Starling drops Facebook ads until it tackles fraud
Starling Bank chief Anne Boden has said the lender will not advertise with Facebook or Instagram until they act to tackle online fraud. “We want to protect our customers and our brand integrity. We can no longer pay to advertise on a platform alongside scammers who are going after the savings of our customers and those of other banks,” Boden said in an annual letter to customers and investors. Boden applauded Google’s move in August to stop accepting financial services advertisements from any party not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and Meta, Facebook’s rebranded owner, indicated in December that it would take similar action but has yet to do so.
Banks refuse to pass on interest rate rise
The Mail on Sunday reports that savers are being “short-changed by £2.7bn a year” because savings institutions are refusing to pass on the rise in interest rates. Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann says banks and building societies are taking “unfair advantage of savers” by paying them interest rates close to zero. She warns they are in danger of “putting people off saving altogether” and imperilling the finances of many pensioners who are seeing their income disappear as energy bills soar.
Atom Bank ‘committed' to four-day week
Atom Bank CEO Mark Mullen has said he is “utterly committed” to the group's new four-day working week, adding that while it was “too early to declare victory”, results of the three-month trial so far have been encouraging. The bank’s initial review into the policy showed improvements in most areas, like short-term sickness and customer complaints.
Citigroup tells unvaccinated to get the jab or be fired
Citigroup on Friday warned workers who have yet to comply with a company-wide vaccine mandate that they will be fired by the end of the month if they fail to get a shot by January 14. The move leaves roughly 3,250 workers at risk of losing their jobs. It is noted that other banks such as JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, whose US offices also have vaccine mandates, have not threatened to fire unvaccinated employees.
Wall Street banks set to report record profits for 2021
The largest US banks are expected to make record profits for 2021 when they report in the next two weeks, as a result of high investment fees and lower-than-expected loan losses.
Airbus faces class action suit in the Netherlands
A class action lawsuit has been filed by institutional investors against Airbus in a Dutch court. They argue that they suffered at least €300m in damages as a result of company misconduct.
UK construction industry growth slowed in December
The latest IHS Markit/CIPS survey of the UK construction industry shows the sector slowed in December despite a reduction in pressure on building firms from supply chain problems. The number of construction firms reporting supplier delays dropped from 47% in November to 34% in December and fewer shortages of essential raw materials and improved delivery times contributed to the slowest rate of inflation for building supplies for nine months. However, the arrival of Omicron offset these gains somewhat with rising infections and fresh pandemic restrictions hitting demand. Housebuilding gained momentum in December, but activity was weaker for commercial building projects and civil engineering. Overall, the construction PMI fell to a three-month low of 54.3 in December from 55.5 in November.
UK building developers face £4bn bill to replace dangerous cladding
Housing Secretary Michael Gove is to tell developers they must stump up £4bn to cover the costs of removing dangerous cladding from thousands of buildings. If they don’t come to an agreement a solution will be imposed by law, a source said.
Cost of car cover falls despite 'loyalty penalty' ban
The cost of car insurance has fallen slightly despite concerns that the end of the so-called "loyalty penalty" would lead to a spike in prices. Insurers were banned from the beginning of the year from offering deals to new customers that are cheaper than those offered to existing customers renewing their policies. The Financial Conduct Authority argued the move would save existing customers up to £200 a year. Commenting, Kevin Pratt of the personal finance website Forbes Advisor, said: “It will take a while for the new pricing regime to bed down. Over the coming months, insurers will be searching for the sweet spot between lower renewal and higher new business prices to maximise income. Savvy motorists will want to keep an eye on fluctuating quotes so they can decide whether to stick or twist when it’s their time to renew.”
Collateral bosses charged with fraud
Two former directors of failed peer-to-peer lender Collateral are facing criminal charges after the Financial Conduct Authority claimed the pair misrepresented the company as a regulated entity and diverted funds illegally in the run-up to its collapse. Brothers Peter and Andrew Currie each face two charges under the Fraud Act 2006 and one charge under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2000, the City regulator said on Friday.
PrimaryBid woos giant SoftBank fund to take stake
PrimaryBid is close to finalising the details of a £110m funding round that will be led by SoftBank's Vision Fund. The British company enables ordinary investors to participate in cash calls, from which they are usually excluded.
