Dec 13, 2018

Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food

Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season. The crisps are part of the supermarket chain's festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil. Christmas pudding gammon: sweet cured gammon with a fruit-filled stuffing and rich "Mince pie glaze", topped with edible gold lustre. Operators say the sales of...

Dec 13, 2018

House of Fraser revival 'challenging'

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said his firm faces "Significant challenges" in turning around the House of Fraser store chain, which it bought in August. He repeated his intention to turn House of Fraser into "The Harrods of the High Street". In the 26 weeks to 28 October, it saw a 62% rise in pre-tax profits year-on-year to £74.4m. However, underlying profits saw a 27% slump to £64.4m, reflecting the costs of acquiring House of Fraser. "Outside of the House of Fraser acquisition, the...

Dec 13, 2018

Opening Quote: Ocado has confidence in robotic delivery

Ocado said new capacity it had brought on stream at its robotic distribution centres in Andover, southern England, and Erith, near London, had enabled it to achieve double-digit growth in new customer acquisitions in the quarter. In July, Ocado forecast retail revenue growth of 10-15 per cent for the full 2017-18 year. His main Sports Direct business, which already owns a big chunk of struggling department store Debenhams, recently doubled down on its bet on the high street - by acquiring...

Dec 13, 2018

G4S rises 10% on plan to separate cash from security businesses

Security operator G4S announced on Wednesday it planned to separate out its cash business from its core division, though insisted it was not beginning a sale process, sending shares up 10 per cent. The government contractor said it intended to split its cash and secure solutions businesses - its two principle units - to "Enhance the focus and success of both." G4S said it was reviewing possible options, including a full de-merger or an initial public offering, but chief executive Ashley...

Dec 13, 2018

Uber told self-drive cars unsafe days before accident

EPA A leaked email from an employee warned Uber's bosses that its self-drive cars were involved in multiple crashes, only days before one killed a pedestrian. Robbie Miller, operations manager for Uber's self-driving trucks, wrote to the firm's top executives saying the cars were "Routinely in accidents". Uber suspended all its tests following the accident, which is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. In another, an accident was avoided only because a...

Dec 13, 2018

Apple to create $1bn Texas base

Apple has announced plans to build a new campus in Austin, Texas, saying the project will involve a $1bn investment. Apple already employs 6,200 staff at its current facilities in Austin, making it the company's biggest base outside of its home at Cupertino in California's Silicon Valley. The new posts, it said, would include roles in its engineering, research and development, and sales divisions. The announcements follow an earlier commitment made in January to create 20,000 new jobs in the...

Dec 13, 2018

Mike Ashley: Debenhams snubbed my £40m lifeline

PA Sports Direct's owner Mike Ashley has written a bluntly worded letter to the boss of Debenhams discussing his offer of a £40m investment in the struggling department store chain. Mr Ashley writes he is frustrated Debenhams doesn't want his "Help". Sports Direct already owns 30% of Debenhams, which is closing up to 50 of its stores and seeking new finance following a downturn in its business. The letter suggests Sports Direct would take an additional stake in Debenhams, reported by the...

Dec 13, 2018

G4S: heist finance

Like the cockney robbers of bygone UK TV dramas, G4S is looking to separate cash from security. The operation accounts for less than a fifth of G4S group revenues. If G4S keeps the Cash360 part, which helps retailers such as Walmart reduce money-handling costs, then perhaps about £1bn is obtainable. G4S had been languishing at a steep valuation gap versus Securitas, its Swedish peer. Leave it out, geezers! Instead, G4S should invest in its remaining security business for a sustained re-rating...

Dec 13, 2018

Amazon uses dummy parcels to catch thieves

The online retailer has teamed up with police in New Jersey to fight parcel theft with dummy packages.

Dec 12, 2018

Team Sky: Sky to end backing of British powerhouse in 2019

The future of Team Sky, which has delivered Tour de France wins for Britons Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, is in doubt after broadcaster Sky announced it will withdraw backing at the end of 2019. "Team Sky will continue to race under a different name if a new backer is secured to provide funding from the beginning of 2020," said a Team Sky statement. Wiggins has left the Team Sky set-up to establish his own team after retiring as a rider, but Froome and Thomas are still...

