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Relatives of Subway founders in line for billions after sandwich chain sold

The deal is expected to deliver a windfall to the relatives of Subway's two late founders, Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck
The deal is expected to deliver a windfall to the relatives of Subway's two late founders, Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck - DANIEL LEAL

The relatives of Subway’s founders are in line for billions of dollars after the sandwich chain was sold for a reported $9.6bn (£7.6bn).

Subway announced on Thursday it had been bought by private equity firm Roark Capital Group, taking the fast-food chain out of family ownership for the first time in six decades.

The deal is expected to deliver a windfall to the relatives of the company’s two late founders, Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck.

Subway was founded in 1965 when 17-year-old DeLuca received a $1,000 loan from family friend Buck, a nuclear physicist 20 years his senior.

He used the cash to open his first sandwich shop, then called Pete’s Super Submarines.

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Under DeLuca’s leadership, Subway overtook McDonald’s as the largest restaurant chain and now has about 37,000 franchise-run restaurants in more than 100 countries, including 2,100 in the UK.

The duo boasted shared 50-50 ownership of Subway’s parent company, Doctor’s Associates, which takes as much 12pc in combined royalty and advertising fees from franchise owners, Forbes reported.

Following Buck’s death in November 2021, his 50pc share of Subway was donated to his private family charity, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.

Carrie Schindele, executive director of the foundation, said at the time: “This gift will allow the Foundation to greatly expand its philanthropic endeavours and impact many more lives, especially our work to create educational opportunities for all students, work Dr Buck cared so deeply about.”

The non-profit, founded by Dr Buck and his late wife Carmen Lucia in 1999, is run by sons Christopher and William, plus grandson Samuel, nephew Michael and sister-in-law Vera Lourenco.

The other half of Subway belonging to Mr DeLuca, who died in 2015, is now reportedly wholly owned by his widow, Elisabeth.

Following Mr DeLuca’s death, his younger sister Suzanne Greco took over as chief executive. However, she stepped down three years later after a series of restaurant closures.

Subway’s current boss, John Chidsey, in 2019 became the company’s first chief executive from outside the family.

Commenting on the sale, Mr Chidsey said: “Subway has a bright future with Roark, and we are committed to continuing to focus on a win-win-win approach for our franchisees, our guests and our employees.”


06:30 PM BST

Fresh blow for SFO after giving up on 10-year investigation

That’s all from us today. I’ll leave you with the latest story from special correspondent Matt Oliver:

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped a decade-long investigation into Kazakh mining company ENRC after prosecutors admitted they lacked the evidence to go to trial.

Since 2013, the agency has been examining ENRC’s purchases of mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid allegations the deals were secured using bribes.

But after exhausting “all reasonable lines of enquiry”, SFO prosecutors on Thursday revealed they had failed to unearth enough evidence to stand any of the claims up in court.

The decision caps what has been a particularly troublesome case for the SFO, which has been sued by ENRC over revelations a lawyer who passed information to investigators, Neil Gerrard, breached his duties to ENRC.

Mr Gerrard, a former solicitor at Dechert, is waiting to find out whether he will be tried for allegedly lying under oath - a crime for which he could go to jail if found guilty. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

It is understood the SFO’s decision to drop its case against ENRC followed an internal review of all investigations, initiated after a string of other prosecutions collapsed or were overturned in recent years.

Lisa Osofsky, the agency’s outgoing director, is also thought to have wanted to clear the decks for her successor, Nick Ephgrave, who will start in October.

However, the move is expected to prompt fresh questions about the SFO’s handling of the case and why it took so long to reach its conclusion.

A source close to ENRC claimed the agency had spent at least £15m of public money on the investigation, having requested “blockbuster” funding from the Treasury to pursue it.

The SFO would not comment on that estimate.

On top of this, ENRC’s claims in the High Court could result in the agency being forced to pay out up to £70m in damages, depending on a judge’s findings.

In a statement published on its website, the SFO said: “We review all our cases on an ongoing basis to help us deliver justice for victims and value to the public.

As a responsible prosecutor, we must ensure all our cases meet the stringent evidence and public interest tests set by the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

“In August 2023, following our latest review of the [ENRC] investigation, we concluded that we have insufficient admissible evidence to prosecute, and closed the case.

“We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has cooperated with our investigation.”

It came as the SFO announced it was dropping separate investigations into Rio Tinto and the Alpha and Green Park group of companies as well.

As with ENRC, the SFO said the Alpha investigation would not go ahead because prosecutors lacked enough evidence.

In Rio’s case, the agency said an investigation into alleged corruption at the mining giant’s business in the Republic of Guinea had been scrapped because it was no longer “in the public interest to proceed with a prosecution in the UK”.

The SFO added that Australian police continued to investigate and the agency was supporting them where necessary.

Dr Helen Taylor, senior legal researcher at Spotlight at Corruption, warned that the SFO’s decision meant that “serious allegations of corruption will not be considered in court”.

She added: “The SFO should clarify whether the multiple legal actions the agency and its staff have faced from ENRC played a role in this decision.

“Concerns have been raised that the litigation around this investigation has had a chilling effect on public scrutiny of the company’s conduct, and closed down the opportunity for those affected by alleged corruption to have their voices heard in court.”

