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MPs on the Treasury Committee said they had “lost confidence” in TSB boss Paul Pester after the bank’s IT meltdown.

Nicky Morgan, who chairs the committee, has called on the TSB board to give “serious consideration” to whether his position as chief executive is “sustainable”.  Thousands of customers were unable to access their bank accounts following a botched computer switchover last month.  Richard Meddings, TSB chairman, said Mr Pester had the board’s full support.

He told Ms Morgan,

We recognise that we still have areas where we need to improve performance for our customers and we do not underestimate these remaining issues

She had written to Mr Meddings on behalf of the committee to say the MPs had “lost confidence in [Mr Pester's] ability to provide a full and frank assessment of the problems at TSB, and to deal with them in the best interests of its customers”.  “If he continues in his position, this could damage trust not only in TSB, but in the retail banking sector as a whole,” the letter said.

Commenting on the correspondence, Ms Morgan said TSB’s public communications had often been complacent and misleading since its IT problems began.  “This tone has been set from the top – by Paul Pester – and whether intentionally or not, he has not been straight with the committee and TSB customers,” she said.  “Pester’s statements that ‘everything is running smoothly for the vast majority of our […] customers’ and that ‘there will be no barriers’ to customers switching accounts, and his denial that there were problems on TSB’s fraud reporting line, are all examples of this.”  The call comes after the Financial Conduct Authority said on Wednesday that it was investigating TSB and criticised Mr Pester for giving an “optimistic view” of services after the meltdown.  On Wednesday Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive, told the MPs that TSB bosses were “in a hole and they have got to get themselves out of that hole”.

 

A new category has been approved for companies traded on the London Stock Exchange, which will allow oil giant Saudi Aramco to list shares in London.

London has been accused of watering down corporate governance rules in order to accommodate the huge listing.  The Institute of Directors said the move put the “UK’s global reputation as a leader in good governance” at risk.  London is vying with New York for the state-owned oil firm’s listing, expected to be the world’s biggest.  The proposed share flotation will see 5% of the state-owned company sold in an Initial Public Offering.  Aramco has yet to confirm where, or indeed if, it will float the shares, with some reports it may instead shelve the flotation in favour of private share sales.

Deeply Disappointed

London has been accused of watering down corporate governance rules in order to accommodate the huge listing.  The Institute of Directors said the move put the “UK’s global reputation as a leader in good governance” at risk.  London is vying with New York for the state-owned oil firm’s listing, expected to be the world’s biggest.  The proposed share flotation will see 5% of the state-owned company sold in an Initial Public Offering.  Aramco has yet to confirm where, or indeed if, it will float the shares, with some reports it may instead shelve the flotation in favour of private share sales.

However, the Institute of Directors said it was “deeply disappointed”, calling the move “a reduction in standards”.  The Investment Association said it was pleased some investor concerns were reflected in the finalised rules, but it continues to oppose the inclusion of companies in the new category in major equity indices such as the FTSE 100, as this would force UK savers to invest in them.

The Investment Association’s chief executive Chris Cummings said,

Savers must have confidence that a company is run for all shareholders

Mr Cummings added that he expected the FCA to review the new category after two years.  Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, has proposed an Aramco share sale as part of his economic reform agenda.  A sale is part of wider plans to help the country ease its dependence on oil exports.  Companies will be able to seek admission to the new category on the London Stock Exchange from 1 July 2018.

Fuller, Smith and Turner P.L.C. is an independent traditional family brewer founded in 1845 and is based at the historic Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, London, where brewing has taken place continuously since 1654. As of today [8 June 2018], the Company runs 179 Tenanted pubs and 209 Managed Pubs and Hotels, with a focus on delicious fresh, home-cooked food, outstanding cask and craft ale, great wine and exceptional service. The Company also has 781 boutique bedrooms in its Managed estate. The Fuller’s pub estate stretches from Brighton to Birmingham and from Bristol to the Greenwich Peninsula, including 174 locations within the M25. Fuller’s owns The Stable, a craft cider and gourmet pizza restaurant business, which has 17 sites in England and Wales.

