Month: April 2016

RBS Reports £968m Loss after Government Payment

RBS Reports £968m Loss after Government Payment

RBS Reports £968m Loss after Government Payment
Royal Bank of Scotland has reported a £968m loss for the first three months of 2016 – more than double the loss in the same period last year. RBS said a one-off dividend payment of £1.2bn to the UK government dragged down an otherwise profitable period.

Operating profits rose to £421m for the quarter, up from just £37m in 2015, but total revenue fell 13% to £3.06bn.

RBS is still 73% owned by taxpayers after its government bailout during the financial crisis. The bank said that excluding the one-off payment to the government, which will allow RBS to resume paying dividends to private shareholders in due course, it would have posted a profit of £225m. It said last month that dividend payments were not expected to resume for at least a year. The bank shares were trading down almost one percent on Friday morning at 243p per share.

Ross McEwan, chief executive, said: “This bank has great brands and great market positions and piece-by-piece we are building a solidly performing, profitable bank doing great things for customers and returning value for shareholders.”

On Thursday, RBS said that spinning off its subsidiary Williams & Glyn, as demanded by the EU, was taking longer than expected.

Continuing efforts to restructure the business, including the Williams & Glyn separation, cost the bank £238m. “Unfortunately the ‘to do’ list at RBS continues to grow,” said Richard Hunter, head of research at Wilson King Investment Management, with the delays and costs associated with divesting Williams & Glyn “the latest fly in the ointment”.

But day-to-day expense control provided a bright spot for the bank, as it tried to cut operating expenses by £800m a year by the end of 2016. So far this year, they are £189m lower.

RBS said there had been strong growth in both its mortgage and commercial businesses in the quarter.

However, challenging market conditions that have affected traders across the banking sector were a drag on revenues.

There were also sales of assets, such as Coutts private bank subsidiaries in Asia, the Middle East and Russia, that brought in less than had been expected.

Change your Bathrooms. Add a New Shower

Change your Bathrooms. Add a New Shower

Change your Bathrooms. Add a New Shower
Upgrading your bathroom, maybe adding a new shower unit, can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add value and improve your home.  Making you home more enjoyable for you and your family in the short term and increase your home’s value in the long run. However, prior to embarking on such a significant home improvement project, it is important to carefully think through what you want, either on your own or with the assistance of your bathroom supplier.


When upgrading small bathrooms, making the best possible use of limited space is key. Fortunately, a wide range of sleek, classic yet modern fixtures are available which will brighten up the space and provide that clean feeling that everyone wants out of a full bathroom – without taking up an inordinate amount of space.

Shower cubicles without doors, such as those available from Matki showers, are an effective way to create an attractive, open space in which people will not feel cramped every time they walk in.

These days, another consideration is environmental friendliness. If you’re a homeowner, it’s simply no good to underpay for an average-quality shower head and then be faced with exorbitant water bills each month – especially if you have a family or other people living in the home besides yourself. On the upside, the cost of producing higher-quality, environmentally friendly shower fixtures has come down in recent years, and with “green” products now being more sought-after than ever, they are very likely to fall within the price range of someone seeking to renovate bathrooms of any size and for any number of people. If eco-friendliness and cost savings through increased efficiency are concerns for you, then consider installing a shower head from the product ranges of Fiora showers or Hansgrohe showers.

A final consideration is how the bathroom décor will all come together. While a wide range of shower heads and other bathroom fixtures are available in bright and shiny silver or glossy white or black, it is equally important to your home’s resale value that everything – walls, fixtures and all – fit into the same overall colour scheme. To that end, it is wise to choose a conservative palette of white, off-white, light blue or black for your bathroom walls.

Bathroom upgrades can be complicated, particularly when undertaking them for the first time for a small bathroom or in an older home, but they needn’t be. With a clear vision of what you want out of the space, you can easily turn a bathroom of any size into one of the most attractive rooms in your house.

