Carrie Symonds says more UK retailers should ban coconut products from monkey labour

Carrie Symonds says more UK retailers should ban coconut products from monkey labour

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds has welcomed pledges by four British retailers to stop selling coconut products that use monkey labour in their production and called on others to do the same.

“Glad Waitrose, Co-op, Boots and Ocado have vowed not to sell products that use monkey labour, while Morrisons has already removed these from its stores,” Symonds said on her Twitter account.

Symonds, a conservationist, was responding to reports which highlighted the plight of pigtailed macaques that are taken from the wild in Thailand and used on farms to harvest coconuts.

She called on all other supermarkets to boycott the products.

“I’m told Asda , Tesco and Sainsbury’s still sell such products,” she said. Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s declined to comment.

Symonds is a well known campaigner for animal rights.

The PM’s fiancee recently backed calls for puppy imports to be banned amid concerns over designer dog farming abroad.

Campaigners say Instagram accounts advertise “over-bred” pedigree puppies, intensively reared to be as small as possible, which are an attractive prospect for people looking for a unique pet.

However, these are often shipped from countries with less rigorous animal welfare standards than the UK, and the pets frequently face a long and dangerous journey.

What is monkey labour?

Monkey labour is practised by Thai farmers who use the pigtailed macaques to harvest coconuts.

A male monkey can collect an average of 1,600 coconuts per day and a female can get 600. Monkeys can be trained to collect the coconuts from the trees and are often kept in brutal conditions by the farmers.

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July 3, 2020 |

Amigo given more time for complaints backlog as shares jump

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TROUBLED subprime lender Amigo has been given until the end of October to deal with a backlog of customer complaints it earlier promised to have dealt with by last week.

Amigo is at war with founder James Benamor who launched a bid to oust the board. He quit in March and accused the company of “committing slow-motion suicide”.

Since then it has faced thousands of complaints from customers who say they should never have been granted a loan in the first place.

The Financial Conduct Authority has given the firm longer to deal with the backlog.

The cost of dealing with the issue will be “substantially higher” than a previous estimate of £35 million. The shares jumped 5p to 13.5p on the news.

The company, which provides loans to borrowers who struggle to obtain credit from mainstream lenders if a friend or family member can act as a guarantor for them, said its liquidity remains strong

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July 3, 2020 |

Simon English: Enough economic caution, time to go for it

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The Great British public is tentative. While pubs will probably do good trade tomorrow and God knows the nation from Boris down needs a haircut, other parts of the economy remain mired in lockdown mode.

I called in to the Westfield near White City the other day to do my patriotic duty – SuperDry shorts and sunglasses – and have seldom felt so alone in a public space. It wasn’t a shopping centre, it was a ghost town. There was plenty of supply and not enough demand.

This fear of public spaces is perfectly understandable. If you hold a nightly TV special for weeks on end, the theme of which is “How many of us died today”, folk are going to feel nervous. For a while, that was the point. They needed to be nervous.

It is time to move on. Today’s latest PMI stats offer at least some hope. The CIPS/Markit survey is one of those unwieldy, if closely watched estimates, that don’t make a lot of sense to non-economists. Broadly, a number above 50 means growth. Anything below it means contraction.

The June figure, as lockdown eased, is 47.7 – which is nearly there and way better than the 30 in May and the 13.8 recorded in April when the economy was intentionally ground to a halt.

Today’s figures show that business is ready to start moving. It needs the public to follow its lead. For most of us, a mask, hand-sanitizer, social distancing and contactless payment leads to a perfectly acceptable level of risk.

Enough of the caution; let’s go for it.

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July 3, 2020 |

Global stocks rise as US unemployment falls with 4.8m new jobs created

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US unemployment fell in June as non-farm payrolls added 4.8 million jobs, the Labor Department said.

It was the second month of gains after a loss of more than 20 million in April, when the coronavirus pandemic put a large swath of economic activity on ice.

The unemployment rate was 11.1%. Economists had been expecting a 2.9 million increase and a jobless rate of 12.4%.

The figures were released a day early as it is a public holiday tomorrow for Independence Day.

In London stocks pushed higher with the FTSE 100 up 71 points at 6228.47. US stock futures on Wall Street also moved higher.

Last month in May the economy added 2.5 million jobs. The data surprised everyone as financial analysts had anticipated that 8 million jobs would be lost.

Richard Flynn, managing director at Charles Schwab, said: “Today’s upbeat US jobs report will build upon the market’s positive momentum from last month’s data.

“However, even if the number is trending lower, continued jobless claims over the past few weeks suggest that many job losses may become permanent as businesses struggle to reopen and unused resources and skills become outdated.

“It’s also possible that a labour market recovery may be further endangered by the latest spike in infection rates in various states. In the US, demographic data from the Center for Disease Control shows that new cases in May and June are skewing towards those that are younger, rather than towards the older portion of population as seen back in April and in months prior. While daily stock market volatility in recent weeks may be influenced in part by the rising number of cases, the overall trend in stocks seems more closely aligned with deaths than new cases.

