Weekly Client Update – 1st December

Market update

UK markets: The FTSE 100 index opened up 47.91 points, 0.6%, at 7,501.66. The FTSE 250 was up 34.99 points, 0.2%, at 18,268.46, and the AIM All-Share was up 0.51 of a point, 0.1%, at 714.29.

European markets: In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX 40 in Frankfurt were both up 0.5%.

US markets: In the US on Thursday, Wall Street ended mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 1.5%, the S&P 500 up 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.2%.

Asian markets: Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Nikkei 225 gained 0.33% and the Shanghai Composite rose 0.33%. The Hang Seng lost 0.81%.

Emerging markets: A recent study indicates that global pension and sovereign wealth managers are increasingly favouring India over China. Nearly 40% of investors surveyed identified India as the most appealing emerging market, while less than a quarter opted for China, as reported by a London-based think-tank.

Jersey minister addresses the potential Moneyval report implementations

Practical changes to the operation of Jersey’s Financial Intelligence Unit should help address recommendations likely in the forthcoming Moneyval report, Assistant Chief Minister with responsibility for finance Elaine Millar has told the JEP .Although ministers have yet to receive the first draft of the report – a key evaluation of Jersey’s finance industry – which is expected on a confidential basis next month, Deputy Millar said the government was “confident but not complacent” about meeting international standards.

The final text of the report will become public next summer .A team of six assessors and a supporting secretariat from Moneyval – a European body that assesses whether jurisdictions are doing enough to combat money-laundering and terrorist funding – spent two weeks in the Island in September, poring over documents and questioning individuals to find out if Jersey has the right tools to fight financial crime and how effectively the Island is using them.

One area where work has already taken place, addressing standards set by the Financial Action Task Force, concerns the status of the Jersey Financial Intelligence Unit, previously part of the States of Jersey Police. Following a law change, it became operationally independent in July this year but still retains links with the police. Deputy Millar said: “We already have an idea of where there is work to be done. Part of that is establishment of the Financial Intelligence Unit as an independent body and not a department of SOJP.”

“They are still at police headquarters but gradually they will transition away from that to being fully freestanding. They will have their own systems and they will receive more intelligence and be able to analyse it more thoroughly and share it elsewhere. They will turn into more of a national intelligence agency,” she explained.

At a recent industry briefing, Deputy Millar – who assumed responsibility for the financial-services sector earlier this year – told industry members that industry regulation would continue to be at the forefront of the government’s work, something she said was especially important given the recent Moneyval evaluation.

“The prosperity of our financial services industry is predicated on Jersey meeting global compliance standards, and as such, Jersey will continue to work alongside other jurisdictions that maintain these high standards,” she told her audience. In her first such address, the assistant minister – who herself worked in the finance industry for some 25 years – affirmed the government’s commitment to finance as the employer of a fifth of the Island’s workforce and the generator of a third of the value of its goods and services.”

“All Islanders benefit from public services, greater connectivity and wider economic prosperity facilitated by the financial services sector. And as well as our local economy, the industry’s contribution globally is significant. Jersey enables the movement of capital around the world, generating employment, tax revenue and economic growth across many jurisdictions. Those economic flows mean that we are able to play a part in driving positive change towards a more environmentally and socially sustainable global economy,” she said.

In a wide-ranging address, Deputy Millar referred to subjects including digitisation, consultation on the introduction of a consumer credit regime, the law change that will enable information held by the government to be supplied to credit reference agencies.

Jersey’s Health Department ‘would be declared bankrupt if it were in UK’

Health financial reserves have depleted to such an “extraordinarily low” level that the department would be declared bankrupt if it were a UK council, according to an adviser and senior manager. The department has already used £3.1 million of its reserves to deal with additional pressures between August and September this year. And according to its own predictions, by the end of the year Health will have £1.78 million left for emergencies.

Carolyn Downs, a former chief executive of Brent Council in London who now sits on the Health Advisory Board as a non-executive director, told the board this month that, “I would have to issue a bankruptcy notice if we (Brent Council) were running like this” .She stressed that Jersey’s Health Department was in “a completely different system”, but described its reserves as “extraordinarily low” .

Obia Hasan, financial recovery director and change team finance lead, called the bankruptcy analogy “reasonable” as it described “the gravity of the situation” that Health was facing. Mr Hasan said reserves were “very low”, which was “not a comfortable place to be”, as legacy issues – including contracts with private care homes and high incidences of certain diseases – created unforeseen costs late in the year.

The way the department planned to tackle this issue, he said, was through its Financial Recovery Plan – which was developed this year and entered the “delivery” phase in September.

