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Arsenal
September 21, 2014, 2:41pm
Arsenal Football Club has released its latest financial figures, revealing that the north London club's profit before tax for the year ended May 31, 2014 has dropped by £2m, from £6.7m a year ago to £4.7m now.
 
However, the club's group turnover has increased from £280.4m to £301.9m, with football-related turnover up to £298.7m from £242.8m in the same period in 2013.
 
The club puts this increase mainly down to "Premier League broadcasting, the FA Cup run and commercial activity including a full year of the club’s extended partnership with Emirates".
 
Taking into account increased costs, mainly on wages, football-related operating profits (before depreciation and player trading) went up from £25.2m to £62.1m. 
 
Arsenal's wage costs have not increased significantly during the period, going up from £154.5m to £166.4m, but profit from transfers has dropped from £47m to £6.9m as Arsene Wenger's team changed tack from a predominately selling club to one which was more lavish in the transfer market.
 
The arrival of Mezut Ozil for a club record £43m at the end of last summer's transfer window emblematic of that move - which has been continued this summer with the high-profile signatures of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Calum Chambers among others, although these buys do not count in the latest set of figures.
 
The Gunners called it a "low key year for property business" with revenues of just £3.2m compared with £37.5m the previous year, while property operating profit stood at £0.4m against £4.4m in 2013.
 
In a statement today, Arsenal said the club "has no short-term debt and continues to be in a robust financial position with cash balances, excluding those amounts designated as debt service reserves, of £173.3m, compared to £119.6m in 2013". 
 
Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick said of the figures: "Our revenues have exceeded £300 million, underpinned by TV and the significant progress made on our commercial agenda, and our improved financial position has allowed us to supplement the squad with important new signings.
 
"Our ambition is to put Arsenal Football Club at the pinnacle of the game here and in Europe. We all want to savour a repeat of the joys of last May.” 
 
The north London side's chief executive officer, Ivan Gazidis, added: “The club is in excellent shape, both on and off the pitch. We are proud of our 11th FA Cup success and the reward this represents to our fans in the Arsenal community around the world.
 
"There is always more to do and, whether investing in the team or in training facilities which will provide long-term benefit to the club, our guiding principles are the same and our focus is clear, on delivering more on field success.
 
"This remains the shared ambition of our majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, the board and everyone connected with the club. We are well placed to deliver against those ambitions.”
 
Although Arsenal's increase in revenue to above £300m represents a jump of 7.7 per cent on last year, it still puts them well behind the other giants of the European footballing world, as the below graph shows.

Ed Miliband
September 21, 2014, 1:09pm

Ed Miliband has promised an increase in the national minimum wage to £8 per hour should his party win at the next general election.

The Labour leader has said it is "not good enough" that one in five people in the UK "are in low pay".

Ahead of the Labour party conference in Manchester this week, Miliband revealed plans to provide a £60 a week boost Britain's lowest-paid workers to the press.

Miliband told the Sunday Mirror the increase would "show how we can change and how we can become a country that rewards hard work once again. Because Labour is the party of hard work, fairly paid."

In response, Conservative culture secretary Sajid Javid said "Ed Miliband would make people worse off with the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place - more wasteful spending, more borrowing and higher taxes."

Yet for many Labour's rise will still be insufficient. Earlier this month Trade Union Congress (TUC) delegates passed a motion calling for a minimum wage of £10 per hour, while the Living Wage Foundation argue that in London workers require a wage of £8.80 per hour just to cover the basic cost of living.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney acknowledged the detrimental affects low wages were having on business in a speech to the TUC:

The weakness of pay has, in effect, purchased more job creation. It has not resulted in an unusually high level of profits. 

The burden of the Great Recession has been shared across the UK. Profits have been squeezed almost as much as labour costs. Employees have seen their real incomes reduced, but more people are in work as a result.

The fall in real wages in the UK since the financial crisis is the largest such drop since the 1920s. Speaking to The Observer, Miliband said the current government's record was perhaps one of the worst ever in terms of the longest fall in living standards, wages falling, wages rising slower than prices." 

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, argued that although the current minimum wage was too low, businesses did not believe the government should intervene.

Longworth said:
There is no doubt that the widening pay gap and a lack of social mobility is detrimental to the UK economy. As the economy continues to improve, businesses agree that the minimum wage must rise.
 
However, businesses are in favour of an evidence based approach to the minimum wage rather than political parties using it to gain support from voters. The government should not intervene in such matters, unless there is market failure. A range of existing mechanisms, such as the Low Pay Commission and Living Wage Commission, are already in place to determine the optimal resolution for workers, businesses and long term economic growth.
 
Politicians should instead focus on implementing policies to raise productivity and improve skills in the workplace – which are the keys to higher wages for all in the future.
Alex Salmond
September 21, 2014, 11:45am

Alex Salmond believes "No" voters in the Scottish independence referendum have been misled by false promises of more devolutionary powers.

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, Salmond claimed the three main UK party leaders' devolution vows were "cooked up in desperation for the last few days of the campaign."

Scotland voted against independence on Thursday, with the "No" campaign beating the "Yes" campaign by 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989.

Salmond, who has announced his decision to stand down as Scotland's first minister and leader of the Scottish National party in November, said those persuaded to vote "No" were "misled, gulled, tricked".

Salmond said:

I am actually not surprised they are cavilling and reneging on commitments, I am only surprised by the speed at which they are doing it. They seem to be totally shameless in these matters.

The Prime Minister wants to link change in Scotland to change in England. He wants to do that because he has difficulty in carrying his backbenchers on this and they are under pressure from UKIP.

I think the vow was something cooked up in desperation for the last few days of the campaign and I think everyone Scotland now realises that.

Downing Street has responded with the insistence that "this government has delivered on devolution and we will do so again".

Yesterday Gordon Brown told an audience in Fife that the promises made by the leaders of the three main UK parties prior to the referendum would be "locked in".

A parliamentary notion by the three parties lays out strict steps and a timetable for further devolution. A "command paper" detailing new powers for Scotland is due to be published next month, with a new Scotland Bill to be published in January 2015.

However, already there have been disagreements between the three parties about the devolutionary process. David Cameron indicated his support for English votes for English MPs, however Labour are more cautious. Party leader Ed Miliband said "this isn't a simple issue" when questioned on the Andrew Marr show this morning.

Phones 4u
September 21, 2014, 11:44am

Mobile network operator EE is in talks to buy 60 Phones 4u stores following the retailer's collapse into administration, according to reports.

The collapse was triggered by EE, Phones 4u's last remaining network partner, terminating its distribution agreement with the retailer soon after Vodafone had done the same.

Phones 4u described EE's decision as a "complete shock", while founder John Caudwell tweeted that his company had been "brought to its knees by ruthless so-called “partners” moving in for the kill!!!"

And now EE could be set to swoop in and pick up the pieces. The Sunday Times reports that the network is working with Phones 4u administrators PwC to finalise a deal to buy the stores before tonight's deadline. 

On Friday Vodafone announced it had agreed the purchase of 140 Phones 4u stores, saving 887 jobs. Dixons Carphone has also pounced, purchasing 160 outlets and agreeing to take on 800 staff.

Following the company's collapse, Phones 4u's private equity owner BC Partners had launched a scathing attack on Vodafone

Representative Stefano Quadrio Curzio said Vodafone's behaviour "appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4u no time to develop commercial alternatives."

 

Ebola virus
September 20, 2014, 7:59pm
Hundreds of thousands more people could fall victim to the Ebola epidemic making its way through parts of West Africa, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
In a worst case scenario, it predicts as many as 550,000 people could be infected by the end of January next year. 
 
This number is much higher than any other estimates put forward. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last month a comparatively small 20,000 cases could arise before the epidemic is brought under control. 
 
Two people who worked on the latest report told Bloomberg that the figure did not take into account any aid or government intervention, and this may explain why there is such a disparity. 
 
The report is scheduled to be released next week, but the figure is still under review and may change. 
 
 “CDC is working on a dynamic modeling tool that allows for recalculations of projected Ebola cases over time,” spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds told Bloomberg. “CDC expects to release this interactive tool and a description of its use soon.”
 
Since the start of the outbreak in Guinea in February, the virus has killed an estimated 2,630 people in West Africa, according to the WHO. Yesterday, the United Nations said efforts to contain the disease needed to be increased greatly. It also announced details of it own new emergency mission.
 
What is Ebola? And how does it spread? Here's what you need to know
Gordon Brown
September 20, 2014, 7:56pm
In light of defeat for those seeking independence for Scotland, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says guarantees made ahead of the referendum on change and further devolution will be delivered.
 
On Thursday, the “No” campaign beat the “Yes” campaign by 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989, resulting in Scotland remaining part of the UK. 
 
Describing himself and the leaders of the three main UK parties as “promise makers”, Brown told an audience in Fife, Scotland, that the promises made prior to the referendum would be “locked in”. He added that it was time to move from the "battleground to the common ground"
 
Among the pre-referendum promises is the drawing up of a “command paper” setting out new powers for Scotland. This is due to be published by the end of October. There will also be a House of Commons debate on 16 October to ensure all plans are on track.   
 
“There is a time to fight but there is a time to unite. This is the time for Scotland to unite,” he said, reflecting on months of escalating tensions between those in favour of and against independence. 
 
"Let us think of ourselves not as Yes Scots or No Scots but let us think of ourselves, all of us simply as Scots and united let us be a nation again."
 
Divide in Westminster
 
Following the result of Thursday’s referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron has been promoting more autonomy for England over English matters. He has proposed a system where only MPs from England would vote on English issues in Parliament.
 
But Labour leader Ed Miliband has indicated he will not agree to Cameron’s proposals to increase the powers of English MPs.
UK border
September 20, 2014, 5:08pm

The UK government has pledged £12m to France to help it stop illegal immigrants making their way from Calais to Britain.  

