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Outbreak of rare deadly black fungus among Covid-19 patients spreading from India to Pakistan

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 19:22

Media in Pakistan are reporting that hospitals in the South Asian country are treating Covid-19 patients suffering from a rare black fungus, following dozens of cases in India in recent days.

“We have seen at least five cases of Mucormycosis also called, Black Fungus, among serious Covid -19 patients under treatment. At least four patients died due to this complication,” a physician dealing with Covid -19 patients at a tertiary-care hospital in Karachi disclosed to local newspaper The News earlier today.

Read more: Hospitals across India report Covid-19 patients with rare deadly black fungus that decays brains and lungs

India outbreak

In recent days, dozens of hospitals across India started to report cases of Coronavirus patients being hit by the rare fungal infection which has a mortality rate of about 50 per cent.

Symptoms of Mucormycosis, the extremely rare infection, which causes vital organs to rot, include the brain, lungs and sinuses.

According to a report earlier this week in The Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest newspapers, the country’s governmental Council of Medical Research warned doctors in recent days to look out for symptoms, such as blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, toothache and loosening of teeth, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine not strong enough to resist South African Covid variant: study

The fungus is usually found in decaying fruits and vegetables and certain soils, often at markets and in agricultural settings.

Covid-19 surge

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Mucormycosis was close to non-existent, with only a few known cases reported every year.

However, since Covid-19 spiralled out of control in India last month, hospitals and clinics have started to report multiple cases a day, according to The Indian Express newspaper.

Some doctors have had to remove infected jaw bones, noses and eyes in order to save patients, namely to prevent the mucor from spreading to the brain.

“Mucormycosis is now playing absolute havoc. We are seeing four to five new patients every day and have around 35 patients still admitted,” Dr Prashant Rahate, the chairman of Seven Star Hospital in the city of Nagpur, told The Telegraph on Monday.

The hospital has reportedly treated more black fungus patients than any other clinic in India.

According to data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, black fungus has a mortality rate of around 50 per cent. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improve survival chances.

Read more: Norway to drop AstraZeneca jab from vaccination programme

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Categories: City of London

Will you show up? UK hotels fear last-minute cancellation chaos this summer

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 18:19

Holidaymakers are holding on to their UK hotel bookings for this summer, with cancellations rates currently running at just 4 per cent, far below the usual 30 per cent levels.

However, rather than this being good news for the industry, there are fears of a late surge of cancellations, as people ditch their UK booking at the last minute in favour of a holiday abroad, according to data from hotel technology provider Avvio, shared with City A.M. this evening.

“Many holidaymakers have booked both a foreign holiday and a UK stay and our data shows they’re often holding on to both,” Avvio’s chief commercial officer, Michael De Jongh, explained.

Read more: Brits favour beach holidays over city breaks as the return of travel nears

“If they decide at the last minute to risk a holiday abroad, a late rush of cancellations in the UK would create chaos across the whole industry as hotels scramble to fill their suddenly vacant rooms. Many of these just won’t be filled, resulting in tens of millions of pounds in lost revenue,” he said.

Moreover, De Jongh stressed it is not just about holidaymakers booking both a stay abroad and one in the UK.

“There’s also a growing trend of booking rooms at multiple UK hotels, with a view to cancelling all but one at the last minute. This causes incredible problems for hotels, in the same way as multiple restaurant bookings did during Eat Out To Help Out,” he concluded.

Read more: Consumer spending grew in April as high streets and hospitality reopened

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Categories: City of London

30-year-olds to receive Covid-19 jabs in England from tomorrow

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 17:25

NHS England has announced that people in their 30s will be able to book an appointment for a Covid jab from tomorrow, May 12, as the vaccine rollout in the UK continues.

NHS sources are widely reported to have said that they aim to give all adults at least one dose by the end of July.

Read more: Under-40s in Britain to be offered alternative to Astrazeneca vaccine

Those under 40 will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, as an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab which has been linked to extremely rare blood clots. 

They will be able to book appointments online, starting from 7am tomorrow while people in their late 30s will receive an invitation to book via a text message.

As of Tuesday, 35.7 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been given in the UK, with a further 18 million second doses, according to government statistics – bringing the total number of vaccinations given to over 54 million. 

Read more: New: Zero Covid-19 deaths registered in England today

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Categories: City of London

80 per cent of BP shareholders reject climate proposals to reduce emissions

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 17:16

Shareholders have voted against a plan that would have forced BP to strengthen its climate commitments.

More than 79 per cent of investors voted against a resolution proposed by shareholder group Follow This, which pushes oil companies to reduce their emissions. BP said that 20.6 per cent of votes were in favour of the plan.

After the result was finalised, the company said: “We will continue to engage with shareholders on our strategy, targets and aims so as to ensure their views are fully understood.”

Follow This said that BP’s targets are not consistent with the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, and criticised the company’s net zero target for not including one of its major investments.

Read more: Barclays to offer climate vote to investors next year

However, it was unable to convince enough shareholders to back a resolution that would have forced BP to publish targets consistent with Paris, and would limit global warming to below 2°C. It also called for annual reports into what BP is doing to decarbonise.

