Amazon targets Uk Businesses with new online marketplace


( via – – Tue, 4 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

More than a hundred million products will be available for companies to buy, including laptops, office supplies, furniture and commercial-grade printers

Amazon's quest for market domination is becoming harder to ignore.

The sprawling Seattle-headquartered group on Tuesday said that it is launching a service in the UK aimed at doing for businesses what it already does for individual customers, by offering a marketplace where companies can buy everything from industrial machinery to paper clips and janitorial equipment – even in bulk.

Amazon Business will aim to cater to the procurement needs of businesses of all sizes, as well as institutional buyers including universities, hospitals and non-profits.

“Whether you are a sole trader, a buyer in a mid-size company or a chief procurement officer in a large multi-national organisation, Amazon Business has the products and capabilities to serve your needs,” Bill Burkland, who heads up Amazon Business in the UK, said in a statement.

More than a hundred million products will be available to companies that sign up to the service, including laptops, office supplies, furniture and commercial-grade printers.

Businesses will also be able to buy highly specialised equipment— like power tools and thermal imaging cameras— and lab supplies like microscopes, test tubes and high-speed centrifuges.

Amazon Business already launched in the US in April 2015 and now serves more than 400,000 businesses there. It generated more than $1bn (£800m) in sales in its first year, according to the company. Last December it rolled out in Germany, where it is now used by more than 50,000 business customers.

The latest launch in the UK could help bolster Amazon’s already meteoric stock price rise and it also underscores the company’s commitment to diversifying both its customer base and the services it provides.

Last year, Amazon started a food delivery service across London–directly rivalling players like Deliveroo and UberEats—and more recently the company has launched a drive-through style of bricks-and-mortar supermarket in the US.

Customers order their food online then collect from a warehouse, with bags pre-packed and loaded into the boot by Amazon employees.

And the company’s proven ability to shake up the markets in which it operates seems to be paying off.

Amazon’s share price has surged by close to 50 per cent over the last year to a record high, valuing the company at well over $400bn. Profits last year increased nearly three-fold to $2.4bn on sales of about $136bn, partly thanks to the launch of its Amazon Echo home assistant and the popularity of its media streaming services for Amazon Prime members.

Founder Jeff Bezos recently overtook Warren Buffett in a Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest people, to nab second spot after Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Mr Bezos, who is also Amazon's chairman and chief executive, is now worth $75.6bn – which marks a massive $10.2bn increase so far in 2017.

By Josie Cox

Firms lay groundwork for exodus of London jobs

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( via – – Tue, 4 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Lloyd’s of London and Royal London set up subsidiaries outside of UK as JP Morgan and Citigroup explore relocation options

A growing number of leading City firms have revealed they are now laying the groundwork for an exodus of thousands of jobs from London after Britain’s vote to leave to EU.

Just a day after Theresa May formally triggered the process for Brexit it was confirmed that the insurers Lloyd’s of London and Royal London are setting up subsidiaries outside the UK, while the investment banks JP Morgan and Citigroup are actively exploring the relocation of key operations.

Luxembourg also threw its hat into the ring in the battle to attract the European Banking Authority, which employs 159 people at Canary Wharf in London. Frankfurt and Paris also want to host the organisation.

JP Morgan is in talks to buy an office building in Dublin big enough to hold more than 1,000 workers, increasing speculation that it will move a substantial number of jobs from London as a result of Brexit. Citigroup said it was planning for a hard Brexit that would require “relocating certain client-facing roles to the EU from the UK”.

A number of banks and insurers have already confirmed they could move staff. Goldman Sachs is to move hundreds of bankers to Frankfurt and Paris, while HSBC could switch 1,000 investment banking jobs from London to Paris.

A key concern for financial firms is whether the UK will still hold passporting rights that allow British-based banks and insurers to do business in the rest of the EU.

Lloyd’s, the world’s biggest insurance market, confirmed that it will set up a subsidiary in Brussels to allow it to continue underwriting insurance policies across the EU. The new subsidiary will have about 60 staff. Lloyd’s employs 700 people in London out of global workforce of 1,000.

Inga Beale, chief executive of Lloyd’s, said: “I am excited about the opportunities this venture will offer the market by providing that important European access efficiently.

“It is now crucial that the UK government and the European Union proceed to negotiate an agreement that allows business to continue to flow under the best possible conditions once the UK formally leaves the EU.

