Plans for mobile credit card
Google plans to join forces with MasterCard and Citigroup to allow
users of its Android mobile phones to pay for purchases using
'near-field communications (NFC) technology, a reports has stated.
This gives the search engine giant a response to Orange’s UK
plans to use Barclaycard’s technology for mobile phone
‘contactless’ payment. Apple is also rumoured to be considering
using ‘NFC’ chips in its future iPhone products.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that “The planned payment
system would allow Google to offer retailers more data about their
customers and help them target ads and discount offers to
mobile-device users near their stores. Google isn't expected to get a
cut of the transaction fees.”
No clear details have been divulged of any manufacturer’s plan,
Apps however, could be used to enable holders of credit cards to turn
their phones into mobile wallets.
Google’s Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has repeatedly said that
Google wants to take advantage of how much mobile phones know about
their owners. Location data, combined with time and shopping history
could be used to tailor ads, for instance. Mr Schmidt has also spoken
enthusiastically about the potential for phones to be used to make
In the UK, millions of contactless payment cards are already in
circulation. Card companies, however, have declined to say how many
users actually take advantage of the technology, rather than using
their cards in the conventional ‘chip and pin’ way.
Birmingham city centre to be car-free
£127 million tram scheme meaning cars will be banned from some of
Birmingham’s main city centre roads has taken a step
Transport bosses have unveiled a new bridge which
will carry the tracks from their current terminus at Snow Hill and
through the heart of the city centre.
The concrete structure
over Great Charles Street Queensway has cost £3.19 million and was
finished within six months of the scheme being approved by the
It will pave the way for the Midland Metro to
travel along Bull Street, Corporation Street and on to Stephenson
Street where it will stop outside the revamped New Street station.
Corporation Street, Bull Street and Stephenson Street will be
traffic free, with buses rerouted.
Both projects which will mean trams running through the city
centre for the first time in 60 years are scheduled for completion on
The extended tramway will act as a platform to expand the network
to the proposed high speed rail terminus as Curzon Street.
As a impressive new computer-generated video of modern trams gliding
though city was made public, transport chiefs promised that it would
bring new jobs and investment.
“This is fantastic news for the Midland Metro and for the people
who use it, especially as it has come in on time and on budget,”
said Geoff Inskip, chief executive of regional transport authority
“This is a major step forward for a scheme that is going to
bring massive economic benefits for the whole region and create
thousands of jobs.”
Centro is inviting bids from manufacturers for a new fleet of
bigger, faster trams and a maintenance depot in the Black Country.
Work will start to lay the tracks as early as the end of next
year, once four new city centre bus interchanges are operating and
have taken traffic off Corporation Street.
Budget 2011: Fuel duty is cut by 1p
Although it might be a step too far to say
measures in the Budget were a victory for the poor put-upon motorist at the
petrol pump, the Chancellor did provide some relief for beleaguered drivers by
not only postponing next month’s planned fuel duty increase but also cutting
the current duty by 1p a litre.
Mr Osborne also announced that the approved
mileage allowance payments for those using their own vehicles for work would
rise from 40p to 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile
The fuel duty move was welcomed by a variety of
organisations representing motorists and by the haulage industry.
One leading Midlands haulier said he was “very
pleased” but also pleasantly surprised.
Barry Proctor, managing director of Barry
Proctor Services in Stoke-on-Trent said: “This will reduce our costs by £450
per vehicle per year. We run 20 vehicles so that equates to a saving of £9,000
“While the price of fuel can fluctuate the duty
is there all the time.
“What we need now is peace in the Middle East to
return to normal fuel prices. My only concern is the petrol retailers. I know
they have been struggling but I would like to see the cut immediately reflected
in the price at the pump.
“It would be nice to see that 1p a litre coming
off tomorrow but they might claim they’ve already paid the duty on it.
“All in all I am delighted. I expected the fuel
duty to be frozen but didn’t expect it to be reduced by 1p.”
Other good news for the haulage industry was the
freezing of Vehicle Excise Duty on commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
Though Mr Proctor pointed out that this had been
frozen for some time and no rise was anticipated, James Watkins, executive
director, Business Voice West Midlands said: “With the West Midlands being the
logistics hub of the UK and for some time the sector being hammered by rises in
world oil prices, freight firms have been crying out for some kind of tax
“We are pleased that George Osborne has heard
this call and has put in place special measures for the industry.”
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing
Association BVRLA chief executive John Lewis applauded the fuel duty cut but
said there was still discrimination against diesel users.
“The Government has started delivering on its
promise of developing a simpler, fairer tax system and at last we have a Budget
that offers something for motorists,” he said.
“As expected the Chancellor has abandoned
April’s 1p increase in fuel duty, but then surprised everyone by delaying the
inflation increase until next year and reducing duty by 1p. His fair fuel
stabiliser is ingenious, shifting the burden of taxation upstream when crude
oil prices increase.
“Whether you are a haulier, a fleet manager, a commuter
or a just someone trying to keep your family car on the road, this imaginative
tax measure will have an instant impact on your weekly cash flow.
“However, there is nothing ‘fair’ about the
Government’s decision to maintain the three per cent diesel surcharge within
the company car tax regime. This discriminatory tax against diesel fuel is
totally out-of-date and needs to be abolished.”
Brian Madderson, chairman of the petrol section
of the Retail Motor Industry, also welcomed the fuel duty cut, adding: “The
news of the immediate 1p duty cut has been very well received by forecourt
operators and their customers.”
Simon Hughes UK managing director of Christie +
Co said the fuel duty cut would also provide a welcome boost to fuel retailers.
“Whilst convenience retail has remained
resilient in these difficult economic times, margins on fuel have been under
pressure, so the surprise announcement of a reduction in fuel duty will be seen
as good news for the garage forecourt sector — and welcome relief for consumers,”
National Farmers Union (NFU) West Midlands
regional director David Collier said the fuel duty reduction was particularly
good news for farmers, who are struggling more than most in the current
He said: “The cancellation of the fuel duty
escalator, accompanied by the 1p cut, will help businesses across the economy,
including the food and farming industries that are struggling to absorb rising
But the fuel duty cut was not welcomed in all
quarters, with accusations motorists were being given “special treatment”.
