(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 17th May 2022) London, UK —
Vodafone (VOD.L), the European and African mobile operator, forecast earnings growth for the current year below market expectations on Tuesday, saying it hoped to deliver a resilient performance against a difficult economic backdrop.
The British-listed mobile operator reported a 5% rise in its 2022 financial year core earnings, meeting the bottom of its guidance.
Vodafone, which was backed by a $4.4 billion investment from the UAE-based telecoms company e& in recent days, said it expected to deliver a resilient financial performance in the year ahead.
It reported adjusted core earnings of 15.21 billion euros, within its range but short of market expectations of 15.28 billion euros, on group revenue of 45.58 billion euros, up 4%.
Chief Executive Nick Read said he was focused on improving the group's performance in Germany, pursing opportunities for Vantage Towers, the infrastructure business it spun out last year, and “strengthening its markets positions in Europe”.
In February, Read said Vodafone was pursuing mergers with rivals in multiple European markets, notable Spain, Italy, Britain and Portugal.
The company issued broad guidance for the current financial year, with a range for adjusted core earnings of 15.0 – 15.5 billion euros, below the average the market currently expects of 15.57 billion euros.
Adjusted free cash flow was expected to be around 5.3 billion euros, it said, down on 5.4 billion euros reported on Tuesday.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 17th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Michigan plant had been under investigation for safety concerns and it will take over a month to begin shipping product
The baby formula maker Abbott has reached an agreement with US health regulators to restart production at its largest domestic factory amid a nationwide formula shortage that has left shelves bare and parents scrambling.
Monday’s agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amounts to a legally binding agreement between regulators and the company on steps needed to reopen the plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which had been under investigation for safety concerns.
However, it will be well over a month before any new products ship from the site to help alleviate the situation. After production resumes, Abbott said it will take between six and eight weeks before the formula will begin arriving in stores.
Abbott is one of just four companies that produce roughly 90% of US formula, and its brands account for nearly half that market.
The company didn’t set a timeline to restart production or offer further details about the terms of the deal.
The FDA announced additional steps to ease the supply chain crunch, saying it was was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to begin shipping more formula into the US.
“The FDA expects that the measures and steps it’s taking with infant formula manufacturers and others will mean more and more supply is on the way or on store shelves moving forward,” FDA commissioner Robert Califf told reporters.
Califf said the US will prioritize companies that can provide the largest shipments and quickly show documentation that their formulas are safe and compatible with US nutrition standards. The policy is structured as a temporary measure lasting six months.
It comes as Joe Biden’s administration faces intense pressure to do more to ease the shortage that has left many parents hunting for formula online or at food banks.
Abbott’s plant came under scrutiny early this year after the FDA began investigating four bacterial infections among infants who consumed powdered formula from the plant. Two of the babies died.
The crunch intensified when, in February, the company halted production and recalled several brands of powdered formula, squeezing supplies that had already been tightened by supply chain disruptions and stockpiling during Covid-19. The shortage has led retailers such as CVS and Walgreens to limit how many containers customers can buy in each visit.
Outrage over the issue has quickly snowballed and handed Republicans a fresh talking point to use against Biden ahead of November’s midterm elections.
After a six-week inspection, FDA investigators published a list of problems at the Abbott factory in March, including lax safety and sanitary standards and a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant.
The Chicago-based company has emphasized that its products have not been directly linked to the bacterial infections in children. Samples of the bacteria found at its plant did not match the strains collected from the babies by federal investigators. The company has repeatedly stated it is ready to resume manufacturing.
Former FDA officials say fixing the type of problems uncovered at Abbott’s plant takes time, and infant formula facilities receive more scrutiny than other food facilities. Companies need to exhaustively clean the facility and equipment, retrain staff, repeatedly test and document there is no contamination.
Pediatricians say baby formulas produced in Canada and Europe are roughly equivalent to those in the US. But traditionally, 98% of the infant formula supply in the US is made domestically. Companies seeking to enter the US face several major hurdles, including rigorous research and manufacturing standards imposed by the FDA.
Steven Davis, a San Diego father, has faced heart-wrenching challenges finding formula for his medical fragile daughter, who was on an Abbott formula but has had to switch with the recall and subsequent shortages in other brands.
Zoie Davis was born 19 months ago with no kidneys, a rare life-threatening condition that requires dialysis and a feeding tube until she weighs enough for a kidney transplant. She’s 4lb shy of that milestone, said Davis, a mortgage lender.
“Her life is dependent on her weight gain,” he said.
Davis said he used an organic brand from overseas until costs and customs hurdles made that too difficult. Friends and strangers from out of state have sent him other brands, but each time she switches it requires more blood tests and monitoring, Davis said.
Despite her challenges, Zoie is walking, talking and “doing pretty good” on other developmental milestones, Davis said.
“She’s a shining light in my life,” he said.
The shortage is weighing particularly on lower-income parents such as Clara Hinton, 30, of Hartford, Connecticut, who has a 10-month-old daughter, Patience, who has an allergy that requires a special formula.
