Airbnb plans public share sale despite pandemic

Lodging website Airbnb has filed papers in the US to become a publicly listed company in what is one of the most-anticipated launches of the year.

Since its founding as home-sharing site in 2008, the San Francisco tech firm has grown into a global juggernaut.

Its rise has challenged traditional hotel rivals and cities coping with an influx of tourists to new areas.

And while the pandemic hurt the firm’s already loss-making business, Airbnb said its model remains resilient.

The company reportedly hopes to raise about $3bn (£2.27bn) by selling shares in the listing, which could value the firm at more than $30bn.

“We believe that the lines between travel and living are blurring, and the global pandemic has accelerated the ability to live anywhere,” the company said in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing for its initial public offering (IPO). “Our platform has proven adaptable to serve these new ways of traveling.”

More than 4 million hosts list properties on the platform, 86% of which are located outside of the US. Last year, roughly 54 million people reserved stays through the company, which takes a cut of each booking.

But travel was hit hard by the pandemic, prompting the company to slash staff numbers by 25% and raise $2bn in emergency loans from investors to make it through the crisis.

The firm said bookings have since recovered somewhat, as people looked to escape locked down cities with long-term rentals. But they remain down about 20% in recent months compared to last year.

In 2019, the firm booked losses of more than $674m – a figure it has already surpassed in the first nine months of this year.

The firm, which brought in revenue of $4.8bn last year, also warned potential investors that revenue growth had slowed, a trend likely to continue.

Between 2018 and 2019, the firm’s revenue grew more than 30%. But it fell more than 30% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2020, to $2.5bn from $3.7bn a year earlier.

Separately, shares of electric car maker Tesla jumped 9% in extended trade on Monday after S&P Dow Jones Indices said that the company would join the S&P 500 index. It will join on 21 December.

Boris Johnson called Scottish devolution disaster

Downing Street has not denied reports that Boris Johnson called devolution in Scotland a “disaster”.

The Sun newspaper also said the prime minister had described it as predecessor Tony Blair’s “biggest mistake” in a meeting with Tory MPs.

The SNP has criticised Mr Johnson’s reported comments.

But government sources suggested the prime minister had been making “more of a reference” to the SNP’s running of Scotland than devolution in general.

Mr Johnson was in a Zoom meeting with Tory MPs representing dozens of seats in northern England when he is said to have made remarks.

He reportedly said that “devolution has been a disaster north of the border”.

Mr Blair’s Labour government brought in devolution for Scotland in 1999, including the setting up of a parliament in Edinburgh.

It has been suggested by some taking part in the MPs’ Zoom meeting that Mr Johnson was answering a question that had been put to him about devolution in England.

A Downing Street source: “The PM has always supported devolution, but Tony Blair failed to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland…”Devolution is great – but not when it’s used by separatists and nationalists to break up the UK.”

Elections for the Scottish Parliament take place next May.

Ms Sturgeon’s SNP says a second referendum on independence – following Scotland’s vote against it in 2014 – should happen if her party wins. But Mr Johnson has ruled this out.

In response to the Sun’s report, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers.”

She added that the “only way to protect and strengthen” the Scottish Parliament was through independence for Scotland.

But the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, tweeted: “Devolution has not been a disaster. The SNP’s non-stop obsession with another referendum – above jobs, schools and everything else – has been a disaster.”

Stricken seal pup rescued from Albert Dock steps

An injured seal pup is recovering after being found in distress on steps at Liverpool’s Albert Dock.

The mammal, which had wounds on its flippers and under its chin, is thought to have been hurt after hitting rocks.

Wendy Burrows of the RSPCA said the seal, which weighs about 32 kg (70 lbs), was in a good condition and expected to be retuned to the wild.

Named Swede, it is being cared for at Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire.

The male, found on 4 November, is said to eat about three kilograms of mackerel or herring every day and has been “socialising” with other seals at the centre, the RSPCA said.

“Their rehabilitation takes a long time as we need to be sure they are the right weight and they can compete for food and socialise with others,” Ms Burrows said.

“He will probably stay for about 30 days until he is ready to be returned to the wild.”

The RSPCA advises people not to approach seal pups as they “can have a nasty bite”.

The charity said it was not unusual to see pups by themselves and often their mother will be nearby in the water close by.

Graham Norton lands weekend slot on Virgin Radio

Graham Norton is to present weekend shows on Virgin Radio from next year following his exit from BBC Radio 2.

