Deliveroo boss Will Shu: ‘I was never into start-ups’

“I never set out to be a founder or a CEO. I was never into start-ups,” says Will Shu, founder of food delivery chain, Deliveroo.

The firm, founded in 2013, is now planning to issue shares to the public which could value it at $7bn (£5bn)

Deliveroo has not yet made a profit and it reported a £223.7m loss for last year, despite a surge in sales.

The float will see the busiest riders share in a £16m fund, and customers will also get the chance to buy shares.

They will be given the chance to buy up to £1,000 worth of shares each in the firm, although if demand if high they may see their orders scaled back.

Mr Shu’s letter, contained in the official notice of the intention to float, also says: “I’m not one of those Silicon Valley types with a million ideas. I had one idea.

“At the end of the day, I started the business because I wanted something better than what was available to me.”

Deliveroo driver

Deliveroo said that last year, its gross transaction value – the total amount of transactions it processes on its platform – jumped by 64.3% to £4.1bn from £2.5bn in 2019.

However, the business remains loss-making, although its underlying loss for 2020 reduced to £223.7m from £317.3m in 2019.

Demand for takeaway meals has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, after lockdown measures were first implemented a year ago and restaurants have been forced to close. 

Restrictions on hospitality businesses in England are currently set to start to ease on 12 April at the earliest.

As part of the flotation, riders in Deliveroo’s 12 markets who have worked with the firm for at least a year will be paid a bonus of either £10,000, £1,000, £500 and £200 depending on the number of orders they have delivered.

Deliveroo also said it would make £50m worth of shares available to customers who would be able to register their interest via the company’s app.

Share structure

The shares will be listed on the London Stock Exchange, where Will Shu is planning to maintain a firmer grip on how the company is run than has been traditional for London-listed companies.

Under a proposed dual-class share structure, each share Mr Shu will hold will carry 20 times the voting power of ordinary shares.

A recent government-commissioned review of the UK’s listing rules recommended a number of measures to make the country a more attractive place for companies to float.

The review, led by former European Commissioner Lord Hill, recommended allowing different classes of shares with differential voting rights.

Major tech companies such as Facebook and Google-owner Alphabet have so called dual-class shares.

Deliveroo launches London IPO after business surges in 2020

British food delivery firm Deliveroo announced plans to launch its hotly anticipated London listing on Monday after recording a surge in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, although it still posted a loss for 2020.

The initial public offering (IPO) is expected to value Deliveroo at more than $7 billion, based on a private funding round it completed in January, and will be one of the largest London listings in several years.

The company published a registration document and an expected “intention to float” — which signals the start of the listing process — on Monday, capping what has been a busy start to the London IPO season.

In an accompanying trading update, the company said it had grown the total number of transactions processed on its online platform, the so-called Gross Transaction Value, by 64.3% last year to 4.1 billion pounds from 2.5 billion in 2019.

It also narrowed an underlying loss to 223.7 million pounds ($308.93 million), from 317.3 million pounds in 2019.

“Today, Deliveroo is so much bigger than I ever would have thought possible,” founder and chief executive Will Shu said in the trading update. “We are building delivery-only kitchens, delivering groceries, building tools for restaurants to take them into the digital age – things I never contemplated when we launched.”

CLASS SYSTEM

The company confirmed it plans to use a dual-class share structure that will give Shu more control over the company.

This means it will have a “standard” listing upon entry into the London Stock Exchange, rather than a premium one, excluding it from the FTSE indices.

However, this could change if recommendations made in a recent review of listing rules by former EU Commissioner Jonathan Hill are implemented.

“It’s obviously great news that Deliveroo, a global technology leader, born and bred in the UK, has chosen to list here,” Hill said in a statement provided by Deliveroo. “The changes we recommended would make it easier for more companies to follow Deliveroo’s lead, sending out a message that London is open for business.”

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are joint global coordinators and bookrunners along with Bank of America, Citi, Jefferies and Numis.

($1 = 0.7239 pounds)

Let’s talk about bonds: Five questions for the European Central Bank

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Central Bank meets on Thursday and one topic will dominate: what to do about rising sovereign bond yields which if left unchecked could derail efforts to get a coronavirus-hit economy back on track.

Germany’s 10-year borrowing costs jumped 26 basis points in February, the biggest monthly rise in over three years, with similar moves seen across the euro area.

Policymakers from president Christine Lagarde to chief economist Philip Lane have expressed unease. Markets want to know the game plan.

