Published: 05 May 2021
The UK has negotiated an Enhanced Trade Partnership with India that is expected to pave the way for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The partnership will take effect this Autumn. PM Boris Johnson said the deal marked a “new era in the UK-India relationship” and that 6,500 new jobs would be created around the UK as a result of the expected £1bn increase in trade and investment. The partnership includes over £533m of new direct Indian investment into the UK from a long list of named companies, and will reduce trade barriers in key industries, including some foodstuffs and medical devices. It also includes a commitment to overturn the ban preventing UK lawyers from practising international and foreign law in India. For full details see: https://www.gov.uk/government/
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is warning she may continue restrictions on international travel even if the rest of the UK does not. She told a BBC One Scotland Holyrood election leaders' debate yesterday that she would consider the UK Government's traffic light scheme, which may allow holidaymakers to fly from English airports to Europe's top holiday destinations from next month, but intimated that she may only allow Scots to go abroad to meet family, and not to have a foreign holiday.
The London Evening Standard yesterday reported rumours that UK travellers will be issued free coronavirus tests to take abroad under plans to make foreign holidays safer, however travellers returning from abroad will still need to pay at least £50 each for a PCR test when they get home. Boris Johnson has said he hopes to lift the ban on foreign holidays on May 17.
The High Court yesterday rejected a challenge to the Government's delay in reopening indoor hospitality until May 17 on the basis the call for a judicial review was "academic" because the necessary hearing would now be unlikely to take place before then. Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, the co-founder of Parklife, had claimed there was no justification or scientific basis for indoor hospitality to remain closed when non-essential retail outlets had been allowed to resume trading. The judgment came just before a report by the Government's Sage scientific advisory committee emerged showing only 246 Covid outbreaks have been linked to pubs, bars or restaurants, and that ministers had been advised that "eating out in any food outlet or restaurant was not associated with increased odds" of catching Covid.
UK manufacturing activity continued to grow in April, the latest statistics from the Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index show. The Index measures the performance of the manufacturing sector, drawing from a survey of 600 industrial companies, and it rose to 60.9 in April, up from 58.9 in March and above the earlier flash estimate of 60.7. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion of the manufacturing sector compared to the previous month; below 50 represents a contraction; and 50 indicates no change. Growth of output and new orders were both among the best seen over the past seven years and led to a solid increase in employment, however the sector remained beset by supply-chain delays and input shortages which contributed to increased purchasing costs and record selling price inflation, Markit said.
A row over post-Brexit fishing rights in which French fishermen claim they are being wrongfully denied access fish around the British crown dependency of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, has led to a French minister suggesting her government could cut off the electricity supply to the island. Annick Girardin, the minister for maritime affairs, said she was “revolted” by the UK government’s behaviour over its waters and that France was ready to retaliate. The French claim the UK government is using red tape to limit the operations of French fishing vessels, in contravention of the trade and cooperation agreement struck with the EU on Christmas Eve. The UK government denies the claim, saying Jersey alone is responsible for the management of its waters. Last week, the French minister of European affairs, Clément Beaune, threatened to stand in the way of access for UK-based financial companies to the EU market if issues over fishing rights persisted.
Some of the BBC's highest-paid presenters are being paid up to £10,000 a time to host events for wealth management firms, the corporation's first quarterly register of outside earnings reveals. Those charging between £5,000 and £10,000 per job include BBC Breakfast and Football Focus host Dan Walker who appeared at an event for St James's Place Wealth Management and another for the Co-op; Andrew Marr, who hosted an event for Brewin Dolphin fund managers in March; Mishal Husain, who worked as an interviewer for an organisation called World 50; and Justin Webb who made four appearances for Proxima Ltd, a procurement and supply chain consultancy; the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment; the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; and CityWealth magazine. Others who earned over £5,000 a time include Emily Maitlis (Mason Hayes & Curran Law), Kirsty Wark (WISH Foundation for Global Health), Clive Myrie (Made in Manchester Productions), and Louise Minchin (Hull Business Awards). The register is the result of new rules brought in by Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, specifying that on-air presenters from the corporation's news and current affairs, sports news and radio journalism divisions must declare earnings from work undertaken outside the corporation.
Britain's wind farms set a new clean energy record on blustery bank holiday Monday, generating almost half of the electricity system, Sky News reports. More than 17.6 gigawatts of electricity was generated by offshore and onshore wind turbines for the first time in the middle of the afternoon - nearly half of the electricity grid in England, Scotland and Wales – and enough to power 3.5 million kettles, according to the Guardian.
