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Gemstone miner Gemfields returns to London Stock Exchange’s junior market

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Faberge owner and gemstone miner Gemfields returned to the London Stock Exchange’s junior market yesterday.

Its shares surged by 11 per cent on the first day of trading, valuing Gemfields at £148m. It listed at 10.5p and rose to 11.7p last night.

Shining light: Gemfields has counted celebrities such as Hollywood actress Mila Kunis (pictured) among its celebrity ambassadors

Shining light: Gemfields has counted celebrities such as Hollywood actress Mila Kunis (pictured) among its celebrity ambassadors

Shining light: Gemfields has counted celebrities such as Hollywood actress Mila Kunis (pictured) among its celebrity ambassadors

The ruby and emerald specialist, which has counted celebrities such as Hollywood actress Mila Kunis among its celebrity ambassadors, quit AIM in 2017 after a £212m takeover by its biggest shareholder, South African private equity group Pallinghurst.

Since then, prices for the gems in which it specialises have risen to record highs, while the diamond market has stalled.

Gemfields runs the Montepuez mine in Mozambique, which accounts for half the world’s ruby supply, and the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, which supplies more than a fifth of global supply.

Chief executive Sean Gilbertson said that returning to AIM would give it much better access to new cash and investors.

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Britons told prepare for blackouts by keeping torches and warm clothes nearby in coronavirus crisis

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Britons have been warned of the potential for blackouts amid fears that staff shortages could lead to issues with the country’s power network.

Fears have been raised that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government’s self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers.

The National Grid insists that the network is able to cope, while industry chiefs have described it as ‘one of the most reliable networks in the world’.

It comes as one electrical infrastructure firm has now written to some of its most vulnerable customers warning them to keep torches and warm clothes nearby in case of power cuts.

UK Power Networks, which owns and maintains the electricity cables in the South East and East of England, as well as London, has written to priority customers, including pensioners and those with young children, telling them what to do if their homes are hit with a power cut.

The advice, reported in The Daily Telegraph today, includes ‘keeping a torch handy’ and ‘reducing heat loss by closing doors on unused rooms’.

Fears are growing that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government's self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers on power networks

Fears are growing that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government's self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers on power networks

Fears are growing that staff sickness during the coronavirus outbreak, mixed with the government’s self-isolation rules, could lead to a shortage of engineers on power networks

Householders been advised to keep a 'hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm' in case of power cuts during the coronavirus crisis

Householders been advised to keep a 'hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm' in case of power cuts during the coronavirus crisis

Householders been advised to keep a ‘hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm’ in case of power cuts during the coronavirus crisis

Customers are also advised to have a ‘hat, gloves and a blanket to hand to keep warm’ and, where possible, to keep a corded telephone in the house, as well as a power bank to recharge mobile phones. 

A spokesperson for UK Power Networks said: ‘We regularly contact customers on our Priority Services Register, to ensure we meet their needs and it’s never more important than in the current circumstances.

‘This is to ensure we continue to provide them with the best possible support.

‘We are continuing to fix power cuts and maintain the electricity network to ensure its continued reliability.

‘Across our networks, power supplies are 99.9 per cent reliable, and our dedicated teams are keeping the power flowing.’

The advice comes as many electricity firms across the UK put non-essential infrastructure work on hold.

Companies have also implemented emergency strategies to deal with the knock-on effects of Covid-19, which has infected more than 20,000 people in the UK.

So far, 1,408 people have died as a result of the virus. 

Other electricity distributors across the UK are also reportedly contacting the most vulnerable. 

The energy firms are also ensuring staff can continue to work on essential projects while still abiding by the government’s social distancing rules.

However a boss of one firm, SP Energy Networks, which operates in parts of Scotland, the North West and North Wales, said that staff sickness was a particular concern. 

Concern was also raised about the length of time that the government’s social distancing guidance could be in place for. 

But industry chiefs have backed the UK network, which they say is the ‘one of the most reliable electricity networks in the world’ 

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the gas and electricity grid operators across the country, said: ‘It is supported by stringent contingency plans and a workforce of 36,000 people.

‘We’re keeping your energy flowing during the coronavirus pandemic and the network is operating exactly as it should.’

The National Grid, which owns Britain’s electric power transmission network, previously said it plans in place to keep electricity running throughout the pandemic, however long it lasts – a statement it has reasserted today.

The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country

The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country

The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country

‘We have well-developed procedures in place to manage the effects of a pandemic,’ the National Grid said in an official statement.

‘We have asked all our employees who do not need to be onsite to work from home where possible, in line with government guidance.

