Published: 11 August 2021
Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s relationship with collapsed Greensill Capital is back in the spotlight following a BBC Panorama investigation. Panorama alleges Cameron personally promoted Greensill to investors and appeared with company founder, Lex Greensill at an event hosted by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse in 2019. Panorama also claims to have discovered documents indicating Cameron’s role over a two-and-a-half year period earned him about $10m before tax. The collapse of Greensill in March has left the bank's clients facing billions of dollars in losses. David Cameron insists he has done nothing wrong and yesterday Education secretary Gavin Williamson told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that he had been "absolutely cleared" of any wrongdoing by two independent investigations.
The Guardian says emergency powers to handle post-Brexit queues of lorries heading for France are being made permanent, suggesting the government expects further cross-Channel disruption. Operation Brock, a traffic management system designed to cope with queues of up to 13,000 lorries heading for mainland Europe across Kent, was meant to end by October 2021, after being extended once when the Brexit transition period ended in December 2020. Now ministers are planning to make the provisions indefinite by removing “sunset clauses” from the legislation that set out when the powers would expire, the newspaper claims. That would mean the emergency protocol can be activated at any time to govern the flow of lorries around the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel at Folkestone with contraflow systems.
The Mirror newspaper says a Devon garden centre firm is being 'forced' to give away £100,000 worth of plants for free because Brexit means they don't have the staff to look after the greenery. Matt Pollard of the Plants Galore centres in Plymouth, Newton Abbot and Exeter told local Mirror-group newspaper Devon Live: "In any usual year we would return these plants to our nursery to cut them back and grow them on for future years. "This year it is simply not an option as like many businesses in our sector and the region we can’t find enough staff to work at our nurseries.” He continued: "With the advent of Brexit and the departure of many European staff from the UK, we are suffering the same problem as many other businesses in the Southwest in finding suitable staff who want to work."
Despite the release of pent-up demand after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the pace of recovery on the high street is slowing and more town centre sites are falling vacant. Yahoo Finance UK says the BRC monthly retail sales monitor shows annual sales growth of 6.4% in July, well down on the three-month average of 14.7%. On a two-year basis, which allows a comparison with pre-pandemic times, store sales remained down by 3.6%. The BRC is calling for business rates reform in order to ensure the future of bricks-and-mortar retail.
Halifax says the cost of an average home is now more than eight times the average salary. Over the past year, the average house price of UK cities has grown by 10.3%, while earnings for those living and working in cities rose just 2.1%. The mortgage lender says unaffordability is now at its highest level since they began collecting the data in 2011, and predicts it is likely to be the least affordable market ever due to trends since the financial crisis of climbing house prices and stagnating wages. The Halifax also said that Winchester is now the least affordable city in which to buy a home, having leapfrogged Oxford, as it costs 14 times average earnings, higher than Greater London, 11 times earnings.
GRI Renewable Industries, a Spanish manufacturer of wind towers and industrial wind components for manufacturers and developers in the wind energy market, has announced plans to build a new factory in the UK. 100 offshore towers a year, equivalent to 100,000 tons of steel, will be initially supplied from the production facility, to be built at the Able Marine Energy Park in North Lincolnshire. The total investment is expected to be £78 million and will create approximately 260 direct jobs. The project will receive grant funding from the government’s £160 million Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Support scheme.
A new facility to house a £120 million forging press, one of the biggest in the world, is to be built at Sheffield Forgemasters. The MoD pledged to invest £400 million over the next decade when it acquired the 215-year-old manufacturer last week.
Airline JetBlue says the Covid pandemic will not stop the airline from launching its long-awaited New York to London service today. Chief executive Robin Hayes told the BBC there was "strong demand" for the route in the US where, he said, JetBlue had returned to 2019 levels.
German airline Condor Flugdienst GmbH has selected 16 Airbus A330neo aircraft, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, for its long-haul network to the Americas, Africa and the Caribbean when they are delivered to its base, starting from the Autumn of 2022.
