Published: 08 November 2021
Location: London, UK
The Bank of England’s latest forecasts predict inflation will be heading towards 5% early next year, its highest level in a decade, and that wages after tax will not keep pace with inflation over the next two years, leading to a squeeze on the cost of living. Real post-tax labour incomes are expected to fall by 1.25% in 2022, and decline another 0.75% in 2023, worse than previously expected. Governor Andrew Bailey told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme on Friday that UK households are already starting to feel the impact of rising prices. “I’m very sorry that’s happening,” he told. “None of us want to see that happen.” Inflation in the UK is currently 3.1%, ahead of the Bank of England's 2%.
Small-scale nuclear reactors are set to get the green light this week. The BBCreports that reactor designers Rolls-Royce will announce that a consortium of investors will back plans for a new smaller nuclear reactor project, thought to include the construction of an initial four Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) based on the technology used in nuclear powered submarines. The move is part of Rolls-Royce’s 10-point green energy plan, for which the government has promised to provide £210m in funding if that could be matched by private capital. Around 21% of Britain's electricity supply is provided by nuclear power.
Microsoft, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok are being asked to provide more information on how they protect their users from falling victim to scams which can “ruin people’s lives” by MPs. Treasury Committee chair Mel Stride wants to know whether the companies advertising investment opportunities on their platforms are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority; what revenue they receive from such advertising and what policies are in place to compensate users who fall victim to fraudulent content. The committee has already grilled Google, eBay, Facebook, and Amazon as part of an inquiry into economic crime.
Barclays has been subpoenaed by the US Virgin Islands in a move which will force the British bank to hand over information related to the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Reuters reports that the bank confirmed they had received the legal documents on Friday. Last week, Chief Executive Jes Staley confirmed he was leaving the bank after a dispute with British financial regulators over how he described his ties with Epstein. Epstein's estate was sued last year by the US Virgin Islands, which claimed that he raped and trafficked in dozens of young women and girls on a private island in the territory.
The Telegraph reports that Heathrow Airport's status as a long-haul travel hub is at risk after British Airways threatened to shift flights abroad, unless the airport backs down in a row over passenger charges. Luis Gallego, chief executive of BA's owner IAG, said that he would be forced to cut investment in Heathrow if it presses ahead with plans to hike fees by as much as 90%. A major shift of flights from London to the likes of Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol airports would be a disaster for Heathrow, which has already been hammered by Covid restrictions and has lost its crown as Europe's busiest hub, the newspaper says. Gallego said that moving away from Heathrow is “not something that we want”, but higher landing charges would eat into profits at the FTSE 100 airline business. IAG claims Heathrow is already 44% more expensive than its competitors on the Continent. Heathrow, meanwhile, has sought to put up charges, but this is being opposed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is recommending a smaller rise of up to 56%. Ferrovial, the airport's biggest investor, has also threatened to pull funding for its third runway if the airport did not get its way. Any increase would ultimately be passed on to customers through higher fares.
Meanwhile, IAG is hoping for a revival of transatlantic travel next week, the Guardian reports. Chief executive Luis Gallego said the reopening of the US border to foreign nationals from today was a “pivotal moment for our industry”. He added that planes to the US, IAG’s largest market, will be nearly full next week, the first time UK leisure travellers have been allowed into America since in March 2020. British Airways’ CEO Sean Doyle, said the signs were “very encouraging in terms of the demand for travel … Bookings have been up 167% since the announcement came out.”
JD Sports has attacked what it called the "highly irregular and potentially illegal covert surveillance" of its executive chairman, Peter Cowgill, after the Sunday Times said he was filmed meeting Barry Bown, his counterpart at Footasylum. JD Sports bought Footasylum for £90m in April 2019 but was last week ordered to sell the firm by the competition watchdog. JD Sports said: "Peter Cowgill has known Barry Bown on a business and personal basis for over 25 years. As a result, it is not unusual, or in any way suspicious or illegitimate, for them to meet from time to time, including in relation to the ongoing review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of JD's acquisition of Footasylum Limited. The Sunday Times omitted to report on the positive obligation that JD has under the terms of the Interim Enforcement Order to take all reasonable steps to encourage key staff of the Footasylum business (which includes Barry Bown) to remain with the business." JD Sports said the CMA had been fully informed about the meeting, which took place on 5 July.