However, shareholders listened to BP’s board, which recommended them to vote against the resolution at today’s annual general meeting.

Paris climate accord

BP said it already has a Paris-consistent strategy that will cut the carbon intensity of products it sells in half by 2050.

Part of the disagreement comes to how a business can figure out whether it is following the Paris targets.

“There is no single path to Paris, and there is no single metric that measures Paris consistency,” chief executive Bernard Looney said during the shareholder meeting.

The company said that the Follow This resolution would force it to go back to the drawing board on strategy, targets and aims, and “would disrupt our business plans.”

Read more: Legal & General backs activist investor over Exxon climate concerns

However, Follow This said: “This is exactly what shareholders should request of BP by voting in favour of resolution 13: BP should go back to the drawing board and disrupt its current business plans which involve an increase in emissions.”

At the meeting Looney was also pushed by shareholders over why he did not include BP’s stake in Russia’s Rosneft as part of its net zero targets. Rosneft is a major oil producer, yet BP has totally excluded it from the climate goals.

Chairman Helge Lund said that BP only owns a 20 per cent stake in Rosneft, so cannot unilaterally make climate decisions. The controlling owner of Rosneft is the Russian government.

Looney added: “The world is going to be using oil and gas for some time”, adding that “Rosneft’s greenhouse gas intensity is lower than most major oil companies.”

Read more: Extinction Refinancing: Banks are the next generation of climate activists withholding funding for carbon-heavy businesses

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Categories: City of London

Exclusive: Medical cannabis company chaired by former Lord Mayor of London to float on LSE

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 15:30

Hellenic Dynamics, a medical cannabis cultivation business, plans to list on the London Stock Exchange next month, in a move likely to give the budding business a valuation of £50m.

The group will list on the main market of the London Stock Exchange via reverse takeover into a shell company.

“What we were looking for was a way of listing successfully, but also having enough oomph in our listing to accelerate our plans,” Hellenic Dynamics vice president and CEO Davinder Rai told City A.M.

Formed in early 2019, the company focuses on growing, exporting and selling THC-dominant dried cannabis flowers to markets like Germany, where there is demand for the products and the flowers can be legally imported.

“As soon as Kanabo listed in London we were getting phone calls from our lawyers saying, ‘look, London is open, London is going to be the place that a number of cannabis companies will end up listing, and you’d be in very good company if you listed in London,” Rai said.

“I’m hopeful we become the first European cultivator to get onto that exchange.”

Hellenic’s incoming chairman is Sir Anthony Joliffe, who Rai said has significant listed company experience, as well as being the former Lord Mayor of London.

FCA approval

In September, the Financial Conduct Authority allowed medicinal cannabis companies to list on the LSE, opening up the UK market to a growing sector already popular in North America.

Read more: Back of the net: Beckham-backed cannabis company scores soaring market debut

The regulator’s green light led to a flurry of activity, with companies like Kanabo Group and MGC Pharmaceuticals enjoying profitable market opens.

Hellenic Dynamics could be the next in line to take advantage of London’s new regulatory framework.

Cannabis

In the UK, cannabis products on the shelves that can be bought without prescription must contain no THC, or technically nothing more than 0.01 per cent.

However, cannabis medicine with more than 0.01 per cent THC is available via prescription from a licensed pharmacy, meaning Hellenic’s products can be precribed in the UK, but not sold on the shelves.

Read more: Will London’s budding cannabis market turn the EU green with envy?

According to Hellenic Dynamics, THC content of 18 per cent and above is the norm, and in Germany, the most requested cannabis products from doctors and pharmacists are those with THC of over 21 per cent. 

Hellenic Dynamics vice president and CEO Davinder Rai

The company grows its plants in a 200,000-square metre ex-military bunker in Northern Greece, but is headquartered in London.

The CEO quipped that he thought there was something “very romantic about growing cannabis in an ex-bunker.”

Read more: Exclusive: Purity Hemp CEO on the UK’s fast-growing medical cannabis market

Journey so far

Rai said he first became involved in the cannabis industry when his father, a kidney transplant patient, faced serious health problems. One of his transplanted kidneys had become cancerous and as a result Rai’s father was put on a heavy course of opioids for pain management.

“You could see that the pain treatment really wasn’t touching the sides,” the CEO said.

“My mother was beside herself, and it was around that time that I’d been reading so much about cancer and cannabis, that if there was a way that he could have accessed cannabis then, I guarantee to you that his recovery would have happened faster, because the side effects that he was having with the opioid medicine… Well I think he’d have rather had had the cancer.”

Rai said the UK issues more opioid prescriptions per capital than anywhere else in the world.

He said in North America, in states that have legalised medical cannabis, opioid prescriptions have fallen by about 30 per cent.

Read more: NBA star Chris Webber partners with asset manager to launch $100m cannabis impact fund

“I really think as a pain management medicine [cannabis] has more of the benefits with far less of the side effects,” he added.

