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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 6th September 2018

Posted: 6th September 2018

BANKING

RBS to halve number of England and Wales branches

Royal Bank of Scotland is to cut its English and Welsh branch network in half in January, resulting in the loss of over 250 jobs. Following the restructuring, required after RBS failed to sell its Williams & Glyn brand, NatWest will have 651 branches in England and Wales, plus five in Scotland, while there will be 99 RBS branches in Scotland and 54 in England, including six in London and the south east.

Debt crisis grows

A report by the National Audit Office reveals that a fifth of UK adults have less than £100 in savings, raising concerns that the country's savings culture has been eroded by a decade of ultra-low interest rates. Baroness Ros Altmann, a former pensions minister, stated: “Having little or no savings may force people into the hands of loan sharks or high cost emergency loans, and that can lead to a negative spiral of debt.”

TSB action called for from FCA

Campaigners have warned that TSB must face rapid action from the Financial Conduct Authority after its recent IT troubles. Nikki Turner of pressure group SME Alliance said: “The FCA has a reputation for dragging its feet. But I would urge it to move quickly so that people who suffered from TSB's problems can see that justice is being done.”

Lloyds focuses on digital jobs

Lloyds Banking Group is to cut hundreds of jobs in its commercial banking, retail and transformative divisions, according to the Accord trade union. City AM notes that to balance the cuts, some 435 new roles, with a focus on engineering and design, will also be created in the bank's transformation division in the efforts to compete in an increasingly digital market.

Goldman dropped from £109bn Lloyds sale

BlackRock and Schroders remain in the running after Lloyds Banking Group dropped Goldman Sachs from the auction of an £109bn investment contract.

PRIVATE EQUITY

BC partners sells Sabre Insurance shares

Sabre Insurance founder Angus Ball and private equity fund BC Partners have sold £116m shares in the car insurance firm, with former majority shareholder BC disposing of its remaining holding in the company and Ball retaining a 1.8% share.

INTERNATIONAL

Credit Suisse promotion

Credit Suisse has promoted Antonia Rowan to run its UK advisory and corporate broking business, replacing Lewis Burnett, who left to work for BNP Paribas last month.

Nigerian lender’s profits up

Pre-tax profits at Atlas Mara, the African financial group founded by Bob Diamond the former boss of Barclays, have more than doubled in the first half to $36.1m.

Merkel supports euro clearing move

Angela Merkel is understood to support Frankfurt's bid to replace London as the main clearing house for euro-denominated derivatives after Britain leaves the EU.

Pimco role for former Blackstone exec Studzinski

Asset manager Pimco has appointed former Blackstone executive John Studzinski as a strategic adviser for its top clients, reporting directly to chief executive Manny Roman.

AUTOMOTIVE

Fuel price rise sees sales of electric vehicles rise

Electronic vehicles accounted for one in every 12 new cars purchased in August, a record high. As the average cost of petrol and diesel reached its highest level since July 2014, electronic cars made up 8% of the overall market, according to figures provided by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Toyota recalls 1m vehicles over fire risk

A fire risk means Toyota is recalling over 1m vehicles globally - including its Prius hybrid - to replace parts. The recalls affects Japan, Europe and North America.

CONSTRUCTION

Brexit hitting housing market

Housebuilder Berkeley is standing by its most recent profit guidance in its latest trading update - despite Brexit and high stamp duty costs stunting the housing market from functioning properly. “In essence, this is a market that lacks urgency and London remains constrained by high transaction costs, restrictive income multiple limits on mortgage borrowing and prevailing economic uncertainty, accentuated by Brexit," the firm said.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Man Group nabs strategic bond team

Portfolio managers Craig Veysey and Francois Kotze are to move the £275m Sanlam Strategic Bond fund to hedge fund manager Man Group's discretionary investment management arm GLG. The fund invests in global corporate and government bond opportunities.

Wirex hoping to leverage FCA seal to boost cryptocurrencies

Customers of FCA-regulated digital money platform Wirex can now use its Visa payment card to spend cryptocurrencies online and in shops and withdraw money from ATMs. With support for over 50 digital currencies, Pavel Matveev, co-founder of Wirex, says: “Our recent FCA e-money licence means we can offer users a broader range of both crypto and fiat currencies across the EEA. We are currently operating in over 130 countries and expanding rapidly.”

Fundraising valuation of $2.3bn for digital lender

OakNorth Holdings has been valued at $2.3bn after the company completed a $100m fundraising to help license its artificial intelligence loan system to foreign banks.

Funding lift from RBS and Barclays for Squarestone

Squarestone, a property investment and development management company, has been given £125m in funding from RBS and Barclays, to continue targeting “quality, UK-based commercial property assets, with strong income profiles and clear and deliverable capital growth opportunities.”

Scottish fintech duo signed up by Tech Nation

Two Edinburgh businesses, Float and Sustainably, have been revealed as among the top 20 early-stage British fintech companies chosen to join a “landmark” Treasury-backed programme.

Bitcoin value falls

Bitcoin’s value fell about 5% to $6,913 after it was reported that Goldman Sachs had abandoned plans to open a desk for trading cryptocurrencies.

HEALTHCARE

Bayer forecasts lower earnings on Monsanto delays

Bayer's $63bn takeover of Monsanto will hit financial results harder than anticipated, the German pharmaceuticals firm has acknowledged, and is now aiming for full year sales of €35bn.

LEISURE & HOSPITALITY

Gaucho sale confirmed

Gaucho has been sold to Lomo Bidco, a new firm formed by lenders Investec and SC Lowy, saving about 750 jobs.

REAL ESTATE

Churchill Retirement warns over leasehold changes

Churchill has warned over proposed changes to Britain’s leasehold system. The retirement housebuilder's chairman, Spencer McCarthy, complained that the government’s plan to set ground rents on new long leases to zero “will disproportionately affect” his firm and rivals like McCarthy & Stone and championed a “strong case” for retirement housing exemptions. Pre-tax profit slipped to £53.2m from £54.9m, while the firm saw sales rise 5.9% to £188.4m in the year to June and average selling prices increase 1.6% to £313,000.

RETAIL

Small firms call for rates freeze

The Federation of Small Businesses has called for business rates to be completely overhauled in order to save the High Street. Mike Cherry, chairman of the FSB, commented: “It's clear the pressure is mounting. Spiralling business rates and ever-increasing rents are piling on to small retailers, hospitality businesses and others on the High Street. The high cost of town centre parking, poor infrastructure, the blight of potholes and the loss of vital banking services are also ramping up the pressure.”

SPORT

Premiership set to turn down takeover deal

Premiership Rugby is expected to turn down a £275m takeover bid for a major share in England's top league from CVC Capital Partners. However, other finance-raising options are believed to be under consideration.

ECONOMY

UK services sector activity accelerates in August

Britain's services sector picked up the pace in August, according to IHS Markit's purchasing managers' index, which rose to 54.3 from 53.5 in July. Respondents to the survey however told IHS Markit that they had struggled to fill new roles with suitably-skilled candidates.

OTHER

More women in finance needed

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has suggested male domination of the banking industry was partly responsible for the collapse of Lehman Brothers. She was calling for further reforms to prevent a recurrence of the financial crisis a decade ago.

New national bank consultation launched in Scotland

Plans for a national investment bank for Scotland will move forward, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing that legislation would be brought forward early next year to establish the organisation by 2020.

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