Dell’s special committee told Carl Icahn that it needs more information about his offer to buy the company, including where he intends to get the debt financing.
Original post: Dell to Icahn: Show us the money
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Dell’s special committee told Carl Icahn that it needs more information about his offer to buy the company, including where he intends to get the debt financing.
Original post: Dell to Icahn: Show us the money
Frustration over endless waits for Openreach to instal phone lines is made worse by being unable to complain directly
Letters about the unreliability and inscrutability of Openreach, the division of BT which, in theory, provides access to the national phone network, has unleashed a torrent of woe from readers stranded, often for months, without phones. The complaints have a common thread: Openreach is unanswerable to the customers it lets down because grievances must be channelled through their own service provider, some of whom seem equally unable to communicate with the company they rely on to install new lines.
has been waiting since November for his Sky telephone and broadband to be installed: “Appointments have been made, and each time the engineer failed to show. In desperation, I cancelled my contract with Sky and placed a new order with BT in February. I’m still waiting and was recently asked by an amused BT operative what life is like without a phone line.”
lost her line in January and is still awaiting reconnection. “We feel powerless before these faceless organisations,” she says. Londoner LN-C has also been waiting since January for a new line. Engineers have either turned up with the wrong parts or qualifications, arrived unannounced and were unable to gain access or did not come at all. “We have wasted more than 40 hours waiting for BT to show up, or telephoning them to complain. BT’s delays are also costing me thousands of pounds in lost productive working hours as we are unable to conduct our business effectively without the internet,” she writes. “One of the telephone lines awaiting installation is for our Dualcom alarm system, which is necessary to comply with our insurance requirements.”
ordered a new line through Sky in January and was told she would have to wait seven weeks. Snow meant the engineer was a no-show and she was told the next available appointment was in May: “We have been told that you can’t contact Openreach, you have to go through our provider – Sky – but then all Sky will say is ‘sorry’ this is the first available appointment.”
complained to his provider Zen of a slow broadband connection in December. “Zen has been fighting hard to get Openreach to resolve the issue… Openreach has no telephone number or email address for end user complaints and insists we must go through our ISPs. It seems absurd that Openreach has been set up as a monopoly supplier of the communications infrastructure without there being any way for the end user to complain to them directly about their services, or for there to be an external body to which we can seek redress.”
Telecoms regulator Ofcom tells me it doesn’t publish complaints about Openreach as the number is so small. Of course it is. Because of Ofcom rules, Openreach gets to skulk behind the service providers who have to deal with customer complaints on its behalf. However, even Ofcom has realised that Openreach’s performance has “deteriorated” since the summer and it is reviewing the wholesale access market – ie Openreach’s monopoly on installations agreed with Ofcom in 2006 – to enable service providers to access BT’s national network. It is planning to introduce new rules such as payouts for customers who suffer delays.
Meanwhile, Openreach blames last year’s wet weather for a backlog of delays, including SC of Conwy’s five-month wait (her appointment was brought forward a month thanks to press office muscle) and says it has appointed 1,000 new engineers and carried out 1.7m visits in the last quarter. It blames MN’s saga on the fact that both Sky and BT coincidentally committed an “administrative error” when processing the order. His line has now been installed.
VC is the victim of a faulty telephone pole, which requires input from the electricity company and the council to remedy. The council also had to be invoked in LN-C’s case because it had concreted over relevant manhole covers and she now has a working line. SC of London apparently suffered delays because of the technical complexity of the problem which necessitated several visits.
Although customers’ contracts are with their own service provider rather than Openreach, it’s worth complaining to Ofcom if Openreach irks you. While unable to intervene on an individual basis, it will add it to the growing tally. For mediation when you reach deadlock, turn to the telecommunications ombudsman,
More must be done to help clamp down on rogue letting agents, industry experts and disgruntled tenants have told the BBC.
Read more from the original source: ‘Clamp down on letting agents’ call
Ex-wife is suing Scot Young for share of £400m fortune that he claims he lost within three months
Jailed British property developer Scot Young, an associate of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, constructed a secret network of offshore companies to hold his assets during a multimillion-pound divorce battle, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ’s) research.
His story graphically demonstrates the way hideaways such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) can be used by a man bent on cheating the law.
Young, 51, described as a fixer for the super-rich, rose suddenly from working-class origins in Dundee to occupy a £14m Oxfordshire mansion and to throw his money about in spectacular fashion. He once bought his then wife, Michelle, a Range-Rover filled to the roof with couture dresses. For her 40th birthday, he gave her a £1m necklace.
