Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn of Nasa costs to get back in race to the Moon

( via – – Tue, 27th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Jeff Bezos has offered to cover $2bn (£1.4bn) of Nasa costs in order to be reconsidered for a key contract to build a Moon landing vehicle.

In April, the space agency awarded the $2.9bn contract to Elon Musk, rejecting a bid from Bezos' company Blue Origin.

The award is for building the landing system that will carry astronauts down to the lunar surface as early as 2024.

Nasa could only award the contract to one company, not two as expected because of a funding shortfall.

The space agency had received only $850m of the $3.3bn it requested from Congress to build the Moon lander.

In a letter to Nasa's administrator Bill Nelson, released on Monday, Mr Bezos wrote: “Blue Origin will bridge the HLS [Human Landing System] budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2bn to get the programme back on track right now.

“This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments.”

At the time of the award, Nasa's human exploration chief Kathy Lueders admitted that the space agency's current budget precluded it from selecting two companies.

Nasa also cited the proven record of orbital missions by Elon Musk's SpaceX firm as a factor in the award. Cost is also thought to have played a role: SpaceX's bid was the lowest-priced by some distance.

The decision meant that SpaceX's cylindrical Starship vehicle would carry the astronauts in Nasa's first mission to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Alabama-based defence contractor Dynetics was also vying for the contract.

Bezos had partnered with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper in a bid to join this crucial phase of Nasa's Human Landing System programme.

Their design was named the Blue Moon lander, and bore a passing resemblance to a beefed-up version of the lunar module (LM) that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface in 1969.

In his letter, Bezos emphasised Blue Moon's proven heritage: “We created a 21st Century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterised Apollo architecture – an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety.”

Musk's Starship has pushed the envelope of spacecraft design, employing a radical approach to landing and incorporating innovative methane-fuelled engines.

Bezos also used his letter to emphasise Blue Origin's use of hydrogen fuel, which dovetails with Nasa's longer-term aims of refuelling spacecraft from water-ice mined on the Moon. The water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen propellant for rocket engines.

In Nasa's selection statement from April, SpaceX received an “acceptable” technical rating and an “outstanding” management rating. Blue Origin's bid was also rated “acceptable” on its technical merits but its management rating was deemed “very good” by the space agency.

After losing out to SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), alleging Nasa unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute” in the way that it awarded the contract to SpaceX.

That protest, along with one from Dynetics, is awaiting adjudication, although some in the space community regard the chances of a reversal as unlikely.

By By Paul Rincon
Science editor

Beijing strips online tutoring firms ability to make profit from teaching core subjects

( via – – Mon, 26th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Shares in Chinese online tutoring firms have slumped after Beijing stripped them of the ability to make a profit from teaching core subjects.

The new guidelines also restrict foreign investment in the industry.

The major shift in policy comes as authorities try to ease the financial pressures of raising children, after China posted a record low birth rate.

It is one of the biggest ever overhauls of the country's $120bn (£87bn) private tutoring sector.

Under the guidelines, issued jointly by the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council, all institutions offering tuition on the school curriculum will be registered as non-profit organisations.

The new rules also state: “Curriculum subject-tutoring institutions are not allowed to go public for financing; listed companies should not invest in the institutions, and foreign capital is barred from such institutions.”

The statement said the move was intended “to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education.”

News of the rule changes have slammed the share prices of China's private education firms.

In Hong Kong trade, companies including New Oriental Education & Technology, Koolear Technology Holding Scholar Education and China Beststudy Education plummeted by as much as 47% on Monday.

On Friday in New York, TAL Education Group shares fell by more than 70%, while Gaotu Techedu lost 63% of its market value.

In a statement released on Sunday, TAL said it expects the guidelines “will have material adverse impact on its after-school tutoring services related to academic subjects in China's compulsory education system”, without giving details of the expected extent of the effect.

The announcement comes as Chinese authorities are cracking down on a wide range of online services from ride-hailing app Didi to Tencent's music streaming platforms.

Last week, China's internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), ordered some of the country's biggest online platforms to remove inappropriate child-related content and fined them.

In a statement, the CAC said its actions against Kuaishou, Tencent's messaging tool QQ, Alibaba's Taobao and Weibo “focused on solving seven types of prominent online problems that endanger the physical and mental health of minors”.

Twitter report a better than expected rise in quarterly ad revenue of more than $1bn

( via– Fri, 23rd July 2021) London, Uk – –

The better than expected figures also saw the social media company bounce back to profit in the April-June period with one analyst saying “the overall digital ad market is on fire right now”.

Shares in Twitter have risen after it reported a better than expected rise in quarterly ad revenue to more than $1bn.

Twitter said the increase had been helped by improvements in its ad targeting as well as higher demand from companies to reach consumers as economies open up.

The US tech company's results also showed its number of “monetisable” daily active users – those who are shown ads – climbed by seven million to 206 million though they fell by one million in the US.

It comes after Twitter introduced products in new areas such as audio-only chat rooms and newsletter publishing as it seeks to revive growth.

