Top 10 Stories of the Week! 01/08/16

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

Opinion articles of the week:

Patents don’t spur innovation. Should we abolish them? Click here for more information.

A new report claims that UK heading for new financial crisis ‘on grander scale than 2008’. Click here for more.

Analysts believe energy may soon become free thanks to renewable energies and big data. Click here for more information.

 

1. UK INTEREST RATES CUT TO 0.25%

UK interest rates have been cut from 0.5% to 0.25% – a record low and the first cut since 2009.

The Bank of England has also signalled that rates could go lower if the economy worsens.

The Bank announced additional measures to stimulate the UK economy, including a £100bn scheme to force banks to pass on the low interest rate to households and businesses.

It will also buy £60bn of UK government bonds and £10bn of corporate bonds. (BBC News)

Bloomberg however said that the impact of the decision was not significantly damaging to the strength of pound as it fell minimally against the dollar. (Bloomberg)

Will the cut in interest rates succeed in stimulating the economy? Click here for the debate.

2. RBS ANNOUNCES £2BN LOSS

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has reported a $2.7 billion (£2.05 billion) net loss for the first six months of 2016. The bank’s stock fell over six percent during Friday’s trading in London.

The state-backed lender was severely hampered by a number of litigations connected to payment protection insurance (PPI) claims as well as massive restructuring costs. The high costs have led to the bank’s ninth straight annual loss.

RBS spent $1.7 billion (£1.28 billion) to cover expenses for the miss-selling of PPI, as well as investor litigation arising from a 2008 share sale, and a probe into mortgages whose interest rates tracked other indicators such as the inflation rate.

The bank’s losses, increased from $235 million (£179 million) last year, and mirror the impact of its $1.6 billion (£1.2 billion) payment to the Treasury to buy back a part of its $59 billion (£45 billion) bailout. (RT)

Santander is now reportedly in talks to buy RBS unit Williams & Glyn (The Independent).

3. $35 BILLION UBER MERGER IN CHINA

After a bruising two-year battle, ride-hailing firm Uber is selling its China operations to bigger local rival Didi Chuxing in a deal that will give Uber a one-fifth stake in Didi.

The merged entity is worth around $35 billion – combining Didi’s most recent $28 billion valuation and Uber China’s $7 billion worth – said a source familiar with the matter who did not want to be named before the deal was made public.

In a posting on Uber’s website, CEO Travis Kalanick said San Francisco-based Uber Technologies would have a one-fifth stake in Didi, making it the Chinese firm’s biggest shareholder. Kalanick will join Didi’s board, with Didi Chuxing chief Cheng Wei joining the Uber board.

China has been a challenging market for Uber, which has spent billions of dollars in a price war with Didi. Both firms spent heavily to attract riders with discounts and both also raised billions in recent fundraisings. Uber is profitable in the United States, Canada and about 100 other cities.

He said Uber was operating in more than 60 cities in China and “doing more than 150 million trips a month.” Didi, however, claims 87 percent of the Chinese market for private vehicle ride-hailing. (Reuters)

4. £52 MILLION BITCOIN CYBER THEFT

A security breach at a Hong Kong-based Bitcoin exchange has put a 20 per cent dent in the cryptocurrency’s value, according to reports. Bitfinex admitted on Wednesday that nearly 120,000 Bitcoins (£52.3 million) had been stolen from its platform, leading it to suspend all transactions on its exchange.

Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency created by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, suffered a drop of nearly 20 per cent in its value as a result.

The blockchain technology behind the digital currency is known for its security and has been touted to be adopted more widely by traditional financial institutions. But several incidents in recent years have raised questions over securing the wallets and exchanges used to store Bitcoins and make transactions.

“Bitcoin exchanges like Bitfinex get hacked on a regular basis, and this isn’t the biggest loss we’ve seen of this type,” said Mustafa Al-Bassam, IT security advisor at Secure Trading. “Mt. Gox lost $500 million (£375 million) worth of Bitcoins in 2014 and in 2015 the US government seized and sold over $20 million (£15 million) worth from Silk Road. (Business Reporter)

Bitcoin is an online currency, you can buy and sell Bitcoin as you would Dollars or Euro’s but the difference is there is no central banking system, it is a peer to peer system.

Click here for more information on Bitcoin.

5. NIKE EXITS GOLFING MARKET

Nike, the world’s biggest sportswear maker, said it would stop selling golf equipment, including clubs, golf balls and bags.

The company, which built its golf business on the success of golfer Tiger Woods, said it would instead accelerate innovation in its golf footwear and apparel business and on partnering with more golfers.

The company is the second major sporting goods maker reviewing its golf business. Adidas said in May it would sell the bulk of its loss-making golf business, hurt by waning interest in the sport, especially in the United States.

The number of people playing golf in the United States has fallen sharply after peaking in 2000, when Tiger Woods was in his prime.

