Featured Posts

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

Read more

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...

Read more

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

Read more

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...

Read more

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...

Read more

L’Occitane Beauty Routine for Every Skin Type: All-Natural Skincare for Anti-Aging Skin Concerns — Presented by

Category : Stocks

SACRAMENTO, CA–(Marketwired – May 13, 2013) – Searching for effective solutions to daunting skincare concerns like wrinkles, rosacea and dry skin? Fortunately, gorgeous skin is possible for any skin type with L’Occitane. The latest article by A L’Occitane Product for Every Skincare Concern discusses the high-quality ingredients that make L’Occitane products effective in dealing with all skin types and conditions.

View post: L’Occitane Beauty Routine for Every Skin Type: All-Natural Skincare for Anti-Aging Skin Concerns — Presented by

Post to Twitter

Barratt upbeat on housing market

Category : World News

Housebuilder Barratt Developments reports improving sales and says market conditions are “the most positive we have seen for five years”.

Read the original: Barratt upbeat on housing market

Post to Twitter

G4S shares tumble as European business disappoints

Category : Business

World’s largest security company loses 11% as it warns on profit margins

Shares in G4S, the company that bungled the security of last year’s Olympics, slumped 11% on Tuesday morning, after it said profit margins would be lower than expected in 2013 because of a difficult first quarter in Europe.

The news will pile further pressure on the firm’s chief executive, Nick Buckles, who was forced to appear before MPs last summer to admit the operation for the 2012 Games was a “humiliating shambles”.

The world’s largest security company, which provides services ranging from manned security guards, to cash transportation and running prisons, pulled forward its trading update to say that group margins would be down 0.6% in the three months to the end of March, and would probably stay lower all year.

G4S is still struggling to recover from 2012 when profits collapsed by a third after the security contractor was forced to pay out £88m over its failure to supply enough guards for the London 2012 Olympics.

The company blamed the drop in margins on challenging conditions in continental Europe. It said prices in its cash solutions arm, which transports and stores money for businesses in the UK and Ireland, were under pressure. G4S was also hit by a £6m charge in Africa after some clients did not pay their bills. It said the proposed closure of 30 prisons in the Netherlands would also have an impact on the business.

“For all of these reasons, and despite ongoing business improvement plans, the first quarter margin trends are expected to continue for the full year,” the company said in a statement.

Overall, revenues grew by 7.5% at constant exchange rates in the first quarter. Organic growth, which strips out the impact of acquisitions, rose by 6% in the group as a whole and by 12% in developing markets.

Caroline de La Soujeole of Cantor Research retained a buy recommendation on the stock, despite the “disappointing” news, citing G4S’s attractive operational and geographical profile. The shares tumbled 32.5p to 273p.

Rics calls for estate agent tests

Category : Business

Estate agents who are not members of a professional body currently do not have to meet minimum competency standards

First-time buyers would feel more confident when buying a home if estate agents had to pass compulsory tests to show they are up to scratch.

That was one of the findings of a study by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), which wants to see greater regulation of estate agents to make sure first-time buyers are not, in its words, “flying blind” through the “biggest purchase of their lives”.

At present, agents who are not members of a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards.

There have been signs recently that more first-time buyers are entering the market following government efforts to improve conditions and help people with smaller deposits get on to the property ladder. First-time buyers have consistently been making up around two-fifths of house purchases in recent months.

However, Rics said its research found that three in 10 (29%) first-time buyers said they did not have a good understanding of the sales process when buying a home. More than three-quarters (77%) believe consumers’ understanding would improve if compulsory regulation of estate agents was introduced, and 89% think buyers would be better protected.

Rics said that with the market showing signs of a pick-up and “seemingly over the very worst”, more must be done to ensure that agents are suitably qualified to advise their clients through the sales process.

Peter Bolton King, a Rics director, said: “I would recommend that anyone who is buying or selling a house checks that their agent is a regulated member of a professional body such as Rics, and has met minimum standards of competency and understanding.

“By using an unregulated estate agent, people are potentially dealing with someone who doesn’t understand the technicalities involved in buying a home, or their obligations to consumers.”

More than 1,000 people who had either bought a property or obtained a valuation in the past five years took part in the survey.

Portugal to cut civil service jobs

Category : Business

Portugal plans to cut 30,000 civil service jobs and raise the retirement age to 66 as it tries to meet bailout conditions, the prime minister says.

See more here: Portugal to cut civil service jobs

Post to Twitter

EU considering Bangladesh action

Category : Business, World News

The European Union says it is considering “appropriate action” to encourage an improvement in working conditions in Bangladesh factories.

