Thomas Cook to close 21 stores placing 300 jobs at risk

( via – – Fri, 22nd March 2019) London, Uk – –

Travel firm Thomas Cook is closing 21 stores across the country and cutting more than 300 jobs.

The company said 102 customer-facing roles would be axed as a result of the store closures, while it planned to cut a further 218 jobs “following a review of the retail workforce”.

It said holidaymakers continued to switch bookings from stores to online.

In September, Thomas Cook said profits would be hit after the summer heatwave saw many take their holidays in the UK.

It issued a second profit warning in November, when it said winter bookings were also down.

The shop closures will take the number of Thomas Cook outlets down to 566.

It said a consultation with staff and unions had begun.

The firm's chief of tour operating, Will Waggott, said: “Today's announcement reflects the wider challenges seen on the High Street, with more and more customers choosing to book online.”

Thomas Cook said 64% of all its bookings in the UK were made online last year.

It added that the job cuts and store closures were part of plans to “streamline” the business.

The stores earmarked for closure are:

  • Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • West Bromwich Sandwell Centre, West Midlands
  • Llandudno, North Wales
  • Sunderland Sainsbury's, Tyne & Wear
  • North Shields, Tyne & Wear
  • Peterlee, County Durham
  • Accrington, Lancashire
  • Market Harborough 23 St Marys Place, Leicestershire
  • Bury Haymarket, Lancashire
  • Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
  • Aberdeen Langstane, Aberdeen
  • Chesham, Buckinghamshire
  • Launceston, Cornwall
  • Stevenage, Hertfordshire
  • Shipley, West Yorkshire
  • Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire
  • Guildford, Surrey
  • Glenrothes 52 Unicorn Way, Fife
  • Colchester High St, Essex
  • Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
  • Kirkintilloch Cowgate, Glasgow

The majority of stores being closed were not profitable, and were chosen for closure as their leases were due for renewal, a spokesman said.

As well as weather-related woes, Thomas Cook has faced competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines.

It has also said political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey has been disruptive to its business.

Debenhams warns restructuring options could wipe out shareholders

( via — Fri, 22nd March 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Struggling British department store group Debenhams warned on Friday that its shareholders could be wiped out as a result of some of the restructuring options it is considering.

The firm said it was seeking 200 million pounds ($262 million) of additional funds from lenders that would give it the ability to pursue restructuring options to secure its future.

But it warned “certain of these options – if they materialize – would result in no equity value for the company’s current shareholders.”

Debenhams shares were down 59 percent at 1.35 pence at 0926 GMT.

Debenhams said it was seeking agreement from bondholders to change the terms of some of their bonds as part of the process to secure the new loans of up to 200 million pounds from existing lenders.

It had previously said it was working on a plan to raise an additional 150 million pounds.

Debenhams has launched a “consent solicitation” for holders of its 5.25 percent senior notes due 2021. This process seeks consents from bondholders to certain amendments to the existing notes.

Debenhams said a successful consent solicitation would allow it to enter into the new loan facilities.

The firm is also trying to fend off an attempt by its largest shareholder, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, to take control of the business.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle

UK retail sales and mild weather boost February sales growth ahead of Brexit

( via — Thur, 21st March 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British retail sales unexpectedly kept up a robust pace of expansion last month, after unusually warm weather boosted sales, reinforcing the sector’s role as a bright spot for the economy ahead of Brexit.

Annual retail sales growth slowed only a fraction to 4.0 percent in February after sales volumes grew at their fastest in more than two years in January, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a slowdown in sales growth to 3.3 percent.

Consumer spending has been a source of strength for the British economy at a time when businesses say that Brexit uncertainty is forcing them to postpone investment and a slower global economy is hurting export demand.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal though parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

Sales volumes in February alone rose by 0.4 percent versus a poll forecast of a decline, after jumping by 0.9 percent in January, while annual sales growth for the three months to February was its strongest in over two years at 3.7 percent.

Falling inflation, a steady rise in wages and the lowest unemployment since 1975 have all boosted household incomes over the past year, though after inflation wages are still below their peak before the financial crisis.

Last year overall British economic growth slowed to its weakest since 2012 and the Bank of England – which is predicted to keep rates on hold later on Thursday – forecasts the weakest growth for a decade this year.

The ONS said that unusually warm weather in February had boosted spending at garden centres and on sporting equipment, sales fell at supermarkets and in clothing stores due to an end of January’s seasonal promotions.