“I believe it is important, not just for the City but also for Europe, that we reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”

The Lloyd’s chairman, John Nelson, told the Financial Times he now expected other insurers to follow the market to the Belgian capital.

Royal London, the insurance and pensions group, said it would be converting its existing Irish operation into a regulated subsidiary to ensure it could press ahead with work in Europe amid the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

The US investment banks JP Morgan and Citigroup sent memos to their staff confirming that they were exploring options regarding the location of their operations.

JP Morgan is in talks to acquire a site in Dublin’s Capital Dock from the developer Kennedy Wilson and the National Asset Management Agency, which was created by the Irish government after the financial crisis to buy property loans from banks.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan, said before the EU referendum last June that the bank could be forced to move as many as 4,000 jobs from the UK if the country voted to leave.

JP Morgan employs about 16,000 people in the UK, with its main offices in Canary Wharf, Bournemouth and Glasgow. Citi employs almost 9,000 people in Britain.

It is understood that JP Morgan has not yet made a decision about if or where it will move staff from London, but the Dublin office would be an option.

In an internal memo sent to JP Morgan staff on Wednesday, Mary Erdoes, head of asset and wealth management, and Daniel Pinto, head of the firm’s corporate and investment bank, said: “Our size, scale and existing footprint across the continent mean that we have choices in terms of locations and legal entity structure.

“We may need to make adjustments to our legal structure, but we will maintain our strong commitment to our clients in the UK and the EU.

“We have spent the last several months reviewing the many variables in this process – client needs, employee considerations, regulatory requirements, operational risks, our inventory of licences, political issues in the region and dozens of other factors. This is a complex process and we will not rush into any decisions.”

Citi confirmed to staff that London would remain its headquarters for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and an “important global hub”. However, James Cowles, Citi’s chief executive for EMEA, said the bank was planning on the basis of a “hard Brexit” that would result in the UK losing its passporting rights.

Cowles said: “A hard Brexit would require certain changes, including relocating certain client-facing roles to the EU from the UK, and the possible creation of a new broker-dealer entity within the EU.

“Citi has been discussing our options with representatives from a number of different countries, as well as with our clients.”

The Liberal Democrats warned that JP Morgan’s potential Dublin deal and the new Brussels office for Lloyd’s were a sign that jobs could be lost in the City of London due to Brexit.

Susan Kramer, the Lib Dem Treasury spokeswoman, said: “It is the prime minister’s choice to drive Britain out of the single market, and that is driving jobs and wealth creation out of the UK. Estimates suggest leaving the single market could cost Britain up to £200bn over 15 years.

“When the P45s start to land and the NHS operations are cancelled, this will be the government’s fault.”

By Graham Ruddick



‘Tap and go’ technology to replaces tills by 2021

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( via – – Mon, 3 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Brits are well known for their love of queuing, but the prospect of standing in line while out shopping is soon to become a memory of a bygone era.

A quarter of shops are planning to do away with queuing altogether within four years, by letting customers pay for items using their smartphones by 2021, according to a survey of Britain's biggest retailers.

Transactions at traditional manned, stationary point of sale check-out are in freefall with the proportion falling from 71pc in 2012 to 52pc in 2017.

The move by stores is in part a response to Brexit, retail consultants at Zebra, which conducted the research, said.

By getting rid of tills and staff retailers will be able to cut costs at a time when they are seeing their margins squeezed as a result of the falling value of the pound and rising commodity prices.

Household name stores including Waitrose and Zara are already installing high-tech payment and security systems which are likely to evolve into fully “queue-less” systems over the coming years.

Zara has installed high-tech clothes tags which let staff know where they are in stores, however, these could eventually be used to let customers scan garments and pay for them using their smartphones.

Meanwhile, Waitrose has rolled out handheld self-scanning devices in some stores which looks and feel like smartphones and let customers upload their shopping lists.

The latest mobile devices for self-scanning use Bluetooth technology to detect what a customer has just scanned. This also allows the retailer to know where customers are in store and provide contextual information, such as “don’t forget, that product is part of a special offer.”

Mark Thompson, director of retail and hospitality at Zebra Technologies, said: “In five years, a visit to the British high street will be massively different from today. Retailers want to put more power into the hands of shoppers, letting them pay with their mobiles as they browse, or giving them smart-carts with screens and built-in scanning.

