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Aston Martin’s new SUV fails to put brakes on losses

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Aston Martin’s losses widened in the third quarter of 2021 despite sales doubling year on year as it rolled out its new DBX sports utility vehicle targeted at wealthy female customers.

Britain’s only large listed car manufacturer reported a loss before tax of £98m between July and September, up from £81m in 2020, in results published on Thursday.

The DBX, which has been aimed at well-off women and costs from about £160,000, has significantly broadened Aston Martin’s customer base beyond the men who overwhelmingly buy its sportscars. That helped its overall unit sales more than double from 660 in the third quarter of 2020 to 1,350 between July and September this year.

That in turn delivered a big increase in revenues, from £124m in the third quarter of 2020 to £238m this year. Revenues have nearly tripled over 2021 so far compared with 2020, when factories and showrooms were all closed during pandemic lockdowns.

Aston Martin came close to bankruptcy at the start of 2020 before it was taken over by the fashion tycoon Lawrence Stroll, who has launched a thorough turnaround plan, albeit without yet dragging the company back to profit.

Aston Martin has bucked the broader industry sales trend in recent months. Separate data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on Thursday showed that UK car sales fell year on year for the fourth consecutive month.

UK sales dropped by a quarter in October compared with the same month last year to 106,000. Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, blamed the fall on the prolonged global computer chip shortage, plus “strong economic headwinds” in the form of tax rises and rising prices that squeeze households’ spending power.

Aston Martin has, like almost every other carmaker, endured delays and shortages of parts, but that has not yet affected production or sales schedules because of the much smaller volumes produced at its factories in Gaydon, Warwickshire, and St Athan in south Wales. However, the ramp-up in DBX production was hit as the carmaker merged its paint shops and made other changes to its manufacturing process at St Athan.

Tobias Moers, the chief executive who took over last August, said: “We’re facing a bit of disruption in the supply chain, but nothing that is compromising our production.”

Aston Martin does not sell any purely electric cars, but Moers said the company would not have to go through further restructuring as it shifts away from internal combustion engines, which will be banned in the UK in 2035. Moers said the carmaker would be at 50% battery electric or higher by 2030.

“It’s not easy to electrify” sportscars, he said. “Purely electric drive is a journey that we’ve just recently started with.”

The company did not change its guidance for earnings this year, which will rely on an uplift from the first sales of its £2.5m Valkyrie “hypercar”, a limited-edition model that is sold out – although Aston Martin just missed its target of first deliveries to customers in the third quarter. It expects to deliver a “double-digit” number by the end of the year, Moers said.

The carmaker is also struggling with expensive debt that it took on last year when it agreed new financing and a partnership with Mercedes-AMG. Financing costs soared to £133m during the third quarter, up from £79m in the same period last year.





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Saudi Arabia’s Most admired Companies in 2022

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Insights Success is an archway that caters to Entrepreneurs’ quench of technology and business updates which are currently ruling the business world.
We are ceaselessly proving the best platform for leading companies, which aids indefinite progress while creating meaningful learning experiences for the visitors and invaluable brand awareness for the clients.



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Bank of England raises base interest rate to 1.75%

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The Bank of England has raised the base interest rate by half a percentage point to 1.75 per cent, the biggest rise since 1995, in an attempt to combat runaway inflation.

The nine-strong monetary policy committee voted eight to one in favour of a 50 basis point rise, defying some market expectations for an increase by 25 basis points.

It is the Bank’s sixth consecutive tightening in monetary policy and follows in the footsteps of the US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, which have begun aggressively raising rates by larger increments.

Interest rates are now the highest since 2009 as the Bank attempts to bring down inflation, which is running at a 40-year high of 9.4 per cent and is on course to exceed 11 per cent later this year.

These would be the worst inflation rates in the G7, caused in large part by rising global energy prices driving household bills higher this year. The UK economy is also heading for a slowdown this year as consumer incomes are squeezed more tightly than since the 1950s.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor, has hinted that it will also announce how it intends to begin unwinding the £850 billion of government debt pumped into the economy since the financial crisis, offloading bonds worth between £50 billion and £100 billion from as early as next month.

The Bank will also deliver its quarterly outlook, with Bailey expected to forecast that inflation will rise beyond 11 per cent and remain in double digits into next year. The Bank’s target is 2 per cent.

Commenting on today’s Bank of England interest rate rise, David Bharier, Head of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “This rise is the clearest signal yet of the Bank of England’s intention to get inflation under control. Spiralling prices are cited by businesses as by far and away the top concern right now.

“However, given the extremely precarious state of the economy, this decision is not without risk for businesses and consumers that are exposed to banking or overdraft facilities.

“There are many causes of the current inflation crisis – global supply chain problems, trade barriers, soaring energy costs, increased taxes, and labour market shortages. Interest rate rises alone will do little to address these.