Earlier on Thursday, major British clothing chain Next reported a small fall in annual profit on Thursday, hurt by lower store sales, and forecast another decline for 2019-2020.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium at the start of the month had suggested that annual sales growth at bigger high-street stores slowed in February, with the trade association blaming Brexit.

Separate figures from the ONS on Thursday showed the government broadly on track to meet updated borrowing goals for the 2018/19 financial year, as the strong labour market boosted income tax revenue.

Public borrowing for February, the eleventh month of the tax year, fell to 0.2 billion pounds from 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier, below economists’ average forecast of 0.6 billion pounds in a Reuters poll.

BMW warns of significant profit fall in 2019, seeks 12 bln eur in cuts

With just one month remaining of the current financial year, government borrowing totals 23.1 billion pounds, down 44 percent from the same point in the 2017/18 tax year, though these figures are likely to be revised further.

Last week Britain’s official budget forecasters cut their 2018/19 borrowing forecast to 22.8 billion pounds or 1.1 percent of GDP from 25.5 billion pounds.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said at the time that if Brexit went smoothly there would be more money for public services in a major multi-year spending review due late this year.

Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce

Persimmon allow homebuyers to withhold £3,600 per home until faults are fixed

( via – – Thur, 21st Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

Contracts will state that 1.5% of property value can be held back until problems resolved

One of Britain’s biggest housebuilders has responded to criticism about the quality of its homes by allowing homebuyers to withhold an average of £3,600 per home until all faults are fixed.

Persimmon has come under fire for paying out £500m in bonuses to 150 executives and making an annual profit of £1.1bn on the back of the government’s help to buy scheme, while doing little to improve customer care and the quality of its new-build homes. Many homebuyers have complained about finding numerous defects after moving in, including leaks and cracking windows.

The company said it would offer a homebuyer’s retention, by writing into its contracts that 1.5% of the property value – an average of £3,600 per home – could be withheld by the buyer’s solicitor until any faults identified were resolved. The policy is expected to be fully in place by the end of June.

Roger Devlin, the chair, said: “This is a first among the UK’s large housebuilders and I hope will lead the way in change across the sector. This move, and the urgency with which we will introduce it, is a clear and unambiguous signal of cultural and operational change at Persimmon, putting customer care at the very centre of the business.”

Dave Jenkinson, the new chief executive, said: “Persimmon is listening hard to all of its stakeholders and we hear the message that we need to continue to raise our game in customer care. We are determined that the experience is not overshadowed by teething problems and providing a homebuyer’s retention is an important step towards achieving this.”

He said the builder had also taken steps to improve its accuracy of anticipated moving-in dates. Other improvements include offering maintenance appointments at weekends and out-of-hours opening of customer care departments.

Jenkinson, the former group managing director, took over from Jeff Fairburn, who left in November after his huge bonus – which made him the UK’s highest-paid chief executive – caused outrage. The firm’s annual report recently showed that Fairburn was paid nearly £85m in the past two years, more than the £75m he was thought to have received. Jenkinson received £45m.

Persimmon’s huge gains from the help to buy scheme – nearly half its 16,449 home sales last year were made through the taxpayer-funded scheme – have prompted a review by the housing minister.

By Julia Kollewe

Google fined €1.49bn from EU over advertising

QLM Image

( via – – Wed, 20th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Google has been hit with a €1.49bn (£1.28bn) from the EU for blocking rival online search advertisers.

It is the third EU fine for the search and advertising giant in two years.

The case accuses Google of abusing its market dominance by restricting third party rivals from displaying search ads between 2006 and 2016.

In response, Google changed its AdSense contracts with large third parties, giving them more leeway to display competing search ads.

Google owner Alphabet makes large amounts of money from advertising – pre-tax profits reached $30.7bn (£23bn) in 2018, up from $12.66bn in 2017.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites.

“This is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said EC commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

B&Q seeking replacement of chief executive Veronique Laury as profits slump 53%

( via– Wed, 20th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Veronique Laury is three years into a five-year turnaround but has come under pressure over falling profits and sales.

B&Q owner Kingfisher says it is looking for a new boss after reporting a 53% fall in profits and acknowledging that UK economic weakness and problems in France have hit turnaround plans.

The group confirmed it has launched a hunt to replace chief executive Veronique Laury, who has led the business since 2014.

It follows speculation that the board was preparing to sack her as the group suffered declining profits and sales.

