Sharp growth in technology investment saw private sector spending reach £4.93 billion last year, according to the Arvato UK Outsourcing Index.
- The total value of private sector deals increased by 36 percent year-on-year in 2017.
- Investment in technology accounted for more than three quarters (77 percent) of the total business spend, with contracts worth £3.82 billion.
- Outsourcing agreements worth £6.74 billion were agreed in the UK last year, up nine percent year-on-year.
- The value of contracts signed by financial services firms more than trebled over the period, reaching £3.26 billion in 2017 from £826 million the previous year.
The private sector outsourcing market soared to a three-year high in 2017 as businesses signed contracts worth £4.93 billion, according to the Arvato UK Outsourcing Index.
The research, compiled by business outsourcing partner Arvato and industry analyst NelsonHall, found that the total value of contracts signed by UK companies rose 36 ppercentyear-on-year, from £3.62 billion in 2016 and £1.84 billion in 2015.
Overall the UK outsourcing market saw an increase of nine percent year-on-year in 2017, with contracts worth £6.74 billion agreed by the public and private sectors over the period.
A surge in technology investment was behind the strong performance in the private sector, according to the findings. Businesses spent £3.82 billion on procuring IT Outsourcing (ITO contracts) agreements in 2017, more than double the value of deals agreed in 2016 (£1.73 billion).
The analysis shows that companies focused their spending on securing multi-process IT deals, which included new hosting services, equipment, network infrastructure, data centres and application management.
Customer services accounted for almost half (46 per cent) of business process outsourcing (BPO) agreements signed by companies last year. Firms spent a total of £508 million as they looked to deliver improvements in customer experience across traditional and digital channels, according to the findings.
Debra Maxwell, CEO, CRM Solutions UK & Ireland, Arvato, said: “The private sector is increasingly outsourcing more sophisticated work, with firms turning to external partners to introduce new technology and enhance the customer experience.
“This shift towards greater complexity is contributing to more outsourced services being delivered here in the UK. Just two per cent of private sector deals procured last year will be delivered offshore, compared to 12 per cent in 2016, as outsourcing continues to move up the value chain.”
Overall, fewer deals were agreed across the UK outsourcing market last year, with 98 procured compared to 165 in the 12 months previous, according to the research.
The rise in spending in the private sector market comes as activity across the government market fell year-on-year. Central government departments and councils signed contracts worth £1.82 billion in 2017 compared with £2.59 billion in 2016 – a 30 per cent drop.
Excluding work procured for healthcare, the data shows that the average value of deals signed across government was down 42 per cent year-on-year in 2017
Debra Maxwell added, “In line with calls for a review of the government outsourcing model, the findings show the public sector is already moving away from procuring long-term, high value outsourcing contracts.
“Councils and central government departments are now accessing the technology and expertise they need to deliver a range of functions, from digital service transformation to cyber security, through smaller contracts for productised services.”
Financial services leads private sector growth
The analysis shows that a sharp rise in the value of outsourcing contracts procured by financial services businesses was behind the growth in private sector spend last year.
Companies across financial services agreed deals worth £3.26 billion in 2017, more than treble the total value of contracts agreed in the previous year (£829 million).
According to the research, the growth can be attributed to a sharp increase in ITO spending as firms turned their attention to deals in application management, application hosting and end user computing. The findings show ITO contracts worth £2.70 billion were signed across the sector last year, up from £208 million in 2016.
Pat Quinn, CEO of Arvato Financial Solutions UK & Ireland, said: “Financial services businesses are under pressure to transform, particularly in the wake of high profile security threats and the upcoming GDPR obligations.
“The findings show that a growing number of companies see outsourcing as key to addressing the challenge, delivering the resilient infrastructure and architecture they need to protect against cyber attacks, keep their data safe and comply with new privacy legislation.”
Alongside financial services, telecoms & media and energy & utilities were the most active sectors in the UK outsourcing market, procuring deals worth £1.08 billion and £279 million respectively, according to the findings.
The research showed that the average value of contracts signed across the private sector more than doubled to £91 million in 2017, from £36 million in the previous year.
The Arvato UK Outsourcing Index is compiled by leading BPO and IT outsourcing research and analysis firm Nelson Hall, in partnership with Arvato UK. The research is based on an analysis of all outsourcing contracts procured in the UK market during 2017.
Other headlines from the full-year 2017 Index include:
A total of £1.80 billion was spent on business process outsourcing (BPO) deals, representing 26 per cent of the overall UK outsourcing spend in 2017.
The total value of ITO contracts accounted for 73 per cent of the UK market, with contracts signed worth £4.90 billion.
Combined BPO and ITO agreements signed during the period were worth £58 million, accounting for one per cent of the overall spend.
