Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has admitted it faces a shortage of drivers for its lorries as the haulage industry warns of a widespread UK delivery crisis ahead.
Ken Murphy, Tesco’s chief executive, told a call with analysts after the company’s first quarter results that it was “working hard” to address its shortfall through recruitment and insisted product availability remains strong.
He made his remarks as hauliers grapple for support from the government to avert, what they say, is a threat to the economy from a national shortage of drivers – estimated at up to 100,000.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) argues that the COVID-19 crisis including testing demands, coupled with Brexit preventing the sector using EU-based drivers, has driven the problem.
There have been calls in some quarters for the army to be brought in to help shift goods if short-term access to non-UK labour is not allowed.
A meeting with ministers this week failed to produce a breakthrough, as far as the industry was concerned.
The RHA said it also highlighted issues around driver training and apprenticeships, parking and facilities for drivers, and the “need to treat drivers and the sector with the respect they deserve”.
There is long-standing anger over the treatment of drivers in relation to illegal cross-Channel migration and communication of rules ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period which coincided with disruption caused by COVID testing demands.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said on Wednesday, after a meeting with Roads Minister Baroness Vere: “The need for action is clear and urgent.
“We and many others have provided overwhelming evidence that the shortage is getting worse – the situation must be addressed right now.”
The government has indicated that it is looking at options to offer support.
But a Department for Transport spokesperson was quoted by The Grocer as responding: “Most of the solutions are likely to be commercial and from within industry, with progress already being made in key areas such as testing and recruitment, and a big focus towards improving pay, working conditions and diversity.”
Struggling CBI to impose 5% fee increase on members
The CBI is urging members to swallow a further rise in fees even as the lobby group battles to regain its former standing among political and business leaders.
Sky News understands that CBI members will be asked at its annual meeting next week to approve a 5% rise in their subscription costs.
It comes less than three months after the organisation – which styles itself as ‘the voice of British business’ – won a lifeline from banks which agreed to provide sufficient funding to avert collapse in the aftermath of a sexual misconduct scandal.
The CBI has been slowly rebuilding its reputation, staging a slimmed-down version of its annual conference last month which featured an address by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor.
In a circular to members, it said the fee hike was in line with previous years.
However, the group has been slashing costs by axeing a chunk of its workforce and closing most of its overseas offices in an attempt to restore its finances to a more stable footing.
The crisis which erupted earlier this year, which followed several rape allegations against former employees, triggered an exodus of corporate members including Aviva and John Lewis Partnership.
Tony Danker, its director-general – who was accused of inappropriate behaviour but had nothing to do with the more serious allegations – stepped down in April weeks after being suspended.
The CBI briefly entertained talks about a merger with Make UK, the manufacturers’ body, but these have now been curtailed.
The business group declined to comment on Friday, although an insider said it was “standard operating practice…to adjust prices for inflation”.
Frazer to prohibit removal of key Telegraph staff during probe
The government is to prohibit the removal or transfer of key Daily Telegraph journalists during a public interest probe into the newspaper’s prospective takeover by a state-backed Abu Dhabi investor.
Sky News has learnt that Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, is preparing to make an interim enforcement order (IEO) that will impose a set of restrictions on the Daily and Sunday Telegraph’s current owners.
City sources said the IEO – which has been notified to the Barclay family – was likely to be made public later on Friday.
Both the family and RedBird IMI are said to have agreed to the restrictions.
It will come within hours of the government issuing a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) that will subject the change of control at the broadsheet titles to a probe by Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority.
The IEO will prevent the Barclay family or RedBird IMI from expediting a further change of ownership, removing directors or transferring top editorial staff without the secretary of state’s approval, according to one insider.
Whitehall officials had been considering using a separate order to ensure the newspapers’ independence during the PIIN, but sources said the IEO would effectively achieve the same objectives.
News of the IEO may assuage concerns raised by a growing number of Conservative parliamentarians about the Barclay family, which has owned the Telegraph since 2004, or RedBird IMI attempting to exert renewed influence on the newspapers.
Ms Frazer is seeking the regulators’ responses before the end of January, after which the takeover of the broadsheet newspapers could be approved or blocked.
Dozens of Conservative MPs, including the former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, have called for the deal to face further investigation under national security laws.
The repayment of a £1.16bn debt to Lloyds is, however, unaffected by the PIIN.
Earlier on Friday, Sky News revealed that shareholders in Lloyds Banking Group could reap a windfall worth more than £500m early next year following the deal to repay the loans.
Lloyds is expected to receive the funds early next week from the Barclays following an agreement between the family and RedBird IMI, an Abu Dhabi-based vehicle which is majority-funded by members of the Gulf state’s royal family.
