Published: 09 June 2021
A major outage took down a host of high-profile websites offline yesterday. The UK government website went down, as did Amazon, Reddit, Vimeo, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CNN, the New York Times, PayPal, Shopify and BBC.com. Cloud computing provider Fastly, which underpinned the websites affected, said there had been issues with its global content delivery network which were now resolved. The issues began at around 11:00 BST and lasted for an hour.
Brexit minister Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president, will meet today to attempt to settle differences over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Under the terms of the Protocol, a ‘sausage ban’ will come into force if the UK and EU cannot agree new regulatory standards to cover the sale of processed meats before the end of a ‘grace period’ on 1 July. Sefcovic says there are "numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK's implementation" of the two sides' trade deal and that the EU will act "firmly" if the UK does not agree on deadlines for complying with its obligations, Sky News reports. However, Environment Secretary George Eustice claims the EU is attempting to implement the Protocol in a way that would make it impossible for UK producers to sell British sausages to Northern Ireland. He called the row ‘nonsensical.’
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed a single regulator will be formed to oversee workers’ rights and enforce rules relating to workplace abuse. The new body will be created by merging the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the National Minimum Wage Enforcement team based at HM Revenue and Customs. The watchdog will also facilitate whistleblowing, handle holiday and sick pay disputes, and promote understanding about workers’ and businesses’ rights. It does not yet have a name.
The UK government is to crack down on 'greenwashing' by establishing a new independent expert group to advise on maintaining high standards for green investment. The plans, released yesterday, aim to bring the UK businesses further in line with net-zero carbon emission targets and create green jobs. The Green Technical Advisory Group will support investors, consumers and businesses to make green financial decisions and oversee the government’s delivery of what Chancellor Rishi Sunak has called a “Green Taxonomy” – a common framework setting the bar for investments that can be defined as environmentally sustainable.
The Bank of England has published details of climate stress tests it intends to run for banks and insurers. The central bank runs regular stress tests to examine emerging threats to the financial system, but this is the first time climate risks will be assessed. The bank’s 2021 Biennial Exploratory Scenario will ask 19 of the UK's biggest banks and insurers to assess what risks to their business exists from rising temperatures and rising sea levels around the world and how liabilities arising from the proposed shift to net zero carbon emissions will impact them. "The end result will be more robust management of climate related financial risks across the sector," Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said in a statement.
FairFuelUK claims that fuel supply chains took advantage of falling prices in 2020 and “ripped off the UK’s 37 million drivers.” When oil prices fell 37.39% compared to the 12 months prior, the wholesale petrol price fell by just 14.29% and pump prices by just 9.68%. This meant a "staggering 48.4% increase in fuel supply chain profits,” FairFuel said, as average filling up profits for petrol rose from 9.3p per litre to 13.8p. The pressure group found that wholesale diesel prices similarly fell by 13.7% but pump prices by just 10.06%, which increased supply chain profits by 25.71%. It estimates average filling up profits for diesel rose from 12.2p per litre to 15.3p. “It is worse than stomach-churning that the fuel supply chain has knowingly used COVID to rip off UK’s 37 million drivers,” said Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK. Petrol prices are currently on average 22p per litre more expensive than a year ago.
The London Metal Exchange will not now close its iconic outcry trading ring permanently. The ring has been open for 144 years, hosting face-to-face trade with the use of hand signals to buy, sell and set metals prices, but it shut in March 2020 because of covid. The owners planned to keep it closed and move trade solely online, via electronic platforms or over the phone, but the ring will now reopen on 6th September after a discussion paper let to push back on the idea from traders. However, the sessions will only continue "subject to continued support" from the nine firms - including ED&F Man, Marex Financial and Societe Generale International - which enjoy the exclusive right to trade metals contracts by open outcry in the Ring.
There are currently 704,000 house sales going through the conveyancing process across Great Britain, the highest over the past decade, according to property portal Rightmove. The figure is 78% higher than in May 2019.
Global air cargo demand rose 12% in April compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2019, led by a strong performance in North America, data from the International Air Transport Association has revealed. Capacity remained 9.7% below pre-Covid-19 levels.
The US has eased travel restrictions for many countries as the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines continues, but not the UK. The BBC reports America’s public health agency updated its criteria to remove 61 countries removed from a Level 4 "avoid all travel" rating. Countries such as France, Spain and Italy are now Level 3, which means fully-vaccinated passengers may go to these areas.
Travellers from the US can visit the UK but must self-isolate on return, as must travellers who have visited the US when they return to Britain.
