Asset manager H20 says redemptions are falling after it was hit by a wave of outflows

Under fire asset management firm H20 said today that there had been “substantial inflows” of funds in recent days and redemptions had fallen to five times less than they were at their peak last Friday.

The firm had been hit by a wave of clients withdrawing their money after the Financial Times last week questioned its relationship with controversial financier Lars Windhorst and the level of illiquidity in its portfolio.

In a statement today H20 said “there have been substantial inflows” since Monday and said current assets under management (Aum) stands at €27bn (£24.2bn).

“Redemptions have markedly subsided to a level roughly five times less than at their peak (on 21 June), down to €450m today”, H20 said.

H20 also said it had sold part of its non-rated private bonds, meaning that now 98 per cent of its Aum is invested in liquid assets.

It said it had decided to remove all entry fees across all funds until further notice.

Chief executive Bruno Crastes said: “We are pleased to report that fund flows are returning to normal. We would like to thank our investors for their continued commitment to H2O and to reiterate that 98 per cent of assets held by our funds are perfectly liquid.”

Last week Morningstar put one of H2O’s funds under review. The ratings agency cited concerns over investments in illiquid bonds issued by firms related to Windhorst, who owns investment holding company Tennor.

Windhorst has been embroiled in several lawsuits surrounding the sale and repurchasing agreements of illiquid bonds, according to the FT. 

H2O chief executive Bruno Crastes stepped down as a board member of Tennor following reports of a potential conflict of interest. He was replaced by H2O’s chief investment officer Vincent Chailley.

The issue of illiquidity open-ended funds has gained traction in recent weeks following the suspension of Neil Woodford’s equity income fund.

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Categories: City, London

European Commission launches antitrust probe into Broadcom

The European Commission has opened an investigation into whether chipmaker Broadcom abused its market position to hurt rivals in its television and modem market.

Read more: Chipmaker’s shares plummet on Huawei ban hit

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner, is also set to order interim measures against the tech giant to stop its “suspected contractual restrictions”.

She warned there is a “risk of irreparable harm to the market”.

Broadcom, which supplies chips for TV set-top boxes, smartphones and Wi-Fi modems, has said the accusations lack merit.

The alleged practices include contracts obliging customers to buy Broadcom chips exclusively and granting rebates based on such exclusivity or minimum purchase orders.

Broadcom also exercised “abusive IP-related strategies”, the Commission said, and deliberately harmed interoperability between Broadcom products and those of rivals.

“We suspect that Broadcom, a major supplier of components for these devices, has put in place contractual restrictions to exclude its competitors from the market,” Vestager said.

“This would prevent Broadcom’s customers and, ultimately, final consumers from reaping the benefits of choice and innovation.”

Seven customers had agreed to buy systems-on-a-chip and Wi-Fi chipsets on an exclusive basis from Broadcom, the Commission said.

It warned that Broadcom’s apparent actions could marginalise or even kill off competition before the end of its official investigation, making interim measures necessary.

City A.M. has contacted Broadcom for comment.

The firm’s shares have risen 1.6 per cent to $280.84 so far today.

The Commission handed chipmaker Qualcomm a €997m fine in January 2018 for paying Apple billions of dollars to shut out rival semiconductor companies.

The payments date back to 2011 and only ended in September 2016. The tech giants’ agreement was a major factor in Apple’s decision not to source chips from Intel until September 2016.

Read more: Apple: Spotify exaggerated app user fee claims

Qualcomm and Apple only recently settled a bitter two-year court battle in which Apple had sought $27bn (£20bn) in damages from the chipmaker.

The iPhone maker had accused Qualcomm of anti-competitive practices to monopolise the smartphone modem chips market.

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Hunt: Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit will put Corbyn in Downing Street

Boris Johnson’s “do or die” Brexit pledge risks installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street, Conservative leadership Jeremy Hunt has warned.

The foreign secretary hit back at his rival in the race to be Prime Minister after Johnson made it clear he would take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Read more: Boris Johnson challenges Hunt to match 31 October Brexit date

Hunt wants to reopen negotiations with the EU, and said he would only take the UK out without a deal at the end of the current extension period if it was clear no new agreement could be reached.

Speaking on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday, Hunt spelt out the dangers he saw with Johnson’s stance.

He said: “If we do it in this kind of ‘do or die way’, the risk is that we’ll just trip into a general election because parliament will stop it, as they did in March, and then we’ll have Corbyn in Downing Street, and there will be no Brexit at all.”

Hunt is facing a battle to convince Conservative party members that he would deliver on the EU referendum, despite backing Remain in that vote.

In a bid to play up his Brexit credentials, he agreed with a caller to the Radio 2 show that the EU was “treating us like dirt”, and added: “I don’t think they’ve shown respect for us at all.”

Read more: No-deal Brexit fears rising, warns Carney

On Tuesday, Johnson penned an open letter to Hunt, challenging him to set out the length of any further extension he would sanction to the UK’s EU membership.

