Market Intelligence

Sources are acknowledged.  

 

March 2019

 

Arrests follow collapse of London Capital & Finance

The Serious Fraud Office has arrested four people over the collapse of London Capital & Finance. The company promised returns of 8% for its mini-bonds or ISAs but collapsed in January after taking £236m from more than 11,500 savers.

Financial Times

 

Softbank Acceleration Fund unveiled

Softbank will invest in early-stage startups, with the launch of a new global tech fund of up to $500m (£384.68m). The Softbank Acceleration Fund could be operational as early as next month. South Korea’s National Pension Service will also invest in the fund, alongside unnamed companies and asset managers.

City AM

 

Kensington: No-deal Brexit will ‘spark drop in lending and surge in arrears’

Data analysis by Kensington Mortgages has shown that a no-deal Brexit would lead to a 30% increase in mortgage arrears over the next three years and a 17% fall in mortgage lending over a five-year period. The firm used its proprietary risk modelling tool, Vector, to test a series of scenarios based on a representative data set of 750,000 loans (with an outstanding value of £97.2bn) across the UK mortgage lending market. Mark Arnold, CEO of Kensington Mortgages, stated: “Leaving the EU with no deal in place would, according to our model, see more homeowners struggle to make their monthly payments. Our expectation, however, would be that if we did end up exiting without a deal then the Bank of England would step in, as Mark Carney has hinted recently, and stabilise the market. Yet that would come at a cost to the taxpayer, with the public finances propping up homeowners at other people’s expense.”

Financial Reporter

 

BNY Mellon scraps home working

BNY Mellon plans to scrap a policy enabling UK employees to work from home, saying bringing an end to a flexible working policy that allows staff to work from home several days a week will ensure "better collaboration and quicker decision making". The Evening Standard says a number of staff have criticised the proposal, saying some have consulted conciliation service Acas, with several considering legal action over a breach of contract.

The Daily Telegraph

 

Esme Loans teams up with Microsoft to accelerate growth

Esme Loans has enlisted Microsoft to build a new cloud-based data warehouse, enabling the Patron to make faster and more targeted lending decisions and provide automated service assisted by artificial intelligence. Microsoft has entered into partnership with the digital lender to build a bespoke data warehouse – a centralised data repository held on an online server – which will allow Esme to improve its customer journey, simplify integration with third parties, and provide a faster end to end application process for customers. Esme will also use the technology to build an AI assisted chat bot on its website, helping answer common customer queries and assist with the application process at critical points.

Esme loans, Press Release

 

Unexpected rise in mortgage approvals

New figures have revealed an increase in the number of mortgage approvals from the start of the year. Almost 67,000 mortgages were given out to buyers in January, an unexpected rise of more than 2,000 compared with December’s figure. By value this amounts to £12.6bn of mortgage approvals, according to Bank of England data, the strongest start to any year since 2016.

The Daily Telegraph

 

HMRC admits it may be too late for loan charge

The deputy chief executive of HMRC has admitted that the taxman may not be able to chase contractors for the loan charge because if people had given HMRC complete and correct information about tax schemes and it had not been acted upon, "HMRC is out of time" to make further inquiries. Jim Harra told Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury committee, in a letter that even those who had provided HMRC with only some information might still be able to fight their case in a tribunal. The admission comes as dozens of MPs seek a delay to the loan charge pending a review. The charge will hit an estimated 50,000 contractors who used loan-based tax avoidance schemes, usually on the advice of accountants and employers.

The Sunday Times

 

February 2019

 

Wonga customers might need assistance

Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Treasury Select Committee, has said that the Government might have to step in and help Wonga customers who have been left seeking compensation after the collapse of the payday lender. Ms Morgan is seeking answers from Wonga’s administrator amid concerns that those who had complaints open at the time of the company’s collapse are being ignored.

BBC News

 

Hope springs for business banking competition

The Times’ Katherine Griffiths considers the wisdom of handing £280m to challenger banks Metro, Starling, Clear Bank and Tide to help boost small business lending. Royal Bank of Scotland is footing the bill as a state aid penalty from Brussels and Ms Griffiths says there is not enough transparency over how the winners were chosen. However, for the banks to be successful, she says, it will be key to offer better incentives such as accountancy and payroll services alongside advantages offered by open banking reforms and simplified processes.

