BBC Business News: Chinese shares hit by weak data
Chinese shares continue their recent slide after fresh data provides further evidence of a slowdown in the country's economy.
Business Matters: European shares suffer worst month in four years
The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index slid by another 0.5 per cent yesterday, according to The Telegraph, pulling the index of 300 leading European down by 9 per cent over the month.
French stocks on the CAC 40 index dropped by 1.1pc while the German DAX slid by 0.9 per cent. American markets followed suit with the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 immediately down by 0.8 per cent.
It came after the Shanghai Composite Index fell another 0.8 per cent, after dropping almost 40 per cent since its peak in June.
British markets were closed for the bank holiday.
Another contributing factor is the possibility of an interest rate increase in the US in the coming months.
Federal Reserve official Stanley Fischer hinted at the weekend that the market turbulence may not have pushed back the rate hike, despite market expectations that it would not be possible to increase the cost of borrowing at a time of financial disturbance.
“We should not wait until inflation is back to 2pc to begin tightening,” he said. But he also noted that policymakers should “consider the overall state of the US economy, as well as the influence of foreign economies on the US economy, as we reach our judgment on whether and how to change monetary policy”.
He was speaking at the monetary policy conference at Jackson Hole in the US, shortly after Bank of England governor Mark Carney had also made clear that the market volatility in China had not pushed his plans for a UK rate rise – expected in the next year – off the table.
As a result, upcoming jobs data in the US will be watched closely this week to see if strong numbers could clear the way for a rate rise.
Business Matters: Basis of bank accounting is deeply flawed, QC warns
The potentially explosive legal opinion, seen by The Times, makes plain that the billions of pounds of profits reported each year by UK banks cannot be relied upon to give a “true and fair” picture of the financial position of Britain’s biggest financial institutions.
George Bompas, QC, accuses the FRC and the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England & Wales of defective logic in supporting the present accounting standards.
The new opinion, dated August 14, reignites a row between investment institutions, worried that flawed accounting standards were partly responsible for the banking crisis of 2008, and the profession, which sees no need for significant reform.
The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which represents the retirement funds of hundreds of thousands of council workers and which commissioned Mr Bompas, has demanded that the European Commission throw out the latest proposed standard on accounting for banks, known as IFRS9.
It blasted the British accounting profession yesterday as defensive and self-interested and attacked the FRC for its excessively cosy relationship with the ICAEW, “the professional body it is supposed to regulate”. Kieran Quinn, the pension fund forum’s chairman, has written to Theodor Stolojan, chairman of the working group on accounting standards at the European Parliament, demanding a rethink on the new bank accounting standard.
“The issues are far from trivial, as exemplified by the banks getting the standards wrong, meaning that the accounts in some cases were catastrophically wrong,” he wrote. “The accounting profession has effectively become a ‘state within a state’, interpreting the law incorrectly to suit its own interests and in LAPFF’s opinion against the public interest.”
While regulators have overhauled other areas of banking, including capital requirements and boardroom standards, drastically since the financial crisis, the accounting and auditing of banks has been little addressed.
In a report in 2011, the House of Lords’ economic affairs committee accused the four big accountants of being “disconcertingly complacent”, but the mark-to-market rules that tend to play down future potential problems and later amplify them are largely intact. Several fund managers, including Threadneedle, Royal London and Saracen Asset Management, also have expressed concerns about accounting standards.
Mr Bompas criticised the widespread practice of counting paper gains as distributable profits. He said it was difficult to assert that banks that failed to distinguish between the two could report a true and fair financial position.
Crossing swords with Martin Moore, QC, who advised the FRC and challenged an earlier judgment by him, Mr Bompas said that Mr Moore was guilty of defective logic and fallacy.
Accountants said that the judgment had relevance to various accounting scandals, including the overstatement of supplier rebates by Tesco and the implosion at Quindell, the former stock market darling.
The FRC said yesterday: “The issue was extensively looked at by counsel, leading to the BIS and the FRC’s statement in 2013 and the updated True and Fair guidance in June 2014.”
The ICAEW had no immediate comment.
Business Matters: Branson-backed OneWeb eyes $2.5bn launchpad
Sky News has learnt that OneWeb, whose shareholders include some of the world’s biggest companies, is to hold a beauty parade of investment banks ahead of a fundraising planned for next year.
The talks with bankers, which are at an early stage, follow a $500m investment in OneWeb in June as it seeks to build a network of solar-powered terminals that will be connected to almost 650 ‘micro satellites’ in low-earth orbit.
OneWeb’s ambitious plans are part of a space race taking place led by major communications and technology companies in an attempt to connect huge numbers of people to the internet in faster-growing economies which currently lack the required infrastructure.
More than 1bn households around the world remain unserved by internet coverage, with OneWeb also keen to target government, military, aviation and other users.
The venture, whose parent company is called WorldVu Satellites, counts Airbus Group, the Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, Coca-Cola, Intelsat and Qualcomm among its shareholders.
Insiders said that June’s funding round had been oversubscribed, and that a number of companies which had been keen to invest had not been allocated any shares because of the level of demand.
Some industry observers, however, have questioned the level of cash actually invested in the business, and have cast doubt on OneWeb’s prospects.
The preparations for next year’s equity-raising come just weeks after Avanti Communications, a London-listed company, raised approximately £80m through a bond issue to fund the launch of its next satellite.
Last week, Inmarsat launched the final component of its Global Xpress network which will offer high-speed mobile broadband service from a single provider.
For Sir Richard, the OneWeb project will give his Virgin Galactic space tourism business a valuable commercial revenue stream at a time when the core venture is under pressure to demonstrate that it has a viable future.
