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Newspapers today: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 150216

The Times

Fed Chief risks Trump’s wrath with attack on spending plans: The head of America’s central bank put herself on a collision course with President Trump by issuing a thinly veiled warning that his economic plans posed a danger to the nation’s unsustainable debt burden.

Scandal-hit Rolls posts record £4.6 billion loss: Six weeks in and Rolls-Royce’s year is not getting any better. After a £671 million out-of-court settlement over bribery and corruption cases on a global scale, Britain’s engineering champion has announced record losses and cut the dividend by nearly a third.

First-time buyers create house price surge: Claims that house price growth was easing because of a post-Brexit slowdown were thrown into doubt after official figures revealed an acceleration at the end of last year.

Sales of Jaguar Land Rover’s key cars stall: Sales of three key Jaguar Land Rover vehicles have slowed markedly as the Indian-owned British manufacturer reported a sharp reverse in profits.

Glencore pays ‘infamous’ tycoon $160 million in Congo deal: Glencore has paid $160 million in royalties to a company controlled by a businessman accused of corruption by U.S. investigators, an analysis suggests.

Co-op Chief takes reins at Fenwick: Richard Pennycook, the outgoing Chief Executive of the Co-operative Group, has been named as the incoming Chairman of Fenwick, the upmarket department store business.

Hedge fund debt row may force West Bromwich to sell its assets: West Bromwich Building Society has warned that it may have to sell assets or get out of some of its businesses after a row with a hedge fund over its capital levels.

Would-be buyers circle Co-op looking to pick the bank apart: Advisers to the Co-operative Bank are preparing sales documents to send to prospective buyers, some of whom have registered their interest in parts of the Manchester-based lender.

Resurgent Acacia doubles dividend: Acacia Mining set out its stall to be a pan-African gold producer as it more than doubled its full-year dividend and returned to profit.

The Independent

Taylor review on self-employment cannot recommend tax changes: The independent review headed by Matthew Taylor into the rights of self-employed and gig-economy workers has terms of reference from the Government that prevent it from recommending that the Treasury close loopholes in the tax system.

The pound could fall another 16% as Brexit unfolds, says Deustche Bank: Sterling has endured a veritable tumble since the U.K. voted to quit the EU in June. But and it is nowhere near done yet, according to Deutsche Bank.

More people are looking for love after Donald Trump’s win: U.S. President Donald Trump’s election victory led to more people longing for love, according to the Chief Executive of online dating site eHarmony.

Surge in insecure work costs U.K. £4 billion in lost taxes: An explosion in the number of people in insecure employment is costing the Government £4 billion a year, according to a new report published on Tuesday.

18 major car firms urge Trump to cut fuel efficiency target: Eighteen major car companies have written to Donald Trump urging him to overturn a fuel efficiency target set by the Obama administration.

Google is losing employees because it paid them too much money: For the past year, Google’s car project has been a talent sieve, thanks to leadership changes, strategy doubts, new startup dreams and rivals luring self-driving technology experts. Another force pushing people out? Money. A lot of it.

High street urges Chancellor Philip Hammond to end ‘unfair tax system that gives advantage to online retailers’: Business leaders are calling on Chancellor Philip Hammond to tackle anomalies in the tax system that see high street shops pay higher rates on small premises than online giants do for vast warehouses.

Financial Times

Mexico’s Pemex launches biggest ever EM corporate Eurobond: Pemex, Mexico’s state oil company, has sold €4.25 billion in euro-denominated bonds in the biggest euro deal seen by any emerging market issuer, despite concerns about the sustainability of its debt levels and the outlook for Mexico’s economy with Donald Trump in the White House.

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Toshiba woes expose fragility of U.K.’s future electricity supply: The financial troubles afflicting Toshiba do not just have implications for the proposed Moorside nuclear plant. They expose the fragility of the U.K.’s energy policy as a whole.

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Anglo American Chairman John Parker to step down: Sir John Parker will step down this year as Chairman of Anglo American after an eight-year tenure during which the miner was forced to put many of its assets up for sale.

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EDF earnings hit by low electricity prices and nuclear problems: EDF on Tuesday reported a 7% fall in core earnings for 2016 as low electricity prices and problems at some nuclear power plants weighed on results, although the French utility said it was on track to generate positive cash flow in 2018.

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SoftBank to acquire Fortress Investment Group for $3.3 billion: SoftBank’s billionaire Founder Masayoshi Son, who has boasted of creating the “Berkshire Hathaway of tech”, has thrown himself into the world of private equity and hedge funds with a $3.3 billion acquisition of U.S. alternative asset manager Fortress Investment Group.

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Royal Bank of Scotland to launch direct lending service: Royal Bank of Scotland is to offer business loans within hours as part of a move to digitise the bank and bolster relations with small companies following alleged wrongdoing in its restructuring unit.

