The finance round-up

UK banks to be reviewed by the Serious Fraud Office in wake of South African corruption scandal. The SFO and other financial regulators are to investigate whether HSBC and Standard Chartered were involved in a South African corruption scandal. Labour peer Lord Peter Hain suggested that up to £400m of funds may have been laundered, with the banks unwittingly becoming channels for money laundering in a scandal relating to South African President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas, who are a wealthy business family.

Retail sales decline in September. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded a 0.8% fall in September’s retail sales, an unexpected figure considering a rise in retail sales in August. The ONS also noted that prices across all stores in the retail sector had increased by an average of 3.3% from this time last year.

Huge competition amongst American cities to become host to Amazon’s second new HQ. $5bn (£3.8m) of investment from the online retailing giant is up for grabs, and over 100 US cities have applied to become Amazon’s second home. Amazon already has a HQ in Seattle accommodating more than 40,000 employees, and the second site is likely to create many more jobs in the wider community.

Unilever reports disappointing sales of ice cream during summer months. The giant parent company of the likes of Magnum, Wall’s, and Ben and Jerry’s has had a weak sales period this summer. Unilever blames new competitors and poor weather in both America and in Europe for their decline in sales. A strong trend amongst younger generations to avoid big brands due to a preference for smaller and healthier brands is also being blamed.

Mobile companies continue to overcharge customers. Research has found that the likes of EE, Vodafone, and Three are charging customers for mobile phones bought as part of a contract deal even when the cost of the phone has been paid off. The new research from Citizens Advice found that affected customers are paying £22 per month extra as a result. The providers in question responded that their payment systems are fair and that when their customers are reaching the end of their contracts, they are offering other options.


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