The Times

 

Metro Bank to raise £350m as regulators probe accounting error

Metro Bank is fighting to contain the crisis caused by a misclassification of commercial loans last month, releasing its full-year results early in a bid to quell investor concern following the surprise announcement of a £350m cash call. Metro also revealed that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) are set to investigate the circumstances that led to the accountancy error. CEO Craig Donaldson said he had offered to resign, but gained the full support of the board, and has requested that his 2018 bonus be forgone.

Financial Times 

 

Together loan book reaches £3.25bn

Specialist lender Together has reported a 24.9% rise in average monthly loan originations to £171.7m in its quarterly results to 31st December 2018, compared with the previous year. Together announced a profit before tax of £31.2m, while the group’s loan book reached a new high of £3.25bn.

Bridging and Commercial

 

Surge in new bridging lenders

Brightone Law has found that a surge of short-term lenders have entered the bridging market over the last 12 months, up 50% on 2017. The Association of Short-Term Lenders says bridging lending amongst its members rose by 15% in 2018. Senior partner Jonathan Newman said: "So many of our clients were once those disruptor new boys on the block and now, are established, key players, leading brands and the benchmark for new entrants."

Mortgage Introducer

 

First-time home buyers soar but BTL purchases slump

The latest mortgage trends report from UK Finance reveals the number of first-time home buyers in the UK reached a 12-year high last year, but new buy-to-let (BTL) purchases fell sharply as tax and regulatory changes weighed on the sector. There was an 11.5% drop in BTL home purchases between 2017 and 2018 and the £9bn of new lending seen in the sector last year was 15% lower than the year before. Remortgage figures were much stronger, with a 25.3% year-on-year increase in new BTL remortgages to 12,400 recorded in December. Meanwhile, the first-time buyer market was buoyant, with 370,000 new first-time buyer mortgages completing last year, a 1.9% rise and the highest number since 2006.

P2P Finance News

 

Banking hubs can rescue the high street

MPs have suggested that dying high streets could be revitalised by creating “1970s-style banking hubs”. Housing several banks together in the same building would be cost effective, aid customers and help local business communities, the MPs said. They added that drastic action needed to be taken to prevent bank branch closures which are turning Britain’s high streets into “ghost towns”.

Daily Express

 

Property repossessions ‘lowest since 1980’

New figures have shown that the number of homes repossessed in the UK fell to its lowest level since 1980 last year. There were 4,580 homes repossessed by mortgage lenders from owners who were unable to keep up with repayments on their home loans. Low mortgage rates and a less aggressive attitude from lenders has meant low levels of repossession in recent years. The figures from UK Finance showed that the number of landlords falling behind on mortgage repayments was unchanged in the final quarter of last year compared with the same three months in 2017.

BBC News

 

House price rises slowest for five years

Official figures have revealed that house prices grew by 2.5% in the year to December, the lowest annual rise since July 2013 when there was 2.3% growth. The average home now costs under £231,000, according to the Office for National Statistics and the Land Registry. Price changes varied across the regions, falling in London by 0.6% and by 1% in the North East, but rising by more than 5% in the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Times

Banks closing thousands of ‘money mule’ accounts

MPs have heard how banks are closing tens of thousands of accounts a year in the UK as fraudsters use social media sites to lure young people into becoming “money mules”. Santander said it has closed about 24,000 accounts a year on suspicion of fraud, with 11,000 of those suspected money mule cases – where fraudsters use genuine accounts to process illegal payments linked to terrorism, money laundering and other economic crimes. Susan Allen, the head of retail business banking at Santander UK, said that people often did not understand the potential consequences of being a money mule, including difficulty in opening bank accounts and obtaining mortgages, other loans and credit cards, and potentially prison sentences. Nationwide added that it had closed about 12,000 accounts a year due to fraud.

The Guardian

 

Cash machines closing at record rate

Cash points are closing at a rate of 16 per day, the fastest ever recorded, according to a new study. Figures from the consumer group Which? show cash machines disappeared at a rate of 488 per month between June and December last year. Over the six months, 2,962 cash points were taken out of service, representing a 4.6% decline in the overall network of 63,152. The Federation of Small Businesses and Which? are today launching a campaign calling for a dedicated regulator to be put in place to ensure companies and shoppers who rely on cash are not left behind. FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "The rapid pace of bank branch and cashpoint closures is hurting small businesses all over the UK. Millions of small firms have customers who want to pay using notes and coins. The vast majority of shoppers either use cash frequently or want to see access to it maintained.”

