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Range Rover Evoque Now Made in China

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Rabu, 22 Oktober 2014 | 11.46

By Mark Stone, Asia Correspondent

For the first time in its history, the iconic Land Rover brand is no longer exclusively 'Made in Britain' but now 'Made in China' too.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has opened its first factory in China and production of a Chinese-made Range Rover Evoque will begin within a few months.

The factory, in Changshu, north of Shanghai, is the consequence of a joint venture with Chinese automobile firm Chery.

Built over two years, the 40,000 square metre site represents a £1.9bn investment plan which JLR hopes will significantly increase its profits.

The opening came as the company acknowledged that its China sales growth this year was 20% up, compared to a 40% figure last year.

Company bosses attribute that to a slightly slower Chinese market and point out that sales in China remain strong.

Since the Range Rover Evoque was launched, one in five of the cars have been sold to Chinese customers.

The company will be wary though of the fickle nature of the Chinese consumer; always searching for something new and different.

If too many people drive Range Rovers, their popularity could wane quickly.

JLR dismisses concerns that the decision to make cars in China represents a shift in production from its plants in the UK.

It says it represents an expansion which will benefit the wider company.

At the plant inauguration, Dr Ralph Speth, CEO of JLR, said: "The opening of this world-class facility is an important milestone for Jaguar Land Rover.

"Our decision to manufacture the Range Rover Evoque in Changshu is a result of our commitment to bringing more Chinese vehicles to Chinese customers."

The company says the plant is the most efficient, advanced car manufacturing facility in China. British control processes, health and safety standards and the company's corporate culture are all to be replicated at its Chinese operation.

By 2016, a total of three JLR-badged vehicles will be built at the plant with a total capacity of 130,000 vehicles a year.

JLR has seen extraordinary sales across China.

In the 2013-14 financial year, the company sold more than 100,000 cars to Chinese customers.

China is now JLR's largest market.

Chris Bryant, president of the Chery Jaguar Land Rover joint venture, said:  "The plant opening marks the completion of our start-up phase of which we are incredibly proud, and now we will continue to build."

In Beijing it is not possible to drive more than a few hundred metres without passing a Range Rover, most with gaudy paint jobs.

JLR is by no means the first automobile company to build its cars in China. Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen all have huge Chinese manufacturing facilities.

Last year, the boss of Mercedes' China operation told Sky News that survival in the automotive industry was based on success in China.

By manufacturing cars in China, JLR can cut out heavy import duties and price its vehicles more competitively in a luxury car market dominated by Audi and Mercedes.

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China Growth Weakest Since Financial Crisis

The slump in China's property market contributed to a further slowdown in the country's economic output in the third quarter of the year.

Official figures showed GDP growth at its weakest level since early 2009 during the period, rising by 7.3% on an annual basis.

The performance, while better than some analysts had expected, followed growth of 7.5% in the previous quarter, and the slowdown reinforced expectations that Beijing would announce more targeted stimulus measures.

Communist leaders are trying to steer China toward growth based on domestic consumption instead of over reliance on trade and investment but the deterioration in output growth raises fears of politically dangerous job losses.

Premier Li Keqiang has stated repeatedly that the country can tolerate slightly lower growth.

The Chinese economy - while still growing an an enviable rate - has a number of problems with the collapse in property values currently at the top of the list.

The government took action to help arrest house price declines and falling construction last month by cutting mortgage rates for some home buyers for the first time, though it was too early for the impact of those measures to be felt in the third quarter.

Developers have huge inventories of unsold homes, and increasingly risk-averse banks are wary about financing new mortgages which would only increase their exposure to the weakening sector.

Separate property data for September also released on Tuesday showed that the slowdown had deepened in the quarter, with real estate investment falling compared with a year ago, while revenue from property sales dropped 8.9%.

High infrastructure spending has helped maintain robust employment but that mini-stimulus is now fizzling out - hence the focus now on Beijing's policymakers.

A majority of economists do not see aggressive action, in the form of interest rate cuts, in the short term.

Leaders have previously ruled out massive stimulus as China is still struggling with a mountain of local government debt built up in 2009 when Y4trn (£401bn) was spent to cushion the impact of the global financial crisis.

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Price Comparison Sites: 'Don't Count On Them'

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Selasa, 21 Oktober 2014 | 11.46

By Dharshini David, Business Presenter

If you don't want your entire budget to go up in flames as energy bills soar, the key, we're told, is to shop around.

And those comparison websites can, they claim, find you a far cheaper deal.