A spokesperson for ENRC said: “ENRC is pleased that the SFO has finally closed its investigation and that the SFO is taking no further action in respect of this matter.”


05:48 PM BST

Boeing has found more quality problems with its 737MAX

Boeing has found more quality problems with its 737Max short-haul aeroplanes.

Boeing’s 737Max and Airbus’s A320 line of jets are the backbone of the resurgent short-haul travel market, flying routes within continents for business trips and holidays.

Boeing said it is assessing whether the defects, which it has blamed on supplier Spirit AeroSystems, will cause it to miss its delivery target of 400 planes this year.

The new problems, found in drilling towards the back of the plane, follow the discovery in April of sub-standard work in April in installing brackets joining the fuselage to the tail.

”We continue to deliver 737s that are not affected,” said Boeing. It did not say how many planes would be affected.

Spirit said not all fuselages would be affected. It said: “Based upon what we know now, we believe there will not be a material impact to our delivery range for the year related to this issue.”

Ryanair ordered 300 of the craft in May. It said: “Ryanair is working with Boeing to assess the impact on Winter 23/24 deliveries from this latest Spirit production issue. At this time, we don’t expect any significant delays to our 57 Ryanair deliveries scheduled between October 23 and June 24.”

Boeing said it is assessing whether the defects will cause it to miss its delivery target of 400 planes this year.
Boeing said it is assessing whether the defects will cause it to miss its delivery target of 400 planes this year. - LINDSEY WASSON

05:29 PM BST

Record rise in young men out of work and education

The number of young men out of work and education is rising at the fastest rate on record, according to the Office for National Statistics.

An extra 56,000 men aged 16 to 24 were not in education, work or training in the three months to June, the largest quarterly rise since records began in 2001.

This brings the total of young men in this group to 237,000, compared with just 90,000 women.

It comes as separate figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed the number of foreign nationals registering for a British national insurance number reached a record high of 1.1 million in the year to June.

The surge was overwhelmingly driven by people from outside the European Union, with the most common nationalities being Indian and Nigerian.

Senior economics reporter Eir Nolsøe has more...


04:43 PM BST

Subway sold for $10bn

Subway has been bought by private equity firm Roark Capital Group, in a deal which reportedly values the fast-food chain at $9.6bn.

The deal comes after the American-founded company announced in February that it was exploring a sale and had recruited investment bank JP Morgan to steer the process.

Roark Capital Group already owns multiple fast-food chains, including Dunkin’ and Cinnabon.

The sale process has reportedly attracted several bidders, such as British private equity firm TDR Capital.

Subway has about 37,000 franchise-run restaurants in more than 100 countries, including 2,100 in the UK.

Subway chief executive John Chidsey said: “Subway has a bright future with Roark, and we are committed to continuing to focus on a win-win-win approach for our franchisees, our guests and our employees.”

Subway has about 37,000 franchise-run restaurants in more than 100 countries, including 2,100 in the UK.
Subway has about 37,000 franchise-run restaurants in more than 100 countries, including 2,100 in the UK. - DANIEL LEAL

03:57 PM BST

Waitrose hit by shortage of middle-class vegetables

The middle classes may have survived the first wave of Britain’s fruit and vegetable shortages, but a scarcity of artichokes at Waitrose could reignite panic.

Shoppers seeking out globe artichokes for their summer dishes have been met with disappointment in recent weeks after unpredictable weather disrupted supplies.

The retailer told the Telegraph that British artichokes are unavailable because crops have been “temporarily impacted by the unseasonable and fluctuating weather conditions”.

“Sudden hot weather earlier this summer impacted the quality of plants – followed by colder conditions which prevented further growth,” a Waitrose spokesman said.

Senior business reporter Daniel Woolfson has the story...

The retailer told the Telegraph that British artichokes are unavailable
The retailer told the Telegraph that British artichokes are unavailable - Nicholas T Ansell

03:34 PM BST

Handing over

I’m heading off now but you will still get the latest updates here from my colleague Adam Mawardi.

I will leave you with a tweet from IIF chief economist Robin Brooks, who thinks the euro is part of the problem when it comes to reviving Germany’s economic fortunes:


03:23 PM BST

High streets suffer worst blow since Covid after 'summer to forget'

Retail sales suffered the fastest plunge this month since March 2021, when the nation was still in lockdown, according to the Confederation of British Industry.

Its survey of retailers found that rising interest rates and slumping demand hammered sales, with the share of businesses reporting falling sales outweighing those that found demand improving by a margin of 44pc.

Bosses expect a further deterioration in the coming three months and said they are cutting back investment plans and hiring to match the gloomy outlook.

Martin Sartorius, economist at the business group, said this was “a summer that many retailers would rather forget. Against a backdrop of rising interest rates and weak demand, retailers foresee cuts to investment over the next year, while employment is expected to fall again next month”.

He added: “Improving the business environment for retailers should start with creating a stable, investment-focused tax regime.

“This includes building on the Spring Budget, in the Autumn Statement, by making full expensing permanent and expanding the scheme to include hire purchase, leasing, and unincorporated businesses, in addition to freezing business rates from rising with inflation.”

Retail sales have fallen at their steepest rate in more than two years, according to the CBI
Retail sales have fallen at their steepest rate in more than two years, according to the CBI - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:10 PM BST

Nvidia shares hit record high

Nvidia shares have soared to a record high as investors raced to grab a slice of the artificial intelligence boom on Wall Street,

The chipmaker’s stock surged after it delivered a third-straight sales forecast that surpassed expectations.

