Business

Thomas Cook customers face refund delays

Customers of defunct tour operator Thomas Cook have reacted angrily after learning they will face delays in getting refunds for Atol-protected package holidays.

The Civil Aviation Authority originally said all valid claims made on the first day of its refund programme would be paid within 60 days, or by this Friday.

But now it says only two-thirds will be paid on time.

It said it had asked the remaining claimants for more information.

CAA boss Richard Moriarty acknowledged many would be worried about not getting their money back before Christmas.

“We thank consumers for their ongoing patience as we continue to do all that we can to work through the UK travel industry’s largest ever refunds programme,” he said.

“I appreciate that this is a concerning time for Thomas Cook customers who are waiting for their refunds, particularly at this time of the year.”

When Thomas Cook ceased trading on 23 September, anyone who had paid for a future Thomas Cook package holiday protected under the CAA’s Atol scheme was entitled to a full refund.

From 7 October an online refund application system opened, and customers were told the Civil Aviation Authority aimed to pay out within 60 days.

The CAA said it had received 67,000 claims on the first day, and two thirds would be paid by this weekend, bringing the total amount of compensation paid to date to £160m.

Saudi Aramco raises $25.6bn in world’s biggest share sale

State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco has raised a record $25.6bn (£19.4bn) in its initial public offering in Riyadh.

The share sale was the biggest to date, surpassing that of China’s Alibaba which raised $25bn in 2014 in New York.

Aramco relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad.

The IPO will value it at $1.7tn when trading begins – short of its $2tn target, but making it the most valuable listed company in the world.

The share sale is at the heart of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to modernise the Saudi economy and wean it off its dependence on oil.

The country urgently needs tens of billions of dollars to fund megaprojects and develop new industries.

Aramco has found the journey to its public offering testing.

It initially sought to raise $100bn on two exchanges – with a first listing on the kingdom’s Tadawul bourse, and then another on an overseas exchange such as the London Stock Exchange.

But it scaled back its plans after foreign investors raised concerns about climate change, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency.

International institutions also baulked at the firm’s $1.7tn valuation, prompting Aramco to pull marketing roadshows in New York and London.

Instead, it focused its marketing efforts on Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks also offered citizens cheap credit to bid for the shares following a nationwide advertising campaign.

Shares were priced at 32 Saudi riyals ($8.53) on Thursday and were heavily oversubscribed, according to reports.

But it remains to be seen whether the share price rises or falls when trading begins, most likely later this month.

The IPO’s pricing came as Saudi Arabia met with Russia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in Vienna to discuss oil production.

The allies – who together pump 40% of the world’s oil – agreed to deepen output cuts as part of ongoing efforts to prop up global prices.

Oil prices collapsed in mid 2014 and have yet to fully recover, leaving oil-dependent economies under pressure.

The market is struggling with slower global growth and a flood of new production from countries such as the US.

Presentational grey line

A bigger challenge awaits

Sameer Hashmi, Middle East business correspondent

Three years after it was first announced Saudi Arabia is finally taking the world’s most profitable company public. The market valuation is less than the $2tn target that Crown Prince Bin-Salman – had initially hoped to achieve.

The company has committed to a large annual dividend until 2024 to ensure investors don’t sell shares in the near future leading to a drop in market valuation.

But analysts believe the biggest challenge for the company will be if it decides to list on an international stock exchange in the future to expand its investor pool. The core business of Saudi Aramco – oil – is considered by many experts its biggest risk.

Demand for crude has been falling, which could make it difficult for the company to grow in the long term. The climate crisis and geopolitical risks are also key factors that could deter potential investors.

Garuda airline boss to lose job over smuggled motorbike

The boss of Indonesia’s national airline is being dismissed over allegations he smuggled a classic motorbike into the country.

Garuda’s chief executive Ari Askhara has been accused of failing to declare the importation of a Harley Davidson and two folding bikes.

The country’s finance minister said Mr Askhara had avoided up to $107,000 (£82,000) in customs duties.

It is a fresh blow to the firm, which has faced questions over its finances.

Indonesian national airline Garuda's CEO Ari Askhara speaks during a launch for new flight attendent uniforms, in Jakarta
Image captionIt is not clear when Mr Askhara will have to step down from his position

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir told a news conference that the items were brought into Indonesia from France.

“This process was done completely within a state-owned company, not only by an individual,” Mr Thohir added, according to Reuters.

He also said payment for the motorbike was made through a Garuda finance manager in Amsterdam.

The ministry would continue to investigate the matter, Mr Thohir said.

It was not clear when Mr Askhara, who took up his role as Garuda’s chief executive in September 2018, would be forced to leave his position.

The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.ADVERTISEMENT

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In June this year, the airline was ordered by the country’s financial watchdog to restate its financial results for 2018 over accounting errors.

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Bloomberg denies trying to buy White House election

Michael Bloomberg, one of the world’s richest men and a candidate to take on President Donald Trump next year, has denied trying to buy the White House.

Mr Bloomberg’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have accused him of doing exactly that.

The ex-New York City mayor entered the race in late November with one of the largest political ad buys ever.

Despite his late entry to the race, he is currently polling fifth on 4% out of 15 candidates.

Asked to respond to the claim he was trying to buy the election, Mr Bloomberg told CBS of his rivals: “I’m doing exactly the same thing they’re doing, except that I am using my own money.

“They’re using somebody else’s money and those other people expect something from them.

“Nobody gives you money if they don’t expect something. And I don’t want to be bought.”

Liberal Democratic White House front-runners have been criticising Mr Bloomberg, who used to be a Republican.

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently snapped up a TV ad spot on Mr Bloomberg’s own network – Bloomberg TV – accusing him of trying to buy the election to avoid paying higher taxes.