• UK recession expected to continue until spring amid Covid-19 surge Link
    Guardian Business Tue 22 Sep 2020 13:03

    Britain’s economy is heading for a prolonged recession lasting until next spring as the number of coronavirus infections climbs and tougher restrictions are introduced to contain the virus.

    As a Covid-19 second wave spreads and the government launches fresh measures to restrict business and social life, City economists warned that the fightback from the deepest recession in history begun this summer was running out of steam.

    Dashing hopes that the Covid recession could be among the shortest downturns in history, analysts from Bank of America said growth in gross domestic product (GDP) would probably stall in the fourth quarter and the first three months of 2021.

    Robert Wood, the chief UK economist at the bank, said: “We struggle to see how the economy can grow in the fourth quarter with escalating lockdown measures, fading stimulus and Brexit risks.”

  • English wines win record number of awards in global tasting competition Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 23:12

    English wines picked up a record haul of awards this year in the industry’s largest wine competition, including two judged to be in the top 50 best-tasting in the world.

    Two English producers – Roebuck Estate in West Sussex and Simpsons from Kent – each won the prestigious accolade of best in show for a sparkling and a still white at the 17th annual Decanter World Wine Awards.

    English wines from 21 counties won three platinum, five gold, 94 silver and 46 bronze medals at the awards, with the English wine industry notching up an all-time record of 155 awards – up from 145 in 2019.

    Throughout August 116 judges including 37 masters of wine and nine master sommeliers tasted and analysed the merits of 16,518 wines produced by some of the world’s top wineries in 56 countries. Judges used “vibrating proximity lanyards” and bespoke disposable spittoons to ensure safe conditions in the first major contest to have been judged under strict safety guidelines as a result...

  • US stock markets continue falling amid Covid fears as Dow drops 510 points Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 21:42

    US stock markets continued falling on Monday as investors worried Congress would not agree to more stimulus cash before the election and reacted to an uptick in coronavirus infections.

    The Dow Jones closed down 510 points, or 1.9% after a late rally. The S&P 500 lost 1.2% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed just 0.1% lower after a late-day surge in tech stocks.

    US stock markets are entering a fourth week of selloffs, ending a rally that had driven them to record highs over the summer. Monday was the first time since February that the S&P 500 has posted four straight daily losses.

    “Today’s market action reflects investors’ frustration with Congress’s inability to pass additional stimulus,” Jack Ablin, chief financial officer at Cresset Capital wrote in a note to investors. “Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell, in a speech last week, stressed ‘more fiscal support is likely to be needed’ to help struggling small businesses and...

  • Leaks show Chelsea owner Abramovich funded Israeli settler group Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 20:22
  • Rail franchises have hit the buffers but what next for Britain's trains? Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 18:52
  • J Crew to close all six of its UK stores Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 16:32

    The fashion chain J Crew is to permanently close all six of its UK stores in the latest exit by a US retailer.

    The brand, known for its preppy style, has appointed FRP advisory as liquidators to its UK business, which has a head office in London and employs nearly 80 staff.

    A spokesperson for J Crew said: “After a thorough review, we have determined we are best able to serve our UK customers through our global e-commerce platform and are closing our six store locations in the country. We thank our UK associates for their dedication during this unprecedented time and are working to support their transition.”

    Known as one of the former first lady Michelle Obama’s favourite brands, J Crew opened a flagship store on London’s Regent Street in late 2013 shortly after testing out a small menswear shop on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury.

    The brand, and its sister label Madewell, was also taken on by the department store chain John...

  • Organic vegetable box firm Riverford certified as an ethical B Corp Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 13:37

    The organic vegetable box company Riverford has been certified as an ethical B Corporation business, reflecting its focus on its workers’ wellbeing through its John Lewis-style employee ownership model.

    The Devon-based company scored 124.6 out of 200 in its first B Corp assessment, becoming the second highest-scoring food business overall in the UK behind ethical chocolate brand Divine Chocolate.

    B Corp certification uses a broad assessment, substantiated by evidence, to score companies’ social and environmental performance. To certify as a B Corp, a company has to formally give people and environmental considerations the same weight as shareholders or profits. They must score at least 80 out of 200 to be certified and the assessment is repeated every three years.

    A global model, there are now an estimated 307 certified B Corp businesses in the UK including Guardian Media Group, the owner of the Guardian. Big brands include Unilever’s Ben...

