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BUSINESS CLOSE: Under fire Shell hands $7bn to shareholders

Virgin Wines sales soar as lockdowns boost online alcohol purchases

Virgin Wines has hailed a 'transformational year' after it revealed revenues grew by at least 30 per cent for the second year in a row.

The company's revenues climbed to £73.6million in the year to June, a 30 per cent rise on last year and a 73 per cent increase on the same period two years ago, as coronavirus lockdowns encouraged more Britons to purchase their alcohol online.

The Footsie closes soon

Just before close, the FTSE 100 was down 0.21% to 7,238.33.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 was up 0.14% to 23,205.41.

Brexit impact on economy 'will be worse than the coronavirus pandemic'

Brexit will have a bigger negative impact on the UK's economy than the coronavirus pandemic in the long term, the chairman of Britain's financial watchdog has said. 

Richard Hughes, the boss of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said the assumption is now that leaving the EU will 'reduce our long run GDP by around four per cent'. 

US jobless claims drop to pandemic low of 281,000

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a new pandemic low last week as the job market continues its slow recovery from last year's coronavirus recession.

Unemployment claims dropped by 10,000 to 281,000 last week, a fourth straight drop and the lowest since mid-March 2020, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Biden's new plan to be financed with 5 percent millionaires 'surtax'

The Build Back Better 'framework' released by the White House Thursday includes a new 'surtax' on earnings by millionaires that would raise an estimated $230 million over a decade.

The tax revenue raiser was a last-ditch addition to find funds for the overall $1.75 trillion package – after another last-minute idea, a 'billionaires tax' that went after investments held but not yet sold, was jettisoned.

Toys' R' Us is BACK! Chain to make comeback to Britain's High Streets

Toys R Us is to make a comeback in Britain more than four years after closing all of its stores. 

The retail chain, which has more than 900 physical stores in Australia and New Zealand, confirmed it is coming back to UK. 

Facebook tells staff to keep ALL messages and documents since 2016

Facebook has ordered employees to keep all their emails and documents relating to its businesses since 2016 after government inquiries were opened into the under-fire social media firm's operations.

A company-wide email sent on Tuesday night told staff to 'preserve internal documents and communications since 2016' in a move known as a 'legal hold'.

Ryanair offers passengers refunds within five working days for cancelled flights

Ryanair has pledged to refund customers within five working days via their original payment method for cancelled flights in a renewed customer service push.

The budget airline, which is the biggest in Europe, said refunds would be processed via a new 'online wallet' function within 24 hours of a flight being cancelled, enabling customers to book new flights immediately or opt to get the funds back within five working days.

The group's latest customer service drive promises improvements to the airline's online live chat service and frequently asked questions section, as well as the development of new 'self-help' videos on its website so fewer people may need to contact its call centres.  

Biden is set to announce revised social spending plan

President Joe Biden will announce a new framework for his Build Back Better reconciliation bill Thursday morning that he believes will finally get majorities of Congressional Democrats to sign on. 

'We are confident that this historic framework will earn the support of every Democratic senator and pass the House,' a senior White House official said. 

US economy in 'decent shape' despite growth slowdown

Premier Miton chief investment officer and manager of Premier Miton Diversified fund range Neil Birrell on the latest US GDP figures:

“On a busy day for US economic data releases, the GDP number was disappointing, coming in at 2.0% against an estimate of 2.6% for Q3. Moreover, the Personal Consumption Expenditure figure showed that inflation is a concern, which was backed up by the GDP Price Index rising more than expected.

Encouragingly, the jobless claims were positive and appear to be rapidly heading back to pre-pandemic levels. All in all, although the headline GDP number underwhelmed, raising concerns around growth prospects, the important consumer sector and labour market look in decent shape.”

Disappointing GDP numbers for the US

US GDP growth came in at 2 per cent for the third quarter of 2021, below expectations of 2.6 per cent growth, with a reduction in consumer spending and services growth, owing to the acceleration of the Delta variant, driving the slowdown.

Oil giant Shell reveals new carbon reduction ambitions

Royal Dutch Shell has revealed new green energy targets a day after a major investor advocated the oil supermajor be split up to help propel cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

The FTSE 100 multinational has vowed to halve so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its operations by 2030 against their 2016 levels, in efforts to become a net zero business by mid-century.

Royal Dutch Shell sets out new carbon reduction ambitions

Royal Dutch Shell has revealed new green energy targets a day after a major investor advocated the oil supermajor be split up to help propel cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

The FTSE 100 multinational has vowed to halve so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its operations by 2030 against their 2016 levels, in efforts to become a net zero business by mid-century.

Oil execs to testify on if industry deceived about climate change role

A year's worth of investigations into whether Big Oil deceived Americans about its role in climate change will be opened by the US Congress today. 

Democratic lawmakers are planning to grill the chiefs of four oil companies and two lobby groups.

OBR: Brexit twice as damaging to the economy as Covid-19

Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility has Richard Hughes has told the BBC that the UK’s exit from the European Union will do more damage to the economy than Covid-19.

