Top 10 Stories of the Week! 28/03/16

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page for regular posts of important headlines. Click on the links for full stories.

Opinion articles of the week:

The Uber Chief Executive says the taxi-hailing company is a long way off a floatation. Click here to find out why he thinks this would be the wrong decision.

The Economist claims that oil prices will not rise anytime soon so Gulf States must work quickly if they are to cope with low oil prices in the long term. Click here for more information.

How would Premier League teams be affected if Britain left the EU? Click here for more.

 

1. NATIONAL LIVING WAGE

The new national living wage came into force on the 1st of April. The new mandatory National Living Wage (NLW) has come into force, requiring employers to pay workers aged 25 and over at least £7.20 an hour. It is expected to give 1.8 million workers an immediate pay rise.

The policy was announced in last summer’s Budget by Chancellor George Osborne, in an effort to create a higher-wage, lower-welfare economy. Workers aged 21 to 24 will continue to be paid the National Minimum Wage of £6.70 an hour. (BBC News)

Click here for a short 90 second video explaining the living wage and who it benefits.

Click here for the Financial Times’ analysis on the Living Wage.

2. FBI APPLE DISPUTE

The FBI has managed to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s help, ending a court case, the US justice department says. Apple had been resisting a court order issued last month requiring the firm to write new software to allow officials to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone. But last week officials said that it had been accessed independently and asked for the order to be withdrawn.

Farook and his wife killed 14 in San Bernardino, California, in December. They were later shot dead by police. The FBI said it needed access to the phone’s data to determine if the attackers worked with others, were targeting others and were supported by others. US officials said Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State on social media on the day of the shooting. (BBC News)

3. TATA STEEL

Failure to find a buyer for Tata Steel’s UK business could lead to 40,000 job losses in Britain, a leading think tank said today.

The IPPR warned the total figure was likely to be higher, when reduced spending from unemployed workers hits demand in local economies. This could result in more business closures and job losses outside of the steel sector.

The think tank said that Tata’s UK business employs 15,000 people, and it estimates a further 25,000 jobs in the supply chain depend the company’s steel plants. However, it did say some supply chain job losses were likely to be outside of the UK.

It cames after Tata confirmed overnight plans to sell off its UK assets, putting the UK steel sector in its death throes. The government is worried Tata could seek to close the plant within weeks if a buyer is not found. (City A.M)

The business secretary will attempt to reassure 4,000 employees at the Port Talbot plant, despite a warning by David Cameron that the global collapse in the price of steel and massive overcapacity meant there was “no guarantee of success”.

It is understood that senior Whitehall officials have contacted Liberty House, a steels and metals group with an annual turnover of close to £5bn, which is in the process of buying sites in Scotland. Private equity companies, which would be likely to undertake radical cost-cutting steps, are also being approached. (The Guardian)

Britain used to produce half of the world’s steel and it soon may produce none. Have a look at Bloomberg’s analysis of the issues facing the steel industry.

4. SAINSBURY’S WINS ARGOS BID

Home Retail Group PLC said it will recommend J Sainsbury PLC’s £1.4 billion ($2.01 billion) takeover of the company, ending a four-month-long battle to buy the Argos owner.

Sainsbury’s said Home Retail directors unanimously recommend its offer, which will be made through a court-sanctioned scheme of arrangement and is expected to complete in the third quarter of this year. The deal still needs approval from the court, Home Retail shareholders and regulators.

The deal was nearly scuppered when South African retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV made a competing offer of 175 pence a share. It subsequently pulled out and bought London-listed, France-focused consumer electronics retailer Darty PLC for £673 million. (Wall Street Journal)

5. BAR STANDARDS BOARD GAINS APPROVAL TO LICENSE ABS’

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) application to become a licensing authority for alternative business structures (ABS). An ABS, which was introduced under the Legal Services Act 2007, allows non-lawyers to own and invest in law firms. The first ABS licence was issued in 2011 by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

However, before the BSB can start handing out ABS licences, the Lord Chancellor has to approve the designation and further legislation must be put into place. The BSB hopes to formally begin its ABS application process by October this year but will issue further information about the timeframe in due course.

