Significant price overhaul of Apple’s new MacBook Pro in the UK post Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Fri, 28 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

 

Macbook
Gordon Mei/flickr.com

Apple’s new laptops are extremely pretty — but they don’t come cheap for Brits.

On Thursday, the Californian technology announced an overhaul of its MacBook Pro line, giving the devices a redesign and adding a touch-sensitive screen that sits above the keyboard.

But it also bumped up the prices for the laptops very significantly in the UK — far more than it did in its home market, the US — in what seems to be a response to the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote.

Even existing Mac lines — ones that haven’t been updated — have had their prices raised in the UK.

Some kind of price increase is often inevitable when doing a big product overhaul. And that’s what you see in the States. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro before the upgrade was $1,299; now, it’s $1,499.

But in Britain, this price bump is far larger. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro, pre-upgrade? £999. Now? £1,449.

That’s an increase of £450 in the UK, compared to $200 in the US. (And remember: The dollar is worth less than the pound!)

This is even more pronounced on the more expensive 15-inch MacBook Pros. The cheapest model, pre-upgrade, was $1,999 in the US and £1,599 in the UK. Post-upgrade, it’s $2,399 and £2,349.

That’s a price increase of £750 in the UK, compared to an increase of $400 in the US.

An Apple spokesperson provided Business Insider with a boilerplate statement it has used in the past on the subject (emphasis ours):

“Apple suggests product prices internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, local import laws, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time, such that international prices are not always comparable to US suggested retail prices.”

What’s changed in Britain this year? Brexit! In June, Britain voted to leave the European Union — shaking markets and causing the pound to lose 18% of its value, dropping to 31-year lows.

Apple isn’t trying to fleece British consumers here. As The Guardian’s Alex Hern pointed out on Twitter, a “straight USD/GBP exchange, plus 20% for VAT, results in much the same prices.”

It’s just that the previous relationship between US and UK prices is no longer applicable due to the falling value of the pound, and so Apple has updated it to correspond with the current USD-GBP exchange rate — protecting its margins, and sending British prices rocketing.

It’s also worth noting that the online price listings aren’t necessarily direct comparisons, as the US prices don’t include sales tax, while the UK ones do include VAT (Value-Added Tax). But sales tax is generally lower than VAT, and in some states like Oregon it’s as low as 0%.

We saw something similar happen in September, after the iPhone 7 was announced. Apple took the opportunity to quietly bump up the prices for certain models of iPhone and iPad in the UK — while not changing prices in the US.

And now Apple’s doing it again. The MacBook Pro price hike at least comes alongside a redesign — but the company has also raised UK prices on a number of existing products. The 6-core Mac Pro now costs £3,899, £600 more than its previous price of £3,299, while its US price hasn’t budged. The Mac Mini and iMac have also had UK price increases.

Rob Price

 

Uber drivers deserve workers’ rights UK tribunal rules

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 28 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

 

Taxi Cab
By Ray Wewerka/flickr.com

Taxi app Uber should treat its drivers as employees and pay them the minimum wage and holiday pay, a British tribunal ruled on Friday, in a verdict that could hit thousands of firms and deliver a blow to the ‘gig economy’.

Two drivers brought their case to an employment tribunal in July, saying the rapidly expanding app, which allows users to book and pay for a taxi by smartphone, was acting unlawfully by treating them as self-employed and not providing certain rights.

Uber said it will appeal against what unions described as a “monumental” verdict.

The decision could also affect those who work for firms such as meal delivery services like Deliveroo, in the “gig economy” where individuals work for multiple employers day-to-day without having a fixed contract.

“This is a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on drivers … and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife,” said Maria Ludkin, legal director at the GMB union which brought the case.

Uber is valued at $62.5 billion (48 billion pounds) and its investors include Goldman Sachs and GV, formerly known as Google Ventures.

It has faced protests, bans and legal action around the world including in the United States and much of Europe.

British judges ruled that Uber should pay the drivers the minimum wage, currently 7.20 pounds ($8.80) for over 21-year olds, and that working hours began the moment most drivers logged into the app.

“The Uber driver’s working time starts as soon as he is within his territory, has the App switched on and is ready and willing to accept trips and ends as soon as one or more of those conditions ceases to apply,” they said in their verdict.

Lawyers representing the drivers said there will now be a further hearing to calculate the holiday and pay that they should receive and the firm may have to pay pension contributions.

Firms in Britain such as sports retailer Sports Direct have faced a backlash over their use of zero-hour contracts which erode pay and job security.

THREAT TO BUSINESS MODEL

The ruling could have implications for thousands of businesses across Britain and may influence judges in other countries where Uber faces legal battles, according to the head of legal and advisory at Peninsula, which advises companies on employment law.

“Judges in those other countries hearing test cases like this will be mindful of the fact that their colleagues in Britain have thought this and it may influence their decision,” Bertrand Stern-Gillet.

In the United States, Uber faces lawsuits and California state regulators ruled last year that an Uber driver should be treated as an employee rather than a contractor, although that has yet to be extended to all drivers in the state working on the platform.

A French court fined Uber 800,000 euros ($900,000) earlier this year for running an illegal taxi service with non-professional drivers and slapped smaller fines on two of its executives in the first such criminal case in Europe.

In Britain, the San Francisco-based firm had argued that its more than 40,000 drivers enjoy the flexibility of being able to work when they choose and receive on average much more than the minimum wage.

