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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

Our roundup this week includes news of a slowdown in UK retail growth in October, Sunday trading law proposals facing defeat in the House of Commons, a return to earnings growth for Vodafone and a £7 million payment forced on E.On due to smart meter failures.

 

UK retail spending growth 'slowed in October'

Retail sales growth in the UK slowed during October, with the 0.9% climb recorded in comparison with October 2014 marking a significant reduction on the 3.9% increase reported in September. This is according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which claimed the slowdown may be partly due to consumers delaying their spending until the increasingly popular Black Friday sales come around.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, commented: "October was a somewhat disappointing month overall for retailers, with just 0.9% growth, slower than the three and twelve-month averages."

Despite the slowdown in growth, Ms Dickinson noted that clothing and furniture continued to perform well during the month. 

Plans to relax Sunday trading laws 'facing defeat'

Proposals to relax Sunday trading laws in England and Wales may not come to fruition, with a number of MPs opposed to the changes. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has told the BBC and the Guardian that it will vote against the plans because it is fearful the move could have a detrimental effect on worker wages in Scotland.

The SNP is concerned that, although the legislation only impacts England and Wales, retail businesses might cut wages across the UK in order to pay for the additional hours, including employees in Scotland currently paid premium wages for working on a Sunday.

As part of his Budget speech earlier in the year, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said   councils and mayors would be given the opportunity to set their own trading laws for their areas, which could see supermarkets and other large stores permitted to open for more than the current limit of six hours every Sunday. However, the SNP stance and opposition from around 20 Conservative rebels could mean the plans are defeated in the House of Commons. 

Vodafone returns to earnings growth

Mobile operator Vodafone has returned to earnings growth after posting better-than-expected results for the second quarter of the year. The company, which is the second largest mobile operator in the world, recorded organic service revenue growth of 1.2% for the second quarter, marking a significant increase on the 0.8% climb seen in the first.

Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: "We have reached an important turning point for the group with a return to organic growth in service revenue and EBITDA (core earnings) in the first half of the financial year."

The upward movement has been attributed to a stabilisation of the economic climate in Europe and significant investment resulting in Vodafone being able to offer 4G services to around 80% of its customer base. 

E.On facing £7m payment for smart meter failure

E.On has been ordered to pay £7 million after it failed to supply smart meters to all of its business customers. The energy supplier agreed to pay the money to the Carbon Trust following findings from Ofgem that revealed that, by an April 2014 deadline, the company had supplied the energy efficient devices to fewer than 65% - less than two-thirds - of its electricity business customers.

This meant that only 13,000 of the company's 20,000 business electricity customers were supplied with the devices. A five-year limit was originally introduced by the government in 2009 for energy suppliers to provide these products to this type of customer.

Anthony Pygram, Senior Enforcement Officer at Ofgem, commented: "Customers have lost out on receiving better information about their energy consumption and the opportunity to control costs."