Over 4,000 Asda workers face pay cut after frozen food move
More than 4,000 Asda workers are facing a pay cut after the grocer unveiled plans to stop restocking frozen aisles in smaller superstores overnight.
Asda said 4,137 workers on night roles would be shifted into daytime positions, meaning they would no longer receive a premium for working unsociable hours. They receive at least £2.52 per hour extra for working shifts from 10pm to 5am, or 11pm to 6am.
Asda said this was part of plans to stop restocking frozen, tinned goods and dried pasta aisles during the night at 184 of its smaller stores, and instead have workers stocking those during the day. Discounters Aldi and Lidl already do this.
Around 300 roles have also been placed at risk across the supermarket's stores, as part of the sweeping changes put forward by Asda, which include 211 night shift manager posts.
Asda is also planning to cut its opening times for in-store Post Office branches and to close seven of its in-store pharmacies - moves it said were due to a drop-off in customers using them. Together, this would mean 85 posts risk being axed, including Post Office managers and pharmacists. Asda is consulting over the proposals.
Ken Towle, Asda’s retail director, said: “The retail sector is evolving at pace and it is vital we review changing customer preferences, along with our own ways of working, to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible, so that we can continue to invest and grow our business."
It comes as grocers battle spiralling costs and pressure to lure customers in with lower prices. Many have recently had to increase worker pay, as they face mounting competition from pubs and restaurants for staff.
Asda chairman Stuart Rose last month said inflationary pressures were "painful for everybody, particularly the lower paid", but that it was necessary that businesses should "not be caught up in this wage price spiral, which might happen if we're not careful".
Higher wages have been offered across supermarkets at the same time as many have faced price hikes by suppliers.
A row has recently erupted between supermarket chiefs and major suppliers over claims some were using high inflation as an excuse to raise their own prices.
FTX says it's indebted to string of Wall Street behemoths
Collapsed crypto exchange FTX owes money to a significant range of Wall Street heavyweights including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo, advisers to the firm have said according to court documents.
A 116-page document filed on Wednesday reveals thousands of creditors, although the names of individuals are redacted.
The list also includes lenders like Deutsche Bank, HSBC and MUFG Bank.
The failed firm was one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world before filing for bankruptcy in November, having previously been valued at t $32 billion.
Foxtons warns of a "challenging" start to 2023
The first half of 2023 will likely be "more challenging" than last year with higher rates and uncertainty depressing the housing market, the London estate agent has said.
While the firm said mortgages coming down somewhat after the fateful mini-Budget was encouraging, it remained "cautious" about the outlook for sales.
Shares in Foxtons fell by as much as 0.7pc in the afternoon.
British stocks no longer seen as must-own assets, international investors warn
British stocks have suffered a “breathtaking” fall from grace and are no longer seen as must-own assets, a powerful group of international investors has claimed. Matt Oliver has the latest:
The Investor Forum, which represents top fund managers such as Blackrock, Aviva, UBS and Norway’s oil fund, said corporate boards, investors and regulators needed to do more to attract investment into the UK in the face of more competition than ever for capital.
Andy Griffiths, executive director of the Investor Forum, said: “The declining relevance of UK equity markets over the last 25 years has been breathtaking.
Without urgent reforms to make listing in the UK and investing in UK-listed companies more attractive, the country’s markets will continue to diminish in importance, the forum warned.
Read the full story here
FTSE 100 gains imply better rental values for London's City offices
Boosts to the FTSE 100 Index over the past year signal that prime office space will become more expensive to rent in the coming 12 months, according to analysis by Morgan Stanley.
The correlation between the blue-chip gauge and London's office rental prices has held up across three decades, analysts at the US bank have found.
They said rents typically track the index with a year's lag, meaning last year's 4pc rise should translate to higher prices.
“Rental markets are driven by demand more than by supply,” analysts wrote in a note. “And demand is driven by confidence. And the stock market is arguably a pretty good confidence barometer.”
FTX attempts to question family of Sam Bankman-Fried about its wealth
The immediate family of suspected fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried must face questions and provide documents about their wealth and money they may have received from the bankrupt crypto exchange, lawyers said in a court filing.
The firm asked the judge for permission to question his parents and brother as well as former top executives under oath in an attempt to find hidden assets to repay creditors.
A US bankruptcy judge must approve the request before FTX lawyers can send subpoenas to Bankman-Fried's family members who were allegedly involved with the company.
I'm signing off now but I leave you in the capable hands of Eir Nolsøe until the evening.
