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Sirius Minerals boss pocketed £1.3m as investors lost fortune

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sirius minerals boss pocketed 1 3m as investors lost fortune

The former boss of Sirius Minerals – whose dramatic fall from grace left thousands of small shareholders with huge losses – pocketed £1.3million in bonuses from the Yorkshire mining company shortly after agreeing to a cut-price takeover.

Just two weeks before the acquisition by FTSE 100 giant Anglo American was completed, the Sirius remuneration committee led by Labour peer Lord Hutton decided that former chief executive Chris Fraser should receive his lucrative long-term bonuses in full.

Meanwhile, Thomas Staley, the former finance director, pocketed a total of nearly £900,000.

Former Sirius Minerals chief executive Chris Fraser received £1.3m in bonuses

Former Sirius Minerals chief executive Chris Fraser received £1.3m in bonuses

Former Sirius Minerals chief executive Chris Fraser received £1.3m in bonuses

The revelations are likely to enrage private investors who ploughed millions of pounds of their savings into the company.

Sirius had entered the FTSE 250 and had ambitions to join the prestigious ranks of the FTSE 100. However, it failed to secure the final part of the £2billion funding it needed to build a giant fertiliser mine in the North York Moors National Park.

It was only saved from administration after the board urged shareholders in January to back a £405million takeover by Anglo American at 5.5p per share. Most of Sirius’s 85,000 small shareholders had bought their shares at well above that level, with many from the local area investing large sums. The share price had hit 45p in 2016.

Yet even after the disastrous conclusion to the company’s stock market run, the remuneration committee chaired by former Business Secretary Lord Hutton decided in March that Fraser’s share bonuses should pay out in full.

Fraser received payment for his bonus shares, worth nearly £900,000, in April, the company’s annual report filed on Companies House reveals. Most of the shares had been awarded to him in 2018 and 2019.

He also received a £417,000 performance bonus for 2019 – 86 per cent of his salary – meaning he raked in a total of £1.3million in bonuses since agreeing to the Anglo deal.

The company said the payment for performance would have been higher but it decided to withhold the part of the annual bonus which was linked to securing funding.

The non-executive directors all resigned after the takeover, but Fraser and Staley – along with other senior colleagues – are now running Anglo’s new ‘crop nutrients’ division.

Sirius Minerals was only saved from administration after the board urged shareholders in January to back a £405million takeover by Anglo American at 5.5p per share

Sirius Minerals was only saved from administration after the board urged shareholders in January to back a £405million takeover by Anglo American at 5.5p per share

Sirius Minerals was only saved from administration after the board urged shareholders in January to back a £405million takeover by Anglo American at 5.5p per share

Staley received payment for his shares in April. They were worth nearly £600,000 at 5.5p a share.

He also received a £279,000 cash bonus for his 2019 performance, meaning he collected a total of nearly £900,000 after Sirius agreed to the purchase. The share bonuses were separate to shares owned outright by the bosses and were given as incentives to boost performance.

Robert Goodwill, Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, said: ‘This news will not go down well with shareholders. Many lost large amounts they invested in the company.

‘I’m a little surprised that this decision has been made by the remuneration committee.’

The company, now called Anglo American Woodsmith after the name of the Yorkshire mine, reported an operating loss of £43million for last year. It said the loss – up from £24million in 2018 – was mainly due to legal and advisory fees linked to the failed fundraise attempt.

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The mine sits on a giant deposit of polyhalite, a form of potash that Sirius and now Anglo American hopes will become a major source of fertiliser.

A huge mine shaft is being sunk under the North York Moors and the company is constructing a 23-mile tunnel to Teesside, from where it is planned the polyhalite will be sent by ship to destinations around the globe.

Anglo American expects to spend around £235million on the project this year and the same amount in 2021. It will be several years before the mine starts producing polyhalite.

The company said: ‘The 2019 bonuses related to a number of company performance objectives, one of which was securing the necessary finance to continue development. This element of the 2019 bonus clearly was not achieved and therefore the bonus relating to this objective was zero.

‘Decisions on remuneration were taken by the remuneration committee of the board of Sirius, in line with the remuneration policy approved by 80 per cent of Sirius’s shareholders at the May 2018 AGM, and prior to the completion of the acquisition by Anglo American.’

Anglo added that the bonus plan had been set up to benefit all Sirius staff and more than 90 per cent of the value went to other employees.

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BUSINESS CLOSE: Britain facing record economic slump BoE warns

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business close britain facing record economic slump boe warns

London markets tumbled today, with the FTSE 100 closing 1.3 per cent lower at 6,026 and the FTSE 250 falling 0.9 per cent to 17,479.

The Bank of England has warned that Britain is facing a record economic slump as a result of Covid-19, but has eased up on its gloomy predictions for this year.

