Live Blog

Alex Salmond
July 23, 2014, 12:38pm
On 18 September this year, Scottish people will vote on whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom.
 
If they decide to leave, what do the statistics tell us about how the UK's economic, demographic and social standing will be affected? And how will it change the UK's position in Europe?
 
Population down
 
The UK would lose eight per cent of its population if Scotland chose to leave, going down from 64m to 59m.
 
At the European level, this would be enough to shift the UK from fourth position to fifth position, just behind Italy which has a population of 60m. It would still fall significantly behind Germany, however, which has considerably the largest population in Europe at 82m. 

Density up
 
An exit would lead to a loss of 32 per cent of the UK's land, leaving behind a nation similar in size to Greece or Tunisia.
 
The fact that the loss of land would exceed the loss of population means that the population density would increase, moving the UK from the position of 45th most densely populated nation in the world to 29th most densely populated nation in the world. 
 
In terms of Europe, it would remain the fourth most densely populated nation, but it wouldn't be far off usurping Belgium for third place. 

Economy

After England, Scotland is currently the biggest exporter from the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. Scottish exports are worth £16.9bn of the UK's total of £235.8bn, which means if Scotland left, the UK would lose 7.1 per cent of total exports.  

However, in terms of GDP per head, there would be a slight increase from £21,287 to £21,404. This means that each person would contribute around £177 more to the economy each year. 
 
Longevity
 
Both women and men would experience a slight increase in life expectancy in the event of a Scottish exit. The average woman would live for 0.3 years longer, while the average man would live for an additional 0.4 years.

In the context of Europe, the UK would still sit firmly between the highest and lowest average life expectancies. Men can expect to live the shortest lives in Lithuania, where the average life length is 68 years, whereas the men in Iceland live for the longest at an average of 82 years.
 
Women have the longest average life expectancy in Spain, where it is 86 years. The lowest for women is in Macedonia, where it is 77. 
July 23, 2014, 12:28pm

London-based taxi app Hailo could allow customers to pay for their rides using cryptocurrency Bitcoin, according to the company's CEO Jay Bregman.

Speaking to digital currency news site Coindesk, Bregman said Hailo could also allow Bitcoin to be sent directly to drivers. Hailo, founded in London in 2011, gives customers the ability to hail cabs through its own app.

"We have [always] sought to find ways to provide benefit to our drivers and our passengers. I believe strongly that Bitcoin is one of these ways. Absolutely, like many other things, we are actively looking into it," said Bregman.

However, Bregman stressed that his comments were made in a personal capacity, adding that Bitcoin would not replace the current method of credit or debit user-authorisation. The new process would settle the bill by automatically withdrawing money from the customer's account.

To provide the new service the Hailo CEO said it would have to connect with an established Bitcoin wallet provider. Furthermore, Bregman sees potential in using Bitcoin to help those Hailo drivers who send money abroad avoid the high costs of remittance fees.

"What if we could help them solve that problem and therefore change their cost structure by 10, 20 per cent, that would be huge. So why wouldn't we? That's the real question" said Bregman.

Earlier this month, Hailo announced its taxi app would be integrated into Citymapper, the travel app for Android and iOS. It is the first time Hailo has been integrated with another app. The rollout will cover London, New York, Barcelona, Madrid, Washington and Boston.

However, the company has faced hostility, with its London offices being vandalised in May, after it opened up bookings to private hire vehicles. In a letter to London cab drivers, Hailo co-founder, Ron Zehibe said:

There is no point in burying our heads in the sand - people want choice and taxis need to be in the mix. A taxi-only app will get isolated and customers will take their money to services without any cabs on offer. It is already happening. Let's win back that work.

Map of air traffic over Israel
July 23, 2014, 11:27am

British Airways is one of the only major European airlines still flying into the Israeli airport Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.

A number of major US and European carriers have suspended flights to the country after rockets from Gaza were fired closed to the airport raising safety concerns.

BA’s twice daily flights to the destination will continue while many of the world’s biggest airlines in Europe and the UK, including US Airways, Delta, United Airlines and KLM, cancelled flights to Israel scheduled for today.

Israeli airlines El Al, Arkia and Israir are also continuing to operate along with a number of smaller European carriers still scheduled to fly, including Russian airline Aeroflot and Finnish carrier Finnair.

