Published: 14 February 2022
Location: London, UK
The FTSE is falling sharply this morning in response to US President Joe Biden’s warning that Russia could invade the Ukraine at any time. At the time of writing, the FTSE 100 is down some 150 points, or 1.96%, while the FTSE 250 has lost 510 points, 2.31%. Although all bar a handful of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange are nursing significant losses, the biggest loser is FTSE 100 miner Evraz, which has a significant presence in the Russian Federation. The firm has lost almost 36% of its value at the time of writing. Travel stocks are also especially hard hit: FTSE 100 BA owner IAG is down 8.47%, while the FTSE 250’s Wizz Air, Carnival and TUI are down 7.95%, 7.57% and 7.42% respectively.
Airlines have begun avoiding Ukrainian airspace and cancelling flights to the country. Reuters says British Airways (BA) flights between London and Asia on Monday appeared to be avoiding the airspace, according to the news agency’s monitoring of flight tracking service FlightRadar24. Yesterday, a BA pilot said on Twitter there was a longer flight time for freighter services from London to Bangkok because of "current geo-politics". Dutch airline KLM said it would halt flights to Ukraine and through the country's airspace, while Germany's Lufthansa said it was considering a suspension. "My guess would be that Ukraine will become unavailable pretty soon if what we've seen over the weekend crystallises into a couple of more carriers actually pulling the pin," said Mark Zee, founder of flight operations advisory firm OPSGROUP told Reuters. "I don't think it will be government advice that's doing it so much as it will be insurance-based unavailability," he said. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board, two-thirds of them Dutch citizens. Some airlines were already avoiding the airspace after earlier shoot-downs of military aircraft.
Oil prices have hit their highest level since 2014 this morning because of tensions between Ukraine and Russia — the world’s third biggest oil producer. A barrel of benchmark Brent Crude reached $95.56 (£70.13) - up from under $65 a year ago – putting additional pressure on an already tight market. A fall in global oil production, coupled with increased demand as the pandemic begins to wane had already caused prices to climb.
The public inquiry into the wrongful convictions of hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses begins today. Between 2000 and 2014, more than 700 sub-postmasters were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a flaw in the Post Office’s Horizon computer system. A total of 72 former sub-postmasters have had their names cleared so far, the BBCreports. The cases constitute the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history. The inquiry will look at whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system and will also ask how staff shouldered the blame. It will also examine whether staff at software firm Fujitsu, which developed the Horizon software to complete tasks such as transactions, accounting and stocktaking, knew the system had flaws while data from it was used in court to convict sub-postmasters. A judge will hear evidence on why sub-postmasters and postmistresses were singled out and whether they have been justly compensated.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has seized three Non-Fungible Tokens(NFT) as part of a probe into a suspected a VAT fraud involving 250 alleged fake companies. The tax authority said three people had been arrested on suspicion of attempting to defraud it of £1.4m, and that it was the first time an NFT had been seized by a UK law enforcement agency. NFTs are assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold, but which have no tangible form of their own.
The RAC is urging retailers not to hike fuel prices as the cost of oil rises RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “With the price of oil now at a level not seen in more than seven years and a cost of living crisis mounting, we’re on a knife-edge when it comes to pump prices. On the face of it, the prospect of $100 a barrel oil is a frightening one but from a driver’s point of view it’s only going to spell bad news if major retailers decide to take bigger margins. At the moment, we can’t see any justification for a big leap in forecourt prices so we’re urging retailers to continue taking normal margins on each litre they sell".
Heathrow airport said on Friday that more than 1.3m passengers either cancelled or didn't book trips in the last two months due to fears over the Omicron Covid variant. Travel demand was weaker than expected in January and down 56% from pre-pandemic levels. Chief executive John Holland-Kayesaid: "As short-lived as the additional travel restrictions were, they ruined the travel plans of more than 1.3 million passengers in the last two months." Holland-Kaye called on the government "to support the sustainable recovery of travel and trade by outlining a playbook for managing future variants and seeking international harmonisation of travel rules", as restrictions were lifted.
Spain has done a volte face and will allow unvaccinated British teenagers into the country from today, provided they have a negative PCR test. Hoteliers and other travel companies had put pressure on the Spanish government to relax restrictions, having lost millions of pounds' worth of trade because of the earlier ban.
The cost of air travel is set to rise this year as airlines face soaring overheads, the UK boss of Air France-KLM has told the BBC's Today programme. Fahmi Mahjoub said his airline faced significantly higher fuel and airport costs, and as a result higher air fares were "quite unavoidable". "The increase in cost of living is a very concrete issue for many households but also the airline industry,” he said.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced "legally binding commitments" from Google to address competition concerns over its Privacy Sandbox product. The competition regulator launched an investigation in January last year, concerned the product would cause online advertisingspending to become even more concentrated on the company, weakening competition and so harming consumers who ultimately pay for the cost of online advertising. The CMA was also concerned the proposals could undermine the ability of online publishers, such as newspapers, to generate revenue and continue to produce valuable content in the future, reducing the public's choice of news sources. The commitments include “the involvement of the CMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the development and testing of the Privacy Sandbox proposals, to ensure they achieve effective outcomes for consumers to protect both competition and privacy,” Sharecast Newsreported.
South Korea's SeAH Wind is set to invest more than £200 million building the world's largest monopile plant for offshore wind turbines on Teesside. The huge investment is expected to create 750 direct jobs and 1,500 roles in the supply chain.
NatWest Group has begun a search for a successor to Sir Howard Davies, the City grandee who has chaired it for the last seven years, Sky News says. The role was once one of the most prestigious jobs in British banking. UK Government Investments (UKGI), which manages the taxpayers' 52% stake in NatWest Group, is not expected to have a formal role in the recruitment process for a new chairman, but will be kept informed about its progress.
Roughly 3,000 teachers, firefighters and other New York City workers have effectively lost their jobs after not getting vaccinated against coronavirus by a city deadline, the BBC reports. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he would not change the rules, despite the city facing many days of protests since his predecessor announced the policy last year. The US Supreme Court last month struck down a national policy requiring vaccination or weekly tests for staff of large businesses but declined to take a stance against more localised requirements. Adams told a news conference it was not that the city was firing employees, but that "people are quitting".
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