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House prices rose at their biggest monthly rate since 2004. Business, Media & Marketing News London.

   NEWS / 04 May 2021

Published: 04 May 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


Fishing crews have been "disastrously let down" by the government's failure to reach a deal with Norway, the UK Fisheries chief executive has said. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Jane Sandell said the failure to reach an agreement would mean her firm having only 40% of the fishing opportunities of previous years. Her Hull-based company employs approximately 100 crew and Ms Sandell said the news would be "absolutely devastating" for those workers and their families. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations said the failure to reach agreement would lead to more vessels trying "to make a living in the constrained waters of the North Sea and West of Scotland". DEFRA said it would continue to work with Norway to try and reach an acceptable deal. 

New figures from lender Nationwide show house prices rose at their biggest monthly rate since 2004 in April after Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended a holiday on stamp duty. Prices climbed 2.1% compared to March, and were up 7.1% on the same period last year, Nationwide’s report said. The stamp duty exemption on the first £500,000 of property purchases was introduced when home sales collapsed during the initial months of the covid pandemic, and had been due to expire in March. Sunak extended the tax break until June, when the threshold will be lowered to £250,000, before returning to £125,000 in September.
 
Sky News reports that although AstraZeneca’s $7.3bn (£5.25bn) in sales for the first three months of 2021 are up some 15% on the same period last year, its covid vaccine is causing the pharma giant to lose money because the company is selling it at cost price, hence it is a drag on profits. The fifth largest company in the FTSE 100 reported the biggest increase in earnings for its cancer, diabetes and asthma drugs.  
 
The Association of Independent Festivals has called for "urgent intervention" by government to save the season’s remaining music festivals. A quarter of UK festivals have already been called off, but 76% of the rest could be scrapped without the safety net of government-backed cancellation insurance, the association warns.
 
Virgin Atlantic has reported an £971m pre-tax annual loss. Virgin cut thousands of jobs when flights were forcibly grounded during the pandemic and passenger numbers fell by more than 80% to just 1.1 million. The airline completed a rescue deal with investors last autumn. Boss Shai Weiss has now called on the government to put the USA on the ‘green’ list when it implements its "traffic light" system next month, so passengers will be able to return from country without having to isolate. Weiss said: "With world leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, and evidence to support safe reopening through testing, there is a clear opportunity to open up travel and no reason to delay beyond 17 May."
 
Car park giant NCP has started a formal "last resort" process to pull out of contracts for some 500 unprofitable parking facilities and implement cut rents. NCP has seen revenues drop by 80% as a result of ‘stay at home’ orders. The plan, which uses controversial new restructuring laws which could force landlords to accept changes even if they don't agree to them, will be put to creditors at the end of May. If the plan fails 1,000 jobs hang in the balance and NCP's Japanese owner, Park 24, says NCP could be tipped over into insolvency.
 
WH Smith is considering moving its new gadget chain InMotion to the airport stores left behind by Dixon Carphone. WH Smith is already in "talks with landlords to bring InMotion to more stores” the retailer’s chief executive, Carl Cowling told Yahoo Finance UK. InMotion already has a branch at Leeds Bradford Airport. The high street stationery retailer announced last week it would borrow £325m to open another 100 stores at airports and train stations on hopes of a recovery in public transport and the travel sector.
 
Suggestions by shareholder advisory group Glass Lewis that investors should oust the head of Credit Suisse's risk committee, Andreas Gottschling, because of a string of risk management failures, appear to have succeed in advance of the proposed revolt: Gottschling has quit ahead of the bank’s AGM. The bank failed to spot problems at Greensill Capital, which collapsed, or forsee the collapse of New York family office Archegos Capital, which cost Credit Suisse $4.7bn.  The bank is raising SFr1.7bn (£1.3bn) from investors to support its balance sheet after the twin disasters and its shares have lost more than a quarter of their value since March.
 
Barclays announced on Friday that first quarter profits had more than doubled but shares nevertheless fell 6% on the news that Barclays would not be releasing any cash set aside to cover potential bad loans from the pandemic, and rather less optimistic figures on its investment banking arm. The bank also failed to reinstate dividends and gave no indication when it would.
 
