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  • BBC Business News: New debris probed in MH370 search
    More debris washed up on Reunion island is investigated after a wing part - possibly from missing flight MH370 - was found last week.
  • BBC Business News: Government may begin RBS sale
    The Treasury could begin the process of selling part of the government's stake in Royal Bank of Scotland from Monday, according to BBC sources.
  • Business Matters: Osborne kicks off £2bn RBS share sale

    The Treasury is prepared to accept a loss on the investment. RBS shares are now 342p, well below the 502p target for the state to break even. The government owns 79 per cent of the bank, a stake worth £17.3bn, reports The Times.

    The sale will mark the beginning of the end of the post-credit-crisis era government ownership of big banks. It will also be a defining moment for the Edinburgh-headquartered lender that under the leadership of Fred “the Shred” Goodwin became at one point the largest bank in the world by assets.

    His reign came unstuck after the ill-judged acquisition of ABN Amro, the Dutch bank, just before the credit crunch began. RBS came close to collapse but was saved when Alistair Darling, the Labour chancellor, masterminded a plan to inject £45.8bn to buy shares. The government also provided hundreds of billions in emergency loans.

    This week’s sale will be aimed at institutional investors, including hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds. A retail sale of the government’s remaining stake in Lloyds bank is planned for next year.

    Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS, has previously said that shares could eventually be sold at a profit, but the initial chunk would have to be at a loss. This would follow a similar route to the sell-down of the government’s stake in Lloyds.

    The chancellor hopes to offload shares equivalent to a 6 per cent stake in RBS. He laid the ground for the exit in June when he said that the longer the government held the shares, the worse it would be for the economy.

    Analysts say certain investors may snub the share offering as there is still so much uncertainty about the charges facing RBS for its role in selling toxic mortgages in America before the financial crisis. RBS last week reported an unexpected second-quarter profit of £293m.

  • Business Matters: 3 steps to successful thinking

    “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”

    This popular quote cannot be said any clearer: Who you are. What you have done. What you do. What you will do. Your failures. Your accomplishments. Every one of these things begins with a thought. In fact, every positive, tangible (even intangible) thing that exists in the world is the product of a single thought, says inc.

    That iPhone you enjoy using? The product of a thought.

    A healthy and fit body that was once overweight? It started with a thought.

    A just law that was once an unjust law? It began with a thought first.

    That successful, million-dollar company that employs thousands? It was in someone’s head before a single cent was generated.

    Just as positive achievements begin in our thought life, so does the failure to achieve. You want to lose weight, but you are hesitant to take the first step due to the overwhelming dedication it may take. You want to start that business, but are afraid to take the first step. You failed to get the deal you worked so hard on, and now you are second-guessing if you’re cut out for your industry. These negative, fear-based thoughts are the root cause for quitting in the midst of adversity as well as quitting before even trying.

    If everything produced in your life is the result of your thoughts, then it’s important to control your negative thoughts (before they control you). Here are three methods to incorporate into your life right now and take control of negative thoughts holding your back:

    1. Identify What Comes Out of Your Mouth – Do you find yourself in situations saying things such as, “That will never happen,” or, “It probably won’t work out.” You will never take the first step toward accomplishment if you shoot yourself in the foot before ever beginning. Negative words are reflective of negative thinking. Everything we say, even the things we utter when no one is around, is indicative of how we feel in our minds. Remove negative words from your speech and replace them with positive statements that line up with your goals.

    2. Replace the Root – Once you identify the negative words that you say, go further and identify the negative thoughts that are at the root of those words. Replace words such as should and can’t with will and can. Not only are negative words reflections of your thoughts, but they are also reflections of your emotions. By taking control of negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts that line up with your goals, you are also fine-tuning your emotions and attitudes. The most important attitude to have when setting out to achieve anything is confidence.

    3. Focus on Solutions, Not Problems – By identifying the negative things you say, understanding the thoughts at the root of those words, and replacing those with positive thoughts and words, you are taking action, building habits, and reshaping your character. Those habits and that character will sustain you when you challenges seemingly appear out of nowhere. Instead of dwelling on your obstacles, challenges, and hurdles, think about how to solve the problem. Instead of dwelling on a lack of resources, you now possess the ability to focus on what you can accomplish with the resources you have at your disposal right now. Before you know it, you will look up and notice that you have made progress.

