BT launches search for startups to help it become greener


BT launches search for startups to help it become greener as it seeks to electrify its fleet of 34,000 vans

BT has launched a search for startups to help it become greener as it seeks to electrify its fleet of 34,000 vans. 

The telecoms giant has pledged to use 90 per cent electric vehicles by 2030. 

Green credentials: The telecoms giant has pledged to use 90 per cent electric vehicles by 2030

It is currently using 23 Renault Kangoos, with 46 more on the way. But the company said more investment was needed. 

Today it joined forces with green charity The Climate Group to form the UK Electric Fleets Alliance to lobby for policies to help adoption of electric vehicles. 

BT is also launching a ‘green tech innovation platform’ to look for startups that are developing tech to improve ‘smart’ infrastructure for streets and buildings hooked up to the net.

Centrica, Easyjet and ITV face FTSE 100 relegation


Centrica, Easyjet and ITV face relegation from FTSE 100 after coronavirus pandemic sends their shares plunging

Some of Britain’s biggest business names face relegation from the FTSE 100 after the Covid-19 pandemic sent their shares plunging. 

British Gas owner Centrica, Easyjet and ITV could all lose their blue-chip status in this month’s reshuffle. Others threatened are cruise company Carnival and aerospace and defence group Meggitt. 

The quarterly reshuffle will be based on tomorrow’s closing values. Companies in line for promotion from the FTSE 250 index include cyber security group Avast, Ladbrokes owner GVC, emergency repairs firm Homeserve and medical device company Convatec. 

Grounded: Struggling Easyjet could lose its blue-chip status in this month’s reshuffle

It could be the biggest shake-up since the financial crisis, reflecting huge share price moves during the virus crisis.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: ‘The Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on many companies and has been a help to very few. The next quarterly reshuffle looks like it will be one of the biggest in 20 years. 

‘Attention is starting to turn to recovery so we’ll start to see which companies can emerge most successfully.’ FTSE Russell, which is owned by the London Stock Exchange, reviews the membership of its indices every three months, reshuffling companies based on changes in share prices. 

Admission to or relegation from the FTSE 100 is significant. Companies in the Footsie have their shares snapped up by tracker funds, and the list is seen as a safe harbour for pension fund cash. 

For Centrica, dropping out will be a particularly bitter blow. The company has been part of the index in one form or another since British Gas was first privatised in 1986. 

Its 600,000 small shareholders saw the value of their stock plummet by 86 per cent under former boss Iain Conn. He left in March and has been replaced by Chris O’Shea. Marks & Spencer, another Footsie stalwart, suffered the same fate as Centrica last year, having been a member since the index was founded in 1984. 

The last FTSE 100 review was in March, before the virus crisis began to bite. Drugs giant Astrazeneca has proved to be one winner of the crisis, becoming Britain’s most valuable company – worth £117billion. 

Nicholas Hyett, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said British equity was more than 10 per cent higher in March. He added: ‘The world has changed since the last review.’

Elon Musk’s £600m bonus could become £45bn bonanza


Documents show Tesla tycoon Elon Musk’s £600m bonus is part of what could become a £45bn bonanza

Tesla tycoon Elon Musk’s £600m bonus is part of what could become a £45billion bonanza, documents show. 

The 48-year-old qualified for an award of 1.69m shares last week after his company held an average market capitalisation of $100billion (£81billion) or more over a six-month period. 

On a high: Elon Musk qualified for an award of 1.69m shares last week after his company held an average market capitalisation of $100billion 

They could net him a profit of £600m or more – representing one of the biggest ever corporate bonuses. 

But it is also just the first of 12 tranches in the award scheme totalling 20.3m shares, according to regulatory filings. Tesla has estimated the package could be worth $55.8billion (£45.2billion) – if Musk can turn the company into a $650billion (£527billion) business. 

