• The FCA – a watchdog too nice and chummy to bark or bite Link
    Guardian Business Tue 25 Jun 2019 18:51
  • Neil Woodford fund was sailing close to the wind, watchdog says Link
    Guardian Business Tue 25 Jun 2019 18:21

    The embattled investment manager Neil Woodford was “sailing close to the wind” and did not act within the spirit of the rules before blocking investors from pulling their cash from his flagship fund, the head of Britain’s financial watchdog has said.

    Andrew Bailey, the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority FCA), said that although the renowned stock picker had kept within the rules on the percentage of risky assets that could be held in his Woodford Equity Income Fund, he acted on the wrong side of the spirit of them.

    Answering questions from MPs on the Commons Treasury committee, Bailey said Woodford twice breached rules on holding unlisted assets early last year.

    Set by the European Union, the rules – undertakings for collectiveinvestment in transferable securities (UCITS) – cap the amount of illiquid assets an investment fund can have at 10%, while the rest must be listed on an approved stock exchange.

    “Having had...

  • FirstGroup chairman to stand down Link
    Guardian Business Tue 25 Jun 2019 17:21

    FirstGroup chair Wolfhart Hauser is to stand down after 30% of investors voted against his re-election, although the train and bus operator has survived an attempt by its biggest shareholder to oust the entire board.

    Shareholders voted by almost three to one to to reject 13 resolutions brought by activist investor Coast Capital seeking to remove the chief executive and five other directors, behind closed doors at an emergency general meeting in London on Tuesday.

    The result may give some breathing space to First, one of the UK’s biggest bus and train operators, which is rumoured to be in line to be awarded the West Coast mainline rail franchise.

    However, New York Hedge Fund Coast, which owns a 10% stake in First and was backed by the other biggest shareholder, Columbia Threadneedle, has vowed to keep up its fight to replace the board.

    Describing the resignation of Hauser as a “constructive first step” in achieving value for...

  • BMW aims to double electric and hybrid sales in next two years Link
    Guardian Business Tue 25 Jun 2019 08:36

    BMW is accelerating its push away from the internal combustion engine towards battery technology, as the German carmaker seeks to double the number of electric and hybrid vehicles it sells in the next two years.

    The company will have 25 electrified models on sale in 2023, two years earlier than previously planned, it announced on Tuesday. More than half of the vehicles will be fully electric.

    The step up in BMW’s electrification efforts comes as European carmakers face an unprecedented challenge to their profitable business model as major markets, from the UK to the rest of the EU to China, plan to decarbonise road transport.

    For German carmakers including BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, the race to move away from fossil fuels is particularly urgent. Under strict EU rules due in 2021, manufacturers must ensure average emissions from new cars are below 95g of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven or face huge fines. BMW’s models averaged carbon...

  • Gold hits six-year high as geopolitical tensions bubble - business live Link
    Guardian Business Tue 25 Jun 2019 06:36

    Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

    Jitters over the US-China trade war and tensions in the Middle East continue to buffet markets.

    Overnight, Iran has hit back at America’s decision to impose new sanctions on its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying it has slammed the door of diplomacy shut.

  • Boris Johnson’s tax cut would benefit richest 10% most, say experts Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 23:21

    Britain’s foremost tax and spending thinktank has said that Boris Johnson’s promise to cut taxes for millions of higher earners would cost £9bn and benefit the richest 10% of households in Britain most.

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the proposal by the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race was expensive and potentially incompatible with the Tories’ promise to end austerity and safely manage the public finances.

    Johnson has said he would increase the higher-rate income tax threshold, at which earnings are taxed at 40%, from its current level of £50,000 to £80,000 should Tory members vote him in as leader.

    Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS, said: “It is not clear that spending such sums on tax cuts is compatible with both ending austerity in public spending and prudent management of the public finances.”

    Drawing intense criticism from across the political spectrum, the proposal has...

