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A UK businessman with precious stock on the container ship Ever Given has spoken of his relief that the ship has finally arrived in the UK, four months later than scheduled.

The vessel, one of the largest of its kind in the world, docked at Felixstowe to offload cargo following one of the most extraordinary maritime events of modern times that saw it get stuck in the Suez Canal for six days in March.

The Ever Given ran aground in high winds and blocked the canal on 23 March – halting roughly 15% of global trade in the process – before being held by Egyptian authorities over a compensation disagreement until 7 July.

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July: Ship that blocked Suez Canal moves again

It was complicated by the fact that the reopening of economies during the COVID-19 pandemic had forced up global shipping costs though an undisclosed settlement was eventually reached.

The Suez Canal Authority had been demanding almost £400m.

The Ever Given had 18,300 containers aboard at the time she was stranded.

HANDOUT - 28 March 2021, Egypt, Suez: Naval dredger "Mashhour" takes part in the refloating operation carried out to free the "Ever Given", a container ship operated by the Evergreen Marine Corporation, which is currently stuck in the Suez Canal. The pressure is mounting on Egypt to dislodge the Panama-flagged massive container ship which has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday, as more shipping firms are rerouting their vessels away from the waterway. Photo by: -/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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A naval dredger works to help refloat the Ever Given in March

Among the scores of importers desperate to get their hands on their goods were carmakers and other international operations, such as Ikea.

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Smaller firms endured a much tougher time.

Jack Griffiths, founder of loungewear firm Snuggy, had expected the largest hooded-blanket order the company had ever made to have been ready for sale in mid-April at the latest.

Joel Pierre and Jack Griffiths are the founders of loungewear firm Snuggy
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Joel Pierre (l)and Jack Griffiths are the founders of loungewear firm Snuggy

The Teesside-based businessman had two containers of stock, worth more than £400,000, stuck on the 400-metre (1,312-foot) vessel and had to fly replacements over to the UK, at a much greater cost, to meet his orders.

He told Sky News of the moment he found out about the grounding: “I got a text off my supplier saying there’s a delay… and he sent me picture of the ship stuck in the Suez Canal. I thought this could be quite bad.

“Before all this happened I was pretty clueless with the shipping process… you pick it up from the warehouse and that’s it. We might have to adapt here.

“We’ve had a good first year and were on track to do more than double… helped by the pandemic and struggling to keep up with demand so it came at a bad time.

“We’ve kept on top of it but managed not to let any of our customers down,” he said.

“As soon as this stock lands we can advertise as we intended… all hands on deck and then we can open the Champagne”, he concluded.

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Number of landlords selling up rises by nearly 13% in four months

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Number of landlords selling up rises by nearly 13% in four months

The number of landlords selling up has risen by nearly 13% in four months, Sky News has learned.

The statistics, given to us by the estate agents trade body Propertymark, show an increase from July to October.

Why should we care what happens to landlords?

In basic terms, if the landlord exodus continues we could end up with a housing crisis on our hands.

That is mainly because we have, as a country, become over-reliant on the private rental sector.

“Generation rent” is no longer your stereotypical “twenty-something” professional.

Now it’s made up, increasingly, of older generations, even pensioners, alongside a rising number of “social” tenants.

Government figures show more than 25% of households renting privately are in receipt of housing benefits.

That is, quite simply, because we do not have enough social housing.

As a result we are seeing different “groups” of people converging, and all competing for the same space within the rental sector.

A lack of affordable housing is, at the same time, exerting pressure from another direction.

Despite a housing market dip with property prices falling, many households aspiring to own their own property are unable to save up.

Read more:
Nearly one million private renters in England under threat of eviction
No-fault evictions driving up homelessness rates in north of England

‘Mission impossible’

Yoana Miteva, a British citizen who moved from Bulgaria to England twelve years ago, describes it as “mission impossible”.

She has been working full time, even taking on a second job, to try to put money aside.

Rent rises have meant added financial pressure forcing her to move home, in addition to energy bills, the cost of living, and house price inflation overall,

Tearful, she tells me she feels “like a hamster in a wheel…running and running, I’m trying to run faster, taking a second and third job, and I’m still well behind”.

