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Sky Forecast: Scotland Rejects Independence

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Jumat, 19 September 2014 | 11.46

Sky News is forecasting that Scotland has rejected independence, meaning the United Kingdom will remain intact.

Victories in Glasgow, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire had given the Yes campaign a major boost.

However, they were followed by substantial No victories in Stirling, Aberdeen and Dumfries and Galloway.

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond tweeted: "Well done to Glasgow, our commonwealth city, and to the people of Scotland for such a incredible support."

David Cameron tweeted: "I've spoken to Alistair Darling - and congratulated him on a well-fought campaign."

Voters sided with the Better Together team in the Western Isles (10,544 to 9,195) and Clackmannanshire (19,036 to 16,350) - both key Yes targets.

The No strongholds of Shetland (9,951 to 5,669) and Orkney (10,004 to 4,883) saw the voters reject independence.

Poll

Mr Cameron is due to make a live TV address to the nation from 10 Downing Street once the result is confirmed.

The Prime Minister is expected to set out not only proposals to devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament, but also significant changes for other parts of the country.

The referendum looks set to break records for turnout, with figures as high as 91% in East Dunbartonshire, 90.4% in East Renfrewshire and 90.1% in Stirling.

A poll taken by YouGov after people voted predicted a victory for No by 54% to 46% for Yes.

And even before the first results were announced, its president Peter Kellner told Sky News: "I can't see No losing this now.

"At the obvious risk of looking like a complete prat in eight hours' time, I would say it is a 99% certainty of a No victory."

Speaking on Sky News, Blair McDougall, the Better Together campaign director, welcomed the high turnout.

Scotland Referendum Special Programme Promo

"There has been the biggest super-poll in Scottish political history today with probably the biggest turnout in recent political history."

Sky News has learned officials at the referendum count in Glasgow are investigating 10 cases of suspected electoral fraud at polling stations.

Although the votes are being counted at 32 regional centres - whichever side "wins" in each area is irrelevant.

All that matters is whoever gets the most overall - even if it is by a single vote.

:: Watch live: Scottish referendum coverage now on Sky News Sky 501, Virgin Media 602, Freesat 202, Freeview 132.

:: Live coverage is also available on sky.com/news and Sky News for iPad and on your mobile phone.


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Scotland Vote: Market 'Relief Rally' Forecast

The pound has strengthened and the FTSE 100 is forecast to rebound by more than 100 points following Scotland's referendum.

More follows...


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Jobless Rate Nears Six-Year Low And Wages Rise

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Kamis, 18 September 2014 | 11.46

Official figures show the UK's jobless rate has fallen to its lowest level for six years, with wage rises starting to pick up.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate fell to 6.2% in the three months to July - more than was expected by economists - for the first time since September-November 2008.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell in August for the 22nd-consecutive month - by 37,200 - to 966,500.

It meant the total had dropped below one million for the first time since September 2008.

The trend of employment growth continued with an increase of 74,000 to 30.6m recorded between May and July.

Construction Of Britain's Largest Warship HMS Queen Elizabeth Continues Scotland's unemployment rate was better than the UK average

It left the unemployment total at 2.02m, the ONS said, with the economy producing the largest annual fall in unemployment since 1988.

While pay growth continued to lag inflation in the period, there was an improvement in average weekly pay increases.

The ONS measured pay, including bonuses, rising 0.6% in the year to July from an annual decline of 0.1% the previous month.

The wage reduction was explained last month as being a result of companies delaying bonus awards last year to help their employees benefit from a cut in income tax.

The Bank of England has put pay at the centre of its thinking on when to raise the base rate of interest from its record low of 0.5%.

It has also emerged that two members of its Monetary Policy Committee continued to support a rate increase this month in a 7-2 vote despite official figures highlighting weak wage growth.

Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty argued for the second-consecutive month that the Bank needed to act now in order to pre-empt wage and inflationary pressures further ahead.

The Bank last month halved its forecast for average wage growth last month, saying it now expected average salaries to rise by just 1.25% this year.

The Chancellor had the Scottish independence referendum on his mind when he tweeted his reaction to the jobless numbers.