Current Trading: 

  • Managed Pubs and Hotels like for like sales up by 2.5% (2017: +6.6%) in first nine weeks
  • Tenanted Inns like for like profits up 2% (2017: +5%) for first nine weeks
  • Own beer and cider volumes down 3% (2017: +7%) in first nine weeks
  • Acquired four well-located City bars from We Are Bar Group
  • Acquisition of Bel & The Dragon, comprising six iconic pubs that are a perfect fit with Fuller’s premium pub portfolio
  • Investment in new pilot brewery and improved visitor experience will increase innovation from our brewing team and truly showcase our iconic Chiswick brewery to the burgeoning ranks of beer enthusiasts
  • Resilient, well-balanced business model, clear vision, excellent balance sheet and strong management team combine to put Fuller’s in a good position to continue to deliver growth.

Commenting on the results, Chief Executive Simon Emeny said: “The year has seen another good performance with a solid set of results, particularly from Fuller’s Inns. It has been a year of building for the future – with a number of internal projects coming to fruition. In February we were delighted to acquire Dark Star Brewing, a craft cask brewer in Sussex, and since the year end we have purchased an additional 10 excellent sites.

While we are still in a time of national and global uncertainty – and we do not underestimate the related wider market and economic issues that we will have to navigate over the months ahead – we believe we are in a strong position.

Pursuant to Listing Rule 9.6.11, the Company announces that, with effect from 1 July 2018, Peter Swinburn will take on the role of Senior Independent Director. He will be taking over from John Dunsmore who has held this position for the last seven years. John Dunsmore will remain on the Board until the Annual General Meeting in July 2019.

 

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley will run again for the leadership on a joint ticket with former London mayoral candidate Sian Berry.

His current co-leader Caroline Lucas announced this week she would not stand again in this summer’s election.  The Brighton Pavilion MP and Mr Bartley have shared the leadership since 2016.  Ms Berry, a London Assembly member who came third in the 2016 mayoral election, tweeted that she was “very pleased” to be standing.

Their campaign website pledges a “fiercer Green resistance” on issues like fracking, immigration detention and HS2 – the planned high-speed rail network – as well as “bigger Green successes”.  Leaders of the Green Party of England and Wales are elected for two years and an election is due to take place this summer. Nominations opened on Friday and the result will be announced in September.  Ms Lucas, the party’s only MP and best-known politician, announced earlier this week that she would not be standing for re-election, and would be “focusing even more” on her work in Parliament and her constituency.

Across the 150 councils holding elections in May, the Greens ended with 39 councillors, a net gain of eight seats – but lost five of their 10 seats in Norwich.  At the time Ms Lucas acknowledged her party had been “hurt” by voters moving to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour but said they had “held our own and made some significant gains”.  Activist and campaigner Ms Berry, 43, has twice run to become London mayor, knocking the Lib Dems into fourth place in 2016 and was the party’s “principal speaker” from 2006 to 2007.  She represents Highgate as the only Green councillor on Camden Council as well as being one of two Green London Assembly members.

In the campaign launch video, he said they wanted to train activists “in greater campaigning skills and direct action” following campaigns on issues like HS2, tree felling and fracking.  No other candidates have yet put their names forward to run for the leadership.

 

The race to lead America’s self-driving car market moved up a gear with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler announcing major deals.

Japan’s SoftBank is putting $2.25bn (£1.7bn) into GM’s autonomous unit Cruise, one of the biggest single investments in self-driving technology.  And Google-owned Waymo is buying up to 62,000 Fiat Chrysler minivans for its autonomous fleet.  Meanwhile, Uber’s boss says it may work with Waymo on self-driving tech.  The SoftBank deal saw GM’s shares jump more than 10%, the biggest one-day gain since the company re-listed on Wall Street after its 2009 bankruptcy.  SoftBank will take a 19.6% stake in Cruise. The partnership values Cruise at $11.5bn, a triumph for GM which was criticised for over-paying when it bought the start-up two years ago for $1bn.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak said the deal confirmed that GM was one of the top contenders to deploy self-driving vehicles. He said,

GM has a meaningful seat at the table

GM chief executive Mary Barra said the company was still “on track” to begin deploying its Cruise vehicles in commercial ride-sharing fleets in 2019.  She said GM planned to launch its own ride hailing and delivery services business but could explore “other opportunities” with some of the companies that SoftBank has funded.  That is a reference to the money that SoftBank’s $100bn Vision Fund has invested in Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab.