'Intelligence' suggests airports breaking competition law, say regulators
UK airports could be breaking competition law, according to information received by a regulator.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has written to airport operators warning of "serious consequences" for illegal information sharing.
The letter, produced jointly with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), stated:
The CMA has recently received intelligence to suggest that some UK airport operators might not always be complying with competition law.
The CAA is aware of this intelligence and shares the CMA's serious concerns about the possibility of competition law breaches in the sector.
Sharing confidential information with competitors "may seem tempting" to reduce uncertainty but this "may be illegal", according to the regulators.
They wrote that it was "appropriate" for airports to consult publicly before modifying charges but they "must not" share additional information with each other or discuss "pricing or competitive strategies".
Giving rivals insight into future commercial plans could reduce competition, leading to higher prices and poorer service, airports were told.
Rail union ballots members on strike action
A fresh ballot is to be held among thousands of railway workers over whether to continue taking industrial action in the long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) with 12 train operators will vote in the coming weeks as the union aims to force a settlement.
The TSSA has been at the centre of the national rail dispute which has seen rolling strikes and other forms of industrial action since July last year. Its members held the first ever strike on Crossrail this month.
In December, the union's members voted overwhelmingly to accept an offer from Network Rail it said was worth up to 11pc in pay, with other benefits, plus job security and terms and conditions guarantees.
The TSSA has also been in negotiations with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) over the past fortnight, and more talks are being held this week.
The union said no proposals have been made which address its demands.
Coinbase fined for operating without registration
Coinbase has been fined by the Dutch Central Bank for providing crypto services in the country prior to its local registration in September.
The central bank said Thursday it’s imposing an administrative fine of €3.3m (£2.9m) on the crypto trading platform for operating in the country without registering with the monetary authority.
Coinbase obtained its registration in the Netherlands on September 22.
Companies seeking to provide crypto services in the Netherlands are required to register with the central bank under the Dutch Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act.
The central bank said "the base amount of the fine was increased due to the severity and degree of culpability of the non-compliance".
US 'soft landing' hopes boost stocks
Wall Street stocks have mostly risen following better-than-expected US economic data and mixed earnings reports that lifted Tesla in particular.
US economic growth in the fourth quarter came in at 2.9pc, above analyst estimates on resilient consumer spending.
While the report does not remove fears of a recession, analysts said the data boosts hope for a "soft landing," with Federal Reserve interest rates leading to lower inflation but not tipping the economy into a deep downturn.
Adam Sarhan of 50 Park Investments, said:
The GDP number shows us that the consumer remains resilient.
It also shows us the Fed is winning its battle against inflation and doing it in a way where inflation is coming down while GDP continues to grow.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.1pc to 33,763.60, with the broad-based S&P 500 up 0.5pc to 4,036.32 and the the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite gaining 1.1pc to 11,435.76.
It's VERY hard to have a recession with consumer spending (green) this strong, both domestically and globally.
This is good news for a market that’s worried about the future of the economy. pic.twitter.com/ghuKKrW8Ll
— Callie Cox (@callieabost) January 26, 2023
Considering the December pullback in hours worked, retail sales and manufacturing activity, we believe the US economy is entering a mild #recession
We expect peak-to-trough GDP decline of 0.8% & the unemployment rate rising toward 4.9% by year-end. Real GDP expected +0.3% in '23 pic.twitter.com/EDkwOtRXhG
— Gregory Daco (@GregDaco) January 26, 2023
Shell to review energy supply business employing 2,000 people in Britain
Oil giant Shell has raised questions about the future of its energy supply business which employs thousands of people in the UK as companies continue to struggle in a tough market.
Shell said it will launch a "strategic review" of Shell Energy, including its operations in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.
Launched in 2008 as First Utility and bought a decade later by the oil major, Shell Energy employs around 2,000 people in the UK.
It supplies energy to around 1.4 million homes across the country and broadband to around half a million companies.
It was not clear what options are being looked at by Shell for the unit. Companies who put their business units up for review often sell or restructure them, but sometimes keep them unchanged.
‘Powerships’ could boost Ukraine’s energy supply
Ukraine could get a new electricity supply from floating mini power stations, under plans being drawn up by a Turkish energy company.
Energy correspondent Rachel Millard has the details:
Karpowership is considering deploying its 'Powerships' off the coast of Moldova and Romania, hooked up to electricity cables feeding into Ukraine.
Ukraine's energy infrastructure has been crippled by Russian attacks, with about 40pc of the electricity system said to have been damaged.
