Tesco: woes continue

September 1st, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

tesco bag 300x187 Tesco: woes continueIt’s been a rum few days for Tesco.

One of their key shareholders, Harris Associates, has sold nearly two thirds of its stake in the beleagured supermarket.

The American investment fund Harris Associates, had been Tesco’s seventh largest shareholder.

Chief exec David Herro told the Sunday Telegraph “We have sold, in the last month, probably two thirds of our position

“With so many unknowns … those risk factors are just too high to justify a big position.”

This comes after Tesco issued its second profit warning in two months, and estimating that annual profits are more likely to be 25% lower than last year. Continuing a three year decline.

It’s probably not the ideal welcome for Dave Lewis, who takes over the top job today, a month ahead of what had been planned.

Tesco, who has lost the bulk of their business to up-and-coming budget retailers such as Aldi and Lidl, also slashed its dividend by 75% to give Lewis greater flexibility to revive the world’s No.3 retailer.

Can it catch up on lost ground? Who knows? Should they break themselves up in a bid to stay in the game?

Russian bank actively encouraging pussy riot

August 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

cat chart 300x200 Russian bank actively encouraging pussy riotForget toy meerkats and some ephemera, as a Russian bank has upped the ‘free gift’ stakes, by handing out cats.

Actual cats!

Yes, anyone who takes out a mortgage with Sberbank (which if you say in a certain way, sounds a bit like ‘spermbank’, arf!) gets the choice of ten pussies.

The bank showcases the felines on the website, and once selected, they’re delivered to the home.

Unfortunately, the cats must be returned to Sberbank after a few hours once they’ve mooched around the new property and no doubt took a leak on the sofa and dragged half a raven into the kitchen ‘as a gift’.

A popular Russian superstition maintains that it is good luck if cats are first to enter a new home.

Wonders never cease.

Paddy Power profits palaver

August 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Paddy Power Paddy Power profits palaverBookie news, and Paddy Power are the latest bookmaker to post disappointing half year profits.

The Dublin-based firm said pre-tax profits fell to €61.8million (£49.2million) in the six months to June 30th, while revenues were down 7% to €396.5million (£315.7million) compared to a year ago.

The pesky horses and football wins haven’t helped either.

However the company were optimistic that they’d gained new customers in the last few months, and was also still planning on expanding.

Punter wins on favourite horses was at 37% against an average of 35% between 2010 and 2013, and Premier League favourites won 64% compared to 35% in the same period.

These odds combined to drag the group’s win percentage down to 9.1 per cent from its long-term average of 10 per cent.

They will also expand their 305 shops by another 40 in the next year, regardless of new Government fixed levy rules. So, profits are down, but they’re still wildly rich. Not surprising for a bookmaker, eh?

What this all means in actuality is that we’re going to see a whole load of irritating publicity stunts. That’s the one thing that’s certain in all of this.

Supermarket sales at 10 year low

August 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

basket 300x300 Supermarket sales at 10 year lowSupermarkets are still having a topsy turvy time of it, as sales have been hitting a 10-year low.

According to some research by the Kantar Worldpanel (sounds like a support act for Kraftwerk or Can), low inflation in the price of groceries, has seen sales grow by only 0.8% in the last 12 weeks, against figures from a year earlier.

The ongoing price wars and what have you, has driven inflation down to a record low of 0.2%. And guess what?

The main winners in market share again were Aldi and Lidl.

Aldi’s market share rose to 4.8% from 3.7% a year earlier, while Lidl’s share climbed to 3.6% from 3.1%. And it’s not all budget end, as sales at Waitrose were up 3.6% from a year earlier, and its market share edged up to 4.9% from 4.8%.

But it’s grim news for Tesco, as its sales were down 4% from last year’s period, and the market share dropping from 30.2% to 28.8%

According to Kantar Worldpanel director Edward Garner: “Competitive pricing among the big grocers and deflation in the price of staple items such as vegetables, milk and bread has driven inflation down yet again,”

“This naturally impacts on the overall growth of the grocery market, which has fallen to a 10 year record-low of 0.8%,” he added.

School premiums driving up house prices

August 27th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

beacky high 300x200 School premiums driving up house pricesHouse price news now, and if parents want their nippers to go to the best state schools in England, they’re looking down the barrel of half a million to buy a home in the right area.

