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Daily News Roundup: Friday, 26th November 2021

Posted: 26th November 2021


Allica Bank raises £110m to accelerate growth

The specialist small business lender Allica Bank has tapped investors for £110m, taking the amount it has raised to £233m in the past two years. US-based fintech investor Atalaya Capital Management was brought on board in this round. Atalaya recently took part in a £450m funding round for Capital on Tap, also an SME lender, alongside BNP and HSBC. "While most digital and challenger banks are focused on specialist lending markets or secondary payment accounts, this transaction demonstrates how Allica is leading the charge in taking on the mainstream high street banking market for established, growing small and medium-sized businesses,” Richard Davies, Allica's chief executive, said.

Buy-to-let rules overhauled to attract pensioners

Mortgage lenders have eased rules which had prevented many retirees from investing in buy-to-let properties. Accord Mortgages, part of Yorkshire Building Society, has dropped its minimum income requirement for buy-to-let customers. Previously, applicants had to earn a minimum of £25,000 to qualify for a loan. Chris Sykes, of mortgage broker Private Finance, said: “It is a welcome change for many. Those who treat buy-to-lets as their pension wouldn’t qualify for finance through Accord previously but would now.”

Facebook Marketplace top source for scams, warns NatWest

A study by NatWest reveals the top four sites being used by scammers in a warning to consumers ahead of Black Friday. Facebook Marketplace came in first place with Instagram coming in second, eBay in third place and Gumtree fourth. “Don't let fake influencers or sellers steal your Christmas by sending them a payment for presents you will never receive,” warned Jason Costain, the head of fraud prevention for NatWest.


Blue Prism agrees to Vista's final offer

Robotics software company Blue Prism has agreed to a £1.22bn final takeover offer from US private equity firm Vista Equity. The offer was opposed by activist investor Coast Capital, which had backed a bid from SS&C Technologies.


German banks told to build back buffers

German banks could be forced to build up their capital buffers after the Bundesbank identified vulnerabilities to an overvalued property market. Banks are also vulnerable to interest rate rises as large chunks of their long-term lending is at fixed rates, particularly in the case of mortgages, the Bundesbank added.

Deutsche Bank grows private bank in Africa

Deutsche Bank has hired a team of four bankers from HSBC to flesh out its private banking business in South Africa. Paul Sayers will lead the team as Deutsche's head of international private bank Africa, joining the lender on Dec 1st, an internal memo said.

Mizuho facing action over forex compliance

Japan's finance ministry is set to take punitive action against the banking arm of Mizuho Financial Group over a failure to comply with anti-money laundering procedures necessary under the foreign exchange act in transacting overseas remittances.

Singapore regulator warns DBS Bank over prolonged service outage

Singapore’s DBS Bank has suffered its worst service outage in a decade with customers struggling to make transactions on the bank’s website and mobile app since Tuesday, leading to a warning from regulators.


UK car production slumps

British car production fell to a 65-year low last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, marking the fourth monthly drop in a row. Mike Hawes, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “These figures are extremely worrying and show how badly the global semiconductor shortage is hitting UK car manufacturers and their suppliers.”


House-building falls to five-year low

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities have shown that a total of 194,060 new build homes were constructed between April 1 2020 and March 31 2021 - a five-year low, and down more than 11% on the previous year. Rico Wojtulewicz from the National Federation of Builders said a number of factors had slowed building - from council approvals being slowed by staff working from home to the rising cost of materials. Steve Turner from the Home Builders Federation says many smaller builders "are hampered by waiting for planning permission", adding: "We've got to make the planning system fit for purpose as it takes far too long to get planning permissions through."

Laing O'Rourke founder steps down ahead of float

Laing O'Rourke founder Ray O'Rourke is to step down after 45 years. He will be replaced in September by Seamus French, an executive at FTSE 100 miner Anglo American.


