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The UK has seen a “persistent under delivery” of new homes, according to the competition watchdog which has launched an investigation into eight major housebuilders.

Too few new homes are being delivered due to a “complex and unpredictable” planning system and the widening gap between what’s being built by private developers and what people need, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

Its report into the housebuilding industry also identified “substantial concerns” about estate management charges – with homeowners “often facing” high and unclear charges for the management of roads, drainage and green spaces.

Less than 250,000 new homes were built last year across Britain – well below the 300,000-target for England alone, the CMA said.

Why building targets aren’t being met

Targets have only been met when local authorities build houses, the CMA said, but the majority of building currently comes from the private sector, it added.

“It is notable that housebuilding has only reached the levels that are currently being targeted in periods where significant
supply was provided via local authority building”.

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Along with planning problems, a key reason for this is the system of development where homes are built without knowing in advance who will buy them or for how much, a system known as speculative private development.

The majority of houses (60%) built from 2021 to 2022 came through this system which allows builders to respond to market changes but has led to a gap between what people need and what is being built.

“The evidence shows that private developers produce houses at a rate at which they can be sold without needing to reduce their prices, rather than diversifying the types and numbers of homes they build to meet the needs of different communities (for example providing more affordable housing),” the CMA said of the system.

Quality

Concern about the quality of housing was also identified.

The number of owners reporting issues increased over the last decade, the CMA found, as housebuilders don’t have strong incentives to compete with each other on quality and consumers have unclear routes to have problems solved.

Serious problems, such as collapsing staircases and ceilings, were experienced in a “substantial minority” of new houses.

Investigation into major housebuilders

An investigation into eight housebuilders has been launched as the CMA suspects them of sharing commercially sensitive information, which could be influencing the prices of new homes.

While the issue is not one of the main drivers high house prices and the shortfall in delivery number, the CMA said it is important its tackles anti-competitive behaviour if found.

Developers being investigated include Barratt, Bellway, Berkeley, Bloor Homes, Persimmon, Redrow, Taylor Wimpey, and Vistry.

The CMA said it has not reached any conclusions at this stage as to whether competition law has been infringed.

Roughly two-fifths of the homes built between 2021 to 2022 were delivered by the largest, national housebuilders, many of whom are the subject of the CMA investigation, while more than 50,000 homes were delivered by thousands of smaller, regional builders.

Growing estate management charges

A “growing trend” of housing estates with privately managed public amenities such as green spaces was found by the CMA.

Of new homes sold by the biggest builders in 2021 to 2022, 80% were subject to estate management charges which, the CMA said are “often high and unclear”.

The average charge was £350, the CMA found, but one-off, unplanned charges for significant repair work can cost thousands of pounds and cause considerable stress to homeowners.

“Many homeowners are unable to switch estate management providers, receive inadequate information upfront, have to deal with shoddy work or unsatisfactory maintenance, and face unclear administration or management charges which can often make up 50% or more of the total bill”, it added.

A Bellway spokesperson said: “Bellway has engaged and co-operated fully with the CMA throughout its market study – and will continue to do so… We remain focused on the delivery of high-quality new homes that meet local demand and enhance the communities we build in as we work to increase the supply of UK housing.”

A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation said: “We welcome recognition that the planning system is a fundamental barrier to delivery and adds unnecessary delay and cost into the development process, and the need for local authorities to have plans in place and properly resourced planning departments.”

“Housebuilders do not want to be long term mangers of estates and make absolutely no profit from the management companies that are required to be put in place.”

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Former JD Sports chief Cowgill snaps up Applied Nutrition stake

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Former JD Sports chief Cowgill snaps up Applied Nutrition stake

The former JD Sports Fashion boss who presided over its soaring stock market valuation is taking a stake in Applied Nutrition, the fast-growing sports supplement maker, as it steps up preparations for a bumper flotation.

Sky News has learnt that Peter Cowgill, who left the high street giant just under two years ago, is acquiring a multimillion pound shareholding in Applied Nutrition in a personal capacity.

Sources said the purchase would be announced by the company on Monday.

Mr Cowgill knows the Liverpool-based business well, having orchestrated the acquisition of a roughly 30% stake in it during his tenure at JD Sports.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Mr Cowgill said: “Having been instrumental in executing the investment by JD into Applied Nutrition in 2021, I have been delighted by the growth and profitable development of the business.