Medical cannabis on a prescription basis is used for conditions including chronic pain, intractable chemotherapy-related nausea, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, tourette’s syndrome, substance use disorder, multiple sclerosis, IBS and spinal cord treatment.

The cannabis industry is calling for a further easing of restrictions on medical use of the drug, arguing that the sector is being held back from creating thousands of jobs as uptake remains low three years after being legalised in the UK.

Read more: City watchdog to consult on changing listing rules for SPACs

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Categories: City of London

Boris Johnson confirms working from home advice set to be scrapped on 21 June

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 12:57

Boris Johnson has confirmed the government will scrap its work from home advice on 21 June if its roadmap out of Covid restrictions goes to plan.

The Prime Minister told MPs today that he is confident office working will come back en-masse and that “I think it’ll come back remarkably quickly, but it does depend on keeping the virus down”.

When asked by a Tory backbencher if the work from home advice will be dropped on 21 June, Johnson said: “That is certainly our intention provided we stay on track, but I want to be sure that people will wait until we’re able to say that with more clarity later on, because we must be guided by what’s happening with the pandemic.

Read more: Investors sit on record levels of dry powder, says Silicon Valley Bank’s UK boss

“She’s so right about London and the dynamism of London and indeed any of our great cities that do depend on people having the confidence on going to work.”

The government’s roadmap lists 21 June as the target to lift most if not all Covid restrictions, however it was subject to reviews on several issues.

These included Michael Gove-led reviews into social distancing and the future of work.

Johnson’s comments today are the clearest indication yet that people will be encouraged to go back into their offices from this summer.

Read more: Goldman Sachs director quits after making millions from Dogecoin

Boost for bricks and mortar businesses

The news will be a boon to many bricks and mortar businesses in central London that have suffered from low footfall and intermittent lockdowns over the past 14 months.

Newly re-elected mayor of London Sadiq Khan made getting people back into central London his top priority as he got sworn in for a second term on Monday.

He launched the £6m Let’s Do London campaign in bid to kickstart the city’s economy by getting domestic tourists back to the capital.

Read more: Brexit hit: City of London suffers £2.3 trillion derivatives loss in a single month

This has so far included new artworks by world renowned British artist David Hockney on the Tube and is set to include a number of events and new advertisements.

“The work begins anew today to refresh and reignite our city and to kick-start our economy as London continues to reopen,” Khan said.

“This includes making jobs, jobs, jobs a top priority and banging the drum for London to attract the jobs, tourism and investment our city needs.”

Read more: King Khan: Mayor wants City Hall stay to last until 2040

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Categories: City of London

Scottish campaigners call on Boris to block separatist referendum plans

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 12:11

Scottish campaigners demanded Boris Johnson reject calls for a second independence referendum north of the border.

Scotland Matters, a pro-union group, drove an advertising van around Westminster yesterday arguing that despite the SNP’s victory in last week’s Scottish elections, there is no mandate for the referendum the party demands.

One message displayed pointed out that only 1.3m of Scotland’s 4.3m people voted for the SNP.

One of the other adverts displayed in Westminster this week

A spokesman for the group said: “Only a week ago polls were predicting a landslide for the SNP, and despite Nicola Sturgeon spinning the result this way, they failed to get an overall majority and are sustained in power by the Scottish Greens, a party whose manifesto trumpeted an accelerated shut down of our oil and gas industry, the very backbone of the SNP’s 2014 referendum campaign.”

Numerous figures in Westminster have begun talking openly about the possibility of another referendum in Scotland in the coming years.

The previous referendum in 2014 was called a “once in a generation” poll by both unionist and nationalist sides.

But the SNP’s leader Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the departure of the UK from the EU means a second vote is required.

Read more: Scotland election: SNP majority hopes on ‘a knife edge’ as Sturgeon pushes for second independence referendum

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Categories: City of London

Creating a new Corporate Auditor profession

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 04:25

ICAS has issued its Corporate Auditor report, setting out how Sir Donald Brydon’s recommendation to establish a Corporate Auditor profession could be implemented in practice.

ICAS notes with interest the intention of BEIS, as proposed in its consultation paper ‘Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance’ (March 2021), to take forward the recommendation by Sir Donald Brydon (December 2019) to establish a separate Corporate Auditor profession. ICAS recognised this was a far-reaching proposal which merited further work and therefore established a working group in 2020 that focused on how it could be implemented. The working group included senior members of the audit profession from large firms along with representatives from industry and academia.

The sequencing of actions envisaged in the working group’s paper – A roadmap to the Corporate Auditor profession –  is different in some respects to the proposals in the government’s consultation paper. However, the working group considers the end result would be the same: a Corporate Auditing profession that produces high-quality audit and assurance of both financial and non-financial information, and that this would be an attractive career choice for exceptional talent in the years to come.

The approach suggested by ICAS seeks to adopt the build back better mantra and to leverage and further enhance the architecture that the UK professional accountancy bodies already have in place, rather than seeking to establish a separate professional body from the outset. Establishing a new profession is not an easy task and certainly not one that can be achieved overnight. Additionally, most successful projects need to be broken into key stages. ICAS therefore sets out a three-phase approach which it believes provides a clear roadmap to enable Sir Donald’s recommendation to be implemented in practice.