Here are five key questions on the radar.

1. What will the ECB do to contain rising bond yields?

The ECB shouldn’t hesitate to lift bond buying volumes and use the full firepower of the 1.85 trillion euro ($2.2 trillion) Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) if needed, says board member Fabio Panetta.

Economists agree but policymakers are divided. Just under 1 trillion euros of the PEPP is still unused. Buying slowed recently, perhaps due to technical factors.

Still higher government borrowing costs, threatening to spill over to corporates and consumers, create a headache for an ECB grappling with a weak economy.

“Is the ECB fully aware of the risks?,” said ING Research global head of macro Carsten Brzeski. “And if they are, are they willing to be more precise about what they are prepared to do — will they act with advanced PEPP purchases?”

GRAPHIC: The ECB’s pandemic stimulus programme –

Reuters Graphic

2) What exactly is the ECB watching to assess financial conditions?

Lagarde will be pressed for clarity on this.

She has voiced concern about rising nominal yields. Remarks from other officials and the last ECB minutes put emphasis on the real or inflation-adjusted component of yields as a key determinant of financial conditions.

Both have risen this year, but real yields less so.

Lane focuses on the GDP-weighted sovereign yield curve and the overnight index swap (OIS) curve.

A clearer idea of which is key would give markets a better sense of policymakers’ pain threshold.

GRAPHIC: Which yield is key? –

Reuters Graphic

3) How far does the ECB expect inflation to rise this year?

Accelerating inflation, which could exceed the near 2% target in coming months, means the ECB will likely increase its 2021 inflation forecast.

Lagarde may stress that a recent pick-up in prices is driven by one-off factors and should fall back.

But there are differing opinions among policymakers. Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann believes the ECB will have to “act accordingly” if inflation rises.

“There are more mixed views on inflation – ECB staff and Lane think inflation is subdued but this is not shared by the hawks, with Weidmann recently highlighting that German inflation was likely to go through 3% this year,” said Jacob Nell, head of European economics at Morgan Stanley.

GRAPHIC: Accelerating inflation? –

Reuters Graphic

4) What will the ECB say about the economic outlook?

Economists expect the medium-term outlook to remain broadly unchanged, with a recovery forecast in the second half of 2021.

Lagarde, however, may stress short-term downside risks as the bloc battles the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.

The economy is almost certainly in a double-dip recession as the services industry suffers, but hopes for a wider vaccine rollout has driven optimism to a three-year peak, a survey showed last week.

GRAPHIC: Euro zone economic surprises stay positive in 2021 –

Reuters Graphic

5) Is the ECB relieved that Draghi is Italian PM?

Lagarde is unlikely to comment on politics in Italy, where her predecessor Mario Draghi just became prime minister. But a fall in Italian borrowing costs on his appointment is good news and eases pressure on the ECB.

The Italian/German 10-year bond yield gap narrowed to the tightest levels since 2015 in February; recent bond turbulence hasn’t hurt too much.

The trusted Draghi has promised sweeping reforms to revitalise a battered economy. His strongly pro-European stance is seen as a positive for Italy and the euro project.

GRAPHIC: Italian bond spread during the COVID-19 crisis –

Reuters Graphic

Why remote work could stall your career

Remote work has a lot of benefits, but one major drawback: it may be harder to climb the career ladder when you’re at home.

File image of a worker and supervisor in the office

When Mike Ali started working from home in 2016, he worried his colleagues would forget he existed. Ali, a 31-year-old marketing automation consultant, was relocating from Raleigh, North Carolina to Richmond, Virginia. “I think they just didn’t want to fire me,” he says of the mid-sized tech company he was working for at the time. “So instead, I became the test case for working from home. There were definitely growing pains.” 

Ali’s colleagues were slow to adjust to using video chat tools. “People would forget to call me into meetings,” he says. “They’d say, ‘Oh, I’m having trouble setting this up, or getting you access’, and it’s like, well, will somebody please just call my cell phone? I discovered quickly that I had to be much more assertive. Because, I realised, if I just sit here quietly, they will forget all about me.” 

Ali’s worry about feeling invisible to his colleagues after transitioning to remote work isn’t unfounded. Research shows that home workers – however productive – suffer from a lack of facetime with colleagues and managers, which negatively impacts promotions, and ultimately may stall careers.

