Co-op to keep £66m in rates relief despite announcing a surge in profits

( via – – Thur, 8th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Group will repay UK government £15.5m worth of furlough payments as profits surge to £127m

The Co-operative group is to repay £15.5m in furlough payments to the government, but will hold on to more than £66m in business rates despite announcing a surge in profits during the pandemic.

The mutual, which owns hundreds of grocery stores as well as funeral parlours, legal and insurance services, said pretax profits jumped from £24m to £127m in the year to 2 January.

The group’s total revenues rose 5.5% to £11.5bn as sales at its established food stores rose nearly 7% and its wholesale business, via the Nisa convenience store group, increased 14% as the group benefited from the switch to home cooking during the closure of pubs, cafes, restaurants and schools during the pandemic.

The Co-op also said it carried out 100,920 funerals, 11.4% more than in the previous year as the Covid-19 virus hit home, but revenues for the funeral business were flat because of restrictions on gatherings.

Steve Murrells, the Co-op chief executive, said the pandemic and lockdown restrictions had led people to shop closer to home benefiting its grocery stores.

However, he said costs had also risen because of the need for additional staff and protective equipment as well as increased sickness and absences linked to the virus. He said the additional costs amounted to about £84m, just ahead of the £82m provided to the Co-op in government support from furlough and business rates relief.

“Looking ahead, we see significant uncertainty and must continue to exercise financial prudence,” the group said in its financial statement.

Murrells added: “During the last few years, we’ve created a business that is operationally strong, commercially successful and which creates value for our members and their communities.”

But he warned the impact of the pandemic was far from over, with 2021 bringing “new challenges, many of them related to the economic downturn and the challenges communities face”.

The Co-op has pledged to work with the shopworkers trade union Usdaw, to improve hourly pay rates aligned with the independently verified living wage, which the group said would result in a pay rise for 33,000 staff.

The group handed out £15m to 4,500 local causes as part of the annual payout from its Local Community Fund as well as £500 each to 150 local causes from additional donations via its members reward scheme.

By Sarah Butler

Apple to argue it faces competition in video game market in Epic Games antitrust allegations

( via — Thur, 8th April 2021) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Apple Inc said it plans to argue that it faces abundant competition in the market for video game transactions to defend itself against antitrust allegations by “Fortnite” maker Epic Games, the iPhone maker said on Thursday.

Epic sued Apple last year in federal court in California, alleging the 15% to 30% commissions that Apple charges for the use of its in-app payment systems and Apple’s longstanding practice of exercising control over which apps can be installed on its devices amount to anticompetitive behavior. The dispute arose after Epic tried to implement its own in-app payment system in the popular “Fortnite” game and Apple subsequently banned the game from its App Store.

The case is to be heard in May in Oakland, California, by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will have to rule on which notion of a “market” is the correct one for analyzing Apple’s moves for signs of anticompetitive conduct.

Epic has framed its case around the idea that Apple’s iPhones, with an installed base of more than 1 billion users, represent their own distinct market for software developers. Epic has argued that Apple has monopoly power over that market because it decides how users can install software on the devices and says it abuses that power by forcing developers to deliver their software through the App Store, where developers are subject to fees on some transactions.

In a filing that Apple planned to make Thursday, the company rejected that notion and said the proper market to analyze the case is the video game transaction market, which includes platforms such as Nintendo Co Ltd and Microsoft Corp’s Xbox gaming consoles, which also limit the software that can run on their hardware and charge fees to developers.

Apple said it plans to argue that consumers have many choices on how to carry out video game transactions, including purchasing virtual tokens from game developers on other platforms such as Windows PCs and using the tokens on iPhones with no fees to the game developer.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis

Saga to rehire 500 workers for holiday restart

( via– Wed, 7th April 2021) London, Uk – –

The company eyes a summer resumption for holidays after a year of disruption for the travel sector as a whole.

Saga, the provider of products and services to the over-50s, has revealed it is looking to rehire 500 workers cut from its holiday operations last year as the coronavirus pandemic gathered speed.

The company, which last month pushed back the planned resumption of its cruises from May until later in the summer, axed 1,400 jobs in its financial year to 31 January.

Saga said that 600 of the redundancies were directly a result of a lack of clarity on the future of post-COVID-19 travel. Retail and hospitality jobs pay highest COVID price

The majority of the losses, across the business, were linked to the disposal of other businesses as part of a wider shake-up undertaken by chief executive Euan Sutherland.

Saga told Sky News it was already advertising for 250 of the roles across its tours and cruise operations

It reported a pre-tax loss of £61.2m for the financial year compared to £301m a year earlier as its insurance arm offset the poor performance for travel.

