PM Boris John grants Huawei ‘limited’ role in Britain’s 5G network

( via– Tue, 28th Jan, 2020) London, Uk – –

The Chinese technology company scores a win but it comes with conditions designed to placate those with security fears.

Huawei will be allowed to play a limited role in the UK's 5G network, the government has said.

Among the conditions for the Chinese company's involvement are:

  • It will be excluded from all safety related and safety critical networks
  • It will be excluded from sensitive geographic locations such as nuclear sites and military bases
  • It will have a 35% cap in periphery (non-sensitive parts) of the 5G network

Sky's defence and security correspondent Alistair Bunkall said: “The National Security Council, on the advice of intelligence agencies, particularly GCHQ, has concluded that having Huawei on the peripheries of 5G can be managed and the security risks can be mitigated.

“It won't be a part of the core elements of 5G provision – that means in theory it won't have oversight of messages, data sharing, for example. Instead it will be limited to the non-core factors – things like provision of aerials and antennas. Even in that respect, its share will be limited to 35%.Huawei decision: Sky correspondents share their take

Analysis: Is 5G safe?

“Actually Huawei's involvement overall will be really pretty limited but it reflects the influence the Chinese telecoms firm has in the technology market – an influence that few others are able to rival.”

He added: “Britain's decision today is likely to be watched very carefully by a lot of other partners, particularly in Europe, who might decide if Britain can include Huawei in their infrastructure, why can't everyone else?”

UK Culture Secretary Baroness Morgan said: “This is a UK-specific solution for UK-specific reasons and the decision deals with the challenges we face right now.

“It not only paves the way for secure and resilient networks, with our sovereignty over data protected, but it also builds on our strategy to develop a diversity of suppliers.

“We can now move forward and seize the huge opportunities of 21st-century technology.”Huawei: The risks explained

Opponents of the idea had feared that allowing the Chinese tech company to build the network would be handing control of infrastructure to Beijing.

There were also concerns that, with Huawei's close links to the Chinese government, the equipment could be used for espionage, something the company has always denied.

After the government's announcement, Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said the company was “reassured”.

He added: “This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

The debate has caused tension with the US, which had warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to approve Huawei, saying it could jeopardise future intelligence-sharing between the members of Five Eyes, an alliance which comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in London on Wednesday and will meet Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Sharing an article about the decision on Huawei, Democratic US Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: “America has never been weaker. We have never had less influence.

“Not even our closest ally Britain, with a Trump soulmate in Downing Street, listens to us anymore.”

A number of MPs had also voiced their concerns, among them Tom Tugendhat, who warned that the UK would be “allowing the fox into the hen house”.

After the decision was announced, he tweeted: “Overall, this statement leaves many concerns and does not close the UK's networks to a frequently malign international actor.”

Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, said the limits on Huawei's involvement would ensure the UK had a “very strong, practical and technically sound framework for digital security in the years ahead”.

The implementation of 5G is expected to bring download speeds 10 times faster than 4G and is seen as critical to the country's economic future as it leaves the European Union.

Reporting by Sharon Marris

Coronavirus fears cause shares and oil price to fall

( via – – Mon, 27th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

Worries over the continued spread of the coronavirus have hit the financial markets, with London's FTSE 100 share index dropping more than 2%.

Airlines and companies with significant sales in China saw some of the biggest share price falls.

The coronavirus has killed 81 people in China with almost 3,000 confirmed ill, while at least 44 cases have been confirmed abroad.

The price of oil also fell, with Brent crude dropping 3% to $58.65 a barrel.

Among the biggest share price declines was luxury clothes maker Burberry, which fell 5.5%. It makes about 16% of its sales in China, one of its fastest-growing markets, and has warned investors that a drop in Chinese spending could spell a decline in its own revenues.

Shares in InterContinental Hotels Group dropped 4.7%. It says China and Hong Kong are a “growing share of our business” and contributes 8% of the firm's profit.

British Airways owner IAG, which also contains Iberia, fell 5.6%, while HSBC Holdings, which takes most of its profit from Asia, fell 3.5%.

Shares across Europe saw similar declines, with the German Dax and French Cac 40 indexes both down by about 2%.

Analysts at research firm Bernstein say Chinese consumers had spent $149bn (£114bn) during the Chinese New Year celebrations last year and that will probably be smaller this year due to travel curbs.