It aims to improve quality of care while also bringing the department’s finances back on track. Mr Hasan added: “I think we are getting more of a handle on it through the FRP. I think that’s the only mitigation I can offer here. “We are where we are. We’ve got to be realistic. We’ve had to use reserves for it. But what we are planning for through this FRP programme is that all these issues are visible to us or become visible to us and have over time.”

The FRP acted as evidence that Treasury funds would be used wisely, according to Mr Hasan. Treasury Minister Ian Gorst warned in February this year that Health would have to live within its budget and not ask for further funds as it did at the end of 2022. Deputy Gorst said the department needed to prove to Islanders that it was achieving value for money. The department’s goal is to deliver £3 million in savings in those three months between the start of the “delivery phase” by the end of the year.

By the end of 2025, the goal is to save £25 million – without compromising on quality of care, which the department said it was on track to achieve. The cost of the Health Advisory Board, of which Ms Downs is a member, was singled out for scathing criticism last weekend by Constable Andy Jehan, who resigned from his Assistant Chief Minister position citing concerns over an “indefensible misuse of taxpayers’ money”.

Proposal to freeze alcohol duty rise ­– as another Jersey nightclub announces it will close

Taxes on alcohol could be frozen for the second year running as the closure of another nightclub reignites concerns about the future of the Island’s hospitality industry. ROJO nightclub has announced that it will close after 19 years due to the “ever increasing cost of alcohol”, an “outdated licensing law” and a “general downturn” in footfall after the Covid pandemic.

The government’s plans to raise duty on beer, wine and spirits by 8.9% in 2024 have already come in for heavy criticism – but now local bar and nightclub owners have said the closure of ROJO is an example of elected leaders “misunderstanding the dynamics of the hospitality industry” .

Ministers could now be forced to reconsider the proposed increases, after the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel yesterday lodged an amendment to the Government Plan designed to freeze import duties on spirits, wine, cider and beer – duties which would see the cost of a pint rise by 50p.The panel is also requesting Treasury Minister Ian Gorst to bring forward proposals for a separate alcohol duty rate or rebate for the hospitality sector in the future.

The panel – chaired by Deputy Moz Scott – argued that the proposed rises would “impede the growth of, or deplete, the hospitality sector, or indeed lead to business failures”. Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel told the JEP yesterday that he was in talks with Deputy Gorst about changes to alcohol duty and would work with the Council of Ministers in the coming year to “bring change as quickly as possible”.

Deputy Morel said: “We need to look at duty and the way that we apply duty on alcohol for on-licence premises. Jersey has become a high-cost place to do business, whether that’s the cost or rent, employing people, complying with regulations. We do need to look at our cost base.” But, he added: “It’s far too late to make any big changes in this Government Plan, as far as having a duty regime which is much more nuanced than the one we have.”

“I’m a champion for cutting red tape and to make sure that government isn’t a reason that businesses don’t start – or that they close down – in Jersey. “I care deeply about these businesses, but some people in the political world haven’t quite understood how difficult it is for businesses to operate in the Island at the moment because of rising costs, and that’s the message I keep trying to take to my colleagues.”

“We are in a moment where it’s becoming more and more difficult to open or run a business in Jersey and that has to change, because if we don’t have an economy that is functioning on all cylinders, then we will see a deterioration in our quality of life over the coming years and that’s not something I want to see.”

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, who was recently appointed Assistant Chief Minister, added that “the constant raising of duty” was a problem for businesses. He continued: “I know the Council of Ministers are looking at that, and I would certainly approve of an amendment to reduce or freeze the duty, perhaps to put the duty into the off-licence trade instead, because it’s still significantly cheaper to buy alcohol in a supermarket than in a pub, and the controls in a pub are much better.”

Marcus Calvani, co-leader of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said the closure of ROJO was “very sad” but that he was “sadly not shocked” .He said: “Our industry has a recipe for disaster on its hands. The cost-base increases are out of control and this is not the time to raise duty. The industry is on its knees. We haven’t recovered from Covid yet, and raising these taxes is like pulling the life-plug on the industry.”

Jersey’s Nude Food ceases trading

A business with two restaurants in the west of the Island has ceased trading with immediate effect. The founders of Nude Food confirmed the closure in a letter to suppliers, saying that “tireless” efforts to secure further investment had been unsuccessful. The company, founded by Lucy Morris and Jackson Lowe, operated Nude Beach at St Aubin, which opened in 2018, and Nude Dunes, which opened at La Pulente in June this year after a lengthy project to convert a former public toilet block.

Grant Thornton has been appointed to handle the closure of the business. The chain opened in 2016 with a site in St Helier, and expanded with two other locations in St Aubin in 2019, and St Brelade in July. The Hide Out cafe, which shared the La Pulente slipway with Nude Dunes, closed in October after it was no longer able to operate due to lease agreements.

