Published: 22 May 2023
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the richest ever occupant of 10 Downing Street, is a little poorer, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List of Britain’s wealthiest residents, published yesterday. Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty have dropped to 275th place in the list, down from No. 222 last year, because of a drop in the value of their stake in Indian IT giant Infosys, which was founded by Murty’s father. Shares in the firm have fallen some 20% in the last 12 months. Topping the Rich List this year is Gopi Hinduja and his family, who are worth £35bn. Second on the list is businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, with an estimated worth of £29.7bn. For the first time in 14 years, the number of billionaires on the list fell, down by six on 2022, however, the overall combined wealth of those on the list has risen 4.5% on last year’s figure, to stand at £683.856bn.
Calls to link the apprenticeship levy to immigration policy have been backed by three former education secretaries – Labour’s Lord David Blunkett, and Conservatives Sir Gavin Williamson and Nadhim Zahawi. The three have lent support to a report by the Policy Exchange think tank which urges various changes, including, as Zahawi says allowing employers “to use the levy to train up home-grown talent - including on shorter and more flexible courses - instead of being forced to rely on immigration to fill these vacancies.” The report notes a total of £4.3bn has also been raised and gone unspent since 2018 due to barriers preventing small businesses making the most of the scheme. Other recommendations include offering shorter and more flexible training, including HGV driving or coding bootcamps, and creating a £3,000 incentive for SMEs to train young apprentices.
Researchers also called for an end to the “grave injustice” of child benefit being taken from parents of apprentices aged 16-19 – who would receive it if their child were doing A-Levels.
The number of law firm mergers in Britain has risen by nearly a quarter in the past year, from 99 in 2021 to 122 in 2022, according to research from accountancy firm Hazlewoods. However, merger numbers have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels – there were were 174 UK law mergers in 2018.
NatWest has agreed to buy £1.3bn worth of its shares back from the Government in a 268.4p deal that will reduce Britain’s stake in the former Royal Bank of Scotland to 38.69%. A target of returning the bailed-out bank to full private ownership has been set for 2026.
Fintech firm Revolut, which two years’ on from its application has still not received a banking licence from the Financial Conduct Authority allowing it to provide a full banking service, is now facing additional woes, having been accused of enabling a £600,000 fraud, The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday. Terna Energy Trading, which is listed on the Athens stock market, has launched legal action against the British bank, claiming it breached money laundering rules by failing to stop a 'fraudulent' transaction to a fake supplier for £600,000 last year. Although the payment was initially frozen by anti-money Revolut’s anti-laundering software, a Revolut analyst in Lithuania later waved it through. Terna claims it alerted an online Revolut agent who did not “take any steps to investigate the payments or refer the matter to the relevant team”, according to court papers, hence Terna is now suing for damages under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Founded in 2015, Revolut is the UK's most valuable fintech with 28m customers worldwide, but has hit by numerous setbacks, including key executives quitting and a warning from its auditor that delayed accounts may have been 'materially mis-stated'. It currently holds a banking licence from the Lithuanian regulator.
Google defeated a class action lawsuit at London’s High Court on Friday, brought on behalf of 1.6m people who had had their medical records transferred to Google's artificial intelligence firm DeepMind Technologies in 2015 by The Royal Free London NHS Trust, in relation to the development of a mobile app designed to analyse medical records and detect acute kidney injuries. The data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office, said in 2017 that the Royal Free misused patient data when it provided the information to DeepMind, but Google said in March that the case was "bound to fail" as there was no prospect of establishing that all the claimants' private information was misused, or that they had any expectation of privacy in relation to the information. The Judge hearing the case agreed on both these points and dismissed it.
Sainsbury’s is reportedly planning to launch a new online marketplace for high street fashion brands. According to a report in The Times Sainbury’s has already approached brands such as Jigsaw and White Stuff with proposals of selling their products on its website and in certain stores. The supermarket already has deals with Fat Face and Sosandar.
Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), Britain's biggest asset manager, is leading a shareholder revolt at McDonald's over the fast food giant's continued 'overuse' of antibiotics in mass meat production. It will take the burger chain to task at its AGM next week, the Daily Mail says, having tabled a motion on the topic that will request McDonald’s adopts World Health Organization rules on the use of the drugs across its supply chain. LGIM, a top 20 shareholder in McDonald's, fears excessive use of antibiotics in industrial farming is fuelling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the rise of drug-resistant superbugs among humans. 'Without coordinated action now, AMR could lead to the next global health crisis,' said Maria Ortino, senior manager at LGIM.
FTSE 100 gambling operator Entain is nearing a $200m (£160.69m) deal to buy London-based pricing and analytics company Angstrom Sports, according to Business Insider which cites three people familiar with the discussions. Angstrom is based in the UK but focuses on US sports.
British investors are preparing legal claims worth hundreds of millions of pounds over savings lost during Credit Suisse's rescue takeover by UBS, the Daily Mail reports. Bondholders were left with nothing after the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority's (Finma) decision to wipe out £14bn of bonds as part of the rescue, leading global fund managers to file claims against the authority, and lawyers at London law firm Pallas are representing up to 1,000 retail investors in anticipated litigation against Credit Suisse, Finma and UBS. Natasha Harrison of Pallas said: 'We have investors in tears down the phone because their life savings are gone.'