Companies in China have advised staff to work from home in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Businesses are also offering workers longer holidays, as well as telling employees returning from the most affected areas to stay away from work.

Janet Mui, global economist at Cazenove Capital, told the BBC's Today programme that China's economy could suffer as the outbreak has happened over Chinese New Year, when a lot of shopping is done and gifts exchanged.

“If you look at history the most comparable example would be the Sars episode in 2003,” she said.

China's annual growth slumped from 11% to 9% in the wake of that outbreak.

How Aramco Became Saudi’s $2 Trillion Cash Cow

Source: Bloomberg

The world’s most valuable company is not Apple, Amazon, or Google. That crown instead belongs to Saudi Aramco. This is the story of how an oil company that started out as an American dream became Saudi Arabia's cash cow.

Do Smaller Internet Rivals Offer Greater Privacy Compared to Google and Facebook?

( via – – Sat, 25th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

“We agree to give these companies ownership of our lives and they are cashing in,” says Edward Armstrong, a freelance copywriter and consultant originally from Newcastle, UK, but now based in London.

He has abandoned using the services of internet giants like Google and Facebook and is using smaller rivals, which promise greater privacy.

“I'm uncomfortable with the power of the major service providers such as Google and Facebook. We think everything is free, but the cost is our data and privacy,” he says.

If Google knows everything you have ever searched for, it has a detailed catalogue of your interests, hopes and fears. Facebook knows who your friends are, what you like and what you talk about online.

Online data scandals have raised concerns about the power that information brings. Facebook is facing a fine of $5bn for its part in the notorious misuse of data by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Concern is growing. A survey by the Washington-based digital agency Rad Campaign and analytics firm Lincoln Park Strategies last year, for example, found three out of five responders in the US distrust social media when it comes to protecting their privacy.

But amid that distrust, some see opportunity. Is there a demand for a search engine that doesn't store data?

DuckDuckGo was founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg, who wanted to create a new search engine, with better results and less spam.

The search engine, which registers around 50 million searches per day, works in the same way as Google but maintains a simple privacy policy of not storing or sharing personal information.

“We share our most intimate information with search engines – financial, medical, etc – and that information deserves to be private and not used for profiling or data targeting,” the company's communications manager Daniel Davis says.

“People deserve a private alternative to the services they use. They deserve simple tools that empower them to take back their privacy, without any tradeoffs.

“DuckDuckGo Search gets its results from various sources, so we're able to offer relevant results without storing search history or user profiles.”

The technology in the company's app and browser extension goes a step further, protecting users wherever they go on the web by silently blocking third-party trackers in the background, automatically using secure connections to websites, and showing a privacy grade for each website visited.

DuckDuckGo is free, and makes its money through advertising, but the adverts it displays are not based on your history or behaviour. If you search for “car” on DuckDuckGo, you may see a car-related advert, but it will not be influenced by anything you have searched for or browsed in the past.

“We believe the Internet shouldn't feel so creepy, and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds,” Mr Davis says. “We're setting an example that we hope others will follow.”

And others are following. ProtonMail has become the world's largest provider of encrypted email, with 20 million users.

Emails between ProtonMail accounts are automatically protected with end-to-end encryption, meaning the messages are only viewable by the sender and the recipient.

“The messages are encrypted before they reach our servers meaning that even we are unable to read them!” says ProtonMail's founder Andy Yen.

“This also means users' data is safe even in a scenario where ProtonMail's servers are breached as there wouldn't be any usable data to steal.”

ProtonMail is also free to use, and makes its money by charging for upgrades and additional storage.

“Over the last couple of years we're seeing more and more members of the general public and small businesses joining us, most of whom have become more aware of how their data is being gathered and used – and often lost – by companies and governments,” says Mr Yen.

The service has proven popular enough that it has spun out another service, ProtonVPN, which allows users to browse the internet securely and privately.

A similar free, secure browsing service, Brave, blocks the tracking and profiling of users, protecting privacy and making browsing faster, it claims.

It makes money by through advertising, but users have the option to redirect some of those funds back to their favourite sites.

Brave says it has 8.7 million monthly active users and chief product officer David Temkin believes this number will only grow as the world wakes up to what he calls “the negative effects of the surveillance economy”.

“There's a growing sense that something needs to be done and Brave offers a concrete solution now,” Mr Temkin says.

