Published: 19 July 2021
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has tested positive for covid, despite having had both doses of the covid vaccines. He says his symptoms are mild. A huge political row ensued after his announcement yesterday morning, as it was revealed that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak – with whom Javid had been in recent close contact – would not be self-isolating as would be required by anyone else in the country as they were taking part in a ‘pilot’ scheme involving daily testing instead. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “It is one rule for them and another rule for everyone else” and for once, Twitter seemed almost wholly united in outrage. Within a couple of hours – during which time Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick had been on TV to defend Johnson and Sunak’s reportedly ‘random’ selection to be part of the new pilot scheme – the two had U-turned and will now be self-isolating until 26th July, working remotely from home, in Johnson’s case, Chequers.
Business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Marks & Spencer (M&S) have urged the government to tackle a nationwide “pingdemic” by immediately amending the self-isolation policy for people notified by the NHS test-and-trace app. They said “speed was of the essence” as crippling staff shortages threatened to close supermarkets and bring car production lines to a halt. Yahoo Finance UK reports that M&S says it may have to reduce store opening hours if the rate of workers self-isolating continues to rise. Miore than 500,000 people in England and Wales were pinged by the app in the week to 7 July, up 46% on the previous week. People who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 must currently self-isolate for 10 days.
Greene King has been forced to close 33 pubs in the past week due to staff shortages caused by people being forced to self-isolate by the NHS Covid app. Greene King boss Nick Mackenzie said the pubs group had also had to shorten opening hours in some circumstances. "I think this is a problem," he told the BBC. "It could get worse."
A report by Make UK, a body representing manufacturers, and business advisory firm BDO says exports to the EU fell significantly in 2020 due to political uncertainty around Brexit. An analysis of HMRC data showed five English regions and Wales saw their percentage of EU exports fall. In two regions the share stayed the same and only the West Midlands and Scotland saw the share of exports to the EU increase slightly. Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson said if the government doesn’t smooth out critical issues such as customs procedures “there is a risk that the drop in exports to the bloc we have seen over the last couple of years will become structural and permanent.” The report also noted the “brutal” impact of COVID-19 on the industry.
GlaxoSmithKline is launching a development plan that is set to create up to 5,000 new jobs within 10 years by extending its facility in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, where it currently conducts research and development. The plan involves selling off a third of the 92 acre site, which it hopes will unlock £400m of new investment. Stevenage is one of GSK's two global research and development hubs, and hosts the UK's largest work into cell and gene therapy. The development of the new site is expected to begin in 2022. The new campus - which will sit next to GSK's existing site at Stevenage - could ultimately deliver 100,000 square metres of new floor space for commercial life sciences research and development, the BBC reports.
Reuters reports that pharma giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is exploring a plan to offload liabilities from widespread Baby Powder litigation into a newly created business that would then seek bankruptcy protection, according to seven people familiar with the matter. The manoeuvre is known among legal experts as a Texas two-step bankruptcy, a strategy other companies facing asbestos litigation have used in recent years. J&J faces legal actions from tens of thousands of plaintiffs alleging its Baby Powder and other talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. The plaintiffs include women suffering from ovarian cancer and others battling mesothelioma. J&J also faces litigation alleging it contributed to the US opioid epidemic and recently recalled certain spray sunscreen products after discovering some of them contained low levels of benzene, another carcinogen. The company in June agreed to pay $263 million to resolve opioid claims in New York but denies wrongdoing.
Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is in advanced talks to acquire a stake in Woking-based McLaren Group as part of a fresh shake-up at the British supercar manufacturer and Formula One team-owner. Sky News has learnt that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is to participate in a £550m equity-raise which could be unveiled by McLaren within days. Banking sources said the deal would include £400m of new capital from PIF and Ares Management, a major global investment firm, with £150m being injected into the company by McLaren's existing shareholders - who include Mumtalakat, the sovereign investment fund of Bahrain.
