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About 120 world leaders are gathering in Glasgow for the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit, hosted…

   News / 01 Nov 2021

Published: 01 November 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

About 120 world leaders are gathering in Glasgow for the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit, hosted by the UK government. Most countries are represented in some form – although notable exceptions include Russia and China – and about 25,000 accredited delegates are attending, among them Greta Thunberg. The scale of the event led Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper to calculate the carbon emissions generated by the 400 or so private jets carrying senior politicians and business executives to the summit. The newspaper’s ‘conservative’ conclusion was that they will blast 13,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, thereby producing more global warming gas than Scotland burns through in a year. All attendees will also be exempt from Scotland’s otherwise strict vaccine passport travel requirement. Police Scotland have called it "the most complex and complicated" event ever staged in Scotland - with 10,000 officers from across the UK being deployed each day. Glasgow was supposed to host the summit in 2020 but it was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
The government is "actively considering" taking legal action against France as a row between the two nations over post-Brexit fishing rights continues to escalate. PM Boris Johnson suggested to Sky News' Beth Rigby that France could have breached Brexit treaties and that he will "do whatever is necessary to protect British interests". Tensions over post-Brexit fishing rights escalated on Thursday last week when France seized a British scallop trawler and threatened to block ports and increase checks on boats and lorries because Britain has denied some boats a licence to fish in Jersey's waters. Meanwhile, in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, dated 28 October, French Prime Minister Jean Castex urges the bloc to prove that there is "more damage to leaving the EU than to remaining there" and that the EU must demonstrate its "total determination" to force the UK to stick to the agreements it has made on fishing. Brexit Minister Lord Frost said he was "concerned and surprised" by Castex's comments, adding: "I hope this opinion is not held more widely across the EU…To see it expressed in this way is clearly very troubling and very problematic in the current context when we are trying to solve many highly sensitive issues, including on the Northern Ireland Protocol." Environment Secretary George Eustice has also waded into the row, warning France the UK could retaliate if it goes ahead with threats in the fishing row, saying "two can play at that game".
Ofgem is to review how the price cap on gas and electricity bills is calculated following a series of company failures. The energy regulator will examine whether the price cap reflects the risks facing companies, saying it will "consult on the price cap methodology to ensure it appropriately reflects the costs, risks and uncertainties facing suppliers". 13 UK energy firms have gone bust in recent weeks after wholesale global gas prices surged by as much as 250% since the start of the year.
British energy supplier Bulb looks set to be the next company to fold because of surging energy costs. According to Sky News, ministers are in talks with a small number of potential buyers, but a rescue deal is looking unlikely; the word is several suitors have backed out of deals in recent days. The collapse of Bulb, the seventh largest UK energy company, would be the largest in the sector so far. 1.7 million household customers and 1,000 jobs would be affected. Ovo Energy, Octopus Energy, and Shell Energy Retail are among the rival groups which have had access to Bulb's financial data in recent weeks.
The Competition and Markets Authority is investigating US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice's £7bn takeover of supermarket chain Morrisons. The competition watchdog said it had served an initial enforcement order over the takeover. As a result, the two companies must continue to operate separately while the CMA carries out its investigation. CD&R won an auction for Morrisons earlier this month.
Trade body UK Steel said a UK-US deal for British producers is "sorely needed" following the end of a trade war involving products such as steel, whiskey and Harley-Davidsons. President Biden has signed a deal to end tariffs on steel imports from the EU, imposed by his predecessor Florida Man, but the agreement does not cover exports from the UK, putting British steelmakers at a disadvantage. The tariffs, which came into force in 2018, nearly halved British steel exports to the US. Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, said: "Whilst it is promising to see the US take steps to open up access to its steel markets again, there is significant concern that UK producers have been left behind in this process and continue to wait for their own deal". International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the UK and US are in talks to remove "damaging tariffs" from British steel exports. The US is the second-largest market for British-made steel.
Commuter journeys on Britain's railways are still at just 45% of pre-pandemic levels, Sky News reports. The figure for the number of journeys made by people commuting by train in mid-October was an increase from 33% in late August, according to industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). London has seen the slowest recovery - with demand at just 41% of levels experienced before the Covid-19 crisis, compared to 54% across the rest of Britain. The figures show the difficulty faced by city centre businesses, with people who were required to work from home earlier in the pandemic continuing to do so now that restrictions have been axed. The number of leisure journeys made by train has, however, picked up, being at around 90% of pre-pandemic levels and accounting for 55% of all rail journeys, compared to 33% in autumn 2019.