Uber’s UK general manager Jo Bertram said it will contest the decision: “While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people, we will be appealing it.”

Most employees in Britain are entitled to the minimum wage but the self-employed do not qualify.

One of the two drivers who brought the case, James Farrar, said that in August 2015 he earned less than the 6.70 pounds ($8.80) an hour for those aged 21 and older which was then the minimum wage at the time.

Uber said he had picked a month in which he had logged onto the app for the longest period of time but had canceled or not accepted the most amount of jobs.

While many welcomed the verdict, some drivers worry that Uber may not win its appeal.

“If the whole model changed, where Uber had to employ drivers and then take the risk on whether there was jobs for them, it wouldn’t work and therefore I wouldn’t have the flexible lifestyle that I have,” said 66-year-old Steven Rowe who has been with Uber for nearly four years.

“My biggest concern is that they would pull out of the U.K.,” he told Reuters.

By Costas Pitas

(Editing by Stephen Addison/Ruth Pitchford)m

 

Nissan to build more cars in the UK, tempering Brexit fears

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Thur, 27 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Britain’s economy slowed only slightly in the three months after the Brexit vote and carmaker Nissan said it would build more cars in the country, tempering fears about the immediate economic impact of the decision to leave the European Union.

The stronger-than-expected growth figures published on Thursday further diminished the likelihood of the Bank of England cutting rates as soon as next week, prompting investors to sell British government bonds.

But finance minister Philip Hammond sounded cautious, saying he still planned to provide support for the economy as Britain launches tough negotiations with the EU next year.

“I think it is right that we still prepare to support the economy during the coming period to make sure that we get through this period of uncertainty,” said Hammond, who is due to announce his first budget plans next month.

Official data showed the economy grew by 0.5 percent between July and September, less rapid than the strong growth of 0.7 percent seen in the second quarter but comfortably above a median forecast of 0.3 percent in a Reuters poll of economists.

Sterling jumped to a one-week high against the U.S. dollar after the data and the yield on 10-year government bonds hit its highest level since the European Union membership referendum.

Marc Ostwald, a strategist at ADM Investor Services, said the GDP data killed the chance of a rate cut on Nov. 3 and could also prompt the Bank’s most stimulus-sceptical policymaker Kristin Forbes to call for an end to its bond-buying.

Britain’s dominant services industries provided all the growth, helped by a boom in the film and television sector as the latest releases in the Jason Bourne and Star Trek series hit the screens in July along with other blockbusters.

Compared with the third quarter of last year, growth picked up to 2.3 percent, the strongest pace in more than a year, according to the preliminary figures from the ONS.

“COME CLEAN”

Brexit supporters said the figures backed their argument that warnings of a big hit to the economy from a Leave vote were little more than scaremongering.

Economists for Brexit, a group who disagree with the majority view in their profession that leaving the EU is damaging, said Britain’s finance ministry “must now come clean” and admit that its long-term forecasting was likely to be wrong, just as its short-term forecasts were.

But many economists are still warning that the real challenge is yet to come.

“The adverse consequences of the Brexit vote will become increasingly clear as inflation shoots up and firms postpone investment over the coming quarters,” said Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics, who correctly predicted the quarterly growth rate in the Reuters poll.

The sharp fall in the value of the pound since June is expected to push inflation to around 3 percent next year. BoE Governor Mark Carney this week noted the “fairly substantial” fall in sterling, in a sign that the Bank was no longer expecting to cut rates on Nov. 3.

Many companies are expected to put investment plans on hold pending the outcome of the two-year process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU and a possibly longer period for securing the terms of its new relationship with the bloc.

But Japanese carmaker Nissan gave Prime Minister Theresa May a boost by saying it will build its new Qashqai model in Britain. A source said on Thursday the government had offered support to counter any damage from leaving the EU.

The new investment in manufacturing came as the ONS data showed how reliant Britain has become on its services sector, which grew by 0.8 percent from the April-June period.

By contrast, industrial production, including manufacturing, and construction both contracted, down 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. The fall in construction was the biggest since the third quarter of 2012.

By William Schomberg and Costas Pitas

(Additional reporting by David Milliken and Estelle Shirbon; editing by Andrew Roche)

Unseasonably warm weather boosts British autumn retail sales

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Thur, 27 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Oct 27 British retail sales rebounded in October to grow at their fastest rate in over a year, after an end to unseasonably warm weather boosted demand for autumn clothing, an industry survey showed on Thursday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s retail sales balance

surged to +21 from September’s reading of -8, far outstripping economists’ forecasts of a pick-up to -2.

The expected sales balance for November also rose sharply to +21 from +7, a level last seen in December, and orders placed with suppliers were the strongest since March, though they are expected to dip in November.

September had brought warmer than usual weather, denting demand for new season clothes, but early October saw a return to more normal seasonal trends, the CBI said.

“With our Indian Summer now a distant memory, shoppers have been pounding the high street, with sales of clothing and other retailers outpacing expectations,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.

The figures follow official GDP data earlier on Thursday which showed the economy as a whole grew 0.5 percent in the three months to September, in contrast to forecasts for a steep slowdown after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

But the CBI warned that the slide in the pound since Britain voted to leave the EU was likely to push up prices next year, hurting sales.

“Household spending still has some momentum in the short-term, but we do expect the fall in the value of the pound to push up prices through the course of next year, hitting people’s purchasing power,” Newton-Smith said.

