Sainsbury’s reports a slump in pre-tax profits despite price cuts

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 7th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The company says it is making progress in boosting its fortunes in the wake of its failed bid to merge with Asda.

Sainsbury's has reported a slump in pre-tax profits, with sales falling despite price cuts and new value ranges.

The supermarket chain, which also owns Argos, said it had achieved “positive momentum in grocery market share” in highly competitive times.

But it reported a 0.2% decline in group sales to £16.8bn over the 28 weeks to 21 September – its first half – with like-for-like sales, a comparable measure, falling 1%.

Trading pre-tax profits fell 15% to £238m. Sainsbury's blamed the phasing out of cost savings and tough weather comparisons.

On a statutory basis, pre-tax profits which include one-off costs came in at £9m. The figure covering the same period last year was £107m.

The company said this was mainly explained by a previously-flagged £203m writedown in the value of its estate that was mainly non-cash and reflected store closures.

Sainsbury's said its grocery and clothing offerings had a better performance in the second quarter than in the first.

Its chief executive, Mike Coupe, is under pressure to grow revenue after being accused of taking his eye off the ball as he fought for a £12bn merger with Asda.

The deal was blocked on competition grounds in April.

Mr Coupe said of the first half performance: “We have created positive momentum across the business through strategic investments in our customer offer.

“We have lowered prices on every day food and groceries, launched a range of value brands and are more competitive on price than we have ever been.

“We are investing in hundreds of Sainsbury's and Argos stores, introducing new products and services and continually improving service and availability. As a result, customer satisfaction has increased significantly year on year.”

The company guided that the retail sector remains “highly competitive” – a consequence of the price war that has been raging for years as discounters Aldi and Lidl capture market share from the ‘big four' chains.

Sainsbury's raised its interim dividend by 6% and shares, down 22% in the year to date, opened 1% higher.

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the results: “The supermarket landscape has become more competitive and Sainsbury is fighting to keep sales moving in the right direction.

“We've had good news from M&S' food business this week, and its deal with Ocado will just add more pressure into the mix.

“It begs the question: what can Sainsbury's do to differentiate itself? The integration of Argos has been a step in a new direction, but despite the cross-selling potential, it hasn't been enough to boost overall sales.”

By James Sillars

Airbnb to verify every single property on its platform 11 years after launch

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 7th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Airbnb says it will verify every single property on its platform after a news website found a series of scams.

In October, Vice News uncovered a pattern of false or misleading property listings posted on the rentals site.

Airbnb said it would review every property by December 2020, and also promised to refund customers if they were misled by inaccurate listings.

It is the first time Airbnb, which launched in 2008, has pledged to verify every home promoted on its platform.

During its investigation, Vice News spoke to several people who had booked accommodation on Airbnb and been scammed.

When the guests arrived for their holiday, they typically received a last-minute phone call from the landlord saying the property was no longer available, due to an emergency or double-booking.

They would then be moved to another property, often in a different area and without the amenities promised in the original booking.

In many cases the guests felt they had no option but to stay at least one night, after arriving late at night in a city far from home.

But they say Airbnb then refused to give them a full refund despite the misleading bookings.

In a series of tweets, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said: “Airbnb is in the business of trust. We are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008.”

He pledged:

  • to review every home and host on Airbnb, aiming to verify every listing by December 2020
  • to refund guests the entire cost of their booking if the accommodation does not meet “accuracy standards”, and if the company cannot find another property “that is just as nice”
  • to launch a phone line so “anyone can call us any time, anywhere in the world and reach a real person”

Adam French, a consumer rights expert from Which?, told the BBC: “Holiday booking fraud is on the rise, with people losing millions every year to fraudsters tricking them out of their money with holiday lettings that do not actually exist.

“Steps from Airbnb to finally verify all of its listings are positive, but the industry must do more to ensure people are no longer being stripped of their money and having their holiday plans left in tatters.”

On 2 November, Airbnb said it would ban “party houses” after a mass shooting at a California home rented through the company left five people dead.

And in 2017, it changed its security policy, after a BBC investigation found criminals were hijacking accounts and burgling homes.

Marks and Spencer fall in clothing sales see drop in profits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 6th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Marks and Spencer profits dropped in the first half of its financial year following a sharp fall in demand for its clothes and home goods.

The High Street retailer said that while its food business was “outperforming the market”, there had been issues in clothing and home.

Marks and Spencer is undergoing a transformation plan led by chief executive Steve Rowe.

He said after a “challenging” first half, it is now seeing improvements.

Overall, pre-tax profits tumbled by 17% to £176.5m on total sales down 2.1% to £4.86bn.

Like-for-like sales in clothing and home fell by 5.5% during the six months to 30 September, worse than an expected 4.3% drop.

Despite that, in early morning FTSE 250 trading the company's shares were up 6.3% at 193.94 pence.

M&S said there had been “availability challenges” as a result of “supply chain issues and a shape of buy that remained too broad”.

‘Too slow'

The company is facing competition from fashion giants such as Primark on the High Street and Asos on the internet.

It said its clothing business “has historically been too slow to market” and had “too many slow-moving lines”.

