Ouch! Shares in AA have plunged by a quarter this morning to a fresh record low, after the company cut its profit forecasts and outlined a new strategy.
The strategic plan I am setting out today will unlock the full potential of the AA by delivering targeted and strategic investment in our people, our products, our systems and operations. We are building on the solid foundation that our investments since the IPO have created.
It will take the AA from a company helping when you break down to one actually predicting when you might break down in the first place. This plan will deliver front line resource to improve the efficiency, predictability and resilience of our operations as well as investment in game-changing growth drivers - in Connected Car and Insurance. These investments, while reducing our short term profitability, are vital to our long term success.
Britain’s biggest housebuilder could make construction blocks domestically as Brexit looms
Britain’s biggest housebuilder Barratt Developments is considering moving production of blocks used in construction from Germany to Britain, an example of steps some businesses are taking to mitigate against any risk from Brexit.
London and Brussels hope to agree a deal this month which will protect free trade, including the movement of goods, between Britain and the European Union until 2020 but many firms are developing contingency plans.
Bank hails ‘landmark year’ as it reports 24% rise in profits and return to strong capital position
Lloyds Banking Group posted sharply higher profits for 2017 and will hand ?1bn to shareholders after a “landmark year” that saw the high street lender return to private ownership after its taxpayer bailout in 2008.
The bank reported a 24% increase in pre-tax profit to ?5.3bn last year, and said its strong capital position would allow the ?1bn share buyback, worth up to 1.4p per share.
The manufacturer repaired our machine with the promise there was no further risk
We own a Hotpoint tumble dryer (bought February 2014 for ?399) which was subject to the Whirlpool/Hotpoint recall/repair programme. Ours was repaired in 2016 and we believed this ensured there was no further fire risk. But in early February this year – a few seconds after switching it on – it caught fire. The cause was a build-up of fluff and lint on the heating element. We would consider ourselves reasonably diligent regarding cleaning and maintaining the filter, yet it clearly wasn’t sufficient.
I have been liaising with John Lewis, which provided the warranty, to get the device inspected. I have also written to my local MP, asking him to bring this to the attention of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee which took evidence on this matter, and a possible link between cuts to a Trading Standards budget and the agreed course of action for Hotpoint. Most worryingly, Trading Standards and Hotpoint claim the agreed modification makes the appliance safe.
The Bank of England’s chief cashier, Victoria Cleland, on why people still like cash
It is perhaps not entirely surprising to learn that the woman whose signature adorns Bank of England banknotes is a big fan of cash. She does not use contactless payment cards for personal spending – not least because she is yet to trust the technology completely.
Victoria Cleland, the Bank’s chief cashier, says she habitually reaches for notes and coins when she makes small purchases. But she may now be in a minority.
Bosses from British Airways, Virgin and easyJet urge MPs to secure pledge on cost before vote
The true cost of Heathrow expansion is likely to be “grossly” higher than the ?14.3bn the airport has cited, airlines have told MPs, adding that transparency and guarantees should be supplied ahead of a crucial vote.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, British Airways’ parent company and the main operator at Heathrow, said parliament should not trust Heathrow and said he had “zero confidence” that a third runway would be delivered on time and budget.
Charles Randell tells MPs he repaid HMRC more than ?100,000 after Ingenious investment
The incoming chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority has admitted to an “error of judgment” after investing in a controversial tax avoidance scheme that resulted in him repaying more than ?100,000 to the taxman.
GMB union says it expressed doubts about DHL’s ability to run operation from single warehouse
KFC was warned it would face delivery problems months ago, it has been claimed, as the company tries to grapple with a worsening chicken supply crisis that has forced almost half of its outlets to remain closed.
The fast food chain said it expected disruption to some restaurants to continue for the rest of the week “meaning some will be closed and others operating with a reduced menu or shortened hours”.
Treasury committee releases details of ‘widespread inappropriate treatment’ that City watchdog refused to make public
The Treasury committee has published the full unredacted report into Royal Bank of Scotland’s “disgraceful” treatment of struggling small businesses that came to it for financial assistance in the wake of the banking crisis.
The influential group of MPs, chaired by Nicky Morgan, released the complete report after a protracted stand-off with City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which had published only a redacted version.
A ?6.2m fine for William Hill shows admirable determination to enforce the commission’s objectives, but more should be done for those unfairly restricted by bookies
There was further evidence this morning that the Gambling Commission takes at least some of its objectives seriously, when it issued a ?6.2m fine to William Hill for breaches of regulations to prevent money laundering and ensure that “children and other vulnerable people”, such as problem gamblers, are “protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling”.
An investigation found that 10 customers of the firm had been allowed to deposit significant sums of money linked to criminal offences, including one customer who was stealing from their employer to fund a gambling problem and another who was defrauding elderly victims to do the same. Hills made ?1.2m from its failure to ensure that its systems and staffing were adequate to respond to repeated alerts with regard to activity on the accounts, which will now be returned to the victims of the crimes where possible.