Profits of £17.1m were recorded on an underlying basis thanks to earnings of £134.6m for insurance.

The travel segment recorded a loss of £78.5m.

Saga said it remained hopeful of a summer restart with big pent-up demand for holidays among its clients – a customer base that is being prioritised for vaccines on an age basis.

Most over-50s have now received their first jab under the rollout.

But clouds remain on the horizon for Saga, and the wider travel sector, as the government is yet to confirm whether holidays will be allowed to resume from 17 May under PM Boris Johnson's roadmap for lockdown-easing in England.

It is examining the merits of so-called vaccine passports and testing regimes amid fears a third wave of infections in Europe poses a significant risk.

In Saga's case, it said that while bookings for this year were down on the same period the year before, demand for next year was well ahead.

It hoped its Spirit of Discovery ship would be able to set sail again from June while it would be another month for its Spirit of Adventure.

Shares were more than 10% up in early deals.

Mr Sutherland told investors: “Looking ahead, while we are mindful of economic headwinds and the potential ongoing impacts of COVID-19, it is clear that there is significant pent-up demand among our customer base, the vast majority of whom have now been vaccinated and are ready to enjoy post-lockdown freedom.”

By James Sillars

Virgin Money’s digital banking service technical problems fixed

( via – – Wed,7th April 2021) London, Uk – –

Angry customers have hit out at Virgin Money after the bank's digital services were hit by technical problems.

The bank, which includes the outgoing Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank brands, said that online and mobile banking had been affected.

Current account customers were unable to make transactions and access their accounts for much of Tuesday.

The bank has apologised, said the issue had been dealt with overnight and that services were now working normally.

Some customers said on social media that they could not make planned large transactions, with others expressing their frustration about the timing and a lack of information about the issue.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Money apologised for the disruption but said that all the problems had now been fixed.

Virgin Money has a branch network across the UK, and is rebranding all Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank branches under the Virgin Money banner.

Most banks suffer IT shutdowns, typically a handful each year, but have been told by regulators to ensure faults are rectified quickly and customers treated fairly.

Sunak’s “super-deduction” tax break encourages UK companies to invest, survey shows

( via — Tue, 6th April 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – A plan by Britain’s finance minister Rishi Sunak to use a two-year “super-deduction” tax break to encourage companies to invest appears to be working, according to a manufacturing survey.

Make UK said almost a quarter of the companies they survey plan to increase investment as a direct response to the policy while more than a quarter plan to bring forward their investment plans.

The incentive was also seen by almost a third of the 149 companies that were surveyed as the measure that had made the most impact in Sunak’s March annual budget speech.

“The budget has made a clear impact on manufacturers in terms of confidence and they are stepping up their plans to invest in response,” Verity Davidge, Director of Policy at Make UK, said.

“For too long the UK’s investment performance has been below par and the incentive should provide a boost in the short-term at least.”

Sunak’s budget was designed to get Britain’s economy through the COVID-19 crisis, with more spending and plans for a 2023 corporate tax hike to help rebuild the public finances.

Reporting by Kate Holton

Goldman Sachs prepares staff to return to London office after Easter break

( via – – Tue, 6th Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Investment bank could see 200 of its 6,000 London workers back in the office after Easter break

Goldman Sachs is preparing for hundreds more staff to go back to its London office this week as it eyes a return to pre-pandemic working conditions.

As many as 200 of the US investment bank’s workers could return to the main London office from Tuesday, joining several hundred staff who have been at their desks throughout several lockdowns. Goldman Sachs employs about 6,000 workers in London overall.

Bankers were classed as key workers if their jobs support the functioning of the economy and financial stability, meaning some have been allowed to work in the office throughout the pandemic.

At Goldman’s London office, between 200 and 300 workers such as financial traders have been travelling into work during the lockdowns because of their need to use specialised computer equipment.

Other banks are looking at similar plans. A small number of staff are expected to start returning to Credit Suisse from Monday 12 April, for example, although the return will be staggered.

The rapid pace of the UK’s vaccination programme and the easing of rules on travel have meant that some companies have considered plans to bring workers back to offices that have been vacated for a large part of the last year.

The government eased some lockdown restrictions on 29 March, although its official guidance remains that people should work from home where possible and minimise the number of journeys made.

Views on the future of work after pandemic restrictions ease appear to differ even within the banking sector. HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, has said it will cut its property footprint by as much as 40% in the long term, and Lloyds Banking Group, the bank with the biggest UK high street presence, has said it will bring in working from home as a permanent lifestyle change, allowing it to cut 20% of its office space.

However, Goldman’s chief executive, David Solomon, has described working from home as an “aberration” that must be rectified “as soon as possible”.

