Neville Prior 25 May 2016 10:18:14 AM
Britain’s retailers are braced for June to be the worst trading month in more than three years as uncertainty over the outcome of the EU referendum
weighs on consumers’ appetites for spending. Retail businesses are planning to cut jobs and investment as fears about the state of the global economy
add to their woes, according to the CBI. Rain Newton-Smith, the business group’s director of economics, said: “Even though low inflation
is still boosting pay packets, retailers are continuing to operate in a tough environment, with strong price competition squeezing margins.
“With a cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead, particularly from challenging global conditions and the outcome of the EU referendum
, it is not surprising to see investment intentions deteriorating and business sentiment levelling off.”
Retailers are expecting sales to fall next month at the fastest rate since May 2013 and have sharply cut back on orders. Of the 121 firms taking part in the CBI survey, 21% said they expected sales volumes to increase next month, while 26% expected them to fall. The resulting balance of -5% was the lowest since May 2013. Meanwhile investment intentions for the year ahead were at the lowest level since August 2013, with a balance of -13%. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the caution was understandable.
“With household real income growth slowing this year in response to rising inflation, slower job growth and tighter fiscal policy, we think retailers are right to prepare for choppier waters ahead.”
Trading in May had shown some improvement, with sales modestly higher than the same month last year. A total of 36% said sales volumes were up; 29% said they were down. Growth was driven by an increase in sales of clothing, recreational goods and DIY products.
Neville Prior 23 May 2016 04:31:17 PM
No longer a rumour, Bayer has bid a huge $62bn for Monsanto. Will BASF or another counterbid - probably not, but the story may have more to run.
Neville Prior 13 May 2016 02:46:49 PM
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Neville Prior 13 May 2016 02:31:23 PM
Cornelius has launched a new charitable trust to support educational projects in communities where it operates around the world. The Board of Cornelius has launched the trust with an initial donation of £25,000 and a new Board of Trustees, made up of company employees, has been established to manage and grow the fund into the future. The new Cornelius Trust will focus on four initiatives through a range of fundraising events and activities.
In the UK, each year, the trust will sponsor a student from the sixth form at Birchwood High School, in Bishop’s Stortford, to study a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject at university. The initiative is aimed at supporting students from under-privileged backgrounds and those who would not otherwise be able to attend university. Dr. Chris Ingate, principal of Birchwood High School, said: “The new partnership with Cornelius is extremely valuable and beneficial to our school and students. We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work closely with such a successful, international company like Cornelius.”
Internationally, the trust is investigating how it can work with local schools in Warsaw, Poland, where Cornelius has established itself as a major distribution business. In Madagascar, where Cornelius sources some of its vanilla products, and India, where the company sources its psyllium fibre, it is looking at funding a variety of educational community projects which support vanilla and psyllium growers and their families.
Dr. Neville Prior, Cornelius chairman, said: "In contrast to previous charity work that the company has engaged in, the intention of the new trust is to focus on one charity, project or community in a location of relevance to Cornelius and build a long-standing, high value relationship with them, in order to maximise the impact of the trust’s efforts. “As a well-established company, operating for more than 80 years, it’s important for Cornelius that we are able to give something back to the people and communities that we do business with, enabling them to prosper and develop even further.”
The Cornelius Trust has already held its first fundraising event. A football match took place at Bishop’s Stortford Football Club between Cornelius and Weston Homes, a property development company operating in London and the south-east. The £1,000 raised at the event was split between the newly founded trust and St Clare Hospice, the nominated local charity of Weston Homes. Players and spectators had the chance to see and have their photograph taken with the Barclays Premier League Trophy which was on display at the stadium.
Neville Prior 13 May 2016 01:47:58 PM
The International Monetary Fund chief has said a vote by the UK to leave the European Union would have "pretty bad, to very, very bad" consequences. Christine Lagarde said she had "not seen anything that's positive" about Brexit and warned that it could "lead to a technical recession". She echoed similar comments made on Thursday by Bank of England governor Mark Carney
. Vote Leave said the IMF had been wrong in the past and were "wrong now".
The IMF said in a report on the UK economy
that a leave vote could have a "negative and substantial effect". It has previously said that such an outcome could lead to "severe regional and global damage".