Airbus CEO urges trade war ceasefire, easing of COVID travel bans
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – The head of European planemaker Airbus called on Saturday for a “ceasefire” in a transatlantic trade war over aircraft subsidies, saying tit-for-tat tariffs on planes and other goods had aggravated damage from the COVID-19 crisis.
Washington progressively imposed import duties of 15% on Airbus jets from 2019 after a prolonged dispute at the World Trade Organization, and the EU responded with matching tariffs on Boeing jets a year later. Wine, whisky and other goods are also affected.
“This dispute, which is now an old dispute, has put us in a lose-lose situation,” Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said in a radio interview.
“We have ended up in a situation where wisdom would normally dictate that we have a ceasefire and resolve this conflict,” he told France Inter.
Boeing was not immediately available for comment.
Brazil, which has waged separate battles with Canada over subsidies for smaller regional jets, on Thursday dropped its own complaint against Ottawa and called for a global peace deal between producing nations on support for aerospace.
Faury said the dispute with Boeing was particularly damaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has badly hit air travel and led to travel restrictions or border closures. He expressed particular concern about widening bans within Europe.
“We are extremely frustrated by the barriers that restrict personal movement and it is almost impossible today to travel in Europe by plane, even domestically,” he said.
“The priority no. 1 for countries in general is to reopen frontiers and allow people to travel on the basis of tests and then eventually vaccinations.”
The comments come as businesses increase pressure on governments to reopen economies as coronavirus vaccine roll-outs gather pace across Europe.
France has defended recently introduced border restrictions, saying they will help the government avoid a new lockdown and stay in force until at least the end of February.
Germany installed border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria last Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions.
Berlin calls the move a temporary measure of last resort.
Poland said on Saturday it had not ruled out imposing restrictions at the country’s borders with Slovakia and the Czech Republic due to rising COVID-19 cases.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Why a predictable cold snap crippled the Texas power grid
By Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly
(Reuters) – As Texans cranked up their heaters early Monday to combat plunging temperatures, a record surge of electricity demand set off a disastrous chain reaction in the state’s power grid.
Wind turbines in the state’s northern Panhandle locked up. Natural gas plants shut down when frozen pipes and components shut off fuel flow. A South Texas nuclear reactor went dark after a five-foot section of uninsulated pipe seized up. Power outages quickly spread statewide – leaving millions shivering in their homes for days, with deadly consequences.
It could have been far worse: Before dawn on Monday, the state’s grid operator was “seconds and minutes” away from an uncontrolled blackout for its 26 million customers, its CEO has said. Such a collapse occurs when operators lose the ability to manage the crisis through rolling blackouts; in such cases, it can take weeks or months to fully restore power to customers.
Monday was one of the state’s coldest days in more than a century – but the unprecedented power crisis was hardly unpredictable after Texas had experienced a similar, though less severe, disruption during a 2011 cold snap. Still, Texas power producers failed to adequately winter-proof their systems. And the state’s grid operator underestimated its need for reserve power capacity before the crisis, then moved too slowly to tell utilities to institute rolling blackouts to protect against a grid meltdown, energy analysts, traders and economists said.
Early signs of trouble came long before the forced outages. Two days earlier, for example, the grid suddenly lost 539 megawatts (MW) of power, or enough electricity for nearly 108,000 homes, according to operational messages disclosed by the state’s primary grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
The crisis stemmed from a unique confluence of weaknesses in the state’s power system.
Texas is the only state in the continental United States with an independent and isolated grid. That allows the state to avoid federal regulation – but also severely limits its ability to draw emergency power from other grids. ERCOT also operates the only major U.S. grid that does not have a capacity market – a system that provides payments to operators to be on standby to supply power during severe weather events.
After more than 3 million ERCOT customers lost power in a February 2011 freeze, federal regulators recommended that ERCOT prepare for winter with the same urgency as it does the peak summer season. They also said that, while ERCOT’s reserve power capacity looked good on paper, it did not take into account that many generation units could get knocked offline by freezing weather.
“There were prior severe cold weather events in the Southwest in 1983, 1989, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corp staff summarized after investigating the state’s 2011 rolling blackouts. “Extensive generator failures overwhelmed ERCOT’s reserves, which eventually dropped below the level of safe operation.”
ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko did not comment in detail about the causes of the power crisis but said the grid’s leadership plans to re-evaluate the assumptions that go into its forecasts.
The freeze was easy to see coming, said Jay Apt, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center.
“When I read that this was a black-swan event, I just have to wonder whether the folks who are saying that have been in this business long enough that they forgot everything, or just came into it,” Apt said. “People need to recognize that this sort of weather is pretty common.”
