25 November 2015
- From the section Business
Inchcape delivered a “robust” performance in Q3 with turnover up 9.4% to £1.739bn at constant currency and by 2.5% at actual currency compared to the same period last year.
Like for like revenue was up 10.1% at constant currency and by 3.1% at actual currency.
Its aftersales activities, which account for 50% of the group’s gross profit, performed well and in line with expectations. Strong new car sales in recent years have grown the 1-5 year car parc in the majority of markets.
In the UK revenue growth was robust with the corporate sector particularly strong in new car sales. Used Vehicle margins declined year on year in the quarter but aftersales activities performed strongly.
Stefan Bomhard, group CEO of Inchcape, said: “Our growth continues to be supported by the group’s strong portfolio of distribution and retail businesses, in attractive markets, across five continents, where we typically have strong long-standing positions. In line with our earlier expectations, we are set to deliver a robust underlying constant currency performance in 2015.
“We delivered a strong performance in Australasia, reflecting our increased Subaru market share supported by an improved supply of vehicles. Our premium and luxury brand partners in our Retail operations continued to grow ahead of the market.
“In Europe our revenue performance was solid and in line with our expectations. The Belgium market was benign and we saw a sequentially stronger revenue trend. Although the Greek New Vehicle market was down in the quarter, we managed to gain market share.”
Inchcape said the outlook was positive and in line with earlier expectations.
“We are well positioned to take advantage of the attractive growth prospects in the premium and luxury segments across our diverse market portfolio and are set to deliver a robust underlying constant currency performance in 2015, in line with expectations,” said Bomhard.
More fleet news at hants.gov.uk/trafficmanagement.htm.
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The UK’s financial watchdog has launched a consultation process on competition in the mortgage sector to seek input from interested parties to identify both good points and potential areas for improvement.
‘For millions of consumers a mortgage is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, financial transaction they will enter into in their lifetime. The mortgage sector also plays a vital role in the financial services industry and many areas of the economy,’ said Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
He explained that competition can play a key role in ensuring that the sector works well, delivering consumer benefits through lower prices, better customer service, and more product choice.
‘We are seeking stakeholders’ views on competition in the mortgage sector. These views, together with evidence from the FCA’s wider programme of work on mortgages, will help inform any future FCA work on this key sector of the economy, including any future competition market study,’ he added.
The FCA is interested in the range of factors that might affect competition in the provision of loans secured against a property, whether regulated or unregulated, including as a result of changes introduced following the Mortgage Market Review and any other barriers to entry, expansion or innovation.
It also wants to examine consumers’ ability to effectively access, assess and act on information about mortgage products and services and firms’ conduct and relationships and the deadline for input is 18 December 2015 with feedback scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders welcomed the announcement and described it is an excellent opportunity for the regulator to review the effect of regulation, as well as market practice, on lenders as well as their customers.
‘The FCA’s role in promoting competitive markets is the part of regulation that best helps foster creativity, innovation and a sharp focus on what drives customers,’ said CML director general Paul Smee.
‘It’s also essential in delivering the kind of environment in which reputable lenders of all shapes and sizes can thrive. We will be working with all our members to ensure that their perspectives are fully reflected as we work with the FCA on this vital issue,’ he added.
He went on further to say ‘It is also essential that adequate unoccupied property insurance is arranged as standard property insurance isnt suitable and lenders will insist on this’.
The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/uk-mortgage-sector-competition-2015100811072.html
CHEP today announced a transition of leadership for its European operations. James McCarthy, is leaving the company after seven-and-a-half years. CHEP has appointed Michael Pooley, who has previously led the company’s UK & Ireland business as well as its Sales & Customer Operations team in the USA, as James’ successor as President, CHEP Europe.
The Group President of CHEP’s worldwide Pallets operations, Peter Mackie, said: “James McCarthy has done a great job leading CHEP Europe, driving our business closer to its customers, overseeing the launch of a number of new pallet solutions and developing our focus on assisting customers with their sustainability efforts. The entire CHEP family will miss James and wishes him and his family very well for the future. In Mike Pooley, we are delighted to appoint a strong successor to James. During his time as head of our Sales & Customer Operations for CHEP USA, he was integral to strengthening key customer relationships and energizing our teams. His appointment will provide both continuity and fresh impetus for CHEP in Europe as we continue to work together with our customers to make their supply chains more efficient and sustainable.”
Mr McCarthy will remain with CHEP until December 2015 to work alongside Mr Pooley to enable a smooth leadership transition. Mr McCarthy has led CHEP Europe since March 2013 and also held the roles of President, CHEP Western Europe and Chief Financial Officer, CHEP Europe, Middle East & Africa since joining the company in 2008. Mr McCarthy said: “I have worked for CHEP for seven-and-a-half years and it has been a great experience but now is the right time for me to move on. I am delighted to welcome Mike back to the business and look forward to watching CHEP Europe and its customers thrive under his leadership.”
Mr Pooley rejoins CHEP on 1 November 2015 from materials testing company Exova Europe, where he was Managing Director since April 2013. Mr Pooley worked for CHEP from 2002 until 2013, in leadership positions including: Senior Vice President, Sales & Customer Operations for CHEP USA; Managing Director, CHEP UK & Ireland; and Vice President, European Key Accounts. Before joining CHEP in 2002, he spent 12 years with industrial gases business BOC in a number of business development, design, development and production engineering roles. Mike is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Henley Management College.
Mr Pooley said: “I am delighted to be returning to the CHEP family at a time when there are so many opportunities to work with customers throughout Europe on developing solutions that make the supply chain better. I am excited at the prospect of again working with our wonderful portfolio of customers and our passionate teams of supply chain experts.”
CHEP is the global leader in managed, returnable and reusable packaging solutions, serving many of the world’s largest companies in sectors such as consumer goods, fresh produce, beverage and automotive. CHEP’s service is environmentally sustainable and increases efficiency for customers while reducing operating risk and product damage. CHEP’s 7,500-plus employees and 300 million pallets and containers offer unbeatable coverage and exceptional value, supporting more than 500,000 customer touch-points in more than 50 countries. Our customer portfolio includes global companies and brands such as Procter & Gamble, Sysco, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Nestlé, Ford and GM. CHEP is part of Brambles Limited. For further information, visit www.chep.com
For further information, please contact:
Director, Corporate Communications
CHEP Europe, Middle East & Africa
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The original article can be found at http://warehousenews.co.uk/2015/10/michael-pooley-to-succeed-james-mccarthy-as-president-of-chep-europe/
As widely expected the September plate-change hit a new high with registrations up 8.6% to 462,517 units, according to the SMMT.
The rise marked the 43rd consecutive month of growth for the new car market and pushed the year to date total up 7.08% to 2,096,886 units. This was the first time the 2 million barrier has been exceeded in September since 2004.
“September is traditionally one of the year’s biggest months for new car registrations, and last month set an autumn record,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, who reiterated his belief that the market will soon level off.
“With plenty of attractive, affordable deals available on the new 65-plate, Britain’s car buyers – whether private, fleet or business consumers – were busier than ever. The market reached pre-recession levels some time ago, and we anticipate some levelling off in the coming months. It is too early to draw conclusions, but customer demand for diesel remained strong, accounting for one in two cars registered.”
The retail sector led the market accounting for 49.3% of registrations, a year on year rise of 3%. Fleet demand grew 15.2% taking 44.9%, while the sub 25 fleet business sector grew 10.6% and accounted for 5.8% of the market.
The original article can be found at http://www.motortrader.com/motor-trader-news/automotive-news/new-record-september-plate-change-market/
Ridgeway Group turned in a strong performance in 2014 with pre-tax profits up 26% to £10.3m on turnover up 18% to £647.7m.
Results filed at Companies House showed that like-for-like new car retail sales rose 7% for the period and 15% overall.
The group, under chief executive John O Hanlon (pictured) saw average new car price increased by £574 per unit, gross profit per unit fell slightly but total gross profit increased by £1.75m.
Like-for-like used vehicle sales rose 11% in the year to 31 December and 21% overall.
The company said it had improved stock management and used car processes, which had lifted profitability.
Average used car prices increased by £735 on average with gross profit per unit up 16% and overall gross profit increased by £5.4m.
Ridgeways said that aftersales revenues and profitability grew in 2014 with increased customer engagement through service plans and the use of technology.
The group won the Motor Trader Digital Initiative of the Year award in 2014 for the development and implementation of Workshop Window.
During 2014 the group rolled out a programme of training modules in the Ridgeway Academy, covering sales, aftersales, communications and management for staff at all levels. To date almost 900 employees have attended one or more sessions.
Ridgeway continues to invest heavily in its facilities with a new Audi showroom opening in Oxford in July 2014 and refurbishment of VW dealerships.
It also relocated Skoda in Oxford to Kidington and refurbished a Maserati dealership and Select used car showrooms during the period.
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JJ Food Service has taken delivery of new Isuzu Forward 7.5 tonne rigid trucks.
Mick Montague from JJ Food Service said: “All our Isuzus have served us really well in the past. They are an excellent workhorse with outstanding payload capability.
“In fact, we have still got some 06 plate Isuzus running around on a daily basis within our fleet today. For our new bespoke service for home deliveries, we felt that the Isuzu Euro VI 7.5tonner would be the ideal vehicle to handle the requirements of this specific operation.”
The latest replacement Isuzu Forward N75.190 4×2 rigids feature the popular Easyshift automated transmission and are specified with a Solomon’s dual compartment refrigerated body that has a movable bulkhead. The trucks each use Carrier Transicold Xarios refrigeration systems as standard and the bodies have all been fitted with the latest JJ Food Service wrap livery.
“For the last few years, we have concentrated on adding 18 tonne rigids to our fleet, however recently, our product range has changed considerably, in terms of product categories and higher price points. To accommodate these changes, we needed to go back to putting more 7.5 tonne vehicles into the fleet. This gives us a better, more efficient, utilisation of these types of products,” added Montague.
Based at the JJ Food Service depot in Enfield, the latest Isuzus are being used for a range of the company’s distribution services, mainly delivering to customers in West London and the City.
As the delivery routes are not particularly high mileage, JJ Food Service anticipates that the new Isuzu delivery vehicles will have a long working life in its fleet.
“Isuzu and JJ Food Service have enjoyed a really successful working relationship that goes back over many years. This is part and parcel of the ITUK approach to its customers. By working closely with our customers such as JJ Food Service, we are able to develop long-term partnerships. We strive to deliver great customer service and care and provide vehicles that are ideally suited to the specific distribution requirements,” added Keith Child, marketing director at Isuzu Truck.
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The original article can be found at http://www.commercialfleet.org/news/truck-news/2015/09/24/jj-foodservice-updates-fleet-with-75t-isuzu-forward-rigids
Beyonce and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia confirm 2016 launch
A launch of retail billionaire Sir Philip Green’s new clothing venture with singer Beyonce is planned for spring next year.
The owner of the Arcadia group, which includes Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, and Burton, has been working with the star on a new athletic street-wear brand.
It had been reported that the global venture would launch this year.
Details came as Sir Philip’s group reported operating profits up 5.5% to £251.6m despite “challenging times”.
Sales for the year to 29 August were almost flat at £2.06bn, according to results published by Taveta Investments, Arcadia’s family-controlled parent company.
The fashion industry was abuzz with speculation earlier this year when the retail entrepreneur and singer announced they were creating an all-new global company, Parkwood Topshop. Deals between retailers and celebrities have traditionally been branding links.
In an update on Wednesday, Taveta said: “We are developing our distribution globally for the launch of this exciting new brand in spring 2016.”
The new company will produce clothing, footwear and accessories. So-called street-wear is a “rapidly growing area of the market”, the company said in a statement.
Taveta’s profit figures, for the year ending 29 August, do not include High Street chain BHS, which was sold in March to Retail Acquisitions for just £1.
Sir Philip said Arcadia delivered “a robust performance in challenging times”. In the first 10 weeks of the current financial year, like-for-like sales were down 2.3% on the same period last year, he said.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34919500#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Osborne’s big idea
25 November 2015
- From the section Business
If George Osborne has a big idea, it is to transfer the costs of and responsibility for building a better, fairer Britain from the public sector to the private sector.
We’ve seen that with the imposition of a higher minimum wage, rebranded as his National Living Wage, and his stumbling attempt to cut state top-ups to the low paid through the tax-credit system.
We are seeing it today with what one of his colleagues describes as the government “raising the affordable housing budget but also redirecting it to homes for sale rather than rent”.
So one of the centrepieces of today’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review is what the Treasury describes as the “biggest affordable housebuilding programme since the 1970s”.