He is held in Pentonville prison for contempt of court, following bitter seven-year divorce proceedings in which he failed to explain where his fortune had gone. He could be eligible for parole in two weeks. He has not responded to requests for comment.
Michelle Young is suing for a share of the £400m fortune that Young reportedly owned in 2005, but which he claims disappeared and became debts of £28m within three months. He owes nearly £1m in maintenance and £1.28m in unpaid tax.
Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2010, Young continued to live lavishly. He told the high court that top businessmen were supporting him with gifts and loans.
Mrs Young alleges that associates such as the exiled Berezovsky, who was found hanged at his Ascot mansion last month, helped her ex-husband conceal his assets.
She said: “I find it disgraceful the amount of money that has been allowed to be hidden offshore, and that it is legal to put assets out of reach in cases like mine.”
Young was finally jailed in January 2013 for failing to verify his alleged financial losses. Mr Justice Moor told him he had committed a “flagrant and deliberate contempt” over a very long period of time . Back in 2005, as his marriage deteriorated, Young had joined forces with Russian businessman Ruslan Fomichev, formerly Berezovsky’s business partner, to invest in a deal to redevelop a $100m (£65m) former paint-factory site in Moscow into shops and offices.
Fomichev sold him a half share in an offshore Cyprus company, Parasol Participations Ltd, which controlled the planned property speculation. Their secret deal involved 12 obscure companies and trusts in Cyprus, Russia, the BVI and Lichtenstein.
Young subsequently claimed that “Project Moscow” fell apart and that he got no shares.
Mrs Young testified in court that in March 2006 she suddenly received a phone call from Stephen Jones, a London lawyer and owner of offshore specialists Jirehouse Capital. Jones told her that her husband had lost all his money, had attempted suicide and was seeking help at the Priory clinic. Mrs Young could, however, find no record of his admittance. Jones does not dispute making the call, but says that the contents are “subject to legal professional privilege held by our clients”.
On 28 March 2006, according to documents the Guardian has seen, Young signed a power of attorney giving the lawyer control of “interests held by me in Parasol Participations”. The authority indicates that Young’s interests are to be transferred to Solar Breeze Ltd and five other BVI companies.
A week later, according to documents seen by ICIJ, the lawyer also took control of these BVI companies, at a meeting held in Monaco. The next morning, the companies and shares were shifted even further offshore, to the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis. Jones then established a new Nevis-based trust, the “SY Refinance Foundation”, to “restructure” Young’s financial affairs.
Young’s estranged wife finally obtained a “global freezing order” from the high court in June 2007, forbidding Young from moving or selling the assets under dispute.
In May 2009, Young was summoned by a judge and ordered to explain how he was managing to live. Mr Justice Charles warned him of imprisonment if he did not do his “utmost” to give true answers to questions about his finances.
Two days later, the documents record that agents appointed by Young sought to merge the six BVI companies he had set up, containing half shares in the Moscow property .
The instruction to consolidate Young’s share of “Project Moscow” was carried out on 17 August, 2009 . This created a single new company with a different name, Solar Breeze (Consolidated) Limited. The sole share in the new company was issued to Stephen Jones’s company, Jirehouse Fiduciaries Nominees.
In the most recent move in the offshore battle, on 4 July 2012, Jirehouse Fiduciaries Nominees of Nevis took full ownership of Parasol Participations of Cyprus. This means that Jones’s clients, who have included Young, now own all of Parasol Participations and any stake in the potentially valuable Moscow development.
Jones denies fronting for the jailed tycoon. He says: “We only ever acted on behalf of various creditors (and upon the express instructions of those creditors) of Mr and Mrs Young and have never acted for Mr or Mrs Young or represented any of their respective interests.”
Chancellor expected to announce £10,000 tax free allowance among measures aimed at low and middle income earners
George Osborne is to cast himself as the champion of Britain’s hard workers when he unveils a series of measures designed to ease the pressure on low and middle-income earners and show the country faces a “painstaking” journey to recovery.
The chancellor is expected to announce that moves towards a tax-free allowance of £10,000 will be brought forward a year to 2014. A planned rise in fuel duty, due to take place in September, may be delayed or even scrapped altogether.
As the Treasury braces itself for a grim outlook, amid signs that the Office for Budget Responsibility will again downgrade growth forecasts, the chancellor will move to show that he is committed to stimulating the economy by announcing new capital spending projects.
Osborne and his Liberal Democrat deputy, Danny Alexander, told the cabinet on Tuesday that they will direct an extra £2.5bn over the next two years into capital projects after imposing a new 1% cut on some Whitehall departments.