Dec 12, 2018

Dixons Carphone posts £440m loss in first half

Dixons Carphone has reported a big loss for the first half of the year but says its turnaround plan is on track. The struggling retailer, whose main UK brands include Currys PC World and Carphone Warehouse, posted a loss of £440m for the six months to 27 October - down from profit of £54m a year ago. It blamed accounting issues and said underlying sales had improved. In May the retailer said it would close 92 Carphone Warehouse stores amid slowing sales of mobile phones. The company, which...

Dec 12, 2018

Dixons Carphone swings to loss after £500m in charges

Dixons Carphone plunged into a first-half loss and plans to cut its full-year dividend by two-fifths after taking almost £500m of exceptional charges relating to its mobile phone business and UK store estate. As a result, the first half operating loss was £423m, against a profit of £71m in the same period last year. Formed by the merger of Dixons with Carphone Warehouse in 2014, the company has been hit hard by weakening consumer sentiment and changes to the mobile phone market. Consumers are...

Dec 12, 2018

Dixons Carphone: hang ups

Alex Baldock, chief executive of the Currys/PC World parent, Dixons Carphone, wants more, via purchase credit. Dixons makes its money from electrical retailing in the UK, the Nordics and even Greece - about £92m in the six months to October. Mobile retailer Carphone, which Dixons bought in 2014, lost £31m in the same period. One cannot blame Mr Baldock for cleaning up Dixons Carphone's accounts, as he only arrived in April. Given Europe's gloomy economic outlook for retailers, Dixons Carphone...

Dec 12, 2018

Bereaved mother criticises Facebook over baby ads

The mother of a stillborn child has called on tech companies to rethink how they target ads after she was inundated with baby-related promotions. "It decides you've given birth, assumes a happy result, and deluges you with ads for the best nursing bras... tricks to get the baby to sleep through the night... and the best strollers to grow with your baby." He apologised for Ms Brockell's experience but noted that the platform's settings included an option to block ads about topics the user...

Dec 11, 2018

Barclays customers can now 'switch off' spending

Barclays has become the first High Street bank to allow its customers to "Switch off" certain types of spending on their debit cards. Customers are not able to block specific retailers, but instead can decide which categories of spending are allowed. Customers who want to select any of the categories above can do so via the Barclays app. For the moment, the tool only applies to spending on debit cards, although it should apply to credit cards at a later date. The mobile bank Starling allows...

Dec 11, 2018

Question Time and Doctor Who among 'most tweeted about' BBC shows

Question Time, the Andrew Marr Show and Doctor Who were the most tweeted about BBC TV shows of 2018, figures show. TV Licensing said the Apprentice, Eurovision, EastEnders, and Strictly Come Dancing were also popular topics. TV Licensing's Michael Collins said: "Throughout 2018, unmissable TV moments have united fans, sparked debate and compelled viewers to join the conversation on social media, with watching and tweeting going hand in hand as part of the viewing routine." Several BBC...

Dec 11, 2018

Brexit: More than £100K spent on Facebook and other ads for May's deal

The government spent almost £100,000 on Facebook adverts promoting Theresa May's Brexit deal before calling off a Commons vote on it, figures released by the US social media giant reveal. Facebook's ad library shows the UK government page spent £96,684 to promote 11 videos about the Brexit deal between December 2 and 8. Even more cash - between £10,000 and £50,000 - was spent on three separate adverts focusing on what the government says the deal means for trade, immigration and the economy....

Dec 11, 2018

Amazon sackings 'follow sales data leaks'

Amazon has sacked workers it believes had been misusing internal data on high-selling products, the Wall Street Journal reports. Amazon reportedly believed the staff, in India, China and the US, had abused their access to an internal database. The WSJ said the sackings were part of a broad effort at Amazon to combat merchants trying to trick its systems into making their products more prominent. Amazon has now reduced access to internal sales data and limited how many searches can be done on...

Dec 10, 2018

Carlos Ghosn: Former Nissan chair charged with financial misconduct

Japanese prosecutors have charged former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn with financial misconduct, Japanese media report. Mr Ghosn, who headed an alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi, has previously denied the allegations. On Monday, he was charged with making a mis-statement on Nissan's annual securities report. Nissan and and Mitsubishi both sacked Mr Ghosn as chairman after the arrest last month. Despite selling fewer vehicles, Renault has a 43% shareholding in Nissan, while Nissan's...