The billionaire, who is estimated to be worth $41billion (£33.2billion), recently said he was selling ‘almost all’ of his physical possessions, including houses, and that he didn’t need money. ‘Devoting myself to Mars and Earth. Possessions just weigh you down,’ he tweeted. 

His other major venture, SpaceX, made history on Saturday by becoming the first private company to send astronauts into space. (Musk is pictured celebrating the launch above). 

Tesla was worth $155billion (£126billion) on Friday.

Amazon founder backs British freight logistics firm


Amazon founder Jeff Bezos backs British freight logistics firm in £12m fundraising

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has backed a British freight logistics firm in a £12m fundraising. 

The 56-year-old tycoon joined other investors in London-based Beacon. The deal will be announced today, with Silicon Valley venture capital firm 8VC also taking part. 

Opportunity: Jeff Bezos joined other investors in London-based freight logistics firm Beacon

Other backers include former Google boss Eric Schmidt and Uber founder Travis Kalanick. 

The company is a ‘freight forwarder’, organising freight movement but using agents to physically transport goods. Its bosses include technology chief Pierre Martin .

Quarter of British manufacturers plan to lay off workers


Quarter of British manufacturers say they plan to lay off workers in next six months

One quarter of British manufacturers say they plan to lay off workers in the next six months. 

The figure has emerged in a survey of firms by industry body Make UK, which found that more than two thirds of respondents did not rule out lay-offs. 

Make UK said many companies had been so badly damaged by the pandemic that when the furlough scheme ends they are likely to ‘resort to substantial redundancies’.

Cutting back: Make UK said many companies had been so badly damaged by the pandemic that when the furlough scheme ends they are likely to ‘resort to substantial redundancies’

It added that many manufacturers now believed it would take more than a year for normal trading conditions to recover. 

Make UK is calling for extra support such as easier access to loans and a ‘national skills task-force’.

Small lenders ‘kept in dark’ over lifeline loan scheme


Boss of one of Britain’s challenger banks hits out at Treasury for failing to include smaller lenders when it was setting up its lifeline loan scheme

The boss of one of Britain’s challenger banks has hit out at the Treasury for failing to include smaller lenders when it was setting up its lifeline loan scheme for small businesses. 

The chief executive, who wanted to stay anonymous, claimed mid-tier banks were kept in the dark when the Treasury and the British Business Bank hastily set up the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

Set in stone: A Treasury spokesman said all lenders are welcome to apply to be accredited to the scheme and they recognise the ‘vital role challenger banks play’

If these lenders, such as TSB, Metro Bank and Starling, had known the details in advance, they would have been able to avoid some of the issues that have beset the programme, the bank boss added. 

The Bounce Back scheme was set up by the Treasury to provide loans of up to £50,000 for small companies which were struggling to make it through the pandemic. 

The chief executive told the Mail: ‘They didn’t tell us anything – we found out about Bounce Back on the day that it launched.’ 

A HM Treasury spokesman said all lenders are welcome to apply to be accredited to the scheme and they recognise the ‘vital role challenger banks play’. 

Rolls-Royce in turmoil: Shares plunge 15% on credit downgrade


Rolls-Royce in turmoil: Shares plunge 15% after a cut to company’s credit rating plunges it even deeper into crisis

Shares in Rolls-Royce tumbled nearly 15 per cent after a cut to its credit rating plunged it even deeper into crisis. 

In yet a further sign of the devastation the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking in the aerospace sector, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the engineering group’s debt to ‘junk’ status and warned of ‘prolonged weak profitability’. 

Planes around the world – many powered by Rolls engines – have been grounded as governments fight to control the coronavirus outbreak.  

This has hit demand for new engines and poses a serious threat to the crucial income Rolls earns from servicing such engines. The loss of its investment grade rating – which it has held for the past 20 years – means some of its large investors will have to sell their debt holdings in the company. 

S&P’s decision is the latest hammerblow to Rolls – which for decades has been one of Britain’s most prestigious companies. Shares were down 14.9 per cent, or 47.4p, to 271.6p, wiping £915m off the value of the company. 