Goldman’s working conditions have come under scrutiny during the pandemic after junior US analysts compiled a report in which they claimed they were subjected to 100-hour working weeks. After the report was leaked Goldman acknowledged that some people might be quite “stretched” by working from home, in part because the bank has enjoyed record trading volumes during the pandemic.

Based on the experience of England’s previous easing of lockdown rules it is thought that Goldman could accommodate about 1,000 workers in its London office while still observing social distancing rules, which are expected to remain in place in some form until at least 21 June.

Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

By Jasper Jolly

LG to close down its loss-making smartphone business

( via – -Mon, 5th April 2021) London, Uk – –

LG Electronics said on Monday it would close down its loss-making smartphone business.

In January, the South Korean electronics giant said it was looking at all options for the division after almost six years of losses totalling around $4.5bn (£3.3bn).

LG had made many innovations including ultra-wide angle cameras, rising to third largest smartphone maker in 2013.

But bosses said the mobile phone market had become “incredibly competitive”.

While Samsung and Apple are the two biggest players in the smartphone market, LG has suffered from its own hardware and software issues.

As LG struggled with losses it had held talks to sell part of the business but these fell through.

It still ranks as the third most popular brand in North America but has slipped in other markets. LG phones are still fairly common in its domestic South Korean market.

“LG's strategic decision to exit the incredibly competitive mobile phone sector will enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics and artificial intelligence,” it said in a statement.

Last year it shipped 28 million phones, which compares with 256 million for Samsung, according to research firm Counterpoint.

The smartphone business is the smallest of LG's five divisions, accounting for just 7.4% of revenue. Currently its global mobile phone market share is about 2%. captionWATCH: LG's display rolls up out of the way into the ceiling when not in use

It has been innovating its phones to compete with its bigger rivals, with last year's launch of the T-shaped Wing, a smartphone with a larger screen which swivels out to reveal a second, smaller one underneath.

Electric cars and TVs

LG still has a strong consumer electronics business, particularly with home appliances and televisions. LG is the world's second best-selling TV brand after Samsung.

In December it launched a joint venture with automotive supplier Magna International that will make key components for electric cars.

LG's phone inventory will continue to be available for sale, and it will still provide service support and software updates for existing customers. The divisions is expected to be wound down by the end of July.

“Moving forward, LG will continue to leverage its mobile expertise and develop mobility-related technologies such as 6G to help further strengthen competitiveness in other business areas,” a spokesman added.

Analysts said South Korean rival Samsung and Chinese companies such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi are likely to benefit the most from LG's exit.

Smartphone makers struggled during the pandemic with sales down about 10% in 2020 mainly due to lockdowns limiting store openings.

Alex Cruz former BA boss among contenders to run Scandinavian airline SAS

( via– Mon 5th April 2021) London, Uk – –

Alex Cruz is among a number of contenders to replace Rickard Gustafson as SAS’s chief executive, Sky News learns.

Alex Cruz, the former British Airways (BA) boss, has been approached about becoming the new chief executive of SAS, Scandinavia’s biggest airline.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Cruz, who left BA last autumn, is among a small number of candidates identified by the partly state-owned carrier to succeed Rickard Gustafson.

The status of discussions between SAS and Mr Cruz was unclear on Monday, while the identity of any other contenders for the job could not be ascertained.

SAS did not respond to a request for comment, and Mr Cruz could not be reached.

If he does secure the role, it would mark a rapid comeback to the international airline industry for the Spaniard.

Mr Cruz spent four-and-a-half years as BA's chairman and chief executive, steering it through a period of unprecedented turbulence last year when Britain's flag-carrier found itself largely grounded during the coronavirus pandemic.

He was forced to defend a series of management mis-steps, and was the focal point of intense criticism over BA's fire-and-rehire policy as it scrambled to shore up its balance sheet.

Reporting to Willie Walsh, the then chief executive of BA's parent, International Airlines Group (IAG), Mr Cruz also took the flak for an IT meltdown in 2017 which caused thousands of passengers to miss their flights.

He insisted last year that BA was engaged in a “fight for survival” as it raised billions of pounds from the sale of new shares and debt.

According to Mr Cruz's LinkedIn profile, he is a board member and advisor at two technology companies, and Fetcherr.

Prior to taking the helm at BA, he was the founding chief executive at Clickair, which subsequently merged with Vueling.

Vueling is one of IAG's other subsidiaries.

SAS's search for a chief executive has been ongoing since January, when it announced that Mr Gustafson was leaving to run the Swedish industrial group SKF.

The airline, which is partly owned by the Danish and Swedish governments, recorded a loss last year of more than $1bn.

By Mark Kleinman

How Yeti Became A Billion Dollar Business

Cource: CNBC

Yeti makes a variety of products, but it’s best known for its line of coolers that run from $200 to $1,300.