ALSO IN BUSINESS NEWS

Official data last week showed British retail sales recorded their strongest quarter of growth since late 2014 in the three months to September, but warm weather and higher prices dented demand for new clothing towards the end of the period.

 By David Milliken

Lloyds set aside a further £1bn to meet compensation claims

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via new.sky.com – – Wed, 26 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Lloyds Banking Group has set aside a further £1bn to meet compensation claims for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

The bank, which is 9% owned by the taxpayer, has already been forced to fork out more than £16bn over the issue – by far the biggest share of PPI policies.

Earlier this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) put a June 2019 deadline on all claims to draw a line under the scandal, which has already cost the banking industry around £30bn.

In its third quarter trading update, the banking group published underlying profit of just under £2bn, which is broadly flat compared to a year ago.

The total income for the quarter was £4.3bn, in line with the same period last year.

The group’s statutory profit before tax dropped by 15% in the third quarter to £811m.

Lloyds said that it has accounted for a further provision of £150m to cover other conduct issues, which includes £100m in respect of packaged bank accounts.

“The outlook for the UK economy remains uncertain, however the strength of the recovery in recent years means the UK is well positioned,” the bank said in a statement.

Britain’s largest retail bank also reported a £740m deficit in its pension fund, due to company pension schemes being hit by falling bond yields following the Brexit vote.

Over the summer, chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio announced plans to cut an additional 3,000 jobs across Lloyds and close 200 branches by the end of next year, as part of an efficiency drive to improve dividends and profits against a more testing economic environment.

Shares in Lloyds have fallen by about a quarter since June’s referendum and were down to 53.5p in early morning trading.

UK technology start-up Improbable seeks backing from both sides of the Atlantic

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via new.sky.com – – Wed, 26 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

A British technology company which last year attracted money from one of the hottest investors in Silicon Valley is in talks with prospective backers about a new funding round that could value it at more than £400m.

Sky News has learnt that Improbable, which creates virtual worlds used in complex computer games, has approached investors on both sides of the Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS – news) about putting fresh money into the business.

The talks, which have yet to be concluded, come 18 months after Improbable took $20m from Andreessen Horowitz, the California-based tech investor which was an early backer of Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB – news) .

Improbable is widely regarded as one of the most exciting companies to be based in Tech City, the district of London which acts as a hub for digital start-ups.

The company, which says its software has a wide variety of potential applications, such as modelling how a virus might spread through a major city, was founded little more than three years ago by Herman Narula, a Cambridge computer science graduate.

Improbable has also described its Spatial operating system as being applicable in areas such as economics, finance, town planning, transport and military training.

Last year’s fundraising was reported to have valued Improbable at $100m, with talks about a new round raised at five times that valuation raising eyebrows among some technology investors.

“It’s a fantastic idea, but the revenue model isn’t really proven yet,” said one serial backer of London start-ups.

Improbable is understood to have presented at a conference hosted by Allen & Co, the investment bank which focuses on technology and media deals, earlier this year.

Augmented and virtual reality companies are attracting significant investment from global technology investors, further inflating many of their valuations.

Allen & Co is now said to be assisting Improbable with its fundraising discussions. Improbable declined to comment.

UK businesses planning to take on more permanent staff

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via International Business Times – – Wed, 26 Oct, 2016) London, Uk – –

Nearly one in four UK businesses say they are planning to take on more permanent staff over the next three months, despite confidence falling in the wake of the Brexit vote.

A survey of 600 employers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) also showed that four out of five firms are planning to maintain or increase their use of agency workers in the run up to Christmas.

However, there was a marked regional variance in temporary hiring intentions, with 77% of firms in the South East, including London, expecting to increase or hold their temporary staff, while the figure was 98% in the North.

The survey also revealed that smaller businesses are more likely to take on more staff than large firms.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “The latest official figures show that employment remains at a record high. Our data suggests that this positive trend is set to continue, with employers actively looking to take on more staff in the last quarter of the year.

“Small businesses in particular are performing well and are seeking to grow. Strong consumer spending over the last few months has been a boon to the UK economy,” Green said.

A quarter of employers surveyed between July and September thought that economic conditions were improving, down from 48% before in the March to May period.

“There are signs that business confidence in the economy is slipping. Whilst it is still too soon to draw conclusions about the impact of the decision to leave the EU, the data suggests that London is feeling the brunt of the referendum result,” Green added.

“Businesses in the financial sector in particular are looking at the political and economic environment with some trepidation.”

The REC survey also revealed that employers anticipated a shortage of candidates for permanent and temporary jobs in engineering, technology, construction and health.

By Karthick Arvinth

Government gives greenlight to third runway at Heathrow

(qlmbusinessnews.com via new.sky.com – – Tue, 25 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Virgin’s founder is among business leaders wanting ‘shovels in the ground’ as Heathrow nears full clearance for a third runway.

Sir Richard Branson has been among business leaders giving a warm welcome to the Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow.

The Virgin Group’s founder told Sky News he wanted to congratulate the Government for taking the “tough” decision – arguing it would boost competition among airlines and create “hundreds of thousands of jobs”.

He added that the move would prove a rebalancing for the UK economy after the country voted to leave the EU – a prospect he opposed.

Analysis by the Airports Commission estimated that the airport’s expansion will create up to 180,000 jobs and provide £211bn in economic benefits and growth across the UK by 2050.

The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall. said the businesses will now want assurances from Westminster that construction can begin as soon as possible.

