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Property prices in the UK continue to hit new highs. Business, Media & Marketing News London.

   News / 17 May 2021

Published: 17 May 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

The Financial Conduct Authority has set out plans for a new "consumer duty" to force financial firms to give more protection to their customers, as it says a “substantial number” are still misleading customers and causing harm. One in four respondents to an FCA survey said they lacked confidence in the industry and only 35% said firms were honest and transparent. To avoid regulatory action firms will have to: -

  1. Publish and abide by standards including the wording 'a firm must act in the best interests of retail clients' or 'a firm must act to deliver good outcomes for retail clients'
  2. Take all reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable harm to customers; enable them to pursue financial goals; and act in good faith
  3. Sign up to detailed rules covering communications, products and services, customer service and price and value.

The FCA has been criticised by politicians, campaigners and an independent inquiry for failing to protect consumers on matters such as the collapse of London Capital & Finance and the treatment of small businesses by Royal Bank of Scotland, now NatWest.
Property prices in the UK continue to hit new highs. The average price of houses coming to market this month jumped by 1.8%, or £5,767, to £333,564, new data has shown, surpassing the previous all-time high recorded a month ago. According to Rightmove’s house price index, Wales led the way with a 13% rise, followed by the North West, which rose 11%, and Yorkshire and the Humber, which rose 10.5%. The average increase for all regions outside of the South of England was 9.7%. Unlike in England, where stamp duty is currently zero on homes up to £500,000 not bought as a second property, stamp duty costs have remained unchanged in Wales.
VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research say based on a joint study they expect 104 million people to spend some £2.5bn in pubs, restaurants and cafes in England his week. Today is the first day indoor dining and entertainment has been allowed since December last year.  
Almost 10% of UK restaurants had not reopened their doors by the end of April, even if allowed to reopen, meaning the number of food-led venues dipped by 4,204, according to the CGA AlixPartners Market Recovery Monitor. Just under a third (32.9%) of Britain’s pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed premises had begun to trade again for the first time since the start of the last national lockdown — a total of just over 35,000 venues. Trading numbers for bars (30.2%) and bar restaurants (39.1%) were higher than anticipated thanks to the freeing up of extra pavement space. With indoor service resuming today, the majority of the two thirds (67.1%) of venues that had not reopened by the end of April will now have the option to do so — although nightclubs are still not able to return. Cinemas also reopen today.
Celebrity chef Raymond Blanc has made £1m by selling shares in Nightcap, the bar group founded by Dragons' Den star Sarah Willingham. Nightcap raised £10m in a share placing on 12 May that was oversubscribed. It said to satisfy demand, Blanc and restaurateur David Moore, another big shareholder, sold some of their stock at the same price as the placing. Willingham founded Nightcap to snap up hospitality businesses in a bet the sector would recover strongly after the pandemic. The company floated in January and bought London Cocktail Club, a business she had already invested in with Blanc and Moore. On 4 May Nightcap agreed to buy a second business, Adventure Bar Group. It raised £10m to invest in the business, reduce debt and fund further deals. 
A month ago, it was revealed that activist American hedge fund Elliott Management had made a multibillion-dollar investment in British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and now, according to The Telegraph, Elliot has told major GSK investors that “change is coming” and that their campaign against the British pharmaceuticals giant “will not be passive.” It is thought Elliott will target GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley over her leadership and lack of scientific background. Elliott is known for pressuring boards at some of the world’s biggest companies into change, pushing Whitbread chief Alison Brittain to sell Costa Coffee to Coca Cola for £3.9bn in 2018. GSK is already planning to spin off its consumer business including brands such as Aquafresh toothpaste and Nicorette patches, so it can focus on prescription drugs and vaccines.
Pfizer's top UK executive has hit out at calls for the pharmaceutical firm and others to forgo patents on COVID-19 vaccines, ruling out an intellectual property waiver. Ben Osborn is reported in the Sunday Times as saying that sharing it could lead to a shortage of raw materials across multiple countries. The World Trade Organisation had previously proposed plugging a gap in global vaccinations by letting generic vaccines onto the marketplace. The call was widely supported, attracting backing by the Biden administration as well as more than 100 countries. Pfizer has previously outlined plans to profit from the vaccine, although it sells to low-income nations at cost price.
Burger King is to trial delivery-only kitchens in the UK after demand for home deliveries soared during the coronavirus pandemic. The fast-food giant opened its first delivery-only kitchen in Kentish Town in London on Sunday. The new venture has the potential to reach over 400,000 customers, said Alasdair Murdoch, Burger King UK CEO. Delivery-only kitchens were pioneered by Deliveroo, which partners with restaurants to open so-called "dark kitchens" in areas where the food is not available.
De La Rue has signed a five-year renewal of its contract with Microsoft, the banknote printer said on Thursday. The contract - to provide innovative authentication products to Microsoft's OEMRetail and Xbox channels - has been extended until 2026. The value of the contract has not been revealed.
Ryanair has reported a full year loss of 815 million euros (£702 million) as traffic fell 81% from 149 million passengers to 27.5 million due to the pandemic. The Ireland-based low-cost airline described the financial year as “the most challenging” in the firm’s 35-year history.
EasyJet says its chairman John Barton will step down in May 2022, once he has completed nine years in the post, the maximum length of time EasyJet says a chairman should serve given ‘best practices for corporate governance.’ Sky News said the search for a successor is being handled by executive recruiter Lygon Group.  
The largest tunnelling machine ever used on a UK rail project starts work today as part of HS2. HS2 chief executive, Mark Thurston told Sky News the machine is called Florence, and will spend three years digging beneath the Chiltern Hills.
County Durham-based armoured vehicle track systems manufacturer Cook Defence Systems has secured an £11 million British Army contract. The family-owned firm sources the vast majority of its steel from British suppliers.
Siemens has submitted plans to double the size of its wind turbine blade factory in Hull. The multimillion-pound investment is expected to create more than 200 jobs.
US telecoms giant AT&T is reportedly close to striking a deal with Discovery that would create a $150bn (£106bn) streaming giant ready to rival Netflix, Disney, and Amazon. AT&T already owns CNN, HBO and Warner Bros, after acquiring the brands in a 2018 $108.7bn purchase of Time Warner.  

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