Here are five of today’s key business stories in one handy package.
Wood axes jobs
Oil and gas services giant Wood Group insisted it was a “strong and balanced business” despite reporting a 14.5 per cent fall in annual earnings amid plunging crude prices. The Aberdeen-based group also revealed that its underlying headcount had been slashed by more than 8,000 – or about a fifth – since the end of 2014, with about 2,000 jobs lost in the UK alone, as it posted underlying earnings of $469.7 million (£332.9m) for 2105, down from $549.6m the previous year.
North Sea warning
Wood Group’s results came as a report from trade body Oil & Gas UK warned that the North Sea sector stood “at the edge of a chasm” after a collapse in vital investment and exploration. New projects have all but ground to a halt, raising fears for the industry’s long-term future, with less then £1 billion being spent this year – when this figure usually stands closer to £8bn annually. About half of all North Sea oil fields are likely to be running at a loss by the end of the year if the slump in global prices continues, with a warning of more job losses.
Life and pensions group Royal London claimed that next month’s Budget would be tantamount to “robbery” if George Osborne replaces current pensions tax relief with either a pension ISA or a low flat-rate tax relief for all. The Chancellor has floated the idea of a pension ISA, whereby workers would pay tax when they are paid, rather than when they receive their pension. Under a flat-rate pensions tax relief, everyone would get the same top-up to their pension regardless of their income, seen as hitting higher 40 per cent taxpayers.
Construction work started on the final office building at the Quartermile regeneration scheme in Edinburgh city centre. The £35 million six-story building, designed by Foster & Partners, will provide almost 73,000 square feet of Grade A office space at the mixed-use scheme, on the site of the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dubbed Quartermile 3, the offices will bring the combined gross development value of projects currently underway at Quartermile to more than £185m and will create employment opportunities for about 700 people.
Let there be light
Edinburgh technology spin-out PureLiFi geared up for the launch of its latest product that uses light instead of radio waves to transmit data. The company, co-founded by chief executive Harald Haas, is to unveil its LiFi-X “dongle” at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Its launch follows a funding round of more than $2 million (£1.4m) for the firm, which was spun out from the University of Edinburgh in 2012.