower emissions, than by shipping from a few logistics centres, he said.

“Instead of building central warehouse capacities for online buys, why don't we send it from our IKEA stores?”

Automating existing out-of-town stores' warehouse sections will account for a lot of the investments, Oncu added.

The plan comes as many businesses turn cautious in the face of geopolitical tensions, high inflation and worsening consumer confidence. But Oncu said that for IKEA, which is funded by its owner foundations, the timing couldn't be better.

“I agree the outlook (for consumer spending overall) looks a bit gloomy. That means value for money and time, affordable solutions that are of good quality, function and design and sustainable will increase in demand,” he said.

During the pandemic, IKEA has seen record demand for its cut-price home furninshings as people spent more time at home.

Over the past three fiscal years, Ingka has invested around 2.1 billion euros in new and existing stores in its 32 markets.

The latest spending will also focus on new traditional “blue-box stores” in Romania, China and India, and new city stores, as well as planning studios, in Canada, Denmark, Italy, India, the United States and other countries.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom

 

British Gas to take on 500 staff to help customers facing soaring bills

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 10th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Company to beef up energy support fund as owner Centrica says profits will hit top end of City forecasts

British Gas is to beef up its customer services team to deal with the sharp rise in the number of distressed customers who are struggling to cope with soaring bills, as its owner, Centrica, predicted annual profits will hit the top end of expectations.

The company is to recruit another 500 people to field calls from the growing number of people who are facing higher energy bills at a time when the wider cost of living is outpacing wage growth, piling pressure on household budgets.

A spokesperson for Centrica said demand for customer services had been “phenomenal” over the past year. “We’re taking on extra employees to manage that demand,” they said. “Customers are very concerned about rising energy costs and we want to help them as much as we can.”

The average household dual fuel tariff jumped to just under £2,000 a year on 1 April, when the UK’s energy regulator raised the price cap by 54% to reflect sky-high wholesale gas prices. Bills are poised to rise further at the next energy price cap review in October.

Centrica said in a trading statement on Tuesday that it expected 2022 operating profits to come at the top end of City forecasts, which range from £739m to £1.4bn.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to help low-income households, and calls for a windfall tax on energy producers such as BP and Shell have intensified after they made billions in profits on the back of higher oil and gas prices.

Centrica has also beefed up the British Gas energy support fund, set up in December, which has tripled in value since then to £6m. It provides grants of up to £750 to help vulnerable customers pay their energy bills.

The fund has paid out £1.9m to 3,600 customers so far, equating to an average grant of £534. A further £1.6m of grants is pending.

Centrica will create a further 1,000 engineering apprenticeships after 500 were set up last year, with the goal of taking on 3,500 over the next decade.

It said supply chain disruption, with global delays to shipments of some parts, and higher inflation was affecting the British Gas services arm. However, its British nuclear and gas production business is performing strongly, and the company has secured more supplies of gas from Norway and renewable energy – mainly wind and solar – from across Europe and within the UK.

By Julia Kollewe

Scottish Power boss urges £1,000 bill cut for 10 million

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon 9th May 2022) London, Uk – –

The boss of Scottish Power has warned that millions of customers face an horrific winter unless there is a major government intervention in energy firms.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, told the BBC that another expected rise in energy bills in October to between £2,500 and £3,000 a year could see huge losses for suppliers and many customers unable to pay their bills.

He warned regulator Ofgem that setting the new price cap too low could risk suppliers collapsing or the foreign owned firms leaving the market.

Mr Anderson has put some flesh on the bones of a plan he first mentioned in a frank exchange with a committee of MPs three weeks ago.

He has called for ten million households to have their energy bills reduced by £1,000 this October.

He said the government's plan to give each household £200 towards their energy bill – a sum that will need to be paid back – would not be enough.

“We need to be realistic about the gravity of the situation – around 40% of UK households, potentially 10 million homes, could be in fuel poverty this winter,” Mr Anderson explained.

The price cap is set to be increased again in October.

To date, the government has said it will offer extra relief of £150 in April via the council tax system in England, and in October customers in England, Scotland and Wales will receive a £200 rebate on their energy bills.

They will have to repay this at £40 a year for five years, starting in April 2023.

However, Mr Anderson said a £10bn tariff reduction fund could be paid for by adding £40 annually to all household energy bills for the next decade. He said this would be the most effective to avoid fuel poverty for the most vulnerable.

Mr Anderson said that such a fund would directly tackle the biggest cause of the cost of living crisis in a way that other measures – such as the recent 5p cut to fuel duty or a possible cut to the frequency of MOT testing – do not.

Households on pre-payment meters and those in receipt of benefits would be eligible for the discount.

Mr Anderson also said more energy companies could collapse if their customers were unable to pay their bills.

Scottish Power is owned by Spanish firm Iberdrola and Mr Anderson fears that foreign owned energy suppliers – including EDF, Eon and his own – might struggle to persuade their parent companies to continue to subsidise loss-making UK subsidiaries and exit the UK market.

Warning to Ofgem

Scottish Power is also concerned that energy companies will sustain further big losses if Ofgem sets the new energy price cap – due to take effect in October – too low.

Wholesale gas prices have fallen sharply since the all time records set in March.