Manchester City’s parent company City Football Group (CFG) has reportedly raised $650m (£470m) in one of the biggest ever debt deals the game has seen, as it looks to increase investment in its international network of clubs. The loan will materialise in July 2028, the FT reported, and was underwritten by Barclays. HSBC and KKR Capital Markets assisted in arranging and distributing the debt, people familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance UK. Separately, CFG has also organised a revolving credit facility worth £100m with the same finance providers.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Britain's biggest accountancy firm, is preparing to unveil record profits following a surge in demand for its services during the pandemic. Sky News says the firm’s 900 or so partners have been told in recent days that they can expect average pay for the year to June 30 of £818,000 - a 19% increase on the previous year. They were also informed they would receive an average payout of £50,000 generated by the sale of its technology platform and several other smaller disposals. That incremental payment will take PwC's average profit-per-partner to £868,000 - easily the largest figure in the history of the firm's UK partnership.
An entire new whisky distillery was shipped out to China from Scotland on Friday. Over 35 tonnes of equipment, including 16 containers and 5 wooden crates, flooring, control valves and pipework, left Buckie, Moray, near Inverness, for the port of Tianjin and will be put together at a facility being built in Ordos, Inner Mongolia. The order is part of a £3m "design and build" deal that was signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China's MengTai Group in 2019. The project was announced in December 2019 when David Valentine, managing director of Valentine International Business Connections, signed a contract in London to procure the distillery on behalf of the Inner Mongolia MengTai Group, one of the region’s top five companies. The original plan was to have the new distillery producing its first batch of malt whisky by the end of 2020, but the pandemic slowed this down. The project is now back on track for completion at the end of 2021.
GCP Student Living shares surged on Friday after the student housing provider agreed to be bought by Scape Living and iQSA Holdco in a £969m deal. The consortium will pay 213p in cash for each GCP share, which is a 30.7% premium to the undisturbed share price of 163p on 1 July. Scape and IqSA are backed by funds managed by APG Asset Management and Blackstone Funds.
DS Smith says it had sold its De Hoop paper mill in the Netherlands to De Jong Packaging for €50m (£43m). The De Hoop mill produces around 370k tonnes of mainly heavier grades of recycled paper a year. Completion of the sale is expected to take place in the second quarter of the 2021/22 fiscal year.
Shares in the owner of private members club Soho House fell out of fashion with investors on Friday, as it ended its stock market debut 9.6% lower. Membership Collective Group (MCG), which has expanded its exclusive clubs into a dozen countries across the globe, saw its stock drop to less $12.66 after its first day of trading in New York, valuing the firm at $2.5bn (£1.8bn). It had raised $420m in its initial public offering led by JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp, and sold 30 million shares at $14 each, at the lower end of expectations. It had previously said it would list at between $14 and $16 a share. The company was founded by chief executive, Nick Jones, in 1995 in London’s Soho district as a venue for executives in the creative industries. It has clubs in cities including New York, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Barcelona, and is planning to open additional clubs in Paris, Rome and Tel Aviv in the near future. However, despite its almost 120,000 members who pay up to $3,400 a year and attracting celebrities such as supermodel Kate Moss to the clubs, it is yet to turn a profit after almost three decades.
Oil producing nations have agreed to increase their output, with the aim of reducing prices and easing pressure on the world economy. The Opec cartel – which controls 50% of global supplies - and partners such as Russia will boost supply from August after prices climbed to two-and-half-year highs during the pandemic. The move should have an impact on petrol prices at the pump, which have also rocketed, the BBC reports. The price of Brent crude oil is up 43% this year to almost $74 a barrel. Last year, Opec and its partners cut production by a record 10 million barrels per day amid a pandemic-induced slump in demand and collapsing prices. However, this year the price of oil has surged as economies have reopened, contributing to rising inflation in some countries and threatening to put the brakes on the global recovery. Oil producers have been seeking to ease the cuts, but a row between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates threatened to derail the plans earlier in July. Under the new deal, Opec has agreed to increase supply by a further two million barrels per day from August until December 2021 to help stabilise the market. The cartel said it would phase out by September 2022 oil production cuts that were brought in last year.
The BBC reports that an American father and son have been sentenced for their role in ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan in 2019. The Tokyo court sentenced US Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor to two years in prison. His son Peter was handed a term of one year and eight months. The pair were extradited from the US over claims they smuggled Mr Ghosn out of Japan in a luggage box on a private jet as he awaited trial. Japanese prosecutors had been seeking prison terms of two years and 10 months for Michael Taylor and two years and six months for Peter. They were accused of orchestrating Mr Ghosn's escape to Lebanon from western Japan's Kansai airport in December 2019 and receiving $1.3m (£950,000) for their services. Both had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges and said that they regretted their actions.
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