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Lending Club continues to feel the pain from governance scandal: Lending Club lost money for a third year in a row last year, as a modest rise in originations in the second half failed to offset a huge rise in clean-up costs after a governance scandal.

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AIG quarterly losses widen to $3 billion: Quarterly losses at AIG have widened to $3 billion after the insurer warned payouts on its policies jumped more than expected, the latest setback for Chief Executive Peter Hancock as he battles to improve returns.

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Berkshire Hathaway ‘A’ shares crack $250,000 ceiling: The price of admission to the elite club of Berkshire Hathaway “A” shareholders has hit a quarter of a million dollars for the first time, taking the value of Warren Buffett’s famed investment vehicle to a new record.

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Warning over resilience of European repo market: The International Capital Market Association has warned over the resilience of Europe’s key short-term funding markets following a new study of a bout of “unprecedented” volatility at the end of last year.

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U.K. explores options to tempt overseas companies to list in London: The U.K. financial watchdog is exploring ideas for an “international segment” to accommodate overseas companies in British capital markets, in which large groups could obtain a London listing without obligation to comply with stringent requirements for a premium listed company.

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China credit growth slows as stimulus wanes: Chinese credit growth slowed last month, a sign that Beijing policymakers are balancing pro-growth stimulus ahead of a political transition against the need to address the risk from rising debt.

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Italy considers €5 billion state bailout of regional banks: Italy is looking at a €5 billion state rescue of two struggling regional banks as the Eurozone’s third-largest economy takes renewed steps to shore up its troubled banking system.

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TCI attempts to block €8.5 billion Safran takeover of Zodiac: One of Europe’s largest activist hedge funds has launched a campaign to block Safran’s €8.5 billion takeover for its rival Zodiac, lambasting the deal to merge the two aerospace equipment companies as having “no strategic rationale”.

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Peltz puts pressure on P&G with $3 billion-plus stake: Nelson Peltz, the veteran activist investor, has taken a $3 billion-plus position in the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, in a move likely to put pressure on Chief Executive David Taylor to cut costs more quickly and accelerate growth.

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Apple Executive plays down using cash to create U.S. jobs: A senior Apple Executive said on Tuesday that the company would return more capital to shareholders if U.S. tax laws were relaxed and played down the likelihood that the company would use its excess cash to create new American manufacturing jobs.

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Lex:

Berkshire Hathaway: far from the tree: With Tuesday’s quarterly filings, Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a massive bet on Apple, quadrupling its existing stake to 57 million shares worth almost $8 billion. Mr Buffett is known for savvy investments in industrial companies and buying banks at the bottom. He is openly averse to tech. His one significant exception was IBM and that has not been a positive experience. But recently Mr Buffett has allowed his lieutenants to plough their own course. And a top-10 stake in Apple, disclosed as the iPhone maker hit an all-time high, is the result.

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U.S. wifi wars: Verizon blinks: On Monday, Verizon announced an aggressive change in policy. Clients can have limitless data. Years of touting eventual victory in the telecom wars has done little to excite investors. With its shares flat in the past year, Verizon will fight. On Tuesday, T-Mobile, the operator most responsible for Verizon’s ills, reported it had added 3 million of the highest quality phone subscribers for 2016, the third year in a row that it posted such a total.

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Peugeot/GM Europe: double or quits: Shareholders think that one answer is cost cutting — which is where General Motors Europe comes in. Shares climbed 4% on Tuesday when the French car group confirmed it was in talks to acquire lossmaking General Motors Europe, which makes the Vauxhall and Opel brands.

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Lombard:

Next’s seamless succession plan shows how it should be done: Succession planning at fashion retailer Next has the smooth look of a conveyor belt by comparison. On Tuesday, the fashion retailer announced the exit of 72-year-old John Barton, Chairman for a decade, to be replaced by Michael Roney, former Boss of Bunzl and Mr Barton’s junior by exactly 10 years.

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The Daily Telegraph

Trump rally pushes Goldman Sachs to record high as Buffett shares smash through $250,000 mark: Goldman Sachs shares closed at a record high last night as expectations of higher interest rates and optimism about Donald Trump’s pledge to reverse costly regulation lifted bank stocks.

Greek economy suffers surprise contraction at the end of 2016 as Eurogroup Chief insists no ‘acute crisis’: The Greek economy suffered an unexpected contraction in the final three months of last year, highlighting the challenges facing the country as it faces further reform demands to unlock bail-out cash.

Ethical policy obstacle to Co-op Bank sale: Co-operative Bank’s core ethical mandate is expected to pose a major obstacle to a sale of the troubled lender to a rival firm, according to City sources.