It also said it was going to ensure that they had enough product in all sizes, and would be quicker to restock popular and fast-selling items in stores.

In addition it said it would look to introduce slimmer cuts in clothing designs, which would be increasingly aimed at a “family market”.

M&S said it was seeing a positive response to its current winter season clothing, which it says is a “better value product”.

But retail expert Richard Hyman told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: “I think Marks and Spencer customers are not interested in price, as much as relevance. Making clothes cheaper is not the answer.

“When they talk about this season's offering, they are talking about a matter of weeks. The general outlook for Christmas trading is not looking very good across the trade.”

In contrast, like-for-like sales in food grew by 0.9%, ahead of a forecast 0.3% rise.

To stem the decline in food, M&S forged a joint venture with Ocado in February, agreeing to buy 50% of its retail business for £750m.

But Mr Hyman said: “I can't see the central logic of the Ocado deal. I don't think they have to be online in food at all. Online [food retailing] in the UK is 7% of the market, suggesting people are not clamouring to buy food online.”

And Neil Wilson, chief analyst at markets.com said that overall, change had been far too slow at the company.

But M&S boss Mr Rowe said the firm was now starting to see the benefits of its transformation plan. “For the first time we are beginning to see the potential from the far reaching changes we are making,” he said.

However, while it forecast some improvement in trading in the second half of the year, market conditions remain challenging.

In September, M&S was relegated from the FTSE 100 index of Britain's biggest listed companies.

It marked the first time the retailer had not been a FTSE 100 member since the index was launched in 1984.

All Mothercare stores to close putting 2,500 jobs at risk

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 6th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Troubled baby goods retailer Mothercare has called in administrators, putting 2,500 UK jobs at risk.

There will be a phased closure of all of its 79 UK stores, administrators from PwC said.

The UK firm “has been loss-making for a number of years”, but international franchises are profitable, PwC said.

On Monday the baby goods firm said it was “not capable” of being sufficiently profitable and that it had failed to find a buyer.

Joint administrator Zelf Hussain said: “This is a sad moment for a well-known High Street name,” adding that Mothercare “has been hit hard by increasing cost pressures and changes in consumer spending.”

“It's with real regret that we have to implement a phased closure of all UK stores. Our focus will be to help employees and keep the stores trading for as long as possible,” Mr Hussain said.

Pensions move

Mothercare chairman Clive Whiley said there was “deep regret and sadness that we have been unable to avoid the administration of Mothercare” and that the board “fully understand the significant impact on those UK colleagues and business partners who are affected”.

He added: “However, the board concluded that the administration processes serve the wider interests of ensuring a sustainable future for the company, including the wider group's global colleagues, its pension fund, lenders and other stakeholders.”

Mothercare said it was in continuing talks over possible UK concession stores and about using the brand to sell goods online.

It said it would move its pensions scheme across to its international business.


‘The only baby shop on the island'

Former Mothercare store manager Michelle Smith lost her job in October 2018 when her Isle of Wight store was one of 51 to close.

She said she felt sorry for the people who will lose their jobs due to the administration.

When her store closed, it was “devastating” for the Isle of Wight, she said.

“My store was the only child and baby shop on the island,” she said.

While branded baby products can be cheaper online, a lot of people like to see, touch and feel products before buying them, she added.

However, online retailers don't have the same overheads, she said.

Michelle is now a store manager for Co-op.


The administration will be “disappointing for all the employees but it's not unexpected”, said Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard.

Since the firm negotiated a rescue deal with lenders last year, “they haven't changed anything fundamentally”, she said.

“The levels of investment needed to future-proof the business would have been so significant and they couldn't make that leap,” she added.

Ultimately, supermarkets and department stores ate into their market, plus cheaper online competitors, she said.

Facebook changes logo to Facebook – to avoid confusion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 5th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

The company Facebook, which owns the social media network Facebook, wants users to realise there's a difference between the two.

Facebook, the company behind the social media platform also called Facebook, wants to avoid being confused with Facebook – but instead of changing its name, like Google did to Alphabet, it is changing its logo.

The new logo is still just the word Facebook, but it is capitalised where the social media platform's logo is in lowercase.

An animated image released by the company shows the logo in various colours, distancing it a little from the blue of the main Facebook platform – which the company is increasingly describing as an app.

Explaining the change, the company's chief marketing officer, Antonio Lucio, said “Facebook started as a single app”, although in truth Facebook started as a social networking website for Harvard students – not a single application.

But, as Mr Lucio continued: “Now, 15 years later, we offer a suite of products that help people connect to their friends and family, find communities and grow businesses.”

This range of products all under the Facebook umbrella has grown increasingly diverse. They include the major four platforms, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as others which have a much smaller market share or are yet to launch.

Oculus, Workplace, Portal and Calibra are mentioned by Mr Lucio as sharing infrastructure as well as development teams – and the company is keen to avow that these are Facebook products.

For a company such as Google, the value of its Search brand benefits its other services, including Maps and Gmail – and they are available as interconnected services at the point of delivery.

However, for Facebook, which has expanded primarily by acquiring these other social media platforms which were foreign to its own development teams, the focus has been on assimilating those platforms and their users into its own business structures.

