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Jaguar launches I-Pace one-make racing series

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Luxury carmaker Jaguar has announced a one-make racing series based around its electric I-Pace sports car, with the first race taking place next year.

The series, known as the I-Pace eTrophy, will use an ‘arrive and drive’ format for 20 drivers at each race with full technical support, spare parts and equipment. The modified electric I-Paces will use technology from the manufacturer’s I-Pace SUV, which will go on sale later this year.

“With 20 identical specification production based I-Pace eTrophy race cars going head to head, it comes down to the drivers and their individual driving styles to be crowned champion,” the company said. “Held over ten races and in some of the world’s most celebrated cities, the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy promises to be the next chapter in our Race To Innovate.”

The new series will appear on the supporting bill of the all-electric Formula E world championship, which Jaguar Racing joined in 2016. The company recently announced that all its new road cars will be electric or hybrid from 2020 onwards.

“Jaguar returned to racing in 2016 with the mission ‘Race to Innovate’,” explained Gerd Mäuser, Jaguar Racing chairman. “With the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, we’ve strengthened our commitment to battery electric vehicles, international motorsport and Formula E. As a British team, we’re proud to announce today the launch of the world’s first production battery electric vehicle championship. We’ve always said we want to prove our electrification technologies on the track – this is the proof.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a full grid of Jaguar I-Pace race cars in late 2018, soon after the first Jaguar I-Pace hits the road in Europe. Ultimately, this innovative series will enhance the technology in our future electric vehicles and benefit our customers. Formula E has grown exponentially since we joined as the first premium manufacturer last year, with recent commitments from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche,” he said.

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Brexit on agenda as British Irish Chamber meets Brokenshire

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UK secretary of state for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire discussed Brexit with chambers of commerce from across Ireland at a British Irish Chamber of Commerce working lunch at KPMG in Dublin yesterday.

The UK/EU departure talks were top of the agenda, with Brokenshire reiterating the UK government’s commitment to “frictionless trade on the island of Ireland” as he explained his government’s negotiating position.

“The British Irish Chamber is delighted to be hosting secretary of state Brokenshire in Dublin today,” said director general John McGrane. “Given the number of political engagements the secretary of state has to keep while in town, I think his availability to meet with business groups shows the importance of maintaining the vital trade network that exists on the island.

“The chamber welcomed the publication of last week’s papers and especially the commitment shown by the UK government to borderless trade on the island of Ireland and the continuation of the Common Travel Area,” he said. “While we are happy to see suggestions put forward to maintain both of these, we are still cautious about the feasibility of these proposals and will continue to positively engage with governments on both sides to ensure that a solution is found that works for all concerned.”

Trade between Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England is wroth €60bn per annum and supports 400,000 jobs according to the chamber, which represents businesses and employers with interests in both islands.

Shaun Murphy, managing partner of KPMG noted that “there is an urgent need to forge both practical and realistic solutions to address the Brexit issues of relevance to Ireland – North and South – and we welcome all efforts to resolve these matters in the interests of business across the island.”

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Evo Payments and AA announce new partnership and brand

Brian Cleary, managing director, Evo Ireland and UK.

Dublin-headquartered Evo Payments international has announced a deal with the AA in the UK to provide card pay technology to UK merchants under the new CardPay brand.

The deal is the first of its kind for the AA, which is moving into B2B financial services on the back of high consumer trust research rankings.

The service will be managed from Evo’s Dublin HQ where it operates under the BOI Payment Acceptance brand, a collaboration between Evo and Bank of Ireland.

“We are very excited to announce this new partnership with the AA,” said Evo Ireland and UK managing director Brian Cleary. “BOIPA only entered the payments market in early 2015, and in a very short space of time we have been hugely successful in delivering a superior payment service and value proposition for businesses across Ireland.

“From small corner shops and online traders to some of the country’s large corporates, Irish business owners have been quick to recognise the obvious benefits of our products, including the ability to process more transactions, experience reduced banking costs, and less exposure to theft and the misappropriation of cash.

“Applying these same principles to the UK market felt like a logical next step, and in partnering with the AA we are joining up with a universally trusted brand that prides itself on its market-leading financial products and first-class customer service.”

The deal follows a jobs announcement earlier this year, with 50 new roles created amid a €9.1m investment and the opening of a new Irish HQ – bringing the company’s headcount to 120 serving Ireland, North America and Europe.

