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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 8th February 2022

Posted: 8th February 2022


Barclays-backed Insight pumps £100m into ThinCats

Insight Investment is to put an extra £100m into a partnership with business lender ThinCats to support the post-pandemic growth of SMEs. Insight, whose managed funds are part of a panel of senior investors including Barclays and Citi, teamed up with ThinCats in 2018. Shaheer Guirguis, head of secured investment at Insight Investment said: “Insight has partnered with ThinCats for more than three years and seen it grow from strength to strength. During this time, and despite the substantial economic impact caused by the Covid pandemic, our investment capital has continued to provide valuable support to UK SMEs while delivering good risk-adjusted returns to our investors.”

Halifax accepts use of Mx after non-binary complaint

A married couple have won their battle with Halifax to get a mortgage on their first home after the bank initially failed to accept the use of the non-binary pronoun Mx. Ruth Sabini-Roberts and her spouse G were told the only options were 'Miss' or 'Mrs' but the couple managed to force Halifax into a U-turn after making a formal complaint. Ruth and G now hope it is a landmark moment that will shape the way for non-binary customers - or anyone who uses 'Mx' - in the future.


Volatile energy market helps Macquarie to record quarter earnings

Macquarie Group shares jumped on Tuesday after the Australian lender reported record quarter of earnings. The financial services giant was boosted by increased client hedging and trading in the company’s gas and power business in response to “unusually challenging market conditions”. Growth continued in the company’s Australian banking division with mortgage lending up 8% while AUM at Macquarie’s asset management business were up 2% on the prior quarter. Jason Kururangi from Milford Asset Management said: “Another strong update from Macquarie with a number of business units firing on all cylinders.”

Credit Suisse rejects money laundering charges

Credit Suisse has been charged by a Swiss court of failing to do enough to stop money laundering linked to drug trafficking by a Bulgarian criminal organization. The case against the bank centres on charges that it "did not take all necessary measures to halt the infraction of money laundering" by one of its employees, according to a summary from the court. "Credit Suisse unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations in this legacy matter raised against it and is convinced that its former employee is innocent," the Swiss bank said in a statement Monday, adding that it "will defend itself vigorously in court."


Nissan to limit combustion engine development

Nissan has announced plans to stop developing new internal combustion engines in all its major markets except the US to focus on electric vehicles. The Japanese company plans to build battery recycling factories in the US and Europe by the end of 2025.


Taylor Wimpey promotes Jennie Daly to chief executive

Jennie Daly has been announced as the successor to Pete Redfern as CEO of Taylor Wimpey, making the company the first big UK housebuilder to appoint a female chief executive. Daly, who is currently operations director, will officially take over at the company’s annual meeting on 26th April. The move is likely to anger activist investor Elliot Advisors which had been pushing for an outsider to replace Redfern, who has led the business for 15 years. Elliott was one of five top investors who in December wrote to the company to warn they were “unlikely to support a chief executive candidate that represents an extension of the status quo at Taylor Wimpey”. A Taylor Wimpey spokesman said that the board had consulted all shareholders, including Elliott about the appointment process. The FT’s Cat Rutter Pooley meanwhile says Taylor Wimpey shareholders should welcome the pressure from investors to do better.

Energy price rises drive construction costs higher

Construction companies fear sustained high energy costs will add to pressures at a time when the industry is grappling with a shortage of workers and raised prices for materials.


New campaign launched to champion asset management industry

The City of London Corporation has announced the launch of Global Investment Futures, a campaign led jointly with the Department for International Trade and the Investment Association, which aims to promote and showcase the strength of the UK's position in the investment management post-Brexit. “The UK is the home of the world's leading investment managers,” said Chris Cummings, the chief executive of the Investment Association. “The industry is pioneering innovation in a market with a global outlook, high standards for stewardship, conducive regulation and a culture that is diverse and rich in talent – and where people are focused on client needs,” Cummings added.

Google sued by price comparison site for £1.8bn

PriceRunner, the price comparison company, has said it is in the process of suing Alphabet-owned Google for around €2.1bn (£1.8bn), after accusing the search engine of manipulating search results. Swedish fintech Klarna is in the middle of acquiring PriceRunner, whose lawsuit aims to make Google pay out compensation for the profit lost by the company in the UK since 2008, as well as in Sweden and Denmark since 2013. “They are still abusing the market to a very high extent and haven’t changed basically anything,” chief exec Mikael Lindahl of the Swedish PriceRunner told Reuters. He added that the firm had secured tens of millions of euros in external financing to take the case forward and was willing to fight for many years.