Dealer Pendragon sets sights on doubling share of used car market: Car dealer Pendragon aims to more than double its share of the used vehicle market over the next five years – but the news got a frosty reception from the market, sending the shares into reverse.

Pensions firm Xafinity goes public in attempt to shake up the industry: Pensions consultancy Xafinity has announced its intention to float on the London Stock Exchange as it bids to “disrupt the pensions world”.

Tidjane Thiam to cut thousands more jobs at Credit Suisse: Tidjane Thiam, the Chief Executive of Credit Suisse, is preparing to swing the axe at the bank once again and cut thousands more jobs after Switzerland’s second-biggest lender slumped to a worse-than-expected £1.9 billion quarterly loss.

The Questor Column:

Debt makes this recruitment firm high-risk – but it could be about to turn a corner: A failed acquisition push, thin profit margins and a less-than-pristine balance sheet explain an ugly five-year share price chart at the recruitment and consulting specialist Parity. But a big management shake-up, a potential disposal and the first signs of improved trading could signal better times ahead for the Aim-listed firm. Net debts of £6.5 million and a pension deficit of £1.6 million sit with shareholders’ equity of just £5.9 million, so the balance sheet needs some work and interest cover was skinny in 2015, thanks to the pension costs as much as repayments on the debt. However, the Chairman, Lord Freedman, the Chief Executive, Alan Rommel, and the finance Director, Mike Aspinall, have started to tackle Parity’s problems since their arrival in 2015. Given the risks, however, a 20% stop-loss could be useful here. Questor says ‘Speculative Buy’.

Update: CLS Holdings: All eyes are on the full-year results from the property developer and manager CLS Holdings on March 8 after an announcement that it will tart to return cash to shareholders via dividends rather than twice-yearly share buybacks. The first payment will cover the second half of 2016. The total buybacks paid in 2015 came to £19.1 million and the first-half figure was increased by 10%. The same rate of increase in the second half would make for a total return of £21 million. That would be the base for 2017’s dividend and represents a starting yield of 3%, a further attraction for a stock that trades on a hefty discount to its net asset value of £22.82 per share. Commercial property could well suffer some lumps and bumps but CLS is well placed to weather them and income hunters can let the future dividend reliably compound. Questor says ‘Buy’.

The Guardian

Senators grill Janet Yellen on Republican plans to neuter Dodd-Frank Act: Dueling senators turned the Federal Reserve chairwoman’s first testimony before Congress since the election of Donald Trump into a row over Republican plans to defang Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation brought in after the Great Recession.

Blow to City as London offices face £1.4 billion rise in business rates bill: A sharp rise in business rates for offices in the City of London is threatening to undermine the Square Mile’s drive to remain a key financial centre in Europe after Brexit.

Wine lovers face triple whammy Brexit price rise, says U.K. trade body: Champagne drinkers in Britain face higher prices in the next year as the impact of the Brexit vote on the pound takes its toll, the drinks industry has warned.

Viagogo accused of sitting on refunds after overcharging for tickets: Dozens of people who bought tickets for gigs by artists including Ed Sheeran through Viagogo claim the website is withholding thousands of pounds in refunds, after a “glitch” saw them overcharged.

Greece defies creditors over more cuts as economy shrinks unexpectedly: The standoff between Greece and its creditors has escalated, with the embattled Athens government vowing it will not give in to demands for further cuts as data showed the country’s economy unexpectedly contracting.

Daily Mail

Mitchells & Butlers tumbles 2.2% as pub and restaurant shares lose their fizz on inflation fears: Mitchells & Butlers tumbled as Canaccord Genuity cut its ‘Buy’ rating on the stock. The stockbroker has moved the restaurant and pub chain to a ‘Hold’ amid fears it looks vulnerable to increasing competition and rising costs in the sector.

Next Chairman John Barton leaves in shake-up following dismal Christmas sales: Fashion retailer Next will usher in a new Chairman this summer after long-standing Boss John Barton announced his retirement.

Fed Chief favours an early rate rise warning a delay could be disastrous for the economy: The head of the powerful Federal Reserve said waiting too long to raise interest rates in the United States could be disastrous for the economy.

U.K.’s nuclear power plans thrown into disarray as crisis at Toshiba deepens: Britain’s nuclear power plans were thrown into chaos last night as problems escalated at Japanese company Toshiba. The corporate giant owns a 60% stake in the planned NuGen power plant in Cumbria that is supposed to eventually supply up to 6million homes as a key part of the Government’s energy strategy.

British families shrug off pound’s slide and hit the slopes with winter holiday revenues up 21% on 2016: British families have been undeterred by the fall in the pound since the Brexit vote and are booking ski trips as well as holidays to hotspots. Holidaymakers have lifted first-quarter U.K. bookings at travel giant TUI significantly.