But are they guilty, too, of leaving us in the dark when it comes to their commercial arrangements? For while they might save you money, they aren't charities but businesses, set up to make money.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that - after all even those cuddly meerkats need to eat. But could the thirst for profits - last year the five biggest comparison websites made a total of £170m -  be detrimental to customers?

Earlier this year, we at Sky News reported on claims that the commission paid to such sites by energy providers (which is likely passed on to customers in bills) was excessive.

Video: Comparison Sites: The Best Deals?

One energy boss told us that he was charged about £60 per customer or about 5% of the average dual fuel bill. He reckoned that a centralised switched website, funded by the industry and run by, say, the regulator would cost a fraction of that - less than £10.

What about the regulator? There is an Ofgem Confidence Code for comparison sites. Under this, sites do not have to declare how much commission they earned but are meant to display an easily accessible list of  who their commercial partners are (although we found some don't) and display tariffs in a "fair and unbiased way".

But now it has been revealed that customers may not be shown perhaps cheaper tariffs on comparison sites from suppliers who weren't paying a commission. Of the sites criticised - uSwitch, MoneySuperMarket, GoCompare, Confused.com and ComparetheMarket - only the first two are signed up to Ofgem's code.

But even if they were signed up, is the code fit for purpose?

Ofgem says it is "proposing tougher new rules to the code to make commission arrangements clearer". Is it?

It tells me that it wants a list of those suppliers who are paying websites commission to be "within two clicks of the homepage", which is, in practice, barely different to the current set up. And no, they won't request sites to reveal how much commission they're paid as that could "damage competition between sites". So much for transparency and consumer choice.

What about the practice of websites filtering results to leave out those tariffs which don't pay commission?

Ofgem say: "We want the sites to be more transparent about their commission arrangements with suppliers and make sure that consumers understand the impact these have on the results they will see."

In other words, it's ok to give priority to the suppliers you're being paid by - as long as you tell customers you're doing that.

Not surprisingly, critics claim these changes don't go far enough, and ultimately, the code will still be voluntary.

So the message to those tempted to use comparison websites to shop around is this: they may well give you a better deal, just don't count on them to give you the best one.

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Comparison Sites Under Fire Over 'Kickbacks'

Price comparison websites have been accused of hiding the best energy deals from consumers.

Instead, tariffs are promoted from providers who are paying the sites up to £60 commission when a user switches, according to consumer group The Big Deal.

It claimed CompareTheMarket, uSwitch, Confused.com, GoCompare and MoneySuperMarket use search options that filter out the best non-commission offers.

The Big Deal, which uses an alternative of collective bargaining to negotiate with providers, said some websites have option boxes such as switch "now" or "today", showing only providers that pay commission.

The group's Will Hodson told Sky News: "We're calling on the competition authorities to crackdown on this kickback culture."

"The claim that they are consumer champions has to be challenged - these guys put commission first and consumers second."

It said better switching offers are available that can save consumers up to £200 a year.

The websites said their services were transparent, operating within existing guidelines and saving consumers money.

Uswitch's Ann Robinson told Sky: "The people who use our site save an average £200, and 10% of our users save over £300."

MoneySuperMarket said filter results were "not a loophole" and CompareTheMarket added that "suppliers sometimes stipulate which tariffs they wish to sell on price comparison websites".

Confused.com added that it was "committed to transparency in everything we do".

A spokesman for GoCompare said: "Consumers have to bear in mind that this is a highly orchestrated PR campaign being run by a company with a vested interest in moving customers away from comparison sites to their own collective switching model.

"The Big Deal also makes its money by being paid a commission by the energy supplier to which its customers switch."

The energy watchdog Ofgem said it was considering a regulation overhaul of the sector.

In January, the boss of Co-operative Energy told Sky News comparision websites were misleading customers and pushing up energy bills.

Profits for the so-called big five comparison sites have climbed 400% since 2005, reaching a combined total of £170m last year.

The Big Deal said it has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over the hidden cost claims of the comparison firms.

The CMA is currently investigating the energy market over concerns of tariff and previously said the big energy providers could be split up, separating retail arms from their supply divisions.

The big six providers currently supply around 92% of all consumers - down from 99% five years ago - according to recent estimates.

Energy costs for consumers have more than doubled in the last decade, despite falling inflation and a squeeze on wages since the financial crash.

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PM: I'll Cut Benefits To Fund Apprenticeships

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Senin, 20 Oktober 2014 | 11.46

By Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent

Benefit cuts hitting 100,000 families will be used to fund a £1bn commitment to deliver three million apprenticeships over the next Parliament, David Cameron has revealed.

