News Roundup Wednesday 23rd January 2019



The taxman is ready for a no-deal Brexit

HMRC’s Jim Harra writes to the FT to state that the Revenue’s preparations for Brexit will not impact its ability to deliver the Making Tax Digital for VAT system in April.

Financial Times, Page: 10


Access to finance a concern for small firms

The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that sluggish economic growth, weak consumer demand and higher interest rates on loans are damaging confidence among Britain’s small companies. In the group’s latest barometer of sentiment among small employers, six in ten companies said that the domestic economy was a significant barrier to growth, while more than one in three said that they were struggling to find skilled staff. The FSB’s survey of 1,064 small businesses suggests that confidence among small employers is at its lowest level since the wake of the financial crash in 2011. Access to finance remains a key concern. Three quarters of successful applicants for bank loans said that they had been offered a borrowing rate of 5% or more, a record for the survey, while the proportion of small companies applying for external finance in the first place remains low, at around one in eight. Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, sa id: “With Brexit taking up all of the government’s bandwidth, there are a huge number of domestic business issues that are not being addressed. They include the longstanding barriers small firms face when trying to access new finance and the sky-high borrowing rates they’re often offered if an application is successful.”

The Times, Page: 45


Patisserie Valerie on the brink

Patisserie Valerie could go bust as soon as today after a deal with its banks expired last week. The company’s biggest shareholder and chairman, Luke Johnson, is in talks to extend its cash lifeline from HSBC and Barclays. Otherwise there is a danger it could crash into administration, with KPMG having been appointed to review “all options” for the company’s future. The company managed to avoid administration at the end of last year after Johnson plugged it with £20m of his own money and opened a £15.7m share placing to large institutional investors.

BBC News The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Times, Page: 40 Daily Mail, Page: 66 The Guardian, Page: 11

Mike Ashley in talks to buy HMV

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has placed a bid to buy HMV. The music chain collapsed last month, its second administration in six years, risking 2,200 jobs at 125 stores. Administrator KPMG declined to comment on the reports but is expected to decide on a preferred bidder by the end of this week.

BBC News The Daily Telegraph The Guardian, Page: 4 Daily Mirror, Page: 9 City AM, Page: 1 The Times, Page: 38-39


Tech sector growth slows

Business growth in the UK technology sector fell to its weakest level in three years at the end of 2018, according to a survey conducted by KPMG. The firm’s latest UK Tech Monitor report found that business activity growth for technology businesses slowed in the final three months of last year – its slowest rate of growth since the end of 2015. The report also revealed that operating expenses continue to rise sharply at UK technology businesses, although expenses did not rise as highly as the increase seen in 2017. A separate study by UHY Hacker Young has found UK businesses filed 11% of all global blockchain patents in 2017, ranking the country fourth in the world.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4 The Scotsman, Page: 37

Dividends soar

Investors in UK companies received almost £100bn in payouts last year, the highest level in almost a decade. Dividends rose by 5.1% to £99.8bn in 2018, according to Link Asset Services.

Daily Mail, Page: 66


World’s wealthiest grow richer

The fortunes of the world’s billionaires increased by £2bn a day last year, while 3.4bn people were forced to survive on less than £4.27 a day each. Oxfam’s Public Good or Private Wealth? study found only 26 billionaires were worth the same amount as the poorer half of the world last year. In 2017 it took 43 billionaires to match the poorer half. While the fortunes of the super-rich rose by 12% in 12 months, equivalent to £2.5bn a day, the wealth of the 3.8bn people in the poorer half fell by 11%.

The Times, Page: 39 Daily Mail, Page: 30 The Sun, Page: 12 The Guardian, Page: 9 Daily Mirror, Page: 2 The Independent, Page: 5 Daily Express, Page: 6

Two million workers have itch to quit

Research by Caba, the charity for the wellbeing of chartered accountants, has found that more than two million Britons are so unhappy at work that they think about quitting their job every day. Young workers are most tempted to walk out, with 12% of those aged 18 to 24 considering their future.

The Sun, Page: 8

Contact Paul Southward if you have any queries.

Paul Southward