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Business briefing: Uber judged fit to regain licence after rogue rides

Green light: Uber beat London ban PICTURE: GETTY

UBER has been granted an 18-month licence to operate in London after a judge ruled the company was ‘fit and proper’ despite its ‘historical failings’.

The US giant was banned last year after unauthorised drivers picked up thousands of passengers by exploiting a flaw that let them add their photos to legitimate accounts on the firm’s app.

Overturning the decision by Transport for London, judge Tan Ikram said at Westminster magistrates’ court: ‘Uber does not have a perfect record but it has been an improving picture.’

However, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association said: ‘He is setting a very low bar for a company whose track record clearly shows it can’t be trusted to disclose serious incidents.

‘He is playing Russian roulette with the safety of Londoners.’

The flaw with the Uber app’s GPS allowed 24 drivers to share their accounts with 20 other people, leading to 14,788 unauthorised rides.

But the judge acknowledged that the company had tightened its procedures.

Uber, which had continued operating pending the outcome of its appeal to the court, will be subject to 21 conditions on its licence. These include providing regular, independent reports to TfL.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said TfL would ‘continue to closely monitor Uber’ and take swift action over any breaches.

Rolex bought for £70 could fetch £200k

Rare find: The Rolex Submariner 5512 still has its original dial PICTURE: PA

A ROLEX considered the ‘holy grail’ of watches could sell for £200,000 when it goes under the hammer on October 21. The Submariner 5512 — with a rare 3- 6-9 dial — was bought by a Mansfield mine worker for £70 in 1964. Very few models have original dials as they were regularly replaced. The late owner’s son-in-law, who is selling the timepiece, said he was ‘in a state of disbelief’ over its value. David Hare, of Gardiner Houlgate auctioneers in Wiltshire, called it ‘the holy grail of vintage watches’, adding: ‘There are so few of these left in their original condition that they command very high prices. When we sold a similar Rolex it went for £192,000.’

Buoyant Aldi to open 100 more stores

Trolley dash: Chain says it will pump £1.3billion into rapid expansion PICTURE: PA

ALDI aims to open 100 new stores by the end of next year as sales keep climbing. The discounter, which is investing £1.3billion in the expansion, intends to create 4,000 jobs in 2021 and grow to 1,200 branches by 2025. Sales rose eight per cent last year, to £12.28billion, and the increase continued as the pandemic drove up demand for groceries. Giles Hurley, boss of Aldi UK and Ireland, claimed prices remain ‘20 per cent’ below those of rivals. ‘If our competitors drop their prices then we will simply drop them lower,’ he said.

BUSINESS BITES

■ PIZZA HUT is to close 29 of its restaurants, putting 450 jobs at risk but saving 5,000 more and avoiding a total collapse. Its landlords have voted to cut rents as part of a company voluntary agreement.

■ AQUASCUTUM — where Sir Winston Churchill used to shop — has gone into administration after 169 years. One of the luxury fashion chain’s four UK stores, in Hackney, east London, will open for two weeks to sell off stock.

■ SOME Barclays customers were unable to access their accounts online or via the lender’s app after a glitch yesterday morning. The bank confirmed ‘a small number’ of users were affected from about 9.45am.

■ SPIRITS and beer giant Diageo has lifted its trading forecast after strong sales in the US, driven by ‘robust demand’ for take-home tipples. Boss Ivan Menezes said the reopening of bars worldwide had also been a boost.

■ CASINO giant Caesars has said it is in ‘advanced’ talks to buy William Hill for £2.9billion. The US company said the bookmaker had indicated it was ‘minded’ to recommend the offer to its investors.