This week’s cold snap left 4.5 million ERCOT customers without power. More than 14.5 million Texans endured a related water-supply crisis as pipes froze and burst. About 65,000 customers remained without power as of Saturday afternoon, even as temperatures started to rise, according to website PowerOutage.US.
State health officials have linked more than two dozen deaths to the power crisis. Some died from hypothermia or possible carbon monoxide poisoning caused by portable generators running in basements and garages without enough ventilation. Officials say they suspect the death count will rise as more bodies are discovered.
THIN POWER RESERVE
In the central Texas city of Austin, the state capital, the minimum February temperature usually falls between 42 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 9 degrees Celsius). This past week, temperatures fell as low as 6 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 degrees Celsius).
In November, ERCOT assured that the grid was prepared to handle such a dire scenario.
“We studied a range of potential risks under both normal and extreme conditions, and believe there is sufficient generation to adequately serve our customers,” said ERCOT’s manager of resource adequacy, Pete Warnken, in a report that month.
Warnken could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
Under normal winter conditions, ERCOT forecast it would have about 16,200 MW of power reserves. But under extreme conditions, it predicted a reserve cushion of only about 1,350 MW. That assumed only 23,500 MW of generation outages. During the peak of this week’s crisis, more than 30,000 MW was forced off the grid.
Other U.S. grid operators maintain a capacity market to supply extra power in extreme conditions – paying operators on an ongoing basis, whether they produce power or not. Capacity market auctions determine, three years in advance, the price that power generators receive in exchange for being on emergency standby.
Instead, ERCOT relies on a wholesale electricity market, where free market pricing provides incentives for generators to provide daily power and to make investments to ensure reliability in peak periods, according to economists. The system relied on the theory that power plants should make high profits when energy demand and prices soar – providing them ample money to make investments in, for example, winterization. The Texas legislature restructured the state’s electric market in 1999.
Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between generation capacity versus forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, according to North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit regulator.
That thin margin for error set off alarms early Monday morning among energy traders and analysts as they watched a sudden drop in the electrical frequency of the Texas grid. One analyst compared it to watching the pulse of a hospital patient drop to life-threatening levels.
Too much of a drop is catastrophic because it would trigger automatic relay switches to disconnect power sources from the grid, setting off uncontrolled blackouts statewide. Dan Jones, an energy analyst at Monterey LLC, watched from his home office in Delaware as the grid’s frequency dropped quickly toward the point that would trigger the automatic shutdowns.
“If you’re not in control, and you are letting the equipment do it, that’s just chaos,” Jones said.
By Sunday afternoon about 3:15 p.m. (CST), ERCOT’s control room signaled it had run out of options to boost electric generation to match the soaring demand. Operators issued a warning that there was “no market solution” for the projected shortage, according to control room messages published by ERCOT on its website.
Adam Sinn, president of Houston-based energy trading firm Aspire Commodities, said ERCOT waited far too long to start telling utilities to cut customers’ power to guard against a grid meltdown. The problems, he said, were readily apparent several days before Monday.
“ERCOT was letting the system get weaker and weaker and weaker,” Sinn said in an interview. “I was thinking: Holy shit, what is this grid operator doing? He has to cut load.”
Sinn said he started texting his friends on Sunday night, warning them to expect widespread outages.
‘SECONDS AND MINUTES’
Early Monday morning, one of the largest sources of electricity in the state – the unit 1 reactor at the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station – stopped producing power after the small section of pipe froze in temperatures that averaged 17 degrees Fahrenheit (9 degrees Celsius). The grid lost access to 1,350 MW of nuclear power – enough to power about 270,000 homes – after automatic sensors detected the frozen pipe and protectively shut down the reactor, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
About 2:30 a.m. (CST), the South Plains Electric Cooperative in Lubbock said it received a phone call from ERCOT to cut power to its customers. Inside the ERCOT control room, staff members scrambled to call utilities and cooperatives statewide to tell them to do the same, according to operational messages disclosed by the grid operator.
Three days later, ERCOT Chief Executive Bill Magness acknowledged that the grid operator had only narrowly avoided the calamity of uncontrolled blackouts.
“If we hadn’t taken action,” he said on Thursday, “it was seconds and minutes (away), given the amount of generation that was coming off the system at the same time that the demand was still going up.”
(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin and Stephanie Kelly; additional reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Simon Webb and Brian Thevenot)
UK could declare Brexit ‘water wars’ – The Telegraph
(Reuters) – Britain could restrict imports of European mineral water and several food products under retaliatory measures being considered by ministers over Brussels’ refusal to end its blockade on British shellfish, the Telegraph reported.
Senior government sources pointed to potential restrictions on the importing of mineral water and seed potatoes, the report said.
(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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