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Newspapers today: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 160216

The Times

Nationwide snubs fair banking survey again: Nationwide has refused to take part in an independent assessment of which financial products are good for customers for the second year running.

Brexit ‘must not mean upheaval in nuclear power’: The government must start urgently to lay out how it plans to leave the European body overseeing nuclear co-operation to avoid scuppering the new nuclear programme, engineers have said.

Eurozone’s trade surplus at record high: The Eurozone’s trade surplus rose to a record high in 2016 with exports rising towards the end of the year when the euro fell against the dollar.

Soaring U.S. prices lift odds of a rate rise: Inflation soared to a five-year high in the United States last month, far more than economists expected, boosting the chance that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next month.

EU approves landmark trade deal with Canada: Almost all tariffs on trade with Canada are set to be scrapped after MEPs voted through the European Union’s most ambitious trade agreement.

Defence contractor on target to make £100 million: Shares in Qinetiq touched record levels as the defence contractor and military technology research company said that it was on track to make profits of about £106 million this financial year.

Buyers submit final bids for B&B book: Bidders including Paragon and Prudential as well as U.S. investors have submitted final bids for £12.5 billion of Bradford & Bingley mortgages being sold by the government.

Anglo ditches mine to complete revamp: Anglo American is to sell its Union platinum mine in South Africa in a move that finally completes its withdrawal from older, less profitable operations in the Rustenburg region.

Vet supplier sees healthy year ahead: Animalcare, the veterinary medicine supplier, has reported a 12% rise in half-year revenue to £8 million.

Atomico delivers confidence vote: A London-based investment company set up by the Founder of Skype has raised one of Europe’s largest venture capital funds to invest in the continent’s most promising technology start-ups.

The Independent

Goldman shares hit ten-year high as Trump fills team with bankers: Goldman Sachs has had a phenomenal run since Donald Trump’s November election victory.

Global stocks hit a more than 20-month high: Stocks around the world rose to a more than 20-month high on Wednesday, according to Reuters, and the dollar climbed too, a day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen signalled that the central bank could raise interest rates as early as March.

Investors unite against Trump’s climate change denial: The world’s biggest investors are joining forces to unite against Donald Trump in the fight against climate change.

Amazon’s business rate to be cut: Online retail giant Amazon will see its business levy slashed at most of its warehouses across the U.K. in the next financial, as nearly half a million other businesses across the country will be slapped with an increase in rates.

City of London business rates projected to increase by £1.4 billion: A projected increase in business rates faced by those occupying offices within London’s Square Mile could hamper the City’s bid to remain a banking hotspot after Brexit.

George Soros buys new stake in Goldman Sachs: Soros Fund Management, the firm that invests the personal fortune of billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, took a handful of new positions in financial stocks during the fourth quarter as the sector was buoyed by Donald Trump’s Presidential victory.

Greece ‘may ditch euro in favour of the dollar’: The man tipped to be Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union has said that Greece is contemplating leaving the euro in favour of the U.S. dollar.

U.K. start-ups are thinking of relocating to Europe as EU departure looms: One in five U.K. start-ups is considering establishing a European outpost in the wake of last year’s Brexit vote, and some have already decided to move their headquarters out of the U.K.

Financial Times

Macquarie to complete £1.5 billion sale of stake in Thames Water: Macquarie, the Australian infrastructure bank, is hoping to complete the £1.5 billion sale of its 26% stake in Thames Water next month after the disposal was delayed by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

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Bank results spotlight stubborn India bad-loans problem: Banks’ latest round of quarterly earnings highlight stubborn non-performing loans that are fuelling calls for another aggressive policy move from Mr. Modi — to put the country’s ailing state-owned banks on a strong long-term footing.

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European fintech deals hit 5-year high in 2016: Europe’s advantage in financial technology has been highlighted by figures showing fintech deals hit a five-year high on the continent in 2016, defying the global trend of a slight decline.

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Profit plunges at Crédit Agricole due to weakness at retail unit: Crédit Agricole on Wednesday reported a 67% slump in fourth-quarter profit after a “massive” bout of mortgage refinancing by customers looking to cash in on low interest rates.

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Bets on Fortress placed before bid news yield 400% profit: A trader or traders in the options market made an estimated profit of 400% betting on a big move in Fortress Investment Group shares on Tuesday, just hours before the private equity firm announced a $3.3 billion takeover offer from SoftBank.

