Rolls-Royce to lower forecasts on how much its engines will fly in 2021 in light of travel restrictions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com –Tue, 26th Jan 2021) London, UK —

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Rolls-Royce lowered forecasts for how much its engines will fly this year as tighter coronavirus travel restrictions inflict fresh pain on airlines, saying this would mean a cash outflow of some 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion).percent of 2019 levels.

Countries around the world have tightened border controls over concerns that new COVID-19 variants are more transmissible, and that vaccines may not work against one from South African.

That has caused a further air traffic drop just as airlines and engine makers were hoping for a recovery, forcing Rolls to issue a trading update just six weeks after its last warning.

The Rolls forecast of a cash outflow of 2 billion pounds is higher than analyst estimates which range from Morgan Stanley’s 900 million pounds to 1.55 billion pounds forecast by Jefferies.

Flying hours, Rolls’ main revenue stream from airlines as they pay depending on how much they use its engines, are expected to be about 55% of 2019 levels, compared to a base forecast of 70% it gave in October.

“Enhanced restrictions are delaying the recovery of long-haul travel over the coming months compared to our prior expectations,” Rolls, whose engines power aircraft like Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The downgrade came after Rolls said in December that 2020’s cash outflow would be worse than expected at 4.2 billion pounds and its shares fell 5% to 93 pence at 1125 GMT.

Negative travel news has erased some of the gains made since November when a vaccine was discovered, with Rolls down 18% in the last month.

“Challenging conditions in the broader industry mean there may be incremental disappointments in a number of other areas,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

Rolls said that liquidity of 9 billion pounds gave it confidence it was well-positioned for the future.

Last year, it raised 5 billion pounds from shareholders and in loans to buffer against the uncertain pace of recovery, after some analysts speculated it could be nationalised.

It also plans to sell assets worth 2 billion pounds and is cutting more than 1 billion pounds in costs by axing 9,000 jobs and closing factories.

Rolls stuck to its forecast to turn cash flow positive at some point during the second half of 2021, saying it expected the cash outflow mainly in the first half, and said it remained on track to meet its 2022 cash flow guidance contingent on the expected recovery in flying hours.

($1 = 0.7344 pounds)

Reporting by Sarah Young

Small British businesses struggling to navigate new Brexit VAT rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 26th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Britain is no longer part of the EU VAT area, leading to extra costs for companies exporting to Europe

Some hauliers have refused contracts with small UK businesses because of the need for VAT guarantees.

Small British businesses exporting to the EU are struggling to navigate a new VAT regime, with one tax advisory firm receiving up to 200 calls a week from worried companies.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said its members are facing “significant issues” as a result of leaving the EU VAT area. “Businesses just did not have enough time to prepare for this,” said Selwyn Stein, managing director of VAT IT, a firm that helps reclaim the sales tax. “They’re being hit by a rulebook from 27 separate countries, when they are used to dealing with the EU as a single bloc.”

“They are calling us in a panic because their goods have been stopped and they don’t know what to do,” he said. “They have become fearful about trading so are stopping shipments until they have a resolution.”Advertisement

The UK is no longer part of the single EU VAT area, which means the sales tax is now collected by each country. Bills must be settled up front by the buyer, with a lack of preparedness on the part of exporters and purchasers resulting in shock demands for payment at the border in recent days.

Many small firms are having to consider registering for VAT in multiple jurisdictions for volumes in sales that are often relatively low, according to the FSB, which said the extra administrative burden could be off-putting.

Phil Ward, managing director of Bristol-based firm Eskimo, which sells designer radiators for up to £4,000, said he is considering moving some of its manufacturing to Poland to stay competitive. Brexit had dealt his business a blow, because the EU accounted for 25%-45% of its sales.

Eskimo has not exported anything so far this year as its main distributor has been unable to find a carrier willing to take the job.“We are the only designer and manufacturer of posh radiators in the UK – everything else is imported from Turkey or Italy,” said Ward, who is concerned it is a “hell of a lot more difficult” for EU buyers to deal with a British company than its main rivals, which are based in Italy.

Leaving the bloc also means UK firms can no longer take advantage of the VAT triangulation scheme, which makes cross-border trade easier between EU countries.

David Lee, managing director of Torqueflow-Sydex, an engineering company, said it is now charged VAT at 22% on goods manufactured by its Italian sister company, which are then sold to another EU country, because it is a UK entity.

“This is adding 22% on to our costs, which in a competitive market is an absolute killer,” said Lee. His company’s options include routeing shipments via the UK or registering as a tax entity in every EU country it trades with.

“I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years, working with Australia, Russia and the Middle East – this just makes everything look a joke,” he said.

By Zoe Wood and Caroline Bannock

Fashion retailer Boohoo buys Debenhams brand and website for £55m

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 25th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m.

However, it will not take on any of the firm's remaining 118 High Street stores or its workforce.

Boohoo said it was a “transformational deal” and a “huge step”. But the deal means that up to 12,000 jobs at the department store chain are set to go.

The 242-year-old Debenhams chain is already in the process of closing down, after administrators failed to secure a rescue deal for the business.

In a separate development, Asos says it is in “exclusive” talks to buy the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands out of administration.

But the online retailer said it only wanted the brands, not their shops, suggesting any deal would cost jobs.

The current owner of the brands, Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group, fell into administration last November putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

‘Best outcome'

A closing-down sale at 124 Debenhams stores began in December, as the administrators continued to seek offers for all or parts of the business.

The company announced recently that six shops would not reopen after lockdown, including its flagship department store on London's Oxford Street.