George Osborne said: "Today's employment stats mark another step towards full employment. But still much more to do."

He added that unemployment in Scotland was down to 6%, below the UK average.

Stephen Timms, Labour's shadow employment minister, said: "Today's fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but the new figures have shown working people are seeing their pay falling far behind the cost of living.

"A Labour government will freeze gas and electricity bills, raise the minimum wage and get more homes built to tackle the cost-of-living crisis".


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Billionaire Alibaba Founder Shows US Doubters

Billionaire Alibaba Founder Shows US Doubters

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The e-commerce giant is Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Twitter and YouTube all rolled into one - and it's bigger than all of them.

Video: Alibaba Founder Shows US Doubters

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  • Duncan Clark, chairman of investment firm BDA China, says Alibaba's founder Jack Ma drove himself to be successful in China.

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Inflation Slips But House Price Growth Surges

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Rabu, 17 September 2014 | 11.46

Official figures have charted an easing in the annual rate of inflation but house price growth accelerating to a seven-year high - with six UK regions achieving new price peaks.

Separate releases by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed CPI inflation at 1.5% - falling back from 1.6% the previous month - with the biggest contributions coming from the supermarket price war and falling petrol costs.

This means that while wage growth remains much weaker that the rate of inflation - maintaining the squeeze on earnings - the gap was slightly reduced.

House prices London house price growth slowed in July

However, the ONS statistics on house prices showed that purchasers would need to dig deeper for a deposit.

The average cost of a home rose 11.7% to a new record high of £272,000 in the year to July, though annual growth in London slipped slightly to a rate of 19.1% from 19.3% the previous month.

The study - by nation - showed prices rose 12% in England, 7.4% in Wales, 7.6% in Scotland and 4.5% in Northern Ireland.

It also measured property prices reaching fresh all-time highs in six UK regions.

The East Midlands, West Midlands and South West joined London, the East and the South East in having price levels higher than their pre-financial crisis peaks of 2007/08, the ONS said.

House building The recovery in building has been too slow to help temper price growth

Estate agents have reported seeing signs of disruption to the housing market in Scotland in recent weeks, with potential buyers putting their plans on hold while they wait to see what the outcome of the referendum on independence will be.

The report also showed that first-time buyers face having to pay 13.5% more to get on the property ladder than they did a year ago - and the ONS said this was the highest annual increase recorded for the sector since March 2005.

The average price paid by a first-time buyer in July this year was £209,000.

The Bank of England, which is mulling the timing of the UK's first interest rate rise since March 2009, is likely to see the inflation and house prices figures as further evidence of little immediate pressure for action.

Bank governor Mark Carney has cited concerns on consumer debt and wage growth.


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Tax Crackdown: World Profit-Shifting Ban Looms

By Ed Conway, Economics Editor

International authorities have unveiled the first step in a major crackdown on billions of dollars' worth of international corporate tax avoidance, warning that existing rules are not fit for purpose.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said its plan would help prevent the kind of legal corporate tax avoidance which it is alleged has been used extensively by companies such as Apple, Google and Starbucks.

Its detailed new proposals, seven of which are published today, are largely aimed at stemming the extent to which companies can shift profits from one country to another in order to take advantage of lower tax rates.

Such practices are particularly common among tech businesses and other companies whose activities are not easily traced to single countries.

The OECD report said: "Gaps and mismatches in the current, outdated tax rules can make profits 'disappear' for tax purposes, or allow the shifting of profits to no-or low-tax locations where the business has little or no economic activity".

Although there are few reliable estimates of these practices - also known as base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) - they are thought to have contributed to billions of dollars of tax avoidance by leading multinationals.

According to one calculation, there is more than $2trn held by US multinationals in offshore financial centres which, at a 30% tax rate, would be equivalent to around $700bn in missing government revenue.

The reports suggests this money could be used support the fragile economic recovery after years of austerity and "social hardship".

Although such tax avoidance is legal, the report says taxpayer trust has been damaged by these practices.

The OECD says the measures are aimed at promoting the "spirit of the law - not just the letter".

