Published: 08 April 2022
Location: London, UK
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended his wife after it emerged she holds non-domiciled status. He said Akshata Murty had done nothing wrong in choosing a financial arrangement that means she is not legally obliged to pay tax in Britain on foreign income, telling The Sun newspaper that she is an Indian citizen and plans to move back to her home country to care for her parents. She “pays full UK tax on every penny that she earns here in the same way that she pays full international tax on every penny that she earns internationally,” he said, and blamed Labour for the “awful” smears against his family. However, The Daily Telegraph reported that unnamed allies of the Chancellor claimed the Prime Minister’s office were behind the leaks – an allegation No 10 and No 11 denied. Murty, the fashion-designer daughter of a billionaire married the Chancellor in 2009 before he became an MP. She is reported to hold a 0.91% stake in Infosys, the IT business founded by her father, a share The Guardian claims is worth £11.5 million a year to her.
Retail footfall continued its gradual improvement in March, with shopping centres seeing a significant improvement for the first time since the beginning of the year, British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Sensormatic IQ figures show. Overall, footfall is still 15.4% down on 2019.
Citizens Advice says customer service standards at UK energy providers have plummeted to their worst levels since 2017, with many people facing long waits on the phone or for a reply to an email. The research covers the period between 1 October and 31 December 2021, when more than a dozen suppliers collapsed. More recently, customers of many of the biggest energy firms were unable to submit meter readings online before the 1 April rise in prices, because websites crashed. Citizens Advice said it was concerned that its data was “part of a trend of declining standards at a time” when people particularly needed “support from their energy companies to cope with record bills and a cost-of-living crisis”.
Bellway, Countryside, and Vistry are the latest UK housebuilders to sign up to the government’s fire-safety pledge and announce they are making multi-million-pound provisions for safety improvements, as well as committing to work on potentially unsafe cladding on buildings between 11m and 18m high, built in the last 30 years. Bellway said it expects the works to set it back by around £300m, in addition to the £186.8m it had already set aside since the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. Vistry said further remediation works will cost it between £35m and £50m, on top of £25.2m already set aside; and Countryside anticipates remediation costs of around £24m, in addition to £41m already set aside last year for remedial works on multi-occupancy buildings. Barratt Developments, Redrow, Taylor Wimpey, and Crest Nicholson have already signed the pledge.
The Dubai-based owner of P&O Ferries has lost its status as a formal partner in one of the government’s biggest freeport projects, after widespread public anger over the firing without notice of 800 workers last month, The Guardian reports. Ministers have confirmed that DP World, the Emirati logistics giant behind P&O, no longer had a central role as a “partner” in the Solent freeport after the resignation of its UK commercial director from the scheme’s board last week.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said yesterday that it could approve the takeover of Morrisons by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice after the US private equity firm offered to divest some of its petrol stations to address competition concerns. The watchdog said: "there are reasonable grounds for believing that the undertakings offered by CD&R, or a modified version of them, might be accepted by the CMA under the Enterprise Act 2002".
The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, has announced it will recruit 80 new members of staff in a drive to crack down on rogue firms in the UK market.
BT has given 58,000 workers a £1,500 pay rise, its biggest award in two decades, which the communications company says is “focussed on the lowest paid workers” who will receive a roughly 8% increase. The highest paid frontline workers, meanwhile, will still see a more-than 3% increase. However, the offer has been rejected by the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents about 40,000 of the company’s 100,000 employees. The CWU described the pay award as “insulting” and a “relative pay cut” as soaring inflation fuels a cost-of-living crisis, and say they intend to ballot members over strike action. The CWU has been pushing for a 10% rise at BT, well in excess of inflation, which currently stands at 6.2%.
British energy giant Shell said yesterday that it expected to book up to $5bn in post-tax write offs after its decision to exit Russia, adding that oil & gas earnings would be "significantly higher" on the back of surging prices. The write offs are higher than the $3.4bn previously disclosed by the company, but would not impact adjusted earnings, Shell said in a trading update.
The company behind plans to develop the North Sea's Cambo oil field has been bought by a larger business, raising the likelihood of the project going ahead. Siccar Point Energy, which owns the licence to the field alongside Shell, is being bought by Ithaca Energy, part of the Israeli energy conglomerate Delek Group, for up to $1.5bn (£1.2bn). In a statement issued last night, Ithaca said the Cambo field gives it an opportunity to “develop fields that will contribute significantly to the UK’s energy security,” The Telegraphreported.
An investigation by consumer group Which? has found that some Amazonsellers have been artificially inflating reviews for certain products, by combining them with comments from totally unrelated products. For example, smartphone chargers were boosted by reviews for surge protectors, tweezers were boosted by reviews for non-stick kitchen foil, and blackhead removing nose strips were boosted by reviews for wigs. Which? found nine out of 10 of the top-rated headphones on the online marketplace carried ‘excellent’ reviews for different items, ranging from cuddly toys to jigsaw puzzles to umbrellas. The tactic is known as “black hat” marketing and Which? says Amazon is struggling to stop sellers exploiting this loophole.
Days after having to recall Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs because of salmonella contamination, makers Ferrero are now recalling Kinder Happy Moments Chocolate Assortment and Kinder Mix Chocolate Treats in US stores for the same reason.
Swedish truckmaker Volvo AB said Russia’s war in Ukraine has forced it to make provisions in the first quarter totaling 4 billion kronor (£320 million) that will have a negative impact on operating income. All of the company’s sales, service and production in Russia have been suspended since the war started and sanctions were imposed, according to a statement on Friday. In 2021, about 3% of Volvo’s net sales stemmed from Russia.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has proposed a two-year ban on some foreigners buying homes as the country grapples with some of the worst housing affordability issues in the world, the BBC says. Prices have jumped more than 20%, pushing the average home in Canada to nearly C$817,000 (£495,000) - more than nine times household income.
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has predicted that bitcoin will surpass the market cap of gold and eventually rival the value of the entire stock market, with a price 100-times what it is today. Speaking at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, Florida, yesterday, the billionaire investor began by throwing $100 bills into the crowd, before going on to claim that “shadowy” and “malicious” figures within traditional finance and politics were currently holding back the cryptocurrency from reaching its full potential. He named Warren Buffett as “enemy number 1”, describing the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway as a “sociopathic grandpa”. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and BlackRock chairman Larry Fink were also named on Mr Thiel’s list. “The central banksare going bankrupt. We are at the end of the fiat money regime,” he said.
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