This month, the national grid operator, Ukrenergo, introduced emergency power cuts in eastern and southeastern regions.
The 'Powerships' generate power on board using methane gas or fuel oil, with a capacity of more than 400 megawatts.
Read more on how the ships can boost power supply.
Tesla shares rocket 11pc after Musk hints at production boost
Tesla shares have surged by double-digits in early trading after Elon Musk indicated that the carmaker will to produce 2m vehicles this year and minimise the effects of drastic price cuts to its electric vehicles.
The electric vehicle market leader said it will increase output "as quickly as possible", in line with its long-standing goal to grow by 50pc annually over multiple years.
While Tesla initially said it expects to make about 1.8m vehicles this year, Mr Musk said during a call to discuss better-than-expected quarterly earnings that 2m is possible.
Tesla shares climbed 11pc — the biggest jump since June — to $159.80. The stock is up about 29pc this year.
Wall Street boosted at open by US economic growth
Wall Street's main indexes opened higher after data showing a resilient labor market and better-than-expected economic growth last quarter helped ease worries of a deep recession, while Tesla's bullish outlook added to the cheer.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1pc at the open to 33,771.66.
The S&P 500 opened higher by 0.5pc at 4,036.08, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.3pc to 11,458.41 at the opening bell.
Gas storage in Europe 'will be more than half full at the end of winter'
European natural gas storage is likely to end the winter more than half full after mild weather weakened demand and concerns over limited supply failed to materialise.
Prices have fallen 31pc over the last month as inventories have remained high despite concerns across the continent about supplies in light of the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, US natural gas prices are at their lowest levels since May 2021 after dipping below $3 on Wednesday.
Forecasters at Bloomberg predict has storage in the 'Europe Perimetre' - Northwest Europe, Italy and Austria - will be 51pc full by the end of March.
Its research said: "Substantial demand destruction has continued and competition from Asia for liquified natural gas has yet to be reignited."
'This is one nutty recession'
The reception appears to be a mixture of surprise and respect for the latest economic figures out of the US, showing the economy grew at a 2.9pc annualised rate at the end of 2022:
Sometimes you need to look at the big picture: It's been an incredible rebound from the 2020 pandemic recession.
The US has recovered all output lost in the crisis and gotten back on trend.
2020: -2.8%https://t.co/gAM6bebF0l via @abhabhattarai pic.twitter.com/cEExbsVH95
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) January 26, 2023
🇺🇸Economy caps 2022 with pride, but enters 2023 full of doubts
📉Real #GDP Q4 '22
💥Massive inventory boost +1.5pt
📈Real GDP🆚pre-#COVID19 trend: -1.5%
🗓️Real #GDP 2022: +2.1%
🔥Headline 5.5% y/y (⤵️0.8pt)
🔥Core 4.7% y/y (⤵️0.2pt) pic.twitter.com/VTkRvY6E8q
— Gregory Daco (@GregDaco) January 26, 2023
2022 was a strange year. Contraction in the first half. Solid growth in the second. But overall, it's not far from what you might have expected: a clear slowdown in growth from 2021's frantic pace, but still positive. pic.twitter.com/a9Aj77Dwbo
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) January 26, 2023
this is one nutty recession. https://t.co/P29GhHtXjc
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) January 26, 2023
Investors 'may fear that today's figures are somewhat deceiving'
Richard Flynn, managing director at financial services firm Charles Schwab UK, said today's US economy figures exceed expectations for growth in the fourth quarter. He said:
For almost a year, the Federal Reserve has been trying to achieve a soft landing by raising short-term interest rates just-enough to bring down inflation without causing a recession.
It's clear the economy remains relatively strong in the face of the Fed's efforts, suggesting they are succeeding.
However, investors may fear that today's figures are somewhat deceiving as other recent data has pointed towards a recession.
Whilst Fed officials have signalled they plan to 'hike and hold' rates at high levels to ensure inflation recedes, the market seems doubtful.
In fact, investors are already pricing-in cuts to the federal funds rate target in the second half of 2023. This mismatch in expectations may drive volatility in the months ahead.
US economy grows ahead of expectations
The US economy expanded at a 2.9pc annual pace in the final three months of last year, ahead of expectations, but momentum appears to have slowed considerably towards the end of the year.
The data from the Commerce Department said the economy grew at a 3.2pc pace in the third quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 2.6pc rate.
That could be the last quarter of solid growth before the lagged effects of the Federal Reserve's fastest monetary policy tightening cycle since the 1980s kick in.
