Kia Sportage via PA, Dec 2021Kia Sportage via PA, Dec 2021

News Round-Up

Mar 16: PM heads to Saudi Arabia for oil talks; Zelensky sees room for peace talks; HSBC closes more banks; Plug-in Kia Sportage details revealed

  • Here are the headlines on Wednesday, March 16

Time 6:59 am, March 16, 2022

Boris Johnson heads to Saudi Arabia as he seeks to wean West off Putin’s oil

Boris Johnson has declared Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ‘key international partners’ in efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy after the invasion of Ukraine.

On the eve of a controversial visit to the Gulf states on Wednesday, the prime minister argued it is necessary to strengthen ties with the nations to tackle Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Johnson will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh days after the largest mass execution in the kingdom in modern history. He will visit the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi earlier in the day, as both rulers’ records on human rights come under renewed scrutiny.

Zelensky sees room for compromise as 20,000 escape Mariupol

Ukraine said it saw possible room for compromise in talks with Russia despite Moscow’s stepped up bombardment of Kyiv and new assaults on the port city of Mariupol.

The fast-moving developments on the diplomatic front and on the ground came as Russia’s invasion neared the three-week mark and the number of Ukrainians who have left the country amid Europe’s heaviest fighting since the Second World War eclipsed three million.

After delegations from Ukraine and Russia met again on Tuesday via video, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said early on Wednesday that Russia’s demands were becoming ‘more realistic’. The two sides were expected to speak again on Wednesday.

122,000 offer homes for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine

More than 120,000 individuals and organisations have expressed an interest in taking in Ukrainian refugees, the Government has said.

According to the latest figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 122,305 expressions of interest have been received by the Homes for Ukraine programme.

The response to the scheme, which encourages members of the public to throw open their homes to people fleeing the fighting in Ukraine, comes amid intense criticism of the government’s response to the refugee crisis.

Rapid moves to cut energy demand ‘will curb bills and Russian gas imports’

Rapid moves to cut energy demand could save households an average of £150 on bills and reduce Russian imports by 80 per cent this year, a report has said.

The report by climate think tank E3G urges the government to cut VAT on insulation, launch a major public awareness campaign on saving energy, and make changes to stamp duty to boost energy efficiency work on homes.

They are among nine suggestions for action this year and up to 2025 to reduce energy demand, which the report says is the quickest way to reduce exposure to soaring costs.

Scottish retail sales remain at pre-pandemic levels

Shop sales remained at pre-pandemic levels last month as retailers continue to face ‘no shortage of storm clouds’, according to a new report.

While food and drink continued to perform well, fashion and footwear trade in Scotland was ‘sluggish’, highlighting the polarisation between food and non-food sales.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor showed that, between January 30 and February 26, total sales were 6.3 per cent down on February 2020, when they had decreased by 0.8 per cent, though this was above both the three-month and 12-month average falls of 9.4 per cent.

Kia reveals details of plug-in Sportage

Kia has announced details of its new Sportage Plug-in Hybrid.

It pairs a turbocharged 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 66.9kW electric motor and 13.8kWh battery, for a claimed electric driving range of up to 43 miles. The battery can be fully replenished in one hour and 45 minutes at up to 7.2kW – making it the South Korean firm’s fastest-charging hybrid model yet.

Prices for the Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid start from £38,395 for the GT-Line and rise to £43,795 for the top-spec GT-Line S. It’s now available to order, with first deliveries set to start in April.

Price of filling an average family car tops £90 for first time

Filling up an average family car now costs more than £90 for the first time, says the RAC.

According to the motoring organisation’s ‘Fuel Watch’, the price of a litre of petrol reached a new high of 163.71p yesterday (Monday 14), meaning that filling a 55-litre tank of a typical family car – such as a Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3 – will now cost £90.04.

Prices for diesel also reached a new high point yesterday, costing an average of 173.68p per litre, which means that filling a 55-litre family car will sting people to the tune of £95.52.

Tuesday Car Dealer headlines you might have missed

Workers suffer steepest decline in real wages for over eight years

Pressure is mounting on chancellor Rishi Sunak to offer further cost of living support in his upcoming spring statement as official figures revealed the biggest fall in real pay for more than eight years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that with rising prices taken into account, as measured by Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation, regular pay fell by 1.6 per cent year-on-year in the three months to January.

This marked the steepest decline in real pay since the September to November quarter in 2013.

HSBC to close 69 more bank branches

HSBC has said it will shut 69 branches as it continues to close banks because of customers switching online.

The move, which could hit around 400 workers across the branches, is the latest in a flurry of closure announcements by the UK’s biggest banks. In January last year, the bank announced 82 previous closures.

HSBC said that less than 50 per cent of its customers now regularly use it branch network, with footfall dropping sharply over the past five years.

EU regulators clear Amazon’s £6.48bn purchase of MGM

European regulators have cleared Amazon’s purchase of Hollywood studio MGM, saying the deal does not raise any competition concerns.

The online shopping giant said last year that it was buying MGM in a 8.45bn dollar (£6.48bn) deal aimed at bulking up its video-streaming service with more content.

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The European Commission said its investigation found the deal ‘would not significantly reduce competition’ in European markets, including for movie and TV production, wholesale supply of TV channels and retail supply of ‘audiovisual services’.

Weather outlook

A cloudy day for much of the UK today with spells of rain for England and Wales, particularly in the south-east. Drier elsewhere, reports BBC Weather.

Rain will ease for most tonight, although they will continue in the Western Isles. It’ll be a cold night.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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