Nvidia shares rose as much as 6.7pc after the opening bell in New York and were last up 2.5pc to $482.74 after it said sales will be about $16bn in the three months ending in October. Analysts had estimated just $12.5bn.

The company’s results last quarter also blew past projections, and it approved an additional $25bn in stock buybacks. This year, its share price has more than tripled.

Nvidia became the first-ever semiconductor company to rack up a $1trn market valuation after another blowout quarter in May.

Geir Lode, head of global equities at Federated Hermes, said: “Nvidia’s exceptionally strong outlook and earnings report proves that AI is not a spike but transformational shift for the tech industry.

“Companies that provide the building blocks for AI will have exceptional growth.”

Howeverm Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC, warned: “Nvidia’s competition is likely to get more intense which could put longer term pressure on margins.

“It may be number 1 now but its market share is such that it may struggle to go much higher.”


02:53 PM BST

Video calling is bad for creativity, says Zoom chief

The chief executive of Zoom, the startup synonymous with remote working during the pandemic, has said video calls are bad for creativity.

Our senior technology reporter Gareth Corfield has the latest:

Eric Yuan recently told employees that innovation was being stifled because of remote working, as he explained Zoom’s decision to order its workforce back to the office.

His comments came at a staff meeting earlier this month when he admitted that remote workers “cannot have a great conversation” on video.

“We cannot debate each other well because everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call,” he said. “When we are all on Zoom, it’s really hard.”

Zoom was one of the success stories of the Covid-19 era and boasted a valuation of $140bn (£110bn) in October 2020.

This chart shows how Zoom’s share price has changed since.

Eric Yuan said remote working was making it harder for his employees to ‘build trust’ with one another
Eric Yuan said remote working was making it harder for his employees to ‘build trust’ with one another - Carlo Allegri

02:34 PM BST

Tech stocks open higher on Wall Street

The Nasdaq Composite opened higher as Wall Street was boosted by hopes for AI-focused stocks following “blowout” results from Nvidia.

The tech heavy index was 0.8pc higher at 13,827.37 after the opening bell, while the broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.3pc to 4,450.54.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average began the day 0.1pc lower at 34,469.20.


02:24 PM BST

Oil falls as US explores lifting sanctions on Venezuela

Oil has fallen for a fourth day as an improving outlook for supply hit the market, which is already grappling with sluggish demand in the biggest importers.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, has fallen 09.8pc toward $82 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate dropped 0.9pc toward $78 after sinking by 1.8pc on Wednesday.

It comes as the Biden administration entered talks with Venezuela to explore a temporary lifting of sanctions that have hindered its oil sales. That comes on top of a surge in exports from Iran this month.

Global oil inventories, which were already near a six-year seasonal low, had slumped sharply over the past month amid Opec+ production cuts.

A rally in crude that got underway in late June has faltered over the last couple of weeks due to a deteriorating economic situation in China and signs that US interest rates will need to stay higher for longer.


02:06 PM BST

Fewer Americans apply for jobless benefits as labour market holds up

Applications for unemployment benefits fell again last week, suggesting America’s labour market is still healthy despite attempts by the Federal Reserve to cool the economy and bring down inflation.

The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits fell by 10,000 to 230,000 for the week ending August 19, the lowest in three weeks, the Labor Department reported.

The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure, rose by 2,250 to 236,750.

Jobless claim applications are seen as reflective of the number of layoffs in a given week.

In an attempt to bring down four-decade high inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates 11 times in the past year-and-a-half to the current 5.4pc, a 22-year high.

Part of the Fed’s reasoning was to cool the job market and bring down wages, which many economists believe suppresses price growth. Although inflation has come down significantly during that period, the jobs market has held up better than many anticipated.

Meanwhile, separate data showed that orders placed with US factories for business equipment increased slightly in July after a downward revision to the prior month, suggesting companies are somewhat cautious about capital investment amid high borrowing costs and economic concerns.

The value of core capital goods orders, a proxy for investment in equipment that excludes aircraft and military hardware, increased 0.1pc last month after a revised 0.4pc decline in June, Commerce Department figures showed. The data are not adjusted for inflation.


01:52 PM BST

'Ethical' bank let serial killer Rose West keep her account – but boycotted feminists

Rose West, Britain’s most prolific female serial killer, was allowed to keep her bank account after executives considered “debanking” her, the Telegraph can reveal.

Our consumer champion Katie Morley and head of personal finance Ben Wilkinson have the exclusive:

The Co-operative Bank considered closing Rose West’s account during a review of customers with criminal records around a decade ago, it is understood.

However, the notorious murderer of women and girls was allowed to stay on as a customer despite the bank later declining services to a feminist group over its views on transgender issues, and other banks closing accounts belonging to politicians, such as Brexiteer Nigel Farage, over reputational fears.

Bosses at the Co-op, which has the slogan “Ethical then, now and always”, deemed keeping West as a customer carried little risk to the bank’s reputation, it is understood, while drug dealers and gang members were stripped of their accounts.

It is understood that the main risk of allowing West to keep her account was deemed to be the general public finding out she was a Co-op Bank customer.