Hinton, who has no car, has been taking the bus to the suburbs, going from town to town, and finally found some of the proper formula at a box store in West Hartford. But she said the store refused to take her food stamps card, and she recently ran out of formula from an already opened can she got from a friend.
“She has no formula,” she said. “I just put her on regular milk. What do I do? Her pediatrician made it clear I’m not supposed to be doing that, but what do I do?”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 16th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Plane ticket prices will rise this summer due to high demand for European beach holidays, Ryanair has said.
Airline boss Michael O'Leary said he expects prices for flights to rise by a “high single-digit per cent”.
He said the airline's lower fares were currently driving an increase in passenger numbers, helping the company's recovery from the pandemic.
He said he hoped the airline would return to “reasonable profitability” in its current financial year.
The firm reported annual losses of €355m (£302m) on Monday, saying its recovery from Covid restrictions being lifted had been impacted by the Omicron variant and the war in Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine has driven up global oil prices with concerns supplies from Russia, a major exporter of fossil fuels and jet fuel, could be disrupted.
The group's loss for the year to 31 March was smaller than expected and narrowed from the €1.02bn (£867m) losses seen the previous year.
‘So much demand'
Mr O'Leary said he expected prices to be lower up to June compared to pre-pandemic levels, but added “based on about 50% of all bookings, we expect prices will be up high single-digit per cent” over the Summer.
“It seems to us that there will be higher prices into that peak summer period because there's so much demand for the beaches of Europe and those price rises going to continue,” told the BBC's Today programme.
“I think prices will be low next winter. But it's too early to say, there's clearly going to be an economic downturn, there's some fear of recession and in a recession the lowest-cost provider, which in the UK and in Europe is Ryanair, will do better, but will do better because we can sustain lower prices.”
In its results the airline stated customers were still booking their trips later than usual and said the “booking curve” looked more like pre-Covid times.
Ryanair said traffic recovered strongly as it carried 97.1 million guests, up from just 27.5 million the year before thanks to the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
It said it hopes to boost this further to 165 million passengers this year – ahead of the 149 million record level seen pre-Covid.
Elsewhere, Holiday giant Tui has said it expects summer bookings to “almost reach” 2019 levels this year, but warned there will be “no last minute” deals.
“There will be practically no last minute offers at low prices this summer,” said Fritz Joussen, Tui's chief executive.
Mr O'Leary said he hoped to see “pinch points” at UK airports such as Manchester or Heathrow eliminated by the end of June in time for the peak summer period.
He said: “There's no doubt I think getting through airports this summer is going to be challenging and we're encouraging all of our customers to show up earlier and allow more time to get through airport security”.
However he claimed this was less the case at other airports Ryanair uses, such as Glasgow, Stansted, and Bristol.
He said Ryanair didn't face the same recruitment challenges as some competitors because it had kept people on.
Ryanair asked staff to take pay cuts during the pandemic to avoid job losses.
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General Motors says it wants to lead EV sales in North America by 2025, and vows that its new Ultium battery platform will drive that dominance. But what makes GM’s EV battery and motor technology different from competitors, including industry leader Tesla?
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 12th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Joint venture will bring together rights to sports including Premier League, Champions League and Olympics
BT has struck a deal with the US media company Warner Bros Discovery to create a joint venture pay-TV sport business, which will bring together rights to sports including the Premier League, the Champions League and the Olympics, worth as much as £633m to the telecoms operator.
In February, BT entered into exclusive talks with the US firm to merge BT Sport with the Discovery-owned Eurosport, which broadcasts a wide range of sports including tennis and cycling and holds the pan-European rights to the Olympics in the UK.
“We have finalised the sports joint venture with Warner Bros Discovery to improve our content offering to customers, aligning our business with a new global content powerhouse,” said Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT.
Under the terms of the 50:50 joint venture, which will be operated by Warner Bros Discovery, BT will receive a £93m payment in instalments over three years after completion of the deal.
BT will also receive up to £540m based on performance of the operation over a period of four years. This could pay out sooner if either the £540m performance cap is hit, or Warner Bros Discovery trigger a call option to take full control.
The two companies said that the BT Sport and Eurosport brands would both initially continue to operate in the UK market “before being brought together under a single brand in the future”.
“Our growing portfolio of premium entertainment content promises to deliver consumers a richer and deeper content proposition, not only providing greater value from their subscriptions but bringing sport to a wider entertainment audience,” said Andrew Georgiou, president and managing director of Warner Bros Discovery sports Europe.
The company announced the deal as part of full-year results with BT reporting a 2% dip in revenues to £20.8bn, and a 9% increase in profits to £1.96bn, for the year to the end of March.
Jansen said that the price increases in phone, TV and broadband bills pushed through on 1 April has so far not had an impact on customers cancelling services to save money.
“Churn is pretty much at record lows,” he said. “One big part of what drives churn is value for money and pricing. Adding additional benefits and bundling of services for customers. It is working. We are not complacent, but what we are offering our customers is hitting our mark.
“On average the price increases we are putting through are about £35 for a year … We know we give great value for money.”
BT, which has raised its cost savings target by £500m to £2.5bn by the end of 2025, has spent billions on sports rights to drive the growth of BT Sport since it was launched a decade ago to stem the loss of millions of broadband customers enticed by its rival Sky’s offers bundling internet connectivity with sport and entertainment programming.