Most economists expect a recession by the second half of the year, though mild compared to previous downturns.
Oil prices rise as dollar weakens
Oil has gained ground as a weaker dollar made commodities more attractive for buyers.
International benchmark brent crude has risen 1.5pc above $87 a barrel, while US-produced West Texas Intermediate is up 1.6pc to take it past $81.
Crude has benefited from a drop in the US currency, with the DXY dollar index, gauging the greenback against a range of currencies, falling to an eight month low earlier today.
The drop — which makes raw materials cheaper for overseas buyers — has been driven by expectations that a pause in the Federal Reserve's rate-increasing cycle may be on the horizon.
Pound recovers despite confidence slump
The pound has recovered ground to trade flat at $1.24 after an earlier tumble following a slump in business confidence.
Businesses are at their most pessimistic about the economy since the depths of the Great Recession amid a "nightmare" of tax rises, soaring prices and lacklustre growth prospects, a survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales shows.
However, having lost ground earlier, the pound is now only fractionally down against the dollar for the day, having climbed 3pc so far this month to reach a seven-month high.
Morrisons catching up on price cuts after costs surge
Morrisons has insisted it has been able to introduce "meaningful price cuts" for shoppers despite surging costs leading to a dip in its earnings for the past year.
The group, which was bought by private equity giant Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 2021, revealed that adjusted earnings fell by 15pc to £828m over the year to October 30.
Morrisons highlighted that the earnings performance was at the "top end" of guidance and included improved profitability in the final quarter.
Group like-for-like revenues, excluding fuel, also dropped by 4.2pc over the year.
Chief executive David Potts said admitted the company had "felt the impacts of last year's racing inflation more immediately than our competitors" and that this "did have an impact on our pricing position". He added:
However, since October we have executed a rolling programme of meaningful price cuts, price freezes and fuel promotions for our customers and our competitive position has considerably sharpened.
Our Christmas trading continued the positive momentum of the last two quarters with a 2.5pc increase in sales against last year, as we pulled out all the stops to help our customers celebrate with style and great quality, despite the economic uncertainty.
Asda night-time overhaul follows trend set by Aldi and Lidl
More than 4,000 Asda workers are facing a pay cut, after the grocer unveiled plans to stop restocking frozen aisles in smaller superstores overnight.
Retail editor Hannah Boland has this analysis:
These workers currently receive at least £2.52 per hour extra for working shifts from 10pm to 5am, or 11pm to 6am.
Asda said this was part of plans to stop restocking frozen, tinned goods and dried pasta aisles during the night at 184 of its smaller superstores, and instead have workers stocking those during the day - something discounters Aldi and Lidl already do.
Asda is also planning to cut its opening times for in-store Post Office branches and to close seven of its in-store pharmacies - moves it said were due to a drop-off in customers using them.
Together, this would mean 85 posts risk being axed, including Post Office managers and pharmacists. Asda is consulting over the proposals.
Asda chairman Stuart Rose last month said inflationary pressures were "painful for everybody, particularly the lower paid", but that it was necessary that businesses should "not be caught up in this wage price spiral, which might happen if we're not careful".
Wall Street expected to open higher
A premarket rebound in US tech shares has lifted global sentiment and looks set to benefit traders on Wall Street.
Upbeat earnings guidance from electric carmaker Tesla and others has assuaged recent disappointments.
Contracts on the Nasdaq index rose about half a percent, with Tesla up about 8pc in premarket New York trading.
That was after the firm beat profit estimates and sales, and chief executive Elon Musk predicted a rise in vehicle sales this year.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.2pc while contracts on the Nasdaq 100 were up 0.6pc. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were little changed.
Coal power stations stood down
National Grid has cancelled its contingency plans to use back-up coal-fired power stations to meet Britain's energy needs after putting three plants on standby.
It will no longer use the two Drax plants in North Yorkshire or the unit at West Burton in Nottinghamshire which had been warmed up in case the power network operator needed to bolster energy supplies at peak times later today.
Wizz Air hit by higher fuel costs and Covid slump
Wizz Air said it will take until next year to become profitable again as it grapples with higher fuel costs.
The Hungarian low-cost carrier suffered a loss of €2.8m (£2.5m) in the third quarter, down from €87.5m (£77m) the previous year as it continues to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
However, its shares fell as much as 10pc - and leads the fallers on the FTSE 250 - as it struck a more muted tone compared to rivals EasyJet and Ryanair.
