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Sunak’s bailout package sends budget deficit towards £400bn 

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sunaks bailout package sends budget deficit towards 400bn

Rishi Sunak’s latest bailout package for businesses could push Britain’s annual budget deficit above £400billion, experts warned last night.

Business leaders hailed the generosity of the compensation package, which will support struggling firms hit by Tier Two restrictions.

The Chancellor unveiled changes to the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the Job Retention Scheme when it closes on October 31. 

Handouts: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled changes to the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the Job Retention Scheme when it closes on October 31

Handouts: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled changes to the Job Support Scheme, which replaces the Job Retention Scheme when it closes on October 31

Under the revised scheme, employers will have to pay a smaller portion of wages of furloughed staff who have returned to work part time. 

Staff will also have to work fewer hours to qualify for support. At the same time, taxpayer subsidies have doubled – with the Government funding 62 per cent of the hours not worked.

And the Chancellor said the Treasury would provide grants for struggling companies in areas under Tier Two restrictions. 

They will be worth up to £2,100 each month and will focus on companies in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sectors. 

The Treasury refused to provide any guidance on how much the new lifelines will cost. A Whitehall source said it depended on take-up of the scheme.

But it is thought the extra support could cost more than £22billion in total over six months. 

This includes roughly £1billion a month for every 2m people signed up for the scheme. 

The Treasury has previously indicated that between 2m and 5m will be supported by the wage subsidies. 

This suggests it could cost up to £15billion over six months. 

The bailout could push the annual deficit above £400billion, according to Capital Economics, which had predicted government borrowing was already on course to hit £390million even before the latest compensation package was announced.

Paul Dales, its chief UK economist, said: ‘The combination of the darkening of the economic outlook due to the latest Covid-19 restrictions and the Chancellor’s more generous Job Support Scheme mean there is every chance the budget deficit will top £400billion this year.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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MR MONEY MAKER: Retailing damaged but it’s not dead yet

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mr money maker retailing damaged but its not dead yet

What’s happening?

With the collapse of Arcadia along with the demise of Debenhams, it feels as dramatic as one of those huge icebergs breaking off the Antarctic ice shelf. If the latter is an issue reflecting a climatic change, then these retail businesses are a reflection of an economic equivalent. 

A large chunk of the High Street is now likely to vanish – at least in its current form. Mr Green (do I really have to call him Sir?) revels in controversy, from flaunting his wealth to deliberately being abrasive in front of a parliamentary select committee. However, given the way he has run his conglomeration, its demise has frankly come as little surprise to me. 

Climate change: A large chunk of the High Street is now likely to vanish – at least in its current form

Climate change: A large chunk of the High Street is now likely to vanish – at least in its current form

Climate change: A large chunk of the High Street is now likely to vanish – at least in its current form

Why does it matter?

Such dramatic events are important, not just in terms of reflecting changes to the economy, but more importantly because of the personal pain and devastation being caused to both the employees and pension holders. For investors, though, there are some lessons to be learned here. 

First, as economies change, so should companies, and both of these beasts perfectly illustrated how quickly an apparently prosperous business can become outdated and unprofitable. 

Secondly, business behaviour: these companies have highlighted some poor business practice. Certainly, in the case of Arcadia we saw some huge dividend withdrawals and distinct lack of investment in its future, not least failing to take on board the importance of online shopping. It is of course telling to see the simple difference between the wholly online Boohoo and those ‘bricks and mortar’ based retailers.

What should I do? 

Companies that behave badly will in my view eventually come to grief. 

Whether it is those who ill-treat their staff, source their products from unacceptable suppliers (pay and conditions), not fund their pension properly or seem to be milking the business as a cash cow – any of that sound vaguely familiar? Follow your nose and your own family expenditure. From Primark to Fever Tree, some brands are telling a strong story which as a consumer we could all understand. The same would apply to our own experience with, say, Marks & Spencer where its combination of bras, baps and banking haven’t really caught our imagination.

Any suggestions? 

Picking good retailers during the cracking of icebergs is dangerous. So rather than picking the seller, you could go for a rather unfashionable business such as Reckitt Benckiser, which has a range including Dettol, Durex and Cillit Bang, which are always going to be needed. 

If you want retailers, maybe B&M, which describes itself as a variety store chain founded in 1978 and has grown from the north to conquer the south as a discounter in seemingly anything! When markets change they change. That’s intelligent retailing. Or consider AB Foods, which include Patak’s, Twinings and Ryvita in their brands as well as their cheap but flashy crown of Primark. 

Justin Urquhart Stewart co-founded fund manager 7IM and is chairman of investment platform Regionally. 

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Debenhams fat cats raked in £35m during years before collapse

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debenhams fat cats raked in 35m during years before collapse

The top brass at Debenhams raked in more than £35m in pay and perks in the years leading up to its collapse, a Mail audit has found. 

After being a High Street fixture since opening its first shop in 1778, the department store collapsed this week, putting 12,000 jobs at risk in the run up to Christmas. 

Bosses blamed the punishing impact of coronavirus on sales, but experts said the firm’s troubles are also due to crippling debts it absorbed while under private equity ownership. 

Trouble in store: Rob Templeman, Michael Sharp, John Lovering and Chris Woodhouse found rich rewards at the doomed retailer

Trouble in store: Rob Templeman, Michael Sharp, John Lovering and Chris Woodhouse found rich rewards at the doomed retailer

Trouble in store: Rob Templeman, Michael Sharp, John Lovering and Chris Woodhouse found rich rewards at the doomed retailer

And analysis of its accounts by the Mail has found that bosses who led the retailer through its return to the stock market and the subsequent turmoil raked in millions of pounds every year. 