Despite the alternatives, Facebook is growing at an ever-faster rate, hitting 2.45 billion monthly users in the third quarter of 2019, while the likes of WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, and Google are also still increasing their user bases.

It isn't easy to leave services like that behind and Mr Armstrong says that most of his peer group are happy to continue using them.

“I use ProtonMail instead of Gmail; DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search; Firefox for my browser instead of Chrome; and then Signal in place of WhatsApp,” he says.

“The usual reaction is friends don't care. They are pretty happy using the [mainstream] services. I've talked my girlfriend into using [the messaging service] Slack, but she just uses WhatsApp for all her other friends still,” he says.

He hopes this will change over time.

“It is not from lack of education, as the Facebook scandals caused quite a few to get rid of it, so I think it will just take more awareness for people to start moving away.”

By Tom Jackson

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe to retire after six years

( via – – Wed, 22nd Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

Sainsbury's has announced its chief executive Mike Coupe will retire from the supermarket group.

Mr Coupe has led Sainsbury's for almost six years, during which time he oversaw a failed attempt to merge with rival supermarket Asda.

The head of Sainsbury's retail and operations, Simon Roberts, will take over from Mr Coupe.

“This has been a very difficult decision for me personally,” Mr Coupe said.

“There is never a good time to move on, but as we and the industry continue to evolve, I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to my successor.”

Mr Coupe will step down as chief executive at the end of May and retire from Sainsbury's in July.

Job cuts

His exit was announced a day after Sainsbury's said it was cutting “hundreds” of management roles to reduce costs.

It said the cuts were largely due to its integration of Argos, the catalogue store that it bought in 2016.

Mr Roberts, who is due to take over on 1 June, has been involved in integrating Sainsbury's and Argos. He was also the former president of retailer Boots UK.

In a statement, Mr Coupe said he was “confident” his chosen successor was “the right choice for our customers, our colleagues and our investors”.

Mr Coupe will continue to collect his £962,000 a year salary until he leaves. His successor will begin the role with a smaller £875,000 pay cheque.

‘We're in the money'

Mr Coupe gained a reputation for being deal-hungry after he successfully led talks to buy Argos and Nectar, the loyalty-card scheme used by Sainsbury's.

But other deals were less fruitful – most notably the proposed £12bn merger with Asda.

News of the deal sent the supermarket's share price up by as much as 20% and Mr Coupe had appeared confident when it was announced in 2018.

He was even caught on camera singing “We're in the money” ahead of a media interview to discuss the merger.

But Mr Coupe's optimism was short-lived. And, in April last year, the UK competition regulator blocked the merger.

“Just when you thought being caught on camera singing ‘We're in the money' was a low point, the Asda merger subsequently didn't happen and Coupe was left scrabbling for a plan B,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

He said Mr Coupe “may unfortunately be remembered for his singing rather than retailing”.

“He did the dance with Argos and Nectar but tripped up with attempts to marry Asda,” he said.

In the past year, the value of Sainsbury's shares has fallen by 22%. On Wednesday, its share price fell by 1.3% to 210p.

Analysis: Domonic O'Connell

Mike Coupe took the reins at J Sainsbury at what should have been an auspicious moment.

A few months earlier Philip Clarke had been forced out as chief executive of Tesco, and Sainsbury's biggest commercial rival was in upheaval. Not only had Mr Clarke's chaotic reign left internal morale and profits at a low ebb, but there was a looming accounting scandal. All should have been set fair for Mr Coupe, but the reality was much tougher.

There was a new competitive threat in the shape of Aldi and Lidl, German-owned discounters that have steadily taken market share in the UK. Morrisons was beginning its revival, and once Dave Lewis was established at Tesco it quickly got back into its stride. Sainsbury's was again in a fiercely competitive battle, squeezed by large mainstream rivals and upstart competitors.

Mr Coupe's answer was to try to diversify the company's sources of income, a plan that became real with the successful purchase of Argos. He then thought he could add scale through a merger with Asda. The time was right – Asda's American owner, Walmart, was eager to sell, and the UK competition regulator had approved Tesco's purchase of the wholesaler Booker.

A deal would have created a chain big enough to frighten Tesco, but Mr Coupe misjudged the situation. The Competition and Markets Authority rejected the tie-up in brutal fashion, leaving many investors wondering how the board could ever have thought it would go through.