Read what a banking insider told the Telegraph.

It is understood the Co-op Bank felt that keeping Rose West's account carried little risk to its reputation
It is understood the Co-op Bank felt that keeping Rose West's account carried little risk to its reputation - REUTERS

01:38 PM BST

Turkey delivers shock jump in interest rates in policy U-turn

Turkey has made a surprise 7.5 percentage point interest rate rise in a clear signal that policymakers have given up on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inflation experiment.

Economics reporter Melissa Lawford reports...

The Turkish Central Bank raised its policy rate from 17.5pc to 25pc on Thursday – a jump that was three times the consensus forecast of a 2.5 percentage-point increase.

Liam Peach, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said it was feasible that the Bank will raise the policy rate “far above” 30pc within months.

The jump is a sea change from “Ergonomics”. Previously, in stark contrast to the consensus among central banks worldwide, the Turkish president had insisted that interest rates should be cut to tame Turkey’s runaway inflation, which reached nearly 50pc in July.

Thursday’s rate rise was the third consecutive increase since June, when President Erdoğan appointed a new economic team and the Bank finally began raising its policy rate for the first time in more than two years.

Hafize Gaye Erkan, the central bank governor, has now nearly tripled the Bank Rate since she was appointed. Back in June, it was just 8.5pc.

Mr Peach said Thursday’s increase “will go a long way towards reassuring investors that the shift back to policy orthodoxy is on track.”

The lira climbed by more than 2pc against the dollar – its biggest increase in more than a year – in response.

Mr Peach added: “As far as Turkey’s macroeconomic outlook is concerned, this could be a game-changer.”

However, it is not clear if the move was endorsed by Mr Erdoğan or whether it was an act of defiance.

“Whether President Erdoğan was on board with this decision is another matter and we simply can’t rule out Governor Erkan being sacked as a result of this move,” Mr Peach said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

01:32 PM BST

US weekly jobless claims lower than expected

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the US dropped to 230,000 last week.

The figure for weekly jobless claims was down from 239,000 the previous week and lower than the 240,000 predicted by economists.


01:21 PM BST

KP bosses face strikes after 'paying peanuts'

Workers at a factory making KP Nuts will stage a week-long strike in a row over pay.

Members of Unite at the KP Snacks site in Rotherham will walk out on September 5 after voting by 83pc in favour of industrial action.

The union said strikes will escalate if an 8pc pay offer is not improved.

General secretary Sharon Graham said:

Unite’s message to KP Snacks is if you pay your workers peanuts, expect strike action.

The company has increased its profits by an astonishing 275pc since 2018 but the workers’ pay has fallen 14pc in real terms over the same period.

That’s why workers are refusing to accept anything less than a pay deal which keeps up with the cost of living.

Mark Duffy, manufacturing director at KP Snacks, said: “I can confirm that following further wage negotiations with colleagues and their representatives at our Hellaby site, our latest pay offer has been rejected and we have been advised by Unite that they will be taking strike action from September 5-12.”


12:55 PM BST

Ikea’s flagship Oxford Street store hit by year-long delay

Ikea has pushed back the opening of its flagship store on Oxford Street until next year, in what is the latest blow for Britain’s busiest high street.

Our retail editor Hannah Boland has the details:

The Swedish furniture giant said the three-storey site once occupied by Topshop will now open in autumn 2024, as development takes longer than expected.

Ikea had initially been planning to open the city centre store, which is located next to Oxford Circus station, by November this year.

The London site is owned by the investment arm of Ingka – the largest franchisee of Ikea.

Peter van der Poel, the managing director at Ingka Investments, said: “When refurbishing this over 100-year-old historic landmark, it’s important for us as an investor to treat the building with care and to preserve its characteristics and atmosphere.”

Read how it comes as Marks & Spencer faces a challenge down the street.

The three-storey site was once occupied by Topshop
The three-storey site was once occupied by Topshop - David Parry/PA

12:27 PM BST

Stocks rebound as 'blowout' Nvidia results fuel AI hopes

Stock markets have risen around the world after “blowout” results from chipmaker Nvidia fuelled excitement about the potential for AI.

The FTSE 100 climbed 0.4pc and the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.3pc following a strong session on Asian markets after the US manufacturer predicted sales would be about $16bn in the three months to October.

The Dax in Frankfurt has risen 0.3pc while the CAC 40 in Paris has gained 0.4pc.

Nvidia shares surged to a record high in premarket trading after its sales forecast beat Wall Street estimates for the third time in a row.

The company is the key beneficiary of the AI computing boom led by technology such as ChatGPT.

Chief executive Jensen Huang said “a new computing era has begun” as it faces skyrocketing demand from data centre operators stocking up on the company’s processors, which are adept at handling the heavy workloads required by artificial intelligence.

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor said: “There is a sea of green across European equities this morning.

“Very strong Q2 results, bullish guidance, and a major share buyback from Nvidia have provided a boost to global market sentiment.

“Technology is the leading sector across Europe this morning following Nvidia’s 6.5pc after-hours gain and its near 9pc jump in Frankfurt this morning.”

Nvidia co-founder and chief executive Jensen Huang
Nvidia co-founder and chief executive Jensen Huang - I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg Key Speakers At Taipei's Computex

12:17 PM BST

Bonds slide as markets reduce interest rate bets

Bond yields have moved slightly lower as investors scale back their bets on the peak for interest rates.