This was even as sales reached €912m (£802m), beating analyst estimates.
The company also said it would support workers with a gross €1,000 (£880) payment to all stuff under a certain management level.
Royal Mail restarts international deliveries after hack
Royal Mail has restarted international deliveries following a cyberattack which paralysed the postal service’s ability to send letters and parcels abroad.
The company has started to accept a limited number of new international export deliveries as it works to fully restore its export mail services after the attack by a Russia-linked ransomware gang named Lockbit, revealed by the Telegraph.
It comes on the same day the company's owner revealed strikes by postal workers delivered a £200m hit to the Royal Mail, pushing it into a deeper operating loss.
The group's owner, International Distributions Services, revealed Royal Mail's operating losses mounted to £295m in the first nine months of its year so far, with the group hit hard by 18 days of strikes by workers.
Despite seeing six more days of industrial action than first forecast, it said Royal Mail was still set to meet guidance for annual operating losses of between £350m and £450m due to cost savings and strike contingency measures.
Jacob Rees-Mogg joins GB News as he hails ‘bastion of free speech’
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Cabinet minister, is joining GB News in a major coup for the outspoken broadcaster.
My colleague James Warrington has the exclusive:
The Conservative backbencher will host his own show on the network, debating current affairs and interviewing guests.
He will also take his show on tour, broadcasting in front of live audiences in towns and cities across the country.
Mr Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset since 2010, is expected to tackle a variety of political issues, as well as other interests including classic cars and “good Somerset cider”.
After serving as Brexit Opportunities minister under Boris Johnson and briefly as Business Secretary in Liz Truss’s Cabinet, Mr Rees-Mogg resigned to the backbenches in October when Rishi Sunak entered Downing Street.
Read what Mr Rees-Mogg has said about his upcoming show.
Asda night-time overhaul part of 'efficiency' drive
Asda has said the decision to overhaul its night-time working patterns - affecting more than 4,000 staff - was part of efforts to operate "as efficiently as possible".
Ken Towle, Asda's retail director, said:
The retail sector is evolving at pace and it is vital we review changing customer preferences, along with our own ways of working, to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible, so that we can continue to invest and grow our business.
We are now entering a period of consultation with our colleagues on these proposals.
We recognise this will be a difficult time for them and will do all we can to support them through this process.
It comes as Britain's supermarkets prepare for a potential reduction in consumer spending as shoppers cut back to purchasing essentials amid the rising cost of living.
Harvey Nichols to become fur-free by end of the year
British department store Harvey Nichols has confirmed that it will stop selling fur by the end of this year.
The move follows an investigation into Chinese fur farms by animal protection organisation Humane Society International/UK.
Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said:
Harvey Nichols going fur free is an iconic moment in our campaign for a Fur Free Britain.
This world famous British department store has come to the inevitable conclusion that so-called 'ethical fur' simply doesn't exist and fur farming flies in the face of any credible notion of sustainability.
Harvey Nichols' compassionate stance now leaves the handful of remaining retailers that continue to sell fur looking increasingly isolated.
A spokesperson for Harvey Nichols said: "As part of our ongoing review of these practices and continued sustainability initiatives, Harvey Nichols confirms that it will phase out the sale of fur or fur-trimmed products both online and in stores, to be completely fur-free by the end of 2023."
Asda job cuts loom in night worker restructure
Asda has said almost 300 night manager and pharmacy jobs are under threat and more than 4,000 night workers will be moved to lower-paid daytime roles.
The supermarket chain has proposed that overnight restocking shifts at 184 supermarkets are moved to the daytime, in a move which has put 211 night shift manager roles at risk.
It said the changes will also affect 4,137 hourly paid workers, who will see shift patterns moved to daytime and lose their night shift pay premium, of at least £2.52 per hour.
It also revealed a 25pc cut to the opening hours of 23 in-store Post Office shops.
Meanwhile, it will also shut seven in-store pharmacies, which employ 14 pharmacists and 48 other workers.
Trade with Russia decimated since Ukraine war began
British imports from Russia plummeted by 98.2pc to historically low levels by November last year following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The impact of sanctions on the Kremlin were laid bare in new figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show the UK spent just £18m on goods from the country, including £9.2m on refined oil, the only fuel type that has been imported from Russia to Britain since August.
In March, the Government announced that the UK would phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year and businesses were encouraged to secure oil from alternative sources.
Exports of goods to Russia totalled £57m, a 77.4pc decrease since the invasion.