Results for the second quarter showed ad revenues were up by 87% compared to the same period a year ago to $1.05bn, beating Wall Street estimates of $910m.

Twitter has been working to improve the effectiveness of its ads, introducing 2,500 new topic categories to help users find content that interests them.

That provides more advertising target data to the company.

Chief financial officer Ned Segal said: “We get great signal about what people are most interested in, where they are or the places they care about.”

Twitter bounced back into the black in the quarter, with a profit of $65.6m compared to a loss of $1.38bn a year ago.

It also lifted its forecast for spending this year as it invests in its engineering and product teams, but that did not hold back investor cheer, with shares climbing 5% in after-hours trading.

The results late on Thursday came as Snap, owner of Snapchat, reported revenue growth of 116%.

Ygal Arounian, research analyst at Wedbush securities, said that together the figures showed “that the overall digital ad market is on fire right now, with the reopening further strengthening advertisers' budgets”.

Food workers exempt from quarantine rules

( via – – Fri, 23rd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers will be exempt from quarantine rules as the government tries to prevent food supply problems.

The move comes after the rising number of retail workers being forced to self-isolate began to affect the availability of some products.

The government said workers, regardless of vaccination status, could do daily Covid testing instead of isolating.

Up to 10,000 workers are expected to qualify for the scheme.

The new daily contact testing measures are beginning at 15 supermarket depots, followed by 150 depots next week, but they will not apply to supermarket store staff.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that shop staff had been excluded from the scheme because their inclusion would have been a “really significant undertaking”.

“You're talking then thousands of different shops and many more people and we still want to maintain the test, trace and isolate system.”

However, he added that the government would keep the policy “under review, but we think this is a sensible first step”.

“We're never going to take risks with our food supply chain,” he added.

The government's move comes as supermarkets said the supply of some products was being affected by the “pingdemic” keeping staff away from work.

A record 618,903 people were told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app between 8 and 15 England and Wales.

While some retailers said they may have to close stores, they played down fears of food shortages, saying the problems were not widespread.

It will mean workers who are alerted by the app or contacted by NHS Test and Trace will be able to continue working if they test negative, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “disruption is limited at the moment”, but it was vital that the government rolled out the scheme as fast as possible and was prepared to take further action if necessary.

Separately, the government outlined plans to allow other key industries in England to deploy daily Covid testing instead of self-isolation for a limited number of essential workers. In this case, the scheme will only apply to workers who are fully vaccinated.

This scheme covers sectors including transport, emergency services, border control, energy, digital infrastructure, waste, the water industry, essential defence outputs and local government.

The policy applies only to workers named on a list kept updated by officials – it is not a blanket exemption for all employees in a sector.

Analysis: By Faisal Islam

This intervention should alleviate genuine concerns in the food industry about supplies. Hundreds of designated sites – supermarket depots and food manufacturers – will be able to administer the tests that will enable workers to skip the need for self-isolation.

This will be the case whatever the vaccination status of the worker. It is not sector-wide and will not, for example, apply to actual supermarket stores.

But it should be enough to stop some of the sporadic shortages become a systemic issue. Shoppers should feel reassured.

More generally, the help in other sectors is limited.

The government clarified that the scheme announced earlier this week to allow named double-vaccinated workers approved by letter to avoid isolation would apply to 16 sectors, from energy to waste to medicine and essential transport.

The bar is high. The government is trying to keep the Test and Trace system intact as a second line of defence against the pandemic. It is as tricky a balancing act as it has always been.

Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that while the announcement would be a relief to some businesses, “it will leave many more still facing critical staff shortages and lost revenue as the number of people being asked to isolate remains high”.

CBI director general Tony Danker agreed, warning: “The current approach to self-isolation is closing down the economy, rather than opening it up.”

Businesses have already exhausted contingency plans to get in extra staff and are “at risk of grinding to a halt in the next few weeks”, he added.

Phil Langslow, trading director at Cheshire-based County Milk Products, which provides dairy products to the likes of Nestle and Kellogg's, said the government move was “a step in the right direction“.

“People having to isolate meant that a number of our suppliers, the service providers that are doing the transport for us, have just said they cannot cope. Roughly half of the deliveries that we would expect to be done are not being done routinely and we're having to scramble to actually get product to its destination on time.

“If you think of the food chain as just that – as a chain, and like any chain, you're only as good as the weakest link – if you cannot get your goods to the market, then you've got a problem,” he told the BBC's Today programme.

Scotland has also launched a system of exemptions from self-isolation, covering workers in sectors such as health and social care.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said daily testing of food industry staff would “minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk”.

Post Office IT scandal: Postmasters to get up to £100,000

( via – – Thur, 22nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of offences in a Post Office IT scandal will get interim compensation of up to £100,000, the government has said.

As of this week, a total of 57 former sub-postmasters have had their convictions quashed – with more due in court over the coming months.

More people have been affected by the scandal than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK.

The government has agreed to fund the initial payments.

Those affected may receive extra compensation at a later date if they take their cases through the civil courts.

