(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 4th May 2021) London, UK —
Britain and India announced 1 billion pounds ($1.39 billion) of private-sector investment and committed to seek a free trade deal ahead of a virtual meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian leader Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
The meeting replaces an in-person visit Johnson had planned to make last month to deepen cooperation as Britain seeks new trading partners after leaving the European Union. That visit was cancelled due to surging COVID-19 cases in India.
“Like every aspect of the UK-India relationship, the economic links between our countries make our people stronger and safer,” Johnson said in a statement.
The British government set out 533 million pounds of Indian investment into Britain, including 240 million by the Serum Institute for its vaccines and sales business, and 446 million pounds of export deals for British businesses.
Some of the investments listed had already been made public.
British estimates combined with data from the firms involved, showed the deals would create more than 6,500 jobs in Britain.
The two countries will also finalise an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership' that will lift export barriers on goods ranging from British apples to medical devices, and took steps to open up India's legal services sector to UK firms.
The partnership deal is seen as a step towards a full free-trade agreement that Britain hopes will by 2030 double bilateral trade from its current level of around 23 billion pounds per year.
“In the decade ahead, with the help of new Partnership signed today and a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, we will double the value of our trading partnership with India and take the relationship between our two countries to new highs,” Johnson said.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 4th May 2021) London, Uk – –
Billionaire, 90, lets slip plan for vice-chairman to take over at $644bn investment group
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has confirmed that the vice-chairman of his Berkshire Hathaway investment conglomerate, Greg Abel, will succeed him as chief executive.
The 90-year-old’s succession plan was teased out of him – apparently by accident – by his longtime business partner, 97-year-old Charlie Munger, at the company’s annual meeting over the weekend. Buffett, speaking to CNBC in an interview broadcast on Monday, confirmed the choice.
“The directors are in agreement that if something were to happen to me tonight, it would be Greg who’d take over tomorrow morning,” he said.
From humble beginnings, Buffett, known to millions as the ultimate no-nonsense value investor, has amassed a $100bn (£72bn) fortune leading Berkshire Hathaway, a $644bn investment group. The business owns stakes in a wide range of companies, ranging from Apple to railway interests to the battery-maker Duracell and the ice-cream fast-food chain Dairy Queen.
Described as “a model of sobriety” – a tycoon who prefers Cherry Coke over champagne, and drives a midrange car with a number plate reading “thrifty” – Buffett has long been seen as a counterpoint to the unbridled wheeling and dealing of Wall Street.
Buffett is also apt to quote Munger: “Charlie says there is only three ways a smart person can go broke: liquor, ladies, and leverage. Now the truth is – the first two he just added because they started with L – it’s leverage.”
Some of America’s wealthiest men, including Bill Gates, have entrusted him with dispersing their fortunes.
“He’s a fellow who’s brilliant but he needs people around him who can take care of some needs,” Andy Kilpatrick, a biographer of Buffett, told the Guardian in 2006 after Buffett married his longtime partner, Astrid Menks. “He doesn’t really do household chores, he’s got no mechanical brain. He can barely even turn on a light switch.”
Buffett has teased investors about Berkshire Hathaway’s succession plans for years. In 2012, he revealed that the board had identified the company’s next CEO and said it was someone the board knew well.
In choosing 55-year-old Abel, whose responsibilities include stakes in railway companies, utilities, manufacturers, retailers and car dealerships, Buffett said: “He does a far better job of that than I was doing previously.” If Abel cannot do the job, he added, another vice-chairman, Ajit Jain, who oversees Berkshire’s retail and re-insurance businesses, would become CEO.
“We have a great deal of comfort with Abel as CEO and with the overall future leadership of the company. I think he has proven to be a really effective leader,” said Jim Shanahan, analyst at investment firm Edward Jones. Shanahan noted that Abel handled questions about the company’s efforts to respond to climate change at the weekend meeting.
The company has long planned to split Buffett’s job into three parts when he is gone: a CEO to oversee capital allocation and Berkshire’s operations, investment managers to handle Berkshire’s share portfolio and a separate board chairman.