The administrators of Debenhams UK, FRP Advisory, said they had undertaken a “thorough and robust process” to achieve “the best outcome for Debenhams' stakeholders”.

“This transaction will allow a new Debenhams-branded business to emerge under strong new ownership, including an online operation and the opportunity to secure an international franchise network that will operate under licence using the Debenhams name,” they added.

Boohoo has already bought a number of High Street brands out of administration. It snapped up Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen, but not the associated stores.

Its executive chairman, Mahmud Kamani, said: “This is a transformational deal for the group, which allows us to capture the fantastic opportunity as ecommerce continues to grow. Our ambition is to create the UK's largest marketplace.

“Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion ecommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Boohoo said Debenhams was expected to relaunch on Boohoo's web platform later this year.

In the meantime, Debenhams will continue to operate its website for an agreed period.

Ethical questions

Boohoo has recently come under fire over workers' pay and conditions and its ultra-low pricing.

As well as facing questions about the environmental impact of its fast-fashion business model, there have been accusations of widespread abuse of employment law at some of Boohoo's suppliers in Leicester.

Investigations last year suggested workers were being paid below the minimum wage.

After an independent review of the claims found a series of failings, Mr Kamani said last month that the firm was working to fix the problems, adding: “We will make a better Boohoo.”

Announcing its latest deal, Boohoo said its plans included “transforming Debenhams through the development of an exciting online marketplace, capitalising on the sector's structural shift to online”.

It added that it intended to expand Debenhams' product categories and its supplier partnerships.

Boohoo said it was funding the deal from its existing cash reserves.

“The group will only be acquiring the brands and associated intellectual property rights – the transaction does not include Debenhams' retail stores, stock or any financial services,” Boohoo added.

Analysis: Dominic O'connnell

While online retailers have been whittling away at their High Street rivals for years, few could have predicted how quickly bricks-and-mortar stalwarts have collapsed. The pandemic has fatally undermined their already parlous finances. Businesses that appeared to have a chance of survival just a year ago have been wiped out and their brands bought by online players.

The scale of the change is profound: when Debenhams listed on the stock exchange in 2011, investors valued it at £1.6bn. Boohoo, which was founded only in 2006, already has a stock market value of £4.4bn. Asos, a bit player two decades ago when Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group was riding high and toying with a bid for Marks & Spencer, is now by valued by the stock market at £5bn.

Neither BooHoo or Asos see any value in the Debenhams or Topshop High Street estates. Instead, they will concentrate on development of the brands and the associated customer data. This is bad news for the 19,000-odd people who work in the branches of Debenhams and Topshop, and will leave councils around the country wondering how they will fill town centres that were based on retail.

But just as canny entrepreneurs and private equity companies are gearing up to buy struggling pub chains, in the hope of a recovery once lockdown restrictions are eased, so will some investors be wondering what next for the High Street. The British love affair with shopping will not end overnight and a well-placed punt now could have big rewards.

Debenhams has struggled for years with falling profits and rising debts, as more shopping has moved online. It called in administrators twice in two years, most recently in April.

However, its position became untenable during the coronavirus pandemic as non-essential retailers were forced to close for prolonged periods.

The firm had already trimmed its store portfolio and cut about 6,500 jobs since May, as it struggled to stay afloat.

Businessman Mike Ashley, who founded Sports Direct and also owns House of Fraser, had already made an offer for Debenhams after it was initially put up for sale in April.

However the takeover offer, thought to be in the region of £125m, was rejected as being too low.

Wolt food delivery platform raises $500m from global investor group

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 25th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

The Finnish company will announce investment from KKR and Tiger Global as soon as Tuesday, Sky News understands.

Another of Europe’s food delivery giants is raising hundreds of millions of pounds to fund its expansion, underlining the frenzy of global investor interest which has gripped the sector.

Sky News has learnt that Wolt, a Finnish company which operates in about 20 markets including Germany, Greece and Japan, will announce a huge financing round as soon as Tuesday.

According to private equity sources, the investment giants KKR, Tiger Global and DST will all participate in the round as new investors.

The round will be led by ICONIQ Capital, the investment group which manages the fortune of Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, one of the private equity insiders said.

One investor who held talks with Wolt but did not ultimately take part in the latest fundraising said it had been pitched at a substantial premium to its last valuation, potentially making it one of Europe's most valuable food delivery businesses.

Wolt was founded just seven years ago, and now delivers food in 120 cities in 23 countries.

The megaround highlights the scale of investors' determination to capture a slice of one of the sectors benefiting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Doordash recently went public in the US, while Deliveroo, one of Britain's biggest food delivery players, is drawing up plans to float in the coming months.

Deliveroo raised $180m of new capital from existing investors earlier this month, while it has strengthened its board by adding Lord Wolfson, the Next chief executive, as a non-executive director.

A Wolt spokeswoman declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

How Covid Derailed The Cheesecake Factory’s Success

Source: CNBC

Americans love The Cheesecake Factory. The restaurant known for its massive 21-page menu, dozens of dessert options and ancient Egypt-inspired decor was ranked as one of the top casual dining restaurants in the U.S. in 2019. But the eatery popular with everyone from NBA stars to cheesecake aficionados has fallen on hard times as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. In October, The Cheesecake Factory reported third-quarter sales fell by 12% and same-stores sales were down 23% from a year earlier. So after 40 years in business will The Cheesecake Factory be able to regain its momentum and will the chain's takeout and delivery service be enough to offset the decline of the dine-in restaurant experience?

