News in Brief: Corporation tax, manufacturing, 'dark pool' trading, CFO moves, pay structure

News in Brief

Top FTSE companies pay no tax in UK

Some of the FTSE 100’s largest companies will come under scrutiny for failing to pay any corporation tax.

BP and Royal Dutch Shell paid zero corporation tax in 2014, despite their sizeable presences in the UK, because their high-cost North Sea operations are not making any money, reported The Times.

AstraZeneca, the pharmaceuticals giant which is building a £330 million headquarters in Cambridge, also paid nothing in 2014, while rival company GlaxoSmithKline received £251m tax credit for 2014.

While there is no suggestion that the companies, all in the FTSE’s top ten, broke any laws, the revelation about corporation tax comes amid intense pressure on multinational companies over their tax affairs after Google’s £130m “sweetheart” deal with Revenue and Customs.

Manufacturing growth accelerates

Manufacturing growth increased in January 2016 and beat expectations, but exports fell according to the ‘Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index’ (PMI).

The index rose to a three-month-high of 52.9 in January 2016 from 52.1 in December 2015. Any reading above 50 indicates growth, reported the BBC.

The financial information provider put the growth down to strong output from big manufacturers.

Rob Dobson, a senior economist at Markit, said: "The domestic market remains the key growth driver. Even after recent easing in the exchange rate, a number of manufacturers are still finding the strength of the pound against the euro is impacting order inflows."

Barclays and Credit Suisse pay big fines

Barclays and Credit Suisse has been fined £108m ($154m) following an investigation into the banks’ “dark pools” private trading exchanges, exploited by “predatory, high-frequency traders” at the expense of the bank’s traditional customers.

Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of New York state, US, said the fines were a “major victory in the fight to combat fraud in dark pool trading” and would help protect investors from “the most aggressive and predatory high-speed traders”, reported The Guardian.

Barclays will pay £48.5m ($70m), the largest ever fine for operating a dark pool, and has admitted that it misled investors and violated securities laws. The British bank has agreed that it will install an independent monitor to oversee its “Barclays LX”.

The fine settles a high profile lawsuit Schneiderman brought against Barclays in June 2014 as part of his office’s ‘Insider Trading 2.0’ crackdown on electronic trading in the wake of Michael Lewis’s bestselling book and blockbuster movie Flash Boys.

Dark pools are private exchanges for trading stocks and bonds, but unlike traditional markets there are no public prices and trades can be carried out in secret which can favour high speed traders.

Zoopla appoints new CFO

Property portal Zoopla has hired a new chief financial officer from retailer

Andy Botha will be in his new position from mid-April 2016. His previous postings include Betfair and, reported the Financial Times.

In his new role Botha will also be working with new strategy director Paul Whitehead, who was in a similar role at uSwitch, the price comparison site that Zoopla bought nearly a year ago.

CEO Alex Chesterman said: “There is much to play for and I am confident that both Botha and Whitehead will play key leadership roles in helping to achieve our mission to become the consumer champion at the heart of the home.”

In December 2015, Zoopla reported a 23% rise in operating profit despite the launch of a rival website costing it more than a fifth of its estate agency partners.

‘Pay shifts from bonuses to salaries’

The world’s banks, insurers and investment managers continued to cut staff bonuses last year in favour of increasing fixed salaries, according to a new survey.

A majority of companies polled by consultants Mercer, increased fixed pay for staff by more than 5% and decreased bonuses by a similar amount, reported the Financial Times.

Few of the companies that responded had plans to increase pay offers markedly this year, in a sign that post-crisis regulations to limit bonuses are continuing to bite.

This year fund managers in Europe have launched a fight to block proposals to extend bonus caps, which already apply to the banking sector, to the investment industry.

The European rules limit bonuses to twice fixed pay for key executives with shareholder approval and require up to 40% of the amount to be deferred for at least three years.

Regulations are being tightened elsewhere with the Bank of England clamping down on so-called bonus buyouts for bankers switching jobs.