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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 25th August 2020

Posted: 25th August 2020

BANKING

Treasury under fire over disclosure silence on virus loans

The UK Treasury and the British Business Bank are refusing to name businesses that have secured state-backed coronavirus loans with a combined value of £52.7bn, citing commercial sensitivities and data protection laws. The Guardian says concealing the information “does not aid good governance” and raises questions about the “nature and extent of the due diligence required by the Treasury and the banks.” Separately, the BBB’s Start Up Loans programme has issued its 75,000th loan. The programme has invested £623m in small businesses since 2012.

Businesses commit to prioritising mental health

Unilever, Barclays, Lloyds, Morgan Stanley and Santander, along with National Grid and Eon, are among 33 companies to have pledged to prioritise mental health as employees return to work. An open letter detailing the commitment was signed following research by Mind, the mental health charity, which showed that more than a third of workers were struggling. The letter is also backed by the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Metro Bank pulls riskier mortgages

Metro Bank is moving away from high loan-to-value mortgages, announcing that it is temporarily pulling all residential mortgages worth 60%, 85% and 90% of the value of the property. Metro also launched a new offer of £250 to existing customers if they refer a friend for a current account.

INTERNATIONAL

Credit Suisse under investigation for money laundering

Belgian prosecutors are probing Credit Suisse amid suspicions the bank helped more than 2,600 clients to hide money in Swiss accounts. Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s office, said investigators are looking for evidence of money laundering and whether the lender acted as an illegal financial intermediary. In a statement, Credit Suisse said: “We strictly comply with all the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate.”

New Norway oil fund chief to sell out of London hedge fund

Nicolai Tangen is to sell his shareholding in AKO Capital, the London-based hedge fund he founded, in order to assuage conflict of interest fears ahead of his appointment as CEO of Norway’s $1tn oil fund.

AUTOMOTIVE

McLaren flags the end of the road for petrol engines by 2030

McLaren has said it will focus on hybrid supercars for the next 10 years during which time it will also gradually phase out the development of petrol engines.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Amigo’s Benamor advised to reconsider return

Guarantor lender Amigo’s founder James Benamor has been urged not to continue with plans to return to the firm, with incoming chief executive Glen Crawford refusing to work with Mr Benamor. This comes as the company faces thousands of complaints from customers arguing that they should never have been granted loans, with the cost of addressing these issues thought likely to be “substantially” higher than the £35m previously estimated.

FCA steps up focus on advice firms facing collapse

The Financial Conduct Authority is prioritising its focus on regulated firms which are "less resilient" to the financial pressures of recent months. Minutes from the regulator’s July board meeting reveal it has established a recovery and resolution strategy and delivery unit, intended to probe the financial resilience of its regulated firms and identify those at risk of failure.

New investors can rescue capitalism

The Telegraph’s Matthew Lynn argues that a new generation of individual investors can “rescue capitalism… By bringing fresh money into the market; by bringing enthusiasm and knowledge to counter the trend to passive investing; and perhaps most of all by giving a new generation a stake in the free market's ability to generate wealth.” Lynn highlights the success of the share dealing app Robinhood, which was valued at $11bn (£8bn) in a fundraising round last week and which is mostly used by millennials.

HEALTHCARE

Blackstone buys Takeda’s over-the-counter business for $2.3bn

US private equity group Blackstone has acquired Takeda Consumer Healthcare for ¥242bn ($2.3bn) after seeing off rivals such as other PE companies and Japanese pharmaceutical group Taisho.

LEISURE & HOSPITALITY

Wetherspoons releases post-lockdown sales figures

JD Wetherspoon’s sales have fallen by almost a fifth since the reopening of its chain of pubs last month and the company warned it will report a loss for its financial year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The company, which has reopened 844 of its 873 pubs, said that bar and food sales were down 16.9% year-on-year in the 44-day period to 16th August. Chairman Tim Martin said it expects to fall to a loss for the year to 26th July due to one-off costs related to the pandemic.

Safestay in talks over debt

Hostel operator Safestay has said it is in talks with its bank to waive covenants on a debt facility which it expects to breach after being impacted by the pandemic.

London Zoo secures £20m loan

The Zoological Society of London is finalising a £20m loan from Barclays Bank after the pandemic obliterated its income.

MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT

BT shares up after takeover rumours

Shares in BT rose yesterday following news the telecoms firm has hired Goldman Sachs to help it defend against any takeover approaches. Shares ended 7.2p higher at 109p, a rise of 7%, valuing the company at £10.8bn. Analysts believe private equity groups are taking an interest in the group and have an eye on Openreach.

Former Disney executive to lead Pearson

Former Disney executive Andy Bird has been appointed to lead publishing group Pearson, and will take over from current chief executive John Fallon later this year.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

Bunzl dividend reinstated

Distribution and services business Bunzl has reinstated its dividend, with revenues up 7% to £4.8bn while pre-tax profit was 22% higher at £245m for the six months to June 30. Chief executive Frank van Zanten commented: “These results have once again demonstrated the strength of our customer proposition and supply chain and the resilience of our business model and consistent and proven strategy.”

Shares in the firm were up 3% to £24.71, nearly £4 higher than their January value.

RETAIL

Tesco to create 16,000 permanent jobs to bolster online business

Tesco has said it will create 16,000 new permanent jobs to bolster its rapidly growing online grocery business. The roles will include 10,000 pickers, who assemble customer orders, and 3,000 drivers to deliver them to households. More than 16% of Tesco’s sales are now online, compared to around 9% before the pandemic; it expects online sales of more than £5.5bn this year, up from £3.3bn last year. Tesco also said it will take part in the Government’s post-lockdown scheme to boost employment among young people.

Ashley buys rival’s gym chain

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has acquired some of the assets of DW Sports from administration for £37m. The retailer said the deal, which will save a total of 922 jobs, was for parts of DW's gym and fitness business, including some stock, but did not include the DW business name and its intellectual property.

Charles Tyrwhitt agrees new financing facility

Shirt maker Charles Tyrwhitt has negotiated a £26m financing facility with Lloyds Bank - refinancing an existing deal and agreeing new funding to help it with future business.

ECONOMY

UK set for record-breaking economic growth in third quarter

Data showing higher consumer spending in the first two weeks of August than a year ago indicates the UK may be on course to enjoy a record-breaking economic recovery in Q3.

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