• Bleak midwinter for landlords as retailers demand rent cuts Link
    Guardian Business Sun 16 Dec 2018 07:18
  • The Observer view on the baleful distraction of Brexit | Observer editorial Link
    Guardian Business Sat 15 Dec 2018 21:07

    Brexit has paralysed British politics: it has left the government utterly incapacitated, ministers warring and both main parties riven by splits. It is absorbing every shred of political energy; in the words of one official, it has wiped the policy grid clean. Yet in every nook and cranny of the state – from understaffed hospitals to the schools sending parents begging letters for financial support – there are problems that demand urgent focus and resource. We also face huge social challenges that require action now, from how to care for an ageing society to how to prepare for the impact of technology on the world of work. All this is going ignored, with detrimental effects on people’s lives.

    There is a grim paradox at the heart of Brexit. The vote for Britain to leave the EU was partly fuelled by the sense among many voters that there are increasingly two Britains: a thriving capital barely touched by recession and boarded-up high streets outside the south-east....

  • Sellafield, former star of the nuclear age, scrubs up for a different future Link
    Guardian Business Sat 15 Dec 2018 16:17

    Deep in the heart of Sellafield, Britain’s biggest nuclear waste site, a small piece of history is playing out. Technicians are about to use a huge amount of force to slice nuclear fuel into thin sheets, so that it can be dissolved in nitric acid, then chemically separated into uranium (for power stations), plutonium (for bombs) and highly radioactive waste.

    But first they face a computer-says-no moment. Taut minutes pass as on-screen red boxes indicate issues with the shearing machine, which is safely ensconced behind a metre of leaded glass. Finally, the boxes turn green.

    “Go for it,” says the operator, at which there’s a loud clanking, a white flash on a fuzzy video screen and smiles from staff crowded around.

    This is the final shear at Sellafield’s thermal oxide reprocessing plant (Thorp), which has halted operations after 24 years it has spent reprocessing more than 9,000 tonnes of fuel from nuclear plants in the UK, Germany and...

  • Royal Mail queues lengthen as depots close across UK Link
    Guardian Business Sat 15 Dec 2018 07:47

    If you face a long wait in the queue at your local parcels office to pick up a missed Christmas delivery this weekend, spare a thought for those living in one part of south-east London who say they have endured months of postal woes after Royal Mail closed their depot.

    Lost bank cards, letters taking a month to arrive, several days between deliveries and, most frustrating of all, 60-minute waits in the rain to pick up parcels that could not be delivered: these have all been endured by East Dulwich residents who are furious that Royal Mail appears to be failing to provide the service it is legally obliged to offer.

    But it is not just an issue for East Dulwich. Since it was privatised, Royal Mail has shut more than 50 delivery offices and more closures are threatened as the company seeks to reduce costs.

    If your local office is under threat, you had better hope the process is better managed than the Dulwich debacle, say many in south...

  • Storm ahead? Here’s how to prepare for a financial crisis Link
    Guardian Business Sat 15 Dec 2018 07:12

    Every 10 years or so a financial crisis hits global markets – and it’s 10 years since the last one. This week the IMF warned that not only are the storm clouds of the next global financial crisis gathering, but also that the world financial system is unprepared for another downturn.

    Will your pension be wrecked? The value of your house plummet? Will your industry be hit by a wave of redundancies? The bad news is that even the big investment houses, which traditionally talk up markets in the hope that you will invest, are pessimistic about 2019.

  • Crossrail reveals the depth of Britain’s north-south divide | Simon Jenkins Link
    Guardian Business Sat 15 Dec 2018 06:07
  • Global economy fears rise as manufacturing growth slumps in China Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 19:21

    Fears are growing about the state of the global economy after a slump in Chinese manufacturing output growth and a dramatic slowdown in business activity across Europe and the US.

    Stock markets sagged on Friday as China‘s government said industrial production and retail sales slowed in November. Traders were also spooked by surveys that showed French business activity contracted this month and the US economy slipped to its lowest growth rate for 18 months in December.

    The Dow Jones index of major US companies dropped 400 points, or around 1.6%, to 24,203 by afternoon trading after the FTSE closed down 0.5%, with Dax shedding 0.5% in Germany and the CAC in Paris losing 0.9%.