Between 1965 and 2020, Berkshire returned compounded annualised gains of 20%, outperforming the S&P 500’s 10.2% gains including dividends during the period. But over the past several years, the company’s returns have fallen below the index, according to figures compiled in the Wall Street Journal.
Buffett has also fretted that Berkshire couldn’t find a big acquisition to put its nearly $145bn cash pile into. Over the weekend, he warned against the boom in SPACs – special purpose acquisition companies – calling it “a killer” that “won’t go on for ever, but it’s where the money is now and Wall Street goes where the money is”.
Buffett also remarked on what described as a “casino” stock market that, he said, millions of people have entered over the past year.
“The gambling impulse is very strong in people worldwide and occasionally it gets an enormous shove and conditions lead to this place where more people are entering the casino than are leaving every day,” Buffett said. “And it creates its own reality for a while and nobody tells you when the clock’s going to strike 12 and it all turns to pumpkins and mice.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 3rd May July 2021) London, Uk – –
BT has announced plans to offer fibre broadband at less than half price to any household in the UK which is receiving universal credit.
More than four million households will be eligible for the Home Essentials package, which will launch next month.
The average fibre package in the UK costs about £25 a month, according to comparison site Uswitch.
People eligible for BT Home Essentials will pay £15 a month for speeds of about 36 megabits per second (Mbps).
BT's equivalent broadband package for those not on universal credit costs £32.99 a month.
Marc Allera, chief executive of BT's consumer division, said the company hoped to offer help to millions who are struggling to get back on to their feet following the pandemic.
There is a range of other telecoms companies offering low-cost fibre and high-speed broadband across the UK.
Plusnet offers new customers speeds of around 66Mbps for £24.99 a month, while Vodafone currently offers average speeds of 63Mbps for £22 a month. Neither had an up-front cost, as of April.
Virgin Media also offers existing customers who are on universal credit speeds of about 15Mbps for £15 a month.
‘Ethics ahead of profits'
“BT's Home Essentials is entering the market as one of the cheapest packages currently available, and certainly very good value for basic fibre,” James Wittams-Smith, commercial director at comparison website Usave, told the BBC.
“It's great to see companies starting to consider ethics ahead of profits especially in today's climate. Hopefully, we'll start to see more organisations following suit.”
Matt Howett, from analysts Assembly Research, added: “Recognising the need to be connected, and the financial hardship customers faced, many operators have taken steps to ensure access to vital services.
“We've really seen the sector step up and respond to the challenging circumstances many customers have found themselves in.”
The market is becoming increasingly competitive as ultrafast and fibre broadband expands across the UK.
The entire country was expected to receive ultrafast broadband by 2025, however, following delays that figure has been reduced to 85%.
The infrastructure build should start in 2022 with a budget of £5bn, the government has said.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 3rd May 2021) London, Uk – –
Virgin wants the US to be on the UK's green list when non-essential travel reopens under a “traffic light” system next month.
The boss of Virgin Atlantic says there is “no reason to delay” the return of US-UK travel next month – as the carrier reported an £858m annual loss.
Virgin, which has cut thousands of jobs with flights grounded during the pandemic – and last autumn completed a rescue deal with investors – said passenger numbers last year fell by more than 80% to 1.1 million.
Under the government's roadmap for reopening, non-essential travel is set to resume on 17 May under a “traffic light“ system but it has yet to announce which countries will be on the “green list” subject to fewest restrictions.
Virgin's boss Shai Weiss has argued that the US should be on the list – which will allow passengers to return from the selected countries without having to isolate, though they will have to pay for COVID tests.
Mr Weiss said: “With world leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, and evidence to support safe reopening through testing, there is a clear opportunity to open up travel and no reason to delay beyond 17 May.
The comments, reiterating a stance previously outlined by Mr Weiss, come after easyJet boss Johan Lundgren said earlier this month that European holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal should be on the list too.
