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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 15th August 2019

Posted: 15th August 2019


Action Fraud accused of misleading scam victims

An investigation by the Times claims that call handlers working for the police have been trained to mislead fraud victims into thinking their cases will be investigated when the majority are never looked at again. An undercover Times reporter working at Action Fraud was banned from telling victims that the overwhelming majority of their cases are dismissed, either by employees at an outsourced call centre or a computer algorithm. When callers say that their bank card has been stolen their cases are only filed as crime reports if the bank is refusing to reimburse them. If the bank has paid them back or has yet to make a decision their cases are processed as information reports and the thief is unlikely to be pursued. Priti Patel, the home secretary, said she was “very concerned” and has written to City of London Police asking for an urgent update on Action Fraud’s performance.

Latest RBS banking competition fund awards revealed

Atom Bank, iwoca, Modulr Finance and Currencycloud have been awarded a combined £40m from the RBS fund aimed at boosting business banking competition. The board of Banking Competition Remedies, the independent body established to inject £775m from the RBS state aid alternative remedies package, received 76 funding applications in the latest round.

ECB says banks should speed up staff moves

The European Central Bank has warned that UK banks are behind schedule in moving staff to the European Union ahead of Brexit. Many London-based banks are expanding their EU operations to continue doing business in the bloc after Brexit, under plans agreed with the ECB. But the banking watchdog warned yesterday that banks “have transferred significantly fewer activities, critical functions and staff to euro area entities than originally foreseen.”

Barclays no longer banking for Coinbase

Barclays has ceased providing banking services for cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. The relationship between Barclays and San Francisco-based Coinbase, which is licensed to provide flat currency-related services across 23 EU countries, had been a rare one - a recent study by CryptoUK revealed that 75% of UK cryptocurrency businesses are forced to bank overseas due to the difficulty of securing British banking services.

Monzo moves in on personal loan market

Monzo has launched its first range of personal loans, charging customers interest rates of between 3.7% and 20.4% for loans of £7,500 to £15,000. The high rates reflect the fact that there are no early repayment charges and borrowers can change their repayment date and will not be charged if they are late with their payments.

Barclays announces launch of £100k unsecured lending to SMEs

Barclays has announced that users of its app and online banking platform will now be able to access £100,000 of unsecured lending for SMEs.


Goldman Sachs rivals circle after top banker jumps to Elliott

Steven Barg, the head of Goldman Sachs’ activist defence advisory business, has left the bank to join activist hedge fund Elliot. The move has prompted rivals to circle the US investment bank’s corporate clients, promising that their bankers won’t go to the other side.

German fintech N26 appeases regulators as it eyes future IPO

Valentin Stalf, co-founder and chief of online bank N26, has told the FT the firm is working quickly to reassure critical regulators as it eyes a listing “in three to five years.”

StanChart in private banking drive

Standard Chartered has said that it plans to boost its private banking assets by 50% to $100bn in three to five years. The bank intends to hire dozens of bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Strong lending boosts Bank of Georgia

Bank of Georgia reported a 36.9% rise in first-half profit, thanks to strong lending at its retail banking business.


Profits fall at Lookers as sector gears for extra scrutiny

Pre-tax profit at Lookers was £24.9m for the first six months of the year, down 39.7% on the same period in 2018. Revenue rose 2.7% to £2.6bn. New car sales were down 1.2% on a like-for-like basis, though this was still stronger than the market average of a 3.4% decline. The British new car market shrunk 4.1% in July, its fifth straight month of decline. Lookers said the dealership would make a one-off investment of £10m into improving its sales processes over 2019 and 2020. This follows an announcement from the FCA that it was examining the company’s sales practices due to concerns over consumers’ reliance on credit to buy new cars.


Heathrow pay strike suspended

A strike by thousands of workers at Heathrow Airport planned for the August bank holiday has been suspended while they vote on the latest pay offer.