“Worryingly, our research indicates strongly that most small businesses are not investing for growth, and that longer-term confidence is beginning to wane.





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Opinion: OSC appointment fuss is a tempest in a teapot

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Jeffrey MacIntosh: The government has the legislated right to have a say in the agency’s course

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Ed Waitzer’s recent op-ed (“The issue at the OSC is integrity, not debate,” July 14, 2022) expresses surprise and disappointment in my recent op-ed (“Conflict at the OSC: Why the regulator needs to make room for dissent,” July 7, 2022). In that op-ed, I argued that lawyer Heather Zordel’s appointment as non-executive chair of the OSC in March of this year should be met with open arms, as it introduces new points of view into what seems to be a rather intellectually closed shop. I don’t suppose it will come as a shock to Ed Waitzer or anyone else that I am surprised and disappointed at his rebuttal.

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To begin with, it contains a number of inaccuracies. It states that Ms. Zordel was denied reappointment to her earlier position (2019-2021) as part-time commissioner. In fact, given her busy legal practice, she took herself out of the running. This puts a rather different complexion on the matter.

And I never stated or implied that Ms. Zordel was not reappointed as part-time commissioner because of two dissenting opinions that she wrote as commissioner. My point was that for Ms. Zordel’s critics the dissents were a factor in opposing her appointment as chair of the board.

The nub of my argument was that the OSC could benefit from greater variety of viewpoints among its brass as to what investor protection and other aspects of the OSC’s mission entail. By contrast, Mr. Waitzer argues: “the importance of debate and dissent is not the point here.” I beg to differ. As I indicated, some prominent accounts of Ms. Zordel’s appointment have put a pejorative cast on her disagreements with her fellow commissioners. That puts the issue of debate and dissent front and centre.

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I certainly agree with Mr. Waitzer that the independence of administrative agencies is a cornerstone of our democracy. But does that mean that every administrative agency should be entirely divorced from any government oversight whatsoever — a little fiefdom unto itself and in no sense answerable to its political masters? Not a whit. It is the government that creates the agency, defines its mandate, gives it the powers that it needs to carry out that mandate and defines its organizational structure. And it is entirely within the purview of the government to enlist its legislative power to re-define that mandate, powers, and organizational structure if it chooses.

We don’t have to look into the distant past to find an example. On the advice of a non-partisan blue ribbon panel — the Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce (“CMMT”) — the Conservative government has recently substantially reorganized the OSC via the Securities Commission Act, 2021 (declared in force in April). That legislation splits the adjudicative function (the “Capital Markets Tribunal”) from the regulatory function. Moreover, where before the reorganization the OSC Chair and CEO were the same person, the two offices are now split. As expressed by the CMMT, “The Board of Directors, led by the Chair, (will) focus on the strategic oversight and corporate governance of the regulator,” while “The CEO (will) be responsible for the overall management of the organization and execution of the OSC’s mandate.” The directors, including the chair, are all government appointees.

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This new structure, recommended by a non-partisan committee, gives the government of the day the power to influence, at the highest level, the strategic direction of the OSC. But why should it not? If the government is dissatisfied with the strategic vision or regulatory philosophy of the regulator or the manner in which it is being implemented, it would be profoundly anti-democratic — and at odds with the rule of law — to forbid the government from seeking to alter the agency’s course.

Indeed, the Ontario Securities Act states “The Commission is an agent of the Crown in right of Ontario.” The key word here is “agent.” It is not “hegemony,” “fiefdom” or “satrapy.” At the end of the day, the OSC is a government creation performing regulatory functions ceded to it by the government.

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Do Ms. Zordel’s conservative connections compromise the independence of the institution of which she is now head? Absolutely not. In the making of such appointments, the twin issues of competence and integrity will take up a lot of shelf space. But why should the government not also consider, if it chooses, whether potential nominees share the government’s regulatory philosophy

The true worry about political interference is that the government might attempt to dictate or influence the result of particular cases. But the new legislation builds in the important protection of ceding no operational powers to the board of directors. Thus, aside from the government’s power to approve or decline proposed rule changes (a longstanding feature of securities regulation), its sole discretionary avenue of influence lies in its power to appoint directors and hence influence high-level strategic direction.

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What is left of the argument that there has been inappropriate political interference over the OSC? Only the assertion that Ms. Zordel and three other part-time commissioners were appointed without the government having consulted the OSC, as has customarily been done. Yes, it would have been better if the government had consulted the OSC. In all likelihood, however, the outcome would have been the same. The OSC might not like not having been consulted but at best this is a foible not a fiasco.

In the end, this tempest easily fits within a standard-issue teapot.

Financial Post

Jeffrey MacIntosh is a professor of law at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and a director of the Canadian Securities Exchange.

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