For a long time there was very little clarity about how the company would do this and if it could do so legally.

Earlier this year the company's executives were called in for an “urgent briefing” by the Irish data protection commissioner after confirming plans to integrate the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms.

Those plans would see the company combine its data collection on the hundreds of millions of users of its separate platforms around the world – potentially bringing it into conflict with strict EU laws on how companies handle personal data.

Facebook's information campaign around its new branding would potentially increase its ability to argue that users had provided their informed consent to continue using these joined-up platforms.

“We started being clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook years ago, adding a company endorsement to products like Oculus, Workplace and Portal,” explained Mr Lucio.

“And in June we began including ‘from Facebook' within all our apps. Over the coming weeks, we will start using the new brand within our products and marketing materials, including a new company website.”

Whether such signalling will be enough to address concerns about the company's market share remains to be seen.

By Alexander Martin

Santander in 350 million pound deal for stake in UK’s trade and foreign exchange facilitator Ebury

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 5th Nov 2019) London, UK —

MADRID (Reuters) – Santander (SAN.MC) has taken a 350 million pound ($453 million) majority stake in UK-based Ebury as part of a digital strategy to boost growth through new ventures, the Spanish bank announced on Monday.

Ebury is a trade and foreign exchange facilitator for small and medium-sized companies which operates in 19 countries and 140 currencies, Santander said in a statement.

Santander said it is acquiring 50.1% of Ebury for 350 million pounds, of which 70 million will be new primary equity to support Ebury’s plans to enter new markets in Latin America and Asia.

The bank said it expects a return on invested capital (RoIC) higher than 25% in 2024.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are a major engine of growth around the world, creating new jobs and contributing up to 60% of total employment and up to 40% of national GDP in emerging economies,” said Santander executive chairman Ana Botin.

Like banks across Europe, Spanish lenders have turned to more profitable enterprise lending in a bid to lift earnings as low interest rates squeeze financial margins.

Santander is also focusing on emerging economies while cutting costs to counter squeezed margins from ultra-low interest rates in mature European markets.

Santander said Ebury’s existing investors, including co-founders and management, would reinvest in the transaction and the current management team will remain.

Ebury has generated average annual revenue growth of 40% in the last three years, Santander said in its statement.

By Jesús Aguado

The first compostable one-cup coffee pods to go on sale this week

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Mon, 4th Nov, 2019) London, Uk – –

Lavazza launch comes amid rising concern over where 20bn single-serve plastic pods end up

The first compostable one-cup coffee pods from a major manufacturer will go on sale this week in a battle to stop the 20bn pods used every year around the world from ending up in landfill.

Italian espresso giant Lavazza is aiming to replace its entire range of home use capsules with new eco-friendly ones – at the same retail price – by the end of the year.

It is thought that 95m cups of coffee cups are drunk in the UK every day, but increasingly popular single serve pods have become an environmental scourge – typically ending up in landfill where they can take up to 500 years to break down. The 20bn capsules currently consumed every year are enough to circle the Earth 14 times.

The complexity of packaging – often a mix of different materials such as plastic, foil and aluminium – combined with used coffee dregs – can make them difficult to recycle and process in standard municipal recycling plants.

Lavazza says its new biopolymer-based Eco Caps break down into compost in as little as six months when combined with food waste for council collection. Provided local authority rules allow it, used capsules could be thrown in the food waste bin.

However, where this is unavailable, Lavazza has teamed up with waste collection service TerraCycle to establish a network of public access drop-off points for consumers to dispose of capsules which need to be industrially composted.

David Rogers, managing director of Lavazza UK, said: “This major investment confirms our commitment to excellence and sustainable development.”

Its new research, also published on Monday, shows that more than a third of people in the UK admit to throwing their used coffee capsules into the bin because they don’t know how to properly dispose of them. Consumers also feel generally confused about what can and cannot be recycled, with 72% admitting to feeling overwhelmed when trying to understand the various recycling symbols.

The coffee company Nespresso – part of the Swiss multinational Nestlé – encourages consumers to send back their used aluminium capsules in the UK in special bags while it has also trialled council collection schemes.

Most compostable or biodegradable pods on the market have been launched by small, niche brands. A separate range of 100% compostable pods made from sugar cane and paper pulp, made by online retailer Halo, can be put into home compost or food bins. Halo co-founder Richard Hardwick said: “The coffee revolution has happened and one of the key challenges the industry now faces is the millions of tonnes of waste created as a result.

“Aluminium and plastic coffee capsules are difficult to recycle so most of them end up in the bin, and that’s why up to 75% are currently being sent to landfill every minute. Most people don’t understand the irreversible damage these coffee capsules are inflicting on the planet.”

By Rebecca Smithers

Mothercare UK 2,500 jobs threatened by administration plans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 4th Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Baby goods retailer Mothercare has said it plans to call in administrators to the troubled firm's UK business, putting 2,500 jobs at risk.

Mothercare said its 79 UK stores were “not capable of returning to a level of structural profitability and returns that are sustainable for the group”.

“Furthermore, the company is unable to continue to satisfy the ongoing cash needs of Mothercare UK,” it added.

