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MARKET REPORT: Serco soars as it defends Covid role

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market report serco soars as it defends covid role

Shares in Serco soared after the outsourcing giant bragged about its ‘outstanding’ work on the NHS’s troubled test and trace system. 

In a bullish trading update, the FTSE 100 firm told investors it is prospering during the pandemic, and is on course to make a bigger profit this year than previously thought, as trading picked up. 

The firm, run by Winston Churchill’s grandson Rupert Soames, now expects to make a profit of between £160m and £165m this year, rather than £135m to £150m. Revenues are forecast to come in at £3.9billion, a £200m jump on the previous guidance, and it will look at whether it can afford to reinstate its dividend. 

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The optimism was a tonic for investors and sent shares surging 16.6 per cent, or 19.6p, to 138p. 

But its glowing assessment of the role it has played in the troubled NHS test and trace system may be viewed as a little too rose-tinted – and tin-eared. 

The firm said the fact that it had been awarded extensions to its multi-million -pound contracts to provide test centres and call handlers for test and trace ‘is an indication of our customer’s satisfaction with the quality of work we have delivered’. 

And it hit back at ‘suggestions that we are responsible for the whole programme or that we have failed in our obligations’. 

It employs around 9,000 people directly or indirectly to help manage around a quarter of the UK’s 500 testing sites, and track down those identified as having been in contact with people who have tested positive for the virus. 

Serco stressed it is not involved in the design and management of the programme, the NHS app, the IT systems, the booking of tests, the provision of test kits, laboratories, delivering results or the identification of contacts of people who have tested positive. 

It insisted its ‘operational delivery has been outstanding’. 

You know things are not going too well for a company when a £20m fine from the data watchdog is arguably the best news it had all week. British Airways was served with the penalty yesterday for a massive data breach in which hackers infiltrated its IT systems in 2018 and made off with the personal information, including card details, of 400,000 customers. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office had been planning to hit BA with a record £183m penalty but took into account pleas from bosses about the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. 

After the reprieve, BA-owner IAG climbed 0.02 per cent, or 0.02p, to 95.78p on fears about rising infections and further restrictions on travel. IAG has lost more than 60 per cent of its value since the start of the year, as the coronavirus crisis has grounded planes and devastated the travel industry. 

Markets across Europe staged a tentative recovery after falling earlier in the week over fears new restrictions to contain the spread of the virus will hammer the economy. The FTSE 100 edged back towards 6,000 having hit the psychologically important barrier last week. It closed up 1.49 per cent, or 87.06 points, at 5919.58. 

The biggest blue-chip riser was Rolls-Royce, which secured a £2billion debt lifeline from investors on Thursday. Shares surged more than 13.7 per cent, or 26.8p to 221.9p. 

The finance chief of Superdry has stepped down at the fashion retailer. Shares rose 0.2 per cent, or 0.3p, to 151.4p after Nick Gresham departed after just 16 months. 

The company gave no reasoning for the departure but said a search for a replacement will start while interim measures are put in place. It comes as the retailer attempts to drive a turnaround under cofounder Julian Dunkerton, who returned last year. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Showroom where staff are FORBIDDEN from selling cars opens on Saturday

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showroom where staff are forbidden from selling cars opens on saturday

A ‘hassle-free’ showroom where staff are forbidden from selling you a car opens in Britain this weekend.

As an antidote to high-pressure hard-sell tactics, customers can look over models on offer, take advice from non-commissioned specialists, configure their ideal vehicle on screens, and even take a road test. But they can only buy their car online – either from the comfort of their own home and in their own time, or with non-pressured guidance in-store.

The compact boutique-style showroom will have example cars on display for customers to view, sit inside, and ‘kick the tyres’, but will not hold vehicles to sell, so staff will not be under pressure to ‘shift stock’ or push customers towards cars that don’t exactly meet their needs or desires, in order to meet bonuses or targets.

'Hassle-free' car sales: Polestar will open its new showroom in Westfield Shopping Centre in West London on Saturday - and in-store staff are forbidden from selling the vehicles

'Hassle-free' car sales: Polestar will open its new showroom in Westfield Shopping Centre in West London on Saturday - and in-store staff are forbidden from selling the vehicles

‘Hassle-free’ car sales: Polestar will open its new showroom in Westfield Shopping Centre in West London on Saturday – and in-store staff are forbidden from selling the vehicles

The novel approach is the brainchild of Swedish electric performance car firm Polestar – founded by its sibling Volvo Cars and their Chinese parent company Geely – which is opening its first UK ‘Space’ at the Westfield Shopping Centre in West London on Saturday.