The business succeeded in its job, although it only has a few million customers and turns just a small profit, and BT is now focused on its £15bn plans to roll out next-generation broadband and 5G mobile networks across the UK.
“As a global sports and entertainment broadcaster Warner Bros Discovery is the perfect partner to work with us to take BT Sport to the next stage of its growth,” said Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s Consumer operation.
BT, which has had to seek clearance from the Premier League and Champions League to push through the change in ownership, has also extended a reciprocal channel supply deal with Sky that is crucial to its sports broadcasting business until 2030.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 12th May 2022) London, UK —
HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) said on Thursday it was launching a $1 billion lending fund to invest in female-owned businesses over the next 12 months.
“The level of funding received over time by female-led businesses is significantly lower than male counterparts, while the recent impacts of the pandemic have seen these same businesses disproportionately affected,” Sam Cooper-Gray, global head of market strategy at HSBC Business Banking, said in a statement.
“Female-owned businesses are also less likely to have global networks, meaning international expansion can prove particularly challenging,” she said.
The fund appears to cover more markets than any other such initiative.
In January 2021, NatWest Group (NWG.L) allocated 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) to support female-led businesses in Britain recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to 1 billion pounds the bank made available in 2020.
HSBC said access to funding remained one of the biggest hurdles for female business leaders worldwide. Female-owned businesses had received just 3% of start-up funding in 2019, HSBC said.
HSBC's Female Entrepreneur Fund will be open to both new and existing customers across 11 markets, with nearly half of them in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Other markets include the United States, Britain and Uruguay.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 12th May 2022) London, Uk – –
The Daylight insurance offering for crypto firms begins with technology liability and cyber insurance.
Superscript, a U.K. startup and Lloyd’s of London insurance market broker, has launched a dedicated product for crypto businesses.
“Daylight,” as the new insurance offering for digital-asset firms is called, begins with technology liability and cyber insurance, which serve as protection against everything from ransomware attacks to unintentional copyright infringement.
In recent years, cryptocurrency and insurance have been uneasy bedfellows, with a shortage of capacity in the market and many large crypto exchanges simply opting to self-insure, holding reserves of bitcoin (BTC) to cover their losses, typically in case of a hack of “hot” wallets, or those connected to the internet.
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Superscript, which was part of last year’s Lloyd’s Lab accelerator, said the first crypto businesses in line to buy tech and cyber cover are Argent, Chiliz and CEX.
“As well as protecting the actual physical digital assets, there’s a whole other world of risk that also needs to be covered,” said Superscript digital assets lead Ben Davis in an interview. “So, if a platform goes down … there are privacy breaches, ransomware attacks, breaches of contract, copyright and IP infringement. All that needs to be covered for crypto companies to move into the mainstream.”
As of 2021, there were just 350 brokers licensed to deal with Lloyd’s. Superscript says it’s the first Lloyd’s broker to provide a digital assets dedicated product; Lloyd’s-approved coverholder status was granted to Evertas earlier this year. (Lloyd’s policy is not to promote individual products and therefore it did not provide a quote for Daylight, a Superscript representative said via email.)
That said, Lloyd’s is slowly but surely coming round to crypto, according to Davis. “I would say the winds are changing a little bit for Lloyd’s in terms of digital asset risk,” he said.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 11th May 2022) London, Uk – –
The yen's recent depreciation has helped Japan's export-driven car industry. But the cost of raw materials and global supply chain problems made worse by China's COVID measures are hurting profits.
The world's largest car-maker has warned that its operating earnings could fall by a fifth this year due to “unprecedented increases in materials and logistics costs”.
Toyota said operating profit will fall from almost 3trn yen (£18.6bn) in the previous year to 2.4trn yen (£14.9bn) in the current fiscal year, well below analysts' expectations.
The Japanese car-maker also announced a 33% slide in fourth-quarter profit – news which sent its shares down more than 5% early on Wednesday.
It said it expected the cost of materials to more than double to 1.45trn yen (£9bn) in the fiscal year that started last month.
The company fared well during the early months of the global chip shortage that has hampered many of its rivals, but it has now become the latest to slash production, particularly due to problems in China.
Toyota, which had already cut six production lines at a total of four plants, revealed on Tuesday that a total of 12 factories would now be affected as supply chains are delayed by the effects of China's COVID pandemic curbs.
Shanghai is in its sixth week of heavy restrictions on movement that has not only affected factory output but also shipments to and from its bustling port, China's largest by cargo volumes.‘
Toyota said that 14 more production lines would be affected by the suspension, for up to six days this month.
It would mean, the company said, that around 40,000 vehicles faced delays and wider disruption would result in the group's global production target falling by 50,000 to 700,000 vehicles for the month.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 10th May 2022) London, UK —
IKEA retailer Ingka Group is spending 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) through 2023 on new and existing stores, much of it to modify its trademark out-of-town outlets so they can double up as e-commerce distribution centres.
Tolga Oncu, retail manager at the group which owns most IKEA stores worldwide, told Reuters the money would be spent across all regions, though about a third is earmarked for London, a test-bed for new store formats and logistics set-ups.