  • Medical cannabis firms press UK to loosen prescription rules Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 18:25

    The world’s largest medicinal cannabis company has urged the government to allow GPs to prescribe the drug, calling on the UK to be a “leader not a laggard” in one of the world’s fastest growing major industries.

    Cam Battley, chief corporate officer of Canada-based Aurora Cannabis, said the UK was failing patients who might benefit from medicinal cannabis, as well as forfeiting economic gain, due to the restrictions of the existing regulatory regime.

    Home secretary Sajid Javid authorised the use of medicinal products derived from cannabis last year, following a long-running campaign fronted by the parents of children suffering severe epilepsy, who reported that cannabis oil helped with their condition.

    But it can only be prescribed by “specialist physicians” and cannot be imported until a prescription has been issued. These rules, coupled with division among doctors about how effective it is, means fewer than 100 patients are thought to...

  • HMRC pushes massive VAT increase for new solar-battery systems Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 17:25

    Homes hoping to shrink their carbon footprints by installing a solar-battery system face a steep VAT hike from October under new laws proposed by HMRC.

    The Treasury put put forward legislation on Monday to raise VAT for home solar-battery systems from 5% to 20%, on the same day that MPs are debating the government’s new net-zero carbon target for 2050.

    Meanwhile, home coal supplies will continue to receive the lower VAT rate.

    The Renewable Energy Association (REA) said the hike “contradicts the government’s commitment to tackling climate change” only weeks after Parliament declared a climate emergency.

    It also warned that the move would push back the take up of solar-battery systems by years even as the UK works towards becoming a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

    Nina Skorupska, the REA’s chief executive, said the hike would “create a barrier to British homes and businesses who are seeking to take action on climate change...

  • Bitcoin passes $11,000 on news of Facebook's cryptocurrency plan Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 16:25

    The price of bitcoin has surged above $11,000 (£8,600), its highest level in 15 months, amid renewed hype over cryptocurrencies after Facebook said it was planning to launch a digital currency next year.

    Bitcoin has risen in value by almost $2,000 in the week since the US technology firm revealed plans to create a cryptocurrency called Libra, in a move that could radically reshape the financial landscape with far-reaching implications for governments and central banks around the world.

    The original cryptocurrency had languished below $6,000 for much of this year and was falling out of the headlines as investors around the world gradually lost interest in the fad for digital assets.

    Some investors had been severely burned by bitcoin when its meteoric rise to almost $20,000 in late 2017 – which drew comparisons with of the tulip mania of the 17th century – was followed by a spectacular collapse last year.

  • Trump makes 'very simple request' to Iran: 'No nuclear weapons' – live Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 13:55

    Hello and welcome to Monday’s live politics coverage. Donald Trump has been busy tweeting, telling Iran he has two “very simple” requests: “No nuclear weapons and no further sponsoring of terror.”

    In an early-morning flurry, Trump also told other countries to protect their own Gulf oil shipments, and claimed the US has only limited interest in the region.

    He also declared that the US is now the world’s biggest energy producer. He wrote: “Why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation? All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey.”

    He went on: “The US request for Iran is very simple – No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror!”

    Iran insists it does not have a nuclear weapons program. It signed the nuclear deal in 2015, which limited its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. Trump pulled the United States out of the...

  • Labour to launch review of City's progress on emissions Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 13:00

    Labour is to examine the readiness of City firms to cut carbon emissions and invest responsibly to tackle the climate emergency, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said on Monday.

    A review into City practices and how investments can be directed to promote technologies that cut carbon emissions will report by October as part of the party’s support for policies tied to the green industrial revolution.

    Speaking to City executives in central London, McDonnell said he also wanted the Bank of England to help monitor the City’s progress towards lower carbon emissions. This new responsibility would be on top of Labour’s plan to make the central bank also adopt policies that will boost the productivity of British firms.

