The shares in Norsk Hydro ASA will be traded ex dividend of NOK 0.75 as from
today, May 10,
Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary warns the £3bn sale of the postal service could lead to sub-standard services
Labour has accused the government of desperately pushing ahead with the £3bn “fire sale” of Royal Mail in order to “raise funds to cover the gaping hole in George Osborne’s failed economic plan”.
Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said there was a “distinct whiff of desperation” surrounding the privatisation of the world’s oldest postal service. He accused the government of rushing into a saleout of a desire to quickly reduce a £245bn overshoot in government borrowing. He warned that a rushed sell-off could lead to “sub-standard services and people being ripped-off”.
“This timing of this privatisation has the distinct whiff of desperation from a government that has borrowed £245bn more than it planned and is eager to dig itself out of that hole at any price,” he said. “Ultimately it is the taxpayer who will lose out.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “As business minister Michael Fallon said last week, the decision will not be based on ideology. It will be a practical, logical and commercial decision. Royal Mail will only be sold if it gets maximum value for the taxpayer.”Fallon has said that unless Royal Mail passed into private hands, it would not be able to access equity markets, without which “every £1 it borrows is another £1 on the national debt”. He said at least 10% of the shares would be allocated to Royal Mail employees, but refused to say whether staff would get free shares or have to buy them at a discount.
The flotation, which the government hopes to get away before April 2014, will be the largest employee share scheme since the privatisation of British Gas 26 years ago. About 140,000 staff are expected to each collect shares worth about £1,500 on average.
However, Labour questioned why “just 10%” of the shares in the initial public offering are earmarked for Royal Mail employees.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said postal workers would not “sell their soul” for a 10% stake in the company. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU, said: “We don’t want our prize assets to be flogged at bargain basement prices just to cover up George Osborne’s mess.
“Privatisation is an old-fashioned idea from Thatcher’s era. We’d like to see a little more imagination and positivity when it comes to our postal service. We firmly believe it can and should continue to flourish in full public ownership.”
Umunna also warned that privatisation risks undermining the universal service obligation ensuring mail delivery six days a week to villages as well as cities at the same prices.
Fallon has already promised that “Royal Mail will remain the UK’s designated universal postal service provider and must continue to provide a six-day-a-week service throughout the UK”.
There was also renewed speculation over the weekend that the government is preparing to sell off the student loan book. It is to test the water with the sale of a £900m tranche of loans announced in March and is considering a wholesale privatisation, said the Sunday Times.
The Student Loans Company, which administers about £5.5bn of state loans a year, is part of the BIS. The department’s 2011 annual report showed £28bn of loans are outstanding, but it is suggested the total is likely to rise to near £40bn because of the increase in tuition fees.
A sale might be difficult due the sensitivities of a new owner cracking down on graduates to repay loans. The department declined to comment.
Hefazat-e Islam: Islamist coalition
The Hefazat-e Islam is a tightly-knit coalition of a dozen or so Islamist organisations which have come together under one umbrella only in recent years. It has traditionally not sought power through elections, but looks to use its street muscle to change …
Bangladesh protests: at least 15 killed as police clash with demonstrators
Bangladeshi capital wears an eerie calm a day after Islamists battle police
15 Dead in Bangladesh Anti-Blasphemy Protests – VOA
It means that TMG will gain full ownership of BDFM, which publishes the Business Day newspaper and the Financial Mail weekly magazine and also owns the African Broadcasting Channel.
Pearson has held its 50% stake in BDFM since 1997. TMG already owns some of South Africa’s largest newspapers, including the Sunday Times and The Sowetan, as well as other media assets.
Both Business Day and the Financial Mail have been struggling for some time and BDFM’s editor-in-chief,Peter Bruce, is quoted as saying the two publications are either loss-making or operating on “paper-thin margins”.
