Tesla buys $1.5bn of Bitcoin causing currency to spike

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 8th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Elon Musk's car firm Tesla has said it bought about $1.5bn (£1.1bn) of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in January and expects to start accepting it as payment in future.

The news caused the price of Bitcoin to jump 14% to $43,968, a record high.

Tesla said it was trying to maximise returns on cash that is not being used in day-to-day running of the company.

It comes days after Mr Musk added “#bitcoin” to his Twitter profile page, which drove up the price.

He removed it days later, but has continued talking up Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin, which jumped 50% after his endorsement.

In a stock market filing, Tesla said it “updated its investment policy” in January and now wanted to invest in “reserve assets” such as digital currencies, gold bullion or gold exchange-traded funds.

It said it had already bought $1.5bn of Bitcoin and could “acquire and hold digital assets” in the future.

“Moreover, we expect to begin accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future, subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis,” it said.

Mr Musk said a week ago in a tweet that Bitcoin was “on the verge” of being more widely accepted among investors.

Game-changer?

Some analysts said Tesla's investment could be a game-changer for the cryptocurrency.

“I think we will see an acceleration of companies looking to allocate to Bitcoin now that Tesla has made the first move,” said Eric Turner, vice-president of market intelligence at cryptocurrency research firm Messari.

“One of the largest companies in the world now owns Bitcoin and by extension, every investor that owns Tesla, or even just an S&P 500 fund, has exposure to it as well.”

Bitcoin is a “very volatile” cryptocurrency, said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com.

“Tesla is now starting to take on big [foreign exchange] risk – this may not worry a lot of investors, but some conservative types might be concerned,” he said.

In October, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey cautioned over Bitcoin's use as a payment method.

“I have to be honest, it is hard to see that Bitcoin has what we tend to call intrinsic value,” he said. “It may have extrinsic value in the sense that people want it.”

Mr Bailey added that he was “very nervous” about people using Bitcoin for payments, pointing out that investors should realise its price was extremely volatile.

Boohoo to pay £25m for Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 8th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Administrators confirm most staff are to lose their jobs as Arcadia's brands are sold off to face an online-only future.

Boohoo is to pay £25.2m for Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton in a deal set to catapult the fashion brands to an online-only future and result in 2,450 job losses.

The online fashion specialist, which has already snapped up the Debenhams name amid the COVID-19 bloodbath for physical retailers, said it was to buy all the e-commerce and digital assets of the three brands, as well as their stock.

It confirmed that the deal with administrators at Deloitte did not include the brands' retail stores, concessions or franchises.

The collapse of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire in December placed 13,000 jobs at risk and only a tiny fraction of 2,500 workers were understood to be saved when Boohoo rival ASOS landed the top names, including TopShop and Miss Selfridge, a week ago.

Administrators confirmed only 260 jobs were to transfer to Boohoo under Monday's deal and all 214 Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis stores – already shuttered by pandemic restrictions – are to be permanently closed down.

They said the staff had been informed via email.

It leaves around 12,400 of Arcadia's 13,000 workers on track to lose their jobs by the time the administration process has been completed.

Deloitte's statement said: “This transaction completes the sale of the Arcadia brands and follows the sale of Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT to ASOS plc on 4 February 2021 and the sale of Evans to City Chic on 23 December 2020.Retail jobs worst hit by coronavirus pandemic

“In total, these sales together with other asset realisations, have raised proceeds to date of over £500m for the benefit of creditors.

“The process to generate proceeds from the group's remaining assets, principally from the group's property portfolio, is ongoing.”

Boohoo shares, up by 6% in the year to date, fell by 3% in early deals. Traders said the drop could be explained by reports over the weekend that pure online retailers could face a digital sales tax.

“Acquiring these well known brands in British fashion out of administration ensures their heritage is sustained, while our investment aims to transform them into brands that are fit for the current market environment.

“We have a successful track record of integrating British heritage fashion brands onto our proven multi-brand platform, and we are looking forward to bringing these brands on board.”

By James Sillars

The Innovative Flip-Flops Made From Plants And Algae

Source: BI

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have figured out how to turn algae into flip flops. They founded a startup to sell the shoe, but face a challenge in getting their invention mass produced: There aren't enough algae farms to support the startup's supply chain.

