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Latest financial, market & economic news and analysis from The Guardian
Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2020

 
 
1. ‘Reminds me of vegetable soup’: how does a ?50 cup of coffee taste?Пт, 18 сен[−]

It is the most expensive sold in the UK and served in a goblet, but is this Ethiopian brew worth the hype?

For ?50, you can buy a return flight to Paris from London or Manchester, or a set of Liberty facemasks, or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne.

Or, if you’re feeling really fancy, you could go to Mayfair, and have a cup of coffee. Well, a goblet of it, to be precise.

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2. Troubled test-and-trace system drafts in management consultantsПт, 18 сен[−]

Guardian learns ‘hundreds’ of consultancy staff ‘on standby’ for ‘back-office’ roles with other firms contacted for help

The government is preparing to shore up its ?10bn coronavirus test-and-trace programme by drafting in teams of management consultants.

The programme, where 90% of tests are failing to hit the 24-hour turnaround target, has been touted as a key way in which the country can return to relative normality in the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine and manage any second wave of the virus. However, the system has struggled despite the prime minister pledging earlier this year to create a “world-beating” service. It has been condemned as “barely functional” as it struggles to handle demand of up to four times capacity.

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3. Companies House to verify directors' identities before being listedПт, 18 сен[−]

Move seen as long overdue after complaints of register giving false data credibility

Company directors will have their identities verified before their names are listed on the UK’s official register of company information, as the government attempts to make life harder for financial criminals.

The reforms to procedures at Companies House will look to provide businesses with greater assurance about who they are dealing with, while also improving the ability of law enforcement agencies to trace their activity for suspected fraud or money laundering, the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

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4. UK hospitality and travel shares tumble after hints of second lockdownПт, 18 сен[−]

British Airways owner down 11% as hospitality sector makes grim prediction for pubs and clubs

New “circuit-breaker” restrictions designed to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 in England would have “astronomical” consequences for struggling businesses unless they receive further financial support, the government has been warned.

Boris Johnson is weighing up short-term plans to close pubs and restaurants, while parts of the north of England and the Midlands are already facing 10pm curfews on nightlife and tighter restrictions on socialising from Tuesday.

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5. Medical cannabis companies cleared for London stock marketПт, 18 сен[−]

Regulator agrees to float of UK firms but recreational suppliers still banned

Medicinal cannabis companies have been cleared by the UK’s financial regulator to float on the London Stock Exchange but firms that sell marijuana to recreational users will still be banned.

The Financial Conduct Authority said businesses that grow and sell recreational cannabis, even in countries such as Canada where it is legal, cannot list in London because of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Income from the sale of cannabis and cannabis oil outside the UK could constitute “criminal property” under the act, because it covers conduct abroad that would constitute a crime if it happened in the UK.

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6. It's 'back to the 50s' as day trips replace the UK rail commuteПт, 18 сен[−]

Chair of Network Rail says leisure travel has returned quicker than work travel

Train operators may have to gear up for a 1950s-style future, where the biggest passenger demand is for summer day trips to the seaside rather than the morning commute to the office, industry bosses have suggested, as leisure travel is growing faster than the return to work.

Rail firms have reported far busier weekend services and crowding on coastal routes, while London commuter trains remain largely empty.

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7. MPs to debate Arm Holdings $40bn sale despite Nvidia boss's guaranteesПт, 18 сен[−]

Jensen Huang’s offer of legally binding guarantees to safeguard UK interests fail to allay doubts

MPs are to debate the controversial $40bn (?31bn) sale of the UK’s biggest tech company, Arm Holdings, after assurances from its US buyer failed to quell lingering concern that the deal will harm British interests.

Jensen Huang, the founder and chief executive of California-based tech firm Nvidia, moved to allay fears about the transaction on Friday, publicly declaring himself willing to offer legally binding guarantees on jobs and investment.

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8. Third of Pearson's shareholders vote against CEO's ?7.2m pay packageПт, 18 сен[−]

Former Disney chairman Andy Bird is to take up job at education publishing group in October

Pearson has suffered a significant shareholder revolt against controversial changes to its remuneration policy, which will grant its new chief executive a multimillion-dollar pay package.

Almost a third of investors in the FTSE 100 educational publishing group voted against the plans, which will award a $9.3m (?7.2m) one-off payment to the incoming boss, Andy Bird.

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9. Calls for Covid evictions ban to be extended in England and WalesПт, 18 сен[−]

Fears that end of protection could lead to homelessness and spread of coronavirus

The government is facing calls for a ban on evictions in England and Wales to be extended or made permanent, amid fears it could provoke a surge in homelessness and contribute to a rise in coronavirus infections.

