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Government completes privatisation of Royal Mail

Credit: PA

The government has sold the remainder of its stake in Royal Mail for £591 million, ending its financial interest in the 500-year-old postal operator.

A total of 13% was sold at 455p per share, while the Treasury plans to give the final 1% shareholding to Royal Mail's eligible UK staff.

The privatisation in 2013 attracted criticism from opposition politicians and trade unions who said the firm had been sold off too cheaply.

Beer giants agree takeover terms

SABMiller brews the Miller and Grolsch beer brands Credit: PA

Beer giants SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev have "agreed in principle" on a £68 billion tie-up to create the world's biggest drinks firm.

SABMiller, which makes Peroni and Grolsch, is set to be taken over after tentatively reaching a deal over an improved offer of £44 a share from its Belgium-based rival InBev - the brewer of Budweiser - in what marks the largest takeover of a British firm in corporate history.

AB InBev and SABMiller still have to agree the terms of a formal offer, but have extended the deadline to make a firm bid under City takeover rules to October 28.


UK boss: VW 'couldn't react any faster' to emissions scandal

Paul Willis, the managing director of Volkswagen Group UK Credit: PA Wire

The boss of VW in Britain has said they could not have reacted any faster in response to diesel emissions scandal that has rocked the car-markers.

More than 1,000 cars fitted with pollution test-cheating software were sold in the UK after it emerged that this country was also affected by the issue.

Speaking to a committee of MPs, UK managing director Paul Willis said he halted sales of affected cars within hours of establishing which make and models were affected and could not have acted any faster.

"I couldn't stop selling cars if I didn't know which cars were affected," he told MPs - saying he received those details on September 30, eight days after it emerged Europe was affected and two days after he told the Government sales would stop when they could.

"There were eight days between when we first knew it affected Europe until I stopped selling cars and the reason for that is the complexity of the number of cars involved.

"There are 60 different models, there are five different brands, there are three different engines and two different transmissions.

"I found the VIN numbers out precisely at 9am and at 1:30pm, once I had clarified it with the computer systems, I stopped selling the cars voluntarily."

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the committee that VW "have behaved in an appalling way" during the global scandal.

Transport secretary: VW's behaviour 'appalling'

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin Credit: ITV News

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the committee that VW "have behaved in an appalling way" during the diesel emissions scandal.

The devices being used to mask emissions had been outlawed as long ago as 1988, he said, adding:

It is fairly unbelievable to think that a company of the size and reputation of VW has been doing something like this and finding ways around regulations.

I think they are going to suffer very substantial damage as a result of it and they deserve to, quite honestly.

It draws questions we then have to ask about the overall testing of emissions and that's exactly what we are going to be doing.

– Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary

The emissions scandal was sparked by US environmental regulators who found that VW had installed defeat device software which switched engines to a cleaner mode when they underwent official testing.

VW emissions scandal: 1.2 million cars affected in UK

Paul Willis, managing director of VW UK. Credit: ITV News

Over a million cars in the UK are said to be affected by the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.

At a hearing in Westminster, the transport committee heard from the UK boss of VW that almost 1.2 million cars are affected in Britain and the recall will begin in the new year.

During the grilling, UK managing director Paul Willis - who started proceedings with an apology - conceded that there may be "some risk" that a target to do all the work needed by the end of 2016 would be missed.

Some 400,000 would need changes to their fuel injection systems as well as having the software removed, he said - though he was unable to give any technical explanation to the frustration of MPs.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said VW had told his department that 583,000 Volkswagen cars will be affected by the recall in the UK, along with 393,000 Audis, 132,000 Skodas and 77,000 Seats - making Britain the second worst affected country in Europe after Germany.

VW car owners in the UK who are concerned that their vehicle may be affected can check online here.


VW first sold UK diesel vehicle with rigged software in 2008

Diesel Volkswagen vehicles equipped with software rigged to deceive emissions tests were first sold in Britain in 2008, the UK boss of the car manufacturer has said.

Speaking to the transport committee, Paul Willis said:

It seems around 2008 from the information I have at the moment.

I knew nothing about this subject until 19th September this year, when I first heard it on the news from the United States."

– Paul Willis, MD VW cars UK

Unions join chorus of criticism of government over Redcar

Union leaders have joined the chorus of criticism directed towards the government after the official receiver for the SSI steel works plant in Redcar announced the closure of the blast furnace and coke ovens.

The coke ovens at SSI in Redcar, pictured open and operating in 2012, will close Credit: Reuters

Steel union Community's general secretary Roy Rickhuss said it was "devastating news".

The government must now step in, take the plant into temporary public ownership, and protect and preserve these vital industrial assets.

Keeping the coke ovens running and mothballing the blast furnace effectively would give Teesside steel the chance of a future.

A hard closure will just leave a community devastated and taxpayers picking up the cost of cleaning the site.

– Roy Rickhuss, Community

And Unite national officer Harish Patel warned of the potential impact on the local economy.

The hope of a buyer stepping in has been cruelly extinguished by the liquidator's haste and the government's refusal to step in and buy more coal to keep the coke ovens alight.

It is devastating news for all those whose livelihoods depend on steel making on Teesside and the hopes of a community who thought that an alternative solution could be found.

The light on steelmaking on Teesside has been snuffed out by the government's laissez faire approach which sets a dangerous precedent for an industry battling to stay afloat in the face of cheap Chinese imports and high energy costs.

We would urge the Government to change its stance, to intervene and support Redcar and the UK steel industry, so that British industry can take advantage of major projects, such as HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse.

– Harish Patel, Unite

MP: Redcar closure 'breathtaking industrial vandalism'

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has labelled the Redcar steel works announcement an "absolute and utter disaster", accusing the government of "breathtaking industrial vandalism."

MP Andy McDonald called the closure an 'absolute and utter disaster' Credit: PA

In a blog published to his website, the Labour MP said ministers had been "asleep at the wheel", claiming the collapse should have been on the government's radar a long time ago.

All the signs have been there for many months. Principally the dumping of vast quantities of steel by China on the world market and, despite slowing growth in China, their own steel consumption had failed to keep pace with the growth in production made it abundantly clear that there were major problems ahead.

This has been known in the industry for years and has put enormous pressure on the UK steel industry.

– Andy McDonald

It comes after local council leader Sue Jeffery also lashed out at the government's response, accusing them of "allowing" the closures by failing to act.

VW UK boss apologises for emissions scandal

The head of VW cars in the UK has apologised "unreservedly" for "significantly" letting down its customers in the diesel emissions scandal.

In a statement to the House of Commons Transport Committee, Paul Willis said:

I would like to apologise sincerely and unreservedly that Volkswagen has significantly let down his customers and the wider public over the findings of irregularities in some of the diesel powered vehicles we produce.

– Paul Willis, MD VW cars UK

VW car owners in the UK who are concerned that their vehicle may be affected can check online here.

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