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Newspapers today: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 020216

The Times

Watchdog could force Tesco to sell 635 stores: Tesco could be forced to dispose of more than 600 stores unless it can convince regulators that its £3.9 billion merger with Booker will not harm competition.

Mobile ads deliver goods for Facebook: Soaring sales of mobile advertisements helped Facebook to report record quarterly results last night. However, the strong figures were overshadowed by a court order to pay $500 million.

Openreach board changes dismissed as ‘cosmetic’: Plans to strengthen the independence of BT’s Openreach division by establishing a new board have been criticised by the communications watchdog.

Supplier joins VW in hot seat over emissions scandal in U.S.: The cost of dieselgate on Volkswagen soared still further when the carmaker and a supplier agreed to pay at least $1.6 billion in the United States for large-engine cars fitted with devices to cheat emission laws.

Midlothian branches out with deal for holiday parks: Fresh from snapping up Dobbies Garden Centres, Midlothian Capital Partners has struck a deal to buy Park Leisure 2000, an upmarket holiday park operator, for £103 million.

Merger gives Eversheds path into America’s legal market: Eversheds, which has grown from a domestic English franchise to a European and international business in less than 30 years, has joined the ranks of City laws firms trying to crack the vast and lucrative American market.

‘Clouds’ cast shadow over increase in house prices: Annual house price growth fell last month to its weakest level since November 2015, Nationwide said, and the outlook “remains clouded”. Britain’s second biggest mortgage lender said that prices last month were 4.3% higher than a year earlier, compared with an annual increase of 4.5% recorded in December.

Bunnings opens with a banger: The U.K.’s first Bunnings Warehouse store opens its doors in St Albans with a perhaps appropriate combination of a traditional Australian “sausage sizzle” barbecue fundraiser and traditional stormy British weather.

The Independent

London’s first underground farm seals Ocado salad deal: Growing Underground, the U.K.’s first underground farm, housed 100 feet beneath Clapham High Street in a World War II bomb shelter, has struck a deal with Ocado to carry its first retail range of salads.

EU and Mexico accelerate free trade talks as Trump vows to cut NAFTA: The European Union and Mexico will speed up negotiations to seal a free trade pact, as U.S. President Donald Trump threatens to pull out of a deal with its Central American neighbour, hit the country with punitive border taxes and make it pay for a border wall.

Ikea is planning to sell a line of rugs made by Syrian refugees: Ikea is planning to sell a line of rugs and textiles made by Syrian refugees in 2019, in an effort to provide jobs to people displaced by the civil war.

Global fossil fuel demand finally set to fall from 2020: Demand for coal and oil will peak in 2020 as the renewable energy revolution gathers pace and undercuts fossil fuels on price, according to a new report.

Brexit won’t lead to ‘new London’ in Europe central bank head: The head of the Central Bank of Ireland said on Tuesday that there will not be a “new London” in the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc.

Saudi Arabia praises Donald Trump’s pro-fossil fuel policies: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has praised U.S. President’s Donald Trump’s energy policies, saying that he is pleased the U.S. government is planning to pursue a more fossil-fuel oriented strategy.

Record rise in manufacturing input costs in January: Manufacturing performed well in the first month of 2017, according to the latest survey snapshot of the sector, but U.K. firms also saw the sharpest rise in factory input costs on record and an apparently waning boost for exports from the slump in the pound.

Trump’s wall ‘idiotic’ says property developer asked to build it: Miami real estate tycoon Jorge Perez said he declined an invitation by President Donald Trump to help build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, describing the plan as “idiotic.”

Dollar suffers worst January in 30 years: The U.S. dollar posted its worst January in three decades after U.S. President Donald Trump and his trade adviser accused Germany, China and Japan of exploiting currencies to gain a trade advantage over the U.S.

Apple considers legal action over Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’: Apple is considering taking legal action against an Executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump that halted entry by persons from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing Chief Executive Tim Cook.

