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.
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?
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — 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.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– 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”.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 15th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Country’s smallest county had been the only such region without fast-food chains in it
It was England’s last hold-out against the expansion of fast-food corporations. Now Rutland, the country’s smallest county, has finally relented.
Councillors granted planning permission for a 24-hour McDonald’s drive-through on Tuesday evening, despite concerns it would destroy the area’s ambience.
The conservative heartland had the unusual accolade of not having a Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s restaurant, with those residents seeking a fast-food hit being forced to drive to neighbouring Leicestershire, Lincolnshire or Northamptonshire.
But since McDonald’s put in an application to build the restaurant on the edge of the county town Oakham last June, debate has raged over whether the plan is appropriate to the region.
Council planning officers had already recommended that councillors approve the plan, but they noted that of 78 representations received from residents at the time they wrote their report, 55 opposed it.
Objections to the council’s planning team ranged from an increase in litter and damage to the local economy, to the potential for an increase in antisocial behaviour and even a claim that the restaurant could cause residential property prices to fall by up to a quarter.
“I think in an area of outstanding natural beauty and a traditional market town adopting the banality of the golden arches would a sad day,” wrote Robert Kent, an Oakham resident, to the council. “Fast food of poor quality leading to inevitable litter in the surrounding area is not what we need. Even if it creates a few jobs for school kids.”
Another resident, whose full name was not included, wrote: “Is this really the sort of business we want to entice? With an epidemic of obesity and mental health concerns. Please do not encourage a corporation of this size where profits come before the community’s health.”
But residents who spoke to the Guardian in Oakham last week were more sanguine over the proposals, with many hopeful that the new restaurant would give the town’s young people somewhere to go and create local jobs. Many suggested that opposition to the restaurant was along age lines, with older residents more likely to be opposed. Parents living in the town said they would welcome not having to drive to neighbouring counties to “treat” their children to McDonald’s food.
The restaurant is proposed for a site on the edge of Oakham, close to a bypass that connects the town with larger cities such as Nottingham and Leicester.Advertisement
McDonald’s said it had carried out an extensive community consultation in Oakham before submitting its application, including two sessions attended by more than 400 people. The company said it would create 65 full and part-time jobs for local people and that it had undertaken to carry out three litter picks a day.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 15th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
TSB has announced a new IT centre in Edinburgh to drive forward digital banking as part of a £120m investment, creating 100 technology jobs.
The move is part of a three-year plan announced in the wake of the bank's 2018 IT meltdown and will serve its five million customers.
Edinburgh-based TSB said the investment was about taking the bank forward.
The centre will open in April and will be home to IT specialists, data engineers and analysts.
TSB has also announced a partnership with computing giant IBM, to run its key banking platforms, including ATMs, digital banking and high street branch systems.
Almost two million customers at the bank lost access to online banking services in April 2018, after the bungled introduction of a new computer system.
TSB's customer banking director Robin Bulloch said of the new investment: “I'm deeply sorry for the trouble and inconvenience that was caused at our IT migration, but this about taking the business forward.”
Mr Bulloch told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the bank's new IT specialists would be building on the “very strong banking platform” TSB had been given by its Spanish owner, Banco Sabadell.
He said customers wanted better online banking, and that new TSB digital services developed in Edinburgh would help customers save and budget, as well as being able to look at their balances and transfer money.
Mr Bulloch added: “IBM are a large-scale IT provider and we're very confident they will help support us in terms of building our propositions and ensuring the on-going stability of our banking platform.”
Half of all TSB products bought by customers are now purchased online, with the bank expecting that to increase to 80%.
That comes as other UK banks, such as RBS, Virgin Money Lloyds and Barclays, race to boost their own digital services.
Mr Bulloch said: “We didn't see too many customers leave us through those difficult times and we're forever grateful for the loyalty of our customers, but we want to make sure we are a bank that appeals to new customers as well.”
The new investment was welcomed by Tracy Black, director of the CBI Scotland business group, who added: “For Scotland to punch above its weight internationally and attract vital overseas investment, we need to send out a clear signal that we're not only open for business but building an economy for the future.
“TSB's significant investment represents an important step in that direction.”
TSB's digital investment comes as the bank also takes forward its previously announced plan to close branches, with 17 outlets shutting in Scotland this year.
“We're seeing less and less footfall in our branches,” said Mr Bulloch.
“It's one of the most difficult decisions that I have to make.
“What we're seeing is more and more customers going online, and for those customers that are going to be impacted by branches that are closing, we work very closely with them to help educate them on other ways of banking, such a over the phone and online.”
Mr Bulloch also said the bank wanted to offer affected customers “reasonable access” access to a TSB branch in “reasonably close proximity”, and that customers were able to pay in and withdraw money at Post Offices.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– 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.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 14th Jan 2020) London, UK —
(Reuters) – Taylor Wimpey’s (TW.L) order book jumped 22% in 2019 to 2.18 billion pounds ($2.83 billion), the housebuilder said on Tuesday, aided by the government’s Help to Buy scheme, and said it saw positive signs in 2020.
“The environment is more positive at this point in the year than we have seen for the last couple of years. There is a bit of pent-up demand there. There is positive potential,” CEO Peter Redfern told Reuters.
Taylor Wimpey in its trading update reported a 5% rise in home completions in 2019 and a 2% rise in its overall average selling price to 269,000 pounds.
Shares in Taylor Wimpey, which is due to report its full results on Feb 26, were up 1.7% at 205 pence at 1016 GMT.
“Despite ongoing economic and political uncertainty, the housing market remained stable throughout 2019, albeit with more challenging conditions in London and the South East and at higher price points,” the company said.
Britain’s housing market has been pressured since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016, creating uncertainty over how, when and even if Brexit would occur.
The company said it expects in-line results for 2019 while for 2020 the focus would be on cost discipline.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson winning a clear majority last month was seen as a positive for the Brexit process as it paved the way for quicker decisions by lawmakers on departure-related matters.
“I think the environment is more relaxed and confident than 12 months ago. Mortgage availability and pricing remains very good, those are all positive indicators,” Redfern told Reuters.
Britain’s third-largest homebuilder after Barratt (BDEV.L) and Persimmon (PSN.L) had said in November it was still seeing demand for its houses despite the market uncertainty created by the Brexit process.
“The strong order book…does not feel as if earnings are going to suddenly soar, especially as price increases are flattening out,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – 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.
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.
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.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 13th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Foreign currency firm restores some systems after £4.6m demand from hackers
The foreign currency firm Travelex says it is making good progress in recovering from an attack from ransomware hackers and is starting to switch its systems back on again.
As of noon on Monday, however, its global websites, including those aimed at UK and US customers, were still offline, as were the online travel money services of companies that use Travelex, including Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Tesco Bank and Asda.
Travelex was forced to take its websites offline after discovering the cyber-attack on New Year’s Eve. It later emerged that the ransomware gang responsible, Sodinokibi, had demanded £4.6m and was threatening to release customers’ personal data – including dates of birth and payment card information – into the public domain unless the company paid up.
Travelex said it had contained the virus and that its investigations showed that no customer data has been breached to date. It is in communication with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – which is part of GCHQ – and the Metropolitan police.
Tony D’Souza, the chief executive of Travelex, said: “We continue to make good progress with our recovery and have already completed a considerable amount in the background.”
He said the firm was now in a position to start restoring functionality at its partner and customer services, and that it would provide more information in the coming days.
With its online travel money service out of action, Travelex staff have been forced to use pen and paper to serve customers. Nor is the company able to sell or reload its travel money cards online.
D’Souza said: “We are confident, based on our efforts to date, that we will be able to restore our services and ensure the integrity and robustness of the network.”
The firm said it would start restoring customer-facing systems, beginning with those that allowed it to process orders electronically with banking partners and in its own stores.
“This follows the restoration of many of the internal capabilities necessary to support partner and customer services, which has been in progress since the beginning of last week,” it said.
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.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 10th Jan 2020) London, UK —
LONDON (Reuters) – Carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) posted a 6% fall in full-year sales on Friday after a challenging year in which its performance was hit by the weakening Chinese autos market and falling demand for diesel vehicles in Europe.
Retail sales stood at 557,706 vehicles in 2019, hit by a 13.5% slump in China, but in the last six months the firm reported double-digit growth in the country, with overall company sales up 1.3% in December.
“2019 was a year of two halves,” said Chief Commercial Officer Felix Brautigam.
“Over the last six months we saw a marked improvement in China, where intensive work with our retailers, combined with significant process and product improvements are starting to gain traction.”
At the start of 2019, JLR announced plans to cut around 10% of its workforce and it has been pursuing measures to reduce costs and improve cash flows by 2.5 billion pounds.
The company, owned by India’s Tata Motors (TAMO.NS), returned to the black in the three months to the end of September 2019, posting a 156 million-pound profit.
JLR, like much of the car industry, has also faced the challenge of stepping up investment in zero and low-emissions vehicles as regulations tighten while simultaneously dealing with a drop in demand for some conventionally-powered models.
It has paired up with BMW (BMWG.DE) to jointly develop electric motors, transmissions and power electronics which should allow it to share some of the high costs of advancing the green technology.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 10th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Fashion chain Superdry has warned that its profits could be wiped out after sales fell sharply over Christmas.
The firm, which has been trying to sell more clothes at full price, said it had been hit by “unprecedented levels of promotional activity” by rivals.
Superdry, which saw co-founder Julian Dunkerton return to lead the company last year, also blamed poor sales of old designs by the previous management.
Revenues at the retailer fell 15.8% over the 10 weeks to 4 January.
As a result, the company said it now expected full-year profits to be between zero and £10m, compared with analysts' expectations of about £40m.
Shares in the company sank 20% in reaction to the news.
The company has experienced a turbulent 12 months.
In April last year, Mr Dunkerton returned to the firm following a lengthy campaign against the previous management, who – he argued – were following a “misguided” strategy.
Since his return, Mr Dunkerton has been trying to focus on full-price sales and reducing promotions, but this meant the chain suffered over the crucial Christmas trading period as other brands slashed prices.
Mr Dunkerton said: “Everyone at Superdry continues to work intensively to deliver the turnaround of the business. While we have always said it will take time, we continue to make progress in implementing our strategy.”
“We halved the proportion of discounted sales over our peak trading period, benefiting both our margins and the Superdry brand.
“However, this adversely affected our sales during the peak trading period, given the level of promotional activity in the market. Despite this, our disciplined plan to reinvigorate the brand and return Superdry to sustainable long-term growth is on track.”
The company said it had been “encouraged” by the reaction to the limited range of new designs brought in by the new management, but added this had not been enough “to offset weaker trading on older product”.
Analysts at Liberum said Superdry's problems were partly self-inflicted.
“We agree a full-price stance is appropriate for branded fashion companies,” they said.
“However, this only works when the quality of the product and ranges are adequate, and maybe the management were too aggressive with this stance while still trying to clear a less-than-ideal mix of inventory.”
Profit warning from Joules
Fashion brand Joules added to the retail sector's woes after it said profits were set to be “significantly below market expectations” following poor Christmas trading.
The company said sales were “significantly behind expectations”, dropping 4.5% in the seven weeks to 5 January from a year earlier, although it blamed this on “one-off” issues that hit the availability of stock.
Joules also said it expected cost “headwinds” as a result of tariffs being imposed by the US-China trade war.
Shares in Joules fell 20% in response to the update.
Joules chief executive Nick Jones said: “We are disappointed with our inability to fully satisfy our customers' demand through our online channel during the important Christmas sale period.
“We have identified the root cause of this one-off issue and have taken steps to prevent its reoccurrence.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 9th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Capitalising on bargain prices, Swedish chain thought to be looking for more city centre sites
Ikea has bought a shopping centre in west London for £170m and is understood to be looking for more malls in the UK as it makes the most of bargain prices in the crisis-hit retail property market.
Hammersmith’s Kings Mall, which opened in 1980 and has 40 shops including H&M, Primark, Sainsbury’s and Wilko, is the Swedish furniture chain’s first shopping centre in the UK and the first it has taken over. Ikea owns 44 malls worldwide but has built these itself, rather than buying up existing centres.
In October, Ikea said it had bumped up its property team in the UK with the aim of capitalising on the decreased valuations of many shopping centres prompted by numerous closures of high street chain stores.
The company is thought to be looking at further shopping sites across the UK as a way to get its hands on sites for its smaller, more accessible stores in city centre locations.
It is unlikely to face much competition for targets from institutional investors which are shying away from the retail sector in the face of the rapidly changing market and declining values.Quick guide
UK high street woes
The group’s shopping centre arm Ingka Centres owns a portfolio of 44 centres in 14 markets around the world including Russia and China, all of which are anchored by an Ikea store.
Gerard Groener, managing director of Ingka Centres, said: “Our urban projects are all about getting closer to more people. More of our customers are living in cities than ever before, and a regenerated Kings Mall will be an ideal location for reaching millions of Londoners.”
The retailer opened its first city centre site in the UK on central London’s Tottenham Court Road in 2018 and has since opened another in Bromley, south-east London.
Both those sites are “planning studios” which enable shoppers to get advice on kitchen and bathroom overhauls. The Hammersmith store, which will open in spring next year, will be different as it will stock more than 2,000 home furnishing accessories available to take away immediately.
The company said Swedish food, including its famous meatballs, will be on offer within Kings Mall as part of its plans to redevelop the centre.
Peter Jelkeby, country retail manager of Ikea UK & Ireland, said: “We continue to respond to people’s evolving shopping habits, making Ikea more convenient than ever before.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Wed, 8th Jan 2020) London, UK —
LONDON (Reuters) – British bakery operator Greggs (GRG.L) said will pay staff a special bonus after what the CEO described as a “phenomenal” year that included the launch of a vegan-friendly sausage roll and higher-than-expected profits.
Greggs, present in more than 2,000 stores in Britain, recently also launched a vegan version of its steak bake as more and more Britons try to cut down on meat and dairy.
The company said it would spend 7 million pounds ($9.2 million) on a one-off payment for its 25,000 employees, giving around 19,000 of its longest-serving staff about 300 pounds each.
CEO Roger Whiteside called 2019 “phenomenal” and said Greggs, which already shares 10% of annual profits with staff, was making an extra payout for the first time.
“This is all about the front line getting 300 pounds in their pocket as a thank you at the end of January for their help in delivering what has been an exceptional year,” he said.
Underlying store sales grew 9.2% over the 12 months to 28 December, as it attracted new customers for products including a vegan donut and vegan soups.
In a sign of the fanfare attached to vegan launches, earlier in January, dozens of people were pictured queuing at midnight at a Greggs branch in northern England to be the first to try the vegan steak bake.
“They’re flying off the shelves,” Whiteside said of the steak bake, which is made with meat substitute Quorn.
Annual pretax profit would be “slightly higher” than expectations, it said.
Analysts expect Greggs to post a 24% jump in pretax profit to 111.6 million pounds for 2019, Refinitiv data shows.
Whiteside said there would be headwinds in 2020 however as wage costs and the price of pork both rise.
Shares in Greggs, up 70% in the last year, were down 2% in early trade before moving into positive territory, standing up 0.7% at 0957 GMT.
Future growth would come from more shops at airports, drive-throughs and by expanding its home-delivery business, he said.
Whiteside, a former Marks & Spencer and Ocado executive, has overseen a 405% share price rise since he took over in 2013.
Greggs was founded in 1939 when John Gregg, who had started off delivering eggs and yeast by bicycle, set up a shop.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 8th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
The boss of Sainsbury's has said sales were lower during the Christmas period because fewer people bought toys.
Mike Coupe told the BBC that toy sales had fallen by 20% across the market in the last two years.
“The challenge was in a couple of categories, particularly gaming and toys,” he said, adding that there were no major releases to boost sales in the run-up to Christmas.
The supermarket's like-for-like sales fell 0.7% in the 15 weeks to 4 January.
While grocery sales actually increased by 0.4%, poor sales in the division that includes Argos, which is owned by Sainsbury's, weighed on the company's overall performance.
Nevertheless, Mr Coupe said the company had delivered a “real sense of momentum”.
Clothing sales grew by 5%, which Mr Coupe said was helped by colder weather in the weeks before Christmas.
“Womenswear was particularly popular, including a sell-out range of novelty Christmas jumpers,” Sainsbury's said.
“These results show a mixed picture for the retailer,” said Richard Lim, who runs analyst firm Retail Economics.
“On the one hand, the food business held up relatively well in an extremely tough market,” he said.
“On the other, Argos appears to have had a much tougher time delivering an uncomfortable decline in sales over the festive period.”
Data released by two research firms, Nielsen and Kantar, on Tuesday suggested that Sainsbury's was the least worst performer among the so-called “big four” supermarkets over the all-important Christmas period.
Morrisons reported a 1.7% drop in like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, for the 22 weeks to 5 January.
The company said: “Throughout the period, trading conditions remained challenging and the customer uncertainty of the last year was sustained.”
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 7th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Chancellor promises to tackle regional imbalances by reforming how Treasury allocates funds
Sajid Javid has pledged to use his first budget to kickstart a decade of renewal for the economy after announcing 11 March as the date for the delayed set-piece event.
The chancellor said his package would focus on unleashing Britain’s potential after the country’s departure from the EU at the end of this month.
It is understood that Javid will announce a shake-up of the way the Treasury allocates investment in an attempt to even up spending between the regions. The chancellor also plans to set up a taskforce designed to make his department an engine of economic change.
Javid’s plans to ramp up investment spending by billions of pounds will allow the government to borrow for capital projects. Tax and spending measures will focus on health, the environment and the cost of living.
The chancellor said: “People across the country have told us that they want change. We’ve listened and will now deliver.
“With this budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – uniting our great country, opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal.”
Javid’s predecessor, Philip Hammond, moved the budget from the spring to the autumn but the date was pushed back as a result of the election.
A slowing economy has put upward pressure on the public finances, with the budget deficit – the gap between government tax income and expenditure – expected to hit £50bn in the current 2019-2020 financial year.
Javid will announce a set of less onerous fiscal rules so that the Treasury can take advantage of what are expected to be permanently low interest rates. The budget will announce extra investment in public infrastructure while promising to keep the national debt falling as a share of national output.
Boris Johnson’s 80-seat majority was the result of picking up former Labour seats in the Midlands and the north of England, and Javid intends to use his budget to help those on lower incomes and to tackle the economy’s regional imbalances.
The budget is likely to feature an increase in the threshold at which people start paying national insurance contributions, investment in new hospitals and the training of new police officers.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 7th Jan 2020) London, Uk – –
Steinhoff is hiring more banks to help list Pepco Group in London and Warsaw, Sky News understands.
The owner of Poundland is close to hiring advisers to support plans for a stock market listing that could value it at about £3.4bn.
Sky News understands that Steinhoff International Holdings, which owns Poundland's parent, Pepco Group, is expected to appoint a fresh slate of investment banks in the coming days to help prepare for an initial public offering (IPO).
An IPO is being considered by Steinhoff alongside an outright sale of the business, which comprises more than 2700 stores in the UK and more than ten countries in eastern Europe,
The company trades under the PEPCO brand in eastern European countries such as Poland, Croatia, Estonia and Latvia, and as Poundland in the UK.
Steinhoff is understood to be targeting a dual listing of the retail group in London and Warsaw, although a source close to the process insisted that no final decision had been made.
Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were appointed to work on the potential flotation last autumn.
If it does decide to go public, it would mark a return to the equity markets for Poundland, which was taken private by Steinhoff in July 2016 in a deal worth just over £600m.
However, Steinhoff, a South African retail conglomerate, found itself mired in an accounting scandal little more than a year later, leading to its near-collapse.
It has since sold Harveys and Bensons for Beds, two other chains it owned, to Alteri Investors.
Details of Poundland's Christmas trading performance are not expected to be made public in a standalone trading update, according to a spokesman for Pepco.
Poundworld, one of its largest UK rivals, collapsed into administration in 2018.
Pepco declined to comment on the progress of its strategic options review.
By Mark Kleinman, City editor