Luton airport fire appears accidental, says fire chief as flights suspended until 3pm – business live | Business

Flights at Luton airport suspended until 3pm

All flights at Luton airport are suspended until 3pm, the airport said in a statement.

It is Britain’s fifth-busiest airport after Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Mancheter, and it handled 13.3 million passengers last year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Sky news correspondent Matthew Thompson tweeted:

The aftermath of the Luton Airport fire. You can see where the car park has completely collapsed inside.

Early indications are that it was a car fire that spread. As many as 1,200 vehicles were in the car park at the time.

— Matthew Thompson (@mattuthompson) October 11, 2023

Key events

Revealed: thousands who bought ‘golden passports’ through Dominica’s $1bn scheme

Jasper Jolly

Passports of the Caribbean: The Caribbean state of Dominica has sold citizenship to thousands of individuals including a former Afghan spymaster, a Turkish millionaire convicted of fraud and a former Libyan colonel under Muammar Gaddafi, the first detailed examination of the country’s controversial “golden passports” scheme has found.

The findings are from Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean, an investigation by the Guardian and 14 other international news organisations, in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

Dominica’s golden passports scheme – one of the world’s biggest – has according to official declarations raised more than $1bn (£822m) through its citizenship by investment scheme since 2009.

Its passports are in demand around the world, and a series of international agreements ensure its citizens travel visa-free to 140 countries, including most EU member states.

However, until now, the names of the individuals who have paid the price tag of at least $100,000 (£82,000) a head to acquire Dominican nationality – in many cases without setting foot on the island – have been difficult to obtain.

The UK technology secretary has summoned social media executives to demand the removal of violent content from their platforms related to the Hamas attack on Israel.

Michelle Donelan called the meeting as the European Union criticised Elon Musk’s X platform about coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict on its platform including fake news and the use of repurposed historical footage.

Donelan posted on X on Tuesday night that she wanted to ensure violent content “fuelled by Hamas’ acts of terrorism” was removed.

“I’ve called an urgent meeting with social media companies to ensure action is taken to swiftly remove any violent content fuelled by Hamas’ acts of terrorism in Israel from their platforms,” she wrote. “We are taking action to stand in solidarity with Israel and our Jewish community.”

Here is our full story on LVMH:

Rising inflation, growing global instability and falling demand for high-end drinks have been blamed for a slowdown in growth at the luxury goods multinational LVMH, owner of Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Moët & Chandon.

The group, whose brands also include Stella McCartney, Tag Heuer watches and Bulgari and Tiffany jewellery, reported revenue of €20bn (£17.25bn) between July and September – a 9% rise. That compares with a 17% increase in the previous quarter.

One of the worst hit parts of LVMH’s business was its wines and spirits division, which includes Hennessy cognac, which fell 14% in the quarter.

The results released on Tuesday suggest the post-pandemic boom in luxury goods, which helped LVMH become Europe’s first company to reach a $500bn valuation earlier this year, is starting to ebb.

Government bond yields fall amid safe-haven rush

Eurozone bond yields have dropped to two-week lows and US Treasury yields also fell, as this week’s rush to safe-haven assets continued – ahead of US producer price data at 1.30pm BST, and the US Federal Reserve minutes of the last policy meeting this evening.

The yield (or interest rate) on Germany’s 10-year Bund, the benchmark in the eurozone, fell 7 basis points to 2.71%, its lowest since 22 September. On Monday, it fell 12.6bps as investors made a dash for investments regarded as safe, amid the war between Israel and Hamas. Yields move inversely to prices. Prices rose as demand grew for government bonds.

US Treasuries were closed on Monday for a holiday but the 10-year yield fell 12.7 basis points yesterday, and a further 10bps to 4.56% today.

Another factor are comments from central bankers on both sides of the Atlantic, suggesting interest rate hikes are over. The European Central Bank rate setter and Dutch central bank chief Klaas Knot said today that “policy at this moment is in a good place,” though he added:

We will remain vigilant and we stand ready to adjust interest rates even more if the disinflation process were to stall.