Event, the Mail on Sunday’s new culture and celebrity magazine, is a serious and very welcome effort to be creative with what print can do
A few random swallows hint at the end of winter in the newspaper trade. There, a few weeks ago, was the Guardian adding a cookery pullout section. Here, under its new provisional editor, is the Sunday Times shuffling its magazine pack and playing a game of “Hunt the AA Gill”. And now, today, as titles called Live and Review go to the great Mail on Sunday knacker’s yard, comes Event, a “brilliant, superb” NEW celebrity and culture mag.
The sell, you may gather, is not exactly soft. Geordie Greig, after a year as MoS editor, is taking his first big leap, and running full tilt. But the real point, amid a welter of glowing adjectives, is that Associated Newspapers is investing in print again.
Its global growth online may be a thing of wonder, especially in America. But here at home, Greig has been allowed – nay, encouraged – to spend time, effort and cash on his day job, the main event.
Some of the hype, for what Geordie calls his target audience of “easyJet Britons” (like him and me, apparently) may seem a tad extreme. A gossip column by Piers Morgan; motoring notes from Chris Evans; Craig Brown on books, Deborah Ross on TV and Tom Parker Bowles doing food. It’s a decent enough line-up, spaciously presented, if not quite a revolution. Few horses shaken or stirred. What’s important, though, is that it’s a properly serious effort to engage editorial brain.
Look at most newspapers over the past few years. They’ve barely changed. Their online presence may have been revamped over and over again, but print has just pottered along. The Sun shines in a design timewarp, even on Sundays. The Mail that drops through the letterbox is much the same. The Mirror tries nothing off the wall.
Fleet Street, by previous standards, is a world that stood still. The buzz words have been integration and contraction, not expansion. Event at least challenges that thesis – and calls attention to one or two things about the Associated empire that make it different.
No, not necessarily the Daily Dacre, fuming over supposed slights to Maggie’s hallowed memory; the way, rather, that it’s more quietly run and organised. Greig’s boss and hero is Jonathan Harmsworth, the fourth Viscount Rothermere, whose 15 years in supreme charge have seen the Daily Mail and General Trust quietly push revenue to £1.9bn in 2012, and turn in profits of £300m or so, operating in 55 countries. Journalism is only a part of that story, but it is still traditionally organised – which today makes it very different indeed.
Greig may have an “editor-in-chief” (Paul Dacre) but, apart from praising the chief’s general support, he seems to operate totally autonomously.
Event looks quite like the Mail’s Saturday TV mag, doesn’t it? “Oh no, it’s younger and much more fun.”
Surely there’s a move to save money by integrating daily and Sunday staffing? No, not in any major way. Greig talks about the value of a dedicated reporting staff in much the same way that Martin Clarke, the king of Mail Online, talks about his own discrete team.
None of the above means that DMGT is internet-averse: click on Wowcher, Zoopla and many more online enterprises to be disabused of that. But there is, still, a continuing warmth for what print can do.
Joe Public spends proportionately more on the Mail on Sunday than on any other paper in Britain, says Greig. Of every pound spent on Sunday papers every week, 25p comes his way. He’s a market leader, then, and theoretically others will follow if Event (with advertising sold out for three weeks already) is a success. But that’s an issue, and an eventuality, stretching far beyond even easyJet queues at Gatwick. It’s about pumping the tigers of creativity and cash into an old tank – and seeing what difference, if any, it makes.
Category : World News
The contents of the broken packages were of great variety – tobacco, wedding cake, soap, bottles of scent, and ornaments for the mantel shelf
Post-office workers had several things to be thankful for this Christmas. The success of the “advance posting” system for Christmas cards did much to relieve the stress of work. Those who sent cards in this manner found that the arrangement worked excellently. Then the intervention of Sunday between the last shopping day and the great day for which such tremendous preparations had been made had the effect of spreading the Christmas postal business over an extra twenty-four hours. The Post-office people too, in an even greater degree than the shopping public, were very grateful for the fine, clear weather, which enabled 4 mail trains and mail carts to run punctually. For these reasons, in spite of a considerable increase in the number of letters and parcels, the Post-office staffs have not had so harassing a time as they experienced in the fogs of last year.