Travel sector operators have also been asking to be told about the list as soon as possible as the reopening date nears.
This week, Jet2 said the uncertainty was resulting in travellers leaving bookings until the last minute.
Transatlantic routes typically account for about four-fifths of revenues for Virgin Atlantic – which is 51% owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group and 49% by America's Delta airlines.
Mr Weiss said Virgin welcomed the government's framework for reopening travel but that it did not go far enough, with hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry at stake.
“Now we need certainty that the framework will allow for a phased removal of testing and quarantine,” he said.
Virgin said revenues fell by 70% to £868m last year with an upturn in cargo volumes the only financial boost.
It also said it “made a significant contribution towards the national effort to protect lives, from transporting vital PPE and medical supplies, to volunteering to support NHS frontline services”.
The carrier said it had processed more than £600m of customer refunds during the year as a result of the disruption.
Virgin's loss for the year of £858m compares to a loss of £63.7m in 2019.
The annual report showed that the company's number of employees fell from 10,016 to 5,907 over the year while the company received £70m from the government's furlough scheme subsidising the wages of workers temporarily laid off due to the pandemic.
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When Alisa Purifico rides the New York City subway, she’s not glued to her phone trying to avoid eye contact with other passengers. Instead, she’s scouting the crowd for that special someone. When a cute guy or gal catches her eye, she approaches to ask if they’re single, sometimes opening the conversation by asking for directions or complimenting an outfit choice. Purifico is married, but she’s scouring Manhattan for mates for her clients at matchmaking company Three Day Rule, who’ve turned to a professional service to find the love online dating didn’t yield. She’s one of about 40 matchmakers at the company, which has a presence in 10 major U.S. cities.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 30th April 2021) London, Uk – –
The tax holiday had been due to end in March but was extended by chancellor Rishi Sunak in last month's budget.
House prices rose at their biggest monthly rate since 2004 in April after Rishi Sunak extended a holiday on stamp duty, according to new figures from lender Nationwide.
Prices climbed by 2.1% compared to March while they were up by 7.1% compared to the same period last year, the report said.
The chancellor introduced a stamp duty exemption on the first £500,000 of property purchases last year after home sales collapsed during the initial months of the pandemic but it had been due to expire in March.
But in last month's budget, Mr Sunak extended the tax break until June, when the threshold will be lowered to £250,000 until September, before returning to £125,000.
Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner said: “Just as expectations of the end of the stamp duty holiday led to a slowdown in house price growth in March, so the extension of the stamp duty holiday in the budget prompted a reacceleration in April.
The month-on-month price increase of 2.1% was the highest since February 2004. The annual growth of 7.1% was just below the 7.3% seen last December, which was a six-year high.
Mr Gardner said the housing market looked set to remain “fairly buoyant” over the next six months thanks to the stamp duty holiday as well as continued government job support measures.
Demand for moving home is also being motivated by changing housing preferences in the wake of the pandemic, Mr Gardner added.
Many are swapping the convenience of living close to the cities where they work for the comfort of having a larger home further out as they spend more time there.
Meanwhile supply of homes for sale remains constrained, adding to the pressure on prices.
But Mr Gardner added: “Further ahead, the outlook for the market is far more uncertain.
“If unemployment rises sharply towards the end of the year as most analysts expect, there is scope for activity to slow, perhaps sharply.”
Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “We believe the strength of the housing market is excessive relative to the economic fundamentals, and the level of prices will ultimately prove unsustainable.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 30th April 2021) London, Uk – –
The UK is about to experience its biggest economic boom since the aftermath of World War Two, according to Barclays boss Jes Staley.
His upbeat assessment came as Barclays revealed its profits for the first three months of this year had more than doubled from a year earlier to £2.4bn.
“We estimate the UK economy will grow at its fastest rate since 1948. That's pretty spectacular,” he said.
The vaccine programme and built-up savings will help to drive the rebound.