However, many energy companies bought the gas they will supply this winter at prices much higher than current levels.

If Ofgem does not recognise this when it sets the new cap, some firms will have to sell at a significant loss threatening them with further distress or collapse which would further destabilise the market, according to Scottish Power.

“We need to find a way to help to those that need it in time for winter in a way that doesn't exacerbate the issues we've already seen in the industry with supplier failures and very real concerns about billpayers running up unsustainable debts,” Mr Anderson continued.

Energy suppliers concede that further government support would help them as well as their customers.

Meanwhile, government officials privately say that it is hard to distinguish between genuine potential financial distress for the energy companies and intense lobbying.

Ofgem responded that it is “too soon” to predict the level of the price cap from October. However, it said that new measures earlier this year will allow it in “exceptional circumstances”, to update the price cap more frequently than once every six months, to “ensure that the price cap continues to reflect the true cost of supplying energy”.

“This was introduced in the interests of stabilising the market and making sure both consumers and suppliers pay a fair price,” Ofgem added.

The Treasury has said it is monitoring the situation and would review the level of support needed when the level of the new price cap became clear in late summer.

By Simon Jack

 

West End landlords Capco and Shaftesbury in advanced talks about £3.5bn merger

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 9th May 2022) London, Uk – –

The owners of London landmarks including Covent Garden and Carnaby Street are in advanced talks about an all-share deal that would create a group worth about £3.5bn, Sky News learns.

Two companies behind large swathes of London's West End are in advanced talks about a £3.5bn merger that would unite world-famous tourist destinations, including Covent Garden and Chinatown under common ownership.

Sky News has learnt that Capital & Counties Properties – also known as Capco – and Shaftesbury are in detailed discussions about an all-share tie-up that could be announced within weeks.

If completed, the merger would bring together two of London's most prominent landlords, creating a powerhouse of West End property ownership as the capital tries to navigate its way towards a successful post-pandemic future.

Capco is the landlord to shops and restaurants in Covent Garden, while Shaftesbury owns chunks of other prime central London landmarks, such as Carnaby Street, Chinatown and Seven Dials.

Speculation about a tie-up between the two companies has persisted since May 2020, when Capco bought property tycoon Samuel Tak Lee's 26% stake in Shaftesbury for £436m.

One analyst said that Norges Bank, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, was likely to be an instrumental player in a merger, owing to its large stakes in both Capco and Shaftesbury.

Both Capco and Shaftesbury were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the latter raising about £300m from a share sale in the autumn of 2020.

Capco participated in that cash call on a pro rate basis, enabling it to maintain its stake.

The Covent Garden owner lost over a quarter of its value in 2020, reflecting the sharp decline in visitor numbers during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis.

Many commercial property-owners were forced to step in to provide rent relief to retailers and hospitality businesses two years ago, with dozens of prominent store and restaurant chains collapsing.

Among the casualties which either fell into administration or implemented restructuring plans that hit creditors including landlords were Debenhams, TopShop, Carluccio's and Prezzo.

In recent months, though, landlords have struck a more upbeat tone, despite uncertainties caused by the Omicron variant and the shift towards hybrid working.

Shaftesbury said in February that its vacancy rate had fallen below 5% for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

Ian Hawksworth, Capco chief executive, said during the same month that the outlook had become more positive.

“We are pleased with the strong level of leasing demand for Covent Garden which has contributed to a valuation uplift in the second half.

“With footfall continuing to increase, customer sales approaching 2019 levels and our creative approach, Covent Garden is the most vibrant district in the West End and is well-positioned for further rental growth,” he added.

On Friday, shares in Capco closed nearly 3% higher amid speculation that Capco could be a takeover target for an unnamed suitor.

The increase left Capco with a market capitalisation of about £1.37bn.

Shaftesbury, meanwhile, closed just under 1% lower at 577p, giving it a market value of £2.23bn.

Further details of the proposed merger structure, including the prospective leadership of the combined group, were unclear on Saturday morning.

However, both companies are likely to be forced to confirm the talks to the London Stock Exchange when it opens on Monday.

Mr Hawksworth and his opposite number at Shaftesbury, Brian Bickell, are both respected figures in the commercial property sector, although it is not certain that both would remain at a combined group.

There may also be scope for substantial cost synergies from the deal.

Capco's history dates back to the 1930s, although it did not acquire Covent Garden's Piazza until 2006, while Shatesbury, which owns 16 acres in the West End, was founded in 1985, floating in London the following year.

Capco is understood to be being advised by bankers at Rothschild, while Blackdown Partners and Evercore Partners are advising Shaftesbury.

Shaftesbury declined to comment, while Capco has been contacted for comment.

By

 

How Apeel Sciences Founder Raised $650 Million For Their Food-Saving Start-Up


Source: CNBC

James Rogers, founder of Apeel Sciences, learned that one of the main causes of global hunger isn’t that we as a species aren’t capable of growing enough food, it’s that so much of it goes bad before it can be consumed.

The reason food goes bad is fairly simple: Oxygen comes in, water goes out. If he could find a way to stretch that out, he might be able to make a dent in global hunger.

James thought, if we could slow the process of steel from oxidizing, why couldn’t we do the same for a ripe avocado?

Here’s how Apeel became a $2 billion start-up looking to end world hunger.