Can blockchain technology double the speed of UK property sale?

The delay in completing a UK property sale several months and has been a big problem in the UK property industry. To solve this problem a blockchain-style platform has promises to double the speed of UK property sales, with the startup behind it announcing a new deal for its widespread use.

The deal with other software firms will give around half of UK estate agents access to new technology designed to tackle typical delays in property sales, according to ‘proptech’ firm Coadjute.

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The firms chief executive Dan Salmons said home sales typically take months because of a lack of joined-up thinking and data-sharing among many stakeholders involved.

Confusion over next steps in a sale is common. Salmons said estate agents need “large armies” of workers merely to check for and pass on updates among parties, while buyers and sellers often have to complete similar forms multiple times.

Some experts say the sector is “ripe for disruption,” and UK government officials are among those who believe blockchain and similar technology could help “revolutionise the buy-sell process.”

Salmons acknowledges his firm is far from the first to promise to speed up sales by better connecting buyers, sellers, estate agents, conveyancers, lenders, government officials and others involved in transactions.

But he said previous efforts hit a wall as they sought to persuade all parties to use a single IT system. This can prove difficult to tailor to everyone’s needs, and poses privacy concerns with all data centralised. “People love new stuff, but they’re not good at giving up old stuff,” he added.

Britain’s Land Registry began exploring such technology in 2018, with trials held involving officials and conveyancers around the world who wished to tackle similar challenges.

The work sparked the launch of Coadjute, initially as Instant Property Network, as a participant in the trials. Salmons joined the startup after first getting involved in the experiments as Royal Bank of Scotland’s director of innovation for home buying.

It has since been working on its software and building interest, but Salmons said the pandemic had proved a turning point. The rise of remote working among estate agents, solicitors and others has sparked a “sudden demand for digitisation” in recent months, he said.

Source: Yahoo Finance UK

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UK Government COVID-19 updates

See the source imageHere are some recent announcements from the government:

  • The number of confirmed deaths from Covid-19 rose above 30,000, putting the UK at the highest official death toll in Europe.
  • The 4,000-bed London NHS Nightingale hospital is to stop admitting new patients. It will be kept “in hibernation” in case there is a second wave of coronavirus patients.
  • The four other Nightingales – located in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Harrogate – will also be wound down.
  • The UK’s test, track and trace plans will begin with the trial of the NHS contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight.
  • Cybercriminals, aided by hostile states, are seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis, according to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state.
  • The UK is now “past the peak” of the coronavirus spread and the government will publish a plan for easing lockdown measures this week, prime minister Boris Johnson said.
  • The NHS has started restoring other services, such as cancer care and mental health support, and will also restart fertility services.
  • Business interruption loans for small firms have been extended from 80% to 100%.
  • A support package is available for the transport industry, designed to keep the flow of goods and services running smoothly in and out of the UK – and around the country.
  • A vaccine is needed before social distancing can end entirely, with Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, suggesting some restrictions would be necessary for a “long period of time”.
  • Human trials of a potential vaccine for coronavirus created by an Oxford research team have begun.
  • Loans totalling £250m have been made available to unlisted, high-growth companies and £750m of grants and loans are available for SMEs in research and development.
  • The government is to pay 80% of most people’s salaries, up to £2,500 per month, in addition to a bailout package worth £350bn for businesses struggling due to the coronavirus. Self-employed people will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,500 per month.

Barclays Bank set a net zero carbon target

Barclays said it planned to set a net zero by 2050 carbon target, to be voted on by shareholders at its forthcoming annual general meeting in May.

The bank said it would also commit to align its financing activities with the goals and timelines of the Paris Agreement.
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‘The alignment of Barclays’ portfolio will start with the energy and power sectors, and will cover all sectors over time,’ the company said.

‘Barclays will provide the transparent targets required to judge its progress and will report on them regularly, starting from 2021.

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UK Covid-19: How to apply for government business loan

The government has released more details about the £350bn package of financial support which Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to UK business to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Last week he set out plans to pay employees 80% of their salaries, capped at £2,500 per month, in an attempt to protect jobs.

Two further schemes to help business were announced on Tuesday: a new interest-free Business Interruption Loan Scheme for small and medium-sized firms and a Bank of England finance option for bigger businesses.

How will the Business Interruption Loan Scheme work?

UK-based small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with an annual turnover of less than £45m can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £5m to help them through Covid-19 related difficulties.

The government will provide a grant payment to cover the interest and initial fees for the first 12 months, and will guarantee 80% of the loan amount to give banks and financial companies the confidence to lend.

Under the scheme, which will initially run for six months, businesses will be able to borrow for up to six years. They will be liable to repay the money in full – the guarantee is for the lenders, not the borrowers.

Will all small and medium-sized firms be able to borrow money?

Not necessarily, Firms will have to prove that they are viable businesses which have been trading successfully, but just need extra support to deal with short term difficulties caused by the current disruption. Some firms may not be successful.

The money will be provided by more than 40 lenders who have signed up to the scheme, including High Street banks like Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest, as well as more specialist finance companies.

Businesses are asked to contact their own bank first (if they are taking part in the scheme) via the company website if possible, and only approach other lenders if they need to.

The British Business Bank, which is running the scheme, told the BBC on 23 March that it expected money to start flowing “this week”.

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You can read more about how the scheme will work here.

Can self-employed people apply to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

Yes, The British Business Bank says self-employed people with an annual turnover of up to £45m can apply under the scheme, as long as they operate through a business bank account, and generate more than 50% of their turnover from trading activity.

This includes sole traders, freelancers, and limited partnerships, operating in all sectors.

The government has already said the UK’s five million self-employed people would be allowed to defer self-assessment tax payments, and would benefit from mortgage payment holidays as well as an expansion of welfare support, including universal credit and Local Housing Allowance.

HM Treasury told the BBC the government was “working hard on further measures to support the self-employed”.

What about help for bigger businesses?

Companies that have a yearly turnover of more than £45m may be able to take advantage of the Bank of England’s new Covid Corporate Financing Facility.

The Corporate Financing Facility is effectively a government promise to buy short-term IOUs from companies which are in sound financial health and have a very high credit rating, but which need help to boost their cash flows.

The IOUs can be for any period between one week and 12 months.

The Bank of England says that eligible companies must have a “genuine business” in the UK, and “make a material contribution to the UK economy”.

Generally they will be based in the UK, or have their headquarters here, and employ or provide services to a significant number of people in the country.

How do big companies apply?

Companies must apply through their own bank in the first instance, assuming it is taking part in the scheme, and need to request funding of at least £1m.

The facility will offer finance to companies on similar terms to those available in the markets in the period before the pandemic.

The government will not publish details of which firms have taken advantage of the scheme, which is due to run for at least 12 months.

Source: BBC News

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Property Ombudsman conference postponed due to COVID 19

The Property Ombudsman has announced that it will postpone its annual conference, which was to have been on June 18, until next year.

In its place, TPO will be holding a Rightmove Webinar on the same morning.

Katrine Sporle, who retires as TPO later this year, says: “Given the circumstances affecting us all, we have decided to convert the conference in Solihull to a Rightmove Webinar to take place on the morning of June 18. We will provide updates, advice and interactive sessions to respond to agents’ questions and concerns.”

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TPO’s office says tickets already purchased will be credited towards the 2021 conference “when normal business resumes.”

Meanwhile a statement from the organisation says it’s business as normal at The Property Ombudsman, with many of its staff managing to work remotely to provide a normal service.

However, TPO says that the priority for agents is of course to ensure the welfare of their employees and advises: “Therefore, if services have to change and complaints cannot be dealt with in the usual way, agents should ensure this is communicated to complainants in writing.”

Should a complaint then be subsequently escalated to TPO, this will be taken into account.

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Louis Vuitton to use perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak.

The luxury goods maker says it wants to help tackle a nationwide shortage of the anti-viral products across France.

“These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities,” LVMH announced on Sunday.

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France has now seen 120 deaths from the coronavirus as the pandemic spreads.

“LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands… to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday,” LVMH said in a statement.

The factories normally produce perfume and makeup for luxury brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy.

The French luxury conglomerate also owns well-known brands such as champagne maker Moet & Chandon, watchmaker Tag Heuer and jeweller Bulgari.

“LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities,” the company said.

France has closed its restaurants, cafes and non-essential stores in an effort to combat the virus, which has infected an estimated 165,000 people and killed more than 6,000 worldwide.

Governments across the world have called on manufacturers to help make products that are running low during the virus outbreak.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to ask UK engineering firms on Monday to shift production to build ventilators for the NHS.

In China, at the peak of its coronavirus outbreak in February, electronics giant Foxconn switched some of its production from Apple iPhones to make surgical masks.

Source: BBC News

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Manchester Trafford Centre firm Intu warns it could go bust

The owner of some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, Intu, has said there are doubts that it can survive unless it raises extra funds.

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Its comments came as the firm – which owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Lakeside complex in Essex – reported a £2bn loss in 2019.

The weakness in the retail sector meant Intu wrote down the value of its shopping centre sites by nearly £2bn.

Intu will try to raise extra cash after an earlier plan to raise £1bn failed.

The collapse and contraction of High Street retailers has left landlords such as Intu struggling to fill vacant space. At the same time, Intu has run up debts of nearly £5bn.

In January, the firm approached its shareholders to ask for more money amid the downturn in the retail sector.

But last week, Intu said it was at risk of breaching debt covenants after it was forced to abandon the fundraising attempt. It said “extreme market conditions” deterred investors from giving fresh cash.

To help it keep going, the firm said it would try to engage with investors, or it might have to sell more of its assets.

The company has already been selling shopping centres to raise cash.

Intu said it could also try to seek waivers on its debt commitments to lenders and spend less in the short term.

Source: BBC News

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