Mr Staley said that a combination of the successful vaccine rollout and Barclays' estimate of an extra £200bn sitting in customer and company bank accounts meant the UK would join the US in seeing some of the fastest economic growth in decades.
The boost in Barclays' latest profits was almost entirely driven by a more confident view on how many of its loans would be repaid.
This time last year, the bank set aside more than £2bn to cover the risks that borrowers would be unable to repay all of their debts. This time round they are setting aside just £55m.
Interestingly, Barclays – unlike other big banks in the UK and US – have decided not to adjust previous estimates of bad loan previsions, but hinted that they will do so in future.
It will be equally interesting to watch just how much of their total £9bn kitty for future estimated debt defaults they are prepared to reconsider.
Assuming the worst regarding future defaults is sometimes called “stuffing the cookie jar” – a jar that can be raided when needed to boost future earnings. All banks do this to a greater or lesser degree,
But Mr Staley seems convinced that despite virus-related disasters in developing economies such as India and new lockdowns in developed counties such as Japan, the overall picture looks to be improving.
He also concedes that many business sectors (like hospitality and leisure) have faced desperately challenging circumstances and it is unclear how many of the five million workers still on furlough can expect to return to full-time work.
There are many business owners who will not recognise the rosy picture he paints of the UK's economic future.
It is probably wrong to talk in terms of an economic boom after we have seen the biggest economic downturn in 300 years, but Mr Staley is in tune with his US counterparts when he hopes and expects that, for him and his many business customers, the worst is behind us.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 29th April, 2021) London, Uk – –
Company has thrived during the pandemic as consumers have purchased more products
Apple executives announced record revenues on Wednesday, with earnings far surpassing analysts’ expectations.
Revenue was up 54% year-over-year to nearly $90bn. Sales in China doubled. Mac sales were a third higher than predicted and iPhone sales came in around $48bn – roughly $6.5bn higher than initial estimates.
“This quarter reflects both the enduring ways our products have helped our users meet this moment in their own lives, as well as the optimism consumers seem to feel about better days ahead for all of us,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement.
The company continued to see soaring profits through the last quarter, and built on its successes in the last two quarters to make $23.6bn in profits.
Apple also announced a $90bn share buyback and assuaged investors’ anxieties over how it would handle a severe semiconductor shortage that has hampered other companies and the automobile industry.
“There wasn’t a material issue with our results due to supply,” Cook told Reuters.
Apple was one of several companies that thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers bought more products and spent more time online through long lockdowns and social distancing requirements. A bump in sales was also fueled by demand for Apple products, including laptops, desktops, and iPads, which grew as people transitioned to remote working and schooling.
After more than a month of delays, Apple unveiled its iPhone 12 line last fall, which outperformed its predecessors and analyst expectations. With the 5G-equipped devices, the new iPhone helped Apple finish 2020 with its most profitable quarter ever, drove a 21% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2021 and carried those successes into Q2.
This week Apple also announced it was ramping up US investments, with more than $430bn in direct spending on American suppliers and data centers, and Apple TV+ productions, with 20,000 new jobs added over the next five years.
“At this moment of recovery and rebuilding, Apple is doubling down on our commitment to US innovation and manufacturing with a generational investment reaching communities across all 50 states,” said Cook in a statement.
Though the outlook certainly seems sunny, some analysts have doubts over whether the demand can be sustained as economies begin to transition out of the Covid crisis.
“Current high levels of both iPad and Mac demand are unlikely to be sustainable as the world re-opens, so another beat driven more by these areas may not be enough to drive the shares further,” Goldman Sachs’ Rod Hall wrote in a research note ahead of the call.
Cook argued, however, that demand felt strong. “Where this pandemic will end, it seems like many companies will be operating in a hybrid kind of mode,” Cook said.