“Put simply, it’s about time,” he said of the decision.

“This new runway must be viewed as much about connecting the regions and nations to the world as it is about capacity for London and the South East,” he added.

Heathrow Airport expansion: Now comes the hard part

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), welcomed the decision as “a welcome boost for British business.”

“We now need to see budgets committed and shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” he added.

Heathrow Airport expansion: Now comes the hard part

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), welcomed the decision as “a welcome boost for British business.”

“We now need to see budgets committed and shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” he added.

The general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, has echoed this sentiment, calling on the Government to “ensure Heathrow expansion is put in the fast lane”.

Mick Rix, national officer for transport and distribution at GMB, the union that represents airport workers, said the decision is a “win, win for everyone”.

He added that the union has supported a third runway at the airport for the best part of a decade and that expansion has a “clear-cut case”.

But no frills carrier Ryanair, which has long campaigned for more competition and choice between runways, criticised the decision to approve just a third runway at Heathrow.

“Approving a third runway at Heathrow over Gatwick is not the way forward,” said Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary.

“London now benefits from three competing airports and the best way to deliver additional runways in a timely and cost efficient manner is to approve three additional runways, one each at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.”

International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh warned: “We’re pleased that a decision has finally been made but the cost of this project will make or break it.

“The Government’s directive to cap customer charges at today’s level is fundamental.

“Heathrow is the world’s most expensive hub airport so it’s critical that new capacity is affordable. The airport has consistently argued that the British economy will benefit if the third runway is approved.

“Heathrow want it, argued for it and now must ensure it’s the UK and the travelling public who get the benefits from the runway, not the airport’s owners.”

Entrepreneurial Britains aspire to be Branson and Sugar wannabes

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com – – Tue, Oct 25, 2016) London, Uk – –

The entrepreneurial spirit among Britons runs deep. More than three-quarters of Brits, and particularly young people, dream of being their own boss.

While the prospect of long hours, increased stress and a long haul to success weighs heavily on the minds of those keen on starting their own business, more than half cite the hope of a striking a better work-life balance as a major motivating factor.

According to new research from St. James’s Place Academy, the training and development arm of the FTSE-100 financial services company, 78% of men and 73% of women aged 25-55 said they had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

More than half of all 2,000 quizzed thought that having more control/setting their own hours would be the best thing.

A further 21% thought that better job satisfaction would result, 15% believe they could increase their earnings and 11% like the idea of working from wherever they like.

“It’s also great news to see women and men equally enthusiastic about the prospect of running their own businesses – indeed, the entrepreneurial vision seems to be something that unites the sexes rather than dividing them,” said Adrian Batchelor, academy director at St. James’s Place Academy.

When it comes to perceptions of what might be the hardest thing about running a business, men and women slightly differed.
A significant minority of women think that managing the finances would be the hardest thing (30%) compared to the 38% of men who think attracting customers would be the toughest challenge.

Roughly equal numbers of men and women thought that long hours (19%) and stress (16.5%) would be the hardest thing to deal with.
“As the future of our success depends on a steady stream of people wanting to run their own business to join the Academy, we’re relieved to discover that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in the UK,” added Mr Batchelor.

Younger workers (those aged between 18-35) are more predisposed to the entrepreneurial dream (82%) than older people in employment (58% of those aged 55+).

And Londoners are the most entrepreneurially-minded (81% want to run their own business) while the Scottish are the least (69%).

St. James’s Place Academy is hosting an event – Inspiring Women – on 23rd November in London.

By Mark Dorman

Steel Pension Scheme deficit falls to around 50 million pounds

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 24 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

British Steel pension shortfall shrinks to around $60 million

The British Steel Pension Scheme’s deficit has shrunk to around 50 million pounds ($61 million) from around 700 million pounds earlier this year, it said on Monday, adding it had been well-position to take advantage of currency movements.

The pension scheme is seen as a major obstacle to a possible joint venture deal between Tata Steel, its principal sponsoring employer, and Germany’s Thyssenkrupp to manage Tata’s remaining UK operations.

In an emailed statement, the British Steel Pension Scheme said an actuary estimated at a board meeting on Oct. 21 that the deficit had fallen to around 50 million pounds.

It had been “well positioned for what has been happening in bond and currency markets in recent months” and had taken the opportunity to lock in gains from equity investments.

Tata Steel, which inherited the pension scheme when it bought Corus, formerly British Steel, for $12 billion in 2007, declined to comment on the revision.

Analysts said the reduced deficit did not address all the problems and that volatility could remain even though the scheme had removed some risk.

“It demonstrates that market conditions have changed and could just as easily have deteriorated,” Martin Hunter of pensions consultants Punter Southall said.

If an employer was not able to support the scheme in future, the deficit would be higher, he added.

The government said in May that the scheme – which has roughly 125,000 members and only about 10,000 people still paying into it — had assets of 13.3 billion pounds and liabilities of around 14 billion pounds.

But sterling has shed nearly 18 percent against the dollar since Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union, boosting many of the blue-chip FTSE 100’s international companies, which earn much of their revenues in dollars and therefore get a currency-related accounting lift.

ALSO IN BUSINESS NEWS
Since the start of the year, the FTSE 100 is up around 13 percent, although down around 7 percent in U.S. dollar terms.

The volatility and uncertainty generated by Brexit have added to the difficulties facing many pension schemes, which have been struggling to find returns in an ultra-low interest rate environment.

