Wages Rises Accelerate to Fastest Pace since 2008

Wages Rises Accelerate to Fastest Pace since 2008
The BBC are reporting that Wages are continuing to rise at their highest level for nearly a decade, the latest official Office for National Statistics figures show.

Average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, went up by 3.3% in the three months to October, the biggest rise since November 2008.

Average weekly wages are £495, £25,740 a year, the highest since 2011, once adjusted for inflation.

Wages Rises Accelerate to Fastest Pace since 2008

The number of people in work rose by 79,000 to 32.48 million, a record high. That is the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Unemployment increased by 20,000 to 1.38 million, although the total is still lower than a year ago. The number of unemployed men increased by 27,000, while the number of unemployed women fell by 8,000. The reason both employment and unemployment have increased is a result of the UK’s rising population and more people joining the labour force, such as students and older people.

New Homes ‘Crumbling Due to Weak Mortar’

New Homes ‘Crumbling Due to Weak Mortar’
Hundreds of new properties have been built using weak mortar that does not meet recommended industry standards, the Victoria Derbyshire show has found. There are reports of homes with the fault on at least 13 estates in the UK.

The full extent of the industry-wide problem is hard to measure as some homeowners have been asked to sign gagging orders to claim compensation. The industry says mortar performance is a complex issue and can be affected by a number of factors.

One of those homes was owned by Vincent Fascione, 70. He says he was watching football on TV one evening in 2016 when he heard a loud cracking noise from the external walls of his house.

The next morning, he found a sand-like substance all over his front path and driveway. Photographs and video from the time appear to show growing cracks in the mortar holding his bricks together.

Mr Fascione, from Coatbridge outside Glasgow, bought his semi-detached property in 2012 for £112,500.

He complained to the homebuilder, Taylor Wimpey, and to the NHBC, the industry body that signs off and provides the warranty for most new-build houses.

Under NHBC guidelines, mortar in most areas of the UK should be made of one part cement to 5.5 parts sand.

The BBC‘s The Victoria Derbyshire Programme has heard about new build properties in at least 13 estates from Scotland to Sussex, built by different companies, with what appears to be a similar problem.

In one single estate in the Scottish borders, it is thought Taylor Wimpey has agreed to replace the mortar in more than 90 separate properties. The homebuilder says an assessment by engineers found “no structural issues” with the homes.

“This is both widespread and serious,” says Phil Waller, a retired construction manager who has blogged about the problem.

“It cannot be explained away by the industry as a few isolated cases.”

Exactly why the weaker building material may have been used is unclear.

In some cases, the housebuilder may have simply used the wrong type of mortar. In other cases, errors may have been made mixing and laying the material on site.

Some construction experts also blame the switch to a new type of factory-mixed mortar, which might pass a different strength test in the laboratory but not always be strong enough in the real world.

Faced with what could be an expensive repair bill, many homeowners have been told by their own solicitors not to go public until the issue is resolved. In some cases, customers have ultimately had their houses bought back by either the homebuilder or the NHBC.

Data Problems Hit O2 Mobile Network

Data Problems Hit O2 Mobile Network
cO2 has 25 million customers, but also provides services for the Sky, Tesco, Giffgaff and Lycamobile networks which have another seven million users. Many users took to Twitter to complain about the difficulties, which were first reported at about 05:30.

Data Problems Hit O2 Mobile Network

An O2 spokesperson said a software issue identified by a third-party supplier was to blame for the outage.

“We believe other mobile operators around the world are also affected. Our technical teams are working with their teams to ensure this is fixed as quickly as possible,” she said. “We’d encourage our customers to use wi-fi wherever they can and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

O2 is the second-largest mobile network in the country, behind EE.

Voice calls are unaffected by the problem.

The outage is having knock-on effects for other services that rely on the O2 network, including Transport for London’s electronic timetable service at bus stops, which has stopped working.

 

UK’s Richest Man Eyes North Sea Oil and Gas Fields

UK’s Richest Man Eyes North Sea Oil and Gas Fields
Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe is hoping to extend his grip on the North Sea by buying oil and gas fields from US giant ConocoPhillips. Mr Ratcliffe’s company Ineos and ConocoPhillips have both confirmed that they are in exclusive talks.