The Daily Telegraph

 

Whistle-blower raises concerns over Lloyds

The Mail reports that a whistle-blower has claimed that Lloyds Bank conspired with partner companies to destroy small businesses in the wake of the financial crisis so their assets could be sold off to shore up their own balance sheets. According to previously unpublished documents, a turnaround business called Baronsmead allegedly conspired with Lloyds to push firms into administration even when they could be saved. The Financial Conduct Authority has now interviewed the whistle-blower and evidence has been passed on to the National Crime Agency.

Daily Mail

 

UK’s fintech hit record levels last year

Venture capital and private equity investment in British fintech hit an all-time high of $3.3bn (£2.6bn) in 2018, according to data from Innovate Finance, 18% higher than in 2017. Growth capital from private equity players rose 57% to $1.6bn, suggesting that the UK’s startup scene is quickly becoming a scale-up industry. London performed well ahead of its European counterparts - taking in almost five times Germany’s $716m for fintech investment last year. Global venture capital investment in fintech in 2018 reached a record $36.6bn, a jump of 148% from 2017 and up 329% over five years.

City AM

 

 

Mortgages dominate bank lending

The Standard’s Anthony Hilton says the steady increase in mortgage lending by banks over 30 years has coincided with a decline in business lending. He notes that before deregulation, banks were the capital market for business and accounted for most of the loans. Now they are leaders of housing finance, their balance sheet is some 70% mortgages and only perhaps 15% (and some say 10%) of business loans, he adds.

Evening Standard

 

KPMG closes small business service

KPMG has announced it is withdrawing its small business accounting (SBA) service in the UK.

Economia

 

London and South East lead on productivity

London and several areas in the South East continued to outperform the UK in terms of productivity in 2017. Workers in the capital are the most productive in the UK, creating 50% more output per hour than the UK average, according to figures from the ONS. Those in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire came joint second in the UK, 14% above the national average. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was the least productive region, at 32% below average.

The Daily Telegraph

 

London top for office investment

A study from Knight Frank reveals that London has kept its crown as the world’s top destination for property investment. Buyers spent £16.2bn on offices in the capital in 2018, compared with £14.3bn invested in Manhattan, £12.1bn in Paris and £8.4bn in Hong Kong. Capital from the Far East accounted for nearly half (47%) of all investment in central London offices.

Evening Standard

 

 

TSB suffers £105m loss

TSB has reported a loss of £105.4m last year, down from a profit of £162.7m the previous year. The loss was pinned on the bank’s disastrous IT upgrade which resulted in £330.2m in costs, which would be partly be offset by £153m that TSB said it expected to recoup from computer provider Sabis. Some 80,000 customers switched their bank account away from TSB in 2018, 30,000 more than in 2017. The bank added that customer deposits fell by 4.7% to £29.1bn last year, which the bank said was due to planned changes in savings products. Customer lending also decreased by 2.7% to £30bn. TSB’s executive chairman Richard Meddings commented: “Last year was TSB’s most challenging year. But we enter 2019 with renewed ambition to re-emerge as the leading challenger bank in the UK - firmly on the side of the customer.”

Financial Times

 

Are bridging lenders looking at expanding overseas?

Bridging & Commercial gathers opinion on whether lenders are considering expanding internationally. Paul McFadyen, managing director at Glenhawk, said that his firm was focused on growing its offering in the UK, but added: “We have senior members of the team with experience specifically in the US, so this would naturally be an area of interest to us.” Jack Coombs, director at Aspen Bridging, suggests that it may take some time for firms to expand overseas. He explains: “I think that the UK market is sufficient for now. International diversification requires a model of business which can be applied easily. Technology is the only answer and most firms are nowhere near having that capacity.”

 

Bridging and Commercial

Bridging finance will remain strong despite Brexit

MT Finance’s Gareth Lewis has said that demand for bridging finance will remain strong and it will continue to provide support for property investors despite the continued uncertainty generated by Brexit. Mr Lewis said: “With Brexit still uncertain, the first quarter’s data will be interesting reading, but I expect demand for bridging finance will remain strong and the product will provide vital support for property investors.” Phil Jay, director at Complete FS, added that data has shown that the sector is resilient. “Although the bridging market will not be immune to the shockwaves surrounding Brexit, the industry is fortunate to have a broad base of lenders that can currently more than compensate for any likely loss of liquidity, if funding tightens,” he states.

Bridging Directory

 

Borrowers turning to longer-term fixed rates

Yorkshire Building Society reports that an increasing number of borrowers are choosing to fix their mortgages for five years or more, 44% up in December 2018 on an annual basis. Janice Barber, mortgage manager at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “While homebuyers’ reluctance to purchase a house during these uncertain times is cooling the housing market, borrowers are rushing to secure new deals that will see them through Brexit and beyond.”