    Everyone thinks on some level, but how many of us actually think about… well… our thinking? Thoughts are the essence of everything we do or fail to do. They are the roots of words, which produce action, which produce habits, which produce character. When you think about it on that level, our thoughts are the very thing that control us. Take control of your life, your goals, and your success today by taking control of negative thoughts!

  • Business Matters: NatWest blames cyber attack for payday website outage

    Customers took to Twitter on Friday morning to signal their frustration at being unable to access their bank accounts to make payments and check balances on payday.

    NatWest, which has been plagued by IT issues in recent years, said that the outage lasted 50 minutes and had been resolved.

    Later in the day it blamed a cyber attack for the problems, according to The Telegraph. “The issues that some customers experienced accessing online banking this morning was due to a surge in internet traffic deliberately directed at the website,” said a spokesman.

    “This deliberate surge of traffic is commonly known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. At no time was there any risk to customers. Customers experienced issues for around 50 minutes and this has now been resolved. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

    “We are aware that some customers experienced issues with online banking this morning. This has now been resolved and our service is operating as normal. We apologise to those customers who experienced difficulties,” said a NatWest spokesperson.

    The bank said the outage also affected customers at its sister banks RBS and Ulster Bank. It added that its mobile banking apps were unaffected, despite reports to the contrary.

    The blip in service is the latest in a string of IT troubles to dog the bank, which is part of Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

    In 2014 RBS was fined £56m by regulators for software problems that prevented NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank customers from accessing their accounts in 2012. It was then hit by another outage the day after receiving the fine.

    The site crash in 2012 was blamed on a botched software upgrade and affected up to 6.5 million customers, who were unable to make payments for up to three weeks. RBS subsequently paid out around £70m in compensation and has spent more than £750m improving its IT infrastructure. An internal report found that it had crucially failed to invest in a “mirror bank” that could continue making transactions if the main system collapsed.

    However the bank’s systems broke down again in June, when about 600,000 transactions were affected by IT problems.

    Ross McEwan, Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief executive, told investors and analysts last month he wanted his company to become the number one bank in the UK for “customer service, trust and advocacy” by 2020.

  • Business Matters: Strong growth paves way for Bank of England to raise rates next year

    Interest rates are on course to rise at the start of next year, the Bank of England will signal this week, as faster growth and robust pay rises pave the way for policymakers to begin gradual rate hikes, reports The Telegraph.

    The Bank’s latest healthcheck of the economy is expected to trigger the first split this year between policymakers over the timing of rate rises, as staff revise up growth and earnings forecasts.

    Dubbed “Super Thursday”, Threadneedle Street will publish its quarterly Inflation Report alongside the Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) interest rates decision and minutes.

    Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, told households last month to start preparing for higher rates, with a decision likely to come into “sharper relief” by “the turn of this year”.

    Inflation, which stood at zero in June, is expected to pick up “notably” once last year’s dramatic drop in oil prices fades from the data at the end of 2015, and the Bank’s latest projections are likely to endorse market expectations that rates will start to rise in January or February next year.

    Analysts expect Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty – two external MPC members – to start voting for rate hikes this month. The pair voted for Bank Rate to be raised to 0.75 per cent, from a record low of 0.5 per cent, five times from last August. However, they dropped their call in January because of the risk that low inflation could become entrenched.

    Mr Weale suggested in June that policymakers should be ready to tighten policy as early as this month, while David Miles, who leaves the MPC this month, said it was a “bad mistake” if policymakers waited too long to raise rates.

    Mr Carney has assured borrowers that any rate rises “would proceed slowly”, and that the nine-member rate-setting panel would adopt a “feel its way as it goes” approach that would be entirely data dependent.

    The UK economy grew by 0.7pc in the three months to June compared with the previous quarter, which was stronger than the Bank’s projection of 0.6pc for the first estimate.

    Pay growth has also exceeded the Bank’s expectations. Average weekly earnings growth of 2.7 per cent in the quarter to April compared with a year earlier was 0.8 percentage points stronger than had been expected in the Bank’s last forecast in May. Regular pay growth was also stronger than predicted.

