Putin seeks emergency petrol as Russia runs on fumes

Putin seeks emergency petrol as Russia runs on fumes

An oil worker at the Russkoye oil field in the Yamalo-Nenets region of East Siberia, 2016 – Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Russia has reportedly asked Kazakhstan to supply it with petrol as Ukrainian attacks on its refineries force it to import gasoline.

Kazakhstan has been asked to set up a reserve of 100,000 tonnes of gasoline, equivalent to 845,000 barrels, to supply Russia should shortages arise, Reuters reported.

It is unclear if a deal has been reached. The Kremlin has also been seeking supplies from Belarus.

Russia is normally an exporter of gasoline but Ukrainian drone attacks have significantly hit its refining capabilities, forcing it to rely on imports to meet demand.

Drone attacks have hit Russian refineries at least 12 times, including five in March alone, and can range hundreds of miles inside Russian territory.

Ukraine has turned to attacks on Russian infrastructure as a way of hitting its wartime economy as neither side makes territorial gains on the ground.

More than 10pc of Russia’s refining capacity has been taken offline by the strikes, according to the Ministry of Defence.

A major Russian refinery on the border of Kazakhstan was also forced to shut down over the weekend due to heavy flooding.

Last month Russia banned gasoline exports for six months, which it said would allow prices to remain stable and give it time to repair refinery facilities. It had previously introduced a ban between September and November. In both cases, neighbouring ex-Soviet states are exempt from the ban.

Last year it exported 5.8m tonnes of gasoline, roughly 13pc of its total production. Certain parts of the country have suffered shortages, while gasoline prices hace risen.

The Russian government has said the attacks are not having a significant impact on the Russian economy because it is simply exporting more oil that it is unable to refine into petrol.

Kazakhstan has implemented its own ban on petrol exports for almost two years, saying it is seeking to balance supply and demand.

Read the latest updates below.


05:57 PM BST

Signing off…

Thanks for joining us today. We’ll be back covering the markets tomorrow morning but I’ll leave you with a couple of the latest reports from The Telegraph’s business team:


05:46 PM BST

Surging wine bottle costs saddle Echo Falls owner with £10m loss

The importer of Echo Falls and Hardys has said it will be forced to raise the price of its wines after being hit by an “unprecedented” increase in the cost of glass. Daniel Woolfson reports:

Accolade Wines, the UK’s biggest wine company, blamed searing inflation for a 500pc increase in pre-tax losses to £11m in the year to 30 June 2023.

Losses skyrocketed from £1.8m the previous year to £10.8m despite a £23m rise in sales to £450m, company accounts showed.

Derek Nicol, European managing director at Accolade Wines, said: “The company’s performance has been impacted by exogenous factors over the last three years including ‘black swan’ events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, which have resulted in unprecedented and material inflation of the company’s cost base particularly in relation to shipping costs.”

Based in Woking, Surrey, Accolade Wines bottles many of the UK’s best-known supermarket wine brands, including Echo Falls, Hardy’s, Banrock Station and Mud House.

Mr Nicol admitted in the accounts that the company had raised its prices in 2023 but said it would push them higher in 2024.

A bottle of Hardys Crest Chardonnay has risen from £7 in 2022 to £8 currently in Tesco, research with internet archive tool The Wayback Machine shows, while a bottle of Mud House Sauvignon Blanc has increased from £9 to £10.50.

Accolade’s global parent company is headquartered in Adelaide. It said in February that it would be taken over by a consortium of investors led by the private equity giant Bain & Co, who had been buying up its debt at a discount. It was previously controlled by Carlyle which owns the Spanish wine producer Codorniu Reserve.

The consortium is plotting a recapitalisation of the business, which has come under pressure since the pandemic.

“Like all Australian winemakers, we have been hit by a number of challenging macroeconomic and industry headwinds in recent years,” Accolade’s global chief executive Robert Foye said in February as the deal was announced.