Amid criticism that the Tories blundered in the Eastleigh byelection, by failing to focus on the challenge of the rising cost of living, the chancellor aims to turn the focus in his budget statement to support for hard pressed families.
The measures on the personal allowance and fuel duties are carefully balanced to satisfy both sides of the coalition. This follows the disastrous handling of last year’s budget, which Osborne blamed on the Lib Dems after they allegedly leaked detail of his key measure, to cut the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p.
The Lib Dems made raising the personal tax allowance to £10,000 the first pledge in their general election manifesto. A source said: “Reaching the £10,000 figure will represent a major coup for the Lib Dems.”
Action on the fuel duty increase will be warmly welcomed by Tory MPs in marginal constituencies. Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, who has led a lengthy campaign against fuel duty increases, told the Guardian: “I am very hopeful this will be a cost of living budget and that the chancellor is listening regarding fuel duty being a toxic tax and one of the biggest breaks on people getting back on their feet.”
Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s former press secretary, tweeted: “I bet the 2015 Tory posters are already written: ‘Fuel duty frozen for 5 years’. Potent stuff.”
The chancellor will also scrap a planned 6p rise, due next month, on the price of a pint of beer and will do away with the beer duty escalator, according to the Sun.
A Treasury source said: “This will be a budget that is going to help people who want to work hard and get on. It will continue with the painstaking work of putting right what went so badly wrong in the British economy. While it is a tougher road than anyone hoped, and while there are no easy answers, we are making progress and the budget will keep Britain on the right track.”
A plan to offer childcare support of £1,200 per child for families where both parents are earning up to £150,000 each was criticised by the Mothers at Home Matter charity for discriminating against stay-at-home mothers. Campaigners seized on an internal treasury document, accidentally published on its website, which said that families where both parents want to work, but cannot afford to, “are in greater need”.
The row prompted a call by Tory MPs for the introduction of a married tax allowance. Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon South, said: “The best way to deal with this is to advance what was the Conservative agenda to have a transferable tax allowance that would benefit the family.”
The chancellor’s move on departmental spending served notice of tough times when he told the cabinet that a series of Whitehall departments will face an extra 1% cut over the next two years to allow him to divert £2.5bn towards capital spending and to put £1.2bn aside for the next spending period in 2015-16.
The move showed the success of the so-called “National Union of Ministers”, who have been resisting further cuts to their departments, after a trio of Tory cabinet ministers emerged largely unscathed.
Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Eric Pickles, whose departmental budgets are not ringfenced, have managed to ensure that key spending areas will escape the cuts.
The chancellor told ministers there would be a further 1% cut a year on all “unprotected departmental resource budgets” over the next two years. The three budgets that will remain immune from the cuts are health, schools and international development, though the last will be adjusted downwards if Britain’s gross national income (GNI) shrinks.
The Ministry of Defence will benefit from what the prime minister’s spokesman described as “exceptional flexibility”, allowing £1.6bn of its underspend to be “rolled over” into 2013-14 and 2014-15. Police grants will not be affected by cuts for 2013-14.
This marks a significant victory for May, the home secretary, because the police budget accounts for two-thirds of the total Home Office budget.
Chris Leslie MP, the shadow Treasury minister, said: “An increase in capital spending of just £2.5bn compares to deep cuts of £12.8bn to infrastructure investment in the last three years on the plans George Osborne inherited. If this is the only additional investment in infrastructure in the budget it will be a huge disappointment.
Business groups, the IMF and even Vince Cable have all said now is the right time to invest, at record low interest rates, in building homes, road and schools to create jobs now and strengthen our economy for the future.
“The test for the budget is whether it delivers bold action to kickstart our flatlining economy and significant tax cuts for middle and low-income families, not a £3bn tax cut for the very richest and more of the same failing policies.”
The announcement by Osborne over the weekend that he will bring forward the single-tier pension by one year to 2016 will give the exchequer a windfall of £5.5bn as contracting out is ended. This will lead to increased national insurance contributions (NICs). But £4.3bn of this will be used to fund the costs of long-term social care or be used to compensate government departments facing increased employer NIC payments. This leaves the chancellor little room to raid these funds.
I have lost £5,500 after transferring money from HSBC into a stranger’s Santander bank account instead of my own
My dad recently lent me £5,500 for vital house repairs, which he put into my HSBC account. I then decided to transfer the money to my Santander account. This was on 4 February.