From that moment the clock was ticking for Mr Coupe, and his departure is not a surprise. His successor, Simon Roberts, inherits the same basic problem – how to make Sainsbury's stand out in the crowded middle ground of the UK grocery market.

Mr Coupe's exit did not come as a shock to Maureen Hinton, a retail analyst at GlobalData.

She thought the timing had been planned to allow for a period of stability at the supermarket following the failed Asda deal.

“The fact that they've got a candidate to take over makes it seem much more like it's been planned,” she told the BBC.

She said Sainsbury's had probably timed the announcement to give customers, staff and investors a period of “stability” after the failure of the Asda tie-up.

She expected Mr Roberts would try to make further cost cuts and attract more shoppers, although she said some believed the grocery market was becoming saturated.

“There's only so much we can eat,” she said.

By Phillip Inman

Bank of England to examine how UK could adopt a bitcoin-style digital currency

( via – -Wed, 22nd Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

BoE one of central banks weighing potential benefits amid decline of cash and emergence of Facebook’s libra

The Bank of England will examine how Britain could adopt a bitcoin-style digital currency as part of a global group of central banks that have joined together to examine the possible pitfalls of relying on electronic money.

Bank officials will meet with the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank (ECB), the Sveriges Riksbank, the Bank of Canada, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to pool research and experiences of the potential for a central bank digital currency (CBDC).

The BoE deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe will co-chair the group with Benoît Cœuré, a former ECB board member and head of the BIS innovation hub.

The move comes amid the emergence of private sector digital currencies, such as bitcoin and Facebook’s libra, which is due to be launched this year.

Facebook’s plans for its libra coin and a digital wallet have caught the attention of regulators and central banks worldwide, with Threadneedle Street being among those vowing tough new rules.

The BoE was among several central banks to warn that libra would need to be regulated, leading many supporters to end their relationship with the digital currency.

The idea of a central bank digital currency has been increasingly mooted worldwide to help improve payment systems and cross-border transactions.

The Bank said the new working group would look at “CBDC use cases; economic, functional and technical design choices, including cross-border interoperability; and the sharing of knowledge on emerging technologies”.

It will also work closely with other global forums and groups, such as the Financial Stability Board and the committee on payments and market infrastructures (CPMI), which is also chaired by Cunliffe.

Just last month, Sweden’s central bank said it would sign a deal with the consultancy firm Accenture to create a pilot platform for a digital currency, known as the e-krona.

The Riksbank has been exploring the idea of its own digital currency for some time, especially given the rapid decline in the use of cash in Sweden.

The European Central Bank has also been investigating the possible benefits of CBDC since last year.

Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said policymakers had been slow to realise how much enthusiasm there was for digital money.

“They have been asleep at the wheel over the future of our money system being determined by a small number of banks, payment companies and now tech giants.

“The rapid decline of cash and threat of private digital currencies like Facebook’s libra have served as a much-needed wake-up call, but central bankers have a lot of catching up to do.

“Central banks need to accelerate plans for a central bank digital currency, which would both ensure that people have the choice of a safe public banking option and prevent our monetary system being completely surrendered to unaccountable private interests. This new group must serve as a vehicle for doing so.”

By Phillip Inman 

Facebook to hire 1,000 London staff this year

( via — Tue, 21st 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook will hire 1,000 people in London this year in roles such as product development and safety as it continues to grow its biggest engineering center outside the United States after Britain leaves the European Union.

Over half of the new jobs will be in technology, including software engineering and data science, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said in an interview.

Other roles will be in the “community integrity” team, which makes products to detect and remove harmful content from platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Mendelsohn said London’s appeal was not only in its technology ecosystem but also the strength of its creative industries.

She said that while Facebook’s enthusiasm for London was undimmed, like other tech companies it wanted certainty about Brexit.

“The Johnson government has been very clear about what that looks like, and so we will continue to invest here in London,” she said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Facebook’s growth was “great news”. “We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, alongside being one of the best places for technology companies to be based,” he said.

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will announce the new jobs, which will take its total UK employees to more than 4,000, on Tuesday before traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos with Mendelsohn, where they will meet global leaders, regulators and other business chiefs.

The company is trying to rebuild trust in its platforms after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, in which a British political consulting firm collected data from Facebook for voter profiling and targeting.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s public affairs chief and a former British politician, said on Monday that the company will do a better job of preventing bad actors from manipulating this year’s U.S. presidential election than it did four years ago.