Founded in 2006, the Austin, Texas company builds products that are part cult status symbol, part functional tool for those who appreciate the outdoors.

Yeti enthusiasts include celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel, and hunting enthusiast Joe Rogan, who praised the coolers on his podcast in April 2018.

WHY I LEFT MY $200,000+ JOB AS A LAWYER and learned to CODE instead

Source: Career Game Changer

Dels the lawyer and entrepreneur who loves travel, self-improvement and everything to do with success. Worked with several of the biggest banks, law firms and management consultancy companies in the world and is passionate about helping other high achievers to land their dream jobs in those companies or even to start their own business

Liberty Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta promises workers ‘no plants will close under my watch’

( via– Fri, 2nd April 2021) London, Uk – –

Mr Gupta admitted the business faced a “shock to the system” and that he regretted relying on Greensill for so long.

Liberty Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta has promised thousands of UK workers facing uncertainty after the collapse of lender Greensill that he will not close any of its plants.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Gupta gave a bullish assessment of prospects for the business – while admitting the collapse was a “shock to the system”.

He said his business empire had already been in the process of switching away from Greensill as a source of financing and that his only regret was not doing so earlier.

In comments directed at Liberty Steel's 3,000 UK workers, Mr Gupta said: “I will not give up on you. You are my family.

“Under my watch, none of my steel plants will close, I promise.”Advertisement

Liberty Steel is the UK's third-largest steel producer while its parent company, Mr Gupta's GFG Alliance, has a further 2,000 UK staff working in the aluminium and renewable energy sectors.

Sky News revealed last week that GFG had asked ministers to approve an emergency funding of up to £170m.

Mr Gupta denied that his business had been seeking a bail-out but conceded that “given our situation every help is welcome” and that it would “continue to have positive dialogue with the government”.

The tycoon has been described as the “saviour of steel” after picking up a number of plants that were offloaded by previous owners as the industry faced a squeeze from the threat of cheap Chinese imports and soaring energy costs.

Liberty now controls 11 sites including ones at Rotherham and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire, Newport in South Wales and Hartlepool.

Speaking to Sky on Thursday, Mr Gupta played down reports that creditors were seeking winding up orders – saying that it made no sense for them to bring down the business and that he would work with those lenders, but if necessary fight any court action.

“This is a shock to the system – there's no denying that,” he said.

“And we are handling the situation as it has arisen, but we need to keep in mind that our business actually is enjoying one of the best times it's ever had.”

Mr Gupta insisted on the viability of the business, pointing to high steel and aluminium prices and saying that globally it was doing “extremely well”, but acknowledged the difficulties of refinancing “given the size of the business and given the noise around us at the moment”.

“In the mean time, we need to find short-term working capital solutions given that some of our suppliers are nervous, insurance companies are nervous,” he added.

Asked whether the government was prepared to step in, if needed, PM Boris Johnson said on Thursday: “I think the fact that we make steel in this country is of strategic, long term importance – we've learned during the pandemic that it's not a good idea to be excessively reliant in times of trouble on imports for critical things – we saw that with PPE, for instance – so we're going to need a strong steel industry.”

Mr Gupta also defended his company's relationship with Greensill, saying that it had been a effectively a “big start-up… buying businesses nobody else wants” and had had to look for alternative financing outside more conventional sources such as banks and bond markets.

“Greensill provided us that solution, it enabled us to build those plants and it was now time to move on to conventional financing, which we were in the process of doing,” he said.

“In the beginning it was a breath of fresh air, it supported us to start and get on the journey.

“If I can express a regret, it would be that I didn't refinance away from Greensill earlier.”

Mr Gupta said the steel industry had been “decimated” over the past three decades, adding: “None of my steel plants would exist today if it had not been for our effort.”

He pointed to Liberty's track record in turning around those plants' fortunes but admitted that business had been hit by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the Greensill collapse.

Mr Gupta said they had a “great future” said with his business a “leader in the decarbonisation effort” as the sector seeks to become less polluting.

“Our record speaks for itself. We bought plants which would have otherwise shut. But those plants now have a viable future. Those jobs have a viable future.”

The businessman had little to say on the controversy of former prime minister David Cameron's relationship with Greensill, saying he had not been involved in any such conversations since Mr Cameron left Downing Street.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Boohoo investigating why same clothing sold at higher prices across its fashion labels

( via – – Fri, 2nd April 2021) London, Uk – –

Online retailer Boohoo is investigating why the same items of clothing were sold for higher prices across a number of its fashion labels.

The BBC discovered that Dorothy Perkins and Coast, which are both owned by Boohoo, sold exactly the same coat but it cost £34 more at Coast.