Postal affairs minister Paul Scully said: “The suffering and distress these postmasters and their families have gone through cannot be overstated. While nothing will make up for the years of pain they faced after this appalling injustice, I hope this initial step provides a measure of comfort.

“The Post Office has started to turn a corner in terms of dealing with its past mistakes – and this government will support them in doing so wherever possible.”

Hundreds of people who ran Post Office branches were convicted of various offences, including theft and false accounting, when the Horizon software system was used. However, the IT was found to have bugs and defects that left a black hole in accounts.

DVLA managers decisions meant ‘Catastrophic’ backlog of 1.4 million cases, union says

( via – – Wed, 21st July 2021) London, Uk – –

Decisions made by managers at the DVLA driving licence body have meant a “catastrophic” processing backlog of 1.4 million cases, a union says.

Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services union, said if staff were allowed to work from home the backlog could be reduced.

He told Transport Committee MPs other members of the civil service “were tearing their hair out” at the DVLA.

He said it is a “stain” on the reputation of the civil service.

Mr Serwotka said the DVLA are “refusing to engage in a proper discussion.”

“In 21 years (in this role), I have never encountered the level of incompetence and mismanagement that is on display at the DVLA in Swansea,” Mr Serwotka told the MPs on Wednesday.

“The tragedy of that is not just that public are suffering. Our members many of whom are quite lowly paid and very stressed at work are bearing the brunt of this.”

Mr Serwotka said there had been 643 Covid cases and one fatality at the DVLA during the course of the pandemic and that there are serious risks to staff's health and safety because of its actions.

Don't complain

Sarah Evans, the DVLA branch chair at PCS, said that staff are worried as they can see cases rising on site, but that they have been told not to complain.

“Our work site is very different because there is a high volume of staff in a small area,” Ms Evans told the committee.

The union want more staff to be able to work from home to be able to allow for better social distancing in the offices and to allow those isolating at home to still continue to be productive, pointing out the other departments had been able to deliver remote working.

“We believe that if the department of work and pensions can deal with three million universal credit claims, if HMRC can deliver furlough scheme, if we have workers in the home office ministry of justice, devolved nations, working from home handling in some cases much more secure data so could the DVLA,” said Mr Serwotka.

“We know there cant be a security issue in the DVLA that's not the same in the rest of the civil service.

“Weeks and weeks of productivity have been lost by stopping staff working from home,' said Ms Evans. ‘There's no doubt at all that we would not be in situation we are in … had we been given the capability.”

Industrial dispute

Mr Serwotka added that although they believed there was a lack of investment in technology that the union had been told that it was also because the DVLA were concerned about trust and supervision of staff.

The PCS and the DVLA are currently in an industrial dispute that has seen targeted strike action since April where staff in different departments have walked out for a few days at a time.

The PCS say that they had negotiated a deal after months of discussions that would protect the health of workers and provide respite and recognition of what they had done over the last few months. They say that the agreement was withdrawn on 1 June without an explanation.

Julie Lennard, DVLA chief executive, and The Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads, Buses and Places at the Department for Transport are due to give evidence later.

By Caroline Davies

‘Pingdemic’ hit Iceland and Greene King in latest reported major staff absences

( via– Mon, 19th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Business leaders are asking the government to drop self-isolation requirements immediately for those who have been “pinged” by the COVID-19 app but have been fully vaccinated after a number of industries reported major staff absences.

Iceland supermarkets and Greene King pubs have become the latest to be affected by the so-called “pingdemic” – which is disrupting businesses as workers receive alerts telling them to self-isolate.

Greene King said it has had to close 33 pubs in the past week while Iceland's boss Richard Walker told the BBC more than 1,000 staff were off due to COVID and it has shut a number of stores.

Pub chain Wetherspoons told Sky News it had “maybe a couple of hundred” staff off and had not had to close any sites though in a few cases some had opened “a couple of hours later than normal”.

Elsewhere the AA's chief executive Jakob Pfaudler emailed customers to apologise to those who “may have had a longer wait than usual” because call centres had been “impacted by the recent surge in the Delta variant”.

The latest updates add to the picture of disruption across the economy that has been reported in the past few days from the meat processing sector to car manufacturing and transport networks.

That has prompted calls from business leaders for an immediate change to the rules so that those who have been fully vaccinated from the virus do not have to isolate.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwateng acknowledged that it was the “single biggest issue” being raised with him by company bosses but told LBC “there isn't any movement on it”.

Mr Kwarteng said there had been no change to the 16 August date for when the self-isolation requirement for those who have been double jabbed will be eased.

However, rules for frontline health and social care workers are being eased.

A spokesperson for Greene King, which runs 2,500 pubs, hotels and restaurants in the UK, said people having to self-isolate because of app alerts was “becoming an increasing problem”.

“In the last week alone we had to temporarily close 33 pubs, which is making it even more challenging to rebuild trade as we reopen and is very disruptive for our team members,” they said.