By Barbara Lewis

(Additional reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Alexander Smith)

£10 million venture capital fund to invest in female entrepreneurs in the UK.

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Mon, 24 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Debbie Wosskow, the CEO of home sharing platform Love Home Swap, and Anna Jones, the former CEO of publisher Hearst Magazines UK, are raising a £10 million venture capital fund to invest in female entrepreneurs in the UK.

The duo announced their new AllBright fund on Monday, saying it will help to address the funding gap that currently exists between male and female led companies.

Wosskow told Business Insider that a number of high net worth individuals and angels have already contributed towards the £10 million fund but was unable to provide an exact figure. The company hopes to make up the remainder from other limited partners (LPs) between now and the end of the year.

In April, analysts at tech research firm CrunchBase found that just 10% of the world’s VC money currently goes to female founders.

In addition to the VC fund, AllBright is launching a crowdfunding platform in the next two weeks so members of the public can back female-founded companies, with investments of £100 and upwards. There will also be an “AllBright Academy” at some stage, which will provide female founders with online courses and mentoring sessions.

“The VC fund alone doesn’t cut it because you can’t get the scale, no matter how big the fund is,” said Wosskow, who is chairman of AllBright. “But the fund, plus the crowd, and the academy will do it.”

Wosskow, an angel investor herself that has backed the likes of Kate Unsworth’s smart jewellery firm Vinaya, was keen to stress AllBright is for companies of all shapes and sizes, not just those in tech.

“This isn’t about tech,” she said. “The statistics on women-led business are just so crap. We felt like we needed to do something to change the conversation.”

Wosskow, who was tasked by the UK government with writing a report on the sharing economy in the UK, was also keen to highlight that AllBright isn’t “anti-men,” pointing to several male employees on the AllBright team.

By Sam Shead

AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sun, 23 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

AT&T Inc said on Saturday it agreed to buy Time Warner Inc for $85.4 billion (70 billion pounds), the boldest move yet by a telecommunications company to acquire content to stream over its high-speed network to attract a growing number of online viewers.

The biggest deal in the world this year will, if approved by regulators, give AT&T control of cable TV channels HBO and CNN, film studio Warner Bros and other coveted media assets. The tie-up will likely face intense scrutiny by U.S. antitrust enforcers worried that AT&T might try to limit distribution of Time Warner material.

AT&T will pay $107.50 per Time Warner share, half in cash and half in stock, worth $85.4 billion overall, according to a company statement. AT&T said it expected to close the deal by the end of 2017.

Dallas-based AT&T said the U.S. Department of Justice would review the deal and that it and Time Warner were determining which Federal Communications Commission licenses, if any, would be transferred to AT&T in the deal.

U.S. lawmakers were already worried about cable company Comcast Corp’s $30 billion acquisition of NBCUniversal, creating an industry behemoth. Several argued for close regulatory scrutiny of the AT&T deal.

“Such a massive consolidation in this industry requires rigorous evaluation and serious scrutiny,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, former attorney general of Connecticut. “I will be looking closely at what this merger means for consumers and their pocketbooks.”

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said at a rally on Saturday he would block any AT&T-Time Warner deal if he wins the Nov. 8 election. Trump has complained about media coverage of his campaign, especially by Time Warner’s CNN.

“It’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” said Trump.

Representatives of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CONTENT PLUS DELIVERY

AT&T, whose main wireless phone and broadband service business is showing signs of slowing, has already made moves to turn itself into a media powerhouse. It bought satellite TV provider DirecTV last year for $48.5 billion.

It had about 142 million North American wireless subscribers as of June 30, and about 38 million video subscribers through DirecTV and its U-verse service.

New York-based Time Warner is a major force in movies, TV and video games. Its assets include the HBO, CNN, TBS and TNT networks as well as the Warner Bros film studio, producer of the “Batman” and “Harry Potter” film franchises. The company also owns a 10 percent stake in video streaming site Hulu. The HBO network alone has more than 130 million subscribers.

The deal is the latest in the consolidation of the telecom and media sectors, coming on the heels of AT&T’s purchase of NBCUniversal. AT&T’s wireless rival Verizon Communications Inc is in the process of buying internet company Yahoo Inc for about $4.8 billion.

Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes rejected an $80 billion offer from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc in 2014.

FINANCING

AT&T said the cash portion of the purchase price would be financed with new debt and cash on its balance sheet. AT&T said it has an 18-month commitment for an unsecured bridge term facility for $40 billion.

AT&T currently has only $7.2 billion in cash on hand. Further borrowing could put pressure on its credit rating as it already had $120 billion in net debt as of June 30, according to Moody’s.

AT&T said the deal would add to earnings per share in the first year after closing. It said it expects $1 billion in annual run-rate cost savings within three years of closing, chiefly driven by lower corporate and procurement spending.

5G IS COMING

Owning more content gives cable and telecom companies bargaining leverage with other content companies as customers demand smaller, hand-picked cable offerings or switch to watching online. New mobile technology including next-generation 5G networks could make a content tie-up especially attractive for wireless providers.

“We think 5G mobile is coming, we think 5G mobile is an epic game-changer,” Rich Tullo, director of research at Albert Fried & Co, said in a research note, adding that mobile providers would be in position to disrupt traditional pay-TV services.

A previous Time Warner blockbuster deal, its 2000 merger with AOL, is now considered one of the most ill-advised corporate marriages on record.