There are price disparities across a range of Boohoo brands, which also include Oasis and Warehouse.

Boohoo said the “miscommunication was not intentional”.

“All Boohoo group brands work independently, and so this miscommunication was not intentional as teams are not privy to what's being bought and sold across the other group brands,” a spokeswoman for Boohoo said.

“Our internal investigation continues and we will be re-pricing all the crossover stock to be aligned.”

The price disparity was revealed after reporter Jennifer Meierhans bought a coat from Coast – as a friend happened to buy the exact same coat from Dorothy Perkins.

The Dorothy Perkins branding appeared to have been cut from the care label in the coat sold by Coast.

Boohoo said the coat was first sold by Coast and has now been re-priced at £17 on both brands' websites.

‘Brand identity'

Catherine Erdly, founder of The Resilient Retail Club consultancy, and a former senior merchandiser at Coast, said: “If all Boohoo are going to do is buy the same stuff and slap different prices on it then it's destroying that brand's identity.”

She said that while each brand will have its own “architecture” for setting prices, it is likely Coast and Dorothy Perkins had benefited from some kind of trading “opportunity”, where a supplier had stock and both companies needed coats.

“But if they're going to do things like that, they didn't do it in a clever way,” Ms Erdly said. “The customer will sense that it's just trying to get as much as possible out of them.”

She added: “There's no way you could sell a genuine Coast coat at £17 without losing money because it costs more than that to make.”

There are a number of instances where the same item of clothing is priced differently across Boohoo's brands.

A long “luxe” padded coat in the colour mushroom was originally sold for £89 at Oasis and £65 at Dorothy Perkins.

The same coat in khaki was in the sale for £30 in Warehouse and £66.75 in Coast until the BBC brought the matter to Boohoo's attention.

They are now both priced at £18.

The online retailer operates a number of different brands after buying up businesses when their owners fell into administration.

Boohoo bought Coast's online business in 2019 along with sister brand Karen Millen. While in February, it acquired Dorothy Perkins, together with Wallis and Burton, from failed retail group Arcadia for £25.2m

Boohoo said: “Stock of the item in question was purchased and live on site by Coast prior to The Boohoo Group's acquisition of the Dorothy Perkins brand.”

By Jennifer Meierhans

UK’s lowest-paid workers to get pay rise as household bills increase

( via – – Thur, 1st Apr, 2021) London, Uk – –

Statutory minimum wages go up on same day as inflation-busting increases to utility and phone bills

Approximately 2 million of the UK’s lowest-paid workers will receive a raise from Thursday after increases to statutory minimum wage rates. However, many workers are unlikely to feel better off as the pay rise comes on the same day as inflation-busting increases hit household bills.

Workers aged 23-24 are expected be the biggest beneficiaries after the government announced that they will start receiving the new minimum living wage of £8.91 a hour – up from the £8.20 a hour they are currently entitled to.

Previously only workers aged 25 and older received what is now called the national living wage. The increase, a 2.3% rise for 25-year-olds, is worth £345 a year for older full-time employees, according to the government.

The hourly rate for workers aged 18 on the minimum wage will rise by 11p an hour to £6.56, which is a 1.7% increase. The earnings of low-paid colleagues aged 21-22 will rise to £8.36 a hour.

Ministers said the increase meant a full-time worker on the national living wage would be taking home £5,400 more annually than they were in 2010. The move would particularly benefit workers in sectors such as retail, hospitality and cleaning and maintenance, they added.

However, low-paid workers who live in rented accommodation will almost certainly be worse off, as council tax bill increases averaging 4.3% also come into force across England. On the same day, gas and electricity prices for more than half of households are expected to rise by more than 9%, while most of the mobile phone companies and TV and broadband suppliers have put up prices too. The TV licence fee will increase by £1.50 to £159, while English prescription charges will also rise.

The prime minister said: “The national minimum and living wages have increased every year since they were introduced, supporting the lowest paid, and despite the challenges we have faced recently, this year will be no different. That’s why we are providing a well-earned pay rise to 2 million people, which will be a welcome boost to families right across the UK.”

Laura Gardiner, the director of the Living Wage Foundation, which sets the voluntary real living wage rates – currently £10.85 an hour in London and £9.50 outside the capital – said: “The introduction of the national living wage has delivered a solid pay rise to minimum wage workers, and it is welcome to see the government continuing to commit to ambitious increases.

“However, there is still a substantial gap between this wage rate and one based on the cost of living, with national living wage workers falling billions of pounds short of a real living wage over the past five years.”

By Miles Brignall

Working from home boost productivity, up from 28% say CIPD

( via — Thur, 1st April 2021) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – More employers in Britain say working from home is increasing the productivity of their staff, according to a survey published on Thursday.