Medicinal and pharmaceutical products, which are exempt from export bans, made up 50.9pc of total exports to Russia in November, up from 9.5pc in the year to February, when the war began.
Cost of living crisis hits Mecca Bingo owner
Rank Group has revealed it tumbled into the red with losses of more than £100m in its first half, but said trading had been strong over Christmas and new year.
The Mecca Bingo owner reported pre-tax losses of £107.1m for the second half of 2022, against profits of £101.5m a year earlier, after being hit by soaring energy and wage costs, as well as the slow return of overseas visitors to London.
Its Grosvenor casinos arm suffered a 5pc drop in net gaming revenues over the first half, while Mecca bingos saw growth of 4pc and Enracha venues in Spain notched up a 25pc hike.
But Rank hailed a rebound over the Christmas season, which it said had continued into January, with boss John O'Reilly saying Grosvenor casinos saw revenues rebound by 19pc between December 24 and January 2, and up by 20pc in January.
Despite the better recent trading, the group said it still expects the cost-of-living crisis to hit customer spending in the coming months.
Morgan Stanley fines bankers for doing business on WhatsApp
Morgan Stanley has fined some of its own bankers more than $1m (£810,000) each for conducting business on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms.
It is the latest fallout from an industrywide investigation that saw US regulators impose record penalties for monitoring lapses.
The funds have either been clawed back from previous bonuses or will be docked from future pay, sources told Bloomberg.
Morgan Stanley is the latest bank to require individual staff to bear some responsibility for an unprecedented regulatory investigation, after it emerged that unapproved messaging platforms were being widely used to conduct business.
Financial institutions are required to scrupulously monitor communications involving their business to head off improper conduct.
Individual penalties at Morgan Stanley range from a few thousand dollars to more than $1m, based on a points system that considers factors including seniority, number of messages sent and whether they were issued prior warnings, according to the Financial Times, which first reported the news.
Britishvolt 'owed £120m' when it collapsed
Britishvolt collapsed reportedly owing as much as £120m to creditors after talks to rescue the electric battery company failed.
Creditors are expected to recover a very small proportion of the debts, sources told the Guardian.
It comes after it emerged Lord Botham is "proactively assisting" an Australian battery maker which has made an 11th hour bid for the assets of collapsed business, which had aimed to build a £3.8bn gigafactory near Blyth.
The deadline for initial offers for the Britishvolt assets was Tuesday evening.
IBM to cut 3,900 jobs
IBM will cut 3,900 jobs joining the wave of tech giants axing workers amid the global economic downturn.
The cuts, which amount to about 1.5pc of its workforce, will affect staff remaining at the company after spinning off its Kyndryl and Watson Health units.
The lay offs are expected to cost the business $300m (£242m).
It comes as the company said it still expects to hire in "higher-growth areas", according to chief financial officer James Kavanagh, with the business delivering an otherwise upbeat annual sales forecast.
Former Bank of England chief wants rate rises to slow down
Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s former chief economist, has called on the Bank to slow down its pace of interest rate rises this year.
Mr Haldane, who is now chief executive at the Royal Society of Arts, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he hoped that now headline inflation had peaked “there’s a decent chance that central banks will go a bit slower during the course of this year”.
He said he hoped they “won’t become too much of a brake on the recovery”
Inflation reached 11.1pc in October and has fallen for two straight months to 10.5pc.
The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates by 50 basis points to 4pc at its monetary policy committee meeting next week.
Markets rise ahead of Bank of England rate decision next week
Stock markets have edged higher, tracking strong performances in Asian equity markets, while investors weighed mixed corporate earnings reports ahead of the Bank of England's interest rate decision next week.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 has risen 0.4pc to 7,771.83, while the midcap FTSE 250 index added 0.5pc to 19,909.84.
Asia-focussed insurer Prudential rose 2.3pc as equities in broader Asian markets scaled fresh seven-month highs.
Among the European companies that reported, shares of Diageo fell 3.8pc even after the world's largest spirits maker beat first-half sales forecasts.
Wizz Air slipped 6.8pc from eight-month highs hit in the prior session, after the Hungarian budget airline said average fares for 2023 were higher than last year on booking volumes.
Fevertree tumbled 9.6pc after the tonic maker warned that inflationary pressures are expected to remain in 2023 with further double-digit percentage hikes across its key input costs.
Fever Tree blames strikes and glass prices as shares hit
Tonic maker Fever Tree saw its shares fall as much as 14pc as it blamed strikes and the rising price of glass for missing targets.
