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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Business news

Cairn’s shares plummet after $1 billion loss

March 19 2014

Shares in Cairn Energy plunged on Tuesday after the Edinburgh-based oil and gas firm reported a pre-tax loss of more than $1 billion. The preliminary $1.09bn return for 2013 represents more than a five-fold increase on 2012’s loss of $194.2 million. Tens of millions were wiped off the company’s value as stock fell by more than 14% as investors came to terms with the scale of the losses and Cairn’s decision to suspend its $300m share buyback scheme. The company whose founder and chairman Sir Bill Gammell is stepping down in May said it remained committed to its revised multi-frontier exploration strategy and was working to resolve a major issue with the Indian Income Tax Department. Cairn’s operating loss included a $267.5m impairment in the value of its 10% residual shareholding in Cairn India Ltd, which had fallen to $955.6m by June 30. Sir Bill said the return of cash to shareholders through the share repurchase scheme had been suspended as a result of the Indian situation, which first came to light in January. “The results of this year’s exploration programme and the timing of the resolution of the Indian tax situation will inevitably shape the group beyond 2014,” Sir Bill said. “We believe the executive team, supported by the board, is well placed to lead the group and continue the strategic focus of delivering significant growth potential as the group continues to evolve in response to changing circumstances. “We look forward to what we hope will be a successful exploration programme in 2014.” The bulk of Cairn’s loss was due to $213.1m of unsuccessful exploration costs and a $251.4m impairment on the value of the Catcher field in the North Sea. The firm also booked a $324.2m goodwill impairment on Catcher and its other main UK prospect Kraken. In its operational review, Cairn said it was targeting first oil from EnQuest-operated Kraken by the first half of 2017 and detailed locations of the initial development wells across two drill centre were currently being finalised. It expects drilling to begin on the prospect in the first half of next year. The company said considerable progress had also been made on Catcher, with a draft field development plan having been submitted to the Department for Energy and Climate Change and project sanction by operator Premier expected within the next three months. “Cairn has an active drilling programme in 2014 that is complemented and balanced by its sustainable development and production portfolio,” chief executive Simon Thomson said. “The strategy continues to focus on an attractive mix of frontier and mature basin exploration. “By building a growing prospect and lead inventory from which to select, and high-grade prospects for drilling, we aim to offer shareholders material potential growth opportunities over the long term,” he added. “Cairn is committed to resolving the Indian tax situation and in the meantime can, if required, adapt forward capital and equity exposures.”

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Business news

Reshuffles at Cairn and Wood

April 10 2014

The chief financial officer and managing director of Edinburgh’s Cairn Energy is to join the board of Wood Group. Jann Brown, who has spent 16 years at Cairn, will stand down at the firm’s general meeting on May 15 before taking on her new non-executive director role at the Aberdeen-based energy services giant. She will act as chairman of Wood Group’s audit committee and join the nomination committee. Cairn’s deputy chief executive Dr Mike Watts will also leave the company after next month’s meeting. Both agreed to continue in their roles until the AGM as a resolution is sought to the tax issues facing Cairn in India. John Smith, former energy and power director at Rothschild, is taking over the role of finance director and will join Cairn’s board as an executive director following the duo’s departure. The New Wood Group chairman Ian Marchant also confirmed non-executive director David Woodward will succeed retiring Allister Langlands as senior independent non-executive director at the company’s AGM on May 14.

Business news

Cairn Energy losses narrow substantially

August 20 2014

Losses at Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy narrowed substantially to $62 million in the first half of the year. The figure compares to a $219m reverse in the same period last year and comes after the firm suffered a full-year reverse of $556m for 2013. Unsuccessful well exploration costs came in at $80m in the first half, $31m more than a year earlier, while operating costs and pre-award outlays both also increased. However, the overall loss narrowed this year as Cairn’s bottom line was dragged back in 2013 by $268m of impairments and costs related to the disposal of investment in Cairn India Ltd. Chief executive Simon Thomson said Cairn was focused on creating shareholder value by developing a balanced portfolio of exploration and development assets. “Over the next 12 months the company has an active programme of exploration and appraisal wells with all drilling beyond the current frontier operations targeting mature and emerging basins,” said Mr Thomson. “In line with this strategy the farm-in to the Statoil-operated Ensis prospect in the Barents Sea commences a planned entry to this emerging region. “In the meantime the company is addressing its organisational size to ensure it has the appropriate structure to deliver the future work programme. “Cairn continues to seek resolution of the tax issue in India and will take all necessary steps to protect shareholders’ interests,” he added.