Fiat Chrysler, America’s number three carmaker behind GM and Ford, also stepped up its self-driving efforts.  The company will begin delivering the first of its 62,000 Pacifica vans later this year.  Fiat Chrysler is also exploring the potential to put Waymo technology into a self-driving car it might add to its model line-up for consumers.

Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne said,

Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront

That announcement came after the chief executive of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, said Waymo cars could be used by the ride-hailing firm.  It comes only months after the two companies were at legal loggerheads over a trade secrets dispute.  Uber suspended its own autonomous car testing in April after an accident that killed a woman pushing a bicycle in a street in Arizona.  Waymo’s chief executive, John Krafcik, has said the company’s own self-driving software is “robust” enough to avoid the sort of accident Uber suffered in Arizona.

 

Nokia is to sell its health division back to the founder of Withings, a company it acquired in 2016.

The Withings brand name is set to return following the sale, reversing the Finnish company’s decision to axe it.  The business was founded in 2008 and makes connected health devices such as watches and weighing scales.  The sale to company founder Eric Carreel for an undisclosed sum comes after poor earnings for Nokia Health.

Brand Return 

In a statement posted on the Nokia website Mr Carreel announced his intention to bring back the Withings brand, maintaining coverage for the company’s products.  “I will prepare the return of the Withings brand by the end of the year. I assure you, whether you have been with us for one day or throughout the years, your digital health products and services will continue to be supported,” he wrote.

An industry expert commented on the changing fortunes of Nokia’s health division.

It looked like Nokia had snapped a bargain when they bought Withings but it’s very expensive to build a brand centred on health. With the benefit of hindsight, Nokia’s rebrand may have been a mistake,

Ben Wood, an industry analyst at CSS Insight, told the BBC.  He added that the landscape in wearable heath had changed dramatically in the two years since Withings was sold to Nokia.  “You’ve got lots of competition from Chinese companies. Margins are being cut,” he said.

Carluccio’s could close up to 30 restaurants in a rescue plan under a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

More than 90% of Carluccio’s creditors approved the CVA, which will allow it to close loss-making branches.

That means almost one in three Carluccio’s restaurants could close their doors.

As part of the rescue plan, Carluccio’s majority owner, the Dubai-based Landmark Group, is to invest £10m in upgrading the remaining restaurants.

The 103-strong chain joins a lengthening list of established restaurant businesses losing the battle against higher costs and increased competition.

In the year to 25 September 2016, even though revenues rose 2.7%, spiralling costs meant pre-tax profits fell by 81% to just £982,000.

The company had a management shake-up in January with a new chief executive, Mark Jones, former boss of Goals Soccer Centres, and a new chief financial officer, Andrew Campbell, from YO! Sushi.

Mr Jones said: “The positive outcome enables us to kick-start an extensive programme of reinvigoration… with the aim of elevating the guest experience and underpinned by our brand ethos of minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour, which was so passionately championed by our founder Antonio Carluccio.”

“Urgent action”

Earlier this month, following a strategic review, the new team admitted that “urgent action” was needed to keep Carluccio’s afloat.

The casual dining sector of the restaurant trade has been suffering from a general fallin consumer spending. Chains have also faced higher rents and rates, as well as rising wages with the increase in the National Living Wage. Prezzo, Jamie’s Italian and Byron also used CVAs to close restaurants.

Italian ingredients, from prosciutto to pecorino, have become more expensive since the devaluation of the pound in 2016.

Carluccio has already tried to rebrand itself several times, introducing Via Carluccio’s, a grab-and-go format in Tottenham Court Road, a hotel restaurant, and serving pizza for the first time in 2016.

