Centrica launches online service to connects customers to approved local tradesmen

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon 12, June  2017) London, Uk – –

Centrica has launched its own rival to Homeserve after a potential bid for the boiler repair service provider was scuppered by competition fears.

It is understood the British Gas owner explored a £2.5bn takeover of Homeserve last year as part of its efforts to diversify its business away from the traditional energy supplier model which is under threat amid a boom in low-cost rival upstarts.

Instead, Centrica will enter the £5.7bn home services market with a new website which connects customers to approved local tradesmen.

The on-demand Local Heroes service will include local plumbing, heating, electrical and drainage experts, and offers a 12 month British Gas guarantee on the work.

There are more than 2,500 tradesmen across the UK already registered on the site. By 2020, the company aims to have completed several hundred thousand jobs in the home, via the new online service.

Centrica said it has been “incubating” the idea since last year as part of its strategy to reorganise the business around digital home services.

In the meantime Homeserve has paid £37m for a 40pc stake in tradesman review site, Checkatrade, with an option to grow this share to 75pc in two years.

Checkatrade aims to stop rogue tradesmen preying on clients, putting Centrica’s new venture in close competition with that of its former takeover target.

Mark Hodges, chief executive of Centrica’s newly formed Centrica Consumer business, said Local Heroes is a perfect example of how the FTSE 100 group sees innovation and new technologies playing a greater role in homes.

“Local Heroes is the first online platform that offers a complete start-to-finish experience, introducing current and next generation Centrica customers to local tradesmen – crucially, all backed by the peace of mind of a British Gas guarantee,” he said.

By Jillian Ambrose

UK online food retailer Ocado to raise 350 million pounds to support growth

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Mon, 12 June 2017) London, UK —

Britain's Ocado plans to raise at least 350 million pounds ($446 million) from issuing bonds and making changes to its banking facilities, money that the online food retailer will use to expand capacity and develop software, it said on Monday.

Ocado, which last week clinched a long awaited overseas deal with an as yet unnamed European retailer, also published its results for the 22 weeks to April 30, showing a strong increase in sales.

Gross retail sales were up by almost a quarter to 600 million pounds, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 20.5 percent to 37.6 million pounds while pretax profit rose 45.7 percent to 6.7 million pounds.

However, the figures were flattered as they covered a 22-week period compared with 20 weeks in the previous year.

The group said it would raise a minimum of 200 million pounds through an offering of senior secured notes.

Additionally it plans to secure about 150 million pounds through the amendment and extension of its revolving credit facility.

“The board believes that with its continued strong trading, increased scale and profitability, Ocado can benefit from the historically low financing costs in the public debt markets to put in place longer maturity financing on attractive terms,” it said.

As of April 30, external net debt was 98.7 million pounds.

Shares in Ocado have had a roller coaster ride since listing at 180 pence in 2010.

They were down 2.7 percent at 282.3 pence at 1005 GMT, valuing the business at 1.8 billion pounds.

By James Davey

Pound plunges amid fears Brexit negotiations could be delayed

 

James Hume/Flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 9 June, 2017) London, Uk – –

The shock election result sent the pound plunging amid fears that Brexit negotiations could be delayed if voters returned a hung parliament to Westminster.

The pound immediately dropped in reaction to the shock 10pm exit poll, falling as much as 2% to $1.27 in the currency markets, its lowest level in six weeks. It was projected the Conservatives would become the largest party but fall short of the 326 seats required for a majority.

Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, described the exit poll as a “thunderbolt”, reflecting shock across the City, where dealers had begun the evening expecting a clear majority for the Conservatives.

The pound remained under pressure but analysts at financial firm IG said the futures markets were predicting the FTSE 100 index would open just 13 points lower, cushioned in part by the fall in sterling, which benefits the international companies in the index.

The stock market had fallen 0.38% to 7449 on Thursday, before the exit poll was published. While investors were surprised when May called the election on 18 April, with the FTSE 100 suffering its biggest fall since the vote for Brexit, the Tories were expected to win convincingly.

But the exit poll showed that would not be case. During the night the currency regained some of the lost ground as the first results came in and traders stationed at their desks across the City calculated that the exit poll was overstating the Conservatives’ losses.

But as the night wore on, the exit poll proved to be more correct than originally thought. Jeremy Cook, the chief economist at World First, said sterling was moving as each seat was called and at 1.30am, it reached a new low for the session of $1.2696, as sentiment shifted back towards the exit poll presenting a true picture. Cook saidsterling could fall to $1.24. This figure would, however, not be as low as the levels it plunged to after the Brexit vote almost a year ago.

“Currencies like governments with mandates – and don’t like delays to Brexit,” Cook said.

Lee Hardman, a currency analyst at MUFG, also warned the pound was vulnerable. “The market will be praying that this exit poll has got it wrong. Currency volatility is the best proxy for market fears; if the Conservative ship is sinking, then the market will be looking for a lifeboat,” he said.

Late on Thursday night, Kallum Pickering, an economist at Berenberg, agreed: “If the exit polls are right, tomorrow will be interesting, to put it mildly.”

The City was focused on the fear that fresh political uncertainty could delay Brexit negotiations. Kit Juckes, an economist at Société Générale, said: “There will be other polls, and results will come out through the night, but this is going to leave Theresa May struggling to keep control of the Brexit process.”

Dean Turner, an economist at UBS Wealth Management, said: “It is early days, and the result can change, but it looks as though Theresa May’s grip over the Conservative party has weakened, which does not bode well for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.”

There was uncertainty about whether the election result could lead to a softer Brexit. Pickering said: “Markets might perceive the near-term uncertainty to be worse than it was after the Brexit vote. However, if a hung parliament forces a cross-party compromise, it could lead to a softer Brexit strategy, and may turn out to be positive in the long run after some serious initial confusion.”

While London dealers waited for the stock market to open, Chris Beauchamp, the chief market analyst at IG, said: “The shock of the result is not really translated into the market.” The loss of seats by the Scottish National party reducing pressure for Scottish independence was one potential reason, as was the prospect of a softer Brexit.

The Confederation of British Industry was quick to say any new government should start to refocus on the economy, which, according to official statistics, was the worst performer in the EU in the opening months of 2017 as the Brexit vote started to take its toll.

“As a nation, we have the creativity, skills and global outlook to make the UK a true world leader in the industries of the future, bringing jobs and growth to all parts of the UK,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the employers’ body.

“As early priorities, business will want to see a commitment to tax and regulatory stability, fast progress on a modern industrial strategy to support skills, infrastructure and innovation, and a Brexit approach that puts people and trade ahead of politics.”

By Jill Treanor

Investors sought safety in defensive stocks after shock UK election results

James Hume/Flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 9 June, 2017) London, UK —

European shares rose in early deals on Friday as investors sought safety in defensive stocks after a shock UK election looked set to throw Britain into fresh political turmoil.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.3 percent, while a drop in sterling to a seven-month low helped Britain's internationally-facing FTSE 100 .FTSE index gain 1 percent.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party lost its majority in the House Commons just 10 days before Brexit talks were due to start, with the prospect of a hung parliament sparking fresh concerns around Britain's exit from the European Union.

Defensive sectors – those less dependent on the economic cycle – such as food and beverages .SX3P and health care .SXDP rose 0.8 percent and 0.5 percent respectively, while British utilities such as Centrica (CNA.L) were among top gainers.

Likewise safe-haven precious miners were also in demand, with Fresnillo (FRES.L) up 3.2 percent, while overseas-earners such as Burberry (BRBY.L) and Diageo (DGE.L) also rose.

Italian banks UBI Banca (UBI.MI) and Banco BPM (BAMI.MI) jumped 6.5 percent and 2.5 respectively, leading a rise among European lenders .SX7P.

Stocks linked to the British housebuilding industry were the biggest STOXX fallers, however, with builders merchant Travis Perkins (TPK.L) dropping nearly 4 percent, Howden Joinery (HWDN.L) dropped 3.7 percent and commercial REIT Great Portland Estates (GPOR.L) fell 3.4 percent.

By Kit Rees

easyProperty and estate agency group merge in £60m deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 8 May, 2017) London, Uk – –

online estate agency easyProperty is on the cusp of a merger with the firm behind The Guild of Property Professionals in a bid to seize market share from both online and more traditional agencies.

The deal, which is understood to be worth around £60m, will allow members of GPEA, the parent company of both The Guild and up-market estate agency Fine & Country, to use easyProperty’s online sales and lettings packages alongside its traditional commission model.

Shareholders of the enlarged group, whose holding company will be called e-Prop Services, include funds managed by Toscafund Asset Management, GPEA shareholders and easyProperty’s original investors and founders. easyProperty operates under licence from Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s easyGroup but is not directly linked to easyJet, or any of the other Easy brands.

Jon Cooke, executive director of both The Guild and Fine & Country, will be the chief executive of the newly created company, although easyProperty founder and former chief executive Robert Ellice will remain with the company.

Online estate agencies have boomed in recent years as sellers look for a more cost-effective way of selling their homes than the traditional high street branches. Popular property portal Zoopla has invested in a number of online selling and mortgage sites as it looks to become a one-stop shop for househunters, for example.

At present, Purplebricks controls around 65pc of the sizeable hybrid market, meaning estate agents operating online with local, traditional aspects, and works through ‘local property experts' – a position e-Prop Services could look to challenge.

Mr Cooke said the merger would enable GPEA's existing members, which number more than 5,000, to target a larger range of sellers, including those at the lower end of the market. Members will be able to access the new service through a monthly license.

Meanwhile, easyProperty would benefit from a vastly expanded ready-made network of professionals who can offer its services in more places.

“We recognise the market requires and demands both online products and traditional methods. This newly merged business is the convergence of traditional estate agency and online,” Mr Cooke added.

“From a business perspective, whereas a lot of people in this space are building online networks in order to take advantage of the changing way consumers operate, we already have one,” he said

By Rhiannon Bury

Theresa May will fail to deliver EU trade deal in 2019, OECD predicts

Brexit talks
Number 10/flickr.com

Theresa May will fail to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement with the rest of the EU by 2019 in a development that would mean a destructive “cliff-edge” Brexit for the UK, the OECD has predicted.

In its latest Global Economic Outlook report, the Paris-based multilateral economic organisation has upgraded its 2017 GDP growth forecast for the UK to 1.6 per cent, up from 1.2 per cent last November.

But it is still anticipating a sharp slowdown in UK growth to just 1 per cent in 2018.

“This projection critically assumes that ‘most favoured nation' treatment will govern UK trade after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in 2019,” the OECD says, referencing a description of the way that countries must trade with each other under minimal World Trade Organisation rules.

In her Lancaster House speech in January, Theresa May said that she wanted to conclude a “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement” with the rest of the EU.

The Prime Minister also signalled her willingness to agree a “transitional” deal post 2019, which would allow trade to carry on unimpeded while such an overarching free trade agreement was concluded.

But she also warned that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, implying that she could also walk away from the negotiating deal and that the UK could crash out of the EU's single market and customs union with no new agreement in place.

That latter threat was also contained in the Conservative manifesto.
The WTO outcome would imply, among many other things, 10 per cent tariffs on UK car exports to the EU, tight quotas on agricultural exports and an abrupt end to the right of UK financial firms to operate in Europe.

The OECD's baseline assumption is that this is what materialises – and also that the UK has no other new free trade deals with other non-EU countries in place by 2019.

It said that the channels through which this would likely adversely impact the UK economy next year were through weaker household consumption, confidence and investment.

“The major risk for the economy is the uncertainty surrounding the exit process from the European Union. Higher uncertainty could hamper domestic and foreign investment more than projected,” the OECD writes.

Catherine Mann, the OECD's chief economist, told The Independent that it was sticking with the same WTO Brexit outcome it used in previous UK forecasts made since last June's referendum.

“Discussions regarding the nature of trade modalities, the time table for any deal, as well as interim agreements are on-going between the UK and the EU. We continue with the same assumption of WTO ‘Most Favoured Nation' basis, as in our previous projections.” she said.

The overwhelming majority of economists expect that a cliff-edge Brexit would be highly damaging for the UK economy.

Researchers from the London School of Economics estimate that it would cost 2.6 per cent of GDP by 2020, rising to 9.5 per cent by 2030.

The one detailed study that argues trading on WTO rules post 2019 would boost the UK economy has been severely criticised as methodologically flawed and making wildly implausible assumptions.

Business groups have warned loudly about the catastrophic impact of a “no deal” Brexit, with the CBI president Paul Dreschler saying it would “open Pandora's box” for firms.

In its latest report, the OECD also argues that Britain needs a major increase in infrastructure spending, something more in line with Labour's manifesto pledges than the Conservatives'.

“Higher investment in transport infrastructure, in particular in less productive regions, would improve connectivity and the diffusion of knowledge,” the OECD says.

Labour's manifesto also promises a free trade agreement with the EU and explicitly rejects “no deal” as a viable option.

The UK's GDP growth slowed to just 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, well down from the 0.7 per cent expansion in the final quarter of 2016.

This was the joint slowest quarterly expansion of any G7 country, alongside Italy, although growth is expected to pick up somewhat in the following quarter.

Responding to the OECD report Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat shadow Chancellor, said: “Voters should listen to this eve of poll warning on the major economic risk posed by Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit.”

“The hardline approach [she] has taken, insisting that no deal is better than a bad deal and planning to take us out of the single market, will seriously damage opportunities and jobs for years to come. The Liberal Democrats will fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union, and to ensure the people have the final say on the Brexit deal.”

Bu Ben Chu

Santander rescues rival Banco Popular in EU New Test Case

Santander Bank
Mike Mozart/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 7 June 2017) London, UK —

Spain's biggest bank Santander (SAN.MC) is to buy struggling rival Banco Popular (POP.MC) for a nominal one euro after European authorities determined the lender was on the verge of insolvency.

Santander will ask investors for around 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of fresh capital to cover the cost of bolstering Popular, which has been weighed down by billions of euros of risky property loans.

The rescue, which followed a declaration by the European Central Bank that Banco Popular was set to be wound down, marks the first use of an EU regime to deal with failing banks adopted after the financial crisis.

It breaks the mould of using taxpayers' money, instead imposing steep losses on shareholders and some creditors of the bank, a step two debt investors described as unexpected.

The owners of so-called AT1 and AT2 bonds suffered roughly 2 billion euros of losses, while shareholders lost everything. Senior bondholders were spared.

Popular, Spain's sixth biggest bank, has long struggled and repeatedly asked shareholders for fresh money. But a recent acceleration in the withdrawal of deposits compounded its funding problems, triggering its sale.

The ECB had blamed what it called a “significant deterioration of the liquidity situation of the bank in recent days” in concluding that it “would have, in the near future, been unable to pay its debts or other liabilities.”

Elke König, Chair of the Single Resolution Board, an EU agency that winds down stricken banks, said that intervention had been needed overnight.

The Spanish reaction to the problem lender was prompt when compared to Italy, which has been grappling for years with the problems of its lenders.

In contrast to the banking crisis that unfolded in 2008, the move in Spain was also accepted with calm on stock markets and European bank shares moved upwards.

“This shouldn't pose any real problems for other banks,” said Aberdeen Asset Management Head of Credit Research Laurent Frings. “But it does show that there is real risk in investing in these second-tier names.”

BOTIN SEES BENEFITS

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said that Santander's takeover was a good outcome for Popular given its situation in recent weeks and it would have no impact on public resources or on other banks.

Santander Chairwoman Ana Botin presented the business case for the hastily-organized deal, arguing that the combination of the two would strengthen the group's geographic reach as the economy in Spain and Portugal improved.

“We welcome Banco Popular customers,” she said.

Santander, which was unaffected by the banking crisis in Spain that forced Madrid to seek international aid, said buying Popular would accelerate growth and profit from 2019.

It said it would set aside 7.9 billion euros to cover the cost of so-called non-performing assets – a reference to loans at risk of non-payment.

Struggling under the weight of 37 billion euros of non-performing property assets left over from Spain's financial crisis, Popular had seen its share price slump by more than a half in recent days.

Popular was among a handful of banks that emerged as vulnerable to stress, such as an economic downturn, in a simulation carried out by the European Banking Authority last summer.

Popular remained vulnerable. Its ratio of risky loans is around three times above the average of its Spanish rivals.

But Popular's small and medium-sized company loan portfolio, the largest among Spanish lenders, presents an opportunity for Santander, which said it would now lead this growing market.

By By Jesús Aguado and Francesco Guarascio

(Additional reporting by Andres Gonzalez, Jose Elias Rodriguez and Angus Berwick in Madrid, Francesco Canepa in Frankfurt and Jan Strupczewski, Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Helene Durand in London; writing by John O'Donnell; Editing by Keith Weir)

Vodafone blocks ads on fake news and hate speech websites

 

shibainu/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via ibtimes.co.uk – – Tue, 6 June, 2017) London, Uk – –

Telecoms giant Vodafone has announced new rules to block its advertising appearing on websites featuring hate speech or ‘fake news'.

It said it had updated its content controls to ensure its global ads do not appear alongside “offensive content”. The group added these controls will be monitored by Google, Facebook and its ad agency WPP.

The moves comes amid the intense debate about advertising from large companies appearing alongside objectionable online material.

The group said the measure will mean its ads will not appear alongside material that is “deliberately intended to degrade women or vulnerable minorities”.

It added that its messages will also not appear beside content “presented as fact-based news (as opposed to satire or opinion) that has no credible primary source (or relies on fraudulent attribution to a primary source) with what a reasonable person would conclude is the deliberate intention to mislead.”

The telecoms group, which has operations in 26 countries and has almost 516 million customers, said the changes will come into effect immediate effect.

Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said: “Hate speech and fake news threaten to undermine the principles of respect and trust that bind communities together.

“Vodafone has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion; we also greatly value the integrity of the democratic processes and institutions that are often the targets of purveyors of fake news. We will not tolerate our brand being associated with this kind of abusive and damaging content.”

By Roger Baird

RBS shareholders agree settlement

 

morebyless/flickr.com

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 6 June, 2017) London, Uk – –

Royal Bank of Scotland has finally reached a £200m settlement with thousands angry shareholders over its disastrous 2008 cash call, dashing hopes that its former chief executive Fred Goodwin would be forced to appear in the High Court.

It is understood that the action group representing the claimants in the civil case have agreed to an 82p-per-share offer that RBS made last month in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the 14-week trial.

The eleventh-hour offer from the bank was double the 41.2p-a-share at which most of the disgruntled investors settled in December last year, when the lender set aside £800m to resolve the matter.

The trial was due to start on May 22 but the judge, Mr Justice Hildyard, adjourned it three times to give RBS and the remaining claimants – 9,000 retail shareholders and about 20 institutional investors – the chance to agree to the more generous settlement offer the bank had made.

While most of the investors, including the main financial backer of the action, indicated they would accept the new offer, a smaller group of “diehards” initially rejected the deal.

The splintering of the remaining claimants between those wanting to fight on and those choosing to settle had led to conflicting messages and speculation that the trial might still proceed.

The situation was complicated by the involvement of Scottish businessman Neil Mitchell, an RBS shareholder in the midst of a separate legal action against the bank and who last night claimed the “diehards” had raised £7m to continue the legal action.

However, the leaders of an action group that is responsible for marshalling the claimants, as well as its lawyers, have now indicated to the judge that it is accepting the 82p deal. This means the trial, which would have started tomorrow, is now expected to be vacated.

A trial over the £12bn rights issue would have been expensive and highly embarrassing for the taxpayer-owned lender as Mr Goodwin and other former directors were defendants in the case. Mr Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood in the wake of RBS’s near-collapse during the financial crisis.

RBS, which remains 71pc-owned by the state, has already spent more than £100m preparing for the battle. Its legal bill would have risen by an estimated £29m if it had gone to trial.

The shareholders had claimed the bank misled them about its financial health in the prospectus for the rights issue. Just months later, RBS received a £45.5bn taxpayer bailout that inflicted huge losses on shareholders.

RBS denied the investors' claims.

