Live Blog

Ebola
October 25, 2014, 1:58pm
There have been over 10,000 cases of the Ebola outbreak and nearly 5,000 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed in its latest situation report update.
 
The total death toll from the latest outbreak has risen to 4,922 while the number of recorded cases stands at 10,141.
 
All but 27 of those cases have struck in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the latter of which is the worst affected with 1,281 deaths from 3,896 cases.
 
The latest WHO report marks a 3,878 rise in worldwide cases and a 1,789 rise in deaths on last month’s records.
 
In total, the virus has been reported in eight countries. Outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal have been declared officially over by the WHO.
 


(Source: 
World Health Organization)

 
On Thursday Mali recorded its first case of the disease, a two-year-old girl who died yesterday. She had travelled to the country with her grandmother from Guinea.
 
The WHO report also made reference to the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York, taking the United States’ total number of cases to four.
 
Doctor Craig Spencer, who tested positive for the disease after returning from Guinea, had used the New York subway and taxi app Uber before being diagnosed.
 
In more positive news, Spain looks to be on the path to being declared free of the disease after its single case tested negative for a second time.
 
EU budget
October 25, 2014, 12:45pm
David Cameron appeared as shocked as the rest of us by the news that the European Commission has charged the UK with a whopping €2.1bn (£1.7bn) bill.
 
The EU Commission is demanding the UK make the extra contribution to the EU budget due to the relative health of the country’s economy in comparison to the rest of its member states.
 
Yesterday David Cameron was scathing in his criticism of the EU Commission's conduct. He insisted he “won’t be paying” a bill he described as “not acceptable”. 
 
Not only is the UK being asked to stump up more cash than any other nation, but other large EU economies such as France and Germany will be the beneficiaries, receiving rebates of €1bn and €779m respectively.
 
The map below shows the biggest winners and losers in the EU Commission’s recalculated budget contributions. Minus figures indicate those countries tasked with additional payments, positive indicates a rebate.

 
He said:
 
It’s a €2bn bill. It gets presented with a month to go. That is not an acceptable way to behave and it’s not an acceptable sum of money.
 
I am not paying that bill on December 1. If people think I am, they have got another think coming.
 
The UK has been asked to put more back into the EU budget than every other country tasked with doing so put together. Eight other countries, including Ireland, Italy and Greece, have been commanded to hand over €1.1bn collectively.
 
 
Cameron’s stern stance is unsurprisingly being backed by the Netherlands and Italy. Speaking at the end of a two day European Council meeting, Cameron quoted Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi as saying: “This is not a figure, this is a lethal weapon”.
 
However, perhaps equally predictable is the response in favour of the recalculations from beneficiaries such as Germany. The Times has reported that German chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday told leaders to play by the EU Commission’s rules.
 
 
The money paid by the UK and others will go towards those adjudged to have paid too much, with France in line for the biggest bonus.
 
The EU Commission determines budget contributions based on the size of a country’s gross national income (GNI) compared to the size of their economy.
 
It is believed the demand for increased UK payments stems from the £74bn that was added to its GNI in 2013, following the ONS’ decision to bring their calculations in line with Eurostat.
 
With Cameron incensed and refusing to pay the bill, it remains possible the EU Commission could lower their demands before 1 December. The commission’s letter to the member states says it will inform them of the final, confirmed amounts in November.

 

Alan Eustace
October 25, 2014, 10:39am
A 57-year-old Google executive has broken the world altitude record with a parachute jump from the top of the stratosphere.
 
Alan Eustace, a senior-vice president at Google, beat the 2012 record set by daredevil Felix Baumgartner with a jump from 135,000 feet over Roswell, New Mexico.
 
After making a two hour ascent attached to a balloon travelling at speeds of 1,600 feet per minute, Eustace took just 15 minutes to come back down to Earth. 
 
After being catapulted off the balloon by a small explosion, he was in freefall for around five minutes. Eustace reached speeds of 822 miles per hour, setting off a sonic boom, before unleashing his parachute at 18,000 feet.
 
 
The New York Times quoted Eustace as saying:
 
It was amazing. It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere which I had never seen before.
 
It was a wild, wild ride. I hugged on to the equipment module and tucked my legs and I held my heading.
 
According to the paper, Eustace had declined support from his company as he did not want his mission to become a marketing event.
 
Instead plans to make the record-breaking jump were kept largely under wraps as the Google vice-president worked with the Paragon Space Development Corporation to make his vision a reality.
 
Two years ago, Austrian Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet in a Red Bull-sponsored multi-million dollar project which raised the profile for the energy drink brand.

 

Mike Ashley
October 25, 2014, 9:22am
Glasgow Rangers' share price tumbled this afternoon on the news that director Philip Nash quit, three weeks after Mike Ashley called for his removal. 
 
Nash, who had prior stints as finance chief of both Liverpool and Arsenal, was brought in at the start of the year to help improve the club's standing after it had suffered a period of money troubles. 
 