Renters in England and Wales were protected during the Covid-19 crisis by a temporary government ban on landlords evicting tenants, announced in March and extended in June. It was due to end on 23 August, but was extended by a further four weeks until this Sunday, 20 September. Barring any last-minute reprieve, the courts can restart eviction hearings from Monday.

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10. Ryanair to cut one in five October flights due to coronavirus restrictionsПт, 18 сен[−]

Budget airlines blamed Irish and EU governments for ‘excessive and defective’ measures

Ryanair will cut a further one in five of its flights scheduled in October, blaming Irish and EU governments for what it called “excessive and defective” travel restrictions.

The move comes on top of an earlier 20% reduction in flights in September and October, which it announced in August, blaming a drop in bookings and the introduction of fresh quarantine requirements.

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11. Royal Mint to stop production of ?2 and 2p coins due to excess stockПт, 18 сен[−]

Slump in cash use was accelerated by pandemic, with demand falling 71% between March and April

The Royal Mint will not produce any new ?2 or 2p coins for at least a decade, as its stocks remain high because of the slump in use of cash, a trend that has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rapid decline in demand for coins has left the Mint, which has been producing coins in Britain for more than 1,000 years, with a mountain of excess stock.

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12. Skipton's 1.2% 'best-buy' savings account sells out in three daysПт, 18 сен[−]

Building society deluged with customers looking for best returns on their deposits

A market-leading savings account sold out in less than three days this week as savers rushed to get the best return they could on their deposits.

Skipton building society said thousands had applied for its online bonus saver account, which offered a rate of 1.2%, including a 0.5% bonus for the first 12 months.

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13. Homes for sale with a thatched roof – in picturesПт, 18 сен[−]

From a grand manor house to a romantic little coastal cottage

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14. Wikipedia edits have massive impact on tourism, say economistsПт, 18 сен[−]

Adding a few paragraphs and photos can boost revenue by ?100,000 for small cities

Forget glossy travel brochures and whizzy online sites; one of the most cost-effective ways tourism chiefs can drive business to their towns or cities is by updating their Wikipedia page.

An experiment by economists at the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy, and ZEW in Mannheim, Germany, found that a few simple edits to a Wikipedia page could lead to an extra ?100,000 a year in tourism revenue for a small city, underscoring the power of the free online encyclopaedia.

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15. Queen's property drops in value by ?500m after rental receipts declineПт, 18 сен[−]

Coronavirus forces Crown Estate revaluation as retailers and tenants struggle to make payments

The value of the Queen’s land and property has been written down by more than ?500m following a steep fall in rental receipts from shops.

The Crown Estate encompasses London’s Regent Street and St James’s as well as malls and retail parks around the country, alongside the rights to seabeds around the British Isles. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to consider the value of its holdings as retailers and office tenants struggle to make rental payments.

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16. John Lewis's problems are fixable, but partners will need patienceЧт, 17 сен[−]

Though a sense of urgency is what the department store group badly needs, four main worries linger

Back in the 1990s, there was a live debate within the John Lewis Partnership about whether to throw in the towel on employee ownership and join the demutualisation fad that infected (and ruined) too many building societies.

So crises at JLP need to be seen in perspective. Employee ownership is safe and today’s boardroom is not in despair. All the same, the first non-payment of a bonus to staff since 1953, plus a thumping ?470m property writedown, says this crisis is a bad one. And it arrived well before Covid-19.

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17. Help – my new home still seems to be listed on AirbnbЧт, 17 сен[−]

The people I bought from said they’d delisted, but I’m getting guests expecting to stay

I bought my flat in August 2019. The previous owners had listed it on Airbnb before it was sold. The listing is still live on Airbnb and I’m hitting a brick wall trying to get it taken down. The previous owners say that, as far as they are concerned, they have delisted it and believe it is no longer their problem. Airbnb take weeks to reply, and just tell me not to let anyone in.
LB, Manchester

You are unlikely to be the only home owner to fear unwanted guests. Only Airbnb account holders can remove a property they have listed and there must be a fair few who forget to do so when selling up. You’d think, therefore, that Airbnb had a process for this situation.

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18. Hitachi’s 'disappointing' exit from Wylfa nuclear deal is no great lossСр, 16 сен[−]

Even government experts were not banging the drum for new fleets of giant power plants

The government officially regards it as “disappointing” that Hitachi has pulled out of building a nuclear plant at Wylfa. Why? Well, the loss of potential jobs in north Wales must be acknowledged. But, from the point of view of meeting the nation’s energy needs, there is no reason to be disappointed.

