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Daily News Roundup: Wednesday, 15th March 2023

Posted: 15th March 2023


NatWest sets daily cap on crypto spending

NatWest has imposed stricter restrictions on cryptocurrency transfers, implementing a daily limit of £1,000 and a 30-day payment limit of £5,000 to cryptocurrency exchanges. The move comes with the bank looking to protect its customers after £329m was lost by UK consumers last year. The bank said decision comes as it look to help protect customers from losing “life changing sums of money.” Earlier this month, Nationwide stopped payments to crypto exchanges using its credit cards and imposed a £5,000 daily limit on current account crypto spending, while HSBC has stopped customers from purchasing cryptocurrencies using an HSBC credit card. This came after the Financial Conduct Authority flagged concern over the risks that crypto poses to consumers, with around 85% of crypto firms failing to meet minimum regulatory requirements when applying for registration.

Close Brothers sees profit slip 90%

Close Brothers' half year profit fell 90% to £12.6m during  the six months ending January 2023. The slide in the merchant bank’s adjusted operating profit came as it set aside over £100m for bad loans relating to legal finance specialist Novitas. In total, the bank recognised provisions of £114.6m in the first half, taking the overall credit provisions against Novitas to £183.2m. CEO Adrian Sainsbury noted “it has been a challenging six months, with our half year results significantly impacted by the increased provisions in relation to Novitas.” Income grew 5%, helping pre-provision adjusted operating profit increase by 5% to £177.2m.


Moody's downgrades US banking sector

Moody's has warned that the US banking system faces a challenging period after a run on deposits led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, with the ratings firm cutting its outlook for the sector to negative from stable. Pointing to the risk of customer withdrawals and rising interest rates, it warned of "a rapid deterioration in the operating environment." The report says Moody’s “expects pressures to persist and be exacerbated by ongoing monetary policy tightening.”

Credit Suisse admits 'material weaknesses' in financial reporting controls

Credit Suisse has acknowledged 'material weaknesses' in its internal controls. The Swiss bank’s annual report was delayed by a week after the US Securities and Exchange Commission raised questions over revisions made to cash-flow statements for 2019 and 2020. The bank said there was a “weakness” in its capability to design and maintain effective risk assessments in its financial statements, admitting that its “internal control over financial reporting was not effective.” 

Justice Department and SEC to probe SVB stock sales

The US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), including stock sales that company bosses made days before the bank failed. SVB was last week taken over by regulators during a run on its deposits, with the collapse the second-largest bank failure in US history.


FOS chief wants better communication with FCA

Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) chief executive Abby Thomas says the ombudsman would like to improve its communications with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to help the regulator respond quicker to emerging issues in the financial sector. Ms Thomas, the chief ombudsman, told the Treasury Committee that while she is satisfied with the level of powers the ombudsmen currently has, she would like to see better data sharing between the FOS and the FCA. She told MPs: “I would like to look at opportunities to share our data in a more timely way,” calling for a “kind of early warning signal” if a particular product type or a particular complaint type draws an elevated number of complaints. Meanwhile, FOS chair Baroness Manzoor said a rise in complaints made by FOS users was “regrettable” but insisted actions were being taken to improve outcomes. The share of complaints made about the adequacy of FOS investigations increased from 13% in 2020/21 to 35% in 2021/22.

MP: New chair is a fresh start for the FCA

MP Saqib Bhatti says the appointment of Ashley Alder as chair of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) “marks a fresh start” for the regulator, which has come under fire for a lack of accountability and its slow response to several high-profile scandals. He says the addition of Mr Alder, who joins the City watchdog having been CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission and chair of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, “will be essential for helping the FCA to grab the opportunity it now has to become a regulatory pioneer in a post-Brexit world.” Mr Bhatti says the FCA is in a “crucial phase” in its history as it navigates the UK’s post-Brexit future, with the regulator charged with maintaining London’s status as a global financial centre and under pressure to “deliver this mission with a relentless focus on consumers and shareholders, upholding its world-leading regulatory standards in an increasingly complex global financial system.”

Binance suspends sterling transfers

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance has been forced to suspend withdrawals to British bank accounts. Binance said deposits and withdrawals in sterling have halted for new customers and will be suspended for all of its clients on May 22. This comes after payments group Paysafe decided to pull back from its partnership with Binance. Paysafe said it had concluded that "the UK regulatory environment in relation to crypto is too challenging to offer this service at this time and so this is a prudent decision on our part taken in an abundance of caution." The Financial Conduct Authority last year criticised Paysafe for working with Binance. The City watchdog has banned Binance's UK business from operating but does not have the power to ban its global website in the UK. The FCA has previously warned that Binance was "not capable of being effectively supervised."

Rake to advise activist investor

Activist investor Elliott has brought in former CBI president and BT chairman Sir Michael Rake to advise over its existing portfolio of investments as well as new opportunities. A source says Elliott, which has been headhunting new advisers in the UK, has turned to Mr Rake due to his experience running “large complex organisations” and dealing with private equity investors from the boardroom. The appointment comes as Elliott prepares to ramp up its private equity investments, with it suggested that the firm is looking to soften its reputation after a series of high-profile run-ins with big firms.