The plans show that 70,000 households will be affected by further reducing the benefit cap to £23,000. 

That saves £135m per year, while taking housing benefit off 18 to 21-year-olds will cut £120m a year and hit 30,000 young people.

The Prime Minister is calling on all FTSE 100 companies with a significant workforce in Britain to provide apprenticeships by 2020.

He has received the backing of a number of major companies including Fujitsu, National Grid, Nestle, Airbus, Balfour Beatty and Ford. 

Video: Apprentice Boost Is 'Great' Idea

Mr Cameron said: "Because of difficult decisions we will make on welfare, we will deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020. This is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.

"It will help give us the skills to compete with the rest of the world. And it will mean more hope, more opportunity, and more security for our young people, helping them get on in life and make something of themselves.

"We have already doubled apprenticeships this Parliament. We will finish the job in the next and end youth unemployment."

Video: Osborne Pledges Fair Welfare System

The way Mr Cameron is planning to pay for the jobs boost is likely to draw criticism from the Labour party and the Lib Dems.

Nick Clegg has accused the Conservatives of funding tax cuts for the wealthy on the back of the least well off.

In his conference speech, Mr Clegg said: "The young and the working poor are hit time and time again as George Osborne takes his axe to the welfare budget with no regard for the impact on people's lives."

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Equal Parental Pay Deal For Civil Servants

Both male and female Civil Service employees will be offered equal parental pay and support from next year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is set to announce.

Mr Clegg hopes the move will encourage other public and private sector organisations to follow suit.

The change means that fathers will now be able to benefit from enhanced pay for shared parental leave - if both parents decide to split the time up - as mothers currently do.

It follows an announcement by the Liberal Democrat leader last year that new parents will have the choice over how they split their statutory entitlement from April next year.

But there will be no onus on employers offering occupational maternity schemes above and beyond that to do so on an equal basis.

Video: Shake-Up In Parental Leave Laws

In a speech this week, Mr Clegg is expected to say: "For me, it's critical that people who choose to work in the public sector know that they're working in modern, progressive workplaces.

"I pushed for the introduction of shared parental leave in the first place because I fundamentally believe it's time for us to sweep away the outdated regulations and prejudices which still limit the choices of too many people in this country.

"Evidence shows promoting flexible working patterns like this can help boost employee productivity, loyalty and retention.

"To help get that revolution started in the public sector, working with the Cabinet Office, I've been pushing hard for radical reforms to the way in which the Civil Service pays and supports its staff after their children are born.

Video: Single Dads Start Families Alone

"So, I'm pleased to confirm that from April 2015 the Civil Service will be offering equal parental pay and support to all its employees - male and female.

"As a result, it will no longer just be new mums working in the Civil Service who can take maternity leave at full pay. Dads will also be able to benefit from enhanced pay for shared parental leave, if both parents choose to carve up their time between them.

"This means more fathers will be able to afford to take time off to spend caring for their new born children.

"More widely, I want to see this change blaze a trail for other public and private sector organisations to follow - making this option the norm for more working families and increasing the opportunities available to both sexes to earn and care across our society."

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Tesco Profit Shortfall 'Better Than Feared'

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Minggu, 19 Oktober 2014 | 11.46

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

A shortfall in half-year profits at Tesco which plunged Britain's biggest retailer into crisis is next week expected to be disclosed to have been smaller than initially feared.

Sky News understands that the supermarket chain plans to announce alongside its first-half results on Thursday that it had previously overstated earnings by between £200m and £250m.

The final figure was likely to be somewhere close to the middle of that range, a banking source said.

The numbers are still being prepared by Tesco's auditors this weekend and a final figure for the mis-statement will not be identified until the middle of the week, according to the source.

If the accounting error is below the £250m figure indicated last month, however, the news will be greeted with relief by the City following speculation that it could have to inflate that number substantially.

Dave Lewis, Tesco's chief executive, told staff yesterday that he expected to be able to give a "clear and accurate indication" of the company's performance during the first half of the year.

An investigation being undertaken by Deloitte and Freshfields will not be completed in time for the results announcement but is understood to point towards there being no requirement at this stage for previous years' profits to be restated.

Eight executives have been asked to stand aside to facilitate the probe, which is focused on payments from Tesco's suppliers.

Sky News also understands that Tesco has asked Greenhill, the investment bank, to field offers from bidders for assets such as Dunnhumby, the marketing services group behind the grocer's Clubcard loyalty scheme.

Sources said that Advent International, TPG and at least one other firm had enquired about Dunnhumby's availability but were being told that Mr Lewis was not keen to hold talks about a deal at this time.