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AIG shares tumble 9% as Paulson & Co cuts holding: AIG shares tumbled 9% on Wednesday after a $3 billion quarterly loss raised fresh concerns about the insurer’s recovery efforts and the hedge fund Paulson & Co revealed it had sold almost half its stake — even though it has a seat on the board.

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Och-Ziff year hit by settlement charge and client withdrawals: The New York hedge fund Och-Ziff incurred a $130.8 million net loss for 2016 as it took a hit from a record U.S. fine for paying bribes in Africa, and investors pulled billions of dollars from the company’s multi-strategy funds.

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Merck’s drug failure deals further blow to Alzheimer’s theory: Merck’s most senior scientist said it was “too early” to reject the main theory of what causes Alzheimer’s disease after the company’s drug became the latest medicine to flunk a late-stage clinical study.

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Britain’s oldest steelmaker receives fresh grant: Sheffield Forgemasters, Britain’s oldest steelmaker, received a fresh grant from the government to support its £6.5 million investment in new machinery as the lossmaking company attempts to reduce its reliance on sluggish oil and gas markets.

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Anger in Berlin over GM plans to sell Opel to Peugeot: Berlin is furious it received no prior notification that General Motors planned to sell its ailing European business to French rival PSA Peugeot Citroën, as concerns grow that a sale could lead to heavy job losses in Germany just months before an election.

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Citic to take writedown of up to $1 billion on Australian mine: China’s state-owned Citic will take a further writedown of up to $1 billion on the value of Sino Iron, its Australian iron ore mine that has run more than five times over budget and years behind schedule.

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Fox faces probe over sexual-harassment settlement disclosures: Federal prosecutors are examining whether 21st Century Fox failed to properly report financial settlements of sexual harassment claims against the former head of its Fox News cable network, Roger Ailes.

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Clash of Clans maker Supercell seeks to acquire as sales stall: Supercell, the Finnish mobile game developer bought by China’s Tencent last year, is looking to expand through its own acquisitions, after sales growth from its titles flatlined in 2016.

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Healthier fayre helps lift PepsiCo sales: PepsiCo beat analysts’ expectations for its fourth quarter thanks to strong sales in the U.S. and an additional week in its fiscal year, as the drinks-to-snacks conglomerate’s transformation into a producer of healthier fayre takes shape.

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Battle for Stolichnaya vodka a hangover from Russia’s chaotic 1990s: The legal battle delves back into Russia’s murky 1990s privatisations. It has echoes of other disputes featuring tycoons who fell out with the Putin administration — notably the struggle by ex-shareholders of Yukos, the oil company bankrupted by the state a decade ago, who were awarded $50 billion damages by a Dutch tribunal in 2014 but saw a court overturn that last year and are now appealing.

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Heineken posts improved profit margins but warns on currencies: Heineken’s shares hit a three-month high on Wednesday after it posted improved operating profit margins for 2016 and forecast a better performance this year, but warned of volatile economic conditions and unfavourable currency movements.

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Cisco Systems open to much larger acquisitions: Cisco Systems will consider making much larger strategic acquisitions as it seeks to accelerate the move away from its traditional reliance on selling switches and routers, Chuck Robbins, Chief Executive, said on Wednesday.

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SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son surprises with financial Fortress deal: Nothing delights more SoftBank’s billionaire Founder Masayoshi Son than when people fail to understand his decisions. It was the best reaction Mr. Son could have hoped for, when his Japanese technology group announced the $3.3 billion financial services acquisition of U.S. alternative asset manager Fortress Investment Group.

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Heineken: Hanoi rocks: Consider Heineken. Full-year results on Wednesday showed sales (excluding currency movements) growing at nearly 5%. Operating margins expanded by 50 basis points to 17%. The Dutch brewer promised more of the same in 2017. Yet the driving force behind this momentum was a deal widely regarded at the time as expensive.

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Goldman Sachs: growth decayed: After a ballyhooed recent rally, those Goldman Sachs shares bought a decade ago have earned a compound annual return of less than 2%. And that includes a 38% jump following the U.S. Presidential election. On a book value basis, Goldman looks much cheaper than in 2007. That is not true on every metric, though, putting pressure on the bank to meet earnings expectations.

