Consumer confidence falls for third month in a row

Dutch consumer confidence in the economy fell again in October, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. Consumer confidence has now fallen for three months in a row. This month's four point decline takes the confidence index to 15, but this is still well above the -3 average over the past 20 years, the CBS pointed out. In particular, consumers have less confidence in the economic climate and are less willing to spend money on major purchases. However, CBS figures covering consumer spending in August show a rise of 2%, year on year. The increase was down to spending on white goods, cars and clothing, the CBS said.   More >

NS faces hefty bill from UK government

Dutch state-owned railway firm NS may have to pay millions of euros to Britain's trade ministry because of a disputed clause in a rail franchise agreement. The Great Anglia railway franchise, a 60:40 joint venture between NS overseas operation Abellio and Japanese firm Mitsui & Co, is said to be facing a 'hefty bill' from Britain's transport ministry Dft because the London economy is performing well. The agreement for the East Anglia franchise includes a risk sharing measure known as the Central London Employment (CLE) mechanism. This was intended to provide protection for the operator and Britain's department of trade (DfT) against revenue fluctuations if more people started using the service because the London economy was booming. However, the way the CLE has been calculated means Abellio is facing a far higher bill than expected. 'It is now widely accepted that CLE is a flawed mechanism that does not deliver on the intended aims,' Abellio told in a statement. 'We are therefore working with the DfT to develop and implement more effective risk sharing models.' Contract Abellio won the contract to run the Greater Anglia service in October 2016 after beating off stiff domestic competition. The franchise runs until 2025. The NS booked higher transport revenues abroad than it did in the Netherlands in the first half of 2018. Abellio, which runs Scot Rail services as well as Greater Anglia, started a new concession in the West Midlands in December 2017 which pumped up British sales by 33% to €1.1bn in the first half of 2018.   More >

IJmuiden to get hydrogen plant

Amsterdam's port authority, Tata Steel and former AkzoNobel chemical division Nouryon are planning to build a hydrogen plant on the site of the Tata industrial complex in IJmuiden, Dutch media report. The final decision will be taken in 2021 and building will take another two to three years. The plant will produce 15,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year which Tata will use to produce steel in a cleaner and more sustainable way. The move would reduce CO2 emissions by Tata by 350,000 tonnes which equals the CO2 emissions of 40,000 households. At the moment, Tata produces 6 mega tonnes of CO2, which makes it one of the most polluting industrial complexes in the Netherlands, only topped by the coal-fired plant in the Eemshaven. Sustainable energy The use of hydrogen is seen as another important part of efforts to develop sustainable energy sources, alongside solar and wind power, broadcaster NOS said. It will be used as a cleaner alternative for industry and may also be considered as a substitute for the present Dutch dependence on gas to heat homes. According to NOS, Nouryon has experience with the use of hydrogen in homes but on a much smaller scale than would be necessary. The government wants the use of gas to be phased out by 2030. The announcement comes ‘at an auspicious moment’, NH Nieuws writes. Locals living in the vicinity of the Tata complex mounted a vigorous protest against the steel producer on Wednesday because, they claim, it is responsible for the thick layer of graphite covering their homes.  More >

Dutch investor to buy Hema from Lion

High street staple Hema is set to be taken over by Dutch entrepreneur and investor Marcel Boekhoorn, the company said on Thursday. The intended deal includes a new agreement with the company's franchise owners who have been in dispute about how to divide up earnings from online sales. Nearly half the 545 Hema stores in the Netherlands are operated under franchise by 96 separate companies. All receive a portion of earnings from Hema’s internet sales within the postcodes in which they operate a Hema franchise. 'This is the best scenario for Hema, our customers, staff and franchisees,' chief executive Tjeerd Jegen said in a statement. 'Hema is an iconic brand with fantastic international opportunities, but there are also sufficient prospects for growth in the Netherlands,' Boekhoorn said in a press release. 'The acquisition fits my ambition to let businesses grow. Together with Hema’s staff and its franchisees, I want to support Hema in becoming a global brand.' Boekhoorn's investment company Ramphastos Investments currently holds (primarily majority) interests in over 30 companies in various sectors, including Telfort, Bakker Bart and High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Lion Capital,which bought Hema in 2007, has been trying to sell the company for some time. The most recent potential buyer was Belgian-based Core Equity which had agreed to pay €1bn for the group earlier this year but later pulled out. Financial details were not disclosed. Hema now operates more than 700 stores in nine countries including France, Germany, Spain and the UK, and has a payroll of more than 11,000. Note: This article was amended to reflect a new press release from Hema. The company now states Boekhoorn intends to take over Hema, rather than that he has already done so.  More >

Safety takes backseat in construction

The Dutch building sector has been prioritising price over safety for years and has repeatedly failed to learn lessons from earlier accidents, an investigation into the partial collapse of a multi-storey car park has revealed. The Dutch safety board, which has been investigating various incidents over the past few years, said building companies are more concerned with shifting the blame than with improving safety, current affairs programme EenVandaag reported. The board found that the cause of the collapse of the car park at Eindhoven airport in May this year was not due to a technical failure, as had been claimed in an earlier report, but to a design fault. Various construction workers barely escaped with their lives when the car park collapsed a month before completion. The safety board says earlier signs that the construction was unsafe, such as cracked floors and puddles of water, were ignored. The fact that time was running out and costs were mounting put too much pressure on the project, the board concluded.  That meant that ‘a climate existed in which limiting losses and planning constraints took priority,’ EenVandaag quoted the report as saying.  More >

Firms fear rise in post-Brexit red tape

While 80% of Dutch firms expect Brexit to have an impact, half of them have no idea what to expect and have taken no action to deal with it, according to new research by the Dutch chambers of trade KvK. 'It would appear that companies are taking a 'wait and see' stance because of all the uncertainties,' chairwoman Claudia Zuiderwijk said. 'But whether there is a deal or no deal, doing business with Britain is going to change considerably.' One third of the company bosses polled said they expected that Brexit would damage their business prospects and seven in 10 are worried about increasing red tape. Other issues that concern people are levies and taxes (54%), import duties (51%), future differences in laws and regulations (51%), and delays at the border (49%), the survey showed. Last month, research by the foreign affairs ministry suggested just one in five Dutch firms which do business with Britain were ready for Brexit. Some 77,000 companies in the Netherlands do business with the UK, particularly those involved in the chemicals and food sectors. Earlier this year, the national statistics agency CBS said trade with the UK would appear to be stagnating because of Brexit. Research by last month also showed that 40% of British nationals living in the Netherlands had done nothing to regulate their post Brexit stay.  More >