But much of the new competition in London is now coming not from other chains but small independent start-ups such as Padella, Sorella, Flour and Grape or Sager and Wilde.

Carluccio’s was co-founded by chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio as an Italian food shop in 1991 with the first cafe opening in Market Place, London, in 1999. Its deliberately simple Italian food and drink proved to be immensely popular. In 2010, it was bought by Landmark for £90m.

Carluccio himself died in November last year aged 80, having sold his majority stake in the company in 2005.

On Wednesday 16th May, UBCUK held a re-launch event at The Mille Business Centre in Brentford to celebrate the completion of the first phase of a £1.3 million refurbishment.

The event was a great success, with over 50 people from the local area joining UBC staff and clients for lunch, networking and entertainment. Special guests included Stephen Fry and Chris Durkin from Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, Kath Richardson from Brentford Chamber of Commerce, and Jennifer Brooke, Executive Director of the Business Centre Association (BCA).

Keeping guests on their toes was celebrity lookalike David Brent, star of ‘The Office’ television show, who greeted guests on arrival and ensured the famous gags flowed thick and fast.

Stephen Fry, CEO of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, was invited to talk about his work with Hounslow Chamber and the Creative Enterprise Zone which is currently undergoing an early-stage feasibility study. He expressed that Brentford sits at the heart of Hounslow’s thriving start-up business district and its location provides a vital bridge for businesses of all sizes seeking to grow within Greater London’s thriving entrepreneurial setting.

Stephen also discussed the importance of flexible workspace, such as the coworking and serviced offices provided by UBC, in helping businesses to grow once they’ve advanced from the initial incubation phase.

Stephen commented: “The timing here is perfect – the Innovation Centre at UWL will need grow on space that UBC is offering. The start-ups that are desperate for shared work space are in need now, and this resource is at the heart of a business cluster that needs space urgently. UBC is geared up to supply this.”

Richard Johnson, Managing Director at UBCUK, commented: “What we’re doing at The Mille marks a step-change in UBC’s journey. We’ve always provided good quality flexible workspace backed by excellent customer service to support regional startups and small businesses, and now we’re taking things further.

“By making a significant investment in The Mille, we’re raising the bar yet again and introducing a high standard of flexible workspace that befits the quality of businesses found here. Brentford is a real hive of entrepreneurial spirit, and we are working hard to create a thriving and supportive business community in our space to assist the ongoing growth of these promising businesses.”

 

LSA

 

As logistics grows and requirement for workers across the sector increases, unemployment continues to fall; Sec of State Esther McVey tells the LSA, ‘This months record shows lowest unemployment rate in over 40 years’

John Holland Kaye, talks Heathrow records with the twenty first consecutive month of growth in freight at Heathrow.

 

All 12,000 staff employed by sandwich and coffee chain Pret A Manger will receive a £1,000 bonus once the sale of the firm is completed.

The company is to be sold by its private equity owners Bridgepoint to Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings.  The two firms did not say how much JAB was paying, although one report put the value of the deal at £1.5bn.  Pret a Manger opened its first store in London in 1986 and Bridgepoint bought the chain in 2008 for about £350m.  As well as its strong presence on the UK High Street the chain has expanded into the US, Hong Kong, China and France.
Pret operates 530 stores worldwide, generating group revenues of £879m. Its sale is expected to be completed this summer.

Pret a Manger chief executive Clive Schlee, said:

The £1,000 bonus will be paid to all employees who are on the payroll during the week the deal completes. It’s serendipity for those who have just joined.

William Jackson, chairman of Pret and managing partner of Bridgepoint, said: “We’re proud of what we’ve achieved over the last 10 years with Pret and its management team.”  JAB is the investment vehicle of Germany’s wealthy Reimann family.  The company has built up the world’s second-largest coffee business during the past five years. It controls packaged brands such as Kenco and Douwe Egberts, as well as chains Peet’s and Espresso House. It is also the largest shareholder in beauty firm Coty and owns a controlling stake in luxury goods company Bally.  Last year, it was reported that Philippine fast food chain Jollibee was about to make a bid for Pret, but no offer emerged.