Rangers entered administration in February 2012 before going into liquidation later that year, resurfacing in the third division of the Scottish League.
 
Ashley, who is also the founder of Sports Direct and owner of Newcastle United, bumped up his existing holding to 8.29 per cent stake in early October, simultaneously calling for the heads of Nash and chief executive Graham Wallace.
 
The board said at the time it was “united in its support of the executive team”. 
 
In its announcement today, it said Nash had resigned with immediate effect, adding: 
 
The board would like to thank Mr Nash for his significant contribution to the company during what has been a particularly challenging period.
 
Rangers, which is registered as Rangers International Football Club, saw its share price fall 2.4 per cent today. 
 
London Mining
October 24, 2014, 5:42pm
 London Mining, which entered administration last week, has sold its Marampa mine to Timis Corporation. 
 
The sale, which is expected to be completed “by the end of this week”, will include the transfer of the full workforce “provind stability for the economy of Sierra Leone”, the administrator said on Friday afternoon. 
 
 
No financials were disclosed on the deal. 
 
Timis chairman Frank Timis said:  "I am delighted that, assuming successful conclusion of this process over the coming week, it is expected that the Marampa Mine will continue to be a major source of employment and government revenue in Sierra Leone, and avoids the closure of such an important asset for the local and national community.
 
He added:  "I look forward to working with the workforce of Marampa, who have done such a phenomenal job against very difficult circumstances. We now intend to enter negotiations with African Minerals Limited and its infrastructure company African Railway and Port Services which, if successful, will unlock the synergies between these assets, for the long term good of all stakeholders."
 
 
edreams
October 24, 2014, 5:32pm

Shares in travel website eDreams Odigeo have been suspended from trading by a Spanish regulator after they plummeted 59.1 per cent in a single day.

The company, which is based in Barcelona, listed just six months ago at €10.25, but plummeted to €1.023 today before the regulator called a halt to trading.

The fall came after Iberia Airlines, part of International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways, said it would stop selling its tickets through the site. The airline alleged that eDreams had breached European law by "not fulfilling its obligations to transparently report total ticket prices to clients from the start of the booking process", according to Bloomberg.

The website has become something of a nightmare for investors almost since its listing in April: shares fell rapidly after it IPOd in April. In June, it said that because of changes to the way Google's algorithm worked, its 2015 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation would be "difficult to discern".

eDreams was advised on its IPO by JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank, as well as London-based investment bank STJ advisors, which also advised Card Factory and Saga on their recent listing.

Tesco empire
October 24, 2014, 5:18pm
What a week. From troubles at Tesco (not least its share price) to Facebook's UK tax bill, we've had a busy front on company news.
 
And when it came to international goings-on, the EU really kept us on our toes, while Ebola continued to dominate the news. Here we digest the top 10 stories over the past seven days... 
 
1. The EU wants more from the UK.
£1.7bn more to be precise. The demand could not come at a worse time for David Cameron, who is already facing a challenge in fending off the Eurosceptics. He called an emergency meeting to voice his objection at the announcement. Then he said we “wouldn't be paying it”. We look forward to hearing what happens if we don't.
 
2. Listening to James Blunt and Coldplay will make your in-flight meal taste better.
At least that is what British Airways is banking on with its new “Sound Bite” initiative, pairing music with food as part of its ongoing efforts to improve the taste of your dinner at 35,000 feet. Scottish music will enhance your smoked salmon, apparently, while a roast dinner can be set off particularly well with Debussy's Clair de Lune. 
 
3. UK immigration isn't as bad as some people think. 
Levels are high, but only slightly above average, and far less than 10 other countries in the EU. Once you take into account net migration, the score is relatively low. Here are five charts that show why the current status quo is good for the economy, and why immigrants really aren't stealing British jobs
 
4. Ebola keeps spreading – but so does the race to develop cures.
Three companies – GlaxoSmithKline, NewLink and Johnson & Johnson – are trying to get their vaccine developed as soon as possible and it is thought a serem could be used to treat patients in Liberia within weeks. Hopefully that will reassure people in New York, where a doctor tested positive for the disease
  
5. We learned lots of things about Tesco this week. 
 
6. Facebook paid less UK corporate tax than the cost of a London travelcard
The social media giant's tax bill for 2013 came in at £3,169 thanks to the use of the loophole known as the “Double Irish”. As well as the travelcard (zones one-to-nine) that figure was also less than a night in the third-best suite at London's Mandarin Oriental hotel and a return business class flight to New York. Oh, and it's half the average Londoner's income tax bill. Don't believe us? See how the costs compare
 
7. Amazon registered its biggest one-day decline in at least a decade.
The etail behemoth had posted disappointing third quarter results and revealed a $170m write-down, primarily as a result of its struggling Fire Phone. Billed as the “iPhone killer”, its customers seem to view it as a particularly ineffective executioner, receiving just a two-star rating on...er... Amazon.com
 
8. City workers face “Cinderalla curfews”
 
9. Pay rises will finally beat inflation next year
 
10. The UK is probably going to miss its budget deficit target for next year.
The deficit actually rose year-on-year to £7.65bn. The government had pledged to eliminate it completely by 2015. That's not looking likely now... 
 