‘This measure has been introduced to limit the spread of the virus, protect the health and safety of all our people, and ensure those in operational roles can continue to do their jobs.’

The National Grid passes energy to local distribution network operators who then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes around the country.

Its engineers at power plants are trained in multiple roles, meaning they can potentially switch between jobs to cover for employees, while its operational sites are secure ‘with a wide range of resilience and security measures’, it claims.

How should I prepare for a power cut and what should I do if it happens?

For many, power cuts can be a disruptive, but mostly worry-free experience.

But for more vulnerable homeowners, particularly the elderly or those with serious disabilities, they can cause great concern, particularly during the cold and dark winter months.

Here’s some advice from UK Power Networks to help you prepare for power cuts.

Homeowners should be careful when using a candle during a power cut

Homeowners should be careful when using a candle during a power cut

Homeowners should be careful when using a candle during a power cut

  • Remember never to put yourself in danger and to alert the emergency services if a dangerous situation arises. 
  • Where possible, consider making alternate arrangements to stay with family or friends if you are impacted by the power cut.  
  • Have a torch, with spare batteries, to hand. If you’re using candles then please be careful. An open flame should always be used responsibly.  
  • It is handy to have access to hot water during a power cut; boil water and store it in flasks in advance of the power cut. It would be sensible to store as much hot water as possible. 
  • You should limit the use of your laptop or your smart phone in the lead up to the storm to preserve the life of the battery 
  • Keep an old-fashioned corded phone which you can plug in, as cordless phones may not work in the event of a power cut. 
  • Keep fridges and freezers closed, with a blanket over as they will stay cold for many hours.
  • Look out for elderly neighbours and ensure they are prepared for a possible power cut.

 Source: UK Power Networks

 

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Health experts call for petrol pumps to have cigarette packet-style graphic images

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Health experts have called for petrol pumps to have ‘graphic’ images of the damage vehicle emissions do to our bodies, similar to those that have to legally be shown on cigarette packets. 

Environmental health professors from the UK, US and India writing in the British Medical Journal said images of lung damage caused by air pollution would be a cheap and effective way to encourage people to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

They said grisly images should be displayed at the point of sale to have the biggest impact, such as on petrol and diesel pumps in fuel stations, on airline tickets and even energy bills.

Health warning: A report published in the British Medical Journal by experts this week has called for petrol pumps, airline tickets and energy bills to have graphic images of the damage fossil fuel emissions have on our bodies

Health warning: A report published in the British Medical Journal by experts this week has called for petrol pumps, airline tickets and energy bills to have graphic images of the damage fossil fuel emissions have on our bodies

Health warning: A report published in the British Medical Journal by experts this week has called for petrol pumps, airline tickets and energy bills to have graphic images of the damage fossil fuel emissions have on our bodies

Like the gruesome health warnings on cigarette packets, warning labels should state clearly that ‘continuing to burn fossil fuels worsens the climate emergency, with major projected health impacts increasing over time’, according to the BMJ report.

It says fossil fuels, like smoking, harm others through ambient air pollution that accounts for about 3.5million premature deaths per year.

There is also the wider impact on climate change, which increasingly threatens the health of current and future generations.

And while fossil fuel use is already subject to government intervention in many countries, for example through fuel taxes and vehicle emissions standards, ‘these are insufficient to prevent dangerous climate change and do not reflect the full economic costs of burning fossil fuels,’ the health experts claim.

Earlier this month, the Chancellor confirmed that fuel duty – the amount of tax paid on a litre of petrol and diesel – would remain frozen for a tenth consecutive year. 

The BMJ report adds: ‘Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now.

Graphic images as health warnings have been on cigarette packets and tobacco products in the UK since 2008

Graphic images as health warnings have been on cigarette packets and tobacco products in the UK since 2008

Graphic images as health warnings have been on cigarette packets and tobacco products in the UK since 2008

‘They sensitise people to the consequences of their actions, representing nudges designed to encourage users to choose alternatives to fossil fuels, thus increasing demand for zero-carbon renewable energy.’

According to the World Health Organisation, there is ‘substantial evidence from a broad range of studies’ supporting the effectiveness of graphic pictorial images on tobacco warning labels on the consumption of tobacco.

In the UK, these images have been displayed since 2008 but, according to the WHO, have had less of an impact on smokers than in Australia. 

A study on adults in Britain published by Health Education Research last year found clear evidence that the gruesome images do work.

‘In conclusion, we found that smokers with lower levels of nicotine dependence were deterred from purchasing cigarettes when graphic health warning labels were present compared with when they were absent,’ the research said.  

