Evening Update Tuesday 5th December 2023

New figures show small and medium businesses in the south of France are generally performing well - with unemployment at its lowest level in more than 10 years, at 7.8%. According to Pôle Emploi, the number of people out of work in the Paca region has fallen for eight consecutive quarters. Figures released this week by the Paca regional chamber of commerce show turnover at the region's businesses is slightly up over the first nine months of this year, at €225 billion. The stats cover every sector except maritime transport, which was taken out of the overall calculation because it had suffered particularly badly.

A homeless man who inadvertently started a forest fire in the hills above Nice earlier this year has been jailed for six months. The 47-year-old was sleeping in a tent on the Route de Colomars and had lit a fire to keep warm when the incident happened on 1st April. The fire ended up destroying 10 hectares of vegetation and led to the evacuation of nearly 40 people from their homes. It was brought under control and no one was injured. The man's lawyer said he had admitted his behaviour had been reckless, but pleaded that he was vulnerable and in a state of need. He has already served most of his sentence in pre-trial detention.

A man's recovering in hospital after being stabbed in the throat in a brawl on Boulevard Gambetta in Nice overnight. The 38-year-old was treated by firefighters shortly after midnight and taken to Pasteur 2 hospital. Police are investigating.

A 26-year-old woman is in a serious condition in Antibes hospital after her car flipped on to its roof at high speed on the A8 motorway on Monday evening. Her passenger, a 30-year-old woman was also taken to hospital with minor injuries. A dozen firefighters attended the accident near the Antibes tolls at 8.30 last night and police were also called out to secure the scene and direct traffic.

Meanwhile a driver has been slightly injured after she was trapped inside her car following a crash with a school bus in Pierrefeu, in the Var, this morning. The 19-year-old driver was taken to hospital. The school bus driver and 35 children on-board were unharmed.

A man's appeared in court accused of violently attacking a worker in a pizza shop with an axe, because he was annoyed with the long wait. The attack happened in late October at a takeaway pizza restaurant in Cannes. The axe narrowly missed the victim's heart and he was taken to hospital with a punctured lung. At a court hearing yesterday, the defendant's lawyer asked for the case to be postponed by two weeks. He said the suspect's account of what happened differed from that of the victim and he wanted to see the pizza shop's CCTV footage before the trial begins.

Unions representing staff at Casino supermarket chain have filed a formal strike notice, which runs from today until New Year's Eve. Faced with mounting debts, Casino is selling off its stores around France - with Auchan and Intermarché putting together a joint offer to take them over. Two Casino supermarkets in Nice have already changed hands and it's reported that the stores in Mandelieu and Grasse will soon follow. While any new buyer has to respect existing working conditions for 15 months after the sale, unions are worried about what will happen to jobs and work conditions afterwards. Casino employs 250 staff in the Alpes-Maritimes alone.

An electric go-kart track on the Rocher in Monaco has had to close its doors after 10 years - to be turned into a bus depot. Kart Indoor Monaco occupied one level of the Pecheurs car park and had been tried and tested by the likes of Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg. Management said their lease had not been renewed and they were shutting down "with a heavy heart", with four jobs made redundant. It's not yet clear what will happen to 14 karts, which had only recently been renewed. The princely government says it needs the space to park about a dozen of the principality's buses and charge them overnight. The vehicles are being transferred from Fontvieille due to major works there. 

Public transport users in Nice can now opt to have their annual or monthly season ticket automatically renewed. Until now, the annual Lignes d'Azur pass had to be manually renewed at a ticket office. This often led to the long queues at the beginning of the academic year, when many annual season tickets expire. Anyone wanting their pass to renew automatically needs fo fill in a form, provide proof of ID, a photo and their bank details for the annual direct debit. Once that's done, the only time you'll need to manually renew your season ticket is when you fall into a new age bracket, for example when you turn 26 or 65. Monthly season ticket holders can choose to cancel their renewal at any time, but this must be done by the 12th of the month in question.

The Mercantour's ski resorts have confirmed they'll be open to the public from this weekend. Auron, Saint-Dalmas and Isola 2000 had been due to open last weekend, but this was delayed due to a lack of snow. With an abundance of snow falling yesterday, the resorts' ski lifts will be operating from this coming Saturday. The mountains above Nice remain on a yellow alert from Météo France until midnight tonight, due to an avalanche risk.

BUSINESS

Swedish music-streaming giant Spotify has announced it is cutting 17% of its workforce, about 1,500 jobs, as the company seeks to clamp down on costs. Chief executive Daniel Ek said he had made the "difficult" decision with economic growth slowing "dramatically". Spotify employs about 9,000 people. Ek said "substantial action to rightsize our costs" was needed for the company to meet its objectives. Spotify cut staff earlier this year but these new plans dwarf those previous announcements. In its latest results, Spotify had reported a profit of €65m (£55.7m) for the three months to September - its first quarterly profit for more than a year - helped by price rises and higher subscriber numbers. The tech company has been expanding worldwide as it seeks to reach a billion users by 2030. It currently has 601 million.

Gold prices have hit a new high this week, while the value of Bitcoin has also surged. The gains come as traders switch investing strategies, after nearly two years when rising interest rates helped fuel demand for US dollars and certain kinds of debt. Investors now see a rising chance of rate cuts, which has reignited interest in other assets. Yesterday, the price of gold jumped above $2,000, up 3%, before retreating. The gains have followed a weeks-long climb for the metal, which is seen as a "safe haven" and saw demand rise after the start of the Israel-Gaza war.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities are investigating claims some investors may have known in advance about the Hamas plan to attack Israel on 7 October and used that information to make money. Research by US law professors Robert Jackson Jr and Joshua Mitts, from New York University and Columbia University respectively, found significant short-selling of shares leading up to the massacre, which triggered a war that has raged for nearly two months. The researchers said short-selling prior to 7 October "exceeded the short-selling that occurred during numerous other periods of crisis", including the recession following the financial crisis of 2008, the 2014 Israel-Gaza war and the COVID-19 pandemic.

SPORT

Football - Paul Heckingbottom is set to be sacked as Sheffield United manager after two years in charge. The Blades, who lost 5-0 at Burnley on Saturday, are bottom of the Premier League with five points after losing 11 of their opening 14 games. Appointed permanent manager in November 2021, Heckingbottom guided United to the top flight with a second-place Championship finish last season. Former manager Chris Wilder is among the leading contenders to take over. After the Burnley game Heckingbottom criticised the club for making "financial rather than football decisions" by selling key players in the summer.

Meanwhile, Sunderland have sacked their head coach, Tony Mowbray, after 15 months in charge. His departure comes two days after his side’s 1-1 draw at Millwall, which extended their poor recent run to one win from their past five games. The Championship side, who have also parted company with Mowbray’s assistant, Mark Venus, confirmed that Mike Dodds will take over pending the appointment of a new head coach, starting with Saturday’s match with West Brom at the Stadium of Light.

Manchester City have been charged by the Football Association following the furious confrontation with the referee, Simon Hooper, that blighted the end of their thrilling 3-3 draw with Tottenham on Sunday. The Premier League champions have been charged with failing to control their players. But Erling Haaland, who led the complaints and was seen screaming at Hooper at close range, will not be subject to personal charges for his behaviour, nor for a tweet sent immediately after the match.

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