Regus owner IWG says new Covid variants will push profits lower

IWG, the world’s largest flexible space provider, has said lockdowns and new Covid variants will push profits this year “well below” 2020 levels.

The company, formerly known as Regus, reported a £620m annual loss for 2020, when its finances were hit by social distancing rules, and working from home resulted in empty offices.

The UK-listed company, which is headquartered in Switzerland, reported strong recovery in some markets including the US. However, occupancy levels across the whole group were lower than expected because of “the prolonged impact of Covid-19, including continuing lockdown restrictions and the emergence of new variants of the virus in some markets”.

“Accordingly, this will delay the anticipated recovery in our business and, given the operational gearing of the group, is expected to have a significant impact on the group’s results for 2021,” IWG said, adding that underlying earnings would come in “well below the level in 2020”.… Read the rest

Facebook investigated by UK and EU competition watchdogs

Facebook is being investigated by UK and European competition watchdogs over concerns it uses advertising data to gain an unfair advantage over rivals.

The Competition and Markets Authority is looking into whether it uses information to benefit its own services, such as Facebook Marketplace.

The European Commission is examining if Facebook violated EU rules by gathering data from advertisers to compete with them in providing classified ads.
Facebook said it would cooperate fully.

It said it will demonstrate that both the UK and EU investigations are “without merit”.

The CMA said Facebook collects data through its digital advertising service as well as its single sign-on option. This allows people to sign-in to other websites, services and apps using their Facebook log-in details.

The watchdog said it is examining whether the company has unfairly used the data to compete with people and businesses who use Facebook Marketplace, where firms and users … Read the rest

Drop June 21 obsession or we risk losing gains, says scientist

Moving too quickly to reopen society risks losing the gains made so far, experts have said, urging caution about the easing of restrictions on June 21.

Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, said he was concerned that not enough people were vaccinated, particularly in areas that have high levels of the Indian variant.

“We just need to be careful we don’t unlock too quickly and lose those gains that we’ve got,” he said yesterday at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar.

“If we are talking about a delay, we’re talking about a delay of weeks, not months any more. That could be very significant. I’m not so sure why everybody is absolutely obsessed by fixing it to a date and not fixing it to the data.”

He said that within a few weeks we would be “able to see real data, whether the vaccines we’ve rolled out have prevented … Read the rest

Made in Britain: Online marketplace ‘Buy Britain’

Michael Oszmann, Founder of online marketplace Buy Britain, discusses the idea behind his business and how plans to help other small businesses from within the UK.

In March 2020, Michael Oszmann lost his contract with Shell due to the pandemic and oil price crash. This left him with a decision to try and seek more work during the crisis, or to try something different. He decided to try and turn the negative situation into a positive and start something of his own.

The ensuing economic chaos, caused by the lockdowns, made him think that setting up an online marketplace with exclusively British-made products was an idea that could help to make a difference. Here, he tells us all about his business:

Tell us all about your business?

Buy Britain is a marketplace to discover goods made by local UK businesses. The company began in July 2020 and was officially launched … Read the rest

No full-time return to the office for over a million British workers

Almost all of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers have said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.

Some 43 of the firms said they would embrace a mix of home and office working, with staff encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.

Four firms said they were keeping the idea of hybrid working, working from home some of the time, under review.

Currently, people who can work from home are still advised to do so.

However, that is likely to change in June when the government hopes to end all social distancing restrictions.

“We’re never going to go back to working the way we used to work,” said Mark Read, chief executive of advertising firm WPP.

But the new ways of using the office require careful planning, he told Business Matters.

“People are working from home three to four days … Read the rest

Odeon to reopen most cinemas on May 17 with new safety measures in place

Odeon has become the latest cinema chain to say it will reopen on 17 May following months of lockdown closures.

Following a similar announcement from Cineworld, Odeon said it would open most of its 120 UK sites with new safety measures in place.

The industry has been hit hard by Covid and Odeon’s owner AMC warned last month it was running out of cash.

“We’ve all missed the magic that the cinema brings to movie watching,” said Odeon managing director Carol Welch.

The chain – Britain’s largest – said it would be reopening the “vast majority” of its sites, including flagship cinemas at London’s Leicester Square, Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Birmingham’s Broadway Plaza.

The company hopes film fans will flock back to cinemas to see host of new 2021 film releases, including Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Fast & Furious 9, Marvel’s Black Widow and the long-awaited Bond film No … Read the rest

Return to normality is vital to save the industry says pub bosses

The chief executive of Greene King has warned the government that lifting all restrictions on pubs next month is “absolutely critical” to restoring the industry’s fortunes.

Nick Mackenzie said that the past year had been “incredibly challenging for the whole industry” and argued that if pubs were forced to maintain social distancing and coronavirus passports, the government would have to provide further support.

He said that trading in the 452 pubs that Greene King reopened for outdoor eating and drinking on April 12 had been “all right, better than we expected”. The company had opened another 100 since then, with the majority resuming on May 17 under restrictions.

However, while Mackenzie, 52, said that it was “great to see people back in the pub”, the key date was June 21, when the prime minister has promised the lifting of all restrictions. “Getting to that point is absolutely critical, so we … Read the rest

Hopes rise for overseas travel to dozens of green list countries

Hopes of a summer holiday in Europe were boosted yesterday with the possibility of non-essential travel to destinations such as Portugal and Malta as soon as mid-May.

It is likely that limited overseas trips will be permitted in just over two weeks’ time, with experts saying that an initial “green list” is likely to include up to 24 countries.

Meanwhile, France announced that Britons will be able to travel there from the start of June provided they have proof of being vaccinated.

Further good news for tourists came as it was revealed that the cost of coronavirus tests for holidaymakers has dropped to as little as £45 each under government plans to force down prices.

Across England coronavirus cases have fallen to record lows, with every region in the country reporting reductions in the infection rate. Experts say the UK as a whole is moving out of the pandemic and … Read the rest

Co-op to ditch plastic ‘bags for life’ over pollution concerns

The Co-operative Group is to stop selling plastic “bags for life” because, with many shoppers using them only once, they have become as big a problem as the single-use carriers they replaced.

With more than 1.5 billion “bags for life” sold each year Jo Whitfield, the chief executive of Co-op Food, said plastic pollution was a “massive issue” for retailers. “Many shoppers are regularly buying so called “bags for life” to use just once and it’s leading to a major hike in the amount of plastic being produced,” she explained.

While plastic bag levies have led to a dramatic reduction in the number of single-use bags in circulation environmental campaigners are now concerned about the impact of “bags for life” which use more plastic. Their sale, in huge quantities, is feared to be making the plastic problem worse rather than better.

Earlier this month Morrisons became the first supermarket to … Read the rest

UK Companies’ confidence at two-year high

Business confidence has hit its highest level for two and a half years, a survey suggests.

The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer found that overall business confidence had increased by 14 percentage points to 29 per cent in April, beating the long-term average of 28 per cent.

Both business and consumer confidence are being bolstered by the easing of lockdown and the success of the vaccination programme. Lloyds said that companies were feeling more hopeful about their trading prospects, with the relevant sub-index rising by 13 percentage points to 25 per cent — the biggest monthly rise for nearly four years. Optimism about the economy rose by 15 percentage points to 32 per cent.

Fewer than half of the companies surveyed said that demand was being hit by the pandemic. In contrast, a year ago, at the start of lockdown, three quarters of companies reported a negative impact. More than … Read the rest