Live Blog

November 26, 2014, 10:00pm

We still don’t know if there is life after Candy Crush. King Digital, the company behind the hugely successful mobile game, has said Melvyn Morris, its chairman, has stepped down.

Not only was Morris chairman, but he is also the company’s second-largest shareholder, after Apax, a private equity firm. He will be replaced by board member Gerhard Florin. King said that Morris will be taking a leave of absence from the board for personal reasons. It did not comment further.

There has been much talk centering on whether King can find a second wind after the success of Candy Crush has faded.

Its share price has suggested investors are less than confident: the London-based and New York-listed company has seen its share price fall by around 30 per cent since its IPO in March this year. The latest batch of results were more upbeat, but the jury is still out.

Scotland
November 26, 2014, 9:15pm

Scotland is to be able to set different tax rates to the rest of the UK after Labour dropped its opposition to the changes.

The changes came with the reluctant blessing of Eds Miliband and Balls, although the latter is understood to have insisted that Westminster retain control of the personal allowance, the threshold below which earners pay no tax.

The secret talks continued into Wednesday evening as the parties strove to seal a deal due to be announced on Thursday.

As well as getting increased control of the taxation system, the changes will allow Scottish ministers greater control over the welfare system, including housing benefit and winter fuel payments.

The new powers are expected to come into effect sooner rather than later, with the changes fast-tracked through Westminster next year.

Labour’s hand was forced by its Scottish support flocking to the SNP. Without the Scottish seats it can usually rely on Labour’s job of winning the general election next May becomes more difficult. 

oil field
November 26, 2014, 8:02pm

Is there a whiff of consensus from Opec over oil prices? The markets seem to think so, with oil prices dropping on either side of the Atlantic.

This could be because the consensus means that OPEC will be siding with a group of countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar – not wanting to cut production.

The basis for the talk of agreement came from Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister.

"We are very confident that Opec will have a unified position," Reuters has quoted him as saying.

There is a meeting in Vienna on Thursday between the oil-producers, where the problems associated with a growing surplus will be tackled. One suggestion is that the group lower its upper production limit of 30m barrels a day.

Brent crude has fallen over 30 per cent in the last 12 months. 

GoPro
November 26, 2014, 7:06pm

GoPro is to start manufacturing consumer drones, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The American company, which is already a market leader in personal cameras, markets its product as being able to take pictures in extreme situations. In many ways therefore the sky is the obvious next target for GoPro, especially as other manufacturers of consumer drones build their machines to carry GoPro cameras anyway.

GoPro will be helped by its strong reputation as a hardware manufacturer in tune with action and extreme sports, but the main question will be whether it manages to produce a quality product straight off the mark.

Competitors DJI and Parrot were unable to master the consumer drone from the off and have had multiple attempts. Other drone builders are probably afraid – GoPro is a household name and may instantly grab a significant market share.

Sainsbury's trolley
November 26, 2014, 6:13pm

Sainsbury’s is getting on board with Black Friday for the first time, offering major discounts on TVs, tablets and electricals in a bid to get customer’s spending in the run up to Christmas this year.

Kindle, Dyson and Sony are just some of the big name brands on offer among a total of 13 items at the supermarket with savings of up to £160.

The “when it’s gone, it’s gone” deals will be available in stores from Friday 28th until close on Sunday, or until stock runs out, and won’t be available online in a surprise move.

The supermarket will no doubt be hoping consumers spend a few more pennies of the £1.32bn expected to be spent over the Black Friday weekend in its stores.

Sainsbury’s says its top deals are a saving of £160 on the Dyson DC24 Animal Hoover, reduced to £159.99 from £319.99; a saving of £150 on a Blaupunkt 40-inch TV, reduced to £149.99 from £299.99; and a £130 saving on Sony Audio Tank speakers.

Other offers include a Kindle Touch for £39.99, down from £59, a Dolce Gusto coffee machine for £39.99, saving £60, as well as a Russell Hobbs Purifry, reduced to £49.99 from £149.99 and saving £100.