EU set to drop roaming charges from June 2017: Europeans will be able to use their phones without fear of racking up huge bills starting from this summer after officials in Brussels confirmed they are on course to put an end to roaming charges.

Threat of global trade war rises as Japan joins Germany in condemnation of Donald Trump: World leaders aren’t taking Donald Trump’s trade barbs lying down. After the U.S. president said Germany and Japan are gaming foreign-exchange markets to win favourable trade terms, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday in pushing back and leading a global counter-charge to the accusations.

Financial Times

Oil market waits for OPEC-shale tug of war to end: The oil market increasingly resembles a tug of war between two well-balanced teams. The question is what happens when one side finally gives way.

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Rock-bottom rates squeeze German lenders: Only one in five German banks will earn their cost of capital by the end of the decade if interest rates stay where they are, according to a Bundesbank report.

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U.S. banks warn Trump will stick with tough money laundering stance: Big U.S. banks are warning that money laundering is one area where they expect Donald Trump to maintain tough regulatory standards, despite the new president’s pledge to ease burdens where possible.

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Core Equity Holdings looks to retain assets for a decade: Core Equity Holdings, a private equity group set up by four Bain Capital veterans, is moving away from the “pass the parcel” model implemented by some of its peers as it looks to retain assets for a decade.

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Julius Baer Chief expects clients to take greater risks: Swiss private bank Julius Baer expects increasingly confident clients to boost trading activity significantly in 2017 after reporting a 12% rise to SFr336 billion ($338 billion) last year in assets under management.

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Online lender SoFi adds to portfolio with Zenbanx deal: SoFi, the biggest online lender in the U.S., has taken a big step in its attempt to build a retail banking empire by buying Zenbanx, another “fintech” challenger that offers bank accounts, money transfers and debit cards.

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Spanish bank BBVA records 32% jump in net profits: BBVA beat analyst expectations with a 32% jump in full year net profits, despite political and currency turmoil in Mexico, the bank’s most important market, and a one-off charge linked to mortgage mis-selling in Spain.

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Roche underlines ‘value’ of drugmakers to the U.S.: The Chief Executive of Roche, the Swiss pharmaceuticals group, has defended the role of drugmakers in the U.S. saying it “benefits more than any country in the world” from the industry.

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Arix Bioscience targets £100 million fundraising with London IPO: Arix Bioscience, a London-based investment company, is seeking to raise £100 million in a stock market listing in an effort to increase bets on a number of early-stage drugmakers and university partnerships.

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Alphabet pulls ahead in driverless car race: Alphabet’s self-driving technology is far more comprehensive and mature than that of its rivals, according to new statistics released by regulators in California.

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Mondi appoints insider Peter Oswald as new Chief: Mondi, the FTSE 100 paper and packaging company spun out of mining conglomerate Anglo-American, has opted for continuity over new blood in appointing Peter Oswald to replace long-serving Chief Executive David Hathorn.

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Siemens nominates Snabe as next Chairman of supervisory board: Siemens has nominated Jim Hagemann Snabe, the former co-Chief Executive of technology company SAP, to be its next Chairman of the supervisory board, further underscoring the engineering company’s efforts to be a leader in digitalisation.

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Germany’s exporters fear Trump effect on trade: Like many other small and medium-sized companies in Germany’s heartlands — known as the Mittelstand — Delo provides parts and technical expertise for products consumed across the world. Also, like them, it is increasingly alarmed that its business model will come unstuck because of Donald Trump’s break with decades of U.S. trade policy.

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Time Warner buys stake in digital football group Bigballs Media: Time Warner’s Turner International division has taken a stake in Bigballs Media, adding the digital football company to a portfolio of web investments that includes Mashable and Refinery 29.

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Supermarket tycoon Sir Ken Morrison dies aged 85: Sir Ken Morrison, who built one of Britain’s biggest retail chains out of a family business he took over from his father, has died aged 85 following a short illness.

