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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 19th January 2021

Posted: 19th January 2021


BTG acquires CVR Global

Begbies Traynor Group has acquired CVR Global, a leading independent firm of insolvency practitioners, forensic accountants and experts in other related complementary disciplines. CVR's specialisms include restructuring, financial distress, fraud and asset recovery, business disputes, ADR and dispute resolution, and pension covenant reviews. In common with previous insolvency acquisitions, the CVR team will operate as Begbies Traynor and BTG Advisory moving forwards. Mark Fry, Head of business recovery and advisory of BTG, commented: “The acquisition of CVR significantly increases the scale and specialisms of our business recovery and financial advisory business across London and the South of England, whilst enhancing our overseas capabilities”, while Ric Traynor, Executive Chairman, said: “The acquisition of CVR is our largest insolvency acquisition to date and is expected to be immediately earnings enhancing.”


HSBC criticised over account freeze

Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui has criticised HSBC after the bank froze the politician’s accounts under pressure from police authorities, with Noel Quinn, chief executive at the lender, writing to Mr Hui last week to explain that the firm was instructed to act by the police. The move has seen Mr Quinn accused of trying to downplay its role in a crackdown on Hong Kong dissidents. Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, described Mr Quinn's letter as "extraordinary", adding: "He’s clearly defending his actions by denying responsibility". Mr Hui has called on British MPs to investigate HSBC.

Nationwide offers 2% interest rate

Nationwide is offering customers a 2% interest on balances up to £1,500. New customers taking on the FlexDirect account can score the rate provided £1,000 is paid in per month, not counting transfers from other Nationwide accounts or Visa credits, with the rate dropping to 0.25% AER after a year.


Europe's banks turn to bigger mergers

Analysis shows that the average size of deals between European banks hit a 12-year high in 2020, with the €4.2bn deal which saw Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo acquire domestic rival UBI the biggest.


Audi falls victim to semi-conductor shortage

A global shortage of semi-conductors has seen car production delayed, with Audi the latest firm to announce measures in response, placing over 10,000 of its staff on furlough. This follows Vauxhall reportedly losing half a day’s production at its Ellesmere Port plant and Nissan reassessing plans for extra shifts at its Sunderland plant, while production at Honda’s Swindon factory is suspended until Thursday.


FCA thwarts phoenixing firms

Data from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) shows that it prevented 12 financial advice firms from phoenixing between January and October last year. The FCA said the firms withdrew all their applications when concerns were raised. The City watchdog also stopped 343 applications where the potential for consumer harm was identified, while a further 131 firms had their authorisation revoked in the 10 month period. The FCA also opened more than 1,500 supervisory cases involving scams and higher risk investments, while around 1,000 such cases were closed or passed to other agencies. The regulator received more than 24,000 reports about potential unauthorised business in the 10 months, up from 20,300 in 2019. A spokesperson commented: “In total, our work on scams has resulted in approximately £14.32m being awarded under restitution orders, over £6.9m worth of funds being frozen and over £5.9m being secured for investors for redistribution.”

Sustainable ETF assets jump but most funds fall short on UN goals

Assets in exchange traded funds claiming to invest according to environmental, social and governance principles recorded growth last year, but many do not align with UN-developed goals, the FT reports.

Flexible pension for self-employed launches

Online provider PensionBee has launched a flexible product for self-employed savers. Signing up to the service is free and self-employed individuals are able to pay contributions based on their income, with no minimum saving amounts.


Akzo Nobel offers €1.4bn for Tikkurila

Finnish firm Tikkurila could be acquired by paints and coatings company Akzo Nobel for €1.4bn after the Dutch firm outbid US-based PPG Industries.


Take That producer sells rights

British songwriter and producer Ian Levine has sold of rights to many of his works, with songs by pop group Take That acquired by music publisher One Media iP Group.


Test and Trace consultants cost £900,000 a day

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has been told that the NHS Test and Trace system is spending nearly £1m a day on external management consultants. MPs were told that the service is relying on about 900 external consultants, with these being paid an average of £1,000 a day. David Williams, Second Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, was asked if he was confident no "super-profits" were being made out of test and trace, to which he responded: “I see no evidence that causes me concern."


