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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 18th March 2021

Posted: 18th March 2021


HSBC in talks over sale of French retail network

HSBC is in talks to sell its French retail network to a subsidiary of US private equity firm Cerberus, a shareholder in Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank. HSBC France chief executive Jean Beunardeau said the scope of the potential deal included retail banking but not insurance or asset management. The planned disposal is part of HSBC CEO Noel Quinn's strategy to cut costs across the banking group.


Interview: VCTA chairman David Hall

City AM features an interview with David Hall, chairman of the Venture Capital Trust Association and managing director of YFM, who discusses foreign investment in British businesses, the effect of the Brexit agreement on start-ups and small businesses and how the current funding infrastructure for small businesses can be improved. He says that “VC by their nature hunts for growth, so we are looking at the sectors where the pace of change is accelerating. At the moment, this includes areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity, medtech, edtech and financial technology, but we are not pigeonholed to these sectors alone.”


Credit Agricole to take Algebris' Creval stake

Credit Agricole Italia has amended its agreement with Algebris and will buy the 5.38% stake in Creval held by the investment fund even if its takeover bid for the Italian bank falls through. The Italian arm of France's Credit Agricole has said it would offer €10.50 euros a share to lender Creval, for a total investment of €737m.


FCA: Buy2Let Cars investors face losses

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says investors in collapsed car-hire scheme Buy2Let Cars are facing losses. The firm and its parent company, Raedex Consortium, have collapsed into administration after the City watchdog ordered it to stop accepting new investment because of concerns over its finances. The FCA said Buy2Let Cars had been trading while insolvent, with £14m of assets but liabilities of £34m, adding that its financial position makes the firm’s business model “fundamentally unsustainable and places consumers who invest money at direct risk of loss.” The FCA also flagged concerns over Buy2Let Cars’ assets, with question marks over how many cars it owned and the fact it valued its fleet at £19m when it should have been £14.4m.

BMW sets conservative clean driving target

BMW has predicted that at least half of its sales will be zero emission vehicles by 2030. The German automaker forecast a big year-on-year rise in pre-tax profit for this year, with a strong performance in all areas.


Airports see fewest travellers since 1975

Figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reveal that airports in the UK saw the lowest number of passengers since 1975 last summer, with total of 14.2m people recorded from July to September. Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, has urged the Government to guarantee a “safe and successful summer” to allow airports to remain “viable”.


FCA eyes diversity mandates for boards

The largest listed companies in London may have to appoint a minimum number of diverse board members or face regulatory scrutiny under measures being weighed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The City watchdog will consider whether diversity of management teams at the firms it regulates should form part of its senior managers regime. Noting that listing rules for New York’s Nasdaq require all companies to have at least two "diverse" directors - or explain why they do not, FCA chief executive Nikhil Rathi said: “As part of our regulatory work on diversity and inclusion and the listings framework, we will be exploring whether we should make similar requirements part of our premium listing rules”.

Investors warm to Lending Club, the fintech that became a bank

A profile of Lending Club, which began as a fintech 15 years ago before obtaining a banking charter, notes that it plans to move away from dependence on “partner banks”.

Women in Finance Champion appointed by Treasury

Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc has been named by the Treasury as its new Women in Finance champion. She commented: “Ensuring women have as many opportunities as men in financial services is critical. It’s critical for women. It’s critical to the future of UK financial services.” She added that a “successful, inclusive, financial services industry is critical to a revitalised UK economy.” John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury added: “The Women in Finance Charter isn’t a box ticking exercise – it requires real change to help talented women to reach their potential and drive forward one of our most important and innovative sectors.”

Illuminate Financial in $100m funding round

London-based VC firm Illuminate Financial has announced the closing of a $100m funding round which saw JP Morgan Chase and Barclays participate.


SSP in funding update

Café and restaurant operator SSP is to tap shareholders for £475m, while securing the extension of bank loans due to mature in 2022 and 2024. The company said the measures will protect the business if the global travel sector experiences a more prolonged recovery from the pandemic. Sales last year were down 47.9% to £1.4bn in the 12 months to September.

Stonegate hit by £746m loss on back of pandemic-led pub closures

Pub chain Stonegate has reported a £746m pre-tax loss, citing the effects of lockdown restrictions as it seeks an additional £1.4bn funding from investors and debt markets.

Just Eat Takeaway CEO sees 57% increase in pay

Just Eat Takeaway chief executive officer Jitse Groen was handed a pay deal worth €1.13m for the year to December, a 57.9% increase on his remuneration for the previous year. This follows the firm’s reporting earnings of €256m for 2020, with UK orders increasing 35% over the year.


JCB in recruitment spree

JCB is hiring hundreds of shop floor workers at its factories in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham, with chief operating officer Mark Turner noting: “The rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic continues to gather pace and even in the space of a month since we started recruiting, we now need a further 450 shop floor employees. The creation of a total of 850 jobs this year is very good news for our business and for the areas where we operate.”


Mobile spectrum auction fails to raise as much as expected

The latest mobile phone spectrum auction has seen the government make £1.4bn after EE, Hutchison 3G, Telefonica UK and Vodafone bid for 34 lots. The sum raised was under 50% of what analysts had predicted. Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom commented: “These airwaves will help improve coverage for the mobile services people use today, as well as supporting the UK’s position as a world leader in 5G.”


UK 12th on house price increase index

The UK has placed 12th in a global index of house price increases, with the average value of UK homes climbing 8.5% in 2020. Turkey topped the rankings, having seen property prices surge by almost a third last year. It saw a consistent increase in values in 2020, leading the index for four consecutive quarters. It was followed by New Zealand, where prices went up by nearly 19% last year, and Slovakia, where values climbed 16%. The UK’s 8.5% price growth saw it outdo several European neighbours, including Germany (7.8%), France (6.4%) and Ireland (2.2%). Spain was among the worst-performing countries, with typical prices down 1.8%. Of the six countries in the index which saw house prices decline, India saw the steepest fall at 3.6%. Overall, prices across the globe increased 5.6% on average in 2020, up from 5.3% in 2019.


Experts urge BoE not to shift policy

A panel of leading economists have voiced a belief that the Bank of England (BoE) should leave policy unchanged when it announces its latest monetary policy decisions today. All nine members of the Times’ shadow monetary policy committee – a panel of former central bankers and economists - recommended the Bank holds off taking any action until a clearer picture of the economic climate emerges. Analysts expect the Bank to hold interest rates at 0.1% and leave quantitative easing at £895bn. Reflecting on BoE chief economist Andy Haldane’s suggestion that the economy is a “coiled spring”, Sir John Gieve, a former deputy governor at the Bank, said that “inflation may be about to wake up”. Bronwyn Curtis, non-executive director at the Office for Budget Responsibility, adds: “Any coiled spring recovery will be temporary”, while Sir Steve Robson, a former Treasury mandarin, said he was “not entirely convinced” by the coiled spring, suggesting that the unpredictability of COVID-19 “may lead a lot of people to be quite cautious”.

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