Sainsbury’s director of retail and operations Roger Burnley said; "This is a great way to give our customers some fantastic deals on products before Christmas. It’s a competitive market, so it felt right to be part of the mix this year and kick off the busiest trading time of the year with a popular sales event."

Meanwhile, rival Tesco said its deals of up to 70 per cent off more than 200 items will offer its customers savings of more than £15m over the three day period. Online giant Amazon began offering discount deals at the beginning of the week in the run up to the big day.

Facebook
November 26, 2014, 6:06pm

Facebook has gained support from an unlikely source. Richard Barrett, the former global anti-terrorism director of MI6, has said that in his opinion it is unreasonable to expect Facebook to vet conversations for terrorist content and then report them.

A report published this week said that an internet site, understood to be Facebook, had hosted terrorist content that, if reported to the authorities, could have prevented the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. The report said that one of Rigby’s murderers had expressed the desire to kill a soldier, publically on a website.

Barrett however said that he believed it impractical for Facebook to sort through the large volume of content of content posted daily on social networks and also doubted the security services themselves would be able to process the information they would receive, if social sites did pass on data.

Facebook has about one and a third billion users and about five billion posts a day so clearly on a worldwide basis it would be almost impossible to deal with the amount of stuff that was referred

Barrett told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Shopping basket logo online
November 26, 2014, 5:19pm

Everyone loves a bargain, but there are some things that scream “rather not” than “must have”.

Among quite a few decent deals on expensive tech and electrical items, some of Amazon’s early flash deal Black Friday treats are, well, a little underwhelming, let’s say.

Here are five of the least exciting deals waiting for you over at Amazon.

A DISH

More than half off could be a bit of a steal. Unless it’s a for a dish. Admittedly, this could come in useful for culinary masters in the kitchen this Christmas, and it does have a four star review, but it’s not necessarily the first item which springs to mind when you think about Black Friday shopping deals.

Even with that 55 per cent price cut, at £18.99 that seems a little much to be forking out on a cooking utensil. With the deal just two per cent claimed, its seems the Amazon deal hunters agreed.

BIRD FEEDER

It’s winter. Birds need feeding. But, we can’t help but think anyone calling themselves a bargain hunter might find themselves a cheaper way to do it than this half price, but still £9.99, bird feeder.

VELCRO

For the man who has everything, there’s always heavy duty velcro to put a smile on his face this Christmas. Or not. We can only imagine the 43 per cent deal uptake of the product is due to people coming across it while browsing for those juicer deals and thinking it might come in handy for hanging festive decorations.

MARKER PENS

Again, nothing wrong with buying marker pens, everyone needs one at some point in their life, but its not an item so pricey that you’d be waiting for a half-price deals to come along in order to save the penny’s. The deal has been 14 per cent snapped up so far, so perhaps we are underestimating the needs of stationary aficionados after all.

DVDS

We all love a good box set. If you want to catch up on Mad Men or have a Pixar movie marathon there are some great discounts to be had on DVDs.

You will however, have to trawl through others gems such as, er, Men Behaving Badly, Goodnight Sweetheart and Keeping Up Appearances. Not quite Brit comedy gems or cult classics worth a rewatching, more bargain bin. Buy these as a Christmas gift for a family member would risk being forced to watch them on Boxing Day: no thanks.

Turkey farm
November 26, 2014, 4:51pm
While we gobble up turkeys in celebration of Thanksgiving tomorrow, perhaps we should also offer a toast to the festive birds themselves. 
 
Not only do they bring our stomachs happiness year after year – they also contain a unique antibiotic that can help humans fend of disease. 
 
A “good” bacteria known as Strain 115 is found inside turkeys, and this produces an antibiotic called MP1, which can kill off disease-causing bacteria.
 
In fact, the antibiotic is so strong that it can kill off half of all infectious bacteria, according to research by scientists from Brigham Young University in Utah. This means it can provide protection against problems ranging from sore throats and minor stomach upsets to more serious gastrointestinal disorders.
 
Joel Griffitts, microbiologist and lead researcher in the study, explained that the antibiotic is produced by the birds to keep themselves healthy, but that this has beneficial effects for humans, too. "The good bacteria we're studying has been keeping turkey farms healthy for years and it has the potential to keep humans healthy as well,” he said.  
 
The antibiotic has a highly complex structure and is currently not widely used for medical purposes, but Griffitts and his team could change this with their discovery of exactly how the bacteria produce the antibiotic.
 
They used techniques called mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to look at how Strain 115 manages to make the bacteria without killing itself, and the mechanism turned out to be surprisingly simple, shedding a positive light on the possibility of using the antibiotic on a wider scale in the future.
 
How it works? An engine inside of Strain 115, a compact DNA molecule also known as a plasmid, produces both the killer antibiotic and a self-protecting agent. "It's sort of like outfitting a car with special tires that protect against unusual road hazards," Griffitts said.
 
The findings are published in the journal Bacteriology. 
City of London
November 26, 2014, 3:28pm
Tighter regulation won't be enough save Britain's retail banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis, according to experts involved in an investigation into the sector's decline.
 
Conducted by the think tank New City Agenda and CASS Business School, the report reveals how the UK's four main retail banks are continuing to lose customer trust, rather than gradually regaining it.
 
From 2008 to the first half of 2014, the Financial Ombudsman received a total of 20.8m complaints about high street bank services, and this increased from 75,000 in 2008/2009 to 400,000 in 2013/2014. 
 
The ongoing scandals are doing nothing to help build the public's confidence, either – earlier this month, five UK banks were slapped with hefty fines for their involvement in rigging Forex rates. In fact,  this general “poor culture” has cost British retail banks and building societies over £38bn in fines and redress for customers over the last 15 years. 
 
And despite the culprits not being directly involved in dealing with customers, frustration is often taken out on employees in high street banks. “Those working on the shop floor are often the subject of customer abuse – they represent a 'banker' for people to take out their frustration on”, explained Andre Spicer of the CASS Business school – one of the lead authors of the report.
 
The results suggest that regulation alone will not be enough to encourage change, since much of the problem stems from an attitudinal shift away from the customer and towards money-making. “It has become clear that having an aggressive sales culture, which ripped off customers, has cost banks dearly,” commented MP David Davis. “Banks seem to be trying to change, and some organisational progress has been made. However, it has yet to deliver for high-street customers.”
 
The shift stems from when the retail and investment divisions of banks joined together, according to economist John Kay – at that point, “greed became OK,” and it was “acceptable to talk about how much money you were earning”.
 
“Retail banks used to be profit-generating organisations, but they viewed themselves as organisations embedded in communities. They played a social role, but now there is a transaction and trading based culture in stead of relationships.”
 
The consensus among those involved in the study is that a culture shift back towards putting customers first is needed for trust to be regained, but that the top down approach currently being adopted – where the heads of banks tell those in the middle and at the bottom to behave more ethically – will not work. 
 
“At the current rate, it will take the entire sector a generation to completely overhaul its culture and practices: the sector is currently dominated by four big banks. Given the current rate of change, a radical overhaul will take a generation,” the report says.
 
Kay added that you “can't change culture by making announcements from the top of organisations.”
 
“What is needed is a complete review of the whole structure of financial services organisations. We need to restructure them and also create new ones, since in some cases the damage caused by the financial crisis is so extensive that it may be irreparable,” he said.
British and european flags
November 26, 2014, 3:07pm

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today confirmed its estimate for GDP growth between the second and third quarters, leaving growth at 0.7 per cent.

The figure is a fall from the previous quarter's 0.9 per cent growth, although that had been expected.

The statistics authority added that between the third quarter of last year and the third quarter of this year, GDP in volume terms had increased by three per cent, which also remained unrevised. GDP in current prices increased 1.6 per cent between the second and third quarters.

The figure makes the UK one of the fastest-growing major economies in Europe, although the slowdown from the previous quarter does add to mounting evidence that weakness in European economies is beginning to hit recovery in the UK.

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