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Newspaper: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 190118

he Times

Apple gives British staff bonus from U.S. tax cut: Apple is to hand $2,500 bonuses to as many as 12,000 employees in the U.K. and Ireland as it shares out billions of dollars that have been made available by President Trump’s tax reforms.

Morgan Stanley top of Wall Street table: Morgan Stanley eclipsed Goldman Sachs as Wall Street’s most highly valued investment bank as it reported better than expected quarterly results.

Nigeria sues JP Morgan for $875 million over offshore deal ‘negligence’: Nigeria’s government has filed an $875 million legal claim against JP Morgan Chase in which it accuses the U.S. investment bank of acting as an intermediary in an illegal offshore oil deal.

Waterstones’ books full of black ink: Waterstones’ pretax profits increased by 51 % to just under £18 million last year, offering a needed boost before a possible sale of the bookseller.

Amazon shortlists 20 cities for its new headquarters: Amazon has selected 20 finalists from a longlist of 238 cities that entered a competition to host its second headquarters. The winning city can expect Amazon to invest $5 billion and create up to 50,000 jobs, many of which will pay six-figure salaries.

Ready meals maker Bakkavor serves up lukewarm sales growth: The ready meals maker Bakkavor disappointed the City yesterday with its first formal trading update. The company, founded by Iceland’s Gudmundsson brothers, reported that sales were up 4.6 % in the year to the end of December.

The Independent

Chemring: Serious Fraud Office opens bribery and corruption investigation into ammunition maker: The U.K.’s serious fraud watchdog has opened a bribery, corruption and money laundering investigation into defence company Chemring. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on Thursday said that it would investigate Chemring as well as its subsidiary, Chemring Technology Solutions Limited (CTSL), after a self-report was made by the latter.

Fresh SuperJumbo order from Emirates comes after months of brinkmanship: The world’s biggest passenger plane has been saved — at least for now. Emirates, which already has more than 100 Airbus A380s, has ordered 20 more, with options for a further 16.

Aldi and Asda become latest supermarkets to ban sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under 16s: Asda and Aldi have announced that they will restrict the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16 from March.

Builder Redrow launches U.K.’s first housebuilding degree: Builder Redrow is launching the U.K.’s first housebuilding degree as part of its efforts to help tackle the growing skills shortage faced by the construction industry.

Financial Times

Non-Opec oil production growth predicted higher than expected — cartel: Opec said oil production growth from outside of the cartel in 2018 will be higher than initially anticipated, just as the group revised lower demand estimates for its own crude.

Wanda Hotel Development halts trading pending disposal disclosure: Trading of shares in the Hong Kong-listed unit of Chinese developer Dalian Wanda was halted on Friday ahead of what the company described as “a possible very substantial disposal”.

American Express suspends buybacks after tax hit: American Express on Thursday said it plans to suspend its share buyback programme as a result of the tax reform that resulted in a $2.6 billion charge and pushed it to a quarterly loss.

BNY Mellon shares fall on plan to use tax savings on wages, investments: Shares in Bank of New York Mellon dropped about 5% on Thursday after it pledged to spend much of its tax windfall on staff and investments in the business, a sign of emerging tensions at big U.S. companies over how to divvy up the spoils of the new law.

Siemens, Evonik team up for CO2 to green fuel project: Leave it to German ingenuity to take the industrial world’s least desirable byproduct — global warming emissions — and turn it into specialty chemicals to create fuel, manufacture plastic bottles and make nutritional supplements.

Peugeot to offer electric option for all cars by 2025: Peugeot owner PSA will offer all of its models with an electric option by 2025 and plans to install partial self-driving technology in most of its cars by 2030.

GKN attacks Melrose over hostile takeover: GKN has accused hostile bidder Melrose Industries of attempting to hoodwink shareholders with a £7 billion offer that would require the FTSE engineering company’s own investors to fund a takeover.

LA Times owner Tronc opens investigation into newspaper’s Chief Executive: Tronc, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, has opened an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Ross Levinsohn, the newspaper’s Chief Executive and publisher.

Primark bags ‘record’ Christmas sales for ABF: The Primark fast-fashion chain made “record sales” the week before Christmas but for owner Associated British Foods the news was soured by its expectation that profits in the recently recovered sugar business would be worse than expected this year.

Qualcomm’s $47 billion takeover of NXP gets green light in Brussels: Qualcomm moved two steps closer to buying NXP, as authorities in Brussels and Seoul cleared a $47 billion deal that could also strengthen the U.S. chip company’s defence against a hostile bid from rival Broadcom.

Icahn takes aim at Xerox deal with Fujifilm: Carl Icahn says Xerox’s joint venture with Fujifilm should be revised or terminated as he ramped up his rhetoric against the “incapable” Directors and Chief Executive of the U.S. printer and photocopier company.