Yesterday, Atlanta Federal Reserve president Raphael Bostic was applauded when he told a room of bankers in Nashville:

I actually don’t think we need to increase rates any more.”

Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

The UK competition watchdog is offering rivals and other interested parties the chance to submit views on the proposed merger of the British operations of Vodafone and the owner of Three, a deal that will create the UK’s largest mobile operator.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that it is providing an “early opportunity” for interested third parties to comment on what impact the merger of the two companies will have on the UK telecoms market.

The two companies are the UK’s third- and fourth-biggest operators respectively. The newly combined company will, if the merger is completed, have more than 27 million subscribers, leapfrogging EE, owned by BT, and Virgin Media O2, owned by Spain’s Telefónica and the US-listed company Liberty Global.

“Millions of consumers and businesses in the UK rely on Vodafone and Three’s mobile networks to stay connected,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive at the CMA. “We will be carefully considering how this deal may affect competition in the UK, which could affect the options and prices available to customers. We will also assess how it may affect incentives to invest in the quality of UK mobile networks.”

The CMA, which blocked Three’s attempted takeover of O2 in 2016 arguing that it would have risked higher prices, will launch a formal investigation “once it has received the information it needs from the merging companies”.

The deal is likely to face close scrutiny from the CMA, although last year the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, changed its long-held stance, saying it was now more open to consolidation in the sector. It had previously argued that dropping to only three networks in a country could harm consumers.

The government is also likely to “call in” the deal for scrutiny under the National Security and Investment Act 2021, which allow ministers to block transactions linked to important national assets if they are deemed to harm national security.

Vodafone UK has a number of government contracts and Three UK is owned byHong Kong-based CK Hutchison, which may raise concerns about foreign joint ownership of a key national asset, particularly given the city’s status as part of China.

Vodafone at one of its stores in London, Britain, June 14, 2023.
Vodafone at one of its stores in London, Britain, June 14, 2023. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

SFO opens criminal probe into funeral firm Safe Hands Plans

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened a criminal investigation into suspected fraud at Safe Hands Plans Limited and its parent company, after their funeral plan scheme collapsed last year.

Safe Hands Plans marketed pre-paid funeral plans, where customers paid instalments for plans priced up to over £4,000, so that funds would be available towards the costs of funerals. Approximately 46,000 plan holders had paid toward funeral plans before the company collapsed.

Today, Nick Ephgrave QPM, director of the SFO, sent notices to stockbrokers and financial institutions requesting information for its investigation. This follows similar requests made to UK banks and other potential witnesses issued last month. Non-compliance with these notices is a criminal offence.

Commenting on the SFO investigation, he said:

Thousands of individuals from all corners of the UK lost peace and security after being sold a product on the basis it would help reduce the burden on their loved ones upon their death.

Today, we have taken decisive next steps in our full criminal investigation into Safe Hands Plans.

The SFO’s criminal investigation is pursuing various lines of enquiry and may result in a criminal prosecution, which the SFO would then conduct using its powers as a prosecuting authority.

Here is our latest video on the Luton airport fire:

Flames engulf London’s Luton airport multistorey car park – video report

And here is our full story:

Wall Street futures tick higher as Treasury yields fall

US stock futures have ticked higher, pointing to a cautiously higher open on Wall Street later, as yields on US government bonds, known as Treasuries, continued to fall.

Investors are waiting for the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting, and producer price data for September.

Stock futures are indicating small gains of between 0.1% and 0.2% for the Nasdaq, Dow Jones and S&P 500.

Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS, said:

Recent developments support our view that yields should move lower over the coming six to 12 months… we foresee further cooling in inflation and slower global growth.

Yields move in inverse relationship to bond prices.