A date for her departure has not yet been decided.

Kingfisher reported pre-tax profits of £322m for the year to the end of January compared to £682m the year before.

It was weighed down by weakness at its French Castorama brand as well as losses in Russia and Romania, plus a £111m charge for store closures in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

In the UK and Ireland, like-for-like sales at DIY chain B&Q fell 3%, partly because of a decision to scrap kitchen and bathroom installation services.

However, the Screwfix brand saw growth of 4.1% driven by trade sales to plumbers and electricians and will continue to grow its number of stores in the UK.

Sales at France's Castorama tumbled by 7.1% – blamed on weak footfall as well as “national demonstrations” at a time when gilets jaunes protests have been gripping the country.

Kingfisher said it was considering the sale of 15 loss-making Castorama stores. It is also closing all 19 of its Screwfix stores in Germany.

The group is three years into its “ONE Kingfisher” transformation plan led by Ms Laury which aims to boost profits by £500m by 2020-21.

Its overhaul has included the closure of 65 B&Q stores and about 3,000 job losses in the UK and Ireland.

Kingfisher said it was meeting its targets to deliver the shake-up but said it was “increasingly evident” that attempting to measure out the benefits of the transformation separately “no longer reflects how we manage the business”.

The group added that it had been hit by a combination of “internal factors” including transformation-related disruption and the performance of Castorama, and “external challenges” including weaker than expected growth and higher wage inflation in the UK.

It said that for the year ahead the outlook was “mixed”.

“The UK market remains uncertain and we are mindful of softer housing market activity in France,” the group said.

Departing chief executive Ms Laury said: “Leading the transformation has been so exciting but also very challenging. I believe it is right for someone else to lead the next phase.”

Chairman Andy Cosslett said she had been a “powerful leader of the business”.

He added: “We are now moving into a new phase where we can extract more of the benefits resulting from the hard work that has been put in, and it is therefore timely that we commence a succession process.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas, business reporter

UK unemployment fall below 4% for first time since 1975

( via– Tue, 19th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

The unemployment rate has fallen below 4% for the first time since 1975, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless rate was 3.9% in the three months to January, down from 4% at the end of 2018.

Meanwhile wages excluding bonuses rose by 3.4%, unchanged on the previous month and still outpacing inflation.

Unemployment fell by 35,000 to 1.34 million and the number of people in work rose by 222,000 – the fastest pace of hiring in more than three years and nearly twice as strong as economists had expected.

The ONS said the employment rate had hit a new record high of 76.1% while the level of economic inactivity – covering people who are neither seeking work nor available for it – hit a record low.

ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said: “The unemployment rate has also fallen below 4% for the first time since early 1975.”

But the ONS said that while the labour market had continued to perform strongly as it had in 2018, the general economic outlook was “more complex” with growth slowing and a number of companies shelving investments and some going into administration amid ongoing uncertainty.

Sainsbury’s-Asda committed to deliver 1 billion pounds of price cuts to salvage deal

( via — Tue, 19th Mar 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British supermarket Sainsbury’s and its takeover target Asda have committed to deliver 1 billion pounds of lower prices annually by the third year after completion of their proposed 7.3 billion pounds deal, they said on Tuesday.

Sainsbury’s and Asda are attempting to overturn brutal provisional findings from Britain’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is examining the deal.

The CMA said last month its initial view was that Sainsbury’s purchase of Walmart’s Asda should be blocked in the absence of the sale of a large number of stores, or even one of the brands.

The two groups said they would invest 300 million pounds in the first year after combining and a further 700 million over the following two years – reducing prices “by around 10 percent on everyday items”.

Sainsbury’s also said it would cap its fuel gross profit margin to no more than 3.5 pence per litre for five years, while Asda will guarantee its existing fuel pricing strategy.

Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle

WorldPay payments firm sold to US rival for $43bn

( via – – Mon, 18th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

A payment processing firm that used to be owned by Royal Bank of Scotland has been sold in a deal worth $43bn (£32bn).

WorldPay has been bought by Florida-based Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) for $35bn in cash and shares, plus WorldPay's debt.

FIS sells payment services and also software for the finance industry.

WorldPay was sold by RBS in 2010 as a condition of the bank's bailout following the financial crisis.

Since then WorldPay's value has risen dramatically and now matches the stock market value of its former owner RBS.

Demand for WorldPay services has surged as shoppers are using their cards more, either to buy products online, or using cards in shops.