“Most of it will be in our existing stores, since we talk about transforming, redesigning the purpose of the square metres,” Oncu said in an interview.
In the past few years, Ingka has adapted to the rise in online shopping by developing smaller stores, revamping its website and rolling out a new app as well as digital services such remote planning tools.
“We feel we have a catch-up to do on the back-end of our operation (and) we have realised that by including stores in our last mile and fulfilment design network we can create a win-win situation,” Oncu said.
Shipping online purchases from the warehouse sections of nearby out-of-town stores will mean faster and cheaper deliveries, with lower emissions, than by shipping from a few logistics centres, he said.
“Instead of building central warehouse capacities for online buys, why don't we send it from our IKEA stores?”
Automating existing out-of-town stores' warehouse sections will account for a lot of the investments, Oncu added.
The plan comes as many businesses turn cautious in the face of geopolitical tensions, high inflation and worsening consumer confidence. But Oncu said that for IKEA, which is funded by its owner foundations, the timing couldn't be better.
“I agree the outlook (for consumer spending overall) looks a bit gloomy. That means value for money and time, affordable solutions that are of good quality, function and design and sustainable will increase in demand,” he said.
During the pandemic, IKEA has seen record demand for its cut-price home furninshings as people spent more time at home.
Over the past three fiscal years, Ingka has invested around 2.1 billion euros in new and existing stores in its 32 markets.
The latest spending will also focus on new traditional “blue-box stores” in Romania, China and India, and new city stores, as well as planning studios, in Canada, Denmark, Italy, India, the United States and other countries.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon 9th May 2022) London, Uk – –
The boss of Scottish Power has warned that millions of customers face an horrific winter unless there is a major government intervention in energy firms.
Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, told the BBC that another expected rise in energy bills in October to between £2,500 and £3,000 a year could see huge losses for suppliers and many customers unable to pay their bills.
He warned regulator Ofgem that setting the new price cap too low could risk suppliers collapsing or the foreign owned firms leaving the market.
Mr Anderson has put some flesh on the bones of a plan he first mentioned in a frank exchange with a committee of MPs three weeks ago.
He has called for ten million households to have their energy bills reduced by £1,000 this October.
He said the government's plan to give each household £200 towards their energy bill – a sum that will need to be paid back – would not be enough.
“We need to be realistic about the gravity of the situation – around 40% of UK households, potentially 10 million homes, could be in fuel poverty this winter,” Mr Anderson explained.
The price cap is set to be increased again in October.
To date, the government has said it will offer extra relief of £150 in April via the council tax system in England, and in October customers in England, Scotland and Wales will receive a £200 rebate on their energy bills.
They will have to repay this at £40 a year for five years, starting in April 2023.
However, Mr Anderson said a £10bn tariff reduction fund could be paid for by adding £40 annually to all household energy bills for the next decade. He said this would be the most effective to avoid fuel poverty for the most vulnerable.
Mr Anderson said that such a fund would directly tackle the biggest cause of the cost of living crisis in a way that other measures – such as the recent 5p cut to fuel duty or a possible cut to the frequency of MOT testing – do not.
Households on pre-payment meters and those in receipt of benefits would be eligible for the discount.
Mr Anderson also said more energy companies could collapse if their customers were unable to pay their bills.
Scottish Power is owned by Spanish firm Iberdrola and Mr Anderson fears that foreign owned energy suppliers – including EDF, Eon and his own – might struggle to persuade their parent companies to continue to subsidise loss-making UK subsidiaries and exit the UK market.
Warning to Ofgem
Scottish Power is also concerned that energy companies will sustain further big losses if Ofgem sets the new energy price cap – due to take effect in October – too low.
Wholesale gas prices have fallen sharply since the all time records set in March.
However, many energy companies bought the gas they will supply this winter at prices much higher than current levels.
If Ofgem does not recognise this when it sets the new cap, some firms will have to sell at a significant loss threatening them with further distress or collapse which would further destabilise the market, according to Scottish Power.
“We need to find a way to help to those that need it in time for winter in a way that doesn't exacerbate the issues we've already seen in the industry with supplier failures and very real concerns about billpayers running up unsustainable debts,” Mr Anderson continued.
Energy suppliers concede that further government support would help them as well as their customers.
Meanwhile, government officials privately say that it is hard to distinguish between genuine potential financial distress for the energy companies and intense lobbying.
Ofgem responded that it is “too soon” to predict the level of the price cap from October. However, it said that new measures earlier this year will allow it in “exceptional circumstances”, to update the price cap more frequently than once every six months, to “ensure that the price cap continues to reflect the true cost of supplying energy”.
“This was introduced in the interests of stabilising the market and making sure both consumers and suppliers pay a fair price,” Ofgem added.
The Treasury has said it is monitoring the situation and would review the level of support needed when the level of the new price cap became clear in late summer.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 9th May 2022) London, Uk – –
The owners of London landmarks including Covent Garden and Carnaby Street are in advanced talks about an all-share deal that would create a group worth about £3.5bn, Sky News learns.