  • Wine and chauffeurs: ANZ under pressure after NZ boss's $400,000 in expenses revealed Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 08:05

    Pressure is mounting on the ANZ bank board after New Zealand’s central bank ordered two independent reviews into the company’s conduct following the departure of its NZ chief executive who ran up expense accounts averaging more than $400,000 a year.

    The bank’s chairman, former New Zealand prime minister Sir John Key, last week announced the departure of David Hisco, who is an Australian, after the company learned of his spending for “non-monetary benefits” including a personal chauffeur service and wine cellaring.

    He told reporters that Hisco, who had been chief executive for the past eight years, had a “blind spot” when it came to tagging personal expenses as business ones. This included spending $50,000 on a personal chauffeur service as well as the company paying to store his wine collection in Australia.

  • Iranian tensions push oil higher as bitcoin smashes through $11,000 - business live Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 07:05

    Cryptocurrency bitcoin has smashed through the $11,000 mark for the first time since early 2018 - as money flows back into digital currencies.

    Bitcoin has now doubled in value since the start of May, profiting those who didn’t lose faith in its prospects after its tumble in 2018 [when it fell from $20,000 to just over $3,000].

  • Austerity and inequality fuelling mental illness, says top UN envoy Link
    Guardian Business Mon 24 Jun 2019 06:05

    Austerity, inequality and job insecurity are bad for mental health and governments should counteract them if they want to face up to the rising prevalence of mental illness, the UN’s top health envoy has said.

    In an exclusive interview with the Guardian to coincide with a hard-hitting report to be delivered to the UN in Geneva on Monday, Dr Dainius P?ras said measures to address inequality and discrimination would be far more effective in combatting mental illness than the emphasis over the past 30 years on medication and therapy.

    “This would be the best ‘vaccine’ against mental illness and would be much better than the excessive use of psychotropic medication which is happening,” said P?ras, who as the UN’s special rapporteur on health reports back to the UN human rights council in Geneva.

    He said that since the 2008 financial crisis, policies that accentuated division, inequality and social isolation have been bad for mental...

  • From salmon-skin crisps to fermented kombucha, Sainsbury's edgy new range Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 15:54

    Crisps made from discarded salmon skin and a vegan ‘meal in a bottle’ will be on sale at Sainsbury’s from Monday as part of a drive to test shoppers’ reactions to fledgling ‘disruptor’ food and drink brands.

    Aimed at millennials, the range will be prominently displayed in dedicated bays for just 14 weeks, with shoppers asked to tell the grocery chain what it should keep to stay ahead of fast-evolving food and drink trends.

    Shelf banners and labels read: “If you love it, we’ll keep it.” Only those that sell well will secure longer-term, permanent listings. The so-called Taste of the Future scheme is the next phase of Sainsbury’s Future Brands initiative, set up in April 2018 to find distinctive products and support their growth through a ‘hot-housing’ programme offering brands mentoring and other help.

  • Serious Fraud Office arrests five in Patisserie Valerie investigation Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 13:49

    Five people have been arrested and questioned over alleged accounting fraud at the Patisserie Valerie chain, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said.

    The arrests took place last Tuesday after a joint operation with the Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Metropolitan police services.

    Luke Johnson, Patisserie Valerie’s former chairman and a columnist for the Sunday Times, was not among those arrested, according to the newspaper.

    Johnson had previously described the discovery of fraud at the high street cake chain as being like entering a “nightmare parallel universe”.

  • Aston Martin chief executive faces vote against £1.2m salary Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 11:49

    The chief executive of Aston Martin faces the prospect of a vote against his pay package as he faces shareholders for the luxury carmaker’s first annual meeting as a listed company.

    Andy Palmer has led the company since 2014, but investor scrutiny of his £1.2m salary – before a potential bonus five times larger – has increased as shares have slumped from the price at the carmaker’s much-anticipated stock market flotation.

    There is little prospect of Aston Martin losing the vote because the majority of shares are owned by Italian private equity firm InvestIndustrial and Kuwaiti investors. However, a symbolic vote against the binding pay policy would add to pressure on the company’s leaders.