“The store itself will continue to get smarter as well. Retailers will be able to tell when and even where specific customers are in store. This technology will also save stores money, which is why the falling value of the pound, coupled with higher commodity prices will speed up its rollout as firms look to maintain their profits.”

By Katie Morley

UK cars hit by Volkswagen diesel scandal less than half fixed

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( via — Fri,31 Mar, 2017) London, UK —

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) said it has so far fixed fewer than half of the 1.2 million cars affected by the diesel emissions scandal in Britain, 18 months after the revelations first came to light.

The German carmaker admitted in September 2015 to using software to cheat diesel emission tests in the United States and has since paid out compensation to U.S. motorists but has refused to do so in Europe.

In Britain, Europe's second biggest autos market where Volkswagen Group is the top seller, the firm has faced pressure from lawmakers who have repeatedly questioned the brand's managing director.

In a response to lawmakers' latest letter, VW's Paul Willis said the firm was nearly half way to fixing all models.

“We have implemented the technical measures in more than 540,000 UK vehicles,” Willis told lawmakers in a letter dated Mar. 24, which was released on Friday. In February, he said the total stood at 470,000.

VW has not set a firm deadline to complete the work but hopes to have most of it done by the autumn.

Willis also denied that any of the changes made had negatively affected the performance of vehicles, an issue at the heart of attempts by some law firms to take legal action against the company.

“The technical measures have been rigorously tested and the relevant authorities have confirmed that there is no adverse impact on the vehicles' MPG, CO2 emissions, engine output, maximum torque and noise emissions,” he said

By Costas Pitas

US posts GDP increase of 2.1 percent


The US economy showed rigorous consumer spending in the fourth quarter and slowed less than was previously reported.

GDP increased to an annualised 2.1 percent up from previous estimate of 1.9 percent. U.S. corporate profits rose again in fourth quarter, while overall economic growth was revised up.

The Commerce Department said that business activity moderated further at the beginning of the year.

Self-driving cars potential £8bn boost to UK economy


( via – – Thu, 30 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

Self-driving cars could deliver an £8bn a year boost to the economy by giving people with disabilities the ability to travel more freely, increasing their education and earnings potential.

New research on so-called “autonomous” cars has found that vehicles that do not need a human at wheel could open up opportunities for people with disabilities that limit their mobility.

Instead of having to rely on inflexible public transport, self-driving vehicles would give freedom to an estimated 1m people, offering them the opportunity to boost qualifications and increasing their earnings by an average of £8,500 a year.

The findings tie in with Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ (SMMT) Connected Car conference on Thursday, which explores how the technology will transform the industry and the opportunities it presents.

“The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles are life-changing, offering more people greater independence, freedom to socialise, work and earn more, and access services more easily,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the trade body, which predicts that self-driving cars will be commonplace by the 2030s.

“Fully autonomous cars will be a step change for society, and this report shows people are already seeing their benefits. The challenge now is to create the conditions that will allow this technology to thrive.”

The research also found that six out of 10 people believe self-driving cars will improve their quality of life, with this rising to seven out of 10 for people aged 17 to 24.

The high cost of insurance is seen as a hurdle to young people driving, but when computers are controlling vehicles this is no longer a factor.

Older people also identify the benefits of autonomous cars, with half of them saying it would make their day-to-day lives easier, as aged-related issues such as failing eyesight limit their ability to drive themselves.

Across the board, stress-free driving is perceived to be the biggest attraction of self-driving technology, with computers taking the pressure off and the cars parking themselves once at their destination.

On-board technology that self-diagnoses problems is also expected to ease motorists’ minds.

Britain is aiming to be at the forefront of developing autonomous cars, with the Government having made it a priority with legislation and funding to encourage research in the UK.

The potential payoff for establishing Britain as a world leader in the sector is massive. The SMMT valued autonomous cars and the systems that connect them to the internet as being worth £51bn a year to the UK economy by 2030. Success in the field could also see 320,000 jobs created.

The latest research into the impact of autonomous cars was conducted by Strategy&, a unit of global consultants PwC.

“There is a real risk that this momentum and competitor advantage in the UK will stall if we don’t do more to create positive public perception, overcoming our inherent risk averse culture,” said Mark Couttie, a partner with Strategy&.