Hunt responded by mocking Johnson’s refusal to take part in a Sky News debate. 

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Bonmarche makes dramatic U-turn on takeover bid after ‘poor’ first quarter trading

City of London News Stream by Cityam - 11 hours 30 min ago

Bonmarche has reversed its view on a cut-price takeover offer from billionaire Philip Day after reporting poor trading in the first quarter.

In a dramatic U-turn the fashion retailer said it now believes Day’s offer is “fair and reasonable”, and urged shareholders to accept it.

Read more: Bonmarche fights back against Philip Day’s £5.7m takeover bid

Last month Bonmarche dismissed the bid, saying it “materially undervalues” the firm’s future prospects.

The sudden change of tack comes amid continued poor trading, which the company blamed on underlying weakness in the clothing market and poor weather.

Bonmarche, which is part of the Peacocks Group, warned there is a risk it may not meet its profit expectations for the full year.

Day, who already owns a majority stake in the retailer, hopes to take the firm private through his Dubai-registered Spectre Group in a £5.7m deal.

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner has outlined a rescue plan that would see redundancies among Bonmarche’s 1,900 staff, as well as a string of store closures.

Read more: Bonmarche shares drop as billionaire Philip Day snaps up retailer in cut-price deal

While Bonmarche has reversed its position on the offer, it maintained that the bid did not “adequately reflect the potential longer term value of the business”.

“The board continues to welcome the opportunity to engage with Mr Day, who has, as yet, not taken up the offer to discuss future plans for the business, and believes that, with his sector experience, he would be a successful long term owner,” the firm said.

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Feeling lactose intolerant? A guide to office milk etiquette

City of London News Stream by Cityam - 13 hours 15 min ago

“Got milk?” The answer, if you’re reading this in the office or on your commute, is probably “no”. And if “yes”, it will be followed with “but not for much longer”.

We’re all having a good laugh this week at the employee of Doncaster Council, who took the ingrained culture of petty office protectionism to a new height by drilling through the cap and neck of a plastic milk bottle and attaching a padlock to deter thieves. It’s exactly the sort of behaviour one expects from the average council employee, but it caught the world off-guard nonetheless.

Milk, from the moment it is set down in an office environment, is one of those things that falls into the “fair game” category, like biscuits, satsumas, or the intern. If it’s there and unattended, it is liable to be used by anyone who happens upon it. 

As I type, I am sipping from a cup of tea garnished with, yep, someone else’s Co-op own-brand dairy goodness. I don’t know who bought it, nor do I care. I took a furtive look around the kitchen and, with the single, fluid movement of a ninja, opened the fridge, removed the pint, unscrewed the cap, added a dash, and replaced the bottle back behind the door in all of 3.4 seconds.

This proves, if nothing else, that there are more Thatcherites out there than many would readily admit. Milk snatching is de rigueur, now. The few drops that it takes to improve a beverage are barely missed – only noted when the whole office has partaken in the sinful business, and the bottle has mysteriously emptied itself. 

It can be infuriating, as – inevitably – the person who buys the milk is always the same. 

They are, to the team, like the person in a family or flat share who pays for the Netflix subscription: uncomplaining, and like all history’s great heroes and characters, unappreciated in their lifetime.

Few would deny the right of any Englishman to half-inch a few drops of milk for his tea. 

But where things cross the line is when people milk the system for bigger projects – a bowl of porridge or cereal in the morning, for instance, or to lace someone’s post-workout protein shake. Or when a Prime Minister goes mad with power and takes it away from a generation of children in a single fell swoop.

It’s at the point when people treat milk as a plentiful and expendable resource, rather than the social glue of the workplace, that the kitchen turns into the bar from A Clockwork Orange. 

It isn’t enough that office jargon borders on Nadsat at the best of times, a nightmarish blend of “tolchocks” and “synergy”. When the milk enters this realm, it becomes a weapon, to be denied to the rest of the populace by a milk baron (as in Doncaster), or deployed as a ballistic against an enemy. It’s no wonder that “milkshaking” has spilled out onto the streets.

Milk is meant to preserve harmony. The person who buys it should recognise that when they do so, they are doing so for all. And in turn, everyone else should recognise that person’s noble role in society, as the bearer of 50 per cent of the luxuries the Israelites were prepared to wander around a desert for 40 years seeking. 

It’s okay to steal milk. But thou shalt steal it responsibly.

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Categories: City, London

Istanbul has rekindled Turkey’s fight against religious autocracy

City of London News Stream by Cityam - 13 hours 59 min ago

Istanbul is one of the most famous cities in the world, on account of a storied history encompassing myriad great events.

As Byzantium, it was first the fortress of the eastern Roman Empire and then the bastion of Orthodox Christianity. 

After its fall to the Turks in 1453, the newly-minted Constantinople became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, from where Sultans dispensed law and justice across a domain that at its peak spanned from the Middle East and North Africa to the gates of Vienna. 