Sunak warned not to loosen City rules

While the Prime Minister and Chancellor have proposed looser regulation of the City, post-Brexit, experts have warned officials against weakening rules following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.


Britishvolt owed £160m when it collapsed

Battery start-up Britishvolt collapsed owing about £160m to unsecured creditors who are unlikely to see a significant dividend from the company's insolvent estate. The firm's administrators currently expect any dividend to equate to less than 1p in the pound.


Facebook owner cuts more jobs

Meta has announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs. This marks the second wave of job losses in recent months, with the firm, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, having let 11,000 employees go in November. Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that in addition to the 10,000 jobs cut, 5,000 vacancies at the firm will be left unfilled. Data from, which tracks job losses in the tech sector, shows that there have been more than 128,000 job cuts in the tech industry so far in 2023. This includes 18,000 at Amazon and 12,000 at Google's parent company, Alphabet.

DMGT appoints new CEO

DMGT, the Daily Mail’s parent company, has announced Tim Collier as its new chief executive. Executive chair Lord Rothermere has announced that Mr Collier, who has served as CFO, will take the helm with immediate effect.


Landlords turn to cash as rates rise

A record proportion of buy-to-let landlords are buying in cash to avoid high mortgage rates. Six out of 10 investors (61%) who bought properties in the South this year paid cash, up from a low of 47% in 2022. This is the highest level since records began in 2009. London has experienced the biggest rise in cash buy-to-let investors, with a 23% increase meaning 67% of landlords in the capital now paying in cash compared to 43% in 2022. The switch to buying in cash is expected to save landlords £62m in mortgage interest payments this year alone.


CMA probes Asda's petrol station takeover deal

Asda’s £60m takeover of 132 Co-op petrol stations has come under scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), with the watchdog warning that the deal is likely to push up fuel prices in 13 locations. The watchdog launched a Phase 1 investigation earlier this year amid concerns that Asda would “not face sufficient competition after the merger.” Asda has five days to offer legally binding proposals to address the CMA’s concerns. If the competition watchdog does not deem these valid, it will launch an in-depth, Phase 2 investigation.

Sainsbury's spends £431m to buy freeholds of 21 stores

Sainsbury's has secured a £430.9m deal to buy the freeholds of 21 supermarkets. The grocery chain has acquired the remaining 51% stake it did not already own in the Highbury and Dragon investment from Supermarket Income REIT. The investment vehicle holds the freeholds of 26 Sainsbury's stores, which are leased to the supermarket.

Tesco suppliers in call for fees review

Tesco’s imposition of fees for online suppliers has prompted calls for a referral to the grocery regulator. The supermarket has written to suppliers informing them it would be introducing fulfilment fees on all products sold on its websites and app. While Tesco’s smallest suppliers with contracts of £250,000 or less are set to be exempt, the fees for bigger suppliers are understood to be 12p per item for branded goods and 5p for own brands. The fee is voluntary, but Tesco is understood to have told suppliers that those who do not comply could face range reviews or reduced prices. Several suppliers are understood to have raised concerns over unfair treatment with the Grocery Code Adjudicator.


Wage growth slows and job vacancies fall

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that UK wage growth slowed in the three months to January. Wage growth fell to 5.7% from a revised 6% in December, putting the average pay rise 3.2% below the rate of inflation. The report shows that pay growth in the private sector fell for the first time in a year, dipping from 7.3% to 7%, while public sector wages were up 4.8%. The average weekly salary in the UK, excluding bonuses, stood at £589 in January, with this up by £1 on the month before. With inflation taken into account, the average salary fell by 2.4% in the three months to January compared to the same period last year. Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: "Although the inflation rate has come down a little, it's still outstripping earnings growth, meaning real pay continues to fall." ONS data also shows that the proportion of working age people with a job increased to 75.7% in the three months to January. There were 2.5m people off work due to long-term sickness in the period – with this up 2.6% quarter-on-quarter and 7.9% year-on-year. There were 220,000 working days lost to strike action in January. Meanwhile, the number of jobs on offer fell by 51,000, taking the total number of vacancies down to 1.124m.


Firms urged to look overseas for opportunities

UK firms should look overseas for fresh business opportunities, according to Santander trade expert John Carroll. Research from the bank shows that while 59% of firms that trade abroad have reported improved financial performance over the past year, just 46% of those which do business solely in the UK say the same. With high inflation and recession fears hitting consumer demand in the domestic market, Mr Carroll, Santander UK’s head of international and transactional banking, said targeting markets such as the US and India could help boost business. He said: “We have seen whenever there is a recession, if you’ve only got people in that market buying your products, then you are much more likely to have a difficult time.” He added: “The key thing is about putting more eggs in more baskets.”

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