Hughes said Brexit would hamper the UK's potential GDP by about 4 per cent in the long term, while Covid would reduce GDP ‘by a further 2%’.

‘In the long term it is the case that Brexit has a bigger impact than the pandemic,’ he added.

Hughes said recent economic data is ‘broadly consistent’ with the OBR's prediction that Brexit would ‘reduce our long run GDP by around 4%’.

However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak laughed off the claims, according to the Independent, saying: ‘I think we've had all these debates multiple times, and I think this at this point now is five years ago.

‘That's their view. What I'm doing is making sure that we capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit has brought.

‘We’ll be doing a lot on the trade agenda, and we're seeing the benefits of that will bring to the economy, and our ability to sign trade deals around the country.’

Smokers feel the pinch: Pack of cigarettes goes up to £13.60 TODAY

A pack of cigarettes now costs more than £13 after the Chancellor decided to increase tobacco tax.

The most expensive 20-pack jumped by 88p to £13.60 while the cheapest pack rose by 63p to £9.73, , according to Rishi Sunak’s Budget yesterday.

British homeowners face soaring mortgage interest payments

Mortgage interest rates already started going up today amid warnings that Britain's homeowners face soaring payments in the coming year - with brokers advising them to make overpayments now while rates are still low.

Barclays said today it was hiking rates by up to 0.35 percentage points on a range of fixed-rate mortgages and Halifax today announced rises of up to 0.20 percentage points on a handful of products from November 1.

Tesco launches new pilot scheme with speedy delivery app Gorillas

Tesco is working with an 'ultra-fast' delivery group called Gorillas to enable shoppers to get certain groceries in just 10 minutes. 

As part of a pilot scheme, from 12pm today, certain Tesco products will be available for purchase on the Gorillas app and 'immediately' delivered to customers in a selected area near its Thornton Heath store in Croydon.

Property market recovery drives Foxtons Group revenues beyond £1bn

Foxtons Group saw revenues rise by 50 per cent in the first nine months of 2021 on the same time last year, with the estate agent buoyed by a rebound in London's property market.

The estate agent saw revenues from property sales balloon by 114 per cent on 2020 levels and 61 per cent on two years ago to £38.3million, as overall revenues came in at just over £1billion for the period.

Activists say millions will not benefit from tax cut for the low paid

Charities have branded the changes to Universal Credit 'the tale of two budgets for low income families' and said they do not go far enough to help those who are unable to work.

In his budget yesterday, Rishi Sunak announced a reduction from 63p in the pound to 55p in the universal credit taper rate – the amount in benefits a claimant loses for each pound they earn above a set work allowance.

Tennent's Lager owner C&C Group swings back to profit

Tennent’s Lager maker C&C Group swung back to an operating profit in the six months to the end of 31 August.

The Dublin-based group, which also produces Magners Cider, now expects to remain in the green for the rest of the year as the hospitality sector ramps up its recovery. 

Travis Perkins profits ahead of expectations despite supply chain woes

Building materials supplier Travis Perkins has overcome supply chain issues to post 13.1 per cent revenue growth in the third quarter of 2021, with full-year profits now expected to come in ‘at least’ £24million ahead of analyst expectations.

The group, which continues to be buoyed by the post-pandemic DIY boom, told investors on Thursday that third quarter sales were up 13.3 per cent on 2019 levels bringing year-to-date sales growth to 31.7 per cent.

Airlines react with fury to £91 tax on ultra-long haul flights

A 'fundamentally flawed' tax increase on ultra-long haul flights will 'penalise' a global Britain and be a further blow to airlines recovering from the impact of Covid, aviation chiefs have warned. 

Airline bosses have reacted with fury over the Government's plan to slap a £91 air passenger duty (APD) on flights to far flung destinations such as Australia, east Asia and large parts of South America from 2023.

The chart that shows how fast the UK's inflation spike swept in

There is a chart in the OBR’s Autumn Budget report dramatically showing how swiftly inflation can sweep in.

It presents forecasts for the rise in consumer prices inflation over coming years from March 2020, March 2021 and now.

Pints will STILL get more expensive despite beer duty cut

Pints will still get more expensive even after the Chancellor's five per cent beer duty cut - with a pub boss warning it would only 'take the top off' a 30p price rise due to inflation. 

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, said the company would pass on the 3p a pint duty cut on kegs it sells to pubs but this would do little to ease the hit on drinkers' wallets. 

Top savers: Britons are now saving more than their German counterparts

Britain has overtaken Germany as the savings champion of Europe, new data has revealed.

Britons have been squirrelling away more money than any of their European counterparts since the pandemic began, according to analysis by savings platform Raisin.

Activist investor buys $500m stake in Shell and demand splits in two

A billionaire hedge fund manager has acquired a large stake in Royal Dutch Shell PLC and is demanding that the oil major to separate into two separate companies.

Daniel Loeb's Third Point LLC is pushing for the separation to attract new investors and hold on to current ones as many have sold their shares over concerns that Shell is not environmentally friendly.