Tesco owns a number of businesses - including an Asian retail empire valued by some analysts at up to £10bn - which could be sold if its board decides it needs to raise capital.

The accounting crisis has triggered investigations by the Financial Conduct Authority and Financial Reporting Council, and raised questions about the future of chairman Sir Richard Broadbent.

Tesco declined to comment.

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UK Firms Consider Paying For Egg Freezing

By Rhiannon Mills, Sky News Correspondent

British companies have said they would consider following Apple and Facebook's lead by paying for female staff to freeze their eggs.

With the US tech giants now offering the fertility treatment as a benefit, Sky News asked 18 city firms if they would consider providing the same perk.

Two said yes - Spacious, who provide office space, and the bike light company Blaze.

Its founder Emily Brooke said she would even like the option herself.

She told Sky News: "It just gives you a little bit more freedom and takes the pressure off later on in life.

"The women in my team are just as ambitious as I am, they work incredibly hard and I wouldn't expect them to take up the opportunity, I wouldn't want them to necessarily, but I would like them to have the option."

Two years ago Sarah Brocklehurst had her eggs frozen. Now 43, she knows it isn't a guarantee she'll be able to conceive in the future but says it has given her a choice.

She said: "Just being able to freeze the eggs allowed me to take a little beat to relax, be able to look around sensibly at looking for a man that i wanted to be with, not just a man that I could have a child with, which is what I think - some women unfortunately fall into that trap.

"And also fix things like my career and my living situation. So I think it's the best thing I could have done really."

This week one of Europe's largest fertility clinics is opening on the edge of the city of London.

Video: New IVF Treatment Gives Women Hope

For £200 Create will offer businesswomen fertility tests in their lunch hour and the chance to freeze their eggs so they can concentrate on their careers.

But the centre's medical director believes all women over 29 should be routinely tested for free on the NHS to assess their chances of starting a family.

Professor Geeta Nargund said: "We need to be proactive if we want to help the nation's fertility in the long run and spend less in the long run on fertility treatments.

"We want to invest in proactive fertility screening on the NHS. Many times people say I wish I knew this, I wish I was able to find out about this five years ago."

Video: New Hope For Women Considering IVF

With so many advancements in fertility treatments there are some who believe couples may be relying too much on science as a quick fix if they delay having a family.

Professor Melanie Davies from the British Fertility Society said "I know there are social pressures and I know that one has to find Mr right but if you're in a good situation a good relationship the best advice is to get on and have children naturally

"That is far more successful than freezing ones eggs and more successful than having IVF at a later stage."

At a cost of around £7,000 for three rounds of egg freezing, women will need a decent salary or generous employer to pay for it, but all experts agree that age is still likely to be the biggest factor when it comes to a couple's chances of starting a family.

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Global Markets Q&A: What Is Causing The Fall?

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Jumat, 17 Oktober 2014 | 11.46

By Ed Conway, Economics Editor

Volatile trading has continued into a second day after weak growth reports sparked a big sell-off earlier this week. But what has caused the markets to get jittery?

:: Why are markets plunging?

Good question. As ever with global markets, there's no straightforward answer, but here are three likely factors: first, the economy in the eurozone is doing worse than many expected, so you would expect share prices, which have raced away in recent months, to come down.

Second, with the eurozone facing a possible recession, threatening to drag the rest of the world into a slump, and with China and other emerging economies weaker, it's not clear who will play the role of global economic powerhouse in the coming year.

Third, there are some who fear that the share price gains of the past few years are simply a temporary sugar high fuelled by central banks pumping cash into the system.

Video: Market Sell-Off: What Is To Blame?

:: But the UK is outperforming the G20, isn't it? So are we immune?

As a small, open, highly-financialised economy, Britain is highly sensitive to changes in the international economy – and nowhere more so than the euro area.

Just over 50% of UK goods exports go to the EU, compared with just over 13% to the US and just over 4% to China.

Indeed, economists think if there is a recession in the euro area that could cause annual UK GDP growth, currently more than 3% a year, to drop into negative territory.

:: To what extent has the ebola outbreak contributed to growth and investor concerns?

It has certainly added to the sense of unease, alongside the rise of Islamic State, the growth of extremist political parties in the EU and the prospect of a UK referendum on EU membership.

It is difficult to pinpoint precisely how much influence each factor has on confidence.

:: A core concern worldwide is low inflation. Surely weaker price increases is a good thing for me?

Well strictly speaking higher inflation tends to be good for debtors and bad for savers.

But the worry here is less about investors and more about what low inflation is telling us about the growth prospects of the eurozone.