  • How the end of the rail franchise system will affect Britain's trains Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 12:37

    Far from it. Had the deals not been reached, the government was set to step in with its own “operator of last resort” on more lines. The contracts instead ensure that rail firms can operate profitably for another six to 18 months while the effects of the pandemic continue, being paid a management fee rather than taking the risk on passenger numbers and fares.

  • Thousands of Britons living in EU told their UK bank accounts will be closed Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 12:12

    Thousands of Britons living in the EU will have their UK bank accounts closed by the end of the year because of the UK’s failure to agree a post-Brexit trade deal.

    Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts have informed retail and business customers that they will lose their accounts before or when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December and more banks are expected to follow suit.

    Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax and Bank of Scotland, has contacted its 13,000 customers in the Netherlands, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland and Portugal, warning them they must make alternative arrangements as the bank is no longer allowed to offer services.

    A spokesperson said: “We have written to a small number of customers living in affected EU countries to let them know that due to the UK’s exit from the EU, regrettably we will no longer be able to provide them with some UK-based banking services.

    “We want to keep customers informed and offer...

  • FTSE 100 shares plunge amid fears over second Covid lockdown Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 11:12

    Shares in London have come under severe pressure amid fears that a second wave of Covid-19 cases will force the government into harsh lockdown measures that will damage the economy.

    The FTSE 100 – the leading benchmark of the UK stock market – was down almost 200 points in early trading and on course for its worst day in three months.

    With the health secretary, Matt Hancock, warning that the UK was at a coronavirus tipping point and that people tended to catch Covid-19 is social settings, shares in travel and hospitality companies were among the hardest hit by the sell-off.

    British Airways owner IAG was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100 on Monday morning, down 14%. Shares in the FTSE 250 pubs group Mitchells & Butlers were down 13%, while JD Wetherspoon fell 8%.

    The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the government could not wait for deaths to start rising before taking action.

    London was not alone in seeing big...

  • NS&I to slash savings rates and Premium Bonds prizes Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 10:42

    Millions of savers with NS&I have been dealt a blow after it announced it would slash interest rates in November and cut the Premium Bonds prize fund a month later.

    Savers with NS&I’s popular direct saver account will receive a cut in rates from 1% to just 0.15%, while the return on income bonds – which had been best buys – will plummet from 1.15% to 0.01%

    The government-backed organisation, which has 25 million customers, said there would be cuts to variable rate accounts and some fixed rates as it attempted to “strike a balance between the interests of savers, taxpayers and the broader financial services sector”.

    It had become a first port of call for savers looking for returns after the Bank of England cut interest rates to a record low and savings providers started to follow suit.

    The cuts announced on Monday are deeper than those NS&I had planned earlier in the year but then put on hold as the pandemic hit.

  • UK government extends Covid-19 rail rescue measures Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 08:22

    The UK government has extended emergency funding measures for rail companies for the next six to 18 months to help them get through the Covid-19 crisis, as a first step towards a complete overhaul of the railway system.

    The Department for Transport said the move had ended franchising after 24 years as the first step in bringing Britain’s fragmented network back together. It hailed the emergency measures as a “transitional stage to a new system, the biggest change to the railways in a quarter of a century”.

    So far the government has spent £3.5bn covering train companies’ losses since the pandemic started. It effectively nationalised them in March when rail franchise agreements were suspended. Rail travel collapsed to 95% of pre-pandemic levels during the coronavirus lockdown in late March and April, and is still down about 70%.

    Under the new emergency arrangements, the DfT will continue to cover rail companies’ losses and pay them a fixed...

  • Barclays and HSBC shares plunge after reports of alleged suspicious transfers Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 07:52

    Shares in the banking sector fell on Monday after media reports that some of the world’s largest banks had moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades, despite red flags about the origins of the money.

    Barclays fell by 4% in early trading in London and HSBC and Standard Chartered both lost 3%. Earlier in Hong Kong, HSBC dropped more than 4%, taking the shares to their lowest level sinceMay 1995.

    The drop came after thousands of documents detailing $2tn (£1.55tn) of potentially corrupt transactions that were washed through the US financial system were leaked to an international group of investigative journalists.

    Media reports were based on more than 2,000 leaked suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen).

    Banks and other financial institutions file SARs when they believe a client is using their...