“I have always been really impressed by the management team and am excited to make a material personal investment into the company.

“I remain confident in its continued growth and success in a rapidly expanding marketplace.”

Mr Cowgill previously sat on the board of Applied Nutrition as a non-executive, but stepped down when he left JD Sports in 2022.

Sky News revealed earlier this year that Applied Nutrition had engaged bankers at Deutsche Numis to prepare the company for a public listing of its shares.

City sources said the company would begin initial meetings with institutional investors this week to familiarise them with it.

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It has also appointed Andy Bell, founder of the London-listed investment platform AJ Bell, as its chairman, further bolstering its credentials for an initial public offering (IPO).

Founded by Thomas Ryder, Applied Nutrition formulates and makes premium nutrition supplements for professional athletes and gym enthusiasts.

It is the official nutrition partner of a range of English football clubs, including Premier League side Fulham, and the Scottish Premiership side Glasgow Rangers.

The company, which sells its products in over 60 countries, also has partnerships with professional boxers, MMA stars and in sports including basketball, cycling and rugby league.

Applied Nutrition’s largest brands include ABE – All Black Everything – which is a pre-workout range now stocked by Walmart, the world’s biggest physical retailer and former owner of Asda.

Other products in its portfolio include BodyFuel, a hydration drink.

Employing more than 200 people, Applied Nutrition has seen rapid growth in recent years, and is heading towards a £100m sales milestone during the current financial year.

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A significant chunk of that growth is expected to come from the US, where it has established a subsidiary in Texas.

Accounts for the year to the end of July last year disclosed a 74% rise in turnover to £61.2m, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rising by 80% to £18.1m.

Mr Ryder and Steven Granite, the company’s chief operating officer, are also big shareholders in Applied Nutrition.

A successful listing for the company, which could take place as early as this year, would represent a boost to the London Stock Exchange’s efforts to attract fast-growing companies to float.

Decisions by a growing number of companies to shift their listings to the US – with Paddy Power-owner Flutter Entertainment becoming the latest example – have cast a pall over the City.

Last year saw the number of companies going public in London halving, with proceeds raised from initial public offerings (IPOs) falling by 40% year-on-year.

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Grocery delivery giant Getir in talks about radical restructuring

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 Grocery delivery giant Getir in talks about radical restructuring

Getir, one of the world’s largest grocery delivery platforms, is in talks about a radical restructuring just two years after it was valued at nearly $12bn (£9.6bn).

Sky News has learnt that Getir, which was founded in Turkey and now operates in five markets including the UK, is examining a number of options as part of talks with its leading investors.

Sources said this weekend that this could involve a break-up of the rapid delivery group, an exit from a number of its remaining markets or some form of emergency restructuring mechanism.

A source close to the company denied that any form of insolvency process was under consideration, saying that if it decided to exit a country it would do so “in an orderly fashion”.

Another insider added that the next few days were “make or break” for the company, with key decisions about Getir’s future expected to be taken as early as the next fortnight.

A drastic restructuring could put thousands of jobs at risk across the markets in which it operates, although further details of the options under consideration were unclear this weekend.

AlixPartners, the restructuring firm, is understood to be advising on the situation at Getir.

The crisis talks highlight the slumping valuations of technology companies once-hailed as the new titans of major economies.

At one point, Getir was valued more highly by private investors than Marks & Spencer and J Sainsbury combined.

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Getir is backed by prominent investors including Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global.

The company was one of the hottest start-ups of the coronavirus pandemic, when financiers rushed to plough billions of dollars into businesses they believed would benefit from structural shifts in the economy.

Getir, which means “bring” in Turkish, was valued at $11.8bn (£9.5bn) when it raised more than $750m (£603m) in a funding round in early 2022.

By the autumn of last year, when it secured a further $500m (£401m) from existing backers, it was worth just $2.5bn (£2bn).

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In the last year, a string of “unicorn” companies have been forced to accept huge valuation discounts in order to secure the funding necessary to survive.

Last September, Getir also announced a sharp cut in the size of its workforce, axeing roughly 2,500 jobs, or about 10% of its global employee base.

It also pulled out of Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Founded in 2015, Getir was one of a crop of companies promising city-based consumers rapid delivery of groceries and other essential products.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the industry saw sales explode, with emerging trends such as working from home fuelling investor confidence that the boom was sustainable.