Tycoon makes offers to allay media monopoly fears and ease through 21st Century Fox deal
Rupert Murdoch has doubled the length of time he is willing to keep running Sky News to “at least” 10 years, as 21st Century Fox sweetens its offer to protect the news channel to gain clearance for the ?11.7bn takeover of Sky.
Ruling in Pimlico Plumbers case will set precedent for other gig economy disputes such as Uber
The predicament of a plumber who claims he was dismissed because he wanted to go part time is being examined by the supreme court in a test case that could decide employment rights for all of those in the so-called “gig” economy.
Pimlico Plumbers, which has lost at every stage of the legal dispute, has appealed to the UK’s highest court to argue that those it sends out to repair leaking pipes and malfunctioning dishwashers are self-employed and not “workers”.
Telecom hopes to track drones too small for radar just as air-traffic control tracks planes
Vodafone is testing technology to track and control drones to let authorities protect aircraft from accidents and terrorist attacks and stop incursions into “no-fly zones” such as prison and hospital airspace.
The trial comes amid mounting concern from the security services that terrorists could use drones adapted to carry small but lethal explosives to attack targets. Drones have been used for criminal purposes, such as smuggling and delivering contraband to prisoners.
Firm handed big fine over failure to spot problem gambling and prevent money laundering
Betting group William Hill has been fined ?6.2m by the gambling industry regulator for failing to protect consumers and prevent money laundering.
The Gambling Commission said that over the two years to August 2016, the company failed to spot obvious signs of problem gambling, and in doing so breached anti-money laundering and social responsibility regulations.
Despite its image as a paradise of fairness, women earn less than men. Now Iceland has become the first country in the world to enforce equal pay
On the face of it, Iceland is a good place to be a woman. For nearly a decade, it has been rated the world’s most gender-equal country. It was the first to directly elect a female president, nearly half its MPs and company directors are women, and first-class daycare and parental leave help ensure almost four in five women have jobs.
So it came as a shock for Fr??a R?s Valdimarsd?ttir to learn, when she was managing a key team of 10 home carers at Reykjavik council a few years ago, that male colleagues in other departments, with far fewer responsibilities than her, were being paid a great deal more.
Shopper thought they were buying beef and it was against their religion to eat pork
My partner bought what he thought were 12 Angus beef sausages from Waitrose just before Christmas but when he opened the packet there were only six. He cooked four which I thought were a bit spicy but ok, and he said he would return the other two as they didn’t match the packet description. When I looked at the receipt it said six pork chorizo sausages and I was horrified as (for religious reasons) I don’t eat pork.
He took what was left – and the receipt – to Waitrose which kept the package (specifying no pork ingredients) and said they would investigate. They offered a replacement, which he declined, and a voucher for ?10 or ?20 from head office, also refused. Correspondence suggests they are not taking it very seriously. We have been loyal customers for many years and are shocked they are treating this so lightly.
Regulator had front-row seat but failed to use powers to intervene before firm went bust
Frank Field is right to castigate the directors of Carillion for being “contemptuous” of their obligations to the company’s pensioners. The picture of what happened in the pre-crash years is now reasonably clear: the directors, even as they were raising the dividend to shareholders year after year, made a corporate plea of poverty when talking to the pension trustees. The decision-making and the skewing of priorities were appalling.
The deeper scandal, however, may be the fact that the Pensions Regulator had a front-row seat at the developing debacle and didn’t once deploy its formal powers of intervention. The regulator’s officials attended meetings between the company and the pension trustees but were not shocked into formal action until Carillion went bust, by which time there was no money left.
Administration comes weeks after firm halted production due to food standards scare
More than 260 workers have lost their jobs at the meat supplier Russell Hume, which has collapsed into administration just weeks after production was suspended following a food standards scare.
Administrators announced 266 redundancies on Monday from the 302 employees at the company, which has its headquarters in Derby and operates from six production sites in Liverpool, Birmingham, London, Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, Exeter and Fife.
Notes and coins set to fall to just 21% of sales by 2026, raising questions for those who rely on the cash economy
Britain will move beyond “peak cash” this year, according to data gathered by the Guardian that suggests notes and coins are rapidly being supplanted as the favoured payment method, particularly in cities.
Debit cards are set to overtake cash as the most frequently used payment method in the UK later this year, according to UK Finance, which represents leading finance and banking firms.
Resolution Foundation says young Britons have suffered biggest reversal in fortunes save for young Greeks
Britain’s millennial generation, born since 1981, have suffered a bigger reversal in financial fortunes than their counterparts in most other developed countries except Greece, according to a study.