05:32 PM BST

Cake Box sweetens profit forecast

Patisserie chain Cake Box has told investors its profits for the year to March 31 will be better than expected after boosting online sales and launching new products.

It says that sales should be up 9pc year-on-year, reaching around £37.9m.

The chain added an extra 20 shops during the year. It believes there is scope to grow its current estate from 225 stores to 400 over time.

Cake Box began in 2008, founded by vegetarians who wanted to supply cakes that were egg free but still contained fresh cream.

Sukh Chamdal, chief executive, said the baker had “delivered a year of solid growth in all our key performance areas and full year profits slightly above expectations despite the backdrop of uncertain macroeconomic conditions.”

Shares rose 2.5pc today.

Cake Box delivers strong growth in its trading update

Cake Box delivers strong growth in its trading update


05:05 PM BST

Tesco invests £20m in fund to back grocery start-ups

Tesco has unveiled plans to invest $25m (£20m) in a fund to back grocery start-ups, as retailers look for new technologies that can help improve store visits.

The British supermarket has partnered with chains including Australia’s Woolworths Group and Africa’s biggest grocery retailer Shoprite to launch a $125m venture capital fund.

The fund will back start-ups working on technology that can make shoppers’ experience better in stores or on making supermarkets and the food system more environmentally-friendly with products such as more sustainable packaging.

Tesco will contribute $25m to the fund over the next five years.

Ken Murphy, the chief executive, said the grocer was “passionate about seeking out the best innovations”.

It comes amid signs of change across the grocery market, with Amazon recently unveiling plans to ditch its “Just Walk Out” cashier-free shopping technology in US stores. Instead Amazon said it would be using more of its Dash Cart systems, which tracks items as shoppers put them in their trolleys.

A Tesco supermarket in London

A Tesco supermarket in London – Jason Alden/Bloomberg


04:56 PM BST

Footsie closes in the green

The FTSE 100 rose 0.4pc today. The biggest riser was Ladbrokes owner Entain, up 5.23pc, followed by Rio Tinto, up 4.2pc. The biggest fallers were accountancy software business Sage, down 2.8pc, followed by PaddyPower owner Flutter, down 2.3pc.

Meanwhile, the mid-cap FTSE 350 rose 0.65pc. The biggest riser was mining company Hochschild, up 6.8pc, followed by PPHE Hotel Group, up 6.7pc. The biggest faller was WAG Payments, down 2.6pc, followed by South West Water owner Pennon Group, down 2.5pc.


04:36 PM BST

Shares edge up higher as oil prices retreat

Global stock markets have advanced slightly today as oil prices retreated after a recent rally.

Oil prices fell as geopolitical tensions eased somewhat after Israel withdrew more soldiers from southern Gaza. Talks on a truce began on Sunday and continued on Monday although a Hamas official said no progress had been made, despite Egyptian sources saying headway had been achieved.

Stock markets had made a slow start to the second quarter as the risk of a broader conflict in the Middle East had pushed up oil prices to their highest level since October.

A much stronger-than-expected US jobs report on Friday, which followed solid manufacturing data at the start of the week, caused investors to temper bets on a Federal Reserve rate cut in June.

US Treasury yields moved higher on Monday as fixed income investors lowered their expectations for how deeply the Fed will be able to cut interest rates this year after the jobs report.

The yield on benchmark US 10-year Treasury bonds rose to 4.42pc, from 4.378pc late on Friday.

Market pricing on Monday showed traders see a roughly 48pc chance of a Fed cut in June, down from around 59pc a week ago.

Investors will be eagerly looking at the US consumer price index (CPI) figure which is out on Wednesday. This is expected to show core inflation, which strips out volatile energy and food prices, slowing to 3.7pc in March from 3.8pc the prior month.


04:28 PM BST

WebSummit founder returns six months after quitting over Israel remarks

The founder of technology Lisbon conference Web Summit has returned as chief executive six months after resigning amid a row over comments about the war between Israel and Hamas. Matthew Field reports:

Paddy Cosgrave quit after accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza days after Hamas’s October 7 massacre. At the time, he said: “War crimes are war crimes even when they are committed by allies.”