    Wage increases in May were even stronger, with total earnings growth of 3.2 per cent the fastest since April 2010.

    However, bullish projections for earnings are likely to be offset by stronger productivity, easing employer costs and leaving more room for growth without stoking inflation.

    Total hours worked fell by 0.2 per cent in the three months to May, according to official data. “Taken together with the 0.7 per cent rise in GDP in the second quarter, this suggests that productivity on an output per hour basis probably rose by just shy of 1pc on the quarter,” said Paul Hollingsworth, an economist at Capital Economics. “This would push the annual growth rate to its highest since the second quarter of 2010.”

    Mr Carney will also write his third letter to George Osborne, the Chancellor, explaining why inflation is well below the MPC’s 2 per cent target. Minutes of its June meeting showed that stripping out volatile falls in energy, food and imports, inflation, as measured by the consumer prices index, would be about 1.5 per cent.

    Others said sterling’s recent strength and a renewed fall in oil prices meant most of the MPC would wait until next year to raise rates. The pound has climbed 3 per cent against a basket of other currencies since May.

    Andy Haldane, the Bank’s chief economist, has said that this will push down on the Bank’s medium term inflation forecast by at least another 0.2 percentage points.

    Chris Hare, an economist at Investec, said: “In the May Report, inflation was projected at 2pc at the two-year-ahead horizon so, all else equal, sterling news would now see the MPC projecting a slight undershoot of the inflation target.

    All told, our expectation is that the domestic cost versus import cost news will broadly balance out to leave the medium term inflation outlook in a similar place, with the two-year-ahead forecast close to the 2pc target. So over and above the voting dynamics, we expect the MPC to leave markets fairly unrattled.”

    Others warned that markets were becoming too complacent about interest rate rises.

  • Business Matters: British Airways to fight Heathrow’s plans for third runway

    Indicating that International Airlines Group is prepared to go to the courts to prevent the expansion of Heathrow, Willie Walsh, its chief executive, said: “We will challenge it by any and every avenue open to us. We are not prepared to pay for it.”

    Flying in the face of the wishes of the vast majority of British business bosses, Mr Walsh said: “There’s a belief that we will be willing to pay. That’s nonsense.”

    Gatwick, Heathrow’s rival in the race to build a new runway, was gleeful at Mr Walsh’s intervention, according to The Times. Senior industry sources believe that he is taking an early “extreme negotiating position” over who would pay what for Heathrow expansion.

    It is reckoned that a third runway at Heathrow would cost about £22 billion — £17 billion to be financed by Heathrow and its Spanish and other international investor owners, and £5 billion that it has been assumed the government would fund to pay for land access, including reconfiguration of the M25.

    Mr Walsh said that Heathrow would try to pass on the cost of that £17 billion to its customers — the airlines, of which BA is by far the most dominant. He calculated that the cost passed on by Heathrow would cause IAG’s bill in air charges for operating at the airport to rise by about 50 per cent to £1.3 billion a year from £800 million to £900 million today — costs that ultimately would be passed on to passengers in higher fares.

    “It is excessive,” Mr Walsh said. “The infrastructure would be expensive, inefficient, not fit for purpose. We did not ask for it and we do not want it. I’d be surprised if other airlines were to stand idly by.”

    He criticised the report delivered last month by Sir Howard Davies after a 2½-year inquiry into the best option for runway expansion in the southeast. “The funding issue has been glossed over,” he said. “The question that needed to be asked — over how this is going to be funded — has not been asked. It is a huge question. The debate over affordability has not even begun.”

    Gatwick welcomed Mr Walsh’s comments. “One month on and the Davies report is unravelling fast,” Stewart Wingate, the airport’s chief executive, said. “For the huge costs of a third runway at Heathrow, you could build Gatwick, have all the benefits and billions left to invest around the country.”

    A Heathrow spokesman said: “Heathrow expansion is critical to the future of the British economy.”