While diminished in the post-First World War settlement, Istanbul has retained its economic importance to contemporary Turkey, as well as a romantic hold on the hearts of many beyond its borders. 

Secular and cosmopolitan, and straddling the divide between Europe and Asia, such is its political weight that it is said that as Istanbul goes, so ultimately, does Turkey.

One man who understands this implicitly is Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Long before a national political career that has seen him essentially run Turkey as Prime Minister from 2003 and then President from 2014, Erdogan was mayor of Istanbul. 

And he was a pretty good one. Istanbulis recall a reformer who pared down municipal debt while tackling congestion and air pollution. 

The city rewarded its former mayor by providing the political muscle for his transition into national politics, buoyed by the idea that his social conservatism would play second fiddle to his commitment to financial liberalisation and securing EU membership.

In a country where the threat of military rule – frequently exercised in the course of Turkey’s tumultuous history – was long deemed by Istanbul’s liberal elite to be the greatest danger to their interests, even Erdogan’s Islamist beliefs were considered a price worth paying in exchange for stability and economic growth. 

Erdogan has not looked back since, but Istanbul – along with much of the remainder of secular, liberal Turkey – has suffered buyer’s remorse. 

While Erdogan at first delivered on his early promises of economic development and the defanging of the military, it quickly became apparent that he had a loftier goal: the complete transformation of Turkish society and politics. And he was not going to allow little things like the norms of democracy and rule of law to stand in his way.

Under Erdogan, Turkey has begun to adopt the trappings of a police state. Press freedom has been crushed, and the country has the highest number of journalists imprisoned per capita in the world. 

Opposition political parties are denied fair access to media outlets, and their activists have been harassed and jailed. The judiciary has been compromised, and show trials of military leaders and anyone deemed a threat by Erdogan – particularly after the failed coup d’etat of 2016 – occur on a regular basis.

Through it all, Turkey’s secular settlement has been comprehensively undermined by a variety of laws ranging from the ending of the headscarf ban in public institutions to the restriction of the sale and advertising of alcohol. 

Perhaps as they surveyed the wreckage of Turkish civil society occasioned by his period in office, Isanbulis recalled that, while he was their mayor, Erdogan pronounced that “democracy is like a train: you get off when you reach your destination”, and decided that enough was finally enough. 

Or maybe they noticed that even his economic bubble had burst, with the economy nose-diving as the bill for years of debt-fuelled growth came due.

Either way, in March this year, Istanbul rose to the occasion once more, determined to recapture its role in Turkey’s destiny by electing opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in its mayoral election by a margin of just 13,000 votes. This was narrow enough for an enraged Erdogan to pressurise the Electoral Commission to declare the vote invalid owing to “irregularities”. 

The resulting showdown has been epic, but decisive. Erdogan threw everything but the kitchen sink at Imamoglu, accusing him of being a terrorist, a coup supporter, an advocate of Egypt’s militant secularist President Sisi, and even secretly a Greek. 

Despite this, and the institutional bias against him occasioned by the President’s party having control of all the levers of power and influence, Imamoglu won last weekend’s rerun handsomely with some 54 per cent of the vote.

It is difficult to overplay the significance of this incredible result in unlikely circumstances. A quarter of a century of Erdogan’s sway over the city has ended. But it is ultimately the refutation of his methods and direction for all of Turkey that will have the greater resonance.

Erdogan’s reputation and rule has been built on the inevitability of his success, with victory after victory reinforcing the idea that there was no alternative. For the first time in many years, Turks now have a new star in the firmament to turn to. It is difficult to see how Erdoganism will long survive this revelation.

The path of democracy in Turkey may still resemble Erdogan’s train journey. But while he may have decided to alight some time ago, Istanbul has proven that there is still plenty of track left before the end of the line.

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Categories: City, London

HSBC boss criticised over Chinese socialism claim

City of London News Stream by Cityam - 14 hours 14 min ago

MPs have hit back at claims from HSBC’s chief executive that China’s communist government has “served its people really well.”

John Flint, chief executive of the international bank, yesterday said the economic success of the Far East powerhouse should make Western democracies reassess their opposition to centrally-planned socialist economies.

Flint was reported as saying that China’s economic success “gives Western liberal democracies pause for thought, because here is a deeply socialist system that’s served its people really well.”

Speaking at the Bloomberg Emerging and Frontier Forum, he said: “It’s been a very convenient narrative, I think certainly in the West for too long to be able to point to socialist systems that fail their people and here’s one that’s delivered an extraordinary economic transformation.”

His comments raised eyebrows among leading MPs, with Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, describing Flint’s analysis as “depressingly amoral”.

Seely, who is a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told City A.M.: “China is socialist in the sense of a one-party state above the law, but it is not a socialist system in terms of economics.

“[Flint] probably needs to get his terminology right”

Fellow Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns said: “China has a one-party capitalist system: it is its highly imperfect capitalistic model that is making people better off, not socialism.”