Facebook adds Amex CEO Chenault to board: Facebook has added Kenneth Chenault, the Chief Executive of American Express, to its board, making him the social network’s first African American Director.

Nintendo adds almost $1.4 billion in value — thanks to cardboard: A three-minute video focused primarily on some cardboard, string and rubber bands added almost $1.4 billion to the stock market capitalisation of Nintendo on Thursday, as the Japanese console maker championed arts and crafts as the next frontier in gaming.

Apple chipmaker TSMC sees Q4 profit edge lower: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co reported a slight fall in profit for the fourth quarter as a stronger Taiwan currency offset revenue growth.

Texas Instruments names a new Chief: Texas Instruments, the U.S. semiconductor maker, has tapped a new Chief Executive to replace Rich Templeton, who will step down in June after almost 14 years in the top job.

IBM sees revenue grow though long-term concerns linger: Finally. After nearly six years of shrinking, IBM has reported a quarter of positive revenue growth. But Thursday’s news of a 4% advance in revenues for the fourth quarter (or 1% adjusted for currency fluctuations) was not enough to sustain Big Blue’s recent stock market bounce.

Uber told to focus on U.S. and Europe as SoftBank deal closes: Uber’s largest shareholder has called for the car-booking company to focus on recovering market share in the U.S. and growing in key European markets, a strategy that would end the Founders’ original vision of building a transport service “everywhere, for everyone”.

Lex:

CBS/Viacom: parental guidance: Children can only disobey their parents so many times. Thirteen months ago U.S. television stalwarts CBS and Viacom, both controlled by the Redstone family, called off merger discussions that would have reunited the pair after a decade-long separation. CBS, led by Les Moonves, is the more formidable. It was unenthused about taking on the sinking Viacom business.

Melrose/GKN: come to order: Business meetings are overrated. Harvard Business Review points out that the modern Executive is forever in meetings, many of which are useless. Well, not the one that occurred between U.K. buyout specialist Melrose Industries and engineering company GKN earlier this month. That confab has added £2.1 billion, over a third, to the market value of GKN. Melrose made a formal hostile bid this week. On Thursday GKN raised its own points of order to back up its argument that Melrose has offered too little. No matter. GKN shareholders have had their heads turned.

 

Countrywide: property pawn: Countrywide’s unexpected profit warning on Thursday not only sent the estate agent’s share price down 17% but provided one more piece of evidence for those building a case against the U.K. property market. The days of cramming in hundreds of viewings for a slovenly London two-bedder are fading. Neither the government’s removal of stamp duty for first-time buyers nor Countrywide’s own wheeze to compete with online rivals using a fixed-fee service have had much impact on transaction volumes. Both revenues and profits fell in 2017, down 9 and 22% respectively.

 

Lombard:

Revealed: Another private company profiting from public sector: It’s another private-sector company shamelessly profiting from former public-sector work. It’s also been struggling to fund its pension scheme. It’s trying to cut hundreds of millions of pounds in costs. Yet it’s still paying lucrative dividends to shareholders. And it’s rewarded City speculators with a 20% gain in three months. It’s. . . it’s . . . a right royal disgrace! Actually, no it isn’t. It’s just Royal Mail. And, despite some superficial (and over-simplistic) similarities, it’s nothing like Carillion, water companies, rail franchisees or any other discredited private service provider. Still, it remains the number one candidate for being returned to public ownership, as far as the Labour party and two-thirds of YouGov poll respondents are concerned.

 

The Daily Telegraph

HSBC to pay $100 million in currency rigging settlement: HSBC has agreed to pay just over $100 million (£72 million) in penalties to settle a U.S. Department of Justice probe into currency rigging. The payment comprises of $38.4 million in restitution and a $63.1 million fine, with the latter reflecting a 15% reduction “in recognition of HSBC’s cooperation during the investigation and its extensive remediation”.

Ryanair agrees 20% pay rise for U.K. pilots in bid to ease tensions: Ryanair has agreed to raise the pay of its U.K. pilots by 20% in a move aimed at smoothing ruptions with its workforce. The low-cost carrier faced a wave of pilot strikes last year but moved to head them off after conducting a major U-turn by agreeing to recognise unions and discuss pay increases.

Steinhoff thrown lifeline by South African lenders: Scandal-hit Steinhoff has been thrown a lifeline by its South African lenders, who have backed a move to prop up its troubled European retail operations with its healthier domestic operations as it scrambles to shore up its balance sheet.

The Questor Column:

Questor: even at a premium, this trust is a buy for its defensive qualities and rising dividends: Stopford manages the Investec Diversified Income fund and said he wanted every holding to offer “a reasonable yield, sustainable income and some possibility of capital growth”. This week’s pick, an Aim-listed real estate investment trust (Reit) called Secure Income, meets all three requirements, the fund manager said. “The yield is just under 4% and its 81 properties are all fully let to high-quality tenants.” The assets include 55 Travelodge hotels, four visitor attractions run by Merlin Entertainments, including Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, and 20 private hospitals. All rents are subject to increases in line with inflation or by set percentages and the average remaining lease period is about 23 years. The fund manager’s third requirement, the scope for capital gains, is also met: Secure Income has been growing, buying new properties with a combination of debt and money raised by issuing new shares. Stopford said the Reit’s managers had been “explicit that they want to maintain the quality of their properties” as the portfolio grew. “They are patient and selective in the deals they do,” he said. Questor says “Buy”.