Phase 1 – Improving the current financial statement auditor regime

Phase 1 focuses on the current financial statements’ auditor and suggests improvements that could be made to the existing framework to enhance audit quality and reputation of, and trust in, auditors of financial statements. This includes the introduction of a new advanced assessment of audit skills and regular checks of competence post-qualification.

Phase 2 – Providing assurance qualification(s) to non-financial statement auditors

Phase 2 focuses on how to equip non-financial statement subject matter experts who would wish to carry out assurance work with applicable skills in assurance and related matters to enable them to undertake assurance engagements in their respective areas of expertise. This would ensure that they are equipped to carry out such assurance work in accordance with an internationally recognised assurance framework as well as (potentially) to be better able to assist in an audit of financial statements.

This phase could be accomplished by the extension of the education, qualification and regulation of the current accountancy professional bodies to embrace the wider remit of a Corporate Auditor.

Phase 3 – The Corporate Auditor professional body

Finally, phase 3, in time and if required or desired, would be to establish a new Corporate Auditor professional body that educates and qualifies those subject matter experts who wish to carry out assurance work in their areas of expertise. Phases 1 and 2 need not be undertaken sequentially and in fact there would be considerable benefit if they were to commence at the same time.

As a firm supporter of principles not rules, ICAS also advocates that the core principles for a Corporate Auditing profession should be:

  • Auditing/assurance wherever applied is a specialist activity requiring high standards and skills consistently applied.
  • Such skills can and should be acquired through a formal training programme provided by a recognised expert education establishment accompanied by appropriate practical experience.
  • Successful completion of formal training in audit/assurance skills and processes would be attested by formal assessment and lead to the award of a new professional qualification of “Corporate Auditor” (Caud).
  • The Caud qualification will be THE senior specialist qualification in audit that is allied to core subject matter skills such as: financial reporting, cyber security, environmental information and others. To qualify for work in the audit and assurance of specialist areas will require core skills in these areas in “addition to” the Caud qualification; the Caud qualification alone will not suffice.
  • All Corporate Auditors will be subject to appropriate ethical and independence requirements.
  • A Caud qualification will, once acquired, require continuous professional development (CPD) to ensure maintenance of skills and professional competence.
  • The Caud qualification can, in the first instance, emanate from within the existing professional bodies that offer financial audit qualifications though may well in time sit within a new professional body.

The BEIS consultation closes on 8 July. ICAS will watch with interest how this proposal develops. When building a house one needs to build upon strong foundations; the proposed ICAS roadmap most certainly adopts that approach.

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Categories: City of London

As economies reopen, inflation fears return with a vengeance

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 04:15

London’s FTSE 100 is on course for its worst day in three weeks this afternoon amid inflation concerns.

Inflation has never really been away. It’s been a central theme that has dominated conversations among economists, analysts and bankers over the past few months, and more specifically, the possibility that it is about to take off.

Read more: FTSE 100 drops 2.3 per cent and US stocks tumble on inflation fears

There are several strands to these concerns, particularly with regards to the current market conditions across the pond, acording to City-based Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics,

Firstly, there are fears that a combination of persistently large government budget deficits, alongside an institutional softening of attitudes within the world’s major central banks, will pave the way to an era of much higher inflation which lasts for years, if not decades.

“There is something to this, although the risks vary between countries and comparisons with the inflation of the 1970s are generally overdone,” Shearing told City A.M. this afternoon.

A more immediate concern, however, is that the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions will unleash a surge in demand that firms will struggle to meet, thus putting upward pressure on prices and generating a burst of inflation.

Read more: UK PMIs: Service sector grew at fastest rate since 2013 in April

In this regard, the April PMI surveys, which were released last week, may have provided a taste of what is to come.

“A common theme across all countries and regions was a lengthening of supplier delivery times and a rise in input and output price balances. Add in continued increases in global commodity prices, and all the ingredients for a rise in inflation are there,” Shearing explained.

“Before the pandemic, monthly CPI releases tended to pass without much comment. Now they will be scoured for any evidence of a post-pandemic jump in inflation,” he added.

But what scenarios could unfold in the next few months? Shearing said three things stand out.

Read more: UK PMIs: Manufacturing growth hits 27-year high in April

Opening up inflation 

The first issue markets will closely whatch is evidence of what might be termed ‘opening up’ inflation.

This is likely to appear in goods and services for which there is a surge in demand as restrictions are lifted such as hotels, restaurants, airfares and clothing.

“The extent of pent-up demand in these areas means that, even in the best of times, supply might struggle to keep pace. But in some areas, restaurants, for example, continuing social-distancing measures will compound the demand and supply imbalance,” Shearing noted.

Opening up disinflation

The second issue is the risk of ‘opening up” disinflation. Some goods, including IT equipment and groceries, saw sharp increases in demand and prices as people were forced to stay at home.

Basically, these components should see the reverse of ‘reopening inflation’, meaning that price pressures should ease as demand starts to level off.