Hitachi had been wobbly on Wylfa for the past two years anyway, despite being offered generous-looking terms. More to the point, the government’s experts – the National Infrastructure Commission – are not banging the drum for new fleets of giant nuclear power stations.

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19. NHS nurse caught in a scam, but Halifax won't pay outСр, 16 сен[−]

The caller had all my details and I checked their phone number, but Halifax said I was negligent

I am an NHS intensive care nurse and have recently lost my entire life savings in a scam. I was phoned following a night shift from the telephone number of my bank, Halifax, which is printed on the back of my bank card. I checked this at the time of the call. The caller knew my account details and I was informed there had been suspicious activity on the card and that a payment of ?7,000 was due to come out of my Isa savings account.

The scammer then advised that a new Isa account should be set up to protect my savings. I was told that due to Covid-19 this would have to be done online, rather than in my local branch. I was talked through the process and ?12,000 was moved to a new account which had the same sort code as my own. I got a text from Halifax saying the name on the new account did not match the payee name I had entered, but the scammer said this was because it was a new account. Halifax told me I will not be receiving any money back as they considered I had been negligent.
BT, London

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20. We must use the Covid crisis to reshape our society and economy | Mohamed El-ErianСр, 16 сен[−]

Policymakers must seize on progress in medical innovation, the environment, work and elsewhere

The human tragedies and massive economic disruptions caused by Covid-19 have rightly commanded the attention of the public and policymakers for more than six months, and should continue to do so. But in managing the immediate crisis, we must not lose sight of the opportunities. The oft-quoted line about not letting a crisis go to waste has rarely been more relevant.

For companies, governments, households, and multilateral institutions navigating this unsettling period, the basic task is the same: to overcome pandemic-induced disruptions in ways that also emphasise the silver linings of the crisis. Now is the time to look to lock in trends and conditions that will reshape our society and economy for the better over the long term. With this overarching objective in mind, here are the top six silver linings that I see.

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21. This time the insurance industry lost after reading the small print | Nils PratleyВт, 15 сен[−]

The FCA won a significant legal victory on insurance payouts to small firms hit by Covid-19

When can one say a notifiable disease has occurred within a “vicinity” if the whole country is in lockdown? For fans of dense legal disputes, the high court’s judgment in the big Covid-19 business interruption insurance case offered hours of rhetorical fun. For non-fans, here’s a summary: the insurance industry quibbled over the small print in policies and thus reinforced every damning caricature of its way of working.

Not in every case, to be clear. As might be expected when the court was considering 21 sample wordings in policies, there were differences and nuances; individual firms even won on a few examples. But, taken as whole, the industry looks grubby.

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22. Energy bills could increase to cover coronavirus defaultsВт, 15 сен[−]

Regulator considers raising cap to use paying customers to subsidise others

The energy regulator is considering raising gas and electricity bills for 11 million households to help supply companies survive an expected sharp rise in customer debt.

The regulator said it might allow energy suppliers to charge their customers on the default standard variable energy tariff more than usual, after energy companies said they faced serious financial impacts if customers were unable to pay their bills because of the fallout of Covid-19.

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23. Women lose court of appeal challenge against UK pension changeВт, 15 сен[−]

Judges rule that raising state pension age did not amount to unlawful discrimination

Increasing the age at which women born in the UK in the 1950s are entitled to receive their state pension to 66 is lawful, the court of appeal has ruled.

The unanimous judgment is a major setback for campaigners who have argued that the government’s changes will be a “disaster” for those on lower incomes.

Having lost in the high court, the two claimants, Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63, had appealed to the higher court.

In their decision on Tuesday, however, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Underhill and Lady Justice Rose said that adopting the same state pension age for men and women did not amount to unlawful discrimination under either EU law or the European convention on human rights.

“There is no basis for impugning the [high court’s] conclusion that the legislation equalising and then raising the state pension age was justified,” the judges said. “The [high court was] right to approach the issue on the basis that this legislation operates in a field of macro-economic policy where the decision-making power of parliament is very great.”

State pensions were introduced in 1909 with the same eligibility age for everyone. In 1940, the age of entitlement was reduced only for women, from 65 to 60.

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24. It's worth booking travel direct: a lesson from the Covid crisisВт, 15 сен[−]

When things go wrong, it’s easier to get a refund if you go straight to the airline or hotel

Last January we used our local Flight Centre travel agent to book what we hoped would be the holiday of a lifetime – a ?5,790 15-day cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam in May.

Of course this didn’t happen and, at the end of March, Flight Centre informed us the trip was cancelled. We requested a refund, and while we were sympathetic to the difficulties caused by Covid-19, and expected to wait some time, this is still dragging on.

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