Ms Lagarde said the Fund had a duty to assess the risks of Brexit. It has a mandate to oversee the international monetary and financial system. Brexit was not just a domestic issue but an international one as well, she told a briefing at the Treasury attended by the Chancellor, George Osborne. "I don't think that in the last six months I have visited a country anywhere in the world where I have not been asked 'what will be the economic consequences of Brexit?" she said.
Asked if the Treasury had had any input into the IMF's conclusions, Ms Lagarde responded: "Heck no! If you are suggesting that, you don't know the IMF." In its report, the IMF said that a Brexit vote would result in a "protracted period of heightened uncertainty" and could result in a sharp rise in interest rates. That would cause volatility on financial markets and economic output to decline and could also erode London's status as a global financial centre, it added. Priti Patel MP, who is backing the leave campaign, said the IMF was "wrong then and they are wrong now. It appears the Chancellor is cashing in favours to Ms Lagarde in order to encourage the IMF to bully the British people." Former chancellor, Lord Lamont, added: 'This daily avalanche of institutional propaganda is becoming ludicrous and pitiful. Important institutions are being politicised and used to make blood-curdling forecasts. "There are plenty of respected individual economists, plenty of respected professional investors, and plenty of entrepreneurs who take a very different view from Christine Lagarde and who have probably been better at foreseeing the future than the IMF."
The Fund said it expected growth to fall below 2% for the full year in 2016 before returning to an average of 2.25% over the medium term. However, the IMF said that this "broadly positive" forecast was subject to notable risks, the biggest of which was the EU referendum, but also the low level of household savings, high levels of household debt, a wide current account deficit and concerns that productivity growth will not rise significantly. Concerns about a possible Brexit may have affected UK markets in recent months, according to the IMF. It pointed to a 40% decline in the number of commercial real estate transactions in the first three months of the year. Deciding whether to remain in the EU was a choice for voters to make, the IMF said, adding that "their decisions will reflect both economic and non-economic factors".
Neville Prior 13 May 2016 10:17:15 AM
Monsanto shares jumped on rumours that BASF or Bayer are thinking of launching a takeover bid.................
Neville Prior 11 May 2016 10:34:09 AM
A new wind farm in the Scottish Highlands is set to power the creation of some of the nation’s best-known chocolate bars and pet foods.Now the equivalent of all the energy needed to produce the likes of Snickers, Mars Bars, Dolmio and Pedigree Chum in the UK will be supplied by a 20-turbine scheme at Moy, near Inverness. The move comes after Mars signed a ten-year deal with the wind farm operator that will see its entire UK manufacturing operation run on 100 per cent renewable power.
Owned and operated by Dutch firm Eneco, the Scottish wind farm has an export capacity of 60 megawatts and an annual consumption over 125,000 megawatt-hours. The power generated is equal to that used by 34,000 average UK households – or to make enough Maltesers to fill 166 Olympic-size swimming pools every year. The deal is part of the company’s effort to shrink its carbon footprint and support UK climate targets. Mars, which has 12 sites across the UK, aims to for its global operations to be fully carbon-neutral by 2040. The latest deal follows the launch of a large-scale wind farm in Texas, which now generates the equivalent of 100 per cent of the electricity required to power the company’s entire US operations.
Mars has already achieved its global 2015 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter from 2007 levels. Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer for Mars Incorporated, said: “We’re proud that the brands that we make here will now be manufactured using renewable electricity, and that we are reducing our carbon footprint in the UK and around the world. “As with our wind farm in Lamesa, Texas, Moy will contribute significantly to our effort to eliminate fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from our global operations by 2040. “The Moy Wind Farm is part of our innovative and long-term approach to achieving our goal to be a successful and sustainable business for generations to come.”
Zoisa Walton, country director for Eneco UK, said: “This project is very special to Eneco as it brings together all the elements of our strategy – a renewable generating asset, a like-minded partner in Mars, and the opportunity to deliver real benefits to the local community. We are proud to be supplying Mars UK and to be working with them to create a more sustainable future.” Extra power from the Moy scheme will be offered to local residents via a new green tariff called Highlands and Mearns Wind. National Grid figures show 2015 was a record year for wind energy generation. Onshore and offshore turbines produced 11 per cent of UK electricity last year, up from 9.5 per cent in 2014.