“Along with the rest of the hospitality industry we are calling on the government to roll out a ‘test to release' scheme to impacted industries allowing people to continue working if they receive a negative lateral flow test result.”

It comes after rival Young's last week said 350 of its staff were self isolating due to COVID rules.

Meanwhile, trade body UK Hospitality said about a fifth of workers in the sector were self-isolating.

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe said at the weekend that the number of staff isolating meant the chain might have to reduce opening hours.

He warned it was a “major issue across every industry at the moment”, adding: “Our COVID cases are roughly doubling every week and the pinging level is about three to one of COVID cases, so we're seeing that growing exponentially.”

Tim Morris, the chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, said a number of big port operators had reported 10% of their staff being work.

On Saturday, disruption to transport networks from the London Underground to buses in East Yorkshire was reported.

Last week, the British Meat Processors' Association said it was also facing shortages and that if the situation deteriorated further some production lines might have to be shut down altogether.

At Britain's biggest car plant in Sunderland, hundreds of workers were off self-isolating while at the other end of the country, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars said the situation had pushed it to a “critical point” which might mean it having to halve production.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Post Office Horizon scandal: More sub-postmasters cleared

( via – – Mon, 19th July 2021) London, Uk – –

The Court of Appeal has cleared 12 more former subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences during the Post Office Horizon scandal.

It brings the total of judgements overturned to 57, but hundreds more are hoping for similar decisions.

Between 1999 and 2015, they were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to vanish from accounts at their branches.

The problems were caused by the Horizon computer system in Post Office branches which turned out to be flawed.

Some subpostmasters were imprisoned after being convicted of stealing money.

In April, 39 people had verdicts against them overturned, following on from the overturning of six other convictions in December.

More people have been affected by this than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK.

Revolut, UK based digital banking app rockets to $33 bln valuation after Softbank-backed fundraising

( via — Thur, 15th July 2021) London, UK —

LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – British-based digital banking app Revolut has raised around $800 million in a new funding round led by Softbank's (9984.T) Vision Fund and Tiger Global Management, valuing the company at around $33 billion.

The fundraising makes Revolut Britain's most valuable fintech firm and on paper it is now worth slightly more than the market capitalisation of mainstream lender NatWest (NWG.L).

London-based Revolut was worth just $5.5 billion when it raised $500 million in early 2020, and had been eyeing a valuation of around $20 billion as recently as June, according to media reports at the time.

Such stellar valuations are increasingly common in the financial technology sector, with payments company Wise (WISEa.L) valued at $11 billion last week in London's biggest ever tech listing.

Founded in 2015 by former Credit Suisse trader Nik Storonsky and developer Vladyslav Yatsenko, Revolut has won more than 16 million customers with products including foreign exchange, stock trading and cryptocurrencies, undercutting mainstream banks' prices.

It has yet to translate that rapid growth into profitability, however, with its annual losses doubling last financial year on investment in risk controls.

Revolut has in recent years accelerated its global expansion, pushing into markets including the United States, Australia and Japan.

The fresh cash will mainly be used to help product development, and marketing in countries that Revolut is expanding into, particularly the U.S. and India, Chief Financial Officer Mikko Salovaara told reporters.

The fundraising would not affect the timetable for any potential listing of Revolut, he said.

“We think eventually we will be a public company but have no immediate plans to list,” he said.

The investment round was endorsed by Britain's finance minister Rishi Sunak, who wants to grow the country's fintech industry to help keep the financial sector competitive following the UK's departure from the European Union.

“We want to see even more great British Fintech success stories like Revolut,” he said.

Reporting by Lawrence White

Google fined €500m by France’s antitrust watchdog over copyright

( via – – Tue, 13th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Google must come up with proposals for how it would compensate agencies for use of their news

France’s antitrust watchdog has fined Google €500m for failing to comply with the regulator’s orders on how to conduct talks with the country’s news publishers in a row over copyright.

The fine comes amid international pressure on online platforms such as Google and Facebook to share more revenue with news outlets.

The US tech group must now come up with proposals within the next two months on how it would compensate news agencies and other publishers for the use of their news. If it does not do that, the company would face additional fines of up to €900,000 per day.

Google said it was very disappointed with the decision but would comply. “Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers,” the US tech giant said.

A Google spokesperson added: “We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”

News publishers APIG, SEPM and AFP accuse the tech company of having failed to hold talks in good faith with them to find common ground for the remuneration of news content online, under a recent European Union directive that creates so-called “neighbouring rights”.

The case itself focused on whether Google breached temporary orders issued by the antitrust authority, which demanded such talks take place within three months with any news publishers that ask for them.

“When the authority decrees an obligation for a company, it must comply scrupulously, both in the spirit and letter (of the decision). Here, this was unfortunately not the case,” the antitrust body’s chief, Isabelle de Silva, said in a statement. She also said the regulator considered that Google had not acted in good faith in its negotiations with the publishers.

APIG, which represents most major French print news publishers including Le Figaro and Le Monde, remains one of the plaintiffs, even though it signed a framework agreement with Google earlier this year, sources told Reuters. This framework deal has been put on hold pending the antitrust decision, the sources said.