Being in the office gives you more opportunity to show your skills and connect with people – which helps with promotions (Credit: Alamy)
Being in the office gives you more opportunity to show your skills and connect with people – which helps with promotions (Credit: Alamy)

This could create problems as many of us seek to retain our newfound work flexibility after the pandemic. If we opt for a work-from-home future, will it be at the expense of our career prospects – or are there ways to mitigate visibility issues? 

‘Out of sight, out of mind’ 

The problem of inequity in promotion between remote and in-person workers has existed since well before the pandemic forced many people into home-work situations. In a 2015 study conducted in China, researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that while people working from home were more productive – 13% more, to be exact – they weren’t rewarded with promotions at nearly the same rate as their in-office colleagues. 

“It was striking that promotion rates plummeted,” says Nicholas A Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford, and the study’s lead author. “It was roughly half the promotion rate, compared to those in the office.”

I realised, if I just sit here quietly, they will forget all about me – Mike Ali

In interviews with workers and management, Bloom and his colleagues found there were two major reasons for the lower rate of promotion among the remote workers. People who weren’t in the office, he explains, didn’t develop relationships and managerial skills as readily, or didn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate those skills. Plus, adds Bloom, when the people giving out the promotions aren’t getting any facetime with remote workers, “you’re basically forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind”. 

That tendency to forget about someone is a sort of unconscious bias, says Ioana C Cristea, a Zürich-based remote-work expert. “People are not necessarily doing this on purpose, but even though on some level I know the person at home is working just as hard as the person working in the office, [the remote employee’s] name’s not in my mind when I’m making a decision about who gets the promotion. Visibility plays a super important role in the way we get ahead.”

So, however good you are at your job, it can make a big difference when managers actually see that you are working, explains Cristea, co-founder of BELONGin, a start-up aimed at helping STEM companies attract and retain a diverse workforce. 

A 2019 paper Cristea co-authored while at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that being observed by others while at work resulted in positive outcomes for employees “because it is a strong signal of their commitment to their job, their team and their organisation”.

Remote workers often find themselves working long hours to prove they're just as good as in-office counterparts (Credit: Alamy)
Remote workers often find themselves working long hours to prove they’re just as good as in-office counterparts (Credit: Alamy)

It even holds true when employees aren’t performing all that well. “We take being there – being present – a bit for granted,” says Cristea. “You may have a bad day at work, but you’re at work. Your boss sees you and thinks, ‘I see her struggling, but she’s here, and she’s working hard’.” 

When the work’s being done remotely, that same boss is more likely to see only the finished product, not the effort it took to get there. Even if the result is great, subconsciously, your boss may not realise how hard you worked. 

“A workaround for this for the employee is, maybe in your one-on-one meetings, tell the manager how much time you’ve spent and explain the struggles.” But it’s a fine line, concedes Cristea, between making yourself look like a hard worker and implying you aren’t up to the task. “You don’t want to come off as a complainer.” 

A heavier load 

Remote workers whose promotion prospects are suffering for lack of facetime may find their workload increasing. Because office-based colleagues are often perceived to be working harder, says Cristea, remote employees end up going above and beyond to make up the difference. Ironically, the resulting stress can make the promotion less appealing.

Visibility plays a super important role in the way we get ahead – Ioana C Cristea

“There’s a tendency to try to overcome not being present in the manager’s mind by putting in extra effort,” she says. Workers tell themselves, “’I’ll be in every meeting, on every call, answering emails well into the night’. We see people putting in all this extra effort not even to get ahead, but just to put themselves on the same level as the people in the office.” 

And having to work twice as hard to get to the same place, she adds, is a recipe for burnout. Sure, you might land the promotion – but by then it may not feel like a win. 

“After you’ve tortured yourself, you realise, ‘Hey, maybe this wasn’t worth it’. You’ve gotten your promotion, but your family life suffers,” she says. “People work so hard to get noticed and get that promotion, and then when they get it, the sacrifice they’ve had to make to achieve it is far greater than the reward.” 

Levelling the playing field 

Though his research clearly shows working from home is a career disadvantage, Bloom doesn’t see the pandemic as a promotion killer, because no one is in the office. “Right now, everyone who can work from home is working from home. It’s like running a race where we’re all carrying gallons of milk, so no one’s fast.” 

But we won’t all be at home forever. As workplaces re-open, Bloom says the issue will be more relevant than ever. Many companies are expected to use some kind of hybrid model, with some people in the office and others at home.

