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Vauxhall deal: PM set to meet Peugeot boss
Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed to meet the head of France’s PSA Group to discuss its planned takeover of Vauxhall in the UK. PSA, which includes Peugeot, wants to buy General Motors’ loss-making European arm, which includes Vauxhall plants at Luton and Ellesmere Port. There are fears that the deal could lead to job losses.
Kraft Heinz drops Unilever takeover bid
Kraft Heinz has abandoned its offer to buy Unilever, its Anglo-Dutch rival.
The Marmite maker rejected the US food giant’s bid on Friday, saying it saw “no merit, either financial or strategic” in Kraft’s offer, worth about $143bn (£115bn). Shares in Unilever, which closed 13% higher on Friday, fell more than 8% in morning trading in London to £34.76. Kraft’s offer was at an 18% premium to Unilever’s closing share price on Thursday, Unilever said. Kraft shares rose 11% on Wall Street on Friday.
Treasury to push on with business rate changes
The Treasury is set to push ahead with changes to the business rate system despite several last-ditch warnings from UK executives that investment will fall as a result. A senior government figure said on Sunday the revaluation would go ahead as planned in April. Mike Coupe, chief executive of supermarket J Sainsbury, said the plans could lead to more high-street closures, particularly “in areas of the country where there is already a marginal call on investment”. He called for a “fundamental reform” of the “archaic and outdated system
Brussels focuses on UK’s €60bn exit bill before trade talks
The EU’s Brexit negotiators expect to spend until Christmas solely discussing Britain’s divorce from the bloc, denying London any trade talks until progress is made on a €60bn exit bill and the rights of expatriate citizens. A narrow divorce-first approach favoured by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, would represent a big setback for Britain’s aim for a fast-track EU trade deal, completed by the end of 2018. A move to delay trade talks sets the stage for a high-stakes stand-off once formal Brexit negotiations begin. David Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary, wants all elements of Brexit to be handled “in parallel”.
UK insurers race to step EU subsidiaries
One of London’s leading insurance executives, Mark Weil, UK Chief Executive of Marsh, has warned that the industry may struggle to complete its Brexit preparations before the UK leaves the EU. Much of London’s £60bn commercial insurance market uses EU pass porting rights to access continental European markets. These are expected to disappear; therefore, many will have to set up subsidiaries elsewhere. Dublin, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands are expected to be popular destinations.
Treasury to push on with business rate changes
The Treasury is set to push ahead with changes to the business rate system despite several last-ditch warnings from UK executives that investment will fall as a result. A senior government figure said the revaluation would go ahead as planned in April, and downplayed reports that the system could be radically reshaped in future. A number of prominent businesses have criticised the plans, which most affect those based in areas where property values have risen sharply, such as London and the Midlands.
US banks step up fight to end fee limits on debit cards
US banks are stepping up efforts to win one of Washington’s fiercest lobbying battles with a push to end limits on debit card fees that they claim have failed to help consumers and handed retailers a $42bn windfall. The lobby group has launched an advertising campaign with placements in publications including The Washington Post and Politico that take aim at the so-called Durbin amendment. This requires the fees that banks charge retailers on debit card transactions to be “reasonable and proportional”.
Traffic delays are worst in Europe and getting longer
Britain’s roads are the most gridlocked in Europe and drivers spend an average of 32 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to research. The study said congestion in Britain was costing the economy £31 billion a year in fuel costs and lost productivity. This cost an average of £968 in extra fuel for each driver, lost productivity and the extra costs to businesses, equivalent to £30.8 billion nationally.
1 Thailand 61 hours a year
2 Colombia 47
3 Indonesia 47
4 Russia 42
5 USA 42
6 Venezuela 39
7 South Africa 38
8 Brazil 37
9 Puerto Rico 37
10 Turkey 34
11 UK 32
1 Los Angeles 104
2 Moscow 91
3 New York 89
4 San Francisco 83
5 Bogota 80
6 Sao Paulo 77
7 London 73
8 Atlanta 71
9 Paris 65
10 Miami 65
May urged to sell Britain as base for electric cars at Peugeot talks
The prime minister will meet the head of PSA Peugeot Citroën amid hopes that she will secure the future of the Ellesmere Port and Luton factories that PSA aims to take over, and fulfil a promise to promote Britain as a world leader in electric vehicles. Theresa May will have a discussion with Carlos Tavares, the cost-cutting chief executive of PSA Groupe, which last week unveiled plans for a £2 billion takeover of the European division of General Motors — Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in Britain. Senior industry figures are urging ministers privately to take advantage of the situation and to promote the plants as potential centres for future low emissions vehicles, in line with her aim of making electric car expertise a pillar of her industrial strategy.