It said stores would continue to trade as normal for the time being.

Also affected is Mothercare Business Services Limited (MBS), which provides certain services to Mothercare UK.

‘Necessary step'

Mothercare has already gone through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which allowed it to shut 55 shops.

“These notices of intent to appoint administrators in respect of Mothercare UK and MBS are a necessary step in the restructuring and refinancing of the Group,” Mothercare said.

“Plans are well advanced and being finalised for execution imminently. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

Only 500 of the jobs at risk are full-time posts, including head office roles, with 2,000 part-time.

Mothercare has been looking for a buyer for the UK stores, but with no success so far.

The company also operates in more than 40 overseas territories, which are not subject to administration.

Mothercare said that in the financial year to March 2019, its international business generated profits of £28.3m, whereas the UK retail operations lost £36.3m.

Online woes

The move comes as High Street retailers continue to face tough times amid a squeeze on consumers' income, the growth of online shopping and the rising costs of staff, rents and business rates.

Retail analyst Steve Dresser told the BBC that like collapsed travel firm Thomas Cook, Mothercare had failed to adapt to the world of online retail.

“They got very used to fat margins and a way of trading that's store-based,” he said.

However, the firm had also lost its way on the High Street, with poor store environments that deterred customers.

Ultimately, he said, people did not think of Mothercare first when it came to buying baby goods: “I think you would be hard-pressed to know what the brand stands for.”

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said Mothercare had become “a byword for trouble on the High Street”, demonstrating “the failure of well-established brands to stay afloat”.

She added: “Other retailers, particularly those who have also previously filed for CVAs, will be concerned that these restructuring plans haven't succeeded and a more radical approach may be required in order to survive.”

Why Champagne is Often Double The Price of Other Sparkling Wines

Source: BI

Champagne is only true champagne if it's made in the Champagne region of northern France. All other sparkling wines made outside of this region, even those from neighboring parts of France, must be labeled differently. Champagne often costs double the price of other sparkling wines, such as prosecco or cava. A decent-quality bottle of it can cost you anywhere from $50 to $300, and vintage bottles often sell for thousands.

How 9 Billionaires Start Their Mornings

Source: BI

Getting up in the morning is hard for everyone — even billionaires! Both Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett prioritize sleep aiming to get 8 hours per night. Oprah and Jack Dorsey meditate and exercise before starting their days. Following is a transcript of the video: Oprah's morning is very involved. The first thing she does when she rises at seven o'clock is brush her teeth before taking her five dogs for a walk. While she waits for her espresso to brew, she reads a card from her ‘365 Gathered Truths' box. Then, she turns to an app on her phone to read her daily Bowl of Saki. Next, she meditates followed by an hour long workout in the hills of her backyard. Elon Musk's morning is not as calm as Oprah's. He also wakes up at seven, but he gets right to business. Elon spends half an hour reading and responding to critical emails while drinking coffee. He says he's too busy for breakfast. After sending his five sons to school he showers, then drives to work. Sounds about right for someone who works up to 120 hours a week. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey says he gets out of bed 5:00 a.m. He meditates for 30 minutes and then completes a seven-minute workout three times. After that, he has his morning coffee and then checks in. Warren Buffett likes to sleep. He says he usually sleeps a full eight hours a night. He reportedly wakes up at 6:45 a.m. and starts his day reading newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Jeff Bezos also values his sleep. He says he makes it a priority. However, Bezos reportedly wakes up naturally, without an alarm. He likes to hold high-IQ meetings in the morning before lunch, ideally at 10:00 a.m. Bill Gates starts his day with cardio. The New York Times reported that Gates would spend an hour on the treadmill while watching educational DVDs. He says he enjoys Cocoa Puffs cereal but his wife, Melinda, says he doesn't eat breakfast. Many of us cannot imagine a morning without coffee, but Sara Blakely can. The founder of Spanx says she's never had a cup of coffee. Instead, she drinks a smoothie made of frozen wild berries, dark cherries, kale, dates, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, fresh mint, lemon, water, ice, chia, and walnuts. Blakely also tries to get a yoga session in at 6:30 a.m. before taking her kids to school. Mark Zuckerberg stays true to his brand. The first thing he does is check his phone in bed. Mark Zuckerberg: The first I do is look at my phone. I look at Facebook. Jerry Seinfeld: Right. Zuckerberg: Right to see — to see what's going on in the world. Seinfeld: Right, right. Zuckerberg: And I check my messages. I look at Messenger and WhatsApp. He also says he doesn't like wasting time on small decisions which is why he wears pretty much the same outfit everyday. Anastasia Soare is the founder of makeup brand Anastasia Beverly Hills. She also reaches for her phone when she wakes up at 7:00 a.m. Apparently, Instagram is the first app she checks every morning. She always has two cups of black coffee and eats a light breakfast while answering emails. Her personal trainer comes to her house most days and she exercises for an hour. And of course, she never leaves her house without doing her eyebrows.

Can Desalination of Sea Water Save The World?