  • Travel, hotel and pub shares slide as Covid-19 lockdown fears hit markets - business live Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 07:27

    Most stocks on the FTSE 100 are down in early trading, as traders react to the prospect of tighter Covid-19 restrictions.

    Rolls-Royce is the top faller, down over 6% to 167p - its lowest level since 2004.

    On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that the jet engine maker was in talks with sovereign wealth funds to raise £2.5bn, to shore up its balance sheet.

    Airline group IAG, which owns British Airways, has dropped by over 4%, on fears of further disruption to flights and travel.

    On the smaller FTSE 250, cruise operator Carnival is down 5% at 900p (a one-month low).

    In the hotel sector, Intercontinental Hotels has lost 3% while Whitbread, which owns Premier Inns, has lost 3.5%.

    Naeem Aslam of Avatrade says fears of local, or national, lockdown measures are hitting stocks:

  • Rio Tinto expected to destroy 124 more Aboriginal sites, inquiry told Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 06:57

    An inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge has heard that Rio Tinto is expected to destroy another 124 Aboriginal heritage sites at a new iron ore development less than 100km away from the exploded rock shelters.

    Questions have also been raised over whether the approval granted by the WA government to destroy the 46,000-year-old sites in Juukan Gorge was valid.

  • PC World fails to deliver as two-day repair turns into 12 Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 06:27

    I’m an unhappy customer of PC World and its Team Knowhow. On 15 July I took my computer in because the on/off switch didn’t work. After weeks of going backwards and forwards, and having to buy a new motherboard and a new hard drive, I finally was told the computer was fixed and would be returned in two days. That was 12 days ago. Despite me showing up every day at PC World, phoning the repair team regularly and demanding attention, I am still waiting. I teach online so it has been a nightmare. A simple fix has become an expensive exercise without any result. I am furious.

    PE, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

    Your letter is yet another example of customer service departments being swamped with queries and unable to cope. Like other Guardian Money readers, you struggled to get a response from Team Knowhow and turned to us in desperation.

    Currys PC World told us the repair was completed and the machine passed quality assurance in mid-August. However, due to human error,...

  • Flood of complaints expected over Covid-19 UK business loans Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 05:32

    The Treasury has told a new bank customer complaints body to prepare for an influx of grievances over government-backed Covid loans.

    The Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS) – set to launch in mid-November - was preparing to tackle cases dating back to 2001.

    But its chair, Lewis Shand Smith, said the unprecedented surge in business lending during the pandemic – starting with the state-guaranteed coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) – had forced it to shift focus.

  • Mining companies have operated with a free rein and few consequences for too long | Jamie Lowe Link
    Guardian Business Mon 21 Sep 2020 02:06

    They were dragged kicking and screaming, but Rio Tinto’s board finally took the crucial first steps towards accountability for the destruction of caves at Juukan Gorge.

    Cultural heritage destruction is an almost daily occurrence for traditional owners. Mining companies are almost never held accountable. Media coverage is usually scant at best. No wonder Rio thought the story would go away. And no wonder the three executives in question, whose governance failings robbed us of a world heritage significant site, were smug enough to destroy it in the first place.

    The Juukan Gorge disaster has unveiled shocking revelations that are everyday reality for traditional owner groups. The enormous imbalance of power on which traditional owners and mining companies sign agreements has become tragically normalised in our sector. Mining companies capitalise on this power imbalance and the deficiencies in legislation to push traditional owners into agreements they mightn’t...

  • Chancellor warned scrapping tax-free shopping risks 70,000 jobs Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 18:56

    UK retailers, hoteliers and airport chiefs have warned the chancellor that scrapping tax-free shopping for international tourists has put 70,000 jobs in jeopardy.

    Earlier this month the Treasury said that the retail scheme, which enables non-EU visitors to reclaim VAT paid on their purchases, would finish at the end of December. The Treasury says it is making use of the end of the Brexit transition period to bring personal duty and tax systems in line with international norms.

    The move has caused a huge storm in retail and tourism circles with Marks & Spencer, Selfridges and the owners of high end designer outlet mall Bicester Village among the businesses putting their names to a letter urging the chancellor to think again.

    Other signatories include the bosses of major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham.

    The decision will leave Britain as the only country in Europe without a tax-free shopping scheme for...