There will be a substantial £2.3bn of government funding for the construction of so-called starter homes – or homes up to a value of £250,000, or £450,000 in London, which will be sold at a 20% discount to those under 40 buying their first home.
And there will be a big push on semi-privatisation of social housing, with £4bn of finance for shared ownership of residential properties – which will also include a big push on encouraging private developers to promote his Help-to-Buy scheme.
It’s bonanza time for mass housebuilders, especially if the chancellor succeeds in loosening planning constraints, as he wants to do.
And it’s thin gruel – again – for housing associations, which are being obliged to shrink by selling properties at big discounts to tenants and which are having difficulty building even what they had planned to do following the Treasury’s decision to force them to cut rents.
That imposed rental cut was an attempt to shrink the housing benefit bill.
And here perhaps is the best way of seeing Osborne’s British vision: slash tax credits by forcing the cost of providing decent wages on businesses; reduce housing benefit, by spurring a boom in cheap housing, cutting rents and stimulating private ownership,
It is a shrinking of the state, that – in theory, and over the medium term – should not impoverish the working poor.
But there may well be pain for what MPs perhaps patronisingly call “strivers” in the period of transition,
And whether in practice too many vulnerable people will fall through shrunken and lowered state safety nets will be one of the big political questions in this parliament – and which may decide whether George Osborne achieves his ambition of relocating to Number 10.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34919464#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Potential sellers in central London’s prime property market are staying put and using the money they would have paid in stamp duty on refurbishing their present home, it is suggested.
Official statistics show that price growth in this sector of the UK’s property market has slowed with changes to stamp duty announced a year ago blamed.
The latest analysis report from Sandfords, a central and North West London agent, confirms that this has been the case.
‘The stamp duty changes that took place towards the end of 2014 have depressed the market across the board in prime central London and forecasts for next year have altered in light of this,’ said Andrew Ellina, the firm’s director.
‘I predict that price increases in the prime central London market in 2016 will be modest with some areas experiencing growth and others seeing prices remaining fairly static,’ he added.
He explained that families in particular are choosing to carry out alterations rather than put their home on the market and the firm expects this to continue into the New Year.
The biggest price band that has been affected is from £1.5 million to £5 million. For properties below the £1.5 million the stamp duty changes have not been too onerous. For anything above £5 million, purchasers have sufficient funds and are therefore not too bothered about a heavy stamp duty bill.
Ellina believes that unless something significant happens that we cannot foresee at the moment, there will not be a crash, but the global economic outlook combined with tax changes in the UK and the perceived high current values will subdue demand and this will take some time to work through. ‘I do not anticipate sustainable growth returning until the third quarter of 2016,’ he said.
Regent’s Park and Marylebone are still undervalued in comparison to Knightsbridge and Kensington, but are becoming increasingly more fashionable and desirable, the report suggests. Other areas of growth will be in Fitzrovia and Kings Cross which are rapidly changing out of all recognition.
‘The capital is undoubtedly still one of the safest places in the world to live and invest, and will continue to be a top investment location. This year, buyers from all over the world including, the Far East, China, India, Greece and Europe have been heavily spending their money and buying properties in London, and it looks like they will still be big players in 2016,’ Ellina concluded.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/prime-central-london-outlook-2015112511244.html
The Scottish residential rental market as seen rents rising at half the speed they were during the summer months, slowing from a 3.1% annual rise in June to 1.6% October.
After peaking at record prices in the summer, Scottish rents have been falling in recent months but there are signs that growth is starting to rally again, according to the latest buy to let index from lettings agent network Your Move.
They increased by a modest 0.2% between September and October, the first month on month rise since July, and takes the average monthly rent in Scotland to £546, just £1 higher than the previous month in cash terms.
Despite widespread recognition that tenant demand is currently outpacing supply of available homes to let, landlords believe that rent rises are likely to continue on a slower trajectory than witnessed earlier this year.
Indeed, according to the latest Landlord Survey from Your Move, landlords expect rents to increase by just 1.4% over the next 12 months. Only 32% of landlords are intending to raise their rents next year, with the main motivation being to cover the cost of inflation.
‘There are indications from landlords that this trend will continue until 2016. Ultimately, rents in the private rented sector reflect what people are willing and able to pay, and are delimited by household incomes and monthly earnings,’ said Brian Moran, lettings director at Your Move Scotland.
A breakdown of the figures shows that rents are higher year on year in every region of Scotland except Glasgow and Clyde in October. Scotland’s second city has seen a 0.9% drop in rents since October 2014. This means the typical rent in the area now stands at £560, down from a record of £575 in the summer of 2014.
Compared to a year ago, the Highlands and Islands has experienced the biggest increase in rents, up 5.7% in 12 months. However this rate of growth is starting to slow after a monthly price drop in October, and rents have come down from their historic peak in September. After this, average rents in the South of Scotland are up 2.6% year on year.
Annual rent growth in Edinburgh and the Lothians has increased from 2% in September to 2.5% in October, meaning that rents are now £15 more expensive than a year ago in Scotland’s capital city. Standing at £630 per month, this is a new record for rent prices in the region, and 15% higher than the average rent in Scotland overall.
The East of Scotland has experienced a more modest 1% uptick in rent prices in the past 12 months, with monthly rents rising by £5 to £522.
Three of the five regions of Scotland have seen rents increase in the past month. The urban centres of Edinburgh and the Lothians and Glasgow and Clyde have seen the strongest month on month rises, with rents up 1.1% since September. The East of Scotland has seen a 0.2% monthly increase in rent prices, in the first month on month rise since July.
The South of Scotland have experienced the biggest drop in rents on a monthly basis. Here, rents are 1% lower than in September. Average monthly rents have also fallen in the Highlands and Islands, down 0.5% month on month, the first monthly drop since April, following a sustained summer of growth.
The index also shows that Scottish tenant arrears have climbed to a fresh record in October, with the proportion of rent in arrears rising to 13.8% of all rent due in the month. This is the fifth consecutive month that tenant arrears have worsened, rising from 8.8% in May of this year, and up from 13.2% the previous month. On an annual basis, rental arrears have more than doubled, increasing from 6.5% of all rent in October 2014.
‘Since May, rental arrears have been moving in only one direction and it’s not where we want them to be heading. More needs to be done to turn tenant fortunes around and divert them back onto the right road, but in the meantime, it’s vital that the channels of communication are kept open between landlords and their tenants,’ said Moran.
‘Scottish rent growth is coasting along at a sustainable speed, and can hardly be accused of going off the rails. It is unemployment in Scotland that has been accelerating over the summer, and is now higher than the UK average,’ he explained.
As of October 2015, the average gross yield on a Scottish rental property stands at 4%, consistent with the previous month. Compared to a year ago, gross yields are also holding steady with October 2014, but there has been significant volatility within these 12 months, as a result of house price distortions surrounding the implementation of the new Land and Buildings Transactions Tax.
Taking into account property price growth and void periods between tenants, but before any costs such as mortgage repayments or maintenance, the average total annual return on a buy to let property in Scotland stands at 5% in the year to October 2015. This represents a modest dip from 5.6% in September, but a more significant fall from 9.3% in the year to October 2014.
In cash terms this means the typical landlord in Scotland has seen a return, before any mortgage payments or maintenance costs, of £8,000 in the last year. Rental income makes up £5,900 of this sum, while capital appreciation on buy to let property amounts to £2,100 in the 12 months to October 2015.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/scotland-rents-index-data-2015112511243.html
China’s biggest brokerage Citic in $166bn error
China’s biggest brokerage, Citic Securities, had overstated its derivative business by $166bn (£110bn) from April to September, according to the country’s securities association.
The Securities Association of China said the firm inaccurately inflated the amount of its equity swap transactions in a report submitted in October.
Citic said the error occurred due to a system upgrade and has been corrected.
Probes have resulted in executives confessing to insider trading at Citic.
In September, shares of China’s largest state-owned brokerage slumped after it reported that three executives, including its president, were under police investigation.
The firm has been part of a crackdown by China’s regulators on irregular stock trading since mainland markets plunged dramatically in mid-June.
The association, which is partly overseen by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said it was investigating the matter and would take further action if necessary.
It did add that the error did not impact the month-end net size of Citic’s business.
The brokerage told the Reuters news agency that it had amended the figures at the start of November and the size of its swaps business was $6.2bn.
An equity swap is a type of derivative that refers to a cash exchange between realized gains on specific stocks and fixed interest rates over a certain period of time in the future.
Shares of Citic Securities were down almost 1% in Shanghai in afternoon trade.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34918510#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Spending Review: George Osborne to pledge housing cash amid cuts
25 November 2015
- From the section UK Politics
George Osborne is to set out government spending plans up to 2020 later, which will include billions of pound in cuts but also new money for housebuilding.
The Autumn Statement and Spending Review will detail £20bn of cuts to Whitehall budgets and £12bn to welfare.
But the chancellor will pledge almost £7bn to make housebuilding a priority, with more than 400,000 “affordable homes” to be built in England.
Plans to mitigate the effect of tax credit cuts have also been promised.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Conservative MPs were expecting a “serious pulling back” from the government on planned £4.4bn cuts to working tax credits, which were rejected by the House of Lords last month.
The combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review will set departmental spending limits for the next five years and give details of the government’s taxation and deficit reduction plans.
Ministers have pledged to cut annual welfare spending by £12bn, and government departments have been asked to find a total of £20bn in savings under plans to achieve a budget surplus by 2020.
The chancellor also hopes to raise £5bn with a crackdown on tax avoidance.
Mr Osborne will promise to address a “crisis of home ownership in our country”, pledging a “bold plan to back families who aspire to buy their own home”.
The Treasury said the chancellor would unveil “the biggest affordable housebuilding programme since the 1970s”.
It will include:
- £2.3bn paid directly to developers to build so-called “starter homes“, aimed at first-time buyers, who will get a 20% discount on prices up to £450,000 in London and £250,000 elsewhere
- £4bn to help build 135,000 “Help to Buy: Shared Ownership” homes for households earning less than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London)
- £200m for 10,000 new homes that tenants can live in for five years at reduced rents while they save for a deposit. They will then have “first right” to buy the home
- £400m to help build 8,000 specialist homes for older people or those with disabilities
Spending Review 2015 – 25 November
The Spending Review is a five-year projection of government spending. In effect, it decides how £4 trillion of taxpayers’ money will be spent by setting caps on government departments.
Explained: Which government departments will be affected?
Analysis: Latest from BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg
Watch: The BBC’s TV coverage begins on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel at 11:30 GMT, with BBC Radio 5 Live coverage from 11:55 GMT
The Treasury has already announced that front-line NHS services in England will get a £3.8bn, above-inflation cash injection next year.
Defence spending is to be increased, as set out in Monday’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Schools and international aid will escape cuts but the other, unprotected departments are braced for reductions to their budgets.
These include local government, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, with police forces expected to face more cost-cutting.
By BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg
This won’t be a Spending Review, ministers say, that displays an attitude of cutting a little bit here and there, moving money around the balance sheet to try to smooth out the pain.
Instead they see it as a programme of strategic cuts that, while difficult, add up to something: a country where work is rewarded, where anyone who wants to get on is helped to do so, and where the state has a careful approach to spending taxpayers’ money, using it judiciously where it helps and not being afraid to scrape it back where it does not.
But choosing priorities – not just protecting but substantially increasing spending on areas like health, significant new spending on housebuilding, including billions going directly to house builders to encourage them to get spades into the ground, and retaining what many see as generous welfare payments to the older generations – inevitably means others will lose out.
There have been warnings over the effect of further reductions in police spending, with one of the UK’s most senior police officers saying cuts could jeopardise the UK’s response to a Paris-style attack.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the counter-terrorism budget will be protected.
Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told BBC News because of the amount of protected spending, the unprotected areas could be cut by as much as 50% from 2010 up to 2020.
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The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34915218#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Big is beautiful for merging universities
Universities across Europe are talking about merging or forming alliances like never before.
Almost 100 mergers have taken place since the beginning of the century. The European University Association (EUA), representing universities in 47 countries, is mapping this changing landscape with an interactive merger map.
And the pace is accelerating, with eight super-universities or clusters identified in 2012; 12 in 2013 and 14 in 2014.
So what’s driving the merger mania?
Is it a way of climbing world university rankings by concentrating the best brains and resources to attract more students and bigger research grants?
Or is it a way of responding to funding cuts?
Thomas Estermann, director for governance, funding and public policy development at the EUA, says bigger numbers of staff and students give these super-universities more clout.
Bigger universities can gain higher profiles and boost global reputations, he says.
Mergers are also a way of “streamlining” and reducing duplication.