HSBC declined to comment.

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Categories: City, London

Ethical clothing move by Asos aligns with views of eco-conscious

City of London News Stream by Cityam - 18 hours 32 min ago

Fast fashion is an increasingly hot topic as consumers become more environmentally aware, conscious about the impact of their shopping habits and look to reduce waste.

Despite this, environmentally positive changes have been slow or non-existent, such as the recent rejection of the 1p fast fashion tax by government that would have raised money for better clothing recycling and made producers responsible for their waste.

YouGov data shows that 39 per cent of Brits think fashion companies should pay for the costs of recycling old clothes, as opposed to the government (eight per cent) or consumers (16 per cent), indicating that fashion companies are on a different page to consumers by rejecting this levy.

One brand that does appear to be listening to consumers is Asos, which has just launched an ethical and sustainable clothing collection to provide environmentally conscious customers which more choice. Customers will be able to buy items that take animal welfare into account, are locally-made or are produced in low-waste factories.

Asos customers (those who have purchased from the brand within the past three months) are skewed towards a younger demographic, with 58 per cent of the customer base made up of 18- to 29-year-olds. Some 70 per cent of this age bracket think that sustainable practices in retail and production make a difference to the environment.

Current customers of Asos (60 per cent) are more likely than the average Brit (49 per cent) to try to only purchase from companies who are social and environmentally responsible, with over half (52 per cent) being of the opinion that big companies are trying to improve their impact on the environment. Over two thirds (65 per cent) are happy to pay more for products that are good for the environment, while only a fifth (21 per cent) think that people worry too much about the environment – compared to 29 per cent of the UK as a whole.

Although it’s too soon to see the impact of this scheme on Asos’s customer base, the environmental attitudes of those under 30 would suggest that this scheme will be well received.

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US ambassador says letting Huawei access the UK’s 5G network would be like ‘letting a kleptomaniac into your house’

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 20:19

US ambassador Woody Johnson took an apparent swipe at Chinese tech firm Huawei today, saying that inviting the company into key sectors of the UK’s economy would be “like letting a kleptomaniac into your house”.

“If we let untrustworthy countries in the heart of our economies, and infrastructure, what could they do? We have to decide that,” he said today at the Centre for Policy Studies conference in London’s Guildhall.

“I’ve always said it’s like letting a kleptomaniac into you house, and then you’ve got to hire three people to follow them around all day.” 

There has been a fierce political debate about the extent to which Huawei should be allowed to develop the UK’s 5G infrastructure. 

A leak from a National Security Council meeting earlier this year revealed the government was considering a partial ban on the company, excluding it from core parts of the network but allowing it to build non-core areas.

Johnson was stressing that a strong UK was in the interests of the US in light of the growing number of security threats in the world today.

“Russia…Iran is causing havoc, China,” he said.

Johnson said a strong economic relationship was the key to a security relationship and said a new trade deal between the two countries would help grow transatlantic commerce.

“The US can’t wait…to get a new deal with the UK,” he said.

The ambassador said EU interference and anti-competitive practices were hampering trade between the US and UK. 

He cited the controversial issue of chlorinated chicken, which he said was “perfectly safe”.

“The EU has a very good PR campaign against chicken,” he said.

He said that post-Brexit the UK would be able to make its own decisions on trade.

“For the first time in 40 years Britain will be in the driving seat, not Brussels. The UK will be able to do deals that make sense for this country.”

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Categories: City, London

Eoin Morgan admits England are ‘struggling with the basics’ at the Cricket World Cup after damaging Australia defeat

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 19:54

They say it’s the hope that kills you.

When Mitchell Starc ran in and delivered a rapid, inch-perfect inswinging Yorker to hit the base of the off-stump, send the zing bails flying and send Ben Stokes trudging off to the pavilion that’s when most Englishmen inside Lord’s felt theirs’ slip away.

Stokes was at the non-strikers’ end for England’s disappointing slump on Friday against Sri Lanka; this time he was on the balcony for the closing stages of another damaging defeat by Australia.

Since their nadir at the 2015 World Cup England have grown in stature, confidence and climbed the rankings. In that period they haven’t lost many games – but when they did they invariably regathered, recalibrated and hit back decisively.

Read more: There is no better man for the Chelsea job than Frank Lampard, says Trevor Steven

Until today England hadn’t lost successive one-day internationals since January 2017. To lose twice towards the business end of a home competition in which they were strong favourites and when they haven’t yet sealed a semi-final place is concerning.

Considering England’s final two games are against the only two unbeaten sides in the competition, India and New Zealand, and they’ve not beaten either at a World Cup since 1992 it’s understandable that many who left St Johns Wood might be worried.

Jos Buttler was caught on the legside boundary to leave England reeling on 124-5

Eoin Morgan is not unduly worried. “I think it [our confidence] has taken a little bit of a hit,” England’s captain conceded post-match. “I certainly don’t think it’s in danger, but when you lose games of cricket we have to go back to what we do well.

