Thursday newspaper round-up: Economic recovery, electric car sales, NatWest

Britain’s economic recovery stalled before the arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid and the dampening effect of the government’s plan B restrictions on consumer spending in the Christmas shopping period, a wide-ranging company survey has found. Businesses blamed spiralling inflation and shortages of imported goods for a decline in sales in the fourth quarter, which meant that an expansion during the spring and summer ground to a halt. – Guardian
Booming electric car sales were a bright spot in a tough car market last year amid disruption to global supply chains hitting manufacturers, according to fresh data. In its annual sales snapshot for 2021, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said carmakers sold 190,000 battery electric cars across the country last year, accounting for about 11.6% of total sales. – Guardian

NatWest is in talks with ministers over a rescue scheme for struggling energy companies as part of efforts to avoid a Treasury bailout. The taxpayer-owned bank has been drafted into discussions aimed at helping to ease financial burdens on the industry, as fears mount that consumer bills will soar to £2,000 when the price cap increases in April. – Telegraph

A British university is awarding degrees to trainees from a Chinese company accused of developing software that targets dissidents. The University of the West of England Bristol has launched an education programme for software engineers working at the research institute of the Chinese IT giant Neusoft. – Telegraph

Majestic Wine’s best-selling region, New Zealand, is under threat from South Africa after a 12 per jump in sales of wine from the Cape over the past six months. With difficult harvests hurting volumes from New Zealand, the wine merchant said that South African wines had “picked up the slack” and it expected the trend to continue beyond Christmas. It said that in December like-for-like sales of South African wines were up 41 per cent. – The Times

A marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has been valued at more than $13 billion in a fundraising that highlights the surge of interest in unique digital items that can be traded online. OpenSea, a blockchain start-up, announced that it had secured the remarkable valuation on the private market barely four years after its founding. The company raised $300 million in a funding round. – The Times

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