House prices slip

Rightmove says average property prices have fallen nearly £3,000 in the last month, with the 0.9% dip coming as sellers looks to attract buyers hoping to snap up a home ahead of the end of the stamp duty holiday on March 31. The report shows that annual growth has slowed to 3.3%, down from the 6.6% year-on-year increase recorded a month ago. The analysis also reveals that while prices have declined slightly, the number of buyers contacting agents between and January 2 and January 12 was up by 12% and sales agreed were up by 9% compared with the same period last year. Rightmove director of property data, Tim Bannister, said the tax savings brought about by the stamp duty cut are an “added incentive” for movers, while also warning that there are still “a huge number” of sales agreed in 2020 that are “stuck in the processing logjam” and awaiting completion.

Ending stamp duty break will see 44k fewer new homes

There will be 44,000 fewer new homes built if the Government does not extend the stamp duty holiday, research suggests. A property slump will take hold after the tax break ends on March 31, according to consultant Capital Economics - forcing housebuilders to scale back their plans and adding to the housing crisis which has locked a generation out of ownership. Capital Economics predicts new build starts will drop from a total of 152,000 in 2019 to 130,000 in both 2021 and 2022. This would be equivalent to 44,000 lost homes over the next two years, helping to thwart the Government's target for 300,000 properties to be built per year. In 2020, housing starts dropped by 30,000 due to the pandemic.

Stamp duty holiday drives BTL company surge

Analysis from estate agents Hamptons International shows that landlords formed 41,700 new buy-to-let limited companies in 2020, a 23% increase on 2019’s total. The Telegraph’s Melissa Lawford says the increase has been driven by “punitive” buy-to-let tax changes and an opportunity created by the stamp duty holiday. She says that many property investors hold their assets in companies as it is more tax efficient and helps mitigate the effects of a tax squeeze on landlords. More landlords, she adds, have seemingly opted to place assets in limited companies during the stamp duty holiday as the tax break reduced the cost of moving a property into a company structure.


Shopper footfall down amid lockdown restrictions

As lockdown restrictions took hold across the UK, the number of shoppers visiting retail destinations was down 10.9% in the week to January 16, compared to the week earlier period. Footfall was down 14.6% in shopping centres, 11.5% in high streets and 5.8% in retail parks.

Dr Martens LSE float confirmed

Shoe brand Dr Martens is to float on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, targeting a free float of at least 25% of issued share capital. The firm expects to be eligible for inclusion in the FTSE UK indices, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley appointed as joint global co-ordinators. Barclays, HSBC, Merrill Lynch and RBC Europe will act as joint bookrunners on the float, while Lazard has been named as financial adviser to the firm.


PM: Vaccine is the best way out of recession

Boris Johnson has told business leaders that efficient delivery of the coronavirus vaccine offers Britain the best opportunity for an economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. Chairing the first meeting of a business council designed to coordinate the Government’s economic response to the coronavirus crisis, the Prime Minister told bosses from thirty of the country’s biggest companies that it was important for ministers and businesses to work together to rebuild the economy. He told the executives that his Government will support job creation, upgrade infrastructure and launch a “green industrial revolution” that will help the UK “build back better”. Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Build Back Better Council effectively distributing the vaccine is currently the most important economic policy, saying the inoculation programme will help to build a platform for a strong economic recovery in the second half of the year.


CBI: Firms need more support and no tax hikes

The CBI has told Rishi Sunak that businesses under pressure amid the coronavirus crisis cannot afford to wait for the March budget to secure more financial help from the Government. Director-general Tony Danker has urged the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme, defer VAT payments and extend the business rates holiday for at least another three months. Mr Danker, who warned that business resilience “has hit a sobering new low”, also urged Mr Sunak not to raise corporate taxes as he looks to tackle the budget deficit, saying: “It would be wrong to raise business taxes when we don’t have a recovery. It’s as simple as that”. The CBI is calling for an immediate £7.6bn injection from the Treasury as part of a £17.9bn package designed to support the economy through lockdown and stimulate investment over the coming year.

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