AA Financial Services director David Searle also welcomed the news.

“From roadside emergencies to home insurance and savings, the AA has always been trusted to stand by the consumer’s side, whatever happens, and campaign for a better deal. With nearly a fifth of our members also running a small business, we have for some time been looking at what we can do to help, particularly given the current economic climate.

“UK small businesses are the bedrock of the country’s economic confidence. The challenges many SMEs have with payment terminals, often relating to opaque pricing tariffs and surprise add-ons, need to be put right and the status quo needs to be disrupted.

“Our partnership with EVO allows us to become a force for change in the UK card payments market, to bring greater simplicity, trust, and fairness for our members – which is at the heart of everything we do.”

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Revenue up at Paddy Power Betfair as CEO Corcoran departs

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Merged betting giant Paddy Power Betfair has announced a 9% rise in revenues and the departure of CEO Breon Corcoran.

Corcoran was instrumental in the merger of the two former rivals, and will be replaced by Worldpay CEO Peter Jackson. “Breon has been talking with me and the Board about his long-term plans and accordingly, some months ago, we intensified our focus on executive succession planning to ensure an orderly transition,” explained chairman Gary McGann.

“While we will be sorry to see Breon leave, we are delighted to have appointed a candidate of Peter’s calibre to succeed him. The board’s unanimous selection of Peter follows a thorough global search for an individual with the skills and expertise to match the ambition of the group. The combination of his executive expertise together with his understanding of the Paddy Power Betfair business as a non-executive director uniquely positions Peter to assume the role of CEO and lead the group in its next stage of development.”

The group has also announced its H1 2017 results, headlined by a 9% growth in revenues to £827m and underlyling EBITDA up by 21% to £220m.

“We continue to make substantial investments to position Paddy Power Betfair as a structural winner in a dynamic and highly competitive market,” said Corcoran.

“The focus of this investment is to use technology to improve efficiency and minimise the cost of servicing our customers and to further enhance our customer proposition. The integration of our technology platforms is on track for completion by the end of the year and will bring significant benefits including increased quantity and pace of new product development in 2018 and beyond.

“Ahead of that, our customers and shareholders are already seeing benefits from efficiencies and investments. In the first half alone, customers enjoyed approximately £30m of extra value through better odds, more generous offers and new loyalty benefits. Operating efficiency and the annualisation of merger-related cost savings resulted in strong operating leverage in the period, with operating profit up 22%.”

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7,449 tonnes of gold are in London’s vaults

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Almost 7,500 tonnes of gold and 32,000 tonnes of silver are stored in eight London vaults, according to figures released by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA).

The figures represent the first public attempt to calculate precious metal holdings in the capital, with 7,449 tonnes of gold equating to $298 billion and 32,078 tonnes of silver working out at $19 billion – around 596,000 gold bars and 1,069,255 silver bars.

“How much gold and silver is there in the London vaults? It’s a question that I’ve been asked since I joined the market a decade ago and one I’m sure that was asked many years before,” said LBMA CEO Ruth Crowell.

“Today I’m delighted not only to give a meaningful answer, but also to announce that these numbers will be available monthly from now on. After many years of work, I’m extremely grateful to all the vaults and the members of the market for who have made this day possible. Thank you for all your ongoing support.”

Over $18bn in gold was cleared via London on average each day in March this year, making the capital the biggest gold-trading centre in the world.

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FCA plans certification rollout to all financial services firms

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The Financial Conduct Authority, the City’s regulatory authority, has outlined a proposed expansion of its Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SM&CR).

The proposals will extend the FCA’s rules to all financial services firms, and a consultation period on the 312-page document is open until November. It aims to “reduce harm to consumers and strengthen market integrity by making individuals more accountable for their conduct and competence”, according to the authority.

“Culture and governance in financial services and its impact on consumer outcomes is a priority for the FCA,” explained Jonathan Davidson, Executive Director of Supervision – Retail and Authorisations. “The extension of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime is key to driving forward culture change in firms.

“This is about individuals, not just institutions. The new conduct rules will ensure that individuals in financial services are held to high standards, and that consumers know what is required of the individuals they deal with. The regime will also ensure that senior managers are accountable both for their own actions, and for the actions of staff in the business areas that they lead.”

