FirstFT: Shielding UK families from fuel bills crisis forecast to cost £100bn

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Good morning. One of the UK’s largest energy groups has told ministers that a rescue plan to protect households from rising bills will need more than £100bn of funding over two years, underlining the scale of the gas price crisis engulfing Britain.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power — one of the “Big Six” energy suppliers — last week met business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and proposed capping household energy bills at about £2,000 a year, according to people with knowledge of the talks.

Under the proposal, household bills would be frozen for two years near the current £1,971 price cap, which is already almost double the typical bill 18 months ago. Households face another jump in the energy bills cap on Friday when energy regulator Ofgem is due to announce a new limit, which analysts expect to exceed £3,000.

Liz Truss, the leading candidate for the Tory leadership, has acknowledged that new support for households could be needed, but has maintained her distaste for “handouts”. The government, however, has become increasingly concerned in recent weeks as gas prices have risen sharply.

Philippe Commaret, managing director of customers at energy supplier EDF, warned yesterday that the UK was facing a “catastrophic winter”, telling the BBC that half of all households could fall into fuel poverty without intervention.

Thank you for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa — Gary

1. Crisis of confidence in Chinese property Investors are pricing in almost $130bn in losses on Chinese property developers’ dollar debt, with two-thirds of the more than 500 outstanding dollar bonds priced below 70 cents on the dollar as concerns mount that the country’s housing market will face a protracted crisis unless Beijing implements a large-scale bailout.

2. HMRC urged to boost payments to tax whistleblowers HM Revenue & Customs paid whistleblowers less than £500,000 in its last financial year, prompting calls from tax specialists to adopt the approach of the Internal Revenue Service and increase payouts to help clamp down on evasion estimated to cost the exchequer £32bn a year.

3. US retailers prepare for penny-pinching holidays Some of the largest US chain stores are gearing up for more price-sensitive customers ahead of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas as soaring inflation clouds hopes for a return to more normal levels of supply and demand during the critical holiday sales season.

4. Tiger Management founder Julian Robertson dies at 90 One of the most influential hedge fund managers ever has died aged 90. Robertson achieved heroic status both for his record at New York-based Tiger Management during the early days of the hedge fund industry and for the dynasty of traders he mentored, known as the “Tiger cubs”.

5. Countries ‘unprepared for pandemic era’ Geopolitical tensions and limited funds are putting the world at risk from mass outbreaks of infectious diseases, health experts have said, arguing that many countries have not learned the lessons of Covid-19, citing the faltering response to monkeypox.

The day ahead

Economic data South Africa releases monthly consumer price index figures today, while Brazil will publish monthly inflation data.

Results UK construction group Costain and food delivery service Delivery Hero release figures for the first half of the year, while graphics chipmaker Nvidia publishes second-quarter figures.

Ukraine war Today marks six months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sombre occasion on the same date as the country’s independence day.

Angola Elections are scheduled in the southern African country to select the president and national assembly.

What else we’re reading

A UK government under Truss The Conservative party leadership contest has just under two weeks to run, with several polls suggesting that Liz Truss has a more than 30-point poll lead over her rival Rishi Sunak. Should she win, who will likely feature in her cabinet?

Lessons of war in Ukraine Russia and Ukraine are at a stalemate across much of the 2,400km front line. “The enemy has learned fast,” says a Ukrainian drone operator, adding that the Russians, entrenched for the winter ahead, are not the easy targets they once were.

Apple’s return-to-office order sparks anxiety across tech workers The move by Apple, a bellwether of Silicon Valley and the tech industry globally, has led to growing disquiet among workers about whether their employers will try to force them to give up on virtual working.

Bangladesh ‘killed by economic conditions elsewhere’ Following the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the south Asian country of 160mn people — with a dependence on garment sector exports — is being rocked by soaring fuel and food prices, leading to energy shortages and rising import bills that are straining its ability to keep up with debt payments.

Scott Morrison throws Australia into a ‘mini constitutional crisis’ Shockwaves are travelling through the Australian political establishment after it was revealed that the former prime minister covertly appointed himself to jointly run five ministries, without telling most of the officials involved.

Travel

Kenton Cool’s 16th ascent of Everest has confirmed the British climber as one of the world’s most successful high-altitude guides. But now, more than at any other time in a 20-year career, he’s questioning the sustainability of his passion and profession.

Kenton Cool in his tent on the south-west face of Alaska’s Mount McKinley
Kenton Cool in his tent on the south-west face of Alaska’s Mount McKinley © Alamy

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