The framework agreement, which many other French media outlets criticised, was one of the highest-profile deals under Google’s News Showcase programme to provide compensation for news snippets used in search results, and the first of its kind in Europe.

Google agreed to pay $76m over three years to a group of 121 French news publishers to end the copyright row, documents seen by Reuters showed.

UK police seize record £294 million haul of cryptocurrency

( via — Tue, 13th July 2021) London, UK —

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) – British police have seized record hauls of cryptocurrency totalling 294 million pounds ($408 million) as part of an investigation into money laundering after organised crime groups moved into cyptocurrencies to wash their dirty money.

London police said on Tuesday they had seized 180 million pounds of an undisclosed cryptocurrency less than three weeks after making a 114 million pound haul on June 24 as part of a money laundering investigation.

“While cash still remains king in the criminal word, as digital platforms develop we’re increasingly seeing organised criminals using cryptocurrency to launder their dirty money,” said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty.

A 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of money laundering after the first haul was discovered and has been interviewed under caution over the 180 million pound discovery.

“Today’s seizure is another significant landmark in this investigation which will continue for months to come as we hone in on those at the centre of this suspected money laundering operation,” said Detective Constable Joe Ryan.

As cryptocurrencies are largely anonymous, convenient and global in nature, some of the world's biggest criminal groups have bet big on them as a way to launder money and stay one step ahead of the police, tax and security forces.

By Guy Faulconbridge

Uber picks former Tesco exec Eve Henrikson’s to run European delivery arm

( via– Mon, 12th July, 2021) London, Uk – –

Eve Henrikson's appointment as the boss of Uber's delivery operations – including its Uber Eats app – across Europe will be announced on Monday, Sky News learns.

Uber will this week name a former Tesco executive as the head of its European delivery arm amid a frenzy of competition in the rapid grocery sector.

Sky News understands that Eve Henrikson, who spent years working for Britain's biggest online grocer, is joining the owner of the world's best-known ride-hailing app as regional general manager for Uber Delivery in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The last permanent occupant of the role was Stephane Ficaja, who left Uber earlier this year.

Ms Henrikson's appointment will come amid a deluge of investment in tech companies specialising in fast urban logistics.

Deliveroo, which went public in London through a calamitous flotation earlier in 2021, has since seen its shares recover amid continued growth in consumer demand.

Meanwhile, the likes of Getir and Gorillas, which promise to deliver groceries within minutes, are raising vast sums of capital to accelerate their efforts to capture market share.

Ms Henrikson said her role would include an attempt to launch “new on-demand services and adjacencies, providing best-in-class customer experiences and delivering profitable growth”.

Uber is expanding its delivery services into areas such as groceries, retail and pharmacy products, having been one of the early entrants to the restaurant delivery space through its Uber Eats operation.

It has also launched Uber Direct, a delivery-as-a-service offering for corporate customers such as McDonald's.

Uber said it had more than doubled gross bookings for the delivery business in the first quarter of the year.

The Uber Eats app is now available in nearly 900 cities in 14 countries across the EMEA region, and the second-largest player in the UK market, according to the company.

By Mark Kleinman

How Tech Companies Made Billions And Paid 0 Taxes

Source: Alux

This one is pretty much a crash course on how a lot of big companies, in general, get full marks for tax evasion.

This Alux video we will be answering the following questions:

How many corporations paid no taxes in 2020? What companies did not pay taxes in 2020? How are Fortune 500 companies not taxed? What companies paid zero taxes? What company pays the most tax? Why did Amazon not pay taxes? How does Nike no tax? How much did billionaires pay in taxes? How do big companies pay no taxes? Did Google pay taxes? Is Amazon Paying Taxes 2020? Did Amazon pay any taxes last year? How much did FedEx pay in taxes 2019? Do oil companies pay taxes? How many Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes last year? Who actually pays corporate taxes? Do corporations pay less taxes than individuals? Which UK company pays most taxes? Does Walmart pay any taxes? Does Elon Musk pay taxes in the US? Do footballers pay tax UK? Do Amazon pay taxes in the UK? Who paid the most tax in 2019? Who is highest tax payer in India? Who is the highest tax payer in USA?

CDs and DVDs will no longer be sold by Sainsbury’s

( via – – Fri, 9th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Supermarket giant Sainsbury's says it has decided to stop selling CDs and DVDs as streaming services take their toll on sales of the products.

A spokesperson said Sainsbury's customers increasingly went for music and films online instead of buying the shiny silver discs.

The firm said sales were being phased out, although it would continue to sell vinyl records in some stores.

CD sales have shrunk in the past decade but were still worth £115m last year.

Other big supermarkets show no sign of following Sainsbury's lead, with larger branches of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons still stocking a range of CDs and DVDs.

“Our customers increasingly go online for entertainment, so earlier this year we took the decision to gradually phase out the sale of DVDs and CDs, so that we can dedicate extra space to food and popular products like clothing and homewares,” Sainsbury's said.

