Fyffes Shares Soar in $798 Million Japanese Banana Bid

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Fri, 9 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. agreed to buy banana importer Fyffes Plc for 751 million euros ($798 million) in cash, expanding its reach in the global fruit market and sending the Irish company’s shares soaring.

Sumitomo offered 2.23 euros a share for Dublin-based Fyffes, 49 percent more than Thursday’s closing price, in a deal it said furthers its position as one of the most globally diverse companies. Fyffes stock surged to near the offer price.

Founded in 1888, Fyffes will become a small part of a group with operations on all corners of the globe spanning steel trading and shipbuilding to cable television and nickel mining. The purchase will give Sumitomo a business that distributes about 46 million cases of bananas in Europe annually, and also markets pineapples, melons and mushrooms.

For Fyffes shareholders, the takeover represents a “superb, albeit unexpected outcome,” said David Holohan, chief investment officer at Merrion Capital in Dublin. The bid brings “a positive conclusion to several years of impressive share price performance.”

The stock was up 49 percent at 2.23 euros as of 10:09 a.m. in Dublin. The shares have risen sixfold in the last five years as sales and profit have advanced.

The deal comes just over two years after Chiquita Brands International Inc. shareholders rejected a proposed takeover of Fyffes that would have created the world’s largest banana producer.

Small Fare

Fyffes is small fare for Sumitomo. The deal will add annual annual sales of about $1.3 billion for the Japanese company, which in its last financial year had revenue of about $66 billion. Fyffes’ 17,000 workers compares with more than 65,000 employed by Sumitomo.

Sumitomo has been active in the fruit industry since the 1960s, and imports about 30 percent of bananas into the Japanese market. The proposed takeover has secured irrevocable undertakings from investors owning about 27 percent of Fyffes’ shares.

Funding for the transaction will come from a new bank facility or Sumitomo’s existing cash resources, which stood at $8 billion as of its March year-end, the Japanese company said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. acted for Sumitomo, while Fyffes was advised by Lazard and Davy Corporate Finance.

By Paul Jarvis

McDonald’s to relocate it’s International Tax Base to Britain

After coming under increased scrutiny from European Union regulators over its tax arrangements in the small country, McDonald's said on Thursday it would move its international tax base to the United Kingdom from Luxembourg. McDonald's said it would create a new international holding company domiciled in the UK that would receive the majority of royalties from licensing deals outside the United States.

Pfizer slapped with record £84 million fine over NHS drug

(qlmbusinessnews.com via standard.co.uk – – Thur, 8 Dec, 2016) London, UK – –

pharmaceutical
Vinnie Lauria/Flickr

Pharma giant Pfizer was on Wednesday slapped with the biggest penalty imposed by Britain’s competition watchdog, an £84 million fine for charging the NHS “excessive and unfair prices” for a key anti-epilepsy drug.

Pfizer, the US drugmaker “deliberately… hike[d] up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients”, the Competition and Markets Authority said.

In 2012, Viagra-maker Pfizer stripped its epilepsy drug Epanutin of its branding, turning it into a generic medicine, phenytoin sodium, as these are not subject to price regulation. It then sold the licence to British drugs distributor Flynn Pharma, which was today fined £5.2 million for its role in the scandal.

The pair broke competition law with a crucial medicine for some 48,000 UK patients, the CMA found.

They hiked the price of a 100mg packet of pills by 2600% “overnight” from £2.83 to £67.50 in September 2012. NHS spending on the capsules shot up from £2 million to £50 million in 12 months as a result.

Pfizer’s pricing for the same drug in other European countries remained far lower.

As epilepsy patients on certain drugs should not usually be switched to others, due to serious health consequences, “the NHS had no alternative to paying the increased prices for the drug”, the CMA said.

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma, which calls the capsules a “vitally important product” on its website, “abused [their] dominant position by charging excessive and unfair prices”, the CMA said of its record fine.

Boss Pfizer Ian Read claimed NHS patients would benefit from “better products, faster” during his £69 billion attempt to buy AstraZeneca in 2014.

