Dutch finance minister cancels visit to Saudi investment conference

Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has cancelled his visit to Saudia Arabia because of the probable murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Hoekstra was due to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week and take part in a panel session. He hinted earlier this week that he may pull out of the event. Last week Hoekstra said reports that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered inside the Saudi embassy were ‘very worrying’ and that he is following developments closely in consultation with the foreign affairs ministry. The Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh is still going ahead, despite the 'disappointing' withdrawal of several guest and speakers, website Arab News reported earlier this week. Several companies - ranging from Google and Uber, to banking giants JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse have pulled out, citing concerns about Khashoggi's disappearance. The Netherlands is due to send a trade mission to Saudi Arabia in December but foreign minister Stef Blok said on Thursday that given the seriousness of the claims, it may not be appropriate to let the mission go ahead at a political level. Trade minister Sigrid Kaag is supposed to lead the delegation.  More >

Starbucks closes Amsterdam support office

Coffee giant Starbucks is closing its Amsterdam regional support centre with the loss of 186 jobs in the Netherlands, the company confirmed to DutchNews.nl on Thursday. All staff affected by the closure will be invited to apply for open positions at the London headquarters, the company said. The Amsterdam office focuses on marketing, logistics and other support services, work which is now being transferred to the company’s European headquarters in London. Starbucks moved its European headquarters from Amsterdam to the British capital in 2014. The coffee roasting operation which Starbucks opened in 2002 will continue to operate, the company said, and will absorb four of the regional centre jobs. The roaster, with a staff of around 80, supplies Starbucks cafes and other outlets in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The company said it will now fully licence Starbucks operations in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg to its longstanding strategic partner Alsea.   More >

Dutch investor to buy Hema from Lion

High street staple Hema is set to be taken over by Dutch entrepreneur and investor Marcel Boekhoorn, the company said on Thursday. The intended deal includes a new agreement with the company's franchise owners who have been in dispute about how to divide up earnings from online sales. Nearly half the 545 Hema stores in the Netherlands are operated under franchise by 96 separate companies. All receive a portion of earnings from Hema’s internet sales within the postcodes in which they operate a Hema franchise. 'This is the best scenario for Hema, our customers, staff and franchisees,' chief executive Tjeerd Jegen said in a statement. 'Hema is an iconic brand with fantastic international opportunities, but there are also sufficient prospects for growth in the Netherlands,' Boekhoorn said in a press release. 'The acquisition fits my ambition to let businesses grow. Together with Hema’s staff and its franchisees, I want to support Hema in becoming a global brand.' Boekhoorn's investment company Ramphastos Investments currently holds (primarily majority) interests in over 30 companies in various sectors, including Telfort, Bakker Bart and High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Lion Capital,which bought Hema in 2007, has been trying to sell the company for some time. The most recent potential buyer was Belgian-based Core Equity which had agreed to pay €1bn for the group earlier this year but later pulled out. Financial details were not disclosed. Hema now operates more than 700 stores in nine countries including France, Germany, Spain and the UK, and has a payroll of more than 11,000. Note: This article was amended to reflect a new press release from Hema. The company now states Boekhoorn intends to take over Hema, rather than that he has already done so.  More >

Drunk coach driver removed from road

A coach driver who was stopped by police while driving a bus full of people because he was driving dangerously had almost four times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, RTV Oost reported on Thursday. A passing driver had warned the police about the bus, which was driving on a closed motorway lane on the A1 near Almelo. Police caught up with the bus and forced it off the motorway, where they made the driver take a breathlyser test. He was later found to have blood alcohol level of 1.8, when the legal limit is 0.5. The passengers were on their way to a works party at the time of the incident. The driver was forced to hand over his driving licence and spend a night in the cells.   More >

NS faces hefty bill from UK government

Dutch state-owned railway firm NS may have to pay millions of euros to Britain's trade ministry because of a disputed clause in a rail franchise agreement. The Great Anglia railway franchise, a 60:40 joint venture between NS overseas operation Abellio and Japanese firm Mitsui & Co, is said to be facing a 'hefty bill' from Britain's transport ministry Dft because the London economy is performing well. The agreement for the East Anglia franchise includes a risk sharing measure known as the Central London Employment (CLE) mechanism. This was intended to provide protection for the operator and Britain's department of trade (DfT) against revenue fluctuations if more people started using the service because the London economy was booming. However, the way the CLE has been calculated means Abellio is facing a far higher bill than expected. 'It is now widely accepted that CLE is a flawed mechanism that does not deliver on the intended aims,' Abellio told DutchNews.nl in a statement. 'We are therefore working with the DfT to develop and implement more effective risk sharing models.' Contract Abellio won the contract to run the Greater Anglia service in October 2016 after beating off stiff domestic competition. The franchise runs until 2025. The NS booked higher transport revenues abroad than it did in the Netherlands in the first half of 2018. Abellio, which runs Scot Rail services as well as Greater Anglia, started a new concession in the West Midlands in December 2017 which pumped up British sales by 33% to €1.1bn in the first half of 2018.   More >

Undercover police helped bust terror cell

The arrest of a seven-member suspected terrorist cell last month was partly down to an undercover police officer who befriended the group over a period of several months, the NRC and RTL reported on Thursday. In addition, the undercover policeman, who first approached the gang's alleged leader by email, supplied weapons to the gang, which had been made safe, the papers said. The seven men from Arhem and Weert were remanded in custody earlier this week while the investigation continues. Police said at the time of the arrests they had foiled a major terrorist attack but it remains unclear what event the gang was planning to disrupt. The department began an investigation into the 34-year-old man they suspect to have led the cell in April, following a tip-off from the AIVD security service. The AIVD said the man, an Iraqi national, had been planning an attack at a major event in the Netherlands with the aim of creating as many victims as possible. ‘The plan may have involved jackets packed with explosives and Kalashnikovs at an event and a car bomb elsewhere. The investigation into the exact target is still ongoing,’ the public prosecution department said.  More >

Dutch unemployment rate nears record low

The official Dutch employment rate fell again in September and now stands at 3.7%, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday. This is just 0.1 percentage point higher than the record low unemployment rate reached in the second half of 2008, ahead of the financial crisis, the CBS said. Last month 8.8 million people were doing some form of job, while 4.1 million people were not working for a variety of reasons. Around half of the people in work have a part-time job.   More >