Abrdn, the FTSE-100 asset manager, is in advanced talks to buy Interactive Investor (II) for more than £1.5bn, Sky News reports. If successfully concluded, the talks will hand it control of one of Britain’s three big DIY stock-picking platforms, and end II's preparations to join rivals Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell on the London stock market. II has more than 400,000 personal investing clients, positioning it behind only Hargreaves Lansdown by customer numbers in the UK market. It has made a string of acquisitions of its own, such as the stock-dealing platform The Share Centre, and has about £57bn in assets under administration.
Weir Group has agreed to buy Motion Metrics, a Canadian mining technology business, for up to £148m. Motion Metrics is the market leading developer of innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 3D rugged Machine Vision Technology used in mines worldwide, Weir said. Its technology helps miners increase safety, efficiency and sustainability of their operations. As part of the agreement, Motion Metrics' Vancouver headquarters will become Weir's global centre for excellence in AI and Machine Vision technology. In 2021, Motion Metrics generated revenues of £9m and was "modestly" profitable, Weir said.
Playtech Plc has received a takeover bid from its second-biggest shareholder, Gopher Investments, the British online gambling software developer said yesterday. The offer comes weeks after Australian gambling machine maker Aristocrat Leisure made a £2.1 billion offer for the company. Now Playtech is furnishing Gopher with requested due diligence information, in order to explore terms on which a possible offer for all of the issued and to be issued share capital of Playtech might be made, according to a statement. According to Sky News, Hong Kong-based Gopher is weighing plans for a £3 billion takeover and is being advised by Rothschild. London-listed Playtech said discussions with Gopher were at an early stage, ongoing, and that there was no certainty that the approach will result in an offer for the company.
The Competition and Markets Authority said on Friday that it does not intend to further review Pennon Group's acquisition of Bristol Water Holdings under the Enterprise Act 2002, stating the deal would not lead to a lessening of competition, based on information currently available to it. However, the UK watchdog did note it was still mulling over whether to refer the deal for a phase 2 investigation under the Water Industry Act 1991.
BAE Systems has acquired a new factory in Barrow to support its submarine programmes. BAE was recently awarded an £85 million contract to develop the next generation of Royal Navy submarines which will eventually replace the Astute class fleet.
Pfizer claims its new oral treatment for Covid-19 significantly reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death. Interim results for its Phase 2/3 clinical trial into the treatment, Paxlovid, revealed no deaths among those administered with it and an 89% reduction in Covid-19-related hospitalisations, the company said. The study was conducted among adults who were at a high risk of progressing to severe illness, with the treatment provided within three days of symptom onset. After 28 days, three of 389 patients who were given Paxlovid had been hospitalised, but none died, versus 27 out of 385 among those who were received a placebo. The results were similar when treatment was given five days from the onset of symptoms.
Peloton Interactive, the maker of connected fitness equipment, slashed its full-year sales expectations by up to $1bn (£743m) on Thursday night last week, admitting demand for its products including treadmills, the subject of recent safety concerns, had slowed faster than anticipated. The revelation forced its shares down by as much as 31% in extended Wall Street trading.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk has been told by Twitter users to sell 10% of his shares in Tesla, an amount worth around $21bn, based on Friday's closing, according to Reuters calculations. Musk asked his followers whether he should sell the shares, launched a poll to canvass opinion, and said he would "abide by the results”, “whichever way it goes". His tweet said: "Much is made lately of unrealized (sic) gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?" 57.9% of people said he should sell the shares. The poll attracted more than 3.5 million votes.
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