10 MOST Likely Industries That Can make YOU a BILLIONAIRE

Source: Alux

This Alux.com video we'll try to answer the following questions: What are the Most Likely Industries That Can make You a Billionaire? What industry makes the most billionaires? What is the easiest industry to get rich in? What business makes the most millionaires? What businesses will make you rich? What is a good business to start in 2020? What is the hottest industry right now? Which industries should aspiring billionaires be aiming for? What industry will make you the richest in the future? Can the e-commerce industry still make billionaires? What industry has produced the most number of millionaires? What industries will create the most billionaires in the next 30 years? Will the biofuel industry create a billionaire, and how? What industry or idea will produce the next generation of billionaires? Will tech still be a good industry for future billionaires in the next 50 years? What are the most common industries to become a billionaire? Which industries will create the most billionaires in the future?

French Connection shares closed up 67% at 26p amid takeover bids

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 5th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Shares in French Connection closed up 67% at 26p on Friday after the struggling fashion chain said it had received two takeover approaches.

The retailer, which has posted losses for most years in the past decade, said the talks were at an early stage.

One offer comes from Spotlight Brands, which owns Sweaty Betty, together with Gordon Brothers International, which recently bought Laura Ashley.

The other bid is from Go Global Retail and HMJ International Services.

On Thursday, shares in French Connection began trading at 11p, but rose 40% throughout the day on speculation it could be a bid target.

Responding to the speculation, the retailer confirmed it had received bid approaches, but there was “no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made (although any offer is likely to be in cash)”.

Sales hit

The business was founded more than 50 years ago by chief executive Stephen Marks, who began the business on the back of a consignment of cheesecloth shirts.

It currently has about 78 stores in the UK.

In October, it said that sales for the first half of 2020 had fallen by more than half to £23.9m as the Covid-related lockdowns closed its shops and cut consumer spending on clothes.

The company employs about 1,000 staff, according to its latest annual report. Chief executive Stephen Marks, who founded the company, owns more than 40% of the firm, while billionaire Mike Ashley's Frasers Group owns just under a quarter of the company.

In 2018,French Connection had said it could be sold when it said it was “reviewing all strategic options” including the potential sale of the firm.

BoE give sector six months deadline to prepare for possible negative interest rates

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 4th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Bank of England’s monetary policy committee votes to keep rate at 0.1% but gives sector six-month deadline

The Bank of England expects GDP to fall by about 4% in the first quarter of 2021 Q1. 

The Bank of England took a step closer to introducing negative interest rates for the first time on Thursday, after it gave lenders six months to prepare for such a move.

Threadneedle Street’s monetary policy committee (MPC) voted unanimously to keep the official interest rate at historically low levels while it agreed to set the deadline for banks to prepare themselves after policymakers said they were ready to make negative lending rates part of their toolkit.

According to the minutes of the MPC meeting, officials were split over asking lenders to put in place the measures needed to facilitate negative rates on loans and mortgages, with some fearing it would signal to investors that the central bank planned to move ahead in the next few months.Q&A

What would negative interest rates mean for UK consumers?

But the committee agreed that to include a cut in interest rates to below zero in the raft of measures available to policymakers, lenders would need to put in place the technical requirements allowing them to implement it at short notice.

There are fears that negative lending rates, which are expected to lower borrowing costs for households and businesses, would force high street banks and building societies to offer negative savings rates.The Bank must not fear radical action. Britain needs negative interest ratesRead more

Savers would suffer a loss of income and pension funds, which also rely on deposit savings, would also be hit.Officials said the balance of risks in the economy, mainly from new variants of Covid overwhelming the benefits of the current vaccination programme, meant it needed to keep rates low. The negative lending announcement came as MPC members voted unanimously to keep the official interest rate at the historically low level of 0.1%.

GDP is expected to fall by about 4% in 2021 Q1, in contrast to expectations of a rise in the November report.

However, the Bank expects growth to bounce back as the NHS vaccine programme takes effect and schools, universities and most businesses return to more normal levels of activity.

The Bank’s quantitative easing bond-buying programme was left unchanged at £895bn after pumping an additional £150bn into the economy at the outset of the second lockdown in November.

Earlier this week, the chairman of the Building Societies Association said cutting the BoE’s lending rate to below zero would force institutions to subsidise savings rates to keep them positive, leaving them no option but to recoup the costs from higher mortgage costs.

Mike Regnier, who is also the chief executive of Yorkshire building society, said introducing negative rates would hurt consumers and the wider economy.

“I fear this would have the opposite effect from supporting the economy, as rates would go up for borrowers as banks protect their margins,” he said.

The BoE base rate, which was cut to 0.1% last March as the UK prepared to go into its first lockdown, is the cost to high street lenders of borrowing money from the central bank, which they must to offer mortgages and loans to households and businesses.