Traders also digested news that Norwegian hedge fund magnate Nicolai Tangen had sold his 5.2 per cent stake in the company. 

More than £8 billion has been wiped off Rolls’ market value so far this year – a drop of around 60 per cent. 

A Rolls spokesman said S&P’s decision was ‘disappointing’. But they added it would not affect any of its borrowing and that the company has been quick to cut spending to manage the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Rolls announced last week it will need to cut 9,000 jobs to survive the crisis, 8,000 of which will be in its civil aerospace division. 

This could include up to 6,000 roles in the UK, centred around the company’s Derby heartland. 

Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East admitted the plans were ‘terrible news’ for employees but estimated it would help save around £1.3 billion a year.

Airlines do not believe air travel will return to 2019 levels until at least 2023. 

This will hit Rolls because it means demand will fall significantly for new engines. But it will also hit the FTSE100 company because it makes most of its income through servicing engines that are already flying – and a dramatic reduction in flight hours in the coming years means it will lose huge chunks of revenues from maintenance. 

Analysts also believe the slowest segment of the market to recover will be long-haul flights – and Rolls-Royce only supplies engines for big jets that can fly long-distances. 

Before the aviation crisis hit, the company was working through a significant restructuring kicked off by East in 2018 that involved cutting thousands of middle management jobs. 

The group has also had to contend with a huge bill for problems with the engines it supplies to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, used by airlines such as Norwegian and British Airways. 

In 2016 it discovered that the heat generated by the engines was making the blades crack faster than expected. Rolls-Royce expects the total bill for replacing and fixing the engines to come to £2.4 billion between 2017 and 2023. 

There could, however, be hope for the company outside its aerospace arm. It also has a large defence division and is working on Britain’s new fighter jet, Project Tempest. Still at the design stage, the jets are expected to join the RAF from 2035. 

The company is also in the running for two potentially huge contracts in the US defence market. 

It is going head-to-head with GE for a deal to create new engines for America’s classic B-52 bomber jets and is working with Bell Helicopters on new designs for the US military helicopter fleet. 

Back in the UK, Rolls is also leading a consortium aiming to build small modular nuclear reactors, which would be a quicker and cheaper way of setting up new nuclear power projects.

Big companies slammed over coronavirus furlough abuse


Big companies slammed over furlough abuse: Firms tapping funds aimed at saving jobs while plotting to fire thousands

Boris Johnson has been urged to crack down on firms which furlough staff who they expect to fire anyway, after the Prime Minister described the behaviour as ‘cynical’. 

One million firms have applied for taxpayer support under the Job Retention Scheme, which is paying the wages of 8.4m workers at a cost so far of £15 billion. 

But businesses have come under fire for putting their staff on the Government’s payroll – just weeks before announcing mass redundancies. 

‘Cynical’: Boris Johnson has been urged to crack down on firms which furlough staff who they expect to fire anyway

Analysis by the Mail shows British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Tui, Easyjet and Rolls-Royce alone have furloughed around 57,000 staff between them – with the taxpayer covering 80 per cent of the wage bill up to £2,500 per person a month. 

But in recent weeks they have also announced plans to slash up to 33,650 jobs, as the grounding of flights during the lockdown has devastated the travel and aviation industries. 

There are growing fears that firms in other sectors which have been hammered by the coronavirus – from retailers to car manufacturers – are also preparing to sack furloughed workers. 

Two select committee chairmen in the House of Commons – one Tory, one Labour – have called on ministers to ensure that the scheme is not being abused. 

Labour MP Darren Jones, chairman of the business committee, accused some firms of ‘taking the mick’ by tapping taxpayer-funded schemes aimed at saving jobs to then cut them. 

The Prime Minister has admitted he is concerned some firms have been using the Job Retention Scheme to ‘keep staff on their books’ as they prepare to cut jobs. 