New ESG default option for savers required by FCA

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued new rules requiring pension providers to offer savers a default investment option when they are not seeking financial advice. The new personal pension regime also recommends that default personal pension options will need to take into account climate change and ESG risks. Sarah Pritchard, executive director for markets at the FCA, said: “People spend decades working hard to build up a pension to support them in retirement, and we want their savings to work just as hard for them. These proposals will ensure that customers who don’t take financial advice can benefit from a professionally designed investment strategy, and reduce the risk of their retirement income being eroded by inflation.” Personal pension providers will also be required to send inflation warnings to customers holding large amounts of cash in their funds, the FCA said.

FCA to put more power in the hands of its senior staff

As part of a shake-up at the Financial Conduct Authority, chief Nikhil Rathi is shifting more power to senior managers to enable them to start criminal proceedings and civil actions. Senior managers will also have the ability to cancel a financial firm’s regulatory permissions and impose requirements on a company without oversight from the regulator’s decisions committee unless the case is particularly contentious. Emily Shepperd, the regulator’s executive director of authorisations, said: “Our new streamlined decision-making process will allow us to be more assertive in stopping harm.”

FCA urged to intervene in takeover of LV

Pressure is growing on the Financial Conduct Authority to examine whether the proposed sale of mutual insurer LV to US private equity firm Bain Capital is in customers' best interests. Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake said the financial interests of LV’s board should be looked at while Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister, said the deal “could disadvantage 1.2m customers”.


Push Doctor nears administration amid sale talks

Digital GP advice platform Push Doctor is in talks with privately owned Square Health about a sale that could be implemented through a pre-pack administration.


Sales rebound for M&B

Mitchells & Butlers said it has seen sales jump above pre-COVID levels in recent months, but warned that problems caused by Brexit and soaring costs will "inevitably" hit performance in the current year. M&B reported pre-tax losses of £42m for the year to 25th September, against losses of £123m the previous year. The company actually returned to profit in the second half as they were allowed to welcome customers again, posting adjusted operating profit of £153m, compared to a £9m loss the previous year. Like-for-like sales declined by 9.6% over the full year, though they improved in August and September, since which they are 2.7% ahead of the same period in 2019. 


KKR and CVC mull joint bid for Telecom Italia

KKR and CVC Capital Partners have reportedly held exploratory talks about the potential for a joint offer for Telecom Italia. The news comes after KKR made a $12bn offer for the company. CVC has been studying a possible acquisition of Telecom Italia for several months.


Landsec reveals new retail strategy

Shopping centre owner Landsec is to launch a new retail structure focused on creating closer relationships with its brand partners as part of its "Reimagine" strategic pillar. Landsec, which has a £1bn regional retail portfolio comprising more than 8.1m sq ft of floorspace, said the approach will use technology and data-driven insights to help the company understand how shoppers respond to their retail experience and what they want. Bruce Findlay, managing director of retail at Landsec, said: "We want to forge deep brand partnerships with our customers built on the simple idea that their success is our success. To do that, we must make it easy for them to succeed."

Deposits remain the chief obstacle for struggling FTBs

Nationwide data shows that the disparity between high house prices and average earnings is continuing to make raising a deposit significantly challenging for first-time buyers. The research highlights that a 20% deposit is now equivalent to 110% of average income – a record high and up from 102% one year ago.


Shoppers geared up for Black Friday

A new study has found interest from shoppers in Black Friday was “significantly higher than last year” with reports of supply chain challenges and product shortages apparently “encouraging consumers to bring forward purchases”. Some 45% of consumers intend to hit the high street or shop online for this year's event, a big rise on the 38% last year. Estimates on spending vary, with one study putting the figure at £9bn and another suggesting it will hit a record £12bn.

Amazon workers to protest Black Friday conditions

Amazon workers in the UK are among those planning to protest against the company’s treatment of workers on Black Friday, with strikes planned in the US and several EU countries. The Make Amazon Pay group has called for the firm to make changes including pay raises for warehouse workers, extending sick leave and paying taxes without using loopholes or tax havens.


Nordea opens investigation after pulling conspiracy-tinged research

Finnish bank Nordea has launched a probe after senior analysts referenced the Nuremberg trials, Australia as a prison colony, the efficacy of booster shots and the quarantines of the unvaccinated in research notes.

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