How This Entrepreneur Grew One Lorry to a Fleet of Over 35 Vehicles & Machines in 7 Years

Source: Ashvill

This is the 2020 Ashville vehicle, plant and machinery fleet tour; all the weapons used by Ashville Waste Management, Aggregates, Concrete and Construction on a daily basis. Take a look at the journey of how Daniel Louisy went from one DAF Grab Lorry (Truck) to a growing fleet of over 35 vehicles and machines in just 7 years!

Public sector borrowing hit £34.1bn in December

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 22nd Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

The news comes amid fears that some local authorities are taking on risky levels of debt in an effort to stay financially afloat.

Public sector net borrowing reached £34.1bn in December – the third-highest monthly figure since records began in 1993.

The figure from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) means that:

• Borrowing since the start of the financial year in April has reached £270.8bn

• Borrowing in December 2020 was £28.2bn more than in December 2019

• December's figure was also higher than the £31.6bn borrowed in November 2020

• Public sector debt has reached an all-time high of £2.13trn – equivalent to 99.4% of GDP, the most
since the financial year ending 1962

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Since the start of the pandemic we've invested over £280bn to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK, and support our economy and public services.

“This has clearly been the fiscally responsible thing to do. But, as I've said before, once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing.”

Economists were divided over how soon Britons could see tax rises as part of the government's response.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note: “Public borrowing will fall sharply from about 20% of GDP this year to between 8% and 10% in 2021/22, if the government stops the furlough and self-employment income support schemes in the spring, and healthcare spending declines. Where have jobs been lost during the pandemic?

“We doubt that the chancellor will go a step further in the Budget on 3 March and push through large immediate tax rises or non-health spending cuts.

“But the Treasury will not tolerate a 10% deficit indefinitely and the timing of the next general election in 2024 suggests that Mr Sunak will not wait until the economy has fully recovered before actively tightening fiscal policy.

“Accordingly, we expect taxes to rise sharply in 2022, in order to attempt to stabilise the debt-to-GDP ratio while at the same time funding big demography-linked increases in health and pensions spending.”

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said the borrowing figure “underscores the inevitability of tax hikes in the March budget”.

He added: “There is, therefore, the increasing need for a substantial amount of 2020's enforced savings, propelled by pent-up demand, to find its way back into the economy later this year.”

Meanwhile, MPs have warned that some local authorities are taking on risky levels of debt in an effort to stay financially afloat.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said the Treasury was displaying a “worryingly laissez faire attitude” to the issue.

Ms Hillier said that “some local authorities have taken on extremely risky levels of debt in recent years in an effort to shore up dwindling finances”, particularly in commercial property investments.

“The pandemic has doubly exposed that risk – in the huge extra demands and duties it is placing on local authorities, and in the hit to returns on commercial investments,” the Labour MP added.

By Sharon Marris

Japanese car maker Nissan commits to keep making cars in Sunderland

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 22nd Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Japanese car maker Nissan has told the BBC its Sunderland plant is secure for the long term as a result of the trade deal reached between the UK and the EU.

It said it will move additional battery production close to the plant where it has 6,000 direct employees and supports nearly 70,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Currently, the batteries in its Leaf electric cars are imported from Japan.

Nissan would not confirm if this would mean additional jobs at Sunderland, which is the UK's largest car plant.

Manufacturing the more powerful batteries in the UK will ensure its cars comply with trade rules agreed with the EU requiring at least 55% of the car's value to be derived from either the UK or the EU to qualify for zero tariffs when exported to the EU.

Some 70% of the cars made in Sunderland are exported and the vast majority of them are sold in the EU.

Nissan had issued stark warnings last year that if the UK left the EU without a trade deal, the resulting tariffs on cars and components would make the Sunderland plant “unsustainable”.

Nissan's chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta told the BBC: “The Brexit deal is positive for Nissan. Being the largest automaker in the UK we are taking this opportunity to redefine auto-making in the UK.

“It has created a competitive environment for Sunderland, not just inside the UK but outside as well.

“We've decided to localise the manufacture of the 62kWh battery in Sunderland so that all our products qualify [for tariff-free export to the EU]. We are committed to Sunderland for the long term under the business conditions that have been agreed.”

It came as Nissan paused one of its two production lines in Sunderland on Friday as disruption at ports caused by the pandemic affected its supply chain.

The company said the move would affect the line which produces the Qashqai and Leaf, but work would resume next week.

‘Belief in Britain'

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng welcomed the firm's endorsement of Sunderland as a manufacturing base.

“Nissan's decision represents a genuine belief in Britain and a huge vote of confidence in our economy thanks to the certainty our trade deal with the EU delivers,” he said.

“For the dedicated and highly-skilled workforce in Sunderland, it means the city will be home to Nissan's latest models for years to come and positions the company to capitalise on the wealth of benefits that will flow from electric vehicle production.”

It's particularly welcome after the more guarded comments from the boss of Vauxhall's parent company last week.

Speaking as the tie-up between Fiat Chrsyler and Peugeot Citroen was christened with new umbrella name Stellantis, boss Carlos Tavares said that the future of its Ellesmere Port plant depended on the support the UK government was prepared to offer after its decision to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars after 2030.

“If you change, brutally, the rules and if you restrict the rules for business then there is at one point in time a problem,” he said.

Looking forward, he said it would make more sense to locate an electric vehicle factory closer to the larger EU market.

Industry voices welcomed the news from Nissan but reinforced the message from Vauxhall's owners that the government needs to do more to secure the future of the car industry as it electrifies.

“This is obviously good news and will help the Nissan Leaf avoid any future tariffs, but we are going to need to see a lot more investment in battery production in the UK if we are to preserve the UK as a car manufacturer and exporter,” said Professor David Bailey of Warwick University.

The head of trade body the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders agreed.