An agreement between home secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve will result in the two countries working more closely together to reduce the scale of the problem.

Part of that is a the significant donation from the UK to France - the money will be spread between a number of preventative measures, such as bolstering security at the French port and introducing enhanced technologies for detecting migrants hiding in large vehicles.

Law enforcement agencies in both France and Britain will target organised crime gangs responsible for trafficking and smuggling across the border, according to immigration minister James Brokenshire

Fleeing crises

The number of immigrants living illegally in Calais is thought to have increased by 50 per cent over the past year, with a growing number of people fleeing humanitarian crises in the Middle East and east Africa.

An estimated 1,500 are now based at the French port town, with many camping or living in squats. 

May and Cazeneuve said in a joint statement that they would would "ensure that all measures taken will deter illegal migrants from congregating in and around Calais."

They also promised to "respond to health emergencies and protect vulnerable people”, including victims of human trafficking.

Instagram
September 20, 2014, 2:51pm
Users of Instagram in the UK will soon be exposed to adverts.
 
The photo-sharing social network said it was slowly rolling out advertising in the UK, with the first adverts set to appear at some point in the “coming weeks”. 
 
Initially, adverts will just be for just a small selection of businesses, hand-picked for their “already great” presence on Instagram. The company wants to ensure the advertising its users are exposed to is “creative and engaging.”
 
Here is an example of what an advert will look like on Instagram… 

Adverts will be sponsored (Source: Instagram)

 

Instagram hopes to enhance the user experience by tailoring content, and in doing so “bring you more interesting ads over time.” 
 
If an advert is of great interest, there will be the option to learn more about it by tapping on the “sponsored” label at the top. Conversely, if a user doesn’t want to see the advert, they can hide it by tapping the bottom right hand corner.
 
From an ownership point of view, nothing will change – users will still be the owners of all their photos and videos.
 
This is not the first time Instagram has introduced advertising – ads appeared on the US version last November.
Alibaba
September 20, 2014, 11:26am
Shares in Alibaba went up by 38 per cent during its stock market debut yesterday, leading the biggest IPO in US history.
 
The Chinese e-commerce giant started trading on Friday under the ticker "BABA" on the New York Stock Exchange.
 
Shares were so popular that the price had to be revised up eight times from their initial value of $68. Shortly before midday they had reached $92.70, peaking at $99.70 later in the afternoon. They closed at $93.89 – up 38 per cent from the start of the day.
 
“This is the largest IPO in the history of the world and we have definitely watched history in the making today,” said Peter Garnry, Head of Equity Strategy at Saxo Bank.
 
The pricing of the IPO on Thursday initially raised $21.8bn (£13.38bn) for Alibaba. This was significantly higher than the $14bn anticipated by the company’s founder, Jack Ma. Around 271m shares were traded – more than double the number traded during the stock market debuts of Twitter or Facebook.
 
The result marks an e-commerce win for China: Alibaba had a market value of $231bn when markets closed, exceeding the combined market capitalisation of Amazon and eBay, the two leading US e-commerce companies.
 
"This is the most anticipated event I’ve ever seen in my 20-year career on the floor of the NYSE," said Mark Otto, partner with J. Streicher & Co. 
 
"I think today’s move is sustainable: The company is profitable, unlike some of its competitors, and it is a way for traders to tap into the Chinese growth story."
Phones 4U
September 20, 2014, 11:02am
Vodafone announced yesterday that it is buying 140 Phones 4U outlets - a move that will save 887 jobs as the troubled retailer enters administration.
 
Earlier this week, Phones 4U closed its 550 standalone stores after EE became the last mobile operator to terminate its sales through the stores. 
 
PwC, the company overseeing administration, rejected a proposal by owners of £430m worth of Phones 4U bonds to swap their debt for shares in the business – they hoped that this would enable the company to keep trading. 
 
Vodafone's purchase will increase the number of its stores in the UK to 520, advancing its plan to increase sales through its own branches. It said it had no plan to cut jobs in the stores it is taking over. 
 
Dixons Carphone is another company taking on Phones 4U staff who would otherwise be made redundant. The mobile and electrical goods retailer has agreed to take on up to 800 staff across 160 outlets. 
 
"We have worked rapidly over the course of the week following our appointment to explore interest in the Phones 4u business and we are very pleased to secure a future for a significant number of stores and continued employment for 887 of the Phones 4u people,” said Rob Hunt, who is involved in the administration process at PwC.
 
“While this deal remains subject to the approval of the UK courts, we are confident that this represents the best available transaction for the company's creditors."
 
Vodafone has not confirmed the location of the stores it has agreed to buy, nor how much it paid for them. Before it can announce these details the deal must be approved by court. 
 
Although a large number of employees in the Phones 4U outlets are being taken on, 628 workers at the headquarters in Newcastle-under-Lyne are set to be made redundant. The administrators said this was because of the "need to cut costs in the business.”

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