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'Panic Saturday' To Start Xmas Spending Spree

Written By iwan Jundaedi on Sabtu, 20 Desember 2014 | 11.46

Shoppers are set to spend a total of £1.2bn on last minute gifts and groceries on what has been dubbed "Panic Saturday".

Around 13 million consumers will spend £2.1m for every minute stores are open at an average of £92.31 per person, according to a report by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) for Vouchercodes.co.uk.

Claire Davenport, Vouchercodes.co.uk managing director, said: "With Christmas Day falling later in the week this year, consumers feel that there is still plenty of time to complete their shopping.

"Panic Saturday kicks off a big week for retailers and we're expecting to see a huge increase in traffic to our site this weekend."

Some of the biggest high street names have slashed their prices for what is expected to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Debenhams has reduced some gifts by 50%, Boots is offering a 60% discount of selected fragrances, while Marks & Spencer is selling some beauty products for half-price.

Delayed online orders, poor weather and earlier sales are expected to drive around 70 million shoppers to the high street between now and Christmas Eve - an increase of 14% on last year.

The CRR report also predicts in-store sales will reach £4.74bn over the five days before Christmas, another noticeable increase on last year (21%).

The CRR says the additional shopping day will contribute an extra £870m.

Department stores can expect to double their takings this weekend, data from payment processing company Worldpay suggests, with shops in the north of England set to benefit the most.

It said the number of card payments taken by department stores in some parts of the UK just before Christmas increased by as much as 224% this time last year, and even better figures are expected for 2014.

Worldpay UK managing director Dave Hobday said: "Department stores are magnets for shoppers who find themselves in the last-chance saloon in the final few days before Christmas.

"Many of these eleventh-hour shoppers will be breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of heading to the high street on the busiest shopping day of the year and praying for someone to take the pain away."

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  1. Gallery: Black Friday: Madness In The Shops

    Yes, really. Shoppers have wrestled over a television. It has come that, people. "Black Friday" is in full swing in Britain and the stiff upper lip Brits are famous for has well and truly left the building. This photo was taken at an Asda in Wembley, north London

Britain's high streets, shopping centres and websites have been awash with discounts as more retailers than ever embraced US-style promotions, seeking to kickstart trading in the key Christmas period

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Push To Get More Women Into The Cockpit

By Charlotte Lomas, Sky News Reporter

More than four decades after the first British female pilot took to the skies in a commercial airliner, there are still few women choosing flying as a career. But why are there so few female pilots?

Of the 3,500 pilots employed by British Airways, just 200 are women and this is more than any other UK airline.

Globally, 4,000 of the 130,000 airline pilots are female and fewer still are captains - worldwide there are around 450.

Helen Macnamara has been a British Airways pilot for 14 years after enrolling on a sponsorship scheme once she left university.

"I like to see the world and different places and I enjoy the magic of flying itself," she said.

"Once you have the passion for it, then that's it really".

Helen, 38, believes the reason so few women go into flying may stem from a lack of opportunities in the past.

She said: "I think historically there were less women involved in aviation and that has been changing throughout my career.

"I think it's important females see this as an option and that there are role models in our industry."

One such role model is TV presenter and now fully trained pilot, Carol Vorderman.

She is planning to embark on a solo round-the-world flying trip and is supporting a recruitment drive by British Airways to get more women in the cockpit.

Carol said: "I always wanted to be a pilot since I was very young.

"It was the reason I read Engineering at Cambridge, and ideally would have joined the RAF or a commercial airline after graduating, but sadly this was not an option then.

"I think the reason so few women enter the profession can be traced back to schools, home and the media. Girls need to be encouraged more to pursue sciences, maths and technology at school and realise different paths are open to them."

Although many women work in the aviation industry as a whole - piloting is still very much a male-dominated profession.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of BALPA, the British Airline Pilots Association, is hoping this will change.

He said: "Women make great pilots, unfortunately only five percent of our members and British pilots are women, and that's disappointing.

"So we're reaching out to women to find why they're not coming forward. Perhaps it's because of their choice of careers at an earlier age. Engineering is a great way to get into flying, so perhaps people should look at their careers early on.

"But our big message would be: have the dream."

Some critics argue that women face prejudice when considering a career in flying.

In 2009 a Virgin Airlines advert featuring glamorous female flight attendants flanking a male pilot received complaints it was sexist.

So too did an Air New Zealand in-flight safety video where women were dressed bikinis.

But Helen says that she has never experienced any negativity. Most passengers are simply surprised to have a female pilot, she said.

"Actually when members of the public come to our flight simulator where we train, it is usually the women who fare better than the men.

"They are softer with the manoeuvres and males can be more heavy handed."

In an industry where fewer than 5% of pilots are women it's hoped more will be landing safely on the tarmac in future.