“The battery plant in Sunderland may be enough for Nissan's near-term plans to build tens of thousands of electric cars but the UK made 1.5 million cars last year and all will be partly electric by 2030,” Mike Hawes said.

‘Jobs at risk'

Andy Palmer, former boss of Aston Martin and current chairman of electric bus maker Switch Mobility, has gone further. He says that 800,000 jobs are at risk if the UK government doesn't act now to foster battery investment.

“Without electric vehicle batteries made in the UK, the country's auto industry risks becoming an antiquated relic and overtaken by China, Japan, America and Europe.”

He urged the UK government to use every lever at its disposal to make the UK attractive.

UK car investment has fallen sharply since the UK voted to leave the EU.

In the five years to 2016 it averaged £3.5bn per year. In the four years since it has averaged around £1bn – a fall of 71% at a time when the technology and map of car production are going through their biggest revolution since the car was invented.

The Nissan decision is therefore a very welcome boost to the UK which is in an international scramble for the investment of the future which is happening right now.

By Simon Jack

UK households urged to brace for £80-a-year hike in energy bills

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 21st Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Ofgem plans to lift cap on standard energy tariffs in April as market price for gas soars. The market price for UK gas climbed to three-year highs in recent weeks. 

Millions of households should brace themselves for an energy bill hike of more than £80 a year from April as Ofgem lifts the cap on standard energy tariffs, according to the regulator’s chief executive.

Jonathan Brearley said Ofgem would announce plans to lift the energy price cap for the first time in two years early next month, and warned that the move would wipe out the £84-a-year cut brought in last year.

In total, the increase could raise the dual-fuel energy bills for 11 million households to £1,126 a year from April, when the government’s job support scheme is due to reach its final weeks.

What is the energy price cap and how does it work?

“I understand that any change in energy prices right now is not going to be welcomed by customers,” Brearley said.

The Ofgem boss blamed the looming hike in standard variable energy tariffs on the steady rise in the market price for gas and electricity.

The price cap increase may include up to £21 for energy suppliers to help recover the cost of unpaid bills during the coronavirus pandemic, but a final decision on this amount has yet to be made, he added.

“The price cap is intended to protect customers against unfair charging. It’s never intended to be the best price in the market,” Brearley said. “If you want the best price then you should get in there and switch your supplier. I’ve just done so myself, and I do it every year. That is the best way to get good value.”

Almost 500,000 energy customers switched to a new supplier each month last year, according to figures from the industry group Energy UK. This compares with a total of 6.4 million for the whole of 2019.

The energy price increase has been widely expected within the energy industry after the market price for UK gas climbed to three-year highs in recent weeks, amid surging gas import rates in Asia and a global commodities boom.

The market boom could add £66 a year to the average dual-fuel energy bill, according to the energy consultancy Cornwall Insight.

However, Britain’s biggest energy suppliers are also calling for an extra £21 a year on the cap to help them reclaim the “bad debt” from households which have been unable to afford their energy bills during the pandemic.

Brearley said Ofgem would treat “any submission from any part of the industry with a degree of scepticism”, but that evidence he had seen so far suggested the cost estimates used to account for customer debt needed to change.

“We’re going to take a very cautious view, from a customer’s perspective, but we do need to take bad debt into account because it is one of the costs that these businesses face,” Brearley said.

He added that the regulator’s top priority for the year would be helping energy customers to weather the financial strain of the pandemic, by insisting suppliers treat customers fairly.

The regulator lifted a ban on energy companies using debt collectors to chase unpaid bills in June last year, after only three months’ reprieve, on the condition that suppliers first offered debt repayment plans to struggling customers.

“What we’ve said to suppliers is that we understand that you need to issue energy bills, we understand that you need to pursue costs but you’ve got to do that in a respectful and fair way,” Brearley said.

He said Ofgem was also “looking very hard” at E.On UK, one of the largest energy suppliers, which charged its customers twice in the run-up to Christmas and was unable to run its customer service channels as usual for almost two weeks owing to a deluge of customer complaints.

“E.On came to us very openly, and self-reported this, and they have put things right,” said Brearley. “But what a time for something like that to happen to customers. We’re not in a position to comment publicly, but as you can imagine we’re looking very hard at what happened, and any detriment to customers as a result.”

By Jillian Ambrose

UK manufacturers’ concern about shortage of materials and workers as COVID and Brexit hit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 21st Jan 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British manufacturers’ concerns about shortages of low-wage workers and supplies have risen the most in almost 50 years, a survey showed on Thursday, as they wrestle with COVID-19 disruptions and new customs rules after leaving the European Union.

A measure of how manufacturers feel about their competitiveness relative to EU rivals deteriorated at the fastest pace on record, meanwhile, and companies expected output and orders to decline, the Confederation of British Industry said of its survey results.

“Manufacturers across the board are continuing to battle major headwinds,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.

A monthly index of new orders for January dropped to -38 from -25 in December, and a quarterly measure of optimism sank to -22 from zero in October.

However, export orders bucked the broader trend, with this balance rising to its least negative since March, though it was still below its long-run average.

“(This) suggests that EU firms are not hesitating to source goods from the UK, despite the extra red tape and rise in haulage costs,” Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics said.

The survey adds to signs that Britain’s economy will contract in early 2021, hit by a surge in coronavirus cases and restrictions, and new bureaucracy for trade with the EU.

Manufacturing accounts for about 10% of Britain’s economy.

The much bigger services sector has been hit far harder by social-distancing measures and is also facing new barriers to trade with the EU.

Separately, a new experimental measure of consumer spending indicated that credit and debit card spending in early January slumped to 35% below its level last February, before the pandemic.