“Our chances are in our hands. Things are within our control. We just need to win either one or both of the next two games.”

That is, of course, true. All may not be lost. But when you’ve just been defeated in two games by margins of 64 and 20 runs chasing totals which used to be considered meagre ones it’s not that simple.

And to think the day started so positively. Under leaden skies, after a night of rain and amid humid conditions Morgan won the toss and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief. The thinking was conventional and understandable. At the home of cricket England would bowl first, make the most of the conditions and put Australia on the back-foot early on.

Unfortunately for them they encountered the tournament’s hottest opening partnership. David Warner and Aaron Finch were undoubtedly fortunate, but they battled on to give their side a platform of 123 runs. According to analytics app CricViz the duo had a false shot percentage of 32 per cent in the first 15 overs – the highest in 134 instances in ODIs when teams have not lost a wicket.

But although it could be argued England erred on the short side – Jason Behrendorff said they did, Morgan politely disagreed – it is irrefutable that, Stokes (89) aside, Australia out-batted their opponents.

Finch lead from the front with 100, Warner made a belligerent 53 and Steve Smith and Alex Carey both added useful knocks of 38 as Australia reached 285-7.

In contrast, England were undone by some high-quality left-arm swing bowling at the top, subsiding to 26-3 and never recovering. Both World Cup and Lord’s debutant Behrendorff (5-44) and tournament leading wicket-taker Starc (4-43) were good, but the batting – which not so long ago used to be strong suit – was misguided.

Jason Behrendorff was man of the match in his first game of the tournament

Morgan was caught at fine-leg hooking; Jos Buttler on the square leg boundary from a Marcus Stoinis gentle long-hop.

“Both in this game and the last we’ve struggled with the basics – what we call our batting mantra: our intent, batting in partnerships and doing it in the right way,” Morgan explained. “We haven’t done those for long enough.”

With 19 days to go until the final, home favourites are supposed to be hitting their stride, refining their tactics and perhaps even enjoying the luxury of rotating their squad. Instead, England are struggling with the basics.

As Morgan was at pains to make clear, England’s fate is still in their hands. But with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan all potentially breathing down their necks and two crunch games against unbeaten sides to come, they are faced with a situation they would much rather have avoided.

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Categories: City, London

Kalifornia Kitchen review: Vegan health food in the heart of London

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 19:20

A plant-based diner on a health kick, walking into Kalifornia Kitchen is like slipping through a Goodnight Sweetheart style portal, except rather than arriving in World War Two you’ve been teleported across the Atlantic to Venice Beach as seen through an Instagram lens. It’s as though a block of west coast America has been surreptitiously airlifted to Tottenham Court Road in the dead of night. 

When we arrived for lunch a yoga group had just finished a meeting upstairs and was recuperating with a round of CBD oil infused smoothies. A capricious, handbag-sized dog was throwing a microscopic tantrum beneath the table next to us, demanding another paprika fry. A neon pink hashtag adorns one wall.

The only clue that we were still in London was the kind of wobbly service that wouldn’t last a minute in LA, as well as the incongruous deep fat fryer by the entrance, which gave the air in this health-conscious café the unmistakable aroma of a high street chip shop, rather than a shrine to clean living. You’ll leave craving a battered sausage.

Who’s behind Kalifornia Kitchen?

This is the second restaurant of Loui Blake, founder of the UK’s largest vegan restaurant Erpingham House in Norwich.

Where is Kalifornia Kitchen?

19 Percy Street, between Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations, or if you want to sound like an American person, it’s on the corner of Percy and Tottenham.

What’s on the menu?

The health vibe at Kalifornia Kitchen is quickly dispelled by the menu, which features some artery-friendly salads and rainbow bowl highlights, but isn’t afraid to include such indulgences as the much-hyped Moving Mountains B12 “bleeding” burger, a butternut squash curry, and a plant-based take on traditional fish and chips, made with a battered banana blossom. I had the burger, a meatless yet still meaty patty that’s part of this new generation of high-end, state-of-the-art beef surrogates. My partner had the curry, which was mild to the point of boring, to the point that I had to eventually share my burger. 

We finished by slamming a couple of “health shots”, tiny jars of ginger, pepper and apple juice that made us feel immediately revitalised. Though I suppose downing a shot of ginger will do that to you. It also makes your eyes water slightly. I can recommend it.

Read more: Biff’s Jack Shack review: Unapologetically filthy vegan burgers

Does CBD oil actually do anything?

Inspired by the yogis – who genuinely seemed pretty relaxed by the time they left through the haze of chip fat – I ordered Kalifornia Kitchen’s CBD oil infused chocolate smoothie. It arrived lukewarm, the glass still hot from the dishwasher, but after it was quickly swapped for a chilled one it was a sweet end to an unexpectedly filling lunch. 