P.T. Ranson Bathrooms & Showers
P.T. Ranson has been providing branded bathroom supplies and service for bathroom remodelling projects for years. With more than 30 years of collective experience and a commitment to providing the best possible products and service for each individual bathroom remodelling project.

When buying online from P.T. Ranson, deliveries on the UK mainland are free of charge. For more information, call today on 0191 4696999 or visit the P.T. Ranson website today.

Amazon Sees Profits and Sales Surge

Amazon Sees Profits and Sales Surge

Amazon Sees Profits and Sales Surge
Amazon has reported a profit of $513m (£351m) in its first quarter, helped by a 28% jump in sales. Sales hit $29.1bn for the three months to the end of March, helped by rising sales of its Kindle reading devices and Fire tablet computers.  Both sales and profits were higher than analysts had been expecting and Amazon shares jumped in after hours trading.

The company reported strong growth in customers for its Prime service, which includes free delivery and TV shows.

The results were a positive sign for investors who had been rattled by disappointing earnings from Apple and Microsoft. “It did restore my faith,” said Dan Conde, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.

Amazon’s cloud services unit was an important source of sales growth. The cloud business rents data storage space and software services to companies, and is Amazon’s fastest growing unit.

Revenue rose 64% year-over-year, reaching $2.5bn.

Investors have been watching Amazon’s cloud operation closely, particularly after one of its biggest customers, Apple, announced it would be moving some of its business elsewhere. Since the start of the year Amazon has added new televisions shows and films to its Prime service, which helped to attract new users.

In April, Amazon introduced options to pay monthly for the service. The plan is part of an effort to compete with video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The company also attributed the increased number of Prime members to the expanded list of products eligible for free two-day shipping.

Amazon did not detail sales of devices like the Kindle and Fire table, but did say that the division has seen growth. “Amazon devices are the top selling products on Amazon, and customers purchased more than twice

Investor Rebellion Over Executive Pay Gathers Pace

Investor Rebellion Over Executive Pay Gathers Pace

Investor Rebellion Over Executive Pay Gathers Pace
A shareholder rebellion over excessive executive pay has gathered pace with Weir Group, Shire, Standard Chartered and Reckitt Benckiser all targeted by investors. At the annual meeting of engineering firm Weir Group, a proposed pay policy was rejected by 72% of shareholders.

The company says it will discuss alternative options with shareholders.

At drugs maker Shire, 49% of investors voted against a 25% pay increase for chief executive Flemming Ornskov. Every three years shareholders receive a chance to vote on the way the formula for executive pay is constructed. That vote is binding, so the board needs a majority of shareholders to vote in favour. So, in the case of Weir, the board of directors will have to come up with a new plan.

Votes between these three-year cycles are not binding, but can create embarrassment for the boss and the board of directors, as in the case of Shire.
Fund manager Hermes advised shareholders to vote against Shire’s remuneration plan at the annual meeting in Dublin.

“We do not support the increase in salary of 25% for the CEO (chief executive), particularly given that his overall bonus potential is more than 10 times his basic salary and his total remuneration was over $21m last year,” said Hans-Christoph Hirt, co-head of Hermes equity ownership. “We believe that an incremental approach to salary rises is more appropriate and should reflect shareholder value creation over the longer term,” he added.

Meanwhile, Royal London Asset Management said on Thursday it would vote against the 2015 remuneration reports at Standard Chartered and Reckitt Benckiser, the owner of Dettol, Scholl and Nurofen.

Earlier, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell was forced to defend his pay package, worth up to £70m. He said his pay was based on the performance of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group.

Sir Martin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m not embarrassed about the growth of the company from two people in one room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1985 to 190,000 people in 112 countries and a leadership position in our industry, which I think is important.”

Last month 59% of BP shareholders voted against a 20% pay rise for chief executive Bob Dudley, that would have netted him £14m. The vote against the increase was non-binding, but BP’s chairman said at the annual meeting that the sentiment would be reflected in future pay deals.