Apple is also facing increased scrutiny from US lawmakers – along with other big tech companies like Google and Facebook – over possible antitrust violations. In a Senate antitrust hearing last week, smaller tech companies criticized the company, saying it acts as a gatekeeper and uses its giant platform to squash competition. The day before the hearing, Apple introduced its new AirTags, which enabled users to track items with their iPhone’s “Find My” software, a device some believe was copied from a similar Samsung product.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic chair of the antitrust subcommittee, censured the companies for using their dominance in the market to “exclude or suppress apps that compete with their own products” and “charge excessive fees that affect competition”.
Along with these issues, Apple will continue having to navigate uncertainties around a microchip shortage that’s expected to last into next year. Computer chips, which are essential to Apple’s product-lines, have been in short supply since last summer after chip factories shut down early in the midst of the pandemic. The backlog was complicated by bumps in demand, former president Trump’s trade war, and the shift to 5G. Joe Biden’s $2tn infrastructure plan includes roughly $50bn to invest in domestic production of the chips, but it can take years to get the complex factories up and running.
Apple has seemed to not have been greatly affected by the crunch, but the shortage has produced production delays and pushed prices higher, which could stifle growth in demand for Apple’s products in the future.
“There is no sign of supply catching up, or demand decreasing, while prices are rising across the chain,” Neil Campling, a media and tech analyst at Mirabaud, told the Guardian in March. “This will cross over to people in the street. Expect cars to cost more, phones to cost more. This year’s iPhone is not going to be cheaper than last year.”
Cook acknowledged that there had been challenges to meet the demand but expressed only optimism about the future.
“It is worth remembering just how we felt at this time last year when everything we knew had to change,” Cook said during the call, listing examples of the difficult shifts people across the world made in their daily lives to limit the spread of Covid. “We have reached new days of hopeful resolve,” he said, adding: “Our work’s not done.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 28th April 2021) London, Uk – –
Hundreds of car parts jobs are set to be axed after a firm announced it was pulling out of the UK.
Toyoda Gosei UK has plants at Gorseinon, Swansea, and Rotherham, Yorkshire, and employs 458 people.
The company, which produces components for Toyota, Nissan, Renault and Honda, said it was responding to changes in the global sector and “significant reduction” in UK customer demand.
A formal period of consultation with employees is under way.
There are 207 people permanently employed at the Swansea site and 251 in Rotherham, the company's UK headquarters.
The Swansea site, which opened in 2011, makes moulded and painted car parts, while Rotherham manufactures rubber body sealing products and opened in 1999.
Toyoda Gosei UK (TGUK) managing director Shigenori Matsuo, said: “We understand and regret the uncertainty that this will cause for everyone at the Swansea and Rotherham sites and are doing all we can to support our employees throughout the consultation process.”
TGUK originally opened its Swansea plant with 160 workers, before the workforce became 800 strong in 2015.
Last December, the firm received £116,000 from the Welsh government's Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) to help safeguard jobs against the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokeswoman for TGUK said it was working with its parent company Toyoda Gosei to discuss the future of the UK operation.
“There isn't one factor that has resulted in the announcement today,” added the spokeswoman.
‘Out of the blue'
The company said it had previously reorganised its business in Europe, selling shares in a German subsidiary and moving some production to its main manufacturing site in Czechia.
Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, said the news had come “out of the blue” and was deeply disappointing, adding she would support the workers through “this hugely stressful time” and try to secure the plant's future.
“The timing couldn't be worse, people are struggling to cope with the consequences of the pandemic and trying to get back on their feet,” she said.
A Welsh government spokesman said it was a worrying time for the workers, adding: “We have been in contact with Toyoda Gosei about their plans to consult on the potential closure of the company's Swansea site. We will remain in contact with the company during the consultation period.”
He said any money from the ERF grant not used for the purpose stated or in line with the terms and conditions may need to be repaid in full or part.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 27th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –
Supermarket chain to offer grocery delivery service at 150 shops across the UK by the end of the summer
Waitrose and Deliveroo have struck a two-year partnership for rapid home grocery deliveries after a successful trial of the service.
Waitrose said it would expand its Deliveroo service from 40 to 150 shops across the country by the end of the summer, delivering food to about 13 million people. The move is expected to create 400 new jobs at Waitrose shops, to fulfil orders ready to be collected and delivered by Deliveroo.
