Published: 15 April 2021
Location: London, UK
Denmark has halted use of the AstraZeneca covid vaccine because of concerns about cases of rare blood clots. It is the first EU country to scrap the jab indefinitely, having initially paused its use on 11th March. Since then the European Medicines Authority has said there was a link between the jab and blood clots but said the risk was small compared to that of Covid-19.
Covid-status certificates being considered by ministers to help open up society could amount to unlawful indirect discrimination, the government’s independent equalities watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says, as they risk creating a “two-tier society”. The watchdog also said employers should not be allowed to hire workers on a “no jab, no job” policy until all young people had been offered a vaccine, and that plans to make them mandatory for care workers helping older people may not be lawful. The Spectator meanwhile has released research showing the proposals would adversely impact people from ethnic minorities. While only 4% of white British are unlikely to be unvaccinated, the percentages are much higher for those who are black (31%), Chinese (24%), Pakistani (23%), Bangladeshi (16%), Indian (11%) and Irish (8%). Editor Fraser Nelson said on Twitter that the statistics help explain “why so many landlords and restauranteurs are not okay with this idea.”
The use of facial recognition for surveillance, or algorithms that manipulate human behaviour, look set to be banned under proposed EU regulations on artificial intelligence. The wide-ranging proposals were leaked ahead of their official publication. They also promised tough new rules for what they deem high-risk AI, including algorithms used by the police and in recruitment.
The Competition and Markets Authority has given provisional clearance to the £31bn merger of Virgin Media and O2 after deciding it was unlikely to lead to a worse deal for consumers.
Ryanair faced another setback in its fight against state aid for rival airlines yesterday, after Europe's second-highest court again backed EU competition regulators' approval of support for SAS and Finnair. Europe's biggest budget airline has filed 16 lawsuits against the European Commission for allowing state aid to individual airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Austrian Airlines and TAP, as well as national schemes that mainly benefit flag carriers. The EU competition watchdog has cleared more than €3 trillion in state aid to pandemic-hit EU companies to date. The Luxembourg-based General Court said aid granted to SAS and Finnair complied with the bloc's state aid rules, a judgement echoing its Feb. 17 ruling upholding state aid granted to rivals including Air France and SAS. Reuters reported that Ryanair said it would appeal.
Ryanair is also set to take delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX airliner following two years of delay caused by the grounding of the jet in the wake of two fatal crashes. Ryanair is the largest European customer of the MAX with 210 firm orders.
British Airways says flights to the US should restart immediately because of the swift vaccine rollout in both the UK and America. Sean Doyle, the airline’s chief executive, said that Britain and the US were "more or less mirroring each other" on vaccination and “that should lead to the UK and the US being able to lead the way in terms of opening up."
EasyJet says it expects to start operating more flights from late May but that operations for the three months to June 30 would still only be at 20% of 2019 capacity. Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said he couldn’t see a reason why the majority of European countries shouldn’t be on the UK's green list for travel by May 17th and urged the Government to confirm details as soon as possible. The budget airline also warned investors yesterday that it expects to make a loss of between £690m and £730m for the six months to 31 March.
Tesco said yesterday that "exceptionally strong" revenue grew by 7% to £53.4bn, but pretax profit for the year to the end of February fell 20% to £825m from a year earlier. This was due, the grocer said, to the need to hire extra staff to meet demand and cover sickness as well as spending on protection measures during the pandemic.
The BBC reports that Asda is to axe up to 1,200 jobs at its in-store bakeries as customers shun the traditional loaf in favour of speciality breads, bagels and pancakes.The chain currently employs bakers who make bread in store from scratch. But now it has said it plans to move to a central bakery and deliver pre-baked breads to its supermarkets.
JD Sports finished the year with almost £800m in the bank after bumper lockdown demand for trainers and hoodies, but although it has restarted dividend payments, the firm says it has no plans to return taxpayer cash. Without furlough support and other public sector initiatives it is “likely we would have had to make tens of thousands of our colleagues, particularly those who work in stores, redundant,” Peter Cowgill, JD’s executive chairman, said. The company did not disclose how much financial help it had received.
The Mirror reveals that cosmetics company Benefit is refusing to give beauty treatments to NHS workers who treat coronavirus patients. Benefit offers eyebrow and eyelash treatments in their standalone stores and in chains such as Boots, John Lewis and House of Fraser. The company confirmed on social media that it has a “blanket policy” in place to “protect staff and other customers" and on its website states: "For the safety of our customers and employees, we will not be able to carry out a service if you have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 14 days."
London estate agency Foxtons has boasted of a "strong start" to 2021, seeing "strong revenue growth" in the first quarter. Income rose 24% to £28.5m ($39.3m), boosted by a 60% rise in sales revenues, and the chief executive Nic Budden will receive a £389,000 bonus. However, the company has remained quiet on the question of whether it will hand back millions claimed in taxpayer cash* through the furlough scheme, despite buying rival estate agency Douglas & Gordon for £14.25m and launching a share buyback. Foxtons has said it is under no obligation to pay back the money, which helped avoid layoffs and was paid directly to staff, not the company. Shareholder advisory firm ISS is recommending investors vote against Foxtons' remuneration report.
Yahoo Finance UK has reported that a total of 125,000 employers have returned £700m in furlough grants.