In some cases it will be a way of coping with a demographic decline of young people.
The EUA says mergers gathered pace from 2005 onwards, with Denmark and Estonia being the early trendsetters.
Estonia cut its number of higher education institutions from 41 to 29 between 2000-2012. The University of Tallin in the country’s capital capital absorbed eight smaller institutes and colleges.
In Denmark, the number of universities was reduced from 12 to eight and government research centres integrated into the university sector.
France now leads the way with mergers with a government-inspired initiative to gather universities and research centres into umbrella-like communities – “communes” – and then to consider full mergers.
One of the biggest amalgamations, the Paris-Saclay “federal university”, includes the highly-ranked Ecole Polytechnique, the HEC business school and Universite Paris-Sud.
This has the explicit aim of creating a institution which will be in the top 10 of global rankings.
Now it looks like Paris will go one step further, following successful university mergers in Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Marseille.
In the heart of the Latin Quarter, two of the French capital’s most prestigious institutions – Paris-Sorbonne and Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) Universities – are planning to recreate the spirit of the old unified University of Paris which was torn apart after the student riots of 1968.
Back then, the French government allowed the University of Paris – one of the oldest in the world, founded around 1150 – to split into 13 autonomous universities along faculty lines, often referred to as Paris 1, 2, 3 and so on up to 13.
The ‘old Sorbonne’
Professor Jean Chambaz, president of UMPC – Paris 6 – said: “One of the limitations of French universities came about 40 years ago when they separated along disciplinary lines.
“One had all sciences, another only the humanities, another just law and economics.
“We were the science and medical faculties of the Sorbonne, of the University of Paris, before the split in 1970.”
“Today UPMC’s focus is science, engineering and medicine; at Paris-Sorbonne it is arts and humanities. But to address the challenges of the world, we need to build a comprehensive university containing all these disciplines.
“At the moment in Paris, we don’t have mergers, but autonomous institutions working in partnership, like our own Sorbonne University group, which includes research centres, the private INSEAD business school, as well as Paris-Sorbonne, UPMC and some other institutions.
“In February, we will have elections for presidents and boards of both Paris-Sorbonne and UPMC. Providing the new members agree, we will press ahead with a full merger and create the new university by 1 January 2018.
“In some ways we are recreating the old Sorbonne, but in the 21st Century.”
Professor Barthelemy Jobert, president of Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4 – is enthusiastic about creating a powerful global research university covering all disciplines and capable of rivalling the best in the world.
“Success will be creating a new model of a global university in France, with independent autonomous faculties as well as a presidency who will speak for the whole university.”
The French government favours such mergers, but is leaving it to the universities to decide.
Professors Jobert and Chambaz see eye-to-eye on the merger, but say it is vital to win support from academics, technical and administrative staff and students.
KIT a German MIT?
Prof Chambaz says they are learning from other European examples of successful government-backed mergers, such as Germany’s Karlsruhe University and Karlsruhe Research Centre merging into Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
With the goal of repeating the success of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, KIT has increased student numbers by 20% since 2009 and concentrated research on fields such as energy and mobility.
It enjoyed a 50% boost to research income between 2009 and 2013.
The new Aalto University in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, had government backing to combine institutions.
Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and the University of Arts and Design, Helsinki were merged, with the aim of turbo-charging Finland’s higher education system.
It wanted to tackle the relative poor performance of Finland’s universities, compared with the country’s top ratings at school level in the Pisa test rankings.
“The new university was designed to put innovation and impact on the knowledge economy at the heart of things,” said Aalto’s vice president, Hannu Seristo.
And the new bigger university climbed almost 50 places in this year’s QS rankings.
But not all mergers are so enthusiastically supported by government.
The University of Lisbon and Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal, had to “actively convince” public authorities to secure approval to merge into Universidade de Lisboa and justify the costs involved.
And that’s just the point, says Mr Estermann. “Mergers need a lot of time and energy to be successful. Saving money should not be the main reason to merge as return on investment can take a long time.
“They shouldn’t be forced. We’re talking about autonomous institutions and not a company takeover.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34902884#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
How Ireland built a cheese movement
When Irish farmer Eugene Burns started making a posh French-style, smelly cheese in 1983, he decided to do something either very brave or very foolhardy.
So convinced was he of the quality of his cheese that he made the decision to try to sell it in Paris.
Mr Burns wanted to go straight into the lion’s den of the cheese world.
And instead of putting a few rounds in the post, he vowed to drive to the French capital.
Despite having never left Ireland before, the County Cork farmer filled his van with cheeses, and drove to Paris’ Rungis food market via the UK and two ferries.
“I don’t think he had a word of French even,” says Irish food writer and TV personality Darina Allen. “How he got there is hard to say.”
But Mr Burns did manage to find the Rungis market, and the cheese of the determined Irishman was a hit with French wholesalers.
“He absolutely knocked it out,” says Ms Allen.
So much so that Mr Burns returned to the Republic of Ireland with an order for a ton a week.
Which didn’t initially go down well with his wife, as he daughter Liz Burns, 42, explains: “My mother said ‘a ton, are you mad!’.”
However, they were able to fulfil the orders, and the cheese, called Ardrahan, has never looked back. Still available in France, it is today also sold across Ireland, in the UK, and even in the US.
Like many Irish diary farmers, Mr Burns decided to start making cheese almost out of necessity, due to the introduction of European Union milk quotas in 1984.
Brought in to bolster milk prices, these put strict limits on how much milk could be produced, meaning that farmers had to reduce the size of their herds, or even throw milk away.
Ms Burns, who took over the running of the family farm and production of Ardrahan follower her father’s passing in 2000, says her dad was simply not prepared to see good milk go to waste.
“We had our milk, our milk was really, really good,” she says. “We weren’t going to throw it down the drain.”
And there was good reason why the late Mr Burns decided to go to Paris – back in the early 1980s demand for French-style cheese was rather limited in an Ireland attached to its Cheddar-type cheeses, so he knew he had to find export markets.
Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers is another family-run Irish cheese business that was set up on a farm as a response to the introduction of EU milk quotas (which were finally revoked earlier this year).
Established in 1984 in County Tipperary, is is now run by couple Sarah and Sergio Furno, both 41, and produces 300 tons of cheese per year. Mrs Furno is the daugher of founders Louis and Jane Grubb.
In recent years, Cashel has increasingly focused on the vast US market, despite the challenges it presents.
“The US is a market complete with layers that don’t exist elsewhere,” says Mrs Furno. “Such as brokers who act between distributors and retailers.”
This means a much longer supply chain, and so cheeses need to have a good shelf life.
Mrs Furno adds: “In the US I would not call us successful as distinct from being persistent.
“We simply have worked to keep our cheese available, despite intense competition from other European blue cheeses, and very good American farmstead blues.”
Led by the likes of Cashel, a whole host of Irish cheeses are now available in the US.
While data specifically for cheese is unavailable, Irish government figures show that dairy exports overall to the US rose by 35% to €10m ($10.7m; £7.1m) in the first half of 2014, compared with a year earlier.
Karen Coyle, North America director of Bord Bia, Ireland’s food board, says that Irish food exports benefit from the US’s very positive view of the country.
She says that in the US, Ireland is seen as a “luscious, green-grassed island” of passionate farmhouse producers.
At Ardrahan, in 2006 it created a new creamy and milder cheese especially for the US market, called Duhallow.
The cheese have proved a hit in the US, and even featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Ireland’s artisan cheese-makers have also worked hard over the years to boost domestic sales, helped by the country getting increasingly more cosmopolitan in its tastes.
Mrs Furno says she works hard to increase knowledge and awareness of Cashel’s products, “spending a lot of time in dialogue with people” who want more information about the cheeses.
Producers have also worked hard, and in collaboration, to shorten their supply chains, which has helped them to reduce their prices.
John Hempenstall, owner of Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese, which produces 120 tons a year, says this has helped him cut its prices by as much as 30%.
“As a result our cheese has started to sell in areas that aren’t particularly affluent,” he says, pointing to less well of neighbourhoods of the capital Dublin.
“We are a bit of a treat people say they’ll give themselves.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34902406#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
The real estate market in Miami, one of the most popular US locations for overseas buyers, is going from strength to strength with properties selling fast and prices increasing.
October marked more than four years of consistent monthly median sales price increases for both single family homes and condominiums, according to the latest data from the Miami Association of Realtors.
The data also shows that the median sales price for single family homes increased by 10.4% year on year from $240,000 to $265,000. However, single family home and condominium prices remain at 2004 levels despite four years of consistent year on year increases.
The median sales price for existing condominiums increased 8.1% in October to $200,000 from $185,000 a year ago. Miami-Dade County condo prices have risen in 52 of the last 53 months, a period stretching nearly four and a half years.
‘Miami real estate continues to attract international buyers from all over the world as well as a growing number of domestic consumers,’ said Christopher Zoller, the association’s residential president.
‘South Florida offers world class amenities, a top-tier arts and cultural epicentre, a diversified economy and more. The strong demand is leading to fewer days on the market for Miami single family homes while buyer offers are near asking price,’ he added.
The average percent of original list price received for single family homes was 95.6% in October 2015, an increase of 0.3% from a year earlier. The median number of days on the market for Miami single family homes decreased 7% to 40 days in October 2015 from 43 days in October 2014.
The median number of days on the market for condominiums sold in October 2015 was 59 days, a 1.7% increase from 58 days in October 2014. The average percent of original list price received was 93.8%, a 0.1% year on year increase.
Total existing Miami-Dade County residential sales, including single family and condominiums, were consistent with historical averages despite experiencing a slight decline of 5.6%, from 2,712 sales in October 2014 to 2,559 last month.
Single family home sales decreased by 4.4% year on year in October, from 1,204 to 1,151. Existing condominiums, which are competing with a significant rise in supply of new construction properties east of Interstate-95, had 6.6% fewer sales in October, decreasing from 1,508 to 1,408.
The report points out that in addition to increased sales of new construction properties, Miami existing condominiums have been impacted by a lack of access to mortgage loans. Of the 8,523 condominium buildings in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, only 23 are approved for Federal Housing Administration loans, down from 29 earlier this year, according to statistics released earlier this year from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and FHA.
It adds that a new FHA policy, however, should qualify more South Florida condo buildings. Earlier this month the FHA announced plans to streamline the condominium recertification process, expand its definition of acceptable owner-occupied units to include second homes not owned by investors and change the way it views co-insurance clauses.
‘The new FHA policy should broaden the opportunity for South Florida families to realize the dream of homeownership, said Danielle Blake, the association’s senior vice president of government affairs and housing.
‘By increasing the number of local condo buildings approved for FHA loans, more consumers will be able to access FHA’s low down payment mortgages. Accepting citizens insurance and co-insurance clauses is another significant development, which would help more than 85% of Florida’s condo projects in complying with FHA’s insurance requirements,’ she explained.
The data also shows that in October, cash deals represented 51.5% of Miami’s total closed sales, which is more than double the national average. Cash transactions represented 55.8% of total Miami deals in October 2014. Miami’s high percentage of cash sales reflects South Florida’s ability to attract a diverse number of international home buyers, who tend to purchase properties in all cash.
Condominiums comprise a large portion of Miami’s cash purchases as 64.1% of condo closings were made in cash in October compared to 36.1% of single family home sales.
Only 23.7% of all closed residential sales in Miami were distressed last month, including REO (bank-owned properties) and short sales, compared to 34.9% in October 2014. Short sales and REOs accounted for 5.1% and 18.6% respectively of total Miami sales in October. Short sale transactions dropped 40.1% year on year while REOs decreased 34.7%.
At the current sales pace, there is a 5.2 month supply of Miami single family homes, a decrease of 9.3% from 5.8 months in October 2014. There is a 9.1 month supply of condominium inventory, up from 8.2 months in October 2014, an increase of 10.6%. A balanced market between buyers and sellers offers between six and nine months’ supply of inventory.
Active listings at the end of October increased 3.2% year on year, from 17,801 to 18,366. Active listings remain about 60% below 2008 levels when sales bottomed.
New listings of Miami single family homes decreased 7.6% from 2,316 in October of last year to 2,140 last month. New listings of condominiums increased 1.1% to 3,036 last month, compared to 3,003 during the same time period in 2014.
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Rolls-Royce boss accepts investor ‘confidence not good’
Rolls-Royce’s chief executive has said the company will be more transparent about the risks it faces and will cut up to £200m of costs a year.
Warren East said the engineering group had developed an “accounting fog” which had left investors unclear about the direction it was going.
He said “confidence was not in a good place”, and the company must make shareholder returns a priority.
Rolls-Royce’s share price has plunged after a series of profit warnings.
