Published: 31 March 2021
Berlin and Munich have temporarily halted rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 60, while Canada has suspended its use for those under 55. The German medical regulator announced 31 cases of rare blood clots in people who had recently received the vaccine, nine of whom died. EuroNews reported all but two of the cases involved women aged 20 to 63. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization said: "there is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks."
The BBC reports that Easter egg sales are booming, soaring almost 50% to £153m compared with £48m last year, according to figures from analysts Kantar. Shoppers have already spent £37m on hot cross buns. M&S says sales of items in its expanded Easter gifts range are up 3,000% and Easter egg sales are up 86%. Asda says shoppers are buying more Easter eggs than usual - between three-five eggs per person – and that as a result they expect to sell over 19 million Easter eggs and 33 million hot cross buns. Thorntons reports a 200% rise in online sales compared to 2019.
Shop prices fell by 2.4% in March - the same rate of decline as in February - as the third consecutive month of lockdown forced retailers to continue to discount products. The British Retail Consortium-Nielsen shop price index, published yesterday, revealed that non-food prices fell by 4%, the fastest rate of decline since May 2020. Prices of fashion and footwear have seen double digit declines in 11 of the past 12 months. Stores face intense online competition: demand for home deliveries drove a 126.8% surge in online supermarket spend, and food inflation inched up to 0.3% in March. The index also showed that purchases by the over 65s have surged, more than quadrupling (332.5%) compared to last year. Market research firm Kantar says this is attributable to the vaccine rollout programme, as older people are going to supermarkets again. "We’re seeing growing confidence among older shoppers in particular, with 143,000 fewer over-65s making digital orders in March," said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight.
According to data from small business platform Xero, small business jobs have increased slightly for a fifth consecutive month in the UK, with a 0.6% increase on February. Year-on-year revenues also improved compared to January. Jobs, however, still remain 2.2% below pre-coronavirus levels. Xero’s Small Business Index is produced in partnership with Accenture and is based on analysis of the records of hundreds of thousands of small businesses.
Banking stocks recovered yesterday following panic which set in on Monday after details emerged of the likely collapse of Archegos Capital Management. The relatively unknown investment office nevertheless had established relationships with major investment banks worldwide and investors were unsure what the fallout would be. Fund. Bloomberg reported that Archegos dumped more than $20bn in New York listed stocks on Friday last week.
Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group warned yesterday a potential loss of around $300m at its European subsidiary, because of an ‘event’ on 26th March that could lead to a financial loss. Speculation centres on a connection with the actions of Archegos Capital Management, above.
Two former senior employees at government outsourcer Serco appeared in court yesterday accused of "fraud on the taxpayer." Simon Marshall, former operations director of field services, and Nicholas Woods, former finance director of home affairs, are accused of making ‘untrue’ and ‘misleading’ statements which hid the scale of profits so civil servants would not cut payments from the public purse. The prosecution alleges the FTSE 250 firm made a £27m profit from keeping track of criminals and defendants for the Ministry of Justice between 2010 and 2012 but claimed it had only made £15m. Profits are said to have been concealed through a scheme in which a Serco subsidiary booked £500,000 a month in fictitious costs that were charged to the parent company and then repaid via a dividend. The case continues at Southwark Crown Court.
Liberty Steel UK is set to restart production lines next week, despite a reported funding shortfall of £170m. The firm employs 3,000 workers at 12 sites around the UK, including in Rotherham, Motherwell and Newport. It is. The government has reportedly refused to bail the company out after the collapse of its primary financial backer, apparently amid concerns the money may not stay in the UK, given that it is owned by Sanjeev Gupta's GFG Alliance, which has operations in 30 countries.
Funeral services company Dignity has called on investors to vote against attempts by its biggest shareholder, Phoenix Asset Management Partners, to oust chairman Clive Whiley. Phoenix owns a 29.9% stake in the company and has served a requisition notice seeking to remove Whiley as executive chairman and replace him with the chief investment officer of Phoenix, Gary Channon. "The timing of the requisition notice is hard to comprehend, given the good progress on the group's strategy plans to date," Dignity said. The vote will be held on 22nd April.
Self-storage company Big Yellow said on Tuesday that it has bought a "prime" 0.8 acre site in Epsom, South West London, for £6.5m. The group will be seeking planning permission for a 56,000s sq ft self-storage centre on the site.
Google Maps will start directing drivers to routes it calculates to be the most eco-friendly based on a list of factors. The search engine said it will highlight journeys that generate the lowest carbon footprint using mainly traffic data and road inclines. Google said the feature would launch first in the US later this year "with a global expansion on the way".
Volvo will give all employees with at least one years’ service 24-weeks paid parental leave. More than 40,000 employees, in all plants and offices will benefit from the new policy as of 1 April 2021. Volvo also announced yesterday that it would be partnering with California-based Aurora Innovation to build self-driving heavy trucks.
PayPal has launched a new 'Checkout with Crypto' service that will allow consumers in the US to use cryptocurrencies to check out. The system will convert cryptocurrency holdings to fiat currency at checkout, with no additional transaction fees. The option to pay with cryptocurrency will automatically appear in the PayPal wallet at checkout for customers with sufficient cryptocurrency balance to cover an eligible purchase.
Microsoft says it aims to place 50,000 people in high skilled tech jobs in a push through its professional networking site LinkedIn. The jobs will be in what Microsoft calls its "ecosystem" of companies that use or help sell its products. The company will partner with non-profit groups to help people learn new skills to place those 50,000 workers over the next three years. The programme will focus on the US but will expand to other countries in 2022.
India has appealed to a Dutch court against an order by an international tribunal to pay $1.2bn damages to Cairn Energy in a long-running tax dispute. Sharecast News reports that Cairn took the case to arbitration in 2015 to fight a demand from Indian authorities for INR 102bn ($1.4bn) in taxes it said were owed on capital gains related to the 2007 listing of its local unit. In 2011, Cairn sold its majority stake in Cairn India to Indian miner Vedanta, reducing its stake in the Indian company to about 10%. The government seized the remaining shares in 2014 after the tax complaint was made, as well as dividends Vedanta owed to Cairn Energy for its holdings in the Indian firm. Last September, India lost another international arbitration case against Vodafone over a $2bn retrospective tax dispute.
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