Published: 23 August 2021
The government received record inheritance tax (IHT) and stamp duty receipts last month. Britons paid £571m in inheritance tax in July and receipts from property purchases hit £1.3bn. Both figures represent the most ever paid in a single month. For the period between April and July, HM Revenue & Customs collected £2bn in inheritance tax receipts, an increase of £0.5bn year-on-year.
Cricketing legend Ian Botham has been appointed the new trade envoy to Australia. On Twitter, Trade Minister Liz Truss said: “Ian will bat for business Down Under and help them seize the opportunities created by our historic trade deal.”
More than 80 private Covid travel test providers currently listed on the government's website risk being removed because of misleading prices, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced. A further 57 firms will be deleted today, either because they no longer exist or do not actually provide the relevant tests. The government has also pledged to introduce spot checks on test providers.
Rumours abound that John Flint, the former HSBC Holdings chief executive, is in talks with Whitehall officials about becoming the inaugural boss of the government's new £22bn UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB). Sky News claims that Flint, who left HSBC two years ago, is among the leading candidates to run the new lender. The UKIB has been charged by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, with aiding Britain's 2050 net zero carbon emissions target by prioritising investment in projects that tackle climate change. In his Budget in March, Sunak said it would receive £12bn in initial state funding as well as a further £10bn in government loan guarantees. That funding would enable it to "unlock more than £40bn of financing for key projects across the UK", the Treasury said.
Logistics UK, which represents freight firms, and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have written jointly to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking for a review of plans not to grant temporary work visas to drivers from the EU, and for funding and a ‘fast-track’ scheme for HGV driver training. They said the impact on supply chains is getting worse because of a 90,000 shortfall in drivers caused by Brexit and Covid-19. The shortfall "is placing increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains," they say in their letter. "While there was a shortage of HGV drivers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, these two events have exacerbated situation. The pandemic halted driver training and testing for over 12 months, while an estimated 25,000 EU drivers returned home during the pandemic and following the end of the transition period."
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says the planned £29bn purchase of UK chip designer Arm by US firm Nvidia raises "serious" competition concerns. The competition watchdog has said it was worried the deal would stifle innovation and ultimately mean more expensive or lower quality products in cutting edge technologies such as gaming and self-driving cars. This warranted a further in-depth investigation into the takeover, CMA said. Arm manufactures 180 billion chips annually to be used in products ranging from smartphones to toasters. 70% of the world engages with its technology, the CMA's report said. The UK-based company has been put up for sale by current owner Softbank, the Japanese conglomerate, which agreed a deal with Nvidia last September. Nvidia said the deal would benefit Arm, licensees and competition in the UK.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is considering strike action over the threat of "potentially lethal" legionella bacteria found on Thameslink trains. Trace amounts of legionella were found in seven toilets on four trains, the BBC reports. Thameslink said the toilets had been drained and bleached but the RMT union said this was "half-hearted and inadequate". Thameslink said there was "no recorded case of anyone, ever, contracting legionella from a train".
Airline easyJet has picked turnaround specialist Stephen Hester as its new chair. He will start the job in December this year. Hester is best known from his years at Royal Bank of Scotland in the aftermath of the financial crisis. He stood down from that position in 2013 following several high-profile rows with politicians over his bonus and RBS’s lending to small business. He later joined RSA Insurance, negotiating its sale to one Danish and one Canadian buyer while recovering from surgery in hospital. Hester put himself on the market publicly in April, in an interview with the Times which made it clear he was free to take on new roles.
Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC says it could fine budget carriers easyJet and Wizz Air up to €50,000 for each violation for charging extra fees for seats assigned to adults accompanying minors and disabled people. ENAC has already announced measures against Ryanair over similar allegations.
FTSE 250 facilities management company Mitie has agreed to sell its document management business to outsourcer Swiss Post Solutions for £40m.
The Cornwall-based Watt Electric Vehicle Company is set to build a new commercial vehicle manufacturing plant in the Midlands, delivering 5,000 vehicles a year. The firm also plans to open a factory in Cornwall to build passenger EVs and sports cars.
FTSE 250 real estate investment trust LXi has announced several acquisitions for a total cost of £80m: a "substantial" life science and biotechnology campus in York fully let to outsourcing giant Capita; the media studios and headquarters facility of Scottish broadcaster STV in Glasgow's Pacific Quay; and a waste recycling and storage facility in Aberdeen, currently let to waste management company Biffa. The firm also announced that it had sold its Lidl supermarket in Chard, Somerset for £7.8m, the sale price reflecting a material premium of 38% to the acquisition price.
Homebase, Carphone Warehouse and Sports Direct have some of the worst online customer service of all retailers in the UK, according to new research from consumer group Which? Which? said it had surveyed more than 5,000 consumers who had experienced an issue with their order between March 2020 to March 2021 to find out how the companies dealt with their complaints. All of the companies ranked poorly on the helpfulness of their support staff and were criticised by customers for making it difficult to raise a complaint.
Sky Broadband says problems that left some customers unable to access online bank accounts apps at Halifax, HSBC, TSB and Santander have been resolved. Halifax said the problem was linked to a technical fault with Sky Broadband. Online service quality and complaints monitor Downdetector showed hundreds of complaints for each of the banks from 0600 BST onwards on Friday last week.
The number of underperforming stock market funds has nearly halved compared with the previous six months, according to the latest Spot the Dog report from Tilney Bestinvest. Yahoo Finance UK says the report highlights 77 investment funds that have consistently underperformed the markets they invest in, compared with 150 funds in the last report six months earlier. These funds collectively represent £29.5bn of long-term savings. Seven of the list hold more than £1bn in investor cash and are managed by some heavyweights of the financial services industry, including HBOS, Scottish Widows, St. James's Place, Fidelity and Abdrn (formerly Aberdeen Standard). Lloyds Banking Group's HBOS, which holds around £6.9bn in five funds, has topped the list – knocking Invesco off the top spot after reigning supreme for the last five reports.
Elon Musk says Tesla is likely to launch a humanoid robot prototype as early as next year, saying it will do "boring, repetitious and dangerous" work. The billionaire said the "Tesla Bot," which stands around 5ft 8in tall and weighs 125lbs, would be able to handle a range of jobs - from attaching bolts to cars with a wrench, to picking up groceries in shops. It would also have a screen where a human face would be to provide "useful information", he added.
Chinese electric car maker BYD Semiconductor's plan to list on the Shenzen Stock Exchange has been suspended due to a regulatory investigation into the law firm advising the company. Over the weekend, the Exchange said Beijing Tian Yuan Law Firm, one of China's biggest legal services companies, was being investigated by China's Security Regulatory Commission in relation to the listing. BYD Semiconductor had aimed to raise at least $421m ($309m) from the sale of shares. The firm is China's biggest maker of microcontroller chips for vehicles. “BYD is the latest Chinese company to have its plans up-ended as Beijing tightens regulations on everything from technology giants to insurance providers,” the BBC reported.
US tech giant Apple has delayed recalling staff to the office again. Now, workers will not be expected to be back at their desks until January at the earliest, amid fears over surging Covid cases. Employees were informed of the decision in a company memo on Thursday, which was first reported by Bloomberg News.
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