Top 10 Stories of the Week! 21/11/16

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.

This week’s news includes;  The Autumn Statement, Lidl becomes first supermarket to introduce the new living wage, Icelandic Government launches legal challenge against Iceland supermarket and Jaguar Land Rover lays out its vision for UK investment .

 

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Opinion articles of the week:

  • Brexit Won’t Benefit Many Who Voted for It, World Bank Warns. Click here for more.
  • The end of TPP could herald a new era in US-China relations. Click here for more.
  • Will the Chancellor’s ban on fees kill off the high street letting agent? Click here for the debate.

1. AUTUMN STATEMENT

On Wednesday Philip Hammond has delivered his first autumn statement as Chancellor.

Some of the key takeaways include;

  • Government no longer seeking a budget surplus in 2019-20 – committed to returning public finances to balance “as soon as practicable”
  • Income tax threshold to be raised to £11,500 in April, from £11,000
  • £1.4 billion to deliver 40,000 affordable homes
  • Higher rate income tax threshold to rise to £50,000 by the end of the Parliament
  • Tax savings on salary sacrifice and benefits in kind to be stopped, with exceptions for ultra-low emission cars, pensions, childcare and cycling
  • National Living Wage to rise from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 from April next year
  • Ban on upfront fees charged by letting agents in England

For a full summary of the Autumn Statement, click here. (BBC News)

2. DONALD TRUMP ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO WITHDRAW FROM TPP

Donald Trump says he will issue an executive action on his first day in office to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In a video updating Americans on the White House transition, the President-elect described TPP as a “potential disaster for our country”.

The agreement was designed to bring down tariffs and trade barriers between America and a number of Pacific Rim nations including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia and Chile.

Mr Trump said his administration intended instead to generate “fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores”.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, said Mr Trump’s announcement was “disappointing”.

But he added: “The United States isn’t an island. “It can’t just sit there and say it’s not going to trade with the rest of the world.

In the clip uploaded on Facebook, the President-elect also expressed his intention to cut red tape – saying that “for every new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated”. (Sky News)

This announcement was been met with polarised reactions. The decision has however been met with notable optimism. Some analysts believe that the withdrawal from TPP could mark the beginning of better trade relations between the US and China. CNBC looks at what TPP is and how the prospects of better US-China relations here.

3. UK TRAVEL WEBSITE SKYSCANNER ACQUIRED FOR $1.4 BILLION

UK travel website Skyscanner is being snapped up by China’s Ctrip.com in a £1.4bn deal. It marks the latest swoop by a Chinese company for a British firm.

Edinburgh-based Skyscanner, launched in 2003, allows users to compare prices from travel sites when searching for flights, hotels and rental cars. It is now available in more than 30 languages and has about 60 million monthly users.

The company employs more than 800 staff with 10 offices worldwide including in Barcelona, Beijing, Budapest, Glasgow and London.

Ctrip.com, which is China’s biggest online travel service, said the management of Skyscanner would remain in place and run the company independently.

Skyscanner chief executive and co-founder Gareth Williams said the deal took his firm “one step closer to our goal of making travel search as simple as possible for travellers around the world”.

Ctrip expects to complete the takeover by the end of the year. (Sky News)

4. LIDL BECOMES FIRST SUPERMARKET TO PAY NEW NATIONAL LIVING WAGE

Lidl has announced it will adopt the new Living Wage Foundation rate in a pay boost for 5,500 of its workers, making it the first supermarket in Britain to do so this year.

The German discounter employs 20,000 people in the UK, a quarter of whom will benefit from the new hourly rate of £8.45. This will increase to £9.75 starting from March next year.

The announcement comes just a day after Chancellor Philip Hammond said the mandatory national living wage rate will increase to £7.50 an hour at the beginning of April next year – 10p less than was expected.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies on Thursday warned British workers face a “dreadful” decade with no real wage growth and yet more austerity.

Reacting to the Autumn Statement announcement, Hannah Maundrell from comparison site Money.co.uk said the increase of the mandatary national living wage rate was still “not quite enough” to afford a decent standard of living. (The Independent)

5. AN ENERGY FIRM CHALLENGING THE BIG SIX HAS GONE UNDER BECAUSE OF RISING PRICES

Rising energy prices have forced a small supplier attempting to challenge the Big Six energy firms to cease trading. GB Energy alerted its 160,000 customers late on Saturday that the company had ceased trading due to rising wholesale prices.

In a note to customers the firm said:

“Due to swift and significant increases in energy prices over recent months and, as a small supplier our inability to forward buy energy to allow us to access the best possible wholesale prices, means that the position of the business has become untenable and as such we will now be entering a process overseen by Ofgem to move you to a new supplier.”

Nearly all the Big Six firms – British Gas, E.On, EDF, npower, ScottishPower and SSE – have been forced to hike the price of some tariffs, as have smaller firms. The disappearance of the supplier is a blow for challengers, which have been encouraged by the competition watchdog to encourage greater choice for consumers outside the Big Six.

Recent figures suggest the number of customers signing up for both gas and electricity from smaller suppliers is growing at an average rate of nine per cent per quarter.