  • Business Matters: UK firms suffer due to border disruption

    According to Sky News, it costs £1 a minute to run an HGV (heavy goods vehicle), so when Operation Stack is enforced on Kent’s roads – with waiting times often in excess of six hours – it can cost hundreds of pounds for companies trying to export to mainland Europe.

    Operation Stack involves parking – or stacking – up to 5,000 lorries on the M20 when Eurotunnel or Dover ferry services are disrupted.

    It was first introduced in 1996, but in June and July of this year it has been used to unprecedented levels due to the migrant crisis, with the M20 closed for 24 out of 40 days.

    But there are also challenges when returning to the UK from Calais, not least when migrants manage to break into lorries.

    According to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), one major distributor of pharmaceuticals carrying drugs bound for NHS hospitals had to write off stock of £2.5m after such a break-in, because it posed a major safety risk.

    The security lapses also cause a headache for other industries, especially those where perishable goods are at stake.

    Figures from the Fresh Produce Consortium suggest at least £10m worth of food destined for Britain had to be binned between January and June, because stowaways had posed a “contamination risk”.

    The Road Haulage Association estimates that 90 per cent of all road freight between the UK and the continent uses Kent’s road network, with as many as 10,000 loads moving across the Channel on a daily basis.

    Even if just 1 per cent of the stock is tampered with, at an average loss rate of £30,000 per trailer this amounts to a loss of £3m a day, or £1bn a year.

    The FTA believes importers and hauliers have been left “carrying the can” because of the migrant crisis.

    Some insurance companies are declining to cover the cost of written-off stock, invoking clauses which state that acts of civil disorder are not covered in the policies of affected businesses.

    Jo James, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, told Sky News: “Kent has been plagued with the effects of Operation Stack for over 20 years now – and every time it has been introduced, the result is the M20 is turned into a huge lorry park.

    “At last, the Government has woken up to the fact that this is a national problem and a solution needs to be found.

    “The loss to the local economy is significant, as businesses are unable to deliver goods and services.

    “This is unacceptable and a threat to the long-term viability of some businesses.”

    Eurotunnel has also accused public authorities of “underestimating the migrant situation”.

    Last week, the company revealed it has spent €13m (£9m) on security measures in the first half of 2015 alone – and called on the French and British governments to reimburse them.

    Ministers are now working with officials in Kent to find space to park lorries and ease congestion on the M20.

    With the warnings that continued delays will be unsustainable for small businesses – and the prospect that higher costs will eventually be passed on to consumers – the pressure is on to resolve the crisis sooner rather than later.

  • Business Matters: ‘Progress’ but no deal at Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

    But the US trade representative Michael Froman said ministers were more confident than ever that a deal on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership was within reach.

    He said it would support jobs and economic growth.

    Among the sticking points were issues relating to the automobile sector and access to dairy markets, according to The BBC.

    No date has been set for the next round of talks.

    Mr Froman said “significant progress” had been made in the discussions on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

    He said work “will continue on resolving a limited number of remaining issues”.

    Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said “98 per cent is concluded,” blaming the “big four” economies in the group – the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico – for the failure to reach a final deal.

    New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser was upbeat after the talks on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

    “The undergrowth has been cleared away in the course of this meeting in a manner that I would say is streets ahead of any of the other ministerial meetings that we have had,” he said.

    New Zealand has said it will not agree to a deal unless it significantly opens up dairy markets.

    Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari singled out intellectual property rights as an area on which agreement had proved impossible.

    Drug patents are another divisive issue, setting the US at odds with all the other countries, said one participant quoted by Reuters news agency.

    The TPP will encompass 40 per cent of the world economy. But the latest delay means that any agreement is now unlikely to have time to gain approval in the US Congress before the elections this November and the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

    The US, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru are taking part in the talks.

  • Business Matters: Rolls-Royce may face break-up after activist hedge fund reveals stake

    ValueAct Capital, which is based in San Francisco, is renowned for pushing companies for radical change but prefers to operate behind the scenes rather than make its case through public announcements. In the past it has targeted Microsoft and mobile phone maker Motorola, often looking for the company to sell itself or hive off assets.

    The hedge fund is thought to have been building a stake in Rolls-Royce since last summer and is now the aerospace and defence group’s biggest investor ahead of Aberdeen Asset Management, BlackRock and Invesco.