Two companies behind large swathes of London's West End are in advanced talks about a £3.5bn merger that would unite world-famous tourist destinations, including Covent Garden and Chinatown under common ownership.
Sky News has learnt that Capital & Counties Properties – also known as Capco – and Shaftesbury are in detailed discussions about an all-share tie-up that could be announced within weeks.
If completed, the merger would bring together two of London's most prominent landlords, creating a powerhouse of West End property ownership as the capital tries to navigate its way towards a successful post-pandemic future.
Capco is the landlord to shops and restaurants in Covent Garden, while Shaftesbury owns chunks of other prime central London landmarks, such as Carnaby Street, Chinatown and Seven Dials.
Speculation about a tie-up between the two companies has persisted since May 2020, when Capco bought property tycoon Samuel Tak Lee's 26% stake in Shaftesbury for £436m.
One analyst said that Norges Bank, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, was likely to be an instrumental player in a merger, owing to its large stakes in both Capco and Shaftesbury.
Both Capco and Shaftesbury were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with the latter raising about £300m from a share sale in the autumn of 2020.
Capco participated in that cash call on a pro rate basis, enabling it to maintain its stake.
The Covent Garden owner lost over a quarter of its value in 2020, reflecting the sharp decline in visitor numbers during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis.
Many commercial property-owners were forced to step in to provide rent relief to retailers and hospitality businesses two years ago, with dozens of prominent store and restaurant chains collapsing.
Among the casualties which either fell into administration or implemented restructuring plans that hit creditors including landlords were Debenhams, TopShop, Carluccio's and Prezzo.
In recent months, though, landlords have struck a more upbeat tone, despite uncertainties caused by the Omicron variant and the shift towards hybrid working.
Shaftesbury said in February that its vacancy rate had fallen below 5% for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
Ian Hawksworth, Capco chief executive, said during the same month that the outlook had become more positive.
“We are pleased with the strong level of leasing demand for Covent Garden which has contributed to a valuation uplift in the second half.
“With footfall continuing to increase, customer sales approaching 2019 levels and our creative approach, Covent Garden is the most vibrant district in the West End and is well-positioned for further rental growth,” he added.
On Friday, shares in Capco closed nearly 3% higher amid speculation that Capco could be a takeover target for an unnamed suitor.
The increase left Capco with a market capitalisation of about £1.37bn.
Shaftesbury, meanwhile, closed just under 1% lower at 577p, giving it a market value of £2.23bn.
Further details of the proposed merger structure, including the prospective leadership of the combined group, were unclear on Saturday morning.
However, both companies are likely to be forced to confirm the talks to the London Stock Exchange when it opens on Monday.
Mr Hawksworth and his opposite number at Shaftesbury, Brian Bickell, are both respected figures in the commercial property sector, although it is not certain that both would remain at a combined group.
There may also be scope for substantial cost synergies from the deal.
Capco's history dates back to the 1930s, although it did not acquire Covent Garden's Piazza until 2006, while Shatesbury, which owns 16 acres in the West End, was founded in 1985, floating in London the following year.
Capco is understood to be being advised by bankers at Rothschild, while Blackdown Partners and Evercore Partners are advising Shaftesbury.
Shaftesbury declined to comment, while Capco has been contacted for comment.
James Rogers, founder of Apeel Sciences, learned that one of the main causes of global hunger isn’t that we as a species aren’t capable of growing enough food, it’s that so much of it goes bad before it can be consumed.
The reason food goes bad is fairly simple: Oxygen comes in, water goes out. If he could find a way to stretch that out, he might be able to make a dent in global hunger.
James thought, if we could slow the process of steel from oxidizing, why couldn’t we do the same for a ripe avocado?
Here’s how Apeel became a $2 billion start-up looking to end world hunger.
The EcoVillage at Ithaca was established in 1991 and has become a mature communal village with three neighborhoods developed on 10% of the land with 90% of the land devoted to farmland and natural areas. Given that we're interested in communally living at Flock, we took quite a bit of notes from the EcoVillage, which is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 6th May 2022) London, Uk – –
The company's quarterly loss, while down on the same period last year, was higher than anticipated as IAG got to grips with IT gremlins at BA and staff shortages that have hampered its recovery from COVID.
The parent company of British Airways has hailed a pick-up in travel between the UK and United States for helping to narrow losses and predicted a return to profitability this year despite a leap in costs.
International Airlines Group (IAG), which also has the Aer Lingus and Iberia brands in its stable of carriers, reported a pre-tax loss of €916m for the first three months of the year.
That was down from €1.2bn in the same period in 2021.
The group said that while Europe had lagged demand as travel slowly reopened following the easing of the Omicron COVID variant, it had seen a big pick-up in lucrative business and tourism traffic across the Atlantic.
However, it confirmed a 5% cut in short haul capacity at Heathrow as BA gets to grips with staff shortages and IT gremlins that have dogged its schedules in recent months and harmed its recovery from the pandemic.
BA shed 13,000 staff alone as lockdowns forced flights to be grounded with no crystal ball available on when the public health emergency would end.
It said the flight cancellations – on routes which have high frequency services – would last through the peak summer season as it wanted to provide stability for passengers and avoid repeats of flight disruption to date.