The decision is another sign that the CD, once the dominant means of buying and selling recorded music, is long past its heyday.

With sales hit first by the MP3 music file, then by streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, the silver disc is now seen as unfashionable in many circles.

Worse still, the format that it was designed to kill off, the vinyl record, has enjoyed a resurgence, with UK sales climbing to 4.8 million last year, bringing in revenue of more than £86m.

That was still well short of the money brought in by CDs. But according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the value of record sales in 2021 is expected to surpass that of CDs for the first time since the late 1980s.

“The CD has proved exceptionally successful for nearly 40 years and remains a format of choice for many music fans who value sound quality, convenience and collectability,” said a BPI spokesperson.

“Although demand has been following a long-term trend as consumers increasingly transition to streaming, resilient demand is likely to continue for many years, enhanced by special editions and other collectible releases.

“If some retailers now see the format as less of a priority, this will create a further opportunity for others, such as independent shops and specialist chains such as HMV, to cater to the continuing demand.”

Out of fashion

Music industry observer Graham Jones points out that supermarkets have always carried a very limited selection of CDs, with an emphasis on big names such as Ed Sheeran.

But as his book Last Shop Standing makes clear, the supermarkets could still make life difficult for record shops, especially by undercutting them on price.

In one chapter, he recounts an incident from 2008, when a shop in the East Midlands found that rather than ordering copies of the latest Coldplay CD from the record company, it was cheaper to buy them on special offer from Morrisons and Asda and resell them.

However, such incidents are unlikely to be repeated these days.

“Sales of CDs are slowing down, so I can understand why Sainsbury's are pulling out, really,” he told the BBC.

“Vinyl is incredibly fashionable and the CD has gone out of fashion.

“A lot of indies [independent shops] may be stocking less CDs than they used to, but they're still selling. There's this myth that the CD is completely dead.”

By Robert Plummer
Business reporter

Volkswagen, BMW fined $1 billion for emissions cartel buy EU

( via — Thur, 8th July 2021) London, UK —

BRUSSELS, July 8 (Reuters) – The European Commission fined German carmakers Volkswagen and BMW a total of 875 million euros ($1 billion) on Thursday for colluding to curb the use of emissions cleaning technology they had developed.

The case, separate to the so-called ‘Dieselgate' scandal over software designed to cheat on vehicle emissions tests, sets a precedent by extending the application of European competition law to technical-level talks between industry players.

In this case, talks held a decade ago centred on design standards for AdBlue, an additive used to cleanse nitrogen oxide from the exhaust gases produced by diesel-powered cars.

“This is a first,” European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager told a news conference in Brussels. “We have never had a cartel whose purpose was to restrict the use of novel technology.”

Under a settlement, Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) will pay a fine of 502 million euros and BMW (BMWG.DE) 373 million euros. Daimler, also part of the cartel, was not fined after revealing its existence.

Vestager said the German carmakers, which included VW units Audi (AUDVF.PK) and Porsche (PSHG_p.DE), had possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions more than required under EU law but avoided competing to do so.

“So today's decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude,” said Vestager.

The EU had narrowed the original scope of its investigation to ensure its charges stuck.


Vestager said that all of the parties had agreed to settle the case and “have acknowledged their role in this cartel”.

Volkswagen, however, said it was considering whether to take legal action, saying the penalty over technical talks about emissions technology set a questionable precedent. 

“The Commission is entering new judicial territory, because it is treating technical cooperation for the first time as an antitrust violation,” Volkswagen said, adding that the fines had been set even though no customers had suffered any harm.

The nub of the carmakers' complaints boil down to whether setting common technical standards amounts to anti-competitive behaviour – or whether indeed it makes it easier for an industry as a whole to embrace new technology.

The Commission said in its 2019 charge sheet that the German carmakers had colluded to restrict the size of AdBlue tanks between 2006 and 2014, thus making the urea-based additive less convenient to use.

BMW noted in its defence that it had been cleared of suspicion of using illegal ‘defeat devices' to cheat emissions tests. 

“This underlines that there has never been any allegation of unlawful manipulation of emission control systems by the BMW Group,” BMW said in a statement.

In the Dieselgate scandal, VW admitted to using such defeat devices, leading to more than 32 billion euros ($38 billion) in vehicle refits, fines and legal costs for the Wolfsburg-based carmaker.

($1 = 0.8460 euros)

By Marine Strauss, Alexander Hübner

Ocado report a 20% increase in sales after shopping shifts online due to pandemic

( via – – Tue, 6th July 2021) London, Uk – –

Retailer says new groups of customers have become used to online grocery buying in pandemic

Ocado, the online grocer, has reported a 20% increase in retail sales and hailed a permanent shift in grocery shopping in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail revenues climbed by 19.8% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 May, and Ocado cut its half-year loss before tax to £23.6m from £40.6m. At the end of the period, it was serving 777,000 active customers, a 22% increase year on year.