  • Ex-BHS owner claims to be 'victim' of firm's early failures as he hits out at Philip Green Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 18:11

    The former owner of BHS has hit out at Sir Philip Green, claiming to be a “victim” of the retailer’s earlier failures after being hit with a £120,000 court fine.

    Defending himself in Hove crown court on Friday, Dominic Chappell was found guilty of failing to provide vital documents to the pensions regulator following BHS’s collapse in 2016. The ex-racing driver’s re-sentencing follows a failed appeal earlier this year.

    Judge Christine Henson QC criticised the 52-year-old serial bankrupt of showing a “complete lack of remorse”, and ordered him to pay a £50,000 fine and £73,900 in court costs.

    But Chappell deflected criticism by claiming Green dodged responsibility for the company’s collapse, which resulted in 11,000 job losses and a £571m pension deficit.

    Green last year struck a deal with the regulator to pay £363m towards the pension scheme.

    “I’m not a Philip Green sitting on a £100m...

  • Sports Direct's Mike Ashley considers bid to buy Hamleys Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 16:01

    Mike Ashley, the billionaire founder of Sports Direct, is reportedly considering a bid to take over Hamleys, the 258-year-old toy shop best known for its Regent Street flagship store.

    Sports Direct was on Friday said to be among a pack of retailers to have lodged their interest in taking over Hamleys, which has been put up for sale by its Chinese owner C.banner.

    Sports Direct, which bought department store House of Fraser out of administration for £90m earlier this year, was named by Sky News as one of two bidders to have privately signalled their intention to bid for Hamleys. Sports Direct did not respond to requests for comment. The report of Ashley’s interest comes despite the entrepreneur warning this week that Debenhams and other big retail names face being “smashed to pieces” by a savage high street downturn this Christmas.

    The Entertainer, a private toy shop chain run by founder Gary Grant, was also said to have formally...

  • Bank of England to cut staff expenses after £390,000 travel bill row Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 14:56

    The Bank of England is cutting meal and hotel allowances for staff after facing criticism over a £390,000 travel bill racked up by two of its economics advisers.

    The central bank has for the first time published its travel and expenses policy to the public, following criticism by MPs over the “staggering” costs run up by US-based members of its financial policy committee.

    Anil Kashyap, who serves as an external member of the Bank’s financial policy committee, spent £11,000 on a flight from Chicago to London. His colleague Donald Kohn was found to have separately submitted expenses for an £8,000 flight from Washington to London and £469 on taxis for one meeting.

    The Bank of England’s new expenses policy, which comes into force in March 2019, says staff are only allowed to travel business class in certain circumstances, including overnight flights, flights lasting more than six hours, and when the Bank’s governors or...

  • Big-screen boom: UK cinemas on track for best year since 1971 Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 12:16

    The British box office is heading for its best year in almost five decades as cinemas continue to defy the stay-at-home lure of Netflix.

    When the final ticket stubs are counted it is expected that British cinemagoers will have attended 176m times this year, a number not seen since 1971 when the hits included Diamonds Are Forever, French Connection, Dirty Harry and Fiddler on the Roof.

    There is no Christmas Star Wars blockbuster to turbo-charge the box office in 2018 but film experts believe the 1971 mark will be bettered thanks to a slate of December releases featuring the return of Mary Poppins, Aquaman, the Transformers spin-off Bumblebee and an animated Spiderman.

    “It will take something really unexpected, something pretty incredible, not to get to there now,” said Phil Clapp, the chief executive of the UK Cinema Association. “It looks like being record admissions, and box office, for modern times.”

    According to Clapp, in four...

  • Nine jobs George: Osborne adds new role at venture capital firm Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 11:41

    He is also a fellow at the McCain Institute, a US thinktank founded by John McCain, the late Republican senator. In academia, Osborne is an honorary professor at the University of Manchester, and has two roles at Stanford University in California.

    Osborne was chancellor from the general election in 2010 under then prime minister David Cameron. He served as an MP for the Tatton constituency, near Manchester from 2001. His new role at 9yards was reported by the Financial Times on Friday.