Andrew Bailey and the rest of the Bank’s monetary policy committee think the UK’s economy now looks set to shrink by 9.5 per cent this year. 

While this is an improvement on the 14 per cent drop predicted in May, it would still signal the worst economic performance for 99 years. 

The MPC said its central projection forecasts that GDP will continue to recover in the near-term, but is not expected to exceed its levels from the end of last year until at least the end of 2021.   

As expected, interest rates have been kept on hold at 0.1 per cent, spelling more bad news for hard-pressed savers. 

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JLR develops software so autonomous cars won’t make you travel sick

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jlr develops software so autonomous cars wont make you travel sick

British car maker Jaguar Land Rover has developed new software to train autonomous cars to drive better to prevent passengers from suffering from motion sickness during journeys.

The nation’s biggest vehicle producer has created a rating system for driverless technology – called a ‘wellness score’ – that designers claim can reduce the impact of travel sickness by up to 60 per cent.

If successful, it means the brand’s autonomous technology won’t steer, accelerate or brake erratically – resulting in the inside of vehicles remaining vomit-free. 

Driverless cars won't make you travel sick: Jaguar Land Rover says it has developed software that coaches autonomous vehicles to drive more smoothly

Driverless cars won’t make you travel sick: Jaguar Land Rover says it has developed software that coaches autonomous vehicles to drive more smoothly

JLR bosses said the development of the software will allow the brand to continue to provide customers with ‘the most refined and comfortable ride possible’.

The tech has been created at the British firm’s specialist software engineering hub in Shannon, Ireland.

It has been developed by collating 20,000 real-world and virtually-simulated test miles to calculate a set of parameters for driving dynamics to be rated against. 

With the use of advanced machine learning, driverless car software can use this data to optimise how vehicles move in a way that doesn’t unsettle passengers.

Motion sickness, which affects more than 70 per cent of people, according to research, is often caused when the eyes observe information different from that sensed by the inner ear, skin or body. 

This is why it is commonly triggered by reading on journeys in a vehicle. 

Using the new system, acceleration, braking and lane positioning – all contributory factors to motion sickness – can be optimised to avoid inducing nausea in passengers.

A rating system, which JLR calls a 'wellness score', coaches autonomous technology about good and bad driving behaviour for motion sickness. In this case, the software will tell the driverless vehicle that the green curve is better for passengers than the red one

A rating system, which JLR calls a ‘wellness score’, coaches autonomous technology about good and bad driving behaviour for motion sickness. In this case, the software will tell the driverless vehicle that the green curve is better for passengers than the red one

The rating system looks at everything from braking to cornering and - in this case - acceleration. The smoother the driving characteristic, the better the score

The rating system looks at everything from braking to cornering and – in this case – acceleration. The smoother the driving characteristic, the better the score

With the use of advanced machine learning, autonomous cars will be able to drive as smoothly as a human

With the use of advanced machine learning, autonomous cars will be able to drive as smoothly as a human

The software can already be used in current JLR models to coach adaptive cruise control and lane monitoring systems

The software can already be used in current JLR models to coach adaptive cruise control and lane monitoring systems

And the software developed by JLR is going to be fed into its range of cars well ahead of fully autonomous vehicles hitting our roads. 

Engineers can use the software to develop more refined advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) features on future Jaguar and Land Rover models, such as adaptive cruise control and lane monitoring systems.

In the long term, the British car maker says the technology will partly help it to achieve its Destination Zero target for the future – the aim to have zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Jaguar Land Rover has been at the forefront of the UK's drive to go autonomous, testing driverless features on the road since 2018

Jaguar Land Rover has been at the forefront of the UK’s drive to go autonomous, testing driverless features on the road since 2018

The new software will be able to adjust the driving settings to the vehicle, meaning a luxury SUV can be smooth while a performance saloon will be marginally more aggressive on acceleration and cornering

The new software will be able to adjust the driving settings to the vehicle, meaning a luxury SUV can be smooth while a performance saloon will be marginally more aggressive on acceleration and cornering

JLR says the technology will partly help it to achieve its Destination Zero target for the future - the aim to have zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion

JLR says the technology will partly help it to achieve its Destination Zero target for the future – the aim to have zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion

Dr Steve Iley, JLR’s chief medical officer, said: ‘Mobility is rapidly changing, and we will need to harness the power of self-driving vehicles to achieve our goal of zero accidents and zero congestion. 

‘Solving the problem of motion sickness in driverless cars is the key to unlocking the huge potential of this technology for passengers, who will be able to use the travelling time for reading, working or relaxing.’  

The software can be tweaked to match the individual characteristics of different models in the vehicle maker’s range.

For instance, a powerful Jaguar saloon can be adjusted to feel sportier, while Land Rover models can be fine tuned to feel smooth and refined.  