By Phillip Inman

GW cannabis therapy firm agrees £5.3bn takeover deal by Jazz Pharmaceuticals

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 3rd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The deal will see Jazz grow its portfolio of neuroscience therapies at a time when the medical cannabis industry is taking off.

A UK-based pharmaceutical firm that specialises in a cannabis-derived treatment for epilepsy has agreed to be bought in a $7.2bn (£5.3bn) takeover.

GW Pharmaceuticals said the cash and stock deal with Jazz Pharmaceuticals – best known for its portfolio of sleep medicines – would create a neuroscience therapy powerhouse.

The deal will allow Jazz, which is based in Ireland, to move beyond treatments for sleep disorders and cancer by adding GWs' Epidolex, which brought in sales of $132m (£97m) in the latest reported quarter.

The cannabis-based drug was approved in the US in 2018 for use in patients aged two years and older with rare childhood-onset forms of epilepsy.

GW, which is listed in New York, has been the subject of bid speculation for many years.

Jazz said the offer price represented a 50% premium to GW's closing share price on Tuesday.

The terms of the deal, expected to close within months subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, will see Jazz pay $220 per share, with $200 of that in cash and the rest in shares.

The tie-up is attractive for the company because the US medical cannabis industry is estimated to grow at pace – beyond $16bn (£11.7bn) in annual sales by 2025, according to New Frontier Data reported by the Reuters news agency.

Bruce Cozadd, chairman and CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, said: “Jazz is proud of our leadership position in sleep medicines and rapidly growing oncology business.

“We are excited to add GW's industry-leading cannabinoid platform, innovative pipeline and products, which will strengthen and broaden our neuroscience portfolio, further diversify our revenue and drive sustainable, long-term value creation opportunities.”

By James Sillars

Jeff Bezos Amazon founder to step down as chief executive

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 3rd Feb 2021) London, Uk –

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is to step down as chief executive of the e-commerce giant that he started in his garage nearly 30 years ago.

He will become executive chairman, a move he said would give him “time and energy” to focus on his other ventures.

Mr Bezos, who has a fortune of almost $200bn, will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who currently leads Amazon's cloud computing business.

The change will take place in the second half of 2021, the company said.

“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it's consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it's hard to put attention on anything else,” Mr Bezos said in a letter to Amazon staff on Tuesday.

“As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.”

“I've never had more energy, and this isn't about retiring. I'm super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have,” he added.

Higher public profile

Mr Bezos, 57, has led Amazon since its start as an online bookshop in 1994. The firm now employs 1.3 million people globally and has its hand in everything from package delivery and streaming video to cloud services and advertising.

He's amassed a fortune of $196.2bn, according to Forbes' list of billionaires., making him the world's richest man. However, Bloomberg's billionaire index puts Tesla boss Elon Musk just ahead of him.

Amazon saw its already explosive growth skyrocket last year, as the pandemic prompted a surge in online shopping.

The firm reported $386bn (£283bn) in sales in 2020, up 38% from 2019. Profits almost doubled, rising to $21.3bn.

In announcing the plans, Mr Bezos said he would continue to focus on new products and initiatives.

“When you look at our financial results, what you're actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention,” he said. “Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

The shake-up comes as Mr Bezos has developed an increasingly public profile.

He has endured a public divorce, become a target for labour and inequality activists, and poured his wealth into other businesses, such as space exploration firm Blue Origin and the Washington Post newspaper.

‘Not leaving'

Amazon also faces increasing scrutiny from regulators, who have questioned its monopoly power. And its dominance in cloud computing is being increasingly challenged by other tech firms, such as Microsoft and Alphabet, parent company of Google and YouTube.

Mr Bezos's decision to hand over the day-to-day operation of the company came as a surprise. But investors appeared unfazed, with little change in the firm's share price in after-hours trade.

In a call with analysts to discuss the firm's financial results, Amazon chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said: “Jeff is not leaving, he is getting a new job… The board is super active and important in Amazon's success story.” 

Mr Jassy, a Harvard graduate, has been with Amazon since 1997 and helped develop Amazon Web Services, which has long been seen as the profit engine of the company.

The division provides cloud computing and storage for governments and companies including McDonald's and Netflix.

“Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence,” Mr Bezos said.

Sophie Lund-Yates, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said it was “no accident” that Amazon is tapping the head of the cloud business to lead the company.

Analysis: By James Clayton

This is a real surprise. But you have to remember that Jeff Bezos himself is worth nearly $200bn.