According to a report from Lloyds, it reckons the average premium to live nearby to a top school is £21,000

The most extreme example was Beaconsfield High School in Buckinghamshire (pictured) where the average house price is £797,000, compared to an average price of £314,000 in the rest of the county, giving it a ‘school premium’ of £483,031, the largest one in England.

Researchers looked at the top 30 secondary state schools in England as well as the top ten performing secondary state schools in each region, based on last year’s [2013] GCSE data.

But it’s not all demented premium news, as Heckmondwike grammar, in West Yorkshire, has results that place it among the top 30 state schools in the country, but house prices nearby average just £99,000.

For that lot in London, Barnet also stands out as an area with some of the best state schools. But house prices are lower in the area than the average for the capital.

A mortgages director at Lloyds, who we’ll call for this purpose Marc Page, said: “Although property values can be significantly lower in neighbouring areas, many parents don’t appear to be put off from paying a premium to ensure their child has the best possible chance to attend their chosen school.”

Shall we look at the Top Ten of where the biggest house price ‘school premiums’ are?:

1. Beaconsfield High School, Buckinghamshire, £483,031, 154%
2. Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, West Midlands, £131,656, 79%
3. Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, Lancashire, £86,857, 62%
4. St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School, Kent, £152,680, 59%
4. Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, £184,058, 59%
6. Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Cheshire, £117,439, 56%
7. Colyton Grammar School, Devon, £53,309, 24%
8. Newport Girls’ High School, Shropshire, £23,432, 12%
8. Wolverhampton Girls’ High School, West Midlands, £20,195, 12%
10. Nonsuch High School for Girls, Sutton, £23,380, 8%

Mostly Girls Schools too, the pervs.

Even bigger iPad a-coming

August 27th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

apple logo Even bigger iPad a comingApple are bringing out a bigger iPad!

According to reports, Apple are launching a new iPad in the first part of 2015 with a new 12.9 inch screen.

This iPad size follows the 7.9 inch and 9.7 inch.

But don’t leap off a cliff just yet, an updated version of the 9.7 inch iPad and the mini will be in the shops by Christmas, according to Bloomberg.

The iPhone is now expected to increase to 5.5 inch screens, which should be announced at an event on September 9th.

Obviously the company is on the skids and keen to do what it can to make up only selling 13.3 million iPads in the Apr-June period, down a colossal 9.% on the same period the year before.

And iPhones only scraped 35.2 million sales, short of the market predictions of 36 million.

Let’s all cross our fingers and hope things work out for them at this difficult time.

RBS fined £14.5m over lousy mortgage advice

August 27th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

rbs RBS fined £14.5m over lousy mortgage adviceThe Royal Bank of Scotland has been fined £14.5m by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after they failed to ensure that they were giving good mortgage advice to customers.

The FCA said: “Two reviews of sales from 2012 found that in over half the cases the suitability of the advice was not clear.”

The could’ve said: ‘As if there wasn’t enough reasons to loathe them.’

Of course, RBS was quick to apologise, with chief executive Ross McEwan saying that these failures are “unacceptable and should never have happened”.

After their investigation, the FCA discovered that RBS and their NatWest buddied had failed to take the full extent of a customer’s budget into consideration when they were making a recommendation.

On top of that, the banks didn’t give proper debt consolidation advice as well as completely failing to advise customers which mortgage term was best suited for them, according to the watchdog.

“Only two of the 164 sales reviewed were considered to meet the standard required overall in a sales process,” the FCA added.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said: “Taking out a mortgage is one of the biggest moments in our lives, and our customers have every right to expect the very best service when making this decision. It is clear that in the past the bank just didn’t get this right, this was unacceptable and should never have happened.”

“When I joined the bank we completely overhauled our processes, and took all our mortgage advisers off the front line for an extensive period of time to get the training required.”

Looks like they didn’t give the advisers enough training when it comes to treating customers fairly in a financial agreement that could potentially be for life, and indeed, ruin a family financially. Considering that taxpayers own 80% of the bank, thanks to previous bad behaviour from RBS, you’d hope that at some point, they’d try and up their game.

RBS have already mis-sold loads of insurance (to which they’ve put £3.2bn aside for when that bites them on the arse) and were hit with a £390m fine for their role in the Libor rate fixing affair.

Anti-deathwatch: Salaries

August 26th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

wages 300x199 Anti deathwatch: SalariesSalaries are showing signs of increasing for the first time since the financial crisis, says obscure-ish jobs search engine Adzuna.

