Friday newspaper round-up: Alfresco dining, Shell, Glaxo, Vectura

by | Jul 16, 2021

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Independent high street businesses could face a “tsunami of closures” after their debt climbed to almost five times the level it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, as shops, hairdressers, bars and restaurants battle to survive. About 150,000 small businesses have racked up £2.3bn in debt, up from £500m before the pandemic, based on government-backed loans and not including rent debt, according to a report from Bill Grimsey, the former boss of Wickes and Iceland, who has backed a series of investigations into the state of the high street. – Guardian
Alfresco dining and drinking could become a permanent fixture in England after the government said it would extend “pavement licences” to aid the recovery of pubs, bars and restaurants hit by the pandemic. The plan is part of a hospitality strategy, announced on Friday, aimed at a sector that has lost 10,000 premises, forgone £87bn in sales and shed more than 350,000 jobs across the UK since the onset of the coronavirus crisis. – Guardian

Britain’s electricity grid is now balancing supply and demand with the help of a giant battery in Wiltshire funded by Chinese investment. The 100 megawatt system has been developed by UK company Penso Power with funding from China’s state-owned Huaneng Group utility and CNIC Corporation. Shell, the FTSE 100 oil and gas giant, has a deal to trade all of the power from the battery, which is now fully operational. – Telegraph

GlaxoSmithKline is seeking a development partner to help transform land at its existing 92-acre research and development site in Stevenage into one of Europe’s largest clusters for life science companies. The British pharmaceuticals group believes that the project could unlock up to £400 million of investment from a private-sector developer and potentially create up to 5,000 “highly skilled” jobs over the next five to ten years. – The Times

The £927 million takeover of Vectura, the listed British respiratory drugs company, by Philip Morris International risks allowing the tobacco company to subvert health legislation designed to cut cigarette consumption, anti-smoking charities warned in a joint letter to ministers. In a growing backlash to the deal, which has been recommended to shareholders by Vectura’s board, the chief executives of Cancer Research UK, Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation, and Action on Smoking and Health have written to Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, calling on the government to block the deal. – The Times

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