Barclays is extending its reach into the fast-growing ‘buy now, pay later’ market, expanding a deal with Amazon to provide point-of-sale financing, Yahoo Finance UK reports. The bank already arranges loans to cover purchases on Amazon's German website and point-of-sale credit for Apple in the UK.
 
The European Commission has charged Apple with breaking antitrust law following a complaint filed two years ago by music streaming service Spotify. Spotify alleged Apple was charging excessive commission fees to access its App Store and preventing app developers from informing customers about alternative app purchasing options. Apple has already reacted to the claim by halving the fees it charges to developers, lowering commission from 30% down to 15%.
 
In the US meanwhile, Epic Games, the maker of the popular Fortnite battle royale blockbuster game, faced Apple in a Californian virtual court for the first time yesterday after bringing a similar antitrust claim against the computer giant. Epic argues that Apple’s control of its App Store for mobile games and apps is an illegal monopoly; when in August 2020 Epic bypassed Apple and Google payment systems to let Fortnite players buy virtual currency at a lower price, Apple and Google’s removed Epic from their platforms. The case is expected to last three weeks and is just one of several launched by Epic against both Apple and Google, including in the UK, where the firm claims the two tech giants' rules are in violation of UK competition laws. Apple’s opening statement in the California court painted Epic Games as a big corporation that is overplaying the victim role.
 
Shares in British cybersecurity group Darktrace rocketed on their London Stock Exchange debut on Friday, rising 38% from the initial public offering price of 250p a share to 350.4p. Darktrace was founded in Cambridge in 2013 and uses artificial intelligence technology to spot cyber threats for businesses.
 
FTSE 250 fund manager JTC has raised £65.9m in a share placing to reduce debt and leave it room to fund more than 25 potential acquisitions. JTC has bought INDOS, which provides services for alternative investment funds, and RBC CEES in the past six months. It said it had agreed terms on another acquisition with two other funds and has a further 25 in the pipeline.
 
Hipgnosis Songs Fund has raised more than £10m by issuing new shares to fund an unidentified investment as it competes to snap up catalogues of song-writing royalties, Sharecast News reports. The fund was founded by former Elton John and Guns 'n' Roses manager Merck Mercuriadis and is advised by Nile Rodgers of Chic. It has been buying up songs by artists such as the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac and Mark Ronson to capitalise on the streaming revolution but has not revealed how much it has paid for any of them. The market for song rights has heated up of late and Hipgnosis faces stiff competition from specialist rivals and music groups such as Universal, which bought Bob Dylan's songs for more than $300m in December.
 
Yahoo and AOL have been sold again - at a loss - after latest owner Verizon failed to revive their fortunes. The US telecoms giant is selling them to a US private equity firm in a deal worth $5bn (£3.6bn) but will retain a 10% stake. Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017 and AOL in 2015 for a combined $9bn. They were once trailblazers but were subsequently overshadowed by firms like Google and Facebook.
 
The fallout from the failed European Super League continues. Sky News reports that five senior officials have announced they are stepping down from advisory roles within the Premier League,  just a week after the League’s chief executive Richard Masters wrote to all six English clubs involved last week, saying they should consider their positions. Manchester United's outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Liverpool chairman Tom Werner have stood down from the League's Club Broadcast Advisory Group. Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano have left the Club Strategic Advisory Group (CSAG), and Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has left the league's Audit and Remuneration Committee.
 
TopShop's former flagship Oxford Street store has gone on the market with a guide price of £420 million. The Sunday Times reports the Grade II listed building is being sold by real estate adviser Eastdil Secured on behalf of KPMG. Eastdil Secured had been appointed administrator to Redcastle 214, the company that held the building when Philip Green’s Arcadia Group collapsed last November. In February, online retail giant ASOS confirmed it had sealed the deal to buy Arcadia brands Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and sportswear brand HIIT for a total £330m but this excluded the brand's bricks and mortar footprint.


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