A third of employers think the shift to home-working has boosted productivity, up from 28% last June, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said.

Those who said working from home had decreased productivity fell to 23% from 28%.

“The pandemic has shown that ways of working that previously seemed impossible are actually possible,” Claire McCartney, CIPD senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion, said.

It remains to be seen how permanent the shift to working from home proves to be.

A survey published last week by accountants KPMG showed most major global companies no longer planned to reduce their use of office space after the pandemic, though few expect business to return to normal this year.

The CIPD said in a report more progress can be made to offer flexible hours: part-time work is used by 19% of staff but favoured by 28%, and 3% of employees work full-time hours over fewer days while 19% would use the arrangement if available.

The CIPD survey was based on responses from 2,000 employers.

Writing by William Schomberg

Deliveroo shares slumped on much-anticipated London stock market debut

( via– Wed, 31st March 2021) London, Uk – –

Rishi Sunak recently hailed the company as a “British tech success” but more than £2bn was wiped off its value as trading began

Deliveroo shares have slumped as much as 30% as the takeaway delivery company made its highly-anticipated stock market debut.

The flop wiped more than £2bn off the company's initial £7.6bn valuation – just over a week after it was estimated at up to £8.8bn.

Some of the City's biggest institutional investors had shunned the initial public offering (IPO) over concerns about its working practices and the dual-class share structure which gives founder Will Shu greater control.

The loss-making company said this week that it had received “significant demand” from investors across the globe – more than enough to cover the offer of shares worth £1.5bn several times over.

However, its price range last week of £3.90 to £4.60p per share – which would have valued it as highly as £8.8bn – has narrowed over recent days, with the business citing “volatile global market conditions”.

Wednesday's float priced Deliveroo at £3.90, the bottom end of that range, and equivalent to £7.6bn.

But that was not enough to prevent a flop when trading began, with shares going as low as £2.73, although they later climbed back to around the £3 mark.

Deliveroo's float is London's biggest IPO since commodity giant Glencore went public in 2011 – and the biggest-ever tech float in the city.

Its dismal reception could be seen as blow to Chancellor Rishi Sunak's ambition to attract more technology companies to list in the UK.

Mr Sunak had hailed the company as a “true British tech success story” when it confirmed earlier this month that it would float in London.

Deliveroo, which has around 45,000 restaurants on its platform in the UK and more than 100,000 worldwide, has benefited over the past year from an increased appetite for takeaways with dining out banned or restricted.

Orders over January and February were 121% higher than the same period a year ago, while for 2020 the total of £4.1bn was 64% higher than a year earlier.

However, it still made an underlying loss for the year of £223.7m.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said “Deliveroo has gone from hero to zero as the much-hyped stock market debut falls flat on its face.

“It had better get used to the nickname ‘Flopperoo'.

“The narrative took a turn for the worst when multiple fund managers came out and said they wouldn't back the business due to concerns about working practices.

“This is likely to have spooked a lot of people who applied for shares in the IPO offer, meaning they are racing to dump them.”

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

UK ‘risks falling behind’ EU on workers’ rights – TUC

( via – – Wed, 31st March 2021) London, Uk – –

The UK is at a “real risk” of falling behind the EU when it comes to workers' rights, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) says.

The union body said the EU had “various initiatives” in the pipeline which would improve standards once they became law.

But it said the UK had no similar legislation on the way.

The government said in protecting workers' rights the UK already “goes further than the EU in many areas”.

The TUC's call comes three months after a new post-Brexit trade deal came into force between the UK and EU.

Both sides have committed not to lower labour standards in a way that impacts trade or investment – but that does not mean they have to match each other.

Gap widening?

Nonetheless, the TUC said the UK had already failed to implement directives it agreed to while still a member of the EU, including:

  • A work-life balance directive, which gives fathers the right to day-one paid paternity leave and gives all workers the right to request flexible work
  • And a transparent and predictable working conditions directive, which gives workers compensation for cancelled shifts, predictability of hours for zero hours contracts, and a right to free mandatory training.

It said further initiatives were being considered by the EU that could improve conditions for “platform workers” and give employees the right to “digitally disconnect” outside working hours.

The bloc is also looking at ways to make employers accountable for the rights of workers in their supply chains.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said that “as a bare minimum, the government must keep the pace with the EU on rights”.

“Just three months after the UK-EU deal came into force, we're already at real risk of losing ground to the EU on workers' rights.

“Again and again, Boris Johnson promised that his government would protect and enhance workers' rights. It's high time the prime minister lived up to his word.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the UK offered workers “generous holiday pay and high standards for workplace safety”.