“OneWeb is well on its way to enabling affordable rural and remote internet access,” a spokesman for the project said.
“After a successful $500m A-round funding which met all of its financial goals, OneWeb has received considerable interest from the investment community and plans for a follow on round late next year.”
Speaking in June, the Virgin Group founder said:
“Our vision is to make the Internet affordable for everyone, connecting remote areas to rest of the world and helping to raise living standards and prosperity in some of the poorest regions today.”
Barclays, which handled the initial $500m fundraising, is expected to be in the frame to handle the larger subsequent round.
Business Matters: High Street shoppers run for cover in heavy rains
The number of people visiting shopping centres surged by 6.2 per cent compared with last year, while footfall on the High Street slipped 0.1 per cent, according to retail analyst Springboard.
Retail parks were the most popular destination, with visitors up 8.5 per cent, according to The BBC.
Overall, footfall was up on last year.
Springboard Insights director Diane Wehrle credited strong consumer confidence for the rise.
“Favourable inflation rates, low unemployment and UK-wide pay rises are enabling shoppers to spend in comfort ,” she added.
Springboard said it had measured footfall across UK retail destinations for Saturday, Sunday and up until midday Monday, but it did not say whether Scotland, where it was not a bank holiday, was excluded from the figures.
Separately, business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said its monthly survey showed economic growth had continued to pick up pace in the three months to August.
It also said there were “strong expectations” for the next three months.
The CBI’s monthly survey includes 754 private firms from a range of sectors.
The lobby group’s monthly private sector growth indicator showed an overall reading of 31 per cent for the three months to August, just below the 2015 high recorded in May.
The percentage reading indicates the number of firms reporting that business performance was up, compared with those reporting it was down.
“The weather may have been a washout this month, but the sun has certainly been shining on the British economy,” said CBI director of economics Rain Newton-Smith.
Business Matters: ‘National living wage’ dodgers face higher penalties
The prime minister said the new pay policy would only work if it were “properly enforced” and that the government would be funding a new unit at HM Revenue & Customs to crack down on firms thought to be flouting the law.
A new labour market enforcement director will be appointed to ensure that firms comply with the national living wage – effectively a higher minimum wage rate for workers over 25. From the autumn, anyone found guilty of non-compliance will be considered for disqualification as a company director for 15 years.
In an article in the Times, Cameron said the new measures were intended to send a message to “unscrupulous employers” that they would pay the price if they underpaid their staff. He claimed that the government initiative would ensure that “people properly benefit from the recovery” and he contrasted his approach with the “anti-business” stance being adopted by the Labour leadership candidates.
The national living wage, the surprise announcement in the summer budget, will start at £7.20 an hour from next April, rising to at least £9 an hour by the end of the decade, according to The Guardian.
For years, there were complaints that the penalties for non-payment of the minimum wage were too low but they were toughened significantly in the last parliament. Originally employers had to pay the amount they had underpaid workers, plus a penalty calculated at 50 per cent of the underpayment, up to a maximum of £5,000. Under the coalition, the penalty was increased from 50 per cent of the underpayment to 100 per cent, up to a maximum of £20,000.
In his article, Cameron said the penalty would go up again, from 100% of underpayment to 200 per cent, but government sources confirmed that the maximum penalty would remain at £20,000.
Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham said that, if he was in charge, firms could face penalties including higher national insurance payments if they failed to pay a his proposed new higher living wage of around £11 an hour.
Burnham said: “We will be utterly intolerant of poverty pay in the UK. Too many people are working harder and harder just to make ends meet. It is disgraceful that apprentices earn just 2.73 an hour.
“The Labour party I lead will stand for a true living wage for everyone. It will be based on the simple principle that the same hour’s work deserves the same hour’s pay, regardless of your age. So I will abolish the youth rate minimum wage, apply the higher rate to everyone and give incentives for companies to go even further.”
In the past, relatively few firms have been fined for not paying the minimum wage but ithe Department for Business announced in February that a crackdown launched in October 2013 had led to 162 firms being fined for non-compliance, as well as being named and shamed.
Cameron suggested he wanted to see more prosecutions. “We will significantly increase the enforcement budget, set up a new team in HMRC to take forward criminal prosecutions for those who deliberately don’t comply and, from this autumn, ensure that anyone found guilty will be considered for disqualification from being a company director for 15 years,” he writes.
He claimed that the combination of the national living wage with the increase in the income tax allowance meant the Conservatives were “the true party of working people in Britain today”.
And he claimed that developments in the Labour leadership contest showed that the opposition was becoming more anti-enterprise. “By making sure that working people properly benefit from the recovery, we are winning the argument for pro-business, pro-enterprise economics,” he writes.
“That argument has to be won by every political generation. Those of us who fought socialism in the 1980s and perhaps thought that the ‘red in tooth and claw’ variety was dead were clearly wrong. Look at today’s Labour leadership candidates. All of them are in a race to the left, vowing to borrow, tax and spend more — all the things that failed in the last century and were rejected at the last election.
“Listening to some of the anti-Nato, anti-American, profoundly anti-business and anti-enterprise debates is like Groundhog Day. Labour aren’t learning. They’re slaves to a failed dogma that has always left working people paying the price.”
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BBC Business News: Fresh data confirms China slowdown
China's factory activity contracts at its fastest pace in three years in August, confirming fears that the country's growth is continuing to slow.
BBC Business News: High Street shoppers run for cover
Shoppers opted for shopping centres over the High Street over the bank holiday, figures suggest.