And when you're that rich imagine what you can do. Jeff Bezos has some pretty lofty ambitions outside of Amazon.

His Blue Origin company wants to “build a road to space”. He's also sunk $10bn into Earth Fund, designed to help combat the effects of climate change.

Oh, and he also owns the Washington Post.

How will Amazon cope? Well, importantly, he's not leaving. As executive chair and founder he'll still exercise huge power over the company.

However, stepping back will inevitably mean less influence.

His replacement – Andy Jassy – has been running Amazon Web Services, Amazon's booming cloud business division.

His rise to the top underscores how important this business has become to Amazon.

Another top executive, Jeff Wilke, who led the firm's consumer business, announced his retirement last year.

Amazon Web Services “continued to shine in [its most recent] quarter, and now accounts for a more meaningful chunk of sales. The potential here is huge, and the scalable benefits that come with it should have ears pricking up,” she said.

Overall sales at the company rose 44% in the last three months of the year to $125.6bn, boosted in part by renewed lockdowns in some parts of the world as well as a later date for the firm's “Prime Day”, when the firm drives sales with a slew of discounts.

Amazon Web Services saw sales rise 28% to

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, wrote on Twitter that the “huge” announcement showed how central cloud services are to Amazon's business.

But she added that she did not think Bezos was “done making an impact on the future of the company”.

Critics of the firm reacted to the announcement similarly.

“Do not be fooled by Amazon. Jeff Bezos is still in a position of immense power as executive chair,” said Public Citizen, a US-based consumer rights activist group. “This abusive, predatory monopoly still needs a complete overhaul.”

Visa preparing to handle cryptocurrency assets

(qlmbusinessnews.com via finextra – – Tue, 2nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Visa CEO Alfred Kelly says the card scheme is preparing its payments network to handle a full range of cryptocurrency assets.In an earnings call with analysts, Kelly says the company will treat the crytocurrency market as two distinct segments: traditional cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and Ether; and fiat-backed digital currencies including stablecoins and central bank digital currencies.

“In this space, we see ways that we can add differentiated value to the ecosystem. And we believe that we are uniquely positioned to help make cryptocurrencies more safe, useful, and applicable for payments through our global presence, our partnership approach, and our trusted brand,” Kelly told analysts.

For the first segment, Visa will work with “wallets and exchanges to enable users to purchase these currencies using their Visa credentials or to cash out onto a Visa credential to make a fiat purchase at any of the 70 million merchants where Visa’s accepted globally”.

This is similar to card scheme's to connect with closed loop wallets such as Line Pay and Paytm

Visa has already struck card deals with some 35 organisations in the crypto-markets, such as BitPanda and BlockFi. According to Kelly, these wallet relationships “represent the potential for more than 50 million Visa credentials.”

Looking to the future, Visa will also train its focus on upcoming stablecoins that can be handled as a traditional and globally accepted mean of exchange, including bank-issued coins and central bank digital currencies.

“We think of digital currencies running on public blockchains as additional networks, just like RTP or ACH networks,” says Kelly. “But we see them as part of our network of network strategy.”

In December, Visa published a technical paper that outlines a novel approach for offline point-to-point payments between two devices, touting it as a means for central banks to replicate the physical exchange of cash using digital currencies.

Card rival Mastercard has also dipped its toe in the water, building a virtual testing platform to help central banks assess and explore national digital currencies.

‘Buy now, pay later’ firms to face crackdown by UK’s financial regulator

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 2nd Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Regulator says 5 million people have used such services since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Buy now, pay later” firms such as Klarna and Clearpay will be closely monitored by the UK’s financial regulator after the use of such services nearly quadrupled during the coronavirus pandemic, raising fears over consumer debt levels.

The Treasury announced plans to bring the £2.7bn sector under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority after a four-month review by the former FCA interim chief executive Chris Woolard.

Companies including Clearpay, Laybuy and industry leader Klarna allow customers to stagger payments for products such as clothes and furniture with no interest or fees – unless they fail to pay back on time.

Bringing them under the FCA’s regulation means that firms will have to make affordability checks before lending and ensure customers are treated fairly, in particular those who are vulnerable or struggling to repay the loans. Under FCA rules, people will also be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service if things go wrong.

The FCA said the use of buy now, pay later agreements nearly quadrupled in 2020 and is now at £2.7bn, with 5 million people using these products since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a boom in online shopping. It said this “comes with significant potential for consumer harm”. For example, more than one in 10 customers of a major bank using buy now, pay later were already in arrears.

