Published: 23 February 2022
Location: London, UK
Gas prices have risen for a third day after Germany blocked approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the US rolled out sanctions against Russia in response to President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine. Benchmark European prices rose 1.8%, while the UK equivalent was up 5.8% amid fears a conflict could disrupt energy supplies to the continent. US President Joe Biden announced the sanctions against Moscow last night, saying an invasion had already begun. The incursion prompted a senior Bank of England official to warn yesterday that “moderate” interest rate rises may be required soon to bring prices under control. Although the UK is much less directly reliant on Russian gas than continental Europe, it is affected by higher prices in the global wholesale market, The Telegraph says.
The high winds that swept across the UK as storms Eunice and Franklin battered the country generated enough electricity to power half of Britain, Yahoo Finance UK reports. On Monday, wind produced 52.6% of electricity, according to figures from the National Grid ESO.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has piled further pressure on the Treasury regarding the government’s financial Covid support schemes, saying British taxpayers have been exposed to "substantial, long-term financial risks" and that billions of pounds in taxpayer’s money will be lost to fraud and error. The latest PAC report says the total cost of UK government losses in the response to the coronavirus pandemic is unknown but is expected to be at least £15bn. The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention scheme) alone is estimated to lose £5.3bn to fraud and error: this element totals 8.7% of funding distributed. Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said the government must "continue to account" for what it has spent in response to the pandemic while taxpayers are paying the cost of loan repayments. The schemes and loans were implemented by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The head of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has criticised the government for plunging the sector into deeper crisis due to ongoing staff shortages and Brexit red tape. Speaking at the organisation’s conference in Birmingham yesterday, NFU President Minette Batters said ministers risk “repeatedly running into crises” through the lack of a post-Brexit plan for UK farming. “We need a plan that pre-empts crises… rather than repeatedly running into them. The current situation in the pig sector should have – and could have – been avoided,” she said. “There are currently 200,000 pigs on contract backed up on farm, 40,000 healthy pigs have been culled and simply thrown away. This, truly, is an utter disgrace and a disaster for the pig industry. This is down to the government's poorly designed change to immigration policy and what I can only say appears to be their total lack of understanding of how food production works and what it needs.” She added: “The pain and emotional anger from those pig farmers who feel utterly let down and abandoned is palpable. Some are approaching debts of a million pounds now and every week it gets worse”.
The number of UK manufacturers expecting price rises in the next three months is at its highest than at any time in almost half a century, according to the Confederation of British Industry. The CBI survey showed that 77% of manufacturers surveyed this month planned to raise prices, up from 66% in January – the highest reading since December 1976.
Despite London being one of the world's biggest financial hubs, four in 10 people in the UK do not feel confident using numbers in their everyday lives according to a new survey, covered by Yahoo Finance UK. Additionally, one in five would avoid jobs that involve using numbers often, according to the study published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) yesterday. The trade body has teamed up with Plain Numbers, a company that works with firms to help their staff present and explain numbers clearly and simply to help improve customer understanding. Its other advisory partners include the Bank of England and the Treasury.
A survey of more than 4,000 people aged 40 to 60 has found one third (33%) of them provide financial support or unpaid care to at least one loved one, on top of their job and other family commitments. The study, commissioned to support the launch of Legal & General’s Midlife MOT course created in partnership with The Open University, found the average amount of time taken up by unpaid care is the equivalent to a part-time job, at nearly 15 hours a week. The findings indicate that financial responsibilities peak at the age of 45, and that unpaid caring responsibilities tend to become more common from the age of 58. Those supporting adult children spend an average of £247 a month, while mid-lifers providing financial support to an elderly parent or relative spend an average of £282 a month, in addition to their own household expenses, the research found.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a "Living with Covid" plan, which will end free testing and scrap self-isolation rules and payments on 1st April. Boots has now announced it will begin selling single Covid tests for £5.99 from today. From next month the pharmacy says people will be able to buy them in-store for £12 for a pack of five.
Heathrow’s losses from two years of Covid disruption have hit £3.8bn, despite achieving £870m in cost savings over the period. The airport said it has recorded its lowest passenger numbers for 50 years, as numbers slumped to 19.4m, the lowest since 1972. Although passenger numbers are still 23% below those forecast, bosses say a strong summer season should push full-year passenger numbers to its target of 45.4m, however the airport is also relying on approval from the Civil Aviation Authority to raise the fees it charges to airlines. The London travel hub posted a loss of £1.8bn last year. Despite the gloomy figures, Heathrow insists it has a strong balance sheet and £4bn in cash to support its recovery.
Barclays bank has posted a record annual profit. In the fourth quarter, income from capital markets and merger advisory work rose 27% to £956 million, while banking fees rose to £3.7 billion, the highest since at least 2014. Group profit before tax in the quarter jumped to £1.47 billion, more than double last year and above expectations, as the bank undid more charges for potential bad loans that it took in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak. Annual pre-tax profit reached an all-time high of £8.4 billion. In other news, the bank said it has frozen millions of pounds in bonus share awards made to former boss Jes Staley pending the outcome of an investigation into his relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Staley stepped down last November to contest findings by the Financial Conduct Authorityand Prudential Regulation Authority over the way he represented his relationship with Epstein to the bank. He still receives his contractual entitlement to £2.4 million in cash and shares – the equivalent of 12 months in fixed pay – as well as a pension allowance and other undisclosed benefits.
FTSE 100 advertising giant WPP has bought influencer marketing company Village Marketing for an undisclosed sum. Based in North America and founded in 2013 by Vickie Segar, the business has 150 employees and was specifically created with the vision of building brands in a social media and mobile first world.
Missile manufacturer MBDA is set to create 600 jobs across its UK sites. The firm, a joint venture between BAE Systems, Leonardo and Airbus, was awarded a £550m Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract last year to develop an air-to-ground strike weapon for the UK's F-35 combat aircraft.
German car maker Volkswagen has confirmed it is in "advanced discussions" with its largest shareholder regarding a potential IPO of Porsche. CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson told Sharecast News: "The argument for spinning Porsche off has been that it would be worth more as a standalone business, while also freeing up VW to invest in its own electric car transition." A final decision on a listing has not been taken.
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