Business confidence hit its second highest level since March 2020 last month, according to the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer, which surveyed 1,200 firms from 1 October to 15 October. Overall confidence stood at 43%, a slight dip from September’s 46%, but well above the long-term average of 28%, Yahoo Finance UK reports. Six of the 12 regions and nations in the UK saw confidence improve or remain stable, with London remaining the most confident at 65%, followed by the North East at 61%. The other regions that saw an increase were the East Midlands (up seven points to 55%), West Midlands (up four points to 50%), the South West (up one point to 48%) and the East of England (up three points to 33%). However, confidence slipped in the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, although it was still close to the national average. The research was conducted before the chancellor’s Autumn Budget.
Private sector activity grew again in the three months to October, according to the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBIs) latest growth indicator. Consumer services growth accelerated to 24% from 6%, while both manufacturing output and distribution sales rose from 15% and 16% to 32% and 29%, respectively, at broadly similar rates to last month.
Jes Staley, the CEO of Barclays bank is to stand down following investigations into his dealings with Jeffrey Epstein. Barclays said this morning it was made aware on Friday evening of the preliminary conclusions from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority'sinvestigation into Staley's characterisation to Barclays of his relationship with Epstein and the subsequent description of that relationship in Barclays' response to the regulator. "In view of those conclusions, and Mr Staley's intention to contest them, the Board and Mr Staley have agreed that he will step down from his role as Group Chief Executive and as a director of Barclays," the bank said in a statement. "It should be noted that the investigation makes no findings that Mr Staley saw, or was aware of, any of Mr Epstein's alleged crimes,” it added. Staley is entitled to 12 months' notice from Barclays under his contract of employment and will receive £2.4m for the year, as well as his pension allowance of £120,000 for the year, and any other benefits. C.S. Venkatakrishnan will take over as chief executive.
Hilton Food Group has acquired UK foodservice meat supplier Fairfax Meadow Europe from Argent Holdings for £23.8m. The FTSE 250 company said Fairfax Meadow was established more than 40 years ago and supplies some of the largest businesses in the UK hospitality and travel sectors. It said the business operates from four meat processing and packing facilities in Derby, Milton Keynes, North London and Southampton, and was now recovering "strongly" following the impact of Covid-19, as the UK hospitality and travel sectors fully reopened. The acquisition was funded from the group's debt facilities.
Exponent Private Equity (EPE) is looking to sell Spotlight Sports Group, which counts among its assets horse racing bible the Racing Post. Sky News has learnt that EPE, which acquired the title in 2016, is in talks with investment banks about launching an auction for Spotlight, potentially as soon as the first half of next year, with an estimated price target of £500 million. A media industry source said the digitally led nature of Spotlight's business meant that it was likely to command a premium multiple in a sale process. The Racing Post is the best-known of Spotlight's brands, having been launched in 1986 as a rival to Sporting Life. It has been owned previously by Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Daily Mirror, which now trades under the name Reach, and FL Partners, an investment firm. Ownership of the Racing Post name is held in perpetuity by its founder, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, one of the world's most prominent racehorse owners.
Construction equipment maker JCB has signed a deal to buy billions of pounds of green hydrogen, defined as hydrogen produced using renewable energy. The deal means JCB will take 10% of the green hydrogen made by the Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries (FFI). FFI said the deal was a "first-of-a-kind partnership" that would see it become the UK's largest supplier of the clean fuel. Production, mostly done outside the UK, is expected to begin early next year. JCB and a firm called Ryze Hydrogen would then distribute it in the UK. Lord Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, said the deal would help to make green hydrogen a viable solution, telling the BBC it was "the right thing to do". Hydrogen does not produce carbon emissions when it is burned, so is considered a likely replacement for fossil fuels in heavy industries such as shipping and steel and cement-making.
A husband-and-wife team who set up an upmarket outdoor pizza-oven company nearly a decade ago are planning to sell a stake in the business in a deal that could propel them into the ranks of Britain's wealthiest people. Sky News has learnt that Ooni, based in Scotland, is in talks to hire investment banks to advise on the sale of a minority stake in the company, and that the company is likely to seek a valuation running to many hundreds of millions of pounds as part of that process. Ooni is understood to have seen a roughly fivefold rise in sales during the last financial year from about £13m to £55m. Ooni was founded by Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland, a married couple who were running an education company at the time but were frustrated that they were unable to replicate restaurant-quality pizzas in their oven at home.
Wizz Air confirmed the sacking of its chief supply officer Andras Sebok on Friday, after he made 114 transactions in the company's shares without disclosure between April 2019 and November 2020. The FTSE 250 low-cost carrier said Sebok did not make it or the Financial Conduct Authority aware of his dealings, despite the fact he was considered a 'person discharging managerial responsibilities'. According to the Telegraph, Sebok sold around £1.8m of shares and bought about £2.3m of Wizz Air stock over the period.
Ryanair reported its first quarterly profit since before the onset of Covid-9, but said it expects to post an annual loss of up to 200 million euros (£169 million) as it would be forced to discount tickets to fill its planes over the winter.

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