John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Although the average transaction tends to be relatively low, shoppers can take out multiple agreements with different providers – and the review found it would be relatively easy to accrue around £1,000 of debt that credit reference agencies and mainstream lenders cannot see.

“With several buy now, pay later providers planning to expand to higher value retailers, or offer their products in store, the risk that consumers could take on unaffordable levels of debt is increasing.

The Treasury expects that – after a consultation with the firms and others involved and legislation – the FCA will be given formal oversight of the sector later this year. The government has come under pressure to act swiftly, after warnings from more than 70 cross-party MPs that buy now, pay later could be “the next Wonga waiting to happen” – referring to the 2014 crackdown on payday lenders after they drove people into unsustainable debt.

Woolard said: “Changes are urgently needed: to bring buy now, pay later into regulation to protect consumers; to ensure that there is secure provision of debt advice to help all those who may need it; and to maintain a sustained regulatory response to the pandemic.”

The FCA said free debt advice services needed secure, long-term funding as demand has increased to as many as 1.5m additional cases during the pandemic.

By Julia Kollewe

Virgin Money set aside £726 million to cover potential loan losses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 2nd Feb 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Virgin Money has set aside 726 million pounds ($992.6 million) to cover potential loan losses during the COVID-19 economic downturn and gave a cautious outlook on Tuesday despite a rebound into statutory profit in its first quarter.

Shares in the UK’s sixth-largest lender jumped 6.4% to 141 pence by 0950 GMT, topping gainers on the UK mid-cap index despite flagging a “modest” increase in customers needing additional support after exiting pandemic payment holidays.

While Virgin Money turned an underlying pretax profit in its last full financial year, which ended in September, statutory earnings – which include one-off items – were in the red due to acquisition-related costs, among others.

The company reported a 141 million pound loss in its last fiscal year but did not disclose the size of the statutory profit it turned in the three months to Dec. 31 – its financial first quarter – on Tuesday.

Virgin Money, set up to challenge the dominance of bigger UK banks, said it had granted mortgage payment holidays on 12.1 billion pounds of loans as of Dec. 31, equivalent to around 21% of balances, compared with 11.9 billion pounds at end September.

The bank also reported negative exceptional items totalling 101 million pounds in the quarter, higher than some analysts had expected.

But this sum was offset by a lower-than-expected first-quarter impairment charge of 18 million pounds, which Investec analyst Ian Gordon said was “entirely responsible for VMUK’s return to profit.”

The company said recent fresh restrictions across Britain in a response to record COVID-19 infection levels were likely to delay a return to normality in its business.

“As a consequence, VMUK continues to adopt a cautious view on economic assumptions and this is reflected in coverage levels, underwriting standards and liquidity levels,” it said.

Business lending was 0.1% higher over the period, with government-backed lending via the Bounce Back Loan scheme up 14% to 923 million pounds and lending via the larger Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme up 19% to 422 million pounds.

However, the size of Virgin Money’s total loan book fell 0.3% to 72.2 billion pounds as fresh curbs to contain the pandemic put pressure on household borrowing.

($1 = 0.7314 pounds)

Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru

Asos online fashion retailer buys Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge brands

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 1st Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

Online fashion retailer Asos has bought the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands from failed retail group Arcadia in a deal worth £295m.

Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group fell into administration in November last year, casting doubt over the future of its brands and 13,000 jobs.

Asos is acquiring the stock and the brands. However, it is not taking on the stores.

It is paying £265m for the brands and a further £30m for the stock.

Asos chief executive Nick Beighton said: “The acquisition of these iconic British brands is a hugely exciting moment for Asos and our customers and will help accelerate our multi-brand platform strategy.

“We have been central to driving their recent growth online and, under our ownership, we will develop them further, using our design, marketing, technology and logistics expertise, and working closely with key strategic retail partners in the UK and around the world.”

Mr Beighton told journalists on a conference call that acquiring the brands would accelerate Asos's mission to become “the number one destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings throughout the world”.

“This deal makes perfect sense for us on every level,” he added.

Investment plans

Administrators for Arcadia confirmed the deal, saying about 300 people currently employed by the brands in design, buying and retail partnerships would transfer to Asos.

The administrators added that the deal was expected to complete on 4 February.

However, neither Asos nor the administrators made any mention of the people who worked in the brands' store networks.

It is thought that the deal puts about 2,500 jobs at risk.

Asos said it had acquired “strong consumer-facing brands” and saw “a significant opportunity” to drive further growth for them globally.

It added that the brands would benefit from “investment into customer engagement and brand positioning in line with our existing model”.

