waiter in mask

UK retail, manufacturing, travel and healthcare companies have warned about staff shortages as rising numbers of workers call in sick with Covid-19 as the Omicron coronavirus variant sweeps the country (The Financial Times £).

Business leaders have called on the government to move quickly to restore confidence amid the rapid spread of Omicron and fears that a large number of workers will call in sick, creating further disruption to supply chains (The Times £).

Incredulous business leaders appealed to Rishi Sunak for help on Wednesday night after Boris Johnson and his Covid advisers urged Britons to cut back on socialising but offered no financial support for the trades affected (The Telegraph).

The CBI urged ministers to provide support “in lockstep with future restrictions”, while UK Hospitality called for business rates to be deferred and VAT discounts extended (BBC News).

Tom Kerridge has given warning that many restaurants are likely to “crumble without help” as he revealed that 654 guests cancelled bookings at one of his own within six days amid fears about the spread of coronavirus (The Times £).

European supermarket chains Sainsbury’s, Carrefour and Ahold Delhaize will stop selling several Brazilian meat products after an investigation found they contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest (The Financial Times £).

Marks and Spencer is taking discount rival Aldi to court for a second time this year, on this occasion over a Christmas gin liqueur with edible gold flakes (The Financial Times £).

Punch Pubs has been bought by SoftBank-backed Fortress Investment Group for about £1bn, marking the latest in a string of private equity deals in the UK’s struggling hospitality sector (The Financial Times £).

SoftBank-backed Fortress is buying the chain that runs about 1,300 pubs from Patron Capital (The Telegraph).

Punch owns Champs Sports Bars as well as other locally branded pubs, which are leased to, and run by, managers (The Mail).

The company’s pub landlords employ about 20,000 people, although Punch employs only 280 people directly (The Guardian).

The deal represents something of a consolation prize for the SoftBank-owned investment firm after its defeat by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in the £7bn auction of Morrisons, the supermarket chain (The Times £).

Rising fuel and clothing prices drove a surge in inflation to its highest level in more than a decade, official figures show (The Times £).

Bank of England faces tough call on interest rates as apple prices rise by 25% and Omicron cases increase, writes The Guardian in an analysis.

The UK has delayed the introduction of imminent trade checks on goods moving from the island of Ireland to Britain, as both sides sought to take the sting out of the rancorous talks over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland (The Guardian).

US retail sales rose by less than expected in November after surging in the previous month as Americans started their holiday shopping early to avoid empty shelves (The Times £).