“A second wave of deaths could in turn lead to a second wave of decline for the economy, corporate earnings and the stock market. Watching the number of deaths, rather than new cases, will be critical for investors in the weeks ahead.”

Neil Birrell, chief investment officer at Premier Miton, added: “The US jobs data came in much better than expected. Although, it is not as good as face value given incorrect classifications.

“But, no matter, risk assets will continue to benefit from the significantly improving economic trends as the US population gets back to work and spending.”

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July 2, 2020 |

US unemployment falls in May as non-farm payrolls add 2.5 million jobs

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US unemployment unexpectedly fell in May as the world’s largest economy added 2.5 million jobs.

The data surprised everyone as financial analysts had anticipated that 8 million jobs would be lost. The unemployment rate fell from 14.7 per cent in April to 13.3 per cent last month.

The Labor Department said in its release: “These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April.”

The report showed that the jobs market improved considerably in the second half of May as businesses reopened after shutting in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In London the FTSE 100 shot higher, up 97.40 points at 6438.84. Stocks have been rising around the globe over the past two weeks on signs that the world economy is slowly starting to get back to normal.

Naeem Aslam, analyst at Avatrade said: “The US unemployment rate has shocked everyone. Speculators were whispering for 20% unemployment. This a mind-blowing number and shows that the economy is improving. Things are not as bad as many thought. This data, if it is a true reflection of the economy, is likely to speed up the recovery for the US economy.”

Paul Craig, portfolio manager at Quilter Investors, added: “These numbers show the worst may well be behind us. It is critical that rehiring and return-to-work continues going forward given statisticians are saying that large swathes of the population are “employed but absent”. Positively there seems to be a lot of re-hiring in the hospitality sector and manufacturing, suggesting America is on the move once again.

“We were worried by the pace of decline in employment in previous months, so this is a good indication that it might not be as bad as feared. In fact it is a positive surprise to see the pace of the re-opening and economic activity.”

President Trump took to Twitter to claim credit for the improvement.

He tweeted: “Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”

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July 2, 2020 |

Amanda Staveley's PCP firm was not 'credible', says ex-Barclays boss John Varley

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FORMER Barclays chief executive John Varley today sought to hurt the credibility of Amanda Staveley in her £1.5 billion court battle with the bank.

The financier, also trying to secure a deal to take over Newcastle United, thinks she was locked out of a 2008 deal with Qatar that secured Barclays’ finances at a time of great turmoil.

The bank says she was a mere introducer. Staveley says her PCP syndicate was an investor and should have benefited from the deal.

Today in a court statement Varley, chief executive between 2004 and 2010, said Barclays was seeking investors with “deep pockets”, “instant credibility and name recognition” who were “acceptable to the FSA”.

PCP “would not have fulfilled the criteria”, he said.

Barclays and Varley had meetings with the FSA — the Financial Services Authority, now the Financial Conduct Authority — to discuss its fundraiser.

Varley said: “At no time did I approach or could I credibly have the FSA to seek its consent to PCP…becoming a source, by investment, of the continuing independence of a systemically important bank.”

Mr Justice Waksman began overseeing the trial two weeks ago. It is likely to last two months.

Barclays’ lawyers said earlier that Staveley, a sometime girlfriend of Prince Andrew, had tried to “insert” herself into a deal in a “hustle”.

Last week, the Press Association reported, Staveley burst into tears at this claim.

An earlier fraud trial into the £4 billion Qatar investment cleared former Barclays bosses of wrongdoing.

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July 2, 2020 |

Ryanair staff asked to take a pay cut to avoid heavy job losses

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Ryanair has asked all staff to agree pay cuts in order to avoid heavy job losses, boss Michael O’Leary said.

Europe’s biggest budget airline had previously said it was looking at up 3,500 cuts among pilot and cabin crew.

“We’ve already announced about 3,500 job losses but we’re engaged in extensive negotiations with our pilots, our cabin crew and we’re asking them to all take pay cuts as an alternative to job losses,” O’Leary told BBC.

“We’re looking from 20% from the best paid captains, 5% from the lowest paid flight attendants and we think if we can negotiate those pay cuts by agreement, we can avoid most but not all job losses.”

The comments come as yesterday EasyJet announced plans to close its hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle as part of a huge restructuring following the global coronavirus pandemic.

The company has moved to slash up to 4,500 jobs across the group – a move that was first flagged in May. Consultations have formally started with 1,900 staff in the UK and another 600 in Germany.

Johan Lundgren, EasyJet chief executive, said yesterday: “These are very difficult proposals to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time for the airline and the industry as a whole.

“We are focused on doing what is right for the company and its long term health and success so we can protect jobs going forward.

“Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people – we are committed to working constructively with our employee representatives across the network with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.

“These proposals are no reflection on our people at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.”

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July 1, 2020 |

Virgin Money to go ahead with job cuts and branch closures

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High street lender Virgin Money go ahead with plans to shut or merge 52 branches and axe 300 jobs after putting the overhaul on hold amid the coronavirus crisis.

The group said the immediate job cuts are 200 fewer than those previously announced due to changes made in response to Covid-19.