Investment in UK fintech grows to $37.7bn

A new report has found that investment in fintech firms in the UK grew sevenfold last year to $37.3bn (£27.5bn), with London attracting more fintech funding than the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) put together. London’s fintech boom was strengthened by the size of many of the deals, which included the $14.8bn Refinitiv deal completed in January 2021. Five out of the 10 largest fintech deals in the EMEA region were completed in the UK. Payments continued to attract the most funding, accounting for $51.7bn in investment globally in 2021 – up from $29.1bn in 2020.

LV= chairman to step down after demutualisation flop

The failure by LV= bosses to sell the company to US private equity firm Bain Capital last year has resulted in a boardroom clear-out, with chairman Alan Cook set to step down from the start of April. Three other directors will also leave. Cook will be replaced by Seamus Creedon on an interim basis. He is a non-executive director at the firm and will lead the process to reshape the board. LV= said its chief executive, Mark Hartigan, would remain with the company, which also confirmed that talks with its fellow mutual insurer Royal London had been reopened following the failure of the Bain Capital deal.

Paper shortage delays Abrdn shareholder vote on £1.5bn deal

Abrdn has been forced to delay a shareholder vote on its proposed £1.5bn acquisition of retail funds platform Interactive Investor because of an international shortage of paper. The asset manager had wanted to hold the vote ahead of its results on March 1st but will now push back the vote to mid-March.


Amazon and Nike exploring Peloton takeover

Amazon and Nike are exploring separate bids for exercise equipment maker Peloton, which has slumped in value since pandemic restrictions were eased and people returned to the gym. The pandemic darling has lost more than 80% of its value in the past year but shares jumped by almost a third after the bids were reported.


Peter Thiel to leave Facebook owner Meta’s board

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel is to leave the board of Facebook owner Meta to focus on his attention on supporting Republicans aligned with Trump’s agenda, according to reports.


House prices up nearly 10% on the year, but growth slows

A report from the Halifax shows house prices were up 9.7%, or £24,500, over the 12 months to the end of January, taking the average cost to a new record high of £276,759. The index registered 0.3% growth in the month to January, a marked slowdown from more than 1% achieved in both November and December. Halifax said the slowdown could be explained by transactions returning to more normal levels following a frenetic 2021. Last week, the Nationwide's rival house price index reported that prices had risen at the fastest annual pace for a January in 17 years. Both groups warn that first-time buyers face ongoing affordability problems. Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, said: "This situation is expected to become more acute in the short-term as household budgets face even greater pressure from an increase in the cost of living, and rises in interest rates begin to feed through to mortgage rates.”


Plan B hits consumer spending

Data collected by Barclaycard reveals that growth in spending on debit and credit cards slowed in January as Plan B restrictions kept consumers at home. Analysis shows spending increased by 7.4% in January compared with pre-pandemic levels in January 2020, the lowest level of growth since April 2021. Fuel spending rose by 6.7%, its slowest pace since October, while hospitality and leisure sectors suffered a fall of 6.3%, but spending remained stable among younger age groups. José Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: "January's Covid restrictions, combined with the rise in the cost of living, clearly impacted consumer spending levels in January. The lifting of Plan B restrictions should provide a welcome boost to many sectors, as workers travel back into the office." Meanwhile, separate figures show retail sales increased by 11.9% compared with January 2021 and by 7.5% compared with the same month in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.


Jim O’Neill slams Government’s economic policy

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist and ex-Conservative Treasury minister Jim O’Neill told MPs on the Commons Treasury committee on Monday that the Bank of England had acted too late on inflation arguing that the rise in prices seen after the coronavirus crisis eased, was “one of the most predictable recoveries we’ve ever had”. O’Neill went on to assert that interest rates were “ridiculously” low, and the BoE should be thinking of a goal of interest rates of 4%. “I personally believe the whole framework for inflation targeting has outlived its sell-by date,” O’Neill said, calling instead for higher government investment and “massive devolution” even if it meant higher government debt. O’Neill was among several economists giving evidence to the committee, many of whom agreed with his position on inflation. But Ann Pettifor, director of Prime Economics, said the BoE could not be held responsible for an increase in freight, energy and fuel prices, which were, she claimed, the primary cause of price rises.


City workers make their way back to the desk

Tracking data from Google show almost 70% of City workers were back in the Square Mile last Thursday – more than at any time since the Government issued its work-from-home orders in mid-December.

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