The fashionable, cannabis-derived oil is perfectly legal and has no psychoactive effects – there’s no good research to suggest it has any measurable benefits beyond a placebo effect – but later that evening, while dancing to Sergio Mendes at the Royal Festival Hall, I couldn’t help but wonder if the CBD oil coursing through my veins was making the bossa nova beats that little bit more alluring. (It wasn’t, of course, that was all Sergio).

Do I need to book?

Kalifornia Kitchen is not the biggest venue and it can fill up around lunchtimes, especially at the weekend, so book online at

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Categories: City, London

Oxford Street discounts signal a troubling start to the summer for retailers

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 18:49

The crucial summer selling season is finally upon us, but for retailers on London’s most celebrated high street, all is not well.

Big red discounts in shop windows line the parade on Oxford Street, where many of the country’s flagship fashion stores are offering major price reductions in a desperate bid to boost their sales.

Read more: UK retail sales see biggest drop for 10 years in June

Seemingly gone are the days when these iconic brands could rely on an influx of shoppers looking to renew their summer wardrobe, as they turn to price cuts of up to 60 per cent to claw back customers. Once great department store chains like House of Fraser, Debenhams and John Lewis are all flooded with clearance sales.

Even Sir Philip Green’s Topshop store on Oxford Circus – the troubled tycoon’s jewel in the crown – now offers half-price sales to lure in shoppers. According to Shore Capital’s Greg Lawless, who first noted the discounting trend in a market update earlier this week, there are just four notable retailers still trading at full price on Oxford Street.

Lawless argues there are several prevailing reasons for the current troubles: poor weather, the shift away from spending on products towards spending on services, the increasing demand for sustainable products and longer product life cycles, and the structural shift online.

Add to this the cost of soaring business rates and tough comparatives from the hottest summer on record last year, and it is not hard to see why Oxford Street has already turned into a discounting frenzy.

Read more: Mulberry swings to a loss

It is a sorry sight to see that even one of Europe’s most prestigious shopping streets is now having to slash its prices, threatening not only profit margins but also a retailer’s credibility among consumers.

Continuous discounts also mean customers are often tempted to put off their purchases, because they know that if they wait then prices could drop even lower.

As the high street kicks off the summer season with an unusually aggressive spate of discounts, investors in the City should take notice – these big red discounts are really big red warning signs.

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Categories: City, London

Freetrade to close £7m in second crowdfunding round

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 18:44

Fintech startup Freetrade is set to raise £5m in a crowdfunding round this week, after its last funding attempt got cut short due to excessive demand from investors.

The commission-free stock-trading app last headed to the crowd in April. It raised £2m within a matter of minutes, before investment platform Crowdcube crashed due to too many users trying to access the site – a feat only Monzo has previously achieved.

Freetrade was valued at £43m pre-money ahead of today’s launch, a 13 per cent increase since the April round. Once concluded, the startup will have raised a total of £7m across the two stints.

Freetrade told City A.M. a number of prominent investors joined the round as it opened today, including British-Nigerian musician Maleek Berry.

It will use the funding to grow its engineering team in London and launch in European markets.

It is also working on gaining full permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority to offer fractional shares, which if approved, will make it the world’s first stockbroker to offer such shares in UK and European stocks.

The startup now has more than 30,000 customers in the UK, with the same amount on its waiting list for non-UK users.

Chief executive Adam Dodds said the firm had witnessed 100 per cent growth since April, and plans to expand to Ireland soon.

“In less than a day, we’ve raised more than half our potential overfunding cap from just a few thousand investors and expect the remaining amount to go within a matter of days,” he added.

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Categories: City, London

Weekly Grill: Kebab Queen chef Manu Canales on his best ever meal and accidentally eating finger nail clippings

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 18:36

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Manu Canales, and you can find me cooking at Kebab Queen in Covent Garden. For as long as I remember, I’ve been fascinated by food, which is the reason I became a chef.

Tell us about Kebab Queen
It’s the icing on the cake of our Kebab project, which also includes Le Bab and Maison Bab. It’s a beautiful little place where we work hard to give our guests a memorable and tasty experience.

You come home drunk and hungry – what do you cook?
Fried eggs with a crispy edge, with plenty of bread to dip.

What’s the strangest encounter you’ve had in your restaurant?
A customer liked my hair and kept trying to touch it – so irritating, and weird.

What’s your earliest food memory?
Having yoghurt at nursery. Mrs Elena had a peculiar way to open it; instead of tearing the lid, she’d poke it with the handle of the spoon, give it to you and let you dig your way in. It felt rewarding.

Tell us about the best meal you ever had
It was a dinner I had somewhere in Northern Thailand. We’d been trekking for a week in the jungle, going up and down, through rain, crossing rivers with the water up to our necks when we finally made it to a village. We shared a chicken and rice dish with the locals, eating it with our hands. It couldn’t have been a more authentic experience.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Funny one – I was watching Spain during the World Cup nine years ago with a friend. We had eaten some Pringles, and finished the tub. We were very nervous, my friend was biting his nails and spitting them into the tub. I thought that they were the crumbs of the Pringles and went for it… Yuk!