The next-biggest penalty was a £45 million fine on GlaxoSmithKline and other drugmakers in February.

The CMA has also ordered Pfizer and Flynn to drop their prices, giving them up to four months to do so.

In September 2012, a Flynn company director claimed “for us to continue to make the drug available in the UK, we had to [hike the price],” while Pfizer had claimed it was making Epanutin at a loss, but couldn’t stop doing so as patients relied on it.

However, CMA research showed any losses would have been recovered within two months of the price rises.

Pfizer said it will “be appealing all aspects” of its fine. Flynn said the ruling was based on a “wholly flawed understanding” of the drugs market.

By Lucy Tobin

Big changes are coming to UK rail network

Big changes are coming to England's much maligned railway network. The Transport Secretary is to strip Network Rail of complete control of the tracks, instead making it share responsibility with private companies. Chris Grayling says it'll lead to more reliable services and a better experience for passengers. Unions though, say it'll put safety at risk.

Famous Piccadilly Circus landmark advertising boards gets a tech overhaul

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 7 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Piccadilly Lights, the famous illuminated advertising boards that overlook Piccadilly Circus, are to be switched off for an extended period for the first time since the Blitz to allow a complete overhaul.

Clive Darra/Flickr
Clive Darra/Flickr

Land Securities, the commercial property giant that owns the site, has secured permission from Westminster Council to replace the patchwork of boards with a single, ultra-high definition curved screen.

The current six screens, which advertise brands including Coca-Cola and Samsung, will be switched off in January and dismantled in works that are expected to take until autumn to complete.

Although it is the first extended switch off since the 1940's, the famous displays went dark a fortnight ago for a number of hours after London's West End was plunged into darkness by a power cut.

The boards have been almost constantly illuminated since the Second World War, with only brief blackouts for power cuts and the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana. Recently the lights have also been switched off for the annual Earth Hour environmentalism event.

While Coca-Cola and Samsung will remain, Land Securities’ partner, Ocean Outdoor, hopes to tempt new brands to the landmark site, with new capabilities and more flexible tenancies. The site is believed to be the most expensive outdoor advertising location in Britain.

The patchwork appearance will also be maintained by the new screen, due to be Europe’s largest, but live video streaming and integration with Facebook and Twitter feeds will be added.

Tim Bleakley, chief executive of Ocean Outdoor, said the new technology at the site will “protect its heritage while keeping ahead of trends”.

The advertising boards at Piccadilly Circus date back to the the early 1900s. Perrier was the first brand to illuminate its sign, in 1908.

TDK, the Japanese electronics maker, ended its association with the site last year after quarter of a century. Coca-Cola has advertised there for 62 years.

Aedamar Howlett, Coca-Cola GB's marketing chief, said: “This new technology will allow us to be more agile and tailor our messages in real-time, as well as be more creative when it comes to the content and engaging consumers directly.”

By Christopher Williams

 

Lidl Supermarket chain to create 500 new jobs in Doncaster

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com — Mon, 5 Dec, 2016) London, UK —

Lidl
DennisM2/Flickr

The news is the latest sign that international companies have not been put off investing in the UK following the Brexit vote.

Supermarket chain Lidl has announced plans to build a new depot in Doncaster, creating 500 jobs in the process.

The warehouse, the brand's 13th distribution centre in the UK, will cost £70m to build.

It is the latest sign that international companies have not been put off investing in the UK following the Brexit vote, despite warnings from pro-EU campaigners that businesses would be wary of increasing their presence in Britain while its position in Europe is uncertain.

These include an announcement from Nissan that is is to build two new models in Sunderland and the confirmation of plans for a new Google site in north London.

Lidl, which is based in Germany, has made gains in the extremely competitive grocery market in recent years, winning market share from larger rivals including Tesco and Asda.

It has however seen growth slow slightly this year.

The new distribution centre will cover 53,400 square metres, with construction due to begin in 2017.