After two days the money had not appeared in my Santander account, so I sent an email asking where it was. After a further day, alarm bells started to ring and I checked my HSBC account and realised that I had made a mistake when tranferring the money: I had used the correct sort code but the first four digits of my 123
My two iTunes cards claim they have already been redeemed – and Apple doesn’t want to know
Several years ago I was given two £25 iTunes giftcards as a present, which I finally came to use in August 2012. However, I was unable to credit either card to my account, receiving a message each time that: “the iTunes giftcard you entered has already been redeemed”.
I emailed iTunes support and was informed that one card had been redeemed on 31 December 2011 and the other on 2
Review finds company had failed to plan for short drilling season and its equipment did not stand up to harsh conditions
Shell “screwed up” drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.
A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year’s Eve grounding of its drill rig.
Shell announced a “pause” in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters’ conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.
“Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. “It’s that plain and simple.”
The findings of the review could mean further costs and delays for Shell, which has spent years and $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters.
But it did not satisfy some environmental groups which said the review demonstrated the government should never have allowed drilling in the first place.
Salazar and other officials said Shell had not been prepared to drill last year, when a season of blunders and accidents was capped with the New Year’s Eve grounding of one of its drilling rigs.
“Shell screwed up in 2012 and we are not going to let them screw up after their pause is removed,” Salazar said.
The review said Shell had failed to plan for the short drilling season in the Arctic, and the extreme weather conditions. Its equipment, in particular, did not stand up to the harsh environment.
The review did not focus on the government’s failings to anticipate last summer’s near-disasters in the Arctic, and administration officials admitted in the call: “The government has a lot to learn.”
Instead the review reserved its harshest criticism for Shell’s management of its contractors. The review said the company failed to make sure its contractors were up to operating in Arctic conditions. The makers of Shell’s oil spill containment device – which failed on an early test in relatively calm waters off Seattle – only had experience in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a further attempt for a more stringent oversight regime, the review also recommended that any future Arctic plans put forward by Shell be subjected to third-party audit.
The review won cautious praise from some environmental groups as a “first step” towards improving safety in Arctic drilling.
“We are pleased the interior department has conducted this public review, it’s an important first step towards preventing future drilling accidents in the Arctic Ocean,” said Marilyn Heiman, director of the US Arctic programme for Pew Charitable Trusts.
However, Greenpeace said Shell had got off too lightly. “The government should be embarrassed for granting Shell the permits it did this year,” the campaign group said. “This report merely gives big oil a slap on the wrist.”
Conservation group Oceana said that the review had dodged a key question of the administration’s failure to anticipate that Shell would not be prepared to drill in the Arctic.
“The department of the interior must accept responsibility for the failures that resulted in approvals and permits being granted to a company that was obviously not ready,” Oceana said in a statement.
“The government should suspend activities on leases in the Arctic Ocean until and unless companies prove they can operate safely and without harm to the environment and without harm to opportunities for the subsistence way of life.”
Salazar ordered the review of Arctic offshore drilling after a Shell drilling vessel ran aground off the coast of Alaska on New Year’s Eve.
After ordering the review, Salazar told reporters he had doubts about whether drilling could ever be done safely in a region as harsh and remote as the Arctic Sea.
On Thursday, however, Salazar and other officials told reporters that the Obama administration remained committed to drilling for oil in the Arctic.
At the heart of the argument over the results of the partially state-owned banks is sovereignty of the people
Hearing the CEOs of Britain’s “too big to fail” banks talk up their annual results in the past few days, it was difficult not to feel a mixture of pity, respect and fear. In particular, the heads of the partly state-owned Lloyds and RBS face demands that are logically impossible to meet, and to see them trying to be everything to everyone almost produces compassion. Their struggles also elicit respect, because they still manage to put on a pretty good show. But then you realise what they can’t tell us, and how their bank’s failure will be the financial equivalent of a nuclear meltdown, and you shudder.
Announcements of annual results – Lloyds and RBS last week, HSBC on Monday – come with conference calls for financial journalists in the morning and, sometimes, press conferences for lunch. It was interesting to note that the two banks dependent on the government made their top people available for informal chats in the margins of a press conference, while HSBC, which isn’t, made do with a conference call at which almost half the time was taken up by the heads reading out a prepared text.
The Lloyds and RBS press conferences were strikingly similar and, as they wore on it became hard not to think of them as dull, rather sophisticated but above all extremely effective rituals. On one side of the table were men (Lloyds had one woman, who said nothing) in suits projecting an image of control. Yes, they were presiding over banks with tens of thousands of employees engaged in very different and often wildly complex activities across the globe. Yes, they had been caught out by scandal after scandal somewhere in their vast empires and yes, in the past their books had given a wildly inaccurate picture of the risks they were running.
