Smartphones reach the billion milestone; UK grows at 1.9% — fastest since 2007; With 1,000 job cuts, Lloyds axes half its small business managers; Barclays to close 400 branches; Fear of another housing bubble

1 Smartphones reach the billion landmark (Khaleej Times) The smartphone market hit a milestone in 2013 with more than a billion shipped. Samsung extended its lead as the world’s biggest vendor, accounting for 31.3 per cent of sales, ahead of Apple’s 15.3 per cent, says a poll by market research and analysis firm IDC. IDC said vendors delivered a total of 1.004 billion smartphones last year, up 38.4 per cent from 2012. And smartphones made up 55 per cent of the total mobile phone shipments of 1.8 billion.

“The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone’s continued popularity in 2013,” said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst. “Total smartphone shipments reached 494.4 million units worldwide in 2011, and doubling that volume in just two years demonstrates strong end-user demand and vendor strategies to highlight smartphones.”

Samsung saw growth of 42.9 per cent, allowing it to extend its dominance in the global market, the IDC data showed. Apple saw 12.9 per cent growth, slower than the overall market, resulting in a declining market share. Huawei narrowly captured the number three spot with a 4.9 per cent market share, ahead of South Korea’s LG (4.8 per cent) and Chinese maker Lenovo (4.5 per cent), IDC said.

2 UK grows at 1.9% — fastest since 2007 (Angela Monaghan in The Guardian) The British economy grew at the strongest rate in six years in 2013, having ended the year on a strong note as the recovery became more entrenched. The UK’s services and manufacturing sectors were the drivers of 0.7% growth in the fourth quarter, taking the annual growth rate to 1.9%, the strongest since 2007 before the financial crisis took hold.

The economy grew in every quarter last year according to the Office for National Statistics, providing a significant boost for the chancellor who has persistently argued that a burgeoning recovery is proof that his economic plan is working.

The prime minister said, “The GDP figures are another sign our long-term economic plan is working – more growth means more jobs, security and opportunities for people.” Labour leader Ed Miliband has argued, however, that while growth and falling unemployment are to be welcomed, a severe cost of living crisis that is blighting millions of people in Britain has yet to be addressed.

3 With 1,000 job cuts, Lloyds axes half its small business managers (Jill Treanor in The Guardian) Lloyds Banking Group is axing half of the relationship managers handling queries from small businesses as part of more than 1,300 redundancies. The latest job cuts by the bailed-out bank – 33% owned by the taxpayer – come amid mounting expectations that Barclays is also preparing to cut hundreds of highly-paid roles in its investment bank.

Under new boss Antony Jenkins, Barclays is thought likely to remove managing directors from the investment bank, already the target of more than 1,600 reductions a year ago, when it publishes its results next month. The potential for new cuts at Barclays came after it emerged Jenkins had demanded a clamp down on company travel to save costs.

The latest cuts at Lloyds are part of 15,000 redundancies announced by boss Antonio Horta-Osorio when he took the top job three years ago. Some 11,760 of those roles have now gone – on top of an estimated 30,000 roles lost when Lloyds rescued HBOS during the financial crisis in 2008. Of the latest round of job cuts, about 560 are relationship managers working in the commercial banking arm and working with small businesses, which is half of the team in an area that is being closely watched by politicians concerned about the lack of lending to small businesses.

4 Barclays to close 400 branches (BBC) Barclays plans to close a quarter of its branches in the UK and cut hundreds of jobs in its investment banking division as part of a restructuring. The lender is expected to replace about 400 branches with smaller outlets in Asda supermarkets. The job cuts come on top of 3,700 layoffs announced early last year.

Chief executive Antony Jenkins is also expected to unveil new five-year financial targets when the bank releases its annual results next month. He has been looking to improve profitability in the face of falling trading revenues and tougher regulations. Mr Jenkins, who took over from Bob Diamond following the Libor rate scandal, plans to reduce £1.7bn ($2.8bn) in annual expenses by next year.

Many major banks have been undergoing structural shake-ups due to the impact of the weak global economy and changing regulatory environment.

5 Fear of another housing bubble (John Collett in Sydney Morning Herald) Most local economists say thre is no bubble in Australian house prices. So why is it that overseas economists – such as Nouriel Roubini, the professor at New York University and Yale professor Robert Shiller, joint winner of the Nobel prize for economics – beg to differ?

Another American economist, Harry S. Dent jnr, in his new book: The Demographic Cliff makes special mention of Australia. He believes that house prices are unsustainable. But while others warn of a bubble in Australian house prices, Dent also identifies a possible deflation trigger – a crash in the Chinese housing market.

While Sydney and Melbourne house prices are high at almost 10 times income levels, the ratio is 35 times in the major Chinese city of Shenzhen. Dent says the collapse of Chinese housing prices will be the biggest housing crash in history. It will cause commodity prices to rapidly fall and cause the fall of Australian house prices.–but-have-they-missed-something-20140128-31jaz.html


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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