Source: CNBC

Today, one out of three people don’t have access to safe drinking water. And that’s the result of many things, but one of them is that 96.5% of that water is found in our oceans. It’s saturated with salt, and undrinkable. Most of the freshwater is locked away in glaciers or deep underground. Less than one percent of it is available to us. So why can’t we just take all that seawater, filter out the salt, and have a nearly unlimited supply of clean, drinkable water?

Major consumer companies to roll out more products in refillable form in beauty aisles

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 1st Nov 2019) London, UK —

LONDON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Under pressure to reduce environmental waste from single-use containers, major consumer companies including Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N), Unilever Plc (ULVR.L) and The Body Shop are rolling out more products in refillable form.

P&G, with roughly $68 billion in annual revenue, said it has invested millions in creating and testing refills for detergents over the years and is now trying to push in to mainstream beauty and body care refills – which are virtually unheard of.

It recently began offering some Olay face-cream jars with refill pouches on Olay.com, telling Reuters it has plans to expand the sales of the pouches in Europe early next year. “We’re learning on our legs so I don’t know that we’re in a position to say, ‘Hey, here’s the magic to selling refills,’” P&G spokesman Damon Jones said.

Beauty products retailer The Body Shop, owned by Brazil’s Natura Cosmeticos SA (NATU3.SA), says it plans to roll out “refill stations” in its stores globally next year, allowing shoppers to buy reusable metal containers to fill with Body Shop shower gels or creams. The company had offered refills at its stores in the early 1990s, but discontinued them in 2003, citing a lack of consumer demand.

Unilever, which has set targets for reducing and recycling plastic by 2025, in October announced the planned launch of “refill sticks” of deodorants under its Dove line of personal care products on Loopstore.com. The website, operated by recycling company TerraCycle, offers consumers the chance to buy some household products in ultra-durable packaging with refills delivered to their doors, milkman-style.

Across the consumer goods industry, results for refillable products have been mixed so far as many shoppers are far too set in their ways to be easily weaned from living in a throwaway culture. While refills are less expensive to purchase – generally priced at 20% to 30% less per item than the containers they are aimed to replenish, according to Unilever – shoppers have so far, for the most part, failed to snap them up, the companies said.

CONSUMER APATHY VS. CONSUMER PRESSURE

SC Johnson & Son Inc, marketer of Windex and Pledge, said refills and concentrates so far have not played well with either Americans or Europeans over the decade they have been offered, with unit sales of such products pretty much flat. It pulled concentrated refills for Shout stain remover off the shelves because they were not selling very well.

In 2010, Unilever put 20-liter tanks to dispense detergents in Walmart Inc’s (WMT.N) British supermarket chain Asda, and provided flexible pouches for customers to refill. But with leaky machines, safety and maintenance problems and the high costs of upkeep, Unilever said the tests fell short of expectations. Asda was also unhappy because the tanks occupied a lot of space.

“None of them sell very well – it is a convenience issue,” SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson told Reuters. Johnson said some people find it painstaking to wash and refill bottles themselves while others worry that smaller bottles filled with concentrates are less “bang-for-your-buck” than the larger ones they have used for years.

Still, the privately held company said it was expanding its refill offerings this year to address concerns surrounding plastic waste and is also testing refill stations for cleaning products with UK retailer Waitrose, owned by Britain’s John Lewis [JLPLC.UL]. The Waitrose tests are showing the first signs of progress in refill sales, Johnson said, and the company is now thinking of expanding the project.

Even if consumers are comfortable using refills for some household goods, it is more complicated to sell them for products like Pantene shampoo and Olay creams, P&G spokesman Jones said. For instance, with beauty products, the look and feel of packaging is a big factor in creating and maintaining customer loyalty, while delivering an environmental benefit, he said.

Some shoppers say they want to buy refillable products, but that the offerings are not available at many stores. Earlier this year, dozens of consumers took to social media to urge The Body Shop to bring back its refill counters.

“Refill, refill, refill!” Twitter user @JaiChipperfield said on July 22, joining a thread in which several other shoppers demanded the return of refills. “Seems to me that judging by these comments your customers want to see the return of refills,” @JaiChipperfield added. “Me too, it would be brilliant to see that return.”

The Body Shop eventually responded to those pleas.

“Now with the renewed focus on sustainability, we believe it is the right time to return with it,” Body Shop spokeswoman Lucy Muircroft told Reuters this week.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in London and Richa Naidu in Chicago

Asda workers fearful for jobs’ as deadline approaches to sign new contracts

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Friday, 1st Nov 2019) London, Uk – –

Asda staff have spoken of being “terrified” for their jobs as a Saturday night deadline approaches to sign new contracts or be sacked.

Runcorn store employee Cath Sutton, who has yet to sign, said Asda should be ashamed of the stress it is causing.

The contracts mean unpaid breaks, changes to night shift payments and being called to work at shorter notice.

Asda said it brings it into line with rivals and most of the 100,000 staff affected will be better off.

It is thought about 2,000 staff have yet to sign, but possibly many more. Asda said reports of 12,000 ‘hold-outs' were “inaccurate”, but declined to disclose the latest figure.

The GMB union said many staff felt they could not sign the “inflexible” terms because of disruption to domestic life, and the impact would fall heavily on female employees.

“If I sign it, it will affect me because they can move me into any department,” Ms Sutton, 76, who has worked for Asda for 45 years, told the Today programme.