It will form part of a previously announced £1.5bn investment in stores and depots across the UK over the next few years.

The investment will also see 400 new jobs created at a new warehouse in Southampton, as well as a further 100 at the Eurocentral industrial park in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

It was announced last year that Lidl would be extending the independent recommended living wage to its lowest-paid staff, with employees receiving at least £8.45 an hour outside of London and £9.75 within the city – a higher rate than the Government mandated living wage.

Thousands of UK restaurants could go bust due to a higher cost of importing food and wine

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com/UK – – Mon, 5 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Higher cost of importing food and wine – due to weaker sterling – and rising wage bills could hit over 5,000 companies

Food Wine
aJ Gazmen/Flickr

Thousands of restaurant businesses in Britain could go bust because the fall in sterling since the Brexit vote has sharply raised the cost of imported food and wine, an accountancy firm has warned.

Moore Stephens says that 5,570 restaurant businesses have at least a 30% chance of insolvency in the next three years, due to inflationary pressures and stagnating disposable incomes.

The UK imports 48% of its food, according to government figures, and many restaurants rely heavily on imported food and wine. The cost of labour has also gone up, after the government raised the national minimum wage from £6.70 to £7.20 in April, with a further rise to £7.50 to take place next April.

The restaurant sector is fiercely competitive, with 200 new restaurants opening in London last year alone. This gives consumers a lot of choice and forces restaurants to cut prices or come up with special offers.

Many diners are also suffering from flatlining disposable incomes – the amount households have left to spend after tax and bills have been paid. The average gross disposable household income increased just 0.5% over the last year, from £17,872 to £17,965, Moore Stephens said, quoting official data.

Even some of the biggest restaurant companies are struggling. For example, The Restaurant Group is closing 33 outlets across the UK, including 14 Frankie & Benny’s and 11 Chiquito branches. It also plans to close its flagship Garfunkels restaurant on the Strand in London.

The company, which also owns Coast to Coast, has blamed its poor performance on unpopular new menus, higher prices and poor customer service, and vowed to listen more to its customers.

The business’s new chair Debbie Hewitt, who took over in March as part of a boardroom shake-out, has said the drop in the value of the pound following the referendum would push up the price of imported food next year but added that the company cannot afford to pass this on to customers.

There have been a growing number of warnings over dearer food prices, from Britain’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, and others, and the impact on poor families. The Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund and City economists all believe that inflation will rise to at least 3% by the end of next year, from 0.9% in October.

Mike Finch, restructuring partner at Moore Stephens, said: “It’s been a tough year for many restaurants in the face of rising costs and fierce competition. It is unrealistic to expect UK restaurant groups to avoid the impact of the fall in the pound by substituting for UK produce – they are going to face a big hit. Restaurants have to make tough decisions as to how much they try to pass on to consumers; too much and they risk losing business, too little and they lose margin.”

He said that sterling’s wild swings in the currency markets had hit small and medium-sized restaurant businesses particularly hard as they operate on tighter budgets and are less likely to negotiate long-term supply contracts. All this comes at a time when many consumers are likely to be very price conscious.

Food Wine
Uncalno Tekno/Flickr

“The high number of potential insolvencies over the next year shows just how fragile finances can be in this sector and demonstrates the importance of careful financial management,” Finch added.

“There may be further challenges to come as the UK’s trading agreements with Europe remain uncertain. Many in the restaurant industry would consider the idea of additional import tariffs on foodstuffs with horror.”

A separate report showed the strain many UK consumers are under. The number of those who have taken on more debt over the last five years has risen to 37% from 27% a year ago. The findings come from a survey of 2,008 consumers with debt, including 804 defaulters who have fallen behind with payments, by FTSE 250-listed Arrow Global, which buys and manages debt portfolios.

The most common form of personal debt is credit cards that are not paid off in full every month. The fact that credit cards have overtaken mortgages as the most frequent form of debt, alongside an increase in overdraft borrowing, suggests that the nation’s habits have changed to favour short-term borrowing. More people than ever are renting as they cannot afford to buy a home.

Almost half of borrowers (48%) have a credit card which is not cleared in full each month, compared with 39% a year ago. Almost a third have an overdraft, up from 23%, while the number of those with a mortgage has fallen to 42% from 46%.

One in 10 debt defaulters who fall behind on repayments never catch up.

The latest Bank of England figures showed credit-card borrowing reached an all-time high of £66.2bn in October.

Arrow Global has arranged an industry roundtable this Friday to discuss what the industry can do to support debt defaulters. Tom Drury, the firm’s chief executive, said: “Consumer credit is vital for the smooth-functioning of the economy, but it is clear that British consumers are taking on a heavy debt burden at the moment that is not going to be sustainable for some.

“The low interest rate environment means that debt is cheap, but that doesn’t help consumers who have struggled with their monthly budgeting or suffered from a shock event like losing their job. When borrowers do fall behind on repayments, it is vital that they get all the support they need to rehabilitate their debt.”

By Julia Kollewe

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – 1 December 2016 Box Office Figures

(qlmbusinessnews.com via boxofficemojo.com – – Sat, 3 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Domestic Total as of Dec. 1, 2016: $164,962,403
Distributor: Warner Bros. Release Date: November 18, 2016
Genre: Fantasy Runtime: 2 hrs. 20 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Production Budget: $180 million

Scientist and entrepreneur Ruopeng Liu turning science fiction into reality

Chinese scientist and entrepreneur Ruopeng Liu is turning science fiction into reality. From cutting edge computing to space-faring technology, there’s no project too far-fetched. He’s been dubbed China’s Elon Musk and now: he wants to take you to the edge of the atmosphere.

Brexit to Have Little Impact on UK Christmas Spending Habits

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 2 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Christmas Shopping
Carmel/flickr.com

 

Britain's vote to leave the European Union has had no effect on the majority of shoppers Christmas spending plans, according to fresh figures.

The average UK adult expects to spend £280 on Christmas gifts this year, according to a survey by PwC of 2,000 shoppers across the country.

More than two-thirds of adults surveyed (67pc) said that Brexit had no impact on their spending habits.

“We’ve seen UK consumers respond robustly to this year’s political uncertainty and sterling weakness, as evidenced by the post-referendum retail sales figures,” said Madeleine Thomson, retail and consumer leader at PwC.

Regionally, Londoners, said that Brexit will have the most impact on Christmas spending, with 44pc in total feeling that it would have either a slight or considerable impact.

However, Yorkshire and Humber had the highest percentage of people who felt that Brexit would have no impact at all on their Christmas spending.

Scotland has the highest expected festive spend with £328.66 while the East Midlands has the lowest at £241.47.

Meanwhile, around 4pc of polled Brits said they don’t buy presents at all, with 64pc saying they did not celebrate Christmas, and a quarter said they did not have anyone to give gifts to.

Following on from the Black Friday shift to online shopping, over half of adults surveyed said they would buy gift online this Christmas. Online sales reached a record £1.23bn on Black Friday, up 12.2pc on the same day in 2015, according to retail analysts at IMRG. A number of retailers also took the step to discount early meaning that online sales for the week also rose to £6.5bn.

Earlier this week John Lewis reported its biggest ever week of sales with a 6.5pc lift to £200m.

However, the high street suffered from a 7pc dip in footfall as the spending shifted online. #

By Ashley Armstrong

True Benefits of Shared Office Space

Qlm referencing: (qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 2 Dec, 2016) London, Uk – –

Shared Office
doryfour/flickr.com

From pooling resources to using a hive mind: co-workspaces can prove fruitful for enterprises.

If running a small business sometimes feels like a lonely pursuit, shared working spaces could be for you. From networking opportunities to joining forces with university research teams, there are many advantages to communal working.

Kelly Molson found the Cambridge Business Lounge to be invaluable when she first moved to the city and set up her design agency, Rubber Cheese.