Mendelsohn said trust would take time to rebuild.

“We also understand that this is an ongoing important conversation – we want to be part of that conversation,” she said. “We want to be working with policymakers in this area to get to thoughtful policy.”

Facebook has commissioned research to show the economic benefits its platforms bring to businesses in Europe.

The study by Copenhagen Economics, which questioned 7,7320 businesses across 15 countries, estimated Facebook apps helped create 208 billion euros ($230 billion) of economic value last year.

“When you extrapolate that further, what you see is that has resulted in 3.1 million jobs in Europe as a result of people utilizing our platforms,” Mendelsohn said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle and Elizabeth Howcroft

Beales department store collapses into administration

( via – – Mon, 20th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

One of Britain's oldest department stores has collapsed into administration, putting more than 1,000 jobs at risk.

Beales has appointed KPMG as administrators after failing to secure a sale.

The department store began trading in Bournemouth in 1881 and has 22 shops.

It is understood that there will be no immediate closures and Beales stores will continue to trade.

In the year to March 2019, Beale Ltd reported a loss of £3.1m, up from £1.3m for the year earlier as costs swelled and sales dipped.

Beales's chief executive Tony Brown led a management buyout of the firm in 2018.

The company's decision to appoint administrators comes at a difficult time for UK retailers.

Recent data from the British Retail Consortium revealed that retail sales fell for the first time in a quarter of a century last year.

John Lewis has warned that its staff bonus may be in doubt as it reported Christmas sales at its department stores were down 2% for stores open at least a year.

Some companies are prospering, however.

Sports fashion retailer JD Sports says it expects to report full-year profits at the top end of forecasts. Next lifted its profit forecast after better than expected sales over Christmas trading period.

Fever-Tree Christmas sales fail to sparkle

( via– Mon, 20th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

The company, which has seen stellar growth over recent years, said it had not been immune from recent weak consumer confidence.

Mixer-maker Fever-Tree has warned of lower than expected revenues after a “challenging” Christmas in the UK as consumers tightened their belts.

Shares fell 20% after the company said it was “not immune” from weak consumer confidence and a slowdown in spending, adding that its full-year profits for the year were also expected to fall compared to 2018.

It said sales for 2019 in the UK – its biggest market – were 1% lower and that conditions were expected to remain tough for the first half of 2020.

The figures add to evidence that consumers reined in spending over the Christmas period despite hopes for a post-election bounce in confidence.

Fever-Tree said overall 2019 revenues were still 10% higher overall at £260.5m thanks to strong growth overseas but that was short of the board's expectations.

The group said that investment in new markets meant profit margins had been squeezed and earnings were expected to decline by 5% when compared to 2018.

Fever-Tree has enjoyed stellar growth and a surging stock price since its flotation in 2014, buoyed by the success of its premium tonic water, a popular mixer for upmarket gin.

But it had a tougher time last year and in November blamed a consumer spending slowdown as it cut its full-year revenue forecast to £266m-£268m – and will now miss this reduced target.

Fever-Tree said: “The expected improvement in trading during this important period did not materialise with the macroeconomic uncertainty leading to a subdued end to the year.”

Chief executive Tim Warrillow said: “Whilst the UK has clearly not been immune from the consumer belt tightening seen in recent months, we remain the key category leader and have a strong platform to return to growth during 2020 and beyond.”

Fever-Tree said sales in its US market were up 33% though initiatives designed to try and unlock long-term stateside expansion are expected to hold back growth in 2020.

Revenue growth of 16% in Europe was “slightly behind expectations”, the company added.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Why Finland And Denmark Have Happiness All Figured Out

Source: CNBC

What does it take to be happy? The Nordic countries seem to have it all figured out. Finland and Denmark have consistently topped the United Nations’ most prestigious index, The World Happiness Report, in all six areas of life satisfaction: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Learn more about work-life balance secrets from the happiest countries in the world on CNBC Make It: Each year, a group of happiness experts from around the globe rank 156 countries based on how “happy” citizens are, and they publish their findings in the World Happiness Report. Happiness might seem like an elusive concept to quantify, but there is a science to it. When researchers talk about “happiness,” they’re referring to “satisfaction with the way one’s life is going,” Jeff Sachs, co-creator of the World Happiness Report and a professor at Columbia University, tells CNBC Make It. “It’s not primarily a measure of whether one laughed or smiled yesterday, but how one feels about the course of one’s life,” he says. Since the report began in 2012, Nordic countries — which include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, plus the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aland — consistently turn up at the top of the list. (The United States, on the other hand, typically lands somewhere around 18th or 19th place.)