The pure-electric Polestar 2 is available to order now priced from £46,900 after deduction of the £3,000 government plug-in grant

Announcing the Saturday opening, the firm said: ‘Polestar Specialists, acting as brand ambassadors on a non-commission basis, will engage with and inform customers about the company and its products.

‘Test drives can be conducted on-site, deliveries can be scheduled to home or office addresses and there is no stock held to try and persuade buyers away from their desired configuration.’

Vehicles on display are lit with specially designed light-boxes to guarantee photographic studio-quality light without distracting shadows.

Walls on either side of the vehicle display large format art featuring Polestar products as well as interactive LED display screens.

Polestar says the store offers an antidote to high-pressure hard-sell tactics

Polestar says the store offers an antidote to high-pressure hard-sell tactics

Polestar says the store offers an antidote to high-pressure hard-sell tactics

Customers can look over models on offer, take advice from non-commissioned specialists, configure their ideal vehicle on screens, and even take a road test

Customers can look over models on offer, take advice from non-commissioned specialists, configure their ideal vehicle on screens, and even take a road test

Customers can look over models on offer, take advice from non-commissioned specialists, configure their ideal vehicle on screens, and even take a road test

Buyers, however, can only place orders and purchase their car online – either from the comfort of their own home and in their own time, or with non-pressured guidance in-store

Buyers, however, can only place orders and purchase their car online – either from the comfort of their own home and in their own time, or with non-pressured guidance in-store

Buyers, however, can only place orders and purchase their car online – either from the comfort of their own home and in their own time, or with non-pressured guidance in-store

Prospective customers who want to configure a potential car are guided to a free-standing table, inspired by design-house cutting tables.

Customers can choose and physically place items of trim they like onto the table surface where radio frequency tags ‘read’ what it is and add it to the image on the display screen. This way they can build up their own specification of car.

Once the design is perfected, it can be transferred electronically to the customer’s smart-phone, tablet or other compatible device without them even pressing a button.

The firm noted: ’Those wishing to order or reserve a Polestar can complete the process through the Polestar App or website either in the comfort of their own home in their own time, or with the guidance of a Polestar Specialist in their chosen Space.’

Polestar bosses said London was chosen for the first UK Polestar Space because the nation’s largest city is home to nine million inhabitants, but with twice as many people visiting the capital each year.

The compact boutique-style showroom will have example cars on display for customers to view, sit inside, and ‘kick the tyres’

The compact boutique-style showroom will have example cars on display for customers to view, sit inside, and ‘kick the tyres’

The compact boutique-style showroom will have example cars on display for customers to view, sit inside, and ‘kick the tyres’

The store, called Polestar Space, will 'change the face of automotive retail', bosses said

The store, called Polestar Space, will 'change the face of automotive retail', bosses said

The store, called Polestar Space, will ‘change the face of automotive retail’, bosses said

Westfield London was chosen because it welcomes 31 million retail visitors annually, of which nearly 70 per cent are female and more than 80 per cent aged between 18 and 54.

Polestar says it is on track to open in more than 40 global in shopping malls and metropolitan towns and cities

before the end of the year. Other UK locations – such as Manchester, Glasgow, and Birmingham – are possible contenders to follow though none are yet announced nor confirmed.

Jonathan Goodman, head of Polestar UK said: ‘The Polestar Space is our way of changing the face of automotive retail.

‘With no salespeople and no vehicles on the forecourt, there is no hard sell, no requirement to shift stock and an entirely customer-focussed journey.

‘Visitors will define how much they interact with the exhibits. Polestar Specialists will tailor their experience to the customer’s exact needs, not the brand’s.

‘Once they have found the perfect specification, seamless digital interactivity places the vehicle in the customer’s app, ready to be ordered when it suits them.’

He insisted: ‘We will put the fun back into buying a car!’

