Good morning. Beans doesn’t have to mean Heinz. Asda’s baked beans are tastier than Heinz’s, according to a blind test by the consumer magazine Which? A can of the own-brand pulses costs 50p, compared to £1.39 for its more famous rival.
Big4 big fine
PwC has been fined £5.6m by the UK’s audit watchdog over serious failures in its work on the defence firm Babcock. It’s the fourth such penalty for the Big4 firm in the past year. In a damning report, the Financial Reporting Council said it found errors in “every area” it had investigated in relation to the audit of Babcock’s accounts for 2017 and 2018. It said PwC repeatedly did not challenge management or follow basic audit requirements. In one example PwC failed to examine a €640m contract written in French with none of the audit team speaking French and no evidence any translation was done.
Restaurant Group last orders
The group, which owns chains including Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s, said it would close 35 underperforming restaurants, equivalent to 30% of its portfolio. The news came as the company announced an annual loss of £86.8m for 2022 as it faced rising staff and energy costs despite strong sales growth. TRG is in the middle of a public dispute with Oasis Management, one of its biggest shareholders. Closing lossmaking outlets and focusing on Wagamama, TRG’s most successful brand, is likely to appease Oasis who has been pressurising the company to shake up its strategy to boost profits.
Business tax breaks
The chancellor Jeremy Hunt is considering giving British firms extra tax relief on investment spending as he seeks measures to boost economic growth in his spring budget next week. For years the UK’s investment levels has lagged its G7 peers. Hunt is reviewing a series of potential changes to the capital-spending allowances to encourage business investment, according to insiders. If announced it would offset the steep increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% planned for next month.
Brick by brick success
This week Lego reported 2022 sales of $9.3bn, a 17% jump on the year before. The world’s biggest toy company is now generating almost twice the revenue of its top rivals, Mattel and Hasbro, thanks to recent investments in its stores and products. The 90-year-old Danish company almost went bankrupt in 2003 but has turned its fortunes around through product innovation and expanding globally with an emphasis on China. Lego has also been quick to adapt to the digital world, its app was downloaded 13.6m times in 2022, up 42% and the website saw 395m visits, up 38%. This year, the company plans to launch a kid-friendly metaverse as part of a $1bn investment partnership with Epic Games.
Cutting back: Heathrow Airport has been told to cut passenger charges for airlines next year, in a move that should feed through to ticket prices.
Beauty return: Beauty giant Sephora opened its new London store yesterday, its first UK site since leaving the country 17 years ago.
Driving investment: BMW plans to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into its Oxford plant, securing future production of the iconic Mini in Britain.
Chips are down: The Dutch government says it will put restrictions on the country's "most advanced" chip exports to protect its national security, following a similar move by the US.
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Number Of The Day
The number of women promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions for every 100 men who are promoted, and only 82 women of colour are promoted, according to research from McKinsey.