The firm recorded positive growth in the three months to the end of May, even as Covid-19 restrictions began to ease. This meant, however, that fewer meals were being eaten at home and basket sizes began to return towards pre-pandemic levels. Over the half year as a whole, the average basket size was flat at £138.

Tim Steiner, the Ocado chief executive, said the company was tapping into demand “from new pools of customers now socialised to online grocery shopping”.

He added: “As we head towards a post Covid-19 future, it is increasingly clear that the landscape for grocery worldwide has changed, for good.”

Ocado started selling Marks & Spencer products in September, after ending a longstanding partnership with Waitrose.

As the pandemic led to a boom in online shopping, Ocado ramped up its robotic warehouse capacity. It opened three sites in the first half, including the first “mini” warehouse in Bristol, and the first warehouses in the US for Kroger in Ohio and Florida. up to the daily Business Today email

The Bristol warehouse is operating at just over half of its capacity of 30,000 orders a week. Ocado plans to open 56 warehouses in coming years, with 15 under construction outside the UK. It is about to open a new warehouse in Andover, to replace one destroyed by fire, as a “state of the art robotic customer fulfilment centre”.

Ocado is looking to build more than 12 “Zoom” micro sites in UK cities, which can handle 10,000 products and deliver in less than an hour, with the first opened in Acton.

The company has also struck a deal withAuchan Retail to supply its technology and develop the French group’s online business in Spain.

By Julia Kollewe

Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon boss

( via – – Mon, 5th July 2021) London, Uk – –

In 2004, Jeff Bezos and his technical adviser Colin Bryar drove together to the city of Tacoma, an hour south of Seattle in Washington State.

At that time Amazon was a multi-billion dollar company. However they were headed to Amazon's customer services centre – where they were to spend two days as customer service agents.

“Jeff was actually taking the calls himself”, Bryar says. He recalls that a complaint on one product in particular kept coming in. “Jeff's eyes went wide,” he says.

Bezos was frustrated. There was clearly something wrong with the product, but it hadn't been escalated. Later that day he sent out an email asking for more efficient ways of flagging faulty products.

Bezos steps down from Amazon on Monday – exactly 27 years after he founded it.

In that time he has developed a series of unusual leadership principles – which some argue are the backbone of his success. Others believe they speak to everything that is wrong with Big Tech.

Talk to anyone who's ever worked at Amazon, and you don't have to wait long before you hear the phrase “customer obsession”.

For Bezos, profit was a long-term aspiration. For a company to be successful it had to have happy customers – at almost any cost.

Nadia Shouraboura started working for Amazon in 2004. She went on to be invited into the elite “S-team” of Amazon managers – the senior managerial board. But when she first started, she thought she was going to be immediately fired.

“I made the biggest mistake of my life during our Christmas peak,” she says.

Shouraboura had ordered key products onto warehouse shelves that were too high. It would take time and money to get the right products off the shelves.

“I came up with a clever way for us to lose as little money as possible, and sort of fix the problem. But when I talked to Jeff about it he looked at me and said, ‘you're thinking about this all wrong'.

“You're thinking how to optimise money here. Fix the problem for customers, and then come back to me in a few weeks and tell me the cost.”

Bombshell claims

Bezos has many critics. Last month, a bombshell article from ProPublica claimed to have seen Bezos' tax returns – and alleged Mr Bezos paid no tax in 2007 and 2011. It was a stunning claim about the world's richest man.

Other negative stories about Amazon, its ruthlessness, its claims of monopolistic behaviour, haven't helped Bezos' reputation.

However, many people who work closely with him don't recognise the characterisation that he is uncaring or selfish.

For them he is a business visionary – a man with singular focus who has created a legendary work philosophy and a company worth almost $1.8trn (£1.3tn).

The two-pizza rule

Bezos likes small teams. He has a rule to keep meetings productive: make sure you can feed the whole group with two pizzas.

He hates PowerPoint presentations, preferring instead written memos for executives to discuss.

To avoid dominant personalities having too much sway, he'll sometimes go round each person at a meeting, asking how they feel about a question.

And people who know him say he likes those who push back. “We would argue, and we would scream at each other,” says Shouraboura.

“Everything is very open, and on the table, and the conversations get heated and very passionate. But it's about the subject, never against the person,” she says.

Amazon has a set of 14 “leadership principles”. One of those speaks of having “the backbone to disagree”.

And it seems Bezos genuinely wants to foster that culture at a higher level. Leaders should “not compromise for the sake of social cohesion”, the principle says.

There are questions, however, about whether that philosophy is always interpreted correctly down the chain at Amazon.

In 2015, the New York Times published an article with claims of a “bruising” work culture from former employees.

Bezos is a fan of engineering, inventions, machines. He's obsessed with metrics – not a bad trait in the world of logistics. But critics say that obsession has human costs, particularly in Amazon's numerous warehouses.

During the failed attempt by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, to form a union, I spoke to many workers who said they felt like a “cog in a machine”. Others would describe the feeling of being “constantly monitored”.

