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The Bank of England's monetary policy committee is widely expected to raise interest rates today

   News / 03 Feb 2022

Published: 03 February 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight


The Bank of England's monetary policy committee is widely expected to raise interest rates today, hiking the base rate from 0.25% to 0.5% to stem surging inflation.
 
Ofgem is expected to announce the new energy price around 11am this morning, having brought the date forward from 7th February. Experts expect the price cap on standard variable tariffs, which also affects fixed-rate tariffs, to rise from £1,277 to around £2,000 per year from 1 April. In the same week, National Insurance will rise from 12% to 13.25%, adding to the cost-of-living squeeze. Energy costs are rising due to a global spike in demand for natural gas. 28 energy firms have collapsed since last summer.
 
According to January data from the RAC, drivers are currently being charged a fairer price at the pumps. The increase in the cost of a barrel of oil last month – up from $79 (£58) a barrel at the start of January to more than $92 (£68) at the end – pushed up wholesale petrol and diesel prices by 4.9p and 3.6p a litre respectively. However, pump prices rose by less than a penny as retailers absorbed the cost increases. The average cost of a litre of unleaded now stands at 146.45p and diesel at 149.81p, data from RAC Fuel Watch shows. “At long last, retailers appear to have heard our clarion calls for drivers to be charged a fairer price at the pumps,” RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williamssaid.
 
BP plc is to divest its retail network, wholesale fuel business and logistics assets in Mozambique to TotalEnergies TTE as part of its ongoing programme to stripping away a large portion of its oil and gas assets to shift to a more sustainable energy pathway. TotalEnergies has an estimated market share of around 14% in the country, and the assets will complement the oil company’s existing network of 57 service stations and B2B businesses.
 
Legoland operator Merlin Entertainments is to take over Cadbury World UK. Merlin, which is Europe's largest theme park operator, also operates Alton Towers, the London Eye and SeaLife, among others, and has struck the deal with Cadbury's US owner Mondelez International to acquire the operations and brand licences for the site. Located in Bourneville near Birmingham, Cadbury World opened in 1990 and has around 600,000 visitors a year. Financial terms have not been disclosed.
 
BT is in exclusive talks with Discovery’s about combining its sports business with Discovery's Eurosport UK operation to forge a 50/50 joint venture. The companies are aiming to complete talks in the first quarter for the new company to become operational later in 2022. BT's sports unit broadcasts English Premier League and European Champions League in competition with Sky. The company launched the business to defend its broadband service against Sky, which offered free broadband to sports subscribers. The company was in talks to sell the business to DAZN, a sports streaming service owned by Leonard Blavatnik, but those discussions stalled. Marc Allera, chief executive of BT's consumer division, said: "The proposed joint venture with Discovery would create an exciting new sports broadcasting entity for the UK and would act as a perfect home for our BT Sport business."
 
Amazon has announced that it will create 1,500 new apprenticeships in the UK this year by offering new places on 40 different schemes - including 200 degree-level places - in areas such as publishing, retailing, marketing, and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). The online retailer and delivery company also revealed its workforce in the country grew to 70,000 in 2021: it added 25,000 jobs last year.
 
Santander has flagged up the likelihood of a mortgage price battle as lenders fight to offer the best deals despite rising interest rates. In a results statement revealing a big rise in annual profits for 2021, the Spanish lender's UK arm said it expected its margin on loans this year to be "adversely affected by increased competition for mortgage lending".
 
Real estate investment trust British Land has acquired three warehouses in Wembley for £157m, bringing its urban logistics development pipeline to over £1bn. British Land said the assets represented "a development-led opportunity", which it stated aligns with its strategy of delivering new urban logistics space through the intensification and repurposing of existing buildings. The FTSE 100-listed firm stated the North London warehouses, which comprise over 245,000 square foot on a 12.5 acre site, generate an annual income of £3.6m
 
Banks involved in last year's acquisition of Wm Morrison have reportedly sold £1.2bn of the supermarket chain's riskiest class of debt as part of a wider £6.6bn debt package. According to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, Bank of America and Mizuho have privately sold £500m junior secured notes and £700m in Euro-denominated junior secured notes to credit funds. Pre-marketing talks will now begin with select investors next week, Bloomberg added, ahead of the sale of the senior notes launching to the wider market later this month. US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R ) secured Morrisons in October 2021 following a four-month takeover battle. Its final bid of £9.97bn including debt, or 287p per share, beat the 286p offered by Fortress Investment, which is owned by Japanese conglomerate Softbank. It is now seeking to raise a total of £6.6bn in debt to finance the deal, the largest leveraged buyout of a British company in more than a decade. CD&R advisor Terry Leahy, the former head of Tesco, now chairs the grocer, the UK's fourth-largest supermarket chain.
 
Ryanair has been ranked the worst short-haul airline for handling refunds during the coronavirus pandemic. The Dublin-based carrier received a refund satisfaction score of just 47% in a survey by consumer group Which? British Airways was ranked the second lowest of five airlines for refund satisfaction, with a score of 63%. Jet2.com was ranked the best short-haul carrier for refunds, with 84% of respondents satisfied with how their claim was handled.
 
Low-cost carrier Wizz Air said on Wednesday that it carried 2.39m passengers in January, a 318% year-on-year increase.
 
Britain's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will receive $1.25bn (£920m) from Gilead Sciences as part of a settlement between its HIV medicines unit and the U.S.-based drugmaker, ending a long-drawn patent dispute. The settlement relates to Gilead's antiretroviral drug Biktarvy, a medicine used to check the AIDS-causing virus, which GSK said in 2018 infringed on its unit ViiV Healthcare's dolutegravir and other similar compounds. The payment is expected to be made in the first quarter this year, London-listed GSK said. Gilead will also pay a 3% royalty until 2027 on sales of Biktarvy and on future U.S. sales of any product containing its main component.
 
American-owned SPTS Technologies, a leading supplier to the global semiconductor and microelectronics industries, is set to build a new factory and HQ in Newport, South Wales. 460 people will be employed at the site initially, potentially rising to 650.
 
Pret a Manger is raising the price of its coffee subscription service to £25 a month because of the increased costs of ingredients, staff costs, and because VAT is about to go back up. The 25% price rise will come into effect from Thursday for new subscribers, and from 16 March for people who already have a subscription. Pret created the subscription service in a bid to win back business lost during lockdowns. The subscription gets you up to five "barista-prepared" drinks per day.
 
The non-fungible token (NFT) sector rocketed to a $44bn (£32bn) market in 2021, up from $106m the year before. However, the rapid rise in popularity has meant an increase in money laundering through the NFT purchase. Yahoo Finance UK describes NFTs as a unique, one-of-a-kind crypto asset that enables collectors to authenticate, own and trade original authenticated versions of special digital goods using blockchain technology. They can be anything digital from drawings to videos or GIFs, but they can also be applied to a physical item such as coins or a stamp.
 
Social media giant Facebook has seen its daily active users (DAUs) drop for the first time in its 18-year history, the BBC reports. Facebook's parent company Meta Networks says DAUs fell to 1.929bn in the three months to the end of December, compared to 1.930bn in the previous quarter. The firm also warned of slowing revenue growth in the face of competition from rivals like TikTok and YouTube, while advertisers are also cutting spending. Meta's shares slumped by more than 20% in after-hours trading in New York.
 
CNN president Jeff Zucker has resigned from the network after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a senior executive that was discovered during an investigation into the conduct of fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. Zucker said that he had worked with the colleague for two decades and that the relationship had "evolved in recent years". "I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't," he said. "I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today."


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