IAG said it would be running at 80% of 2019 capacity in this quarter, rising to 85% from July to September and to 90% from October to December.
Shares fell back by 8% on the reduction in planned capacity.
Its quarterly loss was also higher than had been anticipated.
Chief Executive Luis Gallego said the cost of dealing with the company's reopening issues was the main reason.
“Demand is recovering strongly in line with our previous expectations,” he said, adding that the company was focused on improving operations and the customer experience.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said IAG's update had help spark a wider FTSE 100 sell-off of 1% as investors fret over economic recovery following warnings of a recession ahead from the Bank of England.
She wrote: “The slide was sparked by British Airways parent company IAG disappointing investors with news that although it's flying back into profitability, it's slowing expansion plans.
“That's caused a headwind for other airlines today with easyJet falling by around 2% in early trade and Wizz Air also buffeted by fresh worries about its growth trajectory.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 5th May 2022) London, UK —
Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) on Wednesday gave an early glimpse of its first physical store, which features a floor-to-ceiling screen for showing off games on its virtual reality headsets and rooms for testing video calling devices.
The store, set to open on May 9, is located at the main campus for Meta's Reality Labs unit, in the Silicon Valley town of Burlingame, California. The unit is developing the hardware products the company aims to sell there, including Ray-Ban smart glasses, Portal video-calling devices and Oculus VR headsets.
With blonde wood and minimalist decor, the store design echoes the aesthetic pioneered by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) when it set up retail stores more than two decades ago.
The opening of the Meta store makes tangible what is largely a theoretical future business for the world's largest social media company, which has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality in a push to build the “metaverse,” a term used to describe immersive, shared virtual spaces.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says the metaverse could be the world's next big computing platform, but he has warned that it may take about a decade for the company's bets to pay off.
In the meantime, with growth slowing and the company still almost entirely reliant on digital ads for revenue, Meta is cutting back on some of its long-term investments.
In addition to promoting its hardware devices to consumers, Meta is increasingly pitching them to businesses. It gave a demonstration at the store of conference calls that can feature a mix of virtual reality avatars and traditional video calling.
The company is experimenting with augmented reality technology that would enable users to join conferences as avatars via Portal, without donning headsets, said Micah Collins, a director of product management working on the enterprise tools.
Collins acknowledged the enterprise metaverse business is nascent, and a spokesperson said most usage of Horizon Workrooms, the VR conferencing technology, comes from inside Meta.
Still, Collins said, the company senses opportunity.
Although many products are still very early stage and known in their consumer context, “there's enough there that's giving us a lot of confidence to attack the space,” he said.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 5th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Benchmark interest rate raised 0.5 percentage points, with more rises expected
The Federal Reserve moved to tamp down soaring inflation in the US on Wednesday, announcing the sharpest rise in interest rates in over 20 years.
The Fed’s benchmark interest rate was raised by 0.5 percentage points to a target rate range of between 0.75% and 1%. The hike is the largest since 2000 and follows a 0.25 percentage point increase in March, the first increase since December 2018.
More rate rises are expected. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the Fed to raise rates seven times in 2022, reaching 2.9% in early 2023. Starting in June, officials also plan to shrink their $9tn asset portfolio, a policy move that will further push up borrowing costs.
In a statement the Fed said that although “overall economic activity edged down in the first quarter, household spending and business fixed investment remained strong”. But it warned that inflation “remains elevated”, the invasion of Ukraine had implications for the US economy that remain “highly uncertain” and Covid-related lockdowns in China “are likely to exacerbate supply chain disruptions”.
Rates were cut to near zero in March 2020 when the pandemic hit the US but they were already low and years of low rates left the US and other countries ill-prepared for a sudden rise in inflation. Until recently the Fed had dismissed rising prices as “transitory” and expected them to fall as economies recovered from the pandemic.
All that has now changed. The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, took the unusual step of addressing the American people at the start of a press conference following the rate hike announcement. “Inflation is much too high, and we understand the hardship it is causing. We are moving expeditiously to bring it back down,” he said.
“Some of us are old enough to have lived through high inflation and many aren’t. But it’s very unpleasant … If you are a normal economic person, then you probably don’t have that much extra to spend, and it’s immediately hitting your spending on groceries, on gasoline, on energy, things like that. We understand the pain involved.”
Thanks in large part to the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus on the global economy, inflation is now running at a 40-year high in the US. In March, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 8.5% higher than it was a year ago, driven up by rising prices for gasoline, shelter, and food. The increasing costs of essential goods and services are now outstripping average wage gains.
Ahead of the announcement Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase chief executive officer, warned that the Fed may have waited too long to raise rates. “We’re a little late,” he told Bloomberg. “The sooner they move the better.”
The impact of the Fed’s policy is already being felt in the wider economy. Since the start of the year, mortgage rates have climbed at their fastest pace in decades, rising nearly two percentage points. Some hot property markets have started to cool as a result. The impact of tighter monetary policy has also triggered selloffs in the stock markets.
Powell said the economy remained strong and that he was confident the Fed could act without triggering a recession but he warned it would act aggressively to tackle inflation.
