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RBS reports an annual profit for the first time in a decade

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Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) posted its first annual profit in a decade Friday, continuing its recovery following the financial crash of 2008.

The bank recorded a net profit of £752 million ($1.05 billion) for 2017, surpassing analyst forecasts for a figure of £592 million. Just a year earlier, the bank had suffered an annual loss of £6.95 billion.

Operating profit came in at £2.239 billion, a notable increase of £6.321 billion compared to 2016. Fourth-quarter operating losses before tax were £583 million, with a net loss of £579 million.

“Our financial strength is much clearer,” RBS CEO Ross McEwan said in a press release Friday, adding that “we still have more to do in cost reduction, however this reflects progress we have made in making the bank more efficient.”

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Shanghai China auto show flying cars; Buffett-backed BYD stays clear

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Less than half a year since revealing a flying vehicle prototype, Chinese electric car start-up Xpeng unveiled a second model at the Shanghai auto show in April 2021.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

SHANGHAI – Flying cars may have made headlines at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, but China’s BYD — which is backed by Warren Buffett — is sticking to ground vehicles for now.

This week, Chinese electric car start-up Xpeng debuted its second prototype for a flying vehicle the company claims has already undergone eight years of development. The new model resembles a flying car more than the initial version revealed in Beijing in September, which looked more like a human-carrying drone.

Geely showed off a Volocopter electric-powered “air taxi” for the first time in China at the Shanghai auto show in April 2021.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

Xpeng isn’t the only one looking to the skies.

Companies including Hyundai, German start-up Lilium, and China-based Ehang are developing flying vehicles that can carry individuals.

Hangzhou, China-based Geely, which owns Volvo, showed off in Shanghai an “air taxi” developed by its joint venture partner Volocopter.

‘We’re more focused on road transportation’

One of the companies’ selling points for flying vehicles is the country’s growing urban street traffic. However, while the level of consumer demand remains unclear, regulation has prevented wider use of flying cars.

But there are many ways to fix the problem of street congestion, said Li Yunfei, a spokesperson for BYD, in comments that CNBC translated from Mandarin. “Right now,” he said, “we’re more focused on road transportation.”

Li said the flying models aren’t all that different from helicopters.

Backed by investing guru Buffett, BYD sold more than 100,000 cars in the first quarter, more than half of which were new energy vehicles, a category which includes pure electric and hybrid cars.

The company announced at the auto show a new version of its electric car operating system that comes with its internally developed “Blade” battery. BYD plans to sell this battery system to third-party automakers and already counts state-owned high-end Chinese car maker Hongqi as customer for the Blade battery, Li said.

Buyers of BYD’s luxury Han electric car can customize the interior, as shown in this model displayed at the auto show in Shanghai in April 2021.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

Last summer, BYD’s luxury Han sedan became the company’s first car to use the Blade battery. The vehicle has become one of the most popular in the new energy category, ranking third in sales nationwide during the first quarter. Only the Hongguang Mini EV and Tesla‘s Model 3 outsold it, according to the China Passenger Car Association’s sales rankings.

Li said 70% of Han vehicles sold are pure-electric battery-powered models. Beginning this month, BYD said it plans to use the “Blade” battery in all of its pure-electric cars.

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More than 314,000 new Covid cases

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Medical oxygen cylinders at a charging station during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

Naveen Sharma | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

India reported a record number of daily Covid-19 cases on Thursday as the country’s second wave of coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down.

There were 314,835 new cases and 2,104 deaths over a 24-hour period, according to government data. That surpassed the word’s previous highest single-day increase in cases held by the United States.

India’s first wave of infection peaked around September following last year’s national lockdown between late-March and May, which had significant economic consequences.

Cases began rising again in February and in the subsequent months large crowds, mostly without masks, gathered for religious festivals and political rallies.

So far in April, India has reported more than 3.78 million new cases and over 22,000 deaths.

While the reported death toll is rising, some media reports suggest that the official number may be under-reported.

Situation on the ground

The picture on the ground is grim. Even as officials insist the situation is under control, hospitals are overwhelmed, turning away patients due to a shortage of beds — including those who are critically ill. In some instances, non-related patients are being forced to share beds, according to media reports.