It will also offer staff affected by branch closures the option to remain with the group until October 20 to help offer support to vulnerable customers.

Virgin Money will restart its shake-up in August, shutting 22 branches and merging 30 more into nearby sites, as well as rebranding all Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank branches under the Virgin Money banner.

Lucy Dimes, group business transformation officer at Virgin Money UK, said: “While the decision to recommence these redundancies and branch closures has not been taken lightly, we are committed to integrating Virgin Money under one brand as a sustainable, innovative business that invests in improving its customer offer for the future.

“The measures we’ve put in place during the lockdown will continue to help customers engage with alternative and improved ways of banking with us.”

The group – formerly known as CYBG – announced plans in February to axe 500 full-time equivalent roles, including 215 in its branches.

In its update on the plans, it said it had been able to reduce the number of head office roles being cut due to more staff working from home, while it is also keeping more business banking contact centre employees to help small firms amid the crisis.

But it is sticking to overall aims to slash around 16% of its combined workforce – some 1,500 jobs – following CYBG’s £1.7 billion takeover of Virgin Money in 2018.

HSBC also recently lifted the freeze on its redundancy programme to cut around 35,000 jobs worldwide.

A number of banks had paused redundancy plans amid the crisis, with Lloyds Banking Group also among those to temporarily halt job cuts.

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July 1, 2020 |

Wimbledon businesses fear '£100m pandemic blow' from cancelled tennis championships

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Wimbledon‘s shops, bars, restaurants and hotels are facing a battle to “weather the storm” of this year’s cancelled Championships and the wider lockdown, a business leader has warned.

Adrian Mills, the chairman of the Wimbledon Village Business Association, said estimates that small companies based around the All England Lawn Tennis Club will be facing a £100 million economic hit in 2020 were “stark” — but “not far off reality”.

He said the association had lost a “substantial” five-figure sum from advertising flags placed along the main village road, money that usually went to supporting local firms.

Pub landlords have told him anecdotally they were expecting to “take about £4million less than this time last year” because of closure due to the pandemic, as well the cancellation of the tennis and the Euro 2020 football tournament.

Mr Mills said: “There is a sense of bereavement in the village. It is strange for businesses that are usually flat out at this time of year. Being this quiet will have a huge knock-on impact. It will be in September when landlords need their rent for the third quarter. That is when most will feel it.”

Joanna Doniger, owner of housing rental firm Tennis London, rents four-bedroom houses in Wimbledon Village for up to £10,000 a week.

She said: “The week before the Championships is the busiest of my year. This year I will earn no money. And neither will the owners of the houses.”

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July 1, 2020 |

Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS have been chipping away at BP for 30 years

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INEOS chief executive Jim Ratcliffe knows BP well.

The entrepreneur has been picking away at the FTSE 100 company’s assets for nearly 30 years.

It started back in 1992 when Ratcliffe formed private equity firm Inspec with the sole purpose to buy BP’s chemical arm.

Inspec was later renamed INEOS and in 2005 the company bought Innovene and Grangemouth off the oiler for $9 billion ($7.2 billion).

He then went back to the well and bought the North Sea Forties Pipeline System and Kinneil Terminal in 2017.

Today INEOS got its hands on the rest of BP’s chemistry set, snapping up BP’s aromatics and acetyls businesses for $5 billion.

Even for Ratcliffe – whose firm INEOS generates $85 billion in revenue – it is a blockbuster deal.

There’s only a couple of petrochemical assets left at BP, in Gelsenkirchen and Mulheim in Germany, and who’s to say BP boss Bernard Looney won’t sell them to him further down the line.

The deal also highlights how Looney and Ratcliffe are two men on very different paths.

Looney is conducting a green revolution at the traditional blue chip oiler in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

He’s a good orator who sells dreams – as anybody who was in the audience at the Lancaster Hotel in February would testify to.

Whether he succeeds or not the process will be hard and in the public eye.

Ratcliffe is much more pragmatic. He doesn’t mind ugly, unfashionable assets so long as they turn a profit.

He’s the businessman even the most successful are envious of. A risk taker, who makes huge sums of money and looks like he’s having a pretty good time doing it.

A pint with Ratcliffe in the Grenadier in Knightsbridge – when he’s not in Switzerland or Monaco – is by all accounts a good time.

He also has the luxury of his company being private. INEOS acts like a private equity firm, whipping assets into shape over a four to five year cycle.

Looney has the share price ticker and asset managers hanging over his head.

Tom Crotty, director of INEOS group, said: “Being private has its benefits. We can make decisions extremely fast without jumping through hoops for shareholders.”

Ratcliffe’s public persona is through sport and Land Rovers rather than smelters, perhaps a deliberate distraction for the media and public.

Last year INEOS bought Nice and cycling’s Team Sky, adding to the purchase of Swiss second division side Lausanne in 2017.

Looney publicises himself through social media fad Instagram.

The two men are at opposite ends of the energy and corporate spectrum, but they could be doing business together for a while longer yet.

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June 30, 2020 |
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