He later apologised for the remarks and condemned Hamas’s “monstrous attack”, however major sponsors withdrew from the conference and speakers threatened to pull out.

Mr Cosgrave said on Monday he would be returning to run the events business, which holds its flagship event in November. He said: “I took the time to reconnect with old Web Summit friends and I listened to what they had to say and what they wanted from Web Summit.”

Paddy Cosgrave speaks in Lisbon in October 2022

Paddy Cosgrave speaks in Lisbon in October 2022 – MANUEL DE ALMEIDA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock


04:26 PM BST

Tesla shares jump on robotaxi hype

Tesla shares have jumped more than 5pc today after investors looked favourably on the carmarker’s ability to make money out of self-driving taxis.

The rise – during a so-far terrible year for Tesla shares – comes after a disputed report that said Tesla was axing its proposed small, entry-level car. Tesla would, however, still focus on building small driverless robotaxis.

The news, on Friday, sent Tesla shares downwards.

A Bloomberg report today attributes today’s rise in Tesla shares to enthusiasm around robotaxis. But it quotes Adam
Crisafulli, the founder of analysis firm Vital Knowledge, who says:

Investors need to curb some of their enthusiasm with this stock and its various product announcements, as there tends to be a wide chasm between hype/speculation and reality. This seems to be an example of Tesla trying to distract from the current EV market conditions, which are very bleak at the moment.


04:18 PM BST

Commodity trader Vitol made more than $1bn a month profit in 2023

The world’s largest independent commodities trader has posted large profits for the second year running after the Ukraine war sent shockwaves through the markets.

Vitol reportedly raked in profits of $13bn (£10bn) in 2023, down from $15bn in 2022 but still substantially higher than its pre-war earnings.

The figures, first reported by the Financial Times, underline how the company and others like it have been able to capitalise on widespread turmoil that has gripped parts of global supply chains since Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022.

Amid Western sanctions and a decision by many businesses to stop doing business with Russia, companies have been forced to overhaul parts of their operations or find new suppliers.

That has triggered a scramble for alternative resources and created lucrative opportunities for commodity traders like Vitol.

“The scale of this realignment should not be underestimated,” said Russell Hardy, the company’s chief executive, in comments last month about the rerouting of Russian oil shipments.

A spokesperson for Vitol declined to comment.

The healthy profits are likely to mean another year of big payouts for the roughly 450 people who own Vitol’s partnership shares.


04:16 PM BST

Grant Thornton fined £40,000 for failings at council pension fund

Grant Thornton, the UK’s sixth largest accounting firm, has been fined £40,000 over failures of its audit of a council’s pension fund. Adam Mawardi has the details:

The Financial Reporting Council found the company made “material errors” during a major local authority audit for the year ending March 2021.

The UK accounting watchdog’s enforcement committee said these failures represented a “significant departure” from the standards expected of a registered auditor and had the potential to affect the public, employees, pensioners or creditors.

These included “two uncorrected material errors” in the pension fund’s audited financial statements that were included in the local authority’s annual report, which did not feature in the pension fund’s own financial statements.

They also found that Grant Thornton failed to obtain sufficient evidence that the value of the pension fund’s investments was “materially accurate”.

The Financial Reporting Council said that a sanction was necessary to ensure Grant Thornton’s local audit functions are undertaken, supervised and managed effectively.

The Financial Reporting Council said: “The Committee acknowledges that Grant Thornton UK LLP provided co-operation, including at an early stage, took appropriate remedial steps promptly once the failing was identified and demonstrated contrition.

“There was also no evidence to support financial gain or benefit from the failure.”

Grant Thornton has accepted the sanction and has issued written undertakings in response to the penalty.

A Grant Thornton spokesman said: “We note the findings of the regulator’s investigation, with which we have cooperated throughout, and regret the errors identified.

