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LEVEL39 CELEBRATES CREATING WORLD CLASS LONDON TECH CLUSTER IN JUST 12 MONTHS

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Today Level39 celebrates its first anniversary. The technology accelerator has so far helped 86 financial, retail and future cities technology companies grow over 12 months, creating an internationally recognised technology cluster in Canary Wharf and an acknowledged home for FinTech in Europe.

LEVEL39 CELEBRATES CREATING WORLD CLASS LONDON TECH CLUSTER IN JUST 12 MONTHS 3Level39 (29,000 sq ft) was conceived and established by Canary Wharf Group plc to offer growing tech businesses unrivalled access to office, event and social facilities, plus introductions to over 340 leading industry figures comprising customers, partners, mentors, talent and investors. It has become London’s predominant community for financial technology innovation and is growing as a centre for retail and future cities technology.

Since its official opening by Mayor of London Boris Johnson a year ago, Level39 has received over 682 applications for membership from technology companies internationally. Following this high demand of applicants and the success of the high growth companies, Canary Wharf Group plc opened the High Growth Space (15,000 sq ft) on the forty-second floor of One Canada Square last year, just six months after launching Level39. The first members of the High Growth Space were all graduates of Level39 who have since been joined by a further five technology companies – London Brand Management, Kusiri, Pirean, Meniga and Recipco – with the Group in discussions with a further 10 technology businesses.

The success of the Group’s accelerator model, designed to nurture growing technology companies to become occupiers at Canary Wharf, yielded its first result with Pirean, a Level39 and now High Growth Space graduate that has transitioned into a fully-fledged tenant in under a year. The Identity and Access Management (IAM) Company signed a five-year lease for 2,259 sq ft on the 34th floor of One Canada Square last week.

Level39 has also played host to over 30,000 visitors, 200 events including the 3DFintech Challenge sponsored by Dassault Systemes, Wired’s Future Money Conference, PayPal’s Battlehack and international delegations including the Swedish royal couple, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John Tsang, and the US embassy.

To celebrate the one year anniversary, Head of Level39, Eric Van der Kleij, will be hosting a ‘fireside chat’ with Gerard Grech the new Tech City UK CEO at Level39 on his approach to the role and his plans for listening to and understanding the needs of the UK’s tech entrepreneurs and digital business builders.

Eric Van der Kleij, Head of Level39, said:

“The Group’s vision for Level39 was to help high-potential tech companies grow in an optimum environment, with the guidance of our industry mentors. The demand we have seen at Level39, the High Growth Space and at Canary Wharf has been overwhelming. It reinforces London’s strength as a network of specialist clusters. At Canary Wharf we are focused on maintaining our momentum into the next year and helping support the next leaders in financial, retail and future city technology.”

Gerard Grech, Tech City UK CEO adds:

“All over London and across the UK, traditional industries are being reinvigorated through the power  of technology. Level39 is a fantastic example of what happens when an established sector like finance embraces digital technology. My priority is to garner the opinions of the digital entrepreneurs and business builders that are diversifying the UK economy, creating jobs and ultimately driving growth, and to understand how government and Tech City UK can best support them.”

Alastair Paterson, Co-Founder of Digital Shadows, Level39 and High Growth Space member comments:

“Digital Shadows were one of the first companies to become members of Level39, and six months later we became the first team to put down roots on the High Growth Space. We had a fantastic 2013, and Level39 provided the perfect launch pad for us to engage with the many tier-1 banks who we now count as clients. We made a lot of genuinely useful connections and friendships at Level39, our team enjoy the environment here, and hats off to the Canary Wharf Group for their flexibility in accommodating our rapid growth as it continues into 2014 and beyond.”

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OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting – sources

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OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting - sources 4

By Ahmad Ghaddar, Alex Lawler and Olesya Astakhova

LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC+ oil producers will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, cut output by a record 9.7 million bpd last year as demand collapsed due to the pandemic. As of February, it is still withholding 7.125 million bpd, about 7% of world demand.

In January OPEC+ slowed the pace of a planned output increase to match weaker-than-expected demand due to continued coronavirus lockdowns. Saudi Arabia made extra voluntary cuts for February and March.

Three OPEC+ sources said an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day from April looked possible without building up inventories, although updated supply and demand balances that ministers will consider at their March 4 meeting will determine their decision.

“The oil price is definitely high and the market needs more oil to cool the prices down,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. “A 500,000 bpd increase from April is an option – looks like a good one.”

A rally in prices towards $67 a barrel, the highest since January 2020, the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery hopes have boosted confidence the market could take more oil. India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, has urged OPEC+ to ease production cuts.

Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) ends next month. While Riyadh hasn’t shared its plans beyond March, expectations in the group are growing that Saudi Arabia will bring back the supply from April, perhaps gradually.

Some OPEC+ members also anticipate that the Saudis will be willing to ease cuts further, but it was not clear if they had had direct communication with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has warned producers to be “extremely cautious” and some OPEC members are wary of renewed demand setbacks. One OPEC country source said a full return of the Saudi barrels in April would mean the rest of OPEC+ should not pump more yet.