What do most people get wrong when cooking?
Failing to learn the right cooking times for different ingredients. I also see a lot of people incorrectly seasoning their dishes.

What should everyone have in their kitchen cupboard?
A large selection of spices. They will help you to break the monotony in your cooking, giving you access to an endless range of flavours.

What’s the best thing about the London food scene?
Despite being a large city, away from nature, chefs are growing more conscious about the environment and trying to achieve more sustainable ways of delivering food and eating it.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen a chef do?
Someone forgot to cook some langoustines and, when the order was called, the chef ran them under hot water from the tap to quickly warm them up and make them look as if they were cooked – not good.

To book a table at Kebab Queen go to its website at, email, call 07751 240029 or pop in to 4 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA

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Car crash for Lookers: Motor dealer’s shares dive as FCA launch probe

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 16:09

Motor retail giant Lookers suffered a crash in its share price this afternoon after revealing that the City watchdog is probing its sales practices.

The car dealership chain’s share price dived 25 per cent this afternoon as the firm said that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) “intents to carry out an investigation into the company’s sales processes between the period of 1 January 2016 to 13 June 2019”.

Read more: UK car sales slump hits dealer Lookers

In a statement the company said: “The FCA investigation is newly commenced and no findings have been made.  The FCA will reach its conclusions in due course and, at this stage, the Company cannot estimate what effect, if any, the outcome of this investigation may have. The Company is co-operating fully with the FCA in relation to this and will update the market further when appropriate.”

Lookers, which is based in Manchester, sells vehicles for 32 manufacturers including all major brands.

In its note to the London Stock Exchange today, the firm said it became aware of “certain matters” requiring review in some areas of its business.

Late last year Lookers conducted an internal review that was shared with the FCA which showed “there were some control issues in the sales process in the group’s regulated activities which will require an improvement plan to be implemented”.

Lookers said the project will be completed and agreed actions will be implemented as soon as possible.

This news is breaking and will be updated shortly.

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First Group chairman resigns after defeating Coast Capital’s boardroom coup

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 16:08

First Group’s chairman has resigned despite defeating an attempt by activist investor Coast Capital to oust him from the board.

Wolfhart Hauser has stepped down and will not stand for re-election at the company’s next annual shareholder meeting.

Around one in four shareholders, excluding Coast, voted against the New York Hedge fund’s 13 resolutions, Press Association reported.

Read more: Coast Capital and First Group in showdown ahead of meeting

Coast, which owns a near 10 per cent stake in First, had been agitating for a radical restructuring of the company.

The hedge fund’s demands included splitting First’s UK assets from its US assets, withdrawing from Britain’s railways and removing six board members including Hauser and chief executive Matthew Gregory.

Hauser said: “Having renewed the Board through the appointment of independent directors with a diverse range of skills and expertise focused on the future of mobility services and overseen the appointment of Matthew Gregory as chief executive and Ryan Mangold as chief financial officer to drive delivery of the strategy, it is now time for me to move on.

“I am confident that the clear path forward laid out for the group in our strategy announcement on 30 May is the best way to deliver enhanced sustainable value to all shareholders, and that the board and management team will execute these plans at pace.”

David Robbie, senior independent director, will step in as interim chairman of the board.

Yesterday it was reported that Schroders and Columbia Threadneedle intended to support Coast in this afternoon’s vote.

In a letter to shareholders this morning Coast accused First of telling some shareholders that “everything is for sale at the right price”.

The company also alleged that First was exploring the sale of its First Student division with private equity investors, including discussing indicative pricing.

Read more: Schroders and Columbia Threadneedle back Coast Capital

“Such news, if true, would run counter to the company’s publicly stated strategy and would appear to be material non-public information in nature,” the letter said. 
“It would also amount to highly selective distribution of information among shareholders.”

However, First denied the accusations and branded the allegations “desperate and spurious”. 

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Categories: City, London

Sandfire takes MOD Resources private in £91m deal

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 15:25

An Australian miner will pay AU$167m (£91m) for London-listed MOD Resources, it said today, in a deal back by at least one major shareholder.

Sydney-listed Sandfire said the deal gives it a chance to take on the “under-explored” Kalahari copper belt in Botswana.

Read more: Shareholder Barrick ‘undermined’ our efforts to negotiate $190bn tax bill, Acacia says

“The acquisition ticks all of our boxes,” said chief executive Karl Simich.

Shares in MOD jumped more than 17 per cent to 20.5p. Meanwhile Sandfire fell 11 per cent in Australia.

MOD’s has three operating companies in Botswana, Tshukudu Metals, Tshukudu Exploration and MOD Botswana.

MOD accepted the AU$0.45 per share offer six months after rejecting a AU$0.38 bid as too low.