Brickability preps for £150m listing

Building materials company Brickability has confirmed that it has applied to float on Aim on August 29 and intends to raise £57m. In the year to March, Brickability’s revenue was £163m, producing EBITDA of more than £17m.


Investment fraud skyrockets as scammers shift focus

Figures from the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau show criminals in the UK are increasingly focusing on investment scams rather than stealing pension savings. Reported cases of pension fraud declined from 1,828 in 2013 to 345 last year. However, over the same period cases of investment fraud rose from 6,908 to 9,398. Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said fraudsters had made the shift from pensions scams to investment fraud after the introduction of pension freedoms and a ban on cold-calling.

Prudential asserts demerger plans amid rising profits

Prudential's demerger, whereby the firm’s UK business, M&G Prudential, will be separated from its Asian and US operations and its name changed to M&G plc, will take place in the fourth quarter of this year, group chief executive Mike Wells has confirmed. In its half-year results, the UK's largest insurer posted a 14% rise in operating profits - driven by its Asian business. Mr Wells will leave M&G behind to lead the Asian business.

Ogden rate changes bite into Admiral's profits

Government changes to the Ogden rate, which governs how much insurers pay out to those injured in car accidents, have hit car insurer Admiral's profits to the tune of £33.3m in its first-half - despite pre-tax profits of £218m, which were up 4% on the same period a year prior. Customer numbers increased 8% to 6.74m, driven by a 21% increase in international car insurance customers - to 1.36m - by the end of the first half.

Bill Ackman buys stake in Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway

Activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has used his Pershing Square vehicle to buy $688m of class B stock in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Network International hit by IPO costs

Dubai-based payments company Network International saw profit more than halved to $15.8m from $35.3m in the six months to the end of June, weakened by one-off costs from April's IPO. Revenues rose by 12.4% to $152.3m.


Airbus tie-up with tech hub to boost space sector

Scottish hi-tech manufacturing hub the University of Strathclyde's Advanced Forming Research Centre is teaming up with Airbus Defence and Space to bring fuel tank manufacturing to the UK.


Axel Springer net earnings fall ahead of KKR deal

German publishing group Axel Springer dipped after announcing a 23% year-on-year decline in net earnings in its half-year results. The company also announced a small fall in year-on-year revenues.


London house prices fall

London house prices have endured their 16th consecutive month of declines, taking average prices in the capital below where they stood on the day of the Brexit referendum. Property values in the capital fell by 2.7% in the year to June, with the value of homes outside the South East rising, the Office for National Statistics said.

WeWork losses jump as $3bn-plus offering launched

WeWork has unveiled its prospectus for an IPO, providing the most comprehensive financial picture yet of the office space company. It’s parent, The We Company, reported a doubling of revenue to $1.54bn in the first six months of the year but losses grew to more than $689.7m for the period, up 10% year-on-year. The Softbank-backed company has $47bn in long term lease payment obligations and hopes to raise $3bn in the IPO

Green Reit agrees €1.3bn sale as Irish commercial property market cools

Ireland’s first real estate investment trust, Green Reit, is to be sold to London-based property investment group Henderson Park in a €1.34bn deal amid a slowdown in the commercial property market.


Inflation defies slowdown forecast to hit 2.1%

Inflation in Britain accelerated to 2.1% in July, driven by rises in the prices of computer games, toys, hotel rooms, clothing and shoes. Economists had expected annual inflation to drop to 1.9% from 2% in June. The rise has dampened expectations of a cut to interest rates. Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said she expects inflation to exceed the Bank of England's 2% target for most of next year, pointing also to UK factories' rising costs.

US bond markets 'scream recession'

The US Treasury yield curve - the difference in the returns of two-year and 10-year US government bonds - has fallen into inversion territory for the first time since 2007. The most trusted recession indicator on bond markets has a “formidable” track record of predicting American recessions – and therefore global downturns. Meanwhile, Germany confirmed that it was on the brink of recession after its GDP shrank in the three months to June by 0.1%.

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