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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs

Category : Business

While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted up

On approaching his 60th birthday this year, long-serving Tullow Oil boss Aidan Heavey told staff he felt “like two 30-year-olds”. A handful of recent shock departures by 50-something chief executives at European blue chip companies – none of them under any obvious pressure to quit – suggest some of his peers either lack that vigour, or want to channel it elsewhere.

Peter Voser is giving up one of the world’s most challenging chief executive roles at Royal Dutch Shell next year, before his 55th birthday, in pursuit of a “lifestyle change”. Swiss engineering group ABB’s 55-year-old boss Joe Hogan is also going, for “private reasons”. Pierre-Olivier Beckers, 53, is walking out on Belgian retailer Delhaize, and Paul Walsh, 57, is waving goodbye to drinks multinational Diageo. All four are about average European CEO age.

While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted up in recent years, and not just because of the tough economic times.

“The reality is it’s gruelling. It’s really tough, and there comes a point where you don’t want to do it any more,” said Ian Butcher, who headhunts board-level and senior executives for MWM Consulting.

“The quarterly reporting, the governance, the regulatory aspects, it just becomes very wearing – the level of scrutiny, the pace at which things are moving, the short-term nature of how people look at any given situation. Even over the past five years these things have made CEO a tougher position to hold, and the travel that people have to undertake in these jobs – it’s just something they run out of steam on.”

Some recent early retirees, while still well short of traditional retirement age, also got to the top spot early. “They’re still in their early fifties, with energy and a desire to do something, but they want to do something different, something quite significantly different sometimes,” says Butcher.

Voser fits that bill. He has no plans to collect well-paid chairmanships and non-executive directorships, as many ex-CEOs have done in the past.

Former Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy has also resisted that gravy train since he left two years ago.

As for the early starters, executive search industry professionals point at people like Andrew Witty, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, who took on the job aged 44 in 2008 and would have to stay in harness for another decade to reach 60 in the role.

Blue-chip bosses as young as Witty are still rare, but over a quarter of Europe’s current crop have less than two years in the job, and more than half have less than four, according to data from executive search specialists BoardEx.

The BoardEx data, collected for Reuters from 238 companies in the main stock indexes of Germany, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, puts the median CEO age at 55. The longest serving of them is Martin Gilbert of the British fund Aberdeen Asset Management. Though younger, at 57, Gilbert pips the 28.3-year tenure of Tullow’s double 30-year-old Heavey, with 29.8 years at the helm.

There are 17 top European CEOs who have been in the job for less than six months, and the youngest of the 225 in the group for whom ages were available is Vitaly Nesis, 37, who runs Polymetal International, the London-listed Russian precious metals miner.

While the recent spate of quitters are looking for something else to do, there are still some who appear to want nothing but to stay.

In the BoardEx group there are four over 70, and the oldest by eight years is Albert Frère, CEO of Group Bruxelles Lambert. Perhaps some linger on for fear that the pension pot is still a little light. Frere will have put such qualms behind him long ago. At 87, he is Belgium’s richest man.

Ocado shares lose 8% on worries about Waitrose contract

Category : Business

Waitrose lawyers looking at deal details after Ocado looking at tie-up with Morrisons

Ocado has dropped 8% on concerns about the effect of its proposed tie-up with Morrisons on its existing deal with Waitrose.

As the Guardian reported on Friday, lawyers for Waitrose are poring over its deal with Ocado to see if any move by the online grocer to help Morrisons set up a website would constitute breach of contract.

The news followed a protest vote by shareholders at Ocado’s annual meeting on Friday over board pay packages, including a 30% salary rise for chief executive Tim Steiner.

Ocado’s shares – which have been up sharply in recent days in antipation of the Morrisons deal – are currently down 18.2p at 206.4p. Analyst Clive Black at Shore Capital repeated his sell recommendation, saying:

The business seems to be evolving from an aspiration to be a proprietary retailer into a landlord of its two customer fulfilment centres and licensee of its kit to third parties. Whilst a notable potential change in strategy, it could be argued that it signals an admission of defeat by Ocado; so the introduction of Plan B.

We believe that Ocado is playing with fire in speaking to another British supermarket group, as it tries to utilise its substantially greater fulfilment capacity, because the group’s umbilical cord to Waitrose may be cut sooner than we anticipated and Ocado cannot exist as a commercial entity without Waitrose in our view.

Whilst Ocado states that any agreement with Morrison’s would not be a conflict with Waitrose, we see the mood of [Waitrose chief executive Mark Price] as being deadly serious. As such, Ocado may have irreparably polluted a commercial relationship upon which it is dependent and it must lead to a greater chance of a break in 2017 in our view. Additionally, Waitrose’s understandably forthright stance means that the prospect of Morrison and Waitrose brands simultaneously utilising Ocado’s fulfilment centres and vans is low. As such, the extent of a tie-up between Morrison and Ocado needs to be pencilled down, along with it the financial extent.