Asos has seen strong sales in the pandemic and is already one of the biggest wholesalers for the brands that it has acquired.

Analysis: By Dominic O'Connell

Asos' purchase of the four main Arcadia brands leaves the thousands of staff employed in the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT shops facing a desperately uncertain future. They are unlikely to keep their jobs. It is hard to see a buyer emerging at the right time to keep them employed.

There are also 10,000 members of the Arcadia pension scheme who face a possible hit to their retirement benefits. The scheme has an estimated deficit of £350m and is being assessed by the Pension Protection Fund, the government-backed lifeboat scheme for orphan pension plans.

Council leaders all over the country will also be fretting at the rapid exodus from the High Street. Topshop once had 300 shops – only 70-odd are still operating – and Debenhams' 124 High Street stores are expected to close from next month. This is a double blow to town centres, which will now look much emptier when pandemic trading restrictions are lifted.

Landlords will be wondering who might be their new tenants. As one retail observer has noted, there is only so much street food and crazy golf that a single postcode can take. Many councils will hope a conversion of empty premises into flats will make the difference. However, the British Property Federation is warning that new government plans to fast-track the re-purposing of retail premises risk making matters worse.

Another of Sir Philip Green's brands, Evans, was bought by Australia's City Chic in December for £23m.

Other brands in the Arcadia stable that have not yet been sold are Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton.

It emerged last week that online fashion retailer Boohoo was in “exclusive” talks to snap up those brands.

Also last week, Boohoo sealed a deal to buy the Debenhams brand and website for £55m. However, the price tag did not include any of the retailer's remaining 118 High Street stores or its workforce, resulting in up to 12,000 job losses.

Sir Philip Green is under pressure to use his own money to plug an estimated £350m hole in Arcadia's pension fund, which has about 10,000 members.

Last year, the retail tycoon had an estimated fortune of £930m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Prof John Colley, associate dean of Warwick Business School, described the Asos deal as “another nail in the High Street's coffin”,

“Meanwhile. landlords will have to try to re-let the properties and there will be few takers in the current climate,” he said.

“With retail values collapsing, it is likely that many of these properties have to be converted for other uses. In that sense, we can see Covid-19 accelerating and crystallising trends which have been developing for many years.”

Shell likely to announce purchase of the Post Office’s broadband operations this week

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 1st Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The oil major's latest purchase outside its core business is likely to be announced early this week, Sky News understands.

The FTSE-100 oil giant Shell will this week clinch the purchase of the Post Office's broadband operations, transforming its presence in the UK home communications market.

Sky News understands that Shell was on Sunday close to signing the deal after weeks of talks.

It is expected to cost the energy behemoth in the region of £80m, and will add roughly 500,000 customers to Shell Energy Retail's existing base.

The deal, which could be announced early this week, will again reinforce how the world's oil majors are reshaping their businesses to reduce their reliance on their traditional hydrocarbon operations.

Last week, Shell announced the acquisition of Ubitricity, the UK's largest electric vehicle-charging network.

Shell has had a presence in the broadband market since acquiring First Utility in 2018, which also took it into the supply of energy to British households.A

Shell Energy Retail – the new name of First Utility – has roughly 130,000 UK broadband customers, as well as 870,000 domestic energy accounts.

For the Post Office, the disposal enables Nick Read, its chief executive, to refocus on its core operations of mail and parcels, banking, travel services and bill payments.

A source close to the Post Office said it would ensure that no postmaster is out of pocket as a result of the sale, with its telecoms arm accounting for just 0.3% of their total pay during the last financial year.

By Mark Kleinman

What’s Driving California’s Mass Exodus?

Source: CNBC

As Oracle, Palantir and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise move their headquarters out of California and Elon Musk moves to Texas, California is considering raising taxes on the wealthy to unprecedented levels. Experts say California needs to find more ways to reverse the trend.

Bitcoin to $1 Million in Five Years, Enormous Wall of Money is Coming says Raoul Pal

Source: Stansberry Research

In this interview with Daniela Cambone, former hedge fund portfolio manager Raoul Pal discusses his views on the current state of the economy. Pal recently moved more than 50% of his assets into bitcoin. The chief executive officer of Global Macro Investor said that it is not an “end of the world' philosophy which will drive the cryptocurrency to rally but an adoption by the real large holders of capital. “I have reduced cash and put that into bitcoin. I'm also thinking of selling my gold to buy more…bitcoin will massively outperform gold, I am 100% convinced of that,” he said.

