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LPA Group PLC an early bright spot as it wins lighting gig for new train carriages

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PLC () was a bright spot in early deals on Tuesday, rising 7.3% to 103p on the back of a contract win.

The company has been chosen to provide a smart LED lighting system for a prestigious European-wide Inter City rolling stock project and has bagged a further contract award for electro-mechanical assemblies, for the UK rail sector.

The good news offset an admission from LPA that trading in the year to the end of September 2019 had, as expected, been “very challenging” although management was quick to highlight that a record order entry of £27mln was achieved in the financial year and market expectations should at least be met.

() was up 6.5% at 734p after it said its recently announced share placing was oversubscribed.

The company placed 7.89mln at 694p a pop and has conditionally placed a further 9.4mln shares at the same price.

Assuming the conditional placing of shares completes, the company will have raised £120mln through the issue of new shares.

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Learning Technologies Group PLC () expects underlying earnings for the year just ended will be comfortably ahead of market expectations. Adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) are expected to be at least £41.0mln for 2019, up from £26.0mln in 2018.

BlueRock Diamonds PLC () booked revenue of £4.1mln for the 2019 full year, up by 190%. During the second half of 2019, the company also turned a profit for the first time. The success was based on the sale of 12,675 carats from the Kareevlei mine in South Africa, up 118% on the previous year.

() has successfully applied for the extension of its licence over the Dalafin gold project in Senegal. The licence for the area, now renamed Senala, will be governed by the new Senegalese Mining Code and will secure the tenure of the licence for up to a further 10 years (plus up to two years special extension), subject to meeting the criteria at each renewal period.

() confirmed that it has now entered into the recently agreed ‘put and call’ option agreement to potentially sell its residual 20% stake in its Congo subsidiary, which holds a 56% interest in the Tilapia field. The call option sets out sale terms whereby Zenith will pay £1mln for the 20% stake in the business, should Tilapia production never exceed 2,000 barrels of oil per day over 30 consecutive days before 15 January 2021.

() has delivered a record second half in its latest financial year as its recurring revenue level continued to rise. In an update for the year ended 31 December, the security software group reported revenues for the last six months of the year had risen 10% on 2018, while order intake in the period increased 36% to US$8mln.

PLC () told investors its revenues had grown 366% to push through the £1mln barrier last year as it announced a deal with a firm that will “assist commercial enterprises in China”. Subsidiary Labskin has signed a memorandum of understanding with Innocare Group.

Premier African Minerals Limited () has had its RHA Tungsten mine in Zimbabwe connected to the national grid with sufficient power to start processing tailings at the site. The junior holds a 49% interest in RHA and is the operator.

() has increased its ownership in the Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe to 64% through the acquisition of an additional 15% stake from Fremiro Investments. The original MOU was signed in November 2018, but it has taken until now for regulatory approvals to come through.

() has produced battery-grade lithium in conversion trials conducted on coarse spodumene concentrate samples taken from the company’s Ewoyaa lithium project in Ghana. Lithium carbonate at a grade of 99.92% Li2CO3 was produced, which exceeds most published specifications for battery-grade quality.

() is to appoint an operator for Minto Explorations Ltd, the company which runs the producing Minto mine in the Yukon. This will allow Pembridge to focus on complementary activities, including evaluating new investment opportunities.

Base Resources Ltd () has confirmed the existence of further high-grade mineral sands mineralisation at the Toliara project in Madagascar, following a 29,753 metre programme of aircore drilling. A preliminary mineralogical assessment of two high grade lower sand unit intercepts shows ilmenite, rutile and zircon makeup approximately 50% of the heavy minerals and are in similar proportions to those reported in the existing reserves estimate. The ilmenite, rutile and zircon minerals appear to be of saleable quality.

(), the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents, has announced the appointment of Paul Fry as a non-executive director with effect from 3 February 2020. Fry is currently chief financial officer of , an industry-leading inhaled drug delivery specialist, and prior to his current position, he was chief financial officer of Immunocore Limited, a leading biotech company focused on the development of a new class of immunotherapeutic drugs based on proprietary T-cell receptor technology.

(), the commercial passenger aircraft leasing company, said it has won the highly-coveted Aviation 100 European Editor’s Deal of the Year for Innovation 2019 award for the lease of three new ATR 72-600 aircraft to Braathens Regional Airways AB financed by the first-ever Green Loan for commercial aircraft. Avation executive chairman Jeff Chatfield commented: “We are delighted to be recognised with this award for Innovation as we align ourselves with airlines such as Braathens to deliver aircraft with low carbon emissions and fuel consumption, helping to support the goal of reducing the environmental impact of air travel.”