Read more: Inflation is knocking at the door

“In some cases, however, the severe supply shortages that were created by a surge in demand during the pandemic are likely to linger for many months and limit the extent of any disinflationary pressure,” Shearing said.

“This is particularly true of consumer electronics,” he added.

Commodities-related inflation

Finally, markets will increasingly look out for any evidence that points towards ‘commodities-related inflation’.

For example, oil prices have recovered from their slump at the start of the pandemic and metal and grain prices have surged far above pre-pandemic levels.

“These developments are already boosting inflation and will continue to do so in the near term,” Shearing shared.

“The extent to which they exert further upward pressure on inflation beyond the next six months or so will depend on whether the increase in commodity prices is sustained,” he noted.

Read more: Oil prices rise after critical US pipeline hit by cyber attack

Importantly, since inflation measures the change in prices from a year ago, Shearing stressed that is the pace of any future increase that matter.

“Commodity prices have to continue to increase at their current pace in order for the impact on inflation to be sustained. If they level out – never mind fall back, as I expect – the effect on inflation will move from significant to neutral in 2022,” he explained.

More complex calculations

The task of tracking these different shifts is complicated by the effect the pandemic’s disruptions have had on calculating inflation data.

“On a practical level, statistics offices have faced the problem of having to measure prices when many items are simply not available for purchase due to lockdowns,” Shearing said.

Read more: The pandemic is distorting forecasters’ economic data, argues chief economist

They also need to account for shifts in the timing of seasonal sales caused by the pandemic, he pointed out. And they must grapple with a shift in consumption habits due to lockdowns which then needs to be reflected in the weights within inflation baskets.

“All of this means that ‘measured’ inflation, which is to say the monthly figure reported by statistics offices, may differ from the true rate of inflation on the ground,” he warned.

Uncomfortable reading

Ultimately, Shearing said that, all things considered, there is much greater scope for a rebound in inflation in the US than in Europe or Japan.

“This is due in part to distortions caused by measurement issues,” he said.

The fact that US states imposed relatively light-touch lockdowns meant that the statisticians were better able to capture the full extent of price falls in categories most affected by pandemic-related restrictions, such as airfares.

In contrast, their counterparts in Europe were forced to impute prices for items that could no longer be purchased.

Read more: Post-Brexit law change: Cashback without purchase to be allowed across UK

“This meant that measured prices for these items fell in the US but didn’t in Europe, meaning there is now much greater scope for measured inflation in the US to rebound as restrictions are lifted,” Shearing pointed out.

But the scale of fiscal stimulus in the US also makes it more likely that a rebound in ‘reported’ inflation does not prove “as transitory” as many expect, including members of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

Instead, it seems more likely that supply fails to keep pace with demand, thus keeping core inflation elevated over the next couple of years.

“US inflation data will make for increasingly uncomfortable reading over the coming months. If that’s the case it will test the Fed’s commitment to keeping policy support in place,” Shearing concluded.

Read more: Exclusive: The City’s hunger for success and willingness to push boundaries is infectious, says tech guru

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Categories: City of London

City of London suffers Brexit loss of £2.3 trillion to New York

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 20:08

The City of London suffered a loss of £2.3 trillion in a single month in its lucrative derivatives trading market, with Wall Street trading platforms the ones that benefitted.

U.S. swap-execution facilities pulled in more trades across euros, pounds and dollars in March while London experienced an exodus compared to last July, while venues in the European Union also gained, according to an estimate by Deloitte and IHS Markit, reported by Bloomberg today.

Read more: Goldman Sachs director quits after making millions from Dogecoin

Using the month of July to mark pre-Brexit activity, research shows that the percentage of euro-based swaps carried out on venues hosted by British platforms has dropped from 40 per cent in July to just 10 per cent in March, pointing to Brexit as a culprit. 

Andrew Bailey warning

The figures come only a few months after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey warned that the EU would likely try to snatch away trillions of pounds of derivatives clearing from London’s major clearing houses in a series of moves that could threaten financial stability. 

Since the UK left the European Union, the latter has blocked firms based inside the borders of the EU, from using London derivatives platforms –  pushing most into the U.S. so they can continue to trade.

Rule change

Only weeks ago, the UK said that Britain will scrap a rule inherited from the European Union that aimed to open the listed derivatives market to more competition, saying it was not appropriate to implement alone. 

Read more: BoE boss warns of EU move to take trillions of pounds of derivatives clearing away from the City

“We are only at the beginning of the post-Brexit story”, the head of Deloitte’s EMEA Centre for Regulatory Strategy, David Strachan, said.

“Brexit fragmentation has increased costs across banks’ European operations, at a time when the economic environment in Europe is already challenging,” he added.

“Whilst some capital markets activity has clearly migrated from the UK to the EU, there is no doubt that the UK remains the largest capital markets hub in Europe,” Strachan noted.