Boohoo online retailer confirms ‘exclusive’ talks to snapped up three Arcadia brands

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 29th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

Online retailers are on course to deliver a huge blow to the high street as they head the race to snap up Arcadia's main brands.

Boohoo, the online retailer which snapped up the Debenhams brand this week, has confirmed “exclusive” talks to buy remnants of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia empire.

Sky News revealed on Thursday night that Boohoo was leading the race for the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton brands and was prepared to pay around £25m.

That is because Boohoo – like fierce rival ASOS, which is locked in negotiations over the most valuable parts of Arcadia including Topshop – also has no plans to take on any physical sites amid COVID-19 chaos on the high street.

It places 13,000 Arcadia jobs in peril on top of more than 10,000 at Debenhams,which is also set to see stores shuttered once stock clearances are completed ahead of a pure digital future.

Boohoo said on Friday: “The group confirms that it is in exclusive discussions with the administrators of Arcadia over the acquisition of the Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton (excluding HIIT) brands.

“These discussions may or may not result in agreement of a transaction. A further announcement will be made when appropriate.”

Boohoo shares were 1% down at the open.

Analysts at Jefferies Equity Research said of the potential deal: “While not viewed (or priced) as the ‘jewels in the Arcadia crown', Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, and Burton are well-known brands that in the year to Sep-18 generated a sizeable £580m of revenue between them.

“These acquisitions would be very much consistent with boohoo's successful approach to date, and we would view the brands as a good fit within the group, particularly given the recent Debenhams deal, through which all three traded.”

Boohoo issued the update as industry figures compiled by the Local Data Company showed retail store vacancy rates already at record levels in the three months to December amid a tough Christmas season.

Physical stores deemed non-essential retail, such as fashion, saw a stop-start 2020 as a result of pandemic restrictions.

The British Retail Consortium has warned the situation is only going to get worse as current lockdowns continue.

It has demanded further government support for the retail sector including an extension to the business rates holiday beyond April.

By James Sillars

Pub chain Marston’s shares jumped almost 20% on takeover news

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 29th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

British pub giant Marston's says it has received an “unsolicited” takeover offer from US private equity firm Platinum Equity Advisors.

Marston's said it was evaluating the proposal with its advisers and a further announcement would be made in due course.

Shares in the pub chain jumped almost 20% on the news.

Marston's added there could be “no certainty that any firm offer will be made for the company”.

Platinum Equity Advisors has made the offer for Marston's as the pub chain's share price languished close to a low not seen for more than 20 years.

When the London Stock Exchange closed on Thursday, shares in Marston's were changing hands for 74.80p each. That makes the pub chain look relatively cheap compared to this time last year when shares were 104p each.

All of Marston's 1,368 pubs across the country remain closed because of the coronavirus lockdown. In October, Marston's said it would axe up to 2,150 furloughed jobs because of the rolling lockdowns.

The hospitality sector has been particularly heavily affected by government restrictions, which have forced pubs, restaurants and hotels to close their doors.

Earlier this month, Marston's reported revenues of just £54m for the final three months of last year, which includes the all important Christmas period when hospitality firms traditionally earn the money they need to get through January, which is typically quiet.

That was a dramatic fall from the £1.2bn it earned in the same period a year earlier.

Last year, Marston's combined its brewing operations with Carlsberg UK in a £780m merger. And in December, Marston's agreed to take over the running of all 156 pubs owned by Brains, the largest brewer in Wales.

Brains said restrictions during the pandemic had put the business under “significant financial pressure”, adding that the move would safeguard 1,300 jobs.

London stocks hit a near one-month low as lockdown fears weigh

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 28th Jan 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – British shares hit a near one-month low on Thursday as energy stocks tracked commodity prices lower following virus and lockdowns-led demand worries, while the vaccine row between the European Union and AstraZeneca Plc continued to weigh.

AstraZeneca was one of the top drags to the FTSE 100 index as Britain demanded it must receive all of the COVID-19 vaccines it had ordered and paid for after the European Union asked the drugmaker on Wednesday if it could divert supplies of the Oxford-developed shots from Britain.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index fell 1.5%, with automakers and energy stocks being one of the top losers. The mid-cap index shed 1.6%.

“It’s a very speculative bubble of a market that has definitely led to people suggesting for a pullback,” said Keith Temperton, an equity sales trader at Forte Securities.

“So, in my view, it’s a long overdue pullback and nothing to be alarmed about particularly, but rather just an expected market reaction for London.”

