Published: 27 July 2021
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has denied that the government is planning to replace cash with a digital currency dubbed 'Britcoin'. In a lengthy LinkedIn post yesterday afternoon he wrote: "It’s right that we explore the potential role of central bank digital currencies (CBDC) to understand the wide-ranging opportunities and challenges they could bring. A CBDC would, potentially, be a new form of digital money issued by the Bank of England and for use by households and businesses. It would exist alongside cash and bank deposits".
The government is looking at ways to exclude China's state-owned China General Nuclear Corp. (CGN) from all future power projects in the country. According to a person familiar with the matter, among the projects that could be impacted were the proposed £20bn Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk, in which CGN had partnered with Electricite de France, and the Bradwell-on-Sea development in Essex. CGN also held a 33% stake in the Hinkley Point C facility that was already under construction. Bloomberg says that while the move could put the UK's net-zero emissions target at risk, given EDF's plans to shut five of the UK's eight nuclear plants by 2024, it might tilt the odds in favour of mini nuclear reactors being developed by a consortia led by Rolls Royce.
The Environment Agency said yesterday that waste management company Biffa has been found guilty of exporting more than 1,000 tonnes of household waste to Asia. An investigation by the agency prevented 16 25-tonne containers from onward export between Southampton and India and Indonesia in 2018 and 2019. Biffa was also convicted of exporting a further 26 containers that sailed before they could be stopped. Various items such as soiled nappies, tins, hairpieces, plastics and food packaging were logged as paper at Biffa's depot in north London. Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: "We are pleased with the court's decision…illegal waste exports blight the lives and environment of those overseas. The Environment Agency will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those found to break the rules.” In 2015, Biffa was fined £350,000 for shipping similar prohibited material to China. The company will be sentenced on 30 July at Wood Green crown court.
Trade group Airlines UK says travel is yet to restart in a "meaningful" way and that bookings have failed to recover due to the "frustrating" traffic light system and costly testing requirements. In a letter to Transport secretary Grant Shapps, Airlines UK said passenger bookings in the rest of Europe had recovered to 50% of pre-crisis levels in June, compared to just 16% in the UK, and that US visitor numbers to the UK are still only 20% of 2019 levels, whereas to the EU they are around 65%. The traffic light system means spending on travel was now back at "the same fraught position as last year," the group said, and that consumer confidence would remain weak without change.
Heathrow Airport's cumulative losses continue to stack up as Covid-19 travel lockdowns lag in the UK – they have now hit £2.9bn. CEO John Holland-Kaye warned the UK is "falling behind its EU rivals in international trade by being slow to remove restrictions." "Replacing PCR tests with lateral flow tests and opening up to EU and US vaccinated travellers at the end of July will start to get Britain's economic recovery off the ground," he said. Fewer than 4 million people travelled through Heathrow in the first six months of 2021, a level that would have taken just 18 days to reach in 2019.
FirstGroup chief executive Matthew Gregory is to step down after pressure from major shareholder Coast Capital. He will leave on September 13 and be replaced temporarily by chairman David Martin. US-based Coast, which owns about 14% of the FTSE 250-listed company, called for Gregory's resignation yesterday, along with two other board members. Coast has been critical of First group's $4.5bn disposal of its First Student and First Transit bus operations in the US to Scandinavian fund EQT. It said that Gregory, who became chief executive in 2018, should "resign and be replaced by a CEO of industry competency, as soon as possible," despite the group’s announcement of an operating profit of £224.3m, up from a £299m loss a year earlier.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) owner Tata Motors says it is still feeling the strain of the global semiconductor shortage, but car sales are recovering after the pandemic. JLR, which brings in most of the group's revenue, saw sales rise 68% year-on-year, but Tata said the chip supply shortage was likely to worsen in the short term, and JLR’s production in the next quarter could be cut in half. Tata's losses for April to June narrowed to $598m (£432.7m), after a loss of more than $1bn in the previous three months, the BBC said.
Car firm Nissan has launched a recruitment drive to find 400 new staff to build new models including the Qashqai and Leaf at its Sunderland plant.
London-listed marijuana business Kanabo has struck a deal with the European operations of Canada's Materia, a cannabis processor and supplier, that will make it Europe's largest publicly-traded cannabis company. Exact terms have not been disclosed but Kanabo told Yahoo Finance UK the deal would be paid for through shares and be subject to performance-related goals. An Israeli company, Kanabo makes vaporised marijuana pods and inhalers for medicinal use and CBD products for the "wellness" market. The company listed in London in February, becoming one of the first businesses to come to market in the UK after the regulator relaxed rules around cannabis listings last year.
Iconic department store Selfridges is officially on the market, with owners the Weston family seeking at least £4bn for the chain of four locations. According to the Times, advisors at Credit Suisse were preparing documents for prospective buyers, with a formal auction process to begin this week. The sale includes all four Selfridges stores, those in London, Birmingham and the two in Manchester.
Funeral services provider Dignity has appointed John Castagno as its new chairman with effect from last Friday.
NewRiver REIT has agreed to sell its pubs business, Hawthorn Leisure REIT, to pub operator Admiral Taverns for around £222.3m in cash.
Broadcaster ITV has agreed to invest £2.5m in cash for a minority shareholding in Live Tech Games, a platform that combines mobile entertainment and live gaming tournaments.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris has said it could stop selling cigarettes in the UK within 10 years' time as it focuses on alternatives, such as heated tobacco. The BBC reports that the move would mean that the firm's flagship Marlboro brand would disappear from British shops.
Online bank Starling says it has bought specialist buy-to-let mortgage lender Fleet Mortgages in a £50m cash and share deal.
Tesco Bank will write to customers within the next two weeks to tell them it intends to close all 213,000 of their current accounts. The bank says most customers are no longer using them, estimating that only 12% of its current accounts are used by customers as their primary account. Most had "limited activity" it said, while others were being used for "other purposes, such as a “savings pot". The decision comes after the bank reported a £175m loss in April, compared with a £193m profit in the previous 12 months. Gerry Mallon, chief executive of Tesco Bank, said the bank would support customers to find "a suitable alternative dependent on their circumstances".
Credit Suisse Group says it has reached an out-of-court settlement with its former head of wealth management, Iqbal Khan, whom it admitted spying on. The scandal brought down former CEO Tidjane Thiam. The bank said all parties had agreed to settle — including Khan, his wife and the private detective firm Investigo, whom Credit Suisse hire to trail Khan, who had been tipped as the next CEO before leaving to work at rival UBS Group. "This matter is now closed," the bank said. However, a probe by the Swiss financial regulator Finma into surveillance activities by the bank is still ongoing. Yahoo Finance UK says the settlement brings to close a string of scandals in recent months for one of Europe's largest lenders, which is facing an exodus of senior bankers. The bank was dealt a double blow following the collapse of Archegos Capital Management and Greensill Capital. Archegos’ collapse cost the bank $4.7bn (£3.4bn) in losses, and funds totalling $10bn which it ran for Greensill had to be frozen.
Aon and Willis Towers Watson have abandoned a $30bn merger that would have created the world's biggest insurance broker, after the US Department of Justice objected on competition grounds.
Amazon has denied that it is considering accepting cryptocurrencies as payment, as reported yesterday.
Shares in Chinese companies listed in the US have seen their biggest two-day fall since the 2008 financial crisis. The Nasdaq Golden Dragon China Index, which follows the 98 biggest US-listed Chinese stocks, has fallen by almost 15% in the last two trading sessions. The index has now plummeted by more than 45% since hitting a record high in February. The slump comes as the Chinese government continues its crackdown on technology and education industries.
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