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Hundreds more flights cancelled in fallout from UK air traffic control failure

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Hundreds more flights were cancelled on Tuesday as the fallout from Monday’s UK air traffic control failure continued to disrupt travel, with the government telling airlines to take every step to help stranded passengers.

Many holidaymakers remain unable to return home for several days, and Downing Street said airlines should fulfil their responsibilities to passengers whose flights have been scrapped or delayed.

But airline industry leaders said the government should make the air traffic control service Nats (formerly National Air Traffic Services) bear “responsibility for the fiasco”, as the costs of dealing with the disruption mounted.

About a quarter of million passengers were caught up in the bank holiday chaos when a technical problem at Nats, which runs UK air traffic control systems, severely limited takeoffs and landings for about four hours.

Almost 1,600 flights were cancelled across UK airports on Monday, and a further 300 were cancelled on Tuesday morning alone, with many more delayed for several hours.

Nats reiterated its apology to customers in a statement on Tuesday night that confirmed the disruption had been caused by flight data that had been received.

Its chief executive, Martin Rolfe, said: “Very occasionally technical issues occur that are complex and take longer to resolve. In the event of such an issue our systems are designed to isolate the problem and prioritise continued safe air traffic control.

“This is what happened yesterday. At no point was UK airspace closed, but the number of flights was significantly reduced. Initial investigations into the problem show it relates to some of the flight data we received.

“Our systems, both primary and the backups, responded by suspending automatic processing to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system. There are no indications that this was a cyber-attack.”

Rishi Sunak said: “I know people will be enormously frustrated by the disruption that’s impacting them … The transport secretary is in constant dialogue with all the industry participants, he will be talking to airlines specifically later today and making sure that they support passengers to get home as quickly as possible.”

The prime minister’s spokesperson said airlines had a responsibility to “get customers back to where they should be”, by either finding alternative travel for cancelled flights, or providing meals and accommodation until a flight departed.

The transport secretary, Mark Harper, told the BBC: “Airlines have a responsibility either to get people back on a flight to get them home or to pay for them to be accommodated … People can pay for reasonable costs themselves and claim back from their airlines.”

But the global airline body Iata said the situation showed the passenger rights system was not fit for purpose.

The organisation’s director general, Willie Walsh, a former British Airways boss, said there had been an “unacceptable failure”, adding: “Nats has crucial questions to answer about their responsibility for this fiasco. Airlines will bear significant sums in care and assistance charges, on top of the costs of disruption to crew and aircraft schedules. But it will cost Nats nothing.”

Flight plans had to be input manually by controllers on Monday to allow air services to continue at all, while engineers struggled for almost four hours to find and fix the fault.

EasyJet said on Tuesday night it was now operating normally, and would be putting on additional “repatriation flights” from holiday destinations later in the week, as well as switching its bigger planes to affected routes to provide more seats.

Harper met industry representatives including Nats, airlines, airports and the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, on Tuesday afternoon. He subsequently apologised again for the disruption, expressed gratitude to airlines and promised to offer more support.

He said: “Airlines are clear about their responsibilities to their customers, and I stand ready to provide further appropriate support from the government should the industry request it.”

Harper has ruled out a cyber-attack as a possible cause, but said the CAA would be reporting to him on the incident, adding that it would “take some days to get completely everybody back to where they should be”.

Passengers around Britain and Europe were weighing the costs of the chaos, with some returning to airports to find their flights cancelled for a second day.

Most of the early morning flights operated at Gatwick by easyJet departed several hours later than timetabled.

British Airways cancelled 85 flights on Tuesday and said there would be more on Wednesday, when it would continue to allow passengers free rebooking should they wish to avoid the disruption. It said passengers should continue to check the status of flights before coming to the airport. It was also taking out business class seats on short-haul flights to get more people airborne.


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Transactions involving Bernard Arnault investigated over suspected money laundering

The Paris public prosecutor’s office is investigating financial transactions allegedly involving the French billionaire Bernard Arnault and a Russian businessman.

The prosecutors are investigating transactions involving Arnault, whose ownership of the luxury goods group LVMH has made him the world’s second richest person after Elon Musk, and Nikolai Sarkisov, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the Paris prosecutor’s office. Sarkisov’s brother, Sergei, founded the Russian insurance company Reso-Garantia.

The French newspaper Le Monde first reported the existence of the investigation, citing transactions involving property at the Courchevel ski resort. It cited a December 2022 document from Tracfin, part of France’s justice system focused on combating money laundering, which reportedly lists transactions “which may characterise money laundering”.

A spokesperson forReso-Garantia said that “neither Reso-Garantia, nor Mr Sarkisov personally, has been involved in the transaction that was described in the Le Monde article. Mr Sarkisov and Mr Arnault have never met.”

The spokesperson said Sarkisov and Reso-Garantiahad received no contact or requests for documents from French authorities, or those of other countries.

Arnault’s fortune is estimated to be worth $164bn (£134bn), according to Bloomberg, and it at one point it made him the world’s richest man on paper. He and his family own 41% of LVMH, the group that owns luxury brands including the handbag brand Louis Vuitton, Moët champagne, Hennessy cognac, the jeweller Tiffany’s and the watchmaker Tag Heuer, among many others.