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Amazon doubles London R&D headcount with new head office

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US multinational online giant Amazon has opened a new head office for its UK operations, in a move that grows its London R&D staff from 450 to 900.

The company has announced that it will take all 15 floors of its new London Development Centre in Shoreditch, taking its London corporate and R&D headcount to over 5,000 across its three facilities. It has invested over £6.4bn in the UK since 2010, and will add 5,000 UK jobs this year as its UK workforce will reach 24,000.

According to its UK country manager, Doug Gurr, “London is one of the world’s truly great cities and home to some of the most talented, creative people on the planet, and we are delighted to provide our teams of innovators with a new, purpose-built workplace.

“While we open a new development centre to house today’s innovators, we also want to help foster the next generation of inventors by funding a million healthy breakfasts to give schoolchildren the fuel to learn, and expand our bursary programme to help more women get university educations for high tech roles.”

The news was also welcomed by Minister for Digital Matt Hancock and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

 

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Premier makes “world-class” oil find off Mexico

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UK independent exploration firm Premier Oil has announced a “world-class oil discovery” off the coast of Mexico.

The find, made with partners Talos Energy and Sierra Oil & Gas, came at the Zama-1 well, the first private offshore exploration well in Mexico’s history. Premier holds a 25% share in Block 7, where the well is located.

“We are delighted to be announcing this significant new oil discovery offshore Mexico,” said CEO Tony Durrant. “We have encountered a very substantial oil bearing interval which indicates over 1 billion barrels of oil in place, a commercial standalone development which adds materially to Premier’s portfolio of assets worldwide”

The find was made in 166 metres (546 feet) of water, around 60 kilometres (37 miles) offshore the industrial port of Dos Bocas.

“It is particularly pleasing that our strategy of focusing our exploration portfolio on high impact opportunities in proven but under-drilled basins has led to this world class discovery with our first well in Mexico,” said Durrant. “The oil discovered in the Zama-1 well is an extremely important event for Premier, the joint venture and for Mexico and we look forward to working with the government and our partners to realise the full potential of this exciting discovery.”

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Pearson sells share of Penguin Random House in $1bn deal

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Media group Pearson has announced the sale of a 22% share in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann.

The deal is expected to close in September and values Penguin Random House at around $3.55bn.

“The transaction is in line with our strategy and allows us to generate net proceeds of approximately $1 billion, strengthen our balance sheet, return £300m of surplus capital to shareholders via a share buyback and maintain a significant income stream from an ongoing 25% stake in the world’s leading consumer publisher,” Pearson said in its announcement.

“Combining Penguin with Random House has proved to be a great publishing success, as well as enabling some big cost savings,” said Pearson CEO John Fallon. “This has benefited readers, authors, and shareholders.

“Today’s deal enables Pearson to realise a significant amount of the value we’ve helped to create whilst continuing to be part of the world’s biggest and best trade publisher. We will use the proceeds to maintain our strong balance sheet, invest in our business and return £300m to shareholders.”

When completed, the deal will see Pearson’s share fall to 25%.

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Carlsberg snaps up London Fields Brewery

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Craft beer brewery London Fields has been bought out by Carlsberg UK and will operate it in a joint venture with New York’s Brooklyn Brewery.

The Hackney-based brewer was founded in 2011 and today’s announcement involves returning brewing to the company’s original north London railway arches home.

“We’re thrilled to add London Fields Brewery to our growing portfolio of great quality craft and specialty beers,” said Julian Momen, CEO of Carlsberg UK. “Our customers, and specifically those in London and other major cities, are looking to us to offer them the best possible range of interesting craft beers – and we think that, with nurturing, London Fields Brewery has huge potential. It’s the right move for us as we build a credible craft portfolio.”

London Fields is responsible for beers such as Craft Lager, Easy IPA and Shoreditch Triangle IPA. These will now become part of Carlsberg’s House of Beers offering alongside Brooklyn’s beers.

As Brooklyn Brewery CEO Eric Ottaway explained, “we’re excited to be able to work closely with this great London-based craft brewery. The range of beers, their eye-catching artwork and the great location of the brewery in Hackney makes for a fantastic platform. London Fields Brewery is surrounded by a thriving creative community that reminds us of home, and we’re looking forward to becoming part of it.”