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RBS Loses Fight Over £4bn Investor Court Date

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

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will face angry investors in court by the end of 2016 in a legal case that is likely to see Fred Goodwin, its former boss, testify about the lender's implosion.

Sky News has learnt that RBS was told this week that litigation brought by a shareholder action group would result in a trial beginning in December 2016, almost a year earlier than the bank had sought.

The RBS Shareholder Action Group, which includes major City institutions such as M&G and Standard Life Investments as well as thousands of private investors, is suing over a £12bn rights issue launched by RBS in April 2008.

That fundraising was aimed at removing any doubts about the bank's financial strength, but ultimately proved to be only a stay of execution.

Mr Goodwin, RBS's former chief executive, was stripped of his knighthood in 2012 and has faced calls to be banned as a company director in the wake of the bank's near-collapse.

Sir Tom McKillop, the former chairman, and Guy Whittaker, the former finance director, are also named as directors in the shareholder lawsuit, which is said to seek damages of as much as £4bn.

At a case management conference this week, RBS is understood to have been ordered to accelerate the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of documents.

The named directors will have to let the court know by end January what information they intend to provide the court.

Some claimants have expressed frustration that the case will not be heard for more than eight years after the rights issue which saw them stump up £12bn.

RBS has estimated that it could spend as much as £42m in total on legal fees during the case, a figure which includes separate representation for the director defendants.

Mr Goodwin and Sir Tom stepped down in the autumn of 2008 as Alastair Darling, the then Chancellor, insisted on their resignations as a condition of the bank's rescue.

There are four main investor groups bringing claims against RBS, in which they allege that the bank misled them about the state of its finances when it raised £12bn from them in a rights issue in the spring of 2008.

Months later, RBS received an emergency £45.5bn capital injection from the Government as it came close to outright collapse.

The claimants also include a group which includes Aviva, the insurance companies; and another which is acting for dozens of institutional investors.

RBS itself is being represented in the series of shareholder lawsuits by Herbert Smith Freehills, a prominent City firm.

In a statement, RBS said: "While RBS and its former directors made some business decisions that have been criticised, this does not mean that they misled investors or acted illegally.

"We believe we have strong defences to the claims that are being brought against the Group and that is why we intend to defend these vigorously and to protect the interests of our shareholders including UK taxpayers."

Both RBS and the RBS Shareholder Action Group declined to comment.


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Russia's Crumbling Economy Faces Fresh Sanctions

Russia's crumbling economy could be hit further after the EU agreed on more santions over its intervention in Ukraine.

Fresh punitive measures - banning investment in Crimea to target Russian Black Sea oil and gas exploration - were agreed at the end of the European Council summit in Brussels.

New EU president Donald Tusk said they needed to create a long-term strategy to stop Russia President Vladimir Putin's defiance of the West.

"We need to be realistic, we have to treat this as a long-term game. We must go beyond being reactive and defensive."

He called on Europeans to "regain our self-confidence and realise our own strength" when dealing with Russia.

David Cameron warned Mr Putin that Russia's economy was in "serious" trouble after being hit by a slump in oil prices and sanctions from the EU and US.

"I think that something very important is being made clear here, which is that if you want to have full access to the international capital markets you cannot behave in a way that flies in the face of the international rules and how to behave towards other countries.

"If it takes Russian troops out of Ukraine, and it obeys all the strictures of the Minsk agreement, these sanctions can go.

"But until that happens these sanctions should not go and there was a very clear and unanimous and unified view in the EU tonight."

Speaking at his annual end-of-year media conference, Mr Putin hit back saying the sanctions have not had a big effect and accused the West of behaving like "an empire".

He also accused the West of trying to "chain" the Russian bear.

"Probably our bear should just relax and sit quietly and just eat honey instead of hunting animals. Maybe then they will leave the bear in peace.

"But they will not.  What they are trying to do is chain the bear and when they manage to chain the bear they will just take out its fangs and claws."


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Wellcome Trust Warns On 'Populist' Mansion Tax

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

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

One of Britain's most successful investors has issued a thinly veiled swipe at Labour's proposed mansion tax and warned that "populist politics" risk derailing Britain's economic revival.

Speaking to Sky News, Danny Truell, chief investment officer of the Wellcome Trust, the medical research charity, said a lack of clarity about politicians' intentions toward key industries was potentially damaging.

Mr Truell did not explicitly identify Labour's proposals for a tax on expensive homes, but people close to the Wellcome Trust confirmed its anxiety that the party had not said whether charities would be exempted from a new levy.

"In the UK, populist policies risk derailing progress in restoring balance in the economy," Mr Truell said.