Health-care facilities are also low on oxygen supply and the government is reportedly diverting oxygen intended for industrial use to medical facilities instead.

India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a tweet that the federal government is monitoring supply and demand for oxygen and increased the quota for several states and regions including Maharashtra, the epicenter of the country’s second wave.

There is also growing concern about the double mutation of a Covid-19 variant that was discovered in India, which could make the virus more contagious.

Most states have stepped up social restrictions such as introducing night curfews and some have entered partial lockdowns.

India has so far administered more than 132 million vaccine doses as worries mount over supply shortages. The number of people who have completed their inoculation is still small compared to the country’s 1.3 billion population. Starting May 1, anyone above 18 years old will be eligible for inoculation.

The government recently approved around $610 million in grant funding for Covid-19 vaccine-makers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to boost production capacity, according to media reports. 

Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, said in a statement this week that it will scale up vaccine production over the next two months. It said 50% of capacity would be used to serve the government’s vaccine program and the rest would be for state governments and private hospitals to roll out shots.

Serum Institute is producing AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is known locally as Covishield.

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How to deal with pressure to go back into the office as lockdowns ease

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10’000 Hours | Getty Images

With workplaces slowly reopening as coronavirus vaccinations gather pace, some people may be feeling the pressure to go back into the office more than they would actually like. 

Many employers have embraced sweeping changes brought in by the coronavirus pandemic, with the majority of people being forced to work from home, as an opportunity to adopt more flexible ways of working going forward.

Technology firms like Spotify and Salesforce are letting employees choose where they want to work from, or if they even want to come back into the office ever again. However, some employers have resisted the idea that this could mark a more permanent shift

And then some companies have policies specifying that workers come into the office at least a certain number of days a week. In theory, this might make workers feel pressured to come into the office more than the specified amount if co-workers are doing so, over similar feelings of guilt that have prompted staff to work longer hours throughout the pandemic.  

But just like those feelings of guilt associated with working remotely, experts say there are ways to overcome this anxiety. 

‘Presenteeism’

Gail Kinman, a visiting professor of occupational health psychology at Birkbeck University of London, told CNBC on a telephone call that “part of the problem is that when people work at home, they often feel that they need to gain trust to show that they’re working.”  

Kinman said less experienced workers, or people who’ve started new jobs during the pandemic, might worry about this more because they’re not yet used to a company’s culture. 

She said it was a similar feeling to “FOMO” (fear of missing out), suggesting that people at home might worry that colleagues going back to work more might have more chance of getting promoted and fear they might be left behind. 

One way to combat this anxiety was to talk to other colleagues to discuss these concerns. 

Ellie Green, a jobs expert at British recruitment site Totaljobs, told CNBC via email that “staff shouldn’t be afraid to instigate conversations with HR departments and bosses to ensure their preferences are heard.” 

She also said it was important for employees to draw clear boundaries between work and home life “to avoid feeling the need to be available at the ping of a (Microsoft) Teams or Slack notification, or caving in to the pressure of presenteeism.” 

Presenteeism can be associated with coming into work when sick. But it can also be interpreted as the culture of workers spending more hours in the office, yet not necessarily being productive the entire time, as a way of putting in “face time” in front of bosses. 

Carina Cortez, chief people officer at Glassdoor, told CNBC over email that it was natural for workers to feel some apprehension about what the “new normal” would look like, given how their expectations around working patterns had changed over the past year. 

She also said it was important for workers feeling under pressure about a return to “make their voice heard and input any way they can to ensure that employers have a broad representation of opinions from staff on returning to the office.” 

At the same time, Cortez said while there were operational and social benefits to spending time in-person with colleagues, if employees did feel pressure to go back into the office more than they’d like, “then maybe it is time to consider employers with a better cultural fit.” 

Janine Chamberlin, U.K. country manager at LinkedIn, told CNBC via email that it was also the responsibility of employers to ensure presenteeism didn’t manifest itself going forward. 

“Businesses that are able to embrace flexible working, building on the trust which has been established during this period of remote working, will not only be able to reduce presenteeism, but end it altogether,” she said.

Check out:

How to ace a job interview with a robot recruiter

 1 in 4 workers is considering quitting their job after the pandemic

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