The average salary has had an 0.9% advance on the previous year while the number of vacancies were up by a quarter to 872,629, said the report, which comes based on online job vacancies from more than 300 sources.

They’ve even broken their findings down into areas of the UK, which showed that all parts of the country benefited from a salary rise, except London.

The biggest rise in salaries came in Wales with 19%, with south-west England 7% and 6% in north-east England. London actually recorded a 1% fall in salaries.

The coincidentally named Andrew Hunter of the job hunter website Adzuna said:

“The UK job creation boom has become a double-edged sword, creating record highs in employment rates at the expense of stagnating wages. For once we can see good levels in both job creation and wage increases. And as the UK motors on towards full employment, we may well see wages increase at a higher rate as employers begin a bidding war for skills.”

It’s all quite good news isn’t it? People no longer having to sign on and that.

BT to ruin your Christmas

August 26th, 2014 6 Comments By Ian Wade

bt logo BT to ruin your ChristmasBT are raising their prices in December. Merry Christmas!

That’s right. The telco have announced that they are to raise the prices of their phone and broadband by 6.5%

The price rise has been – surprise – defended by BT, claiming that most customers are on inclusive packages, and that bills have actually decreased by 14% in the last half decade.

It will increase the line rental for direct debit customers by 6.25% to £16.99, and the rate for calling UK landlines by 6.44%.

And also, set-up fees for landline calls, residential calls, to the speaking clock and call return charges will also increase for some or all customers.

BT’s option for low-incomes, BT Basic, will stay the same at £5.10 a month with a call allowance.

Of course, they’re not nearly as keen to have an option where you can get a fibre optic broadband connection without the need for a landline (as a lot of people just rely on their mobiles these days), but there you go.

Do YOU know about the tax disc changes?

August 26th, 2014 8 Comments By Ian Wade

Windscreen decoration news now, and did YOU know that tax discs are set to be abolished on October 1? We spoke about it all the way back in 2012, but according to a survey on money.co.uk, only half of drivers questioned were aware of the changes.

You will still have to pay your vehicle tax, but now police cameras will be automatically check number plates and robots will establish if the tax has been paid.

The tax disc has spent 93 years on vehicle’s windscreens – well, in six or 12 months bursts anyway. Not the same one handed down.

Motorists will need to be aware of impending tax disc changes or face a £1,000 fine as well as potential penalty charges against a car they no longer own.

“Helpfully”, the DVLA has yet to start adding warnings to tax renewal reminders, but THEY’VE MADE A FILM!

Dear God.

The new rules will demand used car sellers to inform the DVLA of the change of ownership. HPI provider, hpicheck.com, has warned those caught unaware could face fines and charges.

Meanwhile for used car buyers, the vehicle tax will no longer be transferred while those selling can claw back unused tax.

So yes, get aware.

People of Bedford really generous

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

 People of Bedford really generousBedford – it’s alright really, according to new findings from JustGiving.

According to figures from the UK’s biggest fundraising website, Bedford is the most generous town in the UK.

The good people of Bedford, in Bedfordshire, gave £1,145,967 in the year to May 2014, with 41,631 people digging deep into their pockets.

Cambridge came in second place, with £1,440, while Reading was third with £1,711,566.

By calculating the figures of funds donated, in proportion to the giving residents of the town in relation to the town’s overall population.

Those Top 10 Towns:

1. Bedford – £1,145,967 given by 41,631; population 79,150
2. Cambridge – £1,440,634 given by 48,295; population 126,480
3. Reading – £1,711,566 given by 58,235; population 159,247
4. Brentwood – £750,509 given by 21,672; population 74,460
5. Woking – £921,165 given by 27,646; population 99,567
6. Aberdeen – £1,872,610 given by 58,307; population 220,420
7. Cheltenham – £976,995 given by 33,381; population 115,900
8. High Wycombe – £1,004,113 given by 31,658; population 93,736
9. Watford – £737,375 given by 22,643; population 93,736
 10. Bristol – £848,674 given by 28,553; population 121,723

Well done Bedford!

You’ve got something going for you, at least!

Co-op announce losses of £75.8m

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Co op Co op announce losses of £75.8mThe troubled Co-operative Bank have announced pretax losses of £75.8m for the first six months of this year. Losing that amount of money is not a thing to be sniffed at all.

They’ve said that “much needs to be done” in turning around the company, and hopefully, someone was on-hand to give them an award for stating the obvious.