“As a leading provider of audit and related assurance services to the public sector, we remain committed to high-quality work and have taken steps to further improve this.”

The Grant Thornton building in Dublin, 2020

The Grant Thornton building in Dublin, 2020 – Patrick Bolger/Bloomberg


04:04 PM BST

Criticism of Chinese electric car exports are groundless, claims minister

Janet Yellen has been in talks with the Chinese government to discourage its economy from dumping subsidised electric cars and other goods in the US.

But Chinese premier Li Qiang has pushed back on Ms Yellen’s message, according to the state news agency Xinhua, which quoted him saying that the US should “refrain from turning economic and trade issues into political or security issues” and view the issue of production capacity from a “market-oriented and global perspective”.

Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao voiced more pointed objections during a roundtable meeting with Chinese vehicle (EV) makers, saying that US and European assertions of Chinese excess EV capacity were groundless.

He said:

China’s electric vehicle companies rely on continuous technological innovation, perfect production and supply chain system and full market competition for rapid development, not relying on subsidies to gain competitive advantage.


03:54 PM BST

British stocks are the top target for takeovers

British companies are being eyed up in a major way for foreign takeovers, according to Bloomberg.

British stocks accounted for 70pc of businesses mentioned at least twice in a survey of 18 risk-arbitrage desks, traders and analysts conducted by Bloomberg last month.

Takeover targets included gambling firm 888 Holdings and insurance company Direct Line.


03:48 PM BST

Biden administration warns China it will no longer accept dumping

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters today that the United States will not accept new industries being decimated by subsidised Chinese imports in the same way that the US steel sector was crushed a decade ago.

After wrapping up four days of talks with Chinese officials, Ms Yellen told a news conference the exchanges had advanced American interests.

She said she had raised concerns about China’s weak domestic demand and overinvestment in industries such as electric vehicles, batteries and solar products, fueled by “large-scale government support”.

She added:

“We’ve seen this story before. Over a decade ago, massive [People’s Republic of China] government support led to below-cost Chinese steel that flooded the global market and decimated industries across the world and in the United States.

I’ve made it clear that President Biden and I will not accept that reality again.

Yellen said that when the global market is flooded with artificially cheap Chinese products, “the viability of American and other foreign firms is put into question.”


03:39 PM BST

Sales of social media sports drink Prime plunge

Sales of Prime, a sports drink heavily promoted on social media, have taken a plunge, according to a report.

The drink, launched by the wrestler Logan Paul and the boxer KSI, was an instant hit. But according to The Grocer, sales are now in freefall.

The trade publication says that in the first quarter of 2024, its sales of £12.8m are less than half the £26.8m it sold a year earlier.

Prime Hydration UK has been approached for comment.

Logan Paul celebrating his Triple Threat Match win during Night Two of WrestleMania 40 at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7 in Philadelphia

Logan Paul celebrating his Triple Threat Match win during Night Two of WrestleMania 40 at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7 in Philadelphia – Getty Images/WWE


03:29 PM BST

Putin asks Kazakhstan for emergency petrol as Russia runs on fumes

Russia has reportedly asked Kazakhstan to supply it with petrol as Ukrainian attacks on its refineries force it to import gasoline.

Kazakhstan has been asked to set up a reserve of 100,000 tonnes of gasoline, equivalent to 845,000 barrels, to supply Russia should shortages arise, Reuters reported.

It is unclear if a deal has been reached. The Kremlin has also been seeking supplies from Belarus.

Russia is normally an exporter of gasoline but Ukrainian drone attacks have significantly hit its refining capabilities, forcing it to rely on imports to meet demand.

Drone attacks have hit Russian refineries at least 12 times, including five in March alone, and can range hundreds of miles inside Russian territory.

Ukraine has turned to attacks on Russian infrastructure as a way of hitting its wartime economy as neither side makes territorial gains on the ground.

More than 10pc of Russia’s refining capacity has been taken offline by the strikes, according to the Ministry of Defence.