British Airways, which furloughed more than 30,000 shortly before announcing plans to make up to 12,000 redundancies, has found itself at the centre of this criticism. 

As Johnson gave evidence to MPs on the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, the transport committee’s chairman, Tory MP Huw Merriman, asked him about the behaviour of BA. 

Merriman asked why it was called ‘the Job Retention Scheme when companies like BA can put their employees on furlough and then put them under threat of redundancy at the same time’. 

Johnson said: ‘I am concerned about the way some companies are treating their workforce. People should not be using furlough cynically to keep people on their books and then get rid of them.’ 

Hours earlier Willie Walsh, boss of BA’s owner IAG, appeared to acknowledge the scheme had given it time to make job cuts. 

He said: ‘It merely buys us a few extra days to address the restructuring our business requires to survive.’



Tickets seller Eventim accused of penalising customers


World’s second-biggest tickets seller accused of penalising customers who seek refunds because of coronavirus

The world’s second-biggest tickets seller has been accused of penalising customers who seek refunds because of the coronavirus crisis. 

Eventim, which sells tickets to concerts featuring bands such as Iron Maiden, is taking millions of pounds worth of so-called ‘processing fees’ from people who ask for their money back – even if their event has been cancelled. 

Fanning the flames: Eventim sells tickets to concerts featuring bands such as Iron Maiden (pictured)

It has typically been levying 12-14 per cent of the ticket price, according to financial news website Market Watch. 

And the fees are non-refundable, prompting claims that the company is profiteering from the coronavirus pandemic with around 155,000 events called off. 

A customer who bought tickets to an event at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre was refunded £11 less than they paid for each ticket – meaning Eventim could still make tens of thousands of pounds from it. 

A spokesman insisted the firm would refund customers ‘immediately’ if event organisers told it to return cash but that its own fees were for ‘services already provided, such as shipping, packing, administration’.

Britain’s national debt set to hit £2 trillion for first time


Britain’s national debt set to hit £2 trillion for first time as cost of Covid-19 pandemic soars

Britain’s national debt is set to hit £2 trillion for the first time as the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic soars. 

The grim milestone will be breached next month, according to projections from the Office for Budget Responsibility. 

That would put the debt at more than 100 per cent of national income for the first time since the end of the Second World War. 

Holding the purse strings: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has to try and balance the books

The surge in the national debt comes as the UK – along with other countries around the world – struggles to deal with the spiralling cost of dealing with coronavirus. 

While it took over 300 years for the UK national debt to hit £1 trillion, it has taken only another ten years to reach £2 trillion. 

The OECD has warned that extra borrowing by already indebted governments during the crisis will ‘come back to haunt us’. Although record low interest rates make debt cheap at the moment, higher borrowing costs in future would push up the bill for servicing the debt, leaving less money for front line services such as schools and hospitals. 

Before the pandemic struck, debt interest payments were expected to cost the UK £56 billion this year, more than the entire defence budget. 

The £2 trillion burden – worth around £80,000 per household – is just one of a string of unwanted records that will be smashed as a result of the outbreak. 

The Bank of England has warned that Britain faces the deepest recession for more than 300 years while borrowing this year is set to reach a hitherto unimaginable £300 billion. 

That is because tax receipts have collapsed following the lockdown of the economy and government schemes to support families and businesses through the crisis are costing the taxpayer billions. 

Philip Booth, senior academic fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘The likely scale of the national debt post-Covid will be staggering. We cannot just deal with this by more austerity. The economy must also be liberated from constraints so it can grow much more rapidly in the next three decades.’ 

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY Item Club, said the level of debt was ‘extraordinary and very much a sign of the times we are living in’. 

Archer added: ‘Yes the debt is huge, but it is a price worth paying to try and limit the long-term damage to the economy that could come from the potential very considerable permanent loss of businesses and jobs that could easily occur without support measures.’