Ritz – The Epitome of Luxury Hotels

Source: wocomo Travel

Cesar Ritz’ story is one of personal drama: a man who has it all and finally collapses. He loses everything in the end, his family, the hotels, and his mind. Only his brilliant opus survives. Ritz’ genius consisted in captivating every novelty in record time and in transforming it into his world of hotel business almost instinctively. The technical progress was the main inspiration of the ingenious inventor. Cesar Ritz was every bit like the fuming and effervescing locomotives of his time that pulled him across Europe, from capital to capital, to the hotels of the Ritz Company, resembling themselves huge machines.

The Rise And Fall Of American Apparel

Source: CNBC

At American Apparel's peak, it was one of the most popular teen retail stores in the 2000s. Controversial CEO Dov Charney and sexual marketing made the brand, but that is also what led to its fall from grace. Will a new turnaround plan be enough for investors and consumers to get behind the retail brand?

British Airways-owner IAG lifts ownership restriction for non-EU investors boosting shares

( via — Fri, 17th Jan 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British Airways-owner IAG (ICAG.L) lifted a restriction on non-EU investors’ ability to buy its stock, helping boost its share price by more than 5%.

Last February, IAG, which also owns Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus, set the maximum level for ownership of its shares by non-Europeans at 47.5% in a bid to maintain its status as a European-owned airline.

IAG said on Friday that non-EU ownership had dropped to 39.5% and as such it was removing the cap which had been in effect for 11 months.

Shares in the company rose 5.3% to 672 pence at 0858 GMT, their highest level since September 2018.

Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said the change meant a large overhang had now gone. “We view this news very positively,” he said.

Reporting by Sarah Young

BT and Vodafone plan to warn PM of the risks of banning Huawei

( via– Fri, 17th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

The companies plan to warn the PM of the risks of banning Huawei from the 5G network, Sky News learns.

Britain's two biggest telecoms companies are preparing to lobby Boris Johnson in support of Huawei's involvement in the UK's 5G communications network.

Sky News has learnt that Vodafone and BT Group are drafting a letter to be sent to the prime minister within days that will reiterate their view that the growth of Britain's digital economy risks being stunted if the Chinese equipment manufacturer is banned.

Telecoms industry sources said that Philip Jansen, BT chief executive, and Nick Read, who runs Vodafone, were contemplating writing to Mr Johnson during the early part of next week.

One source familiar with its prospective content said it would emphasise the priority which both companies placed on the security of their networks, while arguing that they had seen no evidence that would justify an outright ban on Huawei.

The potential intervention of two of the most powerful executives in corporate Britain in support of the Chinese company will not by itself decisively affect the government's decision.

However, industry insiders said it illustrated the concerns of big network providers about the impact of a prohibition against Huawei.

BT and Vodafone are crucial in that context because they are the largest communications suppliers to the public sector, government and critical national infrastructure.

Downing Street is being forced to walk a diplomatic tightrope over the issue, having been lobbied intensively by the Trump administration to block Huawei from the 5G network.

A meeting was reportedly held in London on Monday between British and American security officials at which Washington's view that it would be “nothing short of madness” to allow Huawei's involvement was expressed.

The Daily Telegraph reported this week that President Trump was planning to lobby Mr Johnson directly on the issue before a decision is reached in Whitehall.

The UK security services believe that any security threat from Huawei can be contained by using the company's equipment only at the periphery of the 5G network, rather than at its core.

Beijing is also closely scrutinising the impending verdict from Mr Johnson's government, amid expectations that Anglo-Chinese trade relations will be cast into the deep freeze if Huawei is banned.

The long-running controversy over Huawei stems from its purported links to the Chinese government and its military – which the company has always denied.

Industry executives believe that a decision could be announced by Mr Johnson as soon as next week.

If BT and Vodafone decide to proceed with their joint letter to the PM, it is likely to reflect a widely held industry view that a choice of equipment vendors is required to improve competition in the sector.

Ericsson, the Swedish company, and Finland's Nokia are the two other major players in the industry.