The 57-year-old said he was “excited and a little surprised” to be joining the station after hosting a Saturday morning show on Radio 2 for 10 years.

“I was very content where I was but the opportunity to host shows across the weekend seemed too good to miss.”

Norton will host shows on both Saturday and Sunday at times yet to be announced as part of his new deal.

He will continue commentating Eurovision, judging on Drag Race UK and hosting his weekly chat show on BBC One after leaving Radio 2 on 19 December.

Norton is the latest high-profile sign-up for Virgin Radio, which previously wooed Chris Evans away from Radio 2 in 2018.

Last month Norton appeared on Evans’ breakfast show, during which Evans lightheartedly attempted to lure him to the station.

“You can see your house from here, so it’s even more convenient for when you leave the BBC,” Evans joked.

“The energy and enthusiasm at Virgin Radio are infectious and I can’t wait to get started,” said Norton in a statement.

Virgin Radio UK, which launched in 2016, said it would “share more details about his new show as soon as we can”.

Des OConnor: Tributes paid to the king of telly Des OConnor

Ant and Dec have paid tribute to the much-loved comedian, singer and TV host Des O’Connor.

O’Connor died on Saturday aged 88, following a fall at his Buckinghamshire home just over a week ago.

He was known for hosting his own chat show, as well as Take Your Pick and Countdown – and for his friendship with Morecambe and Wise.

The Geordie TV double act described O’Connor as “a consummate professional and a lovely man”.

“He was a regular fixture on our TVs growing up and a gentleman whenever we met,” they posted on their joint Twitter account.

“Eric & Ernie will be waiting to have a laugh with you tonight Des. RIP X.”

O’Connor’s long-time friend and fellow comedian Jimmy Tarbuck described him as “a nice guy” and “a giggler”.

The pair performed together at the London Palladium in 2015 and toured the country the following year.

“I tried every night on the stage to get him giggling by singing the wrong words to a song, and of course he’d just start laughing,” Tarbuck told ITV News.

“He was a very generous performer – he shared the laughs.”

Carol Vorderman, O’Connor’s former on-screen colleague from his two years spent presenting the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown, said he was “a wonderful man” and “fantastic to work with”.

“Des was the king of telly really for so many years,” she told BBC Breakfast, reflecting on her TV viewing habits as a youngster.

“It was Des O’Connor who was on all the time, every week. He was the one who made you laugh, made you feel safe, made you feel as though – with that twinkle that was forever in his eyes – that you never quite knew what was going to happen”.

She added: “He was the master of that – he could control it beautifully.”

Another former co-host Melanie Sykes posted on Instagram that he had “the softest hands of anyone I ever met and the kindest of hearts”.

“He had talent in every fibre of his being and was stubborn as a mule,” wrote Sykes. “He was the full ticket as a friend and colleague.”

O’Connor presented Today With Des And Mel from 2002 to 2006.

“When he chose me to be his co-host on the Today daytime show it was one the greatest days of my professional life,” she added.

“It was an education and a privilege to work with him for the years that followed.”

Fellow comic Russ Abbot added that O’Connor’s death was a “great loss” to anyone who met him or saw him on TV.

“I had the privilege of being on his show many times and he was a wonderful, generous host, always wanting his guests to shine,” said Abbot. “He really was the ultimate entertainer but, even more, he was a thoroughly nice man.”

Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness tweeted in response to the “sad news”. “Des O’Connor was never afraid to laugh at himself and that was part of his charm,” he wrote.

Singer Kim Wilde, who performed alongside O’Connor, thanked him for the good times. “Gorgeous memories of singing Something Stupid with Des O’Connor,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker labelled him as a “truly lovely man and one of the great old school entertainers”.

Actress Sophie Evans, who starred alongside him in The Wizard Of Oz at the London Palladium in 2012, tweeted that it was an “absolute pleasure” to work with the then 80-year-old, who had “a glisten in his eye and that old school hard-working mind set”.

Northampton Town Football Club also tweeted in remembrance of O’Connor, who played for their reserve team in the 1940s.

“We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Des O’Connor,” a Twitter post on the club’s page said.

“Des famously played for our reserve team on a few occasions just after World War 2. Our thoughts are with all who knew Des.”

Broadcaster Tony Blackburn said the late star “was a great entertainer and more importantly a very nice person”, and TV presenter Gyles Brandreth described him as “the ultimate professional”.