Financial Reporter

 

Number of first-time mortgages on the rise

The government’s annual English Housing Survey has showed that the number of people taking out mortgages grew for the first time in a decade last year while the private rental sector stalled. After ten years of decline, the number of mortgages issued to households rose by 5% to 6.9m. Lindsay Judge, of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “This rise is being driven by factors including improving credit conditions and the growing importance of the bank of mum and dad.”

The Times

 

Metro Bank acknowledges accounting flaw

Metro Bank has admitted that the Prudential Regulation Authority found a flaw in its accounts last week despite previously insisting that it spotted the error. Its shares fell by 40% last week after the bank said it had identified the misclassification of a large number of commercial loans when calculating risk-weighted assets following a year-end review. However, the bank said yesterday that the PRA had “helped to identify potential inconsistencies in certain loans”.

The Daily Telegraph

 

House price growth at near six-year low

UK house prices grew at the slowest annual rate for nearly six years in January, according to the Nationwide, with prices up by just 0.1% from a year earlier, and down from a rate of 0.5% in December. However, month on month prices grew 0.3% at the start of 2019 compared to a 0.7% slip between November and December. The average property price is now £211,966, just £210 more than a year ago.

BBC News

 

January 2019

 

Corporation tax cuts to cost billions a year

HMRC has calculated that plans to cut corporation tax rates will cost the public finances £6.2bn a year. The current rate of 19% is set to be reduced to 17% in April next year, costing the public purse £5.8bn in foregone revenues in 2020-21 and £6.2bn the following year, according to a “ready reckoner” published by HMRC. The Treasury argues: “Low corporation tax supports the economy by enabling companies to reinvest in their business, create jobs, and increase wages”, but opponents argue that the reduction will not make much difference to investment plans, and only serves to benefit businesses at a time when Whitehall departments and councils are struggling with funding cuts.

The Independent The Guardian Financial Times

 

Bankruptcies hit six-year high

New figures from the Insolvency Service show that the number of people going bust has jumped to at least a six-year high. Accountancy firm RSM believes the figures will show more than 109,000 insolvency cases took place across the whole of last year.

Daily Mirror

 

Libor has uncertain end

The Financial Conduct Authority has warned the endgame for Libor interest rates could be “uncertain” and urged banks and businesses to “rapidly” move to alternatives. Edwin Schooling-Latter, the FCA’s director of markets policy, commented: “One thing I cannot provide to you today is certainty about what the end-game for Libor will look like. That means uncertainty for those who continue to hold or write contracts that reference Libor.”

City AM

 

Santander to close one-fifth of UK branches

Santander is to close 20% of its UK branches, risking the loss of 1,270 jobs, due to "changes in how customers are choosing to carry out their banking". The number of transactions taking place in branches has fallen by 23% over the past three years, it said, while over the same period transactions online and through its app have grown by 99%. Following the closure of 140 branches, which will begin in April, the bank will have 614 in the UK.

The Times

 

Bridging lending remained resilient in 2018

Bridging loan volumes hit £766.9m in 2018, an increase of £232.8m on the previous year, data from Bridging Trends shows. The average monthly interest rate for bridging fell to 0.81%, only marginally down from the 0.83% average recorded in 2017. Unregulated bridging hit an average of 64% of all transactions in 2018, while regulated bridging business decreased to an average of 36% last year, down on the 46% recorded in 2017 and 44% in 2016. Lastly, the average completion time of a bridging finance application averaged 45 days in 2018, up from 43 days in 2017. G areth Lewis, commercial director at MT Finance, said: “Investor sentiment is resilient and investing in property to add value and improve returns was evidently a long-term trend throughout 2018. With Brexit still uncertain, the first quarter’s data will be interesting reading, but I expect demand for bridging finance will remain strong and the product will continue to provide vital support for property investors.”

Financial Reporter Bridging and Commercial

 

Secure Trust halts new mortgage lending

Secure Trust Bank says it is looking to stop taking on new residential mortgages in the face of stiff competition and a cooling housing market in Britain. "During the second half of 2018 market pressures and competition intensified as evidenced by increasing loan to value metrics and lower new net lending margins," said the company, which plans to pause new originations until “conditions improve”.

