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Microsoft has blamed a Chinese cyber-espionage group for attacks on its mail server software. Business,…

   NEWS / 04 Mar 2021

Published: 04 March 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


2021 Budget  Headlines:

  • A freeze on income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, and lifetime pension contribution allowances: a move that will raise billions as a result of inflation by making a further 1 million people taxpayers, and pushing 1.3 million current taxpayers into the highest tax bracket, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility
  • Duties frozen on fuel, beer, whisky and wine
  • An increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% by 2025, aimed at raising £17bn for the Treasury, but combined with a new 130% super deduction for investment and tapered, so only companies with profits over £250,000 will pay the full rate
  • A rise in the national living wage from £8.72 to £8.91 per hour from April
  • Temporary 5% VAT for hospitality extended until September, followed by tiered uplift
  • Business rate holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality extended until September, followed by a 60% cut to the end of the year  
  • New state-backed business recovery loan scheme between £25,000 and £10 million
  • Extension in £20 universal credit uplift to August and a one-off payment of £500 for those claiming working tax credit
  • Stamp duty holiday up to £500,000 extended until June, then reduced to £250,000 until the end of September, before returning to the standard nil rate band on £125,000
  • mortgage guarantee to lenders on mortgages for first-time buyers with a 5% deposit
  • Eight new freeports to be created at East Midlands Airport, in Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames, and Teesside
  • 700m to help cultural institutions and sports return to normality
  • £5bn in "restart" grants for High Street businesses
  • A £150m 'Community Ownership Fund' to allow locals to takeover struggling pubs and theatres
  • Apprenticeship grants double to £3,000, and £126m to support apprenticeships and training
  • £12bn of capital for the new UK Infrastructure Bank
  • £520m to fund "MBA-style" training for small business owners
  • A new £375m investment pot dubbed Future Fund:, to take equity stakes in fast-growing startups
  • £65bn in additional COVID-19 funding, taking total government covid spend to over £350bn
  • Still no financial support for Company Directors unable to work because of lockdowns and other covid-related restrictions
  • Contactless payments’ limit more than doubled to £100

The Department for Work and Pensions says some 200,000 married women, widows and women over 80 with ‘enhanced pensions’ have been underpaid their pensions for two decades and could be in line for payouts averaging £13,500 each. The DWP estimated the bill for tackling the shortfalls to be about £2.7bn.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has described the UK government’s support for the airline industry during the pandemic as a “lamentable.” He said Ryanir would be cutting fares this summer to boost demand and that he hoped for up to 70% of normal passenger numbers from July. Giving evidence before the Transport seclect committee yesterday, he also called regulations on border controls “bonkers,” describing hotel quarantine as a “completely un-policeable” move that had seen no medical evidence to support it.  “It has been a PR stunt, shambolic and ineffective and plays no role in keeping out the Covid virus,” he said.
 
Insurer Hiscox has reported an annual loss of $268.5m after setting aside $475m to cover COVID-19 payouts, relating mainly to event cancellation and the remainder covering business interruption. Hiscox was one of the firms involved in the Supreme Court case which forced insurers to pay out on disputed claims worth at least £1.2bn.
 
Sainsbury’s is to cut 500 head office jobs, closing offices in Coventry and Victoria in London, and moving out of two of the five remaining floors it occupies at its London head office in Holborn. It awill also close nother two floors at its Avebury office in Milton Keynes and one in Manchester. 650 jobs are at risk as the supermarket closes one of its online grocery packing centres.
 
Asda has also announced plans to shut two of its online warehouses and reduce head office roles, putting about 5,000 jobs at risk. The supermarket is switching from its ‘dark’ stores in Dartford, Kent, and Heston, west London, to picking grocery orders from the shelves of local stores.
 
Recruitment company Page Group saw operating profit fall nearly 89% last year, but nevertheless ended the year with a “strong cash position” of £166m. The firm has announced it will therefore repay the £3.4m income it received from the UK government under the furlough scheme.
 
The board of Stellantis, the firm newly created following the merger of Fiat and Peugeot, has approved a €1bn (£860m) payout to shareholders. The payout is subject to shareholder approval at Stellantis' AGM in mid-April.
 
The Daily Mail and General Trust Plc has announces the completion of the sale of Hobsons, its EdTech business, in two separate transactions, for total proceeds of approximately US$410m. 
 
Casino giant Las Vegas Sands is selling its world-famous Venetian casino in a $6.25bn (£4.5bn) deal to invest the money in its Asian businesses. The sale comes just two months after the death of Sands chief executive and chairman Sheldon Adelson. The firm is currently building a London-themed resort in gaming hub Macau with the help of David Beckham.
 
Microsoft has blamed a Chinese cyber-espionage group for attacks on its mail server software. The tech giant said the hackers belonged to a state-backed group, which was a "highly skilled and sophisticated actor," in a blog post.
 
Stay-at-home Brits spent more than ever on music, videos and gaming last year, according to
The Entertainment Retailers Association, which said spending increased 18.3% to £9.3bn, the eighth consecutive year of growth.
 
The price of bitcoin has risen back above $50,000 amid reports that Goldman Sachs is considering restarting its cryptocurrency trading desk.


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