London-born O’Connor presented his own prime-time TV shows for more than 45 years but also had success as a singer.

His friendship with comedy duo Morecambe and Wise saw him mocked for his singing ability in sketches despite a successful career which included four Top 10 hits and more than 30 albums.

O’Connor appeared on stages around the world and performed hundreds of shows at the London Palladium.

His fame soared when he was hired to host The Des O’Connor Show, which ran on ITV from 1963 to 1971.

In 1977 he began hosting Des O’Connor tonight, which started on BBC Two before moving to ITV, where it stayed until it ended in 2002.

He later hosted the Channel 4 quiz show Countdown alongside Carol Vorderman, with the pair bowing out together in 2008, and was made a CBE for his services to entertainment and broadcasting in that year’s birthday honours.

O’Connor was married four times, and has described the end of his first three relationships as casualties of his obsession with work.

In 2007, he married long-term girlfriend Jodie Brooke Wilson, who was 37 years his junior and gave birth to their son Adam when O’Connor was 72.

O’Connor also had four daughters, Karin, TJ, Samantha and Kristina from his previous marriages.

Cooker deaths: Company not aware of risk

The manufacturer of cookers linked to five deaths in Cornwall was not aware of the risk of them emitting carbon monoxide if used with the grill doors closed, an inquest has heard.

Two people died in 2010 and three members of another family died in 2013.

The inquest heard all of them had used gas cookers produced by the parent company of Beko.

In a statement, the company said product safety was its “primary” consideration.

Kevin Branton, 32, and Richard Smith, 30, died in 2010 in Saltash, while Maureen Cook, 47, Audrey Cook, 86, and Alfred, known as John, Cook, 90, died in 2013 in Camborne.

Opening the inquest, Coroner Geraint Williams said post-mortem examinations showed all five died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In a statement to the inquest, Alp Karahasanoğlu, from Arcelik, the Turkish parent company of Beko, said appliances were subjected to rigorous internal testing before being tested externally.

He said safety testers aimed to anticipate ways in which customers might misuse a product but that it was “not always possible to see into the minds of the end user”.

“No-one foresaw the possibility that the grill might be used with the grill door shut, contrary to the advice in the user manual,” he said.

Mr Karahasanoğlu said the reason for this advice was for the efficiency of the grill and not to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide.

“No-one at Arcelik was aware of this risk until these tragic deaths came to our notice,” he said.

The inquest heard in a statement the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy first became aware of five fatalities linked to the use of gas cookers with grill doors closed in early 2009.

Those deaths in Kent, Doncaster, Ireland and Northern Ireland prompted the department, then known as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, to call for an amendment to the safety standards covering gas cookers.

The inquest continues.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: BTP let people down on night of bomb

A senior officer at British Transport Police has accepted the force let the public down on the night of the Manchester Arena attack.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan has been giving evidence to the public inquiry into the atrocity.

He agreed mistakes were made, including having no officers in the foyer where bomber Salman Abedi hid before the blast which killed 22 people.

Mr O’Callaghan said the attack had “happened on [BTP’s] watch”.

Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds more were injured as they left an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017.

The inquiry previously heard there were no police officers on patrol when 22-year-old Abedi made his journey from Victoria Station to the City Room.

“The attack that happened that night happened on our watch,” Mr O’Callaghan, who was not working for BTP at the time, said.

“There is not a day that goes by when BTP doesn’t consider that.”

He added: “Did we let the people down?

“It was our responsibility to police that arena and that attack happened when we were policing it, there were police officers planned to be deployed to the site of the attack and they were not there – so in that term, yes.”

But Mr O’Callaghan denied the threat of terrorism at the Manchester Arena had been disregarded by the force.

“There was no specific mitigation taken in relation to [the Ariana Grande concert] other than officers on patrol,” he said.

“The information officers had at the time was up to 100 concerts a year had been going on at the arena…there was nothing to focus the mind on people planning a policing response that a person-borne IED was plausible at that time.”

The inquiry at Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard risk assessments by BTP for events at the arena were never documented.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “The process we adopted in our own risk assessments, in my view, was not to a suitable standard.”

But he said there was no policy in place to say the assessments should have been documented.

Mr O’Callaghan said there had been a number of improvements to police planning for events at the arena.

This includes specific counter-terrorism briefings for all officers before deployment, formal documented risk assessments specific to each event and more multi-agency meetings.

The inquiry, which is examining the background to the attack and if any opportunities to prevent it were missed, continues.

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