“We need to do everything we can to restore stable prices,” he said. “We will do it as quickly and effectively as we can. We think we have a good chance to do it without significant increase in unemployment or sharp slowdown. But ultimately, we think about the medium and longer term, and everyone will be better off if we can get this job done – the sooner, the better.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via cointelegraph.com — Thur, 5th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Gucci’s past efforts into Web3 have culminated with the brand accepting 12 cryptocurrencies at a few select stores, with a wider rollout planned for the future.
The Italian high-end fashion label Gucci has announced it will begin accepting cryptocurrency payments by the end of the month in five of its United States stores, with plans to extend the service to all of its 111 stores in North America.
Gucci will accept 12 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ether (ETH), Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), Litecoin (LTC), Shiba Inu (SHIB), Dogecoin (DOGE) and five U.S. dollar stablecoins, according to Vogue Business.
Customers paying with crypto in-store at the pilot locations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas will be sent an email with a QR code to pay via their digital asset wallet. Employees have started to undertake training and education on crypto, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and Web3 in preparation for the launch.
Gucci has recently been on a Web3 adoption spree with two NFT collections launched in 2022 — the “SUPERGUCCI” collection in February in collaboration with toy brand SUPERPLASTIC, and the “Gucci Grail” collection in March targeting owners of existing blue-chip NFT projects such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Pudgy Penguins and World of Women.
Its first-ever NFT was a four-minute film titled Aria that took inspiration from its clothing collection of the same name that sold for $25,000 in June 2021 in an online auction hosted by Christie’s.
Gucci has further expanded into Web3 through its purchase of virtual land in The Sandbox in February to develop a virtual retail experience mirroring its Vault e-store.
The Gucci Vault is an online concept store representing “Gucci’s presence in the Metaverse,” featuring a curated selection by its creative director of rare vintage Gucci pieces.
Crypto is luxury
High-end brands have been jumping into the crypto and Web3 space. In March, the fashion label Off-white started accepting payment with six cryptos in its flagship stores in Paris, Milan and London.
Off-white is majority-owned by LVMH, which has seen its share of Web3 adoption, releasing NFTs under its Hennessy, Bulgari and Louis Vuitton brands in the past.
LVMH’s luxury watch brand Hublot released a limited edition collection that could only be purchased using Bitcoin. More recently, the brand partnered with cold wallet provider Ledger to launch a limited edition watch and Ledger Nano X in February.
Watch brands Franck Muller and Norgain, along with fashion label Phillipp Plein, all accept crypto, and even car dealerships and car manufacturers are accepting digital assets for high-end vehicles.
The luxury fitness company Equinox Group started accepting crypto payments for its New York City-based clubs on Tuesday, with yearly memberships starting just under 1.4 ETH, or $4,044 at the time of writing.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 4th May 2022) London, Uk – –
Shares in the Indian state-run insurance giant Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) have gone on sale in a $2.75bn (£2.18bn) initial public offering, witnessing strong demand from institutional investors.
The government is offering a 3.5% stake in what will be India's largest share sale, despite both the size and valuation of the issue being slashed significantly to reflect current market conditions.
What are the details of the IPO?
The date for share listing is 17 May, the government's Department of Investment and Public Asset Management said.
Bids for anchor investors opened on 2 May but the share sale for the public opens on 4 May and closes on 9 May.
General investors can buy equity shares at a price band set at $11.75-12.36 (£9.38-9.87) per share.
The company's policyholders, employees as well as small mom and pop investors will be entitled to an additional discount of up to 60 rupees, according to papers filed by the company with India's securities watchdog.
Broking firm Zerodha expects at least 8-12 million additional online trading accounts to be opened by investors keen to apply for the IPO, a 10-15% bump up to the 80 million accounts currently in operation.
Why does LIC matter?
LIC is nearly as old as independent India. Formed by nationalising and merging 245 private insurance companies, it started issuing policies in 1956, holding a monopoly on India's insurance sector until the turn of the millennium.
More than two decades after private competition was allowed, LIC continues to hold a leadership position, with 66% market share as of 2021.
Its sheer size makes the insurance behemoth a systemically important company for India.
At over $500bn, its asset base is bigger than the GDP of several countries. And with nearly 280 million policies in force, it manages four times more policies than the entire population of the UK.
It is also India's largest asset manager, with massive investments in state and central securities as well as the stock market.
According to the ratings agency CRISIL, LIC's equity investments in listed companies represented 4% of the total market capitalisation of the National Stock Exchange. It has also been the default financier of the government in trying times, bailing out flailing state-run companies.
LIC also owns a sprawling portfolio of real estate across India.
Why is LIC a part of India's social fabric?
With 1.3 million distributors selling policies across pretty much every nook and corner in India, the ubiquitous “LIC agent” has held a unique place in independent India's public consciousness.
Srinivasalu Naidu, a septuagenarian who has sold policies door to door for the past 30 years, told the BBC he was known in his heyday as “LIC Naidu”, a much revered figure in his village in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
Agents like him have been critical to the company's growth and mission to build trust and create a savings culture across the remote corners of the country.