Potential buyers can climb aboard the electric cars to have a poke around and experience the infotainment systems

Potential buyers can climb aboard the electric cars to have a poke around and experience the infotainment systems

Potential buyers can climb aboard the electric cars to have a poke around and experience the infotainment systems 

Vehicles on display are lit with specially designed light-boxes to guarantee photographic studio-quality light without distracting shadows

Vehicles on display are lit with specially designed light-boxes to guarantee photographic studio-quality light without distracting shadows

Vehicles on display are lit with specially designed light-boxes to guarantee photographic studio-quality light without distracting shadows

Walls on either side of the vehicle display large format art featuring Polestar products as well as interactive LED display screens

Walls on either side of the vehicle display large format art featuring Polestar products as well as interactive LED display screens

Walls on either side of the vehicle display large format art featuring Polestar products as well as interactive LED display screens

Polestar chief executive Thomas Ingenlath said: ‘The Polestar Space in London has the perfect location, right at the heart of where people shop and relax. For us, performance isn’t just about great driving dynamics, it is also about the experience customers have in choosing their perfect Polestar and the excitement of living with it every day.’

Polestar was launched in launched in 2017 with its limited edition £139,000 Polestar 1 ‘halo car’ – a low-volume 609hp electric hybrid performance GT with an electric-only range of 77 miles.

Last year it unveiled the all-electric 408 horse-power Polestar2, a 127mph all-wheel drive fastback with a 78kWh battery pack and a range of 292 miles costing from under £50,000.

A fully electric Polestar 3 sports utility vehicle is to follow.

Earlier this year it released the Precept – a sporty concept vehicle designed to showcase the brand’s future vision.

Each Polestar Space will become part of a network and foster a community, hosting talks and exhibitions, from design and architecture to technology and of course automotive.

SAVE MONEY ON MOTORING

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GSK gears up for trials as it pushes ahead with three possible Covid-19 vaccines

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gsk gears up for trials as it pushes ahead with three possible covid 19 vaccines

Glaxosmithkline said it was pushing forward in the battle against Covid-19 as it lined up trials of several potential breakthrough medicines. 

The British drugs group is working on three possible vaccines for the deadly virus with partners, as well as two antibody treatments. 

It is also shipping record amounts of flu jabs as governments try to stop a double-whammy of diseases from overwhelming hospitals this winter. 

Glaxosmithkline said it was pushing forward in the battle against Covid-19 as it lined up trials of several potential breakthrough medicines

Glaxosmithkline said it was pushing forward in the battle against Covid-19 as it lined up trials of several potential breakthrough medicines

Glaxosmithkline said it was pushing forward in the battle against Covid-19 as it lined up trials of several potential breakthrough medicines

Despite strong demand for its established flu vaccines, however, GSK warned that the pandemic continued to disrupt other parts of its business as patients ventured out of their homes less often. 

But the company said it would still pay out a dividend, which is expected to total 80p per share for the full year. GSK boss Emma Walmsley said: ‘We have delivered a strong commercial response to the disruption caused by the pandemic. 

‘We have one of the most wide-ranging responses of the pandemic, with three different vaccines and two antibody therapies all in clinical trials. 

‘Our vaccines are progressing and, if there are positive results, we could have three vaccines in late-stage development by the end of the year.’ 

GSK has partnered with Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Pharmaceuticals to develop potential Covid-19 vaccines. It is also working with Vir Biotechnology on an antibody test for patients with the virus, as well as its own in-house antibody drug known as otilimab. 

GSK boss Emma Walmsley

GSK boss Emma Walmsley

GSK boss Emma Walmsley

Walmsley said ‘pivotal’ data on the Vir treatment was expected by the end of 2020, while readouts on otilimab are expected in the first half of next year. GSK provided a third quarter update to investors, revealing that revenues had fallen 8pc to £8.6 billion and profits by 14pc to £1.7 billion. 

Glaxo and development partner Sanofi also pledged 200 million doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine to the Covax scheme, which aims to distribute 2 billion doses globally and is backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Covax aims to discourage governments from hoarding vaccine supplies and will focus instead on vaccinating the most high-risk people first in every country. 

Sanofi and GSK signed a £1.6 billion deal with the US during the summer to supply it with more than 100m doses of their vaccine candidate, and have agreed similar deals with the UK, EU and Canada. 

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Pub boss William Lees-Jones warns family firm faces biggest crisis for two centuries

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pub boss william lees jones warns family firm faces biggest crisis for two centuries
Scrapheap: Lees-Jones says kneejerk reactions from our politicians are crippling the industry

Scrapheap: Lees-Jones says kneejerk reactions from our politicians are crippling the industry

Scrapheap: Lees-Jones says kneejerk reactions from our politicians are crippling the industry

The boss of a 192-year-old pub group has launched an attack on the ‘knee-jerk’ coronavirus restrictions that has forced him to shut half of his estate. 