When the pandemic is over, having everyone work the same schedule could create a more level playing field, says Bloom (Credit: Alamy)
When the pandemic is over, having everyone work the same schedule could create a more level playing field, says Bloom (Credit: Alamy)

“Last spring, I wrote that we should let people choose,” he says. But newer research has changed his mind. In fact, he says, giving people complete freedom to choose whether and when they work from home could have serious ramifications. 

“If you look at who wants to work from home, it’s not random. People with disabilities, people with children and women all tend to have a higher preference for more days working from home. What could happen, if you let people choose, is that young ambitious single men who don’t want to work from home come into the office and charge ahead. Women who are at home with children fall behind, and don’t get promoted. A few years down the line, there’s a lack of diversity in leadership.” 

As comfortable as many have become using tools like Zoom and Slack to stay connected to colleagues over the last year, Bloom believes having some members of a team working remotely while others come to the office will inevitably disadvantage those working from home. “Anyone who’s ever tried to join in on Zoom with a group of people who are in the room together knows how hard it is,” he says. “It leads to a two-track system of insiders and outsiders.” 

The simple solution, says Bloom, is to keep everyone on the same kind of schedule. “Either everyone works from home, everyone comes in, or everyone on the whole team – including the managers – works from home two days a week.” 

The formation of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ groups can also be avoided by being deliberate about team building. There are a lot of effective ways to do that virtually, says Cristea. “I know a team that uses an online platform where you can play Risk or Settlers of Catan online together,” she says. “Anecdotally, this seems to work. Even if you’re not seeing people or talking regularly during the day, if you participate in group events, you’re making yourself visible and being part of the team.” 

Cristea says the pandemic “has shown companies that remote work can be done” and she expects to see many industries transition to permanently working from home. There will be some kinks to iron out and a period of experimentation, she says, but “with the proper training for leadership and team members, this can work”. 

It’s working very well for Ali. For the last few years, he’s been at a fully remote company, which he says has changed the promotion equation completely, and for the better. Not only is the playing field level, but with in-person happy hours and breakroom politics eliminated, the game is based entirely on merit. 

“Ten years ago, getting promoted was just about being the most popular person on your team,” he says. “Now it’s like, well, if you’re all distributed, no one’s really popular. So, it’s going to be based on effort and skill, and how well you do your job – even if there’s no one watching you do it.”

By: Kate Morgan – BBC

Virgin sues partner over claims about its brand value

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Enterprises is suing a US rail company for $251m (£182m) over its decision to drop the Virgin name from its trains. 

It had a 20-year licensing deal which allowed Brightline to rebrand as Virgin Trains USA in exchange for royalties. 

Virgin claims Brightline is reneging on the agreement by spuriously claiming the Virgin name has been damaged. 

The suit said Brightline claimed Virgin is no longer “a brand of international high repute” following the pandemic.

Virgin said it has maintained its status as an internationally reputed brand, and described the allegation that the Virgin brand had been damaged as “cynical and spurious”. 

In 2018, Virgin struck the licensing deal with Brightline, which operates a train service between Miami and West Palm beach in Florida, with plans to extend the line to Orlando, the home of Disney World. 

Its existing service was suspended in March 2020, and isn’t expected to resume until later this year. 

Brightline is also planning a route between Apple Valley, near Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Difficult year for Virgin

The train operator first signalled it might scrap the deal in April, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Virgin Group’s travel-focused businesses.

Virgin Atlantic airlines cut thousands of jobs as part of a $1.7bn rescue plan. 

Mr Branson even offered to use his luxury island resort as collateral to help secure state aid for Virgin Atlantic. 

The group also delayed the launch of its first cruise ship, and its gyms and hotels were closed. 

Virgin contends that Brightline cannot lawfully scrap the contract until 2023 at the earliest, and even then it would have had to pay an exit fee. 

The company is suing for $251.3m, which it claims would cover the royalties it should have received up to this date, plus the early termination fee.

Game of drones: Chinese giant DJI hit by U.S. tensions, staff defections

SHENZHEN, China – Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co Ltd built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market.

Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal ructions in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees.

The loss of key managers, some of who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI’s dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020.

About a third of DJI’s 200-strong team in the region was laid off or resigned last year, from offices in Palo Alto, Burbank and New York, according to three former and one current employee.

In February this year, DJI’s head of U.S. R&D left and the company laid off the remaining R&D staff, numbering roughly 10 people, at its flagship U.S. research centre in California’s Palo Alto, four people said.