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ABN Amro: here we grow again: It may come as a surprise to Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders, but the rump of the Netherlands-based bank that brought the U.K. lender to the brink of collapse is doing just fine. In a further irony, RBS aspires to the lucrative mundanity which ABN Amro, its one-time nemesis, epitomised at annual results on Wednesday: a sober, domestically focused retail bank where rising profits should underpin growing shareholder payouts.

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Qinetiq locks in more bang for its buck: Qinetiq’s shares are at new highs, having climbed 16% in 12 weeks. But it will need to land some of that new air range business if they are to stay there. As part of a consortium developing a Laser Directed Energy Weapon, and buyer of Meggitt’s airborne targets business, it knows that what goes up can come down. PDQ.

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The Daily Telegraph

Toshiba seeks stay of execution from banks as financial woes deepen: The embattled Toshiba group has asked its banks to extend a stay of execution for a second time this year after multi-billion pound writedowns put the group in danger of violating its loan agreements.

Amazon on the brink of launching own U.K. fashion label: Amazon is close to launching its own fashion label in the U.K. as part of the online giant’s efforts to corner the $3 trillion global fashion market.

Amazon Prime revenues hit £5.2 billion as online giant publishes details for the first time: Amazon’s revenues from its Prime subscription service have grown steadily in the past three years, but still lag behind the company’s retail and web services, recent figures reveal.

‘Give Vauxhall same support as Nissan’, demands union as car workers’ jobs come under threat: Car workers at Vauxhall’s plants must be given the same support the Government promised to Nissan to keep it in the U.K., according to unions.

The Questor Column:

The market fears the worst for pubs – so buy shares in well-run Greene King: Greene King, the brewer and pubs group, we may now be right at the point of maximum pessimism. Crucially, all the negative sentiment concerns the economic backdrop, not the company itself. Investors have sold the shares and driven the price to earnings ratio down into single figures because of a series of problems facing the pubs and restaurant sector. But, says Chris Hutchinson, who recently bought Greene King for the Unicorn Outstanding British Companies fund, all these negative factors are already reflected in the shares’ low valuation, while the stock’s fundamentals are more positive. He said debts of about £2 billion were manageable, while the dividend was covered twice by profits. Cash generation was also excellent, with a free cashflow yield of 6.7% and a return on capital of 10% well above the firm’s cost of capital of about 6%. Questor says ‘Buy’.

Update: RWS: In December we tipped RWS, describing the patent translation firm as unique. Our tip, at 301p, has already produced returns of 17.2% and the company announced its latest acquisition, the $82.5 million (£66.2 million) purchase of Luz, an American rival. We based our tip on RWS’s inclusion in the strongly performing SDL U.K. Buffettology fund, run by Keith Ashworth-Lord. He told Questor: “Luz looks like an excellent fit with CTi, which RWS acquired in 2015.  Though I always worry about large acquisitions, RWS very successfully integrated CTi and this is a shrewd management that is not prone to making errors.  Questor says ‘Hold, buy on weakness’.

The Guardian

Debenhams tops government’s shame list for underpaying staff: The government has named and shamed a record 350 firms for underpaying their staff, with the list of offenders topped by Debenhams after nearly 12,000 of the department store’s workers were short-changed.

U.K. employment growth driven by foreign nationals, figures show: The vast majority of employment growth was driven by non-U.K. nationals in the final three months of 2016 compared with a year earlier, the latest official figures on the labour market revealed.

Lingerie brand Agent Provocateur could be heading for administration: Lingerie brand Agent Provocateur could be headed for administration after the appointment of restructuring firm AlixPartners to lead a sale process.

Tata Steel workers agree to pension cuts to save 8,000 jobs: Tata Steel U.K. workers have voted in favour of proposals to turn around the struggling business, potentially saving 8,000 jobs but also leading to cuts to their pension benefits.

Daily Mail

As Dutch brewer closes in on 1,900 British pubs… Landlord fury over Heineken takeover: Brewing giant Heineken was rocked by a backlash from pub landlords as the company toasted a near-10% rise in profits. The Dutch firm is poised to buy 1,900 pubs from Punch Taverns in a £1.8 billion deal – sparking fears it will stock the bars with its own beer.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett makes huge bet on Apple while dumping almost all of his stock in Asda owner Walmart: Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has made a huge bet on Apple while dumping almost all of his stock in Asda owner Walmart. The 86-year-old nearly quadrupled his stake in Apple late last year, raising his company’s holding from 15.2 million shares to 57.4 million.