Arnault, who is 74, is preparing to hand on his empire, which he founded 35 years ago and grew by acquiring some of the world’s best-known fashion brands and expanding sales to aspiring consumers in Asia in particular. In January, he appointed his daughter, Delphine, to run Christian Dior, the second-biggest brand in LVMH in a move that some analysts said set the scene for a family race with her brother, Antoine, over who would run the company.

The Paris investigation is reportedly looking at transactions involving the purchase of 14 properties in the French Alpine resort of Courchevel during a period of a few weeks in the autumn of 2018, according to Le Monde. The properties were reportedly located in Jardin Alpin, a particularly exclusive quarter of the ski resort characterised by expensive restaurants with views of the slopes.

Le Monde reported on Thursday that Sarkisov had acquired real estate at a luxury Alpine resort via a transaction in which Arnault, through one of his companies, had provided a loan.

The spokesperson for Reso-Garantia said: “The transaction was managed by a small investment unit which invests professionally in European real estate. It consisted of acquiring flats in an old building in Courchevel from various private owners, with the view to sell them later to a developer once the entire building was bought out.

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“All transactions were carried out by French companies, through French notaries by French lawyers on all sides. This was a usual real estate deal.”

LVMH declined to comment.

Le Monde cited a person close to Arnault as saying the transaction had been carried out in full respect of French law.

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No need to send it back: Netflix posts its final DVDs to customers



Most of Netflix’s 238 million streaming customers around the world will be unaware that the company first launched 25 years ago as a DVD mailing service. Even fewer might realise that operation has continued, with under 1 million people still subscribing.

But now the company is finally hitting the stop button, with its five remaining US distribution centres mailing out their final discs to American customers on Friday.

These DVD diehards will be allowed to keep these titles rather than return them, meaning some will get up to 10 as a goodbye present from a business that boasted as many as 16 million subscribers at its peak.

“It is very bittersweet,” Marc Randolph, Netflix’s co-founder and the chief executive when the company shipped its first DVD, told Associated Press. “We knew this day was coming, but the miraculous thing is that it didn’t come 15 years ago.”

Netflix does not break out the number of DVD subscribers in its figures, but according to an AP estimate fewer than 1 million people now subscribe to the service.

Randolph came up with the idea of a DVD-by-post service in 1997 – in a challenge to then rental market leader Blockbuster – with his friend and fellow entrepreneur, Reed Hastings, who eventually succeeded Randolph as CEO. He only stepped aside from that role this year.

The first disc sent out by Netflix was Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice in March 1998 and since then the company has shipped 5.2bn of them. Its most popular title was the Sandra Bullock vehicle The Blind Side.

However, Randolph said he knew that DVDs would not be the mainstay of the business and would be overtaken by watching films and TV shows through internet connections.

In 2011 Netflix decided to separate the DVD business from the streaming business, one year after Blockbuster went bankrupt – having turned down an opportunity in 2000 to buy Netflix for $50m (£41m) instead of trying to compete against it. The streaming giant is now worth about $166bn.

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“From day one, we knew DVDs would go away, that this was transitory step,” Randolph said. “And the DVD service did that job miraculously well. It was like an unsung booster rocket that got Netflix into orbit and then dropped back to Earth after 25 years. That’s pretty impressive.”

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Evergrande halts share trading as woes mount for China property giant

Embattled Chinese property giant Evergrande has suspended share trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange only a month after it resumed trading after a 17-month suspension.

Trading in its two other units – the property services and electric vehicle groups – also stopped at 9am on Thursday, according to notices posted by the stock exchange.

The halt in trading comes a day after reports that the chair of Evergrande had been put under police surveillance. Hui Ka Yan, who founded Evergrande in 1996, was taken away earlier this month and is being monitored at a designated location, according to Bloomberg.

It is not clear why Hui might have been placed under residential surveillance, which falls short of a formal detention or police arrest and does not mean a criminal charge follows.

Evergrande had only resumed trading on 28 August after the company was suspended for 17 months for not publishing its financial results. Earlier this month, several employees of Evergrande’s wealth management unit were arrested in Shenzhen on unspecified charges.

Two former executives were also reportedly detained recently. Pan Darong and Xia Haijun had resigned last year after it emerged that 13.4bn yuan (£1.5bn) of deposits had been used as security for third-party loans.

Earlier this week, Hengda Real Estate, Evergrande’s primary unit in mainland China, missed principal and interest payments on a 4bn yuan bond. Hui resigned from his position as Hengda chair in 2021.

On Sunday, Evergrande said it was unable to issue new debt as Hengda was being investigated.

And on Friday it said meetings planned this week on a key debt restructuring plan would not take place, adding it was “necessary to reassess the terms” of the plan in order to suit the “objective situation and the demand of the creditors”.

China’s property sector is a key pillar of growth – along with construction, it accounts for about a quarter of GDP – and has experienced a dazzling boom in recent decades.

The massive debt accrued by the industry’s biggest players has, however, been seen by Beijing in recent years as an unacceptable risk for the financial system and overall economic health.

Authorities have gradually tightened developers’ access to credit since 2020 and a wave of defaults has followed – notably that of Evergrande.

Another Chinese property giant, Country Garden, narrowly avoided default in recent months, after reporting a record loss and debts of more than $150bn.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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