    According to The Guardian, shares in Rolls-Royce rose 44.5p, or 6 per cent, to 794.5p after ValueAct’s investment was revealed in a stock market filing.

    ValueAct’s stake-building comes at a vital moment for the Derby-based group. On Thursday, the company reported that profits have slumped by more than half on the back of falling demand for its jet engines. Warren East, Rolls’ new chief executive, is also leading a review of the engineer, pledging to make it a faster-moving and less complex business.

    Rolls has issued four profit warnings in the last 18 months and is under pressure on a number of fronts. Demand for its best-selling Trent 700 engine is waning as airliners wait for the launch of the new Airbus A330neo long-haul jet, while falling oil prices have exposed its marine business, which makes parts for offshore oil and gas platforms, leading to a 90 per cent fall in profits at the unit in the first half of 2015.

    Rolls has five divisions: civil aerospace; defence; marine; power systems and nuclear. However, earlier this year Sequoia Fund, another US hedge fund, accused Rolls of being “willing to destroy shareholder value” by branching out from manufacturing jet engines. In an open letter it said a “tough-minded activist” investor was needed to drive change in the face of “stubborn and entrenched” management.

    Since then John Rishton has stood down as chief executive and replaced by East, the former boss of Arm Holdings, which makes microchips for Apple.

    In a statement, Rolls-Royce said: “We welcome any investor who recognises the long-term value of our business. We have frequent communication with all of our shareholders and meet with major investors on a regular basis. We look forward to engaging with ValueAct, just as we do with all investors.”

    East has said he will unveil the findings of his operational review of the group by the end of 2015. This review will focus on adding “pace and simplicity” to the company.

    East said that the recent profit warnings showed Rolls-Royce “isn’t as resilient as everyone thought” and is facing a period of significant transition as the business moves from a reliance on profitable engines such as the Trent 700, which it produces for the Airbus A330, towards new, more fuel-efficient engines such as the Trent 7000.

    However, he pointed to a £2.8bn rise in the company’s order book to £76.5bn as evidence that Rolls remains in robust health.

    “I am doing what any new CEO would do and getting my head around the operations,” East said. “I am looking at whether what we are doing is necessary, and could we do it faster and better. I am not ruling anything in or anything out at this stage. But Rolls is a sound business.”

  • BBC Business News: Recruit people 'better than you'
    Three pieces of make or break advice
  • BBC Business News: British oil company investigated
    The Serious Fraud Office opens a criminal investigation into British company Soma Oil and Gas.
  • BBC Business News: Is the Asian tech boom about to bust?
    Optimism and concern at HK's tech conference
  • Business Matters: Ultimo founder Michelle Mone to be made a Conservative Peer

    The Ultimo underwear founder was told she will take a seat in the House of Lords in a call from Prime Minister David Cameron, according to the Sun newspaper.

    Ms Mone, who has made appearances on TV’s The Apprentice and Celebrity Masterchef, was keeping quiet on the reports.

    Her spokesman declined to comment and the entrepreneur made no reference to the proposed peerage on her Twitter account.

    Mone, from Glasgow, announced earlier this year that she was leaving Scotland after becoming caught up in an “extremely vitriolic social media hate campaign” due to her vocal support of the Union during the independence debate.

    The 43-year-old, said to be worth £20 million, received an OBE for her contribution to business in 2010.

    In a Guardian interview last month Mone was asked about her proudest moment so far.

    She told the newspaper: “Probably all the inventions I’ve created. I helped the Prime Minister with the referendum and in keeping the Union together. That was tough, but it had the most rewarding results.

    “Also, receiving my OBE from the Queen. I never, ever thought I would get anything like that.”

    SNP MP Stewart McDonald, who represents Glasgow South, said on Twitter: “Yes, Michelle Mone is a successful entrepreneur, but to become a national legislator overnight without the fuss of an election is obscene.”

    A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on the report.

  • Pubs For Sale (Info for customers): Unique Home And Business Premises In Parkland Setting For Sale
    This former hunting lodge borders a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and stands off-road. The approach is a half-mile woodland drive lined with rhododendron, before a willow lined ave

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