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Npower and SSE merger could push up gas and electricity bills, says competition watchdog

Energy giants told they have to address competition concerns or deal will be referred for full investigation
A planned merger between Npower and SSE could push up electricity prices for customers, the competition watchdog has warned.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) told the two energy giants they have to address its concerns or it will refer the deal for a full investigation.
Several of UK’s “Big Six” gas and electric companies have come under fire in recent weeks after hiking prices.
Read more SSE and Npower announce merger of UK operations The CMA’s initial inquiry found that a tie-up between NPower and SSE could further reduce competition among utilities leaving some customers worse off.
Rachel Merelie, senior director at the CMA, said: “We know that competition in the energy market does not work as well as it might.
“However, competition between energy companies gives them a reason to keep prices down.
“We have found that the proposed merger between SSE Retai..

10 South Sudan Aid Workers Are Abducted, U.N. Says

10 South Sudan Aid Workers Are Abducted, U.N. Says
Ten relief workers traveling in South Sudan have been abducted by an armed group, the United Nations said Thursday. The kidnapping underscores the risks to humanitarian aid providers in the war-torn African country.
A statement from the United Nations said the aid workers, all from South Sudan, disappeared on Wednesday during a trip through the southern part of the country. The statement gave no details on the armed group that seized them or its demands.
This is the third time in six months that a group of aid workers has been held by militants in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country. At least 98 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since it devolved into civil war in 2013, just two years after it was founded. The majority of the aid workers killed since the conflict began are South Sudanese.
The United Nations statement called for the release of the workers “without condition so that their work can continue.”


Starbucks reports 150% increase in reusable cup use since introduction of 5p charge

A charge placed on disposable coffee cups in select Starbucks outlets has led to a 150 per cent increase in reusable cup use, according to a preliminary assessment by the company.
As part of the coffee giant’s efforts to tackle disposable coffee cup waste, it has added a 5p charge to all paper cups sold in 35 shops across parts of central and west London.
The increase, measured by the number of customers redeeming the 25p reusable cup discount, was observed just six weeks into the company’s three-month trial in the selected outlets.
Read more Costa Coffee pledges to recycle half a billion disposable cups a year However, the proportion of customers bringing in their own cups is still fairly modest – only 5.9 per cent compared to 2.2 per cent in the same stores before the trial began.
All money made from the charge goes to environmental charity Hubbub.
“We are encouraged by the initial results of our trial that show that by charging 5p and increasing communication on this issue, ..

Barclays sinks to loss thanks to $2bn US settlement and more PPI costs

Bank reports quarterly pre-tax loss of £236m, down from profits of £1.68bn in the same period last year
Barclays swung to a loss in the first quarter as further payment protection insurance (PPI) charges and a £1.4bn settlement with the US Department of Justice knocked profits.
The UK bank reported a pre-tax loss of £236m for the three months to 31 March, having reported profits of £1.68bn in the same period last year.
Stripped of litigation and conduct charges, pre-tax profits rose 1 per cent to £1.7bn, while attributable profit came in at £1.2bn.
Read more Barclays boss Staley stronger than he looks in face of activist attack The bank was hit by a $2bn (£1.4bn) settlement reached with the US Department of Justice earlier this month, related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the financial crisis.
Chief executive Jes Staley said: “While the penalty was substantial, this settlement represents a major milestone for Barclays, putting behind us a significa..

Poundworld to close up to 100 stores putting 1,500 jobs at risk

Company expected to announce terms of turnaround plan next month
Discount chain Poundworld is pursuing a restructuring plan that could see it shut around a third of its stores, putting more than 1,500 jobs in doubt.
Poundworld is considering a so-called Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), an insolvency procedure which would allow it to slash its rents and close stores.
Under the plans, Poundworld could close 100 of its 355 stores.
Read more Poundworld fined £1.2m for 'out-of-control' rodent infestation Rising costs and a squeeze on consumer spending has forced several household names to pursue CVAs this year, including New Look, Byron, Prezzo and Carpetright.
Poundworld, which is owned by private equity firm TPG Capital, is expected to announce the terms of the CVA next month.
Landlords will then vote on whether to approve the proposal. All of the major CVAs proposed this year have been rubber-stamped by landlords.
TPG Capital also owns restaurant chain Prezzo, whi..