HSBC appoints first Chief exec of its new U.K. ring-fenced bank: Banking giant HSBC has appointed the first Chief Executive of its new U.K. ring-fenced bank. Ian Stuart, 53, head of commercial banking for HSBC in the U.K. and Europe, will switch to lead the bank’s British retail and wealth management division.

Daily Express

Pound falls against euro and dollar as inflation falls below expectations: The pound fell against the dollar and the euro after lower than expected inflation reading dampened hopes of an interest rate hike.

Eurozone economy grows just 0.4% in Q4 – worse than U.K. after Brexit vote: Europe’s economy missed expectations to grow by just 0.4% – worse than initially thought – in the final months of last year, figures showed.

Dollar hits three-week high as U.S. set to raise interest rates again: The dollar jumped to its highest level in three weeks after the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve said interest rates are likely to rise sooner rather than later.

Inflation jumps to two-year high of 1.8% amid higher petrol prices: The cost of living in Britain jumped to its highest level in more than two years in January, official data showed.

Germany growth slows: Merkel facing dire economy news as EU uncertainty over Trump grows: Germany’s economy grew at a disappointingly slow pace in the final three months last year – and at a far lower rate than Britain – data showed.

Toshiba Chairman resigns as company shares dive after delaying financial results: Toshiba Chairman Shigenori Shiga has resigned after the company delayed the release of financial results expected to include billions of dollars in losses tied to its ailing U.S. nuclear power unit.

The Scottish Herald

Retail sales tumble as grocery reverses: The value of Scottish retail sales in January was down sharply on a year earlier, as consumers reined in spending after a modest loosening of the purse strings in December, the latest industry figures reveal.

Firms face ‘danger’ of having to pass on cost rises: Scottish Chambers of Commerce has highlighted the “danger” for businesses that they will be forced to pass on higher costs to customers at a difficult time, after official figures showed a further rise in U.K. consumer price inflation.

Entrepreneur wins following in care home sector for labels developed for sons’ sports kit: An entrepreneur who started producing labels for children’s clothing to keep track of her sons’ rugby kit is eyeing rapid growth after generating strong interest in the care home and luxury yachting markets.

Dumfriesshire firm has made a quick impact on the road building sector: A young Scottish firm which has developed a way of making roads out of plastic has set out to raise £590,000 development funding from investors on the Seedrs crowdfunding platform.

Gillespie Macandrew creates head of family job: Edinburgh firm Gillespie Macandrew has appointed Jennifer Maciver to the newly created role of head of family law.

Cairn Energy closing in on bumper deal in North Sea: Cairn Energy is reported to be a frontrunner to buy a portfolio of North Sea assets that could be worth as much as $2 billion (£1.6 billion).

Superfast data deal signed: The Fortis datacentre in North Lanarkshire, the largest in Scotland, will be capable of sending data to Glasgow and Edinburgh in less than one millisecond after connecting to a gigabit capable pure fibre network in a deal with Commsworld. The datacentre, just off the M8, harnesses Scotland’s cool climate to deliver high levels of power efficiency and is powered entirely by renewable energy sources.

The Scotsman

Peugeot owner PSA in talks to buy Vauxhall from GM: The owner of Peugeot said it could buy Vauxhall and Opel from General Motors (GM) in a deal that would transform Europe’s car market.

CalMac hits new heights as Boss remains at helm: Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) has carried more than five million passengers in a year for the first time in two decades following the introduction of cheaper fares.

Office market in rude health despite lack of supply: Demand for office space in the Central Belt remains high, while the Aberdeen market shows some signs of recovery, a new industry snapshot indicates.

Life sciences firm Collagen Solutions to raise £12 million: Biomaterials business Collagen Solutions is expected to reach profitability in 2019 after revealing plans to raise up to £12 million.

City A.M.

Anthem hits back at Cigna’s $15 billion lawsuit: Health insurer Anthem has hit back at Cigna after it said it was terminating a merger between the two companies and wants $15 billion (£12 billion) in fees and damages.

Trian takes $3.5 billion stake in P&G: Trian Fund Management has disclosed that it bought a $3.5 billion stake in Procter & Gamble, maker of Gillette razors and Crest toothpaste.

Now German businesses are calling for post-Brexit partnership with U.K.: Firms in Germany want to maintain strong ties with the U.K. once it departs the EU, the managing Director of one of the country’s major industry groups has said.

Workers at this City stalwart have been banned from drinking during the day: Looks like it’s going to be dry January all year long for the boozers at Lloyd’s of London. City workers at the historic institution have been banned from drinking during the day because alcohol has caused so may disciplinary cases, according to the Evening Standard.

Parkdean and NewDay deals helped European private equity stage late comeback in 2016: European private equity activity began to recover in the last quarter of 2016 after a difficult first nine months to the year, according to a report published.

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