Campaign for Better Transport chief executive
Stephen Joseph said: “The Chancellor has chosen to give motorists a hand-out
while leaving other transport users to face spiralling fares and service cuts.
“Rail users will see big fare rises year on
year, while bus passengers are seeing services cut and fares increase as a
result of a £133 million cut in Government support. Instead of cutting fuel
duty, the Government should have done more to reduce our dependence on
uncertain and declining oil supplies.”
And Friends of the Earth’s transport campaigner,
Richard Dyer, said: “Short-term measures to tackle rocketing fuel prices are
merely a sticking plaster - it’s our economy’s long-term fossil fuel dependency
that urgently needs treatment.”
Building societies cash in
societies in the West Midlands say they are profiting from a “flight to
security” as post-recession savers seek a safe haven to store their money.
The Tipton &
Coseley revealed it annual results this week and became the latest of the
region’s smaller building societies to post strong profits – following in the
footsteps of fellow mutuals The Dudley, Stafford Railway and Hanley Economic in
the West Midlands.
All four societies
have made moves to shore up their reserves in the last financial year as part
of long-standing business models focused on minimal risk and minimal exposure
to the money markets.
Chris Martin, chief
executive of the Tipton & Coseley, said he was pleased after the mutual
increased total assets by two per cent and more than doubled profits to £1.9
million, aided by a rise in mortgage lending.
It also increased
reserves by more than seven per cent, to £25 million, and Mr Martin said the
mutual was emerging from the recession strongly, in a market where savers are
He said: “We were
strong going into the recession but we are even stronger now.
“One of our
priorities over the last few years has been to be very strong and liquid.
Nobody knows what is around the corner and the outlook remains uncertain.
“People always felt
that banks and building societies were safe and sound and one of the biggest
lessons from the credit crunch has been that they can fail.”
Mr Martin said the
rise in profitability was helpful to plans to maintain capital strength and the
strong outlook has continued into this year. He said: “We are in a similar
shape in 2011. The number of transactions and mortgages are about the same,
maybe slightly up, but nowhere near the level of four or five years ago.
“We try to be
cautious in the work we do, and nobody knows what is going to happen with
Fellow mutual Hanley
Economic, based in Stoke-on-Trent, published results earlier in the year
showing a 25 per cent drop in profits, to £727,000. But reserves rose 2.6 per
cent to £27.9 million. Chief executive David Webster said local community
societies have won admirers where once there was scorn as a result of a close
eye on the bottom line.
He said there had
been little change thus far in 2011, as the housing market has remained
He said: “Maybe seven
or eight years ago the models that local building societies had may have been
seen as old-fashioned but the flight to security we have seen has meant people
are more admiring of building societies like us.
“I would argue there
is something of a renaissance of the smaller local players.Most of the small
community societies I speak to are going well. We have got a prudent model
which keeps the reserve pot topped up.”
Speaking about the
rise in reserves, Mr Webster added: “The significance is to demonstrate the
resilience of the society.
would be seen as a risk whereas increasing is seen as a sign of financial
“I would imagine that
ongoing bolstering of reserves will continue in 2011 and 2012 for most
societies. That is something that the regulators look at.”
Dudley Building Society revealed a 70 per cent rise in profits for 2010, with
reserves rising by 5.7 per cent, to £25 million.
And it was a similar
story at Stafford Railway Building Society, which continued with a business
model focused on prudence and saw profits remain stable at £1.3 million with
assets increasing by more than 10 per cent and group reserves growing by more
than 11 per cent.
Chief executive Susan
Whiting said reserves have become more important to savers.
She added: “The
unthinkable has happened. People thought that banks couldn’t fail but now it
“They are a bit more
worried and people want to see where their money is going, and that is a thing
in our favour.”
Sainsbury’s shares fall
Shares in the UK’s third-largest supermarket fell by 5 per cent
this morning after a disappointing trading update.
J Sainsbury reported today that its like-for-like sales for the
fourth quarter were up by 1 per cent, below market expectations, and against
growth of 3.6% in the previous quarter.
Its like-for-like sales for the ten weeks to March 19 were 4.2 per
cent but excluding fuel its underlying sales only rose 1 per cent, missing
analysts’ expectations of 2 per cent growth.
Chief executive, Justin King, said the trading
environment was tough and said consumers were feeling the pinch.
Mr King said consumers were battling “very significant” fuel price
inflation, uncertain employment prospects and government spending cuts which
meant that customers were “managing their spending carefully”.
Ahead of the Budget announcement today, Mr King told
the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, "The consumer is wary of the future.
"They expect tax rises, cuts, so we are now
looking to the future; for government to show us how things get better in time.
"We are looking for a confirmation that the
worst of the news that the chancellor needs to give us was given last
The supermarket giant has almost 900 stores in the
UK and employs 150,000 people.
During the fourth quarter the firm opened three new
supermarkets, including two replacement stores, one store extension and 21
After the first half hour of trading in London the
company's shares were down by 15.40 pence, or 4.35%, at 338.90p.
Rivals Tesco and Morrisons also saw their shares
fall, by 2.4% and 2.17%.
Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:
“Sainsbury’s is a stock which is currently out of favour with investors and
today’s update is likely to do little to improve the situation.
“The initial share price hit reflects disappointment with sales
growth, and this has in turn marked the rest of the sector down.”
Modernisation at Royal Mail
Royal Mail is
undergoing one of the most important change programmes undertaken in the UK.
New delivery methods designed to enable Royal Mail employees to deal with the
changes in the postal market - a decline in letters and an increase in packets
- are being introduced. Significant reductions in the number of mail centres
are also underway and around half of the 64 centres in 2010 could eventually
close by 2016 or sooner.