The Guardian is celebrating its two hundredth anniversary today. It was first published on the day Napoleon Bonaparte died - May 5, 1821 – when 125 copies an hour were cranked out on a primitive handpress. The newspaper now has around $1.4 billion in the bank; more than a million paying supporters or subscribers; and profitable operations in the US and Australia. Its 750 journalists report around the clock and reach over 1.5 billion online readers worldwide every year.
Uber has announced a deal with UK-based electric vehicle company Arrival to build electric taxis. Jamie Heywood, Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: "Uber is committed to helping every driver in London upgrade to an EV by 2025.”
Defence contractor Babcock International is preparing the sale of its rail business, part of its aerial emergency services unit, and its training division, the Financial Times reported yesterday. Babcock's rail business is one of the largest track renewal companies in the UK and is also part of a joint venture with Alstom and Costain Group responsible for electrifying large swathes of the network. The aerial emergency services unit operates around 500 planes and helicopters in France, Italy, Spain Sweden, Norway and Canada and was acquired in 2014, when Babcock bought aviation firm Avincis. However, Babcock told investors last month that the Avincis deal "has not delivered shareholder value” and announced plans to rationalise its portfolio to generate proceeds of around £400m over the next 12 months. The firm also made a £1.7bn writedown in April - much of it tied to the Avincis deal - and shed around 1,000 job cuts. Babcock is already in talks to sell its oil and gas aviation division.
Environmental infrastructure fund JLEN has bought up a 50% equity stake in Sandridge Battery Storage, which holds the development rights to construct a 50-megawatt lithium-ion battery energy storage plant in Wiltshire. The acquisition, made alongside Foresight Solar Fund, would see JLEN invest up to £12.7m over the next 12-18 months. The FTSE 250-listed firm said it expected the plant to start commercial operations in October 2022.
The Royal Albert Hall says it will host full-capacity concerts again this summer. The venue will reopen from 29 May with a series of limited-capacity shows, before allowing a full house on 6 July for a James Blunt gig. A family concert featuring the hall's own band will be the first show, on 29 May, while the Royal Choral Society will perform a socially distanced version of Handel's Messiah the following day. The choir has performed the piece at the venue every year since 1876, apart from during World War Two and last year. The hall was also forced to delay its 150th anniversary celebrations because of covid.
Britvic has bought plant-based drinks maker Plenish for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2012, Plenish makes organic milk alternatives, juices and shots.
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has announced plans to spend £60 million between now and July buying back a maximum 10 million shares, despite warning less than a month ago that it would suffer a £200 million hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, PA Media reports. The company, which includes House of Fraser, Sports Direct, Evans Cycles and Jack Wills, among others, gave no reason for the decision but businesses typically purchase shares and hold them in reserve to reduce the number of shares available to the public, which tends to push up the share price.
Ikea has launched a long-awaited furniture buy-back and re-sale scheme, in an attempt to reduce the number of products going to landfill. The move is part of the retail giant's sustainability drive to become "climate positive" by 2030. Customers will get vouchers to spend in-store if items they no longer need are returned in good condition.
AstraZeneca is facing a shareholder revolt over plans to award CEO Pascal Soriot a huge increase in bonuses. The plan is to raise the maximum share bonus he can receive from 550% of his £1.3m base salary to 650%, and increase his maximum annual bonus to 250% of salary from 200%, depending on performance targets being hit. The move has infuriated investors, who have previously raised concerns about the Frenchman’s absence throughout a series of crises around supply issues and rare blood clots linked to its Covid-19 vaccine. From Christmas to at least April, Soriot was in Australia visiting his wife and children. Two investor advisory groups, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services, have called on shareholders to vote against the policy.
Drugmaker Pfizer posted first-quarter revenues of $14.58bn yesterday, ahead of expectations of $13.51bn, with $3.5bn in sales coming from its Covid-19 vaccine, developed with German firm BioNTech.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC has reached an agreement to sell its Puget Sound Refinery in Washington state to HollyFrontier Corp. for $350 million in its latest major divestment to move away from processing crude oil and towards a lower-carbon future.
Cryptocurrencies dogecoin and ethereum hit all-time highs yesterday morning: dogecoin was up more than 47% trading at at around $0.48 and Ethereum rose around 12% to break the $3,500 mark. Bitcoin fell some 4.5%.
Bill Gates has hired three law firms to handle his divorce from wife Melinda Gates, court papers show, including Munger, Tolles & Olson. The Independent says Charles Munger, who is seen by some as Warren Buffett’s right-hand man and who founded the firm in 1962, is a former colleague of Gates; they worked together at Warren Buffet’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway until Gates stepped down from the board in 2020. The divorce papers also show that there was no prenuptial agreement before the marriage. Gates is currently the fourth richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $124 billion.
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