"We own £1.2bn of residential property in the UK; there is no clarity on how charities will be treated in respect of property taxes, which can only damage confidence in the short term."

His warning will reinforce impressions of a gulf between Mr Miliband's party and the interests of business leaders and the City.

Labour has pledged to address that perception despite pledges of a crackdown on the banking, energy and property industries.

Mr Truell oversees a vast investment portfolio at the Wellcome Trust, which includes shareholdings in companies such as Apple, Marks & Spencer, Twitter and Vodafone.

The research foundation's residential property assets include more than 1700 units in South Kensington in Central London, which it said today may generate "more muted" returns in the near term because of "political concerns and overly strong recent price appreciation".

Mr Truell was speaking to coincide with the disclosure of another stellar annual performance by the Wellcome Trust's investment division, which generated a total return of 15.4% in the year to September 30.

That equated to a £2.5bn return, which will contribute to a £4bn investment in charitable activities during the next five years.

Mr Truell added that the current slump in oil prices would be conducive to growth in Europe and Asia, and said he was surprised by the market's reaction.


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Mobile Networks Agree Deal To Boost UK Coverage

A £5bn project to guarantee mobile phone voice and text coverage to 90% of the UK geographical area by 2017 will go ahead.

The deal means the four mobile networks - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - have all agreed to tackle poor coverage in so-called partial "not spots".

These are areas that may have coverage from some but not all of the four networks.

This will halve the number of areas where there is patchy mobile coverage.

In addition, the operators will increase full coverage from 69% to 85% - allowing phone users to download data.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Too many parts of the UK regularly suffer from poor mobile coverage leaving them unable to make calls or send texts.

"Government and businesses have been clear about the importance of mobile connectivity, and improved coverage, so this legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage it needs and deserves."

A Vodafone UK spokesman said: "We support the Government's objective of delivering better coverage to rural areas including partial not-spots.

"It is a great result for UK consumers and businesses and it will make the UK a leader across Europe in terms of the reach of mobile coverage."


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Rouble 'Critical' After Hitting All-Time Low

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

The deputy chairman of Russia's central bank has conceded the rouble is in deep trouble but says it will take action to remedy the problem soon.

"The situation is critical. We could not imagine this in our worst nightmare a year ago," Sergei Shvetsov was quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax as saying.

He said the shock overnight hike in its key interest rate from 10.5% to 17% "will be followed by other measures to stabilise the situation".

Despite the increase the rouble continued to fall sharply throughout the day, hitting the 80 to the dollar mark and decreasing in value by 20% in a matter of hours.

"Trust me, the choice the central bank's board of directors made was one between bad and much, much worse," Mr Shvetsov added.

"In the coming days, the situation will be comparable with the toughest period of 2008. I think that the experience we accumulated over the past crises will help us find the right solution and survive this situation. I very much hope so."

The Bank of Russia's shock decision to up its core rate was a response to the rouble's value sinking by almost 50% over the course of the year - hit by Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict and plummeting oil prices.

It was also intended to settle nerves back home as fears grow that the extent of Russia's economic problems - largely unreported by state media - could spark panic among consumers as price rises become unmanageable.

By raising interest rates, the bank also hoped investors would find it more financially appealing to keep their money in Russia, whose economy relies heavily on oil revenues.

Central bank chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina said earlier the move should stem inflation, although she admitted it will take the rouble "some time" to find its correct value.

Russian stocks fell slightly on Tuesday morning with the MICEX benchmark 1.5% lower, reflecting the additional pressure on businesses.

Falls of more than 50% in world oil prices are tipped to plunge Russia into recession next year.

On Tuesday the value of Brent crude slipped to new five-year low, falling below $60-per-barrel for the first time since July 2009.

The Bank Of Russia had raised the rate from 5.5% earlier this year to 10.5% just last Thursday.

It said then that it expected inflation to run at 10% this year and climb higher in the first quarter of 2015.

But the rouble has plunged further against the dollar this week, to 65 on Monday and then 80 on Tuesday, after dropping from 55 roubles last week.

Alexei Kudrin, Russia's finance minister from 2000-2011, said on Twitter: "The fall of the rouble is not just a reaction to low oil prices and the sanctions but also (a show of) distrust to economic policies of the government."

He called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to take appropriate measures, although he did not specify what these should be.

Moscow's involvement in Ukraine has led to the US and the European Union imposing a range of sanctions which have added to Russia's economic woes.

These have included blocking Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies.

Further sanctions are likely after the US Congress passed legislation on Monday that could see Washington providing weapons and other assistance to Ukraine. 


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Festive Cheer On Forecourt As Petrol Prices Fall

Petrol prices could soon fall below £1 per litre - the lowest level since the end of May 2009.

The RAC said the recent fall in the price of  oil - now below the $60-a-barrel - would keep dropping.