BA said it would keep the route under review.

The region has seen sustained fighting over the last week as Israel continues a ground offensive on Hamas militants in Gaza where more than 600 civilians have been killed and over 10 Israeli soldiers.

 

This is how the airspace over Israel looks at the moment just before midday.

 

July 23, 2014, 10:20am

Following the disastrous collapse of the MtGox Bitcoin exchange, Japan is set to see a revival of the Bitcoin ecosystem. This comes after former Goldman Sachs employee, Yuzo Kano, raised $1.6m for the Japan-based bitFlyer exchange, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The money was raised from a venture capital firm and is the country's largest Bitcoin investment to date, accroding to Kano.

The former derivatives and convertible bonds trader is hoping to restore Bitcoin's image in Japan, as well as expand into other markets before 2015.

BitFlyer, which has been up and running since April, allows anyone with a Japanese bank account to buy and sell Bitcoin, with bitFlyer acting as the counterparty to either transaction. Kano believes the exchange is more friendly to Bitcoin first timers and cuts down on the complicated price-setting mechanisms.

"That's a major advantage we have over other exchanges, but it also means we take on the risk. Controlling that risk is something you can't do wothout experience," Kano told Bloomberg.

The company has yet to disclose subscriber numbers. Despite the negative experience with the MtGox exchange, Japan has not had a kneejerk reaction against cryptocurrencies.

While hoping to crackdown on illegal activities related to Bitcoin, Japanese authorities have held off on measures to regulate digital currencies. In July, the Japan Authority of Digital Asset was established, with the government's backing, to advocate for Bitcoin businesses.

Explaining his decision to leave Goldman for the world of cryptocurrencies, Kano said:

There is no stability for Goldman and doing something on my own has a greater upside.

I like complex systems, that's why I became a derivatives trader. Now it's Bitcoin.

Bank of England
July 23, 2014, 9:31am

The minutes of the Bank of England's reveal that no member of the UK's interest-rate setting committee voted to change policy this month.

Members of the monetary policy committee (MPC) voted 9-0 against a change in policy.

For some on the MPC, it's their first time voting - and analysts didn't expect to see any dissent among the newcomers.

So while a unanimous vote to hold steady was widely expected today, it may be the last MPC vote without a split we see for a while, as the committee's views on the amount of labour market slack diverge.

This month, the minutes reveal that one interpretation of the current situation saw at least one member argue that there is now a smaller risk of hiking interest rates derailing the UK's economic recovery, as "that expansion became more established".

On one interpretation, the risk of a small rise in bank rate derailing the expansion and leaving inflation below the target in the medium term was receding

MPC members generally see the UK's economic momentum looking "more assured", with growth in the first half likely to be at or above the long-term average, but with tentative signs of a modest output slowdown in the second half of the year.

Central bank watcher focus will this month will be on any comments that offer guidance on the timing of a change to interest rates. After the release, Oxford Economics' chief European economist, Dario Perkins, said that the MPC is now "edging towards" its first hike.

Expectations of a change in interest rates have moved around a bit in recent months, with most investors now expecting to see a hike at the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2015. Ahead of today's release, Grant Lewis of Daiwa Capital Markets says that data is adding "to the case for a rate hike this year", with strong jobs data, an upside surprise to inflation, and manufacturing surveys all suggesting that spare capacity in the economy is being used up.

For those wanting a more up to date picture of the Bank's position, governor Mark Carney will speak later today at a Commonwealth Games event in Glasgow.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
July 23, 2014, 9:14am

The deadline looms: 30 July is the day when Argentina either pays up or faces the furies of default, inflation and destitution. 

The New York court where Argentina has been fighting its battle to avoid paying a group of hedge fund creditors (known collectively as NML) has ruled that Argentina cannot have another stay of execution. 30 July is inked in red. 

Argentina's argument is that by agreeing to repayment terms favourable to NML it will be legally obliged under a clause in a bond contract to offer the same terms to all creditors. This bill, it says, could be $15bn and might bankrupt the country.

The debate goes back to 2001 when Argentina found itself in financial turmoil: gripped by hyper-inflation it defaulted on its debts. Around 90 per cent of bondholders accepted that they wouldn't receive the full totals owed and agreed to trim their deals - but not all.