The company said earnings before taxes and other charges would come in between £36m to £42m for 2023, below analyst estimates.
It blamed higher European energy pricing on glass, which it said would be "material", adding that energy pricing "remains volatile and at least three times higher than 2021 levels".
It also said the widespread industrial action on the railways in the run up to Christmas "had a notable impact on sales in what is traditionally a very strong trading period".
It forecast revenues of between £390m to £405m for 2023, having risen 11pc to about £344m in 2022.
Lloyds backs car admin start-up
Lloyds Bank is getting behind a start-up which aims to make car ownership less of a hassle, particularly in city centres, where failing to keep up with all manner of taxes and tolls can lead to big fines.
The high street lender has put £4m into Caura, a four-year-old company already backed by Jaguar Land Rover's venture arm.
It is the bank's third fintech investment since last year.
Caura's app for iOS and Android is an all-in-one place for drivers to manage their administration, including insurance, MOTs, road taxes and congestion charges.
The startup will use Lloyds' investment to develop new and existing products, including for vehicle manufacturers, financial institutions and rental-car companies.
Caura's angel investors include Jon Oringer, the founder of Shutterstock, and Antony Sheriff, the former chief executive of McLaren.
Baffling Brexit plan will wreck trade, says M&S chief
The chairman of Marks & Spencer has called plans to ease post-Brexit trade "baffling" and "overbearing", as he became the latest business leader to attack the Government over its economic policy.
Retail editor Hannah Boland and political editor Ben Riley-Smith have the details:
In a broadside on proposals for solving the Northern Irish Protocol stand-off, Archie Norman said the approach could force prices higher and give EU companies an advantage over British competitors.
The comments from Mr Norman, a former Tory MP, come after fellow industry leaders have also raised the alarm about the direction of the Government.
Dyson founder Sir James Dyson last week accused the Government of a “stupid” economic approach, while the director-general of Confederation of British Industry (CBI) questioned the lack of a “strategy”.
Read Mr Norman's criticisms in a letter to the Foreign Secretary.
FTSE 100 falls at the open
Markets were mixed at the open this morning despite a flurry of better than expected corporate news.
The blue chip FTSE 100 has fallen 0.2pc to 7,744 while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 was up 0.1pc.
Toyota boss to step down and become chairman
Akio Toyoda will step down as president and chief executive of Toyota to become chairman from April 1, and hand over the helm of Japan's biggest automaker to the company's top branding officer.
Koji Sato, a 53-year-old who is also president of Toyota's luxury brand Lexus, will become the new boss, the company said.
The current chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will drop his chairman title but remain on the board.
The issue of who would take over from Mr Toyoda, the 66-year-old grandson of the company's founder, had increasingly been a focus for investors.
During his more than a decade at the top, Mr Toyoda presided over the carmaker during a period of intense change in the auto industry and rising uncertainty about how legacy automakers such as Toyota can fend off the challenge from newer - and often nimbler - challengers such as Tesla.
Diageo beats forecasts as drinkers shrug off cost-of-living squeeze
Johnnie Walker maker Diageo reported that sales rose more than expected in the six months to December, helped by the end of pandemic restrictions and resilience in the face of higher inflation which has stretched consumer budgets.
Sales over the period rose 9.4pc organically, compared to 8pc growth expected by analysts.
Diageo has tried to reassure investors that pricey spirits are resilient in the face of a downturn because they do not represent a large proportion of a household budget and can often be seen as affordable luxuries.
High-end brands were responsible for two-thirds of sales growth, Diageo said.
Diageo maintained its forecast for annual growth of 5pc to 7pc in sales and 6pc to 9pc in operating profit in the three years through fiscal 2025, on an organic basis.
Royal Mail strikes cost postal service £200m
Royal Mail suffered a £200m hit from strike action but said the number of voluntary redundancies needed under plans to axe 10,000 roles will be "significantly" lower than first feared.
The group said it is still on track to cut its workforce by 5,000 by March and 10,000 in total by August, but that the number of voluntary redundancies needed will be far less than the 5,000 to 6,000 it initially expected thanks to employee turnover and cutting variable full-time staffing.
The details came as Royal Mail owner International Distributions Services revealed the letter and parcels arm's operating losses have mounted to £295m in the first nine months of its year so far.
It said the impact of 18 days of strikes by workers over pay and conditions have cost it around £200m so far.
Despite six more days of industrial action than first forecast, it said Royal Mail was still set to meet guidance for annual operating losses of between £350m and £450m due to cost savings and strike contingency measures.
