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A new chapter in the story of human space flight is beginning

   NEWS / 28 Jun 2021

Published: 28 June 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


“A new chapter in the story of human space flight is beginning,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday, as it confirmed it had given Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc “the first commercial space license to launch private individuals into space.” Shares in the company, founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson in 2004, surged almost 40% on the news, its highest one-day jump ever. As the FAA upgraded the company’s existing license to cover customer flights, Virgin Galactic said that a May 22 test flight performed well against objectives. Fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos plans his first space trip in July, after auctioning a passenger seat for $28 million.
 
Travel stocks slumped further on Friday, despite the government widening its travel ‘Green list.’ Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, told the BBC that the announcement was not enough to help the sector recover from the pandemic. "We cannot afford another missed summer. There are jobs at stake, Britons separated from family members and we cannot afford to allow the success of our vaccine programme to be wasted," he said. Meanwhile, industry body ABTA, which estimates some 195,000 travel jobs have been lost or are at risk as a result of the response to covid-19, said the announcement "will not on its own deliver the meaningful restart of international travel that the industry desperately needs".  Jet2which runs holidays to the Canary Islands, revealed that there had been a huge surge in bookings after the announcement on Thursday night, Yahoo Finance UK reported. Jet2 said it had seen the highest volume of bookings to the Balearic Islands in almost a year, with bookings for next month up more than 3,000% alone. Bookings for Malta and Madeira also jumped by nearly 1,500%. However, shares in the company, which called the move "a step in the right direction", were down 2% in London in afternoon trade.
 
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has banned Binance, the world's biggest crypto-currency exchange, ruling that it must not conduct any "regulated activity" in the UK. It also issued a consumer warning about Binance.com, advising people to be wary of adverts promising high returns on cryptoasset investments. The BBC reports that Binance.com is an online centralised exchange that offers users a range of financial products and services, including purchasing and trading a wide range of digital currencies, as well as digital wallets, futures, securities, savings accounts and even lending. Although the FCA does not regulate crypto-currencies, it does regulate cryptoassets. Firms must be authorised by the regulator in order to advertise or sell such products in the UK.
 
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the UK's accountancy watchdog, has launched an investigation into accountancy firm Saffery Champness, the auditor of Greensill Capital, the collapsed financial backer of industrialist Sanjeev Gupta. It is also looking into PwC, which audited financial statements made by Wyelands Bank, which was controlled by Gupta.  The FRC said it was looking into Saffery Champness' audit of Greensill Capital's financial statements for the year to 31 December 2019. The supply chain finance company went bust in March, raising concerns over the future of GFG Alliance, the sprawling empire controlled by Gupta and his family which owns the UK's Liberty Steel.
 
UK Car production increased in May on last year but continues to be held back by a global supply shortage of semiconductors, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said. Output last month was 54,962 vehicles last month, up 934% on the 5,314 vehicles produced in May 2020 while the country was in lockdown. However, this is still down 52.6% on the same month in 2019, and 58% lower on the five-year average. “May’s figures continue to look inflated when compared to last year’s near total standstill of production lines. The recovery of car production is, however, still massively challenged here and abroad by global supply shortages, particularly semiconductors,” SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said. Carmakers are competing with tech companies and the consumer electronics market for supplies.
 
BT and satellite operator OneWeb have signed a deal to explore ways to provide broadband internet to remote areas of the UK and to people at sea, the BBC reports. OneWeb, which is partly UK taxpayer-owned, has 218 satellites in low Earth orbit, and is due to launch a further 36 on Thursday. The tie-up will also look at how to improve the speed that people can access data in remote areas, and how to improve the signal people can get on their phone, including how to stop it cutting out so much. The two also want to develop services for BT's global customers.
 
LadBible Group is said to be exploring a stock market listing or partial sale. Sky News reports the youth-focused digital publisher, founded by Solly Solomou and Arian Kalantari in 2012, is working with investment bank Zeus Capital on a review of a full range of strategic options. If it does float, sources said the Manchester-based company was likely to seek a valuation between £350m and £400m. Mr Solomou is understood to hold a controlling stake in LadBible, meaning his interest is expected to be worth roughly £200m.
 
Hundreds of people were accidentally charged thousands of pounds to go on fairground rides at Brighton Palace Pier because of a "processing error" by payment providers Worldpay. In a statement posted on social media, Anne Ackord, the CEO of The Brighton Pier Group, said that the issue was caused by the date being used by the payment processor, instead of the actual amount due. This saw customers charged more than £2,100, with the last two digits of 2021 coming first. Ms Ackord said: "A number of our customers contacted Worldpay, who refused to engage with them on the grounds of data protection. As soon as we discovered that this serious error had occurred we entered into discussions with Worldpay - who have accepted full responsibility - to ensure that refunds are processed without delay.” Both Brighton Pier Group and Worldpay have apologised to customers.
 
Consumers should be given a guarantee that they will have access to cash, as they do with water, electricity and the post, Age UK says. The charity is warning that many face exclusion from society if they cannot get hold of notes and coins. Cash use in purchases fell sharply during the pandemic, as lockdowns reduced the options for spending, which accelerated a trend of falling use of notes and coins. However, Age UK said it would be a mistake to assume that everyone was willing or able to do their banking digitally.
 
US drugs giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is to pay $230m (£165m) to settle claims it fuelled an opioid addiction crisis in New York State. The firm did not admit liability or wrongdoing in settling, and the payment removes it from a trial due to begin tomorrow, in which several large opioid makers - including AbbVie and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries - and distributors are defendants. J&J said the settlements were consistent with a prior agreement to pay $5bn to settle US-wide opioid claims. "The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities across New York state and the rest of the nation, leaving millions still addicted to dangerous and deadly opioids," New York attorney general Letitia James said. and several distributors are among the defendants. In October Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin painkillers, reached an $8.3bn settlement and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve an investigation into its role in America's opioid crisis.
 
Panasonic has sold its entire stake in electric carmaker Tesla for $3.61bn, the company announced on Friday, claiming it wanted to reduce its reliance on Elon Musk’s electric car company and was seeking to raise cash for investing in growth. The move is a surprise as Panasonic's battery business is dominated Tesla and was one of its early backers. Panasonic said that the transaction wouldn't change its relationship with Tesla.
 
Trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was temporarily suspended this morning due to extreme weather, but reopened in the afternoon when the government cancelled an earlier "black rainstorm" warning. The city has three levels of rainstorm warning, with black being the highest after amber and red. Landslides and flooding were reported in some parts of Hong Kong as it was hit with high amounts of rainfall.


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