Published: 18 November 2021
Location: London, UK
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for "a full and transparent investigation into Randox and the government contracts". The call follows the resignation of Conservative MP Owen Paterson - employed as a consultant by Randox since 2015 - after the Committee on Standards criticised his behaviour as failing to “separate private and public interests." Randox, based in Northern Ireland, was set up in 1982 and appears to have cornered the market in UK covid testing, although it had several multi-million-pound government contacts pre-pandemic. The firm has made generous donations to the Conservative Party. The BBC points out this morning that Randox landed two government contracts for Covid-19 testing: one for £133m awarded on 18 May 2020, followed by a £346.5m contract on 26 November 2020. Neither of these contracts was advertised or put out to tender, which is allowed under the rules "due to extreme urgency brought about by unforeseen events".
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the UK average house price increased 11.8% in the year to September 2021. This is up from 10.2% growth in the year to August 2021. Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK also rose by 1.5% in the 12 months to October 2021, up from 1.3% growth in the year to September 2021. The average house price now stands at £270,000, £6,000 higher than the previous record high set in June this year. The North West saw the strongest annual growth, while London continues to lag with the weakest growth for the tenth consecutive month.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed a ban on debt packager referral fees in a bid to protect consumers, Yahoo Finance UK reports. The watchdog said yesterday that debt packagers – who are regulated providers of debt advice and refer customers on to other providers of debt solutions – should not be allowed to be paid a commission. Under the current setup, they rely on 90% of their income from referral fees, which can be significantly higher when consumers are referred to an Insolvency Practitioner for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or Protected Trust Deed. The FCA said this business model often presents a conflict of interest between giving advice in the customer’s best interest and recommending a solution that makes them more money. Some 29% of borrowers using these services are recommended an IVA, and 15% a debt management plan.
The gender pay gap in the UK is being fuelled by a lack of salary transparency, a new survey by job site Glassdoor has found. Just one in four full-time workers strongly agree their workplace is transparent about pay despite transparency being vital for employee satisfaction. Glassdoor also claims that pay secrecy is contributing to inequality for women — 67% of female workers did not ask for a wage increase in 2020, compared to 37% of men.
UK Finance estimates that the British public are sitting on piles of loose change worth an estimated £50 million, having held onto cash for three times longer than before because of covid lockdowns. This is particularly the case with lower denomination coins – more than half of those surveyed said they usually leave 1p, 2p, 5p and 10p change at home. Along with the Charities Aid Foundation, UK Finance is asking people to consider donating some of this spare change to charity.
Retailers in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA) are facing an increased estimated cost of £150m a year to accept cross-border card payments. Research by retail payments advisory firm CMSPI, in conjunction with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its members, revealed that British retailers alone are taking on an extra £36.5m, or £100,000 every day. The rise is largely down to fee changes, which have risen 475% in some cases since Brexit, as fees are no longer capped at the intra-regional rate, allowing major card brands to raise interchange fees on some online or “card not present” transactions.
Amazon is to stop taking UK-issued Visa credit cards from 19th January next year. The online retail giant blames the high charges demanded by the payment processor. Other credit cards and visa debit cards will continue to be accepted.
The owner of the sushi restaurant chain YO! is in talks with prospective buyers following a string of takeover approaches for the Japanese food specialist. Sky News has learnt that Snowfox Group and its shareholders have asked advisers to canvas interest from bidders. The process comes as Mayfair Equity Partners, the company's majority shareholder, continues to explore the possibility of an initial public offering (IPO) for Snowfox that would take place in 2022. Any deal is expected to value YO! at approximately £750m.
British online gambling software developer Playtech Plc has received a takeover bid from JKO Play Ltd, following earlier bids from Aristocrat Leisureand Gopher Investments. The news, first reported by Sky News said JKO co-owner Eddie Jordan was part of a consortium plotting a £3 billion plus bid for Playtech: Australia's Aristocrat Leisure offered £2.1 billion last month.
Metro Bank and Carlyle Group have called off talks about a potential takeover of the UK lender by the private equity firm. Metro said it believed strongly in its standalone strategy and future prospects.
Royal Mail says it will return £400m of cash to shareholders following soaring first-half profits fuelled by a boom in parcel deliveries. Pre-tax profit rose to £315m in the six months to 26 September from £17m a year earlier. Adjusted operating profit soared to £404m from £37m. the FTSE 100 delivery service declared an interim dividend of 6.7p a share and said it would pay out £200m in a special dividend, as well as begin a £200m share buyback immediately.
One of the earliest investors in Revolut - Britain's most valuable ever start-up - is plotting the sale of a stake that could net it a windfall running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Sky News has learnt that Balderton Capital, one of Europe's leading venture capital investors, has hired bankers to offload at least part of its holding in the digital bank. UBS is said to have been appointed to oversee the sale.
British electric truck manufacturer Tevva has secured more than £42 million from investors to complete its new factory in London - expected to create 1,000 jobs by 2023 - and rapidly scale up manufacturing.
Wincanton has won a five-year contract with fashion retailer Primark for the provision of transport services to all its UK stores. Under the contract, which begins early next year, Wincanton will make more than 50,000 deliveries to 191 stores across the UK each year and deliver "significant" operational efficiencies to the supply chain.
There is a shortage of Greggs’ famous vegan sausage roll in London, Reutersreports, it having become the latest victim of the supply chain crunch. The FTSE 250 bakery chain confirmed the new Greggs shop at Canary Wharf was sold out and that several other outlets across the capital were also running bare.
Crisis-hit Chinese real estate giant Evergrande is selling its entire stake in film and television streaming company HengTen for $273m (£200m) as it continues to struggle to meet debt repayments. Evergrande – saddled with some $300bn in debt - said it would book a loss of more than $1bn from selling its remaining 18% stake in HengTen; last week it sold a 5.7% stake which raised around $145m. The announcement came just a day before the deadline for overdue interest payments of $148m. Evergrande has so far avoided defaulting on its debts by making overdue payments just before 30-day grace periods expired. The perilous state of the huge company is rocking global markets.
JP Morgan Chase is suing Tesla for $162m (£121m) over a tweet on 7thAugust 2018 by boss Elon Musk saying he might take Tesla private at $420 per share and had "funding secured". The tweet sparked significant share price volatility. Musk scrapped the plan 17 days later and was fined by the US financial regulator. JP Morgan's suit, filed in a Manhattan federal court, accuses Tesla of "flagrantly" breaching a deal it claims should have triggered payments to JP Morgan, as an agreement between the electric car manufacturer and the bank signed in 2014 included warrants to protect both parties against the economic effects of "significant corporate transactions involving Tesla," such as an announcement the company was going private. Tesla's share price rose approximately 10-fold by the time the warrants expired this year, and JP Morgan said this required Tesla under its contract to hand over shares of its stock or cash. Failure to do so, said JP Morgan, amounted to a default.
Crazy Frog, the force behind a viral ringtone that spawned a global chart-topping single in 2005, is to return. The blue animated amphibian, known for riding an imaginary motorcycle while impersonating the sound of its engine, famously beat Coldplay to UK number one with his version of Axel F - the theme to the Beverly Hills Cop films. The “infuriatingly infectious” frog will return on YouTube on 10 December, the BBC says, with a comeback track featuring a mash-up of classic hits inspired by shot video platform TikToktrends.
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