They were described by auditors PwC as "the most significant change to international tax in modern times".

The proposals, which are long and complex, aim to close numerous loopholes in domestic and international laws which allow companies to shift such profits around the world, using a variety of financial instruments.

"The BEPS Project marks a turning point in the history of international co-operation on taxation", the report said.

However, it is likely to be some years before the plans come to fruition. A second half of the report, including more proposals, is due next year. The plans will need then to be approved by the G20, before individual governments have an opportunity to implement them.


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Retailer Phones 4u 'Forced Into Administration'

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Selasa, 16 September 2014 | 11.46

Phones 4u stores are closed with thousands of jobs at risk after the retailer said it was being forced into administration by network operator EE's decision to join Vodafone in cutting ties with the firm.

The retailer, which employs 5,596 people, said its 550 standalone stores would be shut until administrators decide on whether the business can reopen for trading.

Inquiry lines were still operational though the Phones 4u customer service line referred callers to the website, which has been taken offline.

The company said the decision by EE not to renew its current contract, which is due to end in September next year, was a "complete shock" and meant it would be left without a single network partner after Vodafone said earlier this month that it would not extend its agreement.

Phones 4 U goes into administration Potential store customers were greeted by closed doors and a short notice

Phones 4u said it has a healthy balance sheet with profits of more than £100m but had no option but to go into administration.

However, workers facing the threat of redundancy have been given hope by rival firm Dixons Carphone - Sky News has learnt that the business is preparing to highlight at least 1,500 vacancies at Carphone Warehouse stores for which Phones 4u staff would be eligible.

Phones 4u executive David Kassler said: "Today is a very sad day for our customers and our staff.

EE cuts ties with Phones 4uBRITAIN-US-TELECOM-STOCKS-BUSINESS-DIVEST-VODAFONE-VERIZON The retailer said the decisions of EE and Vodafone were a 'complete shock'

"If the mobile network operators decline to supply us, we do not have a business.

"A good company making profits of over £100m, employing thousands of decent people has been forced into administration.

"The great service we have provided should have guaranteed a strong future, but unfortunately our network partners have decided otherwise.

"The ultimate result will be less competition, less choice and higher prices for mobile customers in UK."

Staff were asked to report to work as normal on Monday for a management briefing.

Phones 4u said all mobile contracts bought through Phones 4u would remain unaffected and the networks would continue to provide mobile services to these customers.

Customers were also told that orders which were not dispatched in advance of the decision will not be honoured, though full refunds will be given.

The formal process of appointing PwC as the administrator was expected to take place later on Monday.

The Butterfly Ball: A Sensory Experience - Arrivals The business was set up by John Caudwell, who sold it in 2006 for £1.5bn

The announcement helped shares in Dixons Carphone rise 4% in early trading.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio of BC Partners, Phones 4u's private equity owner, said: "Our overriding concern is for all the dedicated hard-working employees of Phones 4u at a time of uncertainty for the company.

"Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4u over more than six months.

"Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4u no time to develop commercial alternatives.

"EE's decision on Friday is surprising in the context of a contract that has more than a year to run and leaves the board with no alternative but to seek the Administrator's protection in the interests of all its stakeholders."

A spokesperson for EE said its decision not to extend its contract with Phones 4u was part of a focus on supplying customers directly and questions surrounding the "long-term viability" of the Phones 4u business. 

Vodafone said it was "saddened" to read about Phones 4u's plight and added: "We strongly reject any suggestion that we behaved inappropriately at any stage during our negotiations with Phones 4u."

It has been revealed that Vodafone was in talks about a joint takeover of Phones 4U as recently as two months ago but abandoned the proposed deal without explanation.

Sky News has learnt that Vodafone executives discussed at a meeting in June with financial and legal advisers to Phones4U a takeover of the chain by the mobile phone network along with EE, its rival.


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Vodafone 'Plotted Joint Takeover Of Phones 4u'

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

Vodafone was in talks about a joint takeover of Phones 4u as recently as two months ago but abandoned the proposed deal without explanation.

Sky News has learnt that Vodafone executives discussed at a meeting in June with financial and legal advisers to Phones 4u a takeover of the chain by the mobile phone network along with EE, its rival.