    Theo Osborne is well known in the early-stage investment community. He is a founder of London-based venture capital firm Force Over Mass Capital, and is still listed as head of strategic relationships on the company’s website.

  • European car sales fall as new emissions tests weigh - business live Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 08:31

    Trading is underway in Europe and all major indices have opened lower. It follows earlier falls in Asia, with the Hang Seng down -1.7% and the Nikkei falling 2%.

    Investors have been spooked by data from China this morning, which showed retail sales grew at the slowest rate in 15 years in November, prompting fears of a slowdown in the world’s largest economy.

    Opening scores in Europe:

  • Charities warn this Christmas will be tough for thousands of Australians Link
    Guardian Business Fri 14 Dec 2018 03:36

    Charities are bracing for huge demand over Christmas as new figures show nearly 300,000 people – including 47,000 children younger than nine – accessed homelessness services over the past financial year.

    Citing an affordability crisis within the private rental market and the historically low rate of the dole, the social services sector is warning the upcoming festive season will be particularly tough for thousands of Australians.

    It’s a stark reality laid bare by two separate pieces of new research released on Friday.

    The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said in its annual report on specialised homelessness services that 288,795 people accessed help from an agency in the 2017-18 financial year.

    Of those nearly 300,000 clients, 121,000 parents with children were among those seeking assistance. The data showed 62,000 were single mothers.

  • Pacific nations under climate threat urge Australia to abandon coal within 12 years Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 23:21

    Pacific countries vulnerable to climate change have urged Australia to abandon coal power generation within 12 years, and to prohibit new coal plants or expansion of existing plants.

    The call from 15 small Pacific island states came one day after the Australian government called for expressions of interest in new power generation projects, indicating it would be prepared to use taxpayer money to underwrite new coal plants.

    Leaders warned Australia’s relations in the Pacific were being eroded by a perceived intransigence in Canberra over coalmining.

    As the COP24 UN climate talks in Poland remained stalled over an unwillingness from major emitters to commit to further carbon emissions cuts, frustrated Pacific states, traditional allies of Australia, said the world must abandon coal-powered energy generation.

  • Wimbledon to expand after golf club members vote to sell for £65m Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 21:46

    Martin Sumpton, a chartered building engineer who has played golf at Wimbledon Park for more than 30 years, was the only member to speak out against the sale at a private meeting of members at a former church near the Houses of Parliament on Thursday night.

    After the result of the vote was announced, Sumpton told the Guardian that: “120 years of playing golf at Wimbledon Park has ended because of greed. People wanted to take the money, and that’s hardly surprising. It is a lot of money.

  • New 10% royalty put forward as a fix for 'broken' petroleum resources rent tax Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 21:10

    Offshore gas projects should be subject to a new 10% royalty to further fix the “broken” petroleum resources rent tax, a report has found.

    The McKell Institute has released a blueprint for addressing failings in Australia’s taxation of the resources and extractive sectors, which it says allow major multinationals to avoid paying billions in tax.

    The report proposes a 10% royalty to be paid by all offshore gas projects currently only subject to Australia’s petroleum resources rent tax (PRRT), a tax on profits from marketable petroleum commodities.

    The PRRT has suffered from prolonged criticism in recent years. In 2015-16, only nine companies paid $845m in PRRT, compared to 12 paying $1.2bn the year prior. The most recent data shows payment of the PRRT has improved to 14 entities paying $946m.

  • Renault keeps Carlos Ghosn at helm despite financial misconduct charges Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 19:35

    The French carmaker Renault has retained Carlos Ghosn as its chairman and chief executive after finding no irregularities in his pay packages, despite his arrest and continued detention in Japan.

    Renault said on Thursday that its board had reviewed payments to Ghosn between 2015 and 2018. All payments were “in compliance with applicable law” as well as the French corporate governance code, it said.

  • My plan to revive Europe can succeed where Macron and Piketty failed | Yanis Varoufakis Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 16:20
  • Will Africa’s first high-speed train be a £1.5bn magic bullet for Morocco? | Will Doig Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 13:10

    “Many well-known guests have stayed here,” says Jimmy, the proprietor of the gift shop in the Hotel Continental, a stately pre-colonial landmark overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. He runs down the list: Edgar Degas, Winston Churchill, Paul Bowles. But that was a long time ago.

