Published: 14 June 2021
Boris Johnson said on Saturday that Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity, as talks continued at the G7 summit in Cornwall regarding the Northern Ireland protocol. Johnson claimed that the protocol is having a "damaging impact" on the people of Northern Ireland, and a round of talks dubbed ‘sausage wars’ broke down last week. The EU is insisting the British Government implements the Brexit deal in full and initiates checks on certain goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland. Johnson said: "I've talked to some of our friends here today, who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads."
The European Medicines Agency has recommended that countries should avoid giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60. The UK has also previously recommended using an alternative to the AstraZeneca shot for those under the age of 40.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced it will convene an emergency meeting on June 18 to discuss a higher-than-expected number of young men who have experienced heart inflammation after their second dose of the mRNA Covid-19 shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, according to data from two vaccine safety monitoring systems. On Thursday, the CDC revealed that it had identified 475 cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in people younger than 30 years old. The CDC and other health regulators have been investigating heart inflammation cases after Israel’s Health Ministry reported that it had found a likely link to the condition in young men who received Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Lockdowns have claimed Stobart Air, the regional Irish airline. Nearly 500 jobs are at risk after the firm announced it was going into liquidation. The company thought it had secured a buyer, but that deal fell through when financing failed to materialise. The cessation of trade by Stobart Air affects several flights from Dublin and Belfast airports to UK cities, and travellers have been left stranded. Aer Lingus was subsequently forced to cancel flights as its franchise contract with Stobart Air came to an abrupt end. An Aer Lingus statement said: “Late on the evening of June 11, Stobart Air notified Aer Lingus that it was terminating its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus with immediate effect…Stobart Air referred to the continuing impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in almost no flying since March 2020.”
Heathrow passenger numbers are languishing at 90% below pre-pandemic levels, the airport said on Friday as managers fired a broadside at government ministers over the so-called "green" travel list. Yahoo Finance reports that just 675,000 people travelled through airport in May, compared with 6.7m in the same month of 2019. The company criticised "ministers' refusal to provide transparency" on the data behind decisions on the green travel list - countries from which people can return without having to quarantine. "One month after government hailed the restart of international travel and assured the public that a risk-based traffic light system would unlock low-risk travel, the system has yet to achieve what it was designed to do," Heathrow said in a statement. The airport urged the government to "rely on the science and restart travel to low-risk countries like the US" at the next review later this month.
Car park operator NCP has angered car park owners with plans for a radical restructuring involving steep rent cuts: the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that some owners have opened discussions with other operators. Park24, the Japanese company that bought NCP from the Australian bank Macquarie for £450m four years ago, says the cuts are a “last resort” to safeguard the business that runs across 500 sites and employs 1,000 staff. Despite pledging to support NCP for at least a year in December 2020, Park 24 now says it will pull financial support for the company if the restructuring deal is not agreed. Aberdeen Standard is leading opposition to the plans, alongside Legal & General, Knight Frank Asset Management, Grosvenor Estate and Hammerson. Local councils and Network Rail are also involved. City sources told the Telegraph that even landlords not facing rent cuts will vote against the restructuring plan over fears that it could set a dangerous precedent for discussions with other companies in financial distress because of Covid. The proposals will be put to the vote on Thursday.
Huawei's UK operation saw turnover plummet 27.5% in 2020 to £913m following the government’s decision to ban the company from providing 5G infrastructure for its mobile network. Operating profit was down by a quarter to £36.4m before tax, despite a £26m reduction in costs during that period due to reduced employee and travel expenses. In July last year, digital and culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced an “irreversible path for the complete removal of Huawei equipment from our 5G networks” and said the Chinese company’s role in historic networks would also be reviewed. Dowden admitted the move would set back efforts to establish 5G in Britain by up to three years and cost the telecoms industry billions, but he defended the move on national security grounds.
Naked Wines has slumped to a £10.7m annual loss, despite growing sales by 68% thanks to a boom in online alcohol demand. Shares fell nearly 10% after results showed how a splurge on spending to acquire new customers, including doubling the advertising budget to £42.3m, had helped send the group into the red. The loss for the year to 29 March was double that recorded a year earlier. Shares in the company fell nearly 10% on the news when it was released on Friday.
JD Sports is facing an investor backlash after handing its boss a £4.3m bonus despite benefiting from millions of pounds in Covid support, the BBC reports. Executive chairman Peter Cowgill's total pay, including a short-term salary reduction, reached nearly £5m. Shareholder advisory group Glass Lewis recommends that investors vote against JD Sports' "inappropriate" pay policy. The retailer received £61m through the UK furlough scheme and an estimated £38m in business rates relief, plus it benefitted from an additional £25m in wage support from other countries where it operates, including the US. JD Sports was also granted a £300m loan through the Bank of England's Covid Corporate Financing Facility Scheme which was set up to help larger firms through the pandemic. JD Sports said it had not used any of the loan by the time the scheme closed in March.