DJI, founded and run by billionaire Frank Wang, said it made the difficult decision to reduce staffing in Palo Alto to reflect the company’s “evolving needs”.

“We thank the affected employees for their contributions and remain committed to our customers and partners,” it said, adding that its North American sales were growing strongly.

“Despite misleading claims from competitors, our enterprise customers understand how DJI products provide robust data security. Despite gossip from anonymous sources, DJI is committed to serving the North American market.”

It did not comment on the other U.S. staff departures that current and ex-employees spoke of, although it told Reuters last year its global structure was becoming “unwieldy to manage”.

DJI, which has become a symbol of Chinese innovation since it was founded in 2006, is one of dozens of companies caught in the crossfire of trade and diplomatic hostilities between Washington and Beijing, like Huawei and Bytedance.

Staff sources and competitors say the company’s brand reach, technical know-how, manufacturing might and sales force mean it won’t lose its crown anytime soon in the multi-billion-dollar U.S. and global markets for non-military drones.

But a December order adding the company to the U.S. Commerce Department’s “Entity List” along with the closure of its R&D operation in California could affect its ability to serve the needs of U.S. customers, according to three former senior executives and two competitors.

The Commerce Department listing, enacted over allegations including DJI enabled “high-technology surveillance”, prohibits the company from buying or using U.S. technology or components.

The same month, Romeo Durscher, DJI’s U.S.-based head of public safety, who had played a central role in building the company’s business in providing drone technology to non-military U.S. government departments and agencies, left his job.

Durscher, a former NASA project manager and an influential figure in the drone industry, now works at Swiss company Auterion, a competitor to DJI.

He said he left DJI because he was disheartened by the staff cuts and what he described as internal power struggles between the U.S. team and its China headquarters. He added that the U.S. reorganisation complicated the task in dealing with the fallout from U.S.-China tensions and winning government business.

“It’s not an easy decision to leave the market leader that’s really far ahead of everyone else,” said Durscher, who joined DJI in 2014. “But those internal battles were distracting from the real purpose and in 2020 it got worse … we lost tremendous talent at DJI and that’s very unfortunate.”

U.S. SECURITY CONCERNS

Privately held DJI doesn’t publish sales figures. The U.S. Department of Defense estimated the American non-military market was worth $4.2 billion last year. Consultancy DroneAnalyst said DJI controlled almost 90% of the consumer market in North America and over 70% of the industrial market.

The December listing by the Commerce Department, and the prohibition on buying U.S. parts, may impact the firm’s mobile apps, web servers and some battery and imaging products, said David Benowitz, head of research at DroneAnalyst and a senior figure with DJI’s enterprise team, which works with industrial customers, in Shenzhen before he left last summer.

DJI said in December that the ban would not affect U.S. customers’ ability to buy and use its products.

The listing followed other official blows. In October, the U.S. Department of the Interior said it would only buy drones from companies okayed by the Department of Defense, which last August published a list of five approved drone suppliers to the federal government – four American and one French.

DJI said there was no “broad-based U.S. government ban on purchasing DJI drones”.

“Congress considered that approach last year and rejected it, because … such a ban would be challenging for many companies and government bodies that rely on drones,” it added.

‘WE’RE STILL PRIMITIVE’

Benowitz said persisting U.S.-China tensions and the push by Washington to support DJI’s rivals could see the company’s North American market share decline. He added that, while the federal government comprised a relatively small part of DJI’s business, its restrictions could have a “chilling effect”, with other buyers worried about tougher measures in the future.

“We’re at a point where there are too many market opportunities for one player to dominate,” he said.

Yet he added alternatives to DJI were relative minnows, though both policy support and security concerns over Chinese drones had brought them growth in the last year. Competitors to DJI include France’s Parrot and California-based Skydio.

Chris Roberts, CEO of Parrot Inc, Americas, said 2020 had been a significant year for the company in the United States, having been named an approved supplier by the Defense Department and won business from emergency services and security agencies.

Skydio announced $170 million in D-round funding last week and said it had a valuation of over $1 billion.

“DJI makes good hardware but we are still very early in the market, and very primitive compared to what ultimately should exist,” Skydio CEO Adam Bry told Reuters.

PHANTOM DRONE FLEETS

When Durscher joined DJI back in 2014, the company’s Phantom series was transforming drones from a niche hobby to a mainstream gadget. He said he was particularly drawn by the chance to bring drones into the kit of fire and rescue departments.