Twelve of the 28 EU member states have zero inflation or deflation (falling prices), and falling prices (and wages) are usually a sign of an economy which is facing a pay cut and struggling to generate growth.

:: The eurozone looks to be heading towards recession again. Who is to blame?

For the time being, this is a different crisis to the existential crisis we saw a couple of years ago (where it looked like the single currency was about to break apart).

But now the eurozone's long-standing weaknesses (poor demographics, high public spending, unreformed labour markets) are coming back to haunt it.

Video: Market Jitters: US Growth 'To Win'

Those kinds of problems - as rife in France and Italy as other smaller, Mediterranean economies - will take years to resolve, and there is little sign politicians are getting any closer to doing so (certainly in France).

:: Germany is Europe's biggest economy. Why is it now suddenly facing a downturn?

Partly because its neighbours aren't doing all that well. Partly because it has been more affected than most by sanctions on Russia. Partly it has been affected by the relative strength of the euro in the past few years.

But there are also complaints that its government hasn't done enough to get growth going.

The International Monetary Fund, among others, believes it should be spending more on infrastructure to help kick-start economic activity.

:: Greece was the first euro nation to get a bailout during the debt crisis. Why is it still struggling when other nations such as Ireland have recovered?

Actually in some senses it is doing a lot better than expected.

Next year, according to the IMF, Greece will grow faster than any other eurozone economy apart from Ireland.

However, for one thing, unemployment remains eye-wateringly high. Second, and most worrying as far as markets are concerned, the coalition government looks weak, and could conceivably collapse in the coming months.

That brings its capacity to exit its bailout programme into question.

:: What three measures/actions would you suggest to get the world economy moving forward?

As a mere journalist I would tend to leave such judgements to actual policymakers and economists.

However a few ideas that have been suggested include: quantitative easing (eg money creation) from the European Central Bank - though that is fraught with difficulties, notably the refusal of the Bundesbank to co-operate.

Clearly some euro members desperately need to reform their public sectors. But unfortunately there are no easy answers for the current malaise, which is why markets remain so concerned.

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Markets Fall Further As Global Weakness Hits

The sharpest decline in European stocks since 2011 has been followed by a second day of volatile trading as investors flee risk because of global economic weaknesses.

Many stock markets, including the FTSE 100, recovered some ground lost on Wednesday in early Thursday trading - helped by some encouraging corporate results - though jitters soon outweighed the search for bargains.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.25%, or 15.7 points, at 6,195.9 following a late rally as European Union officials pledged support for Greece.

That followed a 2.8% slump on Wednesday which saw £46bn wiped off the value of the FTSE.

It was a series of weak reports on the health of the two biggest economies in the world that sparked the big sell-off.

Video: Market Jitters: US Growth 'To Win'

Hours after Chinese inflation data disappointed - falling to a near five-year low - it was revealed that US retail sales and producer prices both dropped last month.

The woeful economic signals started a safe-haven rally in US Treasuries while a sharp fall in the dollar lent modest support to oil prices, though Brent crude still shed 1.1% to $82.72-a-barrel as weak demand continued to dominate pricing.

Investors were already worried about the looming end to the US Federal Reserve's programme of quantitative easing (QE) this month before the global growth fears properly surfaced.

It was euro area weakness that dominated trading on Thursday.

The latest inflation figures for the eurozone showed annual growth of just 0.3% across the single currency bloc, doing nothing to dispel fears the European Central Bank's (ECB's) previous rate measures to boost activity had failed to make the grade.

It is facing increasing demands to start a programme of quantitative easing.

The International Monetary Fund recently forecast a 40% chance of eurozone recession though German Chancellor Angela Merkel used a speech on Thursday to urge euro nations not to try and spend their way back to prosperity.

He told an audience Europe must push ahead with efforts to cut public deficits and improve competitiveness, warning that the debt crisis had not yet been overcome and its causes eliminated.

While the UK's own economic performance is outstripping many of its major competitors, the FTSE 100 has hit 15-month lows on the back of the wider world's problems because of the market's exposure to mining and other commodity stocks.

Chancellor George Osborne has acknowledged that the stagnation in the eurozone is a major threat to the UK's recovery.

There is immediate concern about Greece.

Its main stock market fell 10% at one point on Wednesday as it also got to grips with worries its government may collapse next year, putting the country's crucial bailout programme in danger.

Greece's anti-establishment and anti-austerity party, Syriza, has established a solid lead in the polls and the country's 10-year bond yield - the interest rate it pays to service its debts - climbed to 8.9% on Thursday as shares continued to bleed value.

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