Earlier this month, the company saw one of the sharpest falls in its share price since it floated in 1987 after announcing that profits could be £650m lower than expected next year.
The share price fell by a fifth.
Mr East’s comments came as he unveiled details of a review of the business.
He insisted that despite a downturn in the aircraft engine business and oil exploration, Rolls-Royce was still a fundamentally strong company.
He said it would focus on boosting its engineering skills and reducing the number of senior managers.
Although the company is cutting costs, Mr East refused to be drawn on the precise number of jobs that might be lost.
“I don’t actually know the job numbers right now,” he said, explaining that more will be revealed when the company reports its full-year results in February.
Rolls-Royce employs more than 21,000 people in the UK, with more than 12,000 employed at its Derby aerospace engines and submarines division.
Mr East said he wanted to employ more engineers, so it appears that any job losses will be a relatively small addition to the 3,600 already announced.
“The last thing I want to do is lose engineers,” he said.
Rolls-Royce will become a “simpler” business which will operate with more “pace” after Mr East admitted that the business was “over-managed” and cumbersome.
For example, Mr East told investors that the company had 27 management structures to deal with different types of technology – a number Mr East would like to see reduced to eight.
Pressure for an overhaul of the business has been intensified by US-based activist investor ValueAct, which took a stake in Rolls-Royce not long after Mr East’s arrival at the helm.
It recently doubled its holding to 10%, making it Rolls-Royce biggest investor. It is reported to want the engineer to sell off its marine business to focus on its main aero-engine business.
The firm has also asked for a seat on the Rolls board, but has been rejected by the company.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34912828#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Almost half, 47%, of enquiries to intermediaries about getting a mortgage in the UK resulted in a completion during the third quarter of 2015, according to a new Mortgage Market Tracker report.
The quarterly tracker from the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) shows how many enquiries result in applications, offers and completions, as well as dropout rates, those attributed to lender declines, and the wider issues of intermediaries’ confidence in the business outlook for the mortgage industry, the intermediary sector and their own firm.
The data from this first report also shows that 67% of initial borrower enquiries led to an application, 83% of which then received a lender offer. A similar percentage of offers, 84%, then reached completion.
The largest percentage of dropouts occurred during the initial stage, with 33% of borrower enquiries not leading to an application. Intermediaries attributed 27% of all dropouts, equivalent to 14 in every 100 enquiries, to lender declines, with the remaining 73% of dropouts coming from client or broker withdrawals.
The largest firms, those with more than 11 employees, and sole traders both outperformed the industry average of 67% converting enquiries into applications, with 70% of consumers progressing through this stage. Once a borrower submitted an application, sole traders achieved the highest rate of offers at 87% compared to an average of 81% and subsequently completions at 88% compared to an average of 84%.
However, the smallest firms also reported the highest rate of dropouts due to lender declines at 35%, compared with an industry average of 27% and significantly higher than the decline rates reported by the larger firms.
‘The intermediary channel has never been more important to the UK mortgage market, with consumers and lenders both increasingly relying on brokers to match individual needs to suitable products,’ said Peter Williams, IMLA executive director.
‘Regulatory changes have brought new assessments and criteria to contend with, but this data suggests the majority of applications are getting the green light. It also shows that brokers are playing an invaluable role in the earlier stages by assessing borrowers’ circumstances and providing realistic advice and recommendations,’ he explained.
‘The advantage of a competitive marketplace with a range of mainstream and specialist players is that a decline from one lender does not necessarily mean the end of the road. Rather brokers will work to secure alternative mortgaging opportunities. As this suggests, positive customer outcomes rely on lenders and brokers working together effectively,’ he pointed out.
‘After a period of fundamental change, it is encouraging that intermediaries are upbeat about the business outlook, which bodes well for consumer access to mortgage finance. By tracking the mortgage pipeline, we hope to provide useful data for both lenders and intermediaries to help fine-tune the process and ensure a positive experience for consumers,’ he added.
According to Brian Murphy, head of lending at the Mortgage Advice Bureau, brokers play an important role in finding a solution for mortgage seekers as they have access to a great pool of products across the market. ‘This is particularly beneficial for anyone with complex income or specific requirements, as an independent broker has more chance of finding a product to suit a wider range of circumstances,’ he said.
‘Borrowers often stumble at the last hurdle of the application process and can be declined for reasons including their income, a failure to pass credit checks or personal circumstances they were unaware would have an impact. It is therefore essential the right advice is given and the process is made as transparent as possible to avoid any last minute disappointment,’ he added.
Given the recent regulatory changes it has never been more important to ensure that a potential borrower is placed with the most suitable lender and presented in the best possible way to ensure the mortgage process proceeds smoothly, according to Andrew Montlake, director at Coreco.
‘A good broker working in partnership with the lender can not only save days in terms of application to offer times, but also ensure that more borrowers move through to completion. Overall, it is encouraging to see that mortgage brokers are both upbeat about the future and are delivering a real difference to consumers,’ he said.
A decline from one lender does not necessarily mean the end of the road, Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at John Charcol, pointed out. ‘This highlights one of the benefits to borrowers of using a broker. Lender statistics show a lower application to offer success rate for applications not made through a broker,’ he said.
‘This reflects the understanding brokers have of lenders’ criteria, which changes frequently, and the fact that lenders’ affordability calculations vary considerably, resulting in some cases in very different maximum loan amounts being available,’ he explained.
‘It is not just that the original lender selected by a broker is more likely to offer a mortgage, and just as importantly, offer the amount required, than an application direct to a lender. Should the original lender decline to offer the amount required for any reason, a broker can quickly use the information already available to assess whether an alternative lender could help. In contrast, a borrower applying direct to a lender would have to find time and make an appointment to go through the fact finding process a second time with another adviser,’ he added.
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The level of investment into European commercial real estate continues to grow with €62 billion invested in the third quarter of 2015, up 18% on the same period in 2014.
France experienced the most noteworthy increase with investment activity of over €7 billion, almost double that of the same quarter in 2014, according to figures from CBRE.
French investment activity was dominated by domestic investors who accounted for more than 70% of CRE investment in the third quarter, and who typically favoured large offices located in the Paris CBD.
Whilst France benefitted from the biggest change in investor sentiment, it was Germany which saw the greatest increase in absolute terms, with quarter three investment of €14 billion, up €5.6 billion on the same quarter last year.
The report points out that the €36 billion already invested in German commercial real estate in the first three quarters of this year is 40% higher than the equivalent period in 2014.
Alongside France and Germany, several other countries experienced a strong third quarter. Norway and Sweden saw investment volumes grow by 139% and 68% respectively on the third quarter of 2014.
Southern Europe also performed well, with Portugal and Italy benefitting from a slight shift in investor focus away from the Spanish market. Belgium attracted near record levels of investment in the third quarter, boosted by several large retail transactions. In Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary saw the most investment activity.
At a city level, the most notable aspect was the move of the Nordics up the table of Europe’s largest CRE investment markets with Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm making the top 10.
Typically these Nordic capitals have very high levels of domestic investment, around 70%, with cross-border European investment accounting for around 25% and just 5% of capital coming from outside of Europe. However in the third quarter foreign investment accounted for more than half the total in both Oslo and Copenhagen.
London and Paris continue to fill the top two spots in the league table, but interestingly all five of the main German markets make it into the quarter’s top ten for the first time since the first quarter of 2013.
‘We have seen good growth across the European commercial real estate investment market in the last quarter. With high levels of transactions expected in the fourth quarter, this current trend is set to continue and we believe we will see a strong year end in terms of investment volumes,’ said Jonathan Hull, managing director, EMEA Capital Markets at CBRE.
‘Retail recorded the strongest levels of investment growth this quarter up 45% on the third quarter of 2014, the second highest level we have seen in 10 years of data. The office sector also performed well across the region, underscored by some significant transactions in France, the UK, Norway and Sweden,’ he explained.
Prime yields continued to drive downwards, with substantial falls in several major markets in the third quarter. Notably for all three main sectors the weighted average is now below its value in the pre-crisis low of 2007, the report shows.
The All Property average is down by 46 bps over the last four quarters and the rate of decline has accelerated in 2015, despite the growing expectation that short term interest rates might finally start increasing in the next few months.
It also says that there are also some signs that the relationship between prime and secondary yields is stabilizing. The prime secondary spread had been closing rapidly since the end of 2013, but in the last two quarters it has been relatively stable, it concludes.
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US economic growth revised up to 2.1% in the third quarter
US economic growth for the third quarter has been revised up due to stronger investment and house building.
The Commerce Department said gross domestic product rose at an annual pace of 2.1%, not the 1.5% rate it reported last month.
Consumer spending was revised down slightly, although this was offset by growth in other economic areas.
Even with the GDP revision, growth still slowed from an annual pace of 3.9% in the second quarter.
However, the better third quarter growth is still likely to fuel speculation that the US Federal Reserve is ready to raise interest rates next month.
The upward revision puts the US economy on course to grow at least 2% in the second half. It comes in the wake of strong jobs growth in October
According to the Commerce Department’s data, consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a 3% rate, down from the 3.2% rate estimated last month.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34912827#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
FTSE 100 falls as travel shares affected by terror attacks
(Noon): Travel shares pulled the FTSE lower as investors remained wary in the wake of the recent terror attacks.
Research from ForwardKeys suggested that flight bookings to Paris were down by more than a quarter last week following the attacks on 13 November.
Easyjet shares fell 2.9% as the airline said it had cancelled all flights between the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK until 6 January.
Shortly after midday, the FTSE 100 was down 57.69 points at 6,247.80.
Other airline shares also fell, with British Airways owner IAG down 3.4%, while in Germany Lufthansa dropped 3%.
Fashion house Burberry was the biggest faller in the FTSE 100, down 3.6% after Nomura cut its rating on the stock to “neutral” from “buy”.
The owner of the B&Q and Screwfix chains reported retail profits of £223m in the three months to the end of October, down 6.6% from a year earlier.
Trading was affected by a “softer” market in France, where Kingfisher owns the Castorama and Brico Depot chains.
Engineering support services firm Babcock International rose 3% after it reported a 7% rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £146.3m and said it was on track to meet its full-year targets.
On the currency markets, the pound lost ground after Bank of England governor Mark Carney said UK rates were set to remain low “for some time”.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34908217#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Fagron, the global market leader in pharmaceutical compounding, has commissioned KNAPP to kit out its new warehouse in the Belgian town of Nazareth, southwest of Ghent.
KNAPP has previously supplied automated handling solutions for two of Fagron’s distribution centres in the Netherlands, at Oud Beijerland and Capelle aan den IJssel. The new Belgian facility, which is expected to go live in the second quarter of 2016, will accommodate manual production operations and highly efficient automated logistics. The new material handling solution will not only feature systems from KNAPP but also the YLOG-Shuttles of its subsidiary, YLOG Industry Solutions.
Travelling between levels via lifts at the aisle ends, the YLOG-Shuttles are unique in their ability to move both crosswise and lengthwise in a store. With swivelling wheels and an innovative power supply system, they can move in either direction within the racking by rotating. This allows the YLOG-Shuttles to reach every location in the store and also – through the addition of spurs – to serve workstations directly, making the solution especially suitable for production or assembly applications.
Explains Craig Rollason, Managing Director of KNAPP UK Ltd, “With the ability to add YLOG-Shuttles to more levels and also to add more racking, the system is scalable to each client’s needs, so it is the ideal solution to grow with a business over time. Equally, it can form a cost-effective element for handling low- or medium-throughput items as part of a larger solution.”
In addition to 10 YLOG-Shuttles, the new solution for Fagron will feature KNAPP’s proven Streamline conveyor system, its ergonomic Pick-it-Easy-Health fulfilment stations and a person-to-goods picking area.
The original article can be found at http://warehousenews.co.uk/2015/11/new-warehouse-for-fagron-to-feature-knapp-technologies-including-ylog-shuttles/
John Menzies issues profits warning
24 November 2015
- From the section Scotland business
Logistics group John Menzies has issued a profits warning following problems with its ground handling contract at London Gatwick Airport.
Menzies said rectifying “operational issues” at the airport would cost an extra £6m in the second half of 2015.
It warned full-year profits could be £2m lower than previously forecast.
However, it reported strong profit growth at its US hubs, while its distribution arm was “delivering ahead of forecast”.
In a trading update for the 10 months to 30 October, Edinburgh-based Menzies said: “Within the aviation division, service levels at London Gatwick have been restored.
“However, the actions we have put in place to mitigate the operational issues and deliver the customer’s operational requirements will cost £6m of additional investment, mainly in manpower, in the second half of the year, and will impact this year’s earnings.
