The government’s apprenticeship levy on employers has been “disastrous”, according to the head of one of Britain’s biggest business groups. Dame Judith Hackitt, who chairs the EEF manufacturers’ body, will say later on Tuesday that the levy is “complex” and seen as just another tax on business. She will make the comments in a speech at the EEF’s annual dinner, attended by Business Secretary Greg Clark. The scheme needs a complete overhaul, Dame Judith will say. Many companies have postponed or even halted apprenticeships because of the levy.
Fish farming is big business – the industry now produces about 100 million tonnes a year – and with salmon prices soaring, producers are turning to lasers, automation and artificial intelligence to boost production and cut costs. How do you know if farmed salmon have had enough to eat? Well, according to Lingalaks fish farms in Norway, which produce nearly three million salmon each year, the fish make less noise once the feeding frenzy is over.
The firm knows this thanks to a new hydro-acoustic system it has installed at one of its farms. The system listens to the salmon sloshing loudly about as they feed in a cluster. When the fish have had enough, they swim off and the noise lessens. Lingalaks chief executive Erlend Haugarvoll hopes this knowledge will save his firm lots of money in reduced feed, as much of it currently gets wasted.
“I think it could improve [expenditure] by about 5%,” he says. “That could be between 7m-10m krone (£630,000-900,000, $900,000-$1.3m) for our firm.”
One of Britain’s biggest electronics retailers is in talks with potential buyers amid reports it is seeking to head off the threat of administration. Maplin, which has more than 200 stores and 2,500 staff, hopes to strike a deal this week, the company said. News of a possible sale, first reported by Sky News, comes after insurers withdrew credit cover last year because of falling profits. Maplin, owned by Rutland Partners, is the latest High Street name in trouble. A string of clothing retailers and restaurants, plus Toys R Us UK, have all run into financial problems in recent months. However, Maplin said it expected to be able to unveil a “solvent sale” within days.
“Once secured this will stabilise the business to the benefit of all stakeholders and provide Maplin with the financial firepower to deliver its 2020 multi-channel strategy focused on smart tech,” the company said in a statement.
TOKYO (Reuters) – More than half of Japan’s companies do not plan to raise base pay in annual wage talks in coming months, a set back for the prime minister and the country’s main business lobby which has called for wage rises of 3 percent to fuel an economic revival. In a monthly Reuters Corporate Survey, just less than half said they would raise pay and most in this group said the increase would be similar to last year’s level of about 2 percent.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Keidanren business group have sought a 3 percent wage rise to encourage consumption and inflation, key elements of Abe’s bid to vanquish the country of years of deflation. A rise in fourth-quarter GDP reported last week marked Japan’s longest continuous economic expansion since the 1980s but significant wage rises remain elusive even though the labor market is its tightest in about four decades. In the past four years, major companies agreed to raise wages about 2 percent at annual wage negotiations with labor unions, a benchmark that sets the tone for talks across the country.
The bulk of that – about 1.8 percent – comes automatically under Japan’s seniority-based employment system. Anything beyond that is a hike in “base pay.” But many firms are wary of raising wages as it commits them to higher fixed personnel costs, so they prefer to pay one-off bonuses instead. The survey was conducted between Jan 31 and Feb 14 on behalf of Reuters by Nikkei Research. Of some 240 companies that responded, 52 percent said they would not raise base pay.
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial sector will be “the servant of industry not the masters of us all” if the opposition Labour Party gets into power, its leader Jeremy Corbyn will say on Tuesday, accusing bankers of taking the economy hostage. Corbyn, a socialist who has won over many voters with his promises to renationalize services and increase public spending, has long targeted London’s lucrative financial sector, saying politicians have become in thrall of money makers for too long. In a speech to a manufacturers’ conference, Corbyn will renew his pledge to rebalance Britain’s economy if he wins power in an election not due until 2022, and will also criticize Prime Minister Theresa May for offering little clarity over Brexit.
“For a generation, instead of finance serving industry, politicians have served finance. We’ve seen where that ends: the productive economy, our public services and people’s lives being held hostage by a small number of too big to fail banks and casino financial institutions,” he will say.
“No more. The next Labour government will be the first in 40 years to stand up for the real economy. We will take decisive action to make finance the servant of industry not the masters of us all.”
Big business has been cautious toward Labour, with financial services company Morgan Stanley warning investors that Corbyn winning power was a bigger political risk than Brexit.
Jamie Oliver’s two flagship London restaurants have gone into administration, although the celebrity chef immediately bought one back. His upmarket Barbecoa steak restaurant in London’s Piccadilly will close a year after it was re-launched. The other outlet, near St Paul’s Cathedral, has been saved after the chef bought it for an undisclosed sum via a newly-created subsidiary. The move comes as Mr Oliver makes cuts in other parts of his business.
Barbecoa St Paul’s was bought back under a so-called pre-pack arrangement, which allows the purchase of the best assets of a business before it actually goes into administration. The Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group was already cutting costs in other areas, despite the chef putting £3m of his own money into the business in December. Last month it announced that it was shutting down 12 of its 37 Jamie’s Italian restaurants – the mainstay of the group – as part of a rescue plan with creditors that would enable it to continue trading. The closure of the 12 restaurants will affect at least 200 jobs. Court documents revealed that Jamie’s Italian had debts of £71.5m.