Higher virus cases and lockdowns led the UK to see its biggest rise in vacant shops in over two decades, while car output fell to its lowest level since 1984 after the pandemic shut factories and hurt demand.

The export-heavy FTSE 100 recorded consistent monthly gains since Novemeber, but has recently lost steam and trades flat for January, as a surge in infections and tougher restrictions hit sentiment for risk assets.

British airline easyJet fell 1.1% after warning that it would fly no more than 10% of 2019’s capacity in the Jan-March quarter, while London-listed shares of Hungarian airline Wizz Air gained 0.6% even after reporting a third-quarter loss.

Miner Anglo American slipped 0.1% after it trimmed its production outlook for diamonds in 2021, owing to operational challenges, but it kept output targets for most other metals unchanged.

Reporting by Shashank Nayar 

Amateur investors buy stock as ‘failing’ firm soars in value

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 27th Jan 2021) London, Uk – –

It's a battle between Wall Street pros and upstart investors using social media platforms like Reddit. And at the moment, the upstarts have the upper hand.

At the centre of the tussle is a US video games bricks and mortar retailer called Gamestop, arguably something of a relic in a world moving online.

Shares in the business have skyrocketed, with the price up 92% at the close of play on Tuesday, bringing the gain over the last few trading days to 276%.

It is, says analyst Neil Wilson from markets.com, getting weird: “We are seeing some serious funny business in some corners of the market.”

“Will it end badly?” asks Thomas Hayes, managing director at Great Hill Capital hedge fund. “Sure. We just don't know when.”

What's driving up the Gamestop price? Certainly not any good news coming out of the company. Gamestop – described as a “failing mall-based retailer” by one professional investor – made a loss of $795m in 2019, and probably several hundred more in 2020.

Instead, an army of savvy social media day traders with access to free trading platforms, and who probably have a lot of time on their hands during lockdown, are swapping tips and ramping up prices via Reddit's chat thread wallstreetbets.

Gamestop is not the only stock to get their attention – Blackberry and Nokia Oyjis are others – but is currently the battleground between the Goliaths like hedge funds and big investors, and the Davids who make up Reddit's private punters.

Key to what's going on is “shorting”, where, say, a hedge fund borrows shares in a company from other investors in the belief that the price of stock is going to fall.

The hedge fund sells the shares on the markets at, for example, $10 each, waits until they fall to $5, and buys them back. The borrowed shares are returned to the original owner, and the hedge fund pockets a profit.

That's the somewhat simplistic theory, anyway.

$2bn losses

Gamestop is the most shorted stock on Wall Street, with some 30% of the shares thought to be in the hands of hedge fund borrowers. But Reddit's retail investors have been spurred into buying Gamestop shares and placing options – pushing up the price and putting a “short squeeze” on the pros.

In this supercharged trading environment, the big Wall Street investors rush back into the market to limit their losses – with the demand pushing up the price still further. One hedge fund, Melvin Capital Management, reportedly had to be bailed out with more than $2bn to cover losses on some shares, including Gamestop.

For many Reddit investors, it not just about making money. They smell blood.

Analyst Neil Wilson says that, from reading the Reddit chat threads, the day traders' battle with Wall Street is clearly personal.

“Among the many aspects of this story that are strange, what is so unusual is the peculiar vigilante morality of the traders pumping the stock. They seem hell-bent on taking on Wall Street, they seem to hate hedge funds and threads are peppered with insults about ‘boomer' money.

“It's a generational fight, redistributive and all about robbing the rich to give to the millennial ‘poor'.”

But many big investors are refusing to budge and continue to hold their Gamestop stock at rock bottom prices. They believe the tide will turn on Reddit's herd instinct and Gamestop shares will come back to earth.

“These are not normal times and while the [Reddit] thing is fascinating to watch, I can't help but think that this is unlikely to end well for someone,” Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said.

Tears and headaches

For stock market veterans it's an example of the madness of speculative trading that can only end in tears. And for regulators, it's a headache, as they are the ones who should be cracking down on market manipulation.

Jacob Frenkel, a former lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the main US financial regulator, said: “Such volatile trading fuelled by opinions where there appears to be little corporate activity to justify the price movement is exactly what SEC investigations are made of.”

However, other experts believe Reddit's legion of investors represent a generational shift in attitudes to money and use of new technology.

“I don't think this is a fad,” said John Patrick, a fund expert at VanEck. “A retail trader will not lean on Wall Street to manage their money and I definitely now see an antagonistic relationship between the old guard [Wall Street] and individual traders who are on the rise,” he said.

By Russell Hotten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wolt spokeswoman declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman