Microsoft confirms multibillion dollar investment in firm behind ChatGPT

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 24th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Company says deal with OpenAI will involve deploying artificial intelligence technology across its products

Microsoft has announced a deepening of its partnership with the company behind the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT by announcing a multibillion dollar investment in the business.


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It said the deal with OpenAI would involve deploying the company’s artificial intelligence models across Microsoft products, which include the Bing search engine and its office software such as Word, PowerPoint and Outlook.

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, has been a sensation since it launched in November, with users marvelling at its ability to perform a variety of tasks from writing recipes and sonnets to job applications.

It is at the forefront of generative AI, or technology trained on vast amounts of text and images that can create content from a simple text prompt.

It has also been described as “a gamechanger” that will challenge teachers in universities and schools amid concerns that pupils are already using the chatbot to write high-quality essays with minimal human input.

In a blogpost announcing “the third phase” of its partnership, Microsoft said the investment would include additional supercomputer development and cloud-computing support for OpenAI via Microsoft’s Azure platform.

It has been previously reported that Microsoft was considering a $10bn (£8bn) investment in OpenAI this time round.

“We formed our partnership with OpenAI around a shared ambition to responsibly advance cutting-edge AI research and democratise AI as a new technology platform,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chairman and chief executive.

“In this next phase of our partnership, developers and organisations across industries will have access to the best AI infrastructure, models, and toolchain with Azure to build and run their applications.”

Monday’s announcement is Microsoft’s third investment in San Francisco-based OpenAI, which was co-founded by Elon Musk and the investor Sam Altman. As part of the investments, Microsoft has since built a supercomputer to power OpenAI’s technology, among other forms of support.


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Dan Ives, analyst at the US financial services firm Wedbush Securities, said: “With ChatGPT being one of the most innovative AI technologies seen in the industry, [Microsoft] is clearly being aggressive on this front and not going to be left behind on what could be a potential gamechanging AI investment.

“In the AI race today, Nadella & Co are ahead of the rest of Big Tech and this investment is a major notch on the AI belt.”

By Dan Milmo

 

Primark finance director John Bason, questions fall in UK’s online clothing market

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 24th Jan 2023) London, UK —

The maturity of Britain's online clothing market should be questioned after its share retreated in the Christmas trading period, the finance chief of Primark's owner said on Tuesday.

“You've got to start to question the maturity now of online in the United Kingdom,” John Bason, finance director of Associated British Foods (ABF.L), told Reuters, highlighting a fall in online clothing's share of the market.

Primark does not trade online but is trialing a Click & Collect offer of children's products.

After two years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, a feature of Christmas 2022 was a return of shoppers to physical stores.

“The way that Christmas has played out, the relevance of Primark is absolutely there … The numbers say it for us,” said Bason, noting Primark's UK sales growth of 15% in the Christmas quarter compared to growth of 5% in the wider market.

He said Primark's proposition of affordable prices and a store experience was proving increasingly appealing to both existing and new customers.

Reporting by James Davey

 

Pub and hotel chain blames train strikes for £4m sales hit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 23rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Fuller, Smith & Turner says its underlying sales growth remains strong when the impact of public transport disruption is stripped out.

A leading pubs and hotels operator has warned investors it is expecting annual earnings to come in below market expectations, claiming that train strikes have taken the gloss off its performance.

Fuller, Smith & Turner (FS&T) estimated it had lost £4m in sales due to the strike action since last autumn – denting its momentum despite the continued challenge from the cost of living crisis.


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“Sales for the four-week Christmas and New Year period increased by 38% against a trading period last year that was impacted by COVID restrictions and work from home guidance”, the company said.

“Due to the impact of the train strikes, our sales compared to the same four weeks in 2019 have declined by 5%.

“Since the start of October, we estimate that industrial action has reduced our sales by some £4m and the consequent impact on profitability means that we now expect to report earnings below market expectations for the full year.”

The update from Fuller's chimes with separate evidence that train strikes have damaged high street sales for both retail and hospitality businesses.

Traffic numbers have consistently shown a slump in visits to town and city centre destinations on days when strikes have taken place.

Read more on Sky News:
Fuller's sells its brewing arm to Asahi of Japan
Lloyds and Halifax to shut 40 branches

Commuters have also been put off by the prospect of disruption on non-strike days immediately following a walkout.

FS&T suggested there was a clear divide.

“The underlying positive sales momentum of the business has continued with like-for-like sales for the 43 weeks to 21 January 2023 up 20% on last year, despite the challenging consumer backdrop.

“In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, our like-for-like sales for the 43 weeks are at 97% against the same period in FY (full year) 2020.”

Chief executive Simon Emeny added: “We are encouraged by our underlying sales performance.


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“While it is frustrating that the train strikes have set back our reported sales and earnings, it is reassuring that we are achieving our anticipated sales trajectory in periods unaffected by strikes.

“While ongoing strike action will dampen sales, demand from customers remains good and we are optimistic that 2023 will deliver further sales growth.”

Shares opened more than 6% down.

By James Sillars

AstraZeneca boss says Technology can help the NHS

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 23rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The chairman of Covid vaccine giant AstraZeneca has said that investment in technology can help the NHS cut costs.

Leif Johansson said more spending on areas such as artificial intelligence and screening could prevent illness and stop people going to hospital.

The NHS is under severe pressure, with A&E waits at record levels and strike action exacerbating ambulance delays.


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Mr Johansson said about 97% of healthcare costs come from “when people present at the hospital”.

He said only the remaining 3% is made up of spending on vaccination, early detection or screening.

Mr Johansson told the BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “If we can get into an investment mode in health for screening or prevention or early diagnostics on health and see that as an investment to reduce the cost of sickness then I think we have a much better model over time that would serve us well.”

Commenting on the UK, he said: “All countries have different systems and the NHS is one which we have learned to live with and I think the Brits, in general, are quite appreciative about it.”

He said he was not talking about “breaking any healthcare systems down”. Rather, he said, “we should embrace technology and science”.

Mr Johansson said that artificial intelligence, or AI, could be used to diagnose lung cancer through X-rays by “just running them through software”. Or technology could be used to screen diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

“All of that can be done within the institution of the NHS and would still have a very beneficial impact,” he said.

The NHS is facing more industrial action on Monday when ambulance workers in some parts of England and Wales, who are members of the Unite union, go out on strike in a dispute over pay.

There are further strikes planned by ambulance workers and nurses later this month and in February.

Following the UK's exit from the European Union, Mr Johansson had expressed concern about whether AstraZeneca would continue investing in the country.

But he now says that the UK has the opportunity to innovate in technology for the healthcare sector outside of European regulations.

“The UK already has a very, very good life science sector academically but also industrially with a couple of very large players, ourselves included.

“Anything that we can do in the UK would be beneficial for the country on a broader aspect than only using it in the UK.”


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Mr Johansson will step down as non-executive chairman of AstraZeneca in April.

He will be replaced by Michel Demaré, currently a non-executive director at the pharmaceutical company who holds similar roles at Vodafone among others.

By Dearbail Jordan & Faisal Islam

 

What To Know When Making A Hotel Reservation

Hotels are a necessary part of life. A lot of people have a bad hotel experience because they didn't research for information ahead of time. Thankfully, you found this article. This article will give you some great tips and advice so that you are sure to have an enjoyable stay.

Use travel websites to find the most competitive prices for hotel chains online. If you are a member of a hotel loyalty program, make sure to indicate this when searching for rates. You may also be eligible for other discounts through any memberships you have with organizations such as AAA and AARP.

If you are hungry when you get to your hotel and do not want to leave, consider ordering room service. While this could cost you a little more, it will be worth it because you can stay in your room and take care of the cravings you're having.

Use the closet safe to protect your electronics. You can stash your expensive electronics and jewelry in the safe and go about your day without worry.

See if your organizational memberships offer any benefits. Some may offer discounts on hotels. You may save ten percent or more. If you are planning to stay a few nights, this can really add up. Over the course of a week it's nearly a free night!

Use online search tools for hotels. Some websites are designed to help you find the best deals. Not only will they show the best deals, but they'll also include extra information about the rooms, floor plans, and even reviews from other customers. In addition, these tools can help you determine the best time to go on vacation and the things that you can do there.

Verify the check-in time at the hotel. If you don't check, the room may not be ready when you arrive. If you will be arriving early, call and ask if this is okay.

You don't want to assume that the hotel you will be staying in is considered pet friendly. Even if the website says they are pet-friendly, always call in advance to verify. Always ask about what exactly a pet-friendly policy entails, as there could still be limits on breeds and sizes.

If you are a daily runner, make sure you pack exercise clothes and a GPS watch. So, make sure you have your running gear and shoes and you will be set to jog anywhere. Running not only provides you with great exercise, but it also helps you better learn the city in which you are residing.

Get an AAA membership for hotel perks when you travel. Members of AAA will get additional hotel discounts up to five percent, but you'll also get discounts on rental cars as well. They even throw in free car seats at most locations if you're a parent.

If you are going to inspect if your hotel room has bed bugs, then start looking in the bathroom. You probably won't find any bedbugs in the bathroom. This makes it an ideal spot to put your luggage as you check out the rest of your room for bedbugs. If you have pets or children with you, ask them to wait in the bathroom too.

Figure out if you want a hotel you can or cannot smoke in. If you're not a smoker, it may be wise to stay away from rooms that are for smoking. Even if you reserve a non-smoking room, the smell of smoke can circulate through the hotel's air vents and cause your clothes to pick up the odor. There are even cases where people are smoking in non-smoking rooms before you arrive. If you want to avoid smelling like cigarettes when you leave, you may wish to consider a non-smoking hotel.

Smokers should always learn the smoking policy at any hotel before they book a room. Many have designated nonsmoking rooms. If that happens to be the case, then you need to ask for that type of room. Smoking in a non-smoking room can be a big no-no and you may even be charged an extra cleaning fee.

GUests should be aware whether or not the hotel allows pets. If you fear pets or have allergies to them, it may be best to make reservations at hotels that have a strict no pets policy. The smells tend to stick around. While some hotels charge fees for pets, they don't always charge a lot. Depending on the hotel, that fee may or may not be enough to cover extra cleaning.

It's not often possible to check in to a hotel room early. Make your plans accordingly if you do not want to spend hours waiting in the lobby. Before you can enjoy your room, hotels need to clean the room properly. Having said that, don't hesitate to ask the front desk about checking in if you do arrive early; however, you shouldn't expect to be able to do this. The best thing you can do is arrive on time.

Sometimes, you will need to reserve a hotel room. It's easy to wind up in a dreadful hotel if you don't do your research. This article and similar ones provide you with the information you need to select the hotel that is best for you.

QLM Business News

https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com

Digital nomad’ visas are easier to get than ever — especially if you’re rich

Source: CNBC

Money can buy many things — a tasty meal, a nice car, a luxurious home.

But what about a long-term stay as a digital nomad on the beautiful Indonesian resort island of Bali? Well, for people with $130,000 to spare in their bank account, that could become a reality too.

Digital nomads are “people who choose to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world,” according to one firm that links independent consultants with clients.

As of June 2022, more than 25 countries and territories had issued digital nomad visas to draw remote workers, whose number has increased since the pandemic started.

The Indonesian government, however, is taking a slightly different approach through a “second home visa” that permits wealthy foreigners, professionals, investors and retirees to stay in the country for up to 10 years.

Watch the video above to learn how this visa stacks up against the ones issued by other countries, and to learn about the difficulties policymakers face in making it a success.

 

Lloyds and Halifax to shut 40 branches with a shift to online banking

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 20th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Lloyds Banking Group, which owns both high street lenders, says the sites to go have seen the number of visits drop by about 60% on average in the last five years, but it will fuel concerns about the impact on a significant minority for whom cash remains vital as well as small businesses.


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Lloyds and Halifax have become the latest banks to announce branch closures with 40 to be axed in the face of a significant drop-off in footfall.

The high street lenders said the sites, all but one of which are in England, will shut their doors between April and June.

It brings the total number of branch closures that have been announced so far this year to 64.

Earlier this month TSB said it would be shutting nine sites, while Barclays has earmarked 15 for the chop.

Banks have been reducing their branch networks across the country as increasing numbers of people use online banking leading to a decline in the use of over-the-counter services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns and social distancing measures, this trend accelerated.

But it has fuelled concerns about the impact on a significant minority for whom cash remains vital as well as small businesses that continue to rely on in-person facilities.

Lloyds Banking Group, which owns both banks, said the branches to be closed have seen the number of visits drop by about 60% on average in the last five years.

A spokesman said: “Branches play an important part in our strategy but we need to have them in the right places, where they are well-used.

“We'll continue to invest in branches that are being used regularly, alongside our online, mobile app and telephone services.”

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The bank branches that will close include 18 Halifax sites in Golders Green, north London, Maldon, Essex, and Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, among others.

The 22 Lloyds branches to be lost include those in Dagenham, east London, Ipswich, Suffolk, Twickenham in southwest London and Harrow in northwest London.


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The only site not in England is Halifax's Bangor branch, in Wales.

All the branches are within a third of a mile of at least one free-to-use cashpoint and a Post Office, the group said.

The closures will not lead to any job losses, it added.

 

British Steel on the verge of being granted £300 by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 20th July 2023) London, Uk – –

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is poised to grant a £300m funding package for struggling British Steel, the BBC has been told.

The move follows requests from Business Secretary Grant Shapps and Levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove.

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It would depend on British Steel's Chinese owner Jingye committing to securing jobs at the company and making additional substantial investments.

Treasury sources said the money would have to be put towards decarbonisation.

It is unclear when a decision will be announced.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), said the government “recognises the vital role that steel plays within the UK economy, supporting local jobs and economic growth”.

It said it was “committed to securing a sustainable and competitive future for the UK steel sector”.

“While we cannot comment on ongoing negotiations, the Business Secretary considers the success of the steel sector a priority and continues to work closely with industry to achieve this,” a spokesperson said.

The support package, which was first reported by Sky, would help British Steel replace blast furnaces in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire with electric alternatives.

These electric arc furnaces can run on renewable power, and are best used with recycled steel.

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Three years ago British Steel was bought out of insolvency by Jingye, which became its third owner in four years.

But the Chinese steel-making giant has recently been pushing for UK taxpayer funding, which it says it needs to keep the firm running.

 

Argos closes all stores in Ireland, with nearly 600 jobs lost


(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 12 Dec 2023) London, Uk – –

The retailer said that the investment required to modernise its business in Ireland was “not viable” and that the money would be “better invested” in other parts of its business.

Argos will shut all of its stores in the Republic of Ireland in June this year, the company said on Thursday, following a “period of careful consideration”.


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The move is expected to result in 580 employees losing their jobs and the closure of 34 sites across the country.

The company, which sells electronics, gadgets, and toys, said it would propose an enhanced redundancy package for the affected workers during negotiations with Mandate, the trade union that represents retail workers in Ireland.

Argos said the package would go “well beyond its statutory obligations”.

Following a review, the company said it had concluded that the “investment required to develop and modernise the Irish part of its business was not viable and that the money would be better invested in other parts of its business”.

The company operates in the Republic of Ireland with a “significantly different” business model to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to Argos, meaning the closures would not affect any of the company’s other branches.

Andy McClelland, Argos Ireland Operations Manage, said: “We understand this is difficult news for our customers and colleagues.

“As with any major change to our business, we have not made this decision lightly and we are doing everything we can to support those impacted.”

Argos stores will remain open to customers in the Republic of Ireland until 24 June 2023.


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Before that date, the company will begin winding down its operations – it will stop taking orders from customers via the Argos website or its home delivery service after 22 March 2023.

The aftersales, returns, refunds and exchanges policy will continue to apply until Argos stores close.

 

 

Shell to spend $450m on carbon offsetting on growing fears of “phantom credits”


(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 19th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

British multinational to spend huge sums on schemes that do not bring genuine carbon reductions, analysis shows

More than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest provider are ‘worthless’
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Carbon offsets flawed but we are in a climate emergency

The fossil fuel firm Shell has set aside more than $450m (£367m) to invest in carbon offsetting projects, and plans to buy the equivalent of half the current market for nature offsets every year, the Guardian can reveal.


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But a joint investigation by the Guardian, Die Zeit and Source Material into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn voluntary offsets market, has found, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, that more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.

Shell, one of the five largest oil companies in the world, has said it plans to ramp up spending on measures to counterbalance its polluting activities in an effort to decarbonise.

Its strategy is to have a “philosophy of avoid, reduce and only then mitigate”, in theory putting nature-based carbon credits at the back of the queue in its efforts to decarbonise.

But it appears that the company has, in fact, put offsetting at the heart of its climate strategy. The scale of Shell’s plans is striking, with a target of using nature-based solutions (NBS) – its term for carbon offsetting projects – to “mitigate emissions of around 120m metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) per year by 2030”. That figure is roughly half the size of the current entire annual market for nature offsets, which is about 227.7m MtC02e.

Shell has set targets to reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions by at least 27m tonnes, from 68m in 2021 to 41m in 2030, through a number of strategies including the use of renewable power and improvements in efficiency. The company expects NBS to account for between 2m and 7m tonnes of this reduction, underlining its importance to Shell’s decarbonisation plans.

In 2020, Shell invested about $90m in nature-based projects and bought an Australian company that works on developing and monitoring carbon sequestration projects. The following year, Shell announced ambitions to invest about $100m a year in nature-based projects, although it said these plans were being slowed by the Covid-19 outbreak. That year, it allocated more than $480m to various projects – more than $456m of it for NBS projects – to be deployed across the length of the contracts.

The company has also referred to offsetting as part of its carbon-reduction strategy in its appeal against the landmark judgment by a Dutch court last year that Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030.

And it has been intimately involved in the creation of the carbon market, with staff sitting in key advisory posts. At least three Shell staff sit on advisory groups for Verra, a US non-profit that operates the world’s leading carbon standard.

Verra’s former director of programmes is a carbon offsetting manager at Shell, while the oil major’s former head of nature-based solutions has just co-founded a new carbon credits rating agency that helps companies find supposedly high-quality credits with a Verra advisory group member.

Global carbon offsetting markets have grown rapidly, with many companies turning to them as part of their net zero plans and emphasising the benefits they can offer. Mark Carney, the ex-governor of the Bank of England, headed a plan to make offsets work, describing them as a way of helping companies get to net zero and “an incredibly important market”, although cautioning that they could not be “a silver bullet that removes responsibility from anyone for reducing absolute emissions”.

But there have also been significant concerns raised about whether all offsets really work. The Guardian investigation analysed the findings of three scientific studies that used satellite images to check the results of a number of forest offsetting projects, known as Redd+ schemes, and found that, based on the results of two of the studies, about 94% of the credits the projects produced should not have been approved.

Verra strongly disputes the findings and argues that the methodology used by the scientists means that the results are incorrect. They also point out that their work since 2009 has allowed billions of dollars to be channelled to the vital work of preserving forests.

A Shell spokesperson told the Guardian: “As part of our efforts to become a net-zero energy business by 2050, we are investing billions of dollars in lower-carbon energy, including investments in low-carbon fuels, renewable power and hydrogen.

“Where we use carbon credits, it is in line with our philosophy of avoid, reduce and only then mitigate emissions. They can help protect or restore natural ecosystems, and offer a near-term solution for addressing emissions that cannot be immediately abated. The carbon credits Shell uses and invests in are independently verified by third parties. We are working in collaboration with government, business and civil society to help strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of the carbon market.”

The findings of the investigation will raise serious questions for Shell, and for many corporations that are counting on rainforest-based carbon offsets as part of their plan for reducing their emissions. As businesses race to declare their plans for reaching net zero, carbon offsets have been a critical part of their plans, and the market has grown exponentially.

Lavazza, for example, says its coffee pods are carbon neutral using one project in Peru that stopped no deforestation, according to the analysis. Leon used the same scheme to claim its burgers were carbon neutral; the housebuilder Berkeley Group used it to say it was the UK’s first carbon-positive builder; and easyJet used it for carbon-neutral flying until changing its policy.

Gucci, BHP, Salesforce.com and Pearl Jam all used offsets from another Peruvian scheme that only avoided around a 10th of the emissions it was claimed, according to the analysis. Disney used credits from a Cambodian scheme that was about nine times less effective than claimed.

Boeing bought credits from a Colombian project estimated tostop no deforestation for its net-zero manufacturing claim, according to the studies, and smaller companies have also bought the offsets, including a UK tipi rental company and a financial services firm.

When asked to comment Gucci, Pearl Jam, BHP, Berkeley Groupand Salesforce did not comment, while Lavazza said it bought credits that were certified by Verra, “a world’s leading certification organisation”, as part of the coffee products company’s “serious, concrete and diligent commitment to reduce” its carbon footprint. It plans to look more closely into the project.


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The fast food chain Leon no longer buys carbon offsets from one of the projects in the studies, as part of its mission to maximise its positive impact. EasyJet has moved away from carbon offsetting to focus its net zero work on projects such as “funding for the development of new zero-carbon emission aircraft technology”. And Boeing said that although it does buy offsets its reduction strategy is focussed on conserving energy resources and increasing the use of renewals, so that the number of offsets it buys fell by nearly 19% between 2020 and 2021.

Thomas Crowther, professor of ecology at ETH Zürich and co-chair of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration who reviewed the findings of the investigation, told the Guardian: “Limiting deforestation is absolutely essential for achieving our climate and biodiversity targets. But transparency remains a key challenge, and it is critical that we use the best available scientific approaches to ensure the accountability of environmental commitments at scale”

“Companies and citizens need to be able to support projects they can trust. We need to urgently create a system where this is a reality.”

By Alex Lawson and Patrick Greenfield

 

 

Crypto lender Genesis preparing to file for bankruptcy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 19th Jan, 2023) London, UK —

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Cryptocurrency lender Genesis Global Capital is planning to file for bankruptcy as soon as this week, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people with knowledge of the situation.

A bankruptcy filing has been expected for weeks, after the company froze customer redemptions on Nov. 16 following the downfall of major cryptocurrency exchange FTX.


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The collapse of FTX in November has claimed several victims including crypto lender BlockFi and Core Scientific Inc , one of the biggest publicly traded crypto mining companies in the United States, both of which filed for bankruptcy protection in the following months.

Genesis, its parent Digital Currency Group and creditors have exchanged several proposals, but have so far failed to come to an agreement, the Bloomberg report said, adding that Kirkland & Ellis and Proskauer Rose have been advising groups of creditors.

Genesis did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Genesis is also locked in a dispute with Gemini, founded by the identical twin crypto pioneers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

Gemini offered a crypto lending product called Earn in partnership with Genesis, and now says Genesis owes it $900 million in connection with that product.


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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week said it had charged Genesis and Gemini with illegally selling securities to hundreds of thousands of investors through their crypto lending program.

Reporting by Niket Nishant and Mehnaz Yasmin 

Ocado says shoppers buying fewer items as costs rise

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 18th Jan 2023) London, Uk –

Shoppers using online grocer Ocado are buying fewer items as they struggle with the soaring cost of living.

The retailer also said its customers were shopping less frequently as it reported a fall in revenues last year.


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Prices are rising at the fastest rate in around 40 years and outstripping wage growth, which is putting household budgets under pressure.

Ocado also said shopping patterns seen during the pandemic – when online sales surged – had begun to “unwind”.

Last week, Sainsbury's said people were shopping more in-store, as many found it easier to shop around for the best deals in shops rather than online.

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Ocado Retail – a joint venture between Ocado and Marks & Spencer – said its revenues fell by 3.8% in 2022 to £2.2bn.

It blamed the fall on “an unwind of pandemic shopping behaviours, accelerated by the onset of the current cost of living crisis”.

It added that this meant shopping basket volumes fell by 12.1% last year, or six fewer items, and shopping frequency also declined.

Ocado added that the average value of orders in the three months to the end of November was £117 – a drop of 1.3% compared with the same period in 2021.

However, Ocado said it had enjoyed record festive sales, which were up 15% over the five days before Christmas. On one of the days it received more than 72,000 orders – a record high.


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Ocado Retail chief executive Hannah Gibson said the current market was “challenging for everyone”, and the retailer is expecting to see lower basket sizes in the first half of this year.

“In 2023 we will continue to strengthen and improve our leading customer proposition, including investing in value to help customers manage cost of living pressures, while keeping tight control of our costs,” Ms Gibson added.

 

Morgan Stanley veteran to become CEO of digital wallet provider HyperJar

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 18th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Rob Rooney, who spent more than 30 years at the Wall Street giant, has agreed to take over as CEO of the British fintech start-up, Sky News understands.

A veteran of one of Wall Street's most powerful banks is to take over as the boss of an ambitious British digital wallet provider.


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Sky News understands that Rob Rooney, whose most recent role at Morgan Stanley was heading its technology operations, has agreed to become chief executive of HyperJar.

Sources said his appointment, three months after he joined HyperJar's board as a non-executive director, had been announced to staff and investors on Wednesday morning.

Mr Rooney's appointment is a coup for the start-up, which was founded in 2016 and claims to have 500,000 customers.

The former Morgan Stanley executive invested in the business in a previous funding round.

HyperJar says it helps people to plan their financial journey from depositing money to spending it.

Customers organise their money in what the company calls “digital jam jars”, and are able to earn rewards which give them access to partner brands such as Boden and Costa Coffee.


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As part of a management reshuffle triggered by Mr Rooney's appointment, the company's founders – Paul Rolles and Mat Megens – will hold the respective titles of architect, business and architect, consumer.

Scott Davies, a HyperJar board member since 2019, has become the company's chairman.

HyperJar declined to comment.

 

Battery startup Britishvolt enters administration as rescue talks fail

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 17th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Staff told majority of firm’s 300 employees would be immediately made redundant on Tuesday morning

The battery startup Britishvolt has collapsed into administration with the majority of its 300 staff made immediately redundant after talks about a rescue bid from several investors failed.

Britishvolt filed notice to appoint an administrator in the insolvency courts on Tuesday and the accountancy firm EY has confirmed it has taken on the administration.


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Staff were told the “majority” of its 300 employees would be immediately made redundant on Tuesday morning.

The company’s efforts to build a large facility near Blyth in Northumberland had stalled in recent months as it struggled to find a cash injection to pursue the project.

EY said the company had entered administration “due to insufficient equity investment for both the ongoing research it was undertaking and the development of its sites in the Midlands and the north-east of England”.

The administrators, one of the big four accountancy firms, will now assess the company’s assets, including its intellectual property and research, in an effort to pay creditors and will subsequently wind down its affairs.

Britishvolt had said on Monday that it was in talks over a “majority sale” of the business but those discussions appear to have failed.

Shareholders had been voting on potential new investors in the £3.8bn “gigafactory” project, which was seen as a key pillar in supplying the next generation of electric vehicles built in the UK.

The company’s management had been in talks with a number of potential investors, including existing investors keen to prevent the value of their holdings from being wiped out, and an obscure Indonesia-linked group with little experience in manufacturing.

The Guardian revealed last week that DeaLab Group, a UK-based private equity investor, and an associated metals business, Barracuda Group, were in talks over a £160m rescue deal.

Sources close to the situation said the existing investors had been closer to securing a deal than the Indonesia-linked consortium which “did not have the necessary funding” required to take on Britishvolt. However, ultimately, both appear to have failed to reach a deal.

The administration came after numerous delays to expected announcements in recent days as executives weighed weaknesses in the bids. Most notably, the company’s leadership had concerns that it had no guarantees that promised follow-on funding would materialise, according to two sources with knowledge of internal discussions.

Dan Hurd, joint administrator and partner at EY-Parthenon, said: “Britishvolt provided a significant opportunity to create jobs and employment, as well as support the development of technology and infrastructure needed to help with the UK’s energy transition.

“It is disappointing that the company has been unable to fulfil its ambitions and secure the equity funding needed to continue.

“Our priorities as joint administrators are now to protect the interests of the company’s creditors, explore options for a sale of the business and assets, and to support the impacted employees.”

Britishvolt was hoping to build the 30 gigawatt hours gigafactory in phases, manufacturing enough battery cells a year for more than 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs, equivalent to about a quarter of current UK vehicle manufacturing. However, construction work stopped last autumn as its focus turned to staving off collapse.

Building gigafactories is seen as a key aim by the government, which had promised £100m support to the project.

Britishvolt asked for a £30m advance on the funds last year but was rejected as the company had not hit certain milestones needed to access the funds. That was reportedly followed by two further requests, for £11.5m and then just £3m, raising concerns in government about the financial stability of the project.

Ian Lavery, the Labour MP for Wansbeck, where the factory was to have been built, said the situation was “deeply concerning” and noted that the project was “once the crown jewel of the government’s levelling up policy in the north-east”.


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Britishvolt narrowly avoided entering administration in October after it secured a last-minute injection of £5m from the FTSE 100 mining company Glencore, which was already an investor. Glencore had a deal with Britishvolt to supply cobalt to the factory.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “We remained hopeful that Britishvolt would find a suitable investor and are disappointed to hear that this has not been possible, and therefore no ATF [Automotive Transformation Fund] grant has been paid out.

“Our thoughts are with the company’s employees and their families at this time, and we stand ready to support those affected.”

By Alex Lawson and Jasper Jolly

 

Asda’s purchase of petrol forecourt estate under investigation by UK competition watchdog

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 17th Jan, 2023) London, UK —

Britain's competition regulator said on Tuesday it has begun investigating UK supermarket group Asda Stores' purchase of Co-Operative Group's (42TE.L) petrol forecourt estate.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had until March 14 to make its phase 1 decision on whether the deal will reduce competition in the UK.


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Asda is planning to open 300 convenience stores by the end of 2026, aiming to become a player in the smaller shop market to help drive growth, and creating thousands of new jobs in the process.

The supermarket group had agreed to buy Arthur Foodstores Ltd, which comprises of 129 sites, from Co-Operative for 600 million pounds ($736.62 million) in August last year.

Asda and Co-Operative did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Reporting by Muhammed Husain

 

Charity warns Christmas debt could take years to repay

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 16th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Money borrowed to pay for Christmas could take years to repay, according to debt advice charity StepChange.

The charity said worries about debt had led to a surge in enquiries as soon as the festive season was over.

Its warning comes as a poll for the BBC suggests fears over unmanageable debt.


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A third of respondents to the poll who used credit to help get through Christmas and the holiday season said they were not confident about their ability to repay.

StepChange said it had advised more people on 3 January, the first working day after the festive break, than on any day last year.

“Christmas can put great financial pressure on people, causing some to rely on credit and spend more than they can afford. In some cases, this can lead to a debt hangover in the new year that may take many months or even years to repay,” said Richard Lane, from StepChange.

He said many people were unable to adjust their spending habits or have a sufficient income as bills and prices soared, and he urged those struggling not to “suffer in silence”.

The government has promised support payments to those most in need.

The online poll of 4,187 UK adults by Savanta Comres for BBC News, Morning Live and Rip Off Britain was carried out on 4-6 January. It found that more than eight in 10 of those asked were worried about the rising cost of living, with some losing sleep over it.

But it suggests people are finding different ways to cut costs to pay their bills. A majority of respondents have been turning the heating down and lights off, or reducing their grocery shop.

That is also the case for Natasha Miller and her mum Linda, who spoke to BBC News as they took six-month-old Lana and two-year-old Penny to a free story and rhyme session in Garforth, Leeds.

“We try not to bath the girls every night, that's the big one,” Natasha said.

Linda added: “Week by week, with food prices, we've tried to budget, to only buy the things we need and not waste as much. We switch off the lights, and we keep the temperature at 16C to 18C in the house. We're conscious of what we're using.

“Normally we buy each other presents but we did a Secret Santa this year so we weren't buying for everyone.”

The poll for the BBC shows half those asked paid for at least some of their Christmas and holiday season spending on credit, and many would have received credit card bills in recent days.


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Many turn to credit at expensive times of year because they have little in savings.

Official data from the Office for National Statistics shows almost one in 10 people (8%) have had a direct debit, bill or standing order they have been unable to pay in the past month, rising to 10% of those aged 16 to 29, and 13% of those aged 30-49.

By Kevin Peachey

 

Adidas loses court battle against fashion designer Thom Browne over stripes

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 16th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Adidas sued Thom Browne after claiming the designer's four-bar and “Grosgrain” stripe patterns on its shoes and high-end activewear violated the sportswear giant's three-stripe trademark rights.

Adidas has lost a court case against New York fashion designer Thom Browne after suing over a stripe design.

A jury in Manhattan said Adidas had failed to show Thom Browne had infringed the sportswear giant's signature three-stripe trademark.


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The jury found the fashion house's parallel stripe designs were not likely to cause consumer confusion with Adidas's products.

Thom Browne had argued that, among other things, its designs have a different number of stripes and stripes are a common design element for clothing.

The designer's sportswear features four parallel stripes wrapping around the arm or leg of shorts and sweatshirts.

Adidas sued the brand in 2021, claiming its four-bar and “Grosgrain” stripe patterns on its shoes and high-end activewear violated its three-stripe trademark rights.

The German company has filed more than 90 lawsuits and signed more than 200 settlement agreements since 2008 related to the trademark, according to court documents in the case.

Thom Browne previously used a three-bar design on its clothing, changing it to the four-stripe design after Adidas objected in 2007.

An Adidas spokesperson said the company was disappointed with the jury's decision but will “continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals”.

A spokesperson for Thom Browne Inc said the company was pleased with the verdict.


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The fashion house said confusion between the companies' designs was unlikely because they “operate in different markets, serving different customers, and offer their products at strikingly different price points”.

Adidas had planned to ask the jury for more than $7.8m in damages, plus additional punitive damages and a cut of Thom Browne's infringing sales, according to a court filing.

It also requested a court order stopping Thom Browne from using the designs.

 

Top Tips For Finding The Best Hotel For Your Vacation

If you are going to be traveling, you will need to do some things before you leave. There is packing to do, tickets to buy, and a car to fill with gas. In addition, you have to book hotel reservations. Read on to learn how you can get the best value in hotel accommodations.

Check online reviews before booking a room. You will be able to see the most recent reviews. Factor former guests' reviews into your final decision.

Never book a hotel room before seeking out online deals. It's not uncommon for a hotel employee to not mention to you that it is possible to receive a great discount online. It's your job to find them yourself. Use websites such as Jetsetter, SniqueAway or RueLaLaTravel.

Don't unpack upon arrival without checking your hotel room first. Is the room mildew-free and otherwise clean? Check the toilet, the shower, and the sink to make sure they are clean and function properly. Do you have an adequate number of towels? If any issues are immediately prevalent, call the front desk that instant so they can address them or move you to another room.

Know the check-in times. Some people neglect asking what the check-in time is and get to the hotel when their room is still not ready. If you might be arriving before the check-in time, ask the hotel whether it's okay to come.

To benefit from the best prices at hotels, start planning your trips several weeks or even months in advance. A lot of hotel locations offer discounts for reservations a month or more in advance. That saves you 50 percent or more frequently!

Don't think every hotel is pet-friendly. Even if the website says they are pet-friendly, always call in advance to verify. Make sure that you ask ahead what pet-friendly means to the hotel because this is a loose term that may still mean there are certain restrictions.

It may be wise to look into loyalty programs that your favorite hotels offer. This type of program provides discounts and benefits for frequent visitors. These programs can assure you niceties such as the best prices, room upgrades, and special perks such as free meals or late checkouts.

Environmentally Friendly

Choose a green vacation if you care for the environment. Luckily, there are a lot of green hotels out there in this day and age. There are newer hotels that were built to be environmentally friendly. Many older hotels are environmentally aware and have eco-friendly measures in place. Ask your travel agent to help you identify environmentally friendly hotels.

When you book has a huge impact on your final bill. The price is subject to the laws of supply and demand like any other product. If possible, book your room no more than 24 hours in advance. This will net you the best price when it comes to hotel rooms. The hotel will earn no money at all if the room is empty, which gives you a much better bargaining position.

You should always find out how much hotel transfers will cost before you book a room. If you're getting what appears to be a nice deal on the room, these types of hidden charges can sometimes surface. Asking before you arrive can really increase your overall savings.

Join a loyalty program to get deals on your stays. When you stay at a hotel, you get points you can use later on.

Never use the hotel phone for long distance calls. Use the Internet, instead. A lot of hotels have free Wi-Fi that you can use to connect with people. Use this type of thing to get with people you know while you're in your hotel room so you can save quite a bit of money.

Call ahead of arrival to see if the pool is open to keep the family happy. It can prove rather frustrating when you check in to your room with the kids screaming “pool” only to find out it's closed.

When you feel the need to check the room in your hotel for signs of bed bugs, begin in the bathroom. This is usually one of the few places you won't see any. It makes a safe place to keep your luggage when looking for bedbugs elsewhere in the room. It's also safe for pets and kids this way.

Remember, that early check-ins are a rarity in most hotels. Be sure to plan your arrival with that in mind, or you may be sitting in the lobby area for some time. It is usually necessary for hotels to service your room prior to allowing you to check in. You can inquire about checking in early, but do not expect that you're going to be able to do it.

Know what the hotel's policy is for overbooking. There may be times when a hotel overbooks, leaving with no room. When this happens, the hotel directs you to another property, “walking” you. This is inconvenient, and try to avoid it if possible. If you must go elsewhere, make sure transportation is paid and you get a better room than you originally booked.

You can save money by not booking a hotel room during tourist season. This is the time that hotel rates are at their highest. Instead, book your room in the off-peak time of year, when hotels are desperate to fill their rooms. You'll typically find that the rates you get will be good.

Finding the right hotel is an essential part of planning any trip. You may be traveling for business or pleasure but you will still want a nice place to retire to and rest up. Next time you make a hotel reservations, don't forget all the tips you've just read.

QLM Business News

https://www.qlmbusinessnews.com

How Tech Is Betting Big On AI Generated Art

Source: CNBC

Silicon Valley is abuzz over a new kind of artificial intelligence — generative AI. It's a somewhat new field that exploded in popularity and attention in recent weeks, thanks to a steady stream of novel — and sometimes very weird — pieces of digital art hitting social media.

The art was made by generative AI software, using simple text prompts from humans. These kinds of tools not only produce unique pieces of art, they can also generate audio, text and video based on user prompts. While their results are less than perfect, the AI tools can turn what were once hours-long projects into minutes-long tasks.

Proponents of generative AI software say the tools could one day replace the armies of visual effects artists who work on major blockbuster films. In a shorter time frame, they could help white-collar workers whip up slideshow presentations, design corporate logos and even craft written content such as blog posts or social media posts.