The figures – published by the Office for National Statistics using Bank of England data – are not seasonally adjusted, so part of the fall probably reflects a normal drop in spending after Christmas, on top of the impact of new COVID restrictions which closed non-essential retailers this month.

The CBI figures showed many manufacturers reported a rush to build up stocks and complete EU orders in December, before the new customs rules took effect on Jan. 1.

British goods are not subject to tariffs or quotas as they enter the EU, but do face significant new paperwork, adding to costs and delays.

Concern about shortages of materials and components rose by the most since January 1975, which the CBI linked to COVID disruption to international trade and Brexit-linked customs delays.

Concerns about a lack of unskilled workers rose by the most since April 1974. New immigration rules since Jan. 1 limit employers’ ability to hire low-paid workers from the EU, at a time when COVID has led to increased staff absence.

By David Milliken, William Schomberg

Additional reporting by Andy Bruce

Low-deposit mortgages return as markets emerge from Covid-related slowdown

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 20th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Low-deposit mortgages have made a return as the market emerges from a Covid-related slowdown.

Mortgage products for homeowners with a deposit of 10% of their property's value have risen more than fourfold compared with last summer's low.

The increase, based on figures from financial information service Moneyfacts, could offer some relief to first-time buyers.

But the cost of mortgages will remain an issue for many.

‘Homeownership dreams'

In early September last year, there were only 44 mortgage products available for those able to offer a 10% deposit. At the same time, first-time buyers putting money aside for a deposit were faced with pressures of poor savings rates and rising house prices.

That choice has now risen to 197 products, according to the Moneyfacts figures, with some big lenders returning in recent weeks.

Mortgage products for those able to offer a 15% deposit have also risen sharply, although the choice was already much greater.

“First-time buyers who may have been concerned that with record low savings rates and increasing house prices, their homeownership dreams may have had to be shelved, may have been pleased to note that we are now seeing some providers return products for those with 10% deposits,” said Eleanor Williams, from Moneyfacts.

Lenders had been grappling with the practical effects that the coronavirus pandemic brought to their business.

While some new businesses targeted first-time buyers on social media, many traditional lenders withdrew products from the market.

Staff shortages, and employees working from home, meant they were unable to process applications as fast as they had before the pandemic.

There were also concerns among lenders that, despite strong activity in the housing market, riskier – and younger – first-time buyers could find it difficult to make mortgage repayments during an economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.

Research has shown that younger workers are more at risk of redundancy.

Aaron Strutt, from mortgage broker Trinity Financial, said lenders were now working more efficiently despite staff still being at home.

He said that some of the biggest mortgage lenders had returned to the market. Some of the mortgage rates they were offering were not as attractive as they had been, but competition would help push down costs.

“If you are planning to purchase a property and have a 10% deposit the mortgage rates are not as cheap as they used to be, but they are getting better,” he said.

Many thousands of existing mortgage-holders who had struggled to make their repayments during the pandemic had taken payment “holidays”, which are deferrals on payments.

The latest figures from UK Finance, which represents lenders, show that 130,000 mortgage payment holidays were in place at the end of December 2020, down from a peak of 1.8 million in June last year.

By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance correspondent

HSBC announced plans to shut 82 UK branches as customers shift online

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 20th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

HSBC has announced plans to shut 82 UK branches this year after a shift towards telephone and internet banking.

The bank said it would “aim to redeploy all customer service colleagues who are impacted… into suitable nearby locations” but did not immediately say how many jobs were affected.

HSBC said the decision reflected “local market trends, customer behaviour and branch usage” and would see the total number of branches reduced to 511.

It said the closures are part of plans to become a market-leading digital bank and an overhaul of how remaining branches will operate.

Of the 82 sites closing, 81 are within a mile of a Post Office, two-thirds are within five miles of another HSBC branch and nine in 10 are within 10 miles, HSBC added.

HSBC said that even before counting the impact of the pandemic, the number of customers using branches has fallen by a third in the last five years.

The bank said 90% of all customer contact with it was over the phone, internet or smartphone and that staff talk with more than 100,000 customers a week on social media.

Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK's head of network, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for the changes that we are making.

“This is a strategic direction that we need to take to have a branch network fit for the future.”

The closures follow 164 announced by TSB adding to thousands that have disappeared from Britain's high streets in recent years from across the sector.

A recent report by consumer group Which? found banks and building societies had closed, or scheduled to close, 3,770 branches since January 2015.

HSBC, a global banking giant, revealed last year that it planned to cut 35,000 jobs globally.

The latest UK closures will take place between 23 April and 24 September.

Reporting by John-Paul Ford Rojas

These are the affected sites and their expected closure dates:

April

Edinburgh, Princes Street

May

Brighton, Ditchling Road

Hull, Merit House

Wednesbury

Sutton Coldfield, Four Oaks

Hull, Holderness Road

Pontyclun, Talbot Green

London, Fleet Street

London, Fenchurch Street

London, Old Broad Street

London, Charing Cross

Sheffield, Darnall

Oxford, Summertown

Leeds, Chapel Allerton

Cardiff, Rumney

Torquay, Strand

Staines

June

Plymouth, Forder House

Belper, King Street

Colchester

London, Whitechapel

London, Marylebone

London, Streatham Hill

Falkirk High Street

Fleet, Fleet Road

Reading, Woodley

Oxford, Headington

Swansea, Gorseinon

Wigston, Leicester Road

Tavistock, Bedford Square

Bristol, Nailsea

Leeds, Cross Gates

Yate, North Walk

July

London, Kingsbury Road

Cleckheaton, Bradford Road

Bexleyheath, Broadway

London, South Woodford

Birmingham, Erdington

Goole, Wesley Square

Congleton, High Street

Formby, Chapel Lane

Gillingham, Kent

Dunstable, West Street

Chorley, Market Street

Pontypridd, Taff Street

Felixstowe, Hamilton Road

Godalming, High Street

Prestatyn, High Street

London, Southgate

Tewkesbury, High Street

Maldon, High Street

Hatfield

Huntingdon, High Street

August

Stockport, Bramhall

London, Russell Square

Richmond, Market Place

Loughton, High Road

Rustington, The Street

Exmouth, Chapel Street

Bournemouth, Winton

Liverpool, University

Cleveleys, Victoria Square

Clevedon, Triangle

Northallerton, High Street

Walton-on-Thames, High Street

London, High Holborn

September

Barry, Holton Road

Aldershot, Wellington Street

Eastcote, Field End Road

London, Edgware Road

Ramsgate, High Street

Manchester, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Letchworth, Station Place

London, Hackney

Barnet, High Street

Deal, High Street

Cheshunt, Turners Hill

Swadlincote, High Street

Dorking, West Street

Welshpool, Broad Street

London, Surrey Quays

Worksop, Bridge Street

UK hospitals use blockchain to track COVID-19 vaccines

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 19th Jan 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Two British hospitals are using blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, the companies behind the initiative said on Tuesday, in one of the first such initiatives in the world.

Two hospitals, in central England’s Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines.

The tech will bolster record-keeping and data-sharing across supply chains, said Everyware, which monitors vaccines and other treatments for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), and Texas-based ledger Hedera, owned by firms including Alphabet’s Google and IBM, in a statement.

Logistical hurdles are a significant risk to the speedy distribution of COVID-19 vaccines but have resulted in booming business for companies selling technology for monitoring shipments from factory freezer to shots in the arm.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s shot, for example, must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures or on dry ice, and can only last at standard fridge temperatures for up to five days.

Other vaccines, such as Moderna Inc’s, do not need such cold storage and are therefore easier to deliver.

“We can absolutely verify the data that we’ve collected from every single device,” Everyware’s Tom Screen said in an interview. “We make sure that data is accurate at source, and after that point we can verify that it’s never been changed, it’s never been tampered with.”

Firms from finance to commodities have invested millions of dollars to develop blockchain, a digital ledger that allows the secure and real-time recording of data, in the hope of radical cost cuts and efficiency gains.

Results have been mixed, though, with few projects achieving the revolutionary impact heralded by proponents.

Everyware’s Screen said it while it would be possible to monitor the vaccines without blockchain, manual systems would raise the risk of mistakes.

The system will “allow us to demonstrate our commitment to providing safe patient care,” said Steve Clarke, electro-bio medical engineering manager at South Warwickshire NHS in a statement.

Reporting by Tom Wilson

Holiday bookings surge as Covid vaccinations rollout

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 19th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

People high on list for jabs in UK ready to make 2021 and 2022 plans

Abta says is it is hearing from members that the over-50s represent a much higher proportion of early bookers than normal.

Holiday companies have reported an increase in bookings as the UK’s coronavirus vaccine rollout gives people hope that they will soon be able to travel overseas again.

Despite a series of negative travel announcements in recent days, including the closure of air corridors and words of caution from ministers over foreign holidays, there are signs that those among the first in line for the vaccinations are starting to plan trips, and that consumers are hopeful about taking a break later this year.

The travel association Abta said it was hearing from members that the over-50s represented a much higher proportion of early bookers than normal.Matt Hancock cautions against booking holidays abroad.

Saga, which specialises in holidays for the over-50s, reported rising numbers of bookings for this year and next. Traffic to its bookings website was up by 16% in the first two weeks of this year, compared with the first two weeks of December, while sales made through Saga had doubled over the same period. The interest comes despite the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, saying it was too early to plan for summer holidays this year because of travel restrictions and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, suggesting on Monday that holidays abroad may not be a given.

Bookings for long-haul trips for 2022 have also surged, suggesting an appetite for “once-in-a-lifetime holidays”, Saga said, while people are booking for longer even for short-haul destinations.

Saga said 70% of short-haul-stay bookings between November 2021 and January 2022 were for 21 nights or longer.

Chris Simmonds, the chief executive of Saga Holidays, said: “Many of our guests are hopeful that they will be able to travel again soon, with the vaccine providing them the optimism they need to start planning ahead.

“Of course, given we cater exclusively for people aged over 50, many of our customers are near the top of the queue for a vaccine, which is giving them the confidence to start thinking about travelling again, as well as returning to other parts of normal life.”

The tour operator Tui said older travellers were making up more of its bookings than usual.

A spokesperson said: “We’re seeing more interest in holidays from an age group that wasn’t coming through before, with the over-50s starting to book, we assume, on the back of the positive vaccine news.

“Since the end of last year, bookings from this group have accounted for 50% of all our web bookings, as customers long for a sunshine break later in summer, in particular in Greece, Turkey or the Balearics.”

It also reported customers booking longer breaks than previously, with many opting for 10, 11 or 14 nights instead of seven. It suggested this was to make up for not having had a holiday in 2020.

The airline easyJet said its holiday bookings for the summer were 250% higher than they had been at this point last year.

Its chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said: “We have seen easyJet holidays bookings from our over-50s customers increase over the last few weeks in comparison to pre-Christmas, which suggests a further confidence boost from the vaccine rollout.”

Lundgren said there was “pent-up demand”, adding: ”We have seen that every time restrictions have been relaxed and so we know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can.”