The technology not only adjust how an autonomous vehicle drives but how it can adjust the cabin settings to also reduce the impact of travel sickness – including adjusting the temperature settings and – if the model has it – massage function. 

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Birmingham and London top list of 10 cities that residents want to leave post-lockdown

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birmingham and london top list of 10 cities that residents want to leave post lockdown

The coronavirus lockdown that restricted people to their homes for long periods of time has led to a feeling of being ‘locked-in’ – particularly among those living in the UK’s big cities.

And as lockdown relaxes, it is the residents of the countries biggest cities that are looking for new homes in places with more green space and tranquility, like England’s South West and rural Wales. Or even just somewhere where they can afford a decent-sized garden.

Research from Barclays Mortgages suggests that nearly a third of those currently living in Birmingham and London – at 32 per cent and 30 per cent respectively – feel the biggest urge to move. 

Almost a third of those currently living in Birmingham and London want to move, according to a new report by Barclays Mortgages

Almost a third of those currently living in Birmingham and London want to move, according to a new report by Barclays Mortgages

Next on the list after the UK’s biggest two cities, is not the third largest however: Manchester is down the list at 20 per cent with Leeds taking third place at 28 per cent.

As for the reasons behind fleeing urban environments, the prime motivation is to obtain a property with outdoor space: 39 per cent said they would like to move to a home with a large garden. As any urban homebuyer will know, such properties come at a big premium in cities.

Other reasons to move after lockdown include living closer to essential services at 29 per cent, living in an area where they can exercise easily at 24 per cent, being near to relatives at 23 per cent and living somewhere with a stronger local community feel at 23 per cent.

The research claimed that the South West and Wales tick most of the ‘must-have’ boxes for those currently living in Birmingham, Nottingham, London and Manchester.

The desire to move reflects a craving to escape urban living and embrace a quieter life.

AREAS THAT CITY DWELLERS WANT TO MOVE TO
Top ten cities homeowners wish to leave post lockdown Top location(s) residents wish to move to
Birmingham (32 per cent) South-West (24 per cent) or Wales (22 per cent)
London (30 per cent) South-West (20 per cent)
Leeds (28 per cent) Scotland and South-East (19 per cent each)
Norwich (27 per cent) Wales (20 per cent)
Nottingham (25 per cent) South-west (26 per cent)
Sheffield (21 per cent) East Midlands and North East (14 per cent each)
Liverpool (21 per cent) Scotland (25 per cent)
Manchester (20 per cent) North East, South West, Wales and Yorkshire and Humber (15 per cent each)
Glasgow (20 per cent) South East (18 per cent)
Newcastle (19 per cent) Scotland (47 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (33 per cent)
Source: Barclays Mortgages   

A total of 26 per cent stated a preference to be close to the seaside, while 23 per cent said they wished to live in a more rural location.

It is echoed by those living in and around the M25, with two in five homeowners in the area admitting they’d like to move further away for a better quality of life.

While the top five cities are most likely to see residents eyeing up a move, it is not restricted to these areas as 32 per cent of people across the country say they would like to move to the countryside after lockdown.

Popular locations include coastal communities in counties such as  Devon (Pictured: Salcombe)

Popular locations include coastal communities in counties such as  Devon (Pictured: Salcombe)

Only 17 per cent of those surveyed said a move to a city was in their future plans. And the younger generation is leading those bucking the countryside trend, with 34 per cent of those aged under 25 dreaming of a move to a big city. 

Dr Peter Brooks, a behavioural scientist at Barclays said: ‘Spending the last few months in lockdown has been a massive life event felt by the whole nation.

‘All this time at home has given many of us the opportunity to reflect on where we live and why we’ve chosen those areas, as well as time to consider what’s important to us and the things our current living situations lack.

‘This research indicates an aspiration for a big move and complete lifestyle change. More outside space and the benefits of being closer to friends and family are high on the ‘must have’ list for many movers. 

Almost a third of those currently living in Birmingham (pictured) feel the urge to move

Almost a third of those currently living in Birmingham (pictured) feel the urge to move

‘As working from home becomes more commonplace moving cross-country looks to be move achievable for many as there is less of a need to be within a short commute to the office. If the findings of this research are reflected in the housing market, we could well see a trend for people to leave urban areas in favour of more rural locations.’

It comes as a separate report claims that the number of people living in cities who are contacting estate agents about buying a village home rose by 126 per cent during lockdown in June and July.

This is compared to the same period last year and outperforms a 68 per cent uplift in people making enquiries to move to towns, according to property website Rightmove. 

Rightmove’s property expert Miles Shipside said: ‘The most popular village moves are still within the same region the home-hunters are currently in, as it’s likely they’ll keep their current job but may have the flexibility to commute less often and set up their working space at home.’ 

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