Perella Weinberg Partners LP, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co were financial advisers to AT&T, with Bank of America and JPMorgan also offering bridge financing, while Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Arnold & Porter LLP provided legal advice.

Allen & Co LLC, Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisers to Time Warner, while Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP was its legal adviser.

By Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel | NEW YORK

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson, Liana Baker, Malathi Nayak and Diane Bartz; Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by David Gregorio)

 

Uk banks prepare to leave in early 2017 over Brexit fears – Observer

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com via observer – – Sun, 23 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

British banks
www.flickr.com/photos,:
London’s financial district by Michael Duxbury

Britain’s biggest banks are preparing to move out of the country in early 2017 because of fears over the impending Brexit negotiations, while smaller banks are making plans to leave before Christmas, the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association Anthony Browne said.

“The public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction,” the Observer Sunday newspaper quoted Browne as saying in an interview.

The paper released a short extract on Saturday evening but no further comments by Browne from the interview were immediately available.

Banks in Britain depend on a European “passport” to serve clients across the 28-country European Union from one base and lenders worry that this right will end after Britain leaves the EU.

Banks have already said they are making contingency plans to move some of their operations to continental Europe if Britain does not negotiate access to the EU single market after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger formal talks to leave the EU by the end of March 2017 after Britain voted to leave in a referendum last June.

She has said she will fight to retain access to the single market but several EU leaders have insisted that will depend on Britain accepting free movement of workers from the EU – a condition Britain has vowed to curtail.

(Reporting by Stephen Addison; editing by Andrew Roche and Grant McCool)

European Union and Canada hold emergency talks to rescue trade deal

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Emergency talks have taken place between the European Union and Canada in a last-ditch attempt to save a historic free-trade deal which has been over seven years in the making.

As Business Insider reported, CETA, a proposed free trade deal between Canada and the 28-nation bloc, was on the verge of collapsing on Friday afternoon after the Belgian region of Wallonia used its federal powers to block it.

European Parliament head Martin Schulz and Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland have held emergency talks with Wallonian parliament leader Paul Magnette, in an attempt to salvage the deal.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels immediately after the talks, Schulz said the meeting had been “constructive” — but problems on the “EU side” had yet to have been resolved.

If the deal did break down it would be a hammer-blow to the EU’s international reputation. Plus, it would cast serious doubt on the Union’s ability to forge international trade deals with any country, including post-Brexit Britain.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, made this point earlier this week. If the EU “can’t make it [CETA] with Canada,” the Swedish politician said, “I’m not sure we can make it with the UK.”

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, added that failure to complete the EU-Canada deal would make striking post-Brexit trade deals with Britain near-impossible.

“If you are not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interests … we will have no chance to build public support for free trade, and I am afraid that means that CETA could be our last free-trade agreement,” he said.

Clearly, it’s not just the EU’s trading relationship with Canada that’s on the line, but the 28-nation bloc’s future trading aspirations, including hopes of striking a free-trade deal with Britain once Brexit is formally completed.

That’s why Theresa May’s government and Brexit negotiators in Whitehall will be keeping a very close eye on developments in Brussels as Canada and EU officials attempt to thrash out a last-minute agreement.

Wallonia, a French-speaking region of around 3.6 million people, has a deeply-rooted socialist tradition. Its legislature blocked CETA over concerns that the deal granted too much power to multinational corporations.

By Adam Payne

Major websites across the internet knocked out by massive cyber attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders and cut access to some of the world’s best known websites on Friday, a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The attacks struck Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and other customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

The attackers used hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that had previously been infected with a malicious code that allowed them to cause outages that began in the Eastern United States and then spread to other parts of the country and Europe.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were investigating.

The disruptions come at a time of unprecedented fears about the cyber threat in the United States, where hackers have breached political organizations and election agencies.

Friday’s outages were intermittent and varied by geography. Users complained they could not reach dozens of internet destinations including Mashable, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp and some businesses hosted by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Dyn said attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, making it one of the largest attacks ever seen. Security experts said it was an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, in which attackers flood the targets with so much junk traffic that they freeze up.

VULNERABILITIES EXPLOITED

Dyn said that at least some of the malicious traffic was coming from connected devices, including webcams and digital video recorders, that had been infected with control software named Mirai. Security researchers have previously raised concerns that such connected devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, lack proper security.

The Mirai code was dumped on the internet about a month ago, and criminal groups are now charging to employ it in cyber attacks, said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, which was helping Dyn analyse the attack.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at communications provider Level 3, said that other networks of compromised machines were also used in Friday’s attack, suggesting that the perpetrator had rented access to several so-called botnets.

The attackers took advantage of traffic-routing services such as those offered by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Inc’s (CSCO.O) OpenDNS to make it difficult for Dyn to root out bad traffic without also interfering with legitimate inquiries, Drew said.

“Dyn can’t simply block the (Internet Protocol) addresses they are seeing, because that would be blocking Google or OpenDNS,” said Matthew Prince, CEO of security and content delivery firm CloudFlare. “These are nasty attacks, some of the hardest to protect against.”

GOVERNMENT WARNED OF ATTACKS

Drew and Nixon both said that the makers of connected devices needed to do far more to make sure that the gadgets can be updated after security flaws are discovered.

Big businesses should also have multiple vendors for core services like routing internet traffic, and security experts said those Dyn customers with backup domain name service providers would have stayed reachable.
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a warning about attacks from the Internet of Things, following the release of the code for Mirai.