Saturday was the busiest day, and a visit to the General Post-office and the supernumerary office at St. James’s Hall on that day showed how vast was the work going on. But a busy day at the Post-office does not mean the scene of wild excitement and disorder which seems to exist in the public imagination. These are the last things to be looked for there. The privileged visitor to the great sorting hall of the General Post-office on Saturday found a persistent corps of men, working “against time” it is true, but working quietly and in regular order. The confused masses of letters which were tumbled out of the mail bags passed quickly from stage to stage of the sorting process, until after passing under several sets of agile fingers, they emerged in orderly piles ready for despatching to their destinations.
One must not forget to mention the
As online shops go into overdrive and people all over the country are wrapping and writing with a frenzy not experienced since this time last Christmas, we’d like those people to please spare a thought for their neighbours. At this time of year, more than any, there are thousands of vulnerable people in the UK who would benefit from a little company and a smiling face. It could be as brief as popping in to say “happy Christmas” and having a cup of tea and a chat, or offering to do some light housework or help them with their shopping.
We support and care for vulnerable people every single day and night, including Christmas, and we know how important the company of others is to them. But what happens to those who don’t have access to domiciliary care or family and friends close by? They put a brave face on it and cope as best they can; yet many were active members of the community, giving their time freely to those who needed it most. It’s our turn now to think of others, to make a conscious decision to make a difference and to form relationships which could, literally, be life-saving. It’s time to pay it forward.
• I’m not writing as a nostalgic former employee of Royal Mail who has never used email. This is to celebrate the survival of a state industry despite successive governments’ attempts to offload it to the private sector. It has and is adapting to the modern world and, despite all the redundancies of the last decade, provides employment for 159,000. It also made a profit in 2011/12 before price rises, and for the last six months since they began fattening it up for privatisation. I doubt much else will cost 39% more this Christmas than last except our Christmas card bill. Is it a price worth paying to keep the Royal Mail in the public sector? Yes, if it does, but that’s not the purpose. Sending cards at Christmas is a lifeline, indeed a timeline one that runs out for the Royal Mail if there is a private buyer. How many thousands will lose their jobs and will our cards cost less next Christmas?
• Having made the decision to email my greetings this year, I can tell Tim Sullivan (Letters, 18 December) that it is not effort-light. Each recipient needs a separate message which has to be thought about and tailored to each relationship. If Christmas cards had just been invented, the idea of just signing a standard piece of card would catch on like wildfire.
• I read your article on choosing children to play Mary in school nativity plays with great interest (Lucy Mangan, Weekend, 18 December). It brought back memories of 60 years ago when I was chosen to play Mary in my state primary school in Leeds. I was almost certainly the only Jewish child in the school, dark-haired and dark-eyed, so I’m not sure why I was chosen unless it was for historical accuracy. I remember little of my actual performance but I do remember that my maternal grandmother – an illiterate Polish babushka – came across Leeds to see the play. My mother was so anxious she sat near the back to reduce the chance she would realise I was playing a Christian figure, which would have only confirmed to her that we had put Judaism aside when we moved away from Chapeltown, then the Jewish area of Leeds.
• Your interview with Stephen Cleobury (G2, 20 December) implies that the tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols started at King’s in 1918. In fact, the format was based on an order drawn up by Edward White Benson, later archbishop of Canterbury but at that time bishop of Truro, for use on Christmas Eve 1880. Tradition says that he organised a 10pm service in a temporary wooden shed serving as his cathedral and that a key purpose of the service was to keep men out of the pub.
• Christmas cometh but once a year – thankfully for all Guardian readers, Steve Bell is with us most days of the week and he’s had a tremendous (even by his high standards) 2012. Thank you, Santa – and them penguins.