The Business: Monday March 31 2014
Company news, markets and financial talking points, available from 8am Monday to Friday
Senior executives from the ‘big six’ energy companies have admitted they have let their customers down, says The Times. In a frank admission of failures seen by the newspaper, bosses said their customer service has been poor, billing has been confusing, and complaints badly handled. Speaking to interviewers compiling a report for YouGov, the bosses also accepted that they helped to create the political opportunity that Ed Miliband seized last year when he called for a freeze on energy prices.
George Osborne is to claim that he is overseeing “the biggest reduction of business and personal tax in two decades”, says the BBC. As a series of tax reforms take effect, the chancellor will claim that stability and confidence are returning to the economy. This week, the amount of money people will be able to receive without paying income tax on it rises to £10,000. Corporation tax is being reduced to 21%. But Labour claims that Osborne’s policies have already made households £900 a year worse off.
Improvements in Britain’s economy have prompted 80% of companies with a turnover of more than £1bn to invest up to £200bn in the next two years. The study, by Deloitte, follows a sharp revision by the Office of National Statistics in the scale of business investment last year. Until recently the ONS predicted that investment by corporates had fallen in 2013, but last week said it had jumped 8.5% during the year.
News of a potential buyout of House of Fraser by a Chinese conglomerate has raised fears that shareholders will not get the best of a deal brokered by the firm’s chairman. Sanpower, a Nanjing-based conglomerate run by Yuan Yafei, has tabled a bid that values the department stores at more than £450m. Talks between the two sides have been taking place in secret for several months and are now believed to be at an advanced stage.
“How times have changed. Some of the figures in our research – the largest industry-wide look into this subject – are mind-boggling.” Chief executive of the British Bankers’Association Anthony Browne on the “seismic change” prompted by the upwards march of banking apps and other technology.
The Independent newspaper could be for sale if somebody “offers the right price”, says its owner. Evgeny Lebedev qualified his statement about the title by adding he is “not actively trying to sell it”. The Independent and the i newspaper are together losing £5m-a-year, says Lebedev, compared with a £20m loss in the previous year. Today, the 33-year-old launches London Live, a 24-hour television network dedicated to news, entertainment and culture in the capital.
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