The global surge in demand for energy could spark another three years of market volatility and record power plant pollution unless countries make major changes to how they generate electricity, the world’s energy watchdog has warned. The International Energy Agency recorded the steepest ever increase in electricity demand last year, which triggered blackouts in major economies and led to historic energy price highs and record emissions. - Guardian .
Ovo Energy is moving to cut a quarter of its entire workforce in an attempt to cut costs amid the growing industry crisis. The UK’s third-biggest supplier of gas and electricity is expected to announce the loss of 1,700 roles out of 6,200 as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme as soon as Thursday. Gas market prices last month reached an all-time high of £4. 50 per therm, about nine times higher than this time last year. - Guardian.
UK households have suffered the sharpest fall in the amount of cash they have available to spend for almost eight years, amid a worsening cost of living crisis driven by high inflation and rising energy bills. According to a report by the insurer Scottish Widows, increasing living costs at the end of last year hit people’s pockets and led to the steepest decline in cash availability since the start of 2014. – Guardian.
Top diplomats from the US and Russia are set to meet in Geneva on Sunday and Monday to discuss Moscow's demands set out in December in two draft treaties, one with the US and another with NATO. Many of their stipulations are unacceptable to Washington and the alliance, particularly the pledged that Ukraine will never join the latter. Few diplomatic observers anticipate a quick deal that would resolve the crisis this week and a complete breakdown of talks is possible.
Manufacturers have warned that Brexit will add to soaring costs facing British industry, amid concerns that customs delays and red tape will rank among the biggest challenges for firms this year. ake UK, the industry body representing 20,000 manufacturing firms of all sizes from across the country, said that while optimism among its members had grown, it was being undermined by the after-effects of the UK’s departure from the EU. - Guardian.
Boris Johnson should bar Bain & Company from lucrative government contracts in light of a judicial commission’s findings about the management consultancy’s “despicable” role in state corruption in South Africa, Peter Hain has said. In a letter shared with the Guardian, the former Labour minister and anti-apartheid campaigner urged Johnson to “immediately freeze all government contracts with Bain” and to advise all public bodies to do the same. - Guardian .
Britain’s economic recovery stalled before the arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid and the dampening effect of the government’s plan B restrictions on consumer spending in the Christmas shopping period, a wide-ranging company survey has found. Businesses blamed spiralling inflation and shortages of imported goods for a decline in sales in the fourth quarter, which meant that an expansion during the spring and summer ground to a halt. - Guardian.
European gas prices have risen by more than 30% on Tuesday, adding to mounting concerns about the cost of heating a home, as supplies that usually come into Europe from Siberia continued to flow eastwards for the 15th day in a row. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied using Russia’s vast gas resources to turn the screw on Europe, after gas coming through the Yamal-Europe pipeline reversed direction three days before Christmas. - Guardian.
Apple became the first US company to be valued at over $3tn on Monday as the tech company continued its phenomenal share price growth, tripling in value in under four years. A pandemic-era surge in tech stocks has driven the major US tech companies to new highs, pulling US stock markets with them. Apple became the world’s first trillion dollar company in August 2018, passed $2tn in 2020 and hit its new high as trading began after the holidays and its shares passed $182.
The viability of thousands of small businesses is at risk as escalating energy costs take their toll on companies just as they try to recover from Covid restrictions, according to a stark warning from their federation. Small businesses, which employ almost 13 million people in the UK, are expected to feel the brunt of crippling energy costs in the coming weeks as firms begin to strike new fixed-term deals amid record high energy market prices across Europe. - Guardian.
A £350 million private equity-backed project to prevent the closure of GlaxoSmithKline’s manufacturing plant in Ulverston has “fallen over”. Tony Mallin, executive chairman of Star Capital, the London-based private equity firm, said the venture had been thwarted by the “lack of a long-term contract commitment” from the government. “This was not high up on their priority list at the moment and all the focus is on vaccines,” he said. - The Times.
UK households face a hit of £1,200 next year as stalling wages and rising tax and energy bills cause a “cost of living catastrophe” in the spring, a leading thinktank has warned. Government measures, including the new social care levy on national insurance and the freezing of the personal income tax allowance, will combine with high inflation to make 2022 the “year of the squeeze”, the Resolution Foundation said. – Guardian.
The family owners of Selfridges have sold out to a Thai retailer and an Austrian property company for an estimated £4bn ($5. 36bn) in a deal which sees the return of the luxury department store’s former boss Vittorio Radice. Thailand’s Central Group and Austrian real estate company Signa Holding already jointly own major department stores in Italy, Germany and Denmark via a division run by Radice, who left Selfridges in 2002, the year before Canada’s Weston family bought it for £628m.
Nurses, care home staff and police officers working on Christmas Day will be thousands of pounds worse off than they were a decade ago as a result of wages failing to keep pace with prices, Trades Union Congress analysis has shown. Urging the government to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour, the TUC said the key workers expected to keep Britain going on 25 December had taken real pay cuts since 2010. - Guardian.
Rishi Sunak has been accused of failing to do enough to help embattled hospitality businesses through the Omicron wave after refusing to bring back furlough for the hardest-hit firms. Succumbing to intense pressure to offer financial support amid a collapse in pre-Christmas trade for pubs, restaurants and hotels, the chancellor announced a £1bn bailout package on Tuesday consisting of business grants and help with sick pay. - Guardian .
Major retailers are having to offload Christmas trees for £1 or less after shoppers shied away from UK high streets and retail centres in the last weekend before Christmas. B&Q has cut the price of its fresh trees – some costing £49 or more – to £1 or less at stores around the country. One shopper posted a picture on social media of trees priced as little as 10p in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. - Guardian.
City firms are likely to revive plans to shift staff to the EU once Covid-related travel restrictions ease next year, a financial sector report has said, as the number contemplating such moves continues to rise. Of the 222 largest UK financial services firms monitored by accountancy firm EY since the 2016 referendum, 97 of them (44%) have confirmed they are relocating staff or operations to the continent, or are considering it – up from 41% in January 2020. - Guardian.
Omicron may yet force the health secretary to impose tougher Covid restrictions in England before Christmas. In remarks to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Sajid Javid said: "there's a lot of uncertainty, there are gaps in the data, but we must work with the data we've got, we mustn't let perfection be the enemy of the good. " The government's Sage committee has warned that hospitalisations might peak at between 3,000 and 10,000 per day unless action is taken. - Guardian.
Poor service from suppliers of PCR travel tests is “an issue of national significance”, and regulators are not doing enough to police hundreds of new businesses that have moved into the market, the former competition boss Andrew Tyrie has said. In an interview with the Guardian, Lord Tyrie, who was chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority until last year, called for a clean up of the list of PCR test providers published on the government website, which many travellers consult before buying a kit.
Efforts by the British and French drugmakers GSK and Sanofi Pasteur to produce a Covid-19 vaccine have suffered a further setback, with final clinical data on the jab and a potential launch delayed until next year as they struggle to find enough uninfected people to test it on. The two vaccine specialists announced positive preliminary results from a trial that showed the vaccine raised antibody levels against Covid by nine to 43 times when given as a single booster shot in people who had already received doses of AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, for all age groups.