RedBird IMI plans to convert a £600m chunk of the loan into shares in the Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine if it gains regulatory approval for the deal.
RedBird IMI, which is fronted by the former CNN president Jeff Zucker and funded in large part by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the owner of Manchester City, has pledged to preserve the Telegraph’s editorial independence.
A trio of independent directors, led by the Openreach chairman Mike McTighe, will remain in place while the public interest inquiry is carried out.
RedBird IMI’s move to fund the loan redemption has circumvented an auction of the Telegraph titles which has drawn interest from a range of bidders.
Prospective bidders led by the hedge fund billionaire and GB News shareholder Sir Paul Marshall had been agitating for the launch of a PIIN.
The Telegraph auction, which has also drawn interest from the Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere and National World, a London-listed local newspaper publisher, is now effectively over.
Until June, the newspapers were chaired by Aidan Barclay – the nephew of Sir Frederick Barclay, the octogenarian who along with his late twin Sir David engineered the takeover of the Telegraph in 2004.
Lloyds had been locked in talks with the Barclays for years about refinancing loans made to them by HBOS prior to that bank’s rescue during the 2008 banking crisis.
The DCMS and a spokesman for the Barclay family declined to comment.
Lloyds shareholders could reap £500m bonanza from Telegraph deal
Shareholders in Lloyds Banking Group could reap a windfall worth more than £500m early next year following a deal that will see it repaid loans in full by the owners of The Daily Telegraph.
Sky News has learnt Britain’s biggest high street lender will be in a position to write back more than £500m on the value of a £700m loan extended years ago to the Barclay family.
One banking analyst said the writeback, the precise size of which will be disclosed in Lloyds’ annual results next February, would pave the way for Lloyds to return a significant amount of capital to investors, potentially through a special dividend or share buyback.
Lloyds is expected to receive a total of £1.16bn early next week from the Barclays following an agreement between the family and RedBird IMI, an Abu Dhabi-based vehicle which is majority-funded by members of the Gulf state’s royal family.
On Thursday, Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, confirmed a Sky News report that she was issuing a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) that will subject the transaction to scrutiny by Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority.
The debt repayment to Lloyds is, however, unaffected by the PIIN.
The bank has already given notice to the government of the debt repayment, with the funds expected to be transferred early next week.
The outcome will be a stunning one for Lloyds and its chief executive Charlie Nunn, who had rejected a series of partial repayment offers from the family lodged after the Telegraph’s holding company was placed into receivership during the summer.
In addition to the £700m value of the principal loan, the Barclays are paying more than £400m in interest which has accrued over many years.
“The writeback is pure profit for Lloyds and will flow straight to the bank’s bottom line,” the analyst said.
One person close to the situation said that Lloyds had written down the majority, but not all, of the loan’s original £700m value.
A writeback of over £500m is therefore expected to contribute a meaningful proportion of the bank’s 2023 annual profit.
Analysts say the company is already generating significant sums of excess capital and that the absence of a substantial acquisition would therefore give Lloyds’ board the freedom to return the Telegraph loan windfall to shareholders.
The repayment of the Lloyds loan will trigger the dissolution of a court hearing in the British Virgin Islands to liquidate a Barclay company tied to the newspaper’s ownership, and temporarily put the family back in control of their shares in the broadsheet title.
However, the Barclays will be subject to restrictions imposed by the government which are expected to be outlined shortly.
A trio of independent directors, led by the Openreach chairman Mike McTighe, will remain in place while a public interest inquiry is carried out.
RedBird IMI’s move to fund the loan redemption has circumvented an auction of the Telegraph titles which has drawn interest from a range of bidders.#
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The battle for control of The Daily Telegraph has rapidly turned into a complex commercial and political row which has raised tensions between the DCMS and the Foreign Office over Britain’s receptiveness to foreign investment.
Sky News revealed recently that Ed Richards, the former boss of media regulator Ofcom, is acting as a lobbyist for RedBird IMI through Flint Global, which was co-founded by Sir Simon Fraser, former Foreign Office permanent secretary.
The Telegraph auction, which has also drawn interest from the Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere and National World, a London-listed local newspaper publisher, has now been paused until next month.
The original bid deadline had been shifted from 28 November to 10 December to take account of the possibility that Lloyds might be repaid in full by the Barclay family by December 1.
That bid deadline is now expected to be cancelled.
A Lloyds spokesman indicated that any capital distributions would be evaluated in the usual way by its board ahead of the bank’s annual results, but declined to comment further.
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