Skyscanner, which offers flights and hotels via its website, said searches and bookings remained lower than normal for the time of year but there were signs that activity was picking up.

Searches were up by 12% over the week and bookings by 7%, with July 2021 the most searched for month.

Other firms reported bookings were higher for this September and October, suggesting consumers were hopeful that vaccines may have been delivered and travel restrictions lifted by the autumn.

On Monday, tough new testing rules came into effect that require all those arriving in the UK to show a negative Covid-19 test or face a potential £500 fine. The UK has also closed all its travel corridors, meaning people arriving will be required to quarantine.

Meanwhile, an official close to the Australian government has warned that tourists could face “substantial border restrictions” for most of 2021. Returning Australian travellers must pay about AU$3,000 (£1,700) to quarantine inside a hotel room for 14 days.

By Miles Brignall and Gwyn Topham

Seafood lorries park near Downing Street in protest over EU border Brexit rules

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 18th Jan, 2021) London, Uk – –

Seafood companies have warned they could go under in days as they face long delays getting into the EU, ruining produce.

Lorries used to transport British seafood have parked on the roads near Downing Street in protest over delays getting into the EU due to new Brexit rules.

More than 20 large lorries from seafood companies across the UK were parked up, with one carrying the slogan “Brexit Carnage” while another said: “Incompetent Government Destroying Shellfish Industry!”

Over the past few days there has been a suggestion that drivers will dump their wasted stock outside Downing Street, but so far this has not happened.

Many British fishermen have been unable to export their stocks to Europe since the start of the year after the introduction of catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations have meant lengthy delays getting into the EU.

European buyers have been rejecting their catches as they are taking too long to get to them, costing producers tens of thousands of pounds per lorry in some cases.

Britain exports vast quantities of scallops, oysters, lobsters, mussels, langoustine and crab to the EU, which were previously rushed straight to the continent after being harvested.

A spokesman for DR Collin and Son, which had several lorries at the protest, said the industry is “being tied in knots with paperwork requirements which would be easy enough to navigate” as companies have been preparing for some time for leaving the EU.

“However, all the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK,” he said.

“These are not ‘teething issues' as reported by the government, and the consequences of these problems will be catastrophic on the lives of fishermen, fishing towns and the shellfish industry as a whole.

“Action needs to be taken urgently to allow the procedures to be realigned in a manner which reflects the time restraints faced in the export of live shellfish to Europe.”Seafood firms ‘only have weeks to survive' – as environment secretary admits ‘teething problems'

Gary Hodgson, a director of Venture Seafoods, which exports live and processed crabs and lobsters to the EU, said he had cancelled several lorries since December due to the arduous red tape now involved with exporting to the EU.

He said one operator needed 400 pages of export documentation last week to board a ferry to the EU.

Those at the protest said the government needed to understand the severity of the problems they face and the impact on coastal communities, many who rely on seafood sales to the EU to survive.

They want a more workable system and say there is a shortage of custom agents on both sides of the Channel.

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said they had seen little improvement in the fortnight since the new rules were in place.

He said: “There has been a lot of direct engagement between the industry and ministers and civil servants in recent days, and plenty of soothing words about resolving ‘teething troubles'.

“But these are not minor impediments to trade. The industry in Scotland has basically ground to a halt and businesses that employ hundreds of people in communities around our coastline are losing money.

“In some cases they are close to going under.

“It is time for our government to get a grip of what is now a full-blown crisis, and fast, before severe and lasting damage is done to the sector.”

The seafood industry has warned fishing businesses could collapse within days, but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday said the delays were just “teething problems”.

He told the BBC he was “not convinced” the delays were because of the government's trade deal with the EU and argued it will “create huge, sustainable opportunities” for the sector.

Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a committee of MPs that fishing businesses would be compensated for what he described as “temporary frustrations”.

By Alix Culbertson

Next Fashion chain reported to be the frontrunner to buy Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 18th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Fashion chain Next is reported to be the frontrunner to buy Sir Philip Green's Arcadia retail empire out of administration as a deadline for bids comes due on Monday.

The Sunday Times said a consortium including the chain and US hedge fund Davidson Kempner has overtaken Mike Ashley's Frasers Group among others to buy the company, which owns Topshop.

Some 13,000 jobs were put at risk when Arcadia went bust in November.

Next declined to comment on the claims.

The retailer, which has 550 UK stores, has weathered the pandemic well, with its Christmas sales matching last year's figures despite temporary store closures.

By contrast, sales at Acadia, which also owns Burton and Dorothy Perkins, slumped during the crisis triggering its collapse.

Since November, administrators Deloitte have been looking for buyers for some or all of the group, which had 444 stores in the UK and 22 overseas at the time.

Frasers Group, which owns House of Fraser and Sports Direct, and has a track record of buying up failed brands, has expressed an interest.

According to reports, Authentic Brands, the US owner of the Barneys department store, and JD Sports have tabled a joint offer, while online retailer Boohoo is also said to be circling.

Deloitte and Arcadia declined to comment on the reports.

Experts expect Arcadia to be broken up, with bidders taking on different parts of the business, and brands potentially hived off from their stores.

In December, Australian collective City Chic said it would buy Arcadia's Evans brand, commerce and wholesale business for £23m but not its store network.

Next boss Simon Wolfson has said it will take a minority stake in Arcadia, with Davidson Kempner holding the majority, if the consortium's bid succeeds.

‘More pain to come'

Last year was the worst for the High Street in more than 25 years as the coronavirus accelerated the move towards online shopping, according to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

Nearly 180,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK, up by almost a quarter on the previous year, as shops faced strict curbs and prolonged closures.