GB Energy customers will be protected by the energy regulator Ofgem and they will be moved over to new suppliers with guarantees on any credits. (City A.M)

6. ICELANDIC GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES LEGAL BATTLE AGAINST ICELAND SUPERMARKET

The Icelandic government is taking legal action against the supermarket chain Iceland in a trademark dispute over using the name, it has confirmed. The store, which specialises in frozen food and has its head office in Deeside, Flintshire, has been trading under the name for 46 years.

It owns the European trademark for using the name Iceland, which Icelandic officials claim the firm defends “aggressively”. The company said it regretted the move.

The Nordic nation confirmed on Thursday that it had mounted a legal challenge against the food store at the European Union Intellectual Property Office. It said it hoped to ensure “the right of Icelandic companies to use the word ‘Iceland’ in relation to their goods and services”.

In a government circular, officials stated: “The government of Iceland is concerned that our country’s businesses are unable to promote themselves across Europe in association with their place of origin – a place of which we are rightly proud and enjoys a very positive national branding.

“This untenable situation has caused harm to Icelandic businesses, especially its small and growing companies.”

The Icelandic government said it had made efforts to negotiate with Iceland Foods, but said it had been met with “unrealistic and unacceptable” demands. The claim is disputed by the supermarket, which has more than 800 stores across the UK and employs more than 23,000 staff. (BBC News)

7. JAGUAR LAYS OUT VISION FOR UK INVESTMENT

Jaguar Land Rover’s chief executive Dr Ralf Speth has laid out a future vision which could see 10,000 new jobs created in the West Midlands. He said at an industry event that Britain’s largest carmaker by volume would like to double production from 500,000 to one million cars a year.

But it would depend on the government helping to upgrade power supplies and invest in surrounding infrastructure. The firm would also like a guarantee on access to engineering talent.

A company spokesman said the production target was “very much a want, rather than a will”, but declined to commit on precise job numbers.

The 10,000 figure was mentioned by Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman of Warwick Manufacturing Group, which is part of Warwick University. Although it was not confirmed by the company, it was not dismissed either.

The carmaker’s vision comes after the decision of Nissan to move two new next generation models to its Sunderland plant, backed by assurances from the government that it would help to invest in automotive research and development.

Nissan produced almost 477,000 vehicles in the UK last year, while just under 490,000 rolled off Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) production lines, according to industry body the SMMT.

Now it seems JLR has thrown down the gauntlet to the government to match its ambition with big pledges for investment. Specifically, the company is looking for help with infrastructure surrounding a 60 acre site and provide significant additional power resources. (BBC News)

8. LLOYDS BANKING GROUP SHARE SALE CUTS GOVERNMENT STAKE TO BELOW 8%

The Government has reduced its stake in Lloyds Banking Group to less than 8% following a share sale. It means the taxpayer’s stake in the bank now stands at 7.99%, with more than £17 billion being returned to Government coffers since the lender’s £20.3 billion bailout.

Philip Hammond said: “Selling our shares in Lloyds Banking Group and making sure that we get back all the cash taxpayers injected into it during the financial crisis is one of my top priorities as Chancellor.”

All proceeds from the sales will be used to reduce the national debt.

The Government has progressively sold down its original 43% stake in Lloyds and in October ditched plans for a share sale to the public, opting instead to offload the holding to institutional investors.

Last month Lloyds said it had set aside another £1 billion to meet compensation claims for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) as it attempts to draw a line under the scandal. (Business Reporter)

9. JD SPORTS TO OPEN NEW MEGASTORE

JD Sports is opening another megastore on Oxford Street just in time for the busy Christmas period.

The 16,000 sq ft store will open at the West One shopping centre on 10 December and is the brand’s second shop on Oxford Street. JD Sports said the new store will create 125 jobs.

The sports retailer is also re-opening its shop at the Westfield shopping centre in White City. The refurbished outlet will open on 20 November, creating 10 new jobs. During the re-fit, a mezzanine floor and additional tills were added.

The lower floor of the new JD Sports store on Oxford Street will be entirely dedicated to football. The company said both shops will open in “true JD-style”, with music and DJs.

The final months of the year will be key for retailers as they seek to make the most of Black Friday and the festive shopping season. Business lobby group the New West End Company has predicted that shoppers will spend £2.3bn over the period, or a massive £51.1m per day.

It’s been a difficult year for retailers; the clothing industry in particular has suffered due to the unseasonable weather patterns. Bonmarche said today that its like-for-like sales had fallen 8.6 per cent due to bad weather, but that it expects to return to growth in 2018. (City A.M)

10. MORRISONS TO REVIVE SAFEWAY BRAND NAME

The supermarket chain Morrisons is to revive the Safeway name for some of the food it makes for independent retailers. From next year the name will be put on hundreds of fresh food products which it makes and supplies wholesale.

Morrisons bought the Safeway supermarkets for £3bn in 2004 and then rebranded or sold the 479 stores. The company is also going to pilot 10 more Morrisons Daily convenience shops in petrol garages.

The move comes just a year after the supermarket group sold its struggling 140-strong convenience store chain, M Local.

Announcing the new strategy, which it said would be “capital light”, the company said: “The re-introduction of the Safeway brand will enable Morrisons to leverage its sourcing and unique food maker skills to give independent retailers’ customers access to great quality products.”

“The UK convenience market is very broad and diverse, with around three-quarters held by independents,” it explained.

The new Safeway-branded products will not be sold in Morrisons’ own stores. (BBC News)

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