Today, after more than nine months of consultation with the CWU under the 2010
Business Transformation agreement, Royal Mail is announcing its plan for
rationalisation and investment in Greater London. With the number of postal
items posted in London expected to more than halve between 2006 and 2014, it is
imperative that Royal Mail continues the modernisation programme.
Following these consultations with the unions, it is likely that only five mail
centres will be needed in Greater London. We expect the rationalisation of the
mail centre estate to see the phased closure of the East London and South
London mail centres to commence immediately. The mail centres remaining are:
Croydon, Greenford, Jubilee (Feltham), Romford and Mount Pleasant. New
accommodation is also being sought for the administrative and support staff
based at Rathbone Place. The Greater London rationalisation programme is
expected to achieve annual savings of £30 million.
Mount Pleasant is a large facility which needs significant investment to handle
the postal volumes in London, including the change in the mix of items. Royal
Mail expects to invest £69 million in Greater London as part of the UK-wide
modernisation programme; of this, £32 million will be invested in Mount
Pleasant. The latest automation equipment will be installed there; working
conditions will be significantly improved.
Royal Mail would like to thank the CWU for its valuable input including a
report produced by the union. Following the union's input, East London mail
centre will close six months later than originally planned. The company is also
providing extended outplacement facilities for its employees in London, as
discussed with the CWU. The consultation on the London mail centres commenced
in early June. In November 2010, Roger Poole and Peter Harwood were asked to
assist in bringing the review to a successful conclusion. Both Roger Poole and
Peter Harwood had played a significant role in the 2010 Business Transformation
After much study and careful thought, Royal Mail believes it will not have to
resort to compulsory redundancies to manage the reduction in the number of
employees. With people demonstrating reasonable flexibility, Royal Mail expects
that everyone who wants to remain in the business will be able to do so. As a
result of the rationalisation programme, we expect the number of people
employed in London will decline by approximately 751. The company has in place
a well-developed programme to help its people to adjust to these changes.
Consultations with Unite/CMA will also begin shortly on reducing the number of
Royal Mail operational line managers across the UK by up to 1,000 through
voluntary means. This follows a separate review of managers in head office
departments which will result in 1,700 people leaving the Group when this specific
initiative concludes. The company has reduced the number of employees by around
65,000 since 2002.
Mark Higson, Managing Director of Operations and Modernisation, said:
"Royal Mail's modernisation programme, which is vital to ensuring a
successful future for the letters and parcels business, depends on having the
right number of people in our business as well as deploying the right
technology and equipment.
"We are conscious of the impact today's announcement will have on our
staff in London. It is hard to reduce job numbers at any time; we are committed
to doing everything we can, in line with our agreement with the union, to make
these changes on a voluntary basis. We will be providing specialist
outplacement advice to help our people affected by this announcement to look
for new opportunities outside Royal Mail."
Development of HP Sauce factory
A £35 million
development to convert the former HP sauce factory site in Birmingham into a cash
and carry and spice distribution centre has been officially launched with a
Almost four years
after HP Sauce workers left the Aston factory for the last time amid emotional
scenes after Heinz switched production to Holland, work to redevelop the site
The factory was
reduced to rubble in July 2007 and Black Country-based East End Foods bought
the site for construction of a 100,000 sq ft wholesale cash and carry and distribution
The first £9 million
phase of the building work will create 95 new jobs for the Aston area, and will
include a 30,000 sq ft Urban Farm and Technology Centre.
Phase two of the
development is due to start next year, creating more than 200 jobs, with the
construction of a 15-storey four-star luxury hotel and 1,200 capacity
conference centre costing £26 million.
East End Foods
chairman Tony Deep Wouhra said: “We are very excited that work is underway for
this project. The site is a prominent gateway to Birmingham and one with an
important legacy for the city and the food industry.
“We are proud to be
continuing this association with a development that will secure its future as a
vibrant commercial centre for food innovation and enterprise.”
Chris Dyer, director
of lead contractor John Sisk and Son said: “As a local contractor, we are
delighted to contribute to the future of an important industry for Birmingham.
“This project is on a
prestigious location with a long heritage of manufacturing.”
Marston's reveals rise in beer sales
Midland pub group
Marston’s has revealed a four per cent rise in beer volumes as it makes “good
progress” in each of its divisions.
Marston’s (MARS) said it expected profit for the first half ending April 2 to
be in line with its estimates after the latest performance.
The company, which
has more than 2000 pubs across the UK, echoed Britain’s biggest pubs group
Punch Taverns , which last week saw progress in all areas of its business, and
said it was on track to meet its full-year expectations.
For the 23 weeks to
March 12, like-for-like sales at Marstons’ largest division – Marston’s Inns
and Taverns – rose 2.4 per cent, including food sales growth of 4.7 percent.
“In Marston’s Beer
Company, our own-brewed beer volumes are up 4 percent versus last year,
comparing favourably to a UK ale market down by around seven per cent,” the
company said in a statement.
In January, Marston’s
had said its sales grew over Christmas, driven by strong demand for its pub
grub, as the company shrugged off the impact of the snow in December.
Marston’s shares have
fallen 16 per cent in the last three months, valuing the company at £532
CPP acquires off road vehicle maker
coachbuilder CPP Global Holdings Ltd has acquired Bowler Off Road Limited.
The acquisition by
the company - which is also in the process of taking over the Spyker sportscar
business - of the Derbyshire-based manufacturer of the Nemesis high-performance
cross country racer was completed in January 2011.
managing director of CPP, said: “This acquisition is extremely positive news
for fans and customers of Bowler vehicles.
"I have followed
the brand closely for several years and am delighted to have the opportunity to
take the Bowler brand to new heights on the basis of very exciting plans. I’m
looking forward to working with Drew Bowler and the exceptionally talented team
at Bowler to bring these plans to fruition.
development is another step in CPP’s strategy to grow as a collection of
complementary specialist automotive businesses.”