That was a “remarkable” moment according to Stefan Stern, a director at the High Pay Centre, a think tank which monitors executive salaries. “I do think there is a feeling that things have been getting out of hand,” he said. “Shareholders have signed off on pay structures they didn’t understand and now we’re seeing buyer’s remorse,” he added.
Last week a group that includes some of Britain’s most high-profile bosses said that executive pay in the UK is “not fit for purpose” and needs reform.

The Executive Remuneration Working Group said there was “widespread scepticism and loss of public confidence” over executive pay.

Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler and Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson worked on the interim report.

Also last week, Anglo American said it would be “mindful” of concerns about executive pay after more than two fifths of investors voted against a remuneration deal that included £3.4m for chief executive Mark Cutifani.

Getty Images Accuses Google in Competition Row

Getty Images Accuses Google in Competition Row

Getty Images Accuses Google in Competition Row
Photo agency Getty Images says it will file a competition lawsuit with the EU against Google, adding to a long list of European cases against the company.  US-based Getty argues that changes to Google’s picture search promote piracy and give the tech giant unfair advantages in traffic and advertising.

Google already faces charges over breaching EU competition laws. The company has in the past dismissed allegations it has used its dominant position to stifle competition.

Getty Images says Google is displaying pictures in its search results that takes away traffic that would otherwise go to Getty’s own website. The photo agency argues that because image consumption is immediate, once an image is displayed in large format by Google, there is little reason for the users to continue to the original source site of a given picture they are viewing.

“These changes have allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend,” Getty said in a press release.  “This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.”

Getty said it represented more than 200,000 photo journalists, content creators and artists worldwide who depend on being paid for their work.

Economists for Brexit Back Campaign to Leave EU

Economists for Brexit Back Campaign to Leave EU

Economists for Brexit Back Campaign to Leave EU
A group of eight influential economists have thrown their support behind the Leave campaign in the UK’s referendum on EU membership. The group, Economists for Brexit, claim the UK economy would be boosted by 4% outside the EU.


But the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign said their economic model would be “the worst possible alternative”.

It was the first time a group of economists have publicly backed Brexit. The economic arguments have so far been tilted towards the Remain camp, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) both warning against leaving.

The report’s authors include Patrick Minford, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and Gerard Lyons, a former chief economist at Standard Chartered and now an adviser to the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU.

Prof Minford, professor of applied economics at Cardiff University, said: “Our analysis shows that walking away from the EU, not negotiating a new agreement with the EU while getting rid of EU trade barriers will bring about a 4% of GDP gain to the economy, consumer prices will fall about 8%, and our hugely competitive services sector will take the place of diminishing manufacturing output.”

He argued that the UK would not need a new trade agreement if it left the EU because 70% of exports were traded outside the bloc under WTO rules. “The remaining 30% would also become subject to WTO rules and would be sold to the EU subject to its general tariffs which average around 4%, in the same way as exports from Japan or the US,” Prof Minford said.

The group, which also includes Roger Bootle, founder of Capital Economics, said that leaving the EU could cut unemployment by 75,000.

Dr Lyons said that staying in Europe would increase risks for financial services and the City of London.

A spokesperson for Britain Stronger In Europe said: “Treasury analysis shows that trading under WTO rules would be the worst possible alternative to EU membership, seeing households £5,200 worse off and a public spending black hole of £45bn. “The Treasury also says this model will see the sharpest price rises, as new tariffs on goods, including 10 per cent on cars and 36.1 per cent on dairy products, would be imposed.”

Lloyds Bank Reports Fall in Profits

Lloyds Bank Reports Fall in Profits

Lloyds Bank Reports Fall in Profits
Lloyds Banking Group has reported a fall in first quarter profits after what it called a “robust” performance. Underlying profits for the January to March period dipped 6% to £2.05bn for the first quarter of the year, down from £2.18bn a year earlier.

Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said the bank had “continued to make good progress”.

Statutory pre-tax profits nearly halved to £654m, mainly due to a £790m charge the bank took for buying back bonds. No further provisions were made for PPI compensation, where complaint levels were around 8,500 per week on average, broadly in line with expectations.
Lloyds was rescued by the government during the financial crisis, which left the state holding a 43% stake in the bank.

