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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 31st May 2018

Posted: 31st May 2018


RBS finance head resigns

Royal Bank of Scotland’s CFO Ewen Stevenson has resigned after four years in the job, with the search for his successor to begin immediately. Chief executive Ross McEwan said: “For the past four years Ewen has worked tirelessly with me and my executive team to make RBS a much simpler, safer and more customer-focussed business and to resolve a number of major legacy challenges.” The Standard's Simon English says “pretty much everyone” thinks Mr Stevenson is an excellent finance director and a vital sidekick to boss Mr McEwan. The Times notes that HSBC has interviewed Mr Stevenson to become its finance director. Mark Tucker, the chairman of HSBC, has reportedly spoken to several candidates in the past few weeks. Mr Stevenson’s departure comes amid speculation that Mr McEwan could also be preparing to step down. The FT notes that Alison Rose, the bank’s head of commercial and private banking, is seen as the internal favourite to replace Mr McEwan should he step down. Julia Bradshaw adds in the Telegraph that Ms Rose could be a breath of fresh air as RBS boss.

RBS to press ahead with branch closures

The board of RBS has refused to yield to demands for a halt to branch closures. RBS chairman Sir Howard Davies told shareholders that use of branches had fallen sharply as customers shifted their banking online. He backed CEO Ross McEwan, who said directors realised closures were difficult for customers, colleagues and communities. In December, RBS announced it would shut a total of 62 Scottish branches. Ten of them were later given a stay of execution until at least the end of 2018, pending a review.

Bank of England researchers agree digital currency benefits

A central bank-run digital currency could make monetary policy changes a more effective tool, according to a new blog post by researchers at the Bank of England. Jack Meaning and Ben Dyson looked at recent research weighing the potential risks and benefits of central bank digital currency (CBDC), concluding that a digital currency would remove the need for banks as an intermediary for buying the government bonds used in quantitative easing: “The central bank could pay for assets from non-banks directly with central bank money (CBDC), by-passing the banking sector altogether.”


Volcker rule relaxed

American regulators have proposed a relaxation of the Volcker rule that bans banks from gambling with their own money in the markets. Jay Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said regulators wanted to “replace overly complex and inefficient requirements with a more streamlined set of requirements”.

EU plans €30bn fund to help crisis-hit eurozone countries

The European Union is to propose a €30bn loan plan for countries hit by economic shocks. The proposal is distinct from the Eurozone’s existing bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.


Car production increases despite Brexit fears

April saw a total of 127,952 cars built across the British car industry, as the number of motors rolling off production lines increased by 5.2% compared with last year, despite concerns of the impact Brexit may have on exports. Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders commented that “the ability of UK plants to attract the next wave of models and drive future growth depends upon maintaining these competitive conditions after Brexit."

Daimler acquires stake in Taxify

Daimler has taken a stake in Taxify in a funding round that values the ride-booking group at more than $1bn.


Singapore Airlines to start 19-hour flight

The world's longest commercial flight will be launched in October, Singapore Airlines has announced. Passengers will fly nonstop between New York and Singapore, covering a distance of about 9,500 miles.


Pensions dashboard faces delay

Government plans to create an online “pensions dashboard” displaying each person’s retirement savings have fallen behind, as new figures show that seven million people have lost track of at least one pension pot. Research from the insurer Aegon found that 22% of savers were unable to trace one or more pensions, up from 21% last year. A feasibility study into the dashboard plans was due to be released by the DWP in March but has not yet appeared.

Hargreaves Lansdown backs Schroders

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Select Fund has added fund manager Schroders to its list of “high quality” UK businesses. Hargreaves Lansdown believes higher levels of stock market volatility play to Schroders’ advantage.

Tradeshift secures funding

Tradeshift, the supply chain finance and marketplace provider, has announced a $250m series E funding round, led by Goldman Sachs and PSP Investments. Launched in 2010, Tradeshift enables supply chain payments and marketplaces for more than 1.5m businesses across 190 countries, including large enterprise brands such as Air France-KLM, Siemens, DHL, and Unilever.