Drew Bowler, managing
director of Bowler, said: “I’m very excited that we are joining the CPP group
expand and reach its full potential thanks to the access we now have to greater
resources in a number of respects: finances, the highly skilled workforce, its
technical capabilities and advanced facilities.
continue to do what we do best, which is developing, engineering and racing our
cars. CPP will bring first-rate commercial and manufacturing expertise to our
business, ensuring it meets the quality and integrity that our customers will
"And there are
dramatic plans for the business over the longer term.”
Bowler was founded by
Drew Bowler in 1999 and produces its Nemesis high performance off-road racer,
based on current Land Rover technology, to meet the FIA T1 specification for
the World Cup Cross Country Championship.
Several Bowlers run
by private customer race teams have completed the annual Paris-Dakar Rally over
the last decade.
engineering will remain at Bowler’s current facilities in Belper, Derbyshire.
Production, including of the Nemesis EXR road-going variant from early 2012,
will be transferred to CPP in Coventry.
CPP’s acquisition of
Bowler follows an announcement of February 24 that it signed a Memorandum of
Understanding to acquire the assets of the Spyker sports car business from its
publicly-listed holding company, Spyker Cars NV.
Calls to keep Modec in UK hands
van pioneer Modec must stay in UK hands if the country is to maintain its lead
in low-carbon vehicle production, automotive experts have warned.
The firm, which
exports electric trucks worldwide from its Coventry base, called in administrators
last week, sending shockwaves around the West Midland supply chain where it
sources the majority of components.
On a visit to
Coventry, Prime Minister David Cameron, who officially opened Modec in 2007,
labelled the firm a “pathfinder” and expressed hopes it would be sold.
“I wish for a good
outcome because there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to see a lot of
road transport move toward electric vehicles and this was something of a
pathfinder,” Mr Cameron told the Post.
He insisted there was
adequate support for the electric vehicle sector, pointing to the £5,000
subsidy the Government is paying for electric cars. But that comes as little
comfort for Modec, which had consistently called for better support for the
electric delivery vehicle sector over the past few years.
Modec’s collapse has
alarmed automotive sector experts in the West Midlands, who fear its technology
and intellectual property could be snapped up by an overseas buyer.
The firm had operated
at a loss since it was set up by former Manganese Bronze chairman Lord Borwick,
and its collapse came after a rescue deal with American joint venture partner
Navistar fell through at the last minute.
Electric van sales
had proved disappointing in the recession and the firm had pinned its hopes for
survival on securing the deal.
Lord Borwick, whose
Federated Investments vehicle is the financial force behind Modec, said the
timing of its collapse was ironic but in the end the company had not received
orders in the volumes it needed.
wonderful things mechanically and we’re the first people to start a vehicle
business in Coventry since before the war,” he said. “But I’m afraid it hasn’t
been successful financially.
“You couldn’t imagine
a better structure than oil at $120 a barrel and all the uncertainty over
supplies in the Middle East.
“It must be the most
perfect time to start an electric vehicle business.However, we have had little
Modec sold to
customers like Tesco, Fedex and UPS, but Lord Borwick said the appetite of big
firms for going electric had diminished in the past couple of years.
“In the recession
people don’t take risks and they cut their budgets,” he said. “In a boom this
would have been easy.”
Modec revealed in its
accounts last year that it faced a difficult funding position and on its
collapse owed a reported £40 million.
Along with money owed
to Federated Investments, Navistar had also loaned Modec cash as a senior
secured lender to the firm.
Zolfo Cooper in Birmingham were called in last Friday and immediately made 26
people, half its workforce, redundant, but expressed hopes they could sell the
Oxfordshire electric car technology firm Liberty cars has come forward to say
it is interested in putting together a deal to save the company.
Rachel Eade, who
supports the automotive sector in the West Midlands through manufacturing
organisation MAS-WM, said the collapse of Modec dealt a “body blow” the
region’s low carbon industry.
She said: “We hope
Modec is quickly acquired by another Midland or UK company so that we can
retain the IP, design and technology for future exploitation.
“We must make sure
that the UK benefits from the ground-breaking work already completed.”
John Rider, chairman
of the Institute of Directors in the region, added: “Surely someone in the
British motor industry will pick this up.
“Certainly the IOD
would hope it would stay in British hands.”
Liberty Electric Cars
managing director Ian Hobday said: “We’re very keen to pull together a deal
which will find some way of saving the company.
“It borders on
criminal that a company with such an innovative product line at the forefront
of electric vehicle technology should find themselves in the situation they are
“There is some
criticism that can be levelled at Government for lack of support for this part
of the electric vehicle industry.
“There’s nothing for
trucks – contrast that with the subsidies available for electric cars Modec
could be employing thousands, not a hundred, if we had a decent chance.”
Ms Eade said it was
difficult to measure the impact of Modec’s collapse on the West Midlands’
“There are definitely
two companies that we know of who have been heavily involved in the project,
while anecdotal information suggests there could be quite a few more providing
some form of components.
suppliers will be relatively low so the immediate ‘hit’ should not be too bad,
but as an organisation we will be available to offer advice and one-to-one
support to any company affected.”
Lichfield firm Zytek
makes the drivetrains for the electric vans from its base in Staffordshire.
The firm’s sales and
marketing director Simon Tremble said he thought there was a good chance Modec
would be bought.
“One would hope the
business would continue in some form or another,” he said. “We also sell to
Navistar which is using similar products to Modec so we are assured of a future
in that environment in the USA.”
Antiques are a good investment
Art and antiques are continuing to provide the
best long-term value for investors looking for a tangible return on their
Traders across the Midlands are still reporting
increased sales with rural businesses particularly faring well, according to
BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Judith Miller said
she expected antiques and fine art values to rise – especially while the bank
rate offered such a meagre return for investors.
Ms Miller, who will be appearing at the Antiques
For Everyone exhibition at the Birmingham NEC (March 17-20), said many people
were now looking at collectibles as an alternative to more traditional
“Savings in the bank are earning next to nothing
so people wanting to invest, especially those with larger sums, are entering
“This is particularly true at the higher end of
the price range. Instead of people spending a few hundred pounds they are now
spending thousands,” commented Ms Miller.