Money markets have priced in only a one-in-three chance that UK interest rates will hit 6pc compared with an over 50pc chance seen before output surveys on Wednesday showed an unexpectedly large decline in business activity.

The yield on 10-year UK gilts has dropped three basis points to 4.43pc, after a decline of 17 basis points on Wednesday.

It is a similar picture across Europe, with Germany’s 10-year yield dropping 1.5 basis points to 2.5pc after hitting a fresh two-week low at 2.448pc.

Money markets price around a 40pc chance of a 25 basis points rate hike by the European Central Bank in September, from about 60pc before the bloc’s purchasing managers’ indexes were released on Wednesday, and a terminal rate at approximately 3.9pc by year-end.

Gabriela Silova, economist at Morgan Stanley, said:

The ECB’s decision to hike or not in September now crucially hinges on next week’s inflation data.

The path to a hike in September has clearly become much more narrow and likely requires another upward surprise in euro area inflation next week.


11:46 AM BST

Wall Street poised for tech stock rally

The Nasdaq is expected to jump at the opening bell after a stellar forecast from Nvidia boosted investor confidence in an artificial intelligence (AI) boom and lifted shares of major technology and growth stocks.

Shares of Nvidia have climbed 7.9pc to $508.56 in premarket trading after the chip designer forecast quarterly revenue that far exceeded expectations, and said it would buy back $25bn in stock.

The Nasdaq 100 is on track to begin the day in New York 1.1pc higher, while the S&P 500 is likely to gain around 0.5pc.

However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is likely come under pressure after plane maker Boeing said it had recently identified a new problem with its 737 MAX aircraft.

Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said:

It is clear...that AI demand is still outstripping supply.

Within the tech sector, we think software and internet stocks are best positioned to ride the next wave of the technology cycle and the broadening of AI demand.


11:32 AM BST

Pound slumps further as traders cut interest rate bets

The pound has declined against the dollar and euro, a day after data showed a contraction in British activity in August, prompting markets to trim expectations for further interest rate rises from the Bank of England.

Sterling was last at down 0.3pc against the greenback and well below $1.27, while against the euro it has lost 0.2pc, with the single currency heading toward 86p.

Wednesday’s soft activity data, which also showed the slowest growth in output prices since February 2021, had traders betting that the Bank of England will not need to raise rates as high as previously thought to bring inflation back down to target.

Policymakers have raised interest rates 14 times since December 2021, taking them to a 15-year high of 5.25pc.

Money market traders still expected the Bank to raise its interest rate to 5.5pc next month, but futures now price just a one-in-three chance that rates will hit 6pc compared with an over 50pc chance seen before yesterday’s PMI output data.

Simon Harvey, head of foreign exchange (FX) analysis at Monex Europe, said:

What the data showed yesterday is that the UK is not isolated to the global growth slowdown.

Markets are readjusting to the lower growth profile, taking some of the bets off the table for the Bank of England’s tightening cycle and that’s filtering through.


11:13 AM BST

'Record-breaking year' for British watermelons

A British farm has grown an estimated 11,000 watermelons this year, setting what is thought to be a new UK production record despite a rainy July.

Nick Molesworth, manager of Oakley Farms in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said the exotic fruits “are not that easy to grow”, adding that the British climate “can also be challenging”.

But the grower has tested different methods to be able to get more fruit per plant and is set to double its previous production record, up to 11,000 this year from around 5,500 in 2020.

The farm is the UK’s biggest producer of watermelons and also grows pumpkins and courgettes, which are both members of the cucurbit family, the same as watermelons.

Oakley Farms supplies Tesco, which described the 11,000 watermelons as “the largest yield ever produced in Britain”.

Nick Molesworth, manager of Oakley Farms in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, stands amongst the record haul of watermelons
Nick Molesworth, manager of Oakley Farms in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, stands amongst the record haul of watermelons - Joe Giddens/PA Wire

10:57 AM BST

Sunak's AI summit to be held at Bletchley Park

Rishi Sunak’s autumn summit on artificial intelligence (AI) will be hosted at Bletchley Park, once the top-secret home of Second World War codebreakers.

The Prime Minister officially announced today that the Buckinghamshire site will be the location for the November talks.

The first major summit on the technology will convene international governments, leading AI firms and experts to discuss how its risks can be mitigated through internationally-co-ordinated action.

Mr Sunak, who has sought to position Britain as a world leader on AI, has previously highlighted “large-scale societal shifts”, “misuse”, “national security” and “existential” risks as some of its biggest potential dangers.

Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes, is seen as one of the birthplaces of computer science pioneered by Alan Turing.

Alan Turing pioneered modern computer science at Bletchley Park
Alan Turing pioneered modern computer science at Bletchley Park - Life Magazine/Life Magazine/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

10:45 AM BST

PureGym shrugs off cost of living crisis as memberships rise

PureGym said it has managed to avoid the worst of the cost-of-living crisis, adding to its profit while still being able to attract new members.

The business said an extra 190,000 people signed up to one of its 582 sites, spread across several countries, in the six months to the end of June.

It is an 11pc increase and takes total membership numbers to a little under 1.9m, the company said. The number of PureGym sites also rose by 11pc, it said, adding 57 new gyms.