The deal would have been structured as a 50:50 acquisition of Phones 4u, with Vodafone encouraging the retailer's legal team to "review how this could be achieved given the competition constraints", according to a person close to the talks.

A subsequent discussion between Vodafone and Phones 4u indicated that Vodafone might pursue a takeover on its own if EE did not wish to participate, the person added.

On July 8, while parallel discussions were taking place about extending Vodafone's distribution contract with Phones 4u, the mobile network's UK executives made a presentation to group colleagues entitled "Phones 4u - Partner of Choice".

Several weeks later, Vodafone notified Phones 4u that it would not be renewing their agreement, while no further talks about a takeover of the company were held.

The revelations shed new light on the final months of Phones 4u's existence as a standalone company, with its future now under threat following decisions by Vodafone and EE to terminate distribution agreements next year.

A Vodafone spokesman acknowledged that the takeover discussions had taken place but said: "For regulatory and commercial reasons the acquisition of Phones 4u was not an option.

"The UK management team took legal advice in the early summer to review its potential but it was quickly dismissed given the advice we received. 

"We have made our position on the commercial negotiations with Phones 4u very clear and have nothing more to add.

"The decision to terminate our contract with them was made independently by the UK management team on purely commercial reasons following extensive negotiations."

The news puts in jeopardy as many as 5,500 jobs at Phones 4u, although as Sky News revealed earlier on Monday, its larger rival Dixons Carphone is drawing up plans that could see many hundreds of those staff retain their roles or fill other vacancies at the UK's biggest mobile phone retailer.

Dixons Carphone Tweet Dixons Carphone has tweeted support for Phones 4u workers

Phones 4u's crisis sparked an unusually hostile bout of corporate mud-slinging, with John Caudwell, the retailer's founder, accusing Vodafone of being a "ruthless partner".

Currys and PC World shops currently employ just over 800 Phones 4u staff, with Dixons Carphone keen to offer all of them jobs at the rebranded Carphone Warehouse concessions.

The timing of a more detailed statement by Dixons Carphone will depend upon the progress of discussions between it and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was designated by Phones 4u directors as the company's administrator on Sunday.


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Retailer Phones 4u 'Forced Into Administration'

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Senin, 15 September 2014 | 11.46

Thousands of jobs at Phones 4u are at risk after the retailer says it was forced into administration when network operator EE joined Vodafone in cutting ties with the firm.

The retailer, which employs 5,596 people, says its 550 standalone stores will be closed until the administrators decide on whether the business can reopen for trading.

The company said the decision by EE not to renew its current contract, which is due to end in September next year, was a "complete shock" and meant it would be left without a single network partner after Vodafone said earlier this month that it would not extend its agreement.

EE cuts ties with Phones 4uBRITAIN-US-TELECOM-STOCKS-BUSINESS-DIVEST-VODAFONE-VERIZON The retailer said the decisions of EE and Vodafone were a 'complete shock'

Phones 4u says it has a healthy balance sheet with profits of more than £100m, but had no option but to go into administration.

Chief executive David Kassler said: "Today is a very sad day for our customers and our staff.

"If the mobile network operators decline to supply us, we do not have a business.

"A good company making profits of over £100m, employing thousands of decent people has been forced into administration.

"The great service we have provided should have guaranteed a strong future, but unfortunately our network partners have decided otherwise.

"The ultimate result will be less competition, less choice and higher prices for mobile customers in UK."

The Butterfly Ball: A Sensory Experience - Arrivals The business was set up by John Caudwell, who sold it in 2006 for £1.5bn

Staff have been asked to report to work as normal on Monday morning when they will be briefed by management.

Phones 4u said all mobile contracts bought through Phones 4u will remain unaffected and the networks will continue to provide mobile services to these customers.

The process of appointing PwC as an administrator is expected to take place on Monday.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio of BC Partners, Phones 4U's private equity owner, said: "Our overriding concern is for all the dedicated hard-working employees of Phones 4u at a time of uncertainty for the company.

"Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4u over more than six months.

"Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4u no time to develop commercial alternatives.