“They can move me on to the shop floor, carrying heavy boxes, filling the shelves.”

“They could change my hours any time from five in the morning to 12 at night.”

“I think at my age, why would I be able to start going to different departments and doing different jobs?”

There are plenty of Asda workers who are similarly worried, she says, but are feeling pressured into agreeing the new terms.

“I think the company should be thoroughly, thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It's caused a hell of a lot of stress for people.”

“They are having to sign out of desperation because they are terrified of losing their jobs.”

Shorter notice

Under the changes, paid breaks will be scrapped, working bank holidays will become compulsory – although festive holidays will be voluntary – and there will be changes to night shift payments.

Neil Derrick, GMB regional officer for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, said staff would also be forced to attend work at shorter notice, disrupting the life of carers or people doing the school run.

Leeds-based Asda is increasing hourly pay rates. However, Mr Derrick said it was not the money that mattered for many staff, but the inflexibility of the new working patterns.

“Many staff cannot sign because of upheaval to their domestic life. Others have signed just to get them through Christmas or until they can find new jobs,” he said.

“I've not met anyone who thinks they will be better off in terms of working life. There will be a disproportionate impact on women.”

Mr Derrick said the union would support sacked employees in any legal battle against Asda. Labour's leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he “stands in solidarity” with Asda workers.

‘Understand concerns'

This week, Asda announced it would increase employees' basic hourly pay from April, a move that the GMB said shows the supermarket is desperate to woo over disgruntled staff before the deadline.

The supermarket said it would raise its basic rate for its hourly-paid retail employees to £9.18 from 1 April next year, following an increase to £9 from 3 November.

In London, which has an additional allowance to reflect the higher cost of living, basic pay will increase to £10.31 per hour.

The retailer, owned by Walmart, acknowledged this week's annual pay announcement for April rises had come earlier that usual.

An Asda spokesman said the new contract “represents an investment of over £80m and an increase in real pay for over 100,000 of our hourly paid colleagues”.

He added: “We have been clear that we don't want any of our colleagues to leave us and whilst the vast majority of colleagues have chosen to sign the new contract, we continue to have conversations with those who have chosen not to, to try and understand their concerns.”

While Asda accepted that change was “never easy”, it was important that the company adapted to changes in the market and competition, he said.

The company has won backing from former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King, who used to work at Asda.

He told the BBC that the new retail environment, where the working practices of some online retailers were “almost Victorian”, had made life extremely competitive for traditional firms.

“All legacy retailers – and Asda are one – have some legacy arrangements with their workforce which simply don't reflect the modern world that we're in.

“Many online retailers don't pay their workers anywhere near as well as the mainstream retailers,” he said.

To compete, it was necessary to take tough decisions. “Sometimes you have to do the right thing for the whole business.”

By Russell Hotten BBC News

Uk business minister Nadhim Zahawi welcomes Spirit AeroSystems’ purchase of Bombardier’s Belfast site

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 31st Oct, 2019) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – British business minister Nadhim Zahawi on Thursday welcomed Spirit AeroSystems’ (SPR.N) purchase of Bombardier’s (BBDb.TO) plant in Belfast as great news for workers and a welcome investment in the United Kingdom.

Canada’s Bombardier said on Thursday it had agreed to sell its aerostructures business to Spirit for more than $700 million in cash and debt, including the Short Brothers Belfast plant which is the largest high-tech manufacturer in Northern Ireland with a workforce of around 3,500.

“I’m pleased that Spirit AeroSystems is boosting its investment in the UK,” Zahawi said in a statement.

“This will be great news for Short Brothers and its highly skilled and dedicated workforce, at one of the most important aerospace facilities in the country. I look forward to seeing this successful and ambitious business continue to go from strength to strength.”

Reporting by Kate Holton

Lloyds bank profits wipe out by last-minute PPI claims

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 31st Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

 Lloyds Banking Group  has put aside a further £1.8bn to cover a surge in payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints before the August claims deadline, which nearly wiped out its quarterly profit.

Including the PPI charge, the bank’s profit before tax slumped to £50m for the three months to 30 September, from a profit of £1.8bn in the third quarter last year. The result was weaker than expected.

The latest charge is at the top end of estimates, and takes the group’s total bill to £21.8bn. PPI has become the banking industry’s biggest mis-selling scandal and Lloyds accounts for the lion’s share of the total bill, which has risen to £48bn and is expected to top £50bn.

Lloyds shares were the biggest faller on the FTSE 100 index in early trading, dropping 2.7% to 56p.

The City regulator had set a 29 August deadline to make a claim for compensation for mis-sold PPI, which sparked a surge in complaints in the final weeks, prompting Lloyds to suspend a share buyback programme. PPI was sold alongside loans and mortgages to cover repayments if customers fell ill or lost their jobs, but the insurance was often sold to people who did not want or need it.

António Horta-Osório, the chief executive, said: “I am disappointed that our statutory result was significantly impacted by the additional PPI charge in the third quarter, driven by an unprecedented level of PPI information requests received in August.”