She said gold and silver were increasing in
value with quality jewellery showing substantial gains.
“The market remains a strong performer for
buyers looking to invest in more tangible assets to guard against the uncertain
economic picture. This is particularly clear in the increase in sales in the
higher value brackets.
“Everyone has something that they can collect
from rock and pop memorabilia to military history. Traditional items such as
silver and jewellery will always do well in difficult economic times, but
Chinese art and ceramics are increasingly popular. The recent surge in prices
in this sector shows no sign of abating with demand at an all-time high.”
Young buyers were also finding antiques a more
attractive investment proposal, especially in areas like rock and pop
memorabilia, costume jewellery and pop art from the 1950s and 1960s.
“Prices have risen substantially. Certain items
of costume jewellery can now fetch thousands of pounds,” said Ms Miller.
She urged everyone to check old items of
jewellery that had belonged to family members to find if any high-value items
Ms Miller said the trade was still reeling from
the recent discovery of the Chinese porcelain vase that astounded its owners
when it was valued at millions of pounds. She said similar items could be
sitting on the mantelpieces of unsuspecting households waiting to net a fortune
for their owners.
“When the palaces in China were looted all those
years ago no-one knew exactly what was taken. Other things would have found
their way to the market so there are bound to be more shocks to the trade,”
said Ms Miller.
Ms Miller will be joined at the NEC show by
fellow Roadshow expert Mark Hill.
The duo will be scouring the exhibition halls to
find their favourite items and sharing their expert knowledge with visitors to
the fair over the four days.
Ms Miller said: “We’ve both attended the fair
many times before and we always find little gems to add to our personal
collections, but this time we will be sharing our personal ‘‘top picks’’ with
everyone who visits.”
With more than 300 specialist dealers exhibiting
more than 100,000 items the fair, which is now in its 26th year, offers collectors
a huge selection of fine art and antiques.
Items for sale include Georgian and Victorian
furniture, fine English silver, impressive British and European works of art,
highly collectable pottery and porcelain and jewellery from the past 300 years.
Rising fuel costs could wipe out SME's
Petrol rises could be
the last straw for under pressures SMEs, threatening to send some under, a
corporate recovery expert has warned.
John Kelly, regional
managing partner in the Birmingham office of Begbies Traynor, cautioned that
the surge could tip the world back into recession.
“Prolonged high oil
prices are a very real threat to the UK’s fragile recovery,” he stressed.
His comments came as
revolution and unrest continued to sweep the Middle East following the
uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
The possibility of
Western military action in Libya in support of the insurgency there, and
concern that Saudi Arabia could be next, may mean petrol costs going higher
yet, noted Mr Kelly.
He said: “‘Peak oil’
is the point at which global oil production reaches its maximum – the risk of this contributed to the reality of the
financial meltdown of 2007. And the 2008-09 recession was preceded by record
high prices for oil and other commodities.
“Today, according to
the AA’s report for February, that is happening again, with average pump prices
for both petrol and diesel at new record highs – unleaded up 0.5 pence per
litre on the month to 128.8ppl and the oil price at $103 a barrel.
“But oil prices had
been rising again before the Libyaeffect.
“The concern is that
this will tip the UKback into recession even though the Saudis have offered to
supply extra oil to cover the disruption to Libyan supplies.
“If high prices
continue this will inevitably put an extra squeeze on household budgets and
already struggling SMEs. This is made worse by inflation already running at
twice the Bank of England’s target rate with the spectre of interest rate rises
looming to control this.
“The price of oil
affects so many fundamentals – from the disposable income available to already
stretched households to the fixed overheads of many businesses. SMEs are
finding it increasingly difficult to pass on price rises. It is an extremely
Mr Kelly said it
remained to be seen whether influences could be brought to bear to stem the
price jump, given the AA survey highlighted how last month the Government tax
take stood at 62.4 per cent and some European countries had seen a drop in the
cost of fuel during late January.
“Given the scale of
this country’s deficit the Government has little room for manoeuvre on tax and,
as oil prices are a world issue, they are largely in the hands of others.
Indeed it could be worse – the stronger pound has so far cushioned some of the
Northern Ireland has
the highest price for unleaded petrol at 129.9ppl; Yorkshireand Humberside
recorded the lowest at 127.8ppl.
The average for the
West Midlands is 128.6ppl and for the South East it is 129.5ppl.
for unleaded also rose over the month by 0.7ppl to 127.4ppl. The gap between
supermarket prices and the UK average for unleaded has fallen to 1.4ppl.
The UK has the eighth
highest unleaded price in Europe and the second highest diesel price.
UK billionaires on the increase
The number of
billionaires in the UK has increased to 32 with the Duke of Westminster Gerald
Cavendish Grosvenor again named the country’s richest man.
Despite the property
slump, the 59-year-old landowner increased his worth to 13 billion
dollars - but still only managed 57th on the Forbes global rich list.
The world’s richest
man according to the Forbes list was Mexican Telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim Helu,
who topped the list for a second year and increased his wealth by 20.5 billion
dollars to 74 billion dollars.
Microsoft boss Bill
Gates was second with 56 billion dollars and investor Warren Buffett was third
with 50 billion dollars.?The UK has three more billionaires than last year.
David and Simon Reuben were second on the UK rich list with 8 billion dollars,
followed by high street mogul Sir Philip Green with 7.2 billion dollars.
The Reubens were
placed 114th overall while Green was 132nd.
Virgin boss Richard
Branson, landowner Charles Cadogan and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone were
next, each with a fortune of 4.2 billion dollars.
The UK top 10 also
featured Barclay brothers, David and Frederick, with a 3.2 billion dollar
And other UK
billionaires included Harry Potter author JK Rowling who is worth one billion
dollars and has been on the list for a number of years.
The richest UK
resident was Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who was sixth richest in the
world, with a 31.1 billion dollar fortune.
There were six
“Facebook billionaires” on the global list, including founders Mark Zuckerberg
and Eduardo Saverin, as well as the world’s youngest billionaire Dustin
Moskovitz, who is just 26-years-old, and Napster entrepreneur Sean Parker.