Nike is also facing stiff competition from smaller domestic rival Under Armour Inc, which has successfully lured top sports personalities to endorse its brands. Jordan Spieth, last year’s no.1 ranked golfer, endorses Under Armour.

Sales in the golf business fell 8 percent to $706 million in Nike’s latest financial year. It is one of the company’s smallest businesses, contributing about 3 percent to its total revenue. (Reuters)

6. TESLA LOSSES

Tesla reported a loss of $293m (£220m) for the second quarter – the electric car maker’s thirteenth consecutive quarterly loss. Sales for the period from April to June were $1.3bn, which was less than analysts’ forecasts of $1.6bn.

Tesla delivered 14,402 cars during the quarter missing its target of 17,000. It is the second consecutive quarter that Tesla has missed production targets, raising doubts about whether it will reach its full year goal.

But the company said it was on track to deliver 50,000 Model S and Model X vehicles in the second half of the year. New vehicles orders rose by 67% compared to the same time last year.

The Model 3 is Tesla’s attempt to widen its market appeal with a more affordable car. Its starting price is expected to be $35,000. (BBC News)

7. £79 BILLION MEGA MERGER UK JOB LOSS RISKS

Almost 600 British jobs could be at risk when AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, completes its £79bn acquisition of Britain’s SABMiller. Setting out the structure for the combined company, AB InBev, whose beers include Budweiser and Stella Artois, said it would remain based in Belgium, with its operations managed from New York.

SABMiller’s UK operations are set to miss out, according to AB InBev. The SABMiller office in Woking, Surrey will stay open for a transitional period only while the two companies combine. Out of a total of 576 corporate employees in the UK, the maker of Foster’s lager and Pilsner Urquell has 523 in Woking and more than 50 at its London office.

AB InBev plans to make $1.4bn (£1.1bn) of cuts once the deal completes in October. Buying its closest rival SABMiller will make AB InBev the brewer of almost a third of the world’s beer and will give it access to African countries where sales are increasing. Before it offered to buy SABMiller in September, analysts said it needed a big deal to keep profits growing as beer consumption shrinks in the US, where the rise of craft ales has hit sales of mass-produced beer. (The Guardian)

8. HMRC WIN TAX AVOIDANCE BATTLE

HM Revenue and Customs claimed victory in a tax avoidance battle over schemes run by Ingenious Film Partnership and Icebreaker, worth more than £820m. The Ingenious scheme tried to use artificial losses arising from backing a range of films, said HMRC.

They included Avatar, Life of Pi and Die Hard 4. The Icebreaker scheme attempted to create artificial losses from limited liability partnerships.

HMRC said both schemes saw users claim more in tax relief than they had invested, something disputed by Ingenious. It is thought Ingenious will appeal against the decision.

The Icebreaker scheme members claimed tax relief on losses many times higher than the actual amount they invested in the partnerships. The return on the partners’ “investment” was the tax relief, which was considerably larger than their cash contribution.

They now face big bills for interest on top of the £43m in unpaid tax resulting from the scheme.

The HMRC’s decision follows an earlier case in 2014. The total tax at stake then was £134m, taking HMRC’s total in reclaimed monies to more than £1.2bn. (BBC News)

9. TOYOTA

Shares in Japanese carmaker Toyota have risen, despite the company reporting a weak outlook for profits in the current year.

Toyota reported a 15% drop in its first quarter net profit, with the strong yen weighing down the company’s exports.

However, the results were not as bead as feared, and on Friday the carmaker’s shares closed up 3%.

Like many Japanese exporters, Toyota has been suffering from the strengthening yen. Japan’s currency is regarded as a haven in times of global economic uncertainty. But a stronger yen makes goods made in Japan more expensive on the world market, and reduces the value of sales made overseas when converted back into yen. (BBC News)

10. PWC IN $1 BILLION LAWSUIT

A federal judge rejected PricewaterhouseCoopers’  bid to dismiss a $1 billion lawsuit accusing the accounting firm of professional malpractice for helping cause the October 2011 bankruptcy of MF Global Holdings Ltd, a brokerage once run by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan said there remained open questions concerning whether PwC’s alleged bad accounting advice was a substantial cause of MF Global’s rapid demise.

Corzine is not a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in March 2014 by MF Global’s bankruptcy plan administrator. The decision keeps alive one of the last remaining pieces of litigation relating to MF Global’s Oct. 31, 2011 bankruptcy.

PwC in April 2015 reached a $65 million cash settlement with former shareholders and bondholders, in which it denied wrongdoing. MF Global officials and bank underwriters have also settled with investors. Customers have been made whole.

The administrator accused PwC of “extraordinary and egregious professional malpractice and negligence” in approving MF Global’s accounting for “repurchase-to-maturity” transactions through which Corzine bet on sovereign debt.

It also faulted PwC’s advice on some deferred tax assets, on which MF Global took a $119.4 million write-off just six days before going bankrupt. That contributed to a $191.6 million quarterly loss. (Reuters)

 

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