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Investors worry over Nintendo game console scarcity: Nintendo has reiterated its conservative target to ship just 2 million of its new Switch console in the first month of its launch, sparking investor concerns that the gaming device will be gone as soon as it hits the shelves in March.

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Apple faces China challenges despite iPhone resurgence: The global resurgence of the iPhone combined with the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 pushed Apple ahead of rival Samsung in smartphone sales for the fourth quarter, researchers say, even as the U.S. group struggles to fend off domestic rivals in China.

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Charles Dunstone moves to retake control of TalkTalk: The billionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse and TalkTalk has retaken control of the telecoms company and handed the Chairmanship at the retailer to former BT Chief Executive Lord Livingston.

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Lex:

Facebook: smarter and richer: A $500 million legal judgment related to Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality unit will have caused little grief to the social network and its Boss, Mark Zuckerberg. On the same day as the adverse ruling, Facebook announced earnings well-ahead of expectations. Investors may have to brace themselves for further positive surprises, regardless of whether VR works out any time soon.

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Arconic/Elliott: Davos Manhandled: Davos, you have a problem. Not only is the typical delegate to the Alpine economic forum derided as out of touch. He may be out of a job too, judging from Elliott Management’s attempt to oust Klaus Kleinfeld, Chief Executive of Arconic. The activist investor says that the extracurricular calendar of the German PhD and Davos regular reflects “an obsession with image, prestige and stature”.

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TalkTalk: reconnecting: Entrepreneurs usually jump back into companies they have founded for one reason: to re-energise them. A hop in the shares showed that investors believe Sir Charles can do just that at the broadband group. Despite the high-toned titles of Bosses, TalkTalk occupies crowded territory at the value end of the U.K. telecoms industry. Here, it is exposed to incursions from the likes of BT Group and Sky. Price competition is fierce and customer churn is high. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation have bounced between £200 million and £300 million since 2010, according to S&P Global.

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Lombard:

Harding walks the walk, Dunstone to talk the talk: Dido Harding is walking the walk, leaving Sir Charles Dunstone to talk the TalkTalk. The vigorous baroness, granddaughter of the commander of the second world war Desert Rats, plans to spend more time on public works. Since she is infinitely better connected than her customers, that means time in the House of Lords rather than the trenches.

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Northern light: Sir Ken Morrison, the supermarket founder who died on Wednesday, has been remembered as a thrifty, plain speaking Yorkshireman, writes Matthew Vincent. But while he famously described expensive plans to move Morrisons upmarket as “bullshit”, friends recall a subtler individual.

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The Daily Telegraph

Reckitt Benckiser in £13 billion takeover talks with baby formula maker Mead Johnson: Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer goods giant behind Dettol, Durex and Nurofen, has revealed $16.7 billion (£13.2 billion) takeover talks with U.S. baby formula maker Mead Johnson.

Heavy losses feared as The Guardian forecasts it will burn £90 million in cash this year: The Guardian has warned staff to expect further heavy losses, as the newspaper said it expects to burn through another £90 million in cash this year.

Facebook ordered to pay $500 million in Oculus virtual reality dispute: Facebook has been ordered to pay $500 million (£395 million) after its virtual reality division was found to use stolen technology.

Hot Wheels game maker Hutch drives away with £4 million investment: A computer game maker that has reinvented dinky die-cast cars for the mobile generation has driven off with a £4 million investment.

Schroders dumps entire French Connection stake reviving bid speculation: French Connection’s second biggest shareholder, Schroders, has sold its entire stake in the embattled fashion brand to a mystery buyer.

BAE out of running for U.S. jet trainer as partner Northrop quits $16 billion contract: BAE Systems has dropped out of one of the biggest military aviation projects of the next few years by withdrawing from the running for a contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with a new jet trainer.

Waterstones returns to profit thanks to a return to ‘traditional bookselling’: Waterstones has returned to profit for the first time in seven years thanks to a return to traditional bookselling and a boom in children’s books.