The report by the Resolution Foundation paints a gloomy picture for all young adults across the developed world – apart from the Nordic countries. It highlights how incomes are depressed, jobs scarce and home ownership is slumping for the millennial generation compared with the baby boomers that preceded them.
Weak dollar and rising prices in Spain mean it can be worth going the extra mile to get good value
Flying long haul would barely enter the thinking of many families planning their annual holiday, with the perceived cost ruling out many destinations before the search had even begun. However, this year a series of colliding events, including a weak dollar, greedy Spanish hoteliers and competition for tourists in the Middle East, means it can be cheaper to go to Florida, Dubai or Thailand than to spend a traditional two weeks on the Costa del Sol.
Research from price comparison site TravelSupermarket has shown that some long-haul destinations cost significantly less to fly to and stay in than Spain, where British tourists make up the largest number of foreign visitors every year.
I didn’t know I had to give my car registration, and ended up with a parking charge notice
I called into my local East of England Co-op branch (in Leiston, East Suffolk) in January just before 6pm. It was dark and I parked in the middle – not on the edge –of its car park and saw no signs (though I was later told by staff there were 30!) so I didn’t realise there was a new system. When I went through checkout no one mentioned having to tap the number of your car registration plate into a machine. Considering the parking is free, this is most unusual. The next thing I knew, a PCN (Parking Charge Notice) landed, which had been issued two days later. I filed an appeal online, including a copy of my bank statement showing my purchase of ?20.17 at the Co-op, and received confirmation. To date I have heard nothing. To add insult to injury, it said that if the penalty is paid within 14 days the amount is reduced to ?60, otherwise it is ?100. So much for “free parking”.
Concern for vulnerable grows as those on lifeline benefit face ‘second mortgage’
Last May, James Martin* decided to give up work and look after his mother full time after she was diagnosed with cancer. A few months later, his father suffered a stroke, leaving the 49-year-old as the main carer for both parents. With income support and carer’s allowance, he receives ?108 a week, meaning that the chances of paying his mortgage every month is remote. There is some relief, in that he receives the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) benefit, a payment which has been in place for the last 70 years to help financially constrained homeowners with their repayments.
From April, however, it will stop and be replaced by a new “second mortgage” scheme where the government offers to loan people the money, which will then be repaid later.
Rightmove reports busiest ever month and optimistic pricing but property is taking longer to sell
The average price of a UK property coming on to the market has risen by more than ?2,400 in a month to just over ?300,000 amid evidence of “record” levels of house-hunting activity, according to Rightmove.
The website, which tracks 90% of the UK property market, said the national average asking price for a home had increased by 0.8% during the past month, following the 0.7% rise it reported in mid-January.
Group with 67 restaurants and 1,800 employees in UK reaches agreement with creditors
The troubled burger chain Byron is to close up to 20 restaurants, nearly a third of its outlets, after a rescue plan was agreed.
The restructuring, known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), was agreed on Wednesday by the group’s creditors and also involves reducing rents by a third at five sites. Rent will be cut by 55% at 20 sites for six months while Byron negotiates their future, but most of them are expected to close.
In the first few months of the year we try to enact new resolutions and seek personal improvement. But it’s also a good time to extend such commitments to your startup, too
Every January, once we’ve polished off the leftovers and taken out the mountain of recycling, we get the symbolic opportunity to start afresh. We make plans, resolve to quit bad habits and promise to become our best selves. According to a ComRes poll [pdf], the most common resolutions are health-related – to exercise more, lose weight and eat more healthily. Many also use the festive period to deliberate more momentous topics, such as their careers and relationships. But can all this be done in business too? In short, yes.
From mealworms and buffalo worms to crickets and grasshoppers, insects have become something of a food trend in the UK, with many now enjoying them as the tasty and sustainable food source they are.
Eat Grub is one of the successful businesses helping to bring edible insects to the masses, selling snacks such as sweet chilli and lime crunchy roasted crickets and cricket-powered energy bars. Rhik Samadder met up with its co-founders, Shami Radia and Neil Whippey, to find out how they are growing their insect snacks business with Facebook
The UK is a nation of inventors and entrepreneurs, with 75 new companies launched every hour. But don’t assume this is London-centric – regional clusters of activity are thriving too
The High Growth Small Business urban hub league table says that three out of every five high-growth small businesses are located outside of London and the south-east of England. Not only that, they’re responsible for creating one in three new jobs – that’s up to three times the number created by FTSE 100 companies. According to an Informi study from 2016, London isn’t even the best city in the UK to start a business. Instead, it comes in eighth.
Choosing the right place to launch can be crucial to a startup’s success and survival. With almost a third (31%) of firms expecting their performance to worsen over the next three months, strong local support – particularly for digital businesses – will be key. So, where is ideal place to launch? Brighton, Cambridge, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh are all leading the charge, from sky-high survival rates to local digital industries worth billions.