Published: 18 September 2023
The Government has confirmed it will subsidise the Port Talbot Steelworks, owned by Tata Steel UK, part of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, to the tune of £500m. Tata Steel is also providing £750m to redevelop the site and install cleaner electric arc furnaces, which should be up and running within three years of Tata receiving regulatory and planning approvals. The vast plant, which currently has two ageing coal-powered blast furnaces, is the UK's largest single carbon emitter. However, trade unions expect thousands of jobs to be lost at the site, which currently employs 4,000 people. On Friday, Tata cautioned that the plans will lead to consultations over a “deep potential restructuring”. Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "The jobs of thousands of steelworkers are now at risk. The cost to local people and the wider Port Talbot community will be immense. Once again, we have the spectacle of leaders talking up the fantasy land of a 'just transition', while the bitter reality for workers is them getting the sack." In an interview with BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement, Welsh secretary David TC Davies said: "We did everything we can to save jobs and to make sure the steel continues to be made, but I'm not going to shy away from the fact that this is still terrible news,” but insisted Tata Steel could have closed the plant with all jobs lost had the Government had not stepped in, as the firm is “currently losing over a million pounds a day ... and no company is ever going to accept losses like that”. It is now expected that at least 5,000 out of 8,000 Tata jobs UK-wide will be saved. A funding pot of £100m would help affected workers, he added. N Chandrasekaran, Tata Group chair, said: "The agreement with the UK government is a defining moment for the future of the steel industry. The proposed investment will preserve significant employment."
Train drivers are staging fresh strikes to coincide with Conservative party annual conference, walking out on 30th September – the day before the conference – until 4th October, the final day of the event. 16 train operators will be forced to cancel all services for the duration of the strike. Further serious disruption for travellers will be caused by additional Aslef member action to ban overtime from 29th September to 6th October.
The Federation of Independent Retailers (FIR) is calling on the Government to provide small independent shops with a £1,500 one-off grant to improve security measures. FIR President Muntazir Dipoti says the situation with regard to crime in the shops is “urgent” because while the big supermarkets have introduced body cameras, headsets and expensive equipment, “there's no way most independent retailers can afford that," he said, adding: "I know of members who fear for their lives inside the shops, and others who are making the decision to close up." A BBC report cites the case of convenience store owner Benedict Selvaratnam, who says he witnesses up to nine shoplifting incidents a day in his Croydon store, committed by criminals who are "more brazen and aggressive" because they know the police are unlikely to act. “The few times we have called the police, they haven't come," Selvaratnam said. The Metropolitan Police told the BBC it was not "realistic" for the force to respond to every case of shoplifting because of demand, but that officers would be dispatched "where appropriate". Meanwhile, in just the past week, one of Selvaratnam's employees was taken to hospital after being hit in the head with an iron nail. Another staff member was attacked with a stick of sugar cane. Female staff members have also resigned over safety fears, having been threatened with retaliation by shoplifters when they have intervened to try and stop them.
The scandal-hit Confederation of British Industry (CBI) risks going bust within days unless it can convince its remaining members to stump up £3m, according to a Sunday Times report yesterday, which added that bank HSBC is leading the cash call. A spokesperson for the business lobby group said: “As has been widely reported, the CBI has experienced some short-term cashflow challenges following an incredibly difficult year for the organisation. A number of options are being explored to resolve this issue and secure the footing of an organisation that remains in a strong medium- to long-term position.”
The Body Shop has been put up for sale by its Brazilian owner Natura. Natura bought the chain in 2017, buying it off L’Oreal, but has struggled to achieve profitable growth, and the firm is now hoping to reach a provisional agreement on a sale by the end of next month. Morgan Stanley is handling the auction. Meanwhile, Sky News reports that Elliot Advisors, the investment firm best-known for its activist campaigns against the boards of some of the world's biggest companies, tabled an indicative bid for The Body Shop in the last few weeks. Elliott owns book stores Barnes & Noble and Waterstones, and has backed Claire's, the fashion accessories chain. It was also involved in the auction of Manchester United Football Club, and was among the suitors for Cineworld, the debt-ridden cinema operator, earlier this year.
Frasers Group is in talks to sell the online clothing label Missguided to Shein, the giant Chinese-founded online fashion firm. Sky News quoted City sources as saying the two sides had been in discussions for several weeks about a deal, which would represent Shein's first acquisition of a British fashion brand. Missguided was founded by Nitin Passi in 2008, but crashed into administration in the spring of last year amid mounting losses, at which point the brand was bought by Fraser for £20m. Frasers also owns Missy Empire and ISawItFirst, two other female-focused, digitally-led fashion brands, which according to one source, has led it to conclude that Missguided is not central to its ambitions in the sector. Both Frasers and Shein declined to comment on Sky’s story. Frasers founded Sports Direct and owns several other brands that fell on hard times, including Game, Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and Sofa.com.
Brookfield Property Partners, the Canadian owner of holiday resort operator Center Parcs UK & Ireland, is in preliminary talks with some of its fund investors regarding the sale of a stake in the chain, it emerged on Friday. The discussions, according to Sky News, suggest the planned auction for the chain is faltering, hence Brookfield is now considering alternatives to an outright sale. During the summer, multiple potential bidders, including CVC Capital Partners, KSL Capital Partners, and the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, apparently expressed an interest, but failed to match Brookfield's valuation expectations, believed to be up to £5bn. Center Parcs Europe, which was separated from the British and Irish operations under the previous ownership of private equity firm Blackstone, is not involved in the sale.
Everton Football Club has been sold to Miami-based 777 Partners, a US investment fund, it was announced on Friday, as Farhad Moshiri, the British-Iranian businessman who has owned the Premier League club since 2018, has agreed to sell his 94.1% stake. 777 already owns a number of football clubs worldwide, including Spain's Sevilla, Standard de Liege in Belgium and Melbourne's Victory FC. Everton is its first British acquisition. Financial terms were not disclosed, although both sides said the investment would strengthen the club's balance sheet and guarantee the funding of the new stadium. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approval from both the Premier League and the Financial Conduct Authority.
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