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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 20th July 2021

Posted: 20th July 2021


HSBC branches and offices reopen

All HSBC bank branches and offices in England are reopening alongside the Government's lifting of remaining COVID-19 restrictions. The firm is planning to increase its building capacity to approximately 50% of its pre-pandemic workforce in the coming months. It is noted that the bank plans to cut real estate costs by 40% as staff move to a hybrid model of work. Meanwhile, JPMorgan has said it expects more than 50% of its staff to return to the office while Goldman Sachs anticipates 70% of its staff to return in the coming the weeks.

Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Lloyds suffer outages

Thousands of Halifax, Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland customers were locked out of their banking applications yesterday with two thirds of reports pointing to online banking problems and the remaining third mobile banking. It appears that the issue has been resolved but it is unclear exactly what the source of the issue was.

New Investec savings deal launched

Investec has launched a new competitive savings deal, with Samantha Booysen, Head of Digital Savings at the firm, stating: "We estimate that there is over £120bn in pent up, excess savings as many people have spent less due to the various restrictions during the coronavirus crisis. Many are looking to tie-up some of their savings in competitive fixed rate deals, and our new Fixed Rate Saver account should appeal to many of these savers."


MPs fear Chinese private equity a Trojan horse

MPs have raised concerns over a rise in Chinese private equity groups bidding for successful UK tech companies. Lawmakers claim some of the firms effectively act as proxies for China, while others obscure their connection to the country's Communist regime through tax havens. Conservative MP Bob Seely, who sits on the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: "There is a problem with private equity anyway but we've got to be wiser to what's happening when it's a Chinese firm. When it comes to buying up sensitive technologies, because China is a one-party state you have to wonder what the motives are - this can effectively be a surreptitious tech transfer."

The private equity backlash against ESG

The FT’s Patrick Jenkins suggests the recent spate of buyouts by private equity firms is being driven by increasing investor pressure on listed companies to act on everything from executive pay to carbon emissions.


UBS brokerage pays $8m to settle with SEC

The brokerage arm of UBS Group AG has agreed to pay $8m to the U.S. securities regulator to settle claims the bank failed to protect its clients when advisors sold a volatility-linked, exchange-traded product, holding the product in client accounts for lengthy periods resulting in "meaningful losses".

Russia's central bank recommends companies disclose ESG agenda

Russia's central bank has asked domestic companies to disclose their ESG compliance and evaluate risks related to the global ESG agenda, either in their annual reports or in any other way, once a year. In a statement the central bank said: "It is essential to evaluate the ESG-related risks as there is a high probability they may transform into financial risks over time."

AustralianSuper plans A$5bn overseas spending spree

The A$230bn AustralianSuper pension fund is set to embark on a A$5bn ($3.7bn) international spending spree as it hunts for deals in infrastructure and private debt.


FCA issues warning over poor ESG fund applications

Fund management groups must improve "poorly drafted" environmental, social and governance fund applications, the Financial Conduct Authority has said. The regulator explained that poor quality ESG fund applications could "undermine trust and deter consumers" from investing in such products. Nick Miller, head of the watchdog's asset management supervision, said: "In general, fund applications in this area often do not contain sufficient, clear information explaining their chosen strategy and how this relates to the assets selected for the fund." He added: "We expect clear and accurate disclosures to consumers where funds make ESG-related claims and we want to see funds deliver on their stated objectives."

The winners and losers from India’s Mastercard ban

The FT says the ban by India’s central bank on Mastercard adding new customers after it breached data storage rules will benefit local card issuers and accelerate India’s shift towards mobile money.

Robinhood seeks valuation of up to $35bn in IPO

Robinhood is looking to raise more than $2.3bn through its initial public offering, which will value the online brokerage at up to $35bn.

Lord Hill joins fintech firm

Jonathan Hill, Britain's former representative to the EU, has joined fintech start-up W1tty as an adviser ahead of its launch in Europe this autumn.


Spire takeover sunk by shareholders

Spire Healthcare’s board have been defeated in their bid to sell the healthcare operator to rival Ramsay Health Care after just 70% of shareholders voted for the deal, below the 75% threshold needed. Spire's board urged shareholders to back the takeover but the bid was opposed by Toscafund and Fidelity, two of the company's biggest investors.

Suitors circle Lloyds Pharmacy chain

Aurelius Group, Epiris and HIG Europe are expected to table formal bids this week for Lloyds Pharmacy, Sky News reports.


Nightclubs will have to demand proof of full vaccination

Boris Johnson has said that from the end of September people attending nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather in England will need to be fully vaccinated. Boss of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls called the announcement "a hammer blow" for a struggling industry trying to rebuild. "Covid passports will be a costly burden that run the risk of creating flashpoints between staff and customers, as well as raising potential issues with equalities legislation and the handling of customer data," she said. Mark Harper MP, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative backbenchers, also criticised the plans, saying the Government was "effectively moving to compulsory vaccination."

Hospitality not out of the woods yet

Consumer spending on hospitality has bounced back since the first lockdown last year, but it remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the Office for National Statistics. Hugh Stickland, senior economist at the ONS, said: “Confidence about the future remains low across hospitality, possibly further hit by the delay to full reopening.” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, is calling on the Government to reform VAT, beer duty and business rates to boost the recovery of the sector.

Stonegate sues insurers for £845m after Covid losses

Private equity-backed pub chain Stonegate is suing MS Amlin, Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe and Zurich for losses it incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.


Cineworld CEO optimistic on recovery

An interview with Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger quotes him as saying that "We’re not back to 2019 levels yet, but if we look at the fourth quarter, with the line-up we have, including the new Bond and Top Gun movies, we will be much closer.” He went on to note that "... we are on the right track to being again what we were before.”


SAP expands in UK

German software giant SAP is set to invest £250m in the UK and open new offices in London and Manchester this year.


Jenrick to outline aesthetic demands for new housing

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will today outline a new national model design code, stipulating the types of façade and materials local authorities should demand of new buildings. In a speech to the think tank Policy Exchange, the minister will also detail the new national planning policy framework which will recommend that developments provide access to nature and include schemes to improve biodiversity. To help deliver the plans, Mr Jenrick has created a taskforce to drive up standards in the building industry, with developers, architects and planners all represented.


Italian fashion shops taken over

The Italian luxury retailer Zegna plans to go public in a £2.3bn Spac deal in New York later this year. Elsewhere, private equity firm L Catterton has agreed to buy a 60% stake in another Italian family-led fashion group, Etro, valuing the company at around £430m.


MPC member warns against 'pre-emptive' end to support

Bank of England rate-setter Jonathan Haskel has warned against withdrawing economic support just as the Delta variant’s surge threatens the recovery. The external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee railed against warnings from fellow rate-setters over soaring prices, arguing that “tight policy is not the right policy”. During an online webinar at the University of Liverpool management school, Mr Haskel said: “The economy is fully not recovered yet and faces two headwinds over the coming months: the highly transmissible Delta variant and a tightening of the fiscal stance. Against this backdrop, risk-management considerations lean against a pre-emptive tightening of monetary policy until we can be more sure the economy is recovering in a manner consistent with the sustained achievement of the inflation target.”

Inflation to add £10bn to government's debt burden

Analysts at investment banks including Barclays and Bank of America expect inflation to reach at least 4% this year, adding £10bn to government debt costs. Prices in June increased 3.9% annually, but analysts expect the RPI to rise further as the severe supply and demand imbalances across the global economy pushes up costs.

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