Read more: Exclusive: Quarter of UK businesses to close or downsize offices as UK embraces hybrid working

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Categories: City of London

Hedge fund manager turned Mayor refuses to quit following mass resignations

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 17:30

The independent elected mayor of Middlesbrough has denied wrongdoing after senior figures on the council stepped down and called on him to resign.

Andy Preston’s deputy and four senior Independent councillors on his executive wrote an open letter in which they made a series of allegations about his conduct and said they could no longer work for him.

They made claims about Preston’s “poor behaviour” and said they have lost confidence in his leadership, causing them to resign en masse.

His deputy Antony High wrote on Facebook: “For the last 24 months I have worked tirelessly to address and turn around a number of critical areas of delivery for our Middlesbrough. However, I can no longer be associated with Andy Preston professionally or politically.”

But Preston has hit back, saying the accusations were untrue, and he refused to stand down.

Former hedge fund manager

Preston, a former hedge fund manager who was elected to the post in 2019, said in a statement: “Ultimately, if anyone believes I’ve done wrong, they should go through the appropriate channels and put in an official complaint to the council, rather than making defamatory public remarks.

“Whatever I do, it’s always about putting Middlesbrough and its people first.”

He added: “If the public aren’t happy with the job I’m doing, they’ll have an opportunity to vote me out at the election in two years’ time.”

Read more: Bitter clash at Astrazeneca as 40 per cent of shareholders reject CEO pay package

“Any attempt to force me to go before then is both undemocratic and insulting to those who voted for me or anyone else at the election.”

He claimed his opponents did not like his methods, saying: “Yet again, this is about those who don’t like the fact that I’m a very different mayor than any other.

“I do things differently, I challenge the status quo and I clearly upset a few people along the way who’d like things to stay just how they are. Clearly some people want me to resign. But I’ve got bad news for them. I won’t,” he said.

In November, Preston also refused to resign after an allegation was made that he had an image of a naked woman on his laptop and said he was the victim of a “dirty tricks” campaign.

Read more: Majority of Rio Tinto investors revolt over former chief’s pay due to Juukan Gorge destruction

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Categories: City of London

JP Morgan’s UK staff set to return to office from next month

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 15:12

JP Morgan has told its UK staff that more of them will return to the office from next month as restrictions start to ease. 

The American bank told staff to prepare for a “consistent schedule” which combines both remote and office working but offices will operate at maximum 50 per cent of capacity, according to a memo seen by Financial News. 

More employees are set to return to its London and Bournemouth sites from 21 June, but the timetable for its Glasgow and Edinburgh offices may vary. A vaccination will not be required to return to the office.

Read more: Exclusive: Quarter of UK businesses to close or downsize offices as UK embraces hybrid working

On Monday Boris Johnson announced England would continue with its planned easing of lockdown restrictions from 17 May, which will see people allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months. 

Very little guidance was given on working from home however, and for how long that should continue when restrictions ease from 21 June. However JP Morgan and its US peers are starting to move ahead with plans to return to the office next month. 

Goldman Sachs has told its US employees to be prepared to work from offices from 14 June, while UK staff will return the following week.

Read more: No full-time return to the office for over a million British workers

European banks, which have not fared as well as the large US banks during the pandemic, have embraced more of a hybrid approach.

HSBC plans to cut office space by up to 40 per cent and has scrapped its entire executive floor at its Canary Wharf headquarters. It will instead be used for client meeting rooms and collaborative space, leaving top executives to hot desk. 

Societe Generale has told staff they can work remotely for up to three days a week, while Barclays boss Jes Staley has previously indicated he will avoid a strict mandate on time at the office. 

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Categories: City of London

EU demands 120m AstraZeneca jabs by end of June as second legal case begins

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 13:34

The European Union wants AstraZeneca to deliver at least 120m vaccine doses by the end of June, a lawyer representing the EU said today.

EU lawyer Rafael Jafferali spoke in a Belgian court as proceedings started in the second legal case against AstraZeneca over delayed supplies.

The pharma firm had originally agreed to deliver the EU 300m doses by the end of June but has so far delivered only 50m.

Officials close to the case said the lawsuit would allow the EU to seek possible financial penalties.

The level of compensation for what the EU deems a breach of contract by AstraZeneca will be decided at a later stage.

Read more: UK engages in Covid vaccine waiver discussions with the US and WTO

An AstraZeneca lawyer complained in court that the EU’s executive had launched a second case given that one had already been opened.

Jafferali said the firm should deliver 120m doses by the end of next month in the first formal request made so far by Brussels on the exact volume it wants to receive.

The bloc hopes to collect the remainder of the contracted 300m doses by September.

It was agreed at today’s proceedings that the first hearing in the new case would be on 24 September.

Another hearing has already been set for 26 May on the first legal case in which the EU is seeking an immediate acceleration in deliveries, with a verdict expected before the end of June.

Read more: Half of British workers expect bosses to enforce mandatory jabs, survey shows

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Categories: City of London

Extinction Rebellion co-founder arrested after attacks on Canary Wharf bank

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 09:51

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook was arrested at her home this morning for conspiracy to cause criminal damage and fraud after her group attacked banks in Canary Wharf.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion smashed the window frontage of HSBC and Barclays last month.