Attacking a large domain name service provider like Dyn can create massive disruptions because such firms are responsible for forwarding large volumes of internet traffic.

Dyn said it had resolved one morning attack, which disrupted operations for about two hours, but disclosed a second a few hours later that was causing further disruptions. By Friday evening it was fighting a third.

Amazon’s web services division, one of the world’s biggest cloud computing companies, reported that the issue temporarily affected users in Western Europe. Twitter (TWTR.N) and some news sites could not be accessed by some users in London late on Friday evening.

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) said that the outage prevented some customers in “certain regions” from making payments. It apologised for the inconvenience and said that its networks had not been hacked.

A month ago, security guru Bruce Schneier wrote that someone, probably a country, had been testing increasing levels of denial-of-service attacks against unnamed core internet infrastructure providers in what seemed like a test of capability.

Nixon said there was no reason to think a national government was behind Friday’s assaults, but attacks carried out on a for-hire basis are famously difficult to attribute.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Dustin Volz in Washington. Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankurt, Malathi Nayak in New York, Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Adrian Croft and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Bill Trott, Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Weber)

Setback for Chancellor Philip Hammond, as UK public finances worsen

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 21st Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

UK public finances
London Skyline/Megan Trace/flickr.com

Britain’s public finances showed a much bigger than expected deficit in September, a setback for Chancellor Philip Hammond as he prepares to deliver the country’s first budget plans since the Brexit vote.

Investors are already nervous about the prospect of an acrimonious British departure from the European Union, and Friday’s figures may limit Hammond’s ability to cushion the blow of the referendum result via higher spending or tax cuts.

Britain ran a budget shortfall of 10.6 billion pounds last month, 14.5 percent higher than the deficit in the same month last year, the Office for National Statistics said.

The deficit, excluding state-owned banks, was above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists, which had produced a median projection of an 8.5 billion-pound shortfall.

Despite falling from more than 10 percent of economic output in 2010 to 4 percent in the last financial year, Britain’s deficit remains among the highest for any developed nation.

Hammond, responding to Friday’s figures, reiterated his message that he will bring down the budget deficit more slowly than his predecessor George Osborne had planned.

“We remain committed to fiscal discipline and will return the budget to balance over a sensible period of time, in a way that allows us the space to support the economy as needed,” he said in a statement.

But the slow improvement of the public finances in the year to date, combined with an expected slowdown in the economy next year that will hurt tax revenues, represents a constraint for Hammond as he prepares his Nov. 23 Autumn Statement.

He has said any extra spending on infrastructure projects was likely to be modest, disappointing some economists who said he could be bolder with government borrowing costs so low.

NO SPLURGE

The weak September figures took the deficit in the first half of the financial year to 45.5 billion pounds, down nearly 5 percent from the same period in the previous year but already close to the 55.5 billion pounds forecast for the 2016/17 tax year as a whole by Britain’s budget watchdog in March.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said it was clear that its March forecast was “very unlikely to be met” but said the size of the miss was likely to be reduced by one-off factors that weighed on borrowing in the first half of the year and an expected jump in income tax receipts later in the year.

The OBR said it was still too early to assess the impact of the Brexit vote on Britain’s public finances.

ALSO IN BUSINESS NEWS

Samuel Tombs, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, said Hammond would probably want to keep some room for a loosening of the purse strings once Britain actually leaves the EU which will probably be shortly before the next election.

“As a result, we think that the chancellor will scrap the 0.8 percent of GDP fiscal tightening planned for 2017, but will not set fiscal policy to boost growth and will ensure that the fiscal consolidation resumes thereafter,” Tombs said.

September’s weak performance was partly caused by a fall in receipts from corporation tax and property transactions. Growth in value-added tax receipts was slower than earlier in the year.

It was the first fall in corporation tax revenues for the month of September since 2009, the ONS said, adding that it was unable to provide a reason for the fall.

The growth in VAT receipts was the slowest for the month of September since 2012.

By William Schomberg

London frets over future,Thirty years on from Big Bang

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 21st Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

LONDON (IFR) – Bang! It was the explosion in financial markets heard across the world 30 years ago which transformed the City of London from a cosy network of long-established firms into a cut-throat landscape dominated by foreign banks.

This week is the 30th anniversary of Big Bang, a package of reforms across the securities industry that shaped the City that exists today, putting London alongside New York as the world’s two dominant financial centres.

This year’s anniversary has extra significance. International firms that arrived on the back of Big Bang are considering whether to stick with London or move operations and jobs elsewhere following Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union.

“It [Big Bang] put London on the map in a way it wasn’t before. All the international firms came to London or enlarged what they had,” recalled Nicholas Goodison, who was the architect of the reforms as chairman of the London Stock Exchange at the time.

OVERNIGHT JOLT

Although the full impact of Big Bang evolved over years and the reasons for the reforms went back more than a decade, the transformation is associated with an overnight jolt – on October 27 1986.

That was the brainchild of Goodison. He said a number of the necessary changes were inter-related so should all come at the same time, with good warning, to ensure orderly change.

“We could have done it piecemeal but they were all too closely linked to each other,” Goodison, now 82, told IFR in an interview last week.

There were several parts to Big Bang: it abolished minimum fixed commissions on trades; it removed “single capacity”, which since 1911 had separated the role of brokers, who acted as agents for clients, and jobbers, who made the market and provided liquidity by holding stock on their books; and it allowed foreign ownership of UK brokers, to fix capital shortfalls at many firms.

