Ian Stone, MD UK and Ireland, Anaplan
Although it is difficult to pin down just one factor that makes cloud computing such a game-changer for businesses, perhaps the key benefit rests in its ability to ‘level the playing field’. By removing much of the initial up-front costs, the cloud allows small and medium businesses to compete with their larger rivals – and in some instances, to surpass them! But large businesses shouldn’t feel restricted by legacy systems. The ability to use the cloud to identify new opportunities and efficiencies isn’t just for the new kids on the block – the key is determining exactly where cloud can deliver the greatest value. For me, there are three qualities the cloud brings to IT: first is scale – the ability to handle almost limitless volumes of data in milliseconds. Second is ubiquity, as cloud solutions are available anywhere, on any device. The third is user centricity, as the technology should be easy for all employees to get to grips with.
The Cloud for All
With less infrastructure and fewer internal processes, start-ups and SMEs have always been considerably more flexible and agile than their market-leading competitors. In contrast, larger enterprises retained their dominance by relying on infrastructure, scale, access to multiple markets and superior technology. The arrival of cloud computing has eroded these advantages, so it’s no surprise that large companies are beginning to become concerned.
Built on systems that have seen long term investment, large enterprises are not often in a position to ‘rip and replace’ their underlying infrastructure. However, they can instead look at solutions which sit on top of existing systems. For example, there has been much talk of big data and the opportunities from crunching large volumes of it to react faster to changes in the market. This is a perfect challenge for cloud software. With its infinite computing power, businesses can tackle large volumes of data held within legacy systems and, as the cloud is ubiquitous, it should be easy to compare the data held in systems with data and insights from staff on the ground. This capacity empowers end users, allows businesses to recognise market changes and respond to them quickly, all within a secure and reliable cloud model.
Building for the Future
Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s largest construction companies, is a great example of a leading UK business doing just this. The company threw out its old forecasting processes (a sprawling set of Excel spreadsheets which was running forecasts for 24 UK offices) in favour of a new cloud-based system which could be tightly integrated with its legacy infrastructure. By taking data from this new system, the business can now make decisions quicker and easier than ever before, removing the many hours of effort that had previously gone into distributing, managing and consolidating spreadsheets. With everyone working from the same central data, the reliability and trust in the figures drawn from it has also increased dramatically.
Additionally, EAT, the award-winning high-street chain, has moved to a cloud reporting model for more than 100 of its UK outlets. With plans to double the size of the business over the next three years, EAT wanted to a way to expand its organisation – but without needing to expand the finance function alongside it. To match these ambitious growth plans EAT needed a scalable solution. Cloud-delivered software was the obvious choice – ensuring that the business achieve the level of flexibility required to ensure it would not end up out-growing its system.
Previously using three separate planning processes – long-term planning, company level planning, and store planning – EAT has used the cloud to streamline the system into a single operation. The integration not only reduces the risk of errors but means that decision-makers can have real-time information at hand when planning for the future or reacting to the latest market condition.
What’s interesting in both of these cases is that while responsibility for the application remained with the IT department, its day-to-day usage came from users across the business. Overall, Taylor Wimpey’s process of generating a forecast was cut from eight weeks to mere days and both organisations gained the ability to check forecasts based on the market conditions of thatday. Business decisions were able to be made quicker and, thanks to now having access to real-time information, more strategically. The cloud has gifted both organisations the tools needed to not only spot new opportunities faster than their competitors but make the decisions needed to exploit those opportunities as well.
Cloud as the Enabler
The cloud is certainly enabling a new wave of start-ups and entrepreneurs to compete in a competitive and often global market, but larger businesses are also getting a piece of the action. When you consider the cloud’s scalability, ubiquity and user centricity, it’s clear that cloud should be on the agenda in some way for businesses of any size. The key factor is that reaping the benefits doesn’t have to mark a complete overhaul of IT systems; it’s just a case of applying the cloud where it works for you.
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.
Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.
“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”
De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.
The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.
Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.
Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.
The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.
The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.
Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.
“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”
Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.
The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.
Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.
The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.
In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.
Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.
Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.
Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.
It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.
De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.
($1 = 0.8269 euros)
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)
UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.
Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.
“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.
($1 = 0.7152 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)
Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights
By James Davey
LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.
The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.
Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.
“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.
To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.
The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.
Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.
Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.
That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.
“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.
Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.
Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.
Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.
($1 = 0.8279 euros)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below...
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month...
Dollar extends decline as risk appetite favors equities
By Stephen Culp NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar lost ground on Friday, extending Thursday’s decline as improved risk appetite...
Bitcoin hits $1 trillion market cap, soars to another record high
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Tom Wilson NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin touched a market capitalization of $1 trillion as it...
Shares rise as cyclical stocks provide support; yields climb
By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets snapped a 3-day losing streak to...
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
By Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19...
Portable Oxygen Concentrators Market to Register 7.8% CAGR Through 2026; Sales to Surge as Oxygen Therapy Becomes Crucial in Covid-19 Treatments
Portable oxygen concentrator manufacturers are largely concerned with the maintenance of inventories throughout the coronavirus crisis, with optimization of supply...
Cancer Supportive Care Products Market to Reach US$ 32 Bn by 2030; Sales Limited by Complications for Cancer Patients Through Covid-19 Infections
The cancer supportive care products market is anticipated to reach a valuation of US$ 32 billion by 2030. The industry is expected...
Bronchoscopes Sales to Rise 1.5x Between 2018 and 2028; Potential Covid-19 Diagnostic Applications to Generate Lucrative Growth Opportunities
Bronchoscope manufacturers remain focused on development initiatives to improve product functionality and accuracy for higher adoption amid healthcare facilities. The bronchoscopes...
US$ 1.1 Bn Hypoparathyroidism Treatment Market Still in Infancy
Mushrooming incidences of thyroid cancer have amplified the number of thoracic surgeries, thus stimulating growth of hypoparathyroidism treatment market. Future...