He said the technological advances of smaller rivals in the last year were tempting for some public-safety agencies, who might say “let’s go with this drone now so we don’t have to deal with the data security”.

He added that change could come as government departments and companies looked to replace drone fleets that are nearing the end of their life cycles.

A fleet is typically expected to last three to four years, according to Benowitz.

Durscher and several other staff compared DJI’s internal rivalry over projects to “Game of Thrones”, the TV series where rival factions vie for power. He said this resulted in a rotating door of Shenzhen bosses, and that he reported to 12 different managers in his six years at the company.

Durscher’s departure from DJI followed those of other key executives in North America last year, including director of business development Cynthia Huang.

Huang, who now works with Durscher at Auterion, said job cuts over the past year were the main reason she decided to leave. The losses in Palo Alto, Burbank and Newark had followed cuts made to DJI’s global sales and marketing teams, which Reuters reported in August.

“Some of the people that we lost in those layoffs, it didn’t make sense,” said Huang, who was hired in 2018 to take the lead in building DJI’s enterprise business in North America. “The continued exodus of talent was discouraging.”

Reporting by David Kirton; Additional reporting by Jane Lee in San Francisco, Alexandra Alper and David Shephardson in Washington; Editing by Pravin Char.

Aston Martin’s electric sports models to be made at Gaydon plant

Luxury car giant Aston Martin has pledged to manufacture all of its electric cars in the UK from 2025.

As first reported in the Financial Times, owner Lawrence Stroll said all of its battery sports cars will be made at its plant in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Its electric SUV models will be made at St Athan in Glamorgan, he confirmed.

The company is due to start making hybrid versions of its cars over the next four years, followed by battery-only models.

Aston Martin cars
image captionThe manufacturer will produce hybrid models over the next four years before moving to electric

A growing number of car makers have said they are moving away from petrol and diesel engines, including Jaguar Land Rover, which announced last month its Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025.

It comes as the UK government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Aston Martin is not going quite as far and said it would continue to make traditional engines for car enthusiasts.

Luxury car brand Bentley Motors, owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, said in November its range will be fully electric by 2030, and General Motors said in January it aimed to have a zero tailpipe emission line-up by 2035.

Aston Martin cars
image captionThe firm has a technical partnership with Mercedes Benz

Earlier this week, Mr Stroll told the BBC electrification would not be a problem for the company as the technology could be brought in from Mercedes-Benz, which Aston Martin has a technical partnership with.

Mercedes also has a 20% stake in Aston Martin, and Mr Stroll told the Financial Times the partnership put the firm “way ahead of our rivals”.

Aston Martin employs about 2,500 people in Gaydon and St Athan, although it is not clear whether the announcement would mean changes for workers.

It announced 500 redundancies last year as the impact of coronavirus hit car makers.

UAE’s first independent digital banking platform launches

DUBAI – The first independent digital banking platform in the United Arab Emirates launched on Sunday, a neobank hoping to become a leader in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Dubai-based YAP does not have a banking licence itself but has partnered with RAK Bank which provides international bank account numbers for YAP users and secures their funds under its own banking licence.

YAP, like other neobanks which do not have physical branches, does not offer traditional banking services like loans and mortgages, but offers spending and budgeting analytics, peer-to-peer payments and remittances services and bill payments.

YAP is in the process of partnering with banks in other countries, head of product Katral-Nada Hassan said, including a bank in Saudi, in Pakistan and in Ghana.

Global leaders in digital banking, such as Revolut, one of the world’s fastest-growing apps, do not have a UAE presence.

Some UAE banks have in recent years launched their own digital banking offerings targeted at digitally-savvy and younger users, such as LIV by Emirates NBD and Mashreq Neo by Mashreq Bank.

Abu Dhabi state-owned holding company ADQ last year said it plans to set up an as-yet unnamed neobank using a banking licence of the country’s biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB).

“The fintech revolution has become very popular in other parts of the world and we saw a gap and unique need for this service in the Middle East,” said YAP CEO and founder Marwan Hachem

Hassan said there are challenges for fintechs looking to expand to the UAE.

“There are a lot of fintechs right now looking at partnering with banks, but that requires a lot of discussion, relationship building … It is not an easy thing to do,” she said, adding YAP’s founders had an existing relationship with RAK Bank.