Daily Mail

 

RBS seeks to buy back shares

RBS is considering buying back shares from the government as it looks to deploy more capital and speed up its privatisation. The bank has tabled a special resolution seeking permission to make off-market share purchases from the Treasury through a "directed buy-back". Shareholders in the lender will vote on the proposal next month. At least 75% of shareholders must approve the plan. It would then be up to the Treasury to decide if it wants to sell some of its 62.3% stake to RBS. Chairman Howard Davies said: “The board believes that this is in the best interests of the bank and its shareholders by helping to facilitate the return of the company to full private ownership.”

The Times

Credit card borrowing plunges to record low

The Bank of England’s latest credit conditions survey has found that high street banks are forecasting that borrowing on credit cards will decline in the first quarter of 2019 by the most since records began. The BoE said its measure of demand for credit card lending over the three months to the end of March had dropped to -20.7 from -7.2. The survey on credit card lending will help to calm concerns about excessive borrowing, but economists said there was a risk of too sharp a reverse. Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, commented: “While the Bank has been keen to see the rate of consumer borrowing slowing, it will not want to see unsecured lending dry up as it will weigh down on economic activity. The Bank ideally wants to see a more sedate rate of borrowing, which has seemingly been happening up until November.”

The Guardian

 

Specialist lenders see flat demand as industry faces three big challenges

Business volumes were flat for specialist lenders in the last quarter of 2018, according to the latest CBI/PwC financial services survey, as demand for financial services fell. Profits in the financial services sector as a whole remained flat for a third successive quarter, with investment managers and general insurers reporting declining profitability. Looking to this year, declines are expected to continue at a similar pace over the quarter to March, which is the first time that growth expectations have turned negative since 2009. Overall profitability is also expected to fall for the first time in over three years.

P2P Finance News

 

Two-thirds of accountants refer clients to non-bank lenders

Sixty-six per cent of accountants are referring their clients to external lenders, as alternative finance options such as peer-to-peer lending become more mainstream, according to a new survey commissioned by MarketInvoice. Banks are still the most popular lenders among accountants, but 36.3% would first recommend an invoice finance provider to clients seeking loans, while 33.66% would suggest a business loan provider. “This research reveals that accountants are stepping up and advising their clients about funding opportunities,” said Tom Davenport, head of strategic partnerships at MarketInvoice. Additionally, we have observed that forward-looking strategic accountancy practices also have in-house business finance specialists advising clients on funding options.

P2P Finance News

 

Demand for financial services falls

The quarterly financial services survey by the CBI and PwC reveals that the sector saw volumes shrink in the last quarter of 2018 for the first time in five years. And for the first time since December 2009 growth expectations have turned negative amid concerns about a no-deal Brexit which could cost financial services firms access to EU markets. The survey of 84 firms indicated that business was "flat or falling" for banks, building societies and specialist lenders, but holding up among insurers.

The Times

 

Surge in start-ups defies economic uncertainty

Figures due to be released this week will show the number of companies being formed in Britain bounced back last year and while London was still by far the most popular place to form a business, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol saw sharp increases in new ventures. The total number of new businesses started in Britain increased by 5.2% to 645,774 last year - an annual record and a return to growth following a decline in 2017. “These figures demonstrate the resilience and confidence of entrepreneurs,” said Matt Smith, the director of the Centre for Entrepreneurs. “The achievement is especially noteworthy as contractor accounting firms . . . seem to have been replaced by genuine local business activity.” However, although the UK was ranked third by the OECD for start-ups, it fell to thirteenth in the world for scale-ups in 2017. An early-stage investor, Malcolm Evans, says: “Scale-ups, which are what matter, requir e changing the shape of the commercial world around you by showing precision and human flair. It’s quality over quantity.”

The Sunday Times

 

 

Challenger banks struggle to smash glass ceiling

The FT says post-financial crisis reform of UK retail banking has been modest, with claims of a "glass ceiling" that challenger banks struggle to grow beyond.

Financial Times

 

Clampdown on EIS tax breaks felt by investors

A change in the rules for tax-efficient investment schemes – barring low-risk investments in favour of innovative, growth-pursuing businesses – led to a 17% fall in schemes open to investment in November 2018.

Financial Times

 

Maximum LTV most searched criteria

Maximum LTV featured in Knowledge Bank’s five most searched criteria for both bridging and commercial in December. Regulated bridging topped the most searched criteria in the bridging category, followed by maximum LTV for bridging, and development bridging – max LTV on acquisition, according to the platform’s criteria activity tracker. Nicola Firth, CEO at Knowledge Bank, said that the year ended largely as it had started with a huge number of searches across the different product areas. “During 2018, new lenders entered the market, but it was product innovation that really was the stand-out change,” she added.