They have also targeted Lloyd’s of London, where they dumped fake coal outside the front of the building as part of a campaign against inuring fossil fuel mining activities. The group have called their actions “Money Rebellion”.

“Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police at her home in Stroud at around 5:30am this morning for conspiracy to cause criminal damage and fraud in relation to Money Rebellion’s debt disobedience,” a spokeswoman for the group said.

Bradbrook, 49, who has a PhD in molecular biophysics, says Britain and other countries are acting too slowly to stop climate change and that the Western financial system is fuelling the abuse of the planet.

Read more: BNP Paribas urges investors to pressure politicians on climate rules

“Extinction Rebellion are entitled to their view on capitalism and climate change, but we would ask that in expressing that view they stop short of behaviour which involves criminal damage to our facilities and puts people’s safety at risk,” a Barclays spokesperson told City A.M. at the time.

Scrutiny on UK financial institutions is increasing ahead of the United Nations COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow later this year. 

Barclays remains Europe’s biggest financier of fossil fuels and the seventh largest in the world, financing just over $118bn to the coal, oil and gas sectors in the four years since the Paris Agreement.

Read more: HSBC to trial ‘Zoom-free Fridays’ to combat fatigue

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Categories: City of London

Half of British workers expect bosses to enforce mandatory jabs, survey shows

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 08:57

Half of Britain’s workers expect their bosses to demand a vaccine passport before they can return to the workplace, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by BrightHR, studied 5,000 British workers across various sectors.

It found that just 17 per cent of employees have had a conversation about their companies’ policy on vaccines, but over half said they expect it will be mandatory.

Read more: South Africa warns of ‘vaccine apartheid’ if rich countries hog jabs

‘Too controlling’

A fifth of Brits admit they would fear for their health if their employers refused to make the vaccine mandatory for staff.

However, opinions on the introduction of mandatory jabs are split. While third of workers think it would be reckless of their employer not to introduce a policy, almost two thirds say it is too controlling for companies to introduce such measures.

The hospitality sector leads the charge in agreeing mandatory vaccines are a good idea, with 44 per cent of workers backing the move. Office workers are less keen, with only 24 per cent encouraging the policy.

Almost half of those surveyed voiced concerns that creating a ‘jabs for jobs’ policy would put unnecessary pressure on people who did not wish to be vaccinated.

Over a third said they would worry about people who were not safe to have the jab pushing to get one to protect their income.

Read more: Queen’s Speech: Boris Johnson promises post-Covid skills boost

Concerns over side effects

Of the 1,000 business decision makers polled, almost half said they have talked about their views on making vaccines mandatory and that ‘most staff agree with them’.

According to the research, one in 10 do not plan on taking up the vaccine due to concerns about side effects.

Meanwhile, two thirds of workers are worried about being forced to take time off if they become ill from the vaccine.

This is of particular concern for hospitality workers, many of whom have only just started to return to work.

Read more: FTSE 100 tracks worst day in three weeks as inflation fears rattle markets

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Categories: City of London

Heathrow calls for green list expansion as passenger numbers sink by 92 per cent

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 06:31

Heathrow Airport has called for an expansion to the travel green list in the next government review in three weeks’ time, including the United States, to boost trade and reunite friends and family.

The number of passengers passing through Heathrow Airport was down by 92.1 per cent in April, compared to pre-pandemic figures.

After the worst ever financial year for aviation ended in March, there were little signs of improvement in April, with 6.2 million passengers lost during the month.

For the first four months of 2021, passenger numbers are down 85.1 per cent.

Read more: Morrisons online sales continue to soar despite lockdown easing

While Heathrow has welcomed the lifting of the travel ban from 17 May, it says the green list is “overly cautious, given the other controls in place on passengers travelling from low-risk countries”.

Brits will only be permitted to travel to 12 countries, including Portugal and Israel, from next week.

Analysts recently warned that British Airways’ fortunes are tied to the lucrative London to New York route reopening.

Heathrow said that the government should help people plan ahead by publishing an expected list of additional green list countries, to prevent high prices for last minute bookings.

John Holland-Kay, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said: “The government’s green list is very welcome, but they need to expand it massively in the next few weeks to include other low risk markets such as the United States, and remove the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take two expensive PCR tests. 

“Border Force’s claims that “long queues in immigration are inevitable” smack of complacency – they are completely avoidable if ministers ensure that all desks are staffed at peak times.”

Read more: Pret a Manger plots Tesco store launch in bid to shake off City image

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Categories: City of London

90 per cent of businesses may replace staff who struggle to work from home

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 20:46

As businesses are gradually planning for a ‘new normal’ post-Covid, this is likely to impact recruitment decisions over the next 12 months.

The vast majority of companies – namely 90 percent – that was surveyed by expenses firm Expense On Demand indicated that they are likely to replace staff who were unable or struggled to work remotely during the pandemic.

Read more: Exclusive: four out of five on furlough consider switching to jobs they are overqualified for

Many of these firms are looking to automate more systems to ensure a seamless transition between remote and office-based working and need employees that mirror this new working model.