Rishi Sunak warned Budget 'is not going to feel great' for the public

Rishi Sunak was facing a backlash against his big-spending Budget today as experts warned it 'it is not going to feel great' for taxpayers amid a cost of living crisis.

Experts said the scale of the spending he announced yesterday would see the state expand to its biggest size since the late 1970s, before Margaret Thatcher conducted a decade of reform to bring it under control. 

Lloyds Banking Group sees profits nearly double

Lloyds Banking Group saw its pre-tax profit nearly double to £2billion in the three months to the end of September, amid a booming mortgage market.

Beating previous profit predictions, the group said it had benefited from the economic rebound following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

John Lewis pulls new home insurance ad after FCA brands it misleading

John Lewis has been forced to pull its latest home insurance advert starring a Stevie Nicks-loving boy in a dress rampaging around his home after the financial watchdog found it could potentially mislead consumers.

The department store’s 'Let Life Happen' advert for its new home contents insurance first ran on October 11 and starred a young boy dressed in his mother’s make-up, dress, jewellery and heels, marching around his home smearing paint on the walls, kicking shoes at lamps, throwing an umbrella at a vase, spilling a glass and throwing glitter into the air.

However, John Lewis tweeted on Wednesday that it had withdrawn the advert because the Financial Conduct Authority considered the content to be potentially misleading and could confuse customers about the insurance.

It clarified that its accidental damage cover was available as an add-on to John Lewis’s new home contents insurance product and only covered accidental, not deliberate, damage, PA Media said.

FTSE 100 down 0.34% or 24.79 points to 7,228.48

And the FTSE 250 index is down 0.2 per cent or 47.49 points to 23,124.55. 

Sterling is at $1.38 against the US dollar.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak eyes election war chest

When Boris Johnson won the election by a landslide nearly two years ago, he promised a low tax era. 

The 'tax guarantee' in the Conservatives' 2019 manifesto was clear as day, stating 'we promise not to raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT'.

UK households eye shift to sustainable energy

Half of Britain's households have said they expect to be more sustainable in the next year as a direct result of the energy crisis.

Some 47 per cent said cutting down the amount of energy they used at home was a priority, according to research by comparison website Energy Helpline.

Britons usurp Germans as Europe's biggest savers

Britain has overtaken Germany as the savings champion of Europe, new data has revealed.

Britons have been squirrelling away more money than any of their European counterparts since the pandemic began, according to analysis by savings platform Raisin.

GlaxoSmithKline delivers a shot in the arm for Emma Walmsley

Embattled GlaxoSmithKline boss Emma Walmsley scored a victory against her detractors as she upgraded its full-year guidance. 

The FTSE100 pharma giant is due to see earnings in 2021 fall by between 2 per cent and 4 per cent, less than the 'mid-to-high single digit decline' previously predicted. 

Budget boost for nuclear, but steel industry left fuming

Ministers have set aside £1.7billion to fund a new nuclear plant in the next few years. 

The Government has been in talks to build another large station on a par with Hinkley Point C for several years. 

Taxman will collect additional £1.6bn from North Sea as oil prices surge

The taxman will collect an additional £1.6billion from the North Sea over the next five years after oil prices surged. 

The Government is expected to make £8.5billion from the resource-rich region between 2021 and 2026, the Office for Budget Responsibility said in its latest outlook. 

House prices will rise by 13 per cent over next five years

House prices will rise by 13 per cent over the next five years following a bumper 2021, according to Budget forecasts.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said property values were on course to rise by 8.6 per cent this year – significantly faster than previously expected. 

And prices are expected to rise every year to the end of its forecast in 2026. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak toasted by investors after unveiling tax cuts

Teetotal Chancellor Rishi Sunak was toasted by investors after he unveiled tax cuts for pubs, restaurants and airlines in the Budget. 

Businesses were braced for further levies after huge rises in corporation tax and national insurance in Sunak's previous outings.

Car industry bemoans lack of support in Budget

The car industry bemoaned a lack of support in the Budget as the number of vehicles built in the UK fell for the third month in a row. 

A total of 67,169 cars left production lines last month, down by 41.5 per cent on the same time last year, and the worst figure for September since 1982, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Local MPs up pressure on LV private equity deal

MP for Bournemouth East Tobias Ellwood said the deal comes against the backdrop of British companies being sold abroad at a 'rapid rate'. 

He told the Mail: 'While the purchase may be well intended, the longer-term consequences are a loss of local jobs and the movement of focus of the business away from its origins overseas. 

British banks could be most vulnerable to economic meltdown in China

UK lenders are the largest creditors to China with around £187billion of loans tied up in the country at the end of June – up by more than 20 per cent since the end of 2019. 

The numbers are likely to worry analysts and the Bank of England amid fears of a debt crisis in China. Concerns about the financial strength of property giant Evergrande, which is struggling under crippling debts of £220billion, have sent shockwaves through China's property sector.