As more landlords leave, rents rise as demand further outstrips supply.

The main reasons for landlords selling are down to mortgage rate rises and government legislation.

Private rented sector ‘invisibly buckling’ under pressure

Nathan Emerson, CEO of Propertymark, describes the private rented sector as “invisibly buckling” under increasing pressure for a while.

He says if the sector doesn’t work for a landlord “they will simply sell, meaning there’s one less home for a tenant”.

Landlords themselves are asking for the government to step in and change the rules to help make it easier to create “viable” businesses.

Sean Gillespie, a landlord in Hull, says his colleagues are “jumping ship” because their rented properties are financially “unsustainable”.

He asks: “How can landlords survive? They survive by putting rents up.”

Government rules blamed for tax increases

Government rules are being blamed, specifically “Section 24”, for tax increases which mean it’s no longer possible to offset business costs.

Mr Gillespie says it is “absolutely destroying” the sector.

“We can’t change the interest rates at the moment,” he adds, “but we can repeal Section 24 which is the increased taxation since 2015… if landlords don’t make any money, they can’t run a business, can’t provide housing, can’t repair houses.”

They may be generally unpopular, often vilified, but we need landlords.

If they disappear in increasing numbers, the question remains, without enough social or affordable housing – where will people live?

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John Lewis reveals £500m plan to build 1,000 rental homes

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John Lewis reveals £500m plan to build 1,000 rental homes

The John Lewis Partnership has revealed plans to build 1,000 rental properties on its land as part of a drive to diversify its business.

The employee-owned group, which is spearheaded by its eponymous department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, said a joint venture with investment firm abrdn aimed to achieve a tenth of its ambition to build 10,000 new homes over the next decade.

It would see John Lewis develop and manage the proposed new sites in Bromley and West Ealing in Greater London, which would require Waitrose shops to be redeveloped.

A vacant John Lewis warehouse, at Reading in Berkshire, would also be transformed under the plans.

The project, which is subject to planning permission, includes commitments to affordable housing and sustainability tied to its 2035 net-zero pledge, the partnership said.

“We want to create homes that will provide a stable income for the partnership, and moving into housing aligns with our purpose to make a positive difference for our partners, customers and communities”, the statement added.

The sites were chosen according to their central location and proximity to transport links.

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It announced the investment against a backdrop of record private rental costs, with tenants across the UK facing an average monthly bill of over £1,100 per month.

Across London, the figure is double that sum following a 22% year-on-year increase during the first nine months of 2022 according to estate agency Foxtons.

John Lewis said its plans would help ease a shortage of 75,000 rental homes in the capital.

Nina Bhatia, its executive director for strategy and commercial development, said: “Our partnership with abrdn is a major milestone in our ambition to create much-needed quality residential housing in our communities.

“Our residents can expect homes furnished by John Lewis with first-rate service and facilities.

“The move underlines our commitment to build on the strength of our brands to diversify beyond retail into areas where trust really matters.”

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Joules secures Next rescue with majority of stores and jobs saved

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Joules secures Next rescue with majority of stores and jobs saved

Collapsed fashion retailer Joules will live on after Next agreed a rescue deal that preserves most of its stores and jobs.

Under the deal Next will pick up 100 of its 132 stores and only 133 of 1,600 staff will lose their jobs.

TFG, the owner of the Hobbs, Whistles and Phase Eight womenswear brands, appeared to be the frontrunner on Wednesday in an auction process to secure an agreement with Joules’ administrator, Interpath Advisory.

Joules is the second major UK acquisition for the fashion-to-homewares retailer in as many months.

Next snapped up the brand, website and intellectual property of Made.com on 9 November.

Joules had been trading as normal since a failure to secure new investment pushed it towards insolvency a fortnight ago.

The clothing, footwear and accessories retailer collapsed after its finances, profitability and cash generation came under pressure amid the cost of living crisis.

It had been in talks with both Next and TFG about new investment beforehand.

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