Carillion’s impact on trusts: Several “infrastructure” investment trusts have exposure to projects run by Carillion, the collapsed facilities management and construction giant. The largest exposure is at HICL, where Carillion was involved in 14% of the portfolio by asset value, followed by John Laing Infrastructure (8.5%) and International Public Partnerships (3%). BBGI said it had no projects where Carillion was providing facilities management services. Numis, the stockbroker, said: “The listed infrastructure funds outsource operations and maintenance services for their PFI assets to third parties like Carillion. Where exposure exists, [infrastructure trust] management teams note that contingency plans have been in place for some time, including discussions with potential replacement providers. “This is expected to be achieved with both minimal service disruption and cost. Accordingly, we would not expect the compulsory liquidation [of Carillion] to have a material valuation impact on portfolios.” However, it said premiums could face further pressure.

The Guardian

Banks extend £225 million lifeline to Carillion subcontractors as firms offer jobs: High street banks have made more than £225 million available to help businesses put at risk by the failure of Carillion, while companies have offered to take on staff who were working for the firm when it collapsed into receivership.

U.K.’s largest estate agent Countrywide issues profit warning: Shares in the U.K.’s largest estate agent, Countrywide, have tumbled by nearly a fifth after the group issued its second profit warning in three months amid a stalled property market.

Vince Cable ‘disgusted’ with FCA over RBS mistreatment of small firms: Vince Cable has attacked the City watchdog for failing to publish a full report into the mistreatment of small businesses by the Royal Bank of Scotland, as MPs lined up to condemn the bank in parliament.

Daily Mail

Trouble brewing as Costa’s coffee sales shrink: Owner refuses to rule out a break-up of the business: The Boss of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn owner Whitbread refused to rule out a break-up of the business as its lattes and flat whites failed to lure caffeine lovers.

Royal Mail delivers record numbers of parcels for Christmas thanks to the online shopping boom: The online shopping boom helped Royal Mail deliver record numbers of parcels for Christmas. Parcel volumes were up 6 % for the nine months to December 24, the biggest rise since it was privatised in 2013.

Santander Chief ran toxic RBS arm that sunk small firms and seized their assets, MPs claim: The Boss of Santander was at the heart of a scandal over a ruthless unit accused of wrecking small businesses, Parliament heard yesterday.

BP signs deal with Iraq to more than double production at its Kirkuk oil fields: Oil major BP has signed a contract with Iraq to more than double production at its Kirkuk oil fields. BP will boost output capacity to 750,000 barrels per day.

Daily Express

Bitcoin miners head to Canada amid China crackdown on cryptocurrency: Bitcoin miners in China are looking to other locations such as India and Canada as the Chinese authorities appear to clampdown on cryptocurrency activity and mining.

The Scottish Herald

Matter of simple arithmetic as austerity and Brexit hit the high street: AS the dust from the latest annual flurry of festive trading updates begins to settle, what is already crystal clear is that this has been another very tough Christmas for many retailers.

Weak pound drives up Scots hotel deals to £200 million: The total value of hotel deals soared to nearly £200 million in Scotland last year, as overseas investors took advantage of the weak pound to acquire prime assets at competitive prices.

The Scotsman

Shop vacancy rates in Scottish town centres rises: The rapidly changing nature of Scotland’s high streets has been laid bare in a report outlining the challenges facing retailers in the age of online shopping and out-of-town business parks. Vacancy figures for town centre retail and leisure units across the country rose for the first time in five years in 2017 from 11.7 to 11.9 %, analysis by the Local Data Company (LDC) and the University of Stirling found.

City A.M.

Goldman Sachs has led a $38 million funding round into tech firm Visible Alpha to help battle Mifid II challenges: A startup which aims to help analysts and fund managers cope with dreaded regulatory changes has grabbed $38 million (£27 million) of funding today, from a cohort of big banks led by Goldman Sachs.

Pinched-for-cash Poundworld in talks with TPG for more money after poor festive trading: Discount retailer Poundworld is in talks with its majority owner, U.S. private equity giant TPG Capital, for a new cash injection after a troubling festive period.

Battersea Power Station’s £1.6 billion sale is close to the most expensive U.K. property deal ever: The proposed £1.6 billion sale of Battersea Power Station to a pair of Malaysian funds will be one of the largest property deal ever to take place in the U.K.

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Disclaimer: Statements in this article should not be considered investment advice, which is best sought directly from a qualified professional.