Tufan Erginbilgic, the recently appointed new CEO of Rolls-Royce has told the Financial Times that the company has been “grossly mismanaged” and described the financial situation of the engineering group in 2019 as the “worst I have seen in my career”. Erginbilgic’s appointment in January followed a 20-year career at BP where he rose to become CEO of the oil giant’s downstream division focused on fuels, lubricants, and petrochemicals. Earlier this year, he made headlines and spooked investors by labelling Rolls-Royce a “burning platform”, but very shortly thereafter, the company’s early 2023 profit announcements exceeded expectations. Erginbilgic told the newspaper he is targeting cuts to spending on non-core projects; renegotiating existing sales and maintenance contracts; and focussing on paying down debt and generating cash, to drive a global engineering leader that is “high performing, competitive, resilient and growing”.
Daniel Aharoni, CFO of London-listed Alphawave resigned with immediate effect on Thursday, it has been revealed, after releasing audited 2022 results showing circa $7m (£5.62m) in differences from preliminary figures reported previously.
The former boss of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claims she banned alcohol-only staff events following accusations of drunken behaviour at a summer party. The lobby group is facing claims of misconduct, including an alleged rape at the CBI summer party in 2019. Dame Carolyn Fairbairn - the CBI director general between 2015 and 2020 - told the Sunday Times she was not told of a sexual assault at the event. Instead she was informed there was poor behaviour and staff drank too much. Dame Carolyn told the newspaper: "There was no sit-down meal. With hindsight, I think that was a real mistake. "We immediately decided not to allow this kind of format again." In her interview with the newspaper, Fairbairn also insisted the organisation had “a really good culture, and that it was very far from being a toxic culture” and that the “link the board made in its analysis, which drew a direct link from a toxic culture to assaults on women, is fundamentally unfounded and has let down the organisation”. She added: “This is about men behaving badly towards women. I do not accept this connection between the culture of the organisation that I created and the actions of an individual who committed a crime.”
Meanwhile, Tesco Chair John Allan has stepped down from his role on the grounds that several accusations about his “inappropriate” behaviour when he was president of the CBI are becoming a “distraction”. In a trading update on Friday, Tesco stood by Allan, saying there had been “no findings of wrongdoing”. “Three of these allegations are vigorously denied by John, for the other John unreservedly apologised for the comment he made,” the supermarket said. In a statement Allan said: “It is with regret that I am having to prematurely stand down from my position as Chair of Tesco Plc following the anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations made against me, as reported by the Guardian. These allegations are utterly baseless, as the internal procedures undertaken by Tesco prove.” He added: “Tesco undertook an ‘extensive internal review’ which included inviting Tesco employees and ex-employees to come forward on an anonymous basis if they had concerns about my conduct. Tesco also conducted outreach to those who attended the meeting where the incident allegedly happened, and video footage of the meeting has also been reviewed. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing at that time or at any stage of my Chairmanship at Tesco and I remain determined to prove my innocence”. All alleged assaults regarding the CBI are currently being investigated by the City of London Police.
Klarna’s UK boss Alex Marsh is leaving the firm after four and half years, City A.M. reports. Marsh, who joined Swedish buy-now pay-later (BNPL) firm in 2018, described his time at Klarna as “nothing short of phenomenal”. However, he said that a recent family tragedy has “brought home that life is short…this experience has underlined the importance of prioritising what matters most – our family and loved ones.” He highlighted that in the time he has worked there, Klarna’s customer base has grown from 1.5m to a “staggering” 18m.
Dublin-based low-cost airline Ryanair has swung back into profit, posting a €1.43billion (£1.24 billion) gain for the 12 months to 31st March after passenger numbers rose 74% to 168.8m, and air fares jumped 50% on levels seen a year earlier, to an average of €41 (£36) each. However, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary flagged cost pressures over the year ahead, with the company's fuel bill expected to surge by more than €1billion (£869 million) due to higher oil prices., while saying he was “cautiously optimistic” the airline can grow profits modestly over the year ahead.
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has won a coveted $3.4bn (£2.73bn) NASA contract to build a spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from the moon's surface, the U.S. space agency. Blue Origin plans to build its 16m tall Blue Moon lander in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, software firm Draper and robotics firm Astrobotic. NASA's contract gives it a second option for sending astronauts to the moon – Elon Musk's SpaceX was awarded $3 billion in 2021 to build its Starship spacecraft to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972. The first two Starship missions are slated for later this decade. "I've said it before: we want more competition, we want two landers, and that's better," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at an event announcing the contract at NASA's headquarters. "It means that you have reliability, you have backups."
China's exports to North Korea soared 69% year-on-year in April, to $166m (£133.37m), data released by China's General Administration of Customs shows. The top export items in terms of value were processed hair and wool used in wigs, worth about $11.6m (£9.32m), and diammonium hydrogen phosphate, a widely used fertiliser, worth $8.84m (£7.10m). North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear programmes since 2006.
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