Europe biz: Unilever plastic pledge, HSBC lay-offs, Barclays trial
Gary Parkinson
HSBC said to be planning five-figure job cuts (Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

HSBC said to be planning five-figure job cuts (Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

HSBC "to lay off 10,000"

HSBC is planning to lay off up to 10,000 staff, according to the Financial Times. The job losses are expected to focus on higher-paid roles and European operations, with one insider quoted as saying "we are asking why we have so many people in Europe when we've got double-digit returns in parts of Asia." HSBC currently employs around 238,000 people, and generates nearly 80 percent of its profits in Asia. 

The report says that these losses will be in addition to the 4,700 redundancies it announced in August, as chief executive John Flint stepped down after just 18 months, with Noel Quinn appointed as his interim successor. HSBC has refused to comment but is due to announce its third quarter results later this month. 


Unilever plans to cut plastic use

Consumer goods giant Unilever has pledged to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses, in an attempt to woo younger and more ecologically-minded customers. The company currently uses 700,000 tonnes of plastic per year to package more than 400 brands from Surf to Sunsilk and Magnum to Marmite. Its operating profit in the first half of 2019 was $4.9bn. 

Unilever plans to cut absolute plastic usage by 100,000 tonnes via alternative materials, reusable packs and concentrated refills, while collecting more packaging than it uses. Chief executive Alan Jope is targeting millennials and Generation Z consumers: "We profoundly believe that sustainability leads to a better financial top and bottom line."


Vodafone's new network tech to improve resilience and cut reliance

Vodafone, the world's second-largest mobile operator, is trialing a new technology which should extend its reach - and could cut its reliance on rival firms. Developed with US tech giant Intel, OpenRAN (Open Radio Access Networks) standardizes hardware and software in the infrastructure carrying mobile calls and data. 

OpenRAN should improve the rural reach and resilience of networks from 2G up to 5G, but it could also open up the telco equipment market, currently dominated by Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei. Vodafone is launching the technology in 120 rural areas of the UK on Monday, and will soon start trials in Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo. 


Vodafone's new tech has a double purpose (Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Vodafone's new tech has a double purpose (Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

German industry: "subdued" or slumping?

German factory orders dropped 6.7 percent year-on-year in August, amid growing worries over a slowdown. August's total was also down 0.6 percent on July, which itself was down 2.1 percent on June. It is the 15th consecutive month of year-on-year decline, and the slowdown is sharpest among orders within Germany, which dropped 2.6 percent compared to July, whereas foreign orders rose 0.9 percent. 

While Germany's economic ministry has said the industrial sector remains "subdued" due to a "weakness in demand", there will be more calls for Angela Merkel's government to act. "The German economy is in the midst of a recession," said VP Bank Group's Thomas Gitzel. "The German government will probably come under growing pressure to give up its strict budget policy."


Ex-Barclays bankers face fraud trial over Qatar payments

Three former senior executives at Barclays Bank are due in court on Monday charged with fraud over how the bank raised billions of pounds from Qatar in 2008. Following an investigation by the UK's Serious Fraud Office dating back to 2012, Roger Jenkins, Richard Boath and Tom Kalaris are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and fraud by false representation. They all deny the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year jail sentence. 

Jenkins, now 64, led the bank's Middle East investment banking division, Kalaris (63) led the wealth division and Boath (60) the European finance arm. A Qatari injection of $14.9bn helped Barclays avoid a government bailout, but the SFO case claims payments to investors were not properly disclosed. The trio were charged in 2017; their co-defendant John Varley, the former Barclays chief executive, was acquitted in June. The trial is expected to last several months.