"EE's decision on Friday is surprising in the context of a contract that has more than a year to run and leaves the board with no alternative but to seek the Administrator's protection in the interests of all its stakeholders."

A spokesperson for EE said: "In line with our strategy to focus on growth in our direct channels and to move to fewer, deeper relationships in the indirect channel, and driven by developments in the marketplace that have called into question the long term viability of the Phones 4u business, we can confirm that we have taken the decision not to extend our contract beyond September 2015.

"We will monitor developments and work to provide any necessary support for customers who joined EE through Phones 4u."

The business was set up by entrepreneur John Caudwell in the mid-1980s.

By the time he sold it for £1.5bn in 2006 it was selling 26 phones a minute and employed 10,000 people. It generated sales of more than £2.25bn.


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PM To Make Final Plea Against Scottish Split

What Happens If Scotland Leaves The Union?

Updated: 2:00pm UK, Tuesday 09 September 2014

Supporters of both sides of the Scotland referendum debate are mounting a final push for votes before the ballot on September 18. Sky News looks at what will happen if Scotland votes Yes to exit the UK:

:: 1.  When would Scotland become independent?

The Scottish Government has set a date 18 months from now, March 24, 2016, for Scotland's independence day.

:: 2. What would happen immediately after a Yes vote?

The first step on the morning after the result comes in would involve the forming of teams from both the Yes and No camps to take part in behind-the-scenes negotiations. SNP leader Alex Salmond has already indicated his deputy Nicola Sturgeon would lead the talks for the Scottish nationalists. It is not yet known who would spearhead the Westminster team.

:: 3. What amendments would there be to the constitution?

The negotiating teams would devise a new constitution for Scotland and dissolve the 1707 Act Of Union.

:: 4. What would happen to the Queen?

The Yes campaign has said Her Majesty would stay as monarch so it would not be surprising if Mr Salmond seeks an audience with the Queen in the days and weeks after the vote.

:: 5. Would Scotland take part in the May 2015 General Election?

Scottish voters would still be able to take part, but their representatives would only potentially serve a 10-month term in office.

:: 6. What currency would Scotland use?

That is still being thrashed out and yet to be decided. The three main Westminster parties - the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - have ruled out a currency union, although Mr Salmond insists an independent Scotland would keep the pound.

:: 7. How much of the UK national debt would be transferred to Scotland?

This is not yet known, but it is likely to be worked out on a per capita share - based on population.

:: 8. What would happen to Scotland's standing in global affairs?

Scotland would have to negotiate its own entry into the European Union and Nato, and the population would have to decide whether they want to have the euro.

:: 9. What effect would independence have on Scotland's defence force?

The issue of defence is probably one of the most emotive - and uncertain. Scotland is likely to have its own independent defence force, in time, depending on practicalities and finances, for it has its North Sea oil and fishing industries to protect. Scottish nationalists are opposed to having the Trident nuclear deterrent and would want to see it removed from Faslane, on the west coast of Scotland, as soon as possible. However, Nato is fundamentally a nuclear alliance, and if Scotland struggles to become a member of Nato, it is likely to struggle to join the EU too, which would have a big impact on the Scottish economy. There is also the matter of service personnel - some of which will be currently serving in historic English regiments. Any division of troops north and south of the border would take years.

:: 10. What would independence mean in terms of travelling across the Scotland-England border?

An independent Scotland would control its own borders. The SNP would like to see an open border, but Home Secretary Theresa May has already warned she will not allow Scotland to be used as a back door for immigrants getting into England if Scotland adopts a looser immigration policy. So, we could see passport controls on the border between the two countries.

:: 11. Would Scottish citizens need new passports?

A lot depends on whether Scotland joins the EU. Scottish citizens would be entitled to a Scottish passport, but a UK passport would still be valid until it expires. British citizens who were habitual residents in Scotland would be automatically considered Scottish citizens.

:: 12. What would happen to benefits and taxes?

Benefits and taxes will become the responsibility of the new Scottish government. In its white paper on Scotland's independence it says the Scottish Parliament will ensure that the personal tax allowance and tax credits increase in line with inflation.


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