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Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed a landmark deal to implement looser regulations…

   News / 03 Dec 2021

Published: 03 December 2021
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed a landmark deal to implement looser regulations for services which could cut trade costs by £113bn a year, the BBC reports. The 67 signatories to the deal - which include the UK, United States, EU and China - are a minority of the WTO's 164 members but represent 90% of all services trade. Banking, information technology, telecoms, architecture and engineering are among the service sectors which could benefit most from the deal which cuts red tape around licensing and qualifications. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK's International Trade Secretary, said the UK stands to gain as it is the world's second largest services exporter. She said the deal showed "exactly the kind of cooperation we want to see at the WTO and demonstrates it can deliver trade rules fit for the 21st Century". The Department for International Trade said the new rules would make it easier for businesses, in particular small and medium-sized firms, to "navigate foreign markets and obtain authorisation to export overseas". "British businesses consistently cite complex administrative procedures as barriers to accessing international markets," the government said. "Once the new rules are in force, businesses can expect licensing applications to be processed in a timely manner, acceptance of electronic copies of qualifications by competent authorities, and an end to unreasonable and hidden fees."  Chris Morris, the BBC’s global trade correspondent said: “This is the first negotiated agreement on services at the WTO in a quarter of a century. So, it's of great symbolic importance.”
The European Commission has fined four of the largest banks a combined total of £293m for rigging the foreign exchange spot-trading market. HSBC, Barclays, Natwest and Credit-Suisse were found to have deliberately influenced and manipulated the market by exchanging sensitive information and trading arrangements via an online professional chatroom called 'Sterling Lads'. HSBC was given the largest penalty of £148.3m for its traders' involvement. Credit-Suisse was fined £70.9m. Barclays’ penalty was £46.2m and Natwest (or RBS as it was at the time of the offence, 10 years ago) was ordered to pay £27m. UBS was given immunity from the case because it had revealed the existence of the online chat group. Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission vice president, said: "The collusive behaviour of the five banks undermined the integrity of the financial sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers."
Sky News has learnt that the Treasury will advertise shortly for a successor to Bradley Fried, chair of the Court of the Bank of England, whose term is due to expire in June next year. The Court is the central bank’s governing body, with responsible for setting its objectives and strategy, and it holds the central bank to account. It plays no role in the formulation of monetary policy.
Serco CEO Rupert Soames has said that ethical investors are making it harder to defend and police Britain by stopping companies from working on contracts vital to national security. He compared the opponents of defence and public order contracts to "people who eat sausages, but don’t want to know how they are made” and accused them of going against the will of elected governments. His comments come as the Telegraph reported that investor disquiet had forced Serco to abandon plans to compete for work with the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which designs, makes and maintains warheads. The business, one of Britain's biggest outsourcers, has also attracted criticism from campaigners over a range of other government projects such as in prisons and border control. Speaking at the company's capital markets day, Soames said: "Ultimately, this is going to be a matter of individual choice to investors and institutions, but it would seem very strange indeed if the work of delivering the policies of elected governments - be it in defence, or justice or immigration - should be seen as being anything other than a public and social good.”
Shell has scrapped plans to develop the Cambo oil field in the North Sea, following a campaign by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, who want an end to all new oil and gas projects in the area. Shell said in a statement that following "comprehensive screening" it had "concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays".
Capita has announced the early termination of its mortgage services contract with The Co-operative Bank. The outsourcer said yesterday that as the bank progresses with its strategic plan, it has decided to re-integrate its mortgage servicing operations back in-house. The contract, which was part of the Capita Experience division, was due to run to November 2025 but is now expected to end on 30 November next year.
Lord Rothermere has redoubled his efforts to take the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) private, raising his offer to 270p a share, Yahoo Finance UKreports. The bid is a 6% increase on the previous bid, which was tabled in November and values the newspaper business at £885m including debt. Rothermere said the latest offer for the publisher of the Daily Mail, i, Metro and New Scientist is "final". DMGT’s independent directors have recommended that shareholders accept the new deal. They have been given until 1pm on 16 December to decide whether to back the offer.
Another of the UK's holiday-home park operators is hoisting the "for sale" sign after a deluge of deals across the industry. Sky News understands that Midlothian Capital Partners, the private equity backer of Park Leisure, has asked Rothschild to field bids for the business. Sources told Sky the company was expected to command a price tag of around £170m. It owns 11 holiday-home resorts across the UK, including Oyster Bay in Cornwall and Ribble Valley in Lancashire.
The Deliveroo share price has tanked 13% since yesterday morning, at the time of writing, when it was revealed founder Will Shu sold £47m of his £62.5m shares in the company to pay a tax bill, and Deliveroo’s CFO Adam Miller sold £1.9m worth of his £2.4m shares for the same reason.
Halfords has agreed to acquire the owner of National Tyres for a sum of £62m. The deal will make the bikes-to-car parts and servicing retailer the largest vehicle service, maintenance and repair business in the UK.
Trading platform AJ Bell revealed a record year of growth yesterday, adding 87,000 new customers throughout the past twelve months, taking the total to 382,754. The FTSE 250 company said it saw net inflows of £6.4bn in the 12 months to the end of September, and assets under administration closing at an all-time high of £72.8bn. Its customer retention rate also remained high at 95% after an increase in the number of investors signing up to its platform during the coronavirus pandemic. Revenues during the period rose 15% to £145.8m, while pre-tax profits climbed 13% to £55.1m ahead of City analyst forecasts, which had been expecting profits of £57m and a top line of £146.7m.
Abrdn, the FTSE 100 asset manager, has agreed a takeover of online investment platform interactive investor (II) worth almost £1.5bn. The deal gives abrdn access to 400,000 personal investing clients and ends II's one-time ambition, ahead of the sale talks, for a London listing of its own, says Sky News. II has around £55bn in assets under management. Abrdn said II's chief executive Richard Wilson would join abrdn and continue to lead the platform.  
Auction Technology reported revenue of £70.1m in its full-year results on Thursday, making for a 34% increase year-on-year, with growth recorded in all six of its auction marketplaces. The FTSE 250 company, which facilitates online auctions, nevertheless recorded a loss before tax of £27.3m, 44% wider than last year, after share-based payments expenses and charges for exceptional items, primarily related to the IPO and acquisition of LiveAuctioneers and intangible asset amortisation, Sharecast News said.
Meta, previously known as Facebook, has reversed its ban on cryptocurrency adverts, first made in January 2018. The social media company justified the U-turn by saying the marketplace had continued to “mature and stabilise in recent years” and that new government regulations now provided clearer rules for the sector. The move means bitcoin exchanges, crypto wallets, and other blockchain and crypto companies will now have access to more than 3 billion people across the world who use Meta’s platforms, which include Instagramand WhatsApp, said Yagoo Finance UK.
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has announced plans to take its shares off the New York Stock Exchange and move its listing to Hong Kong. The BBC says the firm has come under intense pressure since its US debut in July, after which Beijing announced a crackdown on technology companies listing overseas, and ordered online stores not to offer Didi's app, saying it illegally collected users' personal data. The US market watchdog has also unveiled tough new rules for Chinese firms that list in America. "Following careful research, the company will immediately start delisting on the New York stock exchange and start preparations for listing in Hong Kong," the company said on its account on Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging network.
Days after Jack Dorsey resigned as chief executive of Twitter, his other company, digital payments platform Square, is changing its name to Block.

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