Whitbread also faces an investor backlash over executive bonuses accrued during the pandemic, as it axed jobs and used state funds to furlough employees. Sky News has learnt one of the City's most influential voting services, IVIS, has red-topped Whitbread's remuneration report ahead of its annual meeting next Thursday, although the vote will be advisory rather than binding. Whitbread’s remuneration committee decided that chief executive Alison Brittain had earned part of her annual bonus entitlements for 2020-21, but that payment should be delayed by 12 months depending upon performance. Glass Lewis and Pirc, which also advise shareholders on AGM voting, have recommended shareholders approve the remuneration report.
Oil demand is set to rise above pre-covid levels by the end of 2022, but oil producers will need to boost production, the International Energy Agency said on Friday. The Paris-based body expects consumption to rebound by 5.4 million barrels per day (bd) this year as vaccines are rolled out and economies reopen. The price of oil has hit a 32-month high as the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines underpins an improved summer demand outlook in the U.S. and Europe. Consumption declined by a record 8.6 million bd in 2020 as lockdowns were implemented.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc is reviewing its holdings in the largest oil field in the U.S., a possible sale that could raise as much as $10 billion, according to Reuters. The potential sale could include all of Shell’s 260,000 acres in the Permian Basin, according to unidentified people familiar with the matter. Shell declined to comment on Reuters’ report. The oil and gas giant is under pressure after being instructed by a Dutch court to accelerate carbon emission cuts last month.
BP Plc is planning to spin off its operations in Iraq into a standalone company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The new company would hold BP's interest in Iraq's giant Rumaila oil field and be jointly owned by China National Petroleum Corp, one of BP's partners at the site said. BP declined to comment on the report. Analysts say spinning off oil and gas assets is a way for BP to shift towards renewable energy.
Sir Richard Branson is in advanced talks about taking Virgin Orbit, his satellite launch company, on to the US public markets. Sky News says Virgin Orbit is close to finalising a deal to combine with NextGen Acquisition II, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) set up by George Mattson, a former Goldman Sachs banker. Sources told Sky that NextGen II is in exclusive talks Branson’s Low Earth Orbit satellite business, which is 80%-owned by the tycoon's Virgin Group empire. Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, owns the remaining 20% of Virgin Orbit's shares. A deal valuing Virgin Orbit at approximately $3bn (£2.1bn) could be announced in the coming weeks, according to insiders.
A new £10m rail pass and voucher scheme is to be launched by The National Lottery this autumn to encourage people to travel within the UK and reinvigorate domestic tourism. Players will have the chance to claim vouchers for tourist attractions in the UK between September this year and March 2022.
British consumers are expected to spend £408.5bn or £6,150 per head in 2021 as the economy recovers, according to new research from VoucherCodes.co.uk carried out by the Centre of Retail Research. London is expected to see the biggest boost in combined online and offline retail spending, with £76.2bn forecast for 2021, or £8,554 per head. Spending is also forecast to remain highest in London in 2022 at £80bn total sales and £8,982 per head on average. Covid-related shutdowns saw the retail industry take a large dip in 2020, with year on year growth between 2019 and 2020 hit an all-time low of 0.3%.
Manufacturing growth forecast for 2021 has been upgraded from 3.9% to 7.8%. A major survey published today by Make UK and business advisory firm BDO suggests the sector is set to recover a significant amount of last year’s 10% decline and outpace the growth of the economy overall (current forecast 7.5%). This growth is based on a surge in both domestic and overseas orders which has increased the hiring of workers in the industry, which climbed from -6% to 20%, Yahoo Finance reports. Make UK said that assuming the coronavirus vaccine rollout programme continues at pace and its effectiveness is strong, manufacturing output will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, earlier than previous forecasts suggested.
Asda has been crowned the UK’s cheapest supermarket, based on the cost of items from the Office for National Statistics’ consumer price index "shopping basket" throughout May. An Asda basket came in at an average cost of £110.02, compared to £113.68 for Sainsbury's. A Tesco basket costs £114.75, while Iceland comes in at £117.01.
It is now cheaper to rent a property than it is to buy a home for the first time in six years, the BBC reports. Prior to the pandemic in March 2020, people with a 10% deposit would have been £102 per month better off buying a property than renting, according to estate agency Hamptons. But falling rents mean people are now spending far less to live in cities. There are now only four areas in the UK where it is cheaper to buy a home than rent. They are the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, and Scotland.
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