Dec 10, 2018

Facebook's hidden battle against ad-blockers

The social network injects dozens of lines of code in every page to make it harder for ad blockers to detect and hide sponsored posts. Facebook provides some controls for users to influence the ads they see. "Although you can't opt out of seeing ads entirely, you can influence the types of ads you see by giving us feedback or hiding ads and advertisers that you don't want to see," it says in its help centre. In one case, they worked at blocking ad containers labelled "Feed subtitle" and...

Dec 10, 2018

Huawei Honor View20 and Samsung A8s have hole-punch cameras

The screens of the Samsung A8s and Huawei Honor View20 both feature a small circular space for the component. Both Samsung and Huawei claimed to be first to launch the notchless camera design. Samsung was the world's most successful smartphone brand in the July-to-September quarter, when it shipped 72.2 million units, according to research company IDC. Huawei came second, according to the same report, with 52 million devices shipped over the same period. Samsung has lost substantial market...

Dec 10, 2018

Nokia's lightning-quick 5G demo: A glimpse of the future?

Could 5G connection speeds demonstrated by Nokia in Riga, Latvia, be replicated in the real world?

Dec 10, 2018

Apple denies iPhone sales ban in China

Chinese chip-maker Qualcomm claims it has won an injunction against Apple that effectively bans the import of a number of iPhone models, ranging from the iPhone 6S to the iPhone X. The preliminary order, issued by a Chinese court, is the latest in step a continuing feud between the two tech giants over intellectual property. Apple says all of its iPhone models remain on sale in the country. The court found Apple had violated two of Qualcomm's patents - one regarding photograph resizing and...

Dec 10, 2018

Venezuela crisis: Goodyear staff get '10 tyre' severance

Goodyear employees in Venezuela are each to be given 10 tyres as part of their severance payment, as the US firm halts operations in the country. A number of foreign firms have pulled out of Venezuela, citing a growing economic crisis and US sanctions. In a statement on Monday, Goodyear said that it "Has made the difficult decision to stop producing tyres" in Venezuela, Reuters news agency reports. The company said it was in the process of making severance payments, which included giving each...

Dec 9, 2018

How the star of Sheryl Sandberg dimmed

When former First Lady Michelle Obama used uncharacteristically loose language to dismiss Ms Sandberg's career advice catchphrase, "Lean in", she seemed to underline just how far Ms Sandberg's star had fallen. Ms Sandberg has overseen Facebook's response to the controversies, which has seen the firm publicly pledging to do better, while privately hiring a hard-nosed opposition research firm to investigate critics and competitors. Ms Sandberg meanwhile has cultivated a celebrity profile with a...

Dec 9, 2018

O2 'to seek millions' in damages over data outage

Mobile operator O2 is understood to be seeking millions in damages from supplier Ericsson after last week's day-long data network collapse. O2 smartphone users were unable to use their mobile phone data last Thursday. Both firms have apologised for the issue and O2 has already set out how it plans to compensate customers. Pay As You Go customers will get 10% extra when they top up their phone in the new year or 10% off when they buy data for mobile broadband devices. O2 said voice calls were...

Dec 9, 2018

High utility dividends are bad for Britain’s infrastructure

In theory, companies only pay high dividends as a last resort: when they cannot find more attractive homes for their capital. Then there are self-inflicted high yields, where investors lose confidence in the managers, especially those which seek to diversify steady utility businesses into sexier, faster-growing activities. High dividends have become controversial, especially in essential services such as water and energy. Are high dividends a symptom of something even more insidious? Do they...

Dec 9, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey criticised for 'tone deaf' Myanmar tweets

Jack Dorsey is accused of ignoring the persecution of the country's Muslim Rohingya minority.

Dec 9, 2018

Activist group targets BP over slow response to global warming

An activist shareholder group will target BP at the oil major's annual meeting next year over its slow response to global warming, escalating a campaign that has forced rival Royal Dutch Shell to commit to reducing its carbon emissions. Netherlands-based Follow This filed a shareholder resolution at BP this month, calling for the company to set hard targets for cutting carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement, including emissions of third parties, such as cars that burn BP's...