Nude Town closed during the pandemic and its owners said they had “done everything” to avoid closing its final two restaurants. The company said the “rising cost of living, high levels of inflation, increasing supplier costs, costs to recruit and cost of accommodation” had caused “disastrous consequences” .

The owners said: “We have invested all that we have over the last seven years to make our dreams a reality and to bring healthy and sustainable dining options to Jersey’s hospitality sector. “We did everything we could to avoid closing our business. Our priority for now is to provide our team members and everyone who has been impacted by what has happened with all the support and care that we can.”

EasyJet to launch flights from Jersey to Birmingham

Jersey is among 29 destinations which will be served by EasyJet from an expanded base at Birmingham Airport in 2024, the airline has confirmed. Twice-weekly services on the Jersey-Birmingham route, which is already served by Blue Islands, will be introduced by easyJet from 2 April and run throughout the year, something which Ports of Jersey says is a sign of “the strength” of the Island’s connectivity.

In a statement, the airline said that the new base was due to open early next year, ahead of schedule, enabling it to expand its services with effect from mid-March. In addition to the 13 domestic and international services which the airline already operates from Birmingham, there will be 16 new routes from the UK’s second-largest city .EasyJet said this would be the first base it had opened in the UK for more than a decade and would create around 100 direct jobs for pilots and crew, as well as over 1,200 further indirect jobs.

Ali Gayward, UK country manager, said: “Investing in a ninth base in the UK strengthens easyJet’s network by positioning it as the carrier of choice to serve UK consumers and capture demand for travel, further growing our share of the UK leisure market for both the airline and easyJet holidays. ”

A Ports of Jersey spokesperson said: “We have been working to build stronger connectivity with both the UK and continental Europe, and our five-year agreement with easyJet provides one of our biggest growth opportunities. For an island of our size, the strength of our connectivity is something we should be proud of, and Ports of Jersey will continue to work closely with all the airlines serving Jersey to develop routes to the UK and Europe.”

The spokesperson added that next year, the Island would have services to 15 European destinations including inbound services from Munich, Dusseldorf, Zurich, Geneva, Rotterdam and Grenoble, and direct services for Islanders to Madeira, Tenerife, Ibiza, Faro, Majorca, Malaga and, new for 2024, Split. Seats for EasyJet flights on the Jersey-Birmingham route are due to go on sale today.

Electric bus service to start in Jersey

A fleet of new electric buses will soon be operating on the streets of Jersey. Operators, LibertyBus, described the vehicles’ arrival as “a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly public transportation system on the island”.

They said the new electric buses were due to come into operation from Monday on the main network. Minister for Infrastructure, Deputy Tom Binet said he was looking forward to seeing them serving the island. “I am really pleased with the progress that has been made to try and find suitable electric buses to join our island fleet,” he said. “Successfully bringing these buses into service is the culmination of hard work and perseverance to overcome some of the challenges we have in Jersey with our narrow roads.”

Four intrepid Island women take on ‘world’s toughest row’ across Atlantic

After almost three years of planning, a four-woman crew from Jersey are poised to leave home at the start of a mission to row across the Atlantic Ocean. The four working mums make up Intrepid 232, a team that does exactly what it says on the tin: the rowing quartet’s combined age is 232, and who would argue that the bold mission was anything other than intrepid?

Julie Brady, Helene Monpetit, Rosemary Satchwell and Alison Smithurst are to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge as one of 39 crews who will race from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua. Dubbed “the World’s Toughest Row”, the event will start on 12 December, but this weekend is the last that the women will spend in Jersey until well into 2024.

On Monday the crew will head for La Gomera for a final fortnight of preparation prior to embarking on the 3,000-mile race. Departure day from Jersey actually marks Ms Brady’s 60th birthday, with her team-mates making up – including some fractions – the rest of the 232.

The crew are hoping to replicate the feat of fellow Islanders Pete Wright and Steve Hayes, who formed the Dragonfish crew to take part in the 2022 version of the Talisker Challenge, reaching Antigua on 5 February this year after 54 days and 16 hours at sea. The 3,000-mile crossing is expected to take anything between 45 and 70 days depending on weather conditions.

The team’s brand-new boat, named Black Squid, has three seats, although the crew are most likely to row in pairs for two hours before resting for the same period. Each rower is set to burn 5,000 calories and drink ten litres of fluids daily. Team Intrepid are seeking support from Islanders for their fundraising efforts around the challenge, with money collected set to be split between two causes close to the team members’ hearts.

Half the proceeds will go to the Grace Crocker Foundation, which supports families while children receive medical treatment in the UK, with the remainder going to the Blue Marine Foundation, which works to restore the ocean by addressing overfishing.