It helped operating profit rise by 43pc in the period to £40m, on revenue of £272m, up 17pc.

Membership growth was “ahead of plan”, the business said, “demonstrating the strength of the proposition and the importance of health, wellbeing and fitness to consumers - despite the cost-of-living crisis”.

Chief executive Humphrey Cobbold said:

Whilst we had hoped that operating conditions following the pandemic would be easier, the reality is that the business environment has remained very difficult on multiple dimensions.

Inflation, and rising energy prices in particular, put significant pressure on our cost base whilst also hitting consumers’ disposable incomes, triggering the cost-of-living crisis.

PureGym
PureGym

10:14 AM BST

UK risks losing £65m in exports without switch to heat pumps, experts claim

The UK risks losing out on £65m every year by the end of the decade if it does not speed up the rollout of heat pumps, energy analysts have said.

Three-quarters of the UK’s boiler exports are to countries that have phase-out dates before 2030 and the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said the Government is jeopardising this income by not providing greater support to heat pump manufacturing.

Using United Nations trade data, the ECIU said exports of central heating boilers roughly halved between 2019 and 2022 - from £150m to £85m - which they suggested may be down to countries moving away from gas boilers as a result of the energy crisis and aims of reaching net zero.

Around three million heat pumps were sold in Europe in 2022, an increase of 40pc from the year before, taking the total to more than 20m, according to the International Energy Agency.

ECIU energy analyst Jess Ralston said:

The switch to clean heat is continuing at pace outside of the UK as the US and Europe learn their lesson from the gas crisis. It’s starting to look like we haven’t.

The UK’s existing boiler manufacturers must be able to see the writing on the wall.

With clear signals from Government on the future of heating at home, we can take our expertise abroad and get ahead on heat pumps before we lose our place amongst the leaders of the world’s heating industry.


10:00 AM BST

Putin addresses Brics following Prigozhin plane crash

Vladimir Putin addressed the Brics summit in South Africa by video, the day after a plane crash that presumably killed the head of the mercenary Wagner Group.

Putin did not mention the crash involving Yevgeny Prigozhin which occurred exactly two months after the mercenary boss led a mutiny that challenged the Russian president’s almost 25-year rule.

Putin said: “We will continue the work that we started today to expand the influence of Brics in the world.”

He tuned in to join his counterparts from Brazil, India, China and South Africa as they announced the bloc will expand to include Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from next year.

Vladimir Putin addresses the Brics summit
Vladimir Putin addresses the Brics summit - GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images

09:47 AM BST

Taylor Swift tour sells out Travelodge hotels around stadiums

Budget chain Travelodge said hotels have already sold out near venues for next year’s highly anticipated Taylor Swift concerts across the UK as it benefits from a boom in demand for big-name performances.

The group said its hotels in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Cardiff are already sold out, while a number of sites close to Wembley are also fully booked ahead of the dates next summer.

It comes as the company is being boosted by superstar tours, with this year’s sell-out concerts from Beyoncé and Harry Styles helping it notch up a record set of half-year results, with earnings jumping by nearly 50pc.

The group said its hotels were sold out across most of London during Beyoncé’s five performances at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for her Renaissance World Tour.

Travelodge added that Styles’s concerts in venues across the UK for his Love On Tour were also a big driver of sales nationwide, with revenues across the group jumping 22.4pc to £478.7m in the six months to June 30.

Swift’s upcoming 2024 Eras Tour is already set to smash records, with fans clambering to snap up tickets.

Taylor Swift's Eras Tour has sold out rooms at Travelodge hotels around stadiums
Taylor Swift's Eras Tour has sold out rooms at Travelodge hotels around stadiums - MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images

09:32 AM BST

Xi hails invitation for Saudi Arabia and Iran to join Brics

The expansion of the Brics group of developing economies will inject new impetus, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said.

This expansion has reflected Brics’ determination for unity and cooperation, Xi said at the group’s leaders’ summit in South Africa’s Johannesburg.

The Brics group of nations has decided to invite six countries - Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - to become new members of the bloc from next year.

China's leader Xi Jinping at the Brics summit in Johannesburg
China's leader Xi Jinping at the Brics summit in Johannesburg - MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images

09:27 AM BST

Gatwick Airport baggage handler strikes suspended

Planned strikes at Gatwick Airport this weekend have been suspended after workers accepted improved pay offers, the Unite trade union has said.

The union said its members employed by one of the companies doing ground handling at the airport had accepted a 14pc pay increase.

It said no further industrial action was planned at Gatwick.

General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite has co-ordinated industrial disputes across Gatwick to secure well deserved pay increases for its members.”

Gatwick Airport strikes have been suspended after an improved pay offer
Gatwick Airport strikes have been suspended after an improved pay offer - Rich Higgins/iStock Editorial

09:19 AM BST

Saudi Arabia and Iran invited to join G7 rival Brics

Saudi Arabia has been invited to join a major group of developing economies including China and Russia in a bid to rival the G7.

Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia and the UAE have also been formally invited to join the Brics group in a push to expand its global influence.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the plans for expansion at a summit of the group - made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in Johannesburg.

