Europe

Barclays is joining forces with an insolvency specialist to try to recover millions of pounds of misappropriated loans advanced under the UK government’s Covid-19 bounceback scheme, the Irish Times reported. The bank is among the lenders that provided loans of up to £50,000 (€56,000) to small companies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which were guaranteed by the government. About £46 billion was given to companies with only minimal eligibility checks to encourage banks to lend quickly.
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The chief executive of German utility Uniper SE plans to resign this year after the company, hit hard by Russia’s decision to halt most of its natural-gas exports to Europe, was nationalized by the government, the Wall Street Journal reported. Klaus-Dieter Maubach, who was appointed to the position in 2021, will exercise a special right of termination due to the change of ownership, the company said Tuesday. Uniper’s Chief Operating Officer David Bryson will also depart, using the same right.
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Nearly 3.5 million people — or about one in 12 working-age adults in Britain — who have long-term health conditions are not working or looking for work, the New York Times reported. The number ballooned during the first two years of the pandemic when more than half a million more people reported they had a long-term sickness, with physical and mental health conditions, according to analysis by economists at the Bank of England.
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More than 1,000 firms could go bust this year if the economic downturn worsens, racking up combined losses of €4bn, according to PwC’s latest insolvency barometer, the Independent reported. Construction, real estate, hospitality and arts businesses are the most at risk, the consulting firm said. A total of 527 companies went bust last year, 39pc up on 2021, when insolvencies were artificially lowered due to government supports. Irish firms that failed in 2022 owed €1.8bn between them, with the average debt per small- or medium-sized firm amounting to around €2m.
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UK-based energy services provider Altera Infrastructure has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a few months after filing for it, Offshore-Energy.biz reported. Thanks to a charter for an FPSO, which is expected to be deployed at one of the largest undeveloped oil fields in the UK, the firm expects to strengthen its balance sheet further, as it sees this as a foundation for long-term growth if this project goes ahead. Back in August 2022, Altera Infrastructure, formerly a part of Teekay, entered a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process in the U.S. to address its debt of over $1.5 billion.
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Over 800,000 UK households will see their mortgage rates more than double this year as they come off low fixed-rate deals, adding to the pressure on living standards, Bloomberg News reported. In total, more than 1.4 million fixed-rate borrowers will have to renew their mortgage in 2023, with 57% currently on deals of less than 2%, according to an Office for National Statistics analysis of Bank of England data. The average variable rate mortgage is currently 4.41% and fixed-rate deals start at around 5%.
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Switzerland’s government will not receive a payout from the Swiss National Bank for 2022, as the central bank projects the biggest loss in its 116-year history, Bloomberg News reported. The SNB expects an annual loss of about 132 billion francs ($143 billion), more than five times the previous record, it said Monday in preliminary results. The largest part of this, 131 billion francs, stems from collapsed valuations of its large pile of holdings in foreign currencies, accrued as a result of decade-long purchases to weaken the franc.
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Spain will seek European Union permission to extend its temporary cap on reference prices for natural gas and coal used by power plants until at least the end of 2024, Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Monday, Reuters reported. The so-called Iberian mechanism, in place in Spain and Portugal after the two countries reached a deal with the European Commission in the spring of 2022, is a joint scheme through which fossil fuel plants' power costs are subsidised in a bid to bring down soaring electricity prices.
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France's power suppliers have agreed to offer small businesses struggling with price rises a guaranteed tariff of 280 euros ($298) on average per megawatt hour, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, Reuters reported. "This is a guaranteed tariff and it is an enormous relief," said Le Maire after a meeting on Friday with energy executives. President Emmanuel Macron had on Thursday urged energy suppliers including EDF and TotalEnergies to do more to help customers cope with the surge in energy prices that has in recent months driven inflation to record highs.
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Britain will introduce legislation to ensure key public services maintain minimum safety levels during industrial action, as the government seeks to limit disruption from strikes now involving tens of thousands of workers, Reuters reported. The government said on Thursday it would bring the bill to parliament in the coming weeks and would consult on the minimum safety levels to be set for fire, ambulance and rail services. "While we hope that voluntary agreements can continue to be made in most cases, introducing minimum safety levels...
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