The strong appreciation of Ocado’s shares makes the stock more attractive for investors to bank gains and effectively short to our minds. Aside from now uber-stratospheric valuation multiples, the stock does not offer the prospect of a dividend anytime soon either, unlike all of its UK listed food retailers. Whilst we pride ourselves on taking reasonably long-term and strategic views of companies and industries, the time horizon for Ocado to be meaningfully profitable so that it pays a dividend to its shareholders is very extended; in fact it probably remains decades away, if ever. Now, many investors commendably operate on multi-decade timescales, but again, we believe that this is not applicable in Ocado’s case because it is selling multi-temperature foodstuffs where margin expansion potential is structurally low.

Rio’s Maracana stadium ‘privatised’

Category : Business, World News

Three private companies win the right to manage Brazil’s most famous football stadium, which was revamped by the government at a high cost.

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Two firms quit fracking in Poland

Category : World News

Two North American companies, Talisman Energy and Marathon, have quit fracking for shale gas in Poland, after disappointing drilling results.

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20 biggest stock gainers

Category : Business, Stocks

Investors in these Fortune 500 companies took big risks and saw even bigger rewards in 2012.

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CrunchFund’s future

Category : Business

With nearly 100 portfolio companies and just two remaining partners, what is the future of Michael Arrington’s venture capital effort?

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Tax chief wants more transparency

Category : World News

Leading UK tax expert John Dixon warns companies that they can no longer ignore public unease about tax avoidance.

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Smoking: the government’s cowardly surrender to the tobacco lobby | Observer editorial

Category : Business

Cigarette manufacturers won a reprieve that will endanger more lives

It has been a big week for tobacco. The success of Ukip, a party keen to repeal the ban on smoking in pubs, has given cigarette companies an influential ally, one that has being doing sterling work seeking EU subsidies for tobacco growers.

Then came the momentous decision to drop plans that would have forced cigarette companies to sell their products in plain packs, something that even the powerful tobacco lobby must have thought out of its reach a few months ago.

But a relentless lobbying campaign that saw the industry channel money to spurious front groups to attack the plan has paid dividends. Stitching together a coalition that included newsagents, ex-police chiefs, retailers and brand organisations, not to mention hundreds of thousands of the public who signed a petition, the lobby strived to show the plan was unwanted and unworkable. Dire warnings were made of small shops going to the wall and thousands of jobs going abroad. The Treasury was warned that plain packs would be easy to copy, providing a major fillip to the counterfeit (untaxed) cigarette manufacturers.

Similar arguments were made in Australia by a big tobacco-funded campaign masterminded by a lobbying firm run by David Cameron’s election guru, Lynton Crosby. But Australia’s government introduced plain packaging last December. So far, there is no evidence that the dire predictions made by the tobacco lobby have been realised.

The tobacco industry argues that there is no evidence that plain packs discourage young people from starting to smoke. But inspection of tobacco industry documents released as a result of lawsuits reveals that the industry has been preparing for the battle for at least a quarter of a century. It will deny it, but the tobacco industry understands how brands lure in young smokers. It needs this new generation to replace the older one that it is killing. The UK government has a mandate to improve the health of its citizens. Last week, it failed them.

There’s nothing wrong with low-carbon policy that strong government can’t fix

Category : Business

Apocalyptic predictions are circulating about the size of electricity bills in 2030 if the move to green power goes ahead. There is no need for them to come true

The UK’s energy policy is not “plausible” and a “crisis” is inevitable. That is the view of Peter Atherton, a respected utilities analyst who works for Liberum Capital, an investment bank in the City.

Atherton is convinced that successive UK governments have grossly underestimated the engineering, financial and economic challenges posed by the planned move from a high-carbon electricity sector to a low-carbon one.

He believes that the cost of switching from largely coal- and gas-fired power stations to a mix of gas-, wind- and nuclear-generated electricity will cost more than £160bn by 2020 and more than £375bn 10 years later. He warns that it means “electricity bills rising by at least 30% by 2020 and 100% by 2030 in real terms.”

That would be political dynamite and Atherton knows it. He predicts that there will be three groups of “casualties”: the government, consumers and investors.

This apocalyptic scenario – contained in an investment note issued last week – will warm the hearts of many in the City (and possibly some in the Treasury) who believe the green agenda is a giant waste of money.

It will alarm the wider community who accept that climate change must be tackled, and those who believe a “carbon bubble” is developing around fossil fuel companies whose assets are overvalued in a world turning away from coal and oil.