Activia yogurt maker Danone warns of ‘steep rise’ in milk prices – as shoppers face being hit at the till: Activia yogurt maker Danone warned of a ‘steep rise’ in milk prices – as shoppers face being hit at the till.

New Australian owner of DIY chain Homebase suffers £28 million loss in U.K.: The new Australian owner of DIY chain Homebase suffered a £28 million loss in the U.K. Retail giant Wesfarmers, which snapped up Homebase in a £340 million deal last year, said the half-year loss came as it counted the cost of a restructure and launched its ‘Always Low Prices’ pledge.

Daily Express

U.S. and U.K. share prices hit record highs as weak pound benefits business: Share prices hit record highs on both sides of the Atlantic on prospects for robust U.S. economic growth and U.K. companies continuing to benefit from a weaker pound.

Italian banks on brink of running dry: Rome forced to bend EU rules in emergency bailout: Italy is plotting another multibillion rescue of its beleaguered banking system, as two struggling lenders come dangerously close to running out of money.

EU hints at end for Greece as commissioner says nation needs ‘light at end of tunnel’: Debt-ravaged Greece must see an end to its suffering, a top Brussels bureaucrat has admitted, after the Eurozone has already pumped in billions of pounds in bailout funds.

Pound to dollar: Sterling falls as U.S. Fed rate rise looms amid inflation jump: The pound fell further against the dollar on Wednesday, after U.S. inflation increased at a faster than expected rate in January.

The Scottish Herald

Scottish trade deficit is forecast to widen: Scotland’s trade deficit in the third quarter of 2016 was up by £111 million on the same period a year earlier, at £3.001 billion, the latest national accounts show.

Bowleven ramps up defence against call for Director cull: Shares in Bowleven have surged by more than 5% after it ramped up its defence against the activist investor which has called for a boardroom purge at the Edinburgh-based oil and gas company.

Profits slide at Hargreaves as coal division winds down: Hargreaves Services, which owns the rump of Scotland’s coal mining industry, has reported a 72% fall interim profits.

Ellis Whitham opens Glasgow office with £1 million investment in city: Business support firm Ellis Whittam has invested £1 million opening an office in Glasgow, creating 35 jobs.

RBS offers fast lending: Royal Bank of Scotland is set to launch a digital platform that it said would allow small and medium sized businesses to quickly obtain unsecured loans of up to £150,000.

The Scotsman

Whisky helps exports to Japan hit record £100 million mark: Scottish food and drink exports to Japan have hit record levels, with the thirst for whisky helping the value reach almost £100 million.

Ex-Grand Theft Auto supremo leads Krotos funding deal: Leslie Benzies, one of the key figures in Scotland’s video game industry, has backed a six-figure funding round by an Edinburgh-based audio technology specialist.

Stagecoach sells stake in New York tour bus venture: Transport operator Stagecoach has offloaded its stake in a U.S. joint venture that operates sightseeing bus services in New York City.

CKD flags brisk residential property trade in Galloway: Property consultancy CKD Galbraith has reported a solid start to 2017 in Dumfries and Galloway, with both residential sales and buyer activity on the rise.

Scotland says konnichiwa to growing business and cultural links with Japan: They might be more than 5,600 miles apart, but the links between Scotland and Japan date back 150 years to a time when Scots engineers helped the Pacific nation kickstart its own industrial revolution.

City A.M.

Firms are wising up on the need to reform Executive pay: To mere mortals, Executive pay can sometimes seem out of this world. Vast payouts under controversial long-term incentive plans (LTIPs) were one reason why shareholder protests over Executive pay reached a five-year high in 2016. BP, Reckitt Benckiser, and Anglo American were among the other big companies to experience a backlash from investors.

Big five banks run up £100 billion bill in bad loans and legal costs over the last five years: The U.K.’s big five banks, which report full-year results next week, have run up a bill of nearly £100 billion over the last five years for a toxic mix of fines and bad loans according to a new analysis.

Under-fire Deutsche Boerse Boss set for grilling on insider trading probe and London location of stock exchange headquarters: Deutsche Boerse Chief Executive Carsten Kengeter is set to endure some tough questioning as he appears before investors, analysts and the media.

TripAdvisor’s shares fall after it misses revenue estimates: Shares in TripAdvisor have fallen in after-hours trading after a disappointing set of results from the company.

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