Sales of Waitrose products through Deliveroo have been strong and this has helped to attract new and younger customers,as it battles with its rival Marks & Spencer. Last year, the online grocer Ocado parted ways with Waitrose after almost two decades together and switched to selling M&S food.
Customers will be able to order from an increased range of 750 to 1,000 products and have them delivered in 20 minutes from Waitrose shops from London to Scotland. New locations on Deliveroo will include shops in Cheltenham, Lincoln, Exeter, York and Sheffield.
The expanded range includes “free from” products, dairy alternatives, vegan foods, flowers and gifts, steak dinners and treats such as profiteroles and prosecco, as well as meals for seasonal occasions.https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/business-todaySign up to the daily Business Today email
James Bailey, the executive director for Waitrose, which is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, said:“We have grown our online business at pace in the last year, responding to huge demand for online groceries and offering more choice in when and how people want to shop with us.”
The two-year partnership comes after Deliveroo’s eagerly awaited stock market flotation on 31 March turned out to be a flop, with the shares falling by 26%. Deliveroo is under pressure to reverse mounting losses and to improve employment rights for its riders.
Carlo Mocci, the chief business officer for the UK & Ireland at Deliveroo, said the partnership would create more work for riders across the UK: “Waitrose is one of the most respected and loved British companies and we are proud to expand the extremely popular Waitrose service on Deliveroo.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 27th April 2021) London, UK —
Premier Inn-owner Whitbread (WTB.L) reported a 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) annual loss on Tuesday but said it expects a significant bounce in staycation demand this summer as COVID-19 curbs in Britain are relaxed.
Whitbread, which also owns the Beefeater and Bar + Block chains, said revenue for the year to March slumped by nearly three quarters, sending its shares down as much as 3.4% to 3,294 pence.
Britain's hospitality industry has suffered during the pandemic, with travel and entertainment spending severely restricted by measures to stop the spread of the virus.
The country's latest lockdown is still being eased in stages, with hotels and cinemas not set to open until May 17 at the earliest.
Britain's COVID-19 vaccination programme, under which more than half of Britons so far have been given at least one shot, would support the return of leisure guests, Chief Executive Alison Brittain said.
“We will definitely be hiring in the summer for seasonal work for coastal destinations that are going to be full,” she told journalists. Coastal and other tourist locations make up about 15% of Whitbread's hotels.
“We have got very strong bookings into … anything with a view, frankly.”
Brittain also said the company expects to add about 4,000 to 5,000 new rooms in the United Kingdom and Germany over the next year.
“Whitbread needs its hotels to reach 55% occupancy to break even and although management is expecting staycations to ramp up demand in the UK, it may not be enough to push the group over the line,” Hargreaves Lansdown's Laura Hoy said in a note.
Whitbread, which has the bulk of its business in Britain, said over 92% of its hotels in the country are now open. Occupancy levels in February were at 29% across all sites.
Its 2020 adjusted pretax loss of 635.1 million pounds was its first such annual loss since at least 2002, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 688 million pounds.
Statutory loss stood at 1.01 billion pounds ($1.40 billion), while sales of 589.4 million pounds missed expectations.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 26th April 2021) London, Uk – –
The former chief executive of the Post Office has quit her roles on the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm following the IT scandal which led to the wrongful convictions of former postmasters.
Morrisons announced Paula Vennells would leave after serving as a non-executive director since 2016.
She is relinquishing her non-executive position at home furnishing retailer Dunelm with immediate effect.
She is also stopping her duties as an ordained Church of England minister.
Ms Vennells said: “It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken by the boards I serve.
“I have therefore stepped down with immediate effect from all of my board positions.”
Ms Vennells was chief executive of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019.
On Friday, 39 former Post Office workers saw their criminal convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
They were based on the flawed software system Horizon which showed shortfalls in their accounts where they did not exist. The IT system was installed in 1999 under former chief executive John Roberts.