At more senior levels however, Bezos' management style appears different. He likes his teams to have autonomy, which he believes fosters innovation.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the astoundingly successful cloud computing service, on the face of it didn't have much to do with Amazon's core business: e-commerce.

However Bezos backed the idea, giving his trusted employee Andy Jassy the freedom, and capital, to go about creating a company within a company. Bezos views Jassy as an entrepreneur, not just a manager – a key part of why he will take over as Bezos' successor.

“It's easy to be brave when you're a start-up” says Shouraboura. “As you grow it gets harder and harder to be brave, because now you're risking a lot. He was always very brave.”

People who know him say that Bezos likes to approach problems “backwards”. “It's a very specific process at Amazon,” says Bryar.

In the planning stage teams will do a reverse timeline – start with what a launch would look like and then work backwards.

“The first thing the team does is write a press release, which is usually the last thing companies write.”

This plays into Bezos' view of time. It's something he thinks about a lot. He's installed a $42m (£30m), 10,000 year clock in a hollowed out mountain in Texas. It's supposed to represent the power of “long-term thinking”.

And to the fair, Bezos has always approached business with the long game in mind. People close to him often use the word “methodical” to describe the customer obsession over short-term profits.

Always fascinated by space travel, later this month he aims to fly into space on the first crewed flight made by his company Blue Origin.

A petition to not allow him back to Earth has gathered nearly 150,000 signatures.

But like him or loathe him, Bezos has proved an extremely bright and able leader – someone who has changed the way companies around the world operate.

By James Clayton
North America technology reporter

Asda head offices to allow hybrid working for staff

( via – – Fri, 2nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

Asda has announced it will make hybrid working permanent at its head offices once Covid restrictions are lifted.

The supermarket group said staff at Asda House in Leeds and George House in Leicester can choose where they work.

Around 4,000 staff work at both offices, with the majority based in Leeds.

England is set to lift final Covid measures on 19 July and many businesses have indicated they will continue to allow flexible working.

However, not all companies plan to embrace a hybrid approach. Goldman Sachs International has said it wants people to come back into the office once restrictions have ended.

Asda said its new approach “will encourage colleagues to select the best location to do their job”, including home, head office or even a store or depot.

When employees have meetings or training, they will be encouraged to come into the office.

But Asda said staff also “have the flexibility to work from home when it is more productive to do so, such as tasks that involve planning or research”.

Asda's plan is similar to one adopted by Nationwide, which will allow the building society's 13,000 office employees to “work anywhere”.

Nationwide is closing three offices in Swindon and the 3,000 staff based at those sites can either move to the nearby headquarters, work from home or mix the two. Some employees may be able to work from a local High Street branch if they prefer, instead of travelling to an office.

Jacki Simpson, Asda's vice president of people operations, said: “We have learned a great deal about working patterns during the last 16 months and have seen colleagues work productively across different locations.”

She said the retailer had consulted with staff about how they wanted to work in the future.

“We know they welcome the increased flexibility of remote working,” she said. “However, they also acknowledge there is some work that is simply better done from the office, so as we move forward a hybrid working model is the right approach for our people and the business.”

Virgin Galactic aims to reach space nine days before Amazon rival Jeff Bezos

( via– Fri, 2nd July 2021) London, Uk – –

The founder of the Virgin Group revealed his plan in a video on Twitter and teased viewers to “watch this space” for an announcement that will “give more people the chance to become astronauts” when he returns from the trip.

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has announced his plan to reach space nine days before Amazon boss Jeff Bezos by taking part in a test flight for his company Virgin Galactic.

In a video posted on Twitter, the Virgin Group founder introduced himself as “Astronaut 001” and said he will be “evaluating the customer space flight experience” during the test, beginning on July 11, ahead of Mr Bezos's maiden voyage on 20 July. “This July, our dream will become a reality and we are really excited to share that moment with you all.”

The Unity 22 mission will be the company's first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin but will be the 22nd flight test for rocket plane VSS Unity.

Taking off from a spaceport in New Mexico, the crew will be evaluating the “cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers” in the commercial cabin.

Sir Richard also said Virgin Galactic “stands at the vanguard of a new commercial space industry, which is set to open space to humankind and change the world for good”.

The company said it also wants to demonstrate the conditions for conducting human-tended research experiments.

The business tycoon, estimated to be worth around $5.5bn (£3.9bn), also teased potential customers that an “exciting” announcement will be made when he returns from the trip.

“When we return I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become astronauts because space does belong to us all, so watch this space,” Sir Richard said.

Virgin Galactic was given the go-ahead to fly paying customers to space after its licence was updated by the United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month.

One of the world's richest men, Mr Bezos is due to fly to space this month with his rival company Blue Origin.

The Amazon chief executive is set to be joined by his brother, an 82-year-old pilot and an anonymous bidder, who has paid $28m (£19.8m) to be on board the rocket's first trip on 20 July – the 52nd anniversary of the moon landings.

It is not clear when Blue Origin will be open for commercial business, but ticket sales and price lists are due to be available soon.

By Jess Sharp