The government has been steadily reducing its stake and now holds less than 10%. In January, the chancellor postponed the sale of the government’s final stake in Lloyds, blaming the turmoil in financial markets.

Mr Horta-Osorio has cut thousands of jobs and said Thursday’s results reflected the bank’s “simple, low risk business model.”

Lloyds, which is the largest retail bank in Britain, said total income fell 1% to £4.38bn as higher revenue from its retail bank was offset by lower income from its insurance division.

On Wednesday, Barclays reported a 25% drop in profits for the first quarter of the year. It had set expectations low, warning it had been hit by the same headwinds that have hit profits across most of the world’s biggest banks.

UK Electroplating Services – Hastings Metals

UK Electroplating Services – Hastings Metals

UK Electroplating Services
Hastings Metal Finishers are a specialist electroplating company located in the UK. Established in 1983 with the aim of providing an electroplating service of the highest quality to the engineering industry, the Company is run by Managing Director Paul Hastings, a Graduate Chemist who has over 25 years of surface engineering experience.

zinc_plating_imageHastings Metal Finishers
Our current client base numbers over 200 Companies including leading organisations in the areas of precision and general engineering, metal fabrication, and electrical and electronic engineering.

Their aim is to provide our customers with the following range of electroplating services and related surface treatments:

  • Solvent Degreasing • Acid Pickling   •  Electroless Nickel Plating
  • Silver Plating • Nickel Plating                •  Gold Plating
  • Tin Plating • Copper Plating              •  Vibratory Polishing
  • Zinc Plating • Bright Acid Dipping
  • Clear, Yellow and Black Chromate Passivating

The Electroplating Process
Electroplating is a process that uses electric current to reduce dissolved metal cations so that they form a coherent metal coating on an electrode. The term is also used for electrical oxidation of anions onto a solid substrate, as in the formation silver chloride on silver wire to make silver/silver-chloride electrodes. Electroplating is primarily used to change the surface properties of an object (e.g. abrasion and wear resistance, corrosion protection, lubricity, aesthetic qualities, etc.), but may also be used to build up thickness on undersized parts or to form objects by electroforming.

Electroplating changes the chemical, physical, and mechanical properties of the workpiece. An example of a chemical change is when nickel plating improves corrosion resistance. An example of a physical change is a change in the outward appearance.
An example of a mechanical change is a change in tensile strength or surface hardness which is a required attribute in tooling industry.[9] Electroplating of acid gold on underlying copper/nickel-plated circuits reduces contact resistance as well as surface hardness. Copper plated areas of mild steel act as a mask if case hardening of such areas are not desired.Tin-plated steel is chromium plated to prevent dulling of the surface due to oxidation of tin.

All finishes are available in rack and barrel processing. Treatment facilities are available for processing ferrous components including stainless steel, copper and its alloys and aluminium alloys and they operate an in-house laboratory for physical and chemical testing. Hastings Metal Finishers are also happy to advise existing and potential customers on any surface finishing issues.

Contact Hastings Metal Finishers
For further information please call 0191 4839213 or visit the Hastings Metal Finishers & Electroplating Services website.

EE to Improve 4G and Relocate Customer Services

EE to Improve 4G and Relocate Customer Services

EE to Improve 4G and Relocate Customer Services
Mobile phone operator EE is aiming to bring 4G to 95% of the UK landmass by 2020 as well as relocating its customer services to the UK and Ireland. In 2015, the firm was fined £1m ($1.4m) by communications watchdog Ofcom over customer service failings.

EE_4G_citiesThe network will also switch on high-speed 4G in the Shetland Islands and the Isles of Scilly this week.

Chief Executive Marc Allera told the BBC customers expected to be able to access the internet wherever they were. Currently, 4G coverage is measured as a percentage of the population rather than geographically. That means mobile networks typically focus on areas where lots of people live rather than extending geographical reach of their services.