“Contract negotiations with this customer continue, and we are working towards a resolution before the year end.”
Menzies said its aviation division continued to perform well in all regions outside the UK.
Ground handling turns and cargo tonnes were up 9% and 4% respectively, with revenue in the period up 6% on last year.
Chief executive Jeremy Stafford said: “During a busy period of transition, we continue to progress with the group’s strategic objectives.
“Our distribution business is quickly gaining traction in the UK e-logistics market, whilst continuing to deliver cost and cash improvement initiatives.
“Aviation continues to benefit from growth in the Americas, whilst we continue to work through UK operational matters.
“I am disappointed that contractual issues at London Gatwick have led us to revise our aviation outlook for this year, albeit largely offset with strong progress in our distribution business.
“The group remains well placed to drive earnings.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-34909744#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Egypt plane crash: Easyjet cancels more Sharm el-Sheikh flights
24 November 2015
- From the section UK
Easyjet has now cancelled all flights between the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK until 6 January.
The airline, along with other carriers, had cancelled all outbound flights to Sharm el-Sheikh up to this week.
Easyjet said the latest move was to provide some certainty to passengers travelling over the Christmas period.
Flights were halted after the UK government said the Sinai plane crash, which killed 224 people on 31 October, may have been caused by a bomb.
Easyjet said customers on affected flights could go to another destination, receive a full refund or get a flight voucher for future travel.
People wanting to travel back to the UK have been asked to contact the airline’s customer service team.
Easyjet said on its website: “We are sorry for the inconvenience this will obviously cause, but we hope that being clear with all our customers at this point helps you to manage your plans with more certainty.
“The situation is beyond our control and passenger safety will always be our number one priority.”
Last week British Airways announced that outbound flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh would be cancelled until 17 December.
The airline said it would keep the situation under review and give customers as much notice as possible.
Monarch has said its flights from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh will be cancelled until 19 December.
Thomson has cancelled all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh until 9 December, and Thomas Cook until 10 December.
The Foreign Office, which advises against all but essential air travel to or from Sharm el-Sheikh, says there are currently no UK airlines operating flights to the resort.
Regular flights between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh were were suspended on 4 November.
Special security measures for flights returning to the UK, such as transporting hold baggage on separate planes, were put in place up to 17 November.
Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for bringing down the Airbus 321, operated by Russian airline Metrojet.
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Fewer tenants are experiencing rent increases in the UK with the number of letting agents reporting rent rises falling to a quarter, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) latest report.
This is down from 32% in September meaning that the number of rent hikes in October is the lowest reported this year, the data from the ARLA private rental sector report shows.
The data also shows that demand for rental properties dropped in October, alongside supply of available housing, a trend typical of the time of year. ARLA agents registered 33 new tenants on average per branch this month, the lowest amount this year.
However, the London rental market bucked this trend. The report found that demand for rental housing in London continued to increase in October with an average of 42 prospective tenants registered per branch, up from 39 in September, an 8% increase.
Supply of rental accommodation decreased in line with demand, dropping from 182 properties on average per branch in September, to just 173 in October. However, prospective renters in the East of England and the South West will have better luck finding a property; agents in those regions managed more properties in October than September, with 199 and 184 properties managed respectively.
‘Fewer agents reporting rent increases should bring some relief to tenants before Christmas. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, however a quarter of tenants are unfortunately still seeing hikes,’ said David Cox, ARLA managing director.
‘Although it’s typical that demand dropped at this time of year, as there’s a seasonal lull in the run up to Christmas, we except to pick up again in January,’ he added.
Looking ahead to next year, ARLA hopes to see the number of tenants experiencing rent hikes remain low with supply and demand levelling out. ‘However, a lot is resting on the economic and political agenda. We’re still waiting for new houses, promised by the Prime Minister to be built,’ said Cox.
‘Whilst this will take pressure off the rental prices as supply rises, the changes to landlord tax proposed under the Finance Bill is likely to discourage new landlords from entering the market,’ he pointed out.
‘Further, it’s been a waiting game all year to see if Bank of England governor Mark Carney will raise interest rates in the New Year and this will play a big part in determining whether renters looking to buy a home will be able to afford to,’ he explained.
‘And when interest rates do rise, the goal of home ownership will be pushed further out of reach for many and of course put further pressure on the private rental sector,’ he added.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/uk-lettings-agents-rents-2015112411239.html
New Jaguar Land Rover jobs in Wolverhampton factory expansion
24 November 2015
- From the section Birmingham & Black Country
Jaguar Land Rover is set to hire hundreds of new workers as the car manufacturer announces plans to double the size of its Wolverhampton factory.
It will invest £450m in its engine manufacturing centre, doubling the size of the plant to 200,000 sq ft (18,581 sq m).
Opened in 2014 by The Queen, the site already employs 700 people, a number it expects to double.
A rise in global demand had led to the centre’s expansion, the company said.
Mike Wright, executive director of Jaguar Land Rover, said the plant was “absolutely pivotal” to the company’s plans for global expansion.
“As we grow our volumes around the world we need more capacity,” he said.
“We’ve started the initial phase just 12 months ago, that’s gone really well, and we’re now planning for the next phase for the next two or three years.”
Jaguar Land Rover first announced plans to build the engine manufacturing centre at the i54 business park in 2011, spending £500m on the site by the time it had opened.
It supports three other manufacturing sites in the UK, based at Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the West Midlands and Halewood on Merseyside.
Currently about 400,000 engines are produced there every year, with one coming off the production line every 40 seconds.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-34906608#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/uk-mortgage-lending-tariff-2015112411238.html
Ticket fraud: Fans lose £1.2m in six months
24 November 2015
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Music and sports fans have lost more than £1.2 million to ticket fraud in the last six months, police figures have revealed.
Nearly 3,000 cases were reported between May and October, with the Rugby World Cup, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift particular targets, said Action Fraud.
On average, customers who bought fake tickets lost £444 per transaction.
But one expert told the BBC the number of victims was much higher, as ticket fraud is “massively under-reported”.
Reg Walker, head of the Iridium Consultancy, which tackles ticket fraud, said many people failed to contact police after refunds from their credit card companies came through.
“Just because you get your money back, it doesn’t mean to say that no crime has been committed and you’re no longer a victim.”
He suggested the true cost of ticket fraud was “without a doubt” in the tens of millions.
In response to his comments, Action Fraud said: “Reported ticketing fraud losses run into millions of pounds, but the reality is the true scale of the problem is likely to be much greater.
“We would urge anyone who loses money to a ticketing fraud to report to Action Fraud so we can understand the true nature and scale of the problem and police forces can track down those most responsible.”
A large number of the cases relate to two companies which the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau recommended be suspended.
Getsporting.com was accused of selling fake Rugby World Cup tickets; while CircleTickets advertised concerts by Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran, amongst others, Both were shut down and referred to local police forces for possible investigation.
Among the victims was Robert Fox, from Bath, who paid Circle Tickets just over £200 to take his wife to a Taylor Swift show for their wedding anniversary.
“Circle Tickets had a pretty good rating through the standard review sites, and they had a reputable payment gateway,” he told the BBC in June. “I was paying on a card, and it all seemed to be fairly normal really. I’m fairly accustomed to paying online so this didn’t seem out of the ordinary.”
GetSporting.com was shut down by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau in October after it was found to be selling fake tickets to the Rugby World Cup.
One unfortunate Irish fan reported losses of as much as £5,000 on 20 tickets to the Ireland v France game, which they had purchased through the site.
Responding to the police statistics, the Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers (STAR) urged fans to look for their kitemark – a padlock with a star in the centre – to verify a ticket seller was genuine.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, from the City of London Police, said: “When people discover they have fallen victim to a fraud – be it through purchasing tickets that either don’t exist or turn out to be counterfeit – it can be a devastating experience.
“The key to making sure you don’t fall victim to this crime is to only use authorised sellers and if you have any doubts about the website, check out the reviews online.
“When it comes to making a purchase always use a payment card and never transfer the funds directly into another bank account.”
‘Floods of tears’
Mr Walker said the experience of helping fans who had been defrauded was “absolutely dreadful”.
“We had some shows recently, such as One Direction, where we had in excess of 40 victims per night. All the victims came from overseas. One was a 19-year-old girl from Italy who travelled with her friend and her mother. They got to the doors and their tickets were invalid.
“I can’t describe the state this girl got into. She was hyperventilating. She was just in floods of tears. And that’s just one example. We’ve had victims of ticket fraud that were celebrating finishing chemotherapy. They got to the gates and were turned away.
“The impact on these people is devastating.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-34898574#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
The doctor will text you now: Will mobile devices change healthcare?
Ali Parsa believes the mobile phone might be the most important medical piece of equipment we have and wants to use it to change the face of healthcare.
“If you have a little question you can type it in,” he says showing off his app, Babylon Health.
“We’ll have a doctor respond to your question in minutes.”
Babylon Health is a subscription service which you access via a smart-phone app.
For a monthly subscription of £4.99 ($7.55/€7.99) customers can get unlimited medical consultations by text and video. Once you’ve had an online exchange, a doctor can text a subscription to your nearest pharmacy and arrange a referral for a real-world consultation.
“If you had something wrong and wanted to see a doctor you used to take half a day off and go to the surgery,” Dr Parsa says.
“Today you can make an appointment in seconds, see a doctor in minutes and get an answer straight away.”
250,000 people are already using Babylon Health in the United Kingdom and Ireland either as direct subscribers or through a private medical insurance policy.
Real world or mobile?
But can seeing a doctor on your phone compete with visiting one in person?
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, the professional membership body for family doctors in the UK and overseas says “Mobile phone apps and medical devices have huge potential to support patients and the health professionals who provide their care.”
But she adds, “We have concerns about the patient-safety implications. Patients will be having consultations with GPs who are unfamiliar with – and won’t necessarily have access to – their medical history, or information about drugs that they have been prescribed.”
“Medical histories provided by patients themselves will rarely be as comprehensive as those held by their family doctor. There are also many signs and symptoms that GPs look out for when making a diagnosis, that the patient might not think to raise.”
Babylon says that if a patient wants to see a doctor they have already seen on the app they can request it but they may have to wait longer to see them.
The company adds that: “Records of all our patient consultations are stored so GPs can look over the history before they speak to a patient. Patients can also access videos and notes from their previous consultations.”
Doctors and patients can also access the medical and health data that many phones now collect.
The idea for Babylon came while Ali Parsa was working in the British health system.
“I used to run hospitals,” he says. “But most healthcare doesn’t have to do with hospitals”
However, the NHS in Scotland is offering Babylon Health to customers in some areas and the company tells the BBC that other tie-ups with the service will be announced imminently.
Babylon is also looking beyond the UK and Ireland and plans to launch in East Africa in 2016.
“50% of the world’s population don’t have access to the very basic healthcare that they need,” Ali Parsa says.
“Yet we have a device that they all carry, on which we can deliver healthcare to wherever they are.”
The global application is part of what is making the business investment community interested in Babylon and its competitors.
“As an investor, healthcare or med-tech is hugely important to us,” says Eileen Burbidge from Passion Capital.
“The addressable market is the whole world, it’s every individual in the world, they’re going to need healthcare, they require healthcare or they’ll benefit from healthcare.”
“A company like Babylon Health, by using mobile devices and mobile technology is hugely interesting because it’s not as capital intensive, you don’t require quite as much investment as a life-sciences business or a pharmaceutical company.”
But competition is intensifying.
“Self-serve healthcare on your mobile phone sounds massively appealing,” says Ben Wood of CCS Insight. “But the challenges are: can it scale? And is this the company which is going to break through, as so many people are chasing the opportunity?”
Ali Parsa is determined to turn Babylon into a global player.
“The biggest problem is to get London to think like Silicon Valley,” he says.
“If today we can deliver 95% of your healthcare over your mobile phone, imagine what we can do in three years time, five years time, ten years time.”
The Digital Disruptors is a series about the people and companies shaking up business with new technology.
- Disrupting dating
- Disrupting advertising
- Disrupting banking
- Disrupting education
- Robot revolutionary
- Wireless charging
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34900169#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Chelsea made a loss of £23.1m as they won the Premier League last season.
According to their annual financial results, the deficit kept them within Financial Fair Play (FFP) limits.
“It was a primary aim in the past financial year to be one of the clubs with a continuous record of meeting the regulations,” said chairman Bruce Buck.
The Blues, who made a record
announced revenues of £314.3m, down on the 2013-14 high of £319.8m.
The club, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, expect revenues to improve again after a reported £40m-a-season shirt sponsorship deal.
“These will be powered by new commercial deals, including our record-breaking partnership with Yokohama,” added Buck.