“People didn't buy policies from me just as insurance, they did it as an investment. For their kids' education or wedding. They trusted their life savings with me,” said Naidu.
Private banking giant UBS estimates 10 out of every 100 rupees saved by Indian households go into LIC, a much larger amount than even the deposits attracted by India's largest bank, the State Bank of India.
Are there any concerns over the IPO?
Given LIC's social relevance and scaled-down valuation, India's opposition politicians have accused the government of selling “family silverware” and prioritising shareholders over politicians.
According to analysts, even at the upper price band, LIC's issue has been valued far lower by the government than its three listed private peers – HDFC Life Insurance Co., SBI Life Insurance Co. and ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co.
“It is not justified at all. You should also involve the opposition (in deliberations), when you are disinvesting something like the LIC which is a social security net,” Dr Shama Mohamed, a spokesperson of the Congress party, told the BBC.
Last month, PM Narendra Modi's government decided to defer the mega IPO amid global stock market volatility due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It had initially planned to raise about $8b by selling 5% of LIC to fund its widening fiscal deficit – the gap between earnings and expenditure.
Amid surging fuel costs and lower growth projections, the pruned fundraising target is expected to put additional pressure on New Delhi's already stretched finances.
But analysts say the size and price are appropriate given the current environment, with foreign investors pulling out nearly $20bn from Indian equities since October 2021. And the government is confident that LIC's dominant leadership position and fair valuation will attract significant investor interest.
“Even if we have a bit of a constrained environment, we can still pull it off because that's the kind of optimum demand scenario which exists,” Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary at the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, told journalists in Mumbai last week.
What does the IPO mean for LIC?
In the long run, a stock market listing is expected to improve how the firm is run and bring in more transparency.
But at a time when its competitors have all gone digital, LIC's overt dependence on physical distributors has been flagged as a cause of concern by analysts, who believe it will continue losing market share in the years ahead.
“On the margin front, it will be kind of hard for LIC to compete if it sticks to the distributor model. They will have to re-innovate the company and become relevant for what the insurance market will be tomorrow,” says Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha.
According to economic commentator Vivek Kaul, LIC pays agents twice as much in commissions in the first year, compared to private insurers, which is not sustainable in the longer run.
Covid-19 has also had an impact on the company. Its growth in new business premiums declined significantly as lockdowns disrupted operations, reiterating the need for LIC to significantly leverage technology to drive operating efficiency.
But analysts expect India's young population and massive under-penetration of life insurance to give LIC a long runway for expansion.
According to analysis from the broking firm Anand Rathi, India's protection gap – or the difference between the insurance required and actually available – was 83% or US$16.5 trillion in 2019, the highest in Asia-Pacific, “thereby presenting a huge potential for growth”.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 3rd May 2022) London, UK —
BP (BP.L) recorded its biggest quarterly loss after writing down $24 billion to exit its Russia businesses but a strong operational performance on the back of rocketing oil and gas prices helped the British energy firm step up share buybacks.
BP shares were up 2.5% by 0925 GMT in London trading, outperforming rivals, after the company reported its strongest operational performance since 2008.
Soaring oil and gas prices in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 helped offset losses BP incurred from abruptly abandoning its shareholdings in Russia, including its 19.75% stake in oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM).
The non-cash writedown of its stakes in Rosneft and two other joint ventures pushed BP into a headline loss of $20.4 billion in the quarter, its biggest recorded. But the charge was slightly lower than BP's initial estimates of $25 billion.
BP's underlying replacement cost profit, the company's definition of net earnings, reached $6.2 billion in the first quarter, the strongest since 2008 and far exceeding analysts' expectations for a $4.49 billion profit.
The 2022 first quarter performance was driven by what BP said was an “exceptional” performance in its oil and gas trading division. Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss said volatility in oil and gas prices was most company had seen.
BP, whose shares up 7% since February, did not make any money from Rosneft in the quarter.
The company, which also halted trading Russian oil, said the exit from Russia, which had contributed 3% of the company's cash flow last year, would not affect its plan to shift away from oil and gas towards renewables.
The exit “has not changed our strategy, our financial frame, or our expectations for shareholder distributions,” Chief Executive Bernard Looney said.
Global refining margins soared in recent months as economies recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian oil started to vanish from Europe, which heavily relies on Russian refined products like diesel.
BP's refined oil products unit made a profit of $1.6 billion in the first three months, compared with a loss of $26 million in the previous quarter and a $2 million loss a year ago.
BP rivals including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies all saw a sharp rise in revenue in the quarter, also lifted by strong performances of their trading divisions, allowing them to boost shareholder returns.
BP said it would increase its quarterly share repurchases to $2.5 billion before the end of the second quarter after its surplus cash flow rose to more than $4 billion.
BP said in February it would accelerate its share buybacks to $1.5 billion per quarter from $1.25 billion.
BP previously said it would repurchase $4 billion a year at oil prices of $60 per barrel, well below the current price of benchmark Brent , which was about $107 on Tuesday.
The company maintained its dividend at 5.46 cents per share.
BP's net debt declined sharply to $27.5 billion from $30.6 billion at the end of 2021.