business news 13 May 2021.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Johnson looks at swift easing of homeworking rules in England, SMEs anticipating 10% boost this quarter, Fish & Finance with the EU, UK economy resilient during first quarter, UK exports to Europe continue rapid recovery, Bitcoin, BT, renter evictions, flying taxis and lots more.

Johnson looks at swift easing of homeworking rules in England

Provided covid-19 cases continue to drop Boris Johnson will lift work-from-home guidance for England next month, the PM told the Commons on Wednesday. Mr Johnson insisted it is his intention to ease homeworking rules and drop the guidance at the next stage of lockdown easing. His promise came after Tory MP for Kensington, Felicity Buchan, said the economy in central London was hurting due to the lack of commuters.

Johnson announced Monday that the next step of lockdown easing will go ahead from next week, with people allowed to meet indoors again at home and in pubs and restaurants.

Meanwhile, the PM has been urged to accelerate vaccines in certain virus hotspots.  Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, has asked the government for permission to vaccinate all people over the age of 16 in Bolton, a town in northwest England that has seen a surge in cases among younger people in the last two weeks. Backing the demands would mean the Government deviates from its current vaccination strategy of moving down through the age bands. As of today, all people aged 38 and over are eligible for a vaccine shot under nationwide rules.

SMEs anticipating 10% boost this quarter

New data from Barclaycard published  finds that SMEs are predicting a 9.8 per cent increase in revenue this quarter compared to Q1 2021, marking the highest anticipated increase since their SME Barometer was launched in February 2020.

Optimism is particularly high for the hospitality and leisure sector, which is predicting a 21 per cent sales boost this quarter with lockdown restrictions due to lift next week.

Key stats include:

  • SMEs are predicting a 9.8 per cent increase in revenue this quarter compared to Q1 2021, marking the highest anticipated increase since the SME Barometer was launched in February 2020.
  • The hospitality and leisure sector is predicting a 21 per cent sales boost this quarter.
  • Barclaycard Payment’s acquiring data shows that hospitality and leisure SMEs have had a positive few weeks, with the number of payments processed up 105 per cent in the last week of April, compared to the first week, following outdoor hospitality venues opening from the 12th April.
  • 85 per cent of SMEs are planning to invest over the next 12 months by adding staff, new equipment or technology, and ramping up their marketing.
  • Brits heading out will need to be organised: hospitality and leisure venues expect customers will need to book at least five days in advance to secure a reservation.
  • Some 47% of firms expect to increase their workforces over the next year.

Over half (51 per cent) of SMEs expect an increase in revenues from 17th May, when the next stage of restrictions will be lifted. This is supported by Barclaycard Payment’s acquiring data, which shows that hospitality and leisure SMEs saw the number of payments processed up 105 per cent in the last week of April, compared to the first week, following outdoor hospitality venues opening from the 12th April.

Looking ahead, SMEs are forecasting an 18 per cent increase in revenues a year from now, with the hospitality and leisure sector expecting a 42 per cent boost. Many SMEs have an optimistic (33 per cent) or neutral (40 per cent) outlook for the UK economy, which increases to 51 per cent optimistic and 36 per cent neutral about the prospects for their own businesses.

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, said: “As restrictions lift, it’s reassuring to see the highest level of SME optimism since the SME Barometer launched, with expectations of a long overdue boost for the hospitality and leisure sector. With the confidence to plan ahead, small businesses have turned their attention to bulking up their workforce, as well as investing in technology and marketing. We’re looking forward to seeing this confidence translate into sales, and we continue to support small businesses as they further increase their stronghold in the UK economy.”

US inflation fears hits international markets

Indices in Europe and the UK rose yesterday but Us markets continued their slide – down another 2% –  as US inflation in April jumped more than expected to 4.2%, (up from 2.6% in March) the highest rate since 2008. The outlook was more positive in Europe. Markets slid despite FED assurances it was only a temporary blip. In London the FTSE rose more than 60 points on better than expected GDP figures. Although GDP fell for the quarter 1.5% this was tempered by 2.1% growth in March. UK Growth is expected now to rise even faster with lockdown restrictions easing and one of the worlds best vaccine rollouts. The European Commission has also upgraded its growth forecasts from 3.8% to 4.3% for the year, pointing to progress with Covid-19 vaccinations and the ongoing public stimulus programme.

Fish & Finance

France is threatening to hold up British access to European Union financial markets until the issue of fishing is solved after the recent disputes around Jersey.

UK economy resilient during first quarter

Adding to what we reported yesterday, figures from the Office of National Statistics show the UK economy shrank by 1.5% in the first three months of 2021, but gathered speed in March as lockdown restrictions began to ease. The first-quarter contraction was caused by the third lockdown in January which led the size of the economy to shrink 2.5%. But in March, the UK’s GDP exceeded expectations and rose 2.1%, the fastest monthly growth rate since August last year. Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the figures, saying the economy was showing “promising signs” after a “difficult start to this year”. The Bank of England now expects the economy to have recovered its pandemic losses by end of year, forecasting annual growth of 7.25%, the fastest rate since 1941. Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, commented: “The burst of growth in March shows that the recovery has been gathering momentum more quickly than we had thought.”