Many of its rivals have already gone bust, however, while others have been swallowed up as part of a desperate wave of consolidation.

Getir itself bought Gorillas in a $1.2bn stock-based deal that closed in December 2022.

“Our business is very agile and fast-paced,” a Getir spokeswoman said on Saturday.

“Getir principally doesn’t comment on rumours or on internal matters, however, whenever decisions have been made, we will announce them as we have done in the past.”

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Big boiler manufacturers cannot guarantee ‘boiler tax’ refund for ‘ripped off’ customers

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Big boiler manufacturers cannot guarantee 'boiler tax' refund for 'ripped off' customers

Three of the “big four” boiler manufacturers for the UK cannot guarantee customers will be refunded the so-called “boiler tax” that companies added to new boilers earlier this year.

In January boiler-makers hiked costs by up to an extra £120 per boiler to cover anticipated penalties for a green scheme – which has now been delayed.

Ministers had told them to ensure 4% of their sales were heat pumps rather than gas boilers, or they would face a £3,000 fine per missed installation.

As heat pumps run on electricity rather than gas, the move was designed to boost energy security, and lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy security secretary Claire Coutinho accused the manufacturers of “price gouging”, and told LBC heat pump sales were already so high that they anticipated few penalties.

Boiler makers said the unachievable targets would create multi-million-pound penalties they could not afford, so upped the price of gas boilers to cover the anticipated charges.

But in March, the government delayed the heat pump target – also known as the clean heat market mechanism (CHMM) and dubbed the “boiler tax” – to April 2025, following resistance from the boiler industry.

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Three of the “big four” boiler manufacturers, Bosch, Vaillant and BAXI, this week told Sky News they were refunding the “boiler tax” cash to the distributors and retailers to whom they had sold boilers.

But they said it was those companies’ responsibility to return the money to households, because manufacturers tend not to have a direct relationship with consumers themselves.

No one from Ideal Heating was available to comment or confirm its plans.

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Are heat pumps worth it?

‘Out of pocket’ households

It comes as energy thinktank ECIU estimates the four firms together would have collected £40m via the so-called boiler tax, based on the average amount levied and an average number of boilers sold per month in the UK.

Jess Ralston, ECIU’s head of energy, said: “The manufacturers introduced the boiler tax, not the retailers, so it feels like they are passing the blame to a middle party.

“They had been suggesting the fines should be removed, so they must have thought it was a possibility they’d have to refund the boiler tax – it doesn’t seem they put in place any mechanisms for that eventuality, leaving someone else on the hook.”

Gillian Cooper, director of energy at Citizens Advice, said: “Now that boiler retailers have rightly been promised refunds, it’s essential they pass those refunds on to consumers.

“Anyone who purchased a boiler between 1 January and the end of March this year may have been forced to pay more than they should have, leaving them out of pocket.

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“Not only have people been ripped off, but the government’s decision to delay the Clean Heat Market Mechanism in response to manufacturers’ pressure will leave consumers exposed to volatile gas prices for longer.”

After the government confirmed the CHMM delay, retailer Wolseley, which sells boilers made by Vaillant, confirmed it was taking responsibility for issuing refunds on boiler sales.

Clean home heating company Warmur urged boiler manufacturers to “proactively contact customers they know to have had a boiler fitted since 1st January and help them arrange a refund”.

What did boiler manufacturers say?

BAXI said its consumers will receive a refund because it is returning “any funds already collected to our merchant distributors, who then supply products to a 35,000-strong installer community, who then sell onto consumers”.

“We are part way through completing that process, although we stopped adding the surcharge from Monday 18 March.

“In the small number of cases where we sell direct to consumers through warranty relationships, we will be refunding the surcharge to them directly.”

A Vaillant spokesperson said: “Vaillant has communicated with its direct merchant customers that the boiler levy has been removed as of the 19th March 2024 and all levies charged since 1st January 2024 will be refunded in full.”

“Vaillant can only ensure our direct customers are refunded, and it is not visible to us to what extent installers and merchants have passed the levy on.”

A Bosch spokesperson said: “We have refunded in full to our merchant customers 100% of the levy charged on boilers we sold to them in the period 1 January 2024 – 15 March 2024.

They added: “Our trading relationship is with the merchant and we have returned the levy to them. We do not sell boilers to end consumers.”

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