Financial Reporter

 

Top clubs paid less than £90m in tax

Premier League football clubs have paid just £87m in tax between them over nearly a decade, according to new figures. Football finance expert Swiss Ramble found that in the period between 2008 and 2017, Arsenal paid £30m to HMRC, with Tottenham Hotspur handing over £24m and Manchester United paying £14m. The rest of the top tier sides paid less than £19m between them, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea not paying anything.

The Sun

 

Google shifts billions with Dutch sandwich

The Times reports that Google moved nearly €19.9bn to a subsidiary in Bermuda in 2017 as part of its “Dutch sandwich” tax avoidance manoeuvre. The amount of cash channelled to the Caribbean haven through a Dutch subsidiary increased by about €4bn that year, according to accounts filed in the Netherlands. This helped Google to pay a corporation tax rate of just over 6% on its foreign earnings, compared with the 35% headline rate in effect in the US at the time.

The Times

 

STB could end new mortgage lending

Secure Trust Bank (STB) has entered into consultation on a proposal to cease origination of new mortgage lending. STB said action is being taken in light of the current economic climate, increased competition and pressures on the housing market. The bank said its mortgage business will continue to operate as normal through the consultation period and there will be no impact on existing mortgage customers or new applications in progress.

FT Adviser Best Advice

 

Small firms hit by mortgage squeeze

Secure Trust Bank and Fleet Mortgages have said they will halt property lending, as competition has made it harder to turn a profit. A consultation has been launched at Secure Trust on whether to axe its entire range of mortgages for the general public, which is focused on the self-employed, older people and customers who have limited options. Meanwhile, Fleet Mortgages has withdrawn all its products while it seeks extra funding.

Daily Mail

 

Foreign investors at home in London offices

Investors have poured £20bn into central London offices this year - one third above the long-term average. More than 90% of the cash came from overseas investors, as the capital's commercial property market continued to defy fears of a capital exodus in the run-up to Brexit. Meanwhile, foreign buyers have invested £144.3bn in London's commercial property over the past 20 years, according to research by CBRE.

The Daily Telegraph

 

Watchdog freezes UK provider of mini-bond investments

The Financial Conduct Authority has banned London Capital and Finance from paying out interest pending an investigation into concerns about its marketing practices, which promised hefty returns.

Financial Times

 

Business lending declines over past year

New research from UK Finance has shown that lending to businesses over the past 12 months dropped by 1.7% and business deposits at banks grew by 1.6%, while the £11.3bn of credit card spending last month was 7.5% higher than November 2017. Separate data from UK Finance showed that that the number of mortgages approved by the major High Street banks has fallen amid fears of a stagnant housing market. A total of 80,127 loans were handed out in November - down 10.6% on a year earlier.

Daily Mail

 

More firms forced off Aim

Insolvency or financial distress forced sixteen companies off the Alternative Investment Market last year, analysis by UHY Hacker Young has revealed. The figure is up from nine in 2017. But despite the year-on-year increase, the number of businesses delisting after insolvency or financial distress was still lower than the average in recent years, with 24 failures recorded in each of 2016 and 2015 and 18 in 2014.

The Times

State borrowing dips

Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that state borrowing fell to £7.2bn in November – a drop of £900m on a year earlier and marking the best November for 14 years. The figures also show that £26.5bn flowed out of Britain and into other countries in the third quarter, with the balance of payments deficit up from £20bn in Q2. Meanwhile, business investment has dipped for the third consecutive quarter, separate ONS figures show.

The Times

Employees at small firms will opt out of pensions

More employees at small firms are predicted to opt out of saving for their pensions once minimum deductions from their pay packets are increased this April. According to a survey by the Association of Consulting Actuaries, 65% of businesses employing fewer than ten people expect modest or substantial decreases in participation. Roughly 6.1m employees face a cut in their take-home pay when pension deductions under the automatic enrolment rules are increased, the Department for Work and Pensions estimates. Minimum employee contributions are due to be raised from 3% of eligible pay to 5% in April, while employer contributions are due to be raised from 2% to 3% at the same time.

The Times

 

FCA targets Bitcoin dealing

The Financial Conduct Authority is currently investigating 18 companies in connection with cryptocurrency transactions, the Telegraph reports. Figures released to the paper show nearly 70 probes have been launched in total. Christopher Woolard, the executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA said the regulator, the Treasury and the Bank of England would all be addressing the threat in the coming months and encouraging more "beneficial innovation".

The Sunday Telegraph