That said, it isn’t all gloom – this is a significant reduction on the £844.6m loss during the same period last year, but at the same time, customers clearly aren’t happy as the bank said they’d lost 28,199 current accounts in the six months to 30th June.

Chief executive, Niall Booker, said the “deep-rooted issues” would continue to impact on the company’s performance for a while yet.

“Considering the scale of the challenge we faced a year ago we are encouraged by the progress made to ensure the stability of the bank. By the measures of capital and liquidity the bank is considerably stronger than it was a year ago. We are ahead of schedule in the disposal of non-core assets and have improved governance, particularly at board level. However, the issues we continue to face in building a sustainable business are deep-rooted and there remains much to be done,” he said.

“Transforming the organisation into a viable and profitable business which generates capital in the long term still requires significant change – both operationally and culturally.”

“The core bank continues to remain stable. In the first half of the year more people switched into the bank than in the second half of 2013. Although we have also seen an increase in the number of people switching out of the bank, the net numbers remain small relative to our total number of current account customers whose continuing loyalty is deeply appreciated. Recent trends suggest this net outflow of retail customers has slowed.”

One thing working in their favour it seems, is that for the most part, people just can’t be bothered to switch their current accounts.

We’re spending less on food

August 22nd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade
lidl shopper 300x199 Were spending less on food

“Mmmm Earlobe risotto! Yum!”

Food shop spending dropped in July for the first time in a quarter of a century.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, a year-on-year fall of 1.3% was the first seen since records began back in January 1989.

The price wars have had some effect, as the report says that prolonged discounting was affecting overall sales.

It goes on to suggest that the big supermarkets have been upping their game against having their market share arses kicked by the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

The headline figure for retail sales showed a weaker than expected 0.1% growth month-on-month.

However, a three-month on three-month increase of 0.3% was the seventh consecutive improvement, the longest period of sustained growth by this measure since November 2007.

It’s also quite good news for online shopping, as spending increased 11.2% in July on a year earlier but fell 1.9% compared to June.

Speaking some sense, and illuminating the caution, Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte said: “Many consumers are yet to feel the benefits of the economic recovery and are reluctant to let go of their recessionary behaviours, particularly when shopping for food.

“Consumers continue to show a willingness to spend on non-food items, but are doing so selectively.”

payday loans Cheap credit websites slammed by Financial OmbudsmanThe Financial Ombudsman is spitting feathers over sites that take money from unwitting people on the promise of finding them cheap credit, only for their loans to vanish into the ether.

Complaints have rocketed to the ombudsman, saying that middlemen for payday loans are leeching all their money from them, without giving them the loan they initially asked for. Some instances saw consumers being debited multiple times without being warned thanks to their bank details being passed onto other credit broking websites.

And it is a big problem – the ombudsman says that, so far this year, over 10,000 people have complained about credit broking websites. That’s twice the number of complaints from 2013.

One of the main problems is that people are using these sites thinking that they were direct applications for loans, rather than a middleman.

Senior ombudsman Juliana Francis said: “It’s disappointing that people who are struggling to make ends meet are being misled into thinking that these websites will get them a loan.”

If you have problems regarding this, it is definitely worth telling the ombudsman because the majority of cases they’ve taken on have resulted in a refund.

In two-thirds of the investigated complaints, the ombudsman agreed that the consumer had been on the end of unfair treatment. So don’t be shy and get in touch with them.

Interest rates: no need for rise

August 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

British high street 300x180 Interest rates: no need for riseThanks to supermarket price wars and sales on the high street this summer, there’s been no need for the Bank of England to go ahead with early interest rate rises. Hurrah!

The consumer prices index, or CPI, went from 1.9% to 1.6% last month, which means it is still below the Bank’s 2% target for the seventh month on the trot.

The Office for National Statistics reckon this is down to a third month of falling food costs, which is due to the supermarkets scrambling for what customers they can get with all manner of discounts and offers.

The July RPI figure, which they use to set next year’s regulated rail fares, came in at 2.5%, which hopefully is good news for commuters expecting a massive price increase in the new year.

The City was a bit freaked out by the drop in CPI. Experts said the lack of evidence of inflation would stay the hand of the Monetary Policy Committee from a first rate since 2007.

There’ll no doubt be more exciting news like that when the Bank publishes the minutes of its August meeting, but otherwise that’s all quite optimistic news isn’t it?

Please say it is.