Michael O'Leary
October 24, 2014, 5:14pm
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary might wind up some of his customers, but the board clearly love what he's doing for the budget airline. 
 
O'Leary – whose quotes include comparing the BA/Iberia merger to a pair of drunks leaning on each other and once admitted that passengers are “bombarded” with offers the minute they look like they're about to sleep – has just signed a new five-year contract with the airline. 
 
The new agreement commits him to the company until September 2019 and replaces the 12-month rolling contract, which he has been working under since 1997.
 
O'Leary has also been granted options on more than five million ordinary shares, which on today's share price would be worth more than £3.6m. 
 
These options will only vest if the airline delivers “exceptional performance targets” over the next five years, which have been set by the remuneration committee. 
 
Those targets include growing traffic by 50 per cent, from 81 million customers last year to more than 120 million customers in 2019. 
 
O'Leary has been chief executive since the Irish airline floated on the Nasdaq in 1997, when it had three million customers.  
 
Ryanair's share price was down 1.2 per cent this afternoon. 
October 24, 2014, 4:51pm

Yesterday, the Hailo taxi app had its day in the sun unveiling two new features; Pay Hailo and Hailo Hub.

However, the shadow of the company's withdrawal from the US after failing to successfully take on rivals such as Uber and Lyft still looms large. Things looked good for Hailo when it began its US venture three years ago, with an investment from Union Square Ventures of $30m and plenty of buzz after its success in the UK.

As rival taxi app Uber continues to expand across the globe, why was this British startup forced to back out of the US? 

There may be several answers to Hailo's US plight. The first being that local knowledge is crucial in taxi markets and Hailo found it near impossible to replicate the success it had in London to New York.

New York's yellow cab drivers operate in a different environment to their black cab cousins in London. Fotune's Erin Griffith observes that New York's grid system is easier to learn than London's evolved cowpaths. With streets full of willing customers, few yellow cab drivers felt the need for Hailo's services.

Furthermore, while London cabbies equipped with smartphones are par for the course, this is less so in New York. Added to Hailo's woes was an increasingly competitive taxi market, with Uber being the dominant player. As a challenger brand, Hailo had to bring something to the table in terms of either price or service to make good in New York.

This failed to materialise, and Uber upped the ante with the introduction of its cheaper UberX service. Uber is able to offer cheaper prices because of strong volumes, which Hailo lacked.

To scroll past the map on a mobile, swipe down the right-hand side

Hailo operates in 20 cities, whereas Uber has a presence in 200. Hailo’s revenue in 2013 failed to breach $100m (£62m), and when it came to marketing, Hailo was way out its compared with its San Francisco counterpart. Ross Sleight, chief strategy officer at app developer Somo, writes:

We feel Uber won hands down. With Uber’s deep pockets and aggressive above the line campaign – all-over cab wraps, subway ads and highly tempting promotion codes – it swiftly owned the market with both customers and suppliers. The higher customer demand generated by marketing created more usage and more driver recruitment in a hyper growth virtuous circle. 

These may be sound reasons why Hailo failed to break into the US market, but it would still be fair to say even in the UK, Hailo has not mirrored Uber's success in the US. The reason may be that Uber and Hailo are playing very different roles in the fight for the future of urban transportation.

Uber Co-Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick said last year:

In the beginning, it was a lifestyle company. You push a button, and a black car comes up. Who’s the baller? It was a baller move to get a black car to arrive in 8 minutes.

Uber was offering cashless payments long before Hailo Pay, and it challenged taxi monopolies, rather than accommodating them with new technology. A focused strategy in Uber's early years based around targeting cities with a booming nightlife and intense weather had the effect of popularising Uber by word of mouth, even before any well-funded marketing campaigns.

The key difference between Uber and Hailo is that Uber looks to solve the problems of urban living, whereas Hailo, at the moment, appears to do little more than ameliorate them.

Diamond
October 24, 2014, 4:22pm
Petra Diamonds' share price lost its sparkle this afternoon after announcing it had sold its latest white diamond from the Cullinan mine at more than $15.2m (£9.4m). 
 
The 232.08 carat white diamond, which was recovered at the Cullinan mine in South Africa in September, was bought by multinational diamond company Diacore today for the equivalent of US$65,577 per carat. 
 
Petra's share price had dropped 1.5 per cent at pixel time.
 
Petra chief executive Johan Dippenaar said: “We are delighted to have achieved the sales result for this exceptional white stone, which is an  outstanding example of the very high quality, large diamonds produced at Cullinan.”
 
Never seen a £9.4m diamond before? Check out the images below to see what it looks like... 


Diamonds are forever
 

 


Forever...forever

 


Forever...... (Source: Petra)

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