William Chalmers, the bank’s new chief financial officer, said the charge reflected its “best estimate of what PPI might come out as” but he could not rule out further provisions. “When George walked out the door he said: ‘Never say never’ on the issue,” he quipped about his predecessor, George Culmer.

Royal Bank of Scotland took a £900m PPI charge last week, which pushed the 62%-state-owned bank into a quarterly loss of £8m. Barclays set aside a further £1.4bn and reported an 80% plunge in profits.

Lloyds also said its chairman, Lord Blackwell, would retire at or before next year’s annual meeting, after serving nine years on the board, including seven as chairman. The firm’s chief operating officer, Juan Colombás, will step down in July after four years in the job.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at investment platform interactive investor, said: “The shares have had the benefit of a ‘Brexit bounce’ of late, rising 9% in the last three months as perception switched to ruling out the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. That particular cloud will not be lifted in the immediate future, and on balance the third quarter numbers were largely uninspiring.”

Facebook agrees to pay £500,000 Cambridge Analytica fine to UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 30th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Facebook has agreed to pay a £500,000 fine imposed by the UK's data protection watchdog for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

It had originally appealed the penalty, causing the Information Commissioner's Office to pursue its own counter-appeal.

As part of the agreement, Facebook has made no admission of liability.

The US firm said it “wished it had done more to investigate Cambridge Analytica” earlier.

James Dipple-Johnstone, deputy commissioner of the ICO said: “The ICO's main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm. Protection of personal information and personal privacy is of fundamental importance, not only for the rights of individuals, but also as we now know, for the preservation of a strong democracy.”

Harry Kinmonth, a Facebook lawyer, noted that the social network had made changes to restrict the information app developers could access following the scandal.

“The ICO has stated that it has not discovered evidence that the data of Facebook users in the EU was transferred to Cambridge Analytica,” he added.

“However, we look forward to continuing to cooperate with the ICO's wider and ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes.”

Researcher Dr Aleksandr Kogan and his company GSR used a personality quiz to harvest the Facebook data of up to 87 million people.

Some of this data was shared with London-based Cambridge Analytica.

The ICO argued that Facebook did not do enough to protect users' information.

Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot owner exploring merger

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 30th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

PSA Group, the French owner of Peugeot, is exploring a merger with its US-Italian rival Fiat Chrysler, it has confirmed.

A deal between the two carmakers would create a business with a combined market value of nearly $50bn (£39.9bn).

This is Fiat Chrysler's second attempt at a merger this year after it pulled out of an agreement with Renault in June.

Fiat Chrysler shares jumped 7.5% on Wall Street.

The potential merger would face significant political and financial hurdles.

Discussions remain in the early stages and there is no guarantee of a final deal.

However, if the two companies do combine, PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares is expected to lead the enlarged group.

John Elkann, Fiat Chrysler's chairman and the head of Italy's Agnelli industrial dynasty which controls the business, would retain the same position at the new company.

A merger of the two groups would bring a number of brands under one roof including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Jeep, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

The talks come months after a proposed tie-up between Fiat Chrysler and French carmaker Renault collapsed.

Fiat Chrysler had described its bid for Renault as a “transformative” proposal that would create a global automotive leader.

Industry shifts toward electric models, along with stricter emissions standards and the development of new technologies for autonomous vehicles, have put increasing pressure on carmakers to consolidate.

BP profits fall amid weak oil prices and hurricane impact

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 29th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

BP’s profits have fallen sharply as global oil prices tumble amid gloomy forecasts for the global economy.

The oil major reported underlying profits of $2.3bn (£1.76bn) for the last three months on Tuesday morning, compared with $3.8bn in the same months last year.

The decline comes just weeks after BP announced its chief executive Bob Dudley would step down after almost a decade at the helm.

Dudley blamed weaker global oil prices, a string of one-off financial costs and the impact of Hurricane Barry, which dealt a “significant” blow to BP’s oil production in the Gulf of Mexico in July.

Dudley will end his four-decade career at BP early next year and be replaced in February by Bernard Looney, currently head of exploration and production.

The profits from Looney’s business division fell to $2.1bn for the last quarter, from $3.4bn in the same months last year following a fall in the global oil price.

The oil price has slumped to an average of $62 a barrel in the last quarter, from more than $75 a barrel a year ago.

The oil price slide comes a year after the oil major agreed to buy a $10.5bn stake in the US shale boom from BHP Billiton, in a deal seen as a show of confidence that global oil prices would remain at about $70 a barrel.

Brian Gilvary, the BP chief financial officer, told Bloomberg the company was able to get the deal over the line due to higher oil prices over last summer – and he expected oil prices to remain at about $70 a barrel.

There has been growing public opposition in recent months to the fossil fuel giant’s contribution to the climate crisis. Earlier this month the Royal Shakespeare Company ended its sponsorship deal and protesters targeted the National Portrait Gallery over BP’s ongoing support.

An investigation by the Guardian revealed that 20 oil and gas companies – including BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total – could be directly linked to a third of greenhouse gas emissions since 1965.

The companies are planning to keep increasing their oil production, despite global efforts to avoid a runaway climate crisis by limiting carbon emissions, in large part from US shale reserves.

