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Friday Update

DB Live: Virgin Media; tram; Nationwide; Deep Matter

5.15pm: Chambers chief warning over new furlough scheme

A business leader in Scotland says thousands of firms north of the border are at increased risk because the government’s route map back to work is out of alignment with the Treasury’s newly tapered support scheme.

Full story and details of the new tapering scheme here

4.45pm: London close

US-China tensions caused traders to offload equities, though some took profits after strong gains this week. The FTSE 100 closed down 142.19 (2.29%) at 6,076.60.

1.30pm: Furlough and self-employment scheme

Daily Business will publish full details later today of the Chancellor’s revisions to the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Full story at 5.15pm.

1pm: Tram work resumes


Preparation works for Edinburgh’s Trams to Newhaven project will start on 1 June.

Measures to protect workers’ health will include daily briefings, continuous on-site inspections and health and safety ‘ambassadors’.

The numbers of workers on-site will be kept to a minimum and the majority of project office staff will continue to work from home.

12.50pm: Granton scheme approved

Edinburgh Council has approved plans for the first phase of housing for the £1.3bn development of Granton Waterfront.

A £1.5 million contract has been awarded to CCG (Scotland) for 450 affordable homes.

The council is planning to refurbish the Edwardian former railway station into a business space and is exploring the potential to light the area’s former gasholder in a joint project with Edinburgh College.

The scheme will create one of Europe’ s largest coastal city parks linking Granton Harbour to Cramond and Lauriston Castle,

12.40pm: Manufacturing boost

Nicola Sturgeon said at her daily briefing that the Scottish government is providing a further £20m for the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland.

Full story here

8.30am: London open

The FTSE 100 fell in early trade following a week of strong gains. It was trading 58 points (0.94%) lower at 6,160.21.

The index took its cue from weak trading in the US and Asia overnight as the war of words between Beijing and Washington (as well as others in the West) ramped up over the introduction of a new security law in Hong Kong, says Russ Mould of AJ Bell.

“The deteriorating relationship between the US and China has been an uncomfortable soundtrack to the last two years or more and investors could do without it as they already look to contend with the fall-out from a global pandemic.”

Oil prices took a step back with the Brent benchmark just above $35 per barrel while gold was steady at $1,721.

8.15am: Virgin Media shuts stores

Virgin Media is leaving the high street after announcing it has no plans to reopen its 53 UK stores after lockdown measures are eased on 15 June.

The cable and TV company, which is in merger negotiations with O2, said its operations will move online, supported by care and sales agents available over the phone, as well as field sales teams. All 341 employees in the stores will be offered new roles.

The company said the closure of stores was part of a plan to enhance its digital customer services and make it easier for customers to contact the company. 

Virgin Media operated from 140 stores as recently as 2016.

7.30am: Nationwide tumbles


Nationwide Building Society has seen its profits fall by 40% after taking a £101m hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain’s biggest building society said its underlying profit before tax plunged from £788m in 2019 to £469m on underlying income of just over £3bn.

Chief executive Joe Garner said: “We are helping members in financial difficulty with payment holidays on mortgages and loans and interest-free overdraft periods, and we have promised that no mortgage member will lose their home over the next 12 months due to the impact of the coronavirus.”

7am: Smart Metering Systems resumes

Smart Metering Systems, which installs and manages smart meters, plans for a phased and progressive resumption of all non-essential field work from 1 June.

Virus boosts DeepMatter interest

Mark Warne

DeepMatter Group, the AIM-quoted Glasgow company focusing on digitising chemistry, said its pipeline of revenue remains strong and the impact of the Covid-19 virus on customer working practices has increased interest in its DigitalGlassware platform and other products.

Reporting deepening first half losses, Mark Warne, CEO, pictured, said he was pleased with progress and the integration of InfoChem is now complete.

“With an established blue-chip customer base, proven technology, recurring revenues and growing market awareness, we believe we have the right structure to succeed and look to the long-term future with confidence,” he said.

Loss from continuing operations after tax of £3.02m (2018: loss of £1.81m)

6.30am: Firms expected to pay towards furlough

Rishi Sunak

The chancellor Rishi Sunak will give an update today on how firms will be asked to contribute to employees’ wages, following government concerns about the increasing costs of the furlough scheme and its likely impact on the UK public spending deficit.

Currently, employers are able to claim up to 80% of workers’ wages and they are exempt from national insurance and pension contributions.

Reports suggest employers will be asked to pay 20% of workers’ wages while the NI and pensions exemptions will end.

It is understood the government will pay 60% of each wage up to a cap of £2,500 a month from August.

Mr Sunak is also expected to shut the furlough scheme to new entrants and prevent employers from rotating staff.

A cross-party group of MPs has written to the chancellor calling for the scheme supporting self-employed workers to be extended beyond Sunday.

The group said these workers – who include many plumbers, hairdressers and TV workers – will be left “without work and without support” if the scheme is not extended.

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Comment: Let firms pass a health test and get back to work

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