“The Isles of Scilly have 2,000 residents but 200,000 visitors,” said Mr Allera. “Increasingly, the expectations from customers are that they can get access to the internet wherever they go.”

BT-owned EE’s ambitions for 4G go beyond the government’s target for operators, which is to provide voice and text coverage to only 90% of UK landmass by the end of 2017.

“I don’t believe as an industry we should say a beach is covered unless it has 4G coverage,” said Mr Allera.

This demand for 4G may help mobile networks tackle public opposition to infrastructure such as transmitter masts required to enable it, he added.

“The barriers we need to overcome are around how fast and easy we can get access to these sites [where the masts can be built], and also how we ensure we don’t have landlords who can charge ransom rates which make it prohibitive for us to put in a solution,” he said. “We’re working on those reforms but we can’t do this by ourselves.” EE is working with the government to tackle the issue, Mr Allera said.

Ovum analyst Matthew Howett said reforms were “vital” for the success of the strategy. “Unless the government takes a lead on ensuring fair and reasonable access and site rentals, EE’s hopes for 95% coverage will be fraught with difficulty,” he said.

EE said it also aimed to bring all its customer services operations back to the UK and Ireland from overseas by the end of 2016.

“It’s a big investment,” said Marc Allera. “People look at off-shoring as reducing costs but when you look at the added cost of unhappy customers… actually this isn’t going to be an enormous incremental cost.”

He declined to say whether customers would face price rises as a result but said that the competitiveness of the market would “ensure we focus on value for money”.

Flu Jabs are More Effective in the Morning

Flu Jabs are More Effective in the Morning

Flu Jabs are More Effective in the Morning
Morning flu jabs provoke a stronger immune response than those given in the afternoon, a study shows. The trial at 24 doctors’ practices found people vaccinated before lunch produced the most defensive antibodies.

The University of Birmingham team suggested immunising people in tune with the body’s natural rhythm could be a cheap way to save lives. Experts said the study may mark the dawn of making use of “the body clock in the clinic”. Our internal clock alters our alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm, and our immune system also waxes and wanes through the day.

The trial looked at 276 healthy people, aged over 65, getting the flu jab before the 2011, 2012 and 2013 flu seasons. They were vaccinated either in a morning session (09:00 to 11:00) or an afternoon appointment (13:00 to 17:00).

I think it’s fantastic, the idea of an intervention this easy to do and free is unheard of in terms of trying to change NHS practice
Dr Anna Phillips, University of Birmingham. One month later, patients vaccinated in the morning had produced significantly more antibodies against two of the three flu strains in the jab.

Similar antibody levels were produced for the third strain, the results in the journal Vaccine showed.

Dr Anna Phillips, one of the researchers from the University of Birmingham, said the results were meaningful and doctors should “definitely” think about performing flu jabs in the morning. She told the BBC News website: “A lot of surgeries just try and fit in vaccination anyway so it’s not going to risk any patient, it’s not going to cost anything and even if we’re wrong you’ve nothing to lose by doing this.

It is not clear exactly what the critical difference between the morning and afternoon immune system is. Levels of immune messengers called cytokines, the stress hormone cortisol and sex hormones – all of which affect the immune system – fluctuate in a daily rhythm. And individual white blood cells also have their own internal clocks that alter their activity too.

Andrew Loudon and David Ray, a pair of body clock professors at the University of Manchester, told the BBC News website: “This may be the dawn of the body clock in the clinic.

“This is a most interesting study, and is among the first to show how the body clock can be used to make healthcare interventions more effective. There have been major advances in understanding how the body clock can regulate immunity in laboratory animals, but very little of that exciting science has led to changes in healthcare. This study shows that a simple intervention, giving the same vaccine at a different time of day, can result in a major gain in effectiveness.”

However, other vaccines stimulate the immune system in different ways so it is too simple to conclude that all immunisation should take place before lunch. There have been some suggestions that hepatitis B vaccination may be more effective in the afternoon. But the concept of timing medicine to the body clock – the field of chronotherapy – is powerful and is also showing promise in treating cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.