The Forbes 25th list
of the richest people on the planet saw the number of billionaires increase by
214 to a record 1,210, with an average net worth of 3.7 billion dollars each.
For the first time in
more than a decade, the number of billionaires in Asia (332) was more than
Europe (300), while the US continued to have the most billionaires, with 413.
China, which has the
world’s second largest economy after the US, had 115 billionaires, while Russia
had 101 billionaires.
Moscow was home to
more billionaires than any other city in the world, with 79 of the world’s
wealthiest people choosing to live in the Russian capital.
person was Frenchman Bernard Arnault, of luxury brand group LVMH (Moet Hennessy
Louis Vuitton), who moved into fourth spot overall with a fortune of 41 billion
There were 300
European billionaires, 50 more than last year, with 72% self-made.
And although most
managed to increase their wealth last year, not everybody did.
Ikea Founder Ingvar
Kamprad was the year’s biggest loser, dropping 151 places to 162 with his
fortune plunging from 23 billion dollars to six billion dollars.
Cadbury managers to be grilled over tax avoidance plans
Senior managers from
the American firm which bought Birmingham based Cadbury will be grilled by MPs
next week over the decision to move its headquarters to Switzerland to avoid
But Kraft chief
executive Irene Rosenfeld will not attend - despite a strongly worded personal
plea from Black Country MP Adrian Bailey, chair of the Commons Business
committee will hear evidence from Marc Firestone, Kraft Executive
vice-president, Trevor Bond the former president of Cadbury who is now a senior
Kraft executive, and Nick Bunker, president of Kraft Foods, UK & Ireland.
The committee, which
is led by Mr Bailey and also includes MPs Margot James (Con Stourbridge) and
Nadhim Zahawi (Con Stratford upon Avon), will raise a series of concerns, which
have emerged following Kraft’s controversial takeover of the British
Top of the list will
be the decision to move key high-level roles to Zurich - save as much as £60
million a year in corporation tax.
Mr Bailey (Lab West
Bromwich West) has already said he is “disgusted” by the decision.
They may also
question the decision to downsize the standard Dairy Milk bar from 140g to 120g
- while keeping the price the same.
And they may re-open
the question of Kraft’s decision to move production of products including
Crunchies, Curly Wurlys and Double Deckers to Poland before Christmas,
resulting in the loss of hundreds of British jobs at Cadbury’s former Somerdale
factory near Bristol.
However, Kraft chief
executive Irene Rosenfeld has once again refused a request to appear before the
committee in person.
Mr Firestone faced a
barrage of hostile questions when he met the MPs at an earlier hearing last
year and was dismissed as a “PR man”.
Earlier this year, Mr
Bailey wrote to Ms Rosenfeld urging her to attend the hearing.
He said in his
letter: “I had hoped that you would have seen this as an opportunity to
demonstrate, in person, your company’s commitment to Cadbury and to its
"As you know,
the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft was badly received in the United Kingdom and
there was a high degree of scepticism over the motive for the takeover, the way
in which it was conducted and Kraft’s future strategy for the company.
remains and your refusal to attend a committee of the House of Commons will do
nothing to change that position.”
But the MPs have now
reluctantly agreed to interrogate other Kraft managers in Ms Rosenfeld’s
absence, in a Commons committee room on Tuesday, March 15.
Giant wave power device created
Engineers in Warwick
have helped to create a giant wave power device, which director’s hope will
make a big splash in a £150 billion market.
At 135ft long and
weighing 250 tonnes the PB150 PowerBuoy device, created by Ocean Power
Technologies (OPT), has a peak-rated power output of 150kW – equivalent to the
energy consumption of approximately 150 homes.
Angus Norman, chief
executive of OPT in the UK and Europe, said talks had already taken place with
He expects opportunities
to open up in the sector as governments seek energy security and to reduce
reliance on fossil fuels.
The new product has
been based on normal ocean-going buoys and generates energy through an upright
spar working in conjunction with a giant float moving with the waves.
Mr Norman said: “The
power buoy that we just completed, the PB150, which we expect to take into
commercialisation, is the first buoy built by OBT of this size, and to a great
extent it has been done in Warwick and the UK.
“It is designed to
match normal ocean-going buoys,” he added. “They have been there for 100 years,
so the design has matured. They buoy moves up and down with the waves and
reacts with the spar.
"It’s like a
doughnut and a stick – if you can imagine the doughnut going up and down and
the stick holding still.
operates the piston which goes up and down to create energy. It is a simple
process but to get to delivery takes a lot of design and innovation.”
The PB150 PowerBuoy
is the largest and most powerful wave power device designed by OPT to date.
The firm, which
employs 10 people directly in Warwick, but has about 30 people at any one time,
has been working on the project since 2006.
However, Mr Norman
said it built on 15 years of work at the company. OPT has previously installed
wave technology devices in Hawaii which are linked back to the grid, and Mr
Norman said it was important to be able to compete on cost.
He said: “We need to
be able to compete with the cost of fossil fuels in the future. In the UK the
energy sources need to be replaced and it is going to be new nuclear and wind –
but the answer isn’t any one thing.
“We expect to compete
with these industries.”
He added: “The market
is massive. We believe it is a £150 billion market.
“Clearly Europe and
the UK is very important to us, as is the west coast of North America and some
of the east coast.
“In Japan we have
just signed an agreement with Mitsui Engineering and we also have agreements in
“Globally it is a big
The PowerBuoy is
being prepared for ocean trials at a site off Scotland’s north-eastern coast
after being built and assembled at Invergordon.
A second PB150 is
already under construction in the US for a proposed utility-scale project in
Oregon, and the company is involved in other planned projects in Australia,
Japan and Europe that may use it.
Mr Norman said: “We
are looking at several opportunities to build these devices in multiples – some
in the UK and northern Europe.”
John Lewis to raise £50m
Lewis Partnership has announced it is raising £50 million through a retail bond
issue aimed at customers.