“They will also be enhanced by revenues related to this season’s Champions League which improve due to entering as Premier League champions and an increase in TV revenue for English clubs.”
Uefa introduced FFP because it feared many clubs were risking their futures by spending beyond their means.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/34906978
Annual rent growth in the United States has slowed for the third month in a row but rents are still rising faster than historical norms, according to the latest index data.
Rents appreciated 4.5% year on year in October, down from 5.3% in September, down from a high of 6.6% in July and it is mostly due to more properties, specifically apartments, coming onto the market, the Zillow real estate market report shows.
A breakdown of the figures shows that tents in large multifamily buildings rose 3.9% annually, while single family home rents grew 4.5%.
Overall, newly built apartment buildings are finally opening for new residents and slowing the rate of rental appreciation across the country, but rents are still rising much faster than the historical norm and continue to rise faster than incomes, according to the report.
The report points out that multifamily housing starts have been increasing since late 2009, and as units become available, the pace of rental appreciation is slowing. Lack of inventory has been a leading cause of the ongoing rental affordability crisis, especially in fast growing markets.
Even the hottest rental markets, which have seen double digit rent appreciation for the past five months, are growing at a slower pace although rents are still rising there more than twice as fast as the national average.
The San Francisco metro has the fastest rental appreciation among the nation’s 35 largest markets. Rents there are up 15.2% from last year, but they were growing as fast as 19% annually in June and July.
‘Rental appreciation has started to slow down in part due to more rental supply. Many of the bigger multifamily rental projects that were begun a couple years ago in cities nationwide are finally starting to open for occupancy, easing pressure on rents somewhat,’ said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell.
‘But despite this recent slowdown in rental appreciation, the rental affordability crisis we’ve been enduring for the past few years shows no signs of easing, especially as income growth remains weak. It will take a lot more supply, and a lot more renters turned home owners, to fully reverse this trend,’ Gudell added.
As rents have grown and rental affordability continues to suffer, the stability and relative affordability of homeownership may be pushing some qualified renters to make the jump to home ownership.
A widely expected December rate hike from the Federal Reserve could be an additional incentive for buyers to enter the market while rates remain low. Reflecting this, home values are growing at their fastest pace since November 2014, up 4.3% to a Zillow Home Value Index of $182,800.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/north-america/us-property-rent-index-2015112311237.html
Fire risks prompt tumble dryer recall
A “significant” number of tumble dryers sold in the last 11 years in the UK may need a repair owing to fears about fires.
Owners of large air-vented dryers and condensing dryers under the Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda brands may need to have them fixed.
Indesit said that excess fluff could catch the heating element in the machine and cause a fire.
It is recalling many dryers bought between April 2004 and October 2015.
The company said that the tumble dryers could still be used but not if they were left unattended.
Checks and visits
It is asking owners to check whether their machine is one of those affected and, if so, to contact the company through its dedicated website.
If action is needed, an engineer will visit to mend the machine – a process that the company said could take an hour.
The safety review began following Whirlpool Corporation’s purchase of the Indesit business in October 2014.
There are an estimated 30 million Whirlpool, Indesit and Hotpoint machines in UK households, but the company said it would not speculate about exactly how many had been affected.
In June, consumer group Which? said that nearly 12,000 fires in the past three years in Britain had been the fault of defective white goods and kitchen equipment.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34901765#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
A new registration and licensing scheme aimed at preventing rogue landlords and agents from letting and managing properties has been launched in Wales but there is concern that not enough tenants know about it.
According to Welsh Housing Minister Lesley Griffiths Rent Smart Wales will also raise awareness by landlords, agents and tenants of their respective rights and responsibilities and drive up standards in the private rented sector.
Under the scheme all private landlords will be required to register with Rent Smart Wales. They will also have to register their properties if they want to manage the property themselves and must demonstrate they are ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence, and then undertake, and pass, approved training.
Alternatively, they will be able to appoint a licensed agent to manage the property on their behalf. Landlords and agents have one year to comply with their new legal obligations, without fear of legal action.
‘With around one in seven homes in Wales now privately rented, a strong sector with good working practices is absolutely vital. I am proud Wales is leading the way on improving professionalism across the private rented sector,’ said Griffiths.
‘Our new, landmark scheme will drive up standards by making Wales the first country in the UK where managing landlords and agents are required to undertake training to ensure they are clear on their responsibilities,’ she explained.
‘The changes will prevent rogue, and even criminal, landlords and agents from being involved in the management and letting of properties. This will help to protect tenants in the private rented sector, including students, lone parents and young families. Rent Smart Wales will also support good landlords and agents by helping them keep abreast of their responsibilities and legal obligations, and raising the reputation of the sector as a whole,’ she added.
However, new research from the National Landlords Association suggests that many are unaware of the new laws. It found that 65% of tenants in Wales are unaware of the change but despite low awareness levels among tenants, the findings show that 69% believe they will feel more confident renting from private landlords and letting agents once they are all registered and more 56% believe that the scheme will help them to find appropriate housing.
‘The NLA will be working to help landlords and agents comply with this new law but we’ve always been concerned that a mandatory registration and licensing scheme will not provide the benefits the Welsh Assembly says it will,’ said Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA.
‘As the licensing authority, Cardiff City Council must start working with other local authorities from the outset in order to fine and prosecute those who fail to comply within the year’s grace period. Without proper enforcement the scheme will do nothing to stop criminals in the sector but as yet we’ve seen no detail about how Cardiff City Council plans to do this,’ he pointed out.
‘Unless they’re quick off the mark, come next November, there’s a real danger that Rent Smart Wales will amount to little more than just a list of names and it will quickly lose the confidence of tenants who expect it to make a difference,’ he added.
Rent Smart Wales will replace the existing voluntary Landlord Accreditation Wales scheme, which has been operated by Cardiff Council on behalf of all local authorities in Wales. Councillor Bob Derbyshire, City of Cardiff Council member for environment, said that Wales really is setting the standard which will professionalise the private rented sector.
‘By supporting and educating landlords and agents for the benefit of tenants, Rent Smart Wales aims to improve the practices of landlords and agents and help to tackle the bad landlords who give the sector a poor reputation,’ he added.
The registration process is available online at www.rentsmart.gov.wales and should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete but slightly longer for those registering more than one property. There is also be a paper application for those with no internet access.
To become licensed a landlord or letting agent will need to complete a simple application process, pay a fee, pass a ‘fit and proper person check’ and complete approved training. Details of the fee structure set by Cardiff Council are available on the Rent Smart Wales website.
Those who are already accredited members of Landlord Accreditation Wales will be transferred into the new system and their accreditation training will be recognised for the purposes of licensing.
After the initial year of operation, the full range of enforcement powers in Part 1 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, such as fixed penalty notices and prosecutions, will be introduced. From this date landlords and agents found to be ignoring their new obligations will have action taken against them by local authorities and the licensing authority.
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VW cars can also cheat European emissions tests, BBC learns
A laboratory test carried out for BBC Panorama shows that Volkswagen diesel cars programmed with a “defeat device” can cheat official European pollution tests, as well as tests in the US.
The company told the BBC it believes this is the first time the cheating software has been filmed in action.
VW has admitted it used the device to rig tighter pollution tests in America.
But it’s been more ambiguous about whether it used the same tactics to actively cheat official European tests.
Panorama’s results suggest that it did.
It could have huge implications for the company, which says it is still yet to determine whether the cheating software even breaks the law in Europe.
VW has confirmed that 8.5 million European cars have the software, 1.2 million of them in the UK.
The defeat device is a programme in the car’s computer that can work out when it is being tested in a laboratory, and then cut poisonous nitrogen oxide (NOx) gas pollution from the exhaust pipe.
For years, this software allowed the company to pass strict US emissions laws yet still make a car that performed well on the road. Now it looks possible that VW was also cheating in Europe.
A side-effect of cutting NOx can often be lower miles-per-gallon.
Panorama took a VW Passat Blue Motion diesel to an accredited testing laboratory in the Czech Republic. No British lab we asked would let us in, but this lab is governed by the same rules and regulations as those in the UK and it regularly certifies new cars and engines for the European market.
We also took a retired former government vehicle inspector, Ted Foreman, along to make sure everything was done by the book (a 280-page book).
And we confirmed the Passat was programmed with the defeat device.
After prepping the car to the letter of the regulations, the lab ran the standard Euro 5 emissions test. It’s the same exam this model of car would have had to have passed before it went on sale.
And it passed. Emitting just 167 mg/km of poisonous NOx gases. The Euro 5 limit is 180 mg/km.
VW’s clever software knows when it’s being tested, because the routine is the same every single time. Starting with a cold engine, in a lab that’s between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade, it’s then driven for six miles on a rolling road, no turns, with exactly the same gear changes at exactly the same times, and all within a speed at two km/h either side of set limits.
The whole thing, including some idle time, always lasts 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
So, we then tried to trick the computer into thinking it was out of the lab, by simply accelerating hard a few times, taking it above motorway speeds. Straight afterwards, we ran the Euro 5 test again, but with one simple difference. We started with a hot engine this time.
The same car failed, spectacularly. Emitting 435 mg/km of NOx (remember the EU limit is 180 mg/km).
So, drive the same drive, but fool the car into thinking it’s on a real road, and it chucks out two-and-a-half times the amount of pollution as before.
When we showed VW our results, they confirmed the car had been cheating.
“With this software, it was possible for the vehicle to recognise laboratory test conditions and the engine control could switch over to emitting compliant nitrogen dioxide levels during the test cycle.
“This would have been the likely condition in your test. As you ran the second test (described as a hot test) immediately afterwards, the vehicle did not recognise this as a test condition and changed its emission strategy.”
The car industry has always said that pollution is worse out on the roads because of bad driving, bad weather and hills. Panorama’s test suggests that cars are also to blame.
This scandal has a long way to run. We still don’t know what might happen to all the “fixed” cars. Will they have a worse MPG for example? And we still don’t know how many billions of euros it’ll eventually cost the company.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34857404#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
The Mayor of London has given his seal of approval for the city’s largest single regeneration development in the Greenwich Peninsula which includes over 12,600 new homes.
A revised masterplan on the previously disused gasworks will create an entire new district formed of five neighbourhood zones and 12,678 homes on the 80 hectare site.
Developers Knight Dragon are already in the process of building a further 2,822 homes on the site, which will bring housing delivery on the Greenwich Peninsula to 15,720.
Plans also include 220 serviced apartments, 24,000 square metres of retail use, 60,000 square metres of business use, two new schools and two new hotels. The development will also feature a 40,000 square metre film studio, a visitor attraction and increased green open space including an extension to the existing Central Park.
In August, Greenwich council gave outline planning permission for the site, which runs along the River Thames, and the Mayor Boris Johnson has now also given the masterplan the go-ahead.
The Greenwich Peninsula site is part of the Mayor’s ambitious plans to release surplus public land to boost construction jobs, drive investment and deliver the additional housing to meet a growing population.
Of the developable land taken on by the Mayor in 2012 some 99% is now in the development pipeline, while the Greenwich Peninsula is a key element of Johnson’s City in the East masterplan, which looks to deliver at least 200,000 homes in east London over the next 20 years.
‘This gigantic site at Greenwich Peninsula has sat dormant for far too long, so I’m pleased that since City Hall took control of this land, we are already beginning to see construction underway. This will not only provide thousands of much-needed new homes for Londoners, but also bring jobs as part of the wider regeneration towards the east of the capital,’ said Johnson.
Developers Knight Dragon has 2,882 homes already under construction as part of existing planning permission, of which 1,002 are affordable. The masterplan approved by the Mayor includes 2,928 affordable homes, while a review mechanism has been included in plans, which could deliver an additional 1,572 affordable homes. The affordable housing mix, which will be delivered in all five neighbourhoods in the new district, will be split between social rent and intermediate.
Councillor Danny Thorpe, Royal Borough of Greenwich Council member for regeneration and transport explained that the Council has long held a vision to make the most of the huge potential offered by the Greenwich Peninsula.
‘The approval of this planning application makes it one of the most exciting developments in London, bringing huge long term regeneration benefits to the peninsula and cementing it as a new district for London,’ he said.
‘We are particularly proud that, at a time of critical housing shortage, this development will deliver so many affordable homes, of which more than two thirds will be for social rent, at no more than 50% of market rent. This is an ambitious vision for an extremely exciting site and I look forward to it now finally moving forward, and seeing the delivery of this major new regeneration project to the borough,’ he added.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/london-new-homes-plan-2015112311235.html
UK ‘failing to stop corrupt money’ entering the country
The UK’s “woefully inadequate” money laundering systems are failing to block “corrupt money” and terrorist funds, an anti-corruption body has warned.