It will be the group’s first expansion since 2010 and will take effect at the start of next year.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, left, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the Brics summit
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, left, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the Brics summit - MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images

09:00 AM BST

Windfall tax behind 'anaemic' Harbour Energy results

Andrew Keen of Edison Group said Harbour Energy has posted an “anaemic set of results” today as the windfall tax on energy companies “bites hard”. He said:

Harbour Energy faces a very uncertain market environment, buffeted by a windfall tax that is set to remain in place until 2028, political back-and-forth over the granting of new North Sea drilling licenses, and a general ambiguity over the government’s climate policies.

The company has thus sought to diversify into other markets – by, for example, investing in exploration in Mexico and Indonesia.

As the fossil fuel industry in the UK hangs in the balance, producers like Harbour Energy are hedging their bets.


08:53 AM BST

Asda announces price cuts as supermarket battle intensifies

Asda has announced price cuts on 425 branded and own-label products as it seeks to attract customers during the cost of living crisis.

The supermarket is investing £23m to lower prices by an average of 11pc on some of the most popular products, including nappies, infant follow on milk, bread, cheese, cereals, pasta, fish fingers, sausages and chicken breasts.

The reductions follow a £13m investment last month to cut prices on more than 200 own-label products by an average of 9pc.

This week it emerged that Aldi and Lidl have gained an extra 800,000 shoppers even as rival retailers race to cut prices to stop customers switching.

Almost two-thirds of UK shoppers bought goods from the two German discounters in the past four weeks, according to new figures from NIQ.

Asda is cutting prices on 425 branded and own-label products
Asda is cutting prices on 425 branded and own-label products - JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

08:37 AM BST

FTSE 100 pushed higher by personal goods shares

The FTSE 100 index opened higher amid a global rally in stocks caused by hopes that interest rates are nearing their peak.

The exporter-heavy index has risen 0.7pc, while the domestically-focussed FTSE 250 index has climbed 0.9pc.

Personal goods shares climbed as much as 0.9pc, leading sectoral gains.

Liontrust Asset Management rose after it failed to secure required investor support for its proposed takeover of GAM, lifting mid-cap stocks.

GAM has entered into discussions with a shareholder group, the fund manager said, after the abandoned takeover.

Shares of Liontrust have gained 13.9pc, making it the biggest gainer on the FTSE 250.

On the other hand, life insurers Aviva and Legal & General were down 1.6pc and 1.3pc, respectively, as they traded ex-dividend.

British energy services firm Hunting said it was restructuring its operating footprint further and selling more non-core exploration and production assets to cut costs, sending its shares down 1.2pc.

Shares of Harbour Energy fell 2.6pc, after UK’s largest North Sea oil and gas producer narrowed its annual production forecast range.


08:24 AM BST

Brics poised to 'invite Saudi Arabia to join'

Saudi Arabia has been named among the nations that the Brics group of emerging market nations are preparing to invite to join their bloc in a push to expand its global influence.

Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to expand the group at a summit being held this week in Johannesburg. It will be the first expansion since 2010.

Egypt is another nation being invited to join, along with others in the Middle East although the list was still under discussion late on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.

Members have said a bigger group could help counter the dominance of the G7, which includes Britain and the US, in world affairs.

The push for expansion was largely driven by China but had the backing of Russia and South Africa. India was concerned a bigger Brics would transform the group into a mouthpiece for China, while Brazil was worried about alienating the West.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - SPA/AFP via Getty Images

08:09 AM BST

Hays to cut hundreds of jobs as employment market tightens

Hays said it expects to cut its consultant workforce by around 3pc to 4pc in the first three months of the new financial year as the group reins in costs amid a weakening jobs market.

The company, which says on its website it employs around 13,000 people, has already reduced its number of consultants by 6pc since last December.

In the UK and Ireland, its consultant workforce was slashed by 11pc and by 7pc in the second half.

Outgoing boss Alistair Cox, who the company announced will be replaced on September 1, said:

While we cannot control the macroeconomic environment, we do control our reaction to it.

We acted swiftly to manage our capacity and costs in the face of toughening markets, delivering increased profits in our second half.


08:04 AM BST

FTSE 100 jumps amid global rally

The UK’s main stock markets have followed Asian markets in rising after Wall Street rallied to its best day since June.

The FTSE 100 has gained 0.8pc after the open to 7,380.56 while the midcap FTSE 250 also gained 0.8pc to 7,380.56.

It comes after pressures from the bond markets relaxed after data on Tuesday suggested the US, UK and European economies are slowing.


07:53 AM BST

Gas prices plunge amid hopes of deal over Australian strikes

European natural gas prices have plunged today amid signs that the threat of strikes in Australia has been averted, giving greater security to global supplies.

Benchmark futures contracts collapsed as much as 18pc in an extremely volatile month, as strikes threaten up to 10pc of global supplies.

Unions representing workers at Woodside Energy’s North West Shelf LNG plant are considering a “strong offer” from the company after negotiations that ran through Wednesday night.

The Offshore Alliance group, which represents two major unions, said details of the settlement will be released after a meeting with members today, easing fears about one of three possible strikes in Australia, a key gas exporting nation.

The volatility in prices comes as Europe recovers from the worst of the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which pushed prices to records last year.

Gas prices have been highly reactive to threats of disruption to supplies.

Dutch front-month futures, Europe’s gas benchmark, were last down 15pc at around €31 a megawatt-hour.