  • The economy is struggling – but that could be good news for new PM Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 11:19
  • Police investigate leak of GCSE religious studies exam paper Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 09:54

    Police have been called in to investigate another exam leak after an unknown number of students had advance sight of part of a GCSE religious studies (RS) paper last month.

    It is the latest of a series of damaging security breaches to hit summer exams in recent years, with social media enabling cheats to disseminate leaked questions quickly and easily.

    Such is the level of concern that a review of exam malpractice is under way, which is due to report later this summer. Hoaxes about leaked exam papers, again shared widely online, have compounded students’ stress and anxiety.

    The latest security breach involved an AQA GCSE RS paper sat by thousands of pupils on 20 May. One parent told the Guardian a number of students went home and said an element of the paper had been circulating on Snapchat ahead of the exam.

    AQA confirmed that police had been contacted and an investigation was under way. The exam board said only one page was...

  • Just like the 1930s, this trade war has the potential to turn nasty Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 06:24
  • America's corn belt farmers face uncertainty after rain … and more rain Link
    Guardian Business Sun 23 Jun 2019 05:24

    In his 32 years of farming, Steve Fourez says he’s almost never been so late planting corn and soybean crops on the 500 acres he farms in east-central Illinois.

    Normally by the start of May he’s finished planting corn, and soybeans are seeded soon after. This year, Fourez said, he wrapped up planting on 6 June, as cold, grey and rainy weather kept him idle. Fourez’s experience is playing out across the corn belt, a deeply fertile agricultural region stretching roughly from Ohio to Nebraska.

    Planting is so tardy that the US Department of Agriculture’s June 28 acreage report, an annual survey of what crops farmers planted this year, will take on heightened importance.

    Mike Zuzolo, the president of Global Commodity Analytics and Consulting, said: “This planting-delay issue, because of what states it has affected, will make the planted acreage report … historically important for market direction.”

  • Ethics fly out of the window at Oxford University when big donors come calling | Catherine Bennett Link
    Guardian Business Sat 22 Jun 2019 18:13
  • Investors’ demand for dividends will push us to disaster Link
    Guardian Business Sat 22 Jun 2019 16:13
  • How a £1 bikini revealed the changing shape of fast fashion Link
    Guardian Business Sat 22 Jun 2019 15:13

    It was billed as the bikini that “won’t break your bank balance but might break the internet” because of the predicted stampede of shoppers to get their hands on a skimpy black polyester two-piece.

    The £1 costume from Manchester-based online retailer Missguided went on sale nearly a fortnight ago, but hit the headlines last week when it was advertised during Love Island – a show the retailer has used for its promotions before. Last year Missguided sponsored the show and the few clothes worn by the contestants were all from its ranges.

    The black bikini did indeed cause the expected internet sensation, but not for its sex appeal. Fast fashion critics took to social media to label it a symbol of a throwaway fashion culture that now sees British shoppers throw away a million tonnes of clothing each year.

    The outrage was heightened by the government’s decision on Tuesday to reject plans for a 1p fashion tax that had been proposed...

  • NGO's softly-softly tactics tackle labor abuses at Malaysia factories Link
    Guardian Business Sat 22 Jun 2019 06:23

    The 18-month investigation unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports, turning them into forced laborers unable to quit.

    Some migrant workers – many from Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia – said recruiters had promised wages twice what the Malaysian factories paid them. Some complained their companies had them sleep 28 to a single bedbug-infested room while sharing one toilet.

    But in an unusual twist, when the investigators for Transparentem, a New York-based non-profit that investigates labor and environmental abuses, uncovered these problems, it didn’t rush to publicize them and shame those factories’ western customers, which included Target, Nike and Fruit of the Loom. Instead, Transparentem’s founder, Benjamin Skinner, adopted an unorthodox strategy: reaching out...

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