The finance sector is hiring again. Morgan McKinley’s quarterly London Employment Monitor revealed that financial services job positing returned to growth last month, seeing a 70% increase in job postings in March and a 4.8% rise in job seekers. Available roles were up 50% year-on-year.
Managing Director Hakan Enver said: "Banks are back in expansion mode with a strong uplift in appetite for hiring experienced professionals," he said. "The City is on par for a good recovery over the year, mirroring jobs available in 2018 with the easing of lockdown restrictions and shops reopening."
Banks on the up: Investment bank Goldman Sachs has posted a huge jump in first-quarter profits. Net earnings skyrocketed to $6.84bn in the three months ended 31 March, a marked improvement when compared to the $1.12bn seen at the same time a year earlier. JPMorgan Chase has also reported a jump in first-quarter profit, attributing the rise partly to an "improving economy" and the fact it was able to release billons of dollars from its loan-loss reserves. The bank's net income rose by $11.4bn to $14.3bn in the first quarter of 2020.
HSBC is moving four top executives to Hong Kong from London as the bank shifts towards Asia, according to the Financial Times. Greg Guyett, co-head of global banking and markets, Nuno Matos, the boss of wealth and personal banking, and Barry O'Byrne who runs global commercial banking, will relocate in the second half, the Financial Times reported. They will be joined by Nicolas Moreau, head of asset management, whose move had not been reported before, the FT said. Some of those reporting directly to the four executives will also move to Hong Kong, HSBC said, but there would be “no large-scale movement of jobs from London to Hong Kong.”
Matthew Moulding, the chief executive of online beauty retailer THG is set to hand a £100m stake in his company to the Moulding Foundation, a new charitable foundation he has established. The move will make him one of Britain's biggest individual philanthropists, says Sky News. The donation will come seven months after THG - parent company of The Hut Group and owner of some of Britain's biggest online beauty and healthcare brands - made its debut on the London Stock Exchange, turning dozens of its employees into paper millionaires. It is not yet clear what the charitable focus of the Moulding Foundation will be.
Matchbox is launching a series of toy cars based on real-life electric vehicles and making some using recycled materials as part of a global relaunch, says BBC News. The first will be a mini version of the Tesla Roadster and will be followed by other models along with scaled-down charging stations. The toymaker wants to raise awareness among children of the environmental impact of motoring.
Virgin Galactic Holdings founder Richard Branson has sold $150.3 million worth of the company's stock in recent days, just weeks after company Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sold about $213 million worth of the stock, investment advice website The Motley Fool reports. Branson created Virgin Galactic and took it public in 2019. The company has hundreds of clients signed up to pay $250,000 for a brief trip to the edge of space and had hoped to begin getting them there last year, but the pandemic and testing setbacks have repeatedly pushed back the schedule. Virgin Galactic also recently lost chief space officer George Whitesides, the one-time chief of staff at NASA, who left to pursue potential opportunities in public service.
Cryptocurrency exchange firm Coinbase hit a market value of nearly $100bn (£72.5bn) in its debut stock market listing on the Nasdaq yesterday. Shares opened at a price of $381, but later closed below $330.
The initial valuation put Coinbase ahead of many well-known firms, such as oil giant BP and key stock exchanges, and the listing was seen as the latest step toward cryptocurrencies gaining wider acceptance among traditional investors. The price of Bitcoin surged more than 300% last year - and has climbed even higher in 2021 - as firms including Tesla, Mastercard and BlackRock unveiled plans to incorporate digital currencies into their businesses. Bitcoin recently hit an all-time high above $64,000 (£46,484), and is once again worth over a $1tn market capitalisation. The cryptocurrency has reached the milestone much faster than other tech giants including Apple, Amazon and Google, according to a report compiled by CryptocParrot, a cryptocurrency trading simulator.
Egypt has filed a multi-million-pound compensation claim against the owner of the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week. The Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen, ran aground in the canal on 23 March and was only freed six days later by a specialist rescue team. The Ever Given's protection and indemnity insurer, UK Club, said a "handful of claims" had been received and one of the claims was made by Egypt for $916m (£666m).
Bernard Madoff, the money manager who swindled clients out of billions of dollars in the world's biggest Ponzi scheme, has died in prison, at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, apparently from natural causes, Associated Press reports. Once feted as a ‘financial alchemist,’ Madoff was exposed as a fraud in 2008 and has subsequently been held up as an example of rotten practice in the financial industry. Instead of generating returns, Madoff used new funds to pay existing investors - a scam known as a Ponzi scheme. The revelation wiped out personal fortunes and left charities and foundations in ruins. At least one investor took their own life and Madoff's son Mark hanged himself in 2010. Madoff pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 2009.
Sales of houseplants have skyrocketed over the last year according to new research by Homedit.com. Having analysed data from plant online shops, eBay and other auction sites to find out which plants were the hottest commodities, researchers found the most expensive plant purchased was a "mint variegated Monstera Deliciosa" which sold in the UK on eBay for £28,200. However, the buyer subsequently realised they weren’t happy with the price and refused to pay. The plant was resold a few weeks later for ‘just’ £8,000. A variegated banana plant then became the most expensive, selling on Etsy for just over £15,000.
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