Neville Prior 9 May 2016 11:43:06 AM
Confirming speculation that surfaced in March, German chemical producer Evonik
has announced it will acquire the Specialty & Coating Additives business of US gases producer Air Products
and Chemicals for $3.8 billion (€3.5 billion), subject to approvals from the relevant antitrust authorities. The business generated $1 billion in revenue and $241 million of adjusted EBITDA over the 12 months ending Mar. 31, 2016. Under the terms of the agreement, operational facilities, supplier contracts, labs, contracts, customers, and employees, along with certain legal entities associated with the Air Products business will transfer to Evonik. The business’s headquarters will remain at Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA. The Essen-based group said the deal, which it expects to complete by the end of 2016, will strengthen its already leading position in the high-margin specialty & coating additives market, add strength in North America and result in synergies of $80 million annually. The acquisition is also expected to be accretive to earnings per share in the 2017 business year. The combined specialty & coating additives
business has annual sales of around €3.5 billion and an attractive EBITDA margin of more than 20%. Describing the activities to be added as “highly complementary,” Evonik noted that they serve three “particularly attractive, rapidly growing” core markets: coating and adhesive additives, high-value PU foam additives and specialty surfactants for industrial and institutional cleaning. However, while targeting the same end-customers, they have different and complementary products. Evonik claims leadership in PU foam stabilizers, while Air Products’ Specialty & Coating Additives business is well positioned in PU foam catalysts. The German chemical producer said demand for these products is rising strongly, and the market for the additives will grow far more quickly than overall demand for chemical products.
The acquistion will also be a good geographical fit. The Air Products business is focused on North America and Asia, while Evonik is particularly strong in Europe. With the move, the German player said it is reducing its dependence on the European market and therefore better protecting its own business against economic fluctuations in individual regions. By optimizing production/logistics, marketing/sales and administration, Evonik said it expects to generate cost synergies of $60 million per year, starting in 2020 at the latest. Altogether, the deal is expected to generate annual synergies of $80 million. Evonik said it expects to receive net tax benefits of more than $500 million through the acquisition, which is partly structured as an asset deal. The German group plans to finance half the transaction with its own funds, the remainder with debt.
Neville Prior 6 May 2016 03:30:10 PM
The UK government may step in and ban plastic microbeads found in shower lotions and facial scrub products if the European Union (EU) backs away from taking action. Rory Stewart, the environment minister, told the House of Commons yesterday that in the event the UK could not get agreement from Brussels “we are open to the possibility of the UK acting unilaterally”. Currently legal in the UK, the use of microbeads in cosmetics is banned in a number of countries, including the US, and the British Plastics Federation has also confirmed its disapproval.
Microbeads are virtually impossible to retrieve from the waste system and can end up in the sea or rivers. A recent survey by Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, found that more than 80% of consumers would not buy a product
if it was found to pollute the marine the environment. The government’s stance was broadly welcomed by the organisation, but it said that any legislation would need to go further than that enacted by the US, where only certain types of microbeads are covered.
Dr Erik Sebille from Imperial College London argued that microbeads contributed only a small amount of the total plastic waste in the world’s oceans. However he told the BBC that a ban was “the right way” to address the problem of plastic pollution in the marine environment at its source.
Neville Prior 6 May 2016 03:19:09 PM
The UK’s buoyant fleet and business sectors helped push new car registrations in April up by 2% year-on-year to 189,505 units. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that last month’s figures were the highest for an April since 2003. While fleet and business activity remained strong, private registrations fell 2.5%, with the SMMT citing “political and economic uncertainty” possibly fazing consumers.
According to the SMMT April’s performance puts registrations for 2016 to date – 961,285 – 4.4% up on the same period last year, following what it called “a bumper March” in which more than 518,000 cars were registered, the second-biggest month on record. “Demand for cars has been running at a high level, after 43 consecutive months of growth in the market led to an all-time high of 2.63 million car registrations in 2015,” it added. Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said: “After such a strong March, April’s steadier performance was to be anticipated, and is in line with our expectations for the year.
“Consumer confidence remains high as buyers continue to capitalise on attractive finance deals, although this could be affected by political and economic uncertainty in the coming months.” The recent scandal involving Volkswagen (VW) does not seem to have dented the marque’s fortunes in the UK; VW’s Golf model was the second-biggest seller last month, after Ford’s Fiesta, which also holds the year-to-date favourite.