This includes former chief executive Rob Templeman, who was in charge from 2003 to 2011 and made at least £7.9m in pay. 

Despite leading Debenhams when it piled on more than £1billion in debt – and paid out £1billion in dividends to its private equity owners – he claimed this week that he left the company in good stead and bore no responsibility for its recent problems. 

Successor Michael Sharp, who was chief executive until 2016, also pocketed at least £10.4m over 12 years, seven of them as Templeman’s deputy. 

Former Amazon executive Sergio Bucher, who took over in 2016 and presided over Debs’ first collapse into administration in 2019, received £2.3m in pay. 

Former Debenhams chairman John Lovering, who held his post from 2003 to 2010, was paid £1.5m, while Nigel Northridge, his successor until 2016, was handed £1.1m. Sir Ian Cheshire, who took over next, received £527,000 for three years’ work. Finance chief Chris Woodhouse served from 2003 to 2012 and was paid £6.4m overall. His successor Simon Henrick, in the job from 2012 to 2014, was paid £1.2m and Matt Smith, who took over from 2015, pocketed £1.9m. Suzanne Harlow, group trading director from 2014 to 2017, received £2.1m. 

Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, accused Debenahams’ former bosses of ‘executive greed’. 

He added: ‘This is a really sad story and Debenhams workers and their families will feel justifiably angry. It’s an example that is too common in British business.’ 

The retailer was taken over in 2003 by a consortium including Templeman, Lovering, private equity groups CVC Capital and Texas Pacific and Merrill Lynch. The consortium funded the takeover with debt and paid themselves a £1billion dividend. 

Debenhams returned to the stock market in 2006 with £1.2billion in debt and fell into the hands of its lenders last year after running out of cash, with bosses blaming its struggles on competition from online rivals, crippling debts and burdensome rent payments on its stores. 

Following a pre-pack administration process that saw investors including Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley wiped out, the firm slashed thousands of jobs and closed dozens of stores, but the virus lockdown forced it to close its doors temporarily and enter a ‘trading administration to survive’. 

The company then sought fresh investment or a buyer to rescue it. But Debenhams eventually crumpled under the weight of its debt obligations after JD Sports pulled out of takeover talks. 

The retail chain still owed £700m to creditors when it went into administration in April.

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MARKET REPORT: Cineworld shares take a pummelling

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market report cineworld shares take a pummelling

Cineworld shares took a pummelling after Warner Bros unveiled plans to debut films online and in theatres at the same time next year. 

In a move that sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, the studio said its new approach will apply to highly-anticipated titles such as The Matrix 4, Dune, The Suicide Squad and The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints Of Newark. 

They will be accessible to consumers in the US – the world’s second biggest cinema market behind China – through its HBO Max streaming platform. 

36458016 9019441 image a 17 1607107573986

36458016 9019441 image a 17 1607107573986

The change threatens to hurt box office sales just as struggling cinema chains are hoping to stage a comeback from the coronavirus pandemic. Many plan to reopen in the coming months thanks to the emergence of potential vaccines – but under Warner Bros’ plan audiences will instead be able to stay at home to watch the films. 

It upends a long-standing tradition that usually sees films debut for an exclusive period in theatres first. Following the announcement, UK-based Cineworld’s shares fell 15 per cent, or 10.94p, to 62.06p. The battered business was forced to turn to investors for £550m last month to help it survive the pandemic. But yesterday, Cineworld – a vocal opponent of online-first releases – said it was confident its cinemas will soon stage ‘a great comeback’. 

It added: ‘We believe that at such a time, Warner Bros will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides. Big movies are made for the big screen.’ Cineworld makes 73 per cent or £2.4billion of its revenues in the US, where it owns the Regal Cinemas chain. AMC, the biggest US chain, has suggested it will seek a bigger share of box office revenues from Warner Bros to offset losses the changes will cause. 

Warner Bros had already revealed plans to debut Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max this Christmas but that move had been seen as a one-off. 

Experts said its latest shock decision was probably designed to boost subscriptions to its streaming platform. 

Elsewhere, energy giant SSE was up 1.9 per cent, or 25.5p, to 1386.5p after agreeing to sell a 10 per cent stake in the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, off the East Yorkshire coast, for £202.5m. 

The under-construction scheme is the world’s largest wind farm project and will generate 3.6 gigawatts – enough to power 6m homes. SEE is selling the stake to Italy’s Eni, one of the world’s biggest oil companies. 

It will use the proceeds to help fund further investments in low-carbon schemes. 

The firm also said that the deal, which is expected to complete early next year, will boost its profits. Good cheer was also in strong supply at James Bond car maker Aston Martin after shareholders approved its fundraising plans. 

Shares in the firm revved up 6.3 per cent, or 4.7p, to 79.95p after the vote yesterday, which cleared the way for a £125m cash injection. 

As part of the fundraising – Aston’s third this year – MercedesBenz will lift its stake in the British company to up to 20 per cent by 2023, making it one of the largest shareholders. Lawrence Stroll, the billionaire investor who led a £500m rescue of Aston this year, also claimed the firm was seeing ‘phenomenal’ demand, boosted by a rebound in China. 

Shares in magazine publisher Future, which announced a £600m takeover of price comparison website Gocompare last month, edged up 0.3 per cent, or 6p, to 1790p. 

Sir Peter Wood, the insurance tycoon behind Gocompare who is already set to get a substantial stake in Future through the deal, has added further to his holding with a £2m share purchase.

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