"What's currently happening at the pumps with falling fuel prices is something many motorists will not remember seeing before," said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said.

"Talk of prices going up like a rocket and falling like a feather could not be further from the truth as retailers have been quick to pass on savings at the forecourt since we forecast on December 6 that prices were due to come down by 7p a litre for petrol and 6p for diesel."

The RAC added that it was hopeful drivers would benefit from the fall in prices in the first few months of the new year.

The group's monitoring of fuel prices shows the average price of a litre of petrol is 116.9p - nearly 14p a litre cheaper than at the start of the year.

Diesel is nearly 16p cheaper - 122.33p a litre now compared to 138.24p in January.

The average supermarket price of fuel is 114.26p a litre for petrol and 120.18p for diesel.

Mr Williams added: "Current forecasts are for average petrol prices to fall to below 110p a litre in the next fortnight and diesel to drop to under 116p.

"At these average prices across the country the cheapest retailers will almost certainly be selling petrol for around 105p a litre, or even lower."


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FCA Life Ban For Fare-Dodging Jonathan Burrows

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

The financial watchdog has banned a top fund manager from any role in the City after it was discovered he paid £43,000 to avoid prosecution for dodging train fares.

Jonathan Paul Burrows, who was a London-based managing director at US investment firm BlackRock, admitted his actions sullied the reputation of the City.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) banned Mr Burrows for "not being a fit and proper" person.

It launched an investigation after a furore when it emerged an unnamed City worker paid the money to Southeastern Railway to avoid prosecution for repeated fare dodging.

In November 2013, a ticket inspector at Cannon Street station noticed an irregularity with the payment history of Mr Burrows' Oystercard.

Under caution he admitted regularly not paying for tickets from his home in Stonegate, East Sussex, where there were no ticket barriers.

It was claimed he only paid £7.20 for a Oystercard single ticket in London instead of the standard single fare of £21.50 from Stonegate.

It emerged he had stopped buying annual season tickets in 2008, despite continuing to work in the City for another five years.

"Burrows held a senior position within the financial services industry. His conduct fell short of the standards we expect," FCA director of enforcement Tracey McDermott said.

"Approved persons must act with honesty and integrity at all times and, where they do not, we will take action."

According to the Daily Mail, father-of-one Mr Burrows owned two mortgage-free multi-million pound mansions in East Sussex and drove a Porsche sports car.

A heated public debate developed over how a wealthy worker was able to pay a five-digit sum to avoid prosecution.

Following his banning, his former employer said: "Jonathan Burrows left BlackRock earlier this year. What he admitted to the FCA is totally contrary to our values and principles."

After being banned on 15 December, Mr Burrows released his own statement through a PR firm and said: "I have always recognised that what I did was foolish.

"I have apologised to all concerned and reiterate that apology publicly today."

"The settlement I made with Southeastern in March 2014 was for an amount significantly in excess of the value of the fares not paid by me on the small number of occasions that I failed to pay.

"Indeed the size of the settlement could be said to have led to a distorted perception of the scale of my wrongdoing."

Approached by Sky News, Southeastern Railway defended its decision not to prosecute Mr Burrows at the time.

In a statement it said: "We reached a £43,000 settlement with Mr Burrows regarding allegations of fare-dodging earlier this year.

"We believe that the actions that we took were in the best interests of our passengers (and taxpayers) by giving us the best opportunity to recover a substantial sum in respect of the allegation."


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BT Set To Buy EE Mobile Phone Network

BT has announced that it wants to buy phone firm EE as it makes a play to re-enter the mobile market.

The company has been in negotiations with EE and rival O2, but BT announced a decision on Monday to go with EE.

The deal is worth £12.5bn. 

In a statement BT said it had "entered into an exclusivity agreement with Deutsche Telekom and Orange in relation to BT's possible acquisition of all of their UK mobile business, EE".

"The period of exclusivity will last several weeks allowing BT to complete its due diligence and for negotiations on a definitive agreement to be concluded."

EE is the UK's largest mobile group which has 27 million customers.

It was formed in 2010 in a joint venture between French operator Orange and Germany's Deutsche Telekom.

BT is Britain's biggest broadband and landline provider and has been looking to expand into so-called "quad play", offering landline, broadband, pay TV and mobile services.

"They might spend more money buying EE (than O2) but EE offers more opportunities," James Allison, a senior analyst in telecommunications at HIS, told Sky's Ian King.

"It is a a bigger operator, but more importantly it has better radio spectrum so they'll be able to offer more mobile service to more customers."

The planned purchase comes more than a decade after BT was forced to sell its mobile operations to reduce a multi-billion pound debt pile.

The deal is now likely to face scrutiny by the regulator Ofcom.


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