British Airways and Ryanair are being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority over whether they breached consumer laws by offering only vouchers or alternative dates rather than cash refunds within 14 days to customers when planes were grounded due to the pandemic, or when flights took place but non-essential travel was banned due to lockdown restrictions.
SSP Group, which runs outlets such as Ritazza and Upper Crust at airports and train stations in 35 countries, reported a first-half loss of £182m yesterday, bringing its shortfall over the past 18 months to more than £600m. The firm said footfall at its airport and railway kiosks remains slow, and first-half revenue slumped 78.9% to £256.7m for the six months to end March 31. Although demand for air and rail travel is expected to increase in the coming months, SSP expects a longer-term impact on business travel by air and rail because of changed working practices. The company said it does not expect like-for-like revenue to return to "around pre-COVID levels" until 2024.
Activist investment firm Cevian Capital revealed yesterday that it has built up a stake of almost 5% in Aviva, making it single biggest shareholder. Cevian is now campaigning for the insurance company to give £5bn in cash back to its shareholders next year. "Aviva has been poorly managed for many years, and its high-quality core businesses have been held back by high costs and a series of bad strategic decisions," Christer Gardell, managing partner and co-founder of Cevian said in a statement. He added Aviva should have a value of more than £8 per share within three years and should more than double its dividend to 45 pence. This morning Aviva's stock is trading at £4.18.
A technology entrepreneur who set up his IT company in his bedroom at the age of 22 is to toast a £100m windfall from the sale of the business to Inflexion, the private equity investor. Sky News has learnt that Scott Fletcher, a former child actor who appeared in television shows such as Casualty and Jossy's Giants, is closing in on a blockbuster deal to sell ANS Group. City insiders said the sale could be announced as soon as next week. The deal is expected to create a "leading group in the UK cloud communications sector" and the transaction will value ANS Group at more than £200m.
Opioid specialist Indivior has teamed up with French biotechnology group Aelis to advance the clinical development of a treatment for cannabis use disorder, in a $30m deal. The collaboration includes an exclusive option and license agreement for the global rights to AEF0117, an experimental drug developed by Aelis. CEO Mark Crossley said: "Increasing prevalence of cannabis from the growing movement to legalise medical and recreational marijuana use is leading to greater concern for the potential of adverse outcomes, including elevated addiction risk…AEF0117 is the most advanced new chemical entity under investigation in the clinic and potentially represents a unique opportunity to address a growing unmet public health need."
Google says it will allow rival search engines to become the users' default option on its Android devices, with the changes coming into effect in September. Google said the five most popular eligible search engines - including Google - would be displayed in random order at the top of the screen while up to seven would be shown at the bottom. The move follows a pledge made to EU antitrust regulators two years ago, with the bloc considering rules to be introduced in 2022 to force big tech to ensure competition.
Millions of dollars in Bitcoin paid to hackers after the Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack have been recovered by the US government, Sky News reports. The attack prompted the shutdown of the east coast fuel pipeline last month and a $4.4m (£3.1m) payment was made to Russia-based DarkSide attackers. Officials confirmed on Monday that 63.7 bitcoins, valued at approximately $2.3m (£1.62m), had now been recovered.
Cryptocurrencies plunged yesterday morning when former US president Donald Trump said bitcoin was a "scam." He told Fox Business: “Bitcoin, it just seems like a scam…I don’t like it because it’s another currency competing against the dollar… I want the dollar to be the currency of the world. That’s what I’ve always said.” In 2019 when he was president, he had said he was “not a fan” of cryptocurrencies. In a tweet, he said cryptos “facilitate unlawful behaviour, including drug trade and other illegal activity”.
A US news website claims to have been leaked details of just how little income tax US billionaires pay. ProPublica says it has seen the tax returns of some of the world's richest people, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett, and alleges that Bezos paid no tax in 2007 and 2011, and Musk paid nothing in 2018. A White House spokeswoman called the leak "illegal", and the FBI and tax authorities are investigating. ProPublica said it was analysing what it called a "vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data" on the taxes of the billionaires and would release further details in the coming weeks. ProPublica said the richest 25 Americans pay less in tax - an average of 15.8% of adjusted gross income - than most mainstream US workers.
Wagamama owner Restaurant Group said yesterday that Chair Debbie Hewitt will step down on 31st December to take on the same role at the English Football Association. Hewitt is due to take up her new role at the FA in January 2022. She will be their first ever female Chair.
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