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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 7th April 2022

Posted: 7th April 2022


NatWest and Coutts launch accelerator for gaming and social media entrepreneurs

NatWest and its wealth business Coutts have launched a business accelerator for gaming and social media entrepreneurs. Starting in June, the six-month accelerator is aimed at “ambitious e-sports, gaming, social media and streaming entrepreneurs across the UK” who have recently started a business or are thinking about forming one. NatWest , formerly Royal Bank of Scotland Group, said candidates did not need to be existing customers of the bank, with applications to join the accelerator now open online via the Coutts website

VTB British arm set to file for administration

The UK unit of Russia's VTB Bank is reportedly set to file for administration in the coming days. Moscow-based VTB is one of several financial institutions targeted by British sanctions in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Its separate European division has been put up for sale.


JamJar raises £100m fund

JamJar Investments has raised over £100m in its new fund to support early-stage consumer brands across the UK and Europe. The capital came from institutional investors, founders and a crowdfund including a cornerstone commitment of £48m from British Business Bank’s Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) programme.

Blackstone weighs takeover bid for Italian infrastructure group Atlantia

New York-based private equity group Blackstone is weighing a takeover bid for Italian infrastructure group Atlantia, the manager of motorways, toll roads and airports across Europe.

Toshiba shareholder pushes for buyout talks with Bain and other private equity groups

3D Investment Partners, Toshiba’s second-largest investor, is pushing for the company to open talks on a take-private deal after it was revealed last week that Bain Capital was set to submit a buyout proposal for the Japanese firm.


UK and US impose sanctions on Sberbank

Fresh sanctions imposed on Russia by the UK will see a total asset freeze on the country’s biggest bank, Sberbank, and Credit Bank of Moscow. Foreign secretary Liz Truss also said there would be a ban on all outward British investment into Russia. The move came shortly after the US announced new sanctions against Sberbank and Alfa-Bank, the country’s biggest private bank. A series of individuals have also been sanctioned and the UK has pledged to end oil and coal imports from Russia by the end of 2022.

BNP Paribas’s European workers can work from home until 2024

BNP Paribas has told workers across Europe they can stay at home for two and a half days a week until 2024. The move is understood to exclude BNP Paribas's UK arm, with the agreement jointly signed with the bank and two European trade unions. Nick Le Riche, an employment partner for BDB Pitmans, said that UK companies are "mostly keeping things under review" while they weigh up the potential long-term impacts of home working. "As companies assess the year post-lockdown they might look to cement things a bit more one way or the other," he said.

Citigroup attacked over pledge to cover staff abortion costs

Republicans in the US have called for Citigroup to be stripped of its role providing credit cards to the American government after the bank said it would pay for staff to fly to abortion-friendly states for a termination. In a letter to authorities in Congress, representative Mike Johnson and more than 40 other House members said: "By offering to pay its employees in their efforts to terminate the lives of the unborn, Citi has forfeited its privilege of doing business with the House of Representatives".

HSBC increases stake in China securities brokerage

HSBC has increased its stake in its China securities brokerage, through a deal to buy equity from its state-owned partner Qianhai Financial Holdings. The bank said the transaction had taken its stake in HSBC Qianhai Securities from 51% to 90%. 


Lookers says used car prices to remain high this year

Car dealership group Lookers posted record annual results for the year to December 31. Sales rose from £3.67bn in 2020 to £4.05bn. Pre-tax profits soared from £1.5m the previous year to £90m.


Redrow increases cladding provision fivefold

Redrow is the latest developer to sign up to Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s Building Safety Pledge, which was put forward in January. The firm has increased funds set aside to fix fire safety issues to more than five times an original estimate. Redrow's pledge will mean additional costs of £164m, beyond the £36m the company had previously set aside to remedy issues. Several of Britain's biggest housebuilders have now committed more than £1.4bn to pay for remediation work on fire safety for tall buildings after the housing secretary extracted a further £720m this week.

Business confidence in UK construction hits 17-month low

The latest S&P Global/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index shows confidence in the sector fell to a 17-month low in March indicating that inflationary pressures have “unnerved some construction companies.”


McGuinness calls for less reliance on London clearing houses

The EU commissioner for financial services, Mairead McGuinness, has compared Europe’s dependency on Russian energy supplies with the Continent’s reliance on the City of London for clearing services. Ms McGuinness said: "It's time now for Europe to make very strong decisions on the financial stability and the financial system, just as we are doing today very critically and very urgently around our over-dependency on energy from Russia.” Ms McGuinness told a European Central Bank event on Wednesday that she will propose new legislation in October in an attempt to bolster clearing services in the bloc. Responding to the comments, Andy Mayer from the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank in London, said: "The commissioner’s crass comparison between an ally and a hostile power engaging in an illegal war on European soil is deeply regrettable. The EU would do better to focus on reducing barriers to trade to reduce their exposure to any single trading partner, including the UK."

FCA demands Facebook stamp out scam adverts

The Financial Conduct Authority has instructed Facebook to rein in scam investment adverts following a surge in fraud attacks on social media platforms. At present, investment companies can post adverts on Facebook and Twitter regardless of whether they are regulated by the FCA. Nikhil Rathi, head of the FCA, said both Facebook's owner Meta and Twitter need to do more to take on fraudsters. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Rathi said: "Following our public intervention, Google changed policy to only permit FCA-registered firms to advertise financial promotions with them. We now expect commitments from Meta, Twitter and others to be turned into clear timetables for action."

Pockit needs cash injection to survive

The latest accounts for Pockit, the taxpayer-backed provider of financial services to vulnerable customers, show that "material uncertainty" may cast "significant doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern". The company said it was dependent on securing additional funds this year and the accounts noted that the business was in "advance discussions" to raise up to £10m.

HSBC launches new metaverse fund

HSBC Asset Management has launched a fund to invest in companies within the so-called "metaverse ecosystem", targeted at its private banking clients in Hong Kong and Singapore. "The metaverse is seen by many as the next stage in the evolution of the internet, with the effect it has on our daily lives expected to be as impactful as we saw in the early nineties," said portfolio manager Nicholas Dowell.


UK sells vaccine manufacturing plant

US pharmaceutical firm Catalent has confirmed it is buying the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire, the government-funded site which was supposed to help prepare the UK for future pandemics. Political opponents called the sale “ridiculously short-sighted.”


888 in cash call to fund William Hill takeover

Online gambling group 888 Holdings has hired JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley to work on an equity-raise to fund its takeover of William Hill's non-US operations. 888 told investors the move would create a more diversified revenue base across different countries, with leading positions in the UK, Italy and Spain.

Proportion of EU workers in UK hospitality falls

Data from software firm Fourth show the proportion of EU workers in the UK hospitality industry has fallen to 28% from 42% in 2019, forcing firms to pay more to attract domestic staff.


Home owners squeeze nearly £5bn out of properties

Equity release payments increased by almost £1bn in 2021, as more and more UK homeowners sought alternative ways of funding their retirement. Between 2020 – 2021, the amount of money unlocked from UK property rose from £3.9bn to £4.8bn, an annual increase of £940m, or 24.4%. This increase was created by the number of people choosing to release equity rising by 4.3%. At the same time, the average cash value of an equity release increased by more than 19%, from £53,000 in 2020 to £63,000 in 2021.

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