FIS said buying WorldPay would help it sell more services to banks and other financial firms. The company's chief executive Gary Norcross said “scale matters in our rapidly changing industry”.

‘Rapid shift'

The rise of financial technology firms, known as fintech, has seen technology firms taking on banks in a race for control of the digital payments market.

“The need to invest, to continue to modernise both the technology and application layers, and continue to innovate so our customers can continue to be disrupters, will be important for us,” Mr Norcross told investors in a call on Monday.

Neil Wilson, from, said the deal “signifies the very rapid shift in the payments industry and the amount of investment the businesses need”.

He expects more deals in the sector as companies look to get bigger.

Changing hands

WorldPay first started in 1989 as electronic payments system Streamline. It was owned by NatWest Bank, which was then acquired by RBS in 2002.

Streamline was renamed as RBS WorldPay. RBS expanded the service to other countries, including the US and the Netherlands.

In 2009 the European Commission said that RBS would have to sell WorldPay and other businesses, as a condition of approving state aid to the bank.

The next year, WorldPay was sold to private equity firms Advent International and Bain Capital for £2bn, with RBS retaining a 20% stake.

In 2013, RBS sold off its remaining stake. WorldPay went on to sell shares on the London Stock Exchange in 2015.

In January 2018, US payments processing technology firm Vantiv acquired WorldPay for $10.4bn. Vantiv renamed the combined firms WorldPay.

Last October, BT poached WorldPay's co-head Philip Jansen to replace Gavin Patterson as chief executive of the telecoms group.

Travelodge to create 3,000 jobs to fill post-Brexit staffing gaps

( via – – Mon, 18th Mar 2019) London, Uk – –

Budget chain is to open 100 hotels in the next five years that will create 3,000 jobs

Travelodge wants to recruit parents returning to work to fill post-Brexit staffing gaps, as it pushes ahead with 100 hotel openings that will create 3,000 jobs over the next five years.

The company, one of Britain’s biggest hotel chains with 575 properties, hopes to fill 550 jobs immediately by attracting parents with hours that fit around the school run.

They include roles in reception, restaurants, housekeeping as well as some head office roles with flexible hours. Travelodge said it was targeting some of the UK’s 2 million-plus unemployed parents, citing YouGov research that 86% of them would like to return to work.

The majority of Travelodge’s hotel managers are female, and across the group almost three-quarters of its staff are women.

Like the rest of the hospitality sector, Travelodge is heavily reliant on EU staff, who account for 30% of its workforce. The industry has warned of the devastating impact the government’s plans to slash immigration from the EU by 80% after Brexit will have on the industry. The government wants to extend the £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold that applies to non-EU workers to EU migrants.

The firm’s chief executive, Peter Gowers, said: “Travelodge is growing quickly and we want to unlock the potential of Britain’s mums and dads as they return to work. Hospitality can offer a great career for parents, with jobs close to home, hours that can match the school run, benefits that suit families and a path into management.

“We are preparing in earnest for post-Brexit Britain. With thousands of new jobs to fill, we need more new colleagues than ever. We see vast untapped potential in parents who want to return to work.”

By Julia Kollewe

Kerry Washington’s tour of her beautiful New York City apartment on the Hudson River

Source: AD

Kerry Washington takes us on a tour of her beautiful New York City apartment, designed by RH, Restoration Hardware. From the unobstructed view of the Hudson River to her impressive crystal collection, Kerry shares it all! Kerry is wearing a Prada shirt and Dior skirt with Manolo Blahnik shoes, Mindi Mond earrings and a Movado watch.

The Rise And Fall of Gap

Source: CNBC

In late February 2019, Gap Inc. announced plans to split into two separate publicly traded companies, sending its stock soaring on the hopes the new structure will help sharpen its focus and boost sales.

The retailer said it would spin off its most successful brand, Old Navy, into a separate, publicly-traded company. With its inexpensive basics, Old Navy has consistently accounted for more than 40 percent of the company’s total annual sales. Its other brands, Gap and Banana Republic, will join much its smaller brands, Intermix, Athleta, and Hill City, to form an as-yet unnamed company. Gap also plans to buy high-end children’s clothing line Janie and Jack and fold that into the new company.

Despite the sharp spike on the announcement, Gap shares, which have a market value of just under $10 billion, are up less than 1 percent since the start of the year, and have fallen 20 percent over the past year.