In fact, 84 per cent of companies stated they are looking at ways of reducing clerical and admin roles by implementing more automated processes.

Read more: Number of Brits on furlough falls by 1m as lockdown eases

New roles

The survey did offer some positive news as nearly all, about 95 per cent, of businesses surveyed said they would be recruiting for new roles in 2021 as the economy begins to recover and the vaccination efforts allows the country to open back up.

“The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the world economy and many businesses are putting robust plans in place to ensure they can minimise impact on any future epidemics and this is clearly being reflected in new recruitment strategies around the globe,” said Sunil Nigam, founder at ExpenseOnDemand.

“The demanded for more automated processes reflects the increased demand for our services in the last year,” he shared with City A.M.

Read more: The office is not dead – far from it, say City insiders

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Categories: City of London

Hospitals across India report Covid-19 patients with rare deadly black fungus that decays brains and lungs

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 19:05

Dozens of hospitals across India have started to report cases of Coronavirus patients being hit by a rare black fungus which has a mortality rate of about 50 per cent.

A number of severely ill Covid-19 patients are showing symptoms of Mucormycosis, an extremely rare fungal infection, which causes vital organs to rot, including the brain, lungs and sinuses.

According to a report earlier today in The Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest newspapers, the country’s governmental Council of Medical Research warned doctors in recent days to look out for symptoms, such as blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, toothache and loosening of teeth, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine not strong enough to resist South African Covid variant: study

The fungus is usually found in decaying fruits and vegetables and certain soils, often at markets and in agricultural settings.

Surge since India’s Covid-19 crisis

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Mucormycosis was close to non-existent, with only a few known cases reported every year.

However, since Covid-19 spiralled out of control in India last month, hospitals and clinics have started to report multiple cases a day, according to The Indian Express newspaper today.

Some doctors have had to remove infected jaw bones, noses and eyes in order to save patients, namely to prevent the mucor from spreading to the brain.

Read more: Covid strain that contains 18 mutations is more deadly and infectious, researchers warn

“Mucormycosis is now playing absolute havoc. We are seeing four to five new patients every day and have around 35 patients still admitted,” Dr Prashant Rahate, the chairman of Seven Star Hospital in the city of Nagpur, told The Telegraph today.

The hospital has reportedly treated more black fungus patients than any other clinic in India.

According to data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, black fungus has a mortality rate of around 50 per cent. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improve survival chances.

Read more: Indian Covid mutation declared ‘variant of concern’ over fears of rapid spread

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Categories: City of London

New: Zero Covid-19 deaths registered in England today

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 15:56

The daily update from Public Health England on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed there was not a single virus death registered in England today.

That figure has fallen from a four-figure daily death toll at the height of the second wave.

Read more: Hugging to be allowed soon as UK on track for lockdown easing

There were four deaths within 28 days of a Covid-19 diagnosis recorded in the UK as a whole.

Death figures have fallen significantly in the last few weeks as the effect of an extended lockdown and the rollout of several vaccines has changed the path of the pandemic.

Monday is often the day with the lowest number of deaths recorded due to a lag from weekend data, but the figure remains a milestone.

Deaths did not fall to zero during the summer of 2020.

Boris Johnson is due to announce a further loosening of lockdown restrictions in a 5pm press conference.

This will include the opening of indoor hospitality spaces in England, as well as loosening restrictions on physical contact.

Read more: Boris Johnson to outline ‘levelling up’ plans in Queen’s Speech tomorrow

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Categories: City of London

King Khan: Mayor wants City Hall stay to last until 2040

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 15:41

Sadiq Khan has said he hopes to be Mayor of London in 2040 after sweeping to victory in the recent mayoral election. 

Earlier today Khan said he hopes to be in his current position when the 2036 or 2040 Olympics take place, after recently pledging to launch an “exploratory committee” to look at a potential bid. 

When asked if this term would be his last he told LBC: “Listen I’ve said this is the best job in politics. I’m going to carry on in this job as long as Londoners will lend me their vote.” 

Read more: Sadiq Khan unveils huge London tourism campaign after reelection

He later added: “Well, I’m hoping to get to the 2036 or 2040 Olympics, and I want to be the Mayor that is here when that is taking place.” 

Over the weekend, the incumbent Mayor won with 1,206,034 total votes to Tory challenger Shaun Bailey’s 977,601 votes. 

In his victory speech, Khan said that he would “strain every sinew” to “build a better and brighter future for London after the dark days of the pandemic and to create a greener, fairer and safer city for Londoners”.

Read more: ‘I’m somebody who enjoys winning’: Sadiq Khan plots out a second mayoral term

“I’ll always be a mayor for all Londoners – working to improve the lives of every single person in this city,” he said.

He pledged to launch the “biggest domestic tourism campaign the capital has ever seen” in a speech this morning.

The domestic tourism push, which is being created in partnership with London’s hospitality, culture and retail industries, will include a programme of one-off events with some of the capital’s best-known cultural institutions and tourism attractions.

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Categories: City of London