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Non-essential shops reopen today for the first day of trading. Business, Media & Marketing News London.

   NEWS / 12 Apr 2021

Published: 12 April 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


Non-essential shops reopen today for the first day of trading since they were closed for the third national lockdown on 5th January. 7 million shoppers are expected to spend some £600m in-store today according to VoucherCodes - the UK’s largest voucher website - and the Centre for Retail Research. In-store purchasing is expected to hit a daily high for the week of over £1 billion on Saturday. Gyms also open for individual workouts today (not classes) as do pub beer gardens only.
 
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is to attempt to weaken Britain's hard-line on foreign takeovers, following pressure from business groups, Yahoo Finance UK reports.  The government has tabled an amendment to the National Security and Investment Bill, which would see the stake threshold at which the business department must be notified about a deal increase from 15% to 25%. The bill was introduced in December 2019 in the Queen’s Speech in order to “strengthen the government’s powers to scrutinise and intervene in business transactions to protect national security.”
 
The Competition and Markets Authority says that following its intervention, Facebook has suspended 16,000 accounts for selling and buying fake reviews for products and services. The social media platform has also pledged to suspend and ban users who repeatedly created Facebook groups and Instagram profiles that promote, encourage or facilitate fake and misleading reviews.
 
Britain's travel and airline industries have lambasted new proposals that were published by the government's Global Travel Taskforce on Friday.  The announcement included a traffic light system, which categorises countries based on risk as well as COVID tests, even for people arriving from low-risk green destinations. The need for those who are vaccinated to still be expected to pay for gold standard PCR tests on their return to Britain has been called heavily criticised as a "hammer blow" for the travel industry.  EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the plan was "a blow to all travellers" and risked "making flying only for the wealthy." Low budget airline Jet2 and Jet2holidays said that because of the government’s lack of clarity on Britain's return to travel, it has extended its flight and holiday suspension to 23 June.
 
The European Medicines Agency said on Friday that it has started a review of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen, following reports that some patients who had received it had developed blood clots. The EMA said it was aware of four instances of blood clots developing after the vaccine was administered, including one fatal case.
 
The latest small business index study from the Federation of Small Businesses suggests the majority of firms expect an increase in revenue this quarter, the highest proportion since the summer of 2015. 58% of small businesses said they expect their performance to improve; 31% that it will worsen. 24% still anticipate a fall in sales, but 84% said so this time last year.
 
UK firms are blaming a double whammy hit from Brexit and lockdowns for decreased export sales in the first three months of this year. Research by the British Chambers of Commerce says 41% of businesses are reporting decreased export sales, up from 38% in the previous quarter; while the percentage of firms reporting increased export sales fell to 20%, down from 22% in Q4 2020. The Chambers’ Trade Confidence Outlook surveyed 2,900 businesses, 40% of which reported no change in their export sales.
 
Post Office Chief Executive Nick Read has told colleagues he wants ministers to sanction what would effectively amount to its partial mutualisation once its finances are in appropriate shape, according to Sky News. The ambition, apparently outlined in a speech to his senior leadership team on Friday, would potentially enable thousands of postmasters across the UK to receive a financial stake in the Post Office by the middle of the decade.
 
Vauxhall says it will stop producing its Astra model at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and close the plant completely in April next year, unless it gets government support. The factory employs almost 1,000 people on site and supports 6,000 jobs in its supply chain. A briefing document circulated by parent company Stellantis and cited by The Telegraph includes an "end of life" plan for the current model of the Astra.  Stellantis said back in March that it has asked for government support to keep the plant open to potentially develop its new Astra model and make fully electric cars at the plant.
 
Business tycoon Hugh Osmond is a serious bidder to acquire DIY retailer Homebase in a deal worth some £300m, Sky News reports. The chain was supposedly revived from the edge of collapse in 2018 when Hilco bought Homebase for £1, after a troubled period under the ownership of Wesfarmers, an Australian group, but since then Hilco has closed underperforming stores; closed two of the company’s distribution centres; slashed rents and cut 1500 jobs to shore up the firm’s finances.  Hugh Osmond is also currently spearheading a legal challenge to the government’s coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality sector.
 
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that shopping centre owner Hammerson has agreed to sell some of its retail parks to a Canadian private equity firm. Brookfield will pay around £350m for seven retail parks in Falkirk, Didcot, Middlesbrough, St Helens, Telford, Merthyr Tydfil and Rugby. Hammerson reported significant losses in 2020 - posting a £1.7bn year-end loss — the largest in its history — after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped £2bn off the value of its property portfolio. The firm is selling malls to help survive the crisis.
 
Retail tycoon Mike Ashley's Fraser Group has warned it could take a hit of over £200m due to the "further" coronavirus restrictions. In an announcement on Friday, the company said it believes further restrictions are "almost certain" saying a write down against freehold values and other non-cash impairments will be required. The amount is double previous estimates. In February, Ashley estimated that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would lead to a £100m write down in the value of its properties and other assets.
 
Australia's competition regulator said on Friday that a federal court had ruled against Volkswagen's appeal over a A$125m fine relating to the manufacturer's global emissions scandal.
 
Reuters reveals that Uber and Lyft are spending millions of dollars providing drivers with access to Covid-19 vaccines and offering millions of discounted rides to vaccination sites. Despite the rise in demand for ride-hailing services during the pandemic, drivers appear unwilling to return to their jobs.  The company is trying to address drivers' main concerns - safety and earnings - through mask mandates, a vaccination partnership with Walgreens and its vaccination programs in its pharmacies and $250m in pay guarantees and incentives.
 
Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase is on course to make history as the first major crypto company to go public, paving the way to legitimise an industry marred with distrust from regulators and traditional investors, Yahoo Finance UK reports. Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US and lists about 50 cryptocurrencies for trading. It is due to list on the Nasdaq on Wednesday with a valuation that could run in excess of $90bn (£66bn).
 
Bitcoin approached all-time highs on Saturday, climbing back above the $60,000 (£43,768) threshold for the first time in almost a month.
 
Boeing has been forced to ground its 737 Max planes again after reporting an electrical fault on a specific group of jets. The company said the “production issue” does not affect its entire fleet and is not related to the flight-control system that grounded its planes previously. A Boeing spokeswoman said it was unclear how long it would take to solve the problem: “It could take a matter of hours or a few days.”
 
France is looking to ban domestic flights on routes that are connected by train and can be travelled in less than two-and-a-half hours, as part of a broader climate bill which looks to cut carbon emissions from 1990's levels by 40% by 2030. The policy attracted criticism from the hard-hit aviation industry, which has said now is not the time to ban a portion of its business.
 
Chinese online retail giant Alibaba Group Holding has been fined a record $2.75bn (£2bn) for anti-monopoly violations. The company is owned by billionaire Jack Ma and has for many years been accused of abusing its dominant market by stopping some sellers using rival online e-commerce platforms since 2015. The fine, imposed by Chinese regulators, amounts to around 4% of the company’s domestic revenues.


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