Other appeals are expected to follow in what is the most widespread miscarriage of justice in the UK's history.
The government has launched an inquiry into the prosecution of the former Post Office workers.
Ms Vennells said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 sub-postmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned last week.
Following her departure from the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm, Ms Vennells said she intended “to focus fully on working with the ongoing government inquiry to ensure the affected sub-postmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve”.
Dunelm's chairman Andy Harrison said: “We respect Paula's decision to step down from the Board and I would like to thank her for the positive contribution she has made to the business since her appointment in September 2019.”
The chairman of Morrisons, Andrew Higginson, said: “Paula has been an insightful, effective and hardworking non-executive director, and, on behalf of the Board, I want to thank her for her significant contribution over the last five years.”
More than 700 people were wrongly convicted of offences of theft, fraud and false accounting, in prosecutions between 2000 and 2014, and some of them were imprisoned.
Questions had been raised about the behaviour of Post Office directors during this time, and Ms Vennells, 62, faced calls to have her bonuses clawed back and be stripped of her CBE title, which had been given for “services to the Post Office and to charity”.
Miscarriage of justice
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Ms Vennells, an associate Anglican minister in Bromham, Oakley and Stagsden, Bedfordshire, said she would be stepping back from her “regular parochial duties”.
Ms Vennells said: “It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken in the Diocese of St Albans and in the parishes I serve.
“I have therefore stepped back with immediate effect from regular parish ministry.”
Analysis: Colletta Smith
For the sub-postmasters and postmistresses who faced prison, criminal convictions and financial ruin after being wrongly pursued by the Post Office, one of the hardest elements has been confronting a faceless institution.
But the name that has been repeated to me again and again by victims I've spoken to is that of Paula Vennells.
Although the computer problems began before her tenure as chief executive, under her leadership, the glitches within the system became widely reported on.
But she insisted the system was “robust”, defending the technology and her organisation's actions to a committee of MPs.
As chief executive, she chose to fight lengthy and expensive legal battles against sub-postmasters seeking redress.
When more than 500 sub-postmasters won a civil court case against the Post Office in December 2020, the judge said that under her leadership the actions of the Post Office had been “both cruel and incompetent”.
She received a CBE for “services to the Post Office” in 2019.
Since Ms Vennells stepped down as boss, there has been a dramatic shift in tone from the Post Office. It did not contest the vast majority of individuals who managed to overturn their convictions in the Court of Appeal last week. It has issued an apology and is already mentioning compensation.
She said she had informed the Bishop of St Albans of her decision.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Dr Alan Smith, said that his father had been a sub-postmaster, adding: ” I express my distress at the miscarriage of justice that so many sub-postmasters have suffered.”
He said: “I am aware that there are still legal processes and inquiries to take place during which it is right that Ms Vennells stands back from public ministry.”
Following the legal decision on Friday, Ms Vennells said: “I was deeply saddened by the sub-postmasters' accounts heard during the Court of Appeal proceedings.”
She added: “I fully support and am committed to co-operating with the ongoing government inquiry, as I did with last year's select committee inquiry.”
Ms Vennells also remains on a leave of absence she took from her membership of the Church of England's Ethical Investment Advisory Group.
The Horizon IT system, installed by the Post Office in branches across the UK, was flawed from the start.
At the Court of Appeal on Friday, Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office “knew there were serious issues” and had a “clear duty to investigate”.
But the Post Office “consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable” and “effectively steamrolled over any sub-postmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy”.
Those affected have long called for a judge-led, full, public inquiry, rather than the government's own inquiry which is set to report in the summer.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice, is reviewing another 22 cases.
There were more than 700 prosecutions based on Horizon evidence. The commission and the Post Office are asking anyone else who believes their conviction to be unsafe to come forward.