But all of this was now in the past and firmly under control, they implied, as they fired off endless numbers and percentages and ratios, and said things like “We remain very confident of our capital position,” or “Our strategy remains centred on taking into account the interests of all of our stakeholders”, or some other cardboard PR phrase CEOs learn to use when they want to deflect a question they know can’t be followed up.
Their vocabulary had been sanitised to a startling degree, with PPI and other schemes that cheated tens of thousands of trusting Britons out of their money becoming “legacy issues” requiring “customer redress”. (HSBC referred to its huge fines in the US for massive drug money-laundering as “regulatory and law enforcement matters”.)
This was one side of the table, and on the other side were the financial journalists, most of them looking distinctly less well dressed. What to ask when you’ve only just been given a telephone book of numbers and tables? Excluding three appendices, the RBS annual results came to 289 pages. HSBC produced 550 pages and Lloyds 165. Finding the hidden risks therein wasn’t a puzzle in which you look for an answer to a question. These annual reports, and the huge organisations they purport to cover, constitute a mystery, ie a situation where the question itself is unknown.
“What was that £250m for?” asked one journalist. How was the CEO’s pay structured? What did Lloyds think of the EU cap on bonuses? The CEOs would address most reporters by their first names, then give a meaningless answer. About a third of the questions focused on the terms and timetable of Lloyds’ and RBS’s return into private hands; will the taxpayers get their money back?
This was where it quickly became clear that Lloyds and RBS are asked to do the impossible. The holes in their books are caused mostly by toxic loans, but they are told to increase lending, that is to lend to parties they would otherwise prefer not to lend to. At the same time, they must increase their capital buffers, so hold on to the same capital they are told to lend. RBS and Lloyds must increase profits, but are crucified when they pay bonuses to the very bankers who bring in those profits. The banks must also be ethical, so stop the profitable practice of ripping off their clients. Also, Lloyds and RBS must focus on the UK, even though it is almost impossible for a bank to make profits in an economy that is flatlining (HSBC lost money in its UK and US operations, and was saved by its activities in emerging markets). To boot, the UK government intends to increase competition between banks on the high street – a move that ought to decrease margins.
In short, Lloyds and RBS are told to increase profits so they can be privatised as soon as possible, while at the same time being told to stop doing many of the things that traditionally brought in these very profits.
It almost felt as if the RBS and Lloyds CEOs’ job was to maintain the illusion that this could be done, while providing a lightning rod to all those who don’t want to look beyond bonuses and the question of whether the taxpayers get their money back.
What if bonuses and privatisation are diversions and the real issue is “too big to fail” in combination with too big to manage? If you believe that CEOs knew nothing about the scandals taking place under their watch, what reason is there to believe that this time they are on top of things?
Over the past 18 months I have interviewed more than 150 people working in finance in London, most of them in junior functions. Many of them believe that the top of their organisation has no idea what’s really going on. They are equally scathing about the regulators.
This is the debate Britain refuses to have. The timing and conditions of the privatisation of Lloyds and RBS are vital to the British government’s financial health, and it makes for powerful and simple-to-produce stories, especially if these banks continue to pay high salaries and bonuses. But Lloyds’ and RBS’s return to private ownership is ultimately a question of secondary importance when both banks continue to be too big to fail – and so effectively remain a public liability.
While this idea persists, Britain remains hostage to the health of banks over which it has only very limited influence. Knowing that your vital interests are affected by factors beyond your control is a recipe for stress. It’s not what democracies should be about. But it has become the new normal. The big issue today is not whether British taxpayers get their money back. It’s whether British citizens get their sovereignty back.
The luxury carmaker plans to increase investment and raise employment at the site to about 1,400
Jaguar Land Rover is to create an extra 700 jobs by doubling the size of its engine factory in Wolverhampton.
The luxury carmaker plans to increase investment at its UK engine plant and raise employment at the site to about 1,400, the chief executive, Ralf Speth, said .
He told a press conference that the firm planned to increase investment at the plant to more than £500m.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), owned by India’s Tata Motors, has ridden a rise in demand for its luxury saloons and SUVs over the past two years, notably in China and other emerging markets, bucking the trend of plant shutdowns and falling production at many European carmakers.
The investment is part of a surge in capital spending in JLR’s production facilities.
In China, for example, the company and local partner Chery Automobile are building a factory.
Company sources also told Reuters on Saturday that JLR was investigating the potential of manufacturing cars in India.
Despite its plans overseas, JLR has continually stressed its dedication to its plants in Britain, where it says it is the country’s largest automotive investor in research and development.