The new price represents a 45 per cent premium on Monday’s closing price.

The deal was this morning backed by Metal Tiger, the target’s second biggest shareholder.

Read more: Another Vale dam could collapse next week, miner warns

“Along with our other investments in the area, we look forward to becoming a shareholder in Sandfire, where we see significant potential for value accretion in the Sandfire share price, and to potentially receiving meaningful future cash flows from our royalty interest over the Tshukudu exploration properties,” said Metal Tiger chief executive Michael McNeilly.

Metal Tiger traded as high as 1.57p earlier in the day, a 21 per cent rise. Later it gave back some of its gains, up 11.5 per cent to 1.45p.

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ITV bosses slammed over ‘irresponsible’ lie detector tests on Jeremy Kyle Show

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 14:29

MPs have blasted “irresponsible” ITV bosses for using lie detector tests on The Jeremy Kyle Show without knowing how accurate they were.

Senior ITV executives faced a grilling today as part of an inquiry into broadcasters’ duty of care following the apparent suicide of Steve Dymond, a former participant on the reality TV show.

Read more: Ofcom expresses concern over reality TV after Jeremy Kyle Show death

Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said the producers’ lack of medical knowledge was “astonishing”.

The daytime TV show frequently made use of lie detector tests in order to resolve conflicts between participants, and Dymond’s death came just a week after he failed a test on the show.

Tom McLennan, the show’s executive producer, said guests were told the tests were not 100 per cent accurate. But he admitted producers could not be certain exactly how reliable they were.

Graham Stanier, a consultant psychotherapist and director of aftercare for the programme, also conceded he was “naive” about the accuracy of lie detector tests.

“I totally accept that I don’t know the percentage of success or the percentage of failure,” he said.

In a scathing attack on the producers, Labour MP Paul Farrelly described the programme as “trash TV” and said anyone involved in making it “should be ashamed of themselves”.

ITV axed The Jeremy Kyle Show in May following an internal inquiry. Bosses said the broadcaster has no plans to make a similar programme in the future, but said they will continue to work with the show’s host.

Kyle, who declined to appear in front of MPs, was known for his tough presenting style on the show.

Read more: MPs launch probe into reality TV following Jeremy Kyle Show death

Documents released by ITV showed guests were asked whether they were aware that Kyle could be “very critical” of contestants if he thought they were “in the wrong”.

MPs also questioned the ITV bosses over the firm’s duty of care to contestants on hit dating show Love Island as part of a wider inquiry into reality TV.

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Capgemini shares rise on €3.6bn takeover of rival Altran

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 10:43

Shares in software and consultancy firm Capgemini jumped seven per cent this morning following the announcement of its €3.6bn (£3.2bn) takeover of smaller rival Altran.

Read more: AI software market posts huge growth amid digital transformation boom

The French digital innovation giant said the merger will create a group with revenue of €17bn and more than 250,000 employees.

Capgemini said it hoped to tap into demand from its customers in a wide range of industries, including aerospace and telecoms.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank described the takeover, which was announced last night, as a “bold strategic move”.

Shares in Capgemini rose as much as seven per cent this morning, while Altran soared over 21 per cent.

Capgemini has made a cash offer of €14 per share, a 22 per cent premium on Altran’s closing price on Monday.

The Paris-headquartered company said it expects the deal to spark significant cost savings and add 25 per cent to its earnings per share by 2023.

Read more: Salesforce to buy Tableau Software in $15.7bn deal

“We think the deal makes strategic sense, helping Capgemini to capitalise on the digital transformation of industrial companies,” wrote analysts at Credit Suisse.

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No-deal Brexit could deliver ‘knockout blow’ to UK car industry

City of London News Stream by Cityam - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 10:11

The UK’s car industry has stepped up its no-deal Brexit warning, saying that crashing out of the EU would trigger “the most seismic shift” in trading conditions that the industry has ever seen. 

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the car industry organisation, has urged the UK’s next prime minister to secure a Brexit deal as a “number one priority” once he enters Downing Street. 

Read more: UK car industry sees worst month for six years in May

The group said the end of borderless trade could cause “crippling disruption” and World Trade Organisation tariffs would “deliver a knockout blow” to competitiveness.

The warning comes as Boris Johnson, the current favourite to become the new Conservative Party leader, said he was willing to take the UK out of the EU without a deal. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Automotive matters to UK trade and to the economy, and this report shows that, if the right choices are made, a bright future is possible.

“However, ‘no deal’ remains the clear and present danger.

“We are already seeing the consequences of uncertainty, the fear of no deal.

Read more: British car industry troubles run far deeper than Brexit

“The next PM’s first job in office must be to secure a deal that maintains frictionless trade because, for our industry, ‘no deal’ is not an option and we don’t have the luxury of time’.

The automotive industry is the UK’s biggest exporter of goods, accounting for more than 14 per cent of total exports, SMMT said.

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