African Startups Head to Silicon Valley for Innovation Tour

The five companies were picked from 30 in the DEMO Africa Lions programme and will travel to California to see how US equivalents are organised. “These companies have a global appeal and have the highest potential to becoming global companies,” said Stephen Ozoigbo, CEO of African Technology Foundation. The 5 startups represent Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The finalists include solar energy firm, Strauss Energy, and Mediabox - a South African company that promises to turn any existing TV into a smart device. The tour lasts for two weeks and aims to build business relationships between the US and Africa.


Famous Brands Acquires Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Photo Credit:  cyclonebill

Photo Credit: cyclonebill

GBK was purchased for £120m, making it the biggest deal in Famous Brands’ history. Famous Brands, a logistics company, is rated in the top 100 South African companies. The business has over 2,600 restaurants in South Africa, Africa, the UK and the Middle East. The addition of Gourmet Burger Kitchen is seen as a strategic acquisition. "Famous Brands has identified the UK as a strategic growth region in Europe and one that offers the opportunity to earn hard currency outside Africa. The acquisition represents an important step in Famous Brands’ expansion strategy." - Famous Brands. The company already owns UK burger franchise Wimpy.


Confidence in British Business Improves After Brexit Slump

Photo Credit:  Michael Summers

Photo Credit: Michael Summers

The proportion of businesses that were ‘optimistic’ about Britain’s economic future rose to 48% in August, indicating confidence may be creeping back after initial concerns following the EU referendum. The overall confidence index reached 109.7 in August, having previously fallen from 112.6 to 105.0 immediately following the result. These figureswere generated by the monthly survey conducted by YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research. "Once the UK shows its hand on Brexit and invokes Article 50 things could change for the worse quickly," said Stephen Harmston of YouGov. "But as businesses and consumers don't know when this will happen, they have seemingly decided to just get on with it.”


Tech Giants Want To Alert Users When Authorities Access Their Data

Photo Credit:  Zsoolt

Photo Credit: Zsoolt

Apple, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet, have all backed Microsoft’s legal bid to alert customers when federal agents have requested their digital data. The legal challenge, filed in federal court in Seattle, questions whether it is constitutional for the authorities to prevent firms from alerting users to data snooping. Microsoft also received support from four former U.S. attorneys and a former special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The companies supporting Microsoft have said that they “often compete vigorously with each other,” but they now“speak with one voice because of the singular importance of this case to them and to their customers.”


Marks & Spencer to Cut 500 Jobs

Photo Credit:  WWPhotos

Photo Credit: WWPhotos

The retail giant has announced the cuts to its head office division, after reporting falling sales. The job losses will account for around 15% of its head office employees in Paddington, London. The cuts are part of a radical overhaul that will attempt to turn around the failing clothing sales. The strategy has been devised by new Chief Executive, Steve Rowe. Rowe has also contracted a new advertising agency, Grey London, to run the retailer's £60 million account. The changes are believed to be part of a wider business plan—to be announced in November—that may also include store closures. The company has also announced plans to ‘overhaul’ staff pay and benefits.


Samsung recalls Galaxy Note 7 Over Exploding Batteries

Photo Credit:  Jamie McCall

Photo Credit: Jamie McCall

The electronics company has recalled its flagship device after finding a fault with the supplied battery. The Galaxy Note 7 was launched on the 19th of August, and issues came to light after several users in the US reported that the device caught fire during charging. 35 cases have now been confirmed "There was a tiny problem in the manufacturing process'' said the president of Samsung's mobile business, Koh Dong-jin. Samsung have promised existing customers that they will be able to swap their device for a new version. The recall comes shortly before Apple are due to unveil the next generation iPhone.


Hasbro Launches Campaign to Inspire Kids to be Kind

Photo Credit:  Random Retail

Photo Credit: Random Retail

The toy manufacturer launched GenerationOn last week, which is intended to encourage youngsters to exhibit traits of kindness and empathy. Participants can sign up to the dedicated website, which contains tools and resources for parents and teachers designed to help develop compassion and kindness in kids and teenagers.  The site also includes a list of service project ideas, a toolkit, and an activity created in partnership with pediatric psychologist Dr. Lynne Kenney to support youth in developing empathy.  “At Hasbro, we envision a world where all kids have the compassion, empathy and courage to stand up for others, and we’re very proud to sponsor the Rules of Kindness campaign with generationOn” said Karen Davis, senior vice president of Global Philanthropy and Social Impact at Hasbro.