  • Morrisons reinstates door marshals to prepare for Covid-19 second wave Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 16:06

    Shoppers are being urged to shop considerately as supermarkets tighten safety measures ahead of expected new lockdown restrictions.

    After a break of several months Morrisons has reinstated marshals on the doors of its 494 supermarkets to better monitor shopper numbers and remind those entering to wear face masks.

    Jayne Wall, Morrisons operations director, said the company’s additional hygiene measures – which include vending machine-style cleaning stations outside stores and hiring thousands of new cleaners - were designed to make “customers feel as safe as possible”.

    Back in March supermarkets were forced to take drastic action, including rationing products such as pasta, toilet roll and flour, after the arrival of coronavirus on British shores led to a wave of stockpiling.

    With the industry eager to avoid a repeat this autumn, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) urged shoppers not to change their habits.

    “Retailers have...

  • About a quarter of the UK's top earners are migrants, data shows Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 15:11

    Almost a quarter of the best paid people in the UK are migrants, according to analysis of anonymised tax returns collected by HM Revenue & Customs.

    Of the 525,000 people in the top 1% each earning more than £128,000, 24% moved to the UK as adults, according to the research by academics at the University of Warwick. Migrants make up just 15% of the UK population as a whole.

    Arun Advani, the lead author of the paper, said the research suggests that people who are concerned that migration is a drain on the economy are not considering the impact of high earners moving to the UK.

    “A lot of the worries about migrants is about the bottom end of the distribution,” said Advani, assistant professor at the Warwick’s economics department and director of Cage, its research centre focusing on inequality. “But, actually migrants are hugely prevalent at the top of the income distribution – and therefore paying more tax.”

    The prevalence of...

  • More long-term thinking is needed to protect the UK economy Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 13:16
  • 'We pick your food': migrant workers speak out from Spain's 'Plastic Sea' Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 11:21

    It is the end of another day for Hassan, a migrant worker from Morocco who has spent the past 12 hours under a sweltering late summer sun harvesting vegetables in one of the vast greenhouses of Almería, southern Spain.

    The vegetables he has dug from the red dirt are destined for dinner plates all over Europe. UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Aldi all source fruit and vegetables from Almería. The tens of thousands of migrant workers working in the province are vital to the Spanish economy and pan-European food supply chains. Throughout the pandemic, they have held essential worker status, labouring in the fields while millions across the world sheltered inside.

    Yet tonight, Hassan will return to the squalor and rubbish piles of El Barranquete, one of the poorest of 92 informal worker slums that have sprung up around the vast farms of Almería and which are now home to an estimated 7,000-10,000 people.

    Here, in the...

  • US airlines facing ‘Thelma and Louise’ moment as government aid set to expire Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 09:26

    US airlines are facing what one leading analyst calls a “Thelma and Louise” moment as the industry approaches a government-funding deadline that could decide its future.

    On 30 September a government aid packages used to protect workers expires, the airlines have already announced huge layoffs but what comes next could be even worse.

    “I don’t think people get the Thelma and Louise analogy here. The car is up to speed, it’s headed toward the cliff and we know what happens next because you’ve seen the movie,” said industry analyst Robert Mann.

    Along with leisure and retail, the airline industry has been one of the most direly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Passenger numbers are down 70% and the loss of business and frequent flyer travelers has pushed revenue down by as as much as 85%.

    In March, airlines were offered two sources of money as part of the US government’s coronavirus stimulus package, the Cares Act. The act gave the...

  • If the Labour conference were on now, would I be knocked over by a rush of ideas? | Will Hutton Link
    Guardian Business Sun 20 Sep 2020 07:31

    In normal times, the Labour party would be assembling this weekend to attempt catharsis after the most savage electoral defeat since the 1930s. It looked into the abyss of a split, but has held together. Just.

    Yet Covid-19 makes impossible an authentic arena where the party could start the multiple encounters and exchange of ideas that will be the foundations for better times. The conference will be online. This is better than nothing but, of necessity, it is bloodless. Politics is a touch business if it is anything.

    However, the deadly experience of Covid has opened up politics despite the Conservative landslide. It is a growing commonplace that it has exposed Boris Johnson, and his cabal, as unfit for government. On top, Brexit will so deepen the mire that it will engulf the prime minister. Labour finds itself with political prospects it had no reason to expect 10 months ago.

    Yet the challenges are profound – and a normal conference would have had an...

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