Among the assets up for grabs is Conoco’s 6.5% stake in the Clair field, west of Shetland. The field potentially has 7 billion barrels of oil in place, according to BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley.

BP recently bought a 16.5% stake in the Clair field from ConocoPhillips, giving the UK oil giant a total holding of 45.1%.

Reports suggest that the assets ConocoPhillips is selling could be worth as much as $3bn (£2.3bn). They do not include the company’s oil terminal in Teesside or its commercial trading group based in London.

The North Sea is still a relatively new area for Mr Ratcliffe and Ineos.

The billionaire, whose £21bn fortune makes him the UK’s richest man according to the Sunday Times rich list, has traditionally invested in speciality chemicals businesses.

Ineos owns the Grangemouth oil refinery site in Scotland which manufactures a range of petrochemicals that are used in a wide range of products including bottles, food packaging and in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Ineos first acquired a number of North Sea gas fields in 2015 before it buying up the oil and gas business owned by Denmark’s Dong Energy for £1bn two years later.

The Sunday Times reported that Ineos had put down a deposit in exchange for three months of exclusive talks with ConocoPhillips.

Ineos declined to comment.

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn Arrested over ‘Misconduct’

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn Arrested over ‘Misconduct’
The BBC are reporting that Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has been arrested over claims of financial misconduct, the carmaker has said. Mr Ghosn, a towering figure in the car industry, will be sacked from the Japanese firm after a board meeting on Thursday, its chief executive said. He has been accused of “significant acts of misconduct”, including under-reporting his pay package and personal use of company assets.

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn Arrested over 'Misconduct'

Nissan said it was unable to give further details on the offences.

Japanese prosecutors have yet to comment on Mr Ghosn’s arrest.

Nissan is the world’s sixth-largest carmaker and its site in Sunderland is the UK’s biggest car plant.

“I feel despair, indignation and resentment.” said Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa at a news conference. As the details are disclosed I believe that people will feel the same way as I feel today,” he added.

Mr Saikawa said Nissan would now try to “stabilise the situation, and normalise day-to-day operations” for staff and business partners.

It said it had been conducting an internal investigation for several months, prompted by a whistleblower.

According to Japanese media reports, which have not been confirmed, he under-reported an amount totalling 5bn yen ($44m; £34m) over a five-year period from 2011.

Mr Saikawa said he believed the misconduct “went on for a long period”.

From 2010, Japanese firms have been required to disclose the salaries of executives who earn more than 100m yen.

UK Retail Sales Hit by Mild Autumn

UK Retail Sales Hit by Mild Autumn
Retail sales fell by a worse-than-expected 0.5% in October, after a mild autumn hit sales of winter clothes. Sales at household goods stores fell 3% following a particularly strong August and September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

For the three months to October, retail sales rose 0.4% – a considerable slowdown from the 2.3% increase recorded for the three months to July.

Analysts said October’s fall suggested shoppers were cutting back spending. Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said the drop was the “first real sign that consumers are tightening their purse strings due to uncertainty about Brexit”.

Non-food sales fell 1.3%, with a 1% decline in clothing sales, which he said could not be blamed on the weather.

“Consumers’ confidence already has weakened in recent months due to concerns about the economic outlook and we doubt households are feeling any surer that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided after this week’s political turbulence,” Mr Tombs said.

“Unless the government miraculously manages to force the current withdrawal agreement through parliament soon, growth in consumers’ spending will weaken markedly in the fourth quarter.”

Thomas Pugh at Capital Economics said some of October’s weakness may reflect consumers delaying spending ahead of “Black Friday” discounts this month. “High oil prices also weighed on the volume of fuel sold. As such, we suspect that there could be a rebound in sales volumes in November a

Royal Mail Profits Halve

Royal Mail Profits Halve
Half-year profits at Royal Mail have tumbled after the company failed to cut costs as quickly as hoped. Pre-tax profit more than halved to £33m for the six months to 23 September despite a 1% rise in revenues to just over £4.9bn. Revenue from its GLS European parcel operations was up 9%, offsetting a 1% fall in the UK parcels and letters.