A major Russian refinery on the border of Kazakhstan was also forced to shut down over the weekend due to heavy flooding.

Last month Russia banned gasoline exports for six months, which it said would allow prices to remain stable and give it time to repair refinery facilities. It had previously introduced a ban between September and November. In both cases, neighbouring ex-Soviet states are exempt from the ban.

Last year it exported 5.8m tonnes of gasoline, roughly 13pc of its total production. Certain parts of the country have suffered shortages, while gasoline prices hace risen.

The Russian government has said the attacks are not having a significant impact on the Russian economy because it is simply exporting more oil that it is unable to refine into petrol.

Kazakhstan has implemented its own ban on petrol exports for almost two years, saying it is seeking to balance supply and demand.


02:20 PM BST

Ted Baker to cut 245 jobs

Ted Baker will cut almost 250 jobs as it shuts down one in three stores across the UK, the fashion retailer’s administrators have said.

Eleven loss-making Ted Baker locations will shut down by next Friday, restructuring firm Teneo announced on Monday.

It said a further four had cancelled their leases before its UK and Europe retail entity, No Ordinary Designer Label, was placed into administration last month, and will close in the coming weeks.

Around 245 jobs will be lost in total as a result of the closures, with 25 of those at the company’s head office.

Authentic Brands Group, the American owners of Ted Baker’s UK and Europe retail operations, put the company into administration in late March saying it had accumulated “a significant level of arrears” and blaming its former owners, the Dutch company AARC.

It is looking for a new owner of the retail business.

Teneo said that after a review it had determined that the 11 stores “have no prospect of being returned to profitability, even with material rent reductions”.

It added: “As such, their closure is believed to be a constructive and necessary step in ensuring the business can deliver a profitable trading performance in the future.”

The company runs 46 Ted Baker stores in the UK as well as concessions in airports and department stores.


12:41 PM BST

Shell threatens to quit London for New York

Shell, one of the London Stock Exchange’s biggest companies, has suggested it could abandon the UK listing in favour of New York, something that would be the biggest blow to date to the LSE.

Wael Sawan, Shell’s chief executive, said the company was looking at “all options”, as James Warrington and Michael Bow report:

The energy boss said the current undervaluation presented a “fantastic investment opportunity”, adding: “I will keep buying back those shares, and buying back those shares at a discount.”

But he pointed to the gap in valuation between Shell and its New York-listed rivals Exxon Mobil and Chevron and acknowledged the company may have to take more drastic action if that gulf is not resolved by the end of next year.

Mr Sawan told Bloomberg: “If we work through the sprint, and we are doing what we are doing, and we still don’t see that the gap is closing, we have to look at all options.”

Read the full story here.


11:49 AM BST

John Lewis appoints new chairman to replace Dame Sharon White

John Lewis has appointed a new chairman to replace Dame Sharon White as the mutual battles to revive its fortunes.

The John Lewis Partnership, which runs the department store chain and Waitrose stores, said Jason Tarry, the former UK boss of Tesco, would be joining as its seventh chairman later this year, following a search which kicked off last October.

Mr Tarry stepped down as Tesco’s UK and Ireland chief executive last month after more than 33 years at the grocery giant. He had led Tesco’s UK operations for six years and was credited for his critical role in steering the supermarket through the pandemic.

When he stepped down, Tesco boss Ken Murphy said he had made the supermarket “the most competitive we have ever been”.

Mr Tarry’s appointment as John Lewis’s next chairman comes as the partnership refocuses back on its core retail business, having shelved plans to rapidly shift away from the high street.

Dame Sharon, commenting on her successor, said Mr Tarry had a “fantastic retail experience with leadership through transformation”.

Jason Tarry

Jason Tarry left Tesco last year – John Lewis


11:16 AM BST

Musk falls behind Zuckerberg in rich list

The two billionaires on-again, off-again plans for a cage match last year never materialised, but Meta’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has got one over on Twitter owner Elon Musk in one respect: his net worth has overtaken Mr Musk’s for the first time since 2020.