Dr Mike Gill, a former regional director of public health and colleagues who contributed to the new BMJ report, said the addition of these images could change attitudes and behaviour among the public.  

Gill and fellow health experts acknowledged that implementing warnings will face challenges, but say the initial focus should be on ‘high income nations that have contributed disproportionately to greenhouse gas emissions and on major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in emerging economies where they are rising rapidly’.

The report also called for additional policies, such as increasing advertising restrictions on fuel companies, particularly to prevent misleading claims about their investments in renewable energy.

They said grisly images should be displayed at the point of sale - such as on petrol pumps in fuel stations - to have the biggest impact

They said grisly images should be displayed at the point of sale - such as on petrol pumps in fuel stations - to have the biggest impact

They said grisly images should be displayed at the point of sale – such as on petrol pumps in fuel stations – to have the biggest impact

Health experts also called on governments to take urgent, decisive steps to raise awareness of personal choices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as implementing national policies to decarbonise the economy.

‘There is an opportunity for national and local governments to implement labelling of fossil fuels in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow and in particular for the UK Government, as the host of the COP, to show leadership, as part of a package of measures to accelerate progress on getting to ‘Net Zero’ emissions,’ they write.

‘When the covid-19 pandemic eventually wanes, labelling could play an important role in helping to reduce the risk of a rapid rebound in greenhouse gas emissions as the economy expands,’ the report concluded.

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A third of all mortgage deals are pulled in three weeks as coronavirus grips the market

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Nearly a third of all mortgage deals have been pulled from the market in just three weeks as the housing market grinds to a halt amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This morning there were some 3,654 total residential mortgage deals on offer from banks and building societies in the UK, according to finance experts Moneyfacts. 

This is some 1,585 fewer than the 5,239 deals that were available on 11 March – a drop of 30 per cent. 

This comes as lenders pull higher loan-to-value deals while buyers and sellers put their home moves on hold in the wake of the coronavirus.

There are some 1,585 fewer mortgages on offer than there were just three weeks ago

There are some 1,585 fewer mortgages on offer than there were just three weeks ago

 There are some 1,585 fewer mortgages on offer than there were just three weeks ago

The housing market has been thrown into chaos in recent weeks as the Government urged buyers and sellers not to move home as the pandemic continues to spread.

This, on top of the recent Bank of England Base Rate cuts, has led to mortgage lenders pulling products in a move not seen since the credit crunch. 

And it’s not just the smaller lenders that are pulling deals – Nationwide said it will temporarily stop offering all deals above 75 per cent loan-to-value. 

This means a borrower will have to have a deposit worth 25 per cent of the property in order to qualify for a mortgage. 

Barclays and Halifax’s intermediary brands have stopped selling mortgages above 60 per cent loan-to-value, while other lenders have stopped lending on deals which track the Base Rate directly.

It is not clear to what extent the banks have taken the decision due to staffing issues, with the country in lockdown and a wave of customers requesting mortgage holidays, or a concern that house prices could fall. 

Banks and building societies will also be acting cautiously while they cannot send someone out to physically value a home.    

While it’s too soon to tell, experts have warned that a decrease in competition  among lenders as they pull deals from the market might lead to a price hike in future. 

Eleanor Williams, finance expert at Moneyfacts said: ‘It is likely that competition between mortgage lenders for new mortgage business may take a step back during the foreseeable future, which we generally would expect to have an adverse effect on mortgage rates. 

‘However, these are uncertain times and it is also likely that mortgage providers will need to protect their existing mortgage book, be seen as to be passing on the effects of a low Bank base rate and give their existing borrowers enough options to try and weather this storm going forward.’

>> Click here to search all the best mortgage rates with L&C’s mortgage finder tool 

Call your lender before cancelling your mortgage payments – or you could struggle to remortgage 

Homeowners are unknowingly putting themselves into arrears by cancelling their mortgage payments without speaking to lenders first. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced anyone facing difficulty due to coronavirus will be eligible for a three month mortgage payment holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced anyone facing difficulty due to coronavirus will be eligible for a three month mortgage payment holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced anyone facing difficulty due to coronavirus will be eligible for a three month mortgage payment holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announced this month that homeowners in financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be offered a three-month mortgage break, or ‘payment holiday’.

But lenders have warned that some borrowers are cancelling their direct debits without speaking to their bank or building society first.

Doing so will negatively impact their credit score, experts say, potentially making it impossible to remortgage in the future.

Anyone who has already cancelled a mortgage direct debit without speaking to their lender first, is advised to call them as soon as possible to let them know. 

>> Should you put your mortgage on hold for three months? 

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