William Lees-Jones said businesses are being ‘thrown on the scrapheap’ by the measures – and that one of his suppliers has already gone bust. 

The 56-year-old took over JW Lees in 2004 – making him the sixth generation of his family to run the business. He employs 1,250 – including 150 at its brewery in Middleton, Greater Manchester, and 1,100 in its 42 pubs and hotels across the North West and North Wales. 

Many more are employed in 105 pubs the company leases to landlords. Half his pubs are shut, and sales at the remaining venues are more than 50 per cent down. 

Lees-Jones said his business is suffering more than at any other time, including both world wars, adding that the firm is in ‘survival mode’ and that he hopes he is not ‘the generation that has to turn the lights off’. 

The intervention comes as more than 50 northern Conservative MPs are demanding Prime Minister Boris Johnson lay out an exit strategy for businesses and communities under Tier Two and Three restrictions.

Tomorrow, Nottinghamshire will join Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire in the harshest Tier Three restrictions, and ministers are under pressure to institute a nationwide ‘circuitbreaker’ lockdown or harsher Tier Four measures. 

Wales, where JW Lees has five pubs, is in a two-week ‘firebreaker’ lockdown. The North East and London are in Tier Two, leading many to accuse the Government of implementing a national lockdown by stealth. 

Lees-Jones said: ‘We’ve done a good job in the industry to make things safe but the impact of the restrictions on our pubs is enormous. It is probably the toughest period the business has ever been through. We’ve effectively been in Tier Two in Greater Manchester since the end of July.’ 

It cost up to £160,000 to make the pubs Covid-secure, including spending on hand sanitiser, perspex, new pub layouts and masks. One central Manchester venue, the Rain Bar, had only been open for four weeks when the highest Tier Three restrictions were brought in.

This year JW Lees will make a loss. It made a £1 million profit in the year to March 2020 – which included two weeks of closure from the first lockdown – down from a £6.8 million profit in the year to March 2019. 

Lees-Jones added: ‘Politicians are looking at the data and the statistics and making knee-jerk reactions about what it is we’re going to do. And then the difficulty is you can start a lockdown and they say ‘now we need to extend it’. Two weeks become three , becomes four. 

Businesses like Lees-Jones's are pinning their hopes on December celebrations giving them a cash injection but with yet more regions heading into lockdown, optimism is in short supply

Businesses like Lees-Jones's are pinning their hopes on December celebrations giving them a cash injection but with yet more regions heading into lockdown, optimism is in short supply

Businesses like Lees-Jones’s are pinning their hopes on December celebrations giving them a cash injection but with yet more regions heading into lockdown, optimism is in short supply

‘Further lockdown restrictions will destroy our business in the short term. A lot of our teams in Tier Three are saying they would be better off closed. 

‘The political group-think is terrifying because it is strangling the economy. All that lockdown can achieve is delay and suppress infection but it’s not a solution.’ 

Although pubs and other hospitality businesses are on the front line, it is the support crew who are the first casualties. Many breweries, who do not have their own pubs, have nowhere to sell their beer as bars reduce their range to cut costs. 

An army of small and mediumsized firms supplying detergents, glassware, meat, vegetables and wine are also suffering. JW Lees’s kitchen fitters have already gone bust during the pandemic. 

The political group-think is terrifying because it is strangling the economy. All that lockdown can achieve is delay and suppress infection but it’s not a solution

‘They are being thrown on the scrapheap,’ Lees-Jones said. ‘They’re not getting any support.’ 

The business was founded in 1828 by retired cotton manufacturer John Lees. Lees-Jones’s father Richard, who joined the business in 1953 after serving with the 42nd Field Regiment in Germany, remains chairman. 

‘I have an 87-year-old father we are protecting and one of my twin daughters has Covid, another is isolating,’ he said. 

‘But we are becoming very risk averse – with the 10pm curfew, Boris has given us bed times. I find it irritating.’ 

Businesses like his are pinning their hopes on December celebrations giving them a cash injection but with yet more regions heading into lockdown, optimism is in short supply. 

Lees-Jones said: ‘Anyone running a family business will tell you, you don’t want to be the generation that has to turn the lights off. A lot of people will go to the wall.’ 

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