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33 ‘unsustainably loss-making’ Dixons Travel outlets set to be shuttered affecting 400 staff • The Register

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Dixons Carphone is to permanently ground its airport stores that employ 398 staff, amid mounting losses and following the British government’s discontinuation of airside tax-free shopping at the start of 2021.

The decision to shutter the Dixons Travel outlets was confirmed in a trading update covering the 51 weeks ended 24 April, which show group turnover rising 14 per cent year-on-year as online sales more than doubled to £4.5bn.

A spokesperson told The Reg: “Today’s announcement follows an unprecedented year for the travel industry, which has seen UK airline passenger volumes fall by 75 per cent in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This, coupled with our expectation that passenger numbers will not recover sufficiently to compensate for the removal of the tax-free shopping concession by the UK Government from 1 January, means Dixons Travel, which makes up just 1 per cent of our UK&I selling space, has become unsustainably loss-making.

“We are, therefore, proposing to close our Dixons Travel business. We’re confident we’ll be able to offer any of the affected colleagues who want to stay another role elsewhere in Dixons Carphone.”

As well as being located in major airports across the UK, in Dublin and Oslo, two of the stores were run as concessions on P&C cruises.

In other challenging news for Dixons staff, the company confirmed that “as part of our Mobile transformation” it has closed its Carphone Warehouse stores in the Republic of Ireland. This was not a surprise given the large number of standalone Carphone stores in the UK that have been closed in recent years.

Carphone warehouse with iron shutters closed

Dixons Carphone top brass take 20% pay cut as swathes of Brit workforce furloughed

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As for the financials, the group was up 13 per cent year-on-year in the UK and Ireland for the 51 weeks, and international sales grew 16 per cent, including a 17 per cent rise in the Nordics and 9 per cent in Greece. The fully audited results will be published on 30 June.

The company said that given the “strong financial position”, it had “reimbursed all government support for the £73m of furlough paid to UK&I colleagues during the year.” The company expects profit before tax for the year to be in line with current forecasts of £151m.

At the halfway stage of Dixons’ fiscal ’21, CEO Alex Baldock was questioned about repaying the support money. He and fellow execs took a 20 per cent pay cut last year as lockdown measures bit hard on bricks-and-mortar retailers. Baldock was paid £850,000 in the year to April 2019. ®

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NUIG to spend €5m on research to help address global issues

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Several key research areas have been identified by NUI Galway to work towards for 2026.

NUI Galway’s recently launched research and innovation strategy includes a €5m investment on support for its multi-disciplinary research teams as they grapple with several global issues.

The strategy, which lays out plans for the university’s next five years of research, focuses on six areas: antimicrobial resistance, decarbonisation, democracy and its future, food security, human-centred data and ocean and coastal health.

“As a public university, we have a special responsibility to direct our research toward the most pressing questions and the most difficult issues,” said to Prof Jim Livesey, VP for research and innovation at NUI Galway.

“As we look into the future, we face uncertainty about the number and nature of challenges we will face, but we know that we will rely on our research capacity as we work together to overcome them,” Livesey added.

The plan focuses on creating the conditions to intensify the quality, scale and scope of research in the university into the future. This includes identifying areas with genuine potential to achieve international recognition for NUI Galway. It also aims to continue to cultivate a supportive and diverse environment within its research community.

NUI Galway has research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 different countries. The university also has five research institutes on its Galway city campus, including the Data Science Institute, the Whitaker Institute for social change and innovation and the Ryan Institute for marine research.

Its research centres in the medtech area include Science Foundation Ireland’s Cúram and the Corrib Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Lab.

The university will also continue to involve the public with its research and innovation plans through various education and outreach initiatives. It is leading the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network, which it claims, will “bring the public into the heart of research initiatives”.

Another key area identified in the strategy report is the development of partnerships with industry stakeholders. NUI Galway has spun out many successful companies in recent years, including medtechs such as AuriGen Medical, Atrian, Vetex Medical and Neurent.

According to MedTech Europe, Ireland has the highest number of medtech employees per capita in Europe along with Switzerland.

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France hails victory as Facebook agrees to pay newspapers for content | France

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France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.

Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France as well as smaller titles. It said this meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.

France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies that share news content or show news stories in web searches.

In 2019 France became the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.

No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.

Pierre Louette, the head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.

Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, have negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.

After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.

But this year Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.

Facebook said that besides paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.

Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report that it was expecting “strong growth in the short-term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.

British newspapers including the Guardian signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.

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Flight Simulator says Windows 11 has been downloaded on Xbox • The Register

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will not fly until the first half of next year at the earliest, as the manufacturing giant continues to tackle an issue with the spacecraft’s valves.

Things have not gone smoothly for Boeing. Its Starliner program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays. Just in August, a second unmanned test flight was scrapped after 13 of 24 valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system jammed. In a briefing this week, Michelle Parker, chief engineer of space and launch at Boeing, shed more light on the errant components.

Boeing believes the valves malfunctioned due to weather issues, we were told. Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where the Starliner is being assembled and tested, is known for hot, humid summers. Parker explained that the chemicals from the spacecraft’s oxidizer reacted with water condensation inside the valves to form nitric acid. The acidity corroded the valves, causing them to stick.

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