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As Congress scrutinizes gig worker rules, small-business owners need to know the basics – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Uber’s UK ruling could have implications for gig economy startups

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Former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar first brought their case against Uber in 2016
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

The UK’s Supreme Court has rejected Uber‘s appeal against an earlier ruling that said its drivers must be classified as workers, a result that may have a significant impact on other gig economy companies.

The decision—which cannot be appealed—means thousands of UK Uber drivers cannot qualify as being self-employed, entitling them to both minimum wage and holiday pay. The ridehailing company could now face paying substantial compensation to its drivers.

The ruling, which criticized Uber for sidestepping UK labor laws to withhold benefits, could influence other battles between gig workers and the companies that hire them. Earlier this month, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain appealed against a court decision preventing riders for food delivery startup Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining due to their self-employed status. Deliveroo, which is backed by investors including Durable Capital Partners and Amazon, is looking to go public this year.

“Employees should benefit from improved rights; however, employers are likely to face increased costs of labor and disruption to their business models, which have proven to achieve rapid scale with gig workers,” said PitchBook analyst Nalin Patel. “The ruling may also now set a precedent in the UK and force other gig economy startups that utilize the self-employed contractor model to rethink how they operate in the region moving forward.”

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam originally won their tribunal against Uber in 2016. Uber appealed the decision, but it was upheld in 2017, and again in 2018 by the High Court.

“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” said Farrar, who is also a general secretary with the App Drivers and Couriers Union. “Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom.”

In a statement, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood,  said the court decision was focused on a “small number of drivers” who used the app in 2016. Since then, he said the company had made changes to its business,  providing free insurance in case of sickness or injury. He added: “We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

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The future is now for gig-based entrepreneurship – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

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With Californian Kamala Harris as vice president, it’s clear the new Biden administration is taking its cues from the once-Golden State on labor policy.

In one of its first acts in office, the Biden Administration placed a regulatory freeze on a Department of Labor regulation enacted in the waning days of the prior administration relating to independent contractors.  The rule, according to labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips, “aims to make it easier for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors.”

It’s unlikely this rule to give more workers freedom to be their own boss and set their own schedules will survive in a Biden administration that was heavily reliant upon labor unions for money and manpower to win the 2020 campaign.

Meanwhile, House Democrats recently re-introduced the controversial PRO Act in Congress, which “seeks to reduce the use of the independent contractor classification by companies such as Uber,” according to CNBC.

Both of these efforts followed the lead of California’s liberal legislative majority, which two years ago enacted the controversial Assembly Bill 5 to severely restrict the ability of Californians to work as independent contractors.  Their goal is to increase union membership and dues and force people to work in traditional, 9-to-5, union jobs that are relics of the past.

Doubling down on AB 5-type restrictions at the national level – which may be the Biden administration’s goal with the nomination of Julie Su, California’s chief AB 5 enforcer, as deputy Secretary of Labor – would be a tremendous mistake.  It would threaten innovation and hurt the ability of Americans who have lost their jobs to put food on the table during a global pandemic.

As documented in the new Pacific Research Institute study, “The Small Business Gig,” Americans are increasingly working in the gig economy.  They don’t want government – whether in Sacramento or Washington, DC – dictating how they can earn a living.

A 2018 Gallup survey found that 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of a gig worker arrangement.  Whether renting out an extra room to earn cash to pay the mortgage or using an app to earn a living on an alternate schedule, the gig economy is increasing opportunities for Americans to become entrepreneurs, while providing customers with lower cost services.

Many in California state government see the gig economy as exploitative and disruptive.  But data from the ADP Research Institute shows that 70 percent of gig workers are independent workers by choice.  Gig Economy Data Hub research found that more than two-thirds of gig economy workers are satisfied with their current work arrangement.

Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the economy.  New restrictions on the gig economy, like those proposed in Congress, will limit people’s freedom to become entrepreneurs while institutionalizing the old way of doing work.

Instead of adopting regulations at the federal level that 58 percent of Californians – Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike – rejected when they passed Proposition 22 in November, the Biden administration and Congress should take the opposite approach and enact market-based policies to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

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