New Automotive Business District to Create 2,700 Jobs

A 24-Hectare site is being developed near Coventry. The project has received £35m investment from the government and a further £10m from Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council. The new site is intended to attract manufacturers and supply chain firms and will be operational from next year. Funding for the site will also help to improve transport links to the area via connection with the A45, and a bridge being constructed to connect with other manufacturing developments being built.

"It's vital we maintain momentum and keep creating high-skilled jobs and don't let any opportunity slip through our fingers. Today's £35 million investment unlocks land that will help to cement the region as a leading destination for investment.” said business minister, Margot James.


Apple are Recruiting for New Machine Learning Division

Photo Credit:  iPhoneDigital

Photo Credit: iPhoneDigital

The tech giant is hiring data scientists and app specialists after acquiring machine learning firm Turi earlier this year. It is hoped that machine learning will help to drive improvements in Apple’s AI products, such as its virtual assistant Siri.  They acquired Turi—formerly known as Dato—in a $200m deal and are now looking to expand its previous staff and research by recruiting new specialists. Turi-built software assists with recommendations, fraud protection, sentiment analysis and more. “Turi is the new machine learning division at Apple. We build tools that enable teams across Apple to develop machine learning solutions to power amazingly intelligent user experiences” said a spokesperson for Apple. The new division will be based in Seattle.


‘Millionaire's Holiday Club’ Sold for £30m

Photo Credit:  NYC Tom

Photo Credit: NYC Tom

ITC travel, which arranges bespoke holiday packages for the super rich, was sold to equity firm NorthEdge in the multi-million pound deal. ITC was set up in 1974 to provide a luxury holiday service - It offers upmarket packages such as the Grand Prix and yachting in the Caribbean. It was previously featured on the BBC documentary ‘the Millionaires Holiday Club.’ 

NorthEdge have bought the majority share in the company, providing investment for improving its presence in the mainstream holiday market and upgrading its technology. “Our customers demand unique experiences in the world’s most exclusive destinations,” said ITC boss, Jen Atkinson. “We’ll also be looking to broaden our product offering beyond our current luxury and tailor-made proposition.” ITC was the first commercial travel firm to charter Concorde. 



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Scottish Firm Delivers Tidal Power to the Grid in ‘World First’

Photo Credit:  Liam Byrnes

Photo Credit: Liam Byrnes

Nova Innovation says it has successfully delivered power by turbine based systems in the Shetland Isles. The group said its technology marks an advancement in harnessing the renewable source of energy. The Shetland Isles project currently consists of an array of two turbines, with three more to be constructed in a project worth £3.6m. They also claimed that the project will eventually supply enough power for 300 houses. The installation is small compared to offshore wind farms, but it is believed the predictable nature of the strong UK tides could eventually supply 12% of its electricity requirements.  Tidal power firms have previously been reliant on government subsidies, but investors are increasingly showing interest as advancements are made in the field. The government has launched a review of tidal lagoon power headed by former UK energy minister Charles Hendry, which is due to be published later this year.


Multi-million Pound Classic Car Business Given to Staff

Photo Credit:  Allen Watkin

Photo Credit: Allen Watkin

Shropshire based Classic Motor Cars has been handed over to its 60 staff by co-founder Peter Neumark. The firm has been turned into an employee ownership trust—similar to that of John Lewis— which means staff own and run the business, receiving a share of the profits. Neumark said that as he and co-founder Nick were nearing retirement, they “felt [they] had a duty to oversee a passing of responsibility, and who better than the workforce themselves”. Day to day management of the firm will be handled by an operational board, chaired by Neumark. More than 300 businesses are believed to be owned by their employees across the UK. Classic Motor Cars, who restore classic Jaguars, turned over £5.2m last year.



Terrapay acquires Pay2Global

Photo Credit:  Images Money

Photo Credit: Images Money

The international mobile-first network made a complete purchase of the UK based money transfer company for an undisclosed sum, after regulatory clearance was given. It is believed the acquisition is part of Terrapay’s plans to to boost its European presence and allow the company access to expand its payment network to the 32 countries of the European Economic Area (EEA). TerraPay connects mobile wallet schemes, money transfer operators, and other financial institutions to create an international network for secure transactions. Pay2Global will now become Terra Payment Services (UK). “We are now open for business in the UK and the EEA, among the world’s top markets for remittances,” said Ambar Sur, CEO of TerraPay.