Last year was something of a mixed bag for the world of ABSs. While the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales granted its 100th such licence to Essex-based firm Tiffin Green, Parabis Group found itself plonked into a pre-pack administration. (City A.M)

6. CHINA’S ANBANG ABANDONS $14 BILLION BID TO BUY STARWOOD HOTELS

China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co said it has abandoned its $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, paving the way for Marriott International Inc to buy the Sheraton and Westin hotels operator.

The surprise withdrawal marks an anticlimactic end to a bidding war that had pitted Marriott’s ambitions to create the world’s largest lodging company, with about 5,700 hotels, against Anbang’s drive to create a vast portfolio of U.S. real estate assets. It also represents a blow to corporate China’s growing ambitions to acquire U.S. assets. Anbang’s acquisition of Starwood would have been the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese buyer.

Anbang did not offer Starwood a reason for not following through on its raised offer of March 26, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified disclosing confidential discussions.

Starwood said on Monday that Anbang had raised its offer to almost $14 billion. Anbang had been expected to firm up that non-binding offer, so that Starwood would formally declare it superior to Marriott’s. Anbang had already made a $13.2 billion binding and fully financed offer earlier this month, which Starwood accepted as superior. Had Marriott not counterbid on March 21, Starwood would have proceeded with the earlier Anbang offer. (Reuters)

7. BOEING JOB CUTS

The world’s largest plane manufacturer Boeing plans to cut more than 4,500 jobs by the middle of the year to reduce costs. A company spokesman said about 1,600 positions will go through voluntary redundancies while the rest will take place through attrition.

Most redundancies are set to come from its commercial aircraft division as customers cut back on orders. Hundreds of executives and managers are also expected to lose their jobs.

The cuts account for almost 3% of Boeing’s workforce, which comprised 161,000 people at the end of last year. (BBC News)

8. COOPERATIVE BANK LOSSES

Co-operative Bank’s annual pre-tax losses have more than doubled to £610m, up from £264m in 2014. Conduct and legal risk charges increased to £193m, because of higher provisions for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance.

The bank almost collapsed in 2013, after bad property loans contributed to a £1.5bn hole in its finances. It said it had improved its balance sheet and reduced its operating costs through 58 branch closures and staff cuts. (BBC News)

9. MR KIPLING MERGER OFFER

Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods has received a new offer from Schwartz spice maker McCormick & Co. Premier said the third approach from the US firm “continues to undervalue” the business and its prospects – though indicated that it was “prepared for meetings to take place” to see whether it is prepared to improve the offer further.

The latest proposal of 65p per share is an increase on previously rejected offers of 52p and 60p for Premier – whose brands also include Bisto, Homepride, Oxo and Sharwood’s. In another twist to the takeover saga, Premier revealed last week that Japanese noodle giant Nissin Foods had taken a 17% stake in the business at 63p per share, as part of an international cooperation deal.

McCormick’s latest offer values Premier’s shares at £537m. It said that including debt and future pension liabilities the proposal represented an enterprise value of £1.5bn. Shares rose 7%. The approach values the stock at about double its closing price on 23 March when the initial proposals were first made public. (Sky News)

10. PET INSURANCE

Pet insurers paid out a record £657m in claims last year – equivalent to £1.8m every day – according to new figures. The number of claims, at 911,000, was up 9% compared to the previous year while the total cost was also up 9%. Both were record levels. An average claim was for £721 in 2015 with the average premium at £241, according to the figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

Dogs had the biggest share of claims, with 686,000 made costing £501m, while cats were behind 193,000 claims, worth £105m.But the ABI said most pet owners remained uninsured.

Only one in four of the nine million dog owners and one in seven of the eight million cat owners were thought to have pet insurance. The ABI said some of the more unusual pet insurance claims handled included the removal of a sock eaten by a dog, and treatment costing nearly £2,000 for a cat which fell from a fourth floor window. (Sky News)

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