Gap CEO Art Peck, who will remain with the executive of “NewCo,” said both companies should benefit from “a sharpened strategic focus and tailored operating structure.”

How Rockefeller Built His Trillion Dollar Oil Empire

Source:Business Casual

In the late 19th century John Rockefeller used his quick wits and leadership skills to build an impressive oil refinery in Cleveland. In the early days of the oil industry technology was inefficient and bankruptcies were everywhere, but John optimized the refining process successfully. Over time, he bought out competitors until he had total control over the oil industry in Cleveland through his company: Standard Oil of Ohio.

In the decades afterwards Rockefeller purchased refineries across America and even negotiated backroom deals with the big railroad tycoons. At its peak Standard Oil was worth up to $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars) in today's money, with Rockefeller controlling over 90% of the oil industry in America.

Of course, eventually new oil deposits were uncovered in Asia and Russia, challenging Rockefeller's monopoly. Back at home concerned businessmen funded waves of media opposition to Standard Oil, which was eventually broken up in 1911. The numerous companies created during this split would eventually merge back together, bringing huge profits to Rockefeller in his final years.

Upon his death, Rockefeller's net worth was an estimated $400 billion in today's dollars, making him the wealthiest businessman to have ever lived by a wide margin.

Under the kind patronage of Nagabhushanam Peddi, Dan Supernault, Samuel Patterson, James Gallagher, Brett Gmoser & Roman Badalyan.

How Amazon Air Expansion Is Giving Stiff Competition To FedEx And UPS

Source: CNBC

Amazon aims to compete with FedEx and UPS in the logistics and shipping industry. That's what analysts told CNBC after Amazon Air recently expanded to 50 planes and announced it will open a $1.5 billion air hub in Northern Kentucky in 2021. Amazon is handling up to 26% of its own shipping, meaning FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service are losing a portion of Amazon's business. FedEx says it's not worried, but Morgan Stanley reports the major shippers have already lost 2% revenue to Amazon Air.

British outsource giant Interserve to face investors vote on rescue plan

( via — Fri, 15th March 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The future of the troubled British outsourcer Interserve will be decided on Friday when investors vote on whether to accept a rescue deal or let the provider of key public services fall into administration.

The British company, which employs 68,000 people globally to clean schools and hospitals, run probation services and build roads and bridges, has been battling to avoid a collapse like peer Carillion after it hit trouble about three years ago.

On Friday, shareholders will vote on whether to accept a debt-for-equity swap which would see creditors take control in exchange for writing off 485 million pounds of debt and injecting 110 million pounds of new liquidity. Existing shareholders would be left with 5 percent of the group.

The outcome of the vote appears too close to call after the company’s biggest shareholder Coltrane Asset Management objected to the deal. It holds 28 percent of the stock.

“The company is in a critical financial situation,” the group said when explaining the deleveraging plan.

“Our plan preserves some value for shareholders. This will not be the case if the proposals are voted down.”

A person familiar with the situation has told Reuters that if the deal fails the company will go for a so-called pre-pack administration that will wipe out all existing shareholders but enable the company to keep operating by selling some assets.

Interserve, one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing and construction companies, has been thrust into a fight for survival after it made an ill-fated push into the energy-for-waste market.

Broader problems in the outsourcing market and high debt also rattled investors, driving its shares down from 500 pence in 2014 to 9.6 pence now.

Its former rival Carillion collapsed in January 2018 in Britain’s biggest corporate failure that hit the provision of school meals and the construction of hospitals.

The Interserve meeting will be held at 1100 GMT on Friday.

Reporting by Kate Holton

US to sue Volkswagen and former boss over diesel emissions scandal

( via – – Fri, 15th March 2019) London, Uk – –

The US is suing Volkswagen, accusing the German carmaker of “massive fraud” over the diesel emissions scandal.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims the firm misled investors by issuing billions of dollars worth of bonds and securities, without disclosing that it had cheated emissions tests.

Volkswagen's former chief executive Martin Winterkorn is also being sued.

The company said it would contest the SEC lawsuit vigorously.

VW first admitted in September 2015 that it had used illegal software to cheat US emissions tests. But between April 2014 and May 2015 the carmaker sold $13bn (£10bn) of bonds and securities to US investors, at a time when executives were already aware that illegal software had been installed to manipulate emissions tests, according to the SEC's suit.

The SEC said that as a result, Volkswagen “reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit by issuing the securities at more attractive rates for the company”.