The turmoil in the Middle East continues to weigh on global markets, as Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza ahead of a possible ground assault. European markets are mixed: the FTSE 100 index in London and the Dax in Frankfurt are flat, while slowing growth at luxury goods group LVMH has pulled the CAC in Paris 0.6% lower, and the FTSE MiB in Milan has edged up 0.2%.

You can follow the latest on the war between Israel and Hamas here:

OECD says international tax deal would raise up to $32bn from big firms

Phillip Inman

Phillip Inman

An international deal that would force the world’s biggest multinational companies to pay a fair share of tax moved a step closer this week after the body coordinating the plan said it should raise more money than expected for low and middle income countries.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) said on Wednesday that a fresh analysis of its plan showed as much as $32bn could be raised, up from an estimate in 2020 that the tax would would raise a maximum $12bn.

Google, Facebook and Apple are among the 106 multinationals that would pay more tax to countries where they generate large revenues but have only a minimal physical presence.

Government ministers from many of the 140 countries that have signed up to the multinational deal are expected to discuss the latest research this week at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Marrakech ahead of an agreement next year.

Manal Corwin, director of the OECD centre for tax policy and administration, said there was “very broad consensus on the vast majority of the architecture” of the text put forward by the Paris-based organisation.

Wrangling over the details of the deal prevented the OECD from co-ordinating a signing ceremony last year, and sceptics believe the lobbying by low-tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Luxembourg and the digital business that will be hardest hit by the new rules will delay its implementation further.

The charity, Tax Justice Network, has argued that only the United Nations can co-ordinate an international tax plan that represents the poorest countries which currently receive minimal tax revenues from large corporations.

The latest estimates from the OECD are designed to head off this criticism by showing its plan would deliver higher tax revenues than previously expected and give poor countries are greater share.

It said that estimates in 2020 revealed revenue gains of $5-$12bn in the baseline scenario, while the revised estimates involve gains of $17.4-$31.7bn.

Back to the Birkenstock flotation, Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said:

Today’s listing will generate $1.5bn for the German-based sandal maker which has been in business since 1774, making what can be best described as leisure shoes, namely sandals or clogs.

Since 2010 the company has diversified into sleep systems, as well as natural cosmetics however that remains a small part of the overall revenue stream, which is primarily derived from the sale of high value sandals and clogs. The proceeds of the IPO will see some of the money returned to the private equity owners, with a third of the proceeds going to repay debt.

This seems an unambitious use of the proceeds at a time when the money could be used to improve the business, as well as help to diversify into new product areas.

He noted that in 2021, the private equity company L. Catterton and Financière Agache bought a majority stake in Birkenstock, with a view to expanding into the Chinese market. Both Financière Agache and L Catterton are backed by LVMH owner Bernard Arnault, valuing the business at the time at $4.3bn.

Curiously, the deal came in the aftermath of the Dr. Martens IPO, which took place two months previously in February 2021, although both companies have undergone rather differing fortunes since then. At the time Dr Martens had a valuation of £4.5bn which has slid to £1.3bn, raising the question as to whether Birkenstock is worth such a hefty price tag.

On the actual numbers themselves Birkenstock total revenues have risen from $728m in 2020 to $1.3bn in fiscal year 2022. Over the same period net income has doubled from $101.3m to $202.8m.

In its most recent financial statement Birkenstock reported that revenues were 21% higher in the nine months to 30 June at $1.2bn, putting the business on course for a record year for both revenues, as well as profits.

While that is welcome news it doesn’t necessarily justify a valuation that is four times greater than sector peer Dr. Martens, and with LVMH issuing a profits warning earlier today, the luxury sector could be about to enter turbulent times. This may be significant given that a typical Birkenstock sandal starts at £65, while more expensive items can go for as much as £160 and above, which isn’t exactly cheap.

That said investors may have other ideas as to whether Birkenstock offers good value given that valuations in the US tend to be higher than they are in London.

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