“Expanding people’s horizons about the advantages of fully autonomous cars is a vital first step. This means better communicating the art of the possible to increase social acceptance and dispel concerns that our survey identified relating to cost and safety.”

By Alan Tovey

Brexit Countdown Officially Begins:Formal notification letter received by Brussels


The countdown to Brexit has officially begun.

As the British Prime Minister left for parliament to officially brief MPs on the triggering of Article 50, her envoy in Brussels handed over the official notification letter to the EU Council President Donald Tusk. The Article 50 letter. Theresa May signed the Brexit letter on Tuesday.

‘Bank of mum and dad’ funding, making housing market unfair


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( via – – Tue, 28 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

More first-time buyers than ever are using family money, exacerbating inequality, says Social Mobility Commission

The number of first-time buyers relying on family loans from the “bank of mum and dad” to fund their deposits is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility, a government-backed study has warned.

The Social Mobility Commission found the percentage of first-time buyers turning to family for financial help had increased from 20% in 2010 to a historic high of 34%. The report also found just one in three (31%) 25- to 29-year-olds owned a home compared with 63% of the same age group in 1990.

“Home ownership helps unlock high levels of social mobility but it is in freefall among young families,” said the former Labour MP Alan Milburn, the chair of the commission.

“Owning a home is becoming a distant dream for millions of young people on low incomes who do not have the luxury of relying on the bank of mum and dad to give them a foot up on the housing ladder. The way the housing market is operating is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility.”

The report, which used data from the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University, examined a series of surveys, including the English Housing Survey – which interviewed around 13,300 households in 2013-14 – and the Labour Force Survey, which looked at homeowners by age between 1995 and 2015.

It found one in 10 first-time buyers used inherited wealth and that 12%, whether it was a first property or not, were using a “gift or loan”.

First-time buyers who receive cash or at least a loan from their parents can buy 2.6 years earlier that those who do not, and this figure rises to 4.6 years in London.

The study also found 30% of households with dependent children held assets that could be used towards a home deposit, but only around 10% of households without any formal education qualifications over two back-to-back generations felt they could help out their kids.

The report predicts that if the economy weakens, the proportion of first-time buyers being propped up by family will remain at about one third until 2025, but it will boom to 40% by 2029.

Theresa May’s government earlier this year strayed from David Cameron’s “home-owning democracy” approach to housing and announced tougher regulation on landlords.

The proportion of people living in private rented homes has doubled since 2000.

“It is welcome that the government recognises the growing problem people face in getting on the housing ladder,” said Milburn, who was a Treasury and health minister in Tony Blair’s governments.

“A major national effort is needed to expand opportunities for home ownership and will require more radical action on housing supply.”

The commission’s State of the Nation 2016 report encouraged the government to build 3m homes over the next decade and build on the green belt.

The report’s lead author, Dr Paul Sanderson, said only “better-off” young people with parents who had accumulated housing wealth were likely to consider home ownership unless there were “radical changes to the housing market”.

“It is further embedding social immobility into the housing market,” said the Anglia Ruskin senior lecturer and University of Cambridge fellow.

“Obviously it’s down to affordability, increasing housing prices and incomes staying static compared to inflation.”

Sanderson said an increase in building social housing, regulation of planning developments and a focus on the help-to-buy scheme could help turn the tide.

John Healey, the Labour party’s shadow secretary of state for housing and a former government minister, however, criticised flaws in the scheme.

“This is further evidence of an inequality of wealth and opportunity for home ownership in this country and it’s part of seven years of failure on housing under Conservative ministers,” Healey told the Guardian.

“The government has got to do more to help young first-time buyers who don’t have the bank of mum and dad behind them.

“They could start by making sure help to buy is better targeted. It’s indefensible that help to buy is helping almost 25,000 people who are not first-time buyers.

“Younger people on smaller incomes are increasingly locked out.”

By Peter J Walker

Large electronic device ban comes into force on UK airlines


A ban on large electronic devices in aeroplane cabins has come into effect on several airlines flying “into the UK and US”.

Citing attacks on aircraft and in airports in recent years, the US has applied the restrictions to nine carriers from eight countries: Turkey; Morocco; Jordan; Egypt; the United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Qatar; and Kuwait. The UK ban covers six nations, excluding the UAE, Morocco and Kuwait, but including Lebanon and Tunisia.