Matthew Field reports that a slide in Tesla’s share price has pushed Mr Musk’s net worth down to $181bn (£143bn), against $187bn for Mr Zuckerberg.

Despite the two not being obvious rivals until Mr Musk bought Twitter 17 months ago, they are far from friends. Here’s more from Matthew’s story:

As recently as a month ago Mr Musk was the richest person in the world. However, his net worth has sunk on the back of Tesla’s falling share price.

The stock has dropped by a third so far this year amid mounting competition from Chinese rivals and production issues in Europe. The company’s stock, which accounts for much of the billionaire’s net worth, fell by more than 6pc last week after it reported weaker than expected vehicle deliveries.

Mr Musk has lost an estimated $48.8bn so far this year as a result of the stock downturn. Conversely, the billionaires around him on the rich list have all made significant gains.


10:38 AM BST

Biden gives microchip giant $11.6bn

The US government has awarded the Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC $11.6bn (£9.2bn) in grants and loans to help fund a state-of-the-art facility in Arizona.

TSMC is known as the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing company, making chips that are used in the iPhone as well as the top AI processors for companies like Nvidia.

However, its high-end manufacturing is located largely in Taiwan, which is seen as a potential liability due to the democracy being coveted by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

TSMC already has plans to develop two facilities in Phoenix but this package will help fund a factory that will produce the most advanced “2-nanometer” designs.

The funding comes from Joe Biden’s CHIPS and Science Act, which has allocated billions for boosting US semiconductor production.

Joe Biden speaking at TSMC in 2022

Joe Biden speaking at TSMC in 2022 – Shuttershock


09:59 AM BST

Bank of England’s inflation fight hit by surge in fixed rate mortgages

A surge in fixed-rate mortgages has weakened the Bank of England’s ability to fight inflation after the UK saw one of the biggest global increases in people locking in their borrowing costs, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF said the UK now had one of the highest shares of people on fixed-rate mortgages in the world, helping to delay the pain of higher rates for millions of borrowers.

The share of British households who have opted to fix their borrowing costs – usually for two or five years – has climbed from around a third in 2011 to almost 90pc at the end of 2022, according to the IMF.

More recent data published by the Financial Conduct Authority suggests this share has remained stable.

Previously, most home owners tied their mortgage costs directly to the Bank of England base rate, which climbed from 0.1pc in late 2021 to 5.25pc last year.

“Central banks have raised interest rates significantly over the past two years to combat post-pandemic inflation,” the IMF said. “Many thought this would lead to a slowdown in economic activity. Yet, global growth has held broadly steady, with deceleration only materialising in some countries.”

The IMF also signalled UK households were unlikely to suffer a mortgage shock once their fixed-rate deals expire, with overall household debt shares remaining below pre-financial crisis levels.


09:04 AM BST

German economy shows more sign of turnaround

Industrial production figures from Germany this morning suggest the country may escape a slide into recession.

Germany’s official statistics office says this morning that industrial production grew by 2.1pc in February, above economists’ forecasts of a 0.5pc rise.

The German economy declined by 0.3pc in the final quarter of 2023 and a further contraction at the start of this year would tip the country into a technical recession.

Economists had expected that Germany would fall into recession but the outlook has improved in recent days and today’s figures are likely to provide more evidence of that.


08:21 AM BST

FTSE flat at the open

The FTSE 100 is off to a slow start as a new trading week begins, trading at 7,905, barely moving from Friday’s close.

Miners Fresnillo, Rio Tinto and Anglo American are leading the charge higher on signs of higher demand for iron ore, while industrial products group RS Group is at the bottom of the pack, down around 1.5pc.

The FTSE 250 is also treading water. Payments group W.A.G. is the biggest gainer while life sciences company IP Group is down 4.71pc.


