Cost of dying falls in Brexit Britain

Shares in Britain’s biggest listed funeral services company, Dignity, lost almost half their value on Friday as it warned families were becoming increasingly “cost-conscious.” (Reuters)
Updated 19 January 2018
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Cost of dying falls in Brexit Britain

LONDON: From the cost of carpets to coffins, Brexit Britain is spooking consumers.

Shares in Britain’s biggest listed funeral services company, Dignity, lost almost half their value on Friday as it warned families were becoming increasingly “cost-conscious.”

But it is not all bad news for the beleaguered British consumer.

The uncertainty created by the country’s exit from Europe is at least making the cost of exiting this world for the next, more affordable.

Dignity is slashing the cost of its basic funeral by 25 percent with immediate effect while it is also planning a price freeze for its traditional funerals in most locations, its said on Friday.

Carpetright shareholders were in similarly funereal mood as they too watched about half the value of their shares wiped as the London market opened.

A slew of profit warnings from the British High Street, and now it seems, also the crematorium, reflect growing caution among British consumers over the direction of the economy as the country prepares to leave the EU.

Dignity warned its 2018 results would be substantially below market expectations as it cut some of its prices. That sent its stock tumbling by about 49 percent by 9:30 a.m. in London.

Meanwhile Carpetright’s profit warning wiped about £54 million ($75 million) from its market capitalization.

“The number of customer transactions since Christmas was sharply down, which we believe is indicative of reduced consumer confidence,” said Carpetright CEO Wilf Walsh.

Both Carpetright and Dignity are the latest in a long line of retailers that have warned on profits in recent weeks — leading to heavily discounting.

That trend has now extended to the cost of a funeral which Dignity said would be reduced with immediate effect to £1,995 (plus disbursements) in England and Wales.


South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

Updated 18 September 2019

South Korea downgrades Japan trade status as dispute deepens

  • The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization
  • The new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Wednesday dropped Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade, a reaction to Tokyo’s decision to downgrade Seoul’s trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.
South Korea’ trade ministry said Japan’s removal from a 29-member “white list” of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect as Seoul rearranged its export control system covering hundreds of sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Tokyo’s measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many still resent Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
According to South Korean trade ministry, the new measures in effect mean it might take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan, compared to the five days or less it took under a simpler inspection process provided for favored trade partners.
Lee Ho-hyeon, a South Korean trade ministry official, said the change would affect about 100 local firms that export items such as telecommunications security equipment, semiconductor materials and chemical products to Japan. He said Seoul will work to minimize disruption to South Korean companies.
Japan for decades has enjoyed a huge trade surplus with South Korea, an economy that’s much more dependent on exports. Many major manufacturers heavily rely on parts and materials imported from Japan.
But the dispute is taking a toll. Exports to South Korea from Japan fell 9.4% last month, Japan’s Finance Ministry reported Wednesday.
The trade dispute between the neighbors erupted in July, when Japan imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, major export items for South Korea. It cited unspecified security concerns over Seoul’s export controls.
A few weeks later, Japan dropped South Korea from its own trade “white list,” triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute that took relations between the US allies to their worst in decades.
The dispute has spilled over to security issues, with Seoul declaring it plans to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries’ three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence.
Following an angry reaction from Washington, Seoul later said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement, which remains in effect until November, if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner.
Seoul announced its plans to downgrade Tokyo’s trade status in August before holding a 20-day period to gather opinions on the decision, during which the Japanese government voiced opposition to the move it described as “arbitrary and retaliatory,” Lee said.
He said Seoul needs to strengthen controls on shipments to a country that’s “hard to cooperate with” and fails to uphold “basic international principles” while managing export controls on sensitive materials.
South Korea previously divided its trade partners into two groups in managing export controls on sensitive materials. Following Wednesday’s change, South Korea now has an in-between bracket where it placed only Japan, which would mostly receive the same treatment in trade as the non-favored nations in what had been the second group.