Following a Facebook advertisement, she found a mix of professionals from a variety of industries, the opportunity to run and take part in workshops, and spaces for networking, meetings and quiet time. It was affordable and had good biscuits.

Ms Molson says: “The owners are incredibly supportive and made a big effort to get to know me and why I was using the centre. Every time I worked there, they were able to introduce me to new people that they thought I’d get on well with, and potentially could work with too.”

Make the most of networking opportunities

“One introduction led to co-founding a networking group, Grub Club Cambridge, which has been incredible. I’ve met amazing people, gained new clients, raised my profile in the city, been a judge for the Cambridge Food & Drink awards, been interviewed on BBC radio and made fab new friends,” she recalls.

Ms Molson advises asking questions of co-workers and taking an interest in their activities. “I’ve met new suppliers, friends and new clients sitting right next to me, along with a valuable support network.”

Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of virtual assistant platform, Time etc, is a big believer. When his company evolved to a model more reliant on remote workers, he offered his unused office space free of charge to start-ups and entrepreneurs in Birmingham.

Mr Lashbrooke says: “It's nice to be in a position where we can give something back. I'd have loved someone to offer me a free co-working space when I was 18 and running my first business from my very cramped bedroom at home, as it does get lonely at times.”

He’s in no doubt that working alongside new people can be highly motivating. “Entrepreneurs tend to be inspiring, go-getting types that are good to have around.

Think about collaboration, not just your own needs

“You can get so much out of shared office space if you view it as a community of people rather than simply a service available to your business. The knowledge and ideas stored in that community can be the difference between your start-up succeeding or not,” he says.

Some communal working spaces are open to all, while others are tailored towards specific needs. Hubble, an online marketplace for finding and renting office space in London, offers sector-specific shared working spaces.

Varun Bhanot, head of business development, explains: “The hope is that these companies help each other, and benefit from the perks of the environment such as access to industry resources, workshops and talks by thought leaders in their industry.”

He has advice for making the most of your working arrangement. “Shared spaces are designed to engineer fruitful networking and ‘collisions’. Take advantage of those around you, as the chances are they are working on a similar problem to yours, or your company might be a solution they are looking for.

“Spend time in breakout and communal areas. Go to events in the space, or host your own. The best thing about shared space is that there is already a captive audience which is likely to want to listen to your pitch or useful advice.

He also suggests approaching companies about pooling resources. This can go far beyond comestibles such as the milk and coffee, there can be an opportunity to share printing, whiteboards, TVs and meeting room space. It could work out most cost-effective for all the companies to pitch in.

Give yourself room to grow

Mr Bhanot’s key factors in choosing your perfect working space include scalability: is more space available when your company grows? Are there enough meeting rooms so you can book time whenever you need it? Also look for local amenities, such as coffee shops and bars which are great for out-of-the-office meetings with colleagues and clients. And don’t forget the perks, such as weekly fruit drops and pet-friendly areas.

Universities can provide a wealth of resources to SMEs. Lancaster University has business hubs dedicated to technology, the environment and chemistry. Among its £35m investment is the new Collaborative Technology Access Programme, which gives businesses access to a suite of cutting-edge instrumentation and facilities worth almost £7m.

Companies can relocate their entire company, or just their research and development staff, onto campus, or take a hot desk or lab space as and when required.

Dr Mark Rushforth, head of business partnerships and enterprise at Lancaster University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, says: “Renting offices and integrating all or part of a business onto the campus enables faster business growth by providing easier access to our research, knowledge, events, training and facilities. Company staff, academics and research groups are able to interact on a day-to-day basis, co-design new opportunities and have direct access to knowledge exchange staff.”

Each business is allocated a relationship manager, who acts as a link between businesses and academics, facilitating joint research projects and ventures. Companies can also benefit from student placements, access to international markets through a collaborative working scheme, and access to other campus facilities such as libraries and sports centres.

Dr Rushforth adds: “Ask questions, share ideas, get involved, test new employees through student placements, tap into everything you can. There’s a lot of support out there.”

By Tim Aldred