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Lidl leapfrogs Waitrose in UK supermarket league

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Lidl has beaten Waitrose into seventh place in the UK supermarket rankings, dominated as usual by Tesco.

The German discounter has achieved 5.2% of the Kantar Worldpanel market share, up from 4.5% this time last year – beating Waitrose, which remained static on 5.1%. The latest rankings are:

  1. Tesco
  2. Sainsbury’s
  3. Asda
  4. Morrisons
  5. Aldi
  6. The Co-operative
  7. Lidl
  8. Waitrose
  9. Iceland
  10. Ocado

“There is good news for the UK’s largest retailers, as the recovery which has so far defined 2017 continues apace,” explained Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel. “All four of Britain’s biggest grocers managed to grow sales for the fifth consecutive period, a run of collective success not seen since 2013.

“However, this welcome period of sustained growth hasn’t been enough to entirely offset pressure from the discounters: the big four now account for just 69.3% of the UK grocery market – down from 76.3% five years ago – and that looks set to fall further in the coming months.”

The latest data covers a 12-week period ending 13 August, with 10 million households visiting Lidl to stock up on alcohol and fresh produce in particular.

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Unemployment and zero-hour contracts down in latest jobs data

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The UK employment rate is at its highest level since comparable records began in 1971, according to the latest data released by the Office of National Statistics today.

The ONS also revealed that 20,000 fewer people are on zero-hour contracts compared to this time last year, with 883,000 depending on zero-hour employment for their main income.

“Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that, between January to March 2017 and April to June 2017, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people fell, and the number of people aged from 16 to 64 not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) also fell,” the ONS said.

The employment rate is at 75.1% and the unemployment rate is now 4.4%, down from 4.9% last year and the lowest since 1975.

“Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in nominal terms (that is, not adjusted for price inflation) increased by 2.1%, both including and excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier,” the data revealed.

There are now 32.07m people at work in the UK, 125,000 more than in the first three months of the year and 338,000 more than this time last year.

 

 

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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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Inflation at 2.6% as Bank of England leaves rates untouched

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The Bank of England has decided to leave interest rates at 0.25% in a 6-2 split decision, and announced that inflation is at 2.6% for June, up from 2.3% in March.

Governor Mark Carney also outlined an analysis of Brexit and options available to the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). “The UK economy is beginning the process of adjusting to a new, as yet uncertain, economic relationship with the European Union,” he said today.

“Monetary policy cannot prevent the weaker real incomes likely to accompany the move to new trading arrangements with the EU, but it can influence how this hit to incomes is distributed between job losses and price rises. And it can support UK households and businesses as they adjust to such profound change.”

Carney also said that markets, households and businesses reacted in different ways to the referendum outcome, with markets expecting poorer UK economic performance, households being slow to react but eventually slowing their spending, and businesses investing “less aggressively”.

“In the MPC’s central projection, GDP growth remains sluggish in the near term as the squeeze on households’ real incomes continues to weigh on consumption,” he said. “Growth then picks up to just above its reduced – or modest – potential rate as net trade and business investment firm up and consumption growth gradually recovers in line with modestly rising household incomes.”

The MPC expects inflation to peak around 3% in October and to remain around 2.75% until early next year, Carney also predicted.

“Conditional on the current market curve, which implies that bank rate will rise by half a percentage point over the next three years, inflation is projected to remain a little above the target at the end of the forecast period – an overshoot that reflects entirely the effects of the referendum-related fall in sterling.”

 

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GDP growth and interest-rate rise predicted amid positive UK forecast

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GDP growth of almost 2%, an interest rate hike in Q1 2018 and inflation easing to 2% in 2019 are all part of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research’s latest forecast for the UK economy.

Predicting 1.7% GDP growth this year and 1.9% in 2018, the NIESR has brought forward its prediction of an interest rate increase from Q2 2019 to Q1 2018, a “modest withdrawal of some of the additional stimulus that was injected into the economy after the 2016 EU referendum,” it said. The think tank also predicted an elimination of the fiscal deficit in 2022, and a peaking of debt to ration in 2018/19.

“The economy has slowed each year since 2014 and according to our forecast, 2017 will mark the trough for GDP growth,” it said in its analysis. Thereafter, we envisage a modest recovery that takes economic growth to a level that is close to potential.”

It also described movement in the UK’s labour market as “puzzling”, with employment growing, unemployment dropping and wage growth remaining “muted”.

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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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Sports Direct profits slashed as Ashley promises ‘Selfridges of sport’

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Sports Direct has reported a 58.7% drop in profits before tax, with founder and CEO Mike Ashley blaming a weak pound sterling.

The news came amid the retailer’s preliminary results for the year ended April 30th, and also saw group revenue rise by 11.7%. Net debt rose to £182.1m, up from £99.7m in the previous year.

“Sports Direct is on course to become the ‘Selfridges’ of sport by migrating to a new generation of stores to showcase the very best products from our third-party brand partners,” said Ashley. “We have invested over £300m in property over the last year, and I am pleased to report that early indications show that trading in our new flagship stores is exceeding expectations.

“We will continue to invest and make decisions for the long term, whilst trying to conservatively manage the currency volatility that is reflected in our full year results. As previously announced, the devaluation of sterling against the US dollar has led to a significant impact on EBITDA and profits in FY17. We have put in place hedging arrangements to minimise the short-term impact of currency volatility, but like many UK retailers we remain exposed to medium/long term currency fluctuations. Our results were also impacted by provisions and depreciation charges.

“I would like to thank all our people at Sports Direct for ensuring that we continue to move forward together whilst elevating our retail proposition.”

The group has spent much of the year in the headlines for its treatment of workers and Ashley’s colourful conduct as reported in recent High Court proceedings.