Transparency International UK said billions of pounds of “dirty cash” is entering Britain every year.
But a fragmented network of regulators means that only a very small amount is being investigated.
Of 22 supervisory bodies, only one meets best practice for enforcement action, the group found.
Rachel Davies, a senior advocacy manager at the group, said: “Given that the Prime Minister has rightly said that dirty cash is not welcome in the UK, it is appalling that a shambolic system is failing to stop that flow.”
She said total fines last year in the seven sectors regulated by HMRC, including estate agents, were £768,000, less than the average house price in central London.
David Cameron promised in July to make it harder for UK properties to be bought with “plundered or laundered cash”.
Transparency International urged the government to go further by stripping the various private sector institutions and professional bodies of their anti-money laundering roles, and creating a “super” supervisor instead.
However, others said that rather than a radical overhaul, more funding was needed for existing regulators.
Neill Blundell, a partner at law firm Eversheds, said: “The current anti-money laundering regime has been described as draconian by some observers so the issue here is not about changing laws but properly enforcing the ones we do have.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34897559#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Yahoo stops some users accessing emails in ad-blockers row
23 November 2015
- From the section Technology
Yahoo has confirmed that it is preventing some people from accessing their email if they are using ad-blocking software in their browser.
Some users in the US reported that Yahoo Mail was displaying a message asking them to disable their ad-blocker before they could access their inbox.
Yahoo said it was testing a “new product experience” in the US.
Members of one ad-blocking forum said they had already managed to circumvent the restriction.
Ad-blocking has proved to be controversial and technology companies have responded in different ways.
In September, Apple updated its mobile operating system iOS to allow third-party ad-blockers to be installed – although they do not remove Apple’s own ads which it serves up in apps.
Google meanwhile has introduced a paid subscription version of YouTube, that lets viewers remove ads on the video streaming site for a monthly fee.
Ad-blocking advocates say disabling advertisements can improve smartphone battery life and reduce mobile data usage.
It can also prevent people being tracked by advertisers online and protect devices from malware that could be served up if an advertising network is compromised.
In 2014, Yahoo admitted adverts on its homepage had been infected with malware for four days.
But the company currently relies on advertising to earn money from its Yahoo Mail service which is available to use for free.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34899575#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Pfizer closes in on $150bn Allergan takeover
The biggest deal in pharmaceuticals history is expected to be announced later after the board of Pfizer approved a bid for Botox-maker Allergan worth a reported $150bn (£100bn).
If the deal goes ahead, it will create the world’s biggest drugmaker.
The two companies have been in talks for a number of weeks.
Analysts have suggested the deal would allow Pfizer to escape relatively high US corporate tax rates by moving its headquarters to Dublin.
Last year, Pfizer made an offer to buy UK drugs group AstraZeneca, which rejected the offer, arguing it undervalued the company.
Reports suggest Pfizer will offer 11.3 of its shares for each Allergan share. They also suggest the merged company will be run by Pfizer chief executive Ian Read, with Allergan boss Brent Saunders as his second in command.
A deal would be the latest in a series of mergers and acquisitions in the sector, as pharmaceuticals companies struggle to cope with patents on a number of major drugs expiring, while a better understanding of genetics and disease has led to more targeted medicines with a smaller market.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34900344#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Women ‘deserve’ pensions redress, says Baroness Bakewell
Hundreds of thousands of women deserve compensation for delays to their state pension, the Labour peer Baroness Bakewell has said.
Women born after 6 April 1951 should all have been warned that they would not get a state pension at 60, as their retirement age is gradually raised.
But thousands of women have complained that they were not given proper notice of the change.
However, the government insisted all those women were contacted directly.
“They deserve compensation. They were wronged,” said Baroness Bakewell, who was previously a government “tsar” for older people.
“They expected that their pension would start at a certain age – 60 – and then the law was changed quite suddenly.”
Under the 1995 Pensions Act, the government decided that the pension ages of both men and women would be equalised by 2020. Previously, women retired at 60, while men retired at 65.
In 2011, state pension ages were raised at an even faster rate.
Some of those born between April 1951 and 1960 will not qualify for a pension until the age of 66.
Campaigners belonging to Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) say some women had very little notice that they would not get a pension at 60.
Norah Hickey, a 61 year-old former teacher from Solihull in the West Midlands, said she only had two years’ warning.
“When I was informed at the age of 58 that I wouldn’t be getting it, it really was a big shock,” she told the BBC.
Instead of getting her pension at 60, she will now get it at 65, meaning she will have lost at least £30,000 in pension payments.
She said she had lived at the same address for 26 years, so there was no excuse for not writing to tell her.
When will you get a state pension?
The government’s state pension calculator is available here.
However the government said that all those affected were written to, using address details recorded by HM Revenue and Customs.
It said it would not be “revisiting” the arrangements.
“I can’t see any way in which the government would undo a law that was properly made in 2011, and which is potentially going to cost billions of pounds,” pensions minister Baroness Altmann told the BBC.
“I really do feel for them. But at the end of the day most of these women will still get their state pension before a man born at the same time,” she said.
More than 35,000 people have now signed a petition asking for the government to make transitional arrangements, to ease financial difficulties.
Those whose pension ages are raised after 2017 are likely to be given at least ten years’ notice of the changes.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34881092#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Residential property sales and prices in Spain are rising year on year and more new mortgages are being granted, suggesting the market continues to recover from the economic downturn.
The latest figures from the General Council of Notaries show that in September sales increased by 8.7%, house prices rose by 1.7%, and the number of new mortgage loans granted grew by 17.4%.
Overall sales stood at 30,328 transactions in September but saes of new homes are not doing well. Indeed, while second hand homes sales increased by 13% year on year, sales of new homes fell by 19.7%. Sales of individual family homes also registered significant growth of 14.7% year on year.
The data also shows that the average price per square meter was €1,242, a rise of 1.7% compared to September 2014. Apartments saw prices rise by 2.7% year on year and individual family homes were up 2.3%.
A breakdown of the figures shows that new apartments are doing better than existing sales. The average price per square metre of second hand apartments was €1,359, a rise of 2% year on year, while the average price for new apartments was €1,632 euros per square metre, an increase of 13.6% year on year.
The Notaires report also says that the home mortgage market in Spain is improving and mirroring the upturn in the real estate sector. The number of new loans approved increased by 17.4% year on year. The average mortgage value was €122,993, a rise of 0.1% compared to September 2014.
The statistics also shows that the percentage of home purchases financed through a mortgage was 39.7%, with the average amount of the loan 77.1% of the property value.
The latest quarterly data from property registrars confirms the good news. They show that prices increased by 6.6% year on year in the third quarter of 2015, and 2.2% quarter on quarter. It means that prices are now 28.4% below the peak of the market in 2007.
The data also shows that sales increased by 6.4% quarter on quarter and 16.6% year on year but they also confirm that new home sales are not doing as well. Quarter on quarter existing homes sales increased by 8.8% while new home sales fell by 2.5%.
There has also been an increase in foreign buyers. They bought 13.5% of properties sold in the third quarter compared to 12.8% in the second quarter of 2015.
British buyers were the most prolific with 23% of sales to overseas buyers, followed by the French at 8.7%, Germans at 6.4%, Swedes also at 6.4% and Belgians at 5.5%. The number of Russian buyers continue to fall, down to 3.4%.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/spain-property-sales-prices-2015112311234.html
Buying a home in a National Park in England and Wales will cost an average of £100,000 more than other properties nearby, new research has found.
The New Forest is the most expensive National Park with an average price of £531,162 but all properties in these areas are costly and prices have increased by £57,718 over the last decade.
The research from Lloyds Bank shows that overall prices in the National s in 2015 are on average, £101,880 higher than their county average, a premium of 44%.
Properties in the New Forest command the largest premium relative to the average for the surrounding area in both monetary and percentage terms at £258,042 and 94%.
The Peak District at 89% and the Lake District at 72% have the next highest percentage premiums to the surrounding area. Snowdonia is the only National Park where property prices are actually below the average for the surrounding area at 3% less.
Of the 12 National Parks included in the research, 11 have higher house prices than the average for their county, with four attracting a price premium of more than £100,000. Seven of the 12 National Parks surveyed have an average house price that exceeds £250,000.
‘Many home buyers are prepared to dig that bit deeper to benefit from the lifestyle associated with living in National Parks,’ said Andrew Mason, mortgages director at Lloyds Bank.
‘As areas of outstanding natural beauty, they are also prime locations for those seeking second properties. The combined impact of these factors is that house prices are typically much higher than those in surrounding areas,’ he explained.
‘When we take average local earnings into account, this situation can make it really tough for many of those living and working in National Parks to afford to buy their own home,’ he added.
So it is no surprise that home affordability in National Parks is significantly worse than for the country as a whole. The average house price in a National Park of £332,755 in 2015 is, on average, 10.9 times higher than local average gross annual earnings.
The New Forest is both the most expensive and the least affordable National Park with an average house price of £531,162 that is 14.2 times local gross average annual earnings. The South Downs, at 12.5 times average earnings, is the second least affordable National Park, followed by the Peak District at 10.3.
Snowdonia is both the least expensive and the most affordable National Park with an average house price of £165,840, which is 6.2 times local average annual earnings. Snowdonia is the only National Park with an average price below £200,000.
The average house price in National Parks across England and Wales has increased by £57,718 or 21% over the past 10 years, from £275,037 in 2005 to £332,755 in 2015.
The biggest percentage increases were in the South Downs at 44% and the Pembrokeshire Coast at 29%.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Broads Authority is the only National Park to record a fall in house prices over the past decade with prices down 11%. The North York Moors was the next weakest performer with a 3% increase.
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The original article can be found at http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/national-parks-home-prices-2015112311233.html
Moroccan solar plant to bring energy to a million people
23 November 2015
- From the section Science & Environment
A giant plant using energy from the Sun to power a Moroccan city at night will open next month.
The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the Sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening.
The first phase will generate for three hours after dark; the last stage aims to supply power 20 hours a day.
It is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.
The UN has praised Morocco for the level of its ambition. The UK, a much richer country, is aiming for 30% by the same date.
The Saudi-built Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world’s biggest when it is complete. The mirrors will cover the same area as the country’s capital, Rabat.
Paddy Padmanathan of Saudi-owned ACWA Power, which is running the thermal project, said: “Whether you are an engineer or not, any passer-by is simply stunned by it.
“You have 35 soccer fields of huge parabolic mirrors pointed to the sky which are moveable so they will track the Sun throughout the day.”
The developers say phase one of the futuristic complex will bring energy to a million people.
The complex stands on the edge of a gritty, flat, rust-red desert, with the snow-clad Atlas mountains towering to the North.
It is part of a vision from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to turn his country into a renewable energy powerhouse.
The country has been 98% dependent on imported fossil fuels, but the king was persuaded of the vast capacity of Atlantic wind, mountain hydro power and scorching Saharan sun.
The king’s plans are being enacted by environment minister Hakima el Haite.
She told me: “We are convinced that climate change is an opportunity for our country.”
As part of its national commitment to the Paris climate conference, Morocco has pledged to decrease CO2 emissions 32% below business-as-usual by 2030, conditional on aid to reach the renewables target.
Currently Morocco imports electricity from Spain, but engineers hope that will not last long.
Paddy Padmanathan predicted: “If Morocco is able to generate electricity at seven, eight cents per kilowatt – very possible – it will have thousands of megawatts excess.
“It’s obvious this country should be able to export into Europe and it will. And it will not need to do anything all… it needs to do is just sit there because Europe will start to need it.”
Morocco’s previously useless slice of the Sahara is proving a blessing for solar power. Solar thermal technology only works in hot sunny countries. The price is falling, and its growing capacity to store energy is arousing interest.
The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is falling much faster but the International Energy Agency expects them both to play a part in an energy revolution which is likely to see solar as the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.
Everywhere solar prices are tumbling. Thierry Lepercq, CEO of the Paris-based Solaire Direct, said (controversially) that large-scale ground-mounted solar could already be built without subsidy even in a country like in the UK.
“Solar is a true revolution – that’s the way we define it,” he said. “The $50 mark (per megawatt hour) is now being crossed and prices are going down.
“The long-term decision-making that is prevalent in the energy world is being disrupted; so you are certainly going to see some coal projects coming to fruition in the next couple of years based on previous decisions but what is certain today is that in all the boards of directors of energy companies, those things are being fundamentally reassessed.”
It is, he said, a moment in history.