Business news

Cairn narrows losses as it looks for Africa boost

August 16 2016

Scottish oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy saw its shares edge ahead early after posting significantly reduced first-half losses. The Edinburgh-headquartered firm generated a loss after tax of $38 million in the six months to June 30, a massive improvement on the $230m loss of a year previous. The company is progressing operations in multiple locations and in the six month period completed four successful appraisal wells off Senegal and a dual target exploration well in the Greater Catcher Area of the North Sea. It said the Catcher and Kraken developments on the UK Continental Shelf were expected to produce first oil in the early part of next year. Combined output from the fields to Cairn is expected to be in the region of 25,500 barrels per day at peak . However, the firm’s focus has long been on developing new prospects off the coast of Senegal where its evaluation programme has identified a resource estimated at 2.7 billion barrels gross. The projected recoverable element is is estimated at around 1.7bn barrels. Chief executive Simon Thomson said the firm had strong upside prospects. “Drilling is scheduled to re-commence in Senegal shortly, benefiting from lower costs across the sector,” Mr Thomson said. “The programme contains options for multiple wells and in addition to ongoing appraisal of the SNE field, the joint venture continues to assess optimal locations for further exploration drilling on the acreage. “Cairn’s exploration and appraisal focus in Senegal is balanced with development assets in the UK, with first oil targeted from both Kraken and Catcher during 2017 and in the meantime Cairn remains fully-funded in respect of all of its capital commitments.” Cairn shares closed up 4.62% at 204p.

Business news

Cairn Energy sees losses narrow as it eyes Africa

March 20 2013

SCOTTISH OIL and gas exploration firm Cairn Energy saw losses narrow to $194.2 million last year and said it was embarking on a move into an emerging African market. Pre-tax losses from continuing operations dropped 83% during the year to December 31, down from $1.2 billion at the end of 2011. On a profit after tax basis, the Edinburgh group reported a profit of almost $73m, which included a credit on continuing operations amounting to £266.8m. The figure included $145m as a result of the sale of 11.5% of its holding in Cairn India Limited. Ultimately, the group ended the year with net cash of $1.6bn and with Cairn’s remaining 10% stake in CIL valued at $1.1bn. The company said it had made progress during the year and was now fit and ready to pursue growth through 2013 and 2014. As part of its growth strategy, Cairn confirmed a new farm-in agreement to explore a new frontier off the coast of Senegal. The tie-up with FAR Limited and its joint venture partner Petrosen will see Cairn assume operatorship and acquire a 65% working interest in three blocks off the coast of the West African country. The firm said it was also pushing ahead with its operations in the North Sea including interests in the pre-development oil fields at Catcher, Kraken and Mariner. Chief executive Simon Thomson said the company was in a ‘cash rich’ position which enabled it to forge ahead with plans to create significant value through an exploration led growth strategy. “The farm-in to acreage offshore Senegal is a further new country entry for Cairn and represents a highly attractive addition to our existing Atlantic Margin portfolio alongside our exploration interests in Morocco and Greenland,” he said. “By developing an increased strategic presence in the under-explored but highly prospective region of North West Africa, we can generate both operational and geological synergies and fully apply our frontier exploration skills.” Cairn also said it was targeting between two and four exploration wells off the coast of Morocco and was also targeting a new development plus a well off the coast of Greenland, subject to necessary approvals. The company has been strongly criticised by environmentalists for operations in Greenland’s waters. It will have to wait until summer next year before re-starting its drilling efforts in the country’s Pitu field, but this has not stopped Cairn from increasing its forecast for the number of barrels of oil it expects from its overall Greenland operations. Announcing an upgrade on prospective resources, from 700 million barrels to about three billion barrels, Cairn said it was still confident of success in the region and elsewhere across its portfolio. Mr Thomson said: “Our clear focus is to operate exploration positions and opportunities which we believe have the most organic growth potential and where we have the experience, ability and knowledge to add most value. “As a consequence, we are planning an extendable programme to drill multiple frontier exploration wells over the coming 18 months.” Matthew Lambourne, equity analyst at Jefferies, said: “With a strong portfolio of development assets, growing suite of exploration acreage and strong balance sheet, we continue to see Cairn as having greater upside than is reflected in the current share price.” business@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Business news

Cairn Energy saves cash on new North Sea field

January 20 2016

Scottish oil explorer Cairn Energy said one of its major North Sea field developments is progressing under budget. Edinburgh-headquartered Cairn Energy said capital expenditure on the Kraken scheme was tracking at more than 10% below anticipated levels. The firm said it now expected gross capex on the completed project to come in at circa $2.86 billion. The company also said its other UK field development Catcher was on schedule and on budget and it expected first oil to flow from both fields next year. The combined impact of both the schemes will boost Cairn’s daily output by 22,500 barrels. The update came in a pre-close trading statement to the stock exchange. The company again highlighted early success in its well appraisal programme off the coast of Senegal in west Africa. “Further appraisal activity this year will test the overall scale and extent of the resource base in Senegal, and is expected to lead to revision of the resource estimates,” chief executive Simon Thomson said. “The company remains fully funded from existing financial resources to deliver its exploration and appraisal programme, as well as to take its North Sea developments through to free cash-flow generation in 2017.” The company also said some progress had been made towards a resolution of a high-profile tax dispute in India. Mr Thomson added: “International arbitration proceedings to resolve the retrospective tax issue in India have now formally commenced following the agreement between Cairn and the Government of India.” Shares rose 0.70% to 129.50p.