Royal Mail Profits Halve

Chief executive Rico Back said Royal Mail had put a “range of actions” in place to improve performance. “There will be a greater emphasis on how we connect customers, companies and countries through our domestic and international businesses. There will be a clearer focus on financial performance and management accountability,” he said.

Growth in online shopping helped drive a 6% rise in revenues for the UK parcels business, but total revenue from letters was down 7%. Adjusted pre-tax profit was down 27% to £183m.

Royal Mail warned on profits at the start of October in an unscheduled update after revealing that cost savings would be just £100m this year rather than the £230m forecast, sending shares down almost a fifth.

The company reiterated its commitment to the £100m target for the 2018-19 financial year and Mr Back said the management team was “focused on pulling all the short and medium-term levers at our disposal to improve our performance”.

It said it would update investors on its strategy in March next year.

“This is a great company with great brands. We have, by far, the best delivery network in the UK: our ability to deliver most of our letters and parcels together is a major asset,” said Mr Back, who took over from Moya Green as chief executive earlier this year.

“Royal Mail has been in existence in one form or another for over 500 years. We have transformed ourselves many times before.”

 

How are FMCG Leaders Preparing for Brexit?

How are FMCG Leaders Preparing for Brexit?
With difficulty is the simple answer. Because the only thing that appears certain at the moment about Brexit is that it is causing a great deal of uncertainty…across all industry sectors. Speaking regularly as I do with commercial leaders in FMCG, it is the subject that is unsurprisingly raised every time we meet.

How are FMCG Leaders Preparing for Brexit?

The actual Brexit deal (or no deal) the UK will end up with remains unclear with just six months to go. But key concerns about the impact on the bottom line centre on how restrictions on freedom of movement of both people and goods will affect supply chains, and how new import duties will alter the share of wallet.

Short term impact will include losses from currency fluctuation, and increased costs from arranging work visas (or whatever system replaces free movement of people) and changing packaging and labelling.

Longer term effects include delays in new product development and investment in UK factories, as companies wait for clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Industry areas such as farm to fork are already suffering negative effects. A survey published by the Food & Drink Federation found nearly a third of the EU workforce had left the UK within a year of the referendum while 47% of the remainder were considering joining them.

Earlier this month, in response to the impending staffing crisis, the Government announced a post-Brexit migrant farm workers’ visa scheme for up to 2,500 EU nationals for 2019 and 2020.

There is an expectation that the post-Brexit import duties could radically change consumer spending habits, with many likely to reduce expenditure on premium items which will become more expensive, as UK wage restraint continues.

These are not only restricted to ranges like high end skincare products; a recent report by the LSE found that food shortages and price rises could mean even dairy products we import from the EU like butter and speciality cheeses could become occasional luxuries, with milk products attracting tariffs of up to 74%.

In response, increased investment is being made in data analytics to make sure the right product is available to the right consumer at the right time. An example is the personalised online targeting of luxury items to those less likely to be impacted by price increases.

At the same time discussions are underway with retail partners about product placement on the shop floor, simplifying ranges and doubling down on the everyday essentials for the average consumer.

Unlocking further value from the supply chain is another key area being explored, with import duties and potential restrictions on the movement of goods leading firms to seek new UK based suppliers where feasible.

An executive at a global FMCG firm told me: “Brexit, like political turmoil, is not new for multinational FMCG giants as they face similar changes every year across the globe. However, the UK economy has always been a lucrative market for higher value per capita sales and Brexit will undoubtedly throw more caution in the spending power of the shopper.

“We need clarity on overall government policy and other rules to trade across the European region. For the UK to continue being the spearhead for business investment, any dynamic FMCG firm needs immediate clarity and stability on future government policy.”

With just over two months until the last European Council of 2018 – widely seen as the last possible date for an Article 50 divorce deal to be agreed – the clock is ticking. FMCG leaders needing certainty to plan a path to steady growth in a new post-Brexit economy wait in hope.