Big Bang also introduced electronic share trading, which did away with the need for face-to-face share deals and made trading far quicker and more efficient.

The changes were brought in to head off an investigation by the competition watchdog, which wanted to take the stock exchange to the Restrictive Practices Court, a move Goodison said would have resulted in chaos.

In 1983 he proposed to Cecil Parkinson, trade and industry secretary at the time, that he would eliminate fixed commissions within three years.

Parkinson agreed and, helped by Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, persuaded Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to back the reforms. That was not easy because Thatcher “didn’t like being friends with the City”, Goodison recalled. He said she subsequently took little interest in Big Bang, despite being credited as its driving force.

“The myth that Big Bang was part of Mrs Thatcher’s revolution is just wrong,” Goodison said.

Goodison said the reforms were inevitable after the US abolished fixed commissions in 1974 and Britain scrapped exchange controls in 1979.

“The writing was on the wall and we knew that,” he said.

“Anybody could forecast that the competitive pressures on fixed commission would increase because the biggest securities houses in the world were in America. It was obvious the thing was creaking.”

Goodison said Big Bang achieved its goal better than a court ruling would have done because it pushed through changes smoothly.

The biggest challenge was setting up the electronic trading platform. “It broke down in the first hour. It was difficult. But the reason it broke down was that it had a huge volume of people trying to access it on the first morning and everybody pressed buttons at once.”

It was sheer curiosity that caused it to break down, he said.

FOREIGN PREDATORS

Big Bang sparked profound changes across the City.

Brokers, jobbers and merchant banks started merging. Some were bought by UK clearing banks, but many more were snapped up by big US, European and Asian banks.

Well-known firms such as James Capel, Schroders and Warburg kept some branding in bigger firms, but other old names such as Pinchin Denny and Scrimgeour Kemp Gee were easily swallowed.

That has led to criticism of the “Wimbledonisation” of the City – that London hosts the activity but most of the top players are foreign. Barclays and HSBC are two of the top 10 investment banks today, but the dominance of the City by overseas firms, especially from the US, is a legacy of Big Bang.

“Under the previous system it was pretty much a closed shop, and suddenly they [foreign firms] were allowed to come in,” said Paul Mumford, a fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management.

“A lot of banks seized the opportunity and London became a global centre for markets. It could never have happened if we hadn’t had this change,” Mumford told IFR.

Just as London firms were swallowed or reinvented, many careers changed, including Mumford’s. He had been a broker and analyst, but a year after Big Bang he moved into fund management.

“It was a relatively painless process but it took a little while for it to have its repercussions on certain areas,” Mumford said.

There were other less direct but still significant effects of Big Bang, including making it easier for firms to raise capital, contributing to the growth of hedge funds, and helping the rise of Canary Wharf as a new financial district in East London as firms could trade further away from the City using electronic communications.

Culture also changed. Hours became longer, lunches shorter and pay rose. The business became more aggressive and less clubby, according to people who worked in the City on both sides of the changes.

Critics reckon many of the banking industry’s misconduct problems of the past decade can be traced to Big Bang, as it gave rise to a bonus culture that undermined the City’s long-standing code of conduct and integrity.

Goodison, for his part, was not paid for his work for the stock exchange. He was its last unpaid chairman, from 1976 to 1988, and held the role alongside his position as senior partner at Quilter Goodison, a broker that went the way of many peers – it was bought by an overseas predator, France’s Paribas.

Goodison said London was right to welcome international firms and needs to continue to do so to stay in front, aided by the advantages of its time zone, language and legal system.

“If London wants to win it has to be open. You can’t run a closed shop and win. The essence of London’s financial markets is openness to the world,” he said.

By Steve Slater

Lender Microfinance Ireland tackle low awareness to its loans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via TheJournal.ie – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Microfinance ireland (mfi) has rebranded its loan packages for small businesses to make its overall offering clearer to customers.
The government-backed lender, which specialises in loans to firms with fewer than 10 employees, has segmented its loan packages into four categories:

Set-up loans for startups, €5,000-€25,000
Cashflow support for existing businesses, €5,000-€25,000
Business development loans for existing businesses, €5,000-€25,000
Small loans for businesses with low funding requirements, €2,000-€25,000

Until now, the organisation has marketed a blanket offer of loans from €2,000 to €25,000 without explaining what exact options were available.
Chief executive Garrett Stokes said that the MFI largely relied on local enterprise offices to explain and tease out the different loan packages available.

He told Fora that he expects the rebranding exercise will “make our overall offering more user-friendly”.

“What we’ve tried to do with the packaging is be very precise so it becomes much clearer to (customers) as to what we’re offering, the terms of the offer and so that when they come online to us through their local enterprise office, they know exactly what they’re looking for.”
Awareness

In the most recent ‘bank watch survey’ by ISME, which represents small- and medium-sized businesses in Ireland, awareness of the government’s microfinance scheme was down with just over half of respondents saying they knew what it was.

Stokes said the clearer loan packages will boost awareness of the programme, which he described as a “huge advantage” to early-stage businesses.

“The majority of our customers are people who cannot, for whatever reason, get lending from traditional lenders,” he said. “(MFI) enables somebody who has a good idea and wants to set up a businesses but can’t get the money themselves or funding from a bank to have another location to get help.”

He said that MFI’s criteria is “quite different from a bank” because all of its loans are unsecured.

By Conor McMahon