Roger Harrabin visited Morocco for his series Changing Climate on Radio 4 on Monday at 8pm – then on BBC iPlayer. Full interviews for the series are on the Open University’s website www.creativeclimate.org.
Follow Roger on Twitter
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34883224#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Spending Review: What is it?
On Wednesday 25 November the government will announce the details of its Spending Review and Autumn Statement in a combined statement to Parliament.
It’s the third major economic statement this year – after the Budget in March and the post-election Summer Budget in July.
But what’s the difference between them?
Let’s start with the Spending Review…
The Spending Review is intended to give a five-year view of the government’s spending plans. It looks at the budgets of all the government departments. In effect, it will decide how £4 trillion of taxpayers’ money will be spent by setting the maximum amount that the different departments can spend.
This year deep spending cuts are expected as Chancellor George Osborne tries to balance the books.
And how often do they happen?
Whenever the government deems it necessary. The last one was in 2013.
They were first introduced in 1998 when Gordon Brown was chancellor and they aimed to give a longer term view of the spending plans.
Previously departmental spending plans were set out annually.
And what about the Autumn Statement?
It’s still happening as usual and will be included in the chancellor’s speech.
That means he will update MPs on the government’s taxation and spending plans, based on the economic projections provided by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – a body set up in 2010 to provide independent economic forecasts.
Normally, it doesn’t include an overall review of all the departments’ spending as in the Spending Review, but you may get policy changes to the individual departments.
The OBR publishes its estimates for the country’s economic growth and the government’s finances as soon as the chancellor finishes making his speech.
But that sounds like the Budget?
Yes, it’s not that different. Traditionally the Budget in March was when the government announced its new tax plans, but that’s not really the case any more. They are often announced in the Autumn Statement now as well.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34833527#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Cyber theft hits one in five consumers, survey finds
More than a fifth of consumers have had personal details stolen and their accounts used to make purchases, according to a survey by Deloitte.
Just under half of respondents said they often felt they were being targeted by cyber-criminals.
Just under 40% had had personal data stolen or deleted because of a computer virus or malware, up from 26% in 2013.
Consumer trust in companies storing personal data has slipped to 23% of respondents, down from 29%.
More than half (53%) did not know the detail of the personal data that had been collected by organisations, up from 37% in 2013.
The Deloitte survey also found companies that failed to safeguard data were more likely to lose custom than those which raised prices.
Simon Borwick, director in the cyber risk services team at Deloitte, said: “The volume and value of data available online means that consumers are now more exposed than ever before.
“Many organisations are struggling to prepare themselves to deal with the wide range of different cyber attacks. Cyber security has moved beyond simply being an IT issue; it is now a business-wide risk which requires immediate attention at the highest level.”
The Institute of Directors warned last month that attacks on British businesses “happen constantly”, but only serious breaches such as the attack that affected telecoms company Talk Talk made the headlines.
The attack on Talk Talk has hit both the company’s reputation and its share price, which has fallen by almost 25% this year.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34895099#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Why Shanghai’s first American Chinese restaurant is taking off
Quick! Which of these menu items can be included in a typical Chinese meal?
- Egg Foo Young?
- Chicken Chow Mein?
- Hot and Sour Soup?
- None of the above.
Your answer will probably depend on where you live in the world. Those inside China would probably argue that none of those dishes resemble anything from a traditional Chinese menu.
But others might disagree.
For them, the idea of “western Chinese food” isn’t an oxymoron, it’s a genuine style of cuisine primarily developed by generations of Chinese immigrants to the United States.
Now, one restaurant in Shanghai is trying to bring American Chinese food back to China.
The Fortune Cookie
The Fortune Cookie is the brainchild of two friends, Fung Lam and Dave Rossi. Fung was born on the doorstep of New York’s Chinatown.
“I was in the playpen of the kitchen of my parents’ restaurant, of my grandparents’ restaurants,” he recalls. “All my earliest memories were of the woks going, my dad coming home with the smell of Chinese food.”
Fung met Dave at graduate school. Outside of class, they soon discovered a shared love of American Chinese restaurants.
“Friday night was Chinese food night in the Rossi household,” Dave explains. With more than 40,000 American Chinese restaurants in the United States, families of all ethnic backgrounds grew up eating New World Chinese classics.
When visiting Shanghai as tourists, Fung and Dave missed their usual versions of noodles and stir-fried classics, and thought others might too.
They decided to open what they believe is Shanghai’s first American Chinese restaurant, featuring specialties served in Fung’s family restaurants for 40 years: orange chicken, kung pao chicken and sesame shrimp. Dave describes the menu as “really American”.
American yes, though a version of this menu is served in Chinese restaurants around the world – from Madrid to Melbourne.
But not usually in mainland China.
Dave and Fung flew Fung’s father over to Shanghai to teach the chefs how to make each dish, so it is exactly the same as the food served in the family’s American restaurants.
Extra American effort
One of the biggest challenges was finding the right ingredients to use in the kitchen.
“As weird as it sounds, we actually import a lot of ingredients to make authentic American Chinese food in China,” Fung says
Items like Philadelphia cream cheese, Skippy peanut butter, cornflakes and English mustard powder must all be brought in from outside China. Even the soy sauce must be imported from Hong Kong, because that’s what the first Chinese immigrants to the US used in their cooking.
The extra effort appears to be worth the trouble. The restaurant is usually packed on week nights and on the weekends, long lines of customers can stretch out of the door.
Dave and Fung have learned to predict whether first-time customers will approve of their food.
“If you’re an expat, 99% of the time you’re going to be happy. When it’s a younger local person, we have maybe a 70% success rate,” Fung explains.
Some locals come into the restaurant and ask for their food to be served in American-style white cardboard takeaway containers, mimicking meals they’ve seen on sitcoms like Friends and the Big Bang Theory.
Not everyone’s taste
But not everyone approves of the Fortune Cookie’s offerings. When an older person from China walks into the restaurant, Fung explains, “unfortunately, our success rate is much lower.”
Westernised Chinese food certainly has its critics. Some say the food is too sweet, its sauces too thick and gloopy, even too orange – a world away from the complex flavours of the vast array of foods found across mainland China.
Tourists to China are often surprised when they taste the local food for the first time. If they grew up eating Hot and Sour soup or Lemon Chicken, the food that’s on offer in any Chinese city might come as a shock.
Long-time expat Jamie Barys operates UnTour, a service offering street food tours – revealing the hidden secrets of Shanghai’s favourite local haunts. She delights in challenging tourists’ presumptions about what comprises a typical Chinese meal.
“They’re blown away by how different it is than the Chinese food they’re used to. You do get some deep fried stuff but for the most part, Chinese food is very refined. There is a lot of thought behind it.”
What is the biggest misconception about Chinese food in China? Jamie answers without hesitation.
“Eating dog, definitely eating dog and cat. We ask people if they have any dietary restrictions of food allergies and I think one in 10 say, “no dog”
It is almost impossible to find a restaurant that serves dog anywhere in Shanghai, Jamie says.
Instead, she encourages tourists to try Xiao Long Bao – Shanghai’s famous soup dumplings – and Jian Bing – a savoury egg pancake in a crunchy millet wrapping.
But those who come to the Fortune Cookie again and again know what they’re here for: it’s a meal that ends with the Fortune Cookie’s namesake.
Fortune cookies aren’t found in China, so Dave and Fung had to write their cookie messages themselves.
In place of Confucian wisdom, they’ve come up with more current wisdom. “Call home. They miss you,” reads one scrap of paper. “Dance like nobody is watching,” urges another.
Fung and Dave plan to stay in Shanghai for a while and possibly open up more locations. They’ll continue to challenge assumptions about Chinese food, one serving of Orange Chicken at a time.
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34877507#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
The tea industry boss in love with the drink
“Tea is like a beautiful woman,” says Nirmal Sethia.
“You look for the deep characteristics. There’s no need to concentrate on the appearance.”
For someone who has worked in the tea industry for more than 50 years, Anglo-Indian businessman Nirmal Sethia has lost none of his passion for the drink.
Now in his 70s, he also still takes tea very seriously. “Tea is life,” he says. “Tea is religion, tea is music.”
The co-founder and boss of upmarket brand Newby Teas, Mr Sethia’s relationship with tea started in London after the end of World War Two.
However, Mr Sethia, the son of a successful third-generation Indian businessman, initially just wanted to have fun in life.
Looking back on his teenage years, he says: “I was a rebel.
“I used to see all the boys smoking in London and wanted some of that. Smoking, and drinking, and girls looked exciting to me, even at 13.”
It was then that he told his father that he didn’t want to go to school any more.
“I knew that route wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to do exams, and wanted something more exciting.”
A chance encounter one day with someone who worked in a tea supplier led to Mr Sethia becoming an apprentice tea taster for one of the biggest tea merchants in London, something he believes was the hand of God guiding him.
“It was my first lucky break,” he says. “Divine intervention I suppose.
“Someone I knew saw me smoking outside the tea offices, and seemed to see something in me. He worked there and introduced me to the boss.”
That first encounter on a London street in the late 1950s started a lifelong love affair with tea for Mr Sethia.
He was soon working for one of biggest tea importers in the Republic of Ireland as a buyer in India, tasked with buying tea at auctions in Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta).
His father was impressed with how his son had taken to working in the tea industry, and encouraged him to do more.
So with his dad’s support, the young Nirmal Sethia started his own business – Sethia Tea Estates – from the family’s home in Kolkata, buying and selling teas from all over the world, for tea merchants the length and breadth of the UK and Republic of Ireland.
By then tea had really taken over his life, and Mr Sethia bought a tea plantation in the north eastern Indian state of Assam.
“I didn’t have any money [left over]… I used to sleep on the veranda of one of the buildings in the tea garden and drink tea,” he says.
“I taught myself about the different characteristics and subtleties in flavour.
I seemed to have a gift for tasting tea. I was able to distinguish and discern teas from different parts of India and beyond, something that impressed the buyers I met.”
Having made a success of his tea business, Mr Sethia’s destiny took a different path in 1965 when he started his own company dealing in jute, a vegetable fibre used to make rope and bags.
He says: “My uncle was running the family business, but I didn’t think he was doing a very good job of it.
“I thought I could do better. The arrogance of youth, I suppose.
“I went to my father who loved the idea of me thinking I could do better than his brother. The sparkle in his eye assured me I had to make this business a success, which I did.”
This new company, N Sethia Group, became Mr Sethia’s main interest and over the years has expanded across a number of business sectors, including banking and property.
However, his love of tea remained. Fast forward a few decades, and tea was once again to come knocking at his door.
Mr Sethia says: “My nephews wanted to start a tea business in early 2000.”
“They knew I still had contacts in the tea business and asked me for help, something I was willing to give them.”
And so Mr Sethia became a co-founder of Newby Teas.
However, the business struggled in its early years, and lost money.
Mr Sethia was going to quit, but his late wife Chitra Devi Sethia persuaded him not to.
He says: “She said one thing to me. If anyone can make it work you can.
“That’s when I knew she was right. With her support I could do anything. She was my rock, always there to stop me from falling.”
So Mr Sethia knuckled down, and turned around the business.
Today it has a turnover of around $15m a year (£10m) a year.
While its teas are for sale in the UK, Russia is its largest market, and it is expanding into the US.
Mr Sethia says he is on a mission to teach people about tea, and struggles to think about the cheap tea that many people drink.
Yet he concedes that Newby’s prices – nearly 40 pence per teabag, compared with around 2p for a regular – might be seen by some as too expensive.
Whatever tea you drink, he says you shouldn’t add anything to it.
“Tea shouldn’t have sugar, or milk, or rose water, or anything else added to it,” he says. “The subtle flavours should be obvious.
“You don’t slurp tea, you sip it. It’s not supposed to be drunk quickly, it’s to be savoured and enjoyed.”
He adds: “A good cup of tea is like a journey to the heavens. It’s there to delight in.”
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34748982#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
Nuisance call firms face new crackdown by regulator
The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) says it will be writing to 1,000 companies involved in buying and selling names and numbers to check they are acting lawfully.
The firms are all thought to play some role in compiling and trading lists of names and numbers used by cold callers.
The ICO also said it had three fines “lined up for this week”.
One will be to a company that sent more than one million text messages about PPI claims.
Once the latest fines are applied, the ICO said the penalties charged in the past four months alone would total £1m.
The ICO expects the companies to set out exactly how they comply with the law, including what data they share.
It will also ask for a list of the companies they recently worked with.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said the sector had prompted 180,000 complaints a year from consumers.
“That information has helped us to make some big breakthroughs in the nuisance calls business, alongside the intelligence we build up from elsewhere, from whistleblowers for instance, or from the network providers,” he added
The original article can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34895104#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa