Live Blog

Vince McMahon
April 1, 2015, 11:11pm

Sunday’s Wrestlemania 31 was the biggest event in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) history, the organisation announced today.

More than 1.3m people watched Seth Rollins dramatically win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the WWE Network online subscription service, making it the most-watched annual Wrestlemania event in the organisation’s history.
 
Wrestlemania, the biggest event on the wrestling calendar, attracted a record 76,976 fans to the Levi’s Stadium for this year’s event - the highest attendance the event has seen.
 
According to WWE, over 10 worldwide no.1 Twitter trends were inspired by Wrestlemania while WWE-related online content picked up 60m views on the day of the event.
 
Across the weekend, WWE also generated $3.3m (£2.23m) in merchandise revenue, topping the previous record set in 2013 of $2.7m.
 
Viewer figures are expected to swell even further with data from pay-per-view TV sales still to come.
 
Investors have doubted WWE’s decision to focus on an over-the-top subscription service which is made available to fans for $9.99 a month (or £9.99 in the UK) over more expensive pay-per-view TV packages.
 
Wrestlemania 28, the most-watched Wrestlemania before this year’s extravaganza, raised $67m in pay-per-view sales. 
 
In 2014 - the first year of the WWE Network - the company fell to a net loss of $30m driven by a 62 per cent drop in pay-per-view sales in the third quarter.
 
WWE will hope the massive uptake for Wrestlemania will boost investor confidence. The night following Wrestlemania 31, WWE show Monday Night Raw recorded its highest audience in three years with 5.4m viewers.
 
Wayne Hemingway
April 1, 2015, 10:21pm

Labour has responded to a pro-Conservative endorsement signed by 100 business leaders with their own letter of support from what it claims is a true section of British society.

The pro-Labour letter was signed by a mixed group including up to 50 low-paid workers on zero-hours contracts and creative industry workers such as designer Wayne Hemingway or advertising director Trevor Beattie.

It argues that the "proliferation of zero hour contracts" is a sign of the Troy government's failed economic plan. It comes after Labour leader Ed Miliband made passing a law to tackle zero-hours contracts a key policy in his election campaign.

 

 

The pro-Labour letter, which will be published in the Daily Mirror tomorrow, states:

A symbol of the failure of this Government's economic plan is the proliferation of zero hour contracts which has helped fuel the low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people and letting down Britain.

Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.

The Daily Telegraph today published a letter co-signed by 103 business leaders including 30 FTSE 350 companies, backing the Tory government for its pro-business policies.

Companies represented on the Telegraph's "unprecedented" letter include Bloomberg, Dixons Carphone, Iceland, Ladbrokes, Ted Baker, Marston's, Greene King and Asos.

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said the letter had been "concocted and organised by the Conservative party" while chancellor George Osborne said the letter was a "roll call of British economic success, innovation and job creation".

Rangers
April 1, 2015, 8:30pm

British football's most turbulent club Rangers released their financial results yesterday, and predictably there were new revelations to discuss and more facts to depress fans.

The future is looking slightly more rosy with a more popular board at the helm, but there remains an awful lot of fixing up to do if Rangers are going to return to the pinnacle of Scottish football and beyond. Here's the four most important facts from Rangers International Football Club's interim results.

1. The club remains in desperate need of funding

In one sense, there were lots of positives to take from Rangers' most recent accounts. The club's operating loss for the six-month period ended 31 December 2014 fell by £800,000 while costs were brought down by just under £1m and revenues remained relatively stable at £13m.

And yet, the message from interim chairman Paul Murray was clear: "The mismanagement of the club in recent years has been simply staggering". Murray and directors John Gilligan, Douglas Park and John Bennett took over on the club's board, usurping the previous regime at an EGM at the beginning of last month. 

Included in the interim statement published yesterday is a statement from independent reporting accountants casting doubt "about the company's ability to continue as a going concern". The cash balances at the end of period stood at £3.3m - but £3.2m of that relates to Rangers Retail - tied into a joint venture with Sports Direct - and remains unavailable as working capital for the football club.

The current board has made the identification of working capital a "priority" and are currently exploring a number of options for potential investors.

And on top of everything else, the company is facing the prospect of being delisted from the AIM market after its nominated adviser WH Ireland resigned with immediate effect on 4 March. The club is still searching for a replacement.

2. Alienation of the fans had a damaging effect on finances

The previous board's stewardship of the club proved incredibly unpopular with fans, who objected to lucrative contracts enjoyed by directors such as Derek Llambias and Barry Leach. 

Not only did fans stage visible protests against the previous board, but the disaffection which led to many shirking season ticket sales leading to lower attendances and a £0.7m drop in ticketing revenue. That contributed to an overall £0.1m drop in revenue.

3. Mike Ashley could still take £0.5m from the club

Perhaps more unpopular than any other figure amongst Rangers fans, however, is Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley. The notorious Sports Direct founder still owns a 9.2 per cent stake in the club, despite the removal of allies such as Llambias from the board.

Not only does Ashley wield control over Rangers Retail, he could also be in line for a £500,000 windfall from the club thanks to five Newcastle players loaned to Rangers in the January transfer window. Should Rangers win promotion to the Scottish Premiership - they must pay Newcastle £500,000 for the loans of Gael Bigirimana, Haris Vuckic, Kevin Mbabu, Remie Streefe and Shane Ferguson. Only Vuckic has played in the league so far.

4. Fans and board must work together to reach 2022 goal

Outlined in the board's interim statement is a "2022 vision" which aims to take Rangers back to "the very top" within the next seven years.

Such is the size of Rangers' fan base that the goal is possible - even in spite of the precarious financial difficulties it currently faces - yet the support of that fanbase will be essential if the current board is to achieve success. 

Murray says in his statement: "Achieving this [2022 vision] will be impossible if our fans do not buy into that vision. Buying season books and match-day tickets is not just about today, it is also very much about where we want to be in a year, five years, ten years and beyond".

As evidenced in the financial results, a clash of philosophies between board and fans will hold the club back from future progress. The two parties must work together.

GoDaddy
April 1, 2015, 4:59pm

Web hosting company GoDaddy saw its share price rise by 34 per cent on its first day on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the company at well over $5.5bn (£3.71bn).

GoDaddy raised $460m from its IPO, having sold its complete offering of 23m class A shares at a price of $20 per share - higher than the expected range of $17 - $19 per share.
 
Under the ticker symbol “GDDY”, shares in the company reached a zenith of $26.80 per share after its first hour of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, before settling at a price around $26.13 per share.
 
One of the world’s largest internet domain registrars, GoDaddy has around 13m customers and 4,000 employees. The company generated $1.4bn in revenue in 2014 but succumbed to net losses of $143m.
 
The underwriters for the IPO included Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Securities, Citigroup and Barclays.
 
In its IPO filing to the securities and exchange commission, GoDaddy defines itself as the world’s largest domain marketplace:
We are a leading technology provider to small businesses, web design professionals and individuals, delivering simple, easy to use cloud-based products and outcome-driven, personalized Customer Care. We operate the world’s largest domain marketplace, where our customers can find that unique piece of digital real estate that perfectly matches their idea. We provide website building, hosting and security tools to help customers easily construct and protect their online presence and tackle the rapidly changing technology landscape. As our customers grow, we provide applications that help them connect to their customers, manage and grow their businesses and get found online.
BT
April 1, 2015, 4:53pm

The date has been set for BT shareholders to approve the £12.5bn acquisition of mobile network EE. 

Shareholders are being invited to a general meeting at Old Billingsgate on April 30, at 10am. Circulars are currently being sent out to relevant parties. 
 
Proxy forms are due by April 28 for those not attending the meeting in person. 
 
A simple majority is all that is requred for the takeover, revealed at the start of February, to go ahead, although it is still subject to heavy scrutiny from the Competitions and Markets Authority. 
 
The deal, which will give BT access to EE’s 31m customers and the largest 4G network in Europe, will be paid in a combination of cash and ordinary BT shares, issued to both Deutsche Telekom (DT) and Orange. 
 
If the deal goes ahead DT will own 12 per cent of BT, making it the largest single shareholder, and will be permitted to appoint one non-executive member of the BT board of directors. Orange will hold a four per cent stake. 
 
Today BT also confirmed that Phil Hodkinson will step down from the board at the end of next January, marking 10 years as a non-executive director. 
 
Hodkinson has most recently been chairman of the equality of access board since January 2012, having also spent five years as chair of BT's audit and risk committee and subsequently chair of the group's pensions committee. 
 
BT chairman Sir Mike Rake praised him as “a great asset to the board”. 
 
"We have particularly valued his experience in the financial sector as well as socially responsible business practice,” Rake added. "I would like to thank Phil for his valuable contribution over his time with us.”
 
Isabel Hudson will take on both his roles as chair of the equality of access board and the pensions committee with effect from February 1, 2016.
Birthday cakes with candles
April 1, 2015, 4:23pm

The city is always changing, but 50 years ago, London underwent one of its greatest changes in the modern era, as the 32 boroughs we know and love (or hate, perhaps) today were formed.

Back in 1963, there were around 700,000 fewer people in London than there are today. But they knew what was coming - a huge surge in the city's population and increasing urban sprawl.

The Local Government Act, brought in that year, ushered in new plans for the existing 28 Metropolitan boroughs and other areas now considered as part of London, to be redrawn into 32 new boroughs spanning further than ever before and renamed Greater London. 

Originally there had been proposals for 52 boroughs, but that was eventually narrowed down to 32, in addition to the City of London, and today they celebrate their Golden Anniversary.

It wasn't just a name change, but a fundamental overhaul of the way the city was governed, handing control of many local amenities to those living in the area.

Here's how the former areas combined to create the London boroughs of today.

Kingsway fire
April 1, 2015, 3:54pm

More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from offices near Holborn after a cable fire erupted under the pavement on Kingsway. 

Around 70 firefighters have attended the electrical fire which forced the cancellation of a number of West End shows.

Police have declared it "a major incident". Kingsway has been closed at both ends and motorists have been told to find alternative routes. 

The Royal Courts of Justice and parts of the London School of Economics are among the buildings to have been evacuated. Both Temple and Holborn Tube Station were shut, but have since been reopened. 
 
But the fire crews are waiting for utility companies to disconnect the power supplies before they are able to start tackling the blaze. As of 4pm, LFB said it was still trying to identify the source of the fire. 
 


Crowds forming by the police cordon (Source: Getty)


Police and firefighters were on the scene. Luckily no one has been injured (Source: Getty)

 


The fire was coming from underground, but fire crews were unclear of the cause (Source: Getty)

 
The alarm was raised this afternoon after smoke was seen coming out of an inspection cover on the pavement. No injuries have been reported.
 
 
 
 
Some social media users posted images of the scene - plenty of smoke, but also definitely flames coming from manholes - while others explained why no work was being done:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It may have ruined Wednesday afternoon work (goshdarnit) but it has helped enhance the atmosphere of local eateries. 
 
 
More follows... 
 
April 1, 2015, 3:49pm

The mystery of this morning's decision to suspend trading in Quindell shares has been solved, after the troubled insurance claims processor admitted it had understated the amount its professional services division contributed to the company, to the tune of £13.5m. 

Shares were restored this afternoon after the company posted a statement several hours after its shares were suspended on Aim and the London Stock Exchange took the unusual step of cancelling trades on 403,512 of its shares.

The company said it had made mistakes in a circular sent to shareholders following the £637m sale of the division to law firm Slater & Gordon, agreed earlier this week. 

According to Quindell, the circular originally stated that the division contributed £82.5m to the company in the year to the end of 2013, generating profits before tax of £113.4m.But today it said there was a "failure to fully transcribe profits related to entities forming part of the disposal ... (predominantly in respect of iSaaS Technology Limited and Intelligent Claims Management Limited, entities previously included within the company's 'Digital Solutions' division in historic financial information)".

During the financial year ended 31 December 2013, the profits before tax generated by the Professional Services Division contributed in aggregate £96,000,0001 to the Group.  During the six months ended 30 June 2014, the profits before tax generated by the Professional Services Division contributed in aggregate £130,700,000 2.