UK exports to Europe continue rapid recovery

Exports to the EU jumped a further 8.6% in March to hit pre-Brexit levels with car exports driving the second month of a rebound from January’s record plunge. But the ONS data also show imports from the EU remained depressed resulting in Britain importing more from non-EU countries in the first quarter for the first time on record. The ONS said: “It is too early to assess the extent to which this reflects short-term trade disruption or longer-term supply chain adjustments.” The UK’s trade deficit narrowed during the first quarter, shrinking by £8.4bn to just £1.4bn, reflecting a sharper decline in imports than exports.


Elon Musk backtracked on accepting bitcoin for purchases of Tesla vehicles after pressure from environmentalists. Bitcoin tumbled as a result.


BT are going ahead with a plan to roll out fast broadband to 5 million new homes, creating 7000 jobs. BT  also reported a fall in annual profit as revenue was hurt by the impact of the pandemic on its consumer and enterprise businesses. For the year through March 2021, pre-tax profit fell 23% to £1,804 million year-on-year as revenue slipped 7% to £21,331 million.

On the Beach

On the Beach have announced they are not going to be selling package holidays for the 2021 summer. They say the traffic light system and potential for sudden changes in government guidance means it would irresponsible to sell holidays to even destinations on the green light list.

Renter evictions

The Government has confirmed that the ban on property evictions will come to an end on 31st May 2021. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that 45% of private landlords own just one property and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears. The Ministry of Housing said renters will continue to be supported as national coronavirus restrictions ease.

Free digital skills training for 100,000 small businesses

Roughly 100,000 small businesses could get free skills training after Vodafone and Enterprise Nation committed to helping business owners through online courses. The training will focus on online essentials such as setting up a website, online trading, using collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, making the best decisions for your connectivity, and protecting yourself and customers from cyber-attacks.

Flying Taxis sent to Coventry

Trial operations of flying taxis and cargo drones will commence in Coventry, before the end of this year as part of a plan to develop “aerial roads” for unmanned flights in urban areas. The project, backed by 1.2 million pounds of government funds, involves construction of a centrally located hub that will host demonstration flights across the city of almost 400,000 people, according to Ricky Sandhu, founder of Urban-Air Port, which will operate the ground infrastructure.

Amazon defeats EC over Luxembourg tax bill

The EU’s General Court have said Amazon was not provided with “selective advantage” after Luxembourg permitted it to pay less tax than other businesses. Amazon was appealing an order from the European Commission that the US tech giant pay £215m in back taxes to the Duchy and the judgement marks another defeat for EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager after Apple won its appeal against an order to pay Ireland £11.1bn in back taxes last year. Amazon said the decision was “in line with our long-standing position that we followed all applicable laws and that Amazon received no special treatment”. Commenting on the judgement, Markus Feber, an MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party, said Ms Vestager should better prepare her cases as “high-profile decisions like these being overturned is a major disservice to the cause of tax justice.”

Court gives Virgin Active CVA the go ahead

Virgin Active’s restructuring plan has been approved by the High Court allowing the company to terminate the leases of some poorly performing gyms and to pay less rent on other properties. Shareholders will inject £45m into the business while lenders are being asked to “amend and extend” its debt facilities. But Melanie Leech, CEO of the British Property Federation, said the judgement “demonstrates how the law is now allowing wealthy individuals and private equity backers to extract value from their businesses in good times but later claim insolvency, as simply a means to get out of their contractual obligations with property owners.”

UK directors face bans for avoiding repayment of pandemic loans

Ministers will give the Insolvency Service new powers to sanction directors found to have misused the insolvency process to avoid repaying state-backed emergency pandemic loans. A loophole that allowed rogue directors to escape scrutiny by dissolving their companies is to be closed, the Government has said.

Colonial Pipeline

Colonial Pipeline returned to operations after being forced to close last Friday after a ransomware attack. That sparked panic buying and a spike in petrol prices on the US east coast. The firm that runs America’s biggest fuel pipeline, which stretches from Texas to New Jersey and supplies about 45% of the petrol and diesel consumed on the east coast, said however it would take several days for operations to return to normal.

We need legally binding principles for public servants

Philip Sinel, the founder and senior partner at Jersey law firm Sinels, writes in the Times on his fears that Britain has lost its way with democracy and accountability both now destroyed by endless scandals. He refers to Greensill and David Cameron’s lobbying of the Treasury on the company’s behalf. But this should surprise no-one, says Sinel as the “UK’s regulatory systems and parliamentary standards have been broken for some time.” He asks, for example, how we can trust the FCA to investigate EY for its auditing of NMC Health when its former chief has “merrily strolled” into a job at the Big Four firm. Sinel says there should be legally binding principles of probity in public life, along the lines of those drawn up by Lord Nolan 25 years ago, so we can “turf the corrupt out on their ear” and begin to restore confidence in the “crooked and creaking political edifice.”

Grain supplier falls into administration

A major supplier of grain and cereals to the whisky and distilling industries has gone into administration. Alexander Inglis & Son has appointed FRP partners Tom MacLennan and Chad Griffin as joint administrators of the Tranent-headquartered business.

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.