Stuart Richards is a Senior Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner. Contact him at stuartr@hwglobalpartner.com or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.

Chanel Chooses London for Global Office

Chanel Chooses London for Global Office
The luxury goods maker Chanel has told the BBC it’s elected to set up its global office in the UK. For the first time in its 110-year history, the brand is gathering the majority of its global business functions under one roof.

Chanel, renowned for its tweed suits, handbags and perfume, had global sales of over £7bn last year, and employs more than 20,000 people. It has over 30 million social media followers on Instagram.

Chanel Chooses London for Global Office

Chanel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it “wanted to simplify the structure of the business and London is the most appropriate place to do that for an international company. London is the most central location for our markets, uses the English language and has strong corporate governance standards with its regulatory and legal requirements”.

The decision – which is understood to involve dozens of jobs – means that Chanel has picked London as the base for its global team over other locations such as New York, or even its creative hub of Paris.

Chanel, whose Little Black Dress has come to epitomise the label’s Parisian heritage, is retaining its head designer Karl Lagerfeld and his team in the French capital.

Justine Picardie, editor-in-chief of Harpers’ Bazaar and Coco Chanel’s biographer, hailed the move as a mark of the global powerhouse’s confidence in the UK’s long-term prospects.

She pointed out that it also moves Chanel closer to one of its fastest growing customer bases with “spending on luxury goods by affluent London households being only second to Hong Kong, in terms of growth”. She added: “Chanel leads the way. My strong intuition is that other (luxury brands) will follow.”

The reasons Chanel gives for its decision echoes those cited by the likes of banks and manufacturers who’ve opted to move operations to the UK over the years.

The news comes as many businesses voice concerns about the continued uncertainty over Brexit and future trading arrangements, and the impact that may have on investment and jobs.

Chanel’s decision will be welcome news to British designers as London Fashion Week gets underway. They’re potentially facing upheaval to their supply chains in the form of tariffs, delays at the border and exchange rate volatility in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Such concerns could, according to Paul Alger, of the Fabrics and Textiles Association, make buyers at catwalk shows hesitate to place orders, which would be due for delivery next spring.

The fashion industry contributed over £32bn to the UK industry in 2017, according to the British Fashion Council. That’s an increase of 5.4% on 2016, making it one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

 

Volkswagen’s Beetle Car Comes to the End of the Road

Volkswagen’s Beetle Car Comes to the End of the Road
Volkswagen is ending production of its Beetle in 2019, closing the door on one of the world’s most iconic car designs. The German company said output would end at its plant in Mexico next July after production of celebration models.

The Beetle has its roots in Nazi Germany with the creation of a “people’s car”, but went on to star in a series of successful Disney films as a vehicle called Herbie. But sales, particularly in the key US market, have fallen in recent years.

Volkswagen's Beetle Car

Consumers in the US have increasingly turned to larger cars such as crossovers and sports utility vehicles.

Volkswagen, in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal and huge investment in electric vehicles, says it will look to slim down its model range with a greater focus on family and electric cars. The company say the final Beetle models will be available in both coupe and convertible styles.

“The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans,” said Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America.

The Beetle was originally designed in the 1930s by legendary engineer Ferdinand Porsche – a name now synonymous with fast cars – at the behest of Adolf Hitler, who wanted to see a cheap and practical mass-produced car made available to the German people.

But the outbreak of war would stall its production, as military necessity took precedence. The plant would be severely damaged, then fell into the hands of allied forces – who were eventually to play a large part in its recommissioning.

The company is already thought to have reviewed a possible model revamp and options for electric versions in recent years, before deciding on its abandonment.

But Mr Woebcken didn’t completely rule out that the model could one day be resurrected: “Never say never.”

Volkswagen sold 11,151 Beetles during the first eight months of 2018, down 2.2% from the same period a year earlier.

US consumers looking for a small Volkswagen vehicle overwhelmingly prefer the Jetta sedan, or the Tiguan compact sport utility vehicle.