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Daily News Roundup: Wednesday 23rd December 2020

Posted: 23rd December 2020


NS&I urged to explain service failures

Following a string of customer service failings, MPs are demanding answers from National Savings & Investments. Savers with the government-backed institution have complained of issues this year, including long waiting times and difficulty accessing accounts online. In October, a technical glitch at NS&I left swathes of customers unable to withdraw money from their accounts. The Treasury Committee has written to chief executive Ian Ackerley demanding answers on both the low levels of customer satisfaction and a sharp increase in complaints. NS&I witnessed a 43% increase in complaints in the six months leading up to September.

Customers expect more from banks on climate change

New research suggests customers are expecting more from their banks when it comes to climate change and could lose out to more green competitors if they fail to prioritise the environment. Some 71% of UK banking customers are more likely to choose a bank with a positive social and environmental impact, the study found. The survey of 1,000 customers reveals that more than three fifths would leave their bank if it was linked to any social or environmental harm, even if it had the best offer.


Trump’s personal banker quits Deutsche Bank

Rosemary Vrablic, Donald Trump's long-time personal banker at Deutsche Bank, is stepping down from her role effective as of year-end. Her colleague Dominic Scalzi has also resigned. No reason was given for the departures.


Carmakers stuck in the slow lane

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said that car production fell by 1.4% year-on-year in November, meaning that production in 2020 is so far down 31% compared with a year ago, representing a loss of 380,809 models at a cost of about £10.5bn to the sector. Mike Hawes, the society’s chief executive, said: “Yet another decline for UK car production is of course concerning, but not nearly as concerning as the new year nightmare facing the automotive industry if we do not get a Brexit deal that works for the sector.” He said there was “no other option” for the “long-term survival of UK Automotive”.

Toyota to shut production at three plants

Toyota plans to shut production at three plants in Britain and France early for Christmas, due to likely part shortages as a result of border closures. Separately, Aston Martin is to keep its factories shut for a week longer than normal over the festive period to try to dodge parts shortages, with reopening delayed until January 11. BMW’s plant in Oxford is also closing for an extra week, although the company said this was not related to Brexit.


Ryanair claims CAA crackdown forced it to close routes

The Civil Aviation Authority’s crackdown on ownership rules has forced Ryanair’s “sudden closure” of 12 domestic and international routes, the budget carrier has claimed. At centre of the row is Ryanair’s use of so-called “wet-leasing”, where airlines hire aircraft and crew to operate services on their behalf. Although Ryanair has a UK subsidiary, nearly all of its aircraft are believed to be registered overseas. The CAA’s Paul Smith said: “It has been our long-standing position that a UK airline with a significant presence in the UK, such as Ryanair UK does, should not rely heavily on using wet-leased, foreign-registered aircraft to undertake their operations.”

easyJet delays jet delivery to save costs

easyJet is postponing the delivery of over 20 new aircraft and is handing back dozens more that are on lease due to the pandemic. The move comes amid continued efforts by founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou for orders of new aircraft to be cancelled.


Comment: FCA still not “up to scratch”

Ruth Sunderland says in the Mail that although improvements have been made in the UK to financial regulation the Financial Conduct Authority is still not “up to scratch”. Citing a report criticising the regulator and its then chief executive leader Andrew Bailey for its oversight of failed minibond firm London Capital & Finance (LCF), Sunderland says important cases still “slip through the net”. She continues: “There seems to be a culpable lack of curiosity about anything deemed to lie outside of its remit, a deafness to whistleblowers and an absence of will to find a way to investigate.”

Connaught investors accuse regulator of ‘lying’ over compensation

The Connaught Action Group has accused the FCA of deliberately understating the amount owed to about 2,000 investors in the failed fund.


Vodafone in move to buy out Kabel Deutschland minority shareholders

Minority shareholders of Kabel Deutschland have been offered a €2.1bn buy out deal by Vodafone in an attempt to reduce its exposure to legal claims that the UK telecoms group underpaid to acquire the German company in 2013.

MGM seeks buyer

MGM Holdings has put itself up for sale with a likely asking price of more than $5.5bn. MGM is seeking buyout interest from Hollywood film studios, international media groups, private equity investors and “blank cheque” investors, the Wall Street Journal reports.


Prime central London property prices down in 2020

New research shows average property prices in prime central London fell 4.3% across the year, while the annual decline in outer London prices narrowed to 3.2% after monthly growth of 0.1%. The collapse in prime central London prices is in stark contrast to UK House prices overall, which grew 6.5% in November, according to Nationwide’s house price index.


Applegreen to be taken private in €718m deal

Irish petrol station and roadside convenience operator Applegreen has agreed to a bid from a consortium led by Blackstone that values the company at around €718.1m. The firm operates 559 sites across Ireland, the UK and in the US, with the latter properties largely formed from a buyout of Welcome Break in 2018. In a statement, Applegreen chief executive Robert Etchingham and chief operating officer Joseph Barrett said that, looking forward, the company “will transition its business through capital intensive highway projects and electric vehicle charging infrastructure”.


Government borrowing reached record high in November

Figures from the ONS show government borrowing reached £31.6bn last month, the highest November figure since records began. That is also the third highest monthly figure ever. Since the start of the financial year, the UK has borrowed almost £241bn. The total national debt has hit £2.1trn. Meanwhile, official figures show the economy bounced back in the third quarter more strongly than previously thought. In those three months the economy was up 16%, while remaining down 8.6% across the year. However, those figures came before the latest virus fears and there is now a growing expectation that the economy will slump again post-Christmas, leading to a dreaded “double-dip” recession.

Jobs insurance scheme should end with pandemic, says Haldane

Andy Haldane has said the Government’s job support scheme should only be halted when the pandemic comes to an end. The Bank of England's chief economist said he was hopeful of a rapid bounce-back in economic activity thanks to the vaccine but that it was not the time to remove the "insurance policy" that had so far spared Britain from a return to the mass joblessness of the 1980s.

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