YAP is at seed funding stage, funded by founders, a private equity firm and private investors, Hassan said, adding that more than 20,000 customers have pre-registered and accounts will gradually go live in coming weeks.

‘A side of shares’: Deliveroo to offer 50 million pounds of stock to customers

LONDON (Reuters) – Deliveroo said shares worth 50 million pounds ($69 million) would be earmarked for customers in its upcoming flotation, with the offer branded “Great food with a side of shares”.

The Amazon-backed food delivery firm announced plans on Thursday to list in London, with a potential value of $7 billion making it the biggest market debut in Britain for three years.

Founder and chief executive Will Shu said Deliveroo’s customers had supported the firm’s growth and he wanted to give them the chance to share in the next stage of its journey.

“Far too often, normal people are locked out of IPOs, and the only participants are the institutional investors,” he said on Sunday.

“I wanted to give as many customers as possible the chance to become shareholders, which is why we’re making 50 million pounds of shares available to them, alongside our restaurant partners and riders.”

Deliveroo said any customer who had placed an order would be able to register their interest via the company’s app from Monday.

Each would be able to apply for up to 1,000 pounds of shares, it said, adding that loyal customers would be prioritised if the offer were oversubscribed.

Russ Mould, investment director at online platform AJ Bell, said a year of lockdowns had fuelled demand for companies like Deliveroo and there was an expectation that habits formed during the pandemic would remain long into the recovery.

“All this suggests there is likely to be a bun fight for the 50 million pounds worth of customer shares in Deliveroo at the IPO offer,” he said.

Deliveroo said it would also recognise the role played by its delivery riders in its success with a 16 million pound reward programme to be launched on the day of listing.

Cash rewards from 10,000 pounds to 200 pounds will be available to riders in Deliveroo’s 21 markets based on the number of orders delivered. It said the average per eligible rider would be 440 pounds.

($1 = 0.7225 pounds)

Coronavirus: US Senate passes major $1.9tn relief plan

The US Senate has voted to approve America’s third major spending package to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The $1.9tn (£1.4tn) plan passed by 50 votes to 49 on Saturday, and will now head to the House of Representatives where it is expected to be endorsed.

The relief plan has been championed by President Joe Biden, but Republicans have criticised it as too costly.

Mr Biden’s Democratic Party compromised on a key issue ahead of the vote.

There were long discussions over federal unemployment benefit, which Democrats agreed to lower from $400 to $300 a week. The benefit would be extended until 6 September under the plan.

The package also envisages one-off payments worth $1,400 to be sent to most Americans.

America’s worst public health crisis in a century has left nearly 523,000 people dead and 29 million infected, with a current unemployment rate of 6.2%. 

What’s in the package?

The so-called American Rescue Plan allocates $350bn to state and local governments, and some $130bn to schools.

It would also provide $49bn for expanded Covid-19 testing and research, as well as $14bn for vaccine distribution.

The $1,400 stimulus cheques will be quickly phased out for those with higher incomes – at $75,000 for a single person and for couples making more than $150,000.media caption”I’m not sure how we’re going to survive”

The extension of jobless benefits until September, meanwhile, would mark a key reprieve for millions of long-term unemployed Americans whose eligibility for benefits is currently due to expire in mid-March.

The bill also includes grants for small businesses as well as more targeted funds: $25bn for restaurants and bars; $15bn for airlines and another $8bn for airports; $30bn for transit; $1.5bn for Amtrak rail and $3bn for aerospace manufacturing.

What were the sticking points?

While Republicans broadly backed two previous stimulus plans, passed when they controlled both the White House and the Senate under Donald Trump, they have criticised the cost of Mr Biden’s bill.

There was a marathon 27-hour session before the final vote on Saturday, and the 50-49 tally along party lines was indicative of the widespread Republican opposition.

The even split between the parties in the Senate meant that every Democratic senator needed to support the party’s plans.

But on Friday a moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, objected on the grounds that the huge bill might overheat the economy. It took 11 hours of negotiation throughout the night to come up with a deal.

The compromise on lowering unemployment benefit meant the package could move forward to a final vote.

“It’s been a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come and we tell the American people help is on the way,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, however, criticised the aid package. “The Senate has never spent $2tn in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” he said.

Mr Schumer has predicted that the House will endorse the bill and President Biden will sign it before boosted unemployment benefits expire on 14 March.

How the number of deaths has been falling in the US
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