The draft of the letter from Mr Jansen and Mr Read is also understood to refer to the extensive collaboration between the two companies and the National Cyber Security Centre and their ability to manage security risks.

It is also said to call for an evidence-based decision – which Mr Read said publicly at last year's Mobile World Congress conference.

Details of the prospective letter from BT and Vodafone has emerged the day after talks – attended by Mr Jansen – between telecoms executives and Mr Johnson aimed at delivering a roadmap for full-fibre broadband to be connected to every home in Britain by 2025.

Industry bosses believe that that objective could be delayed by five years or more if Huawei equipment has to be stripped out of existing networks and is banned from the UK's 5G infrastructure.

Huawei said: “We strongly agree with the prime minister that ‘the British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology'.”

It said it had invested more than $15bn in research and development last year, and added that it looked forward to “supplying the best technologies that help companies like BT and Vodafone fulfil the government's commitment to make gigabit broadband available to all”.

“We are confident that the UK government will make a decision based upon evidence, as opposed to unsubstantiated allegations,” the spokesman added.

“Two UK parliamentary committees concluded there is no technical reason to ban us from supplying 5G equipment and this week the head of MI5 said, there is ‘no reason to think' the UK's intelligence-sharing relationship with the US would be harmed if Britain continued to use Huawei technology.”

BT and Vodafone declined to comment on Friday.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government was “continuing to consider our position on this and will make a decision in due course”.

By Mark Kleinman

Credit card betting deposits to be banned from April

( via– Tue, 14th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

A ban on almost all credit card transactions is to be introduced to help protect problem gamblers and other vulnerable customers.

Customers of gambling companies are going to be banned from using their credit cards for betting from 14 April.

The Gambling Commission's announcement, which aims to tackle problem gambling and protect vulnerable customers, has sparked steep falls in the share prices of major industry players.

All online and offline betting activities will be covered except “non-remote lotteries” such as National Lottery tickets that are purchased in a store.

The ban builds on other measures to stop people getting into debt – including a reduction in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals, and whistle-to-whistle advertising bans during sporting events.

Although Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur acknowledged that some consumers use credit cards for convenience, he warned that the risk of harm to others was too high.

He said: “The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.

“Research shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm.

“We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.

“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”

Culture minister Helen Whately said: “In the past year we have introduced a wave of tougher measures, including cutting the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (from £100 to £2), bringing in tighter age and identity checks for online gambling and expanding national specialist support through the NHS Long-Term Plan.

“We have also secured a series of commitments from five leading gambling operators that will include £100m funding towards treatment for problem gamblers.

“But there is more to do. We will be carrying out a review of the Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age and we will be launching a new nationwide addiction strategy in 2020.”

The commission said 24 million adults in Great Britain gamble, with 10.5 million of those gambling online.

UK Finance, a banking industry interest group, estimates that 800,000 consumers use credit cards to gamble.

Shares in listed gambling firms took a beating when trading opened despite the measure being largely expected.

The owner of the Paddy Power and Betfair brands, Flutter, saw its stock dip by 2% in early deals.

Ladbrokes owner GVC took a hit of over 2%, while William Hill shares were 5% lower.

Brigid Simmonds, who chairs industry body the Betting and Gaming Council, said of the looming ban: “The Betting and Gaming Council is a body firmly committed to raising standards, safer gambling and change.

“We will implement a ban on credit cards and indeed our members will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk.

“The use of credit cards were previously used as a potential marker of harm which might lead to further intervention with customers.”

Those firms with strong high street presences have largely looked for growth in online games and in the burgeoning US market to plug the hit from the FOBT and other crackdowns in the UK.

The loss of the in-store income has resulted in the closure of hundreds of stores and thousands of jobs.

The Gambling Commission is also expected to target so-called VIP schemes, which reward punters with perks for their custom, as part of the next phase of its work.

By James Sillars

Flybe boss Mark Anderson ‘focused’ on turning airline around

( via – – Mon, 13th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –

Flybe boss Mark Anderson has told staff that he and the management team remain “focused” on turning the airline round.

Mr Anderson's comments came in an email to staff following reports that the airline is in crisis talks in an attempt to put together a rescue deal.

According to Sky News, Flybe, which has already been bailed out once, has been struggling to secure fresh finance.

In his email, Mr Anderson stressed that Flybe was continuing to operate as normal.