Partnership, which owns supermarket Waitrose and is Britain’s biggest
department store by sales, has raised finance through bond markets before, but
the “partnership” bond is the first time that it has let its customers invest.
The bond will be
available to 1.5 million cardholders and 70,000 staff, or “partners”.
The launch comes ahead
of its 2010 results, which are expected to reveal the Partnership’s profits
rose 15 per cent to about £350 million.
The company, which
has a flagship store in Solihull, has just announced plans for a new store in
chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The Partnership Bond issue is in
keeping with HM Treasury’s desire to develop non-bank lending channels to help
improve macroeconomic resilience in the longer term.
“We want to explore
alternative ways of raising funds as part of the Partnership’s borrowing
programme, and to reach out to the retail investor.
“With interest rates
and yields close to historical lows we believe our cardholders and partners
will welcome a competitively priced, innovative product of this nature with the
added comfort of the John Lewis Partnership brand and reputation.”
The five-year fixed
rate bond will be offered to qualifying individuals to invest a lump sum of between £1,000 and £10,000, in multiples of £1,000.
Birmingham City’s success to boost Midlands
Carling Cup success is being tipped to boost the West Midlands’ economy as
European football is set to make a return to the region.
The victory over
Arsenal at Wembley – and impending entry into the UEFA Europa League
competition – has put the club into the international spotlight, and is a step
closer to making the club one of the country’s elite.
It is often said that
benefits on an international scale from association with major football clubs
and inward investment chiefs are predicting a wider impact on the West Midlands
economy with the city raising its profile across the globe.
and hospitality firms around Blues’ St Andrew’s ground are expecting to profit
as the ground hosts European nights.
investment director for inward investment body Business
Birmingham, said: “Birmingham City’s success on Sunday is a fantastic win for
the city, not just in sporting terms, but also as part of its wider global
profile – the final was shown in over 130 countries.
“As a city,
Birmingham needs to continue to raise its international visibility to attract
visitors and drive inward investment.
“Sporting teams often
have high levels of cut-through with business audiences, and the positive
reputation of a city abroad in this demographic gives a halo effect which, long
term, can support economic growth.”
snatched a dramatic late winner in the Carling Cup Final against Arsenal
last weekend, to win the game 2-1.
Annual Review of Football Finance shows the club stands to boost its income by
competing on a European stage.
The four top-earning
clubs in the Premier League – Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool
– all competed in the Champions League, the premier European competition.
The participants in the UEFA Cup – the previous
incarnation of the Europa League – were also among the top performing clubs.
Tottenham Hotspur recorded the fifth-highest turnover, while Everton recorded
the ninth and Portsmouth 13th, as increased revenue from the turnstiles boosted
Elsewhere, managers of businesses around Birmingham
City’s ground are looking forward to sharing in Blues’ sales boost after the
Ben Davies, manager of the Anchor Inn pub near
St Andrew’s, said the win would be good for business as midweek sales will be
Mr Davies – an Aston Villa fan – said: “We get a
lot of away fans in for the home matches, so from that respect it is good news.
“The pub is rammed before and after the games,
so the extra games will help.
“And there will be extra sales on days where you
wouldn’t have normally expected it. There will be more midweek games, which is
good for us.”
Anand Desai, general manager of the Birmingham Hotel in
Small Heath, a mile away from the ground, said he gets few football fans
through the door at the moment, but hoped to attract some coming in from
He said: “It is the first time the club has been
in Europe, so hopefully there will be people coming over. We will see.
“Obviously it’s going to happen next year so
hopefully it will be good news for us.”
Alstom wins £18m grid deal
Midland firm Alstom
Grid has won an £18 million contract to supply electricity generation equipment
to National Grid.
The company will
design, supply and commission two quadrature booster units – which control the
flow of real power on electricity transmission networks – which will also be
built at its transformer factory in Stafford.
The contract will
create additional work for the 300-strong workforce over the next three years.
Alstom is involved
with the power generation, rail transport infrastructure and electricity
transmission sectors and employs around 6,500 people across the UK, more than
5,000 of which are based throughout the Midlands region operating out of its
sites in Stafford, Rugby, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and
The first Quadrature
Booster will be designed and manufactured in 2012.
Mark Wilson, head of
sales and rendering at Alstom Grid’s transformer factory, said: “This latest
contract award by National Grid confirms the industry’s confidence in our
technical competence of the design and manufacture of transformers.
“Both boosters will
be an enhanced version of our existing proven design.”
Taylor Wimpey wary despite return to profit
Taylor Wimpey has
announced a return to the black but said it continued to run the business cautiously
amid pressure on mortgage lending.
Taylor Wimpey (TW.),
which was created from the merger of Solihull-based Taylor Woodrow and George
Wimpey in 2007 and has shifted its focus onto maximising the value of each home
sold, said pre-tax profits before exceptional items were £75.1 million in 2010,
against losses of £96.1 million the previous year.
It said it had been
encouraged by sales rates and prices so far this year but added that
constrained mortgage lending and the continued economic uncertainty meant it
remained cautious about prospects going forward.
The group will stick
to its strategy of maximising margins rather than volume growth and said it was
on track to achieve its target of double-digit operating margins from its UK
business in 2012. The UK operating margin jumped to 7.1% in 2010, from 1.7% in
The year also saw
Taylor agree new lending terms with its banks in a move that has removed a
number of operational restrictions. It has also begun the process of selling
its North American housebuilding division.
The UK business
completed a total of 9,962 homes last year, down from 10,186 in 2009 but with
an average selling price 7% higher at £171,000.
It said it would
continue to work with the mortgage industry to identify ways of increasing
mortgage supply, such as its recently launched Take 5 product that uses an
insurance-backed guarantee to provide a 95% mortgage.
New additions boost Birmingham LEP
The Greater Birmingham
and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership is to be one of the biggest in the
country after two more local authorities signed up as members.
Redditch and Wyre
Forest, both in Worcestershire, are to join East Staffordshire, Lichfield,
Tamworth, Bromsgrove and Cannock Chase in the partnership, which also includes
Birmingham and Solihull.