    Today, once-glitzy Tangier isn’t the destination it was half a century ago, when renowned artists and foreign spies haunted its bars and hotels. But the city’s fortunes may soon shift. A new high-speed railway, the first in Africa, was inaugurated last month, linking the cities along Morocco’s western edge. “In two hours, it will take you from Casablanca to here,” says Jimmy – more than twice as fast as the current trains.

    Officials believe the timing is right for the $2bn (£1.56bn) endeavour, a form of infrastructure that amounts to a formidable financial commitment for a lower-middle-income country. Less a mode of transport than a symbol of progress, the...

  • Mike Ashley launches Debenhams broadside Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 12:05

    Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has launched an extraordinary attack on Debenham’s after the department store chain refused his offer of a £40m cash injection despite “the worst November for retailers in living memory”.

    In a letter addressed to the Debenhams chief executive, Sergio Bucher, Ashley urged the board to reconsider the offer from Sports Direct, which is Debenhams’ largest shareholder.

  • Italian bonds rally as Rome bows to EU pressure over its budget – business live Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 08:20

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

    Italian bonds are rallying this morning after Rome bowed to pressure from the European Union and ripped up its tax and spending plans for 2019.

    Following weeks of pressure, and the looming threat of an EU disciplinary procedure, the Italian government has presented new fiscal proposals that would mean less borrowing next year.

    The new offer would create a budget deficit of 2.04% for 2019, down from the 2.4% that had sparked a bruising battle with Brussels.

    Making a brave face of it, prime minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters last night that:

  • Six slime and putty toys sold in UK fail to meet safety standards Link
    Guardian Business Thu 13 Dec 2018 00:20

    Six out of 13 “slime” and putty toys have failed to meet EU safety standards when tested for the presence of a potentially harmful chemical, according to research by a consumer group.

    Following an investigation earlier this year that found almost all the slime toys available from Amazon it tested posed a health risk, Which? has turned the spotlight on potentially toxic products sold by some of Britain’s biggest retailers.

    Five of the slimes it analysed, including products bought from Hamleys and Smyths Toys Superstores, were over the EU safety limit for the chemical boron. A further product bought from Argos that was classified as putty also failed.

  • New Jersey urged to enforce ‘code of conduct’ for Amazon workers Link
    Guardian Business Wed 12 Dec 2018 21:39

    A coalition of labor advocacy groups is pushing New Jersey to enforce a “code of conduct” for warehouse workers at Amazon and other major online retailers, which includes a minimum wage, stabilized work hours and the right to unionise.

    A report released on Wednesday by Warehouse Workers Stand Up, details the dangerous and unstable work conditions that exist in dozens of New Jersey warehouse distribution centers for Amazon and other retailers including Costco, Office Depot and Macy’s.

    Nearly 40,000 people in New Jersey work at a warehouse distribution centers, according to the report.

    The group wants New Jersey legislators to make companies like Amazon sign up to the code before endowing tax benefits and state subsidies.

    “Workers in New Jersey’s warehouse distribution centers help generate huge annual profits for the multibillion-dollar retail economy,” the report says. “But most of these workers earn low wages in part- time,...

  • Markets rally as hopes for breakthrough in US-China trade dispute rise Link
    Guardian Business Wed 12 Dec 2018 19:59

    Although arguing that China could still see his comments as a sign of goodwill, Fiona Cincotta, a senior market analyst at the financial trading firm City Index, said: “Trump’s dulcet tones on China [have] lulled markets into a false peace.”

    The latest signs of progress follow weeks of turbulent trading on global stock markets, prompted by doubts that a trade settlement could be agreed between the world’s two biggest economic superpowers.

    Wall Street still remains well below the levels recorded earlier this month, when the Dow came close to breaching 26,000 points.

    Investors had viewed the meeting earlier this month between Trump and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the G20 in Argentina as a signal of progress, following a deal to delay the imposition of higher US import tariffs on Chinese goods for 90 days.

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