By Jillian Ambrose

Billionaire Barclay brothers Telegraph sale could herald breakup of vast business empire

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 29th Oct 2019) London, Uk – –

Twin brothers own diverse array of faltering firms, from luxury Ritz hotel to budget retailer Shop Direct

The decision by the billionaire Barclay brothers to put the Daily and Sunday Telegraph up for sale could herald the breakup of a vast but faltering business empire that ranges from luxury hotels to budget retail.

Bidders are already circling the newspaper group after the identical twin brothers, who were 85 on Sunday, launched a sale process expected to recoup less than a third of the £665m they paid for it in 2004.

Potential buyers include the publisher of the Daily Mail, foreign media groups and even the world’s richest man – Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos.

The sale also comes in the context of a wider review of the Barclays’ business interests, which include the loss-making online retailer Shop Direct and the Ritz hotel in London.Advertisement

Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay boast a combined wealth of £8bn, putting them 17th on the Sunday Times Rich List, but the financial performance of their sprawling network of businesses has proven patchy of late.

The largest companies in their investment portfolio – Telegraph Media Group; the Spectator magazine; delivery firm Yodel; Shop Direct; the Ritz and the Beaumont hotel – are managed by Sir David’s son Aidan and reported combined losses of £290m on revenues of £2.8bn, in the latest year for which financial records are available.

As losses have mounted, the brothers were reported this month to have put the Ritz up for sale at £800m, more than 10 times the £75m they paid for it in 1995.

Telegraph Media Group is expected to have a price tag of about £200m, according to media industry sources. That would be less than a third of the £665m they paid in 2004, although that purchase included the Spectator, which is not part of the current sale process.

One reason for any fall in the value of the Telegraph group is whether it is still perceived as a “trophy” asset worth more than the sum of its parts, given a decline of profits and sales in recent years.

“It may have been a trophy asset when the Barclays bought it but you would struggle to say that now,” said one City source.

Potential suitors include DMGT, owner of the Mail titles, Mail Online and Metro, which is understood to have previously expressed an interest, although it would likely face regulatory scrutiny.

Sources also pointed to Belgian group Mediahuis, which earlier this year paid €145.6m (£125.2m) to buy Independent News & Media, publisher of the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. INM is chaired by Murdoch MacLennan, a former chief executive of Telegraph Media Group who is rumoured to have encouraged a bid for his former employer.

Interest is also expected from publishing investment vehicle National World, run by David Montgomery, the former chief executive of the publisher of the Mirror titles. Montgomery advised venture capital firm 3i in a bid to buy the Telegraph in 2004, in a bidding war that ultimately saw the Barclays triumph.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who paid $250m to buy the Washington Post in 2013, was linked to a potential bid for the Telegraph last year. Selling both the Telegraph and the Ritz could raise up to £1bn for the Barclay brothers, who live in a castle on the Channel island of Brecqhou. They have insisted they do so for health reasons, rather than for tax purposes.

Neither business has been a huge money-spinner of late, with profits at Telegraph Media Group down from £14m to £900,000 last year, while the Ritz reported earnings of £7m, a slowdown from £12m. But both are at least profitable, which is more than can be said for some of the larger cornerstones of the Barclay edifice.

Their biggest business by revenue is online retailer Shop Direct, which includes Very and the bones of Littlewoods, the department store chain for which they shelled out £750m in 2002 but which no longer has a bricks and mortar presence.

Liverpool-based Shop Direct racked up revenues of just under £2bn last year, an increase of nearly 2% on the previous year. But accounts released last week showed that it slumped £185.5m into the red, a loss seven times greater than that reported last year, due to £310m in exceptional costs.

The bulk of those relate to a surge in claims from customers who said they were mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI). The company said it had been forced to set aside cash to cover “customer redress payments for historical shopping insurance sales” and was looking at funding alternatives to cope with the liability. The poor performance for 2018 came a year after the Barclays lost a £1.25bn lawsuit against HM Revenues & Customs, after the supreme court ruled that Littlewoods had not overpaid its taxes.Advertisement

Parcels and courier business Yodel, built on the foundations of Shop Direct’s delivery network, has fared no better than Shop Direct of late. It suffered a pre-tax loss of £116.4m last year on revenues of £481.5m, as customers deserted a business that struggled to shake off a reputation as one of the UK’s most complained-about companies. Directors insisted it had turned a corner thanks to improve service and IT upgrades.

The Barclays’ recent travails come in the context of a decades-long saga that has made billionaires of the twins, born in humble circumstances in west London to Scottish parents who had six other children. They began making money by converting boarding houses into hotels according to a glowing piece written by a Telegraph writer when the brothers bought the newspaper.

In 1983 they bought shipping and brewing company Ellerman for £45m and later made more than £240m by breaking it up and selling it, using the money to invest in hotels. Other money-spinners included the sale of Handbag.com for £22m and the sale of the Scotsman group of newspapers in 2005 for £160m, having paid £85m 10 years earlier.

Their success brought them high-profile friends including former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who lived out her final months at the Ritz. The brothers were knighted in 2000 for their services to charity. Now, they are preparing to sell a piece of the British media establishment.

By Mark Sweney and Rob Davies