TSB Bank profits hit record since relaunch
TSB Bank has revealed its highest pre-tax profits since it relaunched in 2013, as it took in more than a £1bn in income from more lending and higher interest rates.
The high street bank said its statutory pre-tax profits hit £183.5m over 2022, higher than the £157.5m it had the previous year.
Total statutory income surged by more than 12pc to £1.1bn, which TSB said reflected it lending more, as well as taking in more cash from higher interest rates and deposit margins.
TSB insisted that despite ramping up its impairment provisions to nearly £55m to cover credit losses, it has not seen a significant increase in customers experiencing financial difficulties or missing payments.
The bank also revealed it plans to pay a dividend of £50m to its owner Spanish bank Sabadell for the first time, thanks to its "strong" full-year performance.
Tate & Lyle expects profits to hit expectations
Tate & Lyle has said it expects pre-tax profits to meet expectations and said its outlook remains unchanged as sales grew a fifth.
The sugar maker's Food & Beverage Solutions division reported revenues up 19pc in a trading update.
Chief executive Nick Hampton said:
Tate & Lyle continues to perform well with Food & Beverage Solutions delivering another strong quarter of double-digit revenue growth.
We have successfully renewed 2023 calendar year customer contracts to recover higher input costs and, despite ongoing economic uncertainty, we continue to deliver against our strategy as a growth-focused speciality food and beverage solutions business.
Back-up coal plants fired up for third time this week as blackout threats loom
National Grid has begun warming up its back-up coal-fired power stations for the third time this week as it battles with an energy squeeze brought on by the cold weather.
The two Drax plants in North Yorkshire and one unit at West Burton in Nottinghamshire will be kept ready as a contingency plan should the power network operator need to bolster energy supplies at peak times later today.
The National Grid's Electricity System Operator (ESO) spokesman said: "This notification is not confirmation that these units will be used on Thursday, but that they will be available to the ESO, if required.
"The ESO as a prudent system operator has these tools for additional contingency to operate the network as normal."
National Grid stood down its power plants both times earlier this week before they were used.
It issued a similar call on coal units in mid-December amid a bout of grey, still and cold weather. However, it stood them down shortly after.
The move comes as the Met Office forecasts low levels of wind over the weekend.
Wind power was generating as much as 46pc of Britain’s power earlier this morning but has already fallen back to about 23pc.
This tracker shows Britain's energy mix live:
Britain's coal fired power stations have been warmed up again amid concerns over the country's energy supply.
National Grid’s Electricity System Operator said it was a "prudent" organisation and the move was a contingency measure.
5 things to start your day
1) Baffling Brexit plan will wreck trade, says M&S chief - Archie Norman warns plans for packaging changes will drive up costs for supermarkets and producers
2) Sadiq Khan urged to reject plans for advertising billboards as tall as Big Ben in East London - Developers of huge LED dome agree to install blackout blinds in nearby homes
3) Royal Opera House cuts ties with BP following activist pressure - Opera house becomes latest cultural institution to end deal with oil giant
4) Cat food company shaves 15g off packets - but still charges same price - Pet food brand reduces pouch size without changing price in latest case of 'shrinkflation'
5) Jaguar Land Rover back in profit as sales of new Range Rover hit £900m - Carmaker records first profit since pandemic as computer chip bottlenck clears
What happened overnight
Most Asian markets rose on Thursday as the majority of them returned from the Lunar New Year break on an optimistic note, with inflation slowing and central banks hinting at a lighter approach to tackling prices.
Hong Kong led the way again, helped by hopes that China's reopening will fuel a strong recovery this year, while Bloomberg News said travel and box office numbers for the holidays were encouraging.
Traders are now awaiting the release of US growth data on Thursday and the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation Friday.
Still, Asia continued to outperform after a strong start to the year.
Hong Kong jumped more than 1 per cent in morning trading on Thursday - having already piled on more than 10 per cent in 2023 - while Singapore, Wellington and Manila were also up, though Tokyo dipped.
Seoul edged up as data showed South Korea's economy shrank in October-December - for the first time since the second quarter of 2020 - giving the central bank room to tone down its pace of rate hikes.
SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes was upbeat. "Once we chop through the cudgel of earnings reports, one can reasonably expect the buyback tailwind to resume in force come February," he said in a commentary.
Oil prices edged up and have consolidated around their November highs on China demand expectations, with officials saying the number of daily Covid deaths had fallen nearly 80 per cent since the start of the month.