When the scandal was uncovered, VW's share price sank nearly 40%.

The firm “repeatedly lied to and misled United States investors, consumers, and regulators as part of an illegal scheme to sell its purportedly ‘clean diesel' cars and billions of dollars of corporate bonds and other securities in the United States,” the SEC added.

The suit seeks to bar Mr Winterkorn, who resigned when the scandal became public, from serving as an officer or director of a public US company. He has been charged in the US with conspiring to cover up the emissions cheating scandal. However Germany does not extradite its own citizens.

The suit also seeks to recover “ill-gotten gains” along with civil penalties and interest.


Theo Leggett, business reporter

“We're not yet through the diesel scandal, it will probably still take years… and it's a burden for us.” That is what VW's chief executive Herbert Diess had to say when I spoke to him at the Geneva Motor Show last week.

We were discussing the raft of legal cases which VW is still facing around the world – and to which it is still having to dedicate substantial resources

It has already paid out more than $30bn in the US alone, in fines and other penalties, and to buy back affected vehicles.

The SEC's lawsuit shows that the US authorities are not prepared to let the company off the hook just yet.

It remains under pressure in Europe too – where it is still facing a waveof consumer lawsuits over its refusal to pay compensation.

Ironically, as Mr Diess acknowledged, the scandal forced Volkswagen down a path which may help it become a leader in more environmentally-friendly technologies.

Volkswagen has already agreed to pay more than $25bn in the US over the emissions scandal including criminal and civil fines.

The firm said in a statement the SEC complaint was “legally and factually flawed”.

It said the securities in question had been sold “only to sophisticated investors who were not harmed and received all payments of interest and principal in full and on time” and said that Mr Winterkorn had played no part in the sales of those securities.

The carmaker is already defending its actions in court in Germany, where investors are pursuing €9.26bn (£8.2bn) in damages, arguing the company should have come clean earlier about the emissions tests cheating. That case is expected to last until later this year.

Pound Sterling climbs as MPs vote to reject no-deal Brexit

( via– Thur, 14th March 2019) London, Uk – –

Sterling climbed by as much as three cents to reach a nine-month high against the US dollar and added two cents against the euro.

The pound is clinging on to gains of the past 24-hours following a big leap as MPs voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

In volatile trading, Sterling climbed by as much as three cents against the US dollar to nearly $1.34, a nine-month high, and was two cents up versus the euro to as high as €1.18 – a new 22-month peak.

That was after an amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit in all circumstances was narrowly backed by the Commons.

It had given up some of those gains by Thursday morning – trading at €1.17 and $1.32 – as investors mulled the political reality that the vote was non-binding.

But the pound moved higher again later after Goldman Sachs put the chances of a no-deal Brexit at 5% – a shift from Wednesday's position of 10%.

There was a broad welcome for the MPs' no-deal vote from business groups but it was combined with continued frustration about the lack of a clear way forward, with the Commons due to vote on Thursday night on delaying the Brexit process.

A survey for the CBI suggested nearly 9 in 10 firms would back a delay but only if the alternative is to leave the EU with no deal.

Commenting on the task ahead Edwin Morgan, interim director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “If they vote for an extension there will still be the considerable task of convincing the EU that there is an exit deal the House of Commons can get behind.”

Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK, noted: “Unless the withdrawal agreement or some other realistic course of action is agreed very soon, the UK will still crash out, regardless of MPs' wishes.”

Business anxiety has mirrored days of high drama over Brexit in Westminster while currency markets have see-sawed sharply.

Sterling had hit a previous 22-month high against the euro earlier in the week when Theresa May secured a revised transition deal with the European Union before falling back again when it proved too little to win over parliamentary opposition.

Mrs May's crushing Commons defeat on Tuesday paved the way for the vote on Wednesday that saw MPs reject a “no deal” Brexit – seen as likely to create major economic uncertainty.

Investors see the further vote on delaying Brexit as positive for the pound as it could increase the Prime Minister's chance of securing a deal or even lead towards a second referendum.

David Cheetham, chief market analyst at xtb online trading, said: “It appears that hardline Tories are now starting to fear that the game is up and are looking to change tack and throw their weight behind the PM.

“There is significant scope for a sizeable relief rally in the pound, with the path of least resistance for sterling now appearing to be higher – albeit with several potential potholes still lining the way.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas & James Sillars

Trump grounds Boeing 737 Max planes

( via – – Thur, 14 March 2019) London, Uk – –

FAA supported the grounding saying it had uncovered information in the Ethiopia crash that was similar to the Indonesia crash in October

Donald Trump grounded Boeing’s 737 Max fleet on Wednesday, days after the second fatal crash involving the plane in five months.

Issuing an emergency order, Trump said all 737 Max jets in the US would now be grounded. “Planes that are in the air will be grounded if they are the 737 Max. Will be grounded upon landing at their destination,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Trump said the safety of the American people and others was of “paramount concern”. He said: “They [Boeing] have to find the problem … and they will find it.”

Ethiopian Airlines said on Thursday an Ethiopian delegation had sent the black boxes from crashed plane to Paris for investigation.

Boeing said it had “full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max” but “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public” it had decided to temporarily suspend the entire fleet.

But a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) went further, saying that new information from the wreckage of a 737 crash in Ethiopia had uncovered similarities to an earlier crash of the same variant of 737 in Indonesia in October.

The FAA’s emergency order states that the similarities “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed”.

The United States had stood virtually alone in allowing the plane to keep flying. On Wednesday, Canada joined a growing list of countries that had grounded the aircraft involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people this week.

Boeing and US aviation safety officials at the FAA had resisted mounting pressure from Congress and labor unions to halt operation of the Boeing 737 Max while investigators work to find the cause of the crash. Regulators in the European Union, the United Kingdom, China, Australia and India have restricted the planes from flying. The latest bans came from Egypt, Thailand and Vietnam on Wednesday.

The grounding threatened chaos for US travelers. Dozens of the planes were still airborne at the time of the announcement and future flights will have to be rescheduled until the ban is lifted.

At New York’s LaGuardia airport, three flights to Miami on 737 Max 8s were cancelled, stranding hundreds of American Airlines passengers.

“I’d rather the inconvenience than be on a dangerous airplane,” said Marie Bellamota, a traveller from the Dominican Republic who had her flight cancelled. “I feel upset, and I have to change all my plans but what can I do.”

Other passengers said they were inconvenienced but relieved to not be taking the risk or suffering the anxiety of taking the troubled Boeing.

“I’m glad. I didn’t want to be on that plane anyway,” said Sharon Gentles, who was on her way to Jamaica for a funeral. “I’m happy they grounded them because at least I’m safe.”

A spokesman for American at LaGuardia said that over the past several days the airline had sought to allay customers’ increasing concerns about the 737 by switching them to other flights without imposing additional fees.

Following the planes’ grounding by US regulators, the airline switched passengers to a “special section” plane – a wide-bodied Boeing 777 leaving JFK at 10.30pm. “We’re happy to provide at least some relief by getting them to their destination tonight,” said American’s Justin Franco.

The Ethiopian crash comes just five months after the deadly crash of a new Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air in Indonesia, which left 189 people dead. No evidence has yet linked the crashes, but pilots on both planes reported problems moments after takeoff and asked to make emergency landings.

Canada’s transportation minister, Marc Garneau, said the decision to issue a “safety notice” was based on a review of newly available satellite tracking data, which identified similarities between the crash in Ethiopia and the one last year in Indonesia.

Garneau cautioned that the information was “not conclusive” but that “at this point we feel that threshold has been crossed”.

On Tuesday, Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg reportedly spoke with Trump by phone to assure him the planes were safe. The call came after the president complained on Twitter that airplanes have become “far too complex to fly” and suggested that “pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT”.

But Trump and Boeing had faced mounting pressure to act. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who leads a Senate subcommittee overseeing aviation, called on the FAA to ground the planes and promised to hold hearings on the cause of the crash.

“Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public,” he said on Tuesday.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, had called for the planes to be grounded. Warren said lawmakers should hold hearings “on whether an administration that famously refused to stand up to Saudi Arabia to protect Boeing arms sales has once again put lives at risk for the same reason”.

Boeing, one of the US’s largest manufactures, is a lobbying powerhouse with deep ties to the White House and Congress. According to, a group that tracks lobbying data, Boeing spent more than $15m on Washington lobbying last year.

Trump’s acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, worked at the company for more than 30 years. On Wednesday, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General alleging that Shanahan violated ethics rules “by promoting Boeing in the scope of his official duties” at the DOD.

The US airline carriers that fly the plane – Southwest, American Airlines and United – on Wednesday said they were complying with the new requirements.

In a statement, Southwest said the airline removed all of its 34 Max 8 aircraft from scheduled service. American, responding to customer questions on Twitter, said it had stopped operating all 24 of its planes of that type and United grounded its 14 737 Max 9 aircraft, which handle about 40 flights per day.

By Dominic Rushe in New York Lauren Gambino in Washington and Edward Helmore

Uk would eliminate import tariffs on a wide range of goods, no checks on Irish border in no-deal Brexit

( via — Wed, 13th March, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Wednesday it would eliminate import tariffs on a wide range of goods and avoid a so-called hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government announced the moves, which it said would be temporary, ahead of a vote by lawmakers later on Wednesday on whether Britain should leave the European Union without a deal, a prospect that alarms many employers with the scheduled March 29 Brexit date fast approaching.

Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a second, heavy parliamentary defeat on the withdrawal deal she struck with the bloc on Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of an abrupt, economically damaging Brexit without a transition arrangement.

However, lawmakers are expected to vote against a no-deal Brexit and then, on Thursday, vote in favour of seeking a delay to Brexit.

Under the tariff plan for a no-deal Brexit that would last for up to 12 months 87 percent of total imports to the United Kingdom by value would be eligible for tariff-free access, up from 80 percent now.

The new system would mean 82 percent of imports from the EU would be tariff-free, down from 100 percent now, while 92 percent of imports from
the rest of the world would pay no duties at the border, up from 56 percent now.

Some protections for British producers would remain in place, including for the country’s carmakers and beef, lamb, pork, poultry and dairy farmers.

Cutting import tariffs on imported goods would ease the hit to British consumers from an expected jump in inflation in the event of a no-deal Brexit which would probably cause sterling to tumble and make imports more expensive.

But it would also expose many manufacturers to cheaper competition from abroad and, if maintained, low or zero tariffs would deprive Britain of ammunition for extracting concessions from other countries in future trade talks.

On the Irish border, the British government said it would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving from the Irish Republic to the British province of Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, stressing the plan was temporary and unilateral.

“The measures announced today recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland,” Karen Bradley, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland said in a statement. “These arrangements can only be temporary and short-term.”

Britain would seek to enter discussions urgently with the European Commission and the Irish government to agree long-term measures to avoid a hard border.

Goods crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland would not be covered by the new import tariff regime.

Britain, Ireland and the EU have said they want to avoid physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of violence in the region. But they disagree on the “backstop”, or insurance mechanism, to exclude such border checks.

By William Schomberg

Morrisons stocks up on ‘cupboard fillers’ in preparation for potential no-deal Brexit

( via – – Wed 13th March, 2019) London, Uk – –

The boss of Morrisons has said the supermarket was stocking up on “cupboard fillers” in preparation for a potential no-deal Brexit.

However, the supermarket chain would not give any details of which products were involved.

Chief executive David Potts did say there had been a recent rise in sales of painkillers and toilet rolls.

Morrisons is considering alternative routes to import goods if its usual supply lines were delayed, he added.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit there are fears that there could be disruption at ports and Morrisons has also been looking at alternative ports and ways of getting goods into the country.

Sales of painkillers and toilet rolls had risen by high single-digit percentages in recent weeks.

“We have seen a very small amount of customers buying in,” said Mr Potts

Publishing its annual results, Morrisons said there had been “continued uncertainty” about Brexit throughout the year and the chain had come up with contingency plans.

The uncertainties it identified included the impact on the supply chain, imported food inflation, the impact on consumer confidence, potential changes to access to EU labour and changes in legal requirements.

In response, the supermarket has applied for and got Authorised Economic Operator status, which gives firms quicker access to some simplified customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to fast-track shipments through some customer and safety and security procedures.

It said it had also sought alternative supply routes for key products, adapted its labour model and increased stock levels for “certain key lines”.

‘Better placed'

Thomas Brereton, retail analyst at Global Data, said: “With Brexit still looming over the retail sector in 2019, talks of supply shortages and impending lack of availability across UK grocery are rife.

“But Morrisons is better placed to withstand such pressures than its Big Four rivals, having successfully secured Authorised Economic Operator status during the year, on top on expanding its dependence on local suppliers.”

Morrisons also announced a third consecutive year of strong sales and profit growth.

It reported an annual underlying pre-tax profit of £406m, up 8.6%.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out stores open for less than a year, were up 4.8%, excluding fuel and VAT.

The retailer said the results showed the Morrisons turnaround plan was “well on track”.