“The Saudi voluntary cut will be back to the market,” the source said. “I’m personally with no more relaxation, not until June.”

Russia, one of the OPEC+ countries which was allowed to boost output in February, is keen to raise supply and a source last week said Moscow would propose adding more oil if nothing changed before the March 4 virtual meeting.

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

 

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UK’s Sunak to build bridge to recovery with more spending

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UK's Sunak to build bridge to recovery with more spending 5

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will next week promise yet more spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.

Sunak, who is due to announce a new budget plan on March 3, has already racked up more than 280 billion pounds ($397 billion) in coronavirus spending and tax cuts, pushing Britain’s borrowing to a peacetime record.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to lift England’s current lockdown entirely only in late June so Sunak is expected to rely heavily on the debt markets again.

His job retention scheme, paying 80% of employees’ wages, will probably be extended beyond a scheduled April 30 expiry date, further inflating its estimated cost of 70 billion pounds. Support for the self-employed looks set to stay too.

Businesses are demanding Sunak keep other lifelines, such as exempting the firms hardest hit by the lockdown from property taxes and giving them a value-added tax cut.

And calls are growing for an extension of a 20 pounds-a-week emergency welfare increase due to expire in April.

The Times newspaper said Sunak would prolong his stamp duty property tax break for three months until the end of June.

Sunak hopes that by then Britain will be emerging from its deep freeze thanks to Europe’s fastest vaccination programme.

Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane likens the economy to a “coiled spring” primed with the savings that households have built up after being stuck at home.

A strong recovery would mean a jump in tax revenues, doing some of the Treasury’s job of fixing the public finances.

Rupert Harrison, an aide to former finance minister George Osborne, said Sunak should not try to slash Britain’s 2.1 trillion-pound debt mountain, equivalent to 98% of GDP – a ratio unthinkable for decades.

Instead he should write new budget rules tied to the cost of debt servicing, which is close to record lows.

“We can safely carry higher levels of debt than before,” Harrison told a webinar organised by Onward, a think-tank.

But the scale of Britain’s borrowing is raising questions about how long Sunak and Johnson can stick to their promises not to raise key taxes, made to voters before the 2019 election.

BROKEN PROMISES?

The huge costs of tackling the worst of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to ease in the months ahead, meaning this year’s 400 billion pound budget deficit should narrow.

But Britain is probably on course to be stuck with a gap of 60 billion pounds between revenues and day-to-day spending by the mid-2020s, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank says.

In a nod to that, Sunak is expected to start raising Britain’s low corporation tax rate.

The Sunday Times said the rate would rise steadily to bring in an extra 12 billion pounds a year by the time of the next election, due in 2024.

Other options include ending a freeze on fuel duty increases which has been in place since 2012 and looks at odds with Britain’s plans to be carbon net zero by 2050.

But higher fuel prices now would hurt the haulage industry, already struggling with Brexit-related disruption, and could alienate working-class voters who backed Johnson in 2019.

Higher capital gains tax or lower pension incentives would anger lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party.

David Gauke, a former deputy finance minister, said the only big revenue-raising options were the ones that Johnson has promised not to touch – income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions.

“In the end, they are going to have to say, sorry we just can’t responsibly maintain that manifesto commitment,” Gauke told the Onward webinar.

($1 = 0.7046 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)

 

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Women inch towards equal legal rights despite COVID-19 risks, World Bank says

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Women inch towards equal legal rights despite COVID-19 risks, World Bank says 6

By Sonia Elks

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women gained legal rights in nearly 30 countries last year despite disruption due to COVID-19, but governments must do more to ease the disproportionate burden shouldered by women during the pandemic, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Nations should prioritise gender equality in economic recovery efforts, the bank said, warning that progress on equal rights was threatened by heavier job losses in female-dominated sectors, increased childcare and a surge in domestic violence.

“This pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities that disadvantage girls and women,” David Malpass, World Bank Group president, said in a statement accompanying the annual “Women, Business and the Law” report.

“Women should have the same access to finance and the same rights to inheritance as men and must be at the centre of our efforts toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A total of 27 countries reformed laws or regulations to give women more economic equality with men in 2019-20, said the report, which grades 190 nations on laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunities.

While countries in all of the world’s regions made improvements in the new index – with most reforms addressing pay and parenthood, women on average still have only about three quarters of the rights granted to men, the report found.

Notably, nearly 40 countries brought in extra benefit or leave policies to help employees balance their jobs with the extra childcare needs created by coronavirus restrictions.

But such measures were “few and far between” worldwide and will probably not go far enough to tackle the “motherhood penalty” many women face in the workplace, it said.

The report also noted separate data from a United Nations tool tracking gender-sensitive pandemic responses which found 70% of such measures addressed violence, with just 10% targeting women’s economic security.

The pandemic could result in “a backslide on various hard-won advances in women’s rights achieved in recent years”, said Antonia Kirkland, the global lead on legal equality at women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

“This disruption is a unique opportunity for countries to rebuild more resilient, inclusive and prosperous economies,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

“But this can only be achieved alongside the removal of sex discriminatory laws that prevent women from participating fully and equally in economic, social and family life.”

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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