07:43 AM BST

Recruitment firm Hays names new boss as jobs market declines

Recruitment firm Hays has named a new chief executive to take the helm as it revealed falling annual profits and warned over ongoing fee declines in a weakening jobs market.

The group said the Dirk Hahn, managing director of Hays Germany and Continental Europe, Middle East and Africa, will take over from Alistair Cox on September 1.

He takes on the role at a more difficult time in the global recruitment sector, with Hays reporting pre-tax profits down 9pc on a like-for-like basis to £192.1m for the year to June 30.

Operating profits in the UK and Ireland tumbled 34pc to £28.7m as it said markets slowed “sharply” through the year, particularly in permanent recruitment.

Hays notched up record fees of £1.3bn, up 6pc like-for-like over the year, but said growth pulled back markedly through the second half as economic uncertainty impacted recruitment.

Fee growth fell from 12pc in the first six months to 1pc in the second, with fees falling 2pc in the final quarter.

Hays said pre-tax profits fell 9pc in the year to June
Hays said pre-tax profits fell 9pc in the year to June - REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

07:38 AM BST

Harbour Energy 'scaled back' activities over windfall tax

The UK’s biggest oil and gas producer, Harbour Energy, has said that it made $429m (£337m) in pre-tax profit in the first six months of the financial year.

It was a reduction from a profit of around $1.5bn (£1.2bn) it had made in the same period a year earlier.

The business said that it had paid $437m (£344m) in tax during the six months, less than its tax bill for the first half of last year before the windfall tax on oil and gas companies was introduced.

Harbour has said that it “scaled back our activities in certain areas,” in response to the windfall tax, officially called the energy profits levy.

The company downgraded the amount of oil and gas it expects to produce this year after drilling was delayed at one of its UK oil fields.


07:34 AM BST

North Sea's biggest producer swings from $1bn profit to $8m loss after windfall tax

The North Sea’s biggest operator has swung from a near $1bn profit to an $8m (£6.3m) loss after the Government imposed its windfall tax and bosses cutback on investment.

Harbour Energy, which supplies about 15pc of the UK’s domestic oil and gas, said its half year results had also been hit by $16m of charges related to a review of its business triggered by the excess tax.

It hopes this will deliver €50m of savings from next year.

The business said that it had paid $437m (£344m) in tax during the six months, less than its tax bill for the first half of last year before the windfall tax on oil and gas companies was introduced.

It comes a day after rival operator Ithaca warned it is being forced to cancel projects and reduce production because of the “severe impact” of the Government’s windfall tax.

Ithaca Energy, which is behind the controversial Cambo oil field, has told investors it is writing $74m (£58m) off the value of assets as a “direct impact” of the Energy Profits Levy.

Harbour chief executive Linda Z Cook said: “We remain focused on maximising the value of our UK oil and gas portfolio, advancing our organic development projects and disciplined capital allocation.”

Andrew Keen of Edison Group said: “Harbour Energy has posted an anaemic set of results today, as January’s increase in the windfall tax on energy companies bites hard.”

Harbour Energy produced 196,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day during the first six months of the year.

However, it has narrowed its 2023 production guidance to 185,000 to 195,000 barrels amid delays and deferrals of drilling at partner-operated hubs, primarily at the Beryl oil field.

Total capital expenditure for the period was $400m, with the full year figure forcast to be $1bn, down from previous estimates of $1.1bn.

It said some expenditure plans had been shifted to next year after the delayed arrival of rigs, primarily at Andaman and the Greater Britannia Area, as well as the deferral of the subsea and platform drilling campaigns at Beryl.

The company expects to be net debt free by the first half of next year.

Harbour Energy is the North Sea's largest oil producer
Harbour Energy is the North Sea's largest oil producer - ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

07:19 AM BST

Good morning

Thanks for joining me. Harbour Energy, the largest oil producer in the North Sea, has revealed it swung to an $8m loss after tax, compared to an $984m profit in the first half of last year.

The company blamed the losses on the windfall taxes imposed by the Government and the subsequent reorganisation of the business in response.

5 things to start your day

1) NatWest under pressure to block £11m payout to Dame Alison Rose | Dame Alison resigned after admitting she leaked private banking information to the BBC

2) Nvidia profits surge 843pc in AI boom | US tech giant boosted by soaring demand for chips used to power AI chatbots

3) Chinese spies ‘used LinkedIn to lure me to Hong Kong’ | UK’s adversaries are increasingly seeking to recruit British informants online

4) Waitrose bets on the meal deal to get its magic back | The upmarket retailer has turned to a British lunchtime staple in its efforts to curb tumbling sales

5) John Lewis accused of ‘ignoring’ locals with plan to build tower blocks | Company also faces accusations that it’s deliberately attempting to avoid its plans being scrutinised

What happened overnight

Asia markets advanced in a broad-based rally helped along by rising tech shares after strong earnings results from chipmaker Nvidia and signs the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its rate-hiking campaign.

Equity benchmarks in Japan, Australia and South Korea rose while shares in Hong Kong headed for their best day in a month, led by a gain in tech stocks.

Wall Street stocks recorded their best day since June as US Treasury yields retreated from their highest level since 2007.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.5pc at 34,472.98.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 1.1pc to 4,436.01, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1.6 percent to 13,721.03.

Benchmark 10 year Treasury yields eased to 4.191pc after touching a 16-year high of 4.36pc during the previous session.