View post: EU considering Bangladesh action

Post to Twitter

Say hello to zero hours, kiss goodbye to workers’ rights | Tanya Gold

Category : Business

Our labour market looks more and more like The

Post to Twitter

IMF keen to splash the cash in Egypt

Category : Business

The IMF is very interested in spreading its money and influence in Egypt, but concerns remain over US-style policies and Morsi’s legitimacy

Egypt is on the front line in the International Monetary Fund’s battle to remain relevant despite the rapidly shifting balance of power in the 21st century global economy. IMF officials are in Cairo, haggling with the Muslim Brotherhood government about the conditions of a proposed $4.8bn loan.

During the eurozone crisis, the IMF has frequently been regarded as a voice of reason, forcing Europe’s policymakers to face up to the scale of the financial disaster. But many ordinary Egyptians see the Washington-based institution as a stalking horse for the US-backed policies they sought to overthrow by occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab spring. Abolishing costly food and fuel subsidies is on the IMF agenda, for example – a controversial issue in a country with a history of “bread riots”.

Egypt desperately needs cash. Its foreign currency reserves are running low and it risks being unable to afford essential fuel and food imports. But some campaigners argue that the tax rises and subsidy cuts the government is negotiating with the IMF in return for a loan are strikingly similar to reforms drawn up by the reviled Mubarak regime.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said earlier this year: “The IMF needs to have the commitment of the political authorities that can actually endorse the programme, own it, and propose it to the population as theirs.”

But Mohga Kamal-Yanni, an expert on Egypt at Oxfam, disagrees: “The IMF prescription for the Egyptian economy is going to be really, really damaging. They don’t want to accept that there are other ways to raise government income.”

She argues that the cash squeeze is being caused by the fragile legitimacy of new president Mohamed Morsi, with the associated turmoil unsettling investors and markets. The IMF blames the crisis on the economic situation, she says, but it’s actually caused by the political situation. Egypt’s allies, including Qatar, have come to its aid with bilateral loans.

However, Sargon Nissan of the Bretton Woods Project thinktank says the IMF is determined to extend its reach in the countries where the Arab spring has brought democracy. “The IMF is desperate to lend to them,” he says. “Europe is a quagmire; eastern Europe is not a good place to lend; and the Middle East is a hugely significant region, in which the IMF’s major sponsor, the US, has major geopolitical interests. The IMF is very clearly prioritising support for this region, and Egypt is the key country.”

He argues that the IMF should be cautious about entering talks with a regime whose legitimacy has been widely questioned since Morsi granted himself sweeping new powers last year. These powers were later repealed, but elections under a new constitution are not due until later this year.

“The really disturbing thing is that they’re willing to work in Egypt and in a number of the transitional countries without those countries necessarily having a sufficient democratic mandate,” he says. He says the IMF should instead be making a short-term, emergency loan, with few conditions – an option the Egyptian government declined in 2011.

M&S struggles in the multi-channel slow lane

Category : Business

Stakes are high for Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland as retailer struggles to adapt to today’s world of internet shopping and ordering

Not good, but not horrendous. That’s been the pattern of Marks & Spencer’s sales updates in its general merchandise division for about three quarters now, which is one reason why big shareholders’ dissatisfaction with chief executive Marc Bolland’s leadership has never quite reached boiling point. There is deep frustration, certainly, but also a grudging acceptance that there’s little justification in throwing out a boss who promised a three-year invigoration before the three years are up.

That statement holds even though Bolland was obliged to abandon his original three-year sales target after only one lap of the track. The compensating factor is that he has clearly revived the food business, which was regarded as the bigger problem back in 2010 – like-for-like sales were up 4% in the latest quarter and have been purring for a while.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that minus 3.8% in general merchandise, the seventh quarter in a row of decline, was poor. Bolland’s date in the last-chance saloon comes with the autumn/winter ranges, in stores from July and the first work from the latest set of clothing executives to try to discover a wow factor. If the autumn and winter collection is a flop, Bolland will struggle to survive in his £1m-a-year post.

The personal stakes, then, are clear. But it is also plain that there isn’t an alternative strategy to the one M&S has got – that is, shelling out huge sums to upgrade distribution and IT systems that belong, literally, to another century and struggle to adapt to today’s world of internet shopping and ordering.

Major fruits of the spending will arrive soon with a shiny new e-commerce distribution centre. A game-changer? Well, it will help. But a measure of how far behind the “multi-channel” curve M&S remains is this: website-related trade represents about 15% of its general merchandise sales, whereas Next’s Directory business is already up at 35% of group sales. At a rough approximation, one could say that M&S is about half a decade off the multi-channel pace.