CRR warned there will be more pain for the sector in 2021 as retailers face a cash flow crisis and rent payments.

It has predicted up to 200,000 more retail jobs will be at risk in 2021.

The Electric Pickup Truck War Is Here

Source: Bloomberg

The electrification of the pickup truck, America's most beloved automobile, could finally jolt EVs fully into the U.S. mainstream. It also promises a huge payday for the companies that can make them affordable. The players in this potentially lucrative market aren't just the traditional, deep-pocketed automakers, mind you: there's a batch of well-funded startups going head-to-head in the coming fight

15 Powerful Goals to Set for 2021

Source: Alux

This Alux.com video we will be answering the following questions: What are you plans for 2021? What are your goals for 2021? What should you achieve in 2021? What are the best goals for 2021? What are the best new year's resolutions for 2021? How should you set up your goals? How to plan for your goals? How to make this year better? How to set personal goals? What are the best personal goals? What are the most powerful personal goals for 2021? How to make the most out of 2021?

Primark warns of £1bn loss in sales if lockdowns continue to end of February

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 15th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

The owner of Primark has warned it faces losing over £1bn in sales if coronavirus lockdowns force the majority of its stores to remain closed through February.

The store-only discount fashion retailer, which has traded well from pent-up demand during the COVID-19 crisis to date when restrictions have allowed, said it was clearly facing a “significant” financial hit.

Parent firm Associated British Foods (ABF) has steadfastly refused to trade the Primark business online despite the disruption.

It reported that 305 of its 389 stores – 76% of its shops – were currently closed.

The company disclosed a 30% slump in sales in the 16 weeks to 2 January.

It said Primark's underlying half-year profits to the end of February were now forecast to break even on the previous year as a result.

Just weeks ago it had predicted £650m of lost sales in the six-month period.

Under a scenario that growing restrictions could force its entire estate across Europe to shut until the end of March, ABF said the total sales loss would increase above £1.8bn.

However, ABF said Primark had offset some of the impact on trading through a 25% reduction in usual operating costs.

Shares opened almost 2% down but later recovered to end 1.5% higher on Thursday.

By James Sillars

UK Supreme Court rule in favour of small businesses to receive insurance payout over lockdown losses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 15th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance payouts covering losses from the first national lockdown, following a court ruling.

The Supreme Court found largely in favour of small firms receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies.

For some businesses it could provide a lifeline, allowing them to trade beyond the coronavirus crisis.

The ruling could cost the insurance sector hundreds of millions of pounds.

The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), brought the test case, with eight insurers agreeing to take part in proceedings.

One of the insurers set to make significant payouts is Hiscox, which was challenged by thousands of its policyholders as part of the case.

Richard Leedham, who represented the Hiscox Action Group – on behalf of small businesses, said: “This is a landmark victory for a small group of businesses who took on a huge insurance player and have been fully vindicated.

“What is important now is that Hiscox accepts the Supreme Court's verdict and starts paying out to its policy holders, many of whom are in danger of going under”.

Other insurers involved in the test case are Arch, Argenta, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA – but as many as 60 insurers sold similar products. They will now pay out on many, but not all, policies.

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said: “All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun.

“We recognise this has been a particularly difficult time for many small businesses and naturally regret the Covid-19 restrictions have led to disputes with some customers.”

What is this case about?

In the lockdown of last spring, many small businesses made claims through business interruption insurance policies for loss of earnings when they had to close.

But many insurers refused to pay, arguing only the most specialist policies had cover for such unprecedented restrictions.

It was agreed that a selection of policy wordings should be tested in court, setting the parameters for what would be considered a valid claim.

The ruling provides guidance for a wider pool of 700 policies, potentially affecting 370,000 small businesses – although only some of these will end up with payouts.

Giving the court's ruling, Lord Hamblen said the court accepted the arguments from representatives of policyholders and dismissed appeals from insurers against an earlier judgement finding in policyholders' favour.

The complex ruling covered issues such as disease clauses, whether business were denied access to the properties, and the timing of lost earnings.

James Ollerenshaw's hair salon was one of those businesses unable to operate during the first national lockdown.

The business – The Drawing Room in London's Spitalfields – paid an annual premium of £1,200 for business interruption insurance, and disease cover came as part of it.

Mr Ollerenshaw said the Supreme Court's decision would not directly affect his policy, but would decide the principles on claims such as his – and were vital for the business.

“A payout would cover the major costs, which is the rent. We have debt sitting there,” he said.

He said he was delighted with the Supreme Court's ruling.

“The insurance industry needs to face up to the fact that it failed customers at their greatest moment of need, destroying companies, livelihoods and jobs,” he said.

He formed a Covid Claims Group, joining other small business owners in calling for a quick resolution and payouts.

“Time matters,” he said, pointing out that some small businesses have been forced to close down while waiting for the decision.

Sheldon Mills, from the FCA, which brought the case on behalf of policyholders, said: “Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat. Today's judgment decisively removes many of the roadblocks to claims by policyholders.

“We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

The test case was fast-tracked to the highest court in England and Wales – the Supreme Court, which heard four days of legal representations in November. The final ruling provides authoritative guidance for these policies, and potentially of similar ones not part of the case.

The FCA, the insurance sector, and the Financial Ombudsman will all use the judgement to guide their decisions in other cases.

The Financial Ombudsman Service and courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to use the judgment to rule on other, similar cases.

Insurance policies would have been amended for new and renewing customers since this issue emerged, so losses from the latest lockdown measures in different parts of the UK would be clearly stated as part of the cover – or not – in new business interruption insurance policies.

By Kevin Peachey