07:56 AM BST

Microsoft to open AI hub in London

Microsoft says this morning it is setting up an artificial intelligence lab in London, in the latest boost to the capital as an AI hub.

The company says the division will work on consumer AI projects and will be lead by Jordan Hoffman, a former scientist at Google’s DeepMind lab.

Microsoft recently hired DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman to run its consumer AI efforts, as well as the majority of the team from his start-up, Inflection. Companies such as OpenAI and Anthropic have also set up offices in London in recent months amid a race for AI talent.

Microsoft are not saying how many engineers will work at the AI hub. Here’s Mr Suleyman’s statement:

There is an enormous pool of AI talent and expertise in the U.K., and Microsoft AI plans to make a significant, long-term investment in the region as we begin hiring the best AI scientists and engineers into this new AI hub.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be posting job openings and actively hiring exceptional individuals who want to work on the most interesting and challenging AI questions of our time. We’re looking for new team members who are driven by impact at scale, and who are passionate innovators eager to contribute to a team culture where continuous learning is the norm.


07:44 AM BST

Vet group hit by cyber attack

CVS Group, the London-listed veterinary services provider which owns around 500 practices in the UK, Australia, Netherlands and Ireland including The Vet Collection chain, says hackers gained “unauthorised external access to a limited number of its IT systems”. The attack has affected emails, phone lines and online forms.

It says it has detected and intercepted the attack, which has limited the cyber incident, but that there is an “ongoing operational impact” on the company within the UK, meaning services in the country are continuing to be affected.

“IT services to our practices and business functions have now been securely restored across the majority of the estate; however, due to the increased levels of security and monitoring, some systems are not working as efficiently as previously and this is likely to result in an ongoing operational impact,” it says.

The Vet Collection’s website says: “We are having issues with our online forms and emails, please call your practice for appointments and queries.”

Meanwhile, multiple Facebook pages for practices in the group show that phone lines were not working last week, with pet owners urged to contact them only in emergencies.


07:31 AM BST

Retail insolvencies rise by a fifth

Thanks for joining us.

Retail insolvencies have climbed by almost a fifth over the past year, as higher interest rates hit Britain’s debt-laden stores.

Almost 2,200 retailers collapsed in the year to the end of January, according to new figures from accountancy firm Mazars.

This was up from 1,843 a year earlier and represents a 19pc increase year on year. Mazars said higher interest rates were causing “significant problems” for retailers burdened by high levels of debt.

It follows years when companies loaded up on cheaper debt before interest rates began to rise. The Bank of England has held rates at 5.25pc since last August, making the cost of refinancing debt much more expensive.

Rebecca Dacre, a partner at Mazars, said: “We are unlikely to see the retail sector trading comfortably until interest rates start to fall.”

It has added to pressure on retailers at a time when shoppers have cut back on spending and inflation has driven up labour costs.

The national living wage is increasing to £11.44 per hour for people aged over 23 this month, the biggest cash rise since it was introduced in 1998.

Most retailers are also being hit by a rise in business rates as of this month.

5 things to start your day

1) Pensions giant to create UK superfund in boost for Hunt Phoenix plans multibillion-pound investment vehicle to back fast-growing companies

2) Tenants to face three more years of soaring rents Rising costs set to outpace earnings amid landlord exodus and housebuilding shortfall

3) New flexible working rules risk turning Britain into a ‘couch potato nation’ Rules are ‘bureaucratic burden for business’, says former minister

4) Law firms urged to introduce overworking ‘trigger warnings’ to protect mental health Calls for action grow amid heightened scrutiny of working conditions in the City

5) Sick-note culture to blame for worklessness crisis, says Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins calls for state-backed apprenticeships amid rising economic inactivity

What happened overnight

 Asian stocks have risen, following Friday’s Wall Street gains that came after strong US jobs figures. Meanwhile the price of oil has dipped amid signs that tensions in the Middle East are easing.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei is up 0.91pc at 39,347.04, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is up 0.41pc at 16,792.89.

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