By Ben Martin,

HSBC Offering employees cash bonuses up to £2,500 to relocate to New HQ

Chris Beckett/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 5  June, 2017) London, Uk – –

Canary Wharf staff offered up to £2,500 for each employee persuaded to relocate from London as CEO admits to ‘tricky’ task

HSBC is offering its employees cash bonuses of up to £2,500 if they can convince a colleague to move from London to the bank’s new British headquarters in Birmingham.

The bank has created a special bonus scheme to encourage staff to “help us find the right people for Birmingham” because it is struggling to entice enough of its staff to make the 120-mile move before its new office opens in January.

Staff who manage to convince a friend to make the move to Birmingham will be rewarded with a cash bonus of between £750 and £2,500 depending on the seniority of the new Midlands recruit.

Britain’s biggest bank has only convinced just over half of its target of 1,040 people to make the move more than two years after announcing it would switch its UK banking operations from Canary Wharf to Birmingham.

The new cash bonus comes on top of the bank already attempting to sweeten the change by making its standard relocation package “more attractive” with “support for housing and children’s schooling”.

António Simões, HSBC’s chief executive, told reporters last week, during a visit to the bank’s new 10-storey 210,000-sq-ft office building in Centenary Square: “We have had some challenges but today we are ahead of where we thought we would be, with around 53% of the roles filled.”

Simões, who took over as HSBC’s chief executive in 2015, said it had proven “trickier” than expected to convince some specialists, particularly in areas like marketing and communications, to make the move, which he described as “quite a big task still”.

“We’ve made the standard package more attractive by offering for example support for housing and children’s schooling,” Simões said. He did not mention the cash bonuses, which were later found to be offered on HSBC internal staff website.

A HSBC spokesman said that despite the difficulties in convincing staff to move, the bank was convinced that its new £200m office would open on schedule.

The reluctance of the bank’s staff to move to the Midlands comes despite much lower house prices and a cheaper cost of living in Birmingham compared with London.

According to the property prices index provided by Hometrack the average home in Birmingham costs £152,000, less than a third of the average price in London. But house prices in Birmingham are rising much faster than in the capital, with prices up 7.7% in the year to April compared to 3.5% in London.

The new Birmingham office will contain HSBC’s UK retail and commercial bank, which is being split from the riskier parts of the group under the government’s ringfencing rules, which come into force at the start of 2019.

The continuing difficulty in recruiting staff for the Birmingham office may concern the bank’s official monitor, who was last year reported to have described the move as “a programme in crisis”. Michael Cherkasky, a lawyer who was installed as the bank’s official monitor following HSBC’s £1.2bn fine for money laundering offences from the US in 2012, was said to have expressed concerns to executives about the lack of staff willing to make the move. He said a delay could lead to the bank’s UK division lacking the ability to maintain proper money-laundering controls.

HSBC, which has 16 million customers in the UK, selected Birmingham for its British headquarters partly because of its purchase of Midland Bank in 1992. About 48,000 of HSBC’s 257,000 staff work in Britain.

Many British banks and other businesses are trying to relocate parts of their operations out of London because of the rising cost of office space in the capital. Of the 2.2 million people employed in financial services jobs in the UK, two-thirds now work outside London, according to data from the industry lobby group TheCityUK.

Financial jobs in Birmingham rose by 6.9% between 2013 and 2015, the group said. Other large financial employers in the city include Deutsche Bank, which has increased its Birmingham staff from 35 in 2007 to about 1,500 today.

By Rupert Neate

Britain’s accounting watchdog closes probe of PwC over Tesco audits

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Mon, 5 June, 2017) London, UK —

Britain's accounting watchdog said on Monday it had closed its investigation into auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) which was launched after British retailer Tesco revealed it had overstated its 2014 mid-year earnings.

The Financial Reporting Council said its executive counsel had concluded there was no realistic prospect of a tribunal making an adverse finding against PwC.

The FRC launched an inquiry in late 2014 into the preparation, approval and audit of Tesco's accounts over the previous four years, including the role of external auditor PwC.

Tesco in 2014 announced it had overstated its first-half profits by 250 million pounds due to incorrectly booking payments from suppliers – a figure it later raised to 263 million pounds.

The FRC said the investigation into other chartered accountants who were auditors of Tesco was ongoing.

By Arathy S Nair