Buffett Expected To Release Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter to Shareholders


Warren Buffett is widely considered one of the world's best investors and is likely to tout the merits of passive investing this weekend to readers of his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. The letter is slated for release around 8 a.m. EST on Saturday, and will probably focus on familiar themes for the 86-year-old Buffett, like reviewing Berkshire's businesses and managers, Wall Street, the economy and perhaps even politics. We'll have to wait and see what the famous investor has to say about Mr Trump.

RBS Losses More Than Treble To £6.96bn


Royal Bank of Scotland

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Fri, 24 Feb, 2017) London, Uk – –

Chief executive Ross McEwan predicts the state-backed lender will return to profit in 2018 after a fresh round of cost-cutting.

Royal Bank of Scotland has chalked up its ninth year in the red as annual losses more than trebled to £6.96bn.

Chief executive Ross McEwan insisted that the “remarkable journey” – which has seen losses of more than £58bn since the bank was rescued by taxpayers – was entering its final phase but acknowledged there was more pain to come.

The state-backed lender has remained mired in multi-billion pound costs linked to the financial crisis a decade ago when it careered out of control.

Now it faces a further period of change as Mr McEwan sets his sights on cost cutbacks of £2bn over the next four years, including £750m this year to help it return to profit.

He acknowledged this will mean more job losses.

RBS – which includes NatWest – has already axed thousands of roles through branch closures in recent years as more customers bank online.

The latest annual loss was more than three times the figure of £1.98bn for the year before.

The £58bn lost since the bailout dwarfs the annual gross domestic products of many small countries – including Luxembourg, which has a GDP of about £46bn.

Shares fell 2% following the news.

RBS remains 72% owned by the state, and the result leaves the bank looking some way from a return to the private sector after its £46bn bailout.

Mr McEwan said RBS was aiming to return to profit by 2018 – meaning it will have endured a full decade of losses under majority state ownership – as the impact of “legacy issues” finally begin to fade.

He said: “This is a bank that has been on a remarkable journey. We still have further to go.

“But the next three years will not be the same as the past three.

“Legacy issues will take up a decreasing amount of our time and focus.”

Instead the bank would focus on customers, costs and efforts to return to profit – which would represent “a significant step towards being able to start repaying UK taxpayers for their support”.

RBS' annual report disclosed that despite the large, and widening, losses for 2016, staff bonuses totalled £343m, down only 8% on the year before.

The chief executive was paid £3.5m, little changed from 2015. There was no annual bonus but he received a long-term incentive award up slightly to more than £1m.

The bonus total since the rescue now stands at £4.6bn – a tenth of the money poured into the bank by the state.

The bank's latest results saw it weighed down by litigation and conduct costs of £5.87bn.

That included a recently announced additional £3.11bn set aside over US allegations over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed financial products ahead of the financial crisis.

RBS also took a £2.11bn hit for the cost of restructuring, including £750m set aside for a plan to enable it to avoid having to sell off hundreds of branches under the Williams & Glyn brand.

Mr McEwan said: “The bottom line loss we have reported today is, of course, disappointing but given the scale of the legacy issues we worked through in 2016, it should not come as a surprise.

“These costs are a stark reminder of what happens to a bank when things go wrong and you lose focus on the customer, as this bank did before the financial crisis.”

He said the core RBS business, stripping out legacy issues and its toxic ‘bad bank' assets, generated profits of £4.2bn.

“This bank has great potential,” said Mr McEwan.

“We believe that by going further on cost reduction and faster on digital transformation we will deliver a simpler, safer and even more customer-focused bank.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

John Lewis to axe 387 jobs in plans to revamp its department store chain


Roberto Herrett/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 24 Feb, 2017) London, Uk – –

John Lewis is to axe 387 staff jobs under plans to revamp its cafes and restaurants as well as its curtain and carpet fitting services.

The department store chain said that the plans were part of its strategy to “adapt to changing customer needs against a backdrop of structural changes in the retail industry”.

Around 387 jobs will be lost as part of a consultation process involving 773 employees, known as partners within the company. Around 386 new jobs will be created. A John Lewis spokesman said that the staffing changes would have no impact to customer service.

Within its home estimation and fitting division – which counts staff involved in curtains, blinds and carpet sales – the changes will mean that roving employees will be able to work from home and drive to customers' houses rather than having to check in with a store every day.

John Lewis said that the move would allow it to “broaden our service and increase our flexibility which will enable us to offer more appointments at times which better suit our customers”.

However, store staff involved in the administration of the estimation and fitting services will be at risk as the division will move to a single, central customer administration hub.

Within its catering business, John Lewis said that it will increase its use of food suppliers so kitchen staff will assemble food rather than having to make dishes from scratch.

The employee-owned group said that the move would enable its restaurants to change menus more regularly to keep up with trends, more easily meet the dietary requirements of customers and give a more consistent offering across all of its shops.

“The proposed new structure will allow us to harness partners’ knowledge and skills, giving them more scope to be in the right place at the right time to deliver great service to our customers when and where it’s needed,” said Dino Rocos, operations director at John Lewis.

“We understand that for some this will mean a period of change, and we are working with affected partners over the consultation period to give opportunities for redeployment in new roles wherever possible.”

Last month the John Lewis Partnership warned that it would cut its much celebrated bonus for the fourth year in a row to cover the cost of a weaker pound and ramp up investments in its online operations.

In 2016 the partnership lowered the bonus to 10pc of salary, while the bonus pool was lowered from £156.2m to £145m,working out as an average £1,585 for each of its 91,500 partners.

Last year John Lewis revealed that the cost of increasing salaries across the partnership following the introduction of the national living wage had led to a £33m jump in staff costs.

By Ashley Armstrong

UK economy expanded more than previously estimated in 2016 but Brexit effects loom

Britain's economy sped up at the end of last year expanding by more than previously estimated with improved manufacturing growth and stronger exports thanks to the weaker pound. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics confounded the predictions that the Brexit vote for the UK to leave the European Union would lead to a major slow down.

Barclays profits treble to nearly £3.2bn thanks to Brexit and Trump

Roberto Herrett/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Thur, 23 Feb, 2017) London, Uk – –

Barclays profits have surged after the cost of past misconduct fell and traders cashed in on market volatility following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's election.

The bank said profits rose 182% to £3.2bn from £1.1bn the year before.

It saw a sharp fall in litigation and conduct costs for the year, from £4.4bn in 2015 to £1.4bn last year – though conceded that the threat of US action over past behaviour still hung over the business.

Meanwhile, income from its markets division rose 9% to £5.3bn helped by increased volatility and higher activity in part of the business “post the EU referendum decision and US elections”.

The wider corporate and investment arm of Barclays saw a 14% rise in profits to £2.6bn.

Chief executive Jes Staley received a pay package worth £4.2m for his first full year in the job though the total bonus pool for staff edged down slightly – from £1.54bn to £1.53bn.

It comes days after results from rival HSBC which showed that it was buffeted by “unexpected economic and political events” as profits fell 62%.

HSBC had also reiterated contingency plans to shift 1,000 jobs to France depending on the nature of any Brexit deal but Mr Staley said Barclays had no plans to move staff to Europe.

He said the UK was proving resilient to Brexit uncertainty and said he believed London would “remain the financial centre that it is today”.

Mr Staley added that the bank would “lighten” a hiring freeze put in place last year, which saw the workforce reduce by 15,000.

Barclays has like other UK banks been weighed down by growing multibillion-pound bills to compensate customers who were mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) in earlier years.

The bank's results reflected the fact that it added £1bn to this bill in 2016, but this compared to £2.8bn the year before.

On Wednesday, Lloyds Banking Group also reported a huge increase to its bottom line thanks to its PPI costs falling year-on-year.

However, the prospect of US action over its sale of mortgage-backed financial products in the run-up financial crisis still hangs over Barclays, after a Department of Justice civil case was filed in December.

Mr Staley said: “Certain legacy conduct issues remain and we intend to make further progress on them.”

The chief executive, who took charge just over a year ago following the departure of predecessor Antony Jenkins, said overall the bank had made “strong progress”.

He said: “We are now just months away from completing the restructuring of Barclays, and I am more optimistic than ever for our prospects in 2017, and beyond.”

The restructuring includes hiving off its Africa business, a move which will see the group pay the division £765m.

Mr Staley is aiming to refocus Barclays as a “transatlantic, consumer, corporate and investment bank, anchored in London and New York”.

Shares climbed 4% in morning trading.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Businesses throughout England to face higher rates this April

Many businesses throughout England will face higher rates this April – but a row's broken out over just how many will be hit and how much more they're going to have to pay. In a private letter, the Communities Secretary assured worried MPs that rates would actually fall for the majority of companies in their constituencies – but now he's being accused of misleading them after a report suggested the majority would go up. ‘Nonsense' says the Government.

Asda seeing early signs of a turnaround under its new boss


(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Tue, 21 Feb, 2017) London, Uk – –
Asda said it was seeing early signs of a turnaround under its new boss as it credited a shake-up over the last year for helping to stem falling sales.

Britain's third biggest supermarket, owned by US retail giant Walmart, reported a 2.9% fall in comparable sales for the three months to the end of December.

It was the tenth straight quarter of decline and compares unfavourably with the performance of major rivals over the key Christmas period.

But it represents an improvement on the drop of 5.8% in the previous period and a record drop of 7.5% before that.

Asda replaced boss Andy Clarke with long-serving Walmart executive Sean Clarke last summer.

He said the Leeds-based company was “encouraged by the early signs of our customers responding positively to the hard work that's been happening in our stores throughout 2016”.

The chief executive said it had welcomed more than 140,000 customers back to Asda in the quarter.

“We are putting customers first and have sharpened our prices, improved our ranges and availability, all with friendly service,” Mr Clarke said.

Walmart boss Doug McMillon said: “In the UK, we faced some challenges this past year and we're addressing this with urgency.

“I'm glad comp store sales improved during the fourth quarter, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Asda said in September that it was lowering thousands of prices on everyday favourites by an average of 15% as well as improving the quality of own-brand ranges.

It has been feeling the brunt of the ferocious price war engulfing the supermarket sector as it vies with “big four” rivals Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons for a share of the market being gnawed away by discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Earlier this month, Walmart said it was throwing more of its global buying power behind Asda to help it beat rivals on price.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said: “It is evident that Walmart must get a firmer grip on this part of the business.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Kraft Heinz’s Rapid Retreat From Unilever Bid



US company Kraft Heinz's rapid retreat from its surprise bid for Unilever sent the Anglo-Dutch group's shares down over seven percent on Monday in London and Amsterdam. They had jumped 13 percent when the offer became public on Friday, but over the weekend the Americans said they were pulling out in the face of stiff resistance. The weaker pound since the Brexit vote made the takeover more attractive but the British government recently signalled it would look closely at foreign takeovers especially if job losses were expected.

Worlds First Cashless Fuel Payment Cars



In a world-first, Jaguar and Land Rover owners can now pay for their fuel via the touchscreen of their car at Shell service stations. Rather than paying at the pump or queuing to pay in the shop, installing the Shell app via InControl means drivers can simply drive up to any pump at participating Shell service stations, select how much fuel they require and pay with PayPal or Apple Pay on the vehicle’s touchscreen.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Discusses His 5,800-word Global Manifesto

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 17 Feb, 2017) London, Uk – –

Mark Zuckerberg has sparked further speculation about a future political career after publishing a 5,800-word global manifesto.

The Facebook co-founder and chief executive spent a month writing the missive in which he opened by asking the question: "Are we building the world we all want?"

He suggested that some people had been "left behind by globalisation" and that efforts must be made to "bring communities together".

Mr Zuckerberg, 32, said: "Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and building a global community. Yet now, across the world, there are people left behind by globalisation, and movements for withdrawing from global connection."

Facebook was started by Mr Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, and he is now worth an estimated $50 billion.

The social media magnate said his latest message, published on his Facebook page, was not motivated by any one particular event, not even the US election. But he was concerned by a rising tide of opinion that "connecting the world" as Facebook sought to do was no longer a good thing.

Mr Zuckerberg said he still strongly believes in "connecting the world". However, it was "not enough if it's good for some people but it doesn't work for other people. We really have to bring everyone along".

He added: "In times like these the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us." Mr Zuckerberg lamented the fading of traditional social communities such as churches, labour unions and local community groups.

He wrote: "A healthy society needs these communities to support our personal, emotional and spiritual needs. "In a world where this physical social infrastructure has been declining we have a real opportunity to help strengthen these communities and the social fabric of our society." It was the latest indication that Mr Zuckerberg could eventually seek political office.

He recently persuaded the Facebook board to allow him to maintain control of the company if he ever takes a leave of absence to serve in government.

Mr Zuckerberg also recently announced his new year resolution for 2017 was to meet with people from every state in the US, to "talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future".

By Nick Allen