Phoenix plans rights issue

Life insurance group Phoenix has unveiled a £950m rights issue to raise the funds it needs to acquire the majority of Standard Life Aberdeen’s insurance business. The rights issue will be on the basis of seven new shares at 518p per new share for every 15 existing shares. The underwriters for the deal are banks HSBC, Merrill Lynch International, JP Morgan Securities and BNP Paribas.


Bodycote riding Rolls wave

Bodycote has indicated that it would top full-year profit expectations, after declaring that revenue over the first four months of 2018 was 10% higher on a constant currency basis at £243m. The Macclesfield-based engineering firm, which employs over 5,000 people, last month signed a £160m 15-year contract with Rolls-Royce to support the development of its aircraft turbine blades.

De La Rue hit by passports snub

Printer De La Rue’s costly UK passport contract bid knocked a third off profits at its identity division, which makes passports, driving licences and ID cards, with the group writing off £3.7m. The snub, plus the sale of a paper-making business, led adjusted operating profit down 11% to £62.8m.


Channel 4 unveils HQ shortlist

Channel 4 has revealed that Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and the West Midlands will all take part in the second stage of the bidding process to be picked for its national HQ or one of the two creative hubs while Belfast, Brighton, Newcastle-Gateshead, Nottingham, Sheffield and Stoke-On-Trent will compete for just the creative hubs.


Emoov, Tepilo and Urban unveil three-way merger

Online real estate group Emoov, digital property firm Tepilo and online letting agency Urban have announced they will merge in a £100m deal, which will create the second-largest online real estate agent in the UK behind Purplebricks. The new firm will be headed by Emoov CEO Russell Quirk. Emoov also announced that the newly-enlarged business had secured a total of £15m in funding from existing and new shareholders, and had entered into a deal with Channel 4's Commercial Growth Fund to launch a major TV advertising campaign. Under this deal, Channel 4 will also take a stake in Emoov.

Aviva restructures real estate arm

Aviva Investors will form a new real assets business with £37bn in funds. The asset management arm of insurer Aviva will also sell its real estate multi-manager business and its interest in Encore+, a European commercial property fund, to LaSalle Investment Management.


B&M hungry amid soaring profits

Simon Arora, chief executive of discount retailer B&M, is eyeing rivals’ stores as part of aggressive expansion plans. “Whether it is M&S or a CMA-led disposal in the case of Sainsbury’s and Asda or a distressed retailer such as Homebase. We have an open mind, we don’t care,” he asserted. The company saw pre-tax profits jump by 23.6% to £226.1m on soaring revenues of £2.9bn for the year to March 31. B&M plans to have up to 950 UK outlets in the next few years.


Jobs boom reaching new households

The number of households with no member in work fell by nearly 100,000 over the past year, indicating the UK’s jobs boom is reaching households who might normally struggle to find jobs. Overall, nearly 60% of households had all members aged over 16 in employment, a rise of 315,000 compared to 2017. Economists welcomed the news, but warned that there may not be much room for further improvement on the figures.

OECD upgrades UK growth outlook

The OECD has upgraded its forecast for UK economic growth - expanding by 1.4% this year before slowing slightly to 1.3% in 2019. "The authorities should stand ready to further increase productivity-enhancing measures on investment if growth weakens significantly ahead of Brexit," the OECD noted.


Big business issues Brexit warning

A group of business leaders, from companies including BP, BMW, Nestle and Vodafone, have warned Theresa May they may cut investment without more clarity over the terms of Brexit. In a statement after a meeting with the PM, the business leaders said that “time is running out” and a trade deal with the EU must be “frictionless as with a customs union”. Elsewhere, the FT examines how the prospect of a hard VAT border is already affecting UK businesses.

Treasury backs Brexit coin

The Treasury has suggested that it may back a Brexit coin to mark the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, with Conservative MPs calling for it to feature Britannia. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, said “there could be an argument for” a Brexit coin and it could be used to “commemorate the next chapter in our national story”.

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