China Sets Up New State Aviation Firm

Photo Credit:  Christian Juncker

Photo Credit: Christian Juncker

The new state-owned entity has been created to help China realise its tech goals of building a world-class aircraft engine. Aero Engine Corp of China (AACC) will research and develop aerospace technology, including jet engines and gas turbines, according to Chinese media. Such technology is difficult to develop and China has previously been reliant on imports. The project has received investment of 50 billion yuan ($7.5bn) from the Beijing Municipal Government, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, with registered capital of 50 billion yuan (7.5 billion US dollars). It is believed to be a strategic move to modernise the countries military. 



Bunzl Buys More Businesses as Profits Soar

Photo Credit:  Investment Zen

Photo Credit: Investment Zen

The distribution firm announced that it has acquired two businesses in Canada, Plus II Sanitation Supplies and Apex Sanitation Products, along with Hungarian business, Silwell Kft. The combine acquisitions are worth £101 million. Bunzl has seen its profits rise by 6% in the first half of 2016. Frank van Zanten, CEO of Bunzl, said: “Going forward, we will focus on further expansion of the group, continuing our investments in IT and digital projects and intensifying the sharing of best practice across our businesses globally.” The firms success has mainly been seen in the USA as operating profits have dropped in the UK.


Apple Ordered to Pay 11bn After Tax Investigation

Photo Credit:  Sabin Paul Croce

Photo Credit: Sabin Paul Croce

The EU has ruled that Apple’s tax arrangements in Ireland were illegal and the tech giant has been ordered to pay €13bn in unpaid taxes to the Irish government. A tax agreement between Apple and Ireland, that allowed the company to pay as low as 0.005% on its European profit was anti-competitive. The firm has been under investigation for 2 years, following efforts to clamp down on tax avoidance by large corporations. Europe’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “this decision sends a clear message. Member states cannot give unfair tax benefits to selected companies, European or foreign, large or small.” Apple has made £36.5bn in profits last year, so the order represents just over 100 days of its profits.


Silicon Valley Startups Tighten Up to Avoid Crash

Photo Credit:  Patrick Nouhallier

Photo Credit: Patrick Nouhallier

Silicon valley startups appear to have avoided a predicted crash, by streamlining production and cutting unnecessary expenditure. Last year, many investors and tech specialists were convinced that the industry boom of recent times had seen huge gains for startups that could not possibly be maintained and that a crash was imminent. It was thought that startups would over expand and thus eventually crash. Companies responded by making staff cuts, simplifying their product lines and removing staff perks.  “The start-up world did heed the warnings,” said Max Levchin, a former employee and co founder of PayPal.


UK Tourism Rises as Pound Drops After Brexit

Photo Credit:  KateMonkey

Photo Credit: KateMonkey

Up to 70% of Britons are choosing to ‘staycation’ in the wake of brexit, according toa report by Barclays. The figures also reveal that people are spending more on holidays-at-home than in previous years, with the average increasing to £613 in 2016, compared to £575 last year. The government has published a tourism action plan, that will see measures being taken to capitalise on the increase and further promote the UK as a holiday destination. Prime Minister, Theresa May, commented "We are making it easier for visitors to travel beyond London and experience all of the world-class attractions the UK has to offer, to make sure the benefits of this thriving industry are felt by the many and not the few.”


Frankie and Benny’s to Close 33 Restaurants

Photo Credit:  Hazelisles

Photo Credit: Hazelisles

The popular diner style restaurant announced the closures after a report detailing falling profits. It has blamed the poor performance on an unpopular new menu and higher prices, as well as a low standard of customer service. “Disappointingly our issues have been the result of our own making,” said company chair, Debbie Hewitt. “It’s been a business that’s been run very instinctively … But customers will tell you ‘it’s too expensive, we are not as keen on the menu and service is inconsistent’.” The company will pay a charge of nearly £60m for the 33 closures, after reporting operating losses of 4.4% in the first half of 2016. Hewitt detailed plans to reintroduce old menu items and invest in POS technology to improve customer services, as part of an effort to ‘fix’ company fortunes.


Singapore to Open Fintech Innovation Lab

Photo Credit:  Jerry Van Krasten

Photo Credit: Jerry Van Krasten

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced the opening of Looking Glass, a dedicated Lab to devise fintech solutions for financial institutions, start-ups, and technology vendors. The announcement comes just a week after a senior Singapore government minister declared fintech as a "critical differentiator for Singapore."

The lab will be housed within the current MAS headquarters and will also source experts to consult with firms over legal and regulation issues, as well as provide a venue for training and networking. A spokesperson for MAS says the name 'Looking Glass' was chosen in reference to Alice in Wonderland; it represents “a glimpse into a different world where innovation is pervasive, and a warm place for its residents to pursue their passion, protected from the old way of doing things”.