House prices creep up at slowest rate for four years
House prices are rising at their slowest rate in four years, new figures show, amid growing evidence of a cooling in the market. Househunters have become more price sensitive during increased economic uncertainty, the analysis by the online property website Rightmove suggests. House prices rose by 2.3 per cent over the past year, the lowest rate of increase since April 2013, the figures show. Asking prices in England and Wales saw the smallest monthly rise for February in eight years.
Hidden fees for money transfers cost small business ‘£4bn a year’
In 2009, Kevin McDermott asked his bank why there was money missing each time one of his Australian customers paid him. The business owner could never have guessed then that such a straightforward question would prompt a Kafkaesque exchange with the high street lender.
The entrepreneur behind Biofresh UK, simply wanted his bank to explain why there was a £12 discrepancy in every payment he received from his overseas customers. A study last year by Accourt, a payments consultancy, found that small and medium-sized companies were being charged £4 billion in “hidden” international money transfer costs every year. The average total transaction cost charged by a bank to a small business customer on a transfer of £75,000 is 2.43 per cent, or £1,822. Of this, £1,807 is based on the spread, Accourt found. Overall, small businesses will pay between 1.12 per cent and 3.68 per cent of the amount they transfer due to the spread.
Jaguar set to lift the veil on mid-size Range Rover
Jaguar Land Rover is to launch a fourth Range Rover model, with expectation building that the vehicle will be assembled at the group’s Solihull plant in the Midlands. Reports suggest that the new vehicle will be named the Range Rover Velar, although as Velar has its root in the name for a veil, it is uncertain whether that is merely a project code name. It is reckoned that the new Range Rover will slot in a price space between the baby Range Rover, the bestselling Evoque that retails from £30,000, and the more powerful Sport, which starts at £60,000.
Divide and rule tactics could leave UK without deal, say EU politicians
British attempts to “blackmail and divide” EU countries in the run-up to Brexit negotiations will lead to a disastrous “crash-landing” out of the bloc, European politicians have told the Guardian. They add that the approach being pursued by Theresa May’s government will leave the UK without a free trade deal – with perilous consequences for the country. Formal talks are due to open next month, but a trio of parliamentary leaders and a close ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, say those talks risk ending in failure unless Britain changes what they say are “divide and rule” tactics. They believe the situation is further complicated by domestic hardline political and media pressure in the UK.
More than half UK investment in transport is in London, says study
More than half of the UK’s total spending on transport networks is invested in London, research has found, prompting warnings of “chronic underinvestment” in northern infrastructure projects.
The gulf in transport infrastructure investment between London and the rest of England is set to get worse, according to the analysis by the thinktank IPPR North, with £1,943 being spent per person in London on current or planned projects compared with just £427 in the north. Researchers found that Yorkshire and the Humber would get just £190 per head, the north-east £220, and the north-west £680 for transport from 2016/17 onwards, averaging out at £427 per head for the region.
UK borrowing and growth better than expected for budget, says report
Britain’s economic growth and borrowing levels will both be better than previously expected when the chancellor gives his budget next month, according to a report. The economic forecasting group EY Item Club said stronger-than-expected tax receipts meant the Office for Budget Responsibility was likely to cut its borrowing forecast for the current year by £3bn to £65bn on budget day. The fiscal watchdog was also likely to revise its GDP forecast up from 1.4% to 1.6%, or 1.7%, it said.
The OBR maintained its outlook of 2.1% growth in 2019 and 2020, before slipping to 2% in 2021. EY said the watchdog was unlikely to make any substantial changes to its longer term forecasts, owing to the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s future status outside the EU.
Diesel cars face ban from London on bad air days
OLDER diesel cars could be banned from London’s streets on days when air pollution levels are too high, the Mayor of London has said. Mr Khan suggested that the Government should introduce a scrappage scheme for diesel vehicles and a clean air act to combat pollution.