And it is clearly at odds with the ideas of ministers such as Ed Davey, the energy secretary, whose Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) calculated last month that “household dual fuel bills are estimated to be on average 11% (or £166) less in 2020 than they would be without policies being pursued.” Those figures do, however, involve some heroic assumptions about energy-efficiency measures being

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Mobile networks see bright future for electronic wallet

Category : Business

Britain’s big three mobile networks have united on a project to make debit cards of our smartphones. And they’re even planning to outsmart Google

There is a scene in the 2002 film Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks into a clothes store and a computer scans his eyes. “Hello Mr Yakamoto, welcome back to the Gap,” chirrups a sales assistant in hologram form. “How’d those assorted tank tops work out for you?”

Brands from Nokia to Bulgari collaborated in the Steven Spielberg film to paint a picture of what a shopping trip might look like in 2054. But we may not have to wait that long – science fiction could become reality later this year.

In the real world, though, individual shoppers will be identified not by iris scans, but by the portable devices in our pockets. The UK’s three largest mobile phone networks, EE, Vodafone and O2, have joined forces to turn smartphones into virtual wallets that know who we are, where we are and what we buy.

“Imagine: you are walking past Topshop and an alert pops up on your phone offering you a discount in store today,” says David Sear. The new chief executive of Weve, the company set up by the networks to manage the mobile wallet project, is giving his first interview.

You’d then walk into the store, pick out a purchase, scan the barcode, and pay by tapping your phone on an Oyster-card-style reader, rather than at the till.

“It is a bit of joy,” claims Sear. Bargain lovers would agree; others might find it intrusive. To those standing in line to pay, it could seem downright rude.

The idea is not a new one, but despite the efforts of companies ranging from Google to Barclays it has yet to gain traction with consumers. Google Wallet, launched in the US in 2011, has not made it to these shores. But Weve says 15 million mobile phone customers have already opted in to its service.

At the moment, those users receive nothing more than text messages alerting them to offers. But within months, Weve says it will have opened its database, allowing companies that buy advertising slots on web pages access to data ranging from users’ physical location to the websites they visit on their phones.

Before the end of the year, Sear hopes to have created an app capable of holding dozens of virtual loyalty cards, and to have recruited its first brand. Payment mechanisms will follow.

“My background is in disruption,” says Sear, who has made his career with payments firms that challenged the big banks. An early venture used data to help retailers spot cheques that would bounce. At online transactions firm WorldPay he helped shoppers in one country buy goods in their own currency from sellers abroad.

“I succeeded with the cheque business because we enabled people to do things at the point of sale which they couldn’t do before,” says Sear. “I have 17 loyalty cards sitting in my sock drawer because I can’t be bothered to carry them all around. I think there’s a real opportunity to create one place where you might hold competing loyalty mechanisms.”

But why should an unwieldy coalition of mobile phone firms, more used to competing than collaborating, succeed where a digital native like Google has so far come unstuck?

“People in the loyalty industry know what Google wants: their data. One of the large US supermarket chief executives said the thing he didn’t want to do was give Google his data. Whatever we do, it has to be a coalition of the willing.”

Weve claims it will share details of every purchase with the relevant loyalty card issuer. The system will also ask mobile phone customers to opt in, rather than acting like Facebook and Google and assuming users will accept advertising in exchange for a free service.

For the networks behind Weve, this is one of the advantages of having paying customers. Facebook has to presume we want advertising because it has few other sources of revenue, but mobile phone companies can afford to be a little less pushy.

“We want consumers to have bought into the value of the service,” says Sear.

He is particularly critical of Facebook Home, a new app from the social network that takes over a smartphone’s home screen to display ads alongside news and photographs from friends. “I personally do not want to see ads popping up on my phone when the screen is locked. In Facebook’s case I don’t think they are really asking for permission; it’s just part of the deal you sign up to on that system.”

Weve will not be a consumer brand. The networks will sign up customers themselves, using a dashboard of information-sharing options. Details shared could range from the first part of a postcode to age, gender, location, web browsing history and likes or dislikes. Some will be compulsory, some optional, and the requirements will vary by network. Google has a similar dashboard, but few users are aware of its existence.

“The consumer is more powerful in this stage of our digital revolution than I think they have ever been, and they will decide whether or not something is appropriate,” says Sear.

Security is another factor. When Weve is ready to link a customer’s debit card to their phone so that they can make payments, those details will be held on the Sim card. Should the phone be lost or stolen, the data can be remotely deleted by the operator.

Memory wiping was a favourite theme of Philip K Dick, on whose writing Minority Report was based. The film was made not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, and Spielberg remarked at the time: “People are willing to give away a lot of their freedoms in order to feel safe. But the question is, where do you draw the line? How much freedom are you willing to give up?”

This applies increasingly to the trade-off between free services and private information. Those signing up for Weve’s service will at least be offered the choice.