Quindell's share price jumped 30 per cent when the sale of its professional services division, which accounts for 90 per cent of the group, was announced on Monday.
 
At the time, interim non-executive chairman David Currie said it was an "important landmark" for the company.
 
"Should the transaction complete, I will feel proud to leave behind an exciting technology business set for substantial growth and success in the coming years," he said.
General Motors
April 1, 2015, 3:35pm
US car manufacturers General Motors (GM) and Ford reported a drop in US car sales in March as consumer demand hit the brakes.
 
GM’s share price has been dipped slightly on reaction to the news, falling by almost two per cent to around $36.80 per share. Shares in Ford dropped by around 1.5 per cent to $15.89 per share
 
American sales in March dropped by 2.4 per cent at to 249,875 at GM which owns the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick brands. Year-on-year revenues have been on the up in recent quarterly results at GM, contributing to its decision to announce a 20 per cent increase to its dividend last month.
 
A slightly more severe fall was felt at Ford where sales fell from 3.4 per cent to 235,929.
 
GM was keen to point to strong Chevrolet and GMC truck sales which it said were at their highest level since March 2007 and up 14 per cent year on year.
 
Kurt McNeil, the company’s US vice president of sales operations said:
 
As the economy gained steam throughout 2014, we knew 2015 would be a strong year for trucks.
 
Higher demand dovetailed perfectly with the launches of our new full-size pickups and large SUVs. Low fuel prices and the successful launches of the Chevrolet Colorado and Trax made us even more bullish. 
 
Our foresight and disciplined approach to incentives is being rewarded with very strong truck sales and record average transaction prices.

Atomic weapon
April 1, 2015, 3:15pm

Today, world leaders are hoping to finally come to an agreement over Iran's nuclear programme. 

Representatives for the UK, US, China, Russia and Germany have met with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland, to try and persuade it to curb its nuclear enrichment programme in return for an easing of economic sanctions. 
 
Iran has been accused of trying to build a nuclear weapon, but denies this and says everything it's doing is for civilian purposes. 
 
The issue has been ongoing for a long time – attention was first drawn to it in 2003 by an inflammatory report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and a number of deadlines for an agreement were missed last year. This time was no different – the official deadline was yesterday, but the talks have been pushed into today. 
 
The main framework of the plan is to get Iran's enrichment low enough that it would take more than a year for the country to build a weapon, and earlier today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "one can say with relative certainty that we at the minister level have reached an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement of this issue". He has now left the talks.
 
So what exactly is Iran doing to make the rest of the world so wary of its nuclear activities? Here's a breakdown

Highly enriched uranium 

Enriched uranium is used by many countries for civilian purposes, such as producing energy and electricity. For these harmless useless, enrichment tends to take place at 3.5 per cent. 
 
But if it is concentrated enough, it can be taken to the next level and used to create a nuclear bomb. That's why it caused alarm when Iran was discovered to be holding onto a stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium, which is considered very close to weapons-grade.
 
Some headway has been made with this in negotiations – last summer, Iran agreed to dilute its highly enriched uranium to five per cent. However, this is still above the average and considered by many as unnecessary for civilian use. 

Too many centrifuges

Iran has around 18,000 centrifuges, 10,000 of which are currently spinning. This is a very large number – much larger than in most countries – and other nations are trying to persuade Iran to bring the number down to 6,000.  
 
Centrifuges are dangerous because they are essentially the building blocks for creating nuclear weapons. The tube-shaped machines are able to convert natural uranium into a highly enriched version using a centrifugal force. 

Secret sites

Although these by their very nature are not known about, it is thought that Iran could be developing nuclear weapons at secret sites. 
 
IAEA inspectors have access to all of Iran's declared nuclear facilities, but they are fighting for more – they want to be able to travel throughout the country and have access to any facility they want. This is one of the main points being discussed at the talks. 
 
There are definite grounds for suspicion – Iran has by no means always revealed its nuclear sites to inspectors, and some of the sites known about today were previously kept secret. 

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