From people who harvest giant blocks of marble to master Lego builders to people who can make babies cry in movies, there are a lot of fascinating and unexpected jobs out there. But just because you haven't heard of them, that doesn't mean you haven't seen their work on the big screen, on your plate, or in your blankets. Check out these 20 jobs you probably never knew existed.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 23rd April 2021) London, Uk – –
The system “not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but couldn't tell if there was a driver there at all”.
A Tesla car was easily tricked into driving in Autopilot mode with no one at the wheel, testers from a major US consumer organisation have found.
The findings from Consumer Reports come just days after a Tesla crashed in Texas, killing the two men in the car.
Officials say neither of the men were in the driver's seat at the time of the crash.
The cars' Autopilot partially automated system can keep it centered in its lane, keep a distance from vehicles in front of it, and can even change lanes with a driver's consent.
Tesla says the driver must be ready to intervene at all times.
However, Consumer Reports said that during several trips on its closed tracks with an empty driver's seat, its Tesla Model Y automatically steered along painted lane lines without acknowledging that nobody was at the controls.
The Tesla involved in the crash near Houston over the weekend was a Model S, but also had an Autopilot function.
“In our evaluation, the system not only failed to make sure the driver was paying attention, but it also couldn't tell if there was a driver there at all,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' senior director of auto testing, who conducted the experiment.
“Tesla is falling behind other automakers like GM and Ford that, on models with advanced driver assist systems, use technology to make sure the driver is looking at the road.”
Based in Palo Alto, California, Tesla has disbanded its press office and has not responded to enquiries about Consumer Reports' assertions. Police to search Tesla after vehicle crash that killed two people
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety have launched investigations into the Texas crash.
Local authorities said one man was found in the passenger seat, while another was in the back. Officials say the car veered off the road, crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Investigators should be able to establish whether the Tesla's Autopilot system was in use.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Monday that data logs “recovered so far” show Autopilot was not turned on in the Texas crash, and “Full Self-Driving” was not purchased for the vehicle.
He did not respond to reporters' questions posted on Twitter.
Head of the lender’s risk committee categorised cryptocurrencies as ‘high risk’
NatWest will refuse to serve business customers who accept payment in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which the UK lender has categorised as “high risk”.
Morten Friis, a NatWest board member and head of its risk committee, said the bank was taking a “cautious approach” to cryptocurrencies, and would closely monitor any change in tone from the UK regulator, which has warned that consumers stand to lose all their cash by investing in crypto assets.
“We have no appetite for dealing with customers, whether taking them on as new clients or having an ongoing relationship with people, whose main business is backed by an exchange for cryptocurrencies, or otherwise transacting in cryptocurrencies as their main activity,” Friis said during an online shareholder event on Wednesday.
“We think of cryptocurrencies as high risk and we’re taking, for that reason, a cautious approach to this. It’s an area where regulation is very much in evolution and we’ll obviously respond to that as things change,” he added.
NatWest’s position could mean turning away major clients who have recently announced plans to accept cryptocurrency payments alongside those made by debit, credit cards and cash. Notable companies with such plans include ethical cosmetics firm Lush, office sharing firm WeWork, and electric car giant Tesla.
It pits the lender against other major banks like JP Morgan. The US bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, once called bitcoin a “fraud” that was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea. However, more recently he said that some “very smart people” were getting involved in the cryptocurrency, which has surged in value and jumped 93% since the start of the year to $56,000 each.
Earlier this week the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a top-level taskforce to explore the benefits and risks of a Bank of England digital currency for the UK – which has been dubbed Britcoin.
However, the Financial Conduct Authority issued a warning to would-be investors in January, saying consumers should be prepared to lose all their money if they invest in schemes promising high returns from digital currencies like bitcoin. Cryptocurrency investments are not covered by UK schemes that help investors reclaim cash when companies go bust.
Friis said Natwest would have to conduct extra financial crime checks for any personal customers who wanted to dabble in cryptocurrencies, which have previously been linked to money laundering and black market dealings.
“We expect to continue to take a cautious approach, but we’ll watch how the market evolves,” he said.
By Kalyeena Makortoff