It means the
partnership will cover a population of two million people, making it one of the
largest and potentially one of the most influential in the country.
Councils and business
leaders across the country have been forming LEPs at the request of the
Government following the decision to scrap regional development agencies, the
massive regional bodies set up by Labour.
However, many are
much smaller. For example, Worcestershire has its own LEP to cover the county,
which includes Worcester, Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Bromsgrove as well as
Redditch and Wyre Forest, which will be members of both organisations.
Bridget Blow, interim
chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, said: “We are delighted at
this development and excited to work with business and local authorities from
North Worcestershire in the interests of our local businesses and communities.
Birmingham and Solihull LEP is now one of the largest in the country with a
population of two million people and 950,000 existing jobs.
“We have the
enthusiasm and drive to work together to create and support a globally
competitive knowledge economy – which is the natural home for Europe’s
entrepreneurs and wealth creators. “
John Campion, Leader
of Wyre Forest District Council said: “Wyre Forest District Council, as part of
the north Worcestershire group of councils, is delighted to be a member of
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
"Being a member
will mean we will be at the heart of the decision-making process and will it
give us an influential role in the economic success of the area.”
Mike Whitby, leader
of Birmingham City Council, said: ‘‘With the welcome additions of Redditch and
Wyre Forest I believe we must now be one of the country’s largest, and most
significant, representing a population of almost two million people.”
The LEP’s development
board has identified a number of areas where action is urgently needed to
deliver private sector- led growth and jobs.
supporting the runway extension at Birmingham Airport; improving planning
regimes to promote growth; expanding access to finance for small and
medium-sized businesses; developing an employer-led approach to skills and
employment which sees young people, in particular, developing the attributes
and expertise to work in local businesses; and providing effective and relevant
business support and mentoring.
Order books grow at Carillion
firm based in Wolverhampton, has revealed a seven per cent rise in profits
after enjoying a slightly larger order book.
The construction firm
said it was in a good position for 2011 thanks to an enhanced performance in
the last year.
Carillion, which last
month agreed to buy energy-saving scheme operator Eaga for 306.5 million pounds
to enter the high-growth energy efficiency market, posted an underlying
full-year pretax profit of £188.1 million.
That was up from
£175.5 million in 2009 and better than analysts had forecast.
The company also said
that focusing on growth overseas and winning support services contracts in
Britain as local authorities try to cut costs should help it overcome tough
Rogerson said the company anticipated the global economic environment to
continue to make trading conditions difficult, particularly in the UK, but noted
that Carillion had a pipeline of contract opportunities up it’s sleeve.
He said: “Therefore,
the board believes that Carillion is well positioned to make further progress
in 2011 and to achieve its objectives for medium-term growth, namely, to double
its revenues in Canada and in the Middle East and to deliver substantial growth
in UK support services.”
With a forward order
book worth a reported £18.2 billion, up from £17.9 billion a year earlier as a rush
in its support services contract pipeline, to £8.3 billion from £5.5 billion, make
up for falls in other places.
HS2 will 'redraw' UK economic map
Secretary Philip Hammond has launched a consultation on plans for a high speed
railway network by insisting the project would "redraw" Britain's
economic map. Announcing the five-month consultation into the proposals for the
£32billion HS2 line, initially linking London with
Birmingham, Mr Hammond said the country faced a "once in a lifetime"
opportunity to create more jobs and prosperity.?Speaking at
Birmingham's International Convention Centre, the minister claimed the
controversial project would deliver £44 billion of benefits to the UK economy.
all interested parties to have their say on the plans, which would eventually
link the Midlands with the North of England, Mr Hammond said: "This will
be one of the most extensive and potentially far-reaching government
consultations in history."
Hammond told an audience drawn from local council representatives and business
groups that the new line could transform the UK economy.
time for high speed rail in Britain has come," he said. "We have
before us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity to reshape our
often in the past, Britain has baulked at the big decisions."
minister, who praised the success of similar schemes in Asia and parts of
Europe, added: "We must invest in Britain's future.
cannot afford to be left behind - investing in high speed rail now is vital to
the prosperity of future generations."
envisaged that 14 trains or more an hour will run on the HS2 high-speed rail
project, each with up to 1,100 seats. The new HSR network could shift as many
as six million air trips and nine million road trips a year to rail.
almost 70 top bosses, including CBI director-general John Cridland and former
British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, gave their backing for HS2.
Lizzie Williams, chairman of the Stop HS2 group, believes the project is
"a complete waste of taxpayers' money when we can least afford it".
Rail (NR) said HS2 would be "a hugely significant enhancement to the
national rail network and will unlock tremendous capacity to tackle, what will
be by 2024, critical overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line".
Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies said a
new HSR line was "key if we are to meet the transport challenges that will
face the country over the coming decades".
Kumar, rail director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said:
"Wherever this new line is built, there will be winners and losers.
is important that the Government and industry continues to discuss the
implications of this decision with affected communities and addresses
Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) described the consultation process as
"a complete train wreck".
Smyth, the CPRE's senior transport campaigner, said: "The Government has
been so focused on trying to catch up and overtake the French on high-speed
rail (HSR) that they have failed to ensure the public get their fair say."
that the consultation amounted to "a single route option, which the
Government has already made up its mind to favour", that would be followed
"by a Parliamentary petitioning procedure that has changed little since
the days of 19th century railway barons".
on: "Instead of a Punch and Judy exchange of competing claims between pros
and antis, the country needs a fair, open and informed debate about HSR."
Government argues that with long-distance services transferred to the new
high-speed network, large amounts of space would be freed up on the West Coast,
East Coast and Midland Main Lines, allowing for an expansion of commuter,
regional and freight services on these lines.
to the outcome of the consultation, the Government intends to secure powers to
deliver each phase of its proposed HSR network by means of the hybrid bill
of any new network would be expected to begin early in the next Parliament, with
the line to the West Midlands completed by 2026 and the legs to Manchester and
Leeds finished in 2032-2033.