BHP Billiton accused of ‘bullying’ workers over anti-tax screensavers: Brendon Grylls, leader of the National Party in Western Australia, has accused the FTSE 100 mining group of “bullying” workers by forcing them to read anti-tax messages on computer screens and in staff areas.

The Guardian

Deutsche Börse Chief probed over €4.5 million share deals ahead of LSE merger talks: German authorities have opened a probe into share dealing by Deutsche Börse group head Carsten Kengeter shortly before the announcement of the market’s planned merger with the London Stock Exchange.

EU will lose out from bad Brexit deal on City, says leaked report: The European commission’s Brexit negotiators must strike a “workable” deal with Theresa May’s government to protect the City of London or the economies of the remaining member states will be damaged, a leaked EU report warns.

George Osborne: Brexit plans do not prioritise the economy: George Osborne, the Conservative Former Chancellor, has warned the public to expect a “bitter” divorce from the European Union, as MPs debated the government’s Brexit bill for a second day.

Brexit has allowed the banks to get off Britain’s naughty step: It is almost a decade since the financial crisis and barely a day has gone by without banks being in the headlines, invariably for the wrong reasons.

U.S. jobs growth in January is strongest since June, report finds: U.S. companies ramped up hiring in January, adding the most new workers since June, according to a private survey released days before the first new jobs report since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Daily Mail

Cheap holiday website On The Beach sees boost in profits recently – and now shares are getting a lift too: Cheap holiday website On The Beach has seen a boost in profits recently – and now its shares are getting a lift too.

Budget airline price war threatens to wipe £26 million off earnings of Wizz Air – which sends shares into a nosedive: A budget airline price war threatens to wipe £26 million off the earnings of Wizz Air – which sent its shares into a nosedive.

Dutch beer giant Heineken on course to win bid for Punch Taverns after rival suitor drops out of race: Dutch beer giant Heineken is on course to win the bid for Punch Taverns after a rival suitor dropped out of the race.

Boss of Lufthansa warns of troubling times ahead for Gulf aviation market: The Boss of Lufthansa has warned of troubling times ahead for the Gulf aviation market. Carsten Spohr said regional carriers will be forced to cut capacity to offset lower growth forecasts.

‘Wall of inflation’ is heading for the U.K. as British factories see their costs hit record high: A ‘wall of inflation’ is heading towards the U.K. as a record rise in costs for British factories points to an ‘inevitable’ spike in the cost of living for British consumers, new data shows.

Daily Express

Older workers fearing poverty-stricken retirement because lack of savings: More than three quarters of older workers fear a poverty-stricken retirement because they have not saved enough money for their old age.

TalkTalk founder Dunstone to take back company after Harding steps down: TalkTalk founder Sir Charles Dunstone is set to take back control of the broadband operator after Chief Executive Dido Harding said she would step down as Chief Executive after seven years.

Workers fear saving for retirement without guarantee of fixed income for life: Workers feel saving for their old age is a riskier business without the guarantee of a fixed income for life.

Think tank forced to upgrade economic forecast for second time since EU exit: A prestigious think tank has been forced to revise its post-Brexit forecast for the second time in a matter of months after expecting slower growth for the British economy.

Halifax to cut switching bonus for current account customers to £75: Halifax is chopping its £100 switching bonus offer to current account customers to £75 in a further blow to people looking to move deals.

The Scottish Herald

U.S. expansion next for Low & Bonar as Trump prepares infrastructure spend: Low & Bonar, the plastics and textile group, has hopes of growing in the United States following Donald Trump’s pledge to increase infrastructure spend.

Crerar blames workplace rules for £5 million write-down: Crerar Hotels has written down the value of its portfolio by more than £5 million after a revaluation of its properties related to the possible impact on the business of changes to employment legislation.

Chris Stewart Group to create major Edinburgh development: Property developer Chris Stewart Group has started work on a major two building project that will form part of the wider £850 million St James Quarter regeneration project in Edinburgh City Centre.

Surge in motorhomes helping to drive sales at Borders Cars Group: Border Cars Group, the Dumfries-based motor dealer, has heralded its emerging motorhomes division as a key growth area for the business.

Menzies joy as it completes ASIG deal: John Menzies has completed its $202 million (£165 million) acquisition of U.S.-based ASIG from BBA Aviation after seeing off competition concerns.

Fire safety firm falls victim to oil and gas downturn: A Fife-based oil and gas safety business has fallen into administration with the loss of 30 jobs following cuts in spending by firms in areas such as the North Sea. Blair Nimmo and Tony Friar have been appointed joint administrators of Sabre Safety after the company incurred hefty losses following a sharp drop in sales.

Ogilvie upbeat as profits narrow but construction division sales rise: Ogilvie Group, the Stirling- based construction to fleet management conglomerate, has seen profits narrow by 7.5% to £4.5 million in its latest financial year, as turnover fell marginally to £207.6 million from £209.4 million.

RBS told: do not thwart democracy: Royal Bank of Scotland has been accused of obstructing democracy after snubbing calls for it to create a shareholder committee to help improve corporate governance at the firm.

Retail sales weaker north of the Border: Scottish retail sales volumes dipped by 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year, in contrast to a 1.2% rise in Great Britain as a whole, official figures show.

Major investor agrees investment trust exit: Edinburgh-based Scottish Investment Trust (SIT) has struck a deal to buy back for cancellation the entire 11.88% stake controlled by pensions, investment and insurance group Aviva.

Tech firm plans to create 48 jobs: Digital technology specialist Incremental Group, which has operations in Glasgow and Aberdeenshire, plans to create 48 jobs over the next 12 months with the help of £500,000 of Regional Selective Assistance support from Scottish Enterprise.

The Scotsman

Plexus Holdings shares dive after warning over sales: Shares in Plexus Holdings, the Aberdeen-based oil and gas technology firm, have lost more than a quarter of their value in the wake of a warning over current sales.

Irn-Bru group’s sales boosted by sugar-free drinks: Soft drinks group AG Barr, owner of the Irn-Bru brand, said it overcame “highly competitive” market conditions to turn in a stronger trading performance in the second half of its financial year.

Growing number of student flats raises eyebrows in Glasgow: Standing ten storeys high and occupying a prominent site next to one of the country’s busiest railway stations, it’s not easy to miss the newly built Vita Student residence.

Aldi deal is sweet news for Perthshire honey producer: Perthshire-based Scarletts Beekeepers and Honey Packers has struck a £100,000 deal to supply Aldi stores in Scotland with its produce.

International expansion for Scottish Business Network: A networking initiative aimed at helping business leaders tap into growth opportunities in London is expanding into China and North America.

City A.M.

Nimbysim in decline as housing shortage bites: ​The construction of new homes is now a top five priority for voters, with increasing numbers of people willing to support housing projects in their local area.

Third runway set for takeoff: Government unveils Heathrow expansion national policy statement: Transport secretary Chris Grayling will set out the government’s proposals for Heathrow expansion with a draft national policy statement.

Startup Dead Right aims to bring digital disruption to the funeral industry: A new digital disruptor is aiming to put the ‘fun’ in funeral. Dead Right, a service comparison startup, is backed by advertising exec Sir John Hegarty and his company Garage Soho, and is in the process of seeking further funding.

U.S. Federal Reserve leaves interest rates unchanged: U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said interest rates would be maintained at 0.5-0.75% as the labour market continues to strengthen and economic activity expands.

Financial Stability Board sets out plans to minimise “too-big-to-fail” clearing house risk: The Financial Stability Board (FSB) has set out proposals for new rules around “living wills” for clearing houses to ensure they do not become a new source of “too-big-to-fail risk”.

U.S. production growth booms as manufacturing expands at fastest rate since 2014: The U.S. manufacturing sector grew faster than expected in January to expand at the fastest rate since the end of 2014, according to a widely-followed indicator of economic health.

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