Back in December, Admiral Insurance announced the sale of its Penguin Portals Group (which comprises online comparison portals Confused.com, Rastreator.com and LeLynx.fr and the Group’s technology operation Admiral Technologies) and now shareholders are set to cash in because of the deal and a surge in profits, as the motor insurer announced an interim dividend of 115p a share. Group pre-tax profit surged by 76% to £482.2m as the company paid out less in motor claims due to fewer people driving during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paddy Power-owner Flutter has said its UK betting shop revenue has jumped 7% higher than pre-Covid levels, having seen a 60% increase in the number of people using its online gambling portals during lockdowns, and then punters going back to betting shops as they reopened. Overall, Flutter’s global revenue rose 28% to £3bn and the average number of gamblers rose 40% to more than 7.5 million. Flutter also owns brands such as Betfair and Sky Betting and Gaming. Meanwhile, the BBC said yesterday that GamCare, which operates the National Gambling Helpline, received 41,000 calls for help in the year to the end of March, a 9% increase on the previous year.
Data from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released yesterday shows that UK used car sales had their best quarter ever, rising 108.6% to move 2,167,504 units. The SMMT says the rise marks the emergence from lockdowns and factory delays holding up the delivery of new cars. SMMT research also showed that sales of used Ford Fiestas outstripped any other car, coming in at 94,206 sales. The second most popular second-hand vehicle was a Vauxhall Corsa, with sales of 73,366 units. Third on the list was the Ford Focus (72,105 units), followed by the Volkswagen Golf (69,582 units), and Vauxhall Astra (56,189 units).
Meal kit subscription business HelloFresh has seen sales soar in the last six months, despite the end of lockdown. The Berlin-based company said yesterday that sales rose almost 80% in the first six months of 2021 to hit €3bn (£2.5bn), as over 490 million meals were delivered to 7.6 million customers.
ITV has done a deal with Nineteen21, which trades as 'ismybillfair', which operates an online service to finds "fairer" prices for household bills from a customer's current supplier, as an alternative to switching providers for various utilities. The FTSE 100 broadcaster said it was acquiring a minority stake valued at £1.25m in return for advertising inventory across ITV's broadcast channels and the ITV Hub, with an option to invest a further £1.25m.
Shares in engineering firm TP Group jumped yesterday after news emerged that Science Group had bought more than 10% of the company in a clear takeover bid. Science said it bought 79.3m shares in the market at 5p a share, after TP rebuffed several approaches about an investment by the science and technology consulting company and, more recently, a proposed takeover.
US tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) looks likely to clinch the deal for London-listed inhaler maker Vectur after rival suitor Carlyle said it would not be upping its offer. PMI meanwhile has switched its bid for a takeover to a scheme of arrangement to increase the certainty of a deal, as that requires a lower level of shareholder approval. Sharecast News says a scheme of arrangement requires 75% shareholder support, whereas a takeover offer only requires 50% under UK takeover rules. On Monday, the UK Takeover Panel said the process would be put to auction if both suitors don't make final bids by the end of the day on Tuesday. PMI, whose offer is already 10p a share higher than Carlyle's, can now either stick with its offer or increase it.
London-listed Bitcoin miner Argo Blockchain has announced a revenue increase of 180% for the first half of 2021, a total of £31.1m, reflecting an increase in production plus an increase in Bitcoin prices. Yesterday however, the firm was forced to deny accusations that it purchased a strip of land in Texas for up to 100 times its actual value. Research organisation Boatman Capital claims Argo’s deal to spend up to $17.5m on land that it claims is worth just $168,000 raises “serious governance questions about why this deal was done and who benefited”. Argo, which plans to build a new cryptocurrency mining facility on the site, said the claims made by Boatman were “unfounded” and boss Peter Wall insisted that the acquisition of the Texas land was a "very solid deal".
AMC, the US cinema chain that owns Odeon, says it will allow customers to pay for movie tickets and concessions in Bitcoin by the end of the year. Boss Adam Aron said it has been exploring the technology and "how else AMC can participate in this new burgeoning cryptocurrency universe".
The firm, which is the largest US cinema chain, has not said whether it will apply to its cinemas in Europe.
TikTok was the world's most downloaded app in 2020, stealing the title from Facebook Messenger. The news was broken by digital analytics company App Annie. The Chinese video-sharing platform is the only app in the global top five not owned by Facebook.
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