“All my energy, and that of our Leadership Team, is very focused on continuing to turn Flybe, soon to be Virgin Connect, around and deliver the heartfelt service that our customers expect,” he said.

“I do appreciate that the headlines some of you have already read are disturbing but I want you to know that we are determined to do everything we can to make this work.”

He told staff he was “extremely grateful” for their hard work and commitment.

In an earlier statement, Flybe said it was focusing on “providing great service and connectivity for our customers, to ensure that they can continue to travel as planned”.

Flybe, the UK's biggest regional carrier, added: “We don't comment on rumour or speculation.”

The reports come a year after Flybe was bought for £2.8m by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Group.

Since then, the consortium has invested tens of millions of pounds in the troubled carrier, but losses have continued to mount.

Tourism adviser and researcher Prof Annette Pritchard, of the Welsh Centre for Tourism Research in Cardiff, commented on Twitter that Flybe provided “a vital social and cultural link for many marginal economies”.

Based in Exeter, Flybe carries about eight million passengers a year from airports such as Southampton, Cardiff and Aberdeen, to the UK and Europe.

Its network of routes includes more than half of UK domestic flights outside London.

If the business collapses, more than 2,000 jobs will be at risk.

Worried travellers

Matthew Mills, a graphic designer based in Shropshire, recently booked flights for his family to Germany with Flybe.

He is also one of the 10,000 consumers still waiting to receive a refund from collapsed travel firm Thomas Cook on a holiday that was meant to take place in November.

“You don't know whether to laugh or cry,” he told the BBC. “We've used Flybe quite a bit in the past because we have family in Germany and we don't have many alternatives in the UK – if Flybe goes under, we'd be looking at 50% more in prices on flights to Germany, easily.”

Worried Flybe customers have taken to Twitter to express their concerns, saying they are still waiting for information on whether their flights will go ahead.

Union ‘appalled'

The BBC understands that EY has been lined up as administrators if Flybe were to go under.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots' union Balpa, said: “I am appalled that once again the future of a major UK airline and hundreds of jobs is being discussed in secret with no input from employees or their representatives.

“According to reports, the airline could have collapsed over the weekend, which would have been devastating news.”

Mr Strutton called on Flybe's owners and the government to talk to the union, saying staff had a right to know what was going on.

Analysis: Simon Gompertz

As long as Flybe carries on flying, there is no need to worry and certainly no reason to try to get your money back.

If the airline was to fail, however, all flights would most likely be cancelled. Those with paid-for bookings could find they lose their flights and their cash.

If your flight is part of a package deal covered by the ATOL scheme, then you should be protected and have the right to a re-booking or refund.

Otherwise you can try to retrieve the money from your credit card company, if that's how you paid. There is also a debit card chargeback scheme which can help.

Many travel insurance policies are not much use in these situations, unless you stumped up extra for the Scheduled Airline Failure option or something similar.

Those stuck overseas might be left hoping that the government will direct the CAA to step in, as it did when Monarch and Thomas Cook went under, to bring back stranded passengers for free.

Prof Loizos Heracleous, an aviation industry expert from Warwick Business School, said it would be “no easy task” for Flybe to attract new finance.

He added: “The aviation industry is an unattractive industry in terms of performance and returns on investment at the best of times.

“It is saddled with high-cost assets, namely planes, and key costs that fluctuate uncontrollably, mainly fuel, which accounts for around a third of total airline costs.

“On top of that, they face high regulation, often aggressive unions, low barriers to entry that increase competition, and high bargaining power of buyers.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said Flybe provided “valuable connectivity throughout the UK” and called on the government to intervene. He called Flybe “a strategically important business”.

The industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We do not comment on the financial situation of any of the organisations we regulate.”

Experience A Video Tour Inside NYC’s Skinniest Supertall Skyscraper

Source: Bloomberg

Experience this VR180 video in 3D with a VR headset (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) or with Google Cardboard. If viewing on desktop or mobile, click and drag your mouse or rotate your phone to explore a wider field of vision. Much has been made of New York’s 57th Street. It’s the most luxurious street in the world; more houses were bought for north of $25 million in the last five years on Billionaire’s Row than on any other road globally. It’s also rife with super-tall skyscrapers: Central Park Tower, 432 Park Avenue, and 111 West 57th Street are each taller than 1,300 feet, or about a quarter of a mile high.