Argentina claims those that didn't, NML, are vultures: they bought cut-price bonds in a failing economy and then refused to accept that default changes the rules of play. You get cheap bonds if you invest in an ailing nation because there is a risk of default, they argue, and you can't expect to get the same return if you lose.

NML argues it is fighting merely for what it is owed. Argentina has been paying back bondholders it doesn't see as carrion fowl, or trying to, and should have to pay all back at the same time. This is known as the pari passu clause. 

Argentina has been fighting and stalling on this issue for months, perhaps because the clause forcing it to offer the more favourable repayment conditions to all relevant bondholders expires on 1 January 2015. The saga seems set to end before then however, and 30 July is the appointed date. 

It has fought and lost in the US Supreme Court and it has just lost again. It is hoped that the country will settle and that the last legacy of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner won't be the deserts of financial ruin. 
peppa pig characters
July 23, 2014, 8:49am

Entertainment One, the company behind TV hit Peppa Pig and blockbuster film the Hunger Games saw overall revenues rise 4 per cent in the first quarter of the year in line with expectations.

TV revenue jumped 67 per cent on the back of strong family programming. The dominance of Peppa Pig also continued with five new merchandise agreements in the US and product launches in five Latin American countries as well as better than expected DVD sales for the series..

The entertainment group’s film unit revenue dropped 4 per cent reflecting the impact of film release timings though box office takings were $82m, up from $69 million in the same period last year.

The group said it expects to invest £300m in acquired content rights and production this year.

Flybe branded plane
July 23, 2014, 7:43am

Flybe has increased passenger revenue per seat by almost 10 per cent as its turnaround continues.

The budget airline which returned to profit this year after losse of £41m in 2013 saw passenger revenue per seat rise to £52.79 while cost per seat in the UK fell almost 2 per cent as cost-cutting measures continue to pay off .

The performance for the beginning of the year is in line with expectations.

Chief executive Saad Hammad said:

"We have launched a number of new routes and products, re-launched our brand and announced a number of exciting strategic developments with new partners.  We have achieved a significant amount in the quarter, with substantially more to do in the months ahead."

The airline will is planning 16 new routes for with five of them from London City Airport and a route to Berlin for the first time. It is also considering further routes.

 
Congestion charging
July 23, 2014, 7:35am

Outsourcing company Capita has announced a total of £1.3bn of major contract wins in the first half of this year, as its major contract win rate has exceeded 66 per cent.

Chief executive Andy Parker says that the firm's financial results have been "good", describing the start to the year as "an excellent sales period" for the company.

Capita has seen a "high level of activity across our markets, particularly in the private sector, providing a strong future platform for growth", says Parker. The firm enjoyed a 16 per cent rise in profit before tax to £238m in the six months to 30 June, and a 13.9 per cent jump in revenues in the same period.

The company now expects to see revenue growth of at least eight per cent this year, as its bid pipeline has grown to a record £5.7bn, up on the £5.5bn pipeline seen in February 2014. Capita says that this bid pipeline offers the company its "highest ever level of prospects" with opportunities across diverse markets.

Killik's Paul Kavanagh tweets that Capita has been a rare example of a trouble free 25 year investment, up by more than 120 times over the period.

In the first half of this year Capita secured a £400m contract with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, a £325m contract for the Scottish Wide Area Network, a £145m congestion charging and traffic enforcement schemes contract for Transport for London, and a £93.5m online customer management contract with John Lewis.

Update: Shares rose by nearly 2.9 per cent as markets opened.

July 23, 2014, 7:30am

Markets are expected to open lower this morning as EU ministers failed to agree additional sanctions against Russia making investors nervous despite a rebound yesterday.

Investors are also cautious as they await the latest minutes from the Bank of England.

Mixed results from the US including tech giants Apple and Microsoft have also been slightly more negative. 

Corporate news

Capita continues to outperform rivals G4S and Serco with a jump in revenue on the back of big contract wins.

Budget airline Flybe continues its turnaround with a rise in passenger revenue per seat while cost per seat fell.

Data in focus

  • 9.30am: Bank of England minutes
  • 12:45om: Mark Carney speech
  • 3.00pm: Eu consumer confidence

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