It may be that one of Bolland’s mistakes was his failure to spell out to shareholders at the outset the size of M&S’s under-investment in distribution and logistics in the clothing division. Too late now; judgment day approaches.

Big rise in firms hiring staff on zero-hours contracts

Category : Business

23% of Britain’s major employers keep workers on contracts that deny them the same conditions as regular employees

Almost a quarter of Britain’s major employers now recruit staff on zero-hours contracts that keep workers on standby and deny them regular hours.

According to government estimates, 23% of employers with more than 100 staff have adopted the flexible contract terms for at least some staff following a surge in the number of public sector services contracted out to private providers.

Labour MPs and unions have branded the contracts as a throwback to the Victorian era and say they are being used by employers trying to avoid agency-worker regulations, which entitle agency staff to the same basic terms and conditions as permanent employees after 12 weeks.

The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study found that the proportion of firms with some workers on zero-hours contracts rose from 11% in 2004 to 23% in 2011.

The contracts have long been popular with retailers including Sainsbury’s, Poundland and Abercrombie & Fitch. Large charities and public sector organisations have also adopted the arrangements.

A sharp rise last year in the number of zero-hours contracts in the health sector was blamed by unions on the government’s privatisation of essential services, including radiology, which meant professional workers on such contracts found themselves tied to rotas that could be changed at 24 hours’ notice.

Employers say the contracts provide flexibility for workers juggling family commitments.

However, many of the jobs advertised demand a high degree of knowledge and onerous responsibilities.

In a recent case the security firm G4S advertised for custody detention officers to work alongside Lincolnshire police officers on zero-hours contracts to oversee the safety of people held in custody and, if necessary, restrain them.

Steve Evans, a spokesman for the Police Federation, said the deal, part of a partnership agreement signed last year, was an attempt to apply a business model to policing that kept a reserve group of workers employed on an ad-hoc basis.

He said: “This can obviously create some dangers. Things can change rapidly in a custody environment – legislation, training, equipment and policies and an individual’s experience and knowledge could quickly become out of date if they are not regularly working in the environment.”

Shadow policing minister David Hanson said: “The nature of the job is that the police can suddenly be busy handling a public order situation, so what checks are in the system to ensure staff are available?

“Any public-private partnerships must pass tough tests on value for money, on resilience and security, on transparency and accountability, and most of all on public trust. The public need to trust that policing is being done in the interests of justice, not the corporate balance sheet.”

G4S said zero-hours contracts allowed the company “to provide additional resilience to forces, and ensure they can respond effectively to peaks and troughs in demand, typically coinciding with major sporting events or music festivals”.

It said: “This pool of officers, less than 10% of the total number we employ, receive the same training as their colleagues on full-time contracts and their skills are kept up to date through regular work and training.

The Labour Research Department, which studies employment trends, said there were occasions when a no-strings-attached arrangement might suit workers, “such as sometimes occurs with bank nursing or supply teaching. But it is increasingly being used to replace proper secure employment with its associated guaranteed level of paid work and other benefits.”

It added: “Even worse, it can be applied in such a way that a worker, in order to have any chance of getting paid work, is obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer and so cannot commit themselves to any other employment.”

Concerns that zero-hours contracts amount to an attack on the terms and conditions of low paid and younger workers were compounded yesterday by speculation that the government plans to cut the minimum wage following a review by the Low Pay Commission.

No 10 has hinted that the current minimum wage of £6.19 an hour could be cut alongside cuts in welfare benefits to ease the burden on employers while the economic situation remains weak.

Even in tough times, these one-sided agreements go too far

Not everyone on a zero-hours contract sits at home waiting for a call. Some employees can access a rota and sign up for as many hours as they want or are allowed. And once on the rota, the hours are secure. But either way, life on a zero-hours contract is a lottery.

It is shocking that figures show nearly a quarter of big employers use them. It is yet another signal, if one were needed, that the recession is hitting the low paid and the young more than we like to imagine.

In the catering and cleaning industries there are some employers who insist workers pay for their training and uniforms, and wait for a call to work on this ever more popular type of flexible contract.

It is not quite that bad in the newly privatised sections of the health and police services. The training is paid for, along with the uniform. But workers still cannot know from one day to the next how much work they will have.

Without an obligation to employ someone for even a minimum number of hours, employers have effectively indentured a member of staff, especially in areas of high unemployment. All the obligations are on one side of the contract. Yes, times are tough, but employers are going too far.