BEIS cited as examples that the UK annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks compared favourably with the four weeks required in the EU. The UK allows parents to share paid parental leave, which the EU does not, BEIS said. It also said the UK had one of the highest minimum wage rates in Europe.

“We have a strong record of protecting and enhancing workers' rights and are committed to going further to make the UK the best place in the world to work,” the spokesperson said.

‘Raising standards'

However, Ms O'Grady noted the government had promised to introduce a new employment bill to improve people's rights at work in 2019 but was yet to bring it before Parliament.

She said the bill could “end exploitative work practices like zero-hours contracts, once and for all”.

In January, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng scrapped a planned review of workers' rights amid fears it would lead to an erosion of job protections, such as the 48-hour week, holiday entitlements and overtime pay.

At the time, Mr Kwarteng stressed the government had never intended to water down standards and if anything wanted to raise them.

The government said an employment bill designed to enhance workers' rights would be brought forward “when parliamentary time allows”.View comments

Royal Mail to pay one-off dividend to shareholders due online shopping boom

( via – – Tue, 30th March 2021) London, Uk – –

Company expects profit of £700m for year to end of March, more than double last year

Royal Mail is to make a one-off dividend payment to shareholders after the online shopping boom during the Covid-19 pandemic boosted its parcel delivery business, in a dramatic turnaround of the company’s fortunes.

Royal Mail expects to make an adjusted operating profit of £700m for the year to the end of March, more than double last year’s £325m. This has given it the confidence to pay a final dividend of 10p a share on 6 September, the first payout to shareholders since January 2020. It will set out a new dividend policy when it publishes its full-year results on 20 May, the company said.

Since floating on the stock exchange in October 2013, Royal Mail had been struggling with its traditional letters business, which is in decline. Attempts to restructure the company led to prolonged battles with unions. However, it has focused on expanding its parcel delivery business, as online shopping soared during the Covid-19 crisis, when many shops have been forced to shut during lockdowns.

Richard Hunter, the head of markets at the trading platform Interactive Investor, said: “The astonishing reversal of fortunes at Royal Mail continues as the momentum of bumper Christmas trading has spilled over into the new year.

“Challenges remain, however, and the group will need to be alert. Competition is particularly fierce in the parcels business and it is not yet clear whether the current volumes are at a temporary peak as customers have been driven to online shopping from their homes during the pandemic.”

The share price of the FTSE 250 listed firm has more than quadrupled in the past year, to 520p, up 2% on Tuesday. Hunter said Royal Mail would be a strong contender to regain its FTSE 100 status at the next reshuffle of the index.

As well as investing in its UK Parcelforce division, Royal Mail sees growth opportunities abroad. Its GLS international parcels arm is expected to make an operating profit of €390m (£350m) for the past year; it is forecast to rise to €500m by 2025.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Nicholas Hyett described GLS as “the jewel in Royal Mail’s crown”. He said: “If the UK business could emulate its international cousin the group would be home and dry. Instead the UK is suffering after a period of chronic underinvestment, and the capital expenditure needed to make up the shortfall looks set to eat into shareholder returns for years to come.”

The company recently started trialling a Sunday parcel delivery service for several big UK retailers. Rivals DPD and Hermes already make Sunday deliveries for retailers such as Amazon.

By Julia Kollewe

PayPal launches crypto checkout service for U.S. consumers

( via — Tue, 30th March 2021) London, UK —

How The Right 5-10 Cryptocurrency Coins
Could Make You A Fortune

LONDON (Reuters) – PayPal Holdings Inc will announce later on Tuesday that it has started allowing U.S. consumers to use their cryptocurrency holdings to pay at millions of its online merchants globally, a move that could significantly boost use of digital assets in everyday commerce.

Customers who hold bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash and litecoin in PayPal digital wallets will now be able to convert their holdings into fiat currencies at checkouts to make purchases, the company said.

The service, which PayPal revealed it was working on late last year, will be available at all of its 29 million merchants in the coming months, the company said.

“This is the first time you can seamlessly use cryptocurrencies in the same way as a credit card or a debit card inside your PayPal wallet,” President and CEO Dan Schulman told Reuters ahead of a formal announcement.

Checkout with Crypto builds on the ability for PayPal users to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies, which the San Jose, California-based payments company launched in October.

The offering made PayPal one of the largest mainstream financial companies to open its network to cryptocurrencies and helped fuel a rally in virtual coin prices.

Bitcoin has nearly doubled in value since the start of this year, boosted by increased interest from larger financial firms that are betting on greater adoption and see it as a hedge against inflation.

PayPal’s launch comes less than a week after Tesla Inc said it would start accepting bitcoin payments for its cars. Unlike PayPal transactions where merchants will be receiving fiat currency, Tesla said it will hold the bitcoin used as payment.

