China To Buy British 
Britain and China are expected to announce business deals worth a billion pounds later today, including the reopening of British poultry exports to China and increased pork exports.

The deals will be announced following talks in Downing Street between British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who is in the middle of a European tour.

As Greece teeters on the brink of default, Beijing is seeking to safeguard its vast holdings of euro-denominated assets and to preserve trade growth with the European Union, its largest trading partner.

And the British Government is delighted by the move. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "China's rapid economic rise is good news for the UK. It means more money flowing into our economies and has the potential to create more jobs and investment opportunities for British business at home and in China.”

China and Britain are important trading partners, with Britain being China's third largest market in the EU and China being Britain's largest export destination save the EU and the United States.

Two-way trade in goods and services between the two nations hit an all-time high last year, rising 28 per cent from the year before.

Investment is also on the fast track, with more and more Chinese setting up subsidiaries in Britain. Last year, China became Britain's sixth largest foreign investor.

In addition, over the past few years an increasing number of Chinese companies have set up R&D centers in Britain.

Meanwhile, British enterprises continue to expand their presence and operations in China. Tesco has committed to making an investment worth $2 billion in China during the next five years.

At the same time, the potential to expand China-Britain commercial and economic ties remains huge. Trade with Britain accounts for a mere 1.7 per cent of China's trade with the rest of the world. British exports to China, meanwhile, constitute less than 2 per cent of China's total imports.

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Let’s Print Lots Of Money 
Sterling fell on Wednesday after the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) minutes for June showed that policymakers judged the growth outlook to have weakened with some believing that more stimulus may be needed.

The pound fell as the MPC’s minutes indicated that UK interest rates were unlikely to rise from their record low 0.5 percent this year and flagged a greater chance of the BoE opting instead for more quantitative easing (QE).

It was the first time since October last year that the MPC had discussed QE.

The minutes showed a 7-2 vote to keep rates on hold at 0.5 percent. As expected, new MPC member Ben Broadbent chose to vote with the majority and did not follow the lead of his predecessor, Andrew Sentance, in calling for higher rates.

Most members judged that current growth weakness was likely to last longer than previously thought, with the risks of "adverse shocks on demand" from the euro zone debt crisis.

MPC member Paul Fisher flagged the chances of more QE, saying that Britain's economic recovery remains fragile and could require more "money printing" if deflation becomes a risk.

And fellow MPC member Adam Posen again called for an immediate extra 50 billion pounds of quantitative easing to be added to the 200 billion already produced.

The two members who voted for an increase in the rate, Spencer Dale, the BoE chief economist, and fellow MPC member Martin Weale, accepted that forward-looking data on growth had been weak over the past month.

However, experts say another round of QE is unlikely to be needed over the short-term.

"Given the subsequent inflationary performance, an awful lot of bad news will be required before more QE becomes a serious contender," said Stuart Green at HSBC.

And Simon Ward, Henderson's chief economist, described the prospect of more inflation-boosting QE as "dangerous".

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Dirty Money? Wash It In The City 
A damning report by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), published yesterday, indicates that banks in the City of London are showing a brazen disregard for the rules against money laundering and are welcoming questionable clients on the basis that allegations of corruption had not yet resulted in a criminal conviction.

In its paper, Banks’ management of high money-laundering risk situations, the regulator says that it found serious weaknesses in regards to a number of firms including its review of anti-money laundering risk-management.

The FSA says that a number of banks appeared unwilling to turn away, or exit, very profitable business relationships when there appeared to be an unacceptable risk of handling the proceeds of crime.

It says: “Around a third of banks, including the private banking arms of some major banking groups, appeared willing to accept very high risk levels of money-laundering risk if the immediate reputational and regulatory risk was acceptable.”

Other concerns included some banks’ anti-money laundering risk-assessment frameworks not being robust enough; some banks failing to put significant safeguards in place to mitigate relationship managers having a conflict of interest and a third of banks’ customer due-diligence was found to be inadequate.

It also found that some banks were unable to give them an overview of their high risk and politically exposed person (PEP) customers easily. The FSA says nearly half the banks in its sample failed to review high risk or PEP relationships regularly.

Robert Palmer of campaigners Global Witness said the FSA's warts-and-all report was commendably candid — far more so than comparable reports elsewhere in the world — but also raised questions as to the regulator's effectiveness. "If I was the FSA I would be embarrassed that the banks they are supposed to regulate have such a disregard for regulations that have the force of law," he said.

Defending the FSA's position, Tracey McDermott, acting head of financial crime, said: "It is not a pretty picture. Obviously, we would have preferred it if there was better compliance ... The banks are just not taking the rules seriously enough."

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Record Budget Deficit 
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONC) published yesterday showed that public sector net borrowing fell last month to £15.156 bn from £16.463 bn in May last year, helped by higher indirect taxes such as VAT.

However, doubts remain over whether Chancellor George Osborne can meet his reduction goal this year, amid weaker-than-forecast growth and resistance to the cuts from the unions. In the first two months of 2011, the deficit widened by £1.5 bn from a year earlier to 27.4 billion pounds.

"That still leaves progress during the full year so far as disappointing," said Investec economist Philip Shaw. It's early days, but we would be hoping to see more positive effects of the spending cuts coming through in the figures."

The Government is one year into a five-year plan to largely eliminate the country's budget deficit. However, the opposition has accused the government of trying to reduce the deficit too quickly, thereby hurting the country's fragile economic recovery.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron’s response to Labour’s calls to slow the pace cuts was that their “plan B would stand for bankruptcy.”

But Mr Cameron’s insistence on keeping to the Government’s plan, which will squeeze the public sector, is setting him on a collision course with the unions. Around 750,000 public-sector workers are set to take part in a national strike on June 30 to protest against government plans to curb their pension rights.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that public borrowing, excluding financial sector interventions, will total £122 bn during the current 2011/12 tax year, more than £20 bn lower than the £143.189 bn borrowed in the previous year. This is equivalent to a budget deficit of 9.58 per cent of GDP, down from 11.13 per cent in 2009/10.

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Pension Changes Delayed 
The controversial decision to increase the state pension age to 66 and four months has been agreed on by Government ministers. However, due to a backlash of criticism the move has been postponed until 2024, instead of 2020, as originally planned.

In exchange for a delay to the changes being introduced, a higher pension age was finally agreed on. It is hoped that the delay will soften the blow of a sharp rise to the retirement age, allowing women in their 50s time to make plans for alternative retirement savings.

With retirement put back by as much as two years, it was estimated that for over 330,000 women who were born between December 1953 and October 1954, the increase to the retirement age would have had the biggest impact on their retirement plans as they would have faced the steepest rise in their pension age.

There has been wide acceptance that changes must be made to the state pension age due to the fact that life expectancy is rising and the burden it will have on the tax payer. However, many eyebrows have been raised at the rate at which it is rising.

Ros Altmann, the director general of Saga, said: “We have been inundated with letters and emails from women affected by these unfair changes and we believe that the Government's timetable for raising the state pension age should be adjusted.

“Some even said it feels as if the Government has gone into their bank account and robbed them of £10,000.”

Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb are understood to be “sympathetic” to the arguments.

A report published today by the charity Age UK says a worrying number of women are confused by the reforms. When asked when they will get their state pension, one in five women in their early fifties said the answer is 60.

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