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Between the lines week 38 - September 2021

UK: Suitable for retail and professional clients.

Date: 23 September 2021

Education spending: UK in bronze medal position

The OECD’s latest Education at a Glance report focuses on equity in education – a UN Sustainable Development Goal – and how progress is impacted by gender, socio-economic status and regional location. In terms of spending on all forms of education, Norway leads the way, with the UK in third place.

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China’s Evergrande circling the plug hole

Troubled property giant China Evergrande announced on Wednesday (22 Sep) that it had negotiated a deal to settle interest payments on one of its domestic bonds, helping calm fears of an imminent default from China’s second-largest property developer.

Evergrande is the world’s most indebted property developer with debts of over $300bn. It has already seen double-digit share price falls in September following a series of downgrades by credit rating agencies.

Parent company, Hengda Real Estate Group announced it would settle the coupon payment due on Thursday (23 Sep) although there were scant further details on Evergrande’s finances or its potential restructure. Meanwhile, other major bond interest payments are also coming due.

The announcement, along with a $14bn cash injection into the banking system by China’s central bank, helped to sooth the market jitters created by the company, which analysts in the region insist won’t lead to China’s “Lehman’s moment”.

Gas prices push UK energy companies to the brink

UK consumers are likely to face higher energy bills as small UK energy firms teeter on the edge of collapse thanks to soaring gas prices.

Green is the latest UK energy firm to reveal it’s in restructuring talks to avoid collapse, following a similar statement from Bulb – the UK’s sixth largest energy provider – earlier in the week. Four energy firms, including People’s Energy and Utility Point have gone bust, with more expected to follow.

Reports suggest there could be just 10 energy firms left by the end of the year, down from 70 in January. When an energy supplier goes bust, customers are switched to a tariff set by the regulator at an alternative provider, but this can be higher than their previous deal.

Gas prices have risen 250% since January due to low stockpiles after last year’s cold winter and increased demand from Asia, with prices rising 70% since August.

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Between the lines week 38

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