Still, while the nascent asset is gaining traction among mainstream investors, it has yet to become a widespread form of payment, due in part to its continued volatility.

PayPal hopes its service can change that, as by settling the transaction in fiat currency, merchants will not take on the volatility risk.

“We think it is a transitional point where cryptocurrencies move from being predominantly an asset class that you buy, hold and or sell to now becoming a legitimate funding source to make transactions in the real world at millions of merchants,” Schulman said.

The company will charge no transaction fee to checkout with crypto and only one type of coin can be used for each purchase, it said.

Reporting by Anna Irrera

Suez Canal Ever Given ship refloated, traffic finally moving again

( via– Mon, 29th March 2021) London, Uk – –

The stranded container ship blocking the Suez Canal has been freed, allowing traffic in the channel to finally resume.

Egyptian authorities said other vessels were moving again after the gigantic Ever Given ship was refloated, which was seen by witnesses for the Reuters news agency.

The Ever Given has started heading towards the Bitter Lakes area, according to Egyptian television.

Efforts to get the ship moving again appeared to have been frustrated after high winds swung it back across the channel after its partial refloating earlier on Monday.

There had been intensive efforts to push and pull it with 10 tug boats and vacuum up sand with several dredgers at high tide.

Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, confirmed the ship had responded successfully to “pull-and-push manoeuvres”.

Speaking earlier, he said workers had almost completely straightened the vessel's course and that the stern had moved 102 metres (334 feet) from the canal bank.

The oil price fell as news of developments in the canal emerged, with the price of Brent crude down by 2% to just over $63 (£46) a barrel.

It had been feared the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship might be stuck for weeks.

Dredgers overnight shifted more than 27,000 cubic metres of sand – to a depth of 18m (59ft) – with work taking place around the clock.

The skyscraper-sized Ever Given became stuck in Egypt's Suez Canal last Tuesday and the resulting disruption to the vital waterway has held up £6.5bn in global trade each day.

Hundreds of other vessels had remained trapped in the canal waiting to pass, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle.

More than two dozen vessels opted for the alternative route between Asia and Europe around the Cape of Good Hope, adding around a fortnight to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The 400m (1,312ft) long Ever Given became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds.

As of Saturday, 321 boats were waiting to get through the canal, including dozens of container ships, bulk carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels.

US warns it could put tariffs up to 25% on UK exports in ‘tech tax’ row

( via – – Mon, 29thMarch 2021) London, Uk – –

The US has warned it could put tariffs of up to 25% on a host of UK exports in retaliation for a UK tax on tech firms.

Ceramics, make-up, overcoats, games consoles and furniture could all be hit, according to a list published by the Biden administration.

The duties are designed to raise $325m, the amount the US believes the UK tax will raise from US tech companies.

A UK government spokesperson said it wanted to “make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax”.

They added: “Should the US proceed to implement these measures, we would consider all options to defend UK interests and industry.”

Washington is pressing ahead with the action, initiated under President Trump, and has scheduled hearings on the list.

It argues the recently introduced digital services tax – which taxes tech firms on their revenues – has “unreasonable, discriminatory, and burdensome attributes”.

Similar actions have proceeded against similar taxes in India, Austria and Spain, but action against the European Union as a whole was dropped.

The US Section 301 action is designed to apply domestic political pressure within the UK and other countries over the imposition of such taxes.

The UK and US held talks about the digital services tax on 4 December, and UK government sources stressed that the tariff list was being seen as procedural rather than an escalation.

The tariffs are now subject to a consultation in the US over the next few weeks.

At the Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility calculated the digital services tax would raise £300m in the current financial year, and as much as £700m in future years.

‘Public frustration'

Brought in last April it taxes at 2% the revenues – not profits – of search engines, social media services and online marketplaces which derive value from UK users.

It followed years of claims in Europe and elsewhere that big tech firms do not pay enough tax in the countries where they operate.

Last August, Facebook agreed to pay the French government €106m (£95.7m) in back taxes to settle a dispute over revenues earned in the country.

Earlier that year, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said he recognised the public's frustration over the amount of tax paid by tech giants.


A UK government spokesperson said: “Like many countries around the world, we want to make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax. Our digital services tax (DST) is reasonable, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

“It's also temporary. We're working positively with the US and other international partners to find a global solution to this problem and will remove the DST when that is in place.”

There are signs the Biden administration wants a more conciliatory relationship on trade with the UK than Donald Trump did.

Last month, Washington agreed to suspend tariffs on UK goods, including single malt whiskies, that were imposed in retaliation over subsidies to aircraft maker Airbus. However, the UK is still lobbying the US to drop duties on British steel brought in in 2018.

By Faisal Islam
Economics editor