LEISURE & HOSPITALITY
Ladbrokes shamed for keeping furlough cash
Ladbrokes is refusing to return nearly £102m from the Government's Covid furlough scheme, despite enjoying revenues of more than £681m in 2020. Although the company’s betting shops were closed for long periods during the early part of the pandemic, sales from online gambling soared. Revenues for its parent company Entain over the same period hit £3.6bn – unchanged on the previous year. It is noted that rival William Hill repaid £24.5m in furlough money claimed, while the Paddy Power owner Flutter did not make any claims for furlough cash.
CMA clears Admiral's £222m Hawthorn pubs takeover
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared Admiral Taverns' £222m takeover of the Hawthorn pub business. The deal will see Admiral take control of 687 pubs across the UK from retail property investor NewRiver. In a statement the CMA said it had accepted undertakings given by Admiral and so would not be referring the merger for an in-depth investigation.
Brexit adds to manufacturers’ woes
Make UK, the industry body representing 20,000 manufacturing firms, has warned that the soaring costs facing British industry will be worsened by Brexit. Two-thirds of survey respondents said delays at customs, the additional costs from meeting separate regulatory regimes in the UK and the EU, and reduced access to migrant workers had moderately or significantly hampered their business. However, the survey also found that business leaders expected conditions to improve over the coming year. Almost three-quarters of companies said they believed conditions for the sector would improve, with about 73% believing that opportunities for their company outweighed the risks.
Advent pledges separate board for Ultra
The private equity buyer of Ultra Electronics has promised to create separate boards for its American and UK businesses in a bid to ease national security fears. Cobham – owned by US private equity giant Advent – is buying Ultra for £2.57bn. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to scrutinise the deal on the grounds that it may threaten national security. The watchdog is due to report back on January 18th. Sources close to the deal said that Cobham hopes that, by creating separate boards, it will underline its commitment to preventing national security leaks.
UK house prices rise at fastest pace since 2007
The average price of a property in the UK increased by more than £24,500 last year to hit a new record high of £276,091, according to the Halifax. The 9.8% rise during 2021 was the fastest increase for any calendar year since a 12.5% rise in 2004. The mortgage lender said buyers sought more space during lockdown and took advantage of low-cost borrowing and stamp duty holidays. However, the managing director at the Halifax, Russell Galley, predicted that growth would slow this year due to higher mortgage rates and a squeeze on household incomes.
Omicron ‘wiped out’ progress for retailers
Britain’s high streets saw footfall drop by 23.1% last month, compared to 2019, as fears over the Omicron variant of Covid rattled shoppers. This was 3.5 percentage points below November’s rate and below the three month average decline of 20.7%. Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of British Retail Consortium, said much of the bricks-and-mortar industry’s pandemic recovery progress was “wiped out” in December. "As case numbers rose precipitously, many people chose to limit social mixing in the run up to Christmas and shop less frequently," she added.
Mike Ashley in talks to buy Derby
Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is understood to be in talks to buy Derby County. The Championship club have been in administration since September and are currently bottom of the Championship after suffering a 21-point deduction.
PM must commit to free markets, free debate and low taxes – Frost
Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, has told Boris Johnson he must commit to low taxes and the free market or risk losing the next election. The Tory peer told the Mail on Sunday: “We need to get the country going economically again and that means free markets, free debate and low taxes.” His comments come amid increasing disquiet among Tory MPs about the direction of travel of the Government, with concerns over rising tax bills, energy costs and inflation forefront in their minds. Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons culture committee, said: “Boris needs to wake up and listen to his party on energy and set a clear path out of the cost of living crisis. In the short-term, he needs to abolish the VAT on energy bills and get rid of the green taxes.” Meanwhile, Labour has claimed they will scrap VAT for a year and impose a windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producers if they win power.
Eurozone inflation hits new record as energy and food prices soar
Inflation in the eurozone rose to 5% in December, driven by soaring energy and food prices. This marks the highest annual rate in